Motion made, and Question proposed,
That 100,000 Officers, Seamen and Juniors and Royal Marines, who are borne on the books of Her Majesty's Ships and at the Royal Marine establishments, and members of the Women's Royal Naval Service and Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, be employed for the Sea Service, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1963.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord to the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)
It is an honour to move the Navy Estimates for the fourth year in succession in the presence of the most distinguished First Lord that the Navy and this country have ever had, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir Winston Churchill).
Before I examine the Navy Estimates in detail, I should like to look at the place they occupy in the whole Defence Vote, which, again, is taking about 7 per cent. of the gross national product. This level is more than in any other N.A.T.O. nation except the United States and France. Within this slice, the Navy has taken a quite extraordinarily steady proportion of the whole. Thirteen years ago our proportion was 24.7 per cent. At no time has it been less than 22 per cent., and this year it is 24.5 per cent.
I think that my noble Friend the First Lord and I might take some pride in the fact that for the second year running we have so managed our finances that there has been no need for a Supplementary Estimate. Indeed, this might be regarded as the third year running, since in 1959–60 we needed a token Supplementary Estimate of only £10. I would not attempt to claim, because of this, that our estimating machinery could not be improved. When an Estimate of over £400 million is not exceeded 1332 there must be an element of good fortune involved, especially when it allows for £54 million which is our estimate of what others should pay to us.
Last year, we asked Parliament to vote £413 million for the Navy. This year, we are asking for just over £422 million. After allowing for the transfer of certain pensions liabilities to the Paymaster-General, that amounts to an effective net increase of about £16.2 million in the Navy Vote. Looking at the 1962–63 Navy Estimates, the Committee will see that this extra £16.2 million comprises increases in various Votes totalling about £23.6 million and decreases in the rest of the Votes totalling about £7.4 million. My noble Friend's Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates provides in Appendix IV a Vote by Vote analysis of these variations.
Speaking very broadly, I would say that about £6 million covers increased prices since last year. An extra £3 million is needed for a more ambitious research and development programme. I shall be saying more about this later. The remainder of the gross increase—about £14.6 million—is required mainly to cover the sharp rise in the provision for stores and equipment. We found that the dockyard programme of refits and maintenance was in danger of being delayed because we had run down the level of stores and materials rather too far. In addition, several of the Navy Votes contain extra sums of money to provide for the feeding, clothing, arming and general equipping of the additional 500 Royal Marine Commandos.
The provision for equipment to go into new construction ships shows an increase of about £1.4 million compared with last year, although the total provision for new construction for the Royal Navy has actually declined. It was £52.3 million in the year just finishing and will be £49.4 million next year. This is largely because the peak of expenditure on the first four County class guided missile destroyers has been passed, while expenditure on the last two, and on the assault ships, has not yet built up.
Part of the reason, also, is that competitive tendering for new construction has now become the order of the day and is saving us real money: the results of this so far have been most encouraging and we will use this method of 1333 placing orders both for new construction and repair work as widely as possible in future. The provision for the aircraft programme has also fallen by nearly £3 million to £52.2 million.
There is a sharp increase in the provision for new afloat support—the importance of which is stressed in the Explanatory Statement: it rises from £3 million to £6 million. This shows the greater emphasis which is being laid on the mobility of the fleet, about which I shall have more to say in a moment.
To summarise, we have provided more for research and development, more for ships' equipment, more for Commandos and more for afloat support.
Last year, my noble Friend, in his Explanatory Statement, set out the tasks of the Navy: tasks in peace time; tasks in limited war and tasks in global war. This year, for reasons which have been thoroughly debated during the last ten days, the emphasis of the Defence White Paper is on the airborne and seaborne mobility.
The Navy's task within this concept is fundamental. We must be able to keep a force of men and heavy equipment afloat, poised for immediate action wherever it may be required, and Britain must be able to reinforce it quickly, both by sea and air, from the Strategic Reserve. This task for the Navy is not a new one. Admiral Fisher—the famous "Jackie" Fisher—put this very well in a letter which he wrote to King Edward VII, in 1907. He said:The British Army is a projectile to be fired by the Navy.In the limited war rôle today, fifty-five years later, this should be adapted to read, "The British Army is a projectile to be fired by the Navy and the Air Force."
The whole of our cold war and limited war strategy and our ability to maintain a military presence outside Europe depend increasingly on this concept of seaborne and airborne power, power concentrated in joint Service task forces. A seaborne force provides a mobile base from which both ground and air forces can be deployed. It provides logistic support for these forces and security for both. Co-operation between the Services is the keynote of this strategy. It is a keynote which we warmly welcome.
1334 Perhaps I should mention here that the increased emphasis on seaborne mobility which allows us to exert the necessary military presence outside Europe and the N.A.T.O. area does not mean that the total number of Her Majesty's ships committed to N.A.T.O. will be any less in future. It is, however, inevitable that in the case of a few ships, availability will have to be at somewhat longer notice. But the fact remains that 85 per cent. of Her Majesty's ships, as at present, will continue to be firmly committed to the N.A.T.O. Alliance. They will thus play their part with the ships of our allies in the vitally important maritime shield forces.
I now turn to the development of amphibious forces. The seaborne task force is already a reality and it will be developed further. Our second commando ship, H.M.S. "Albion", will commission in July. In the relatively short time that the "Bulwark" has been in commission she has proved the worth of the commando ship up to the hilt. But we have already learned from operational experience over the last two years that a number of improvements can be made and these have been incorporated into the "Albion".
The accommodation for the commando has been increased so that a bigger and harder hitting unit can be carried; night flying arrangements have been improved; air-conditioning has been improved. The ship has been converted to take the larger Wessex helicopter, which will not only lift more troops more quickly, but which will be armed with an anti-tank guided weapon, as well as with rockets and guns. These helicopters will provide increased support for the commando when required. H.M.S. "Albion" will be going east of Suez at the end of the year to relieve H.M.S. "Bulwark", which will then be refitted and have the same improvements made.
The strength of the Royal Marine Commando is being increased from 600 to 750. It will then have extra hitting power in the anti-tank, mortar, and heavy machine gun sections. It will also have the fire support of a battery armed with 105 mm. pack howitzers of the Royal Artillery, which will be embarked in the commando ship with the commando. The administrative support of this more powerful unit is also being 1335 increased so as to lessen its dependence upon Army support when the commando operates beyond the range of the parent ship's helicopters.
The first of the new assault ships which I described in last years' debate was ordered in December from Messrs. Harland and Wolff, of Belfast. Tenders have already been invited for the second of these ships and we expect to place the order within the next few months.
I wish to underline the fact that these ships, which will be manned by the Royal Navy, will carry the Army rather than Marine Commandos. These ships will carry tanks, guns and their associated crews and vehicles, or, alternatively, up to a battalion of infantry and its equipment and vehicles. When the two assault ships are in commission, the amphibious lift provided by the Royal Navy will be about double that of the present amphibious warfare squadron. This is additional to the lift of the two commando ships.
We welcome the setting up of a Joint Warfare Committee as another important step towards closer inter-Service collaboration. This collaboration is of vital importance to the present concept. But, of course, the seaborne task force consists of much more than just the troop-carrying ships. As I have said, it must be protected. This is one of the principal rôles of the aircraft carrier, about which I will speak later.
I want to say something about guided missile ships. Air defence of a seaborne task force cannot depend only on manned aircraft, vital as these are. The County class of guided missile ship will also provide valuable air defence. Two will be commissioned this year—the "Devonshire" and the "Hampshire" and four more are under construction. The trials of the Seaslug surface-to-air guided weapon system have now been completed, and I am delighted to say that they have far exceeded all our expectations. During trials, out of 100 missiles fired, 90 per cent. got within lethal range of their target.
Many different types of ship contribute to the anti-submarine strength of the task force. The aircraft carriers will have the Wessex anti-submarine helicopter, with its dunking asdic. Two squadrons have been formed. The first 1336 is already embarked in H.M.S. "Ark Royal" and the second will embark in the "Hermes" shortly. The guided missile ships will also have a similar helicopter and our latest ship-borne asdic. The screen of destroyers and frigates, many of them designed specifically for anti-submarine warfare, make their valuable contribution, and ranging round the force, in either close or distant support, are the fixed-wing maritime aircraft of Coastal Command.
This year, my noble Friend's Explanatory Statement has dealt very fully with the support of the fleet, and I do not wish to repeat what he has said in paragraphs 67 onwards. In all three categories—front-line support, forward base support, and freighting support—we are progressively adding new and improved ships for the benefit of the fleet and the seaborne concept.
Towards the end of this year we expect "Dreadnought" to commission. The Navy's second nuclear submarine, the "Valiant", has been laid down and work on her is going well. She will be the first nuclear submarine to be designed and built entirely in this country.
The U.S.A. pioneered the nuclear submarine, which must be considered the most revolutionary vessel of war of this half century. Hon. Members will remember the "Nautilus", which was the first of these submarines to be commissioned. The U.S. Navy now has 14 hunter killer type submarines in commission, in addition to six Polaris submarines. They are planning to build another 35 Polaris submarines and in 1963 another eight nuclears.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
There has been a report that an extra number of Polaris submarines are coming to the Clyde. Does this mean mat we are to be asked to supply another base in Scotland for more Polaris submarines?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I can set the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest. There is no need for another base in Scotland for this purpose.
The Russian Navy is not lagging so far behind, on its nuclear programme. It now has more than 10 nuclear submarines operational. Some are fitted with short-range ballistic missiles and 1337 others are of the hunter killer type. With the formidable advances they have made, it is likely they are now constructing several nuclear submarines each year. These Russian nuclears will probably replace some of the conventional submarines, the majority of which were built between 1947 and 1957. The Russians' production capabilities should not be underestimated: in their peak year they built as many as 80 conventional submarines. We must expect them to be building several nuclears now.
Exactly one hundred years ago last Friday, on 9th March, 1862, to be precise, there was a minor naval action which changed the construction of Royal Navy ships. In Hampton Roads, Virginia, during the American civil war, one of the first ironclads, the "Merrimac", engaged two traditional wooden vessels, the "Congress" and the "Cumberland". One wooden ship was blown up; the other rammed and sunk. The next day, "Merrimac" met another ironclad, the "Monitor", and the result was underlined. It was clear that the answer to iron was iron.
Today, one hundred years later, it is not necessary to test the relative merits of nuclear and conventional submarines to prove the point. The long-term answer to nuclear submarines must be nuclear submarines.
Although we shall be gradually turning over to nuclear power in our submarines, this will necessarily be a lengthy process. In the meantime, our latest conventional boats, which, I think, are amongst the finest of their kind in the world, are of tremendous importance. Five new "Oberon" class submarines will join the fleet this year—"Odin", "Olympus", "Onslaught", "Otter" and "Oracle"—to reinforce "Oberon" and "Orpheus", which are already in service. These submarines will have a life of twenty years and they will be a valuable part of the fleet for very many years to come.
Amongst other new weapons coming into the Service, perhaps I could briefly mention the American air-to-surface weapon Bullpup, which will be fitted in Buccaneers, Scimitars and Sea Vixens. This radio-guided air-to-surface weapon will multiply by many times the striking power of these aircraft. It will be much more accurate and destructive than the weapons it replaces and will greatly 1338 reduce the vulnerability to anti-aircraft defences of the aircraft making the attack.
The commando helicopter, the Wessex, will also have its striking power increased. It will carry guns, two-inch rockets and the French SS.11 anti-tank wire-guided missile, which I referred to at Question Time. The SS.11 can be fired from the helicopters or by the Royal Marine Commandos ashore. It will give them most effective fire-power against tanks and strong points in the initial stage of an assault. These weapons are excellent examples of N.A.T.O. interdependence.
All in all, 1962 should be something of a year of achievement for the Navy. For many years we have been concerned with the development and testing of new kinds of ships and weapons. Now we shall see the fruits of our labour—two County class guided missile ships, the "Dreadnought", the first Tribal class frigates, the Buccaneer, the Wessex and the Seaslug. What a marked contrast in achievement to the allegations made by the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, when he said, in the defence debate:The money has been spent—there is no doubt about that … but the weapons which have been referred to over the years as being forthcoming have, for the most part, never arrived."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 326.]Our weapons have arrived and they are first-class.
We have been carrying out trials of the Wasp, the new light torpedo-carrying helicopter, which used to be called the P.531, which will operate from frigates. These trials in H.M.S. "Ashanti" are proving extremely successful. Over 300 deck landings have been made, 10 per cent. of them at night. Some of the landings have taken place in very severe weather, when the wind speed was as much as 60 knots. Undoubtedly, the stabilisers, with which the ship is fitted, were the biggest single factor in making flying possible in these conditions. Incidentally, all our new frigates and guided missile ships are being fitted with stabilisers.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
Why is the SS.11 being used and not the Vigilant, which is the weapon to be used by the Army?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The SS.11 is an earlier generation proven weapon which is immediately available in numbers for our use. I cannot speak for my right hon. Friends at the War Office, but they probably want the first production numbers of the Vigilant for themselves and not for us.
§ Mr. Morris
If the Vigilant were available, would it be used in preference to the French weapon? Is it the fact that the Vigilant is not available that is at the root of the trouble?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I have not studied the exact operational details of the Vigilant and compared its performance, range and everything else with the SS.11. I will certainly deal with this point. Perhaps I can deal with it in my winding-up speech.
Members of the Committee have shown themselves anxious about the scale and efficiency of our antisubmarine forces. I touched on the general pattern when considering the defence of our task force. Now let me consider the more general aspect. We are developing our anti-submarine measures as fast as possible. We are attacking the problem from a number of different angles. Perhaps "Dreadnought's" most effective rôle will be that of an anti-submarine escort. Here, she has the great advantage that she can operate in the same element as the attacker, where her asdics are much more efficient than those of a surface vessel, especially in bad weather or awkward water temperature conditions.
Hitherto we have not been able to employ submarines in this way because they have not had the speed to keep up with the ships requiring escort, but the nuclear submarine has more than enough speed for this purpose and, with it, we have high hopes of achieving a break-through in the anti-submarine field.
At the same time, we are improving by every known means the efficiency of our surface escorts. We are equipping them with anti-submarine helicopters, and with new and more powerful asdics. We are also starting to apply to underwater detection the great advantages of automatic data handling, which is already being used in conjunction with ship radar. In this the information from 1340 asdics can be analysed and translated very rapidly into instructions for the counter-attacking forces.
I wish again to emphasise that no single method of detecting and tracking submarines is paramount. We have both passive and active asdics. There are hull-mounted asdics, variable depth asdics, dunking asdics, sono buoys, and these, and many other devices, all add to the chances of detection. The problem is to co-ordinate these efforts and to afford the forces enough operational experience.
During the last year we have strengthened the Joint Anti-Submarine School, at Londonderry, by providing four modern frigates. Last month, I visited it, and flew a four-hour sortie in one of the latest Shackleton aircraft. I came away tremendously impressed with the progress that has been made in co-ordination. I was struck with the efficiency and dedication of the Coastal Command crews. I appreciated afresh the improvements in equipment and operational techniques which have been made in recent years.
I can say with some confidence that the Navy can give a high degree of protection to any sea-borne forces likely to be engaged in the sort of limited operations we envisage during the next decade. In any major war with Russia, the combined anti-submarine strengths of the Western fleets would be able to give a good account of themselves.
Although I have been talking in terms of protection for naval task forces, I should like to emphasise that the same protection would be available for the ships of the Merchant Navy whenever necessary, as, indeed, it always has been in the past. We are also continuing to pay for the supply and fitting of degaussing equipment for merchant ships.
I now come to aircraft carriers—
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
Before my hon. Friend leaves the subject of anti-submarine operations, is it not a fact that during the last war the greatest submarine killers were mines laid near the home waters of enemy submarines? What research and development is being undertaken to develop this very important section of our defences?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I would not want, in answer to a supplementary question, to deal with a whole section of my speech on the development of anti-submarine warfare, but my hon. Friend will bear in mind that the Russian submarine forces, if they were operating, would not be operating in the shallow waters to which my hon. Friend is probably referring in connection with the mines threat to submarines. However, if I have time, I shall later try to include something on this section which will, I hope, satisfy my hon. Friend.
I come now to aircraft carriers. The present generation of aircraft carriers have been, or are being, modernised to the greatest extent possible. They will be able to operate modern aircraft throughout this decade—
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
No, the greatest extent possible.
In his statement on defence, my right hon. Friend explained that design work for a ship to replace H.M.S. "Victorious" had been put in hand. If we are to continue to deploy air power around the world and to support our forces wherever circumstances may require, the aircraft carrier will frequently be the only means of doing it. This will become increasingly true as our use of bases is restricted, and staging and over-flying rights become progressively harder to negotiate. "Victorious's" successor would need to be in operation in 1971 and, with a normal twenty years' life, should last until 1991.
This makes the task of forecasting the carrier requirement difficult, but we are getting on with the design. It is our aim that she should carry aircraft common to both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Such an aircraft, to undertake the rôles of strike, fighter and reconnaissance, would be a bigger aircraft than any that the Fleet Air Arm has today. It would be larger and heavier than the Buccaneer which, itself, has an all-out weight of 45,000–50,000 lb. She would need to carry a substantial number of these aircraft and, in addition, airborne early warning aircraft and some helicopters.
1342 To embark these aircraft, and the men Chat go with them, it seems likely that a ship of at least 50,000 tons will be needed. Our studies have shown that a ship of 50,000 tons can carry twice as many aircraft as a 40,000-ton carrier. The development of a common aircraft for the two Services should give an entirely new significance to inter-Service co-operation—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The Minister will agree, I am sure, that when the House of Commons is considering these Estimates it is reasonable that it should have an approximate idea of the cost of the vessel.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
Before my hon. Friend replies to the hon. Member, can he say whether, in considering the future of the aircraft carrier eight or ten years ahead, he has taken into account vertical take-off aircraft or orthodox aircraft?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
These Estimates have only a very small fraction of design costs. The Committee is not being asked, at this stage, in any way to underwrite the cost of a new generation. We are now starting some modest design work for these events, but we are not committed to these events. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), we are considering most seriously vertical takeoff developments.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
The design work at the beginning of this programme is important. If the Admiralty has done what we understand Government Departments are now doing, which is to estimate three years ahead and look forward five years, we should be given some information about the likely cost.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The question asked by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) was whether the House of Commons was being asked to vote any design cost, and I have made it clear that the amount of cost in these Estimates is very small indeed. At this stage, it is very difficult to give even an approximate cost, but it might be about £50 million.
Talking of the future leads me on to the research and development programme, because it is very important 1343 to the Navy's future. On this, we shall be spending about £24.2 million, or £2.9 million more than in 1961–62. We are, of course, continuing to give a high priority to anti-submarine equipment; and most of the extra money this year is going on nuclear submarine propulsion development which is also, itself, directly related to the anti-submarine programme. The arrival of nuclear power for submarines has suggested that there may be great possibilities in developing deeper diving boats of this sort; this calls for considerable research in shipbuilding techniques and these are proceeding.
We have about a dozen major Admiralty research and development establishments, and hon. Members may be interested to hear something of the work they do. One of the more interesting is the Services Electronic Research Laboratory, at Baldock and Harlow, where research with valves and solid-state devices such as transistors is conducted by the Admiralty for all three Services. This is to improve detection ranges of radars, or to simplify, and dramatically reduce in size, electronic systems, and provide, for example, suitable valves for satellite communications.
The Navy is to assist, by providing a warship, in making observations on the United Kingdom radio satellite which is due to be put into orbit by the United States of America next month. The original intention had been to make observations from the island of Tristan da Cunha, but the volcanic eruption there made that impossible, and we are endeavouring to make available a ship, instead, at the various times suitable for the satellite's launching.
I now turn to headquarters numbers, even before turning to manpower. Just over a year ago, when we debated the Select Committee's Report on the Admiralty Headquarters, I dealt quite fully with the question of the size of our Vote 12 staff—that is, the staff of the Admiralty office. I pointed out that that staff in the previous nine years had been reduced by 1,200 to 9,510 in 1960–61. I went on to promise that we would try to achieve a further reduction of 500 persons over the next five years.
1344 We are keeping to this programme, not without a struggle. For 1962–63, we are providing in Vote 12 for a total of 9,318 staff, reducing by the end of the financial year to 9,208. I warned the House last year that this programme of reductions would not be easy—roughly 3,000 of our headquarters staff are engaged on the design and production of ships and weapons. It is not generally appreciated that these count as headquarters staff. All sorts of new developments in tasks and techniques press upon us, and it is increasingly difficult to provide for these within a steadily reducing total of staff. But we have not allowed these difficulties to deter us, and my noble Friend and I at the Board of Admiralty intend to press on.
Now I would like to speak about manpower. The run-down has now ceased and we are again seeking approval for a Vote A of 100,000. We are very much aware that our modern ships and weapons are entirely dependent on our success in obtaining enough good men of the right qualities and skills to man them. Recruiting is going well. I am happy to say that recruiting for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines continues at an encouraging pace. In 1960–61, we entered a total of 6,250 men—5,400 ratings for the Navy and 850 Marines. We estimate that, during the present year, we shall enter 7,200—an increase of almost 1,000. The target which we have set ourselves for 1962–63 is up by another 600 to 7,800. This will be more difficult in the face of competition from industry and elsewhere, but we are going on with a large recruiting programme.
The improvement in recruiting has been most marked among those just leaving school. These Juniors (U), as we call them, are mostly between 15 and 16¼ years of age. In 1960–61, we recruited nearly 2,100, but all the indications are that in this year we will attract about 2,600—an increase of 25 per cent. This is the best result we have achieved for many years, and we are expanding the Junior training establishments at "Ganges" and "St. Vincent" in order to take them. Entries of juniors in the age group 16¼–17½—known as Juniors (O)—and of adults have also increased, but not to the same striking extent. The number of artificer 1345 apprentices entered has remained steady at about the planned level of 480. I am very glad that there has been no falling off here, because the Navy will be increasingly dependent on their skill as new and even more complex equipments come into use.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
Could the hon. Gentleman say what is the period of engagement which these youngsters of 15 enter into when they join the Navy?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
They would normally take an engagement of 12 years of man's service; that is to say, after their boy's training, as it used to be called, is over. It is 12 years man's service from the age of 18.
During last year's debate, I mentioned that we intended to examine a number of aspects of our recruiting organisation. As a result of this survey, many changes have been made and are in the process of being made to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the recruiting service. We have started a comprehensive programme to re-site a number or recruiting offices where they can be reached more conveniently by the public. Other offices, which are already well situated, are being modernised and given a more attractive appearance. One major recommendation which came out of the survey was for a complete redeployment in and around London to suit the modern trends of housing and transport. This is now being looked at. We have also introduced a number of very attractive mobile careers display vans which axe now touring the country. We have also made it more convenient for recruits to undergo examination and to join their training establishment.
Re-engagement for pension after 12 years during 1961–62 has also been going exceptionally well. On an average, two men in three continue to re-engage. This is roughly the same rate as last year. As the House may be aware, re-engagement in the engineering mechanic branch has always been something of a headache. But, even here, one man in two is re-engaging. All this is very encouraging, and I do not think there can be much wrong with a Service in which so many men are anxious to make a full career.
I now turn to the officer entry. Last year was the first in which General List 1346 entrants had to obtain the higher educational qualification of five G.C.E. passes, including two at A level. It came as no great surprise that we did not have as many successful candidates as we should have liked. For example, last year 146 candidates entered Dartmouth as General List cadets and 67 who would otherwise have qualified failed to reach the required academic standard. But 25 of those who failed academically will be able to have another attempt this year, and 21 have been accepted for the Seaman Supplementary List. So we may have lost only 21 to the Navy. The quality of those who actually entered Dartmouth was very gratifying. Sixty of the 146 entrants had three or more A level passes, and eight of them even had six or more passes at Advanced or Scholarship level. We are certainly not complacent; but we are confident that we shall be successful in getting enough young men of the calibre which the Navy needs.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
Can the hon. Gentleman say how many Scottish students there have been in relation to this? As he knows, we have no A level at the moment in Scotland. If he insists on two A levels, it must have some effect on the entrants from Scotland.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
It is called the Scottish equivalent to our A level examination. I cannot remember how many at the moment, but no doubt the hon. Gentleman will know, from his intimate knowledge of Scottish education, what exactly is the equivalent. We have always said that the Scottish equivalent to the English examination will satisfy us. I cannot, without notice, give the exact numbers which come from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland out of the total percentage, but I will certainly let the hon. Gentleman know.
We are laying good foundations for future entries by the awards we make in the annual scholarship competitions. Last year 72 Royal Naval and six Royal Marine scholarships and 82 reserved cadetships were awarded to boys who, for the most part, will be due for entry in September, 1963, provided they qualify in their exams. In addition, we are increasing our efforts to make known as widely as possible the career prospects which we have to offer. Our candidates already come from 1347 a very wide variety of schools—in 1961, for example, boys from about 340 different schools applied—but I am inclined to think that there are still a number of very good schools—in particular, those which have no tradition of sending boys to the Navy—which do not perhaps realise that the Royal Navy today offers a life which will be both intellectually and physically satisfying.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
Before my hon. Friend leaves the point about officers, he will appreciate that it is dangerous to get too many brains in the Service if we do not get good leaders as well. Could he tell us whether the interview for this qualifying examination for judging the character of the officer is still essential, and if they have to pass it, irrespective of their examination results?
§ Mr Orr-Ewing
They certainly have to pass that interview. That is the point I have been making. We failed 67 who otherwise would have qualified and had got through the interview purely on academic grounds. The interview is an important and vital part of the whole, as my hon. Friend knows, as he has a son at Dartmouth at the moment.
We have also had an encouraging first year with the new Seaman Supplementary List, about which I spoke a year ago. We have now obtained 75 entrants, which was as many as we needed. This form of entry, together with the Aircrew Supplementary List, gives us the flexibility necessary in officer recruitment, and they are an essential adjunct to the General List entry arrangements. Of course, all aircrew, whether General List or Supplementary List now, do their initial teaming at Dartmouth. I think this is a sound and good idea. During last year we introduced a new scheme of entry for Aircrew Supplementary List officers designed to enable those who enter under the age of 22 to serve for a longer period than in the past and qualify for a pension, or, should they prefer it, to leave earlier with a substantial gratuity. We very much hope that these improved terms of service will attract more candidates of good quality: they are certainly proving attractive to those already serving in the Fleet Air Arm who are eligible to transfer to the new pensionable engagement.
1348 There is one problem common to all three Services—hon. Members know this as a result of previous Service debates—and it is created by the end of National Service. Like the Army and R.A.F., the Navy is faced with difficulties in attracting all the doctors, dentists and teachers required.
There are, I am glad to say, qualified young men in these categories who are drawn to a life in the Royal Navy, and we have good hopes of solving our entry problems—though I admit that some of them loom rather large at present. During the Army Estimates debate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War announced measures which all the Services will be taking to attract doctors and dentists. In the Navy we shall not normally be able to employ officers up to the age of 60, but we intend to use some retired medical officers, in a civilian capacity, up to the age of 65.
In attracting the young doctor into the Services we need to show what the Navy has to offer. The best way of doing this is by personal contact. Young R.N. medical officers have visited the medical schools and students from them have been to see something of the Navy at work. I think this is all helpful.
§ Commander Pursey
The hon. Gentleman has made a point about officers being engaged until the age of 60. He did not refer to the age at which ratings are to be retained. Is the career of a rating still to end at 40, and is the Admiralty, having had the best twenty years of the man's life, going to throw him out on to the scrap heap for the next twenty years of his life?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
It is difficult to answer that question in one quick supplementary. To start with, quite a large number of our ratings take commissions on the Special Duties List or even on the Supplementary List. That is the first point. The second point is that they can sign on again for up to five terms of five years—their fifth five years That is only in a small category. But I would refute the suggestion that at the end of their period of service in the Navy they are thrown on the scrap heap of life. I have found that having gained skills, experience and character which the Navy gives them, they go out and get extremely good jobs in civilian life and 1349 they play a very important part in connection with the national prosperity as a result of their service in the Navy It would be wrong to suggest that they are thrown out on to the scrap heap of life at the age of 40.
I should now like to say a word about the W.R.N.S. In so many spheres they undertake important jobs with the utmost conscientiousness. Inquiries and applications indicate that the shortfall last year should be made up in the current year. Although the re-engagement rate is high enough, their engagement rate, to naval officers, ratings and others, is unfortunately, even higher. Therefore, to maintain numbers we have, like Alice, to run fast to stay where we are. All three defence Services have this problem. It does not mean that the women's branch of the Royal Navy is not playing a useful and important part. I hope we shall build up the strength of the W.R.N.S. in the coming year in accordance with these Estimates.
I have dealt at some length with the new ships and weapons which we shall soon have, and with the officers and men who will man them. I have shown the vital part which the Navy plays in the policy of sea and air mobility. Today we have a modern and balanced Fleet. As the new ships come in, we shall be adding to its versatility and capability.1961 has been a good year of the Navy 1962 should be even better.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
The Civil Lord has presented the Estimates with his customary charm and, like most Ministers responsible for the defence Departments, has made the picture that he has given attractive by virtue of the things that we have not got. To be fair to the hon. Gentleman, he did not say that we did have these things, but I would point out that this attractive picture is, in the main, represented by things that we have not got.
We have not got any assault ships. We have only one commando carrier. We have no heavy Wessex troop-carrying helicopters, atomic submarines or guided missile destroyers in commission. The Seaslug missile system is not operational. When it does become operational, its effectiveness will probably be limited by virtue of the fact that it is designed to meet a threat that 1350 is rapidly becoming obsolescent and is being replaced by a stand-off attack weapon of a much longer range. We have not even got our Buccaneers afloat yet. Therefore, when my right hon. Friend the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition says we have not got the weapons, he is quite correct.
Even in the Navy we must have spent during the past ten or eleven years something like £3,500 million, and we have not yet got these things. We have also to remember that we are dealing with a Department which in the past year or so has come under very severe attack for its lack of control of expenditure, which has been severely criticised in connection with its security services, which has given plenty of other evidence of waste and muddle in other spheres and which now—and here I do not blame the Admiralty for this—is going to break its promises to the men in the Service in respect of pay increases.
Above all, we have to remember that we are dealing with a Department that has taken almost eleven years to give us something approaching a coherent policy relating to the rôle and shape of the Navy. It is only now, after about ten years that might well be called the wasted decade, that we are beginning to get a picture of the rôle of the Navy in our defence arrangements and of the ships necessary for this purpose and that looks like making sense in time. There arc, however, still very large areas of the subject with scope for debate, and I hope to touch on some of them later.
Meanwhile, I should like to begin where the hon. Gentleman finished. I wish to talk, first of all, about the Vote that is before the Committee. That is the Vote for 100,000 men, the same number as was asked for last year. I think the chief changes in this Vote are that there are 500 fewer men in the Navy and 500 more men in the Royal Marines.
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
The hon. Gentleman keeps on saying "men". Should he not say "men and women"?
§ Mr. Willis
If it will please the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wing-field Digby), I will call them men and 1351 women, but the number of women involved is very small.
§ Mr. Willis
During our defence debates last year the Minister of Defence, referring to manpower—and the Civil Lord reiterated this today—said that as the Navy was a very profitable field for recruiting, of Marines in particular, there was every intention of recruiting to the maximum for which equipment and vessels could be provided. But on 28th February this year, in a Written Reply, the Civil Lord said that during the ten months ending 31st January recruiting of Marines was up by 150 over the previous year and, for the Navy, it was up by 645.
I can hardly consider these figures to represent a very great increase, and I am wondering just what is the trouble. Is it because we do not have the ships and equipment for the men? If we had, could we recruit more men? After all, the selection seems to be fairly large, and this year we have recruited about 6,000 men for the Navy out of about 16,000 men who offered themselves.
§ Mr. Willis
The last figures I have, which were provided by the hon. Gentleman's Department, showed about 7,000 out of about 16,000. I was wondering whether the limiting element was the number of ships and amount of equipment available.
At Question Time today we learned—and I was amazed at this—that only 17 per cent. of the Marines are afloat. I would have thought that men join the Marines because they want to go to sea. If they wanted to spend their lives in barracks they would have joined the Army. It does not seem that many more of them will get to sea for two or three years yet, and I shall come to this point later.
What is the Government's policy regarding this matter? It is important that we get a proper answer because in our defence debates a great deal is said 1352 about how the Marines and the Navy can supplement our fighting forces and help to solve our manpower problems. I have always thought that remarks of that kind were somewhat exaggerated and that the effect is really marginal. However, we are entitled to know something more about this than the hon. Gentleman informed us in speech today.
Regarding the Marines, I discover this interesting fact about the number of men at sea; while in the last two years we have reduced the numbers in the Navy and the Marines by 3,000, the number of persons at sea has actually been reduced by 5,850. This is according to the figures supplied to me by the hon. Gentleman's Department.
§ Mr. Willis
It seems to me that the fewer ships we get the greater the fall in the number of men actually at sea, and I mean greater than one would expect. We get a smaller number of ships, a smaller Navy—and the number of men ashore increases. Funny things seem to be happening. It is a funny sort of process. We shall have everyone ashore if the Navy becomes small enough. The Civil Lord should comment on this process, because, in addition, according to the figures given by the Civil Lord, out of the vote for 86,970 men for this year, about 37,000 of them will be afloat. That is, 37,000 out of 87,000.
We must remember that not all the men afloat are actually in fighting units. Many of them are in the submarine repair ships, depot ships and, if one might call them such, various other auxiliary forces. Thus the number of men actually afloat with fighting units must be very much below the figure of 37,000 given as the number being afloat. That does not seem a very high percentage of the very large number of men we are being asked to vote today.
The rate of engagement appears to be rather lower this year. An interesting illustration in the Explanatory Statement shows the rate of re-engagement as increasing steadily. But the fact is that there has been a fall this year, from 65 per cent. to 62 per cent. I agree that the position is quite satisfactory on the whole. I am not complaining about it; merely pointing out the manner in which the Admiralty has glossed this over. The 1353 hon. Gentleman did the same thing in his speech today.
There still are branches, however, in which the numbers re-engaging are low, below 50 per cent., such as the mechanics, mechanician and artificer branches. It is most important that we get these men. They are key technicians, and I hesitate to once again say that the prospects of promotion after the end of twelve years by the introduction of a master rate should be looked at again. I know that this has been considered several times by the Admiralty, and again recently I believe, but it should be looked at again from this new point of view. Another reason why this matter should be viewed again is that if we are to have men in the Navy—naval ratings serving on ships with men from the Army as well as from the Air Force—they are bound to make comparisons. When they do they will discover that something is not quite right.
The Civil Lord dealt with the problems affecting officers; the need to obtain officers with higher qualifications or how it is hoped to steadily improve their educational quality. It would seem that this raises the problem of lower deck promotion, a subject with which I tried to deal during Questions last week. It makes it very difficult for men to be promoted from the lower deck, and if we are to have this sort of promotion much more must be done by the Admiralty to make available to the men on the lower deck the educational facilities of which they might avail themselves in order to reach the upper deck. This is a very important matter.
Regarding training, I understand that quite a number of junior artificers are unable to obtain their boiler room and watch-keeping certificates, although they are at sea. The reason is that so many of them are serving on repair ships and are not getting the chance to do watch keeping and to work with the machinery or equipment that is being used. The Admiralty must do something about this or the men will become fed-up with the whole business and will, naturally, feel inclined to leave after twelve months. They will, unless something is done, feel that they have not made much progress, have not gained the experience they need, and have not been given sufficient interest and they will drop out after twelve years.
1354 The pressure that has been exerted in the House recently for a review of the pension scales for officers and their wives, and for other ranks, is justified. The Service Departments ought to attend to this. These people who have given their life to the Services can do a great deal of good or harm to the Minister's task of obtaining the men he wants. If they are dissatisfied with the way in which the Service has treated them, they become very poor recruiting sergeants. It is an exceedingly complicated matter and there are many difficulties, but that does not mean that nothing should be done. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman's Department should bring the matter to the attention of the Treasury.
I come now to the cost of the Navy itself. Our gross expenditure is down by £1,137,000. In paragraph 86, following the announcement that gross expenditure was down, there is the quite delightful sentence:It should not be inferred from the decline in gross expenditure that we propose to spend less on the Royal Navy in 1962–63.Apparently, the Admiralty thinks that we would regard it as guilty of a crime if it spent less. The Admiralty should be told that its achievement would be hailed with joy if it was able to spend less and nobody would accuse it of having done something wrong.
There are certain adjustments to be made, with the result that net expenditure is up by almost £10 million. One assumes also that this year the Admiralty will have a Supplementary Estimate of £3 million or £4 million in respect of pay. Therefore, the increase will be about £13 million or £14 million. When I think of the ease with which this extra £12 million or £13 million will be passed and compare it with the fate meted out to Scottish Members who tried to obtain one-thousandth part of that sum for housing in Scotland, I wonder whether there is something wrong with our sense of values. We were guillotined for our efforts.
Twelve months ago, we had an interesting debate in the House on the Report of the Estimates Committee on Admiralty Headquarters organisation. Quite rightly, the Civil Lord referred to that. The matters raised during that debate included the size of the staff, the number of high ranking officers at the 1355 Admiralty and the control of expenditure. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was quite fair with the House today when he spoke about achievements in the Admiralty. Last year, he said:… 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1961; Vol. 634, c. 1326]That would mean 100 persons per year. According to my calculations for this year, the reduction is 74, the difference between 9,392 and 9,318. So the hon. Gentleman is well below the target he set himself last year. We are pleased to see any reduction in the Admiralty staff, but when we examine the reduction we find that it is composed entirely of clerical staff. There is a reduction in clerical staff of 95, so that, far from there having been a decrease in the higher ranks of the Admiralty organisation, there must have been an increase, and this, of course, was not what the Estimates Committee recommended.
The Estimates Committee went on to recommend that there should be a detailed and critical review of the chain of command and definition of all posts, both civilian and naval, where the salaries including allowances exceed £1,500 per year. The Admiralty agreed that the principle underlying this recommendation was important, but suggested that it should be done with regard to salaries over £2,500. However, it does not matter where one starts. The number has not been reduced.
The Estimates Committee dealt also with tours of duty, and its comments have since been referred to in the Zuckerman Report. The hon. Gentleman should, I think, have said something about the Zuckerman Report this afternoon, a very important Report covering research and development in defence, but we have heard no word about it, or about what the Admiralty intends to do. I do not know whether the explanation is that recommendations of the Zuckerman Committee come entirely under the Ministry of Defence. I have my doubts about that. Several of the recommendations referred to the Admiralty, and the hon. Gentleman 1356 ought to have spent time in dealing with them.
During the same debate, the question of the control of expenditure was raised. The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), who opened the debate, raised this matter, and it was raised again during the debate on control of public expenditure on 24th January. In both those debates a good deal was said about the Letters Patent of the Admiralty and the Financial Secretary, in reply, said that new arrangements had been made and that the modernisation or conversion of major ships now required Treasury control and that such arrangements were now in force. In reply to a letter which I wrote to him subsequently, the Financial Secretary elaborated the matter in more detail, saying:I confirm that all three Service Departments are now substantially on the same footing. The exchange of official letters which I mentioned in the debate on 24th January has clarified and improved the arrangements for Treasury control, particularly in the important fields of production, works and research and development expenditure. Thus, nowadays neither we nor the Admiralty regard the Letters Patent as conferring any special privileges in relation to financial powers or discretion.Everyone on both sides will be delighted to hear that. A great deal has been said on the matter by the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the House itself. I hope that the Civil Lord will tell us whether the Letters Patent confer any other powers or privileges upon the Admiralty or whether they exist simply for the appointment of the Board.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
The hon. Gentleman warned me that he intended to raise this matter. Perhaps we might deal with it now since it is a special case and there might not be time in the winding-up speech.
The Letters Patent do three things. They appoint the Commissioners by name. This is essential because the Admiralty must be an identifiable body under the Naval Discipline Act, the Queen's Regulation and Admiralty Instructions. Accordingly, the Letters Patent define the Commissioners by name. Secondly, they give the Commissioners their duty. Thirdly, they describe their powers. If the Board's Patent were abolished—as the hon. Gentleman says. 1357 it now has no financial consequences—some other form of Statutory Instrument would probably be necessary. Therefore, I wonder whether there is any advantage in throwing over this traditional and unusual way of doing it, since we should have to have the powers in some other form.
§ Mr. Willis
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. The matter has caused several of us concern, and we are glad that the financial privileges hitherto enjoyed under the Letters Patent are no longer enjoyed by this Department, and that the powers are now confined to the appointment of the Commissioners and the other matters to which he referred.
I now turn to the Fleet. First, I wish to thank the Civil Lord and the Admiralty for the full list of visits which they arranged for hon. Members last year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The Admiralty must have gone to some trouble to make it possible for hon. Members interested in naval affairs to attend so many establishments and ships. I hope that it will continue to do this.
As I said earlier, the policy for our naval forces begins to make some sense, but there is still some way to go and still a number of doubts about it. The important matter that we must bear in mind all the time is that underlying the Government's defence policy is the statement in paragraph 9 of the Defence White Paper, which reads:The Government do not believe that major war could long continue without one side or the other resorting to nuclear weapons.That means that what we are prepared for is either a very limited local operation or a very short war. If it does not mean that, I do not know what it means. That is the background of the Government's policy in the Government's words, not in the Opposition's words.
The White Paper goes on to tell us what we require from a naval point of view and states in paragraph 26:… we need a balanced and versatile Fleet capable of bringing force to bear under the sea, on the surface and in the air.I think that that sentence is rather a generalisation and that its purpose is to satisfy the yearnings of those who regretfully look back to the days of the past, because the extent to which we can give 1358 effect to it is very much limited by our resources. Also, the need to do this should be increasingly limited by the growth of Commonwealth navies and alliances. It is not too much to expect that the commitments which we assume in this sentence should be the commitments not of ourselves alone but others as well.
Paragraph 26 continues:By the use of task forces with a significant amphibious capability, seaborne military and air power can be exerted wherever our interests require it, to preserve or if necessary to restore peace.This is much more to the point. This appears to be the real job which we must tackle.
As I understand it, we have three aircraft carrier task forces. However, our amphibious capability is limited to one amphibious warfare squadron, and that is not yet up to date. It is still out of date in many respects. What is more important, from all the evidence in the Explanatory Statement and in other information, we shall not have more than one squadron during the next five years. We must bear this in mind, because the new assault ships will barely be in commission in the next five years.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The information which I gave the House one day during Question Time was that the first assault ship should be ready in 1965 and that production of the second should almost catch up with it, because we are producing two of the same design. It will come not much after the first. The hon. Gentleman said that it would be five years before we have the first assault ship. I think that three years is a nearer estimate.
§ Mr. Willis
If we assume that the first one will be in commission in 1965, it is fair to assume that the second will not be in commission until 1966. Therefore, I was not far wrong when I said that these ships would barely be in commission in five years' time. No doubt by the time that the second one is in commission the first one will be in for a refit. That is what is happening with 1359 the commando carriers. "Bulwark" is in commission. When the "Albion" is finished at the end of this year, it will relieve "Bulwark", which will then go in for a refit. When that is done, "Albion" will go in for a refit. If the Civil Lord considers the matter calmly and considers the auxiliary vessels attached to these ships, he will see that what I am saying is likely to be true, namely, that there will not be more than one amphibious warfare squadron for three or four years.
This is the whole "guts" of the Admiralty's policy. We are to get one amphibious warfare squadron. The Government ought to do something about this because it is necessary that we should have an adequate amphibious capability. This is one of the jobs for which the Navy is eminently suitable. Without an amphibious capability it is more difficult to justify a fleet of aircraft carriers unless it is in order to meet our N.A.T.O. commitments or to fit in with N.A.T.O.'s requirements.
That brings me to the decision of the Admiralty to go ahead with the necessary design work for a new aircraft carrier fleet to replace the existing fleet. According to the White Paper,a new genereration of carriers would have to be designed primarily for the rôle of support of amphibious and land operations".It seems that they will not have many squadrons to support. The Civil Lord must tell us much more than he has told us about this matter.
Last year I spent some time opposing the conception of a new fleet of aircraft carriers as an addition to or replacement of our nuclear capacity. What I said appears in columns 1903 and 1904 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 2nd March, 1961. I was not alone in saying that. The present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations said much the same in 1957, when he told us that we could not afford this. The present Minister in charge of shipping made a great speech last year deriding the carrier and suggested we should fight all sea battles from under the sea. That was his opinion. The Economist has been steadily against fleets of aircraft carriers, and I assume from the context of its statements that it refers to fleets of aircraft carriers with nuclear capacity.
1360 I should like to think that the Admiralty has now accepted this view. When I read the White Paper, I thought that it had. When the White Paper referred to a new generation of carriersdesigned primarily for the rôle of support of amphibious and land operations",most hon. Members thought that the Admiralty had given up the idea of becoming part of the deterrent-carrying force.
Last year, the Minister of Defence referred to the possibility of carriers with aircraft such as the Buccaneer being one of the options for the carrying of the nuclear deterrent. I hope that the Civil Lord will give us a definite assurance that this is not intended. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman can, but I think that we ought to demand this. This is the impression given in the White Paper and in the Explanatory Statement.
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman about what he has just said regarding the aircraft which these vessels are going to carry. Are we going to have future generations of aircraft larger and better than the Buccaneer? Is it really necessary, if these aircraft carriers are designed for the purposes stated in the White Paper, that they should have a nuclear capacity and be used for long-range reconnaissance and strike purposes? Is this the intention of the Government? If it is, then we shall be running into enormous expenditures.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of carriers of 50,000 tons. That means a cost of, roughly, £50 million, and, with the aircraft to equip it, what will be the total cost? It will be something like the Minister of Defence told us that it would be in 1957—£89 million to almost £100 million. We are to have a fleet of these within the next eight, nine or ten years. I sincerely hope that what the hon. Gentleman really means and what the Admiralty means is that any aircraft carriers built will be built in accordance with the needs stated in the White Paper, namely, the support of our amphibious forces and to fit into N.A.T.O. as required. I cannot help feeling that to embark upon a programme such as I have indicated might be intended would be far beyond the resources of this country at the moment.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
I think that the hon. Gentleman is underestimating the versatility of aircraft carriers. The aircraft carrier provides cover and support for shore forces and it is well able to form the nucleus of a strike force also.
§ Mr. Willis
That was the conception of the Admiralty some years ago, that we should have an aircraft carrier task force. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman should also remember that aircraft carriers are very vulnerable, not only from the air but from the surface and below the sea, and that an aircraft carrier requires an enormous amount of very expensive equipment for its defence. It requires vessels, destroyers, costing £10 million, £12 million or £13 million each to protect it.
§ Mr. Willis
This is another factor which has to be borne in mind, so that when we talk in terms of these larger aircraft carriers we are talking in terms of running into enormous expenditure.
§ Mr. Willis
The hon. Gentleman says that that is another question, but it is a very important question. I interrupted the hon. Gentleman to ask whether we could be told more about this. If, as I understand, the procedure now is that Departments have to look forward in their expenditures, that the Treasury has to be given an idea of what those expenditures are likely to be for two or three years ahead, and that, in fact, the idea is to look ahead five years, it should not be difficult for the hon. Gentleman to tell us what all this involves.
And what of the other alternative, which is frequently spoken about in these debates, the Polaris submarine? I hope that the hon. Gentleman can confirm that the views of the Admiralty are still those given in 1959, that this is something quite beyond our capacity to develop without a radical recasting of the whole of our naval expenditure. Is this still the view of the Admiralty? If the Admiralty is still thinking of these very expensive toys, then it seems to me that the expenditure will be quite beyond us, particularly when we remember 1362 that the Royal Air Force is, in fact, designed to carry the deterrent for the next eight or nine years. Therefore, one wonders what justification there could possibly be for expenditures of this character. Quite frankly, I hope that the Admiralty sticks to the things which we can afford and attends to some of the things which I have mentioned—for instance, in regard to the amphibious squadrons.
After mentioning the amphibious capability of the Navy, paragraph 26 of the Statement on Defence, 1962, says:A continuing need will be for effective and up to date anti-submarine forces and equipment.'The hon. Gentleman, of course, said much the same this afternoon. I agree at once about the necessity to have this protection for amphibious forces and for whatever task forces there might be and for the ships that might supply such protection. But I want to ask the Minister whether, in fact, the Admiralty is still planning its anti-submarine weapons, systems and strategy on the basis of a long war or a short war. I think that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) raised this point last year.
We are told in paragraph 9 of the White Paper that we cannot expect a long war, but submarine warfare is really a war of attrition. It presupposes a long war. I hope that while agreeing to the necessity of having the protection for the forces which I have mentioned we are not planning for something different—planning on the basis of a longer war. If we do that, then once again we shall run into an enormous expenditure.
I could not help thinking when the Minister was speaking about nuclear submarines, their development and possibilities, that every one of them will cost something like £20 million. I am not now talking about the Polaris but about the ordinary nuclear submarines, the hunter and killer submarines. A programme of submarine building on this scale would be a very expensive one. I should like to think that it is a recognition of this fact which is causing the Admiralty to take some time to think about it. Is it true that the Admiralty has not yet decided upon its future submarine policy?
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Willis
Gould we be told that we are likely to be informed what the Admiralty's future policy is likely to be, because this, once again, is important?
These matters involve many tens of millions of pounds. Hon. Members opposite make the most vicious speeches about expenditure and about watching this and that, and, therefore, we are entitled to make a few inquiries concerning what all these things cost and to find out something about them.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I shook my head because the hon. Gentleman said that we should decide what our future policy is going to be and that he would like to hear about it. I think that it would be unwise to publish to the world in general long before it comes to fruition any increase in expenditure which the House is called upon to vote. There are limits to what one can give to one's enemies and to give ten years' warning of what we are going to build would be most unwise.
§ Mr. Willis
Relating that to submarines, can I then take it that the admiralty is not likely to embark on any more new submarines for the time being? I agree with the hon. Gentleman that these are the best for seeking out the submarine's attacker.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Is it not the traditional method of the Committee of Supply when the Opposition are making exactly the kind of points which my hon. Friend is making so effectively, namely, challenging the Government about their policy and the expenditure of money, to move to reduce the Vote, not to oppose the Estimate? I understand the reluctance to do that, but to move to reduce the Vote is surely the constitutional and traditional way in which to lodge a protest against the Government's expenditure.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am sure that my hon. Friend does not want to misrepresent anybody. I know that he is not against the Navy; neither am I. It is not a question of whether one is against the Navy, nor has it ever been over the centuries when dealing with the Estimates in the way in which we traditionally have dealt with them. Of course, if we were consistently to deny the Government every penny of every Estimate that would be a different matter, and if one was against the Navy that is no doubt what one would do. If, however, one is in favour of the Navy but thinks that we are not getting it properly with this expenditure and that the expenditure is too high, the traditional, constitutional way of making the point is to move to reduce it.
§ Mr. Willis
It is a matter of opinion which is the most effective way. In the past we seem to have made some impression upon the Admiralty, and I have no doubt that the Treasury does, too, in regard to expense. What we are trying to do here is to explore the cost and the policies. The job of a debate of this kind is to explore the Estimates, what they are for, what the policies are, how much is involved and questions of that character. That is precisely what we happen to be doing. We might not be doing it to the satisfaction of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), but at least we are trying to do it.
I remember that three years ago the Civil Lord made a speech in which he talked about our passing into the realm of nuclear ships in which all fleets would be nuclear and mainly submersible. That was three years ago. As far as I can see, we have probably given up the nuclear fleets and also a great deal of the largely submersible part of the Navy. In any case, I and my hon. Friends on this side prefer what is now give in paragraph 2 of the Explanatory Statement as the rôle of the Navy—that is, thatwhen danger threatens they can be quickly assembled to take their place with the Army and Royal Air Force in combined operations to meet the threat.1365 That seems to me to be an eminently suitable rôle for the Navy. I certainly welcome the emphasis placed upon it by the Admiralty.
It would appear that the Civil Lord and his Department have taken to heart a great deal of the advice which we have offered so frequently from these benches and that they are now producing something that is much more within our resources. It begins to make sense. It also suggests that the Admiralty has lowered its sights considerably and is now aiming at those things that will meet our requirements and are within our capacity. So long as we can stick to this and avoid the lure of keeping up with the Russo-American Joneses, we shall meet our commitments in a way that makes sense. This may not be very attractive to those who look back upon the great days of the Royal Navy with nostalgia, but it will certainly be more in accord with our needs and resources and, I believe, much more acceptable to the people of the country.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)
I greet the appearance of this year's Explanatory Statement with more satisfaction than I have done for some years. I have not intervened on these occasions for quite a while, but on this occasion there is quite a lot to which a good deal of serious thought has to be given. I welcome wholeheartedly the new clarification and definition of the rôle of the Navy in our defence Services.
To me, it has seemed for ten years at least—in fact, possibly since the end of the war—that the Navy has been noticeably in the doldrums and that it has not been possible, apparently, for anybody to evaluate what the rôle of the Navy would be. It is, therefore, with all the greater relief and pleasure that I see that we now have a fairly clear reassertion of the Navy's inevitable function, which always has been throughout history that it seldom operates by itself but only in conjunction with the other Services, except, of course, at times when it is fighting other navies at sea for the privilege of doing just that.
For many years, I have been involved either with the Navy or with flying, or both, and I have strong naval connections in the area of my constituency. Therefore, I am never far from the Navy 1366 and from its feelings. I have no doubt that the reflections of this year's Explanatory Statement will be gratifying in the neighbourhood of Portsmouth, as they are to me.
There is, however, one subject which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) has touched upon and which certainly seems particularly to the point this year. That is why I have sought to intervene briefly in the debate. We have at last the job of considering the replacement of our existing carrier force. I am bound to admit that in the past, certainly ten years ago, I had the firm opinion that the war-time generation of carriers and those still to be completed after the war would see us through, possibly, the whole carrier age of naval force. The rapid development of aeronautics would, I felt, take us past the period when carriers could carry aircraft of the type which would be employed ashore and that sooner or later carrier aircraft would be hopelessly left behind because of the limitations of carrier operation and that, therefore, even before rocketeering came along, we should have no future use for aircraft carriers
The time has now come when I must modify that view. I feel sure that the carriers of the last war, not least the poor old "Victorious", which had such a terrific career in every ocean, must be feeling a bit ropey by now. Although the "Victorious" is certainly one of our most powerful units at present, she will need to be replaced, as, indeed, will others.
Now that we have reached that point, the dilemma seems to be an extremely serious one and one which we must face before things go any further, for the simple reason that it is only now, when the first early design work has been put in hand, that the whole conception has not crystallised into a shape beyond alteration. Surely, the considerations of today's arguments must have a chance of influencing the future design and, above all, size of the replacement aircraft carrier. It is an enormous and expensive decision and it is about as serious a decision as has ever had to be made, I suppose, in the history of the Admiralty.
I am well aware, although I would not place the same stress upon it as did the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, 1367 that the, I would not call it progression—it might seem more like retrogression—from the fleet carrier to the commando carrier may seem something of a comedown. The commando carrier is much more of a workaday affair and it does not have the glamorous operation of the most advanced aircraft that can be devised. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt in anybody's mind that these commando carrier conversions have been thoroughly successful. I think they have only been carried out on the light fleet carriers.
I am sure it has been a relatively inexpensive way of pointing to what the future of carrier operations should be. It is, of course, as my hon. Friend pointed out, a characteristic above all of the aircraft carrier that it is extremely versatile. Therefore, it is implied that although a carrier may be operating as a commando carrier she will presumably have all the flight deck gear able to operate military aircraft as advanced as those which exist at the present day.
§ The question comes, though, what is to be the limitation of the next generation? What I am really most anxious about is that we should not attempt to conceive, as, I think, wide circles with naval interests do conceive, the carrier as a future advanced strategic striking aerodrome. That I do not believe to be a possible use of the aircraft carrier. I believe this view of the carrier's use to be sincerely and profoundly held by many people who are well informed; but I believe with equal sincerity—but not such good information, I dare say—that they are wrong. I do not believe it can be an advanced strategic airfield, and I would, therefore, implore my hon. Friend that he should not allow himself to be influenced by the arguments which would make us build those vast super carriers which go up to 70,000 or more tons—such as the Americans are building. Good luck to them. They can afford it. But even if we could afford it, I think we should be wrong to do so.
§ Thus the decision we have to face now, and the reason why I have argued as I have—what I have said so far must seem to be just a matter of prejudice—is this. We have already witnessed the advent of the short take-off and landing system in aircraft which are flying now, as my 1368 hon. Friend knows well, both transport and fighter aircraft. This is a thing which has arrived, not merely short takeoff and landing but vertical take-off and landing, I believe. From what information I have, I believe that the development of vertical take-off and landing is pretty well advanced.
§ We must recognise that such aircraft are in existence now and make up our minds that we are now in possession of what could be the last generation of aeroplanes which have to run and run and run before they are going fast enough to get airborne. This type is a dead duck, in my opinion, and we should be quite serious in our determination to forget it.
§ So may we please not have one of those vast long ships as our substitute carrier because, of course, as has been said, not only is it extremely expensive but it is terribly vulnerable. Somebody once said, "Too many baskets in one egg", and I think it was Air Chief Marshal Broadhurst who described the carrier as "the world's finest radar reflector." I think that the carrier has got to be made into a system which is not that of a probing advanced airfield. I think that the ranges of shore-based aircraft, and the range of stand-off bombs and such things, are sufficient now for that rôle to be unnecessary and uncalled for.
§ What I suggest is that the carrier must be one which will have the space to accommodate the necessary force, if it is in existence, of the Army and the Royal Marine units which will have to operate from it, together with its lift aircraft, whether helicopters or other direct-lift aircraft for the landing of those forces. Also I think we can say that it should be able to operate what at present is the last generation of run-along-the-deck aircraft. That is not too much to ask for, I think, because the justification is, I would suggest, that the carrier, as far as I can conceive, is never likely to be sent in to attack heavily defended coasts where the highest performance, shore-based fighter and other aircraft will be operating. They will be doing landing work, but not such as took place in Normandy, which requires an altogether bigger international operation.1369
§ Dr. Bennett
Well, that is not quite the same scale. They will not be doing this tremendously heavy opposed landing against enemies who are equipped with every form of the latest aircraft. Therefore, they will not need to be able to operate the very top speed fighters. If we have to pay a penalty for the direct lift I should think that the direct lift fighter will still be efficient enough to be operated in the sort of conditions in which we would put commando landing operations ashore. As for the maximum size of the carrier, my hon. Friend mentioned 50,000 tons, and I should have thought that pretty much on the large side. I should have thought that we could make do quite satisfactorily with a ship long enough to operate all these aircraft—perhaps, although the design may come for entirely different reasons, ships of about the size of the big aircraft carriers we now operate, say, the "Eagle" and the "Ark Royal". I should have thought that they would be required for the future. I should be very sad if we were to be persuaded to do anything more elaborate than that. Such ships could do the job of accommodating the people required for the operations, as well as operating the necessary aircraft.
One word on the propulsion system. I, of course, as, I suppose, most other hon. Members, would dearly like to see the advent of nuclear propulsion. It is obviously and incontestably the method of choice for submarines. That has already been proved operationally. There can be no doubt about that, But, with all honesty, I do not see how it would necessarily be quite so desirable in carriers upon which—with all the people on board, and all the "flying machines", to use what I think is the legal definition, and all the ammunition which is historically the quickest item expended—the supply services would have to be in attendance sufficiently frequently to make the singular gain which we would have for nuclear power unnecessary. Carriers would never need to be a long time away from supplies. This fact, perhaps, serves us by providing us with an economy, because I cannot help thinking that the most advanced conventional propulsion plant would cost a great deal less to install in our next big carrier. Therefore, against my general trend of thinking, I would certainly 1370 argue that such a ship should be conventionally propelled.
That is all I have to say. I reiterate how glad I am to see the Navy given this clear rôle. The Navy will respond, I have no doubt, with the greatest cheerfulness, and I look forward now to a real resurgence of our Navy.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu (Huddersfield, East)
Before I touch on some of the very important points which have been made by the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), I should like to offer a few general remarks about the Explanatory Statement. As last year, it is a very pretty little document, and I congratulate the Civil Lord on it. It is full of interest, and, with these pictures, it is full of glamour. In fact, all we miss from it is a picture of Brigitte Bardot dressed up as a Wren in colour. But what it seems to be short of is information.
One of the purposes, in fact the purpose, of these debates on the Estimates is surely for the House of Commons to decide whether the amount of money that we are being asked to vote, and the way in which it is proposed that we should spend that money, will give us the type of Navy that we need. We cannot possibly decide that unless we know what the job of the Navy is to be and also what help the Navy will have in doing that job. The hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham said he was delighted that the job of the Navy had now been more clearly defined. I do not think that it has. The job of the Navy is dismissed in the Defence White Paper in one page out of 22, and I think that it gets just about one paragraph in this White Paper. Even allowing for the White Papers that were received last year, its job is still described in only the vaguest terms, and it amounts to the old business of keeping the sea lanes open.
I wonder whether talk about keeping the sea lanes open is really realistic if anyone here is thinking in terms of nuclear war. Sea lanes from where to what in nuclear war? It is not the slightest use bringing in vast quantites of food to an island where everybody has been annihilated. If we are thinking in terms 1371 of large-scale conventional war, then the question is how are the ships we see listed here to keep the sea lanes open?
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
The hon. Gentleman keeps referring to the definition of the Navy's job as keeping the sea lanes open. In paragraph 2 of the Explanatory Statement there is no reference to sea lanes at all, and I do not think that there is any reference further on to them.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
It is the Defence White Paper which covers the rôle of the Navy in that respect.
If we decide to keep the sea lanes open, we have to know a great deal more about the progress made since the last war in methods of defending our ships. Has our defence really kept pace with the development of homing weapons, guided missiles and the like? If it has not, we may see our ships going down to the bottom, and the sea lanes will not be kept open.
Once before, some years ago, I thought that we paid far too much attention to the idea of transporting stuff across the high seas in wartime and far too little to the idea of storing materials here before war broke out. In the matter of food, it seems to me that vast underground storage tanks are far future likely to be useful in any type of future war than large quantities of ships which are likely to go to the bottom.
While on the question of the job of the Navy, when it comes to minor operations it seems quite clear that the Navy is capable of carrying out such jobs as it had to do at Kuwait. That was one. My hon. Friend has pointed out that it may be very difficult to mount more than one operation at the present time because we have not the ships. How many Kuwaits could we do at the present time? Could we do more than one? When it comes to something like Suez, have the deficiencies revealed in that operation—I do not mean the political deficiencies but the naval deficiencies—been repaired? The fact is that from the White Papers in front of us we do not know the maximum scope of activity which the Admiralty is setting for the Navy.
1372 I mentioned a second thing that it is necessary for us to know if we in the House of Commons are to do our job of finding out whether, in fact, we are to provide ourselves with an adequate Navy. That is the question of the amount of help that we shall get. The Royal Navy, as I understand it, does not work solely by itself. We are in alliance, first of all, with the Commonwealth navies. The Commonwealth navies as such are dismissed in one paragraph of the Explanatory Statement. I do not think that we can judge whether the Royal Navy is capable of doing its job unless we know the amount of help it will get from the navies of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the rest. I think that it would be worth while for the Civil Lord to give us this information in preparing future documents, if he is here next year, or unless he gets the promotion to which he is fully entitled.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
It would be helpful if in future Explanatory Statements we were given some idea of the strength of the Commonwealth navies which are likely to be able to come in behind the Royal Navy in any operations that we undertake. Much the same applies to the help that we are likely to get from our N.A.T.O. allies. It is no good considering the Royal Navy in isolation. We must have some information about the combined force, in that sense of the word, that we are likely to be able to rely on.
I come to the question of carriers, with which both my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham dealt at some length. We have been told what the job of the carriers is to be, but what we have not been told is how they are to do that job if they are at the bottom of the sea. My hon. Friend said that they were vulnerable. We all know that they are vulnerable, especially vulnerable. They could be sunk until quite recently by one torpedo. If we are to embark on these carriers still further, does that mean that we have so altered the design of our ships that they do not sink when hit by a shell or "fish"? Our big ships have always seemed to be easier to sink than were the German ships. Have we learned from the German 1373 design in such a way that it makes sense in any way to spend these vast sums of money on these big ships which, as far as we know, may well go down to the bottom at the start of war?
§ Captain W. Elliot
I think that I should correct one point concerning carriers. In the last war our carriers were particularly difficult to sink. That was recognised when in the Mediterranean the "Illustrious" was very heavily damaged and got home. Again, in the Pacific, time and time again our carriers were hit and carried on.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I do not want to get into too much of a controversy about it. The "Ark Royal" was, unhappily, hit by one "fish", and she sank. I know that there were difficulties about that, but she was our biggest and best. When it comes to the larger ships—and here I am talking about general design—some of our other ships went down with one hit, but not the "Bismarck". It took half our Navy to deal with her. I feel that it would be madness to embark on expenditure of this kind unless we have found some way of altering and improving the design.
I am inclined to believe with many others that carriers are already out of date. If they are, what on earth is the point of designing them, particularly if they are to cost £50 million each and will not come into commission until 1971? If they are out of date now, what on earth will be their use in nine years' time? This is not an original thought. It has been already quoted in the debate. This means that the future of the Service will lie in battles beneath the sea and not on the surface. There may possibly be an excuse, looking at it long-term, for continuing to build fast frigates, but the real weapon of attack and the main armament of the Navy in the years to come unquestionably will be the submarine.
It is not only the main weapon of attack, it is also the main weapon of defence, because, as the Civil Lord has said, it is the only weapon that can hope to counter-attack effectively the attacking submarine. It is not only the main weapon of both attack and defence, but, in the sort of war into which our policies may land us in years to come, it will be the main means of transport. If nuclear 1374 weapons are to be used, transport will become impossible on the surface of the seas and our only hope of transporting men and materials will be beneath the surface. I hope that in looking ahead, which they are rightly doing, the Admiralty, the Civil Lord and the Government are thinking not about carriers but much more vigorously about the underwater fleet which in future years we shall need.
Whatever form the Royal Navy takes in years to come, I am convinced that it has a future. I do not think that the Royal Air Force has a future. It will be a taxi service of a few men in white coats pressing buttons. As for the Army, I cannot think of anything that it does which the Royal Marines could not do better. Whatever may be my own views on the subject, the fact remains that "bods" simply will not volunteer for the other two Services and they will run down as the years go by.
Despite the fact that service in the Armed Forces just now is an unpopular occupation, recruiting for the Royal Navy is going fairly well. Despite the drop which my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East mentioned in the percentage of re-engagements this year, those figures still remain remarkably high. The Navy is able to obtain the "bods" and it is able to retain them.
That, with the argument about possible economies and the even greater argument about greater efficiency, makes up a final serious argument for getting a combined Service based on the Navy. I believe that that would be the most efficient way of using our forces. Instead of three separate Services, with all the difficulties experienced in obtaining doctors, dentists and other men, I believe that if we combined them in one Service based on the Navy we should have a force adequate to our needs.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) and I should like to take up one of the themes which he developed, but, first, I want to speak briefly on another aspect of the Navy upon which hon. Members have touched today. There seems to be general agreement that an amphibious support rôle for the Navy is the right rôle.
1375 The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) picked out paragraph 9 in the Defence White Paper, but the words which I picked out are slightly different from his. We are informed that it is the prevention of war that is vital and not preparations for a long-drawn-out conventional war. I think that we would all agree with that and, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East said, the shape of the Navy apparent from the Estimates is beginning to reflect this policy.
I said "beginning" because I think that we have a long way to go. This policy of prevention of war certainly justifies the new emphasis that is being placed on amphibious operations and also on the provision, or intention to provide, the wide variety of ships needed to carry out a landing of armed forces whether opposed or not. I welcome for that reason our intention to build new aircraft carriers. They will be the core around which any amphibious forces will be built. They will be the core of any strike force.
There has been a certain amount of discussion about the techniques of the aircraft carrier and I do not want to enter into those now. I would say only that although in some ways aircraft carriers may be vulnerable, they are a very tricky target to attack and they can give a very good account of themselves. In the defence debate, my right hon. friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) said:Please let the Minister not say that as we give up bases ashore we must have bases afloat. A thousand men in a boat are not a base and never could be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 266.]Of course, a thousand men in a boat are not a base, any more than a thousand men ashore in nissen huts or under canvas form a base.
As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said earlier in the debate, there must be a fleet of attendant ships. Of course there must—store ships, fuel ships, repair ships and even recreation ships. All these are as necessary for a base afloat as the stores they provide are needed in bases ashore. If we are to give up bases ashore, as we are doing, to ensure any bases at all we must have them afloat. They will be expensive, but they will be mobile and I hope we will need fewer of them.
1376 It can be argued that troops could be disembarked from ordinary merchant ships. But this would not allow the great advantages of disembarkation by helicopter which can be provided by a commando carrier. Nor must commando carriers be confused with the fleet carriers. These new carriers, which I hope will be built, will give air cover to the force and air support once the troops are ashore.
My right hon. Friend also seemed to think that there were few, if any, parts of the world where amphibious operations would take place. I have speculated on this also, but it was a barren exercise. We have our C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O. treaties for very good reasons, and we have to be prepared to operate in areas covered by those treaties and in other areas. If the prevention of war is vital, we must provide the forces needed for that purpose, and where speed is vital a mobile base is equally vital. But however important the amphibious rôle, the Navy should not do the job of the army at the expense of its own. If it must do so, then this must be reflected in the Estimates of both services.
When all is said and done, it is on the deterrent that we rely to avoid a nuclear war, and I turn now to my main theme—the best contribution which our naval forces can make to a deterrent. Our fire brigade forces should be able to stop local wars. It is of even greater importance that the deterrent should be credible. Here the Navy is weak, but it is here that it must be strong. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East cast doubt on the need for antisubmarine forces. The question has been asked, particularly by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget): what is the use of anti-submarine forces when the country might be devastated by nuclear attack? The short answer is: why devastate a country when one can conquer it by cutting the sea lanes?
That is much too simple a view, and I should like now to examine the case for increasing our anti-submarine forces. I believe that by doing this we shall increase not only the credibility of the deterrent but also the security of this 1377 country. In the context of antisubmarine warfare the job of the Navy, and, equally important, Royal Air Force Coastal Command, is to safeguard our sea communications in the Atlantic, in our home waters and in other strategic areas.
Is this job of any importance, and ought the forces needed to be given any priority, especially when we might anticipate a global war starting with a devastating nuclear attack? Our dependence on our sea lanes of communications has not, of course, altered. Sea communications are of great importance to all N.A.T.O. countries, but the immediate threat is not to the supply lines. The immediate danger is no longer that we shall be strangled by the cutting off of our supplies. The overwhelming threat is the obliteration of our fighting capacity by sudden nuclear attack.
The enemy would have two objectives: first, to destroy the Western strategic offensive, and, second, to destroy our will to fight and our war potential. I will call these phase 1 and phase 2. To achieve his objectives, the enemy would use a variety of missiles delivered by different means. Among these would be missile-firing submarines, and certainly among the main targets would be our nuclear bomber bases, our missile and rocket sites, our carrier striking forces and our centres of government and military control.
In the face of this nuclear threat, our defence policy is one of deterrence, and rightly so. In the past, first priority has been given to this. As a result, other arms of the forces have fared badly in the allocation of national resources, both production and research, and here I refer particularly to maritime anti-submarine forces.
Today it can be argued that we have reached a position of deterrent stalemate with the Russians. The deterrent itself is still of prime importance, but con5/10/2007ventioned forces, including those with a nuclear capability, which can be seen to support the deterrent are now emerging as of great importance.
Where do maritime anti-submarine forces—I include in this maritime air forces—figure in this reassessment of priorities? I believe that these forces not only support the deterrent but also supplement it. They destroy Soviet 1378 missile firing submarines, and so by protecting our land-based nuclear striking forces they contribute directly to the initial nuclear exchange. They do it in the same way by protecting our carrier strike forces. They support the deterrent by a contribution parallel to that of the shield forces in Europe. They supplement the deterrent by their own capacity for nuclear attack. This may be used in circumstances short of all-out nuclear attack on Russia. Finally, they support the deterrent by anti-submarine operations designed to protect Western missile-firing submarines.
What will be the rôle of maritime anti-submarine forces in limited war? I find it difficult to believe that an Atlantic-wide submarine war is a possibility. Such a war would go beyond the definition of a Soviet incursion or local hostile action, and the N.A.T.O. powers would not capitulate to such an attack without unleashing the Western nuclear deterrent. But in a more restricted context there may be limited wars with the opposing sides materially and morally supported by Russia and the West, and for these we must also have adequate maritime anti-submarine forces. One hostile nuclear submarine might have altered the outcome of the Kuwait operation.
This brings me to the actual submarine threat, and it is great. In the future, however, changes will be likely not in increased numbers opposing us but in improved types and, above all, in a great increase in nuclear and missile-firing submarines. This, I believe, raises the Soviet submarine threat from phase 2 to phase 1, in fact to a threat to destroy or greatly weaken the Western nuclear strategic offensive.
The significance of the increased priority which must be given to our maritime anti-submarine defences is obvious. We must develop a capacity to survey activity on or under the sea around the coasts of the N.A.T.O. countries in exactly the same way as we need to detect the approach of aircraft or missiles. If we do not, such installations as that at Fylingdales will be outflanked. The defensive shield should not be only on the European mainland; it must be all around our coasts.
Let me look for a moment at the tasks for which the Soviets are likely to use 1379 their submarines. They will deploy the missile-firing submarines against Europe and the United States. There will be large numbers of submarines deployed to destroy our Atlantic striking force. A major task will be the destruction of the Polaris-firing submarines. No doubt a small number will be deployed to attack shipping.
The tasks of our maritime antisubmarine forces now become apparent. The highest priority should be given to the anti-submarine protection of the Atlantic striking force. The second task would be to oppose the enemy submarine threat as close to its bases as possible. Thirdly, maritime antisubmarine forces will be needed to get shipping out of Europe and to fight in the first supply convoys. This third task may well be carried out in what used to be called the "broken back" period after the nuclear attack when the nations are striving to recover. Perhaps in this phase the submarine attack would approximate more to the conventional anti-shipping war, and the need for antisubmarine forces would then be as great as ever in the past.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
In the light of recent developments, is it not just as likely that, instead of using all these nuclear submarines, the Russians will be able to destroy, say, the Polaris base in Scotland with a rocket?
§ Captain Elliot
No doubt that is a possibility, but I do not want to go into that aspect.
I have given my picture of a submarine war in the future and the part which maritime anti-submarine forces would play in it. I turn now to consider the anti-submarine forces which we have to carry out these tasks. In doing this. I hope I will avoid the mistake of comparing qualitatively the anti-submarine forces we have today with the submarines of tomorrow. But, in forecasting the future threat, we are entitled to ask what, if any, research and development are taking place to meet that threat.
We know that the submarine threat is very great—greater both in numbers and quality than even at the height of the last war—and that the anti-submarine forces we have are very many fewer in number and relatively much less effective, 1380 at least against nuclear submarines. We can see the strength in the Navy Estimates, but—no doubt for good reason—we cannot tell how many anti-submarine ships would be in service if hostilities broke out. But Appendix I gives a good idea of the number of ships and submarines presently taking part in antisubmarine exercises. These figures are illuminating.
In answer to a Question which I put to my hon. Friend the Civil Lord recently, in attempting to draw a comparison between the surface anti-submarine forces available at the height of the last war and what we have today, my hon. Friend gave the figures of 916 surface vessels in the last war compared with 100 today. I described that comparison as alarming. I know that N.A.T.O. will fight in alliance with us, but would even the total available in N.A.T.O. be less alarming? After all, we had allied forces in the last war. In an emergency, would N.A.T.O. forces be available? With the best will in the world, in certain circumstances it might not be possible for N.A.T.O. to send those forces, just as, in a crisis in the last war, we could not send naval forces to help Australia.
What of the quality? Nuclear submarines are here and will be available to the Soviets in increasing numbers in the years ahead. In concluding, I want to pose some questions to my hon. Friend. I assure him I do not do this in any inquisitorial spirit. Nor do I expect an answer tonight.
Is any surface vessel adequate to deal with a nuclear submarine? Have the 30 knots of the nuclear submarine made the surface anti-submarine vessel as obsolete as the blunderbuss? How is the helicopter fairing? Can it track a 30-knot submarine? We have heard about the all weather helicopter. Is it really possible for this aircraft to operate from a ship at sea in a full gale? Can it do that at night in low visibility, and, if so, at what efficiency?
What of the conventional aircraft, whether shore or carrier based? In the last war aircraft, particularly shore-based aircraft, played a vital rôle in antisubmarine warfare. At the height of the crisis they turned the scale. Without them we would have been defeated. Because of their speed and wide-ranging qualities, coupled with radar, they could 1381 locate the submarine and destroy it, or, at worst, immobilise it.
Can aircraft do that today with nuclear submarines? Can they locate a completely submerged nuclear submarine? If not, what research, if any, is going on in this country to restore to these conventional aircraft their power as a weapon against the submarine? Or are they also as obsolete as the blunderbuss? Are we as weak in numbers of maritime anti-submarine aircraft as we are in ships? It must be remembered that bombers can no longer be switched to this work as in the last war. The modern, high speed jet bomber is quite unsuitable.
What of the anti-submarine submarine? We have such vessels. Have we enough? How effective are they as submarine killers? Have they the necessary speed margin over their adversary? And if they use that speed, can they use their locating devices? If they can locate but not catch, what then is the solution? Are they being trained to work with aircraft in the same way that aircraft worked with surface ships in the last war and so achieved victory in the submarine battle? Have we an adequate homing anti-submarine weapon? If not, what research is going on in this country to get one?
I do not know the answers to these questions, but if my hon. Friend will study them I believe that he will find a great deal of expensive but very vital work to be done. I believe also that if the Royal Navy is made strong where now it is weak, it will be as great a reinforcement to the prevention of war as can be obtained in any other way. Should war come in spite of our efforts, our anti-submarine forces will be paramount in preserving the security of this country.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
I wish to make particular reference to junior entry in recruitment to the Royal Navy. The emphasis in such recruitment is on the career available. The Explanatory Statement says that, of the ratings who joined in 1961, no less than 2,525 were Juniors (U)—youths between the ages of 15 and 16¼ years. If there were transferability among the three Services, would that be the age for 1382 engagement for all of them? To the best of my belief, that would not be so. I am particularly interested in the way these young men are recruited. The Explanatory Statement says:There is evidence of a tendency for school-leavers to be more discriminating about the type of career they wish to take up and, having chosen, to stick to their choice. So the Royal Navy recruiting and careers service is concentrating more on youngsters who are at or"—and these are the important words—near the point of leaving school.Is there free entry for career officers? That is the inference, but I would deprecate free entry being exclusively for the Royal Navy and not for the other two Services. The Statement goes on:The popularity of the Junior (U) entry shows the confidence which parents and teachers have in the form of training which it provides.Apparently the careers officer attends parent-teacher conferences. Are influences brought to bear within the school establishments or by the Minister of Education or by the Ministry of Labour? When a youth has cast the die at this age, what further guidance is given to him? What form of contract will these young men have to sign?
I see from Appendix III that it is proposed to employ semi-skilled people as electrical mechanics or as radio electrical mechanics. I think that this should be brought to the notice of all concerned so that we can get some idea of how much pressure is being used to recruit people. I am not against recruitment to the Navy, but the type of discipline imposed on these young people may be considerably harder than that to which they would be subject in a comparable civilian occupation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) paid tribute to the designers of aircraft carriers. I suggest, however, that it would be better to concentrate on building nuclear-propelled surface vessels. The Estimates show that there is a 15 per cent. increase in underwater marine propulsion and it would be better to concentrate on building more nuclear-propelled surface vessels than to concentrate on building something which, because of technical changes in the Navy, may not be required by 1970.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the debate at this early hour. Last year I waited until midnight and still did not take part in the debate. In previous years I managed to get in at six o'clock in the morning. It is much more pleasant to make a speech at six o'clock in the afternoon than six o'clock in the morning.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is much better at six o'clock in the morning. I speak from long experience.
§ Brigadier Clarke
I am grateful for that tribute from my annual competitor. At one time we were able to sit up beyond midnight and be certain of making a speech, but last year some of us did not get in, and I think that that is perhaps why there are one or two fewer Members present today. I liked the days when one knew that one could speak on the Navy Estimates because the debate went on until everyone present was satisfied.
I start tonight by paying tribute to Her Majesty's Navy during the last year in keeping British prestige and the British flag flying very high indeed. As always in times of difficulty, the Royal Navy came to the rescue of our nationals. A country like Britain which has a far-flung Empire—Britain still has a far-flung Empire although the wind of change is tending to dry it up a bit—needs a Navy to look after her nationals and protect her subjects. During the past year the Royal Navy has done a wonderful job of work in Kuwait, the Persian Gulf, Kenya, British Guiana and other places. Its presence saved many lives and kept peace and order.
It is mainly my constituents who maintain and keep the Royal Navy in good working order, and it is this aspect which I am interested in presenting to the Committee tonight. I wish to speak about the dockyard workers in particular, and of course Portsmouth Dockyard is the biggest in Britain and the premier one. I might get into trouble with my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) for saying this, but when ships go into her dockyard they seem to scrape their bottoms on 1384 the way in. When they go into my dockyard they do so much more safely.
Last year, and every year, I raised with the Civil Lord the question of the low rates of wages in the dockyard. The Civil Lord generally writes me a letter, or I go to see him, and he blinds me with statistics, figures, and averages, to show that nearly all dockyard workers are almost in the Surtax class. This is far from true. I sent the Civil Lord a list of wages paid to painters. The first five on the list received the following wages—£7 14s. 2d., £7 12s. 10d., £7 l1s. l1d., £7 16s. 4d. and £8 18s. 4d. Not one painter received £9 a week.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. W. J. Taylor)
Has my hon. and gallant Friend a statement of the number of hours worked per week?
§ Brigadier Clarke
The figures I gave were the wages taken home by the men. I have the pay packets in my black bag. I will give them to my hon. Friend if he requires them. The names of the men are on the pay packets, but they were anxious not to have their names made known. Even if they received £9 a week, that would still be very much below the national average.
These painters were getting this low wage because of some dispute between the Admiralty and the trade unions, and as a result were losing £3 a week or more. I took this up with the Civil Lord, and he was kind enough to look into the matter and said that he hoped that the dispute would shortly come to an end, and that the parties would be able to come to some amicable arrangement and pay these men what they were being paid before the dispute arose.
I do not know why dockyard wages are so low. We are told that the workers get a small gratuity at the end of their service and/or a pension, but the pension is extremely small. The men have to work for a long time to get it, and they certainly deserve it when they do, but anything below £9 is a low wage indeed for a man working in a city.
The Admiralty should remember that these workers are loyal British subjects. There have recently been strikes in the engineering industry on Mondays, but the unions concerned were unable to get the dockyards to come out on strike. They have now decided that as the wages 1385 of these men are negotiated separately they will not ask them to come out on strike. This is excellent, and I think that the dockyards have set a good example by not coming out on strike.
As far as I know, we have not had a strike in the dockyard this century. The workers there are well disciplined, and I hope that the Admiralty will not drive these men to taking action to get more wages. I should like the Admiralty to lead the way by giving these men more rather than have the increases forced on it by the men following in the footsteps of the shipyard workers. Workers in the shipyards may be all right, because they get paid overtime and therefore receive good pay packets, but this is not so in the dockyards where there is very little overtime and, as I showed from the figures I quoted, the wages are low.
I must give the Civil Lord a bouquet where it is due. I am told that an excellent scheme has been started at Eastney. A successful work study is going on there in co-operation with the trades unions and the men are extremely pleased with the pay packets, bonuses and other benefits which they receive. More work is being done with less labour and things are going very well. Perhaps the Civil Lord can tell me whether it would be possible to produce a similar incentive scheme in the dockyards. It would be popular, and I think that the dockyard personnel deserve to be looked after better than they have been.
I should like to draw the attention of the Civil Lord to a letter which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, written by Admiral Hubback, recommending a five-yearly estimate and a five-yearly review. We could still have debates every year but if it were known five years ahead what was estimated it would be much easier to plan for nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and the like which cannot be built in a year. Yearly estimates may be suitable for most Government Departments, but I think that in the Admiralty consideration might be given to estimating over a longer period.
An excellent review has been prepared by the Admiral Superintendent at Portsmouth, and published in the Portsmouth Evening News, which draws attention to the failure to attract apprentices into 1386 the dockyards. There are fifty vacancies at Portsmouth. I should like the Civil Lord to investigate the reasons for the vacancies. Are the examinations too difficult? Is the pay too low? Is it the case that possible apprentices do not want to work for a five-year apprenticeship because the period is too long and they would prefer to earn money in other ways more quickly? Jobs in the dockyard are well worth having and some publicity should be given to this excellent form of employment.
We have heard a lot about the integration of the three Services. In the Army storemen are rated as clerical workers and they enjoy all the consequent advantages, but Admiralty storemen do not. I raised this matter last year and the year before and I shall probably raise it again next year if I am here. Admiralty storemen are classified as industrial and experience poor conditions of work and pay as a result. I am told that this has something to do with a trade union objection to Admiralty storemen being classified as clerical, but I do not see why the unions should object in the case of the Navy when it is accepted in respect of Army storemen.
I do not think that there are any other problems which I desire to air. I have a wonderful liaison with the Civil Lord who is one of the best occupants of that office which we have had. His predecessors were good but the present Civil Lord is extraordinarily good. He is most helpful over all the Service problems which I bring to him and I am grateful for the assistance which he has given me.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)
The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) will not expect me to follow him in his discussion of constituency troubles with the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. There was a time when I was a fairly frequent visitor to Portsmouth Dockyard, and so I know something about it.
I wish to draw attention to some of the financial and organisational weaknesses of the Admiralty. No one can escape from the fact that the trend of naval and Admiralty costs has risen steadily. The Estimates for 1960–61 were just short of £400 million. For 1961–62 they were £413 million and for the 1387 current Estimates the figure is £422 million. By relating those figures to the last ten years one sees some quite remarkable results. In 1952–53 there were 376 ships. In 1959–60 there were 235. Giving evidence to the Estimates Committee the Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty said that we could not expect the Admiralty Headquarters to shrink at the same rate as the number of ships because with reorganisation taking place and ships being scrapped or put into reserve there was a lot of work at Headquarters.
From the figures one finds that the expected reduction of staff has not taken place. In 1952–53 when the number of ships was at its maximum, there were 10,744 people at Admiralty Headquarters. Eight years later the figure was 9,482. In those years the number of ships had dwindled by 40 per cent. but Admiralty Headquarters staff had decreased by only 10 per cent. In the course of giving further evidence to the Estimates Committee the Permanent Secretary said that the ships were becoming more complicated and there were more kinds of ships. In fact, two-thirds of the ships are in four categories—destroyers, frigates, submarines and minesweepers. So presumably the amount of work on the different types cannot be in the same proportion as the way in which the staff maintains itself.
In the current estimates the figures in Vote 12 mount steadily. The figure was £10 million in 1960–61; £10½ million in 1961–62 and £10¾ million for the period under discussion. That is against a background of expenditure at Headquarters which in the ten years from 1950 to 1960 has practically doubled. The first figure was £5¼ million and for the end of the period £9¾ million. The Admiralty Headquarters staff has doubled since pre-war and the number of personnel, naval and industrial, is only slightly larger than pre-war.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell me how many of the ships to which he has referred are operational and how many may be having a refit or be in reserve?
§ Mr. Boyden
I cannot give figures. I am not trying to make a detailed point but to give a general picture of conditions over the last ten or eleven years.
1388 What is as revealing as the general trend of a large Headquarters staff and diminishing responsibility in the sphere of operations, as it were, is that the proportion of senior staff—as was stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis)—has not diminished. In fact, the numbers have increased. I spent a little time examining Vote 12 in detail and comparing the Estimates for 1960–61 with those for 1962–63. I found that in the Secretary's Department two principals or their equivalent had been upgraded to two assistant secretaries and in addition there are two assistant principals. In other words, it is obvious that the Secretariat at the Admiralty regards the top layer of Administration as a permanent feature. Otherwise it would not be recruiting two extra assistant principals. The same sort of thing is found in several other Departments. The clerical staff in the Secretary's Department had been reduced by 38, but there are three additional higher executive officers and three additional executive officers. I always thought that within the Admiralty office about half the executive officers were supervising and controlling clerical staff and the other half were on individual projects, but here we have a decrease of 38 clerical staff with an increase of six to control them.
Take the Accounts Department. There is a new post of Principal Director of Accounts, with three senior accounts officers, two deputy senior accounts officers and two assistant accounts officers extra to control 52 fewer clerical staff. I find that there is a decrease of 34 paper-keepers but an increase of two senior paper-keepers to look after them. It may be true that the Admiralty has reduced the actual tonnage of paper, but it has more senior paper-keepers to look after it.
In Victualling there is the same number of clerical staff but they are controlled by six extra executive officers. In armament supply there are eight fewer clerical staff but two assistant senior armament supply officers and eleven assistant armament supply officers to look after them. In the Stores Department there are 27 fewer clerical staff and there is a new grade of eleven senior naval store officers instead of 11 deputies or assistants. The whole picture 1389 is of increased executive and administrative officers to supervise fewer clerical officers and less clerical work.
One of the exceptions is where the Estimates Committee probed very hard. The Estimates Committee made some strong recommendations about the Naval Staff. I must hand it to the Estimates Committee, because it was more effective than the Civil Lord inasmuch as its probing managed to decrease the number of naval officers in the Intelligence Division by eight as well as the number of clerical officers by nine. If the naval Intelligence Division can do that kind of thing, why cannot the administrative and executive grades do it in other departments?
Inability to keep Admiralty costs within limits is a political matter. It stems from inability from the top to exercise adequate political pressures. It begins with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He came here not long ago and confessed to having failed by £100 million to contain the Defence Estimates. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot contain the overall figure, it is not surprising that the Civil Lord, who, after all, is not the senior political head—as was brought out forcibly by the Prime Minister when security was discussed—and who does not even take the chair when the First Lord is away, is almost powerless in the face of these rising costs.
The Minister of Defence must bear a very considerable burden for failing to bring adequate pressure on to the Admiralty in this respect. Time and time again on these benches emphasis has been put on integrating services. We have had reference in the last few weeks to the inability to integrate dentists and doctors in the three Services. It would be a great deal more beneficial for the National Health Service and more economical for the defence Services if there were one unified medical and dental military service.
The Ministry of Works manages to service the Civil Departments in relation to works services. Why cannot the Ministry of Defence do the same? Intelligence is obviously a subject which would be more economic if it were organised entirely by the Ministry of Defence and not dealt with on a departmental basis. What excuse is there for three sets of chaplains or for an instructor branch in 1390 the Navy an Education Branch in the R.A.F. and an education corps for the Army? Integration is sadly lacking in the "civil" groups in the Services. There would be a much better career for education officers in all the services if they could easily move into colleges of advanced technology at some stage. We would then get more efficiency and there would be better career prospects for them. Is it not absolutely ridiculous that the Royal Navy has its own system of aircraft accidents investigation and so have the Army and the Royal Air Force? By integration greater efficiency and a reduction of work could be produced.
When it probed the Admiralty, the Estimates Committee was more effective than the Civil Lord and political heads have been over a period of years. The Committee managed to reduce the Naval Staff and to increase the organisation and methods department. I think it was by accident that it got rid of three psychologists. Some play was made about this. I fancy that behind the scenes there had been a certain amount of talk to the effect that "We don't need psychologists" so three were got rid of.
It is extremely difficult for the secretariat to be tough about economies. The secretariat, the administrative and executive staff, exist to serve the Navy. They do it well and co-operation with the Navy is excellent. At the same time it is not fair to put the onus for cutting down costs and keeping them under control on that staff if there is not a strong lead from the top.
We cannot expect civil servants in office to be as vigorous in probing if they are not given a strong political lead. I give an example, staff inspectors for investigations into complements and so on were re-introduced in 1960. This undoubtedly was because of the probing by the Estimates Committee. A witness before the Committee said:The most difficult problems of Treasury control arise over the numbers of staff.How can one expect anything in the way of serious reductions if the Civil Service itself feels like this and there is no drive from the top?
I turn to possible economies in the existing framework of the Admiralty. I am sure that there are some, but it is difficult for a back-bencher without access to the office records to be sure 1391 about particular economies. I am quite sure that some of these principles apply forcibly to the Admiralty, however. I quote the Zuckerman Report in relation to research and development. The phrase there is:The best is too often the enemy of the good.To put it in another way. quoting now from the Plowden Report:The management should always be on guard against a tendency to provide higher standards of services than are necessary for the purpose in hand.Hon. Members opposite are quite prepared to use that argument in relation to the social services. The Minister of Health was using it only a few days ago. This principle of over-provision, over-elaboration of equipment and so on, may well be true of the Admiralty.
I am at once aware that when we commit men to war at sea we expose their lives and we must give them good equipment, but there is no doubt that in research and development this phrase from the Zuckerman Report has been absolutely proved. It must have a lot of validity in all sorts of corners in the Admiralty. I make another comment from the Plowden Report on Management Services. The Report says in paragraph 52:Greater emphasis should undoubtedly be laid upon inculcating a better understanding of the capabilities of the various management services amongst administrators and their equivalents in the professional, scientific and other classes in the Civil Service.In the Admiralty all those classes are to be found. Naval officers are trained for war. I do not think there is much doubt that more pressure is needed to train naval officers and administrative staff in this kind of attitude, the attitude recommended by the Plowden Committee, to make all senior officers cost-conscious and efficiency-conscious, I again quote the Estimates Committee, which bears this out in a very forcible way in showing that this probing is not done on anything like the scale it should be. On page 10 of its Report, the Committee says:Every now and then the Navy does take advantage of the existence of organisation and methods to look into something Navally run.1392 That statement is a masterpiece of leaving out. Another phrase from page 51 of the same Report says:We would not expect Treasury staff inspectors to be turned on to the fleet.In other words, there are 100,000 men who are exempt from Treasury staff inspectors and large blocks of operations in which organisation and methods is not particularly expected to be invited. To quote the Plowden Committee again, because I am sure that it applies to the Admiralty, when talking about the training of administrative staff in the Treasury on costing and using efficiency services, management services, the Committee said:We are less certain that a large enough proportion of the abler Assistant Secretaries and equivalents … was likely in the course of their careers (or early enough) to get the benefit of the training"—that is, the Treasury training—provided, and to develop the attitude of mind which actively seeks efficiency and economy.Again, to quote the Estimates Report on the Admiralty Headquarters, one witness said:We do not have work study teams going round the Admiralty organising the offices.If an adequate number of administrative officers do not have this kind of training and are not inculcating this kind of idea, who is doing it?
I do not imagine that if the full use of organisation and methods and works study systems was adopted some of the things which have been adopted elsewhere would at once revolutionise the costs, but there is no doubt that a traditional Department like the Admiralty, indeed, the Service Departments generally, are very resistant to this sort of thing, and, therefore, the pressure must come from the people at the head of Department, namely, the Civil Lord and the First Lord.
Perhaps I could now turn to one or two more aspects of this kind of thing, and refer to the Plowden Committee's emphasis on the special importance of providing staff training, the provision of special skills and services—scientific, statistical, accountancy and organisation and methods. I have discovered that have dispensed with five statisticians and actuaries, and have reduced the number over the last eight years, the Admiralty 1393 of statisticians and actuaries from 17 to 12. I have already referred to the psychologists. It would appear that, even when they had these people—and they are in very short supply—they found that they were not able to use them. There is a decided overlapping, or, to put it another way, a decided confusion of functions.
Why on earth, for example, has there to be a ship's cook and an officers' cook? In the Estimates Committee Report, it is stated that in a great emergency one cook could be transferred from one sphere to another but it would seem to be common sense that there should be a unified service. Another small point, why is it necessary to have a duty commander and a resident clerk on duty at the Admiralty during the quiet hours? I should have thought that one resident officer there, whether civilian or military, could get in touch with the right people if an emergency arose, and that if there were a general state of emergency the responsible people would be around very quickly.
Again, why are there no women in the higher administrative grades in the Admiralty? I understand that in the view of the Admiralty Secretariat, women are not acceptable on ships—
§ Mr. Boyden
We find women scientists in the Admiralty Scientific Service and a lovely woman chief executive officer in the Secretary's Department but no principals or above. It is this kind of thing which makes one feel that the Admiralty is still hide-bound by tradition. The militant women's organisations ought to campaign for equality in the Admiralty! There was equality in the lower ranks during the war, when there were women temporary administrative assistants and temporary principals, and I fail to see why there should not be female assistant secretaries now.
Perhaps I may conclude with making some comments on the Secretariat. I am sure that there is inadequate training of civil staff, and I think the Government are seriously to blame for the physical state of many offices. I will not enter into the quarrel about Bath or London, as one who has always advocated 1394 decentralisation, but I am quite sure that the building of new offices could be pursued far more vigorously today. It is quite obvious that Queen Anne's Mansions is much better suited for flats than for offices, and the Government generally have a very bad record, as has local government, too, for housing their servants properly. It is not only a matter of efficiency and providing good office arrangements, but it is bad for office morale. I think that the Admiralty would do much better if more of its resources were devoted to the building of better office quarters than to some of the other things.
I am sure, too, that with the desire to attract men to the Services there is an over-tenderness towards the career aspect, both in the Secretariat as well as in the Fleet.
So very often there are opportunities for economy which are lost because of carrying a top-heavy staff. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has got his priorities all wrong, and has given a demonstration of the wrong sorts of control. The Minister of Defence has stumbled from one false position to another, and the Civil Lord has proved less effective than the Estimates Committee, which has had to do his work for him.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I hope that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) will forgive me if I do not follow him too closely. I found his speech both interesting and instructive, and I genuinely tried, at the beginning of his speech, to find out just how many of the ships to which he referred were actually on operational duties and how many were laid up in moth balls, because, quite obviously, a vessel on operational duties with a crew of sailors needs far more shore staff of Admiralty civilians to look after her than does a vessel laid up, afloat or ashore.
The only other speech to which I should like to refer, before striking out on a special theme which I wish to raise myself, was that of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke). It seemed to me that if skilled dockyard men are receiving less than £9 a week, that is a very low figure of remuneration indeed today. My hon. and gallant Friend told 1395 a narrowing tale of six men, none of them receiving £9 a week. Perhaps just to strengthen his plea, I might say that in Leicester I know of girls of 15 and 16 who are earning over £12 a week in the hosiery trade. It seems to me that there is something a little unbalanced when we hear of these two classes of people and their earnings.
My chief object in rising tonight is, as briefly and as clearly as possible to call the attention of my hon. Friend the Civil Lord to the scarcity with which the vessels of the Royal Navy are deployed on the waters of the world. In the Explanatory Memorandum to the Navy Estimates for 1962–63 there are listed 140 vessels capable of being used operationally now. I say 140, but I know that, as came out earlier in the debate, quite a number of them are not in use at the moment. For instance, in the lists are classed two commando ships of which, as the Civil Lord told us, H.M.S. "Albion" will not come into use until July of this year. Of the 140 vessels operationally available today, some thirty-seven are minesweepers.
Let us take for the purpose of my argument the fact that there are 140 vessels operationally available now. Those of most import are three aircraft carriers—H.M.S. "Hermes", in which I spent a very pleasant time afloat last year, thanks to the courtesy of the Civil Lord, H.M.S. "Centaur" and H.M.S. "Ark Royal". In addition, there is H.M.S. "Bulwark" which did a very good job off Kuwait.
If one adds to those four vessels, together with H.M.S. "Albion", making five, the four operationally available cruisers, we have a total major effective strength today of nine major operational vessels. That is a figure which I consider to be totally inadequate and insignificant. I say that it is insignificant advisedly. If 140 operational vessels were possessed by a nation with perhaps the fairly limited responsibilities of Portugal or Italy or Egypt or Israel, one would say that there were more than enough vessels to deploy to look after their interests in various part of the world, but in no way is the number adequate to meet the global responsibilities that we in this country still have today.
We all know that today the battleship is regarded as obsolete, but seventeen 1396 or eighteen years after the end of the First World War we possessed, together with some battleships, no fewer than 291 major front-line vessels, consisting of cruisers, battleships, destroyers, submarines and aircraft carriers. If one confines oneself to comparing our total strength of vessels of a similar major capability today, including cruisers, commando ships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and submarines, we arrive at a total operational strength available of 93, or under one-third of our 1936 total.
I have produced these figures so that I may ask my hon. Friend the Civil Lord whether he really thinks that today, sixteen or seventeen years after the end of the last war, our international obligations and responsibilities have declined to one-third of what they were in 1936. To my mind, our obligations abroad are just as onerous and far-reaching as they ever were. It is true that certain of our imperial obligations and responsibilities have decreased markedly. Since the last war, for instance, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma and many other nations have achieved independence. In Africa new emergent States are appearing every day, and our responsibilities in that area have decreased considerably.
The Civil Lord himself, however, when he opened the debate today, said that no less than 85 per cent. of our naval strength is now committed to N.A.T.O. responsibilities. If we add the S.E.A.T.O. responsibilities in the Far East, apart from any limited responsibilities of our own, we find that our overseas responsibilities today have certainly not fallen to one-third of what they were in 1936, and they are very nearly as important and realistic as they were then.
One respect in which the situation today is different from what it was in 1936 is the fact that the Suez Canal, which has always been a vital lifeline to our country and Commonwealth, is no longer in friendly hands. It is owned by a nation whose attitude and whose actions, to say the very least, would cast considerable doubt on whether or not they could be relied upon to assist us in time of national emergency. That is an important fact to bear in mind because it obviously means that we need to have a certain amount of duplication east of Suez. Gone are the days when we could 1397 base a battle squadron at Malta, or in the Eastern Mediterranean, and know that within a few hours' or days' steaming it could reach a trouble spot in the vicinity of Aden or perhaps further afield in Asia. Those days are finished and it is necessary for us to duplicate east of the Canal.
Reference has been made earlier in the debate to the operation which occurred in Kuwait and the advantage of having a readily available compact naval force on the spot, although, of course, the whole operation was on a very limited scale. My hon. Friend has already been asked what this country could have done if there had been two Kuwaits at the same time. What would we have done if there had been two trouble spots which were not close together, and if the Kuwait kettle, instead of simmering with lots of hot air and steam for some time, giving my hon. Friend plenty of time for naval deployment, had boiled up rather more quickly and if we had not conveniently had our one and only operational commando carrier in the vicinity?
On the centre pages of the Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates for 1962–63 is a most interesting picture of an amphibious task force in operation. I calculate that if we were to mount an offensive by such an amphibious task force as is shown in this publication, it would leave available for use elsewhere one landing ship tank, no landing craft tank, no guided missile destroyers, no landing ship headquarters nor commando carriers. In other words, our total strength of all the vessels of that class are included in this typical amphibious task force indicated on the centre page of this booklet.
My hon. Friend no doubt realises that I am pointing out what I consider to be a very startling decline in the strength of our operational naval fleet. He may try to justify this startling decline by expressing the belief that there was a greater threat of warlike action in 1936 than there is today. I hope, as all hon. Members do, that any preparations that we make of a military or naval character are based on defensive preparations and, moreover, will never be called to the test. I feel sure that I would be going beyond the bounds of your patience, Sir William, if I were to endeavour to assess the comparative 1398 international situations in 1936 and 1962. Suffice to say that I earnestly believe that there was never a time when it was more necessary for this country to be adequately prepared than today.
Perhaps the international conference which is opening at Geneva today will eventually—we all hope it will—lead to some lessening of the need for armaments, but until then we must remain prepared and well armed. It appears that we in this country have prejudged the successful outcome of the international disarmament conference in Geneva by already having run down our Royal Navy to the very lowest possible limits of safety.
If I may guess at my hon. Friend's reply tonight, he will, with his usual charm and lucidity, point out that the enormous cost of vessels makes it difficult to consider mounting a large fleet. He may point out that no longer is the capital ship or a big vessel of the Royal Navy our major deterrent. He may say that comparatively the vessels which we possess are capable of an increased firing power much greater than that of vessels of ten, fifteen or twenty years ago. He might, finally, endeavour to comfort me and other hon. Members who feel disturbed by saying that we always have our allies, that they are very much stronger than they were in the 1930s and that they are more dependable.
Our views and those of our allies are not always identical. We had ample evidence of that at the time of Suez and since then, in a limited way at Kuwait. When speaking about the increased firing power of individual vessels today, let us remember, for example, that a destroyer of today is a far more dangerous and versatile vessel than it was even in the last war. But one destroyer, no matter what our backroom boffins do, can only be in one place at one time. One vessel, however powerfully armed and however speedy, can never be an adequate substitute for a multiplicity of weaker units. I suppose that the one thing on which my hon. Friend is on safe ground in saying is that there is only a limited amount of cash available and that we must cut our coat according to our cloth. That is absolutely true, but it is disappointing to read in the Estimates that for a total estimated expenditure of more than £460 million 1399 for 1961–62 we have only succeeded in producing, launching and commissioning one new submarine of a conventional type and six new frigates during the whole year. I appreciate that any vessel today must be virtually a floating statistical computor manned by technicians. The cost of individual vessels is absolutely enormous compared with pre-war days. But I remind my hon. Friend that it is no use having a Navy of nearly 100,000 men and women based in expensive installations ashore and spending a lot of money on them if we do not have the ships which, after all, any Navy is based on.
Comparing the total number of new ships added to the Fleet in 1961–62 with the total expenditure, we find that for every £65 million spent on our naval forces we have succeeded this year in producing one new vessel. I must admit that the big difference between 1936 and 1962 is that no longer is the nation's major deterrent the capital ship. It is—and this, of course, is the radical difference—the threat of nuclear retaliation by aircraft. Nevertheless, allowing for this major change in tactics, is not the rundown of our Navy really too high? Has it not been reduced rather too much compared with 1936? As I say, one conventional submarine and six frigates were the only additions to the Fleet as replacements for 1961–62.
Is my hon. Friend really satisfied that the paltry strength of the Fleet, augmented by the present paltry rate of replacement, is adequate to meet our responsibilities in the world in which we live today?
§ Mr. Boyden
The figures I quoted earlier were those for the operational Fleet and the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) will find the details in Table D on page 257 of the Estimates Committee Report.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
On a point of order. I should like to ask, Sir William, at what stage the Amendment standing in my name, to move to reduce the Vote by 1,000 men, will be called.
§ The Chairman
I am obliged to the hon. Member for raising that point of order now. It was not my intention to select the Amendment in the hon. Member's name, but, of course, the subject matter of it can be fully discussed during the course of the general debate.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Further to that point of order. Might I ask you carefully to reconsider that Ruling, Sir William? With respect, it is in contradiction to what I understand to be the procedure of the Committee under the Standing Orders, and, if I am right, in direct conflict with one of the basic principles of our constitutional procedure. The Chairman's power to select Amendments arises in Standing Order No. 31, which states:In respect of any motion, or in respect of any bill under consideration either in a committee of the whole House or on report, Mr. Speaker, or in a Committee the Chairman of Ways and Means, and the Deputy Chairman, shall have power to select the new clauses or amendments to be proposed, and may, if he thinks fit, call upon any member who has given notice of an amendment to give such explanation of the object of the amendment as may enable him to form a judgment upon it.It is a power to select, and my first point is that, of course, power of selection presupposes that there is more than one Amendment to choose from. You cannot select the only one there is and that view of the matter is expressed—
§ The Chairman
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member but it is not really in order to debate the selection of the Chair, and I know that neither he nor the Committee wants to go beyond what is in order. But my understanding of Standing Order No. 31, which the hon. Member has mentioned, is that the power of the Chairman to this Committee of Supply in no way differs from the power of the Chair at other times. It is the experience, I am sure, of all hon. Members of the Committee and of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) that on many occasions, when a single Amendment alone stands, it has not been selected by the Chair and I believe that I am, at present, bound by that order in the same way as if I were in the Chair when the Committee was discussing a different subject.
§ Mr. Silverman
I fully understand that, Sir William, but I am challenging 1401 the propriety of the exercise of the power of selection where there is only one Amendment in all oases, and I agree that it is necessary to look at this particular case with regard to the Committee of Supply.
I say at once, Sir William, that I have two points, the first of which I am on now, and the second relating to the special situation in Committee of Supply. I have no intention whatever of debating it at this stage, but it is a matter to which we attach importance and, if it be necessary to debate it at some other stage, that will come in due course. I am submitting to you now that you might think it right to hear what the point is, without argument or debate, and, perhaps, consider what I have to say before finally ruling on the matter.
I was saying that, on the question of selection, there is support in Erskine May for the view that a power of selection does not arise unless there are things to select between. On page 476, there is a heading "Multiplication of Amendments", and the paragraph, after first describing the old procedure with regard to several Amendments, goes on to say:Experience has shown that in most cases the discretion conferred on the Chair by Standing Order No. 31 to select the amendments which may be moved is the best method of securing reasonable opportunities for all varieties of opinions. This power is exercised by the Chair in such a way as to bring out the salient points of criticism, to prevent repetition and overlapping, and, where several amendments deal with the same point, to choose the more effective and the better drafted.In other words, the power of selection was a power which the House and the Committee willingly gave to the Speaker and the Chairman in order to avoid multiplication of Amendments, and the implication appears to be that "selection" has its dictionary meaning of choosing among a variety of courses. That is all I say on that point.
I come now to the special point regarding the Committee of Supply. This is dealt with in Erskine May at the bottom of page 731 and the top of page 732. I submit that this appears to be almost conclusive:Except in the manner of proposing the question upon an amendment, the procedure of the Committee of Supply follows the ordinary usage of a Committee of the whole House.1402 So far, therefore, whatever is true of the power of selection at other points is true of the power of selection in Committee of Supply. The paragraph goes on:No amendment can be moved which is not relevant to the grant under consideration. The votes must be considered in the order in which they stand on the Paper. Any vote may be passed over and not moved; but a Motion for postponing a proposed resolution cannot be entertained. Each resolution for a grant forms a distinct motion, which can only be dealt with by being agreed to, reduced, negatived, superseded, or, by leave, withdrawn.I pause there to point out that this seems to make quite clear that a Resolution may be dealt with not only in any of the other methods indicated in that sentence but also by reduction.
The paragraph continues:… and the withdrawal can be made, although the decision of the committee has been taken upon amendments proposed to the resolution.I draw your special attention, Sir William, to the next two sentences and there I leave it:Here the power of the committee ceases. The committee may vote or refuse a grant, or may reduce the amount thereof, either by a reduction of the whole grant, or by the omission or reduction of the items of expenditure of which the grant is composed; but the committee have no other function.It seems quite clear that one of the powers which the House has in Committee of Supply is a power to reduce a Vote. If there is no Amendment before the Committee by which the amount can be reduced, then that one of the functions or powers of the Committee of Supply has been arbitrarily denied by the Chair exercising the power of selection, in this case exercising a power of selection where there is nothing to choose between.
I submit that the whole business of the House of Commons and the Committee rests on its Supply procedure and that, if the Committee is to be deprived at the discretion of the Chair of power to reduce a Vote, it is deprived also of the whole normal procedure by which, over very many years—over centuries, I think—the Opposition have been able to say of a particular Vote of the Government, "We do not say that you are not entitled to any men or not entitled to any money, but we say that you are asking for too many men or too much money and we wish to grant you less". That is supported by the form in which the Amendment is put, if it be called, 1403 where the Chair does not say, as it would say in other cases, that the Question is, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part". Instead, the Chair puts the Question that "a reduced amount" be granted, the Amendment being put in the positive and not the negative form.
This seems to support the argument which I am pressing, I hope not unduly, upon your consideration, that the Committee of Supply has by our constitutional practice over many generations the power either to grant or to refuse and also the power to reduce, and if the Amendment to reduce—there being only one—is not called by the Chair, to that extent the powers of the House of Commons to control expenditure by the Government in any matter—on this occasion in defence—are abrogated. I submit with great respect that this cannot be right, and I ask you to reconsider the matter.
§ The Chairman
I think that I ought to deal with the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). It is a long one.
§ Mr. Wigg
May I put something to you, Sir William, further to that point of order? There are certain considerations which I wish respectfully to put to you before you give your ruling.
The House has accepted a modified procedure, modified since I came to the House, because, as you will recollect, before the modified procedure a debate on the Estimates was interrupted by a Motion which depended upon the luck of the Ballot. After that Motion had been cleared away, we then continued and the Government would seek to get Vote A and all the other Votes. The revised procedure, a wise change to make, I think, affected the rights of minorities in this way. You will recollect that when we move on to the Committee stage of the Estimates the only Votes which can then be discussed are Votes which are put down by the Government at the request of the Opposition Front Bench. I put this point respectfully to you, Sir William, as the guardian of the rights of minorities and of individual back benchers to raise 1404 matters on Supply. Although, of course, I have no wish to be disrespectful or suggest for a moment that your prerogative here is not absolute, I submit for your earnest consideration that the rights of back benchers, which have been deliberately given up in one respect, will be greatly affected if you do not accept an Amendment to reduce the numbers on Vote A. In fact, the last rights of the back bencher to have any direct influence over the control of the Armed Forces will have been taken from us.
§ The Chairman
With respect, I think that the Committee should allow me to rule on what has been already said.
I appreciated what was argued by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), but the passages from Erskine May which he quoted were permissive rather than mandatory. In considering the point in regard to which the hon. Member made much of the word "reduction", I refer the Committee to a book with which everyone is familiar, "An Introduction to the Procedure of the House of Commons", by Lord Campion. On this subject it says:The Committee of Supply finds itself confined … to giving general indications of its attitude. Thus the sum of £100 by which an amendment may seek to reduce a vote or item, concrete as it seems, now only has a symbolical meaning. It does not necessarily mean that those who vote in its favour hold that too much is being spent on such vote or item whether by that precise amount or not (as often as not the objection is that too little is being spent) but rather that the whole policy of the Government, as revealed by that vote or item, is open to objection.Clearly, this evening, when the debate comes to an end, hon. Members will have the opportunity to object to the whole of the Government's policy by voting against the main Question.
I invite the hon. Gentleman and the Committee to examine the conclusion to which we should be driven if it were established that the occupant of the Chair should not, upon occasion, exercise his duty of selection. If an hon. Member chose to table an Amendment to these Service Votes on each of the three occasions on which they are considered, he would, regardless of the interests of other hon. Members, ensure 1405 unto himself the right to be called and to make a lengthy speech. I cannot feel that that would be in line with equity in the conduct of the Committee's proceedings. I am very reluctant to take up more of the Committee's time on this subject, and I therefore think it right that the Committee should continue with its business, accepting the Ruling which I have given.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Further to that point of order. I gather from what you have said, Sir William, that you are taking into consideration what happened on the Army Estimates and on the Air Estimates. I should have thought that there was nothing in Erskine May or in the book from which you have just quoted—which is not binding on this Committee—which suggests that it is proper that you should—
§ Mr. Foot
I am sure that you would agree, Sir William, that, if there were a choice between the two, Erskine May carries slightly more weight than the introduction to our procedure from which you have read. However, your proposition to us, as I understood it—if I have misunderstood it I apologise in advance—was that you were taking into account what happened on the Army and Air Estimates. It would be necessary to do this because the proposition which you have made to the Committee is in flagrant contradiction to what was proposed when we discussed the Army and Air Estimates. If your Ruling is correct, then the Ruling which was given when we discussed the Army and Air Estimates was, perhaps, wrong, because there was no question then that, if an hon. Member tabled an Amendment in the terms of the Amendment tabled to the Navy Estimates, it would not be called.
§ The Chairman
Order. It was I who, in my service to the Committee as Chairman, selected the Amendment on the Air Estimates and the Amendment on the Army Estimates. That is not to say that the occupant of the Chair is bound to follow the same policy again and again.
§ The Chairman
Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is going too far. It may be that I am, to a certain extent, at fault, because far from it being incumbent on the occupant of the Chair to explain why he selects Amendments, it is out of order for the Chair's selection of Amendments to be debated.
I invite hon. Members to accept my Ruling and to return to it another time if they wish. We are engaged on an important debate. We are taking many minutes of hon. Members' time, and I should like the Committee to allow us to get on with the business.
§ The Chairman rose—
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Gentleman is not correct in saying that I am denying hon. Members the right to table an Amendment. What I am doing is exercising the duty to select speakers and Amendments which is imposed on the Chair. As the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) read out, that duty is imposed under Standing Order No. 31. There is no difference between the duty of the Chair in the matter of selecting Amendments in Committee of Supply and selecting them on other occasions. I have given my Ruling. Hon. Members know what steps they can take if they believe it to be wrong. I believe it to be right, and I invite the Committee to get on with its business.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
May I put this final point to you, Sir William? I shall not press the matter beyond this. I am 1407 sure that all of us are grateful to you for your kindness and courtesy in listening to so much discussion about something which, I admit, comes close to what the Committee is not entitled to debate. However, we attach real importance to this matter and we are in considerable doubt as to whether your Ruling is correct.
You have said that there will be an opportunity at the end of the debate for hon. Members to criticise Government policy by voting against the main Estimate and implied—indeed, I think you said it expressly—that this serves the same purpose—
§ The Chairman
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I have never suggested that there is any restriction on the right of criticism. The right of criticism persists. What I have said merely relates to the selection of this Amendment.
§ Mr. Silverman
I fully appreciate that, Sir William, but it seemed to me that you were saying that that right could be as efficiently exercised by voting at the end of the debate against the main Estimate as it could by moving an Amendment to reduce it. If I am mistaken, I withdraw what I have said at once
What I want to impress on you, Sir William, is that the two things have nothing in common. It is true that both axe, in a sense, symbolic. When we vote against the whole Estimate, that is a challenge to the whole of the Department's operations. We deny the Government money altogether. Very many hon. Members do not want to go as far as that but merely wish to say that, perhaps, on grounds of economy, too much money is being spent and too many men are being called up. There is the widest possible difference between voting against the whole and voting against a part. That is why Erskine May uses the word "reduction", which has to be given full weight. There is a power to reduce as well as a power to deny.
As for the little book from which you read, Sir William, from my study of it, I do not think that what you quoted is the only inaccuracy in it. I dare say that in the next edition of it the passage which you read may be revised or taken out.
§ The Chairman
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for making his point. The Committee must now get on with its work.
§ Mr. Hughes
I wish to call your attention, Sir William, to the precedents. Is it not in order to cite precedents?
§ The Chairman
My duty is to allow the Committee to get on with its business. I have given a very distinct Ruling and have listened at considerable length to hon. Members. We have important work to do, and the time in which we have to do it is limited. Mr. Hoy.
§ The Chairman
There comes a time when the Chair must end the discussion, and that time has now come. If any hon. Member wishes to raise a different point of order, I am ready to listen to it. But I have heard this point argued, I have given a Ruling on it and I should now like to get on with the business.
§ The Chairman rose—
§ The Chairman
I hope that the hon. Member will let me give my Ruling and stick to it and let us get on with the business.
§ Mr. Foot
You have not heard what I was about to say, Sir William. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) put to you that there had been many changes in the procedure of the House of Commons in discussing Army Estimates. Apparently, what is happening now is a further grave derogation from the rights of independent Members and back-bench Members of the House of Commons in this respect. If we concede it now, it will be—
§ The Chairman
Order. I appreciate the hon. Member's feelings, but I have taken into account what has been said. I 1409 have given what I believe to be a correct Ruling, backed by precedent, and I should like the Committee to get on with its work. Mr. Hoy.
§ Mr. Hoy rose—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Further to the point of order. I have a consideration which I wish to present to the Chair which has not been mentioned. There is a precedent concerning a reduction of 1,000 men in the Vote on the Navy Estimates five years ago in the case of Commander Crabbe. The official Opposition moved a reduction of 1,000 men in the Navy Estimates to draw attention to the incident. Somebody may have argued that the alternative was to vote against the whole Estimates, but there were hon. Members who wished to draw attention to the case of Commander Crabbe but were not prepared to vote against the whole Estimates. Some hon. Members might be prepared to vote for an Amendment to reduce the number of men by 1,000 but might not be prepared to vote against the whole Estimate.
I have not moved any Amendment on either the Army or the Air Force Estimates. I should like you to say, Sir William, how an Amendment like this can be moved in the case of the Army and the Air Force, but not in the case of the Navy.
§ The Chairman
I do not think that the hon. Member has contributed much to our problem. We had better get on with the debate. Mr. Hoy.
§ Mr. M. Foot
Further to the point of order, Sir William. In view of the study of constitutional matters which some of us have made, may I request whether you will reconsider the matter and give a further ruling of your judgment on the consitutional issues involved, particularly in view of the final point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)? It is a fact, and it is a new point, that he has not moved a reduction on the other Estimates. My hon. Friend is asking for the right—
§ The Chairman
Of course, I shall take full account of everything that has been 1410 said. My mind is never closed. I am a seeker after truth and I will consult all the precedents, but I believe that I have given a correct Ruling.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
When I was called about half an hour ago, I was about to say something in reply to the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). I understand why he is not now present, but perhaps I might be allowed to say a word in his absence. The hon. Member's complaint at the end of his speech was that, despite an expenditure by the Admiralty of £460 million, there was little to show for it in the way of vessels. That is the charge which has been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) over a number of years, that despite this colossal expenditure by the Admiralty we have had little to show for it at the end of the day.
It may be that as a result of planning something will happen in the future. It may be that we might even see results from the money which has been spent. I am bound to tell the Civil Lord, however, that the expenditure by the Admiralty has caused concern, not only to hon. Members in the House, but to those who serve on the Estimates Committee and on the Committee of Public Accounts. I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes), who is occupying the Chair of the Committee for the first time.
One of the things that we have to do, not only in this Committee but as Members of the House, is to examine expenditure by Departments. I cannot speak with an intimate knowledge of the Admiralty. I have not even accepted one invitation from the Civil Lord to pay a visit, although I am grateful to the Admiralty when it sends orders to my constituency. As a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, I have for a considerable number of years, together with my colleagues, examined the expenditure of all the Service Departments. There is no doubt that the moneys spent frequently cause us concern, because there is wastage over which neither the Admiralty nor any of the Service Departments, nor the Treasury, appears to have control.
1411 I wish to follow the line taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden), who examined the Estimates from the viewpoint of the Estimates Committee. This afternoon the Civil Lord spent a little time on the educational establishments under the control of the Admiralty. I was a little surprised, in view of the considerable criticism which has been made about some of those establishments, that the Civil Lord did not take the opportunity to say what had happened as the result of certain criticisms.
The two best establishments—the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dart-ford and the Royal Naval Engineering College at Manadon—came in for criticism, not so much because of the services or the job they do, but because of the money that was spent on them. The Britannia Royal Naval College provides academic and initial professional instruction for cadets and midshipmen. My last information was that there were about 490 students at the college. The Royal Naval Engineering College provides engineering instruction of a specialised character and courses in basic engineering, leading either to a degree or to membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. My figures show that there were 262 students at the college, more than one-third of whom were from overseas, mainly from the Commonwealth.
What gave us trouble and the reason why we want an assurance that the money is being properly spent is that the fees charged by the Admiralty—and I am told that they were fixed arbitrarily in 1955—amounted to £600 per annum. On the best available information I have, the costs per student in these establishments are £1,250 per annum at Dartmouth and £1,500 per annum at Manadon, and even to get them down to those figures one has to discount any capital costs, superannuation and many other things. What we should like to know, before we agree to these Estimates, is what the Admiralty has done as a result of its promise to review those establishments. What I want to ask the Civil Lord is, has this review taken place? Perhaps if it has taken place the hon. Gentleman may be able to tell us bow the cost of these establishments 1412 compares with those in the other Services. We should like to know what has been the result of this consideration, if these joint consultations have taken place, because the hon. Gentleman has got to justify to this Committee what appear to be abnormal charges before it votes Supply.
Having said that, I should like to turn to a subject which caused us in Committee upstairs some considerable concern, and that is the whole business of the Admiralty refitting and rebuilding ships. This has gone on for a considerable time, and the Admiralty has no right to come to this Committee to ask for Supply—and nor has any other Department—unless this Committee can be assured that in fact the money is being spent wisely and economically. I will give instances of one or two cases of the sort of thing which has to be avoided.
In March, 1955, the Admiralty approved plans for modernisation of the cruiser, H.M.S. "Belfast". There was some considerable delay in preparing those drawings. Apparently, there was some shortage of staff or of equipment. The report took a considerable time, but by November, 1956, plans were presented with a preliminary estimate of £4 million. In January, 1957, the estimate had gone up to £4,950,000. By May, 1959, it had gone up to £5,426,000. The final bill presented for the cost of this project was £5,553,000, in other words £1½ million in excess of the original estimate. It may be that there is a case to be made out for this, but I am bound to say that I did not succeed in finding an excuse for this expenditure, and, after that money has been spent, if the Admiralty wants more for these types of purposes we have got to know what is happening. It would be interesting to know from the Civil Lord, having spent this £5½ million on this ship, what the ship is now doing. What has happened to it since the money was spent?
There are a couple more examples which I will place together to save the time of the Committee We had the case of Her Majesty's destroyers the "St. James" and the "Gravelines". It was decided in January and February, 1958, that extended refits of those destroyers should be undertaken. The estimate was based on completion of refit by early 1413 1959, and it was estimated that £571,000 and £360,500, respectively, would be spent on those vessels. The work was slowed down and deterioration took place as a result of the work on the partly completed job being exposed to the weather. In April or May—I am not very certain—the Admiralty approved the stoppage of the work and called for a report. That was in April or May. The Civil Lord will be able to tell me which month it was. No report was presented until September, 1959, and even although it took all that time to present the report it was not until July, 1960, that the Admiralty gave orders for both these ships to be scrapped. In the meantime we had spent £228,000 on one of them and £208,000 on the other. So that despite all this delay and this ineptitude altogether £500,000 of the taxpayers' money was poured down the drain.
It is not good enough for the Admiralty to do all this and then come to this Committee and ask for Supply without at least being able to assure the Committee there will not be further wastage of this kind.
The same story can be told of the cruiser "Swiftsure." The first estimate was £4¼ million. Then it went up to £4,600,000, and it had many starts and an equal number of stops, and then at the end of the day the whole thing was scrapped, but not before £1,200,000 of the taxpayers' money had been spent
So there are two or three examples which involve millions of pounds of the taxpayers' money, and when the Minister comes and asks for Supply from this Committee we are entitled to have an assurance that this sort of thing will stop. It is not only wasteful expenditure of public money. It is also the waste of the valuable time of workmen in our national economy. We call out for men of crafts and skills to carry out these jobs, and in addition to wasting the money we have also wasted the time of these workmen, and that is a thing which cannot be treated as expendable. It contrasts most unfavourably with the Chancellor of the Exchequer coming here, to ask us to exercise economy, and asking the workers to stop making demands for decent wages, when a Department then spends millions of pounds which might 1414 just as well have been tipped down the drain.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), in the fine speech with which he opened the debate on this side of the Committee today, said this contrasts very pointedly with the treatment meted out to Scotland when it asks for more money to try to alleviate the housing conditions which exist in our country. Apparently there is a shortage of it and means tests have got to be imposed, and yet here we have examples of public money being wasted, and wasted to a considerable extent.
I understand that a committee was appointed a considerable time ago to undertake a complete reappraisal of dockyard labour and the load on the dockyards and the capacity of the dockyards to undertake work. If it has been sitting—and it has been sitting for a considerable time—then we are entitled to know tonight what the results of that examination have been. Surely it has had time to come to some conclusion on this matter? After all, it does not involve negotiations with foreign Powers, N.A.T.O., or anybody else like that. It is strictly confined to the Admiralty. Surely we can expect some information from the Admiralty tonight?
Has, as a result of these deliberations, a conclusion been reached that the work will have to be more widely distributed? I am thinking of the craftsmen, the skilled workers and draughtsmen who undertake all these jobs. Has the committee recommended that this type of work should be more widely distributed throughout the country? I do not want to sound parochial or nationalistic, but, if the Committee has so recommended, I would point out that there are on Clydeside many yards and collections of first-class men with first-class skills. If as a result of this examination it is found that the dockyards in the South, naval dockyards in particular, are unable to carry out this work, all I am suggesting is that it might be distributed on Clyde-side where things have been very quiet. They would be delighted there to take these orders and at the same time thus to be able to preserve the collections of skilled men who have been gathered there to undertake this sort of job.
1415 I know that criticism has been levelled—I heard it in Questions by hon. Gentlemen the other day—at the Civil Lord about the speed at which ships are being built. I was delighted to hear him say that two are being built in my own constituency. The question of speed is determined by the Admiralty and not by the firms building the ships.
I know that there are in other parts of the country skilled men who would be glad to undertake these jobs. I am not a strategical expert on these matters, because the service which I rendered in the course of the war was in the Army. The only thing that I was delighted to have from the Navy was a lift out to the Middle East, which was not so pleasant as the lift back.
However, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee and one who has spent some time on it I have always had in mind that we must have efficiency and economy. I believe that we should have a good Navy in Britain and that the men we ask to man it should not man it with weapons less good than those of other people. I think that nothing but the best is good enough for them. We are entitled to expect in return, that the Government should give us an assurance that having got the money they will not waste it. Before we give the money, either in Committee of Supply or elsewhere, this Committee is entitled to have that assurance from the Civil Lord.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
On the benches on this side of the Committee from time to time we hear speeches from hon. Members opposite urging the Government to spend more money. I therefore welcome the observations made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) and the speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) urging economy on the Government. I hope that they will have a talk with some of their hon. Friends on that side of the Committee and do what they can to spread the idea which they have put before us today. They will find plenty of support from hon. Members on these benches.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Leith will not expect me to provide answers to the points he has raised. No 1416 doubt the Civil Lord will deal with them when the time comes for him to reply.
I have complained on various occasions when I have had the privilege of taking part in the debates on the Navy Estimates that we are expected to make our observations on what I feel is somewhat inadequate evidence. I am having to speak with one hand behind my back today because I have, in addition, had to spend some time on a Select Committee and was unable to have the privilege of hearing what the Civil Lord had to say. I apologise to him for anything that I may say now with which he has already dealt.
I should like to offer two words of congratulation to him. The first is that when the Service has got to the stage where there is a 62 per cent. re-engagement it means that the morale of the Service is good. Those who have had the privilege of being in touch with the Royal Navy for some years will know that that was not always the case. There was a time when we went into Her Majesty's ships and found that the one thing many of the men wanted to do was to leave the Navy as soon as possible. I certainly congratulate the Civil Lord on the situation prevailing today and on the fact that re-engagement is so satisfactory.
My second congratulation to him is on his recent visit to "Sea Eagle". I had the privilege of going there a year or so ago. I raised this matter a year ago when I suggested that having seen a picture of the tactical trainer at Malta, a very small amount of additional expenditure on the equipment of "Sea Eagle" might be very valuable. I am glad to know that the Civil Lord has been there.
The work that has been done in "Sea Eagle" seems to me to be absolutely first-class and extremely important in the present state of the Navy. The Civil Lord after he had been to "Sea Eagle "said that we were" expanding it because of the need for anti-submarine warfare training not only between our two Services but between the N.A.T.O. countries generally." He went on to say that "there had been some anxieties about anti-submarine capabilities. I should like to say a word about our anti-submarine 1417 capabilities and N.A.T.O. In the Explanatory Statement, 1961–62, we find on page 2 the heading "In Limited Wars and 'Bushfires'". The Statement went on:… success depends on prompt interventionand under the heading "Global War", it stated:… the Royal Navy's role today would be as an integral part of the combined naval forces of the West.That seemed to me to be a rather nebulous statement of the position of the Navy.
When we look at this year's Explanatory Statement, on page 1 we find that there is no reference at all to antisubmarine warfare, and N.A.T.O., as far as I can see, is mentioned on only three occasions, but I understand from other speeches that the Civil Lord did a certain amount to put that right this afternoon. There are, however, only three references to N.A.T.O. in the 1962–63 statement, and two of them relate only to training. When we look at the Defence White Paper we find in paragraph 9:The Government do not believe that major war could long continue without one side or the other resorting to nuclear weapons.It seems to be a rather contradictory statement, because paragraph 26 states:A continuing need will be for effective and up-to-date anti-submarine forces and equipment.I should like the Civil Lord to make clear whether in fact we wish to see a continuing need for anti-submarine forces and equipment, as the White Paper says. If that is the case I think that it is a pity that in the Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates there has not been a little more about antisubmarine work, anti-submarine equipment and perhaps about the work of N.A.T.O.
The problem that arises in the minds of any of us who saw anything of what happened in the last war is whether we shall be faced with the difficulty of organising convoys in the next war. I know that there is a school of thought which thinks that we shall never see a convoy again. They may be right, but if we ate to see convoys we must pay a good deal of attention to anti-submarine warfare. If we are to have anti-submarine training, the new submarines are not necessarily submarines which will 1418 reveal themselves to a convoy of ships. There are submarines which will have to be fought by entirely different methods from those we have seen used on other occasions.
I should have thought that it would have been right to have had something in the Explanatory Statement about the posible rôle of the Navy in defending our communications and that it should not have dealt exclusively, as it does in the first paragraph headed "The Rôle Of The Navy", with amphibious task forces which are also set out in the illustration published in the middle of the Explanatory Statement. Hon. Members will conclude from that picture that if there are any anti-submarine forces there at all, they must be included in the task group on the horizon, because there does not seem to be anything in the foreground of the picture which appears to be designed to deal with any submarine problem.
My second point is that there has been a feeling, which I have no doubt is right, that the emphasis in this year's White Paper is not the same as it was last year. In the Defence White Paper last year there was more emphasis on nuclear weapons and the N.A.T.O. position, whereas this year's White Paper is related more to mobility and conventional forces which it is proposed to base at Aden and Singapore. If there has been a change in our defence thinking, and the Admiralty has been altering its course during the last twelve months, I should like the Civil Lord to tell us what be has been able to do by way of talking to the Commonwealth navies about these new requirements.
In our last debate on this subject I put a point about Commonwealth navies and the Civil Lord then said that it was impossible for the Admiralty to impose its ideas on Commonwealth navies. He went on to say that we gave them all the advice we could. My hon. Friend knows that there are fifteen Commonwealth navies. If there was an alteration in the approach to these problems in this country during the last twelve months I should like to know what my hon. Friend has been able to do to enable that view to be co-ordinated throughout the Commonwealth navies.
I mentioned at the beginning of my speech that I felt that hon. Members 1419 always had a slight difficulty in taking part in these debates because we rarely had the information which would enable us to offer our constituents any clear advice on whether the Government's policies were right or wrong. A couple of years ago the Minister of Defence explained that if somebody wanted that type of information there was a civilian agency which provided it, and he recommended a certain pamphlet which had been published by that agency. Another pamphlet has been published fairly recently. It sets out the strength of Soviet naval forces and relates it to the available strength in the West.
It appears from that pamphlet that the Soviet Navy is in manpower about five times as numerous as the Royal Navy. It mentions that there are about 430 submarines and indicates that in the not far distant future we can expect at least 75 per cent. of those to be oceangoing and a certain number to be nuclear propelled. It is estimated that of these submarines 140 are in the Arctic, 85 in the Baltic and 65 in the Black Sea. These add up to 290 submarines which it would not be difficult to bring out into the Atlantic if it was so desired. In addition, there are 25 cruisers of which 17 are of the Sverdlov class, at one of which some of us had a look on an occasion not many years ago.
This is a fairly massive naval strength, and the question we must ask ourselves is how we are to deal with such a navy. If we take it piecemeal, during one of the early occasions when I heard one of these debates the then Civil Lord said that the answer to the Russian cruiser was in the carrier and its escorts. We know that we have three carriers and not a great many escorts and the Russians have 17 of these cruisers available. According to the pamphlet to which I have referred, it is estimated that N.A.T.O. has 150 submarines available for anti-submarine work.
Is it possible for us in the House of Commons to come to the conclusion on that evidence that we are in a situation in which we can tell our constituents that we are satisfied that we have the naval strength that we need? I feel that more information should be given to us in these debates so that we can come to a sound conclusion. The first point I 1420 made was about the difficulty of deciding whether or not we are an anti-submarine Power. There is no great difficulty about it being made quite clear. I have a copy of a statement issued to the Canadian Parliament about the Canadian Navy. That statement sets out exactly how many ships are assigned to N.A.T.O. and it makes the rôle of the Royal Canadian Navy quite clear. I would commend that type of approach to the Civil Lord so that we may be able to formulate our views a little more clearly.
There are three smaller points that I want to make in conclusion. First, there was a time when the men in the Navy found it a great hardship to go ashore because their allowances were then so much less. I am not sure that there are not certain categories in which the principle has gone a little too far the other way. Take, for example, a commander who happens to be working in London. He gets the London allowance of l1s. 3d. a day, the lodging allowance of 19s. a day and the ration allowance of 6s. a day. That comes to slightly over £600 a year. Consequently, if that officer is sent to sea, he receives £600 a year less.
It does not always follow that a married man with children leaving his London accommodation and going to sea is able to save £600 simply by his not being there. I suggest that it might be worth the Civil Lord looking at this. It applies not only to a man going to sea from a shore appointment in this country but also if he happens to go ashore when he is abroad, for the same difficulties arise.
§ Commander J. S. Kerans (The Hartlepools)
There is also the point that some of these allowances are taxable.
§ Mr. Irvine
I am very much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend. That strengthens the point.
The second smaller point is that there was a fairly widely read criticism in a Sunday newspaper on 4th March in which it was suggested that at least two of the weapons with which the Navy is being supplied are not really very effective. The Civil Lord might feel that it would be helpful if he were to say something about that. It was suggested that the Seaslug has a range of forty miles 1421 and that in these days it is not very difficult for a bomber fifty miles away with a stand-off missile to reach its target. If that criticism were correct, it would follow that the Seaslug might be very useful but only for the type of aircraft that the ship was not going to meet. If there is an answer to that, perhaps the Civil Lord would like to give it to us.
The other criticism was that the Seacat—I do not see it mentioned in the Explanatory Statement—is useful against aircraft up to five miles away, and the newspaper went on to say that that was "an increasingly improbable target". The Civil Lord might find it worth saying something about that.
My final very small point is that to me the picture of the research tank which is situated at Haslar and is included in the Statement seems to provide a good deal of interest. If it should be that the Civil Lord is able to arrange a visit to Haslar during the coming year, I think he would find that some of us would be very keen to take part.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Commander Harry Pursey (Kingston-upon-Hull, East)
Taking the speech of the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Godman Irvine) with a number of others made by hon. Members opposite, I feel that the majority of them might have come from Cloud-Cuckoo-Land. One might have been listening to Alice in Wonderland. At times I have wondered whether because the copyright of Gilbert and Sullivan has run out hon. Members opposite are now hoping to produce a new H.M.S. "Pinafore".
How many wars are hon. Members opposite preparing to fight? Also who are they going to fight them against? We have had arguments for the large aircraft carrier as a task force to fight one war. We have had an argument for the commando carriers to fight another war. We have had an argument for anti-submarine forces to fight a defensive war against submarines. We then had an argument for submarines, and particularity nuclear submarines, to fight submarines.
In addition to that, we have had arguments about getting these big aircraft carriers and these expensive nuclear submarines as if one could order the aircraft carriers, at £100 million, by the dozen in Woolworths and nuclear submarines, 1422 at £50 million or whatever the price is, by the dozen in Marks and Spencer. Honestly, we must come down out of this Cloud-Cuckoo-Land and consider what money is available, who our possible enemies are and whom we are prepared to fight.
Any unbiased individual listening to the speeches which we have had today from hon. Members opposite would be driven to one conclusion only—that the whole of the world is arming to fight Britain. Whom are we going to fight? We still have a large Commonwealth. Is that going to fight us? We still have large allies with N.A.T.O., CENTO, S.E.A.T.O. and everybody else, and we still have a hell of a lot of poor countries which cannot find the money for their food and have no navy. I will deal with the actual countries in a moment, but that is the background to my remarks. The crazy nonsense coming from the Conservative benches is quite unintelligible to any ordinary person.
We have been presented with Estimates of over £400 million. What would that not do for our social services! It would be out of order for me to discuss that matter, however. These Estimates must be considered against the background of the total defence bill of more than £1,700 million. It is now sixteen years since the last war, but the party opposite is not only still fighting the last war, but also the Georgian wars, the Edwardian wars and even the Victorian gunboat wars, when Jackie Fisher, as a captain, bombarded the forts at Alexandria.
We could have had far more security for far less money, particularly with the Royal Navy. Untold millions of pounds could have been saved for essential—and I emphasise the word "essential"—services such as housing, schools, hospitals and the poor old-age pensioners, who, the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance said yesterday, were getting more food than ever before, which is a piece of arrant nonsense. The Government have their priorities wrong.
The Government, and the Admiralty in particular, argue that Britain has world-wide commitments, as in the Victorian era, but this is the second Elizabethan era. Commonwealth countries are running their own affairs. They 1423 have their own navies for their protection. We also have our allies with naval forces. The Commonwealth navies together are greater than the British Navy today.
§ Mr C. Ian Orr-Ewing indicated dissent.
§ Commander Pursey
If the hon. Gentleman wants to interrupt, then let him interrupt instead of nattering.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
It is not true that the Commonwealth navies are greater in total than the Royal Navy. They have no submarine arms. We are lending submarines to Australia and Canada. We provide the practice for their antisubmarine warfare. There is only one aircraft carrier in the Canadian navy and only one, which is due to go out of commission, in the Australian Navy. It is not correct to say that Commonwealth navies are in total greater than the Royal Navy—although that statement is in tune with some of the epithets Which the hon. and gallant Member has used.
§ Commander Pursey
What I am saying is correct. I gave all the figures last year. I am not going to be put off my speech by being lured into repeating last year's speech.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The hon. and gallant Member's motto is, "Don't muddle me with facts, for I have made up my mind".
§ Commander Pursey
Of course, the hon. Gentleman has made up his mind. I do not expect to make any impression on him. He has gone beyond redemption.
We are lending submarines to the Commonwealth, although we have only a few. Obviously, they are not of much value as an offensive arm, otherwise we would be concerned at having to lend them. But, listening to hon. Members opposite, one would think that we were getting ready to fight a war with everyone, that everyone was going to fight us, and that we needed all our forces to be available here. Yet our submarine force, on which some hon. Members 1424 opposite want to pin their conception of warfare, is scattered all over the world. If war broke out, the submarines in Australia could not be back here for months. What is the good of arguing that we must have submarines when their value is so rated by the Admiralty?
What about our commitments? New Zealand", Australia, Pakistan and other Commonwealth countries in the Indian Ocean have forces which are far and away superior to those of every other country in that great area, because the others "ain't got none". The only nigger in the woodpile is Russia, with which I will deal separately. What applies to Australia applies to Canada. Who in America is against the Canadian forces?
Consider the position of commitments in reverse. Why should not Japan with her world-wide trade claim to station forces in the North Sea to go to the aid of Holland if her sea defences are breached? This is the reverse of the argument that is put forward about Britain doing everybody else's job except her own.
We must understand certain facts of life about defence. I will consider two essential points. Firstly, Great Britain cannot today engage in a major war without allies. Secondly, the only major potential aggressor is Russia. Obviously, Britain on her own will never fight Russia, so there is nobody else to fight. It is as easy as that. The Admiralty can take it as easily as falling off a log.
There will be no major war with Russia, for two reasons; firstly, the nuclear deterrent, and, secondly, because United States forces are now on the Continent of Europe and will be there before the first shot is fired. If United States forces had been in Europe in 1914 and 1939 there would have been no war. I therefore say that there will be no war now. The remarkable thing is that that remarkable paper the Daily Express does not run its pre-war argument that there will be no war.
What is the threat from Russia? I ask this because we must first consider the threat before considering what forces to make available to meet it. Details have been given, and I need not therefore give any figures. I have given them in previous years. There are no Russian battleships, no aircraft carriers 1425 and therefore no problem there. There are only a comparatively few cruisers and destroyers. It is not an offensive fleet for service overseas.
§ Commander Pursey
I will deal with submarines in a moment. I do not want any help from the hon. Gentleman to make my speech. After all, I was in the Navy boy and man for thirty years before coming to the House sixteen years ago, and I do not need any help from the hon. Gentleman.
I was saying that the Russian fleet is not an offensive one. It is mainly for home defence. Bath-chair admirals of the Navy League rave about 400 Russian submarines and argue that they will attack our convoys. But where are the submarines, and where are the surface ships? Some are in the Black Sea. They cannot get out and we cannot get in, so they must be deducted from the total. They can, of course, be bombed, but we need not waste time on them.
Some are in the Baltic, and with our allies sealing the Baltic they are confined there, and we can get at the ships only by bombing them. That reduces the total number appreciably, even without any arithmetic. Then there are some in the White Sea and some in the Pacific.
§ Commander Pursey
The Americans are responsible for the Pacific, so we can take those ships out. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to make a contribution and is not to be called, I am prepared to give way to him. What is the British Navy concerned about as regards the Russian navy? Not the Pacific. Not the Black Sea. Not the Baltic. Only the White Sea. We are not going to conduct any naval operations against the Russians in the White Sea. So that has written the lot off.
Now we will take submarines—400 of them. We have had this scare from the Tory Party for fifteen years now. It talks as if these submarines were lying off the Isle of Wight waiting for the first Channel convoys. A number of these submarines are old. A number of them are for defence purposes and they are also split up into four areas, 1426 but I will deal with the ones that are available. They have submarines available for seagoing purposes and for attack, and they have nuclear submarines. We have heard stories about the nuclear submarines being able to go anywhere and find anything and do anything. Let us consider that.
At the beginning of the century when the submarine was introduced, its main purpose was to attack warships. In the First World War the Germans prostituted the submarine by using it to attack merchant shipping. A sideline development was that submarines attacked submarines, and they did quite well at it. These nuclear submarines have antisubmarine detection devices and all the advantages. They can go anywhere and do anything. Unfortunately, the other side have submarines which can do precisely the same.
What do we start off with? We have nuclear submarines attacking nuclear submarines—blind man's buff. The Russians start to look for a submarine and we do the same, and by accident, as often happens in the Navy, they find each other. I once searched the Atlantic for five days looking for an aeroplane and we fell over it by accident. These nuclear submarines may find each other by detection devices or be directed by aircraft. Submarine A will fire at submarine B, and submarine B will fire at submarine A, and they are both expendable. What a game to be spending millions of pounds upon. Last year I advocated that the first step in disarmament to be taken should be to get the Russians and the Americans to agree to sink all the submarines. Then we could do away with the antisubmarine vessels as well. So much for submarines, except that I will come back to the subject of convoys after I have dealt with the aircraft carriers.
I served in three aircraft carriers. After hearing the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) saying that carriers survived this, that and the other, I began to think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman must have served in india-rubber carriers, where the bombs bounced off and nothing happened. Some of our carriers went on for a considerable period because they were never really attacked. The antidote for aircraft attack obviously is aircraft 1427 attack. But once there is a bomb on the flight deck of the carrier it is out of action "pronto". So the aircraft carriers in the Pacific which were damaged were sent to U.S. bases.
Stress has been laid on the value of aircraft carriers. The greatest drawback of the large aircraft carrier is its sink-ability. It is more vulnerable than any other ship. How do any other ships avoid attack, particularly aircraft attack? They do it by zig-zagging. At the critical moment in an attack an aircraft carrier cannot zig-zag. When aircraft are taking off from the flight deck the carrier must be steaming into the wind. When the aircraft are returning it must be steaming into the wind and it is then an easy target. There is nothing to prevent an enemy aircraft joining in the queue and landing on the carrier and "pulling the plug", when "pop goes the weasel !"
Enemy submarines could follow ships into harbour with aircraft; that is far easier, particularly at night. There is no question but that the large aircraft carrier is the most vulnerable ship in the world. There is no justification for having one of these vessels today. Within twenty-four hours she would be sunk and all the aircraft gone. There can be only two places for a large aircraft carrier at the outbreak of war. Either she is so far away from the war that she is safe, or she is so close to it that she will be sunk. Then not only the ship would be lost but also the aircraft and all the millions of pounds.
Now I come to the question of convoys. Do Conservative Members of Parliament think that in the event of trouble with Russia we should wait while she was sinking our convoys hand over fist before using the nuclear deterrent? Of course not. There will be no convoys; we shall never get to that stage. There would be no conventional war at sea with Russia. The moment Russia started at sea with nuclear submarines or any other nuclear device, in the air or otherwise, that would be the moment for the nuclear deterrent. Whatever the Army did on the Continent, whatever the Air Force did, would be a different proposition, but at sea would there be a stranglehold? No. Consequently the position is quite simple-no convoy war without releasing the 1428 deterrent; nobody is going to release the deterrent so there will be no war. So this large amount of money on three Services is largely thrown away.
Having considered the naval threat to Britain—although I may have missed out some good argumentative points—the question is, what is the Navy to defend in these islands? What has this country got to defend and what forces are necessary? I have gone through (1) large aircraft carriers, (2) commando carriers, (3) submarines and (4) mine-laying forces. I am grateful to the Civil Lord for coming back into the Chamber to return to the private fight. I challenge him to say where we are to use these forces. Where are we to use the large aircraft carrier task force with all the protective forces required? I do not mind whether the number is one, two or three. We could not use that force against Russia in the White Sea and we could not use it against Russia anywhere else. There is no other country to use the major large aircraft carrier task force. I challenge the Civil Lord to say that there is. So there is no purpose at all for the large aircraft carrier task force. It is sheer and arrant nonsense.
Now, the Commando carriers. There has been much song and dance about them. The men did a marvellous job at Kuwait, I agree, though they have not been paid for it yet. What sort of a job is there for them? Keeping a base at Aden for Commando carriers simply for "brush" operations against coloured populations, largely defenceless? Are we to use the Commando force to support or oppose Welensky? Are we to use it in South Africa? No. There is nowhere, except these "brush" forces attacking defenceless people. That is what we ought to have done at Suez, but we had not got a clue then.
What are we to do with our conventional submarines? I have dealt with the nuclear ones. They are to play "blind man's buff" below the sea. The Russians are not going to send any ships out, so there is no justification ft" the submarines. The personnel factor is a large one. The Russians have been in four wars—in 1904, in 1914, in 1939 and their own private war. The Russians are not sailors, and they have made no contribution to naval warfare. I do not 1429 underrate the Russians. They are good in merchant ships and in building merchant ship machinery. They may be good at nuclear submarines, but that has yet to be seen.
Now let us take the combined naval force. Where are we to use this mass combined naval force? Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that if we send it anywhere, we shall have nothing else left with which to defend this country. That is another crazy one. These forces are wanted here, it is said, and their home base is this country. Let us be clear about this. I will not deal with coastal countries but with whole continents. Against what countries in Europe are we to use any of these forces? None. Against what countries in Africa are we to use any of these forces? None. Against what countries in America? None. What countries in Asia? None, except Russia.
The next point concerns this marvellous illustration which has been referred to by an hon. and gallant Member opposite as being praiseworthy. I have no praise for it. In the First Lord's Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the Navy Estimates there is this two-page spread of marvellous illustration, and in paragraph 2 the First Lord says:How all these ships would combine to support land and air forces in an assault is shown in the illustration of a typical Amphibious Task Force on pages 14 and 15.I challenge the Admiralty and the Civil Lord to deny that this is false advertising and a bogus prospectus. If a company promoter had produced it in the City he could be had up in court on a criminal charge.
I challenge the Civil Lord to say off what coasts would such a force be assembled? None. There are other more important questions to ask, but that is a base to start off with. Such a force would only be assembled for a major war. It could not be sent against Russia, or all our ships would be sunk. There is no other country involved. In any case, the majority of these skips would be required for the defence of our own country and bases.
Let us consider how many of these ships are in existence at the moment, and I will tick them off as I go. First, carrier task force; very few. Radar picket; none. Commando ship, one. 1430 Underway replenishment group; it would not be there. Guided missile destroyer; I understand there are none. Landing ship headquarters; that could be anything from a motorboat upwards. Landing ship tank, none. Coastal minesweepers; they do not matter.
The majority of these ships which the Admiralty has the audacity to include in an illustration of an amphibious task force do not exist. If there were ever false advertising, and a bogus prospectus to mislead the public into believing that we have a marvellous amphibious task force, this is it.
Now I pass to the question of recruitment. The Admiralty has said that recruitment and re-engagement are good, and I am glad of it. But recruitment and re-engagement will not continue to be good if conditions of service are not good and if proper rates are not paid in accordance with the cost of living. The Services have always lagged behind throughout the hundred years of continuous service introduced after the Crimean and Baltic wars. My grandfather, my father and I suffered from it. In fact, we all drew the same rates of pay. This Government made a contract to review the Services' pay every two years. A review is now due, and the increase should be 5 per cent. in round figures.
The Government intend to defraud the Service men, the Kuwait people and others, by paying only 2½ per cent. This is the second time in thirty-odd years that the Tory Party has swindled the Services out of their proper pay. The result in 1931 was the mutiny at Inver-gordon. I was there, in the front row of the stalls, in the flagship. One reason which the Government then gave for reducing Service pay was to maintain the gold standard. What happened was this. The Fleet arrived back in port on Saturday. The country went off the gold standard on Sunday, and on Monday the matter was debated in the House. Up to that time the Services were not committed to reduced rates of pay because the House had not approved them.
The announcement had originally been made that Service pay was to be cut by 20 per cent.—in the case of able seamen from 4s. to 3s. They refused duty. 1431 On the Monday the then Prime Minister announced that the whole matter had been considered and that cuts would be limited to 10 per cent. But that did not put the Service pay reduction into effective operation.
I now want to quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT for Tuesday, 22nd September, 1931. I refer to the Committee stage of the National Economy Bill when Mr. Ammon moved an Amendment to Clause I. That Clause concerned the power to make Orders in Council for effecting certain economies and Mr. Ammon, a Labour hon. Member, moved an Amendment and said:This Amendment will have this effect of omitting the reference in the Clause to the remuneration paid to members of His Majesty's Army and Navy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd September, 1931; Vol. 256, c. 1501.]In other words, the Amendment sought to exempt the fighting services from the 10 per cent. pay cut which was due to take effect on 1st October that year and for the men to retain their previous rates of pay. The Division on this matter is recorded in column 1567 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of that date and I mention that I have HANSARD here in case there should be any criticism or argument from hon. Gentlemen opposite about what I am saying. In the Division, 274 Tory hon. Members and their supporters favoured the Service pay cuts. Two hundred and twenty-one Labour hon. Members opposed the cuts and there are hon. Members in the House today Who were in the House then, and one of them had spoken in that debate.
The Tory hon. Members who were all for the cuts in Service pay included Sir Austen Chamberlain, the then First Lord of the Admiralty, who was responsible for actually putting the cuts into operation for the Navy, Commander Southby, Lady Astor, Captain Balfour and Vice-Admiral Taylor. There can be no question that, on that occasion, the Tory Party was responsible for that 10 per cent. out in Services pay.
Today the Tory Party and the Tory Government have again ratted on their contract. What has been the result? It is nearly as bad as stealing pennies from a blind man's tin. What does it all mean in actual cash? It means, of course, 1432 only pennies a day. Yet a previous speaker today complained about naval commanders being paid £600 a year by way of London allowances in addition to their normal pay, whereupon another hon. Member commented, "But it is taxed".
Honestly, hon. Gentlemen opposite have no sense of values. They are just City minded and the situation resembles very much that of 1931. We are told that it is all because of the failure of our exports. Do not hon. Gentlemen opposite realise that if the men of the Services worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week—in Kuwait or anywhere else—they could not improve our exports? Obviously they could not. Only private enterprise and big business can do that; I.C.I, and company. It seems that the Tory Government did not care then, in 1931, and that they do not care now.
What about the companies with twelve Rolls Royces lined up outside the Dorchester Hotel for a firm's dinner. Do we ever read that such firms have reduced their expenses by 15, 20 or even 10 per cent.? Their expenses alone amount to more that what a matelot gets for doing the job of defending this country so that these guys can make their fortunes. And, on top of that, the Government give them £88 million in Surtax relief. This is the most criminal thing that has happened in the history of this Government. More-over, what is said throughout the world? Other countries say, "Look at Great Britain, the big shot with the big Navy, the big Army and the big Air Force, yet she cannot pay the Services the proper rate of pay".
How much is involved? Where will the money come from? It will come from the men's families, as it did in 1931. A married man is already handing over all he can to his wife and children, so the wife and children will suffer. Less milk for the children. Less welfare foods. Less school meals because they cannot pay for them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, less school meals because they cannot pay for them.
What can a man in Portsmouth or Plymouth do about it? Will the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) say what the pay of a Naval seaman is today? We have heard about the pay in the dockyards. It is shillings, shillings for a man who 1433 has to keep two homes going because he is on a foreign station. We have had only one hon. Member opposite from a naval port speaking in the debate so far, the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke). I am sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport has not been able to speak earlier, because I have always had reasonably friendly relations with her.
I put this challenge to the hon. Lady. Will she tell the House what an able seaman or a stoker is drawing per day in shillings and tell the Committee what the deduction is in pennies? Will she then make the point that the pay awards should never have been delayed, and that it amounts to cheating Service men out of twelve months' increase? It is a biennial assessment. They should have had their 2½ per cent. twelve months ago, so they are already behind with 2½ per cent., and now they will be delayed with 5 per cent. Will the hon. Lady also make the point that other emoluments are subject to the cost of living? The victualling allowance goes up and down as it did in 1931, and other allowances go up and down. Consequently, any reduction or delay means that they already have part of their emoluments outside their control. This is a scandal of the worst magnitude, and I hope that the Government never survive it.
The Civil Lord did not make clear the number of pukka promotions whereby a man who joins on the lower deck can obtain a commission and enter the main stream. A good point was made about giving men education for commissioned rank. Cadets who go to Britannia Naval College are educated for Naval commissions by the State, at State expense. But in any case, what is all the song and dance about education? The orphanage which I came from produced three admirals who served at sea, two of them being vice-admirals who received titles. They commanded fleets, and one of them finally commanded Devonport Dockyard. What is all this business about education? A man can have the power of command and take charge of forces without having all the Xs added up the right way and all the noughts the wrong way. I wanted him particularly to deal with the case of men who are "chucked" out at the age of 1434 40. Conservative Members say that this does not happen.
What employment in civilian life is open to a chief petty officer of the seamen's branch who has been a torpedo instructor, as I was, when he leaves the Service? [HON. MEMBERS: "He can become a Member of Parliament."] Perhaps he can get a job as a messenger, commissionaire or something of that kind. The Civil Lord never reacts in the right way. He is not quick enough on the uptake. The Civil Lord had a marvellous opportunity to say that the Admiralty will prepare a man for civil employment when he leaves the Service. Obviously not much of that is done judging from the cases dealt with by the Regular Forces Employment Association.
What does the Navy do to train its men to get the right qualifications to joint a union and take up a trade when they leave the Service? A man may have twenty years' training in technical matters. As with the other grades in the Navy, that does not qualify him for any employment in civil life. Consequently, he is not acceptable to an employer.
My final point is a constituency one. In view of the high unemployment in Hull, what steps is the Admiralty taking to ensure that the third largest port in the country shares in some of this vast expenditure of thousands of millions of £s on ships and naval equipment? There is no building yard in Hull. We are dependent on repair work. After the First World War, building yards on the Clyde or the Tyne were not closed. The only building yard closed was in Hull. We have a nucleus of men skilled in ship repairing which should be preserved so that in the event of war a labour force will be available for the repair of ships, mercantile and others. In this way, the unemployment figure will be reduced. I say to the Government that if shipbuilding contracts cannot be placed in Hull, make certain that sub-contracts are placed there.
As I have said, there will be no nuclear war with Russia, and, therefore, no war with Russia. That being so, there is no justification for this multiplicity of ships to go anywhere and to do anything or for this vast expenditure of thousands of millions of £s.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I' have been challenged by the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) concerning the pay of able seamen. Perhaps he will look at page 225 of the Estimates, where he will find their rate of pay set out.
§ Miss Vickers
I think that all hon. Members can read. It would be a great pity, therefore, to waste time by reading them.
I should like to take up two points which the hon. and gallant Gentleman made. I assure him that we are concerned not with preparing to fight a wax but with preventing a war. That is the whole object of the exercise. The purpose of our discussion is to find out how we can make ourselves sufficiently secure in order to prevent the possibility of our being attacked.
§ Miss Vickers
I think that all hon. and gallant Gentleman has, too. I remind him that we spend £60 per head on the social services as opposed to £30 a head on defence. I therefore think that we have our priorities right.
I should now like to return to Vote A and, first, to read paragraph 1 of the White Paper, Cmnd. 1639, which states:This year's statement deals with the further evolution of defence policy.It is interesting to consider how completely the rôle of the Navy has changed since 1957. I thought that in 1957 the Navy had very little future. One of our great difficulties today is that it has suddenly been placed on a very different basis. The Admiralty is now to play a far larger pant than previously was considered.
Since it takes so long to build the ships and the annual Estimates deal largely with what has, in fact, happened, plans should be made at least five or ten years ahead. This has been done, for example, with the hospitals. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has managed to achieve hospital planning. When a ship takes at least five years to build, the 1436 sensible policy would be to have planning for at least ten years ahead.
I wish to refer to the question of aircraft carriers. The late Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Lamb once said:Unless we find some entirely new strategy, we shall go on needing aircraft carriers.What is to be the new strategy if we do not have aircraft carriers? Page 4 of the White Paper states that there is at present no need to order a new carrier but that the necessary design work has been put in hand. If we are not to have an aircraft carrier, it is a complete waste of time to work on the designs when there is a shortage of skilled designers in the dockyards and shipyards who might more profitably be designing ships which are needed quickly, like the "Belfast". I hope that as a result of today's debate, we will be told what policy is to be continued with aircraft carriers.
According to Cmnd. Paper 129, the Navy's rôle is to be defence in local wars rather than in a global war. In local wars, such as the incident at Kuwait, we have come to depend more and more on the Royal Navy. As far as I can see, the Navy's future will be in maintaining protection of the seas and protecting the smaller countries like Kuwait. We should all like to say how successful the Kuwait operation was. It is the type of action which the Navy will have to take from time to time.
There is a permanent rôle for the Navy in places like Tristan da Cunha, whose inhabitants it rescued, and in giving help, for example, to British Honduras, helping on the occasion of the Kenya floods, anti-piracy patrols off North Borneo and fishery protection. All these tasks demand not the carrier type of Navy but an active Navy which can provide this form of protection.
Paragraph 22 of the Statement on Defence deals with the future rôle of the Navy and our forces in general. It states:We support N.A.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O. with land, sea and air forces, and CENTO with our air striking force.As I read that passage, it would appear that we are not taking much active part in operations in the Mediterranean area. It seems that we are to have our forces based in the United Kingdom and in the Far East. I should like to know 1437 who is undertaking protection of the Mediterranean.
That brings me to the question of Malta. Malta has been dependent upon us for many years and I should not like to see us, especially the Admiralty, letting Malta down. I hope that before taking further action in withdrawing our forces from Malta, we will ensure that there is full or sufficient employment for the people whom we may have to dismiss.
In mentioning Malta, I should like to say a word about the dockyard technical college, about which I have been in contact with my hon. Friend the Civil Lord. I understand that the Government of Malta agreed to take over the college on condition that naval apprentices could be trained there. When I was in Malta, however, I discovered that there was no college of technical education for the Maltese. I hope that there will be early action to take over the college so that people can be trained.
In view of what has been said about CENTO, I should like to know what is to be the future of Gibraltar. This is an important place for us. We have an excellent dockyard there. It still does refits and it is a very good place for the Navy to call. Are we going to continue our base at Gibraltar?
It appears that we are to operate in future in two spheres, having our main bases in Britain and the Far East. Therefore I think the Committee must be grateful to the Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman. We shall have to continue to use Singapore at the present time and, if we are, I would suggest that modernisation should take place. We have not modernised it for some time because we did not know how long we should be there. Conditions now need looking into. I was glad to see when I was there last time that some action had been taken about H.M.S. "Terror", which is the shore establishment where the ratings live when their ships are being recommissioned. However, I think that if we are to use the base permanently things should be improved still more. Furthermore, housing conditions of the naval officers, particularly in what is known as Rimau, are very poor. I have been trying for some time to get them improved for the local personnel employed 1438 in and about the yard. I was told that this was not possible because we were not certain of our future there. Now that our future is certain and we are to use this as our second major base I hope conditions will be made bettter.
We shall have to concentrate particularly on mobility of our forces since we are going to do away with most of our bases in various parts of the Commonwealth. Mobility will count particularly if we are to have only these two focal points, in the Far East and in this country.
I should like to say something about nuclear submarines. I understand that "Dreadnought" is nearly ready and that H.M.S. "Valiant" will be ready in two years. If these submarines are really necessary—and I think we do need them—we should press on with this programme. I am sure it is not beyond possibility to produce one every year and a quarter or at any rate one every year and a half. It is useless to have only one of these nuclear submarines, and if we are to have this limitation of bases I think we should have three of those submarines in the Far East and three in these waters here. I hope we shall press on with that programme on those lines.
I took the opportunity of visiting the Tribal Class ship, H.M.S. "Ashanti", and I was very impressed especially by the air conditioning. As far as I understand it, this is the first ship to have such complete air conditioning. One is not allowed to open a porthole without an engineer coming along about it, and the reason is fear of upsetting the balance of ventilation. This ship will be nice for the men to live in. However, I should like to know exactly what is the purpose of these Tribal ships. What are they to be used for? They are not very fast and they have only one single turret. Are they general, all-purpose frigates, and what is to be their real purpose in the future?
There is another matter about which I shall not go into detail because other hon. Members have mentioned it, but I should like to know about the future of the anti-submarine carriers. How many ships have we now which carry helicopters which can be used for this anti-submarine work? We had trials recently at Devonport where work has recently been done on Seaslug, which destroyers are finding 1439 useful. I am told that the second edition will be better still.
I want also to refer to the question of dockyards, and first to Devonport Dockyard where H.M.S. "Eagle" has been having her four-year major refit. I am very glad to be able to tell the Committee that I understand that it is up to date, that the workmanship is good, and that she should be ready on schedule. H.M.S. "Tartar" is very nearly finished. Consequently, we would like another keel in Devonport. Hon. Members may remember—especially will the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot)—that in the days when he sat for Devonport the dockyard was specially enlarged, particularly the South Yard, and now we want to have work in this yard, and it really should be shipbuilding work.
It is very disappointing to find that the yards have not been modernised. We had the Nihil Report, and I believe that the Galbraith Committee is dealing with this subject. In the Select Committee's Report as far back as 1959–60 we were told that a pilot scheme was being put in at Chatham and later one at Rosyth. As far as I can understand, the reorganisation does not seem to be a success. In Chatham there are now an extra 97 non-industrials, and in Rosyth another 36. I thought that one of the ideas was to cut down personnel, to put in more efficient workings, or modernise them, and all that we are finding is an increase in personnel and no modern machinery. It seems to me that there are too many executives now in charge.
One hon. Member mentioned that in his constituency there was not enough work, and I think that at the present time all the yards are pressed with work. The estimating has been done, I regret to say, in rather a hit or miss manner—in fact, a lot of guesses. The modern ship is very expensive to refit, as one has seen from the Estimates, and the estimating for building these ships has not been very successful up to date. I hope that it will be brought into line in future. It is very confusing when we are told that these ships are to cost so much and then find that they cost nearly three times as much.
I should like to know why the expenditure on electrical stores has been 1440 increased by £5 million. It seems to me a lot of money. Fuel is also up by £3 million. This means more steaming and therefore more refitting.
There seems to be a change in policy with regard to dockyards overseas, because the established posts are cut lower and the hired ones are up. This has never happened before, and I should be grateful to know if this is a complete change in policy.
The overseas dockyards have been luckier in getting new machinery than the home yards. In going around the United Kingdom one sees in the dockyards equipment which, I think, certainly needs to be renewed. It would be interesting to take the average age of lots of the machines and tools there. I think that they are far older than those in most of the commercial yards.
One of the battles which I had with the Admiralty was in regard to the building of the wall around the dockyard in Devonport, at a cost of £180,000. I was told that this and other measures would make it less necessary to employ dockyard police, so I was very interested to see that the number of police has gone up. I would prefer to have less of the wall.
I should like to mention the arms supply depôt which has suffered a considerable cut in manpower, actually about 8 per cent. I wonder why this is so. Is this a safe thing to do? There are being handled in these depôts guided missiles and a very complex type of torpedo. I wonder how safe this is. I shall be very grateful if that could be looked into.
I was pleased that by right hon. Friend mentioned in his opening remarks the question of the W.R.N.S. It seems a great pity that they are not mentioned at all in the Explanatory Statement, considering the excellent work they do.
If we are thinking of recruiting to the W.R.N.S., I suggest, as I did in a Question which I put down the other day, that their accommodation should be looked into. In many cases it is of a very low standard. I should also like to know whether the W.R.N.S. will be going overseas, for example to Singapore, which will be a future base. I have asked several times in debate 1441 about education and particularly about the length of training. In view of the fact that most of the young men who are coming into the Services now have far better education than was previously the case, I should like to ask whether the length of apprenticeship and training generally is not now too long. One hon. Member referred to Manadon and Dartmouth and the great cost of running those establishments. Perhaps it might be possible now to cut down the period of training at these places.
I should like to make one or two suggestions about recruiting. I find that one of the great difficulties which the wives of Navy men experience is in the education of their children. Most of the wives have to make up their minds whether to accompany their husbands overseas, which they have greater opportunity to do nowadays, or to remain at home with their children. If they accompany their husbands overseas they have to put the children in boarding schools or leave them with parents.
I gather that one of the reasons why these wives often wish to leave the children behind is that when they travel overseas the children have to attend so many schools. One child aged 12, for example, has been to nine schools. Another had been to five schools in England, two in Malta, and one in Australia. This is very bad for their education. It is true that education allowances are made, but I suggest the possibility of giving tax relief on those allowances. They should not be taxed because this makes it extremely difficult for people in the Services to keep their children consecutively at any one school when they have to go overseas. I gather that there is a good deal of discontent in the 40–45 age-group because the question of education becomes a severe burden and men are apt to think that they should leave the Service at that age because they would then have a better opportunity of securing a civilian job and of giving their children a better education. I hope that some attention will be given to this problem.
As to housing, I know that the Admiralty has provided a great deal of accommodation, though not as much as have the other Services because this is a somewhat new policy. It leads to a great many difficulties, however, because Admiralty houses can be used only in 1442 certain circumstances and for a certain period of years. I suggest that the Admiralty should give housing loans to men in its service so that they can build their own houses. In many cases these men have not the money to put down a deposit on a house, but I gather that many of them would like to buy their own homes and thus avoid a great deal of worry about their families when they are serving overseas. If these men had a permanent home it would alleviate many of their anxieties.
I feel that far more people from the Commonwealth might be employed among the personnel on board ship. I have visited several ships where I have found Chinese employed as tailors and Goanese as cooks. They like these jobs and are very satisfactory. Their employment allows other people with perhaps a better education to do more difficult jobs. These people are very welcome on board ship and they do excellent work.
The hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East mentioned the pay pause. I understand that in general those employed by the Admiralty are not so fussy about the pause but they are worried about their pensions. They wonder how their pensions will be based when they come out of the Service. They ask whether they will be based on the money which they should have received had there not been a pay pause or on the cut rate. This is an important point for the future.
I should also like further consideration to be given to the position of retired pensioners. It is a great pity that a number of these people and particularly the widows of retired pensioners should now have to be receiving a supplementary pension. I cannot see why these people should not be treated on the same basis as the Grigg Report recommended for those serving on this very bad rate should not be allowed to have their situation looked into each year.
I thank my hon. Friend for the fact that he has made the Royal Naval Hospital at Devonport available for civilians. I asked for this to be done a couple of years ago, and it has been a very great success. Last year there were 1,666 civilians in the hospital. This is a great help in reducing civilian hospital 1443 waiting lists, and it gives Navy doctors more experience. This type of cooperation is very helpful.
Finally, we are delighted at the fact that the Royal Marine Barracks are to be rebuilt and that we shall be able to welcome the Royal Marines back to Devonport.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I support the plea by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) to the Civil Lord to consider making loans to enable Service men to build or buy their own homes. I believe that the Army has already made such a recommendation. The Under-Secretary of State for War is sitting on the Government Front Bench, and I have no doubt that he could convey to the Civil Lord the fact that the Admiralty would do well to emulate the War Office in this respect at least.
I join the hon. Lady in her tribute to the skill of the men in the dockyards. This is a nationalised industry, and I am pleased to hear a tribute paid to the men employed in it. I am afraid that the hon. Lady's criticism of the estimating does not reflect very great credit on the higher ranks in the Admiralty headquarters in Whitehall, but I have no desire to develop that aspect of the Estimates because it has been done quite well already.
I am not a Navy expert, but there are some points which as a back bencher I feel I have a right to ventilate here. One point in the Civil Lord's speech struck me, and I think he noticed it. He said that the recruitment of young boys was excellent last year. I believe he stated that 2,600 were recruited at the age of 15. I asked him what the term of engagement was, and he answered that it was twelve years. Therefore, we have here 2,600 boys who have at the immature age of 15 enlisted into the Royal Navy for an engagement lasting twelve years. I am sure that, on reflection, hon. Members will agree that that is a very wrong procedure.
Some hon. Members will recall that a report on early leaving from secondary schools was presented to the House by the Central Advisory Council for Education at the request of the Minister of 1444 Education as far back as December, 1954. It was an exhaustive report which took two years to prepare. In essence, it said that youngsters in secondary schools who for one reason or another did not stay till they reached 16 or until their term of education was completed were far too immature to make responsible decisions.
I have raised this point twice before in Navy Estimates debates, and shall continue to raise it until the Admiralty shows a little more common sense and humanity in dealing with requests from boys who want to be released from the Navy altogether. They are often highly educated, enterprising and resourceful, but they joined the Navy at too young an age to appreciate the irksomeness of naval discipline. I am not saying that the Navy has an irrational discipline—of course it has not. I should like to be able to come out openly and urge youngsters to join, but I am inhibited from doing so because of the many cases I have had, which I have taken up with Admiralty Ministers, of boys trying to get released from this obligation.
I have been invited to go to a Territorial Army distribution of awards on Saturday evening. I shall certainly speak in praise of the work of the young cadets and of the Territorials. I joined the Territorial Army at the age of 17 and have never regretted it. But I cannot say that I can openly advocate that youngsters should join the Navy as boys until they have the opportunity, having joined, of getting released if they find the discipline and naval life too irksome.
I am not a lawyer, but I think that it is true to say that a minor cannot be sued in the civil courts for a breach of contract. Even if he happens to be a married man of 18, 19 or 20, who has entered into hire-purchase agreements, he cannot be sued. Why should the Navy be able to use a contract of this kind, signed by a boy of 15, to tell him, "We have you press-ganged for twelve years"? That is monstrous. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that it would be far more humane and sensible to allow these few discontented boys to be released without obligation.
One of the arguments put up by the Admiralty, and by its Ministers, is that the Admiralty has spent so much on 1445 training these boys; but surely in this day and age that is a trifling thing to be considered. During the last war, I was in civil defence at the beginning, and when the Home Guard was formed I wanted to transfer. I was told that I could not do so because the civil defence had borne the cost of my training. I was of very low rank. In the end I insisted and was transferred to the Home Guard. I suggest that the Admiralty is being equally silly over this one matter, and I hope that the Civil Lord will pay attention to this and persuade the Admiralty to change its outlook.
I have had correspondence with him of this and I should like to be able to say to boys generally, "I think you will find a very happy and useful life if you join the Navy." But so long as it is stipulated that a boy of 15 must remain for twelve years I cannot do that.
Paragraph 27 of the Defence White Paper, "The Next Five Years" says:Looking further ahead, existing aircraft carriers will be coming to the end of their lives, starling with H.M.S. "Victorious" in about 1970.A new generation of carriers will then be needed to replace the present ones. I gather from what the Civil Lord said this afternoon that each carrier will cost at least £50 million, and from a question put to him by one of my hon. Friends, it seems that the aircraft which will be carried by the carrier may cost over £50 million. I presume that each carrier will have a protective screen of cruisers or frigates, each of which will cost several million pounds. What, therefore, will be the cost of putting a new carrier into the fleet?
I come next to the point made by many hon. Members about the vulnerability of such a huge vessel. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) asked, "Can one zig-zag a carrier?" I presume that one cannot. Therefore, I think that we are entitled to something more than this rather hazy talk about new expensive carriers eight or nine years hence.
The hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport referred to Singapore as an overseas base. I very much doubt the value of Singapore as a base, because I am old enough to have read the debates in this House 1446 about the value of it as a base, even while it was being built. I recall the shock felt by millions of people when Singapore fell in 1942, almost without a shot being fired. Unless I am mistaken, the defences were facing the wrong way. Hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite are far more knowledgeable about these naval affairs than I am, and if I am wrong I shall be glad to be corrected.
I think that we have to consider this demand by the Admiralty for these expensive aircraft carriers in the dim and distant future. The total gross cost of the Navy Estimates this year is £466 million. I wonder whether the Admiralty has considered what the figure will be when this "new generation of aircraft carriers" as it is called comes into operation, because if they are to be so expensive that we cannot afford them, I think that the Admiralty might as well save time and not plan for them.
Yesterday the Government refused to grant a modest increase in pensions and in rates of pay for aged and disabled people. The amounts paid now to millions of people are a disgrace to a country which claims such great traditions as we do. I hope that before we spend huge sums of money on doubtful ships we will at least see that the older people and the infirm are given a decent income.
I wish to refer again to a matter which I raised in the debate last year, because I think it is still relevant. When naval exercises are carried out fishermen fishing in the locality are debarred from following their lawful occupation, but they get no compensation for the resulting loss of income although they maybe compensated for damage to gear. I am quite sure that hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite who served in the Navy will agree that that is a mean way to treat a gallant body of men who in time of war man the minesweepers which are of such assistance to the Royal Navy and to the Merchant Navy.
The great naval aerodrome of Culdrose borders on my constituency and I should like to pay a tribute to the magnificent work done along the Cornish beaches during the summer, and at other times in the year, by helicopter crews from Culdrose. In this morning's newspapers 1447 there are pictures of one of these helicopters rescuing someone who had fallen from the cliffs at Zennor and been injured. Not only the people of Cornwall but visitors from all over the country are relieved to know that these helicopters are standing by ready to assist at any time should there be an accident on the cliffs, someone in difficulties in the sea, or some occurrence of that kind. Last Friday I was in Penzance and saw the damage to the seafront caused by the unaccustomed gales. I saw three electric driers from Culdrose being used to dry out houses which had been flooded. We owe a debt to the Navy for assistance of that kind which it gives to the civil administration.
I should like the Minister to say something about the houses which I believe the Admiralty desires to build in Camborne-Redruth as part of the accommodation for the personnel at Culdrose. It is proposed, I understand, to build there because if at any time they should no longer be needed for the Culdrose personnel the houses would be in the centre of a fairly big town and available for use by civilians. I consider that an excellent idea which will be welcomed in Camborne-Redruth.
I should like to know whether the Admiralty has any plan for disarmament if by any unexpected chance the Disarmament Conference at Geneva comes to some agreement which would cause a limitation in the requirements of Her Majesty's Navy and the dockyards. I am quite sure that Parliament would like an assurance that the great dockyard towns like Plymouth and Portsmouth would be provided with some suitable engineering work and civil employment which would suit the skills and experience of the tens of thousands of men employed in our dockyards.
§ Mr. Hayman
Yes, at Rosyth and any other naval dockyard. I mentioned Portsmouth and Devonport, because I know those dockyards.
§ it being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.1448
That this day the Business of Supply may be taken after Ten o'clock and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for Two Hours after Ten o'clock.—[Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing.]
§ Supply again considered in Committee.
§ Mr. Hayman
I was about to say that I echo what was said this afternoon in appreciation of the courtesy extended to Members of Parliament when they go on such exercises as "Shop Window" and visits such as the one I paid as a member of a Parliamentary group to the naval aircraft station at Culdrose.
There is a particular point in my correspondence with the Civil Lord to which I wish to draw attention. On 6th February, I sent him a letter about a compassionate posting. It was a case in which there had been considerable delay. I received an interim reply on 22nd February. I hope that it might be possible to have a final reply soon and that it will be a comforting one for my constituent. This is a compassionate posting, not a compassionate release.
Another matter I wish to raise is the danger from diesel fumes in Her Majesty's dockyards and other places where men are exposed to these fumes. Someone I know who was employed by the Admiralty died this week. He was a non-smoker and I have no doubt whatever that the trouble with his lungs arose from working amidst diesel fumes, possibly for a considerable time. I am a non-smoker, but I realise that some of those who feel that the high incidence of lung cancer is wrongly attributed to cigarette smoking may have some point in their argument that diesel fumes may account in part for the increase of lung cancer. I have no doubt whatever that cigarette smoking is very largely accountable for lung cancer, but I feel that when men in industry are exposed to the danger of inhaling diesel fumes something ought to be done about it. I hope that the Civil Lord will arrange for the Admiralty to institute an inquiry into this general problem.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I hope the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks directly, particularly as I wish to refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey), my Parliamentary neighbour.
Two points in his speech should be refuted. The first was when he referred to the picture of the amphibious task force in the Explanatory Statement to the Estimates and proceeded to delete all the ships there illustrated, saying that they should not be there, or were not available, or had never existed. I understand that every one of those ships, with the exception of the two guided missile destroyers, is available now, and that the guided missile destroyers will be available at the end of the year. It was wrong of the hon. and gallant Member to refer to the document, as he did, as a false prospectus.
It should also be said that this is the first Government which has linked Service pay directly to the rise or fall of civilian pay. In the past the Services have had to wait year after year and, after a lot of trouble and discussion, they have had rates of pay adjusted to a level which put them about on balance with civilian pay. Then they had to wait another five or six years for a further increase. Now at last we have a direct link between Service and civilian pay, which is wholly satisfactory to all members of the Services, and which is probably reflected in the 62 per cent. re-engagement rate for the Royal Navy.
I congratulate, as many of my hon. Friends have done, the Civil Lord on this year's Report on the Royal Navy. I believe that the morale of the Navy is high because it has now a positive and active role. Hon. Members will remember that this has not always been the case. They will recall the unfortunate circumstances after the end of the war, when we had quite a lot of sabotage and trouble in the Navy, even though very great work was done by the Royal Navy and the Commonwealth Navies in Korea. Due to the explosion of the hydrogen bomb the impression had begun to grow that there was no positive rôle for the 1450 Navy. I look back to the key defence White Paper, that of 1957, and I quote from paragraph 24:The rôle of naval forces in total war is somewhat uncertain. It may well be that the initial nuclear bombardment and counter-bombardment by aircraft or rockets would be so crippling as to bring the war to an end within a few weeks or even days, in which case naval operations would not play any significant part.Then, in the Explanatory Statement to the Navy Estimates that year, we find, in paragraph 10, a similar idea creeping in, and I quote again:The cause of total war is necessarily speculative. … A global war might be fought to a quick end by the use of nuclear missiles. It might well, on the other hand, drag on, and in that event the Navy would be needed to protect our merchant ships, as in the past, and to reinforce the hitting power of our allies:I think that was the period when there was much talk about "broken-backed warfare". We do not hear so much about that today.
Now, some five years later we have a very much clearer rôle, and a great tribute should be paid, not only to the Ministers in charge of the Admiralty, but also to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, who has shown a real appreciation of maritime strategy and what it means to this country. In the White Paper this year, it is made clear that we need a balanced force, both nuclear and conventional. It is also clear that we are going all out for a maritime strategy, which has always been the one which, historically, has served this country best. In that strategy, the Navy plays an offensive rôle, both in the nuclear and conventional types of warfare, and it is to these two types of warfare that I should like to direct the burden of my remarks.
With regard to the nuclear deterrent, I think most hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will agree that the deterrent must be carried by the V-bombers, developed for Skybolt, and possibly by other means, until they are worn out in about 1970. After that, what happens? Are we to develop a new generation of supersonic aircraft or to develop these vast aircraft carriers, such as the American "Enterprise", nuclear-propelled and costing £80 million or £90 million, which my hon. Friend 1451 the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) referred to as floating advanced airfields, or are we to have Polaris missile submarines? I believe that this decision has to be made fairly soon, and I am surprised that there is no reference, or very little reference, to the Polaris in this year's Navy Estimates. Obviously, it is going to take a long time to build new generations of supersonic aircraft or Polaris submarines or large aircraft carriers. We will not need them until 1970, but it seems to me that we shall have to start very soon asking for or developing the first of this new type of ship or aircraft. Inevitably the decision about the Polaris submarine is tied up to the decision about the future aircraft carrier, and I hope that next year we shall have some indication of the lines along which the Admiralty is thinking in this connecton.
While on the subject of nuclear submarines, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he really thinks that we are getting the best value for money in the two nuclear-powered submarines that we are now building? They are hunter-killer submarines. For about half as much again we could build Polaris submarines. The Polaris submarine not only contributes to the deterrent but when it has discharged its missiles it can act as a hunter-killer submarine, whereas the reverse process is not true.
I am told that the Americans—indeed, I believe my hon. Friend the Civil Lord referred to this today—expect to have forty-five Polaris submarines by 1970. I wonder whether he noticed an article by the naval correspondent of the Daily Telegraph last summer in which he mentioned this fact and said that the Americans were finding difficulty in manning the vast fleet that they now have above and under the water. He suggested that in the years ahead they might well turn some of these submarines over to us so that they could be manned by British naval personnel under the White Ensign. That would contribute a great British share to the Western deterrent and it would not involve us in the enormous expenditure of building a large number of these vessels.
While I am on the question of the deterrent, may I once again emphasise the point that I have made previously? 1452 It is the distorting effect that the method chosen for carrying the deterrent has upon the Estimates of the individual services. If we exclude the V-bomber force the R.A.F. has not got much left. If we decide that in future the Royal Navy is to supply submarines for this purpose, we shall distort the shape of the Royal Navy and there will not be much money left for the conventional ships required for amphibious and other operations. I once again plead with the Government to consider taking the cost of the carrying of the deterrent out of the Service Estimates and putting it in another Estimate, presumably that of the Ministry of Defence. That would make future decisions more easy and more palatable and would reduce unavoidable inter-Service rivalry.
I now wish to refer to conventional warfare which is today the Navy's main rôle. There has been a lot of talk today about the new generation of aircraft carriers. We all agree that we do not want the type of aircraft carrier which is now being developed by the Americans, the nuclear-powered "Enterprise"; she is too big, expensive and vulnerable, that is, if there is to be another generation.
The Civil Lord said that we wanted support aircraft carriers whose main rôle would be to support amphibious and anti-submarine operations. But he also said that these carriers would have to operate Royal Air Force aircraft, and therefore they would be of 50,000 tons. That seems to be rather large with the consequent factor of vulnerability. I hope that when all the questions of the V.T.O. aircraft and other methods of providing this support have been considered, it will be possible to provide a ship not much larger than the present "Ark Royal" and "Eagle" and designed specifically for support purposes rather than for strike purposes. We have got to do something about providing adequate support for amphibious operations, and we have got to do it quickly.
As has been said, there are now two commando carriers and five normal conventional aircraft carriers. Two of these are in reserve. At any one time we have, therefore, only one operational aircraft carrier east of Suez and one, or possibly two, in home waters. It is lucky 1453 that we managed to concentrate "Bulwark" and "Victorious" at the time of Kuwait. But that was not an opposed landing and it must be realised that in an opposed landing the support of conventional aircraft carriers will be essential. In other words, we shall not be able to carry out that type of operation unless we concentrate two or more carriers together.
If the opposing power has an air force—as those who were in the Pacific during the last war will remember—it is important that a carrier task force should have two decks because obviously one bomb can put one deck out of action and if there is only one carrier available all the aircraft will be lost. To be reasonably safe in an opposed landing in a conventional, small-scale war it is wise to concentrate three aircraft carriers, two for support and one for helicopter and commando operations.
That is not going to be easy with our existing carrier strength, especially when one considers their age. Several hon. Members have referred to this, but it is worth mentioning again that "Victorious" will be 32 years old by 1971 and "Eagle" will be getting on for 25 years old. This, therefore, gives emphasis to the plea that I have made concerning the question of the future of the carrier and the linked question of the development of the Polaris submarine. These questions must be decided soon, and I look forward to there being a reasonable indication of the line of thought from the Admiralty when the time comes for us to debate this matter again in 1963.
Regarding assault ships—and this point was made from the Opposition Front Bench—the first assault ship took six months for tenders to be placed. We are told today, according to the builders, that they will take four years to build. We understand that the second assault ship will be ready about a year later.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
The time was three and a half years from the time of tendering and the placing of the order, and we said that we thought the second one would come along much faster, so that it may come forward at the same time.
§ Mr. Wall
I am glad to hear that, but if she takes three and a half years to build it will still be four years before she can be in operational service. Until we have these vessels in operation we have no method, other than aircraft, of supporting these landings; in other words, no methods of landing tanks in the early stages of assault, because they cannot be landed from L.S.T.s in the early stages of an opposed landing. L.S.T.s are follow-up vessels, and I hope that everything will be done to speed up the construction of these two vitally important craft assault ships.
I must refer to the Royal Marines, a subject which has received the attention of several hon. Members. I think that it is the espirit de corps and the training of the Royal Marines which makes them the most flexible of Her Majesty's Forces. Perhaps I might give two illustrations of the kind of thing I mean, both taken from the last war. Hon. Members will recall that there was a Royal Marines division which was committed for various operations, some of which took place and some of which did not. Later it was decided to disband this division.
Out of its members, when it was disbanded, were formed the First Royal Marine Commandos and flotillas and squadrons of landing craft used in Overlord and other operations. Army tanks were manned by the Marines from the same division when the assault was made on Normandy. The second example concerns my own experience in the war. Not only was I a gunnery officer of a battleship, I was also in the commandos, learned to fall out of aeroplanes with the aid of a parachute, and learned how to pilot light aircraft, and was in charge of a number of assault craft. That was by no means a unique or exceptional experience on my part, but it illustrates the flexibility of this Corps which is, of course, its greatest asset.
One can look at the Marines two ways. One can either say that they are always ready to jump in to any action at the time of an emergency, as they have so often done in the past, or that they are neither fish, fowl nor good red herring. Perhaps I might translate what I mean in more modern terms. The Marines could be the nucleus on which 1455 inter-Service co-operation—I hesitate to say amalgamation—could be based; or the Marines could be the first armed forces to go to the wall when the three Services really co-operate. I am very glad that we are coming back to the true concept of maritime strategy, because this underlines the real rôle of the Royal Marines, to act as a bridge between the various Services.
The Corps of Royal Marines is too small to exist on its own and it must have a parent, and that parent is and always has been the Royal Navy. I was a little alarmed at Question Time today when my hon. Friend told me that there were only 17 per cent. of Royal Marines serving afloat today. The figure of 1,536 which he gave me included an embarked commando, the commando embarked in "Bulwark", which comprises about 536 and which, of course, is not always embarked. What is really means is that serving in Her Majesty's ships today are only about 1,000 marines. This is a very small percentage of the Corps, and it makes our direct link with the Royal Navy a weak one. I admit that this worries me a good deal.
When I attended the Tanganyika Independence celebrations at Dar-es-Salaam last December, everyone was delighted to see H.M.S. "Belfast" representing the Royal Navy, and it was wonderful to see this large 13,000 ton ship in the harbour where one normally sees only frigates or destroyers. However, going on board to the usual wonderful party organised for the celebrations, I found that the Royal Marine detachment in that ship was only just over forty marines. My first ship, the "Devonshire", of about 10,000 tons had a detachment of over eighty. Why is it that the detachments in the few ships which carry marines have been so greatly reduced? I suppose that the reason may be the shortage of Vote A strength, and because we are producing new commandos, but surely, if recruiting is going so well, we should be able to increase the strength of these detachments.
Again, on the subject of serving at sea, I feel that I must quote from a letter I received the other day from an old friend who was a Blue Marine gunner about forty years ago when he 1456 first enlisted. He wrote to me when he read in his evening paper that the Royal Regiment of Artillery was to provide a gun battery for an assault ship. I will quote a few passages from his letter:Yesterday evening, when I turned to page 1 of my Portsmouth Evening News, I nearly tumbled out of my old war-socks with shock, when I read that they are shipping landlubber gunners in 'The Andrew', to assist the Royal Marines—with gunnery!!—and this when they have just hauled all the guns out of the old Royal Marine Gunnery School at Eastney, sacked all the gunnery instructors, and filled the joint up with 250 pen-pushers and typewriter-ticklers".He goes on to say that this isA very dangerous game, because some of the bright-boy young Gunner officers might say somewhere (innocently, of course!), that 'These R.M. Commando chaps cannot talk Larkhill and Pirbright lingo with us, and maybe P.B.I, from Aldershot could do it better'.I refer to that letter because it emphasises that this is a job which could be carried out as well by the Artillery or by the Royal Marines, and I hope that we shall not get away from the idea that the Royal Marines can do almost any job. If we forget their flexibility, we shall sign their death warrant.
The Civil Lord, in opening, made the point that the assult ship was for landing the Army not the Marines, but I must remind him that the guns and the tanks of the support ship will be supporting the initial assault, not the follow-up, and, therefore, it will be supporting the Royal Marine Commandos, so I do not think that that argument can apply in the case I have mentioned.
I believe that the basis of our maritime strategy is to have a Royal Navy task force composed of carriers, commando carriers and assault ships, from which the initial landing should be performed by Royal Marines supported by the Royal Navy, the follow-up being done by the Army. I believe that the Royal Corps must remain a maid of all work but also must be the master of all work and be recognised as such. It must retain its greatest asset of all, flexibility.
The Navy is undoubtedly in good heart and, I believe, in good hands. However, next year we must decide the future of carriers and the future method of delivering the deterrent. I believe that Polaris will be needed and that that will confirm the Royal Navy in its rightful place as the Senior Service.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Thompson (Dunfermline Burghs)
This debate, like all good debates, has ranged over the general and the particular. The general proposition argued from these benches is one which the Labour Party deeply holds, namely, that Britain needs defending and that the Navy is a vital part of our defences. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), in his eloquent speech, said that, in our view, the Navy can be made more effective, more scientifically based and more economical to run and yet have even greater striking power. By his words he mirrored the feeling on these benches.
Other hon. Members have spoken, not of the general problems of naval strategy, problems with which we on this side are just as much concerned as hon. Members opposite, but of particular problems in their constituencies. I speak for a constituency the fortunes of which have been interwoven with those of the Royal Navy for sixty years. Sixty years ago, the Admiralty acquired 1,000 acres of land and 48 acres of foreshore in my constituency for the purpose of constructing a naval base in the Forth area. Since then, for better and for worse, my constituency has seen its fortunes linked to those of the Admiralty.
In 1914, we saw a great boom. Thousands of workers flocked to Rosyth and Inverkeithing from the South. In one year, 1914, millions of tons of shipping entered the dockyard in my constituency. The Dunfermline Town Council and the civic authorities built houses for these workers and provided schools for their children. Fourteen million pounds were spent on Rosyth. A garden city costing £1½ million was built, a reservoir was built, and halls and business premises were built. A whole economic enterprise grew round this naval base. I therefore speak with some interest in what the Admiralty is doing.
At that time, Rosyth was the only dockyard in the United Kingdom in which the whole of the Grand Fleet could anchor whatever the state of the tide. I need not go into details. There may be hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who served in the Navy and stood on Inverkeithing Station on a November night, with the wind blowing, waiting for a train to take them 1458 to Edinburgh. Their troubles began only when they reached Edinburgh. They had to get another train, after waiting perhaps 12 or 24 hours, to other parts of the United Kingdom.
I do not wish to bore hon. Members with history, but I make these points in the hope that the Civil Lord is listening carefully. The history of the relationship of Rosyth Dockyard with the Dunfermline Town Council and my civic authorities is not altogether happy. There have been problems and I hope that the Civil Lord will listen to them. If I dwell for two or three minutes on history, I hope that it will not be thought that it is out of mere antiquarian interest but as a warning to the future.
The axe fell on Rosyth in the mid-twenties. In 1925, it was put on a care and maintenance basis. Then began the years of neglect, not only for Rosyth, but for the defences of this country. The numbers of skilled men fell, machinery was shipped to Singapore and the social capital which Dunfermline Town Council and the surrounding areas had invested in the future of this dockyard seemed to be going to waste.
In 1940 came the call to arms again, bringing with it a new influx of employees. About 2,500 workers came back to my constituency to help Rosyth to become a great naval base again.
One of the attractions by which we got workers to return to Rosyth who had left because of the inaccessible nature of the dockyard was to give them assisted travel. Because of the geography of the place, many of the workers have to live some miles outside the dockyard. I have written to the Civil Lord about the matter, and I hope that he will consider the possibility of giving better assisted travel facilities for Admiralty employees.
We regarded as an incredible folly the period when this great dockyard was reduced to a care and maintenance basis. In the Second World War, Rosyth was the one dockyard in which ships could be repaired throughout the conflict without the yard being bombed. The Second World War proved three points, and I urge them upon the Civil Lord so that he will continue to regard Rosyth as an essential part of our defences.
1459 Not only did the Second World War show that Rosyth was the best protected dockyard in the country, but it proved, secondly, that it had plenty of deep water, both inside and outside the dockyard, and, thirdly, that in spite of its accessibility to the Forth, it was nevertheless far enough inland to be protected. For all these reasons, I urge the hon. Gentleman to regard Rosyth as a going concern. The history of the inter-war years showed that, however lavish the promises of the Admiralty between 1914 and 1918, when the Department ceased to need the place it fell into disuse and neglect. I hope that we shall not see history repeat itself, and that the Admiralty will continue to regard Rosyth as a going concern.
That leads me to inquire about the future of this important dockyard. What kind of plans has the Civil Lord in mind for its development? We regard as important the fact that it has become a manning port, because Her Majesty's Dockyard at Rosyth is the only real link that the Scottish people have with the Royal Navy, and the Scottish people are proud of the Royal Navy. The relationships between the town councils in my constituency and the Navy are cordial and close.
I trust that in the use of Rosyth as a manning port, the Admiralty will recognise how it depends upon the Scottish people to provide recruits—if I may say so modestly, some of the best recruits—for all levels of the Service. It is not in the best interests of Scotland that this tie should ever be severed. Rather is there need to strengthen it. Therefore, we regard the resurrection of Rosyth as a manning port as of the greatest importance. I am sure that in saying this, I speak for most of my constituents.
The fact remains, however, that the making of Rosyth into a manning port again brings us face to face with certain problems that have to be solved. If it is to become a great manning port, it must have proper living accommodation. Some of the people who work for the Admiralty in my constituency live in the most deplorable conditions. The best endeavours of the Civil Lord are required if the standards of living accommodation are to be raised.
Secondly, if Rosyth is to be a manning port, we have to consider the question 1460 of recruiting for the Navy, which, unfortunately, has always been low in Scotland. As long as the recruits were drawn from the South, this did not matter. It is important to extend the propaganda and the appeal of recruiting much more in Scotland. If we are to get the very best young people for the Navy, we need the widest possible range of recruitment, as the Civil Lord will agree. For this reason, we hope that he will consider extending the range of recruitment so that the Navy will have a lot of people from whom to choose. The more that the Navy has to select from, the better chance it has of getting the best people.
I come now more specifically to the future of H.M.S. "Caledonia." My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East has taken an interest in this, and over a long period of Questions and debates he has prodded the Civil Lord on this matter. We have a 10-year programme, for which we are grateful, a programme which will involve the expenditure of £2 million over ten years. Our view on this is that we should like to see the Civil Lord shorten the programme to a period of five years and double the annual expenditure from £200,000 to £400,000. It is not all that amount of money, considering the importance of this base, and considering the good work which H.M.S. "Caledonia" does. It does very good work. I have no hesitation in congratulating the Civil Lord on this matter. I occasionally pay visits to it and I am impressed by work which goes on there. In urging him to spend more on it I do so because it is not money poured down the drain.
Speaking at the moment of apprentice training in the Navy generally, and certainly of how it goes on in my constituency, I only wish that private employers would take the same conscientious interest in apprentices as the Navy does, not only in their technical training but in their character training. I am always very glad that the children of my constituents, young boys who get admission as apprentices, have opportunity for a course of training which, at its own level, is as good as a university training in the more academic disciplines.
My only criticism is that these facilities are under-utilised. The excellent 1461 courses of instruction which those people get are under-utilised. There is scope for more boys to be taken on without increasing the staff, without increasing the amenities available to them. It is never an easy task to congratulate a Minister on anything, and I should hate to end on a note of congratulation, because this is not the proper purpose of an Opposition.
§ Dr. Thompson
Nevertheless, I do congratulate the Minister on the excellence of his apprentice training schemes. What I would urge on the Minister quite strongly is that in trying to appeal to a wider range of boys for admission to the Navy he should stress the newer aspects of naval training, the fact that the Navy is now becoming a technological Service, that it will need highly-qualified entrants, many of whom must be capable of doing very highly-skilled work. We know—many Members have pointed it out-how the electronic complexity of ships and weapons has grown enormously in the post-war years, and this affords a much wider range to skills and abilities, which can capture the imagination of boys with a technical or engineering bent of mind. I think that the Navy, in addition to getting across the fact that it offers adventure, which is important in attracting young people, must get across the importance of overseas service, which, again, strongly attracts the interest of young people. It has also to get across the fact that it offers a skilled career, a career in technical and engineering work and that, I think, will enlist enthusiasm.
On the civilian side, I hope that the Civil Lord will pay more regard to joint consultation and keeping in touch with and taking along with him the trades unions and the workers. I think that there is a tendency for the Service disciplinary attitudes to spill over on to the civilian side, often with unfortunate consequences.
I hope, of course, that there will be some civilianisation—if I can use that horrid word—of the dockyards, because it clearly gives more stability and more employment in my constituency if there can be better distribution between uniformed and civilian manpower. Some posts obviously call for the exercise of 1462 naval discipline and experience. Other posts are more satisfactorily filled by civilians. There are some posts which can be equally filled by either. In those posts we hope that the Civil Lord will give priority to civilians.
I speak again frankly and openly on behalf of my constituency. As I have said, there is always scope in debate for the general and the particular. Some of my hon. Friends have already spoken for the general. I am speaking very particularly tonight for my constituency where unemployment is threatening so gravely that we should like to see the civilian side built up. It helps not only to solve the Navy's problems but to solve the problem which I would hesitate to go into now lest the Committee should get exasperated—the unemployment problem in Scotland.
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ Commander J. S. Kerans (The Hartlepools)
I, too, have great memories of Rosyth from the time when I first went to sea and right through the war and subsequently. Rosyth does a great deal for the Fleet. One of the happiest is when a halfpenny lands on the forecastle. It is the tradition for Scotsmen to throw the smallest coin they have from a passing train. [An HON. MEMBER: "A threepenny bit."] No, I have never had a threepenny bit. The Navy owes a great debt of gratitude to Rosyth for the amenities of the area, and it is very nice when one leaves it to go to Edinburgh for a weekend.
I did some research in the Library and I looked up the Navy Estimate debate of 2nd March, 1881. I found to my surprise that a Kerans, the Member for Lincoln, took part in the debate then. The debate was attended by fourteen Members at midnight. They were discussing Navy Estimates of 71,000 men for the Fleet and a cost of £14¼ million, a slight contrast with today's 100,000 men and a cost of £422 million plus. [An HON. MEMBER: "And fewer ships."] That is exactly what I am coming to.
There is no doubt that many people are concerned at the apparent small size of our Fleet today. We read about the guided missile destroyer, but it is 520 feet long. "Destroyer", therefore, is virtually a misnomer. It is surely a cruiser, with a cruiser's capabilities. 1463 What is the exact requirement for a guided missile destroyer which is virtually a cruiser? I am glad to see that we have two nearing completion, but when they will finally go into operation is another matter. We have two more to come.
We have 32 frigates and 20 destroyers in the operational Fleet. It seems to be a terribly small number for antisubmarine defence, but with long-range asdics and sonar from helicopters and other ancillary equipment it is considered adequate for the future. I should like to know a little more about the capabilities, bearing in mind, of course, the security facets. There is no doubt that a high degree of skill and training is required to operate these machines, and of necessity one must pay great tribute to the scientists who vet the production of these methods. The Royal Naval Scientific Service is fairly young in years but is doing a first-class job. Constant research has to be done day after day, week after week into the varying temperatures of the oceans, currents, tide-rips, local conditions and so on. All these things play a very great part in the development of asdic equipment and means of surmounting it.
Vote 6 is for £24 million plus on scientific research. My hon. Friend said that that is £3 million more than last year. That goes to show that we are concentrating on the advance of our scientific methods to combat the submarine. As my hon. Friend said, great improvements have taken place in H.M.S. "Sea Eagle" in Londonderry where co-operation between the R.A.F. and ourselves and other N.A.T.O. countries is producing a first-class team looking into these matters with modern ships in support of the establishment.
I turn to a small item which I find a little alarming. There are no ocean minesweepers or fleet sweepers with the active Fleet today. Instead we have thirty-three coastal and four inshore sweepers. From a Question I asked today I was somewhat surprised to find that some nine ocean mine sweepers are being scrapped in 1961–62. I had the honour to command one of them in 1953, based at Rosyth and doing mine sweeping trials at Port Edgar. At that time we were told that mine sweeping 1464 was a very high priority for the Royal Navy. People like myself who had been sitting behind desks and had not been to sea were suddenly switched to mine sweepers to learn something about it so that we should have a nucleus of trained personnel when the next war came along, bearing in mind that the R.N.R. and the R.N.V.R. of the day who had formed the trained mine sweeper officers and the ratings of the last war would be a little old in the tooth for the next one.
We were also told that the Russian mining threat was very great indeed, and, especially, that some of their mines were virtually unsweepable. That was why I along with others took Thames barges up to Rosyth to find some method of combating the acoustic mine.
I ask my hon. Friend why this situation has changed overnight. Why are we relying entirely on the coastal and inshore mine sweepers? It seems to be a sudden change. There are five ships down for scrapping—including the Scottish shipping protection vessel that was—and all of them had very long and expensive refits in 1953 or 1954. Within a short measure of time they have found themselves in reserve. I find it a little hard to understand why this should come about. As the Russians are adequately equipped for mine laying by submarine and surface vessel and by air, why has this change come about overnight?
§ Captain W. Elliot
I am very interested in what my hon. and gallant Friend is saying about Russian mine laying. Will he not confirm that throughout their naval history the Russians have been very good at mining? Is that not illustrated by the fact that during the Russo-Japanese war they blew up several of the Japanese ships attacking Port Arthur?
§ Commander Kerans
I entirely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend. That is probably true. But I know what the Civil Lord will say—that there will be no such need because the Russians will not be able to approach close to our shores. But convoy routes to this country converge in mineable waters and the threat still exists. It is a little unfortunate, when one steams up the Solent, to see vast numbers of these coastal and inshore minesweepers laid 1465 up in reserve, some ashore and some off Hythe. Fifty-six coastals and sixty-eight inshores in reserve is a very great number indeed. Is their maintenance adequate? Are they being kept up to date? How many are sold to foreign Governments and how are they disposed of? What manpower is there to look after them and how much civilian staff can be utilised.
I wish to turn very briefly to another subject, the aircraft carrier of the future. I know that a lot has been said tonight, and a lot more will be said, on the subject, but I find the last sentence of the Explanatory Statement hard to take. It states:There is no need to order a new carrier yet, but the necessary design work has been put in hand.That, to my mind, smacks of indecision. I would ask my hon. Friend the Civil Lord if this matter cannot be reconsidered in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence. We cannot wait year after year to formulate a decision, spend money on design and on the prototype, wait four or five years, then scrap the whole project after a lot of money has gone for a burton and have to start the thing all over again.
That apparent indecision is disturbing to the general public who interest themselves in this matter. As a layman, I would say that a small carrier is probably the only answer—a small carrier with vertical take-off aircraft. There is no doubt that the large carrier is very costly indeed. It takes a long time to produce, and between 1971 and 1991 the whole concept of maritime warfare may have changed again. I admit that in these days we have to plan up to fifteen years ahead and that we have to face the prohibitive cost of building these vessels, but I ask that a decision might be taken in the not too far distant future.
The White Paper quite clearly emphasises the mobility of the Fleet, and that is the essence of the matter in the years ahead. Once we have these task units distributed east of Suez, in the Mediterranean and so on, they will have to have tremendous support. It is interesting to note that the auxiliary tail of the Fleet is almost exactly half of the operational Fleet. Therefore, the more mobility we want, the greater the tail 1466 must be when we cannot rely on our bases abroad.
There has been a lot of criticism to the effect that the Navy is thin on the ground, but, somehow or other, the Navy has the ability to be in the right place at the right time. For example, this was so in Kuwait, in Kenya, the famine relief, the riots of Georgetown, and even in Tristan da Cunha. What happened in all these widely separated parts of the globe shows quite clearly that the Navy is not too far away when things go wrong.
Quite apart from that, the Navy takes part in N.A.T.O. exercises, S.E.A.O. and CENTO. Not so very long ago H.M.S. "Lion" and two or three frigates carried out a South American cruise. This was the first time that this had happened for a very long time, and it has been very beneficial. These ships had very good publicity, and I am sure that their cruise has done quite a lot for our trade and public relations in South America. I only wish that there had been a little more publicity in this country. The moral is that unless there are T.V. cameras on the spot, or photographs can be brought back to this country in time for the morning newspapers, the interest has gone.
With my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) I am concerned about the question of bases. There is no doubt that we cannot consider Singapore to be a secure operational base for the future. What are the alternatives? Are we to fall back on Borneo or Seria? Or are we to fall back on Australia? In the concept of Malaysia that merits deep consideration. Even with a mobile task force we must have a holding base somewhere in that vast area.
Re-engagements as shown in the White Paper are a good omen for the future. That alone refutes all the arguments of the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) who spoke at such great length, and maintained that the Navy was falling into disrepute. The hon. and gallant Member has done a great disservice to the Royal Navy and I deprecate every word he said. I hope that that will be recorded and go to the right quarters.
§ Commander Kerans
I am sure that it will not, and that is the trouble.
One thing that the Navy now offers is a skilled craft for the man when he leaves the Service. I was one who had no skilled craft. It is no use saying that one can drive a destroyer or fire a gun, or that one knows something about intelligence when one is looking for a civilian job. A man with a knowledge of electronics, engineering or accountancy has something to fall back on when the great day arrives and he accepts his "golden bowler" or a bowler which is not so golden, as the case may be. There is also the attraction of the commando carrier and I hope that in future we may see a few more Royal Marines at sea.
I should like to mention the great assistance given by the Admiralty in respect of compassionate cases and the speed with which people are brought from "point X" to this country. In my experience an officer was brought back from Africa in forty-eight hours which I considered was a first-class operation and the sort of thing which goes a long way to ameliorate the hardships which some people are alleged to endure in the Navy. There is no doubt that welfare plays a most important part in recruiting, not only in the Navy but in the other Services as well. When a disgruntled wife or parent goes into the "local" and says what he or she thinks about the Navy it can result in the loss of a lot of potential recruits. Questions relating to pay and leave mean much more than one realises when one is in the Service.
I have a great respect for the W.R.N.S. and some people may know why. During the summer I visited H.M.S. "Dauntless" near Reading where I found that there were recruits from all parts of the country. They were well organised and happy and there is no doubt that the officers in charge there do a very good job of work.
In paragraph 80 of the White Paper there is mention of the run-down of shore establishments in this country and abroad. I ask what reductions are considered for the future? I think that there are too many isolated bits of Admiralty equipment in shore establishments in various parts of the country.
I mention briefly the question of security. My time is very short.
§ Commander Kerans
I recently saw the Director of Security of the Admiralty. I was much impressed by the efforts he is making to train officers, ratings and civil servants in the Admiralty in what security means.
§ Commander Kerans
I think it too early to comment on whether it is working well or not, but these people are working together as a team. I think that will bear fruit in future.
§ Mr. David James (Brighton, Kemptown)
Is it not a fact that efforts at security are more successful now than those when the party opposite was in power?
§ Commander Kerans
I am sure that they are no worse than in the other Services. They will happen in any navy or industry in the world.
I come to Vote 12 and ask my hon. Friend whether reductions can be made in the numbers employed on D.N.I. I do not think it right that naval intelligence should deal with political intelligence. Surely that can be obtained from the Foreign Office. In that way we could reduce the numbers in D.N.I. There are now eighty-eight and last year there were ninety—bearing in mind the numbers of those who have gone to security.
I do not think there is anything wrong with the Navy for the future. The Civil Lord and the First Lord have the right plans. Much as I should like to continue my speaking, I must sit down now.
§ 11.3 p.m.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North) rose—
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of order, Sir William. You will remember that a little time ago, although you were not bound to do so, you were courteous enough to give to the Committee your 1469 reasons for not calling my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to move his Amendment. I am, of course, not going back to that subject, but in the course of giving those reasons you were good enough to say two things which I should like to recall to your mind. One was that one of the reasons for not calling the Amendment was that the same thing could be done on the main Estimate. The other was that every opportunity would be given for every point of view, including that of those of us who wish to oppose the main Estimate, in the absence of an opportunity to move for a reduction. Throughout the whole debate there has been no speech on the basis of opposing the main Estimate.
§ The Chairman (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I hear what the hon. Members says and take note of it. Mr. Reynolds.
§ Mr. Silverman
On that point of order. I know from long experience how reluctant every occupant of the Chair is, and especially, Sir, yourself, to drag the Chair down into the arena in Committee or in the House. If one firm clear point of view is left in this debate without any opportunity whatever of being heard, that is exactly what, inadvertently no doubt, you will be doing.
§ The Chairman
No, there is no point of order for me to deal with. We must get on with the debate. We had a long argument on order earlier which took up valuable time which could have been used for the debate.
§ Mr. Reynolds rose—
§ Mr. Foot
On a point of order, Sir William. You said earlier when I raised a point of order on a different matter that you would consider the precedents and you said that you had an open mind on the matter. I think we are entitled to an answer about it. Would you tell the Committee whether there is any precedent whatsoever in the discussion on Estimates for the Army, Navy or Air Force, for the Ruling to be made from the Chair that an hon. Member who puts down an Amendment for a reduction in the Vote or any of his hon. Friends should be denied the right to participate 1470 in the debate; in other words, that £500 million are to go through without an hon. Member having the right to oppose it in the House of Commons? It is a disgrace to the House of Commons.
§ The Chairman
There are many precedents of hon. Members with a point of view being unable to put that point of view because of the difficulty of time. We are now accentuating the difficulty of the shortage of time by taking up further time on points of order on which I have already given a Ruling. Hon. Members know what steps they can take if they believe my Ruling to be at fault, but I must insist that the Committee conduct its business in the remaining time that we have on proper lines.
§ Mr. Reynolds
If those hon. Members below the Gangway would like a sheet of paper to write down the appropriate resolution, I shall be pleased to help and vote against it.
§ Mr. Silverman
It is a different point of order arising directly out of what you have just said, Sir William. You have talked about a shortage of time, and you have said that is why the points of view of those of us who wish to oppose this Vote cannot be heard. There is no shortage of time. There are forty-seven minutes left. I ask you to consider whether, in the light of the development of our constitutional procedure, it is consonant with the dignity and traditions of this Committee that nearly £500 million of expenditure should be given to the Government without having the right to say why it should—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."] Hon. Members will regret it. Let them wait till their turn comes.
§ The Chairman
I appreciate that the hon. Member feels strongly, but when it comes to the question of time, it is in accordance with precedent and practice that the two Front Benches should be given an opportunity of developing an argument winding up the debate.
§ Mr. Reynolds
This has been far better than the debates that we have had on other Estimates during the past ten days or so—
§ Mr. Reynolds
If the hon. Gentleman will sit down, I will get on. He has already wasted forty minutes of the time—
§ The Chairman
Order, order. I hope the hon. Member will restrain himself. When he uses the word "you" it refers directly to the occupant of the Chair. I have dealt with the hon. Member's point of order—
§ The Chairman
If it is a fresh point of order, pray let the hon. Member make it shortly, and let us get on.
§ Mr. Silverman
I will indeed make my remarks short, and I hope I will be allowed to make them without interruption either from the hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench or from anyone else. My point of order is that you have. Sir William, without any authority whatever, now given currency to the doctrine that, somehow or other—
§ Mr. Silverman
Let me continue—in this Committee the last hour is to be shared between the two Front Benches. There is no such rule or practice and it takes place only by courtesy. That courtesy is normally shown and, surely, it should be shown to all hon. Members.
§ The Chairman
I hope that the hon. Member will allow the hon. Member I called to be courteously heard.
§ Mr. Reynolds
—that we are reaching the end of this series of debates on defence and I have been pleased to see more interest shown today than was shown in some of the earlier debates during the past week.
§ Mr. Reynolds
There has certainly been more interest shown in the Navy Estimates than was displayed earlier in the week in the Army and Air Force Estimates. This increased interest is evident because we have had speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and they have ranged over the general position of the Navy. I shall now have to be brief in order to give the Civil Lord time in which to reply to the many questions he has been asked, for many of them concern matters on which we should like more information.
§ Mr. Reynolds
Some of the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are still making a lot of noise, but not quite as much today as they made in some of the earlier Estimates' debates, which were rather ruined because of that noise.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) referred to the 1957 White Paper saying that it did not really deal with the rôle of the Navy in a total war. He commented on what he considered should be the rôle of the Navy in such a war but despite what he said, and despite what is contained in the White Paper, I still find myself rather confused as to what it is exactly intended the Navy's rôle should be in 1473 the unfortunate event of total war. We have heard a lot about the amphibious task force but we still seem to be rather in the air as to the exact rôle of the Navy should there be a large-scale war.
It seems, according to the thesis laid down in the Defence White Paper, that large-scale war would obviously be a nuclear war and, thus, a short one. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) referred to other aspects of this matter, especially the large number of minelayers and other craft that are laid up at present. There is a certain amount of indifference as to what the rôle of the Navy will be in a full-scale war and the craft that the hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned are important for that rôle. It is, therefore, important that we should have further information about these craft.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) drew attention to overspending and alleged waste and we expect some answers from the Civil Lord on this matter. I was struck by the suggestion of the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) about the capital programme of the Navy. She referred to the 10-year hospital building programme put forward by the Minister of Health and suggested that it might be a good idea to do something similar in the way of a long-term plan for the Navy.
I was not so impressed by the hon. Lady's argument—although she did not press it too strongly—concerning the modernising of the base at Singapore. I was more in agreement with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Haltemprice of a base in North Australia with an advanced base somewhere further out.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) referred to an essential matter: the Navy assisting in the provision of nuclear-propulsion units for surface ships. We now have two nuclear-powered submarines under construction and we have the unit at Dounreay for experimental and training purposes.
I agree with the argument that an aircraft carrier is not necessarily the best type of ship in which to put a nuclear-propulsion unit. Unless we, as a nation, are not to be left behind in the field 1474 of nuclear propulsion for surface ships someone must take the initiative in making facilities available for experimental work to be carried out. There is no other way in which we can get experience of this. I cannot see that this type of work will be done at all unless it is done by the Navy.
I hope that the Civil Lord will make it possible for the Navy to have nuclear propulsion for surface ships, for an under-way replenishment ship or an under-way replenishment tanker—some ship which might be conveniently fitted with nuclear propulsion—so that we do not fall behind America and other countries which might be advancing in the near future in these techniques.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and several other hon. Members have commented on the failure of the Government to keep the promise given under the Grigg recommendations to make sure that the pay of both officers and men of all the three Services kept pace with the corresponding payments made to people in similar work in civilian life. Even with that sort of agreement, the Service man is obviously two years, or almost two years, behind the person in civilian employment because we have to wait for a couple of years until the assessment of earnings in civilian employment has been made, then relate Service pay to earnings in civilian employment, and take the decision to bring the pay of Service men up to that level. The Service man is behind in any case, and it is thoroughly unfair to take a group of men—officers and all ranks in the three Services—who are already behind in their level of pay, although the intention is that they should be brought up to the general level, and then say that, although they are already behind, we will apply to them a similar, though not, I admit, exactly the same, stop on wages and salaries as has been imposed on civilians. Whatever the Civil Lord may think about it, it almost certainly will have an adverse effect—though to what extent I cannot say—on recruiting to all branches of the Service.
I assume, since this has been a smooth debate, that there will not be a vote against the Estimates tonight when our proceedings close in about forty minutes. I notice that my hon. Friend the Member 1475 for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in arguing a point of order with the Chair a little while ago, said that to vote against the Estimates was, of course, to challenge the whole operation of the Department. [Interruption.] When the hon. Gentleman looks at HANSARD tomorrow, he will find that, when speaking at that point, though perhaps without realising it, he said that to vote against the Estimates was to challenge the whole operation of the Department. Many hon. Members would not wish to do that. To vote against the Estimates tonight would be to vote against the type of work which the Navy has been doing during the past two years in British Guiana, British Honduras, Tristan da Cunha, the taking of food supplies to the Western Isles—
§ Mr. S. Silverman rose—
§ Mr. Reynolds
No, I will not give way—in South America, in rescue and relief work after the floods in Kenya, in rescue and salvage work in the Persian Gulf, in the China Seas and in Malaya, in fishery protection off the coast of Iceland, and a large number of hydrographic surveys and map preparation work done for the maritime services of the world.
§ Mr. Silverman
On a point of order, Sir William. My hon. Friend has misquoted and misrepresented what I said and also has put himself in conflict with the Ruling which you gave from the Chair, which was that the Amendment need not be called because the same point could be raised on the Estimates themselves by a vote against them. It is true that I did not agree with that Ruling, and I do not agree with it now, but I had to accept it, and now we are left with no opportunity to express our point of view except by voting against the Estimates. That is not our fault. We wanted to vote for a reduction, but you, Sir William, would not allow it.
§ Mr. Reynolds
My hon. Friend is well aware that that was not a point of order, but it has taken another three 1476 minutes off the time available for debate, which is his main intention this evening.
The Civil Lord was asked about the anti-tank missile, the French SS.11, which is to be used not only from helicopters but also by the enlarged commando on the "Bulwark" or the other commando carrier. He was asked why this was to be used and not Vigilant. The hon. Gentleman said that the Army would presumably want the Vigilant weapon for itself to start with. But the Under-Secretary of State for War dealt with the matter in the debate on the Army Estimates a few days ago, and he pointed out that the two weapons are not quite the same. The Vigilant is man-portable, whereas the French SS.11 has to be carried on a jeep or in some other way. I hope that the Civil Lord will consider the matter again and consult with the Secretary of State for War about it, because it seems a little ridiculous that we should have Marines going from a commando carrier with an anti-tank weapon which is not man-portable but which must have some sort of carrying vehicle and requires one kind of ammunition, when they would be followed up a matter of hours or days later by Army men landing from an assault ship with the Vigilant, which is man-portable and fires different ammunition.
Surely, something could be done to ensure that units which operate in close co-operation with each other in this type of venture would be able to use the same type of equipment, especially when it is of this nature, and so help to reduce some of the supply difficulties which become apparent if two different types of equipment have to be taken in for troops operating from two different vessels simply because one happens to be a Marine unit and the other an Army unit. I hope that this will be reconsidered before a final decision is taken.
I turn now to the amphibious task forces, of which a great deal has been said during the debate, and particularly to the picture which is given in the middle of the Explanatory Statement, of the amphibious forces with the carrier task group, which appears to me to have two aircraft carriers, and also of the underway replenishment group behind. Paragraph 2 of the Explanatory Statement lays down the task which, it is felt, 1477 a force of this nature will be expected to carry out.
We are told in paragraph 26 of the Statement on Defence, however, thatBy the use of task forces"—I stress that it is in the plural—with a significant amphibious capability, seaborne military and air power can be exerted wherever our interests require it.I draw the Civil Lord's attention particularly to paragraph 27 of the Statement on Defence, which refers to seaborne task forces, again in the plural, and states that theywill include commando ships and assault ships.It is in the light of these statements, which seem to indicate that at least two amphibious task forces will be in operation, that I wish to consider the diagram in the Explanatory Statement and the resources available to the Navy for amphibious task forces.
We have the two commando ships "Bulwark" and "Albion," but we all know that as soon as the "Albion" comes into operation later this year, "Bulwark" will have to come back for refit lasting, presumably, 12 or 15 months. That means that one or other will be completely or partially out of action whenever either "Albion" or "Bulwark" requires a refit. I cannot think that this is good planning or will provide us with the forces that are required, either east of Suez or elsewhere. There appear to be no other proposals for further commando ships, and, of course, the Defence White Paper deals generally with a five-year programme.
In addition, there appears to be only one other aircraft carrier in existence which it might be possible to turn into a third commando carrier. That would appear to be the "Magnificent," which was completed in May, 1948, was on loan to the Canadian Government until 1957 and is now listed as being in the Reserve Fleet. I was surprised to read in "Jane's Fighting Ships," however, that this carrier is to be disposed of in the near future.
I do not know whether that is correct, but it is clearly stated. If it is correct, I hope that further consideration will be given before a final decision is taken, because if we are to have two assault task forces we must, presumably, have 1478 three commando carriers and it appears that "Magnificent" is the only ship available without going to the colossal expense of new construction to provide us with the possibility of having two amphibious task forces afloat at the same time.
We have no assault ships. One has been ordered and another is about to be ordered. These craft obtained a great deal of publicity since their drawings were first published a few months ago. It is well to remind ourselves that the United States already has eight of the Thomaston class vessels for similar use and is building six of the Raleigh class, which, as far as I can see, will have an almost similar carrying capacity of troops and equipment to the two which it is proposed to build during the next three or four years for use in our own amphibious task forces. It is rather a pity, I think, that we are only just beginning this type of development when the United States Navy has had this type of vessel for some considerable time. This vessel is not shown in the plans of the amphibious task force in the centre pages of the Explanatory Memorandum. That is presumably because, the hon. Gentleman will say, we have not got it at the present moment. Neither have we got the guided-missile destroyers two of which are shown, though I agree that they will come in sooner because they are nearing completion at the moment, but we have here only two of these vessels which will become operational during the next twelve months and we shall not get the others till the end of 1963 or 1964, so that we can have only one amphibious task force for at least another two years. I assume that in due course these particular vessels will provide a bombardment cover for the troops from the commando carrier and the assault ship as well.
§ Mr. M. Foot
Before my hon. Friend finishes his speech, would he deal with the question of the Government's support for the Polaris weapon which is being accepted in this country, particularly in view of the fact that the Labour Party at its last conference voted against this weapon altogether? Would he say whether he is going to present the Labour Party's view on this matter to the Committee, as some of 1479 us have not had an opportunity of doing it in the debate, and of putting the official policy of the party? We are assuming he will, because it has not been done up to now.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I regard the Polaris equipped submarine as the best and safest form of the deterrent yet invented, and I intend to say nothing more about that this evening.
We come on to the radar picket for which, as far as I can see, there is an adequate number of ships available, but it was mentioned on the other side of the Committee that though we are to have an amphibious task force as the Memorandum indicates, we have at the moment only one landing ship headquarters. I hope that in due course arrangements will be made to provide another vessel for this purpose,
I should have liked to have said considerably more about the amphibious task force, but there is not time. It is obvious to me that if, as we were told by the Civil Lord, we have 85 per cent. of the vessels at present in service allocated or assigned somewhere or another in fulfilling our N.A.T.O. commitments, we have some 25 per cent. of our force shown in the drawing in the middle of the Memorandum. I do not know, perhaps the hon. Gentleman can tell us, but presumably this means that some vessels which have been assigned to N.A.T.O. have got to steam all the way from Singapore or some other place in that part of the world if ever they are required for duties and responsibilities under our agreements and assignments to N.A.T.O.
I want to refer now to the aircraft carriers. We have a carrier task group. We have at present only three in service. It has been announced by the Civil Lord that we shall probably have one of about 50,000 tons, that is, the aircraft carrier being designed to come into operation about 1971. If a carrier is to be provided as part of an air cover—or as the air cover—for an amphibious task force for the type of activities which we know it is primarily intended for, I would not oppose that, but if it is intended that the new carrier should be in some way or another part of an extended or new version of an independent 1480 or British contribution to a Western nuclear deterrent, I cannot see why there is any particular point in proceeding with the construction of a vessel for that purpose.
If the vessels are to be part of an amphibious task force I cannot see why it is necessary to have as large vessels as 50,000 ton carriers. We are talking of 1970 or 1971, and presumably by that time we are expecting that there will be in service at least some and probably many planes based on the vertical takeoff principle. I assume that one of the reasons why Rotodyne was abandoned was that it has been overtaken by the vertical take-off principle. Therefore, if we are to have vertical take-off aircraft I cannot believe that we want 800-ft. long flight decks and a 50,000 ton carrier. The "Ark Royal" is roughly 44,000 tons, and I should have thought it possible to have managed with vessels of between 20,000 and 30,000 tons, and that they would have given a long enough platform for vertical take-off aircraft. Electronic development and installations, transistors, printed circuits and so on, which will become smaller and take less space than at present, would also tend to point towards smaller carriers.
I cannot believe that it is necessary to go to the extent of having 50,000-ton vessels to provide cover for amphibious task forces and I would only be prepared to support such a proposal if that was its primary purpose. I should have thought that it was far better to have two similar aircraft carriers than one large one. If one large carrier were with an amphibious task force and it were sunk, the task force could be in a difficult position. Two smaller carriers would make the position safer in that respect, though I realise that cost enters into this.
I should have liked to have said a great deal about our N.A.T.O. commitments but time is running out. We have been informed in the course of the debate that the Canadian Government publish details of their forces assigned to N.A.T.O. and the North Atlantic Command. Apparently other Governments are doing the same. In view of that, I hope that, if not in this debate, we can be informed in next year's Explanatory Statement what vessels we have assigned to the North Atlantic 1481 Command, the Mediterranean Command and to the Channel Command. Without going into the matter further at this stage, I would say that I still hold the view, which I have held for a considerable time, that the main purpose of the Channel Command is that we politically in the United Kingdom shall have an appropriate share of N.A.T.O. commands. I feel that for administrative reasons a large number of commands of this nature at the junction of the Atlantic Command and the North European Central Command can only be a hindrance rather than a help in the unfortunate event of an outbreak of war. The Channel Command might well be got rid of altogether.
I hope that we shall have information on what we are committed to provide to N.A.T.O., because without it we cannot tell whether some of the impressive figures in the Estimates or the drawings in the Explanatory Statement mean anything, since we do not know whether the equipment enumerated there is available for an amphibious task force unless we know what we are committed to provide for other aspects of the responsibilities which the Navy has to fulfil.
I conclude with my thanks for the facilities which are made available to hon. Members to visit the Fleet. I have been able to avail myself of them only once when in the submarine Sea Scout I had an excellent lunch 70 ft. down in the Channel. I understand that that submarine has now been turned into razor blades.
The task of the Admiralty in the next year or two is made all the more difficult because there is a great shortage of money and resources. This applies to the social services, to housing, education and hospitals, and this is primarily because in the last ten years this country has not advanced along the economic road to increased production anything like as fast as it should have done. If we had only had the rate of progress which we had between 1946 and 1951 many of these problems would have been easier of solution.
§ 11.34 p.m.
§ Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing
I congratulate the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) not only on his robust speech but on the speed with which he delivered it, which must have tested the 1482 HANSARD staff to the full. I am sure that he must have beaten the record hitherto held by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale).
The debate has been noteworthy, in that we have had almost 30 hon. and right hon. Members in the Chamber throughout, about 20 Members have spoken, and at the moment there are 60 present. All sorts of points of view have been put, and I am sure that all would agree that this has been as good a Navy debate as we have had for a long time.
One of the main things that I was asked to explain was what it is that limits the size of the Fleet. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) asked whether it is numbers, ships or money. It is money. We have a certain amount of money allocated for us within the general defence ceiling and the defence budget itself has a certain amount of money within the national ceiling. Therefore, we have to produce a balanced fleet which in the judgment of my noble Friend and the Board of Admiralty is the best that we can do for the money available. Sometimes it may mean more men and fewer ships, and sometimes fewer men and more ships. It is a compromise between the two.
The ships had not fallen remarkably in number, as someone said they had. The operational fleet on trials and training was 189 three years ago, 185 two years ago and 177 last year. We still have a large number of operational ships in the Fleet. The point I am making is that as we go to more modern ships I am afraid that we need more men to man each ship. This is a vital point because of the complexity of equipment and the necessary sophistication of a modern ship. That is well illustrated in the frigate class where the Loch class, which has just come out of service after useful service in the Persian Gulf, had a complement of 145, and was followed by the Whitby class with 200, and the Leanders, which are following on again, have 250. Therefore, we need to have more men to man the same number of ships as more modern ships replace old ones.
§ Mr. Willis
I asked what the limitation was upon the number of men being recruited in view of the very large selection.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I see the hon. Gentleman's point. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said that these ceilings were not to be too hard and fast. He gave the numbers as between 390,000 and 400,000 over the three Services, and said that there might be some veer and haul within those figures. This year we are asking for 100,000.
I turn to the question of the task force. It is true, as the hon. Member said, that for some of the time we shall have only one commando carrier available, but for 75 per cent. of the time we shall have two commando carriers available. The hon. Gentleman suggested that we ought to have a third commando carrier. We shall certainly bear in mind what he said.
The hon. Gentleman suggested, less forcibly than others did, that we had tried to mislead the Committee in the diagram. I think that on closer examination he will agree that every one of the ships is shown in the early pages of the Memorandum in my noble Friend's lists of the operational Fleet and the fleet in reserve. Those not shown are the two guided-missile destroyers. These are the Estimates for 1962–63, and one of these, the "Devonshire", comes into service during the summer and the other in the autumn, and I think it is not unreasonable that we should show them for the coming year.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I agree, but this is "an amphibious task force". The impression is given at several points in the Memorandum that the intention is to have "task forces".
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Perhaps we have shown the most complex and most complete task force, but in an operation one does not always need the full spectrum of ships that we have shown in the diagram.
I turn to a subject which raised a great deal of interest and was touched upon by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Capt. W. Elliot), my hon. Friend the Member for Haltem-price (Mr. Wall), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Cmdr. Kerans) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett)—aircraft carriers. It was opposed by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)—who apologised for not being able to 1484 be here now—and the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Cmdr. Pursey).
I want to make it clear first that we are only at the stage of the design of a new aircraft carrier. We have had no decision, and we do not wish to have a decision to go ahead for two or three years, because the design will take that time. There is still plenty of time before we need a replacement in 1970 or 1971.
The second point is that these are not designed primarily for strategic purposes. As bases become less certain overseas, it would be stupid for me at the Dispatch Box to tell our potential enemies that they would never be used in that vein. After all, one complicates the enemy's problem by not letting him know from which direction the strike may come, and one makes the deterrent ever more believable.
But that is not the primary rôle. The primary rôle is the rôle the hon. Gentleman discussed and which we have set out in the amphibious force description in the Memorandum.
I was asked also about the size. There has been some misunderstanding about the size. I said roughly 50,000 tons. The fact is that the deep displacement of H.M.S. "Ark Royal" and H.M.S. "Eagle" is around 50,000 tons. It is the same size as these ships. It is only a sketch at the moment and there is a lot of design work to be done.
To those who ask whether it is necessary and whether it is not too vulnerable, I would put the question that if we want to deploy soldiers to different parts of the world in order to meet threats do they think that they would be safer with or without an aircraft carrier in attendance. They would obviously be safer and much happier with an aircraft carrier in attendance..
The second point made was whether the mobile air platform or the static base is less vulnerable. Surely, even if we have a static base from which to operate, the answer must be that the mobile air platform is less vulnerable and that a static base could be knocked out with greater ease.
Lastly, on the question of detection, just because an aircraft carrier can be detected on the radar screen it does not mean that one can positively identify it. 1485 Air Chief Marshal Broadhurst was quoted. I well remember an exercise off the Spanish and Portuguese coasts in which aircraft carriers were mixed in with the merchant fleet. Although Bomber Command detected them it was not able to define the difference between large tankers, large merchant ships, and aircraft carriers. An aircraft cannot come down from 40,000 feet in order to identify each ship and then go up again. Therefore, one may assume that although a carrier may be a good target for radar there cannot be positive identification.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I do not think that infra-red has the range or the necessary definition. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air could give the answer to that question.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East asked about Vote A. Vote A includes the Royal Marines, the Fleet Air Arm, the W.R.N.S., many of whom are not afloat. I think that the figure of 38 per cent. quoted by the hon. Gentleman must have been arrived at when some big ship came out of commission and before another went into commission. I have watched these figures for four years and they have remained practically static, although the tendency has been for them to go up a trifle.
The figure is between 38 and 40 per cent. all the time. When the Navy is at sea the figure is around 45 per cent. This includes repair ships, and so on. It is about 40 per cent. if they are excluded. Men in a position to go into action must be supported by the tail. We have tried to comb the tail in order to save manpower and money and to make it more efficient so that we can keep as many training men at sea as possible.
I was asked about educational facilities for commissions. I want to make the point here because I would not want it thought that the channels for promotion from the lower deck were in any way blocked. We have gone out of our way to keep the channels open. It is true to say that the best qualified ratings, especially artificers, are coming into the Service with much higher educational standards than they were a few years 1486 ago. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have a scheme for upper yardmen to work up to their two A level passes so that they may be up to the educational standards of the general list.
We have thirty young men at the moment at Dartmouth. They are preparing themselves to take the A level and then they can join the rest of the Dartmouth entry. There is the Special Duty list which provides commissions for ratings where such exacting qualifications as two A levels are not necessary. We are prepared to help every serving rating to obtain the qualifications needed for promotion.
The hon. Gentleman said that ratings in support ships had not been given much chance to make any advance. I hope that the case which the hon. Gentleman quoted was a special one. Perhaps he will send me the details and I will look into it. I will take that up. I am sure it is a special case and not at all typical. Last year, 3,385 subject passes at O level were obtained by nearly 3,000 naval ratings who sat for their G.C.E. and that number of passes proves that facilities must be provided.
My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) touched on the question of training. More weapons and equipment are coming into the Service continually. Over recent years we have paid a great deal of attention to examining training and streamlining it where possible, taking into account the fact that people from the national schools come in with higher qualifications. In some cases we have been able to cut the training by a week or a month, and sometime even by three months and thus save time and also save on the Navy Vote. We have eliminated a number of courses altogether and the basic course for seamen gunners and underwater weapon training is to be done at sea. Like the training within industry scheme, it is sometimes more economical to train in the ship.
We have tried to concentrate training establishments and bring them together wherever they are doing similar work. This could pay tremendous dividends. I have had all the establishments priced. We have examined the overheads, the number of administrative personnel, headquarters personnel and auxiliary 1487 personnel and students. We have notified each establishment of how it compares with its neighbour so that there is a sort of "league" of those which are good and those which are bad. There are wide variations, as in the hospital service, where the costs of hospitals are fed across the board so that people can judge whether they are operating efficiently.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) mentioned the question of overheads at Dartmouth. The numbers are expected to rise during the next few years with the result that training costs per head should go down. My hon. Friend mentioned H.M.S. "Harrier," the Naval School of Aircraft Direction, whose task has been transferred to H.M.S. "Heron" at Yeovilton. We have classes for atomic defence and damage control at Devonport and Portsmouth.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) and the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) spoke about the dockyards. Before I turn to that matter, I should like to deal with the accusation that at Chatham we wasted a good deal of money on "Swiftsure". We had to take a decision whether it would be better to go ahead with an expensive modernisation scheme. We were held up and we realised that it was not an essential operational requirement to have the ship; and that the courageous thing to do was to cut the loss. We might have gone on and then we might not have been criticised so much. But we held back on "Swiftsure" for the positive reason that in the same dockyard we were refitting H.M.S. "Albion" for the amphibious warfare squadron and by the time that was going on and with a reappraisal of our position and with the new Tiger class cruiser coming along we came to the conclusion that we should not want "Swiftsure". I still think it was a wise decision, although I understand why we were criticised.
The hon. Member also asked if the "Belfast" had paid her way. It has been of inestimable value. In addition to the three Tigers, the fourth cruiser has been of great assistance. As my hon. Friend 1488 the Member for Haltemprice said, it has done a first-class job in the Far East. It is now on its way back,
I was asked what has happened to the committee set up to examine the organisation in the dockyards. That committee has been doing a good job. It is called the Dockyard Capacity Committee. It is an internal committee to try to probe their working and to iron out some of the humps. I think we have succeeded in doing this and have a rough balance, but we are completely upset if there is an accident and something occurs to make a change in operational requirements. That can upset the programme.
We had "Triumph" in Portsmouth dockyard. It has been stripped and awaiting conversion. We have had to put it back because we wanted to get on with "Albion". We thought it vitally important to get on with that and had to hold up work on "Triumph". I still think that was the right decision.
The reorganisation of the dockyards is going ahead. The management structure is almost complete at Chatham and we shall turn next to Rosyth. The General Manager at Chatham has now five separate departments, production, planning, personnel, yard services and finance. The dockyard procedures of planning and ship repairing and control are being reorganised. In addition, there has been a planned study of drawing office work.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs asked if I could assure him that there is a future for Rosyth Dockyard. There is a future for it and for all our dockyards at home. We have spent a great deal of money on them. In 1950–51 we were spending about £2 million under our works Vote in the dockyards in modernising buildings and bringing them up to date. That has now risen to £4 million under that one Vote. We have speeded up the modernisation of machinery in the dockyards and are injecting £2¼ million into the dockyards each year. That is a measure of the confidence we have in their future. We would not be sinking capital into bricks and mortar and machinery if we did not have such confidence that they have a job to do in refitting and modernising the Navy.
1489 I turn to other points made in the debate. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West raised a number of small points on which I shall write to him. He also asked about the incentive scheme at Eastney. I went there a fortnight ago. It is producing worth-while results and has been introduced as a consequence of a work study. We have tried to organise the works committee which is doing the maintenance at Eastney barracks. Productivity has doubled and the incentive pay is better. Therefore, they are perfectly happy. We should like to spread out if we can with the co-operation of the trade unions, but this means a training programme for instructors in work study methods to bring in the dividends which has been produced at Eastney. We have made proposals to the Admiralty Industrial Council for expansion and will see how that goes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Godman Irvine) asked about Seacat and Seaslug. This is one of the difficult questions to answer. If I gave the facts I think I should be hazarding the ships which will be fitted with the device. A number of people overseas are interested and would not be buying it if it did not have a performance as good as its contemporaries. It is a substitute for the Bofors and results have far exceeded expectations. We have got two good weapons. Seacat is further behind, but Seaslug is proven and should be with us in a few months.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport asked whether the extra non-industrials at Chatham and Rosyth after reorganisation were really necessary. She suggested that this was producing too many executives and not enough manpower. This is the trend throughout all industry. Wherever one goes in private industry or anywhere else, one finds more and more people on the organising side. There are more white-coated workers and fewer people with dirty hands, and this is not a bad trend. We are investing in new labour-saving machinery and, therefore, it is necessary to organise the use of that machinery and raw materials, all of which are very expensive, so as to produce the best possible result.
1490 My hon. Friend also asked whether we could have a ten-year programme. We try to produce within the Admiralty a programme for the renewal and building of our ships. I think this has probably always been so. But it is so uncertain more than five years ahead that I do not think it would be worth while adopting my hon. Friend's suggestion. Certainly we could not publish it because it would be highly secret. It has to be adjusted, however, in the light of the trend in the development of our strategic and defence policy. I do not want the Committee to think that we are not thinking all the time ten years ahead, programming when the useful life of the ships will end and when new ships should be laid down, and also trying to iron out any peaks so that we do not have a vast peak of capital expenditure on new ships and follow that with a trough. This would be inefficient and would have serious repercussions not only in the Navy but in the building yards as well.
My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice asked me about the Royal Marines and flexibility. I am aware of the need for maintaining flexibility in the Royal Marines. He asked why we do not have a larger detachment in the ships. There are two reasons. The first reason is that ships' complements are much more highly specialised than they were before, and also the Royal Marines are even more specialised than in my hon. Friend's day. They have got more sophisticated weapons. They have more jobs to do in the amphibious squadron and elsewhere, and, although we want to keep flexibility, we realise that it cannot be specialised and expert in all these fields.
I hope that it is felt by the Committee that we have a balanced fleet. We have presented the case as fairly as we can. I am glad to have the support and endorsement of the Opposition, and I hope the Committee will pass these Estimates with acclamation.
§ Mr. M. Foot rose—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Martin Redmayne) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.1491
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
|Division No. 127.]||AYES||[11.58 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Pitman, Sir James|
|Aitken, w. T.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Hastings, Stephen||Pott, Percivall|
|Balniel, Lord||Hay, John||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hiley, Joseph||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Barter, John||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Pym, Francis|
|Batsford, Brian||Hill, J. E. B. (S, Norfolk)||Ramsden, James|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Biffen, John||Hirst, Geoffrey||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hobson, Sir John||Rees, Hugh|
|Bishop, F. P.||Holland, Philip||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hollingworth, John||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Bossom, Clive||Hornby, R. P.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hughes-young, Michael||Roots, William|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Iremonger, T. L.||Russell, Ronald|
|Braine, Bernard||Jackson, John||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Brewis, John||James, David||Seymour, Leslie|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Shepherd, William|
|Bullard, Denys||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chlswick)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Smithers, Peter|
|Chataway, Christopher||Kershaw, Anthony||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Leavey, J. A.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Lilley, F. J. P.||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Cole, Norman||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Talbot, John E.|
|Collard, Richard||Litchfield, Capt. John||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Longbottom, Charles||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Coulson, Michael||Longden, Gilbert||Teeling, Sir William|
|Critchley, Julian||Loveys, Walter H.||Temple, John M.|
|Curran, Charles||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||MacArthur, Ian||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||McLaren, Martin||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Drayson, G. B.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|du Cann, Edward||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Walder, David|
|Elllot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Maddan, Martin||Walker, Peter|
|Elllott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Maitland, Sir John||Wall, Patrick|
|Emery, Peter||Mathew, Robert (Honlton)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Mawby, Ray||Whitelaw, William|
|Farr, John||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mills, Stratton||Wise, A. R.|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Morgan, William||Woollam, John|
|Gilmour, sir John||Noble, Michael||Worsley, Marcus|
|Goodhart, Philip||Orr-Ewlng, C. Ian|
|Gower, Raymond||Osborn, John (Hallam)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Green, Alan||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Chichester-Clark|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Pannell, Norman (Klrkdale)||Mr. John Peel.|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mr. Emrys Hughes and|
|Mr. Sydney Silverman.|
§ Question put accordingly:—1492
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 151, Noes 2.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 145, Noes 2.
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Emery, Peter||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Leavey, J. A.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Roots, William|
|Farr, John||Litchfield, Capt. John||Russell, Ronald|
|Finlay, Graeme||Longbottom, Charles||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Fisher, Nigel||Longden, Gilbert||Seymour, Leslie|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Loveys, Walter H.||Shepherd, William|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Lucas-Tooth, sir Hugh||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Gilmour, Sir John||Mac Arthur, Ian||Smithers, Peter|
|Goodhart, Philip||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Gower, Raymond||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Green, Alan||Maddan, Martin||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. C.||Maitland, Sir John||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Talbot, John E.|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Matthews, Gordon (Meridsn)||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Mawby, Ray||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Hastings, Stephen||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hay, John||Maydon, Lt,-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Temple, John M.|
|Hiley, Joseph||Mills, Stratton||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Morgan, William||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Noble, Michael||Walder, David|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Walker, Peter|
|Hobson, Sir John||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wall, Patrick|
|Holland, Philip||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hollingworth, John||Pannell Norman (Kirkdale)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hornby, R. P.||Peel, John||Whitelaw, William|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Pitman, Sir James||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Pitt, Miss Edith||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Jackson, John||Pott, Percivall||Wise, A. R.|
|James David||Prior, J. M. L.||Woollam, John|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Worsley, Marcus|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pym, Francis|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Ramsden, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Rawlinson, Peter||Mr. Frank Pearson and|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Mr. Martin McLaren.|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Rees, Hugh|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mr. Sydney Silverman and|
|Mr. Emrys Hughes.|
That 100,000 Officers, Seamen and Juniors and Royal Marines, who are borne on the books of Her Majesty's Ships and at the Royal Marine establishments, and members of the Women's Royal Naval Service and Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, be employed for the Sea Service, for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1963.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received this day: Committee to sit again this day.