§ 13. Captain Litchfield
asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent it is the practice for Her Majesty's ships in United Kingdom waters to refit and give leave in their own home ports, where many officers and men have their homes; and if he will give an assurance that the interests of ships' companies are given priority over the convenience of Her Majesty's dockyards in this respect.
§ Mr. Mayhew
As a rule, H.M. ships in home waters refit at their base ports, and give leave during their refits. Exceptionally, pressure of work at the base port dockyard may force us to transfer the refit elsewhere, not for the dockyards' convenience but to meet tight operational programmes. Refit at the base port is our aim, and the welfare of the ships' companies is a major consideration.
§ Captain Litchfield
While I know that the hon. Gentleman is very much concerned with the interests of ships' companies, may I ask whether he is aware that his reply will not be received with 14 unreserved acclamation in the Fleet? Is he aware that this practice creates real hardships on occasions, and that men whose homes are in Plymouth or Portsmouth really suffer considerable hardship when their ships refit at Rosyth?
§ Mr. Mayhew
I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman. We are aware of this. I shall take a personal interest in it for a time to make sure that only the very minimum number of occasions occur when a ship cannot go back to its base port.