HC Deb 12 March 1968 vol 760 cc1186-223

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £99,657,000, be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund, 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 1969.

3.37 p.m.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)

When one first addresses the House immediately at the end of Prime Minister's Questions, one sometimes feels a gigantic vacuum cleaner is operating at each door.

It is a pleasure to be face to face with the Under-Secretary again after the passage of another year. However, it is unfortunately not equally pleasant to contemplate the result of his year's working, for one can only call it a year of steady erosion of the Navy's capability, and hence of Britain's influence in the world.

For this we do not entirely blame the Under-Secretary. I blame the Secretary of State for Defence who is sitting on the hon. Gentleman's left, but not paying attention to the debate. I refer to the man who nudges the Under-Secretary in the ribs and tells him what to say—like last night.

The Secretary of State inherited, in his own words, the "finest weapon", the famous phrase that he used when he first spoke from the Box as Secretary of State for Defence. But now the blade is bent, blunt and rusty, and the handle is heavier than ever.

The size of the Ministry of Defence does not seem to diminish in step with the diminishment in the size of our forces. Indeed, at a time when our forces are being cut, the headquarters organisation seems to get larger and larger. The basic figure in the yellow paper for headquarters and outstations is £41 million in 1967–68, and it is £54 million this year—[Interruption.] We must put it into perspective and refer to the overall figure concerning the headquarters as a whole. Professor Parkinson has written a vivid article on this subject. It shows a man wearing a bowler hat and carrying a brief case, with two and a half sailors standing beside him, with the caption: 1967. Royal Navy fighting ships have dwindled to 114, and the officers and men manning them to 84,000. The chairborne Navy continues its steady progress to 33,574—one official to every 2½ serving men. Professor Parkinson says: The headquarters of Government was never designed as the administrative hub of the British Isles, but as the centre of a spider's web which used to cover half the world. Perhaps I had better repeat that for the benefit of the Under-Secretary of State who was otherwise engaged. This was not designed as the hub just of the British Isles, but as the centre of a spider's web which used to cover half the world. He concludes: With the larger function gone, the Whitehall of today is not merely cumbersome but ludicrous.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

Order. I find it difficult to see how this arises out of Vote I, which relates merely to the pay of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

There are a large number of men drawing pay at the headquarters of the Ministry. Indeed, they largely comprise it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Will the hon. and gallant Gentlemen refer me to the head of the Vote on which he thinks this arises?

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

Pay and allowances of officers and men. Perhaps I should make it clear that I am not knocking the civilians. There are a large number of uniformed officers at the headquarters instead of being at sea. Most of them hate it, and I can say that I did when I served a sentence there.

I turn, now, to deal even more directly with the Vote concerning pay and allowances for officers. First, the arrangements in the Grey Paper for future reviews of forces pay are unsatisfactory. The first reason for this is the departure from the Grigg formula. A pay adjustment should have been due in about two weeks from now, but what the Services do not know—and indeed nobody knows—is when the Prices and Incomes Board will report. I remember during my service time what a relief it was when the Grigg formula was in force, because one knows that it is never the right time to increase the pay of the forces, and the fact that this was being done all along the line over the years, with the regularity of the spacing of railway sleepers, was a great satisfaction to all concerned.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman recall that his party abandoned the Grigg formula by giving only half the increase which was due?

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

That has nothing to do with the point that I am making. Whatever the award, it was made. The fact was that the file was taken out and dusted regularly every two years, but now, like so many other matters connected with defence, it is to be left vague. I do not doubt that a great deal more will be said about this by subsequent speakers.

Unfortunately, pay and allowances, and conditions generally, produce real difficulties for officer recruitment. This can be seen all too clearly in the depressing phrases on page 58 of the Grey Paper, where one reads: A considerable increase is needed in the number of general list cadets entering the engineering specialisation; more seamen are also required. I think I am right in saying that this is the first time that the requirement for seamen officers entering Dartmouth has not been met in the long and distinguished history of that establishment. It goes on to say: The number of applications was less than in previous years. In the next paragraph, dealing with university entrants, it says: This is not as high as the number of awards in the previous year. It is hoped to do better in 1968. The Royal Navy needs many more graduate entrants… This is the direct result not only of matters of pay and allowances. It cannot be too frequently said that officers, and ratings, too, have a real devotion to the Service and all that it stands for. This tribute is often paid, and I pay it again today, but the officers and ratings are accustomed to clear cut orders and regulations. They are accustomed to being told in clear terms where to go, and what to do. Uncertainties and vague threats of further cuts produce a great sag in morale.

There is, however, something more important than the bald figures of pay and allowances set out in these tables. Last night the Under-Secretary of State showed that he did not know the answer to a fundamental question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South-West (Mr. Powell). My right hon. Friend asked: Do the Government accept the concept of an all-out war at sea as expounded by the. United States Defence Secretary?—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1968; Vol. 760, c. 1009.]

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Maurice Foley)

In case the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not read his copy Of HANSARD, perhaps I might tell him that I stated that we do not.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

It is difficult to read HANSARD when the debates are so compressed that it is not in the hands of hon. Members until the day after—

Mr. Healey

Was not the hon. and gallant Gentleman in the House?

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I was.

Mr. Healey

Did not he hear it said?

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I heard nothing but vagueness.

Mr. Healey

My hon. Friend made this absolutely clear in his winding-up speech. I am surprised that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who is supposed to be interested in naval matters, paid no attention while my hon. Friend was speaking.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I was in the House, and what I saw was that after my right hon. Friend asked the question a bewildered look came on the Under-Secretary's face, he received a giant nudge in the ribs from the Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Gentleman shook his head, and then the Under-Secretary rose and said "No". Anyone who was in the House then must have seen what happened.

This uncertainty, and this reply by the Under-Secretary, explain the officer recruiting difficulties more than any details or shortcomings of pay and allowances. If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? After all, the Government have had plenty of time, and plenty of Defence Reviews, to make up their minds about fundamental issues of the kind to which I have referred.

I think the Under-Secretary of State said last night that there would be no redundancy in the Royal Navy, or very little—

Mr. Foley

Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves the point about creating alarm and despondency, will he explain why, last year, he was in favour of the Navy fighting in Vietnam? Does he still support that policy?

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I think that I would be quickly ruled out of order if I were to start talking about Vietnam in the context of Vote I.

On the question of redundancy, perhaps the Under-Secretary, if necessary with the guidance of the Secretary of State for Defence, will say what the point was when, last night, he talked about redundancy in the Royal Navy. Is there to be redundancy, or not?

Mr. Foley

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is so fascinated by, and interested, in naval debates, he should have been here last evening when I was explaining this after Ten o'clock, when we were discussing Vote A.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I was here throughout. The hon. Gentleman made so many fascinating speeches that it is difficult to remember them all without referring to HANSARD. This again is my complaint, that no HANSARD is available for the Vote A debates because of the gross mismanagement of business by the Government. What the House is asking now, whatever was said last night, is: is there or is there not to be redundancy in the Royal Navy?

Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. Steele.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

On a point of order. I was not giving way to anyone except the Under-Secretary.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

But the hon. and gallant Member had resumed his seat and I had called Mr. Steele.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I will resume my seat, Sir Eric, at the end of my speech.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

On a point of order. Is it not the case that frequently in our debates an hon. Member who is speaking seeks to give way in case he can elicit the answer to a question which he is asking? That, I submit with respect, Sir Eric, is what my hon. and gallant Friend did. I respectfully submit that he still has the Floor of the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The normal course is for an hon. and gallant Member who has the Floor to resume his seat when he has finished speaking and only to give way if he sees that some other hon. Member wishes to intervene. It is not the custom for an hon. Member to resume his seat in the hope that someone will intervene.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

It was not so much in the hope, Sir Eric, but in the expectation that the Under-Secretary, who is always so obliging to the House, would oblige us with the information which I wanted—

Mr. Healey

On a point of order. Surely, if a Front Bench speaker sits down and then someone he does not like stands up to speak and he is allowed to get up and resume his speech, all our debates would be totally impossible. Is that not the case?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am bound to say that that has always been the practice since I have been a Member of the House—

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles


Mr. Deputy Speaker


Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

On a point of order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must resume their seats when I am addressing the House. No one is allowed to speak in the House while I am on my feet. I was about to reply to the point of order put by the Secretary of State for Defence—

Mr. Emrys Hughes


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am replying to a point of order put to me by the Secretary of State. The practice of the House is that when any hon. Member is addressing the House he decides whether he will give way to some other hon. Member who seeks to intervene. It has never been the custom since I have been in the House for an hon. Member to resume his seat when no one else is getting up to intervene. It has always been the custom that if an hon. Member resumes his seat it is generally understood that he has concluded his speech.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles


Mr. Steele


Rear-Admiral Giles

Further to that point of order. I had not intended to suggest to you, Sir Eric, that I had concluded my speech and I was certainly not resuming my seat for that purpose. I had resumed my seat earlier in my speech for various replies from the Under-Secretary of State, and I shall continue that practice.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

In the circumstances of this case, it is clear that the hon. and gallant Member was under a misapprehension about the practice of the House. In the circumstances, it would be right, I think, to allow him to continue his speech.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I am very grateful, Sir Eric.

I wanted to return to the subject of the recruiting and re-engagement of ratings. The recruiting literature which is issued gives full details of the pay and allowances which a young man joining the Forces may expect during his service, but unfortunately recruiting of ratings as well as of officers is also disappointing. This is apparent from page 59 of the White Paper: Recruitment is running at the rate of 7,000 a year. This is lower than was desired: in particular, a shortage of recruits for the most highly skilled categories… The notable exception, thank goodness, is the Royal Marines. But this fact has given rise to fathers of boys entering H.M.S. "Ganges", the new entry training establishment at Shotley, ringing up after 16th January and saying, "My boy was due to join Shotley. Do you still wish him to join?"

Even more significant than the recruiting difficulties are the difficulties of re-engagement. After all, those already in the Service know what it is like there. On page 61, we are told that re-engagement figures have risen from 25 per cent. to 29 per cent. for nine-year men and from 45 per cent. to 48 per cent. for 12-year men. When I read those figures I thought that I remembered much better figures when I was last at sea myself, and I looked by chance at an old copy of the 1960–61 Navy Estimates, on page 16 of which I saw the following: There has been a further increase to the region of 65 per cent. in R.N. ratings. There could hardly be more convincing evidence that those who join are satisfied that the Navy offers an attractive and interesting career. A few short years ago, the figure was 65 per cent. for ratings generally and now, under the machinations of his Government, it has risen from 25 per cent. to 29 per cent. for nine-year men.

In these circumstances, one does not wish to say anything which could make a bad situation worse, so I will not dwell an it further, except to say that the Government should look at it closely to see what has gone wrong. It is not just a question of pay and allowances but a much deeper malaise, stemming from a lack of confidence in the Government's overall policies, and, I am sorry to say, a personal lack of confidence in the Secretary of State himself.

I have one or two detailed points about pay and allowances. Assistance with house purchase is available for ratings and is very popular and helpful and an excellent scheme in every way, but it is not available for officers. May we be informed why this facility is not similarly available to officers? On local overseas allowances, it was announced at the time of devaluation that the position of Service men abroad would be looked into, that there would be an interim arrangement and that, afterwards, the local overseas allowances would be adjusted so that no man suffered any loss because of devaluation.

But devaluation was on 16th November and I believe that the new rates were not published until Saturday, 2nd March. Why this tremendous delay? It is another case of uncertainty and shilly-shallying, which gives rise to doubt in the minds of serving men. Now the Minister of Defence for Administration says, "We have had many complaints". If he says that, we may be sure that they have had a great many complaints. Even as he skidded and slid about at high speed yesterday, we could gather that fact from him.

A further point arises from a constituency matter but affects many Service people as well. A constituent of mine was recently married in Hong Kong and almost at once was ordered home long before the end of his normal expectation of tour because of the general rundown in the Far East—although not in Hong Kong, of course. When he arrived home, he had to pay the full Customs Duty on the household goods which he had collected and been given on his marriage, and which would otherwise have been largely immune had he stayed overseas for the normal tour.

I do not like the word "victimisation", but this seems to be a failure to understand the difficulties of the Servicemen as they are moved around the world from place to place at the Government's behest and not of their own choice. Would the Minister investigate this, as it affects Service men as a whole? I will write to the appropriate Department about the detailed consideration of my constituent's case. To sum up, I believe that the Government are pursuing the wrong defence policies. I believe that the Secretary of State in his heart of hearts knows it, the forces know it and, as we see, the country knows it.

4.1 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I wish to make only one point on Vote A about one particular ship.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We are dealing with Vote 1, not Vote A.

Mr. Hughes

I mean Vote 1. I wish to raise only one short practical point about one particular ship, the ship which has sometimes been called the hospital ship "Britannia" but which is also the Royal Yacht. What is the future of the Royal Yacht and exactly what are the crew of the yacht doing for the pay which is outlined in this Vote. This has frequently been the source of discussion on this particular Vote over a number of years, and you may remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that originally this ship was approved by this House as a hospital ship; and throughout the years there has been considerable criticism of the use to which it has been put.

Recently, I have asked Questions of the Minister as to what services the crew of this particular ship have rendered during the time they were not engaged on Royal occasions. Of course, I am not wishing to discuss occasions on which they were used for Royal purposes, but I would like to know what this particular crew does in the interval, the eight or nine months of the year when they are not engaged on Royal enterprises. I understand that for eight or nine months of this year this crew do not go to sea. I do not know exactly what they do, but I suggest that it might be possible for the Minister to explain. I know that it is very difficult to decide what duties people do, but I would like to know what these officers and men do when the ship is not at sea. Some of my hon. Friends feel that there should be a time and motion study, but I believe that that would be very difficult to do.

How many officers and men are there on this ship? I have been informed by the Minister that at the present time there are a rear admiral, five commanders, five lieutenant-commanders, six lieutenants, and a crew of 233 when the ship is in port. I would like to know whether something cannot be done to utilise the services of the crew, who have considerable experience.

I have suggested to the Minister on various occasions that the ship could be utilised in other ways. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) has on previous occasions suggested that the ship could be used for other purposes. I suggested that it might be used for public health services, as a hospital ship or for giving holidays to school children, or for trips for miners suffering from pneumoconiosis and so on. I do not wish to dwell on that. I want to know that the money which is paid to these officers and men is justifiable at the present time.

When the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) was Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy he invited me to go to Portsmouth to see the "Britannia". I went and I was very impressed by the ship. I have no criticisms at all of these officers or men, but I feel that at a time when we are looking at the question of economy we are not justified in paying men for doing practically nothing. Therefore, I have suggested that the services of the crew should be utilised in other ways.

As a result of one suggestion I made that the ship might be chartered out to carry passengers from New York to the Bahamas, I received an urgent letter from a gentleman who is the head of a Toronto tourist agency which I passed on to the Minister. That gentleman was prepared to pay 2 million dollars in order that this ship should be chartered at times when it was not necessarily in the service of the Admiralty. I did my duty and passed the letter to the Minister but I received a reply. I cannot say I was satisfied with it and I pursued the matter. As a result—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I do not think the hon. Member can pursue this any further on Vote 1, which deals with the pay of the Royal Navy. We cannot decide on Vote 1 how ships of the Royal Navy should be used.

Mr. Hughes

I want an assurance that the amount we are paying to the crew is justified. I have had from the Minister a reply which seems to be an attempt to conciliate me; and I am always prepared to be conciliated. The suggestion was made to me that the crew of the ship were to be utilised in the near future in the N.A.T.O. manoeuvres. That did not appeal to me very much. I want the crew of this ship to be used in a way which justifies the payment that is made to them. I believe the Minister genuinely thought that the fact that the "Britannia" was to go out on N.A.T.O. manoeuvres would in some way satisfy me; but I do not know what the crew will be doing in the N.A.T.O. manoeuvres. I would like to know what they are going to do except float about in the "Britannia", wasting the money of the taxpayers of this country. Therefore, I suggest that their services could be utilised in other ways.

I believe that at the present time the crew could serve their country in a way which would redound to the benefit of the economy of the country if this ship were put at the disposal of, say, one big tourist agency, like Thomas Cooks'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member really must not pursue this. We cannot pursue on Vote 1 whether or not the "Britannia" should be used on tourist business. We must confine the debate to the pay of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines.

Mr. Hughes

I am arguing that the pay of these officers and men should be justified and that we are not entitled to pass this Vote until we are satisfied that they are earning their money.

I do not wish to upset the N.A.T.O. manoeuvres. If arrangements have been made for the crew to take part in the N.A.T.O. manoeuvres, I do not want to upset that arrangement, and good luck to them. But after the manoeuvres an attempt should be made to utilise this ship and the services of these men for the benefit of the country.

4.12 p.m.

Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I should like to refer to page 22 of the Estimates where certain figures are given for marriage allowances and lodgings and London allowances for officers and ratings. I notice that marriage allowances for both officers and ratings are down. I do not know whether that is because of the smaller numbers involved, but since people are getting married at a younger age I am astonished that this should be so.

The figure for lodging and London allowances for ratings is up, but for officers it is down. Separation allowances for both categories are down. I should have thought that more men would be separated from their families than was the case in the past as we have closed down a number of overseas bases. I should like an explanation for this. I may be ignorant when I ask this question, but what is the purpose of the Long Service (Advances of Pay) Scheme?

I hope that the Minister will look into these points. It may be purely an accountancy matter. Perhaps the Service did not spend so much money last year.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)

I listened to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) with great interest because many of my constituents have been engaged in looking after the vessel to which he referred. There is a great deal of concern in Portsmouth about wasted Government expenditure. Since we are told that the Government have to cut their social service programme and other programmes, we want to see the fullest possible utilisation of resources. I am sure that all those in Portsmouth who are concerned with looking after the "Britannia" would want the ship and her crew to be properly utilised.

I should like to raise a matter which is not altogether unrelated to this debate. In correspondence with the Ministry of Defence recently, I have been intrigued to learn that this year the crew of a helicopter in the Navy is to be put, to a large extent, at the disposal of the liaison services with private preparatory schools throughout the country. I am not sure what the purpose of this exercise is, but I gather that it is generally to promote good will among the pupils of such schools.

Extreme economics are being urged in various aspects of Government expenditure. If the crew of such a helicopter is to be used in such a way, it would be appropriate to hear whether this is an isolated instance and, if so, how it is justified by the Government, because there must be considerable expense involved, and, if it is not an isolated instance, what the criteria are upon which the Government decide where and when policies of this kind should be followed.

4.18 p.m.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)

I should be out of order if I were to take up in any detail the remarks of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). However, may I be allowed to say three sentences about the Royal Yacht? First, I should like to express my admiration for Mr. Attlee who, when he was Prime Minister, made the decision during the election campaign of 1951 to build this vessel as a hospital ship which could be converted for Royal Yacht duties. It was a courageous decision. He probably anticipated that it would be much more difficult for the Conservative Government likely to succeed his Administration to lay down such a ship. It was a great act of statesmanship that, in the middle of an election campaign, he should find time personally to approve the laying-down of the vessel to which the hon. Member for South Ayrshire objects. The hon. Member, who has spoken several times every day in our defence debates, does not want to see any ships afloat, or any aircraft flying, or any people dressed in uniform. This would be his idea of paradise. I hope that in due course he will go there and find no one in uniform.

I should like to probe the headquarters costs. On page 85 of the Grey Paper there is a chart which shows that the cost of Whitehall organisation last year was £59 million. This year it has gone down to £49 million. On the face of it, that is healthy. I know the great problem which any Minister has in cutting down Naval, Army and Air Force staff. I remember giving a solemn promise to the House that I would cut the number by 100 each year for five years. I managed to do it for the first three years. After that, I left office and I do not know what has happened since.

I suspect that these figures have been fudged. I notice that people who used to serve on the headquarters staff are shown as having been transferred to other Votes. May we have a few more details to show to which Votes they have gone and on what principle they have been moved? Is this an extension of Parkinson's Law, or is it a general principle of functional division and orientation?

Page 55 of the Grey Paper shows that in the Whitehall organisation there are 3,500 Service personnel and 19,300 civilians, making a total of 22,800. On page 22, we are told that the Headquarters total will be 16,730–6,000 less. Paragraph 2 on that page states that: …certain staffs, hitherto borne on the Headquarters Vote, are being reclassified. I wonder whether these are the Bath staff? Is it intended to move the Bath staff, or are they reclassified in some other Vote, or is it intended to move part of the Bath staff to Portland, which would be a sensible move? This might bring the design and research and development sections of the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment and the contracts section closer together. That would be logical. But the situation is very obscure and it is not easy to ascertain the facts.

4.19 p.m.

Mr. George Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I am glad to hear that the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) finds difficulty in following the moves made in defence each year which completely cloud many of the important points about where and how personnel are employed. I remember the duels which we had with the hon. Gentleman when he was in charge of naval affairs. I am not sure that he made the reduction which he claims to have made.

Once again, I wish to raise the question of artificers. I do not make any apology for doing so this year, having done so over many years in the past, because this is the centenary year of the intoduction of the artificer branches into the Navy. I pay tribute to the work which they have done. We are told on page 59 of the Grey Paper that, in particular, there is a shortage of recruits for the most highly-skilled categories, e.g. artificer and mechanician apprentices, and in the electrical mechanic, engineering mechanic and communication branches… This has been a long story. I cannot remember a year when we have not been told of the shortage in these branches.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

I have here a quotation from my speech of 1963 when I stated that there had been 1,430 satisfactory applicants for 510 available vacancies as artificer apprentices. That year, two-and-a-half times as many people applied as we were able to take.

Mr. Willis

I do not wish to rehash the old debates which I had with the hon. Member, but I recall that at that time I raised the question of the quality of the applicants.

We are faced with a shortage of recruits in the most highly skilled categories, a point which some of us raised on the introduction of the Polaris programme. Clearly, the provision of two crews for each of those submarines, most of them highly skilled men, would create greater difficulties. There is also a shortage of such men in civilian life.

On Vote 1 last year I made one or two suggestions which had appeared in the then current number of the Naval Engineering Review—suggestions as to what might be done about the shortage. My hon. Friend did not reply to me personally at the end of that debate but I hope that those suggestions were considered. May I repeat some of them?

The first suggestion concerns the re-engagement grant. That grant has been in operation for two or three years, and it was suggested that it might be increased for certain categories of men. What is the future of that grant? It costs us a considerable sum to train an artificer over a period of training of four-and-a-half or five years. The cost is about £5,000. If we could get men to sign on for another ten years by paying, let us say, £500, that would be cheaper. At the end of nine or twelve years he is a very skilled man, reaching the point at which he is of the greatest value to the Service. If an offer were made to him at that point of a payment of a considerable sum, either on re-engagement or later, that might save money. I hope that my hon. Friend will continue to consider that suggestion. Here is an opportunity to use the grant in as flexible a manner as possible to meet these shortages in particular branches.

Secondly, last year the Naval Engineering Review suggested the possibility of men signing on for rather shorter periods. Instead of a man signing on for a period of ten years at the end of twelve years, why should he not sign on for five years, possibly with a reduced re-engagement grant? We should at least get five years' additional service from such a man at a point when he was highly trained, highly qualified and could give good service to the Navy. Such a suggestion might well be given more consideration than in the past.

I mention only in passing the question of the master or warrant rate for artificers, which I have raised previously. This discussion has been going on for many years. The Admiralty is very much opposed to it. The rate was abolished. But when we are considering incentives to men to stay on in the Service, which is an important point, undoubtedly this suggestion should be considered.

Probably it is becoming a part of what ought to be a much wider consideration of the whole structure of these branches. The Admiralty has given thought to it in the past, and I had discussions on it years ago. We should consider the structure in all these branches and the possibility of creating a structure in which very highly skilled men would be separated from less-skilled men so that their time was not wasted on jobs which could be done by less-qualified men. This would help solve the fundamental problem in the Service of finding skilled men to do the work. It would require much greater alterations than in the past in the structure of these branches.

This is an important problem, not peculiar to the Navy, for it exists in industry. How do we fit technical men into industry so that they may reach the highest ranks and not waste their energies? How do we separate them from the less expert so that they spend most of their time on work for which they have been trained? I hope that my hon. Friend will go on considering that point. If anything were done about it, it would probably solve that problem of the master rate, which would be absorbed into the much wider structural issue.

The more I have thought about the Navy over the past few years the more I have been convinced that we must pay more attention to the question of structure. The present structure was created for conditions quite different from those of the Service today. It is not good enough simply to fit new branches into the same structure, which is what we have been doing. We started with the engine room artificer and now we have half-a-dozen different kinds of artificer. That is not the answer. We must have a different structure. I urge my hon. Friend to pursue the matter because I am convinced that it would lead to a much more efficient use of manpower, which would save money.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)

The House has been asked to pass Vote 1, which shows a notable increase of £2,200,000. One is struck immediately by the explanation of the increase. We read that phrase so dear to Whitehall about rates of pay—that they are under continuous review, a statement which for the ordinary sailor and the ordinary civilian conjures up a picture of not very much happening.

On the previous page we see that we are spending more money on far fewer people. The number of officers and men has decreased by 2,620, although there is an increase in the Royal Marines of 50, an increase in the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service of 20 and an increase in the Women's Royal Naval Service of 50. The number of men in the Navy has decreased considerably for an increased cost and without any apparent spectacular rise in the rates of pay.

The House must first ask where the money is going. My first question is whether a contracting Service, as, unfortunately, is the Navy, is tending to become top heavy. It is well known by any administrator that that tends to happen. We tend to get rid of the ratings and to keep too many officers. May I ask about the Admiral Superintendents? The number of flag officers remains the same, but the Admiral Superintendents are being abolished.

I come back to my old hobby-horse about the officer-rating ratio and the tendency for it to go wrong. It is the Government's job in circumstances like these to be absolutely tough about it. The problem tends to arise in all the Services, and I have had cause to raise it before. In particular, one should not have too many senior officers. There are all kinds of arguments, of course, about how, on international bodies, one has to match exactly the admirals, captains and the rest from other countries. Indeed, I understand that the total of 73 flag officers does not include another eight or so who come into the Ministry of Defence central account.

My preoccupation here is to ensure that the officer-rating ratio does not—as I regard it—continue to deteriorate. There is always a case for having done by an officer every job which could be done by a rating, but in the long run this does not lead to efficiency, and it is not good for a Service. I hope that the Minister will tell us something about it and explain why we are asked to spend more money, at the same rates of pay, on far fewer officers and men.

Now, the question of the Admiral Superintendents. In the past, as we know, they have had their shortcomings, but equally I know of a great many instances where they have done a very good job. I have in mind particularly their relationship with the Whitley Councils at the yards. It was always a pleasure to me to go and address these Councils. On many occasions, I found that the Admiral Superintendent had an excellent and sympathetic relationship with the Council.

Now, the Admiral Superintendents are to be abolished, or, rather, their duties are to be taken over by other officers. I wonder whether we shall have the same day-to-day liaison between the work-people in the yard and the new admiral, who will not, as I understand it, be resident there. Does it mean, on the other hand, that the head of one of the civilian departments will take over these duties and be chairman of the Whitley Council? I am sure that, in some cases, the civilian head would do the job very well, but in other cases he might not do it quite as well as some of the Admiral Superintendents did it in the past. Is the idea really an extension of the scheme which was tried out at Chatham for the reorganisation of the yard there? We all know what happens in practice in the civil technical branches. One or two people will always gain seniority. Almost automatically, they come from a certain branch which comes to my mind, and they will be in the chair.

There is a danger in abolishing the post of Admiral Superintendent. Some of them, as I say, did an excellent job, and their relations with the workpeople in the yard were extremely good. We shall be going through a difficult time in the Royal Dockyards. As the Under-Secretary of State told us yesterday, there is to be a review and there will be some redundancies. Times will be difficult, and we shall need as chairman of the Whitley Council a man who has a real understanding of the problems of men working in the yard.

4.33 p.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

This debate on Vote 1 brings us to the last day of our six-day marathon on defence matters. We have talked of high policy, of individual Service policy, and now, on Vote 1—though £99 million is no small item by anyone's standards—we come to lesser items under the separate Service headings. This is the first time I have been able to listen closely to such a debate, and I have been surprised that we have been able to talk of so many matters of interest, in spite of our six-day programme.

Now, we are discussing the pay and activities of our Royal Navy Service men and the Royal Marines. They will, perhaps, be as interested in our activities and our pay here, and the way in which we have tried to justify our six days of interest in their activities. It has been a form of inquiry. The Minister has certainly been under direct pressure. Nevertheless, I suggest—I think that the House will agree—that the only really efficient way to conduct an inquiry into Service and defence matters of policy and of individual interest is through a Select Committee on Defence. Only in that way can we go in more detail into Service matters.

I do not expect that my hon. Friend will be able to say "Yea" or "Nay", or that his senior Minister would support the creation of such a Select Committee. But it does no harm to take this opportunity to put in the claim. The only way in which we can deal with these questions efficiently and fairly, to the just satisfaction of Ministers, the Opposition and individual Members, is through the creation, as soon as we can, of a Select Committee on defence matters.

4.35 p.m.

Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)

I wish to draw attention to certain figures which reveal anomalies in the rates of pay and allowances of the Royal Navy. They appear on pages 42 and 43 of the Estimates.

The rate of pay for an acting surgeon lieutenant at 44s. 6d. a day is 1s. more—not very much—than the rate for a lieutenant on the General List. However, it appears that, so soon as he becomes a surgeon lieutenant, his pay rises to 93s., whereas for a lieutenant on the General List, lieutenant R.M. and so on, it is only 52s. 6d. Why is this so? I understand the problem in recruiting doctors, but that disparity in pay between two people of just about equal calibre seems rather large.

Following through the rates for the surgeon branch and the General List, one finds that, as officers become more senior, the rates of pay for both come closer together until, finally, at the rank of rear-admiral, they are the same. I suggest that it would be fairer to have the rates of pay the same at the rank of captain. I would do that, of course, by putting up the pay of the General List officers, not by bringing down the pay of the doctors.

Another anomaly is shown on the same two pages. A nursing sister has the same rate of pay as a sub-lieutenant, and as a senior nursing sister she has a little more than a lieutenant. That seems fair. But I do not see why, when nursing sisters reach the more senior ranks as matron or principal matron, they should drop behind to such a great extent. They are then very responsible, valuable and scarce officers. If there were an argument for having their pay lower at any stage, it would, I suggest, be the usual one applying in their early days, when, perhaps, they might get married and leave the Service, rather as teachers do. Later on, however, when they are firmly established, responsible and highly trained, their pay should at least be equal to that for the equivalent men's rank.

A matron-in-chief receives 172s. 6d., whereas the equivalent rank of commodore or brigadier R.M., paid as a captain, receives less. I do not complain about that, but it seems slightly anomalous.

From the word "go", W.R.N.S. officers are paid less. This is so at the rank of acting sub-lieutenant, sub-lieutenant and lieutenant—considerably less, going right the way through, than their equivalent in the General List, until at the rank of commandant they receive more. As they become more senior, more trained in responsibility, more valuable, and more scarce at the same time, they should be more nearly level than they are. Why cannot that be done?

4.40 p.m.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I have taken part in debates on the Navy Estimates for many years and, with the passage of time, I have become more and more amazed at the reduction in the number of ships afloat and the increase in the number of admirals ashore. Some of my amazement has been lessened by Ministerial remarks about the problems facing the Navy in this modern age and by the comments of some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby).

In every Department of State, in the Royal Navy and throughout industry we are concerned to use skilled manpower to the best advantage. Nowadays we must look not only at manpower as a whole, but at the individual. Wherever a skilled man is stationed, we must ensure that his capabilities are used to the full.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) questioned the activities of the crew of the Royal Yacht "Britannia", which was built in my constituency. I understood my hon. Friend to say that the crew costs the nation £9,000 a week.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

That is the total weekly cost of the ship.

Mr. Bence

In this debate I cannot talk about the cost of the ship but only about the pay of the crew. Let us assume that the crew is costing us £5,000 a week and the ship £4,000. I do not know the skills possessed by the crew, but presumably some of them are artificers and navigators. I do not suppose that any gunnery men are aboard. No doubt some of them are medical orderlies. If the ship is used for only a few months in the year, the Select Committee proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) might consider using the crew in another way while the ship is laid up. Alternatively, has the Minister considered the suggestion from Toronto that the ship would be a good tourist attraction—could provide cruises in the Caribbean and elsewhere—and could be hired out to earn us American dollars? I understand that £2 million has been offered to charter the vessel.

Over the centuries men recruited into the Royal Navy have been taught skills and have acquired qualities which have not been associated with other sections of society. In the same way, coal miners acquired a skill which was of value only in mining. However, modern naval skills should make naval personnel useful to society and industry generally. In the past the skills of navigating, sailing and fighting at sea were attained by men and officers, but those abilities were of little value to them ashore.

I understand that the majority of men recruited into the Navy today eventually acquire skills in electronic engineering—navigating these days is done by electronic equipment—and are trained in a similar way to men trained in industry. They therefore become craftsmen and their skills are similar to those required by engineering industry generally. This being so, I appreciate why there must be a disproportionate ratio between officers and men. To obtain good naval forces we must offer an attractive career structure. Whether in the defence forces or Civil Service, the parents of youngsters thinking of entering these walks of life want to be sure that a good career structure is in prospect.

In industry a man's career structure may be spread over 100 or 200 institutions outside the one in which he learned his skill. However, when a man enters the Navy and learns a skill, we tend to think of that skill relating to only the career structure within that Service. Perhaps, because of this outlook, we are wasting manpower. I am sure that an O. & M. team would discover that the Admiralty could do its work more efficiently, in the same way that such teams have saved industry a great deal of manpower.

The need for expertise is evident. I want us to get away from the concept of Nelson's Navy, when it was thought that once a man acquired the skill necessary for him to remain in the Service, he was of no value outside it. I recall a few years ago travelling from Portsmouth in an aircraft carrier. I talked to some of the ratings and asked them how they liked the life. While they enjoyed it, they said that the drawback was that it was more like serving in a factory than in a ship. Ships are now becoming defence factories and, for this reason, there should be an interchangeability among men skilled in electronics and electrical and mechanical engineering. I suppose that, with the use of oil fuel, the Service contains many chemical engineers as well. They would be vital in industry and, as a smaller Navy develops, it should be possible for these men to move into civil industry.

With the limited experience that I have had of production engineering, I can assure the House that, judging from the skills possessed by men trained in the Army and Navy of which I became aware during the last war, their qualities are tremendous. Many of them were as well, if not better, trained than many engineers in civilian life. Many similarly skilled men in the Navy today would be invaluable in many British engineering enterprises.

I appreciate that before attempting to redeploy skilled manpower of this sort out of the Navy and other Services it would be necessary to break down the concept of there being only one career structure for these men. I understand that a great deal of movement of skilled men goes on between the Navy and the shipyards. Indeed, some shipyards could not have competed successfully without the technical and scientific assistance they received from the technicians and shipwrights of the Royal Navy. Between shipbuilding and the Admiralty there is a great deal of interplay of skill, but does that occur in the electronics and electrical industries?

I was very pleased to see in Vote A a proposition for helping ratings to buy their houses. To help a man serving in the Navy is most desirable. I had a shocking case in my constituency in which a young lady had a husband in the Navy. He was killed in Singapore and—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I cannot see that this arises under Vote 1. No part of Vote 1 makes provision for helping members of the Royal Navy to buy their houses.

Mr. Bence

I am sorry, but I understood that it was in one of the sections of Vote 1.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I cannot find it, but perhaps the hon. Member can help me. I cannot see it under any of the subheads of Vote 1.

Mr. Foley

It is under subhead D(5), Long Service (Advances of Pay) Scheme.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am obliged. It apparently arises under sub-head D(5). The hon. Member will be in order if he can relate anything he says to subhead D(5).

Mr. Bence

An hon. Member opposite mentioned loans to help people to buy their houses and expressed regret that the same facilities were not provided for officers. When I heard the hon. Member I thought I would rather see a service provided by the Navy available for everyone based on his position. I think that each case should be examined on its merits. I do not like selectivity in services provided either by the State or by the Admiralty. I therefore agree with the hon. Member.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Would the hon. Member reinforce his argument by pointing out that one-third of the commissioned officers are now ex-lower deck and by taking a commission they would deprive themselves of the exact facilities which he is recommending?

Mr. Bence

I thank the hon. Member. This strengthens the point. At first I was inclined to reject the idea that there should be assistance given to officers, but then I saw that I would be supporting selectivity in welfare and social services, which I do not like. For the Navy and the rest of society we should have non-selectivity and where officers need help it would be a good thing if my hon. Friend could see that right across the board, based on financial conditions of the individuals concerned, he should spread the practice of helping naval men to acquire their homes.

4.54 p.m.

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

One little point which has cropped up on this Vote captured my interest. Perhaps the Under-Secretary can enlighten me a little about it. It is the question of senior officers, the flag officers, who have so often been made sport of in partisan debates. I have observed that in the Estimates before us that Vote A has declined by 2,500. It is mentioned on page 51 that there are 73 admirals. On page 13 there are four admirals and on page 14, four admirals. I am open to correction as to whether they are in series or in parallel. If all these tables are supplementary to one another, it means that we have 81 admirals at the moment.

I am very interested in this subject because, like everyone in the country who has had anything to do with naval ports, I was absolutely electrified by the wonderful speech made by the present Prime Minister in Devonport on Sunday, 27th September, 1964, when he gave rise to these among the many words he will never forget: The Royal Navy is not adequate to our needs in the 'sixties. It has been run down to a dangerous extent. We have 101 ships in commission but we have plenty of admirals… —in a characteristic sneer— we have plenty of admirals-85. Our admiral-warship co-efficients 0.851.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

I do not know whether it has occurred to my hon. Friend that in that speech the Prime Minister allowed for the Duke of Windsor and also, I think, for the Duke of Edinburgh. He had to consider some who had retired in order to inflate the numbers.

Dr. Bennett

Without wishing to infringe the prerogative, I should say that the Duke of Edinburgh is far from being retired, but I should like to know whether the number of admirals was calculated in these Estimates in the same way as the Prime Minister, when in Opposition, calculated it. I should like to know whether the number of ships and admirals can be calculated in the same way and whether on the same basis evidence can be given that we had 101 ships in commission then. I should like to know how the ratio may have changed. It may not be possible for even so distinguished a mathematician as the Under-Secretary to do these sums in his head, but we are interested to know whether, when Vote A has gone down by 2,500, the number of admirals remains the same, 73.

4.56 p.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Before the Under-Secretary replies, may I draw attention to two points raised in the debate which I hope he may be able to cover? The first is the difficulty which I believe many hon. Members have found with regard to Headquarters personnel in reconciling the figures on page 22 and page 55 of what is now normally referred to, and conveniently so, as the Grey Paper.

On page 22 we are told that at the end of this month, at the beginning of the new financial year, the numbers em- ployed within the Headquarters will total about 16,730. Credit is then taken for the fact that in spite of extra work further reductions are expected to be made during the year. If the Under-Secretary turns to page 55 he will see in paragraph 78, sub-paragraph (a) there is a heading, "Whitehall organisation" which may or may not be identical with what is called "Headquarters" on page 22. There we find the total of 22,800 persons, a reduction of 2,500 since the comparable figures in the White Paper of the year before.

I am sure many hon. Members would like the Under-Secretary to reconcile these two figures and to show how, if at all, they are related and also to indicate whether the figure on page 55 takes any account of prospective reductions during the financial year 1968–69; for it is not clear whether the figures on page 55 are the commencing figures or the average figures for the year or if they bear some other relation to expected experience during the financial year 1968–69. There is a further difficulty relating to the other remarks on page 22 about Headquarters staff. In subsequent paragraphs to the one to which I have already referred there is mention of reclassification of staffs, as a result of which about 5,220 staff hitherto shown on Headquarters Votes will be transferred…". It refers to the expectation that there will be further transfers during the coming year. We should like to know whether those transfers, the past and the future, are yet reflected in the breakdown on page 55 and, if not, how they will be shown. In other words, can the Under-Secretary help us with the way in which headquarters staff, both Service and civilian, are dealt with in the Grey Paper?

The second point which I hope he will carefully cover is that of redundancy, which was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles). I appreciate that in the debate on Vote A last night the Under-Secretary has already referred to this. But he knows that we are in difficulty in our debate today, not for the first time, in that we are returning to debate the same Service without the benefit of the HANSARD report of the previous night's debate on it. This happened last year in exactly the same way, when, in accordance with our normal rotational practice, the Air Votes were the first to which we came. This is the second time running we have been in this difficulty—[Interruption.] I appreciate that there is a copy of the text in the Library, but it will be recognised that this does not give all hon. Members the opportunity of having the words before them or of studying them in the meantime. I hope that between us this is a matter which we shall be able to avoid in the future conduct of these debates, because it is clearly not to the convenience of anyone, and is not to the benefit of our debates on the Services.

I have in my hand the Naval News Summary of July, 1967 where it is stated: Redundancy in the Navy will be small and it is virtually certain there will be none before 1970/71. Certain branches will not be affected at all. That was after the White Paper, the Supplementary Paper—perhaps better now called the Red Paper, for such was its colour—in July last year, but before any knowledge of the Prime Minister's statement in January. I am sure, therefore, that the Under-Secretary will do a service if he makes it perfectly clear whether those words which were spoken to the Navy last July hold good in spite of the new decisions and, if not, to what extent they have been modified.

In reinforcement of another point made my my hon. and gallant Friend perhaps I might read one paragraph which went out to the Navy in Naval News Summary only eight months ago. It said: But it is no good for Britain to trim the Forces simply on the basis of some financial figure; they must still be capable of doing what is needed. It would be ridiculous to say that we can only afford 'x' ships, 'y' battalions and 'z' aircraft when we have commitments that need twice that number. I mention that only to re-emphasise the undoubted and simple fact that sudden, rapid and repeated changes of policy and intention have an effect not only on the morale and outlook of those serving but naturally and necessarily on the attraction of the Services to recruits and re-engagement. My hon. and gallant Friend was therefore perfectly and undeniably right in commenting on the difficulty in recruitment. The disappointing recruitment figures to which he drew attention are in part the Government's own fault in failing, even within a period of 12 months, to give a stable outlook to the Forces. It is not amiss that this point, which has been basic to all the days of our debates this year, should be re-emphasised, because here not only the Government's greater responsibility to the country at large but their inner responsibility to the Forces are involved. They are not satisfactorily discharging it if they expose the Forces to changes of intention and policy three times in the same year.

5.6 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Maurice Foley)

I shall try to answer the points raised on Vote 1. The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) spoke of the erosion of the Navy's influence and that point was taken up by his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). Clearly, as I said yesterday evening, the reviews and cuts have caused a great deal of alarm and despondency. This makes it more difficult to persist in a policy of recruitment and re-engagement. I have the feeling, however, that some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite positively want to wallow in this, and they have done so. Yesterday we saw an instance of this when they gave a false prospectus and picture of the Navy, its task and rôle in the world.

There have been complaints about our debating too long into the evening for the report to appear in HANSARD. This was of the Opposition's making. They put down the Motion yesterday, and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West who introduced the debate, did not even bother to speak to the Government Motion later. Those who stayed to the end yesterday evening know quite clearly what happened, while those who unfortunately went away could have seen the text of everything said in the Library, if they had wanted to. I have it before me now.

Mr. Powell

The hon. Gentleman will agree that under the previous system without a Motion, the winding-up speech, with which we are concerned in our discussion now, would still have occurred in the last half hour before midnight.

Mr. Foley

That is absolutely correct, but the opening speeches would have reflected the review of the totality of the Navy, and the winding-up speeches at that late hour would have dealt with points made in the debate, so that the most important issues would have been dealt with earlier and would have been the guide-lines for the rest of the discussion. This was not so yesterday.

I must apologise to the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester if I appeared to be discourteous and caused him embarrassment at the beginning, when it seemed that he was sitting down for me to intervene and I did not. I regret it if he felt embarrassed by this.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I am grateful to the Minister.

Mr. Foley

The hon. and gallant Gentleman raised the question of pay, which was also mentioned by other hon. Members in the debate. I can only refer him to my remarks yesterday and to the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration on 5th March, when he indicated precisely what had happened, why the whole question of pay and allowances had been referred to the National Board for Prices and Incomes and how important it was that we should get a quick response from it because of what this meant to the Forces. We recognise the hon. and gallant Gentleman's point, and hope that we shall soon be able to make an announcement on this.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

The hon. Gentleman refers to a "quick response". He will recognise that, under the Grigg Formula, this would have been due in about two weeks.

Mr. Foley

Yes. I am also aware of what the Opposition did to twist and distort the Grigg Formula for their own ends when they were in office.

I want now to deal with the question of redundancy. I regret that HANSARD is a rather bulky thing at this moment, but I want to repeat what I said last night, because all of us attach a great deal of importance to this matter. I was referring to recruitment and re-engagement. I shall not go over that again now, but I went on to say, I cannot leave this subject without referring to the question of redundancy. It will take some time to work out the detailed manpower implications of the accelerated rundown announced by the Prime Minister on 16th January. Work is proceeding as fast as possible and we hope to have a clear picture by July. There is, however, no fear at all of immediate redundancy in the Royal Navy. A large proportion of the reduction will be achieved by what is normally known as natural or normal wastage. Recruiting will also be adjusted. Only a small proportion of the reduction will be obtained by redundancies, and this small proportion is a tiny percentage of the existing total strength. The reduction will not be spread evenly between the different ranks and ratings. Regrettably, much of it will fall on the Fleet Air Arm when the carriers phase out. There is, I repeat, no immediate redundancy, and we are taking all steps possible to alleviate the hardship which will inevitably be caused by the small number of redundancies. That is the point I made last night in relation to the question of redundancies.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman also referred today to the question of assistance for house purchase. When he raised this last year, I was unable to give him a great deal of satisfaction and I regret that I am in the same position this year. The matter is constantly being examined. The main purpose of introducing it in the first instance for ratings was to encourage re-engagement, but that does not apply to officers. Nevertheles, there is a question of justice, and as has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), it would be unfortunate if there were to be selectivity in this respect. I recognise the justice of that argument and we are doing all we can.

Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)

The hon. Gentleman referred to the redundancy that would occur in the Fleet Air Arm. What about the position of the pilot or navigator who is, say, under 30 years of age? What does his career now hold for him? What sort of payment will he have? What will he be able to do? Some guidance must be given to these men who took up a professional career which now has nothing to give them.

Mr. Foley

I recognise the position. Even after the 1966 announcement that carriers would be phased out in the mid-1970s, I was able to point out, in 1967, that recruitment for the Fleet Air Arm had gone up. There is still high morale and the will to fly. But since then, of course, the mid-seventies date has been brought forward to some time in 1972, when the evacuation from the Far East and the Gulf is completed.

We have stopped recruiting pilots for fixed-wing aircraft. We have given an assurance that those in the pipeline will get their wings. What we have is a period of time in which to work out readjustment problems. It may be that some of the aircrew would like to transfer to another service. Some may want to change from fixed wing to rotary aircraft. Others may want to look at their prospects overseas or in civil airlines.

We have time to do all this. I recognise the justice of what the hon. Gentleman has said and I assure him that I am fully exercised of it. It is a matter of concern. This scheme must be elaborated over the next year or two and clearly we must give an assurance to those giving such loyal service to the Crown and the country.

The question of local overseas allowances has also been raised. I was asked what had happened following devaluation. When devaluation came about, there was no change in the allowance overseas because one recognised the immediate hardship. There was then a percentage reduction, calculated on the basis of the sterling content of the money the men would normally have acquired overseas, pending the negotiations with the Treasury.

The House will find reflected in Vote 1 increased sums for local overseas allowances both for officers and other ranks. Under subhead B(3) there is the sum of £1,622,000 for officers' overseas allowance, and this includes a £435,000 increase because of devaluation. Under subhead D(3), showing the overseas allowances for ratings, there is the sum of £5,494,000, which includes £1,315,000 increase because of devaluation.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

A married officer under the age of 25 or a rating or other rank under the age of 21 is not entitled to any marriage allowance, and this also affects his local overseas allowance. He is thus doubly penalised as a result of devaluation.

Mr. Foley

I believe that my hon. Friend has just entered our debate and he is quick to make his point. His question relates to when the Royal Navy officially recognises marriage—the age of 21 in the case of ratings and the age of 25 in the case of officers. There is clearly a case of hardship here. The matter has been under examination for the last year or so. This goes beyond the question of local overseas allowances into such questions as those relating to married quarters—indeed, a whole series of questions. But the matter is being fully examined.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

The hon. Gentleman says that there is clearly a case of hardship here, and then he proceeds to depart from it. Earlier, he said that there was clearly a case of justice in relation to Fleet Air Arm redundancy. But he says that the Government have been examining these matters for a year. What are they doing about hardship and injustice?

Mr. Foley

It has taken a little longer than we wished, but I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the problem of officers marrying under the age of 25 is not new. It arose during the 13 years of the Conservative Government but they did nothing about it. I feel that this is an example of synthetic indignation by the Opposition.

Mr. Powell

The hon. Gentleman is ignoring the fact that, over the 13 years, there was a marked and continuing fall in the normal age of marriage. The circumstances were changing during that period.

Mr. Foley

It may well be that the circumstances have continued to change. But it is still a matter of comment that the studies of sociologists in relation to the age at which people marry show not much difference between now and five years ago. I do not think that the Opposition can pass all the blame on to us about this. I have recognised the problem and it is part of the process of consideration of negotiation or re-negotiation of contracts. But that is as far as I can go tonight on this subject.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman also raised a constituency point. If a posting causes financial worry to an officer or rating, we are always willing to look at it. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman would let me have details, I should be glad to look into the case.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has raised, yet again, the subject of the Royal Yacht. He has put forward a number of arguments for its greater use. He will be aware from the Questions that he has put down, and the Replies that he has been given that this has been examined. I am pleased to inform him and the House that Her Majesty has been anxious for some time that the Royal Yacht should be used for purposes other than Royal occasions. The Royal Navy is taking advantage of this helpful and practical gesture by Her Majesty.

It is therefore intended to extend its use, wherever practical, for naval purposes. This year, as I have announced, it has been planned that it should take part in N.A.T.O. exercises. We are also examining ways and means of using the skills and competency of the Royal Yacht Service personnel to wider naval advantage.

The hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) raised the question of the separation and marriage allowance. She raised the subject of the allowance under D(5), the Advances of Pay scheme, asking particularly what it was for. This is the housing allowance, enabling people to purchase their own homes. As to the separation allowance, there is a decrease between 1968–69 and 1967–68 which is more apparent than real. The 1967–68 Estimates were made when we had little experience of the workings of this allowance, which began in April, 1966. The expenditure is likely to be less.

The hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) raised the question of the helicopter team visiting prep schools. He wrote to me about this, and I explained that from time to time in our recruiting campaign we use this team, visiting schools of all kinds. Last year it went to primary, secondary modern, comprehensive and grammar schools. It so happens that on this occasion, in a selected area, it visited exclusively prep schools. No inference is to be drawn from this in terms of our recruitment policy. It is an attempt to show the Navy in all its aspects and to give an interest in it at an early age to people whose desires might lead them to join the Service.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

I hope that the hon. Gentleman would include the biggest preparatory school, the Royal Navy School at Holbrook?

Mr. Foley

The Royal Naval School at Holbrook is a source of great satisfaction to me, as the Chairman of its Governors. It is also a great source of recruitment to the Navy, with a tremendous naval history. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not neglected in this respect.

The right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) raised the question of the shortage of artificers in the Fleet. This is something that he has persistently raised and he has also recognised that with the growth of modern weapons and greater sophistication, there is a constant demand in terms of ratings and officers with more skills and a greater grasp and understanding of electronics, radar and sonar weaponry and so on. It is true that the deployment of four Polaris submarines will cream off considerable amounts of our skill. This is one of the reasons why we are constantly looking at what can be done.

He will be aware that the introduction of the re-engagement grant scheme in 1965, initially for a two-year period, was designed to relieve the increasing shortage of senior and leading technical ratings. Under this scheme grants up to £750 are payable to those eligible ratings who re-engage for a first engagement of 9 or 12 years, to complete time for pension. The scheme was extended by a further year to March of this year and for a further six months to September of this year. These short extensions are designed only as temporary measures pending a reassessment of our future requirements. I totally agree with him about the need to look again at our structures and skills and competences. We have to make sure that they are being used to the full.

We have been looking at alterations in the structure of various branches. On 1st April there will be the amalgamation of the regulating branch and the coxswain branch. One is short of sea time and is drawing on the other. By amalgamating them we hope that we will be relieved in this respect.

The master rate was abolished in 1949. From time to time the attention of Ministers has been drawn to the strength of feeling in the Navy about having a rank equivalent to senior ranks of the other Services. This problem is part and parcel of the review.

The hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) talked about the difference in figures in Vote 1. I have explained this partially by saying that since devaluation the overseas allowance in terms of ratings and officers has contributed to £1,500,000 of this increase. The rest is due not to any fee increases but rather to an attempt to simplify procedures in paying officers. Instead of having a system whereby ratings disperse every fortnight we are now doing it twice a month. This means that there is an extra 10 days of pay and it makes for a greater degree of efficiency.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Can the Minister say whether the officer-rating ratio has increased? If he has not got the figures available, perhaps he could write.

Mr. Foley

I am coming to that. In any reduction we must bear in mind this question of the officer-rating ratio. What I can give, and these are my own figures which I have worked out, is that whereas in 1938 with a Vote A of £117,000 there were 86 flag officers, 11 admirals, 22 vice-admirals and 53 rear-admirals. In 1950, when the Vote A was £146,000, there were 104 flag officers; in 1958 with a Vote A of £106,000 there were 100 flag officers, and today with a Vote A of £95,000 there are 73 flag officers.

Turing to the Admiral Superintendents, we have announced the reorganisation of the Home Command structure, and Admiral Superintendents will be phased out over the next three years. I explained in some detail what this would mean in each of the command structures. I pay tribute to the work of the Admiral Superintendents, for the way in which they have contributed to better industrial relations in the dockyards. Clearly, there is a danger that if someone is withdrawn with whom the work force enjoys confidence, care must be taken with the administrative machinery put in his place. I take that point, and I promise to write to the hon. Gentleman giving him the officer/rating ratio over a series of years up to the present time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) raised the possibility of a Select Committee on Defence. At present, of course, the Select Committee on Science and Technology is looking into defence research establishments, and already it has visited a number of the naval establishments. In the light of its experience, one can hope to see how far it might be extended. Clearly a number of problems arise in relation to classified information, but certainly the suggestion can be looked at.

The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) raised a series of points about the comparability of the medical branches with the General List in terms of pay. I cannot give the exact answer, but I can give him my own hunch, which is that a young doctor who has just qualified will probably start off in the Service at a lower rate of pay. In the light of his experience over two or three years, he will catch up very quickly and soon be on a par with the General List Officer. The same will apply to nurses coming in with an S.R.N. or S.C.N. qualification. She, too, will start off at a low rate compared with the General List but will very soon catch up. The hon. Gentleman will know that the rate of pay indicated is a broad range, and clearly there will be adjustments, with some people moving quicker than others depending on their competence.

In this respect, one must comment that there is and has been a problem of recruitment of doctors into the Armed Forces. We are all aware of the difficulties. I am sure that this must be a matter which will exercise the National Board for Prices and Incomes. It may be a question of paying the rate for the job and making sure that there is sufficient encouragement for people to join the Service. The recruitment potentiality is of considerable importance in this respect.

The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West referred to the Whitehall organisation and to possible reductions. I cannot give him an answer now; indeed, it would be out of order, because this is a matter for Vote 3 rather than Vote 1. However, I have made a note of his points, and I promise to give him the fullest possible details within a few days.

I end on this note. While this has been a difficult time for the Navy in the sense of maintaining morale, encouraging re-engagement and achieving its recruiting targets, nevertheless I want the message to go out from this House, which I am sure will be echoed on both sides, that we have the greatest trust and respect for the officers, men and women who give their service to the Crown and serve to defend their country.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £99,657,000, be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund, 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, 1969.