HC Deb 09 March 1964 vol 691 cc162-70

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £84,222,000, be granted to Her Majesty, do defray the expense of the pay, etc., of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1965.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Merton and Morden)

As we have very little time left to us, I shall keep my remarks as short as I can and confine myself to two points, both under Subhead C, on the pay and National Insurance of ratings and other ranks.

We are told that these figures include the new pay scales recently brought out, and naturally they include the extra numbers which we voted for last Monday under Vote A. Last Monday, my hon. Friend said that in order to meet the new Vote A he would find it necessary to increase the rate of re-engagement of ratings. He referred to this as being at a high rate—so it is—but it is slightly lower than it was last year. Obviously, this process must be reversed, as my hon. Friend said.

What I am wondering is whether in these new pay scales sufficient attention is being paid to persuading men to staying on longer than their normal engagement and in particular whether the increment which they earn after serving for nine years, fourteen and eighteen years is regarded by them as adequate. A petty officer who remains on after nine years gets 3s. 6d. a day extra, which is somewhat less than 10 per cent. of what he is already being paid. I know that my hon. Friend said that various factors which discouraged men from re-engaging were being studied, but I should like him to say whether he is completely satisfied that the new pay arrangements give sufficient emphasis to the extra which men earn by staying on longer. I imagine that he is satisfied or he would not have agreed to the new pay scales, but I should also like his assurance that this is one of the points which will be kept very much before him and altered if necessary.

That brings me to my second point. It is possible that he may not need all this money for which he is asking for paying ratings. The Vote includes the new pay scales. It also includes the extra 3,000 men under Subhead A. We do not know whether my hon. Friend will get them. We hope that he will, and last week he said something about how he hopes to achieve his target, but to increase the recruiting rate and re-engagement, even for the Royal Navy, by a sufficient number to bring him up to the figure in Subhead A is quite an undertaking, as I think my hon. Friend recognises.

This point was made last week by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). If my hon. Friend cannot get the extra men to bring his Subhead A up to 103,000 by extra enlistment in the Royal Navy, I would have no objection to his switching some of the money in Subhead C from the Royal Navy to the Royal Marines. I do not know whether permission would be necessary for that to be done, but if my hon. Friend could increase the strength of the Royal Marines by another 500 which he could not get for the Royal Navy without over-spending the amount that we are voting, I do not believe that anyone would object, and I would welcome it very much.

Commander Anthony Courtney (Harrow, East)

I wish to raise one short point on Subhead B(3) and Subhead D(3) concerning overseas allowances. The increase of £4 million in overseas allowances is a direct reflection of the increasing involvement of the Royal Navy east of Suez, and this is likely to increase in future years, perhaps remarkably. As we are committed to the security of the Federation of Malaysia, surely it would be only right in future years to see under Appropriations in Aid, Subhead Z, a contribution from the Malaysian Government to ease the burden of Her Majesty's Government? I ask my hon. Friend to bring that to the attention of his right hon. Friend in case something can be done about it in future years.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I hope that my hon. Friend will tell the Committee why the sum being provided for the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service is being decreased, while the sum being provided for the Women's Royal Naval Service is being increased from £46,000 to £54,000. Are there to be fewer members of the senior nursing service? This service is doing excellent work, and I hope that these Estimates do not mean that there is to be a decrease in the number of officers. How is the pay of these officers related to civilian pay? Is their pay equal to that of their civilian counterparts or do they receive less? If it is the latter, is that why the Vote is being decreased?

My other point concerns education allowances. I see that for officers the figure is to be reduced from £510,000 to £495,000, whereas for ratings the figure is to remain unaltered. Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell me why this reduction is being made.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)

It is a great pity that, once again, we are discussing these Navy Votes in a great rush. This is the third year in succession that the Navy has not been first. I understand that these matters are the choice of the Opposition. I hope that they will show a greater interest in the Navy next year, and put it first in the list.

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

These matters go in rotation. There is no desire not to discuss the Navy.

Mr. Digby

That is what I understood, but when I made inquiries before the order of business was decided upon, was given to understand that in this instance the rotation has been departed from. I hope that the party opposite, which will be in opposition for a long time, will continue this rotation.

It is pleasant to be discussing an increase of 3,000 men in Vote A, for a change. I share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) in wishing that we could have had more than an increase of 100 in the Royal Marines, and I hope that that will be possible in ensuing years. I am sure that there are tasks which the Marines could carry out which are now being performed by our much-pressed Army.

I should like to say a word about Subhead Z. I notice that under Item (1), "Receipts in respect of personnel lent to other Governments", the Estimate is almost doubled. That must mean that there has been an increase in the number of officers that we are lending. I hope that we can be told a little more about this. When I have raised questions of the officer-rating ratio in the past, the requirements of other navies, and of N.A.T.O. and other alliances are always pleaded in aid. But there always seems to be a tendency for the ratio of officers to increase. I hope that the situation will be watched.

In the recent mutinies in East Africa many British Army personnel were in the affected areas. On reflection, many of us thought that that was a bad thing. We might have been landed in rather deeper than was the case. I hope that great thought will be given to the question of lending naval officers and ratings to other Governments. There are occasions when it is not a blessing, and it could be an embarrassment.

Commander J. S. Kerans (The Hartlepools)

should like to know what will happen to the Naval Intelligence Division when it moves to the new set-up. Only today I read in The Times that officers are being appointed to D.N.I. as far ahead as July and August. Does this mean that the title of Director of Naval Intelligence is being retained? Is not there a case for a retention of the staff, both civilian and naval, of the Director of Naval Intelligence? How will this come about? Will they all move lock, stock and barrel into the new set-up?

Who will be responsible for the naval attachés in the new set-up? Will they all come under the Minister of Defence, or under the Minister of Defence (Navy)? In certain countries naval attaches are responsible to the Air Force or the Army. Who will be responsible for security in the Royal Navy? Will that go lock, stock and barrel into the new defence set-up, or will it be a matter for the Navy?

By way of a Question I asked my right hon. Friend if he could tell me the disposition of the Reserve Fleet, and the number of personnel involved. I have not my glasses with me, and I cannot read very well. I do not know about the officers, but I understand that there are 1,867 ratings and 28 civilians. Surely we should be allowed to know where the Reserve Fleet is. In this modern age at can hardly be a security risk. During the debate on the Navy Estimates I was galled to discover that the Leader of the Opposition was well aware of the disposition of the ships of the Royal Navy. Why should not this information be placed in the Library of the House of Commons and so he made available to hon. Members?

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. John Hay)

I feel rather like a cricketer who is being bowled at by very fast bowlers. I have a very short time in which to reply to the debate but I will do my best. My hon. Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) drew attention to the fact that from the Vote it appears that we are increasing the pay of the men. He wondered whether we had taken into account the possibilities of increasing the re-engagement rate which were open to us when we calculated the additional sums which we should provide. His particular interest was whether we had done enough to increase the increments paid to men willing to re-engage and whether we had given sufficient emphasis to that. I must tell my hon. Friend—I expect he knows—that these questions of the adjustment of pay scales apply to all the Services, and although, naturally, we bargain with each other and the Treasury, the eventual outcome represents a good deal of compromise all round. I think it will suffice if I say we are satisfied that the increments ii is proposed to pay to men who re-engage will provide the additional impetus that we need.

I do not pretend that it is merely by increasing increments that we shall solve the re-engagement problem. As I said during the debate on the Navy Estimates last week a number of factors come into play, not least the question of settled home life and the "turbulence", as we call it which affects Service men during their careers. This has a substantial disincentive effect. I assure the Committee, and my hon. Friend, that we pay a good deal of attention to this matter. My hon. Friend asked whether we would get the 103,000 Vote A strength for which we ask. I can only say that we sincerely hope we shall. We shall do all we possibly can.

The position regarding Royal Marine recruiting is, as the Committee will have noticed, that we are increasing the target—from 750 in 1963–64 to 800 for 1964–65. This is to meet requirements. I am not saying that we could not recruit more Marines if we wished. Recruiting has been extremely buoyant in recent years. But at the moment we are not asking for more than that number.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

The hon. Gentleman referred—to my surprise—to "bargaining" between the three Services and the Treasury and "compromise" in reaching these rates of pay. Is he certain that he was not going too far? Is not there machinery which relates these things? I thought that the hon. Gentleman gave a rather bad impression.

Mr. Hay

I am sorry if I gave a bad impression, but I do not think that I did. If one looks at my remarks in the OFFICIAL REPORT I think that the correct impression will appear. It is a matter of common knowledge that with three individual Services with different requirements in respect of the same kind of men, a good deal of bargaining has to go on and adjustments have to be made to ensure that the rates are not out of relationship to similar rates in other Services. This is a natural process which goes on under all Governments and there is nothing disreputable or dishonourable about it.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney) asked about overseas allowances and pointed out that we are asking Parliament for rather more this year and that this is an indication of the increased numbers which we are carrying in the Fleet East of Suez. He suggested that we might seek a contribution from other countries, particularly Malaysia which he mentioned, in respect of the work which we carry out for them. My hon. and gallant Friend will not expect me to give a full answer in the short time remaining to me. We are never prepared to forgo any satisfactory source of revenue, but I do not know whether, in the present circumstances, that suggestion is one which we should want to pursue.

Captain John Litchfield (Chelsea)

On a point of order. With apologies to my hon. Friend the Civil Lord, may I ask whether it will be in order to extend this discussion after ten o'clock in view of the fact that the Navy has been largely talked out by the Air Force and the Army, that we still have another £80 million odd to vote on and that in recent days naval affairs in this House and outside have been of particular interest?

The Chairman

I am afraid that I have no power to extend the time for this debate.

Mr. Hay

I have every sympathy with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield). We had a good deal of discussion about the Navy last week, but there are a great many points still unresolved about which I should have liked the chance to say a few words; and we regret the absence of certain distinguished figures from the benches opposite tonight.

I turn to the questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) about Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service. She drew attention to the fact that, although we are asking for a lower sum in respect of officers' pay on Vote 1 this year than last, nevertheless, the numbers to be maintained shown on Vote A differ by 20. The explanation simply is that some of the nurses are borne on Vote 5. Vote 5 deals with medical services, education, and civilians employed on fleet services. In fact, the pay of some of the nursing Service is borne on Vote 5. That accounts for the discrepancy. If my hon. Friend looks at page 43, Appendix II, she will see that the total numbers on various services are brought together. Last year, 1963–64, we bore 420 officers on Vote 5 as against 434 this year. We bore 826 ratings last year as against 834 this year. If one looks at the figures for this year given in Vote A one sees 200 appears as against 180 last year. This is perfectly in order. All that has happened is that between last year and this year there has been a readjustment of the numbers borne on Vote 5.

Miss Vickers

It is less than it was two years ago.

Mr. Hay

Not for money. My hon. Friend is wrong. It is difficult to explain the position in a short time. The extra money is in Vote 5. That is the short answer.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport asked me about the education allowance. The fact that there has been a drop from £510,000 last year to £495,000 this year in respect of officers does not imply any reduction in popularity. It simply means that in 1963–64 we overstated the figure. We then made provision for continuing at the former rate of growth, but as things turned out the numbers taking advantage of the allowance levelled off. That is all I can say at the moment about that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) drew attention to receipts in respect of personnel lent to other Governments and asked for details about them. I can only say without further information that this represents the fact that we are lending more people to foreign Governments, and, in particular, to Commonwealth Governments, than in the past, and therefore we expect the sums to be larger.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools asked a number of questions about the Naval Intelligence Division and its future. In future, this division will be borne on the central Vote of the Ministry of Defence, and the question of naval attachés will similarly be dealt with centrally.

I did not give details of the dispositions of the Fleet to hon. Members opposite in anything but the broadest sense because, naturally, this is a matter of security. The pink list to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred is a highly accurate list which we keep very carefully under lock and key. I should like to have a word with him about it.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £84,222,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of the pay, etc., of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1965.

It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Report of Resolutions to be received Tomorrow.

Committee also report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.