HC Deb 21 July 1965 vol 716 cc1572-3
33. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Defence why the constituent of the hon. Member for West Ham, North, serving in Chatham Barracks, details of whom have been supplied to the Admiralty, has been refused permission to buy himself out of the Royal Navy on the grounds of shortage of manpower, whilst serving-men in this barracks are being given occupations, such as picking up paper, doing private house work, mowing the lawn and other work normally undertaken by private servants; and whether he will cause an investigation to be made into these complaints.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Royal Navy (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)

This rating completed his last draft in May. He was due for embarkation leave and posting to the Far East by August. There was, therefore, no point in sending him to a complement billet. Hence his temporary posting to the Fleet Maintenance Unit at Chatham, his preference area. During a short and unusual lull in ships' maintenance work, he was employed on keeping Navy Department property ship-shape. The fact remains, however, that the Navy still has a pressing need for his skilled services. He will be fully employed in his proper category as soon as he joins his new ship.

Mr. Lewis

Is it not a ludicrous situation when a man who applies for his discharge is told that he is too busy to be discharged and yet is spending his time, as my hon. Friend rightly guessed, mowing the captain's lawn and acting as wet nurse to the captain's family? [Laughter.] Yes. Hon. Members laugh, but I mean looking after the family, looking after the kiddies and acting as the equivalent of a wet nurse. [Laughter.] All but in fact. Is it not a terrible situation that we have this sort of thing going on? [HON. MEMBERS: "A nanny."] Yes, a nanny. That is the same thing. Is it not better that this man should come out and get on to some useful work rather than doing these officers' work and work which their wives should be doing?

Mr. Mallalieu

My hon. Friend's constituent is obviously a man of many parts, but I can assure him that his proper skill will be fully used very shortly.

Mr. Hay

Despite the versatility of the hon. Member's constituent to which the Under-Secretary has rightly referred, would the Under-Secretary deprecate the use of the expression "serving-men" in this Question for "sailors"?

Mr. Mallalieu

Yes, indeed.