HL Deb 07 December 1948 vol 159 cc817-36

2.35 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, before I move the Second Reading of the Bill, I have it in command from His Majesty to signify to the House that His Majesty, having been informed of the contents of the Bill, has been graciously pleased to place the rights and privileges of the Crown at the disposal of Parliament in connection with the Bill.

My Lords, this Bill sets forth the principles and conditions under which it is proposed that the distribution of prize money accruing from the last war shall be made. In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I do not wish to detain your Lordships more than is absolutely necessary, but the subject is a somewhat complicated one, and in order to explain the main purpose of the Bill a brief historical survey is unavoidable. I should say at the outset, however, that a decision was taken in 1945 that prize bounty, which has previously been an award paid by the State out of money provided by Parliament for the destruction or capture of enemy ships of war, should not be granted on this occasion. Such payment was considered to be entirely anachronistic in modern conditions, and the view has also been taken by the Government that this should be the last occasion on which prize money should be paid. Following the last war all men serving in the Royal Navy have been expecting the payment of prize money. It is largely for this reason that the Government have felt it right to continue the past practice on this occasion.

Prize money has its roots deep in the past, and the custom came about by virtue of circumstances which no longer exist. Traditionally, prize money has been paid to encourage action against enemy merchant ships. On occasions it proved to be a prize indeed, and considerable sums were paid to individual captors. Conditions of service in the Armed Forces, not excepting the Navy, were extremely precarious in years past. In those circumstances, prize money had a very different meaning from what it has to-day. Conditions of service for the members of our Armed Forces are now vastly different. There is regular promotion, proper pay, and the Forces offer a man a career in the fullest sense. Prize money as a perquisite has, therefore, become out of place.

Moreover, naval warfare has changed its character since the days when a vessel or squadron went out on the high seas to make individual and identifiable captures of enemy ships. Also, the three arms of our Forces are becoming increasingly integrated into one whole, and already the air forces have played a very substantial part in naval operations. Therefore, even if there were grounds on merits for the continuation of prize money, it would be impossible to avoid the most serious anomalies in any distribution which we might be able to devise in the future. I repeat, for these reasons His Majesty's Government are firmly of the opinion that this should be the last occasion on which prize money should be granted.

Turning now to the present Bill, I think it will simplify matters if I say a few words about the Droits of Admiralty and the Droits of the Crown. There is an Explanatory Memorandum with the Bill, which may help your Lordships in the study of this matter. The right of a belligerent to seize enemy ships and cargoes found on the high seas, or in the belligerents' territorial waters, has been recognised for many centuries. Such captures, constituting prize, are made under the authority of the Crown in the exercise of its belligerent rights. Prize money dates, I believe, even from the time before the Royal Navy existed—that is, from the time when various ports of the United Kingdom provided their quota of ships for the defence of the country and the crews were paid for their services mainly out of the proceeds of the enemy vessels which were captured. Until the war of 1914–18 the money was always paid to the crew of the ship which actually captured the prize.

All rights of prize belonged originally to the Crown and when, in the course of time, the office of Lord High Admiral, originally held by the Sovereign, was conferred upon a subject, the proceeds of all merchant vessels captured in ports at the outbreak of war and in certain other circumstances were given to the Lord High Admiral as perquisites of his office. These became known as Droits of Admiralty, and when the Lord High Admiral's office was later put into commission, they reverted to the Crown. On the other hand, enemy ships with their cargoes which were seized on the high seas, or were driven into port by the King's men-of-war, have throughout belonged to His Majesty and represent, broadly speaking, the Droits of the Crown. Subsequently, in the reign of William IV, both Droits were surrendered by the King to the Exchequer, though the surrender has been subject to a reservation of all rights and powers for the time being exercisable in connection with any of the hereditary revenues. It is a matter of history that Droits of the Crown fell to the Navy, for distribution on the lines I have mentioned, while the Droits of Admiralty have gone to the Treasury.

It will probably serve to avoid misunderstandings if at this point I explain the reasons for which it becomes necessary in this Bill to invite Parliament to decide the amounts of prize money which may be granted by His Majesty on the present occasion. The grant to the Royal Navy of the proceeds of the sale of ships and cargoes condemned as Droits of the Crown presented no difficulty in the past, because the Prize Courts, in condemning these ships and cargoes, allocated them either as Droits of the Crown or as Droits of Admiralty. It is true that the Courts did not allocate the prizes in this way during the war of 1914–18, but a special Tribunal was set up by the Naval Prize Act, 1918, which examined each capture at great length and decided into which category of Droit it fell. The Naval Prize Fund on that occasion consisted therefore, of the total Droits of the Crown as decided by a competent Tribunal, less certain expenses.

During the recent war the Courts have once more not decided on the Droits. Moreover, in some of the Courts the proceedings are not yet concluded, and it would obviously cause very considerable delay if the existing Prize Courts or a special Tribunal were employed in the task of examining each capture in order to decide what kind of Droit it constituted. We have therefore adopted the alternative course of estimating, as accurately as is possible at this stage, and in consultation with the countries of the Commonwealth, the total proceeds of the sale of ships and cargoes condemned, or condemnable, as prize in all Prize Courts throughout the Commonwealth, and also the value of ships requisitioned out of prize at the date of requisitioning. I may add that some of these ships have not yet been sold. The proceedings in many of the Prize Courts are not yet completed, and the introduction of this Bill would have been delayed for years had we awaited their completion. But we have done everything we can to include in the estimates the value of all proceeds that have been, or are still likely to be, condemned. The total estimate of prize is fixed at about £10,000,000.

Your Lordships will realise from what I have said that this figure covers all condemned and condemnable proceeds and, therefore, both kinds of Droits. The estimated sum of £10,000,000 does not all accrue to the United Kingdom. Some of it is lying in Commonwealth Prize Courts, and the method we have agreed with the Governments of the self-governing Commonwealth countries for sharing out the proceeds throughout the Commonwealth is that the money from all sources should be pooled and re-divided amongst them in the ratio of the peak numbers in the Navy and Air Forces of each of the countries concerned at any time between 1939 and 1945. The estimate of the sum accruing to the Commonwealth Governments as a result of the settlement reached is just over £2,000,000. The Colonial Forces have been grouped with the United Kingdom Forces and will benefit under our arrangements for disposing of the money. Thus we reach the United Kingdom's share of prize money which is slightly less than £8,000,000.

After very careful thought we have concluded that the best method of dividing this sum of about £8,000,000 between the two kinds of Droits—the Droits of Admiralty, which go to the Treasury, and the Droits of the Crown—will be to adopt the proportions that resulted after the First World War from the investigations of the Naval Prize Tribunal. The total value of ships and cargoes condemned during the 1914–18 war was just over £22,000,000 and the Droits of the Crown included in that total were between £14,000,000 and £15,000,000. Allowing for accruing interest, the amount available for naval distribution as prize money was just over £15,000,000. This was roughly two-thirds of the total proceeds. We have therefore decided that two-thirds of the estimated total proceeds on this occasion should be regarded as Droits of the Crown and should be made available for grant, if His Majesty sees fit. By applying the two-thirds ratio to the United Kingdom share, we reach the figure of £5,250,000, which is the total of the two sums mentioned in the Bill as being the maximum which His Majesty may grant for the benefit of the Navy and the Royal Air Force.

Before I deal with the methods we contemplate for the disposal of these moneys when they have been granted, your Lordships will no doubt expect me to say a word on the size of the fund in relation to the moneys that were available for distribution after the 1914–18 war. I must emphasise that the reduced amount in no sense arises from the method adopted this time in deciding upon the amount to be distributed. In fact, I and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Air are satisfied that the Treasury have treated us generously in this matter. The fact that the total sum is so much smaller on this occasion is largely due to enemy policy. He was fully prepared for the outbreak of hostilities, and took care that few of his merchant ships would be caught either in British ports or on the high seas. Enemy merchant ships were under instructions to avoid capture at all costs and, if necessary, to resort to scuttling. The majority of ships captured and condemned in prize were German and Italian vessels; very few Japanese vessels or cargoes fell into our hands.

I should explain, also, that we have excluded from our calculations all German ships surrendered at the end of hostilities. These ships were due to be shared out among the Allies and there was, of course, no question of their being treated in all respects as prize captures. Although condemnation in prize was necessary to effect legal change of ownership, this had nothing to do with the ultimate allocation of the ships. This explains why, on the present occasion, we can allocate only £5,250,000 to the United Kingdom Forces, as compared with the £15,000,000 which became available last time for distribution to the Royal Navy alone.

Last time the prize money granted went almost entirely to the Navy. In past wars, of course, ships were captured by other ships and it was therefore right that all available prize moneys should be divided between officers and men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The recent war, however, saw considerable changes. The advent of air warfare on an entirely unprecedented scale has meant that the R.A.F., and particularly Coastal Command, has come to play a considerable part in operations at sea. The Government felt, therefore, that a substantial part of the total should be allocated for the benefit of officers and men of the R.A.F., and the sum that is being set aside on their behalf amounts to £1,250,000, as stated in the Bill.

As I shall explain more fully later, the Admiralty are proposing to deal with the naval share on lines somewhat similar to the distribution which took place between 1920 and 1923—that is to say, the money will not go to actual captors, but to officers and men with a qualifying period of service afloat during which they will be regarded as having been potential captors of prize. It will be possible to assess the number of qualifying persons accurately only when applications have been received. The difficulty of assessing the R.A.F. share on a numerical and comparable basis would obviously be enormous. It is for this reason that the Admiralty and the Air Ministry have sought agreement on a division of the available money on a broad basis, without reference to actual numbers in any particular branch of the Service.

It is not intended that the money accruing to the R.A.F. should be distributed to individual members of the Air Force, since it is considered that it would be inequitable to confine the distribution of prize money to those who served in particular commands or in particular capacities; and if everyone who served in the R.A.F. during the war received a share, the average sum received would be less than £1. Instead, the money will be made available to welfare and charitable organisations serving present or past members of the Air Force, including officers and airmen from the Colonies. The intention is for half the R.A.F. Prize Fund to be used for the welfare of those now serving, and for the other half to be distributed to organisations such as the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund, the R.A.F. Association and other bodies and institutions which have among their aims the welfare of past members of the Service, their families and dependants.

As I have mentioned, a change in the method of distributing the proceeds of prize money to the Navy was introduced after the 1914–18 war. The grant was then made by Royal Proclamation to those members of the Naval and Marine Forces who had during the war performed service at sea in ships and vessels of war, in accordance with regulations laid down in the Proclamation. It is proposed to proceed in similar manner on this occasion, and the regulations governing the naval distribution will be promulgated by Royal Proclamation, a draft of which has been presented as a Command Paper to set out what our intentions are. It is contemplated that all naval officers and ratings, marine officers and other ranks, and merchant seamen who served in the Navy on what are known as T.124 agreements, or similar cable ship agreements (by which they become subject to naval discipline) shall be regarded as entitled to prize money if they have rendered six months' service at sea and have not, for any reason such as misconduct, forfeited their entitlement.

There was much discussion in another place about the persons who should participate in the naval distribution, and it has now been decided that service at sea will include service by members of the naval and marine forces as commodores of convoy and their staffs, pilots in merchant aircraft carriers and members of gun crews in defensively equipped merchant ships (known as D.E.M.S.); and the members of the Maritime Regiment, Royal Artillery, who have rendered similar service, will also be eligible. The representatives of persons belonging to entitled categories who were killed in action at sea, or who actually lost their lives at sea from causes attributable to their service afloat, will, however, be entitled to participate, irrespective of the time actually served at sea by the officer or man concerned. Apart from these categories, it will not be possible to allow proportionate shares to persons who have not served the full qualifying period; nor, in view of the small amount available for distribution, will service exceeding six months carry any increased share. These two matters meet the main criticism made against the Bill in another place.

I should explain that provision has not yet been made in the draft Proclamation to cover the cases which I have just mentioned. The Proclamation will make provision for service of sailors and marines in certain categories, such as the coastal forces and combined operations units, which would not necessarily be regarded as sea-going service in the ordinary way, to count as qualifying service. In view of the border-line cases which are sure to arise out of the complicated types of service rendered during the recent war, it is also desirable for the Admiralty to have discretionary powers to admit to benefits other persons who may have served in conditions which enabled them to contribute towards prize capture. As soon as the distribution can be prepared, application forms will be made available in post offices, and anyone claiming to be qualified can then apply.

We have given careful thought to the division of the available money as between the various ranks. The scale adopted after the 1914–18 war had a very wide differentiation according to rank—a differentiation which we think would be far too wide in present circumstances. As this is to be (for the reasons which I have already explained) the last occasion on which this benefit is made available, we do not feel that we can depart altogether from the traditional lines on which prize money has in the past been distributed to the Navy. Accordingly, the Proclamation provides for shares varying from ten for an Admiral of the Fleet to one for an ordinary seaman or boy. This scale will be very close to the scale adopted for war gratuity in all three Services. Until we know approximately how many people will qualify for award, we cannot say how much men in each class are likely to receive. It will be obvious from the total sum of money available, however, that individual shares will not be large; and this has been made clear on several previous occasions. A reasonably safe indication is that an ordinary seaman will receive from £4 10s. to £5, a Captain, R.N., from £18 to £20, and an Admiral of the Fleet between £45 and £50. I must emphasise that these figures are entirely provisional, and I have no doubt that they will cause great disappointment.


Are they free of tax?


Yes. I will now run briefly through the clauses of the Bill. In the first place, I must point out that certain consequential changes arising from the insertion of a new Clause 7 in another place have been inadvertently omitted. The references in Clauses 1 and 6 to Section 7 should be to Section 8. These errors will be corrected in the reprint. The first clause lays down the amounts which His Majesty may grant and which we shall recommend His Majesty to grant to the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. I hope I have made it clear that it is not the purpose of this clause to make a grant of prize. Such grants have always been made by His Majesty in the exercise of his prerogative.

The main purpose of the second clause, which needs to be read in conjunction with Clause 4, is to define in broad outline the persons for whose benefit the grants may be made. Both clauses will require to be slightly amended in Committee, in order to admit to entitlement members of the Army who may have given the requisite service as members of gun crews in merchant ships. The details will require to be filled in by the Royal Proclamation and, as I have stated, the latter, as presented to your Lordships' House in draft, now requires certain amendments. The grants will benefit not only the United Kingdom but also the Colonial Forces. Clause 2 also provides for the setting aside of certain provisions of the Naval Agency and Distribution Act, 1864, which will no longer be appropriate, and it enables the Admiralty to apply forfeited shares and residues of prize money to swell the distributable total or to charitable purposes.

Clause 3 gives the Air Council discretion to decide the charitable and welfare funds to which the R.A.F. Prize Fund shall be allocated. Clause 4, apart from defining the Naval, Marine and Air Forces and crews to which Clause 2 applies, also gives the Admiralty discretion, following the precedent of the 1918 Act, to include in the distribution of naval prize money the crews of ships other than ships of war. There is very little in the remaining clauses to which I need draw your Lordships' attention. I am afraid that I have taken up a great deal of your Lordships' time, and that, even so, I have dealt with this technical subject in only a somewhat sketchy fashion. I hope, however, that what I have said will at least have covered the major points of interest. There will, of course, be further opportunities to explain points on which your Lordships may not be clear. I beg to move.

Moved, That this Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Hall.)

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all very much indebted to the noble Viscount for the very interesting manner in which he has introduced this Bill. Before drawing your Lordships' attention to certain points, perhaps I should make it quite clear that I am myself a financially interested party! The Bill is a very necessary one, not only to give effect to the exercise of the Royal prerogative but to provide that the Air Force should participate in the prize distribution; and the Navy welcomes the fact that they have been included in this Bill. On the other hand, the Navy views with great regret the final abolition of the payment of prize money as set out in Clause 9 of the Bill. This clause lays down that the Royal prerogative to grant Droits of Admiralty or Droits of the Crown is to cease and will no longer be exercisable in respect of any future war. I would suggest that it would be far better to await the outbreak of another war before laying down that prize money is no longer to be paid. We cannot yet foretell how a new war may develop.

We on this side of the House regret also that the Royal prerogative should have been abolished in such an arbitrary manner. Prize money has been a traditional payment to the Navy of very long standing, and one to which the men of the Royal Navy have always looked in time of war as an additional recompense for their arduous service at sea; and I do not believe that the people of this country wish to deprive the Navy of this traditional payment. I am sure your Lordships were glad to hear that the gun crews of defensibly equipped merchant ships, the Maritime Regiment, and commodores of convoys and their staffs are now to be included in the prize distribution. No body of men at sea have earned the right to participate more than they have.

I should now like to draw your Lordships' attention for a few minutes to the draft Royal Proclamation, which sets out, among other things, the number of shares to be allocated to officers and men. We do not object to some fining down of the scale of allotments of the shares. I believe that after the First World War the scale was 283 to one—that is, between an Admiral of the Fleet and a boy; now, the difference is only ten to one, which appears to be an unnecessarily large drop and one, I think, which will undoubtedly cause unjust allocations. I suggest that it would be far better to make the top share 100 and the bottom share ten. This arrangement would permit the breaking up of some of the large brackets set out in the Royal Proclamation. Your Lordships will note that one bracket includes able seamen, ordinary seamen and boys. Surely it cannot be contended that a boy who has served six months at sea should be entitled to the same share as that of an able seaman who may have served throughout the war.

It may be argued that if a larger share than is at present intended is given to an admiral, it must mean that there will be a smaller sum for those in the lower grades. I suggest that there is little substance in this argument. Even if the amount to be allocated to an admiral were double the present intended figure, it would mean only that an ordinary seaman might have his sum reduced by a few pennies, because as compared with the number of ordinary seamen there are very few admirals. I consider that the intended scale of allotment is far too narrow, and that the responsibility devolving on the higher ranks makes them worthy of a higher allotment than that set out in the Royal Proclamation. I am well aware of the argument that the proposed scale of share allotment is comparable to the gratuity scale. On the other hand, in the matter of prize money we are dealing with intrinsic values, and I suggest that, for this reason alone, there is no relation to the gratuity scale. In fact, a scale based on the rates of pay to officers and men would be far more equitable than that proposed in the Royal Prerogative. I sincerely hope that between now and the Committee stage the noble Viscount will reconsider the scale in the share allotment, so that anomalies and injustices will be removed.

As your Lordships know, after the First World War the qualifying period for prize money was on a sliding scale from 30 months for a full share down to one month for one-thirtieth of a share. I cannot agree with the noble Viscount that the shorter period of six months, as set out in the Bill, is justified by the smallness of the Prize Fund. I would suggest that the qualifying period should be as before, two-and-a-half years for a full share, which would ensure a much more equitable distribution in accordance with the length of service. It would not follow that this suggested change in the qualifying period would necessarily mean a smaller amount being paid to each man, but it would mean that seamen who had served the full period would get more than a boy who had served, perhaps, only a few months. I suggest that this would mean a much more equitable share-out.

The noble Viscount has also referred to the abolition of prize bounty. I do not think that there is any great objection to the proposal for its abolition in any future war but, on the other hand, it should be remembered that the first statement that prize bounty, or "blood money" (as it is often called), would not be paid for the last war was made as late as December, 1945, when the war was in fact over. I suggest, therefore, that it is wrong to deprive the Navy of this payment at the present time. When the general mobilisation took place in 1939, it was not announced then that prize bounty would not be paid. Prize bounty in the First World War amounted to only about £56,000. I imagine that it would be less in the case of this last war. On the other hand, it would make a small but welcome addition to the very small Prize Fund. As your Lordships are aware, the prize bounty is based on £5 per head on the personnel serving in enemy warships destroyed or captured.

I now propose to refer for a few moments to the actual amount of the Prize Fund available for distribution. I think it is true to say that a large number of officers and men of the Royal Navy are a little disturbed and concerned at the smallness of this Fund. We realise that the figure in the Bill of £4,000,000 for distribution to the Navy is an arbitrary one, but why is it so low? In the First World War the Prize Fund amounted to some £22,000,000, but in this last war, when money values have been greatly reduced, the sum is only £10,000,000, including the proposed distribution to the Dominions and Air Force. I do not think that the argument that the German ships were kept in harbour at the outbreak of the late war, and that therefore captures were infrequent, is entirely satisfactory. I do not think it would be difficult to show that the combined value of some four or five important ships captured during the war amounted alone to £4,000,000. It may be that expenses in managing the Prize Fund have been unduly excessive. We do not know, but I hope that the noble Viscount will be able to produce a little more information to account for the almost unbelievably low figure of the Prize Fund, and that before the Committee stage is reached he will reconsider the scales of allotment of shares, as set out in the Royal Proclamation, so that anomalies and injustices may be removed.

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, I think the most important points of this Bill have been covered by the noble Viscount who introduced it and by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, particularly as the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, has shown great wisdom in accepting the Amendments of the Opposition in another place. I am bound to say that I cannot understand why the points which were raised in another place were not thought of before by the Admiralty, but fortunately, owing to the efforts of the Opposition, the obviously unfair discrimination against the next of kin of those who were killed at sea, and the exclusion of the Maritime Regiment and the commodores and staffs of convoys and the men of D.E.M.S., have been rectified. We are most grateful to the noble Viscount opposite for having accepted these Amendments.

I wish to raise only one specific point this afternoon—that is, the scale which is laid down in the draft Royal Proclamation. I think that these matters should not be matters of Party controversy in any shape or form. Certainly no one wants the same scale as operated in 1918, or anything like it, to be repeated now. Therefore, it is perhaps better that this question should be raised in the quieter atmosphere of this House rather than in another place. I have made an independent calculation as to what are the responsibilities as measured in terms of civil life. Curiously enough, they work out at roughly the same scale as the scale of payments in operation in 1918. If we take the Prime Minister's gross income, Which must be roughly £7,000 or a little more, and the gross income of a manual labourer, which is about £250, it gives us a ratio of 280 to one, which is practically the same as the scale in operation after the First World War. Actually, in the scales of daily rate obtaining in the Navy to-day, the top scale is 45, while that of a boy is one. So it is one to 45 in the Navy, as opposed to civil life ashore. We are not claiming very much if we claim one to 45 when we now receive only one to 10. However, as I say, these should not be matters of political controversy. I have said that I hope these facts will not be used against us in any way.

The point is that the arbitrary scale now laid down takes no account of the responsibility borne by the various categories. I can see the difficulty which arises in a share-out when the numbers are now so large and when, as the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, has said, the amount is so small. I hope that we shall hear further explanation from the First Lord, when he comes to wind up, as to why it is so small. It is a pity to let it be thought that responsibility should not be recognised to a greater extent. Let me take, for instance, the case of a lieutenant-commander, or a lieutenant. I dare not go any higher because, with so many noble Lords here of much higher rank, I might be thought to be advocating on their behalf. Why should one man who at a very early age has great responsibility in command of a ship have the same scale as one who has been serving in a ship with other officers of the same rank?

Then again, there is the case of the able seaman and the boy. Many able seamen remain able seamen for quite a long time, but in many cases their responsibilities are a great deal heavier than those of a boy. For example, they may be captains of gun crews, or coxswains of boats. I do not think a boy who joined just for the last six months of the war (and a fine summer six months, too), and did not even have the disadvantage of going through a winter at sea, should receive the same as an able seaman. As the noble Viscount has said, these scales for the share-out are based on the scales for war gratuities, but it would have been far better had they been based on the scales of pay, which would have increased the range to one to forty-five. With those few words, I welcome this Bill. Although I think it is in many respects an inadequately thought-out Bill, and one rather reluctantly brought before us by the Government to-day (for the noble Viscount emphasised most strongly that the Government are firmly of the opinion that it is the last time that a Bill of this nature should come before us), nevertheless we now have it before us. And, as an interested party, I hope we shall soon reap the benefits.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, I am not going to labour the equity or otherwise of the scale of distribution of prize money, as it has already been so well put by the noble Lords, Lord Teynham and Lord Beatty. There is a lot in the remarks which they have made with which I heartily agree. I rise only to make two specific points, the first being in connection with the qualifying service for the award of prize money. Lord Teynham stated at the beginning of the debate that he felt he ought to declare his financial interest. I think I ought also to declare my financial interest, or absence of it, in accordance with how the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, takes my point.

The general qualification is six months' sea service, as the First Lord has stated. But certain modifications of that have already been agreed to by way of amendment in another place, in regard to service brought to an end by death or by wounds or other disability. All those qualifications are in line with the award of the campaign medals. But in the award of the campaign medals there was another qualification which allowed the receipt of a campaign medal with a sea service of less than six months, and that qualification was the award of an honour, a decoration, a mention in dispatches or a commendation for bravery. That was quite clearly laid down in various Admiralty Fleet Orders and also in Command Paper 6633, of which I might quote just a short paragraph: Operational service for a lesser period than six months or two months respectively,"— the two months referred to service in air crew— but brought to an end by death, wounds or disability due to service, or alternatively the grant for service in operations of an Honour, Decoration, Mention in Despatches, Commendation for brave conduct or Commendation for valuable service in the air would"— entitle the holder to the medal. It seems to me that the same sort of ruling ought to be applied for the campaign medal as for prize money. Perhaps the noble Lord would look into that point.

The only other matter I want to raise is in connection with a remark which the First Lord made in opening this debate, when he mentioned the class of ship with which I was closely concerned, because I was in charge of its operation at the Admiralty—namely, the merchant aircraft carrier. He said, I think, that pilots in merchant aircraft carriers would be entitled to prize money. I should have thought that all the flying personnel in the merchant aircraft carrier, as it was a seagoing ship, ought to be included, or at any rate all the air crew. I think he used the specific word "pilots," which to my mind is very vague and ought to be looked into. Does he mean pilots only, or does he mean the whole of the flying personnel in the merchant aircraft carrier? That matter ought to be put straight and I should suggest, as the vessel is a seagoing ship, that the whole of the flying personnel ought to be included in the scheme. I do not want to take up more of your Lordships' time, but I wished to make those two specific points.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, and I do so for only two minutes. I am perhaps peculiar among naval officers in that I have never approved of prize money. After all, the Navy are paid for the duty they have to undertake. However, I would point out that my objection did not prevent my accepting my prize money from the 1914–18 war. On the whole, I am pleased to see that prize money is going to be abolished. As a student in a mild way of the history of war, it is apparent to me that as a matter of fact more ships have been captured by this country owing to the pressure of the Army upon enemy ports than have actually been captured by the Navy itself. Therefore, in justice to the Army, if they were operating in the neighbourhood of ports they should receive their fair share. I am very glad to see that the R.A.F. are to receive their share. I have risen to support the noble Lords who have put forward the claim of the able seaman. I think every naval officer will agree with me that the able seaman, because of the duties he carries out, is in many ways the backbone of the Navy. One sometimes finds men of twelve or fifteen years' standing as able seamen who are doing an extraordinarily good job in their line of duty. The only reason they do not get on is because they do not wish to do so.

May I tell your Lordships of my own experience in the early part of the war in the north of Norway? The Air Force had selected a landing ground which they wanted put into operation. It was deep under snow and nobody was there. The wing commander who went there had with him one man, an able seaman who had been lent to the Air Force to help ashore. Having nobody else there, he put the able seaman in charge of the ground. The able seaman was given a company of Norwegian infantry to help him and a large number of Norwegian labourers. When the wing commander returned after about three weeks' absence he found the place clear of ice and snow, the defences organised and everything in apple-pie order. This was all done under the direction of the able seaman, who was acknowledged king of that particular ground. That is the sort of man one finds amongst able seamen. Many others would have done the same thing had they been given the chance. Therefore, I hope that when the final allocation comes the A.B.—at least, an A.B. of five years' standing—will be placed in a different category from that of the boys or the ordinary seamen.

3.29 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to your Lordships for the reception which you have given to this Bill and for the points which have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, complains of the size of the fund. The question he put was as to why it was so small. I thought I had dealt with that fully in the course of my opening speech, in pointing out that the number of ships which were captured, owing to the policy of the Germans at the outbreak of war, was much smaller than it was in the 1914–18 war. Indeed, I think it may be truly said that all the prize to which we are entitled we have obtained. That is based upon the number of ships, and the value of the ships. For the purposes of prize, the value of a ship is its value at the time of the survey on seizure, not its present-day value. There may be some ships the cargoes of which, on present-day figures, would be of very great value, but we have to assess the cargo upon its value at the time of seizure and, indeed, at the time when the cargo was being sold. I wish that the amount had been very much more. I should like to assure the noble Lord that many of the difficulties to which he and the noble Earl, Lord Cork, referred, as to the shares, could be much more easily dealt with if the amount were higher than in fact it is.

Let me deal with the question of shares. As I said before, I do not want to deal with it in any Party spirit. No one has greater admiration for all men serving in the Royal Navy, whether in the higher ranks or in the lower ranks, than I have. This matter of shares was fully discussed by the Board of Admiralty, and it must be remembered that the majority of the members of the Board are very distinguished naval officers. The Board thought that we should bring the basis of the share-out somewhat into line with the amount of gratuity which, after all, has been accepted by each of the Services. They felt that if this were done, there could be little ground for complaint from anyone. That is what the Board have done. I am not suggesting that the shares given as the result of the 1914–18 war distribution were too high, or that these are too low. But if we were to increase these shares to higher officers, admirals, captains and commanders, there would be much less for the type of person to whom the noble Earl, Lord Cork, referred. It is not an easy matter with which to deal, and I am afraid that I can hold out no hope that there will be reconsideration of the shares between now and the Committee stage of the Bill.

As to the point which has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, I will certainly look into it with care, especially in so far as it relates to those men who have been awarded certain honours for gallant service. But, again, I would point out that every group which is brought in will reduce the amount for distribution. That is the difficulty with which we are faced. With regard to the merchant navy aircraft carriers, not only the pilots but the whole of the flying personnel will share. I think that might apply to those who were sailing in the ship if they had spent the qualifying period at sea.


Does the noble Viscount mean to include men of the Merchant Navy? The master himself directed the flying operations. Does the noble Viscount mean that only naval personnel will share, or will the merchant navy personnel in a merchant navy aircraft carrier—many of whom assisted actively in flying operations—also have their share?


There is a difficulty once we start dealing with merchant navy personnel. I am not suggesting that merchant navy personnel were not entitled to the extra danger money which they received, and which Royal Navy personnel did not receive, but it must be remembered that merchant navy personnel did in fact receive that money. Once we start bringing merchant navy personnel into this matter, it becomes difficult to know where to draw the line. I shall be prepared to meet the noble Lord between now and the Committee stage, and to discuss this matter with him.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.