§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
I beg to move,
That this House takes note of the Ninth Report from the Estimates Committee in the last Session of Parliament and of the Fifth Special Report from the Estimates Committee relating to Her Majesty's Dockyards.
The subject which we are to consider in the first half of today's sitting ranks well among the various subjects which the Estimates Committee has invited the House to consider. Hon. Members will remember that the normal procedure in these matters is that a Sub-Committee of the Estimates Committee hears the evidence, from which it drafts a report, which is subsequently considered, amended and approved by the full Estimates Committee and is then presented to the House and published. Then, at a later date, the Department or Departments concerned in the recommendations of the Estimates Committee give their replies to the recommendations which have been made.
I am well aware that the subject of dockyards has implications which go a good deal wider than the recommendations with which the Estimates Committee is concerned. That is in the nature of things, because it is a Committee which cannot consider matters of policy and is directed entirely to securing economies and efficiency and not to more general problems of the nature of dockyards and the part which they should play.
Nevertheless, what the Estimates Committee can and normally does do is to offer the House the facts upon which a judgment can be made. It is a service of which hon. Members who are busy and have varying interests can well make use that we get in an Estimates Committee Report, not only the Report and recommendations, but also the evidence upon which those recommendations are based. Therefore, it is a good exercise in discipline for the Estimates Committee to curb its enthusiasm or its prejudices, whatever the case may be, and to keep strictly to the facts as published in the recorded evidence.
The dockyards—and I speak as one who knew nothing about them until I 38 turned to study the subject in the Sub-Committee—are a fascinating subject. I do not think that many hon. Members appreciate how large they are. Our dockyard system employs about 40,000 people and has a rate of expenditure of about £60 million. It is, therefore, a big subject and involves a big slice of the national purse. It is also, owing to the nature of the siting of the dockyards, a big human problem from the point of view of their effect upon the economy of the areas in which the dockyards are to be found.
Although, in our Report, the Sub-Committee looked primarily at certain managerial points, they were not merely an academic exercise, because upon the solution of the managerial problems and the problems of efficiency depends the possibility of having in the dockyards a system which can keep up with the growing development of needs. Therefore, I make no apology for taking the time of the House in examining some of the problems which presented themselves not only to us, but to a previous Estimates Committee.
I went on to the Estimates Committee a good many years ago, just after the Sub-Committee under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) had been examining the dockyards. I was brought up by my hon. Friend to look upon that as the ultimate horror in Estimates Committee investigations. I was taught,"However much you grumble about the difficulty of this inquiry, it is nothing compared with what we went through on the subject of dockyards."
What happened—and I should like to tell the House what happened—was that in the 1951 Session the Eighth and Ninth Reports of the Estimates Committee were published with their recommendations, to which I shall return in a moment; nothing was heard from the Admiralty; as the months passed a number of Questions were asked, but no reply was given giving any indication of what was happening. Then my hon. Friend raised the matter on the Navy Estimates in 1952. He got a noncommittal reply that the Admiralty was still thinking. In February, 1953, the replies came from the Admiralty to the Estimates Committee, and in March, 1953, just a month later, 39 they were debated in the House on an Amendment moved by the late Mr. Ronald Williams, who was then the Member for Wigan.
I therefore think that the House cannot be accused of having been dilatory. It is sometimes said that politicians are slow and hold things up. I think that it can be shown that the House then dealt fairly quickly with the replies when it got them. Now there has been some improvement, because the Ninth Report to which I am speaking was fashioned in July, 1962, and the replies were received in January, 1963, and are being debated now, just a year after we completed our Report. So at least one can say about the Admiralty that it can now turn down a recommendation of the Estimates Committee in much shorter time than it took to do it ten years ago.
There were two important recommendations which were put up by the original Committee in 1951. One was a proposal that there should be a special personnel department in each dockyard, made up of people specially qualified in that field. That was rejected by the Admiralty. By the time we arrived to make our inquiry, it had been accepted.
The next proposal, which was of great importance, was that there should be in each dockyard a general manager. The position under the old-fashioned organisation, which still exists in some of the dockyards, was that there were three main departments which, under the old system, were almost entirely autonomous. There were a constructional, a mechanical engineering, and an electrical engineering department. Each had its separate departmental manager, presided over by an admiral superintendent who, in the nature of things, was not an expert; he may have been an engineer, he may not; but he was there a comparatively short time; and the job was clearly not one of practical co-ordination of any kind. Therefore, a proposal was made by the Estimates Committee to have in each dockyard a general manager coordinating the whole operation.
That, as I say, was turned down by the Admiralty, and turned down in somewhat peremptory words. I do not want to read the whole of the long reply from the Admiralty, but it said that it had considered it with special care and turned 40 it down because it would be difficult to impose on top of the departmental structure, and thatIn short, the concept of a General Manager could not be relied upon to function smoothly in practice unless the existing Departmental structure of the Yard were fundamentally altered, and even then there would be no certainty that the major upheaval which would be involved would necessarily produce a better result.All that was considered in the debate on the Amendment moved by Mr. Williams.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton made a number of interesting contributions, but there was one interesting comment which, I think, is particularly worth referring to. He took up the very point which had been made, that a general manager could not be set up without a fundamental reorganisation of the dockyard structure. He said this on 16th March, 1953, ten years ago:I know that, in 1945, the American Department of the Navy set up an industrial engineering department…and they had an inquiry made into the management of naval shipyards. They have not got these very specialised functional departmental organisations. Their shipyards are under a shipyard commander, with two operational departments—a planning officer and a production officer with their specialist branches…I suggest that if we have not already done so, we might have a look at this system and find out whether there is anything in it to be recommended."—[Official Report, 16th March, 1953; Vol. 512, c. 1923.]The Civil Lord of the Admiralty of the time, the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby), laughed the whole thing off. He rather poked fun, and regretted that my hon. Friend had turned this debate into rather a technical one on the"narrow issue of management", as he called it. He then gave a rather unpleasant quotation from an evening newspaper about my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton:He embodies the managerial revolution in action; he is the planner, the middle class intellectual. Men of his type are, I think, the loneliest men usually in the House of Commons; when they are right nobody loves them for it; when they are wrong every traditionalist…turns and rends them."—[Official Report, 16th March, 1953;Vol. 512, c. 1954.]That was in 1953. In 1955 or thereabouts the Admiralty sent a working party to America. They came back, held a series of conferences about reorganisation, and, by 1958, they decided 41 to do precisely what my hon. Friend had suggested, and they launched upon the most complicated and difficult operation of fundamental reorganisation, the very kind of reorganisation the Admiralty had sneered at in 1953.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton has got something with which he can be very satisfied. He and the present Lord Champion, his predecessor in the chairmanship of the Sub-Committee, and the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) are the only Members I know who were members of that Sub-Committee.
I mention this really for three reasons. The first is that I think the House owes it to my hon. Friend to recognise that he and his Committee were fundamentally right, and that he was personally and individually right in 1953 in that debate, in spite of the sneers; and I should like to say to my hon. Friend that he was right and that I love him for it, in spite of what the hon. Member for Dorset, West had to say about him.
We ought to recognise in this House that the habit of pouring cold water on Estimates Committee Reports on the ground that they are the product of wishy-washy thinking by people who do not know much about the subject will not do. Eventually, the Committee's recommendations were accepted.
It is true that the Permanent Secretary, as one might expect, extended the soft answer. He said, in reply to Question 139, that eventually the Admiralty saw the light. I am not rubbing this in, but I mention it. My second reason for doing so is that there is a danger of the Admiralty making the same mistake again. It is very important to recognise that not only was the Sub-Committee then right, but it is very likely that it may be right in some of the matters which are still outstanding. Therefore, I shall go through some of the replies in the present Report. I do not want to go through all of them, because they axe there for hon. Members to read.
The first on which I comment is the reply to Recommendation No. 3. We recommended that qualified men from outside the dockyard service or the naval service should be appointed to senior professional posts in the dockyards. The reply rejected that. It said: 42The Admiralty believe that managers of the requisite quality should be found within its ranks. If this incentive is denied, then the quality of the whole body would be likely to suffer in the long run.That is a fundamental misunderstanding of our recommendation. We were told that reorganisation was being held up because of the shortage of people in senior supervisory posts. We were told that recruitment at the lower levels of young entrants in the professional grades was fairly satisfactory, but the difficulty was to increase the rate of reorganisation without taking more people. If there are reserves of people in the service there is no need for having them from outside, but similarly, there ought to be an increased tempo of reorganisation.
If, on the other hand, reorganisation is held up for lack of supervisory staff, it is no answer to say that this will hold up promotion, because there will be more places for people to go to and more prospect of promotion. I thought that a complete misunderstanding of our argument. It seemed to show that our Report had not been read, because anyone reading our Report could not have failed to get the point, which was put quite clearly.
The next point to which I draw attention is the question of period of service. To strengthen the management team, managers and deputy managers in the home dockyards should normally hold these appointments for periods of five, and preferably, seven years for a particular dockyard. My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton will recognise those words. They are taken practically verbatim from his recommendation which was adopted, but in the ten years between his Report and our Report, of 30 departmental managers only four have served for five years and more.
It is no use simply saying that the House and the Admiralty accepted the recommendation, for they have failed to carry it out. This is not a point in isolation. It is something which has been coming up again and again in Reports from the Estimates Committee. When we have some department staffed partly by the Service and partly by civilians the great difficulty is how to get the Service people to stay long enough in the job to carry it out competently. There have been various reports in which the 43 question of promotion has been mentioned. It was mentioned in two Estimates Committee Reports. Mention was made of staff at Admiralty headquarters. It was also mentioned by the Zuckerman Report on research and also in the Report on the War Office.
If I may interpose"a commercial", I draw the attention of the House to the Report on the Ordnance Survey which came out last week, in which there is precisely the same matter arising in a different field. This is the thread running through the administration whenever the problem arises of the need for longer tours of duty. The dockyards are a highly complicated and technical engineering operation. They are not a sort of frill to the seagoing part of the Navy. As a result of the growth of the technicalities of naval operations they become more and more complicated and difficult as they spread into the difficult fields of radar, nuclear energy, and so on. We cannot play about with these things. For this sort of work we must have the best people we can train. They must have intensive training and devote a substantial part of their lives to it. This is not a point which can be safely ignored, but it is one on which so far the Admiralty seem to have failed in solving the problem.
Another point which arose was about the chain of command. This was not a recommendation, but it was a point which caused us a certain amount of concern and we asked the Admiralty to look at it. As we get more and more complicated administration we get a more complicated administrative hierarchy. I am not an expert on these matters, but I wonder whether this is right. We start with the Third Sea Lord and go down to the Fourth Sea Lord, then to the Director, Dockyards and Maintenance, then to the Director of Dockyards, then to the Admiral Superintendent, then to the General Manager and finally to the Departmental Manager. That seems to be an unwieldy hierarchy. I hope that we shall be told something about the latest thinking on that.
I wish to say a word about the admiral superintendent, because this is another point on which I read the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton with a great deal of in- 44 terest. This is what he said on 16th March, 1953:I am expressing a personal opinion and I agree that the Committee…did not say that the Admiral Superintendent should be superseded by a general manager. I am not recommending that now. It is a matter of great difficulty, but there must be under him or with him, as the Committee recommended, a civilian general manager trained in and remaining in the service. As long as naval officers are appointed to some of these positions it will be very difficult for there to be long-term service in these posts."—[Official Report, 16th March, 1953; Vol. 521, c. 1926.]My hon. Friend did not get his Sub-Committee to go with him. I was in exactly the same position; I did not get my Sub-Committee to go with me. That is perfectly natural. It is part of the discipline of producing a Report from a number of people who have considered something that one does not get one's own way and there is no reason why one should. I only mention this now to show that, with an interval of ten years between, the experience of my hon. Friend and myself has been the same.
We said that it would raise a difficult situation. A general manager must be extremely high-powered; he cannot do a job like this unless he is. He must be at the very top of his profession. Is it always possible to get him to work easily with an admiral superintendent who has precisely the same parish? In this narrow range, are they going to tread on each other's toes? I do not know, but this is a matter which should be looked at.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
As, at the same time, the recommendations, which the hon. Member very much led, were to break down the strictly professional barriers and come to the functional, is it not non-logical at the top level to go back to professionalism and split the two levels?
§ Mr. MacColl
I am merely saying that we should examine the problem of the relationship of the two. The fundamental point of my difficulty is this. There is no doubt that there has been a very happy and long tradition in the naval dockyards of civilians and Admiralty people working happily together. We all accept that and I suppose it is a romantic position.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
This is very important. Reorganisation on 45 these lines has taken place at Chatham and there has been an opportunity of studying it in operation. While, as always in life, one may get clashes of personalities between different managers and different admiral superintendents, it is a fact that so far at Chatham the scheme has worked remarkably well and there is a very happy relationship.
§ Mr. MacColl
We saw Chatham and the people concerned, and I confirm what the hon. Member has said. My only footnote in qualification is that when one is starting a new experiment one picks, first, one's outstanding people. One says,"Here is a tricky job. Therefore, we must get the sort of people who will rise to the challenge." They do rise to the challenge. They understand that it is a big experiment and they want to make it a success, and there is a tremendous will to make it work. But if one spreads the system to cover all dockyards—which is what I want to see—then it is arguable whether one will always be able to do this.
Before I was interrupted I was about to make the comment that if the technical efficiency of the dockyard is maintained and developed with highly trained professional people, there may be a difficulty. There will be the man who started as an apprentice in the dockyard at the age of 16, who has worked his way right through and is saturated with dockyard loyalty and is, therefore, used to the atmosphere of the dockyard; and if we are to make the dockyards technically efficient we may have to bring in civilians who will not accept that kind of position. That is what worries me, although as I have said, it worries me more than it worries the Committee.
The next recommendation is that more use should be made of the Administrative Staff College at Henley. That was taken from the recommendation of my hon. Friend's Committee. It may seem rather a small thing to include in a recommendation, but the point is that because of their size the dockyards tend to be rather inbred. They do not have very much outside contact. There are very few similar organisations doing work of the same sort, and they are, therefore, inclined to think of themselves as quite separate. No amount of in-service training can substitute for the kind of stimulation obtained through meeting outside 46 people, possibly in quite different walks of life, who are looking at the same kind of problem.
I think that the contribution which the Administrative Staff College makes is that it brings together people from outside industry and from public services, from private industry and nationalised industries, to look communally at a problem, to look at each other's problems and to learn from each other. This is precisely the kind of training and preparation for senior positions which ought to be available to the dockyard people.
We found that although my hon. Friend's Committee made this recommendation, nobody had gone to the Staff College. The reply given to the recommendation was thatThe Dockyard Division will continue to nominate officers whenever possible for acceptance as students at the Administrative Staff College at Henley, but the places for Civil Servants are limited and final selection is in the hands of the College authorities." My information is that the Administrative Staff College had had no applications from the Admiralty and had turned no one down but that after the publication of this Report it had received an application for a place, although this had not yet been taken up because it is in the future.I want to make it clear to the Admiralty that it is just as important for key men in this kind of industrial work to have the very best administrative training available as it is in the Administrative Civil Service for those who will take higher positions in the main Department. They should not just get what is left after the Administrative Department have picked all the places. This is a matter on which I hope we shall be told what is happening and why more has not been done.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. John Hay)
I promise the hon. Member that I will not persist in interrupting him as he goes through the recommendations, because I hope to say something about them later, but I think that I should put the position in this matter in perspective. The hon. Member mentioned the reply which we gave to Recommendation No. 7, but he did not point out that a number of senior and other officers from the dockyards had been on a large number of other courses at institutions other than the Administrative Staff College.
§ Mr. MacColl
Our impression on the whole was that the emphasis had been on in-service training and taking people on visits to see operations going on in other comparable industries. That is of little use. What is wanted is a group of keen ambitious men meeting informally round a table and sharing each other's ideas, arguing until the middle of the night and in this way stimulating each other. We do not want to stage a conducted tour around I.C.I. laboratories or something like that. I do not want to press the claims of Henley too far; my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton and I have no shares in Henley. I am making the point simply because it was a recommendation of my hon. Friend's Committee and apparently nothing has been done about it for ten years.
§ Mr. Webster
I draw attention to Question 168, in which the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr MacColl) said:You were discussing whether they had been to Ashridge or not. It might be helpful to know what Ashridge is.Mr. Smithers said:It is a management training college. We have been to Ashridge, but only to take our own managers there for our own conferences…I do not consider that that is mixing with other people.
§ Mr. MacColl
I do not want to delay the House, but I wish to discuss one other recommendation and that is the general problem of methods study and efficiency. We recommended that aworking party should be set up to make a survey…of the use of the more expensive machinery in the Dockyardsand to see whether it should be disposed of or written off when it became obsolete. This working party would consider these highly technical problems and, in particular, would look at the recommendations of the Patton Report. The Admiralty turned that down because it said that it thought that these objects could beachieved by normal administrative processes without the necessity of setting up a special working party.48 That sounds a little too much like some of the other things we have had mentioned before, and it means that nothing very much has happened. I do not say that we are wedded to the idea of a working party, but I should like to know what has been going on in that respect and what steps are being taken to intensify the study of these problems.
This is a Motion to take note of the Report and not a Motion inviting a decision on any matter. We believe that in our Report we made a constructive contribution to the examination of these problems and we offer to the House the evidence upon which our recommendations were placed; they were not just wild generalisations but were based on evidence. I finish with the remark which I made earlier which is that on a solution of these problems and the development in the dockyards of the highest level of efficiency depends the future of the dockyards in competition with other organisations which are likely to work in this field.
The dockyards have to be modern and have to be fully equipped and managed with the utmost efficiency. There is no room in the modern atomic age for anything less or for anything which is merely traditional and pleasantly old-fashioned. That may be a pleasant facade, but behind it there must be 100 per cent. efficiency.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
First, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) for the way in which he conducted the Sub-Committee stage of this inquiry. I found it most instructive, and enjoyed"sitting at his feet"—if that is the correct expression to describe someone sitting on his right hand side.
I welcome my hon. Friend the Civil Lord to this Department. When we were investigating the Admiralty dockyards in the afternoons under the chairmanship of the hon. Gentleman, I seemed to be spending most of my mornings with the Civil Lord when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and playing a very large part in conducting the highly controversial and complex Transport Bill through the House. So I am glad to meet them both this afternoon.
49 The point of departure relates to the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), with whom I seem to have been spending rather a time on the other side of the world recently, in Australia. One of his recommendations was that there should be a senior personnel officer responsible to the admiral superintendent in every dockyard. That recommendation, after eighteen months, was dropped like a very hot potato by the Admiralty.
The second recommendation was that a general manager should be appointed to every dockyard, and, after an equal length of time, that was also fairly abruptly rejected by the Admiralty. We were sorry about that, though we appreciated the logic of the argument that a general manager is not a viable appointment so long as one has the departments of each dockyard divided on a professional rather than a functional basis.
It was interesting that it took two events, the Report of the Nihill Committee and the visit of a working party to the United States Navy to see how it was arranging its dockyard affairs, before it was announced that the change to general manager structure and to a functional rather than a professional structure would take place and would start in 1958. I think that the original date of completion of such a structure was advertised for 1965. Like many other dates of completion, this has now been postponed, to 1968, and I do not think it would be exceedingly cynical of me if I were to suspect that it would not be completed by that time. I have very strong reasons for suspecting that.
I was rather regretful that the Admiralty, having first turned down these recommendations, should then be, I thought, somewhat reluctant to meet the Estimates Committee again. I feel most strongly that it would be valuable if the Estimates Committee met it again on this subject in the not too far distant future, because we were able to make certain recommendations based upon the original recommendations which our predecessors made and which were turned down. As we see the developing picture, we have certain comments to make.
We also have, not only in the context of that change, considerable recommendations to make, because it is almost impos- 50 sible in a non-commercial undertaking of such vastness to make an adequate yardstick of efficiency. This is also in the Ordnance Survey Report that we are now working on. In the Admiralty dockyards, where one does not get the consideration of the market place, it is practically impossible to obtain this. We get the well-informed guesses of people who have studied this matter most thoroughly, but it is exceedingly difficult to come to an efficient yardstick of productivity and progress. For that reason I entirely support the first recommendation, that we should have a quinquennial review. I very much hope that the review will be as near quinquennial as possible. It is most important that these things should be looked at very closely with an outside eye.
There is also, coming to the lack of commercial stimulus or probe, however one wishes to describe it, the matter of the purchasing of new machinery, and the costing and the O. & M. study which is necessary before this is done. I appreciate that devoted people from the Treasury do this, but I was a little unhappy regarding the vulgar commercialism which seems to be lacking in the Admiralty organisation. I think that that also applied to the redundant equipment, of which there is a considerable amount. It is not only equipment and machinery, but work buildings and office buildings which are not particularly efficient, though they were probably very effective at the time of Nelson. A new block is being provided at Rosyth. We welcome that. We think that it will make a great deal of improvement.
We had also to consider the disposal by the Navy of very considerable acreages—in fact, square miles—of dockyard land which has become either redundant or no longer necessary to our Commonwealth commitment. Some of it, as in South Africa, has been disposed of to the Government concerned. My particular concern was the disposal of the Sheerness docks. In Question No. 3 I showed my unhappiness about this, and asked what valuation was made of the property before it was disposed of. As I understand the answer, it was that no great valuation was made and there was no great call for it, and that it was simply a matter of getting the highest bidder. But the highest bidder turned out to be a 51 property development company. I am not satisfied that the taxpayer's money was adequately protected before it was sold by ascertaining the value of the dock in the hands of a commercial developer.
This is something which is not simply a matter which would concern the Admiralty and its dockyards. Quite an acreage will, I suspect, become redundant in the future, and I would hope that adequate valuation will be made. Many of these areas are in the hearts of great cities. What takes place before they are disposed of? I would cite the situation within the railways. The right to develop such property has now been obtained for the Railways Board and Railway Sites Limited. I am very much an admirer of private enterprise, but I am very insistent that when the State disposes of vast properties an adequate valuation should be made so that nobody makes a killing at the expense of the taxpayer.
Another matter over which I have been a little uncertain about whether there is the necessary commercial stimulus within the Admiralty concerns apprentices. In paragraph 25 of our Report it is stated that, in 1955, 1,000 apprentices were taken on on a five-year training course at a cost to the taxpayer of £1.7 million. It is also stated that in an average year half or more than half the apprentices leave for dockyard service. If half of the 1,000 left within two years of completing their apprenticeship, that would be a loss to the State of £850,000, with no immediate return. I do not grudge this if this is an overt decision about the education of apprentices taken as such. I do grudge it if it is a decision arrived at in an absent-minded manner, although it is to be something from which industry in general will benefit at the expense of the taxpayer.
I would say that it is essential that the advertising and the catchment area for this type of training should not just be in the ports themselves and that we should have a national form of advertising with a national form of entry, and that we should be more selective in respect of the type of person undertaking this most excellent form of training. I would not necessarily insert a qualifying clause that they should stay in the Admiralty service, but if this is to be an overt decision to train our young men in 52 skills valuable to industry nationally, let us do it on a more selective and more widely-spread basis. I am certain that the Civil Lord will say that many private industrial firms do exactly the same thing, but I am certain that they do it as an overt decision either from a sense of duty or else because they feel that it pays the industry and the company concerned.
I come back to the point made by the hon. Member for Widnes about the training at Henley. I am certain that the Civil Lord will do everything he can as the hon. Member for Henley to encourage recruiting there and also at Ashridge. I was a little dissatisfied with the answer of the Admiralty about sending these people to the courses when it was stated in the evidence, in reply to the Question which I quoted, that they simply went as an exclusive group taken there by the Admiralty for a weekend or a fortnight to meet only Admiralty personnel. I feel that if this had been done on a wider basis a great deal of benefit could have been gained both by Admiralty senior management and by the senior management of private industry.
I also suspect that the recommendations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edmonton and his Sub-Committee would not have met the same abrupt response from the Admiralty had there been closer liaison between those bodies. After all, the turn from a professional to a functional basis is almost, in effect, the breakdown of a demarcation dispute, and to put it on to a functional basis is a sounder thing and something about which many people in private industry are very concerned.
Another thing that concerns me very much in the development of this functional basis was that I think that they would have seen at Ashridge and Henley that this change to functionalism would have required greater recruiting into the senior management ranks. I am also surprised that the experience at Chatham was not shown up more rapidly than it was, that the next major dockyard should be modernised and functionalised, which is Rosyth, because at Rosyth it was definitely said that changing to a functional basis was held up because of a lack of senior management concerned. I think that that was 53 a pity and that it could have been avoided had there been greater connection.
With regard to recruiting senior management, I am concerned that there is the wastage of senior management on the naval side. An admiral superintendent retires, I understand, at the age of 55, and as we go lower down the ranks the retirement age becomes considerably earlier. I think that is a loss to the Service and that the talks and discussions between the Admiralty and the Treasury regarding the development of an Admiralty engineering service have not been nearly urgent enough. A great deal more should be done to merge the two so that the Admiralty engineering service in general should benefit.
As to admiral superintendents, let me say straight away that by sentiment and my feeling for the use of the Service I would be most reluctant indeed to take them out of the Admiralty dockyards. We have the recommendation both of the hon. Member for Edmonton and of ourselves that we should break down pure professionalism, but by doing that at the same time we recommend, which we have not done, that to take the admiral superintendent out of the dockyard then we are going back to pure professionalism. I think that it is very important that the two should come together on their functional basis and that it is essential that the user should be represented at the very highest level.
Many of these admirals carry out other functions as flag officers of their various areas. It is important to show the flag. It is very easy to say that this is simply Noel Coward and flag waving, but I think that if the dockyard workers, going to and from work, see the admiral's flag going around that dockyard they know that it will be used if necessary in combat. I think that that is very essential.
There is a broader matter. We have to take into account the needs of the Royal Navy. If we were to reduce the number of admirals drastically and were to take the admiral superintendent's—admirals do not have a field marshal's baton—walking stick—I do not know why he has one, because these gentlemen have good sea-going legs—out of the ditty bag, I think that we shall reduce the standard of entry into the Royal Navy 54 and I personally would regret that most deeply, because I think that it would be to the detriment of the Service at the saving of a very few pounds.
I wish that the hon. Gentleman and ourselves had got in before Lord Rochdale in having an urgent recommendation. My recommendation and his was that the engineering service should be proceeded with urgently and I should like to hear from my hon. Friend the Civil Lord what progress he can tell us today has been made, because I think that this is essential.
I do not think that I would be too specific about the five to seven years' term. It is a fine judgment. I think that it is the thing to aim for without being too rigid on this point. To say that it is done by outside shipbuilding firms is not necessarily to say that it is of the highest recommendation. My criticism of many of them is that they stay in their position far too long. I would recommend that the 40–50 group should be those brought into senior management. I think that that would be most valuable.
I, with the hon. Gentleman and the Sub-Committee, visited the four great dockyards in this country. Throughout this visit I was impressed by the loyalty and steadfastness and devotion of duty of all concerned. It is important and good that this should be so, because they are not the highest paid in the land. When we consider that the ability of the Navy to fight its battles and control the seas depends very largely upon that spirit one can be thankful that that spirit is shown.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)
I think that the Sub-Committee is to be congratulated on the very thorough method in which it followed up the work from 1951. I want to concentrate on one aspect of the Report, paragraph 27, Recommendation No. 8, in relation to the training and wastage of ex-apprentices to which the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) referred.
There can be no doubt that the Admiralty has been extremely dilatory over this problem. It would appear that the Civil Lord indicates assent. The problem has been there a very long time. On the Report made by the Estimates Committee on 25th July and the Admiralty's reply on 30th January it has 55 got only to the stage when methods of conducting the inquiry are under discussion between the Treasury and the Admiralty, and I hope that the Civil Lord will be able to say that it has got beyond the methods of the actual inquiry and is well on its way to proffering some solution.
There is a remarkable contrast between the way in which the Admiralty handed over its works service at an annual value of £22 million to the Ministry of Public Building and Works, doing it in a matter of weeks, and the long time that it has taken over this difficult problem, but one no more difficult than the problem of the works services. Wastage is extremely serious. It is rather sloppy thinking merely to say that it does industry good.
Unless the costs and methods of training are identified it is difficult to see how reforms can be suggested. The figures given in the Estimates Committee's Report of the 1951–55 crop of apprentices, over 3,000 left the dockyard service by the end of 1961 which is very serious especially when put against the fact that only 8 per cent. of the apprentices in training actually leave while under training, and the cost given in the Report of £1,700 per apprentice is, in broad terms, a loss incurred by the Admiralty of about £1 million a year, which is very serious indeed, not that I want particularly to press the costs aspect.
The fundamental problem is to devise a training and education scheme which will work in with the national system and get the best results all round. I have a feeling that for far too long the departments of the Admiralty concerned with this have been have ring as to who is the right person to deal with it. There has been too much buck-passing. I refer the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare to the Questions Nos. 750 and 751, on page 122. The first question was:What steps do you take to inform the Admiralty about the causes of this situation?This was about the wastage of apprentices and who is responsible. The second question included this:…we have discussed this with the Admiralty and we have rather got the feeling that they regarded this as essentially a problem for local treatment, but when we come locally we find they say it is a problem that cannot be settled except by the Admiralty.56 It is rather like the old rhyme:Great Chatham, with his sabre drawnStood waiting for Sir Richard Strachan.Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em,Stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham.The problem is a national one and the proposed inquiry recommended by the Estimates Committee is too narrow. There are so many moves for improving training and education today that this is a particularly ripe time for wider discussions on Admiralty apprentices. I hope that the Civil Lord will say that he is entering into such discussions with the people concerned. Local education authorities in the dockyard towns and the Ministry of Education itself are very much concerned with this, as, also, is the Ministry of Labour. Cmnd. Paper 1892 makes suggestions about the widening and intensifying of training, and, quite obviously, the Admiralty must come into this. It will be interesting to hear what is proposed in relation to that. The Ministry of Transport also has very considerable connections with shipbuilding and repairing, and it also should be brought in, as should the shipbuilding industry, the employers and the unions.
The only way in which this problem can be satisfactorily solved is by consultations between all these parties and probably a decision taken as to which is the right way and the right specialisation to deal with it. Without having gone into it adequately myself, it seems to me that there is probably a case for the Royal Dockyards giving up their technical schools and dealing with this through the local education authorities. I am well aware of the compliments paid to the Admiralty's apprentice training, and I thoroughly endorse them. But I think that to get the position clear, so that the Admiralty contribution and the contributions of other partners are made quite clear, it may well be necessary for the Admiralty to give up its own technical colleges and put the staff and facilities into the national pool.
I cannot see that there would be a security problem in this, apart from in a few specialised subjects like electronics. Indeed, there is no security problem, according to the Report, and certainly there is a tendency for the Service Departments to be civilianised. The works services performed by the Admiralty has 57 now been civilianised, as I have said, and there is a recommendation in this Report for more civilianisation generally.
Therefore, I cannot see why there should be any problem about apprentice-training. Indeed, the excellence of the Admiralty system could have a good effect on technical education locally, and what the local education authorities have to contribute would have a good effect on the Admiralty. This aspect is emphasised throughout the Report in other connections, including management training.
Thus, in the training of apprentices, there are mutual contributions to be made which would make for a much better final result and which could certainly be more economic, although that is not the point. The point is that, with the scarce resources we have for education and for our dockyards, we must ensure that the maximum contribution is made. This is not so much a matter of expenditure, but of getting the maximum effort and results from the organisation we use.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
I think that most hon. Members who have been here since the beginning of the debate will agree that it is evident, as usual on these occasions, that, when the matter is non-controversial the quality of debate is extremely high. I listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and I was pleased that he reminded us of the part taken by the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) in the original considerations regarding the reorganisation of the Royal Dockyards.
There is no doubt that the Royal Dockyards are a more efficient and economic way of providing for the refitting and re-equipment of vessels for the Royal Navy than could have been obtained through private yards. The reason is, of course, that the men are trained to deal only with Her Majesty's ships. The apprenticeship training, which is an essential part of the Royal Dockyards, is one of the most admirable in the country, and there are no demarcation disputes such as so often hold up production in private yards. I cannot remember when there was, if ever, a strike in a Royal Dockyard.
All this helps to ensure that the time factor can be relied upon. The times for 58 refitting and repairs estimated by the Royal Dockyards are usually adhered to or are fairly closely kept and this, of course, is tremendously important in servicing vessels for the Royal Navy. But, of course, there is also a very deep tradition in the dockyard towns, and I think that my hon. Friends who also have the honour of sitting for dockyard towns would agree that the men and women working there really feel that they are part of the Navy. That is a tradition that we must do our utmost to keep.
The hon. Member for Widnes made a comment that I want to take up. He said that expenditure on the Royal dockyards was about £60 million a year and that they employed some 40,000 people. In Chatham, for instance, there are about 12,000 dockyard workers and it is by far the biggest employer of labour locally. It is the artery from which the economic blood pumps into the towns of Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham, and it is vital to their well-being that its activities be maintained at a very high standard.
Today, of course, new techniques in building are causing considerable strain on the Royal Dockyards, as they are everywhere. They are a challenge, too, and I think that the enormous complexity of modern construction, and particularly the guts that go into the hull, are such that they demand of the artisans and skilled men working in the dockyards standards of efficiency that have never before been demanded.
It is certainly my view that, if the Royal Dockyards are efficient in doing refits for the Navy, they have a right to expect, and it is essential that they be given, new construction. My own view is that men asked to carry out the highly complex refitting of vessels of the Royal Navy today can best learn their jobs through new construction.
The hon. Member for Edmonton has, no doubt, been watching very carefully and with great interest the reorganisation scheme that has been going on in Chatham Dockyard. I believe, from what I am told, that it is a considerable success. If that is so, then I think that we would all join him in asking that the reorganisation of the other yards should be carried out as quickly as possible.
It is a system of the detailed planning of work right down to the man on the 59 job. In industry generally this must come about if we are to maintain effective production, and today it is no less necessary to ensure effective production in the Royal Dockyards than it is in private industry. The process of reorganisation at Chatham has been almost completed, but it now needs time to settle down and shake out the rough spots. The full results will be seen in three or four years' time, when the present practices have been streamlined and the inevitable teething troubles overcome.
I believe that I intervened when the question of apprentices was raised. The Royal Dockyards ought to be proud of their apprenticeship scheme. Evidence of that is the manner in which private industry does its utmost to coerce apprentices when they have finished their dockyard training. In future it will be necessary to take every possible step to ensure that apprentices stay in Admiralty service.
Hon. Members have referred to the difficulty of recruiting, from among men trained in the dockyard, the high quality of management that is always needed, but I believe that if the considerable expertise that is brought about through the apprenticeship scheme is carried on, and the men who stay in the dockyard after completing their apprenticeships are given encouragement and the opportunity to learn the other arts of management and expertise, there will be no difficulty in recruiting all the top management from the dockyards.
It is inevitable that after the completion of their dockyard training some of these young men will wish to go out into private industry. I see nothing wrong in that. Notwithstanding the desire of many of them to broaden their knowledge, and perhaps travel abroad, we can be sure that they will retain an affection for the dockyards which will, after they have gone overseas or into other jobs for a short time, encourage them to return and settle down in the dockyards. The fact that they have been outside for a period may, in many instances, be instrumental in equipping them for top management.
Mention has been made of the relation between the admiral superintendent and the general manager. So far, the only 60 yard in which practical experience of this exists is at the Royal Naval Dockyard, Chatham. All the evidence goes to show that there the system is working extremely well. Sometimes there may be the clash of personalities that one gets in other walks of life—in whatever firm or factory one may be.
Perhaps it is unfortunate that the admiral who carries out the duty of admiral superintendent in a dockyard is appointed for so short a period. Consideration ought to be given to the possibility of making his term of service a little longer. I appreciate the difficulties involved. There is the problem of retaining officers in top jobs for too long, and so denying opportunities to the up-and-coming. Nevertheless, the possibility ought to be considered.
I have pressed my hon. Friend on many occasions—and I shall press him again this afternoon—on the question of the wages paid in the Royal Dockyards compared with those paid in private industry. My hon. Friend has admitted the matter is now under consideration. It is not good enough to expect to get really highly skilled technical men working in the dockyards and being happy to remain there if they are not paid wages which are comparable with those that they would receive outside the Royal Dockyards. The loyalty of the dockyard workers, and their emotional approach to service in the dockyards—and that is what it is, in the dockyard towns—should not encourage the Admiralty to be a bad employer in respect of the wages.
The question of the chain of command has been discussed. It works up to a point. The breakdown occurs among the workers on the job. The admiral superintendent and the general manager find great difficulty in projecting themselves as they should to the men on the bench. I have suggested previously that the best way to do this would be for each dockyard to have its own dockyard paper. I know that I shall be told that this would be extremely costly, and that that is the reason why it cannot be done. Nevertheless, I ask my hon. Friend to consider the possibilities of the multi-graph. This machine costs about £1,000, but I use it with great success. I do not wish to advertise it, but it is a very good machine. It would enable dockyards to produce the sort of document that could 61 be very useful as a dockyard paper, at an extremely reasonable price.
There would be inestimable value in the fact that the admiral superintendent and the general manager would be able to get right down to the men working on the bench. I am sure that my hon. Friends would agree that, above all, it could be used to scotch many of the rumours that go about, and cause such disquiet, to the effect that the naval dockyards are to be closed down. There would be nothing better for stopping these rumours than for the men to have their own opportunity of expressing their views in their own paper, and also for management and the Admiralty to contributing in the same way. I hope that my hon Friend will consider this question and see whether something can be done.
During the evidence brought before the Estimates Committee the question of departmental managers was raised. It is evident that much of the machinery and equipment in the modern vessel of war is so highly technical that men require a great deal of experience and knowledge if they are to do their jobs thoroughly and well. This is impossible unless each department has managers of high quality. Many knowledgeable men in the yards consider that to gain sufficient experience before attaining managerial responsibility a man must have had at least five years in a particular department.
Whatever may have happened in the past, it would seem sensible to me that there should be some sort of yardstick, in view of the demanding nature of modern equipment. Again, I return to the point which I made, that the best recruits may be obtained by ensuring that the apprenticeship scheme in the yards has a proper follow-through, so that ultimately those concerned may have every opportunity to take the highest possible posts open to them in the naval dockyards.
I am concerned about the refusal, so far, by the Admiralty to allow new construction. I think it essential that all naval dockyards should have new construction for the reasons which I have expressed before. The announcement of new construction is reassuring to people in the dockyard towns and gives them confidence about their future and that of the dockyard. I do not believe 62 it to be in the best interests of the Navy, and certainly not of the naval dockyards or the towns where they are situated, if dockyards are to be turned completely into repair and refitting yards.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
I am now eleven years older than when as a rather new Member and coming almost straight from a managerial post in industry I presumed to help to compile a Report which made pretty radical suggestions about the management of the Royal Dockyards. Perhaps I am still young enough to be able to blush at the complimentary remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), for which I thank him. I should like to congratulate him and the Committee on the work done. I know how difficult and how time-consuming is this job, because there is an enormous amount of material which has to be read and a mass of evidence which has to be absorbed. I should like to congratulate the Committee and my hon. Friend on the Report which has been made and on the speeches which have been made by hon. Members who were members of the Committee.
This House, and certainly the country, simply does not recognise the amount of work done by Members of Parliament who serve on Select Committees—the Estimates Committee, the Committee of Public Accounts, the Select Committee which deals with nationalised industries and the ad hoc Committees which are set up from time to time for various purposes. An enormous amount of work is done by hon. Members who take this sort of thing seriously.
I was rather shocked to learn from the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) that apparently the Admiralty tried to resist the inquiries of the Committee on this occasion. After all, it is eleven years since a Committee inquired into the Royal Dockyards. From time to time Questions have been asked and there have been debates and rumours have got out. But if the Navy may be described as the"silent service", the Admiralty is absolutely"dumb". My experience at the time of the inquiry eleven years ago was that some of the permanent officials 63 were stonewalling so hard that it was difficult to get past them.
That is a very silly attitude to adopt towards Parliament which votes the money. The Admiralty must not consider that Members of Parliament have no experience. They have experience, sometimes industrial and sometimes from other spheres, which may be of value to the Admiralty. As Members of Parliament we are, of course, a body of amateurs and do not presume to advise in great detail. But, after all, the Admiralty continues to claim that the management of the dockyard is better undertaken by amateurs than professionals, and so the Admiralty should appreciate that in this matter Members of Parliament may prove of some use.
It happens that on the question of the structure and management of the Royal Dockyards, we were not even original in 1950–51. There had been the Hilton Report, which the Committee of 1950–51 did not see until towards the end of its deliberations, when it discovered that the majority of the recommendations of the Hilton Committee were almost identical with its own. In addition to the Report of our Committee, there was in 1956 the Report of the Marshall Committee, which is referred to in the Report of the Estimates Committee. There was also my hon. Friends Committee and in the meantime, in 1958, the reorganisation had commenced.
It would be churlish on my part not to congratulate the Admiralty on this late conversion. But the evidence in the Report seems to me to continue to reveal examples of that amateur tradition in which, in our public administration as well as in too much of our industry, we continue to take pride. There was the case of the admiral superintendent who boasted to the Committee that he had never employed anyone except his gardener. By"employed" of course he meant employed or managed in civil life. I do not believe this to be a recommendation for the position of the top official administering a vast industrial undertaking.
Reference was made by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare to the view that a general manager should not be a professional person. But that is completely to misunderstand the argument. No 64 one suggests that the general manager, as the head of the undertaking, should operate as a general manager in any specialised capacity, either as an engineer, a salesman, an accountant or as anything else.
§ Mr. Webster
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the opportunity to clear up this point by saying that I do not think it a good thing to take the user interest out of the dockyards and that it is possible for them to co-operate.
§ Mr. Albu
That is the second point, which I will come to in a moment. I shall be able to see in the Official Report what was said by the hon. Gentleman. But I am glad that he agrees with me.
One cannot reach the position of general manager except with experience of some professional position, and that applies in industry. A person must have had some background of education and training before he can reach that position. There would be nothing wrong with an admiral superintendent acting as a general manager if he had time to learn the job. But the position is that the admiral superintendent is not given sufficient time ever to become a general manager. I do not see how we can expect to get a qualified man from any professional background—naval, engineering or any other kind—to manage a vast undertaking when he is responsible to a chairman who is not occupying that office for more than two or three years.
§ Mr. Burden
Surely that is what happens in industry. There one finds that a chairman has no other function than to be a chairman, but because he occupies that position his value is greater than if he were a professional man in a technical position.
§ Mr. Albu
I am coming to the question of the number of chairmen under whom the general manager sits. The point is that an admiral superintendent is not the 65 only chairman to whom the general manager is responsible. He has a whole hierarchy of chairmen who sit on top of him.
On the question about the user, most people in industry believe, and certainly economists believe, that nothing is more disastrous for a company than for it to get itself in such a situation of vertical integration that its user and consumer interests are inextricably mixed. This leads to inefficiency. I think it a good idea that somebody like the admiral superintendent should be in the dockyard to represent the consumer interest, but he ought not to be managing the dockyard on top of the general manager. It will work all right as long as the admiral superintendents keep their fingers out—I was about to use a naval expression—and let the general manager get on with it, while they merely represent the user.
I was utterly depressed, and other hon. Members have been, at the difficulties made by the Treasury in setting up a career engineering service in the Admiralty. This seems typical of the failure of the Admiralty, and many other branches of the Civil Service, to understand the level of professional engineering—by engineering I include the construction side—required, although I noticed in answer to some Questions on the point that it seems to be recognised in the Admiralty that, in future, the level required will be that of a university graduate and not less. I admit that the private shipbuilding industry is a very bad example in this field, and the dockyards are no worse, and, as regards training, a good deal better than private shipyards. Therefore, I think that the hon. Gentleman opposite was slightly missing the point here when he talked about the possibility of a boy coming in as an apprentice and rising to the top.
I should be the last to prevent that happening, but we have to face the realities of our modern educational systems. This has not been faced in a number of industries—for instance, not in British Railways. I believe it may now be beginning to be faced in the Admiralty. This is the problem created by the 1944 Education Act and of the growth of university education and the growth of education in colleges of advanced technology and so forth. We shall not in future find many boys on 66 the shop floor who will be capable of going on to become professional engineers. In so far as one or two of the right quality still enter craft apprenticeships they must be given the opportunity to go either to a college of advanced technology or to a university. Unless they are given that opportunity they will not be able to undertake the professional duties required in a highly professional industrial undertaking.
§ Mr. Burden
This was the point that I was trying to make, but I had stated that I intended to limit myself to ten minutes.
§ Mr. Albu
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me in this.
Until we can create a real career structure that is going to attract the best university graduates or the best young men from the colleges of advanced technology and which will give them an opportunity to rise to the top of the profession and become general managers, we shall not get a high-class management structure in the dockyards. It cannot be done on the cheap. We simply have to have a professional engineering salary structure here which will attract these people.
So long as we have the approach that it does not matter because we can always bring in an admiral to manage the dockyard for a year or two, and, therefore, it is of no consequence if we do not get engineers who can become general managers, so long we shall never face the problem, and it has to be faced.
I have never felt quite so anxious about the apprentice wastage question as some hon. Members. That is a problem for the management of the dockyard, which like some private firms has made a magnificent contribution towards the number of skilled craftsmen available in the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) suggested that this training should be amalgamated with the general local apprenticeship system and technical school system. I do not know about that, but I hope that the contribution of the Admiralty will continue to be made to industry in general as in the past and that industry will be forced to pay for this by the Minister of Labour through the machinery of his new apprenticeship councils and so forth as 67 set out in his White Paper. That is the proper way in which to make industry pay for what it does not do itself.
Finally, when I was interrupted on the question of the admiral superintendent acting as the manager of a company, I was about to say that this hierarchy must make it extraordinarily difficult to get reasonably prompt decisions. We are talking about these general managers as real top level chaps administering vast undertakings. Undoubtedly they must have very great freedom to do so. We all know about the difficulties in the dockyards. They are not manufacturing anything; they are undertaking repair under Service conditions and for Service purposes, and have to maintain in being a capacity for emergencies which manufacturing concerns would not have to maintain.
This wretched business which we insist on of an annual Vote makes complete nonsense of bonus schemes, overtime and the maintenance of plant and machinery. All these things are very difficult and only make the job of the general manager all the harder. Why should he have to go for decisions through so many layers—first to a professional man and then through two levels of amateurs? That is what the admirals who sit on the Board of Admiralty are as far as the general manager is concerned. They know nothing really about industrial management although they may have done a year or two in the dockyards. As I say, the general manager has to go through a professional chief and then through two levels of amateurs before reaching the Board. I do not think this is the way to get the dockyards treated seriously by the Board of Admiralty. I may be wrong and it would appear that the Civil Lord thinks I am, but he has not been long on the Board of Admiralty.
§ Mr. Albu
The Board of Admiralty is a very funny animal, and is never funnier than in the way it absorbs Ministers. In the last debate I believe I said that the trouble with the Admiralty was that anyone appointed to it as First Lord or as Civil Lord is so 68 swallowed up in the tradition and hospitality of the Service that he loses the capacity for independent thought and action. I hope that that is not so with the hon. Gentleman, and in any case we look forward very much to hearing him in the debate today.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) in all the details of what he has said, but I think it only fair to quote the Ninth Report from the Estimates Committee with regard to the evidence given at Chatham. I quote from page 126, paragraph 794. The admiral superintendent was expressly asked:So you would not agree with the sentiment expressed by an Admiral Superintendent who stated, 'It would be difficult to see what an Admiral Superintendent's job would be under the new arrangements'?—I find it very easy to see what his job would be. I, furthermore, am convinced this is a very much better arrangement. I am quite sure I could not run this dockyard as Admiral Superintendent alone without a General Manager, nor could the General Manager run this dockyard alone as General Manager without an Admiral Superintendent. I am quite convinced that the arrangement we have come to here is very sound. It produces the right balance.I will not read the rest of it. This admiral superintendent is someone who has been in action and working on the job and we must take his evidence until, at any rate, we find that there is anything proved against it. I suggest that most of the admiral superintendents should be engineering admirals. They would then have experience on the engineering side and on the administrative side at Manadon. We have already had experience of some of them in Devonport. I think they are excellent.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) on the very able and conscientious way in which he presented the Report. I have read it. It must have entailed a great deal of work. As I am not a member of the Estimates Committee, I should like to pay a tribute to the members of the Committee who undertook this work. We owe thanks to the Admiralty for its replies, which have been made quickly this time, and they are from my point of view very acceptable.
I hope that the Admiralty replies to Recommendations (1), (2), (6), (8), (9), (10) and (11) are not merely wishful 69 thinking and pious hopes. I say this in view of the very long time we had to wait before the Admiralty carried out the previous recommendations. It has proved so helpful this time that perhaps I am a little suspicious that we may be fobbed off with these better answers. No definite dates or periods of time are given in any of these answers. When my hon. Friend the Civil Lord replies, I hope that the Admiralty will be tied down to some specific timing for the action which is proposed to be taken under these recommendations. I should particularly like to see action taken quickly under Recommendation (10), dealing with lands, and Recommendation (11), dealing with machinery.
I want particularly to support the Committee's Recommendations (2), (7), (8), (10), (11), (12) and (13). I am not anxious to support the Committee on Recommendation (5), because it is trying to set the age group too low. We are becoming far too age conscious. Many people think that only very young people are adequate for certain jobs. I suggest that the Admiralty's reply is more satisfactory than the Committee's recommendation.
I would hope for greater flexibility on Recommendation (1). To tie ourselves down to having a quinquennialreview would be unfortunate. It might be necessary to have one more often. I hope that it will not take place less frequently. I think that it should take place more frequently. It is suggested that there will be a review of Chatham in less than the five years, which will be very advantageous.
I realise that it has taken a very long time to put into effect the suggestions of the hon. Member for Edmonton and his Committee. Now that the Committee is to start on Rosyth and Portsmouth in 1964, why is it not possible to include Devonport? We have had the experience in Chatham. I understand that is is successful. Why not do it in the other dockyards straight away and bring them up to the same standard?
A lay person like myself finds it very difficult to get a complete picture. There are so many reports mentioned, such as the Marshall Report, the Dockyard Capacity Report and the Patton Report, none of which are we able to see. These 70 reports may contain things which prove that it is not possible to reorganise all the dockyards at the same time.
As I understand from this Report, it is the consensus of opinion that the production at Chatham has risen by 2½ per cent. It seems that it must be working well. It is therefore essential to get the other dockyards on an equally good production basis. Some of the five departments mentioned—planning, production, personnel, yard service and finance—must already be in being. I suggest that the reorganisation of all the dockyards on a functional basis could be hurried up.
Is staffing the only reason? The Report says that the total increase in non-productive staff arising from the reorganisation will be about 1,500. Is it necessary to have all these extra staff? How many extra staff will there have to be at Chatham? This is one of the points I have not been able to discover. Cannot some of the experienced staff at Chatham be spared to go to the other dockyards and start work there on a functional basis? The Report says, with regard to the shortage of staff, that the problem of the delay in planning and reorganisation is"not entirely one of inadequate salaries",
but there arenot enough officers with certain skills to go round".The phrase"not entirely one of inadequate salaries" gives one an idea that the salaries are not good enough to attract people from outside. The Report goes on to say that at Rosyth the headquarters have been extremely embarrassed by the inability to provide sufficient supervisory grades and professional officers. It is very important that they should have them, particularly in view of the extra work arising from Polaris.
At a time when the Admiralty made up its mind that it was to have the dockyards on a functional basis, it seems a pity that it did not train more people in its own yards in its own methods. I hope that today's discussion and the Report result in a better career structure in the dockyards. This is what is lacking. There is far too little scope for initiative within the dockyards, which is a great pity.
71 Several hon. Members have mentioned apprentices. The success in the training of apprentices is shown by the fact that there are many former apprentices in very high administrative posts outside dockyards. In many departments of the Civil Service, in the Post Office, there is an amazing number of ex-dockyard apprentices. If they can leave the dockyards and obtain important jobs outside, why is it not possible to train them to take more responsible posts within the dockyards? People come down to Plymouth—I meet them—and tell me that they are now in very good jobs but were once dockyard apprentices. We lose far too many such people.
It is obvious why we lose so many of them. One witness says in an answer on page 223 that they should remain craftsmen the rest of their lives. It is a very depressing idea that one recruits apprentices so that they can remain craftsmen for the rest of their lives. This is why so few grammar school boys are going to the apprentice technical colleges now. Most of the recruits have to come in on aptitude tests, which is a pity. People are becoming dockyard apprentices who are likely to remain craftsmen for the rest of their lives because people are not coming in through the higher examination as they used to. In the olden days dockyard technical colleges in dockyard towns were the places where people could get the best technical education. It is a great pity that there is this very large wastage from the yards, but understandable.
Another reason is that after five years training the mechanic's wage is only £10 4s. 2d. Policemen at the dockyard gates, and even girl tracers, get that money without all that training. This is a very inadequate amount on which to start.
There is, too, the problem of the low level of pay of unskilled men. This was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden). The previous Civil Lord wrote to me on 8th March saying that he was negotiating with the trade unions on a claim for a general wage increase. It is unfortunate to say that the average wage for all workers is about £15, with some getting £18 and £20, because such an average 72 wage does not count with those who are getting under £15. There are over 131 trades and grades within the dockyard, so there is a terrific differentiation between those who take home £15 and those who take home about £8.
I absolutely agree that overtime as mentioned in the Report should not be an integral part of a man's income. That is a great difficulty in dockyards, and it can work out extremely expensive, because—and I do not say that this is happening—some people might tend to work rather more slowly so that they are able to augment their incomes by doing overtime. As I say, I am not suggesting that this is being done—only that it could lead to bad practices. I hope that this important matter will be borne in mind.
Recommendation No. 11 deals with methods of financing the purchase of machinery for the dockyards. It is stated that the period two or three years ahead is being considered. This is useless when, as the hon. Member for Edmonton said, we must have the annual Navy Votes. It is impossible to get the necessary machinery. It is stated on page 191, in evidence:For instance, if you want a machine this year, they say, 'We cannot get it in this year.' We are only allowed £10,000 for replacement of machinery. The £10,000 is gone by May. We start in April and by May that has gone. So you have got to wait until next year.I am sure that no private industry could possibly work on that basis. If the machinery required is essential for the working of the yard, it should be obtained even if one must take the money that may come in future Estimates. It is essential to estimate for machinery on at least a three-year basis—I personally would prefer a ten-year basis—and then the Admiralty can adequately go into the question of machinery and decide what it needs for a number of years. Only by doing it this way will we have modern, up-to-date machinery.
I was also interested to note from the Report that there is a study engineer of obsolete machinery. This chap must be kept working overtime because of the amount of obsolete machinery that exists in most yards. An example of this is the case of work being held up through the lack of proper machinery. This example concerns the South Yard at 73 Devonport. It was suggested that there should be a prefabricated shop that is for making frigate parts. The discussions for doing this have been going on for a year or two, and I gather that originally the project was to have cost about £500,000. I understand that that sum has been reduced somewhat because the scheme is to be modified.
Throughout last winter the frigate parts had to be prefabricated in the open; and hon. Members will remember the very bad weather conditions last winter. The men had to work in the snow and a good deal of illness resulted. This meant the men working in extremely difficult conditions. The sort of construction that has been under consideration for one or two years shows how work can be handicapped by lack of essential equipment. We ought to have up-to-date working conditions for our dockyard men.
The question of contracts is mentioned in the Report. I understand that the Director of Contracts calls for tenders and that because of high overheads of the naval dockyards—because a certain number of people must always be employed there as a sort of fire service—it is inevitable that a private firm is given the contract. The Admiralty then pays the contractor and the waiting time of the people in the dockyard, and because of this—the expenses of the contract and the cost involved for the people waiting in the dockyard—the whole job is made more expensive than if it were done in the dockyard.
An example of this concerns riggers. These people are needed for dealing with big ships, such as aircraft carriers. They have to be on hand. However, when they are not employed on this sort of task, could they not handle the wire and rope side of the dockyard, making mine-sweeping gear, and so on? Instead of putting the contract out to British Ropes Ltd., surely these men when they are not moving big ships—and they cannot be doing that all the time;—could be employed on this sort of work and so save the Admiralty a lot of money.
I support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham about the publication of a newspaper for the dissemination of information in dockyards. This has been done with 74 great success elsewhere, and I see no reason why it should not be done in the dockyards. It could be done on a similar basis to the newspaper published by the Coal Board. I understand that that publication makes a profit and gives full information to the individuals concerned who, by reading all about it, know exactly what is happening. When 40,000 men are employed in one organisation it is difficult to get the information to all of them. Since this scheme has worked so successfully in the Coal Board, I support the comments of my hon. Friend about encouraging it to be spread elsewhere.
The importance of Recommendation No. 7, regarding training, has been emphasised by several hon. Members, it is interesting to note that only 1,200 people have been sent on courses in seven years. That represents about 170 a year, although there are six training colleges to which they could go. This would not appear to be a very generous number. If we want to get better administrators in the dockyards—and I entirely agree with the idea of the hon. Member for Widnes about these people mixing and discussing matters among themselves—it would be far better to make better use of the various courses that are set out in the Report. If the colleges are full up, could not Greenwich be used for some administrative courses? I understand that there is under-occupation at Greenwich now. It is important, especially in view of what has been said about Rosyth, that people should be trained for this administrative work and that they should go through the dockyards to enhance their career structures. Every opportunity should be taken quickly to solve this problem.
I wish to pay tribute to the fine body of men who work in our dockyards. Members of the Committee who visited them were able to see the extremely difficult conditions under which they work. They will be pleased to know that despite these difficulties and the bad weather of last winter H.M.S."Eagle" in Devonport should be completed by 23rd December. Those who went to Devonport Dockyard will realise the tremendous good work these men are doing.
I understand that of those employed in the dockyards over 3 per cent. are disabled. This shows how the dockyards 75 are doing a great job of helping many ex-Service disabled people to lead active lives. It is a great advantage to those with a Service background to be able to get jobs in dockyards when they might find it extremely difficult to get jobs elsewhere.
I understand that the Director of Dockyards is to visit Continental dockyards. Will we see his report? At present we have nothing on which to base the standards of our dockyards and, despite all the reports mentioned in the Ninth Report, we cannot read them. It would be a great advantage if we could. Will he also study questions concerning trade unions? I believe, for example, that in the Netherlands there are only three main trade unions in which all the others are incorporated. That is why the Netherlands are able to get on with their shipbuilding and repairing so well. In Britain 131 trades and grades are represented by our unions, and this is not helpful to management nor production.
I hope that my hon. Friend will tell us whether the work on providing housing at Rosyth will be carried on by the Ministry of Public Building and Works when it takes over, and whether there is any intention of houses being erected for civilians near the other dockyards. People sent from the existing dockyards to Singapore or Gibraltar—not so many now go to Malta—find the housing situation quite impossible. The Admiralty has been building large largely for the Navy, and nothing has been done for the civilians, who are in equally difficult circumstances.
I thank the hon. Member for Widnes and the members of his Committee for an interesting Report, and I hope that the many Recommendations, except Recommendation (5) will be accepted.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
The Estimates Committee and the Admiralty should be gratified by the response that has been given today to this Report and to the Admiralty's observations on it. The hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) is always most charitable—indeed, gracious—in her appreciation of her colleagues' work, and we all appreciate what she has said about our rather difficult task.
76 I travel from Bristol to London by train, and on it there are very often members of the Admiralty staff. On one occasion, I heard two of them expressing their views about the Estimates Sub-Committee E. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is not the first time that I have heard people in trains expressing their opinions about their Members of Parliament. There must, of course be no question of disciplinary action—I just enjoyed it immensely.
The work of the Estimates Committee on almost any investigation is a very hard chore. It has to be undertaken in the interests of good Government, but it makes great demands on time and mental concentration. The same is true of those who are interrogated by the Committee, and I should like to express our thanks for the courteous way in which the Committee was treated by all members of the Admiralty staff who were called before it, or who had the perhaps, unpleasant duty of conducting us round naval dockyards, and the like. They were extremely frank, and tried to give us the advantage of their knowledge, not only of what had transpired in the past but what was likely to happen in the future.
One matter should be cleared up at once, less there should be any misunderstanding. It has been stated today that when Sub-Committee E decided to investigate the dockyards, the Admiralty rather wanted to put us off. I do not think that was the case. The Admiralty may have thought, may still think, that the moment was inappropriate as certain processes of reorganisation had begun. My impression was that the Department thought that it would have been wiser to have allowed the first pilot scheme at Chatham to be carried into effect so that we could see the first results of the Recommendations of the 1950–51 Committee. If those at the Admiralty thought that would put us off they are not very good psychologists, because it always impels people to ask whether there is anything behind the suggestion. I cannot think that there was anything behind it, and the various members of the staff were most helpful to us.
Some of the things in the Report may appear to be critical but they are not necessarily so, and should not in the main be regarded as adverse. My hon. 77 Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) has asked me to draw attention to something to which he forgot to refer when presenting the Report. Paragraph 49 of our conclusions states:The reorganisation proposals are consistent with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Estimates of 1950–51. Your Committee are impressed with the care with which the reorganisation is being carried out and in particular with the attention being given to preparing the ground and keeping employees in touch with what is happening.That fairly reflects our impression on going round the dockyards.
I am inclined to agree with the suggestion that it may be difficult for hon. Members to appreciate just exactly what is involved in this massive organisation. I saw that organisation at first hand, because I served in the Royal Navy in the First World War—I have pushed a few carts around Portsmouth Dockyard in rather unpleasant circumstances. Wherever one has vast organisations one always finds weaknesses. By and large, I would not be unduly critical of the general conduct of the dockyards or of the labour force in them.
There is, of course, always the odd chap who goes aboard a ship and suddenly disappears. Nobody sees him again that day, but he may be working hard. I have been in the most unpleasant parts of a huge battleship, where working conditions can be rather shocking. People talk about a dockyard"matey" boarding a ship and disappearing, but he is very likely working in one of the most difficult, out-of-the-way places, probably right at the bottom of the ship, carrying out a repair in most unfavourable circumstances. I am not so critical in these matters as some may be.
There are two points I want to mention specifically: we have not in any way been definite in our recommendation about the positions of admiral superintendent and general manager. We merely say:The system of control by an Admiral Superintendent and a General Manager should be kept under constant review as the reorganisation develops.I see no reason why I should not say now that this was probably because there were divergent views in the subcommittee. I never felt that my own objections to other views expressed were sufficiently strong to justify making a minority recommendation on this point, 78 but I am inclined still to favour as the supreme head of the dockyards an admiral superintendent. I believe that this has advantages, and I speak from knowledge and from my own service and of my recollection of the respect given to the flag in the dockyards.
Although the majority of the employees are civilians, it is vital that there should be some sort of disciplinary control in a place of that kind. Therefore, unless arguments to the contrary are so powerful that they could change my opinion, I would still prefer to see an admiral superintendent in overall command. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) who pointed out that he need not necessarily be a professional man. Nevertheless, I would make a qualification, in agreement with the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport, that he should be someone who has gone through the Service as an engineer. If he has gone through the Royal Navy from the time when he was a midshipman or a sub-lieutenant until he has become an admiral or rear-admiral (engineering) his experience is vast.
Anyone who knows the internals of a mighty battleship knows that there is a great deal to be understood and applied in the mechanical operation of modern ships. This is all the more true today with the trend towards automatic or electronic control. Therefore, there is a twofold reason for keeping the admiral superintendent as overall head of the dockyard. I have suggested that he should be an engineer. We all know that there are other plums available to the seaman admiral and that from time to time such appointments are made.
Almost all who have taken part in the debate have touched upon the apprenticeship recommendations which we made. I heard some of my hon. Friends support their colleagues when they referred to the value of the apprenticeship training in dockyard establishments and spoke of its value to the nation as a whole even if the apprentices eventually leave the dockyard. I have some reservations about this. I am not so heartily in support of the extension, if not the continuation at the present level, of the intake of dockyard apprentices. There is no shadow of doubt that this is probably one of the finest training establishments in the 79 country. I doubt whether there is any parallel to it in ordinary business life. It is a first-class training, educational, mechanical and theoretical, and it seems to me appalling that we should spend £1,700,000 a year on giving these boys this training and then almost certainly lose at least half of them.
It may be argued that they go into productive industry and that their skills are used to produce goods which we sell abroad. We can go round the full circle of the advantages gained by private industry but this means that private industry is not paying its share. It is utilising these skills for its own purposes, which are not necessarily concerned with the national interest. This is an advantage which accrues to private industry in the main out of taxpayers' money.
I know that there is a difficulty here and I agree on this point with the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster). I believe that I asked the Permanent Secretary whether it would not be possible to require at the end of apprenticeship some limited continuance of service in Admiralty dockyards and that it was suggested that that was not possible.
§ Mr. Wilkins
I am only posing the question. In the printing industry the apprentice coming out of his time would have the attraction of having the same rate of wages in any shop. The general practice used to be in the printing industry to encourage apprentices to leave to gain experience. This would be all very well in this case if it could be thought that the boys would come back to the Admiralty dockyards, but I doubt whether that would happen once they had left the service. I pose the question without being able to offer a profitable suggestion, but this is a great deal of money to spend when eventually the value of the training given is lost to the dockyard and to the nation.
I am sure that the Chairman of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes, and all the members of the Committee will be very happy at the reception given to its Report. I say this before my hon. Friend the Member 80 for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) sets about us in a moment or so. Generally speaking, the Report has been well received. I hope that the reorganisation scheme, which appears to be proving successful, will be extended further, if that should prove possible.
A further point arises on the recommendation concerning demarcation. We are now witnessing even in Admiralty dockyards something which no doubt will develop throughout industry. We are seeing the need more and more for the creation of industrial unions in the place of a number of segregated unions. In the printing industry there are at the moment thirteen different unions but the industry is trying to bring about amalgamations. I believe that the only solution for demarcation problems will be found eventually in an industrial union. The tendency today is towards this. The Admiralty is to be congratulated on the small number of demarcation problems which have arisen in its dockyards, certainly compared with private establishments. I hope that this trend will continue. I hope that reorganisation will be speeded up and that benefits will accrue to the Admiralty dockyards and to all who are engaged in this work.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
As a representative of our premier naval dockyard, I am grateful for the opportunity of making a few remarks in the short time that is left in this debate. I should have liked to have spoken for three-quarters of an hour; perhaps that is why I have been called so late in the debate, in case I might have spoken for so long.
I was very pleased to hear the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) say that he thought that admiral superintendents should be retained in our dockyards. During the fourteen years that I have represented Portsmouth, West there have been many admiral superintendents in the dockyard, and they have all been good. The one we have at the moment is the best that we have ever had. That is because he is an engineer; he is engineer-trained. In the future all admiral superintendents should be engineers basically, rather than officers requiring the next step up in promotion. Our present 81 admiral superintendent is very active and efficient, and it is a pity that his time comes to an end this year.
I am going to jump from one subject to another because I have promised to resume my seat soon to allow the Minister and the Opposition Front Bench speaker to wind up. It has been suggested that expensive machinery should only be installed in the dockyards if it can be used continually and economically. There are many pieces of machinery in our dockyards which cannot be used all the time. On one occasion I saw a propeller shaft being built on a most expensive piece of machinery. Such machinery cannot be used unless one requires to build a propellor shaft, and the machinery required to do this is bound to be expensive. It is essential to have a machine like that, even if it is lying idle for a year, because during the succeeding two years it is kept very busy. Anyone walking casually around a dockyard will see pieces of machinery which are not working. I must say that in recent years the dockyards have been filled with excellent modern machinery which is welcomed by all employed in the dockyards.
Recently the Civil Lord has been accused of saying that there will be redundancy and that the dockyards will close down. That is not at all true. I should like to give some figures to show the numbers employed in these dockyards and how they have varied. In 1949–50 15,400 people were employed in Portsmouth Dockyard. In 1950–51 the number went up to 16,500. The Korean War was in progress then, and there was a lot of repair work. In 1952 the number went up to 16,884, and in 1954 it reached its peak for that period of 17,472. There was a slight drop after that of 1,000, and in 1958 it went up to 17,480, which is the highest it has ever been. Today the figure is well over 16,000 and is much higher than it was when the Labour Government were in office.
We on this side of the House have been called warmongers in the past, and now we are accused of cutting down armaments and putting the dockyards out of work. I am in favour of keeping the dockyards fully employed, but I hope the time is coming when we shall get some sort of disarmament programme. 82 In anticipation of that situation I hope that our dockyard towns will be allowed to attract other industries so that we have more than one egg in that basket. In Portsmouth we have attracted quite a lot of industry in the past ten or twelve years, but nothing like as much as I should like. The Admiralty is always accused of preventing other industry coming to dockyard towns. I do not believe this to be true. I believe it is the Board of Trade which is responsible, and I do not think this attitude is encouraged by the Admiralty.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) spoke of the desirability of encouraging new construction in the dockyards. I am in favour of this. We in Portsmouth are lucky in that a new frigate is having its keel laid. We have built many frigates before. I agre with my hon. Friend that it is extremely dull work just patching and repairing ships, such as has been the major lot of our dockyards. To be allowed to construct something new, to break a bottle of champagne on its bow and to push out a new vessel which will do a good job in looking after our Commonwealth more than repays our efforts to get new construction for the dockyards.
I should like to say a word or two about wages. It has been suggested that employees in the dockyards do not all do a full day's work. I reckon they do a wonderful day's work, in view of the amount of pay that some of them get. Many of them take home less than £9 a week, which is not encouraging to anyone. If only the trade unions were stronger they would see that these men got a better wage. Many of us have been pressing for this for a long time, and I hope the Civil Lord will be able to tell the House when we next debate the Estimates Committee Report that he has been able to increase these dockyard wages to a decent living standard.
I have overspent my time by a minute, but I should like to add my protest that a representative of the premier naval dockyard has not been allowed more than five or six minutes in which to state his views.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
We are indebted to the Estimates Committee for having produced this Report for our 83 discussion and also to my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. McColl) for the charming manner in which he opened the debate.
The debate has been interesting, and I have certainly enjoyed it, although I have felt that we have tended to lose sight of the fact that the efficiency of the dockyards is meaningless unless it is related to the purpose for which we want that efficiency. The dockyards exist to meet the needs of the Royal Navy, which is a fighting Service. This fact appears to have been overlooked at times. I hope, during the course of my remarks, to explain why I feel it has been overlooked, but I thought that I would mention it at the beginning because I do not think that any speech has referred to it except possibly the speech of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster).
The main concern of the House this afternoon has been with the change that is at present taking place from the old arrangement of semi-autonomous departments to an organisation built up on a functional basis. So far as I can see, there is no argument about that, for it now appears to be the generally accepted view. There has been criticism of the fact that the Admiralty has taken so long to start it, and is taking rather a long time to get the job done. Also, the Treasury appears to have been dilatory.
My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes had some rather humorous remarks to make about the Admiralty, but I noticed that he said that he did not know much about the dockyards before this survey. Had he known much about the dockyards and the Admiralty, he would not have been surprised at all. This is the way the Admiralty does things and it is certainly a most inconvenient way for the House of Commons. As for stonewalling, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), the Admiralty had a Permanent Secretary who was notorious for this, both before the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee. I do not say that in any criticism of him, because I think he was at that time serving the Admiralty very well, but he certainly made it difficult for Members of the House.
§ Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)
In fairness, will the hon. Gentle- 84 man agree that this stonewalling becomes sheer obstructionism on the part of a civil servant and may well militate against the best interests of the nation?
§ Mr. Willis
No, I should not say that. I think that he was acting in what he considered to be the best interests of the Admiralty. He was obstructive in the sense that it was rather difficult at times to get from him the information which we required. I put it like that, not as a very great criticism. He certainly rendered very valuable service to the Admiralty over a very long time. I believe that most people associated with the Navy would express that view of the value of his services to the Navy.
The argument today has been about the various points arising from the putting into effect of the present policy of changing from semi-autonomous departments to an organisation on a functional basis. My first question is to ask what progress has been made. We know that Chatham is completed. Rosyth is partially completed. When is Rosyth likely to be finished? We are told that the job at Portsmouth is likely to be started next year. How long will it take? When is it intended to deal with Devonport? Is it expected to complete the job by 1968, 1970 or when? Is this another of the things that the Tory Party are looking to the 'seventies for? Is it one of the bright vistas we can look to in the 'seventies? We ought to have some information about it.
To what extent is the Admiralty getting the staff necessary for the job? According to the Report, 1,500 men were required to complete the job. I do not know whether the number still remains the same. Possibly, with the prospective reduction in the numbers employed in the dockyards, 1,500 may not now be required. I should like to know. Incidentally, this point illustrates the rather dilatory way, in some respects, in which the Admiralty has tackled the job. It was known in 1958 that these people would be required, and we are now in 1963. So far as one can gather, progress at Rosyth, never mind the other two large dockyards, is still held up because of shortages. What are the Government doing about this?
Linked with that is the question of increasing the number of managerial or professional appointments. One of the 85 recommendations discussed today is that managerial appointments, where they are made from the Service, should be for five or seven years. Some hon. Members have laid great emphasis upon this. In its reply to the Committee, the Admiralty said that it has accepted this recommendation in principle, but limited to four years; in other words, a person will hold the job for four years only.
I am rather on the side of the Admiralty in this. It is a difficult question to answer. There is great discontent in the Service if people do not get their two or three years' spell at home, and, while I admit the need for as long appointments as possible, I think that we must balance the needs of the dockyards with the needs of the Navy.
This is why I said at the outset that I thought the needs of the Navy tended to be overlooked. I thought this, too, when I read the Report of the Estimates Committee because, in paragraph 16, it said:Your Committee appreciate the importance of giving naval officers the best possible career consistent with efficiency and economy, but they consider that to put the careers of individual naval officers before the efficiency of the Dockyards is wrong.That may be so, but it is equally wrong to put the efficiency of the dockyards before the efficiency of the Fleet. Let us make no mistake about it. A senior officer, or any officer, who has had wide experience of a great number of things is usually the most efficient officer. It seems to me, therefore, that we should balance these two factors. It is not just a matter of saying that the dockyards must have men who can stay there for five, six or seven years. It is also a matter of asking how long we think that they ought to stay in order to meet the needs of the Service.
I find it difficult, therefore, to agree altogether with my hon. Friends who have suggested emphatically that the appointments should be for five or seven years. I know the arguments about it. They have been made in the Zuckerman Committee about research and development in the Service Departments and in other spheres, too, and there is no doubt that the old two-year period is too short; a man spends the first year settling in and the second year thinking about where he is going next. I welcome the 86 Admiralty's decision to make it four years, with the possibility that it might be longer if that is found to fit in with the requirements of the Service.
I have difficulty also in accepting entirely what my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes said about Recommendation No. 3, the recruiting of outside men to senior professional posts. There are strong arguments for this, but I think that there are very strong arguments for avenues of promotion within the Service itself. We are tending to expand in this section, which, perhaps, makes it attractive to bring men in from outside, but I suggest that we should not overlook the fact that the men in the dockyards and the Service are themselves entitled to promotion.
I have spoken very often from this Box about the need for engineers on the Board of Admiralty, because I thought that we should not get the best engineers, electrical officers or whatever it might be unless there was the possibility of their reaching the top. This is necessary to build up the efficiency of the Navy. Indeed, everything we are talking about exists to serve the efficiency of the Navy.
The same argument applies to the admiral superintendent. I think that he might not be necessary, although, on balance, in the new structure, I may well be wrong. But, apart from the balance we must strike with regard to what work he will do and the Service duties he will perform, there is a case for seeing that we give opportunity in the Service for proper prospects of promotion. These things are extremely important.
We have discussed one aspect of the reorganisation of the dockyards about which the former Civil Lord had something to say during the Estimates debate. I refer to the formation of an Admiralty Engineering Service. How far has this organisation got? To what extent is it in existence? On 11th March, the Civil Lord told us thatWe have at present no civilian mechanical engineers to match the civilian electrical engineers."—[Official Report, 11th March, 1963; Vol. 673, c. 976.]I do not know what that means. Does it mean that there is none at the moment, or have some been recruited?
The second recommendation concerning the organisation of an Admiralty engineering service was that there should be an 87 increase in the number of electrical engineers—not top electrical engineers but men with slightly lower qualifications. The Civil Lord said nothing about this during the Navy Estimates debate. I should like to know what has been done about this Admiralty engineering service. This is one of the important parts of the Report and one of the important needs of the dockyards if past Reports are accepted. I have read the speech of the Civil Lord several times to try to find out exactly what it means. Up to now I have not been very successful. I should, therefore, be grateful to the present Civil Lord if he would say something about this.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the waste of apprentices and the fact that about 1,000 apprentices are taken in each year about 500 of which leave after they have finished their time. I am not greatly concerned about that. I am glad that they have been trained, because if there is one thing that we need in this country it is all the trained manpower that we can get. It is, however, wrong that this should appear on the Navy Vote. The cost of training 500 apprentices each year who are not required for naval purposes and who go into private industry should not be a charge against the Navy Estimates. The Government should find some method to take them out of the Navy Estimates.
I was interested in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden), who said that this matter should be looked at and that there should be discussions between the Ministry of Labour on the one hand, and the Ministry of Education and the Department of Education in Scotland, on the other, as to how this could be fitted in with the Government's proposals for the training of manpower for industry. Let us make no bones about it: here are excellent first-class facilities for training men and I think that we should use them. They could be changed in certain ways if necessary. If this country is to make the progress that we want it to make, every trained man is a very valuable asset and we cannot afford to neglect any opportunites for tarining these men. May I say, in passing, that I should like to see the facilities of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich used just as fully.
88 The important point is not so much that 500 men are trained in the dockyards and then leave to go into civilian industry but what is to happen in future. This is a charge which should not be borne by the Navy Estimates. This is a case of the Navy doing a very good job for industry, and it seems to me that there are certain potentialities here in whatever schemes the Government may have for the future training of men for industry.
The chain of command should be considered. At present we have two Sea Lords at the top of the chain of command. We then come down to the Third and Fourth Sea Lords. Under them is the Director-General of Dockyards and Maintenance. Under him is the Director of Dockyards. Under him is the Deputy Director. Then we come down to the Admiral Superintendent. Is there any necessity for this? Surely at least one of these posts could be eliminated. I should have thought that the one to be eliminated should be either the Third or Fourth Sea Lord. The opportunity should be taken to eliminate one of these posts in connection with the review into bringing the Defence Departments closer together and unifying them, which, according to the Press, will involve the abolition of the Board of Admiralty. If the structure at the top of the Admiralty is to be changed, there is a good opportunity to do that.
I find it quite unintelligible that the Third Sea Lord should be the controller and the Fourth Sea Lord the deputy controller. What is the need for this? Surely the Director-General of Dockyards and Maintenance could be responsible to one Sea Lord? A very favourable opportunity is provided for the Admiralty to abolish one of them without causing any difficulty. I shall watch to see whether this is done when we learn and discuss the proposals regarding defence.
In the main, the Admiralty has accepted the other recommendations. There is no doubt that, by and large, they appear to be recommendations which will improve the efficiency of the dockyards and therefore they should prove of value.
We are indebted to the Estimates Committee for the work which it has put into its Report. It is not easy to follow 89 the ramifications of any Admiralty structure, as the Civil Lord is probably learning. Certainly that applies to the dockyards. On behalf of my hon. Friends, I express our appreciation of the work done by the men in the dockyards. They do a very good job of work and, as has been said in the debate, they are not overpaid.
§ Mr. Willis
They tend to be underpaid, which is a great pity. They do a first-class job and I think that every hon. Member is grateful to them for that.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. John Hay)
In opening what has proved to be a most interesting debate, the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), who was in the Chair of the Sub-Committee of the Estimates Committee which conducted the investigation into the Royal dockyards, reminded us of some of the advantages which flow from examination by Committees of this House of the activities of Government Departments. One advantage mentioned by the hon. Gentleman which particularly struck me was that they conveyed to hon. Members information and instruction as to how Government Departments work and what they do. I must admit that I have been enormously indebted to the Committee for the admirable Report which it produced and the information which it gave because, as a complete tyro in these matters, I felt the need for immediate instruction on some of the complicated matters involved in Royal Dockyard arrangements. I therefore benefited very much from reading the Committee's Report.
May I at the outset clear away a slight misunderstanding which seems to have affected the minds of some hon. Members, although I think that the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) has largely cleared it away. It is an exaggeration to say, as I think one hon. Member said and as other hon. Members have inferred, that the Admiralty thought that this was a wrong thing to do, that we resisted in some way a further investigation by the Estimates Committee. As the hon. Member for Bristol, South said, the truth is that we felt quite honestly that, as we were in the middle of a massive reorganisation of the dockyard 90 structure, it might be better if the Committee were prepared to defer its further examination for a year or, perhaps, two years until that reorganisation had got further under way. There was certainly no intention, I am advised, of trying to fob off the Committee or to get it to do something else. Cynics may well say that Government Departments never think that it is an appropriate moment for their activities to be investigated. That may or may not be true. Nevertheless. I feel that in this instance the Admiralty had a better excuse than usual.
Having said that, I pass to the reorganisation, about which a number of questions have been asked. I am happy to tell the House that we are now making very good progress with the reorganisation of the dockyards on the functional basis which was recommended by the Select Committee. I hope that the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) and the hon. Member for Widnes will forgive me if I do not follow them in the historical reminiscences and the background to all this. I am comparatively new in the Department and all I can say is that I hope we shall go on meeting with approval in their eyes from now on. As I think the House knows, the change has been brought into full force at Chatham. We have appointed a general manager at Rosyth and we have appointed a general manager-designate for Portsmouth.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) asked how we were progressing with the reorganisation. At Rosyth, we expect soon to appoint the managers for the production and planning departments and we expect that the whole process of reorganisation there will be completed in about two to three years. At Portsmouth, we hope that the first stage of reorganisation will be completed by 1966 and we will commence the reorganisation at Devonport in 1965. As the Committee reminded the House, we expect that the whole process will be ended by 1968.
§ Mr. Burden
My hon. Friend agrees that it is important to have management reorganisation, but will he not also agree that it is necessary that the most modern equipment should be installed in the dockyards if the reorganisation is to be carried to its logical and proper conclusion?
§ Mr. Hay
We imagine that that is the right number which we shall need and I think that we shall get them.
As a newcomer, it seemed to me that this type of reorganisation was the right one to adopt. One of the most significant comments in the Report is that made by the Committee in paragraph 49 where it stated, with the appropriate qualifications:Nevertheless, as far as Your Committee can weigh the available evidence, they are satisfied that a right decision was taken to proceed with reorganisation.It is interesting to note that evidence was given by people outside which endorsed the desirability of this new type of organisation. I need draw attention only to the answers given by Mr. James Patton, a very well-known person in the shipbuilding and ship-repairing world, who was chairman of the Patton Committee which produced a valuable Report on these matters. He agreed that when the reorganisation was originally proposed in 1958, opinion inside the private ship-repairing industry would probably have been by no means unanimous that it was the right form of organisation to adopt. However, I think that we are doing the right thing now.
A rather more difficult point is the extent to which it is possible to relate the benefits of reorganisation to productivity. This was touched upon by the Select Committee and I am a little surprised that we have not had more comment on the point this afternoon. It may, however, be interesting to the House if I say a word about it.
I must admit that at this early stage it is virtually impossible to point to particular benefits in the form of lower costs or reduced staffs, a quicker turn-round of ships or similar criteria, although I hope that in due course it will be possible to do so. There are, however, some definite advantages which the reorganisation has brought. To start with, it has given us a much more effective manage- 92 ment on modern industrial lines in a form which enables new management techniques and production processes to be more easily absorbed and applied over the yards as a whole.
We are able to make more effective use of our labour force by better planning of our work, by ensuring that drawings, materials, tools and the services of the various tradesmen can be provided when they are required and by identifying and forecasting periods of idle time. This better degree of planning and estimating must lead to more realistic assessments of costs of repairs and reviews in terms of both men and money, and completion dates can be kept. In turn, this will enable us to form better judgments on the value of or the priorities of projected work, to improve the availability of ships and to restrict the cost, because any extension of time allocated for a refit inevitably leads to great expense.
As to the first recommendation of the Select Committee, which suggested that we should review the non-industrial establishment every five years at each dockyard, the Admiralty accepted the idea, although, in fact, we shall be able to do rather better than the Committee proposed. As we said in our reply, we consider that some measure of flexibility in the timing of these reviews is best and we shall conduct the first joint review at Chatham within a considerably shorter time than five years.
As I have said, the reorganisation at Chatham began in 1958 and we are now arranging for a review of the staff and of the organisation of the general manager's planning, production, personnel and yard services departments, to start with, towards the end of this year. We expect it to take us about 12 months, but we should get information on which we can see whether the organisation and staffing of what has been the pilot scheme for the whole reorganisation process is right and can be taken as a guide to reorganisation in the other yards.
I turn now to the Admiralty Engineering Service, which was the subject of Recommendation No. 2. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East asked how we were getting on with this and my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) and the hon. Member for Edmonton also referred to 93 it. It is an important step that we are taking and there can be no blame for the delay, which was imposed upon us, before we were able to get the green light to go ahead. There is no doubt, as I think the Committee realised from the evidence given to it, that the creation of a service of this kind was liable to have repercussions in other fields of the Government service and those had to be carefully looked at before we could be given authority to go ahead. Nevertheless, it is true to say that the views taken by the Committee weighed powerfully in Whitehall and I am delighted that we are now able to proceed with this service.
We have had to have a number of meetings with the staff associations to satisfy them of the Tightness of the scheme and we obtained their agreement last April. The head of the new service and his deputy have both been appointed and we have widely advertised vacancies in the new service. So far, we have had hundreds of replies and the first interview boards will beheld this month. We are considering suitable retired and retiring naval officers who have professional qualifications for appointments in the service. This was another point in the mind of the Committee. I hope to keep the House informed of further developments and progress with the setting up of this service as time goes on.
I now turn to Recommendation No. 3 and the question of appointments to the dockyards, particularly in the senior grades, from outside. Despite the persuasive arguments of the hon. Member for Widnes, I feel that there is little I can add to the full reply which the Admiralty gave to this recommendation. It is clear that what the Committee was aiming at was an assurance that we would not try to run the dockyards only with our own people who had spent their lives in our service, but that we should be prepared to appoint people when they have had service in similar capacities in private employment and who might bring a breath of fresh air into our work. As our replies show, I think, we have by no means neglected the recruitment of outside engineers including retired naval officers.
The need to build up the Admiralty Engineering Service will make this desirable, but I do not think we ought to make 94 a fetish of it and I would remind the House that there are substantial disadvantages in direct recruitment to senior managerial posts, disadvantages not least to the morale of people who have spent their lives slowly working up the ladder of promotion inside their Service. To take one example, the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, which is well known to the House, has few outlets outside Admiralty service and we rightly insist on very high academic capacity in the people we recruit to that Corps. The appointment of managers from outside must have some effect on recruitment.
What we have to achieve here is a proper balance. The House may, incidentally, be interested to know that the general manager (designate) at Portsmouth, whom I mentioned just now, is a retired naval officer, Captain Sparham. He has been appointed in a civilian capacity. I hope that these observations will weigh with the Committee.
§ Mr. MacColl
Our argument is based on the statement that the progress of reorganisation would be slackened because of the shortage of supervising staff in the more senior posts. That is why we proposed this. If it is not true, then the other point about bringing in people from outside is not nearly so important, but the origin of this recommendation was the statement, which we were given by the Admiralty, that there was a shortage of people.
§ Mr. Hay
I fully understood that, but I would ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the other factors which I have just tried to mention. Of course, that is in our minds, but, as I said just now, one has to strike some sort of balance in these things and I think the balance that we have struck is about right.
Now let me say a word about the question of security of tenure for these officers. Again, it was mentioned by the Committee. I was interested to see that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East did not altogether approve. I do not think it was surprising for those who are dilettante in these matters that the Committee had some affection for this idea of comparatively long security of tenure, and that managers and deputy managers in the home dockyards ought to be appointed for at least five years in an individual dockyard. There was a similar reference 95 in the Report of the Committee on Admiralty Headquarters. As it happens, the reorganisation in the period 1958–61 led to an abnormally high turnover of managers, so it was not altogether surprising that the Committee picked the point up. Appendix I to the Report sets out the position, but I can now tell the House that in fact the situation is a little better.
As our replies showed, there are certain difficulties which we envisage in adopting the proposal of the Committee as a general rule. So far as deputy managers are concerned, where they are civilians they are appointed at superintending level and it is obviously desirable that, if they are to gain wide experience, they should be changed with reasonable frequency. I am afraid that we cannot commit ourselves to retaining them as long as five years in a single post when, with the turnover of managers, the chances of further promotion for any officer are smaller and he is generally near the end of his career, anyhow. So I think it is both more important and more convenient to have a lengthy stay in his position wherever possible but not to go beyond that.
There is another point, that some managers are serving naval officers who have reached the rank of captain. In due course, many of them will come forward for promotion to rear-admiral. To allow them thereafter to remain in post as rear-admirals so that they could complete their five years could lead to a rather odd chain of command in a reorganised dockyard, because there might be a rear-admiral superintendent supervising a civilian general manager who in turn supervises another rear-admiral as manager. I mention this to show the career problems here if we blindly accepted the Committee's proposals, but we are planning to try to ensure that naval captains in engineering departments should have up to four years in post. We are at one certainly with the Committee in desiring reasonable tenure of service and that is what we are really aiming at, and not to have chopping and changing. I hope the House will allow us to implement this in our own way.
§ Mr. Hay
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman and to the House if I used the expression"security of tenure." Being a lawyer, I am afraid that such a phrase comes naturally to my lips. I can only say, to use another lawyer's expression, that if I said it, it was said without prejudice.
To turn to the recommendation about admiral superintendents. A large number of hon. Members have commented on this. I feel that there is, perhaps, some misunderstanding about the functions which an admiral superintendent performs. I think that some hon. Members may, perhaps, have felt that an admiral superintendent would generally become a fifth wheel to the coach, but I will emphasise that the admiral superintendent has a responsibility which goes very far beyond the dockyard itself and certainly very far beyond the refit or even construction of the ships and the service which they give to the fleet. He is responsible for co-ordinating activities of numerous depots in the area, which may cover stores, armament supply and victualling. None of these things comes directly within the purview of the general manager. The admiral superintendent is also responsible for movements of ships within the dockyard area. The admiral superintendent is concerned with the welfare of dockyard personnel and in many cases, as the Committee reminded us, some admiral superintendents even have appointments as flag officers.
If anyone wants to investigate the duties of an admiral superintendent at greater length I can only refer him, as my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) did, to the answers to questions 789–98. There a very full explanation is given of what the job is.
Also it is interesting to examine what was said in paragraph 3 of the memorandum of the evidence submitted by the Admiralty to the Select Committee, but I honestly think that the post of admiral 97 superintendent in any dockyard ought not to be abolished just because the dockyard itself has been reorganised. One has to be clear that, apart from his rank, his duties are not the same as those of a general manager I may say in parenthesis that the general manager himself has a very heavy task to perform. If one were to accept the idea which lies in the Committee's suggestion, one would place upon the shoulders of the general manager, who may in many cases be a civilian, some of those purely maritime duties which are performed at present by an admiral superintendent I can tell the House that we are quite willing to view the relationship of admiral superintendent and general manager at each of the dockyards when we carry out the five-year reviews of reorganisation to which reference was made in our reply to the first recommendation from the Committee.
So far as the other problem relating to the chain of command is concerned—and, again, many hon. Members have spoken about this—I am, of course, still somewhat of a novice here, but I have learned enough in the last few weeks to know that the Fourth Sea Lord has many other functions as well as being vice-controller. He is, of course, concerned not just with dockyards but with the whole question of the supplies of the Navy and its transport, and I do not think in practice to have the chain of command which has been described and criticised in this debate is inefficient or ineffective.
Here again, the Admiralty is willing to consider the evidence and the facts, and if it were necessary or desirable to make changes, I have no doubt they would be made. But at the moment it seems to us that the chain of command does not blur responsibility and does not prevent decisions being taken, and also that it does not take too long for decisions to be passed down the chain; but if it were so, we should be willing to look at the matter again.
As time is running short, perhaps I may be forgiven for not going over all the other points. I should just like to say a word about external training, particularly the recommendations which the Committee made about the use of training institutions outside the naval service to which our dockyard people might 98 be sent. There is not much that I can add to the reply which the Admiralty gave to the recommendation. There are a number of external training institutions, although the Committee singled out only two of them for special mention. We make use of a number of these institutions for different purposes. We have a training section in the dockyard department headquarters, and one of the members of the section has the specific duty of keeping abreast of management training developments and of passing on information and advice to his colleagues and others.
The Committee, incidentally, also suggested that there ought to be wider visiting of other countries to compare the practices of individual dockyards. We do this. To give a couple of examples, the deputy director of the dockyards division and the general manager (designate) of Portsmouth visited Washington and the United States Navy shipyards last May, and the assistant director of management techniques, together with other officers, visited shipyards in Scandinavia, West Germany, Holland and France last winter.
The hon. Member for Edmonton asked about the training of professional engineers from the dockyards. I understand that a regular quota of ex-dockyard apprentices is trained in engineering at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, at which they take a university of London honours degree course or a professional certificate in naval architecture. Some others go off to other universities and return later to Admiralty service as professionally trained engineers. Therefore, I do not think we have anything particularly to reproach ourselves with on that score.
Wastage of apprentices is a matter which causes us, as it caused the Committee, some anxiety. It is a very difficult and perplexing problem for us. We accepted the recommendation of the Committee that we should inquire into it for the purpose of getting whatever facts are available. The House may like to know that we are following two lines of investigation. First, dockyards are giving us quarterly reports about the ex-apprentices who leave within two years of completing their apprenticeship. The first of these reports is in my hands now.
99 The second line—a somewhat novel one, in the Admiralty service at any rate—is to have investigations made by the National Institute of Industrial Psychology. A psychologist will interview apprentices in all four dockyards to try to find out what are the underlying motives for their leaving the service—whether it is simply a question of pay or a question of advancement; in short, what is the motivating factor? I hope that we shall get some useful information about this in a few months' time.
Whatever the reason may be, I must point out the difficulty we are up against in trying to ensure that apprentices who have gone through their apprentice training with us remain in Admiralty service. At present about 43 per cent. are leaving us—a figure which is a little better than, but not much, the figure given by the Committee. It is quite out of the question in a modern industrialised society such as ours to try somehow to keep a legal tie on them. The old bond system, as the Secretary to the Admiralty said in reply to the hon. Member for Bristol, South, is no longer possible to operate. Nevertheless, we will find out, first of all, what the facts are, and then see whether there is some way in which we can deal with the matter.
I apologise to the hon. Member for Widnes, who, I think, wishes to claim the right of reply to the debate, for having gone on a little longer than I intended. Although I must disappoint a number of hon. Members by not covering more of the points they raised, nevertheless I think the House as a whole will agree that this has been an extremely useful debate and fully worthy of the debates that we have had on other Estimate Committee Reports. I look forward to giving the Estimates Committee any further information I can if there are points hon. Members have in mind which have not been touched on. I thank the Committee and its Chairman for the work which they have done.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. MacColl
I do not think that the Civil Lord need feel embarrassed about having taken a little more time than he intended, because I am sure that the House wanted much more to listen to him explaining what is happening than to me explaining what ought to happen.
100 The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to express appreciation of the work of the Sub-Committee and the main Estimates Committee. I would point out that this is, of course, a team operation in which the members of the Committee all play their part. The clerk, who has to steer us through the difficulties of drafting, has a very onerous responsibility. The final result represents a great deal of hard and fairly consistent slogging over the period of the investigation.
While thanks are being expressed, I should like to say, in that context, in view of what was said earlier in the debate, that we had nothing but the greatest possible courtesy and helpfulness from the Permanent Secretary to the Department. Once the inquiry began, we could not have had more complete and full help, and we all benefited very much from it.
I am glad that something is happening about the Admiralty engineering service. It ought to have happened some time ago. There has been delay. I think that the Treasury and the Admiralty ought to have been able to get together and reach some results more quickly.
There were two points on which there was substantial disagreement with the recommendations of the Committee. One was the question of appointing younger men to managerial positions. The hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) rather chivalrously stuck up for the older men. By convention, a lady need never be more than 30, but, I, having last week passed my fifty-fifth birthday, was gratified to be told by the Admiralty that not all men are beginning to show diminished energy and vigour when they have passed their fiftieth birthday.
The point is that if we are to have rapidly developing new techniques—and I think that we shall do so in the world of naval repair and construction—we must have rapid technical adaptation to the problems; and I should have thought that that meant getting young men into positions of responsibility when they are in the full enthusiasm of their career. When talking about managers, the Civil Lord spoke of men getting to the end of their careers. Once one begins to feel that one is getting towards the end of 101 one's career, whether in politics or business, one begins to feel not really full-out for the future and rather inclined to coast along.
I think that there is a big issue of principle behind the questions of the tour of duty and the position of the admirals superintendent. We must make sure that the efficiency of this great industry is not subordinated to the needs of the Service. Both Front Bench speakers have said that the needs of the Service should not be ignored. I am afraid that if the needs of the industry are not kept in the forefront, the dockyards will be by-passed in the future; that, with the development of the amazing complexities of new work in ships, the dockyards will find themselves by-passed because they are regarded as being out of date in their ideas and organisation, and they will be lost. That is the great danger to which I referred earlier.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ That this House takes note of the Ninth Report from the Estimates Committee in the last Session of Parliament and of the Fifth Special Report from the Estimates Committee relating to Her Majesty's Dockyards.