HL Deb 09 May 1956 vol 197 cc275-336

2.43 p.m.

LORD TEYNHAM rose to call attention to the Explanatory Statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty relating to the Navy Estimates; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Motion I should like in the first place to suggest to your Lordships that in the Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates of this year it is now quite clear what the Navy really wants, but it is perhaps not so clear what the Navy can do without. What does the Navy want to-day? It wants guided weapon ships to replace the old and worn-out cruisers; it wants high-speed modern submarines, because it has been discovered that the submarine is the best anti-submarine weapon; it also wants the most efficient striking aircraft in operation with a carrier battle group; and, last but not least, it wants a fleet train to supply ships at sea, to enable them to operate for long periods away from their bases.

We are, of course, experiencing the greatest change in offensive and defensive weapons that this generation, or perhaps any previous generation, has seen in so short a time, and, as your Lordships are obviously aware, the Navy is now in the forefront of this change. In fact, I would say that the Navy is at the turning point of producing a new streamlined Navy. It has been suggested in some quarters that naval policy has not taken fully into account the probable effects of thermo-nuclear warfare, though I am sure that the First Lord of the Admiralty will today emphasise that, on the contrary, exhaustive research and consideration has been given to this type of warfare. It has been suggested that the hydrogen bomb attack would make it almost impossible to utilise this country as a base, and that it was therefore unrealistic to plan for the so-called "broken back" period and for the need to continue to bring supplies to this country. I maintain that we cannot possibly gamble on this assumption. It might well be that the country would be only partially destroyed, and that it would still be possible for supplies and stores to be landed on our beaches if our ports were out of action. This has been done before, and no doubt it can be done again. But I suggest that it is during this period that our anti-submarine measures would become effective, and would prevent the enemy from starving us out by cutting our sea connections.

It is also possible, though I do not think probable, that the early stages of a global war might be fought without thermo-nuclear weapons. If an enemy wishes to occupy a country, he does not want to destroy it and make it uninhabitable. Therefore the Navy must be prepared for such a war. At present, I understand, it is the intention of N.A.T.O., if attacked, by whatever form of warfare, to retaliate by nuclear weapons. But who knows what the decision may be in a few years' time. There is another school of thought which has suggested that our great expenditure on anti-submarine weapons is unnecessary because the enemy submarine bases would soon be knocked out by our V-bombers with atomic bombs. Apart from the fact that submarine bases are notoriously difficult to locate and destroy, surely an aggressor would make certain that all his submarines were already at sea before any war-like hostilities took place. I would say that it is also quite certain that before any hostilities took place Russia would have her thirty large cruisers at sea, ready to bear down upon our merchant ships, with terrible destruction.

I think it was suggested in another place that the three "Tiger" class cruisers were already out of date, and that there was no sense in continuing their construction. The fact is that today we have no ship-to-air or ship-to-ship guided missile ship, and the preliminary trials of the "Girdle Ness." which are, of course, most necessary before we can even commence to build a guided missile ship, have hardly started. We have only nine cruisers in operational service. Are we to have nothing new to combat the Russian cruiser threat? I suggest that the "Tiger" class cruisers, with their very modern gunnery equipment, will go a long way to build up the strength of our small and out-of-date cruiser force until the guided weapon ships come into being. The only criticism that I have to make to-day on this matter is that I wish we had at least six, and not three, "Tiger" class cruisers coming off the stocks. There is no doubt that Russia is continuing to build up a first-class modern fleet. The Russian destroyer force is being increased at the rate of approximately twelve to fourteen ships a year, and a new type of oceangoing destroyer has appeared which I understand is appreciably larger than our present "Daring" class.

My Lords, what have we to meet this naval threat? In addition to our cruisers we have our aircraft carriers, with their strike aircraft, which in many ways can take the place of cruisers; and, of course, we have a large Reserve Fleet. I understand that the four battleships of the "King George V" class are in reserve and in a very low state of readiness, and that none of them has been modernised. In addition, there is a large farce of destroyers and frigates in reserve in various states of readiness, some at very short notice and some at much longer notice. May I remind your Lordships that it is dangerous to regard ships in reserve as part of our naval strength, because no warship is really fit for active service until her crew have been trained, which cannot possibly be less than some weeks after she is commissioned? I hope that we shall hear from the First Lord to-day that arrangements are being made for the five battleships, including H.M.S. "Vanguard," to be dispersed overseas, if they are to remain in reserve, and not be scrapped. It might be possible for these battleships to be maintained under N.A.T.O. auspices.

I think I am correct in saying that Russia has no Reserve Fleet; all her ships are either in full commission or are being scrapped. I cannot help feeling that any ship in our Reserve Fleet which is not at a few days' notice will be of little value in nuclear warfare; and even if the Reserve Fleet come into active service before they are destroyed, they would have to complete a period of training elsewhere, with their crews, before they would be at all efficient. It is possible that a global war might not start with nuclear weapons, and therefore it may be worth while to maintain a Reserve Fleet: but I believe that on balance it might be best to emulate the Russians and devote all our resources to keeping as many ships as possible in commission, rather than have them in a reserve which would be of doubtful value. That would have the added advantage of keeping more officers and men fully trained at sea. More ships at sea in full commission would mean more men to man them, and I should like to offer my congratulations to Her Majesty's Government for their new scales of pay, recently announced, which I hope will go a long way to increasing the manpower of our Navy.

I hope the Admiralty will be realistic about the Reserve Fleet and will cut down as much as possible on shore establishments, to save money so that more ships can be brought into commission. I certainly do not want to go into a long list of suggestions for saving money, but there are one or two to which I should like to refer to-day. Many of your Lordships must be aware of the vast naval radar establishment which has been established during the last year or two on Portsdown Hill while at the same time the Ministry of Supply has its own large and almost similar establishment elsewhere. These may be very necessary, but perhaps the First Lord can gibe an assurance that there is complete co-operation between them to prevent overlapping and waste. I am aware that the Admiralty at the present time is the agent for all the Services in valve development in connection with radar and guided missiles, and I hope similar co-operation is going on in other scientific departments of the Navy. It can well happen that inter-Service rivalry may result in one Service being in advance of the others and unwilling to tell the others the results of its own experiments. This happened during the last war in the field of radar; I sincerely hope that it will never happen again.

I hope that before long it may be possible to close down the National Service intake into the Navy, which would save a great deal of money. I also suggest that the building works sections of the three Services could be amalgamated into one organisation. Surely it is not necessary to have three sets of architects, quantity surveyors and so on to build similar barracks and other necessary buildings. A great deal has been written and debated in the past year or two about the integration of the three Services. I see no reason why this should not be done on a limited scale. One day it may go so far that it may be possible to extract the three operational divisions and amalgamate them into one unit. The present may not be the moment for doing it, but I believe that one day that will come—-and the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force will no doubt come first. I maintain that it is of paramount importance that money should be saved in order to keep as many ships as possible in commission rather than keep them in the Reserve Fleet which I have endeavoured to show would be of doubtful value in nuclear warfare.

In conclusion I should like to suggest that as many opportunities as possible should be given not only to your Lordships but also to Members of another place to visit the Fleet and witness its exercises as soon as possible, so that important debates which take place in this House and in another place may be based on informed opinion. The Air Force has been foremost in making suit- able arrangements this year and f hope we may hear from the First Lord that similar arrangements will be made in regard to the Navy. I beg to move for Papers.

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships, like myself will wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, for opening this debate and for the speech which he has just delivered. It is pleasing to me to welcome the First Lord of the Admiralty as a Member of your Lordships' House. We have been friends for many years and have been following one another around. When I left the Admiralty in 1943 he became Financial Secretary, a position which he occupied until the end of the war. His experience there must have prepared him to undertake the position which he now occupies. He can feel assured that in this House he is in very good company, because there are no fewer than seven of his predecessors as First Lord who are now Members of your Lordships' House. That is almost a record. Now that we have him here, we can put our questions to him direct, and we trust that we shall get from him satisfactory replies. I am sure, though, that all your Lordships who took part in naval discussions or debates which we have had in this House in the absence of the First Lord will have no complaint to make about the way in which the representatives of the Admiralty in this House did their job.

I want to touch briefly upon the Estimates. The Estimates for the Navy this year amount to £346 million. That is £5 million more than last year, but £7½ million less than it was two years ago. What is significant about the Estimates this year, as the First Lord rightly points out in his Explanatory Note, is the provision that has been made for increased pay and pensions, and for the higher cost of materials and supplies, amounting in all to £31 million. I am sure that every Member of your Lordships' House agrees that the increases in pay and pensions should have been given, but I should like to point out that, whilst that £31 million has been given, the reduction in one or two of the important Votes in the Estimates may do considerable harm. The First Lord said that £21 million less than last year is to be used for naval development, but it must be remembered that last year's Estimates showed a reduction of £20 million on naval production, making a total reduction of over £40 million in two years. Votes 8 and 9, which provide for shipbuilding, repair and maintenance, and naval armaments, have had to bear more than 90 per cent. of that reduction.

It is little wonder, therefore, that last year was the leanest we have had for the acceptance of new ships into the Royal Navy. There were just two frigates and a number of smaller ships, while 20 frigates had been launched, one as far back as 1953 and quite a number in 1954. The other Vote which has suffered reduction is that for Victualling and Clothing. This is due to the further reduction in naval personnel, which is now down to 128,000, of which the Regular male strength, which is very important, is down to the figure of 104,800—that is 30,000 fewer than the figure three years ago. I trust that, with the great improvement in pay and pensions, and also in general conditions, and with the changes taking place in the training and careers of officers, large numbers of those at present serving will re-engage to complete service for pension, and that recruitment of the right kind of young men will greatly increase. Perhaps the First Lord will have something to say about that point this afternoon.

It should be noticed that in the last three years the only Votes which had to bear reductions were those which, as I have said, covered naval production and personnel. Dealing with the Defence Estimates, particularly for the Royal Navy at the present time, is an entirely different matter from what it was in the past, for great changes are taking place, and it is realised that, even if the resources available to us were very much greater than they are at the present time, the Royal Navy would not consist of anything like the very large warships which in the past were our pride and which served the Empire so well. And what I find distressing is that in a country like ours, whose whole history is based upon seapower, there are so many persons who have been confused as to the job which the Royal Navy will be called on to do in peace and war, and the kind of Navy that will be required to do the job. I think that there is now just a little better understanding than there was a short time ago, and that there is growing a very strong opinion that, with the coming of thermo-nuclear power and weapons, there is still need for navies, navies which will have a vital rôle to play in the defence of this country and the Commonwealth.

The coming of this new power, however, does greatly affect the design of ships, the weapons used, the composition of fleets and the tactics of naval warfare. The Board of Admiralty and the First Lord, I feel sure, are fully seized of the changes necessary to bring the Navy up to date, for a full statement on the rôle of the Royal Navy in this age of thermo-nuclear weapons was issued by the First Lord with the Estimates last year. I noticed that that statement was described by some of the principal daily newspapers as a vigorous and confident statement about new ships and new weapons on the way. The only criticism they had to make was that, whilst it was a well-written document, there was much vagueness about the dates of delivery of the ships and the weapons. No doubt this afternoon we shall question the First Lord as to when all these fine things are going to happen. It will take a long time if the Naval Production Vote is continually to bear cuts, as it has, had to do during the past two years.

I do not want to dwell unduly upon what is done in other countries at the present time, but it is general knowledge that the United States Government are proceeding rapidly with the changes necessary to make full use of this new power and with weapons for the defence services, particularly the Navy. And the U.S.S.R. are clearly following the same policy. Of course, we have not the great resources of those two countries, but our effort on the research side is a very creditable one. It is the production side that lags. I trust that during this debate the First Lord will give us some of the latest available information about the delivery of the goods resulting from that research, particularly in two branches which in my view are of great importance to the Royal Navy and about which I should like to ask him some questions.

It is agreed that the guided missile is a very powerful weapon which will play a very important part in the armed equipment of each of the Services—again, particularly the Navy. Its importance can be judged by the fact that the United States is spending in this fiscal year upon its research and development of this weapon a sum amounting to almost £500 million, which is far in excess of the total estimates for the whole expenditure on the Navy for this year. And in October of last year, I read that Mr. Beale, the Minister of Supply in Australia, told the House of Representatives that Britain's guided missile research effort was No. 1 priority, for in the United Kingdom no fewer than 20,000 scientists and technicians were working on it. Four years ago I saw some of these missiles fired. They must have been some of the 1,500 which have been fired at the rocket ranges at Woomera, or Aberporth, in Wales, up to March of last year, among which there were some very powerful ones indeed.

I know that there are many types of these missiles and that the Admiralty are not responsible for their production. But could some information be given as to when the missiles suitable for the Admiralty were, or are likely to be, delivered, for there are differences between the Statement on Defence and the First Lord in connection with this matter. In the Defence Statement this year, these words are to be found. This year good progress has been made with the guided missile programme, and it is intended that these weapons shall he installed in both the new cruisers and the new destroyers. That is an indication that these guided missiles are almost ready to be brought into the Services. But then, when I read the speech on the Estimates made by the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary in another place, I find that he said [OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons), Vol. 549 (No. 113), col. 2335]: The guided missile, I hope the House appreciates, is of course still far from being able to supersede the gun in all its rôles, and although we are switching the scientists away from developing new gun armaments and new gun fire control systems, our latest orthodox equipment will be in production for some years to come. Fortunately, our range of advanced gunnery equipment is first-class. That is an indication that we are still proposing for some time to use the conventional gun. I should like the noble Viscount the First Lord to clear up that point because, again referring to the progress made in developing guided missiles in America, Mr. Thomas, the Secretary of the Navy, said that the day of the gun is coming to an end, and that guided missiles will soon be the major weapon we have for our surface, air and naval forces. I am sure that the First Lord will give us some information about what has been done in connection with this matter.

Before leaving guided missiles, I should like some information about the ship "Girdle Ness", the guided-missile ship which I understand is to be commissioned this year to do preliminary trials with a view to eventually carrying the first missiles. I would ask the First Lord whether this is a new ship, specially built for this purpose, or a converted ship. I understand that the United States Navy have converted two of their twelve-year-old 13,500-ton displacement cruisers for the purpose of firing these weapons, at a much cheaper cost than building a new ship and with very little alteration. These ships are now with the Fleet, and Admiral Burke said that they were just the forerunners of dozens of fighting ships which will have such armaments in the course of the next five years.

I wonder whether some of our old cruisers which have been scrapped and, I understand, are being disposed of, or some of the cruisers in reserve, could not be converted for this purpose. I am sure that some explanation can be given, because if this could be done in America with very little alteration, surely we ought to be able to do it in this country. I am sure that the First Lord will give us an explanation. I should also like to ask the First Lord—and I will deal with this point a little more fully later— whether information about these ships, and the weapons being used in them, is being withheld by the United States from this country. The United States has done much to build up the strong forces now controlled by N.A.T.O.—which, as announced yesterday, are to be further strengthened by the handing over of a large number of modern weapons, such as guided missiles and other atomic weapons—and it is difficult to know why she should refuse information to us.

I do not want to take up too much of your Lordships' time, but these technical matters are of great importance and we should have all the information possible about them. I must further trespass on your Lordships' time to ask the First Lord some questions about submarines. Can he give some information about the two high-speed submarines, the "Explorer" and the "Excalibur," one of which, I understand, is in service and the other will be accepted during the course of this year? They were well written up in some of the newspapers in terms which said that they will be the fastest ships of their kind in the world—and that includes America's atomic-powered "Nautilus." One report said that though an Admiralty announcement made no mention of speed, the rumour had gone around that a speed as high as thirty knots can be reached. Will the First Lord give some information about the performance of these submarines—their speed, range and tonnage; and can any comparison be made between these, submarines and the atomic-powered submarines now in service in the United States? We should also like to have some idea of the cost.

Is it proposed to build any more of these submarines? I should not think so, in view of the fact that in his Explanatory Statement the First Lord, referring to atomic power for marine propulsion, said: It may well become in future the main source of propulsion for both naval and merchant ships. The Admiralty's intention will be to employ nuclear power in the first instance in submarines. Until recently the Admiralty have been cautious about committing themselves to the building of such ships. It may well have been a question of financial resources that made it difficult for them to proceed. Of course, that is understood. But recently the First Sea Lord has on several occasions stated that Britain is going ahead right away with the construction of an atomic-powered submarine, but he gave a warning that we shall not have any for some years yet. Its arrival is only a matter of time, and we are going to have it. I am pleased with that statement, for there is no doubt that this form of propulsion has come to stay. The Secretary of the United States Navy, Mr. Thomas, recently said that the performance of that Navy's first atom-powered submarine, the "Nautilus ", was little short of amazing. A number of such ships would be in the service of the United States Navy or would be under construction by June of this year. Nuclear-powered carriers and seaplanes were not far off. No modern Navy could afford to be without this form of propulsion.

I was surprised to see the statement by the First Lord that, after some years of research on this subject, it has only recently been possible to start practical work on planning a marine nuclear power plant, for in 1953 it was announced that Britain was working on a prototype of an enriched uranium reactor for ship propulsion, and that design studies were being undertaken at the Atomic Engineering Research Establishment at Harwell, assisted by Admiralty scientific and naval officers from the Shipbuilding Research Committee. With this research we should be in a much more advanced position than is suggested in the First Sea Lord's statement. It is unfortunate that, notwithstanding the Anglo-American agreement on the exchange of information about atomic energy, signed last June, no information can yet be given about atomic weapons or special nuclear material. It is estimated that Britain could save no less than two years, and also a substantial amount of money, if the United States would supply information on nuclear-powered ship propulsion.

It is said that the British Naval Mission in Washington, consisting of no fewer than twenty-three naval officers and five scientists, are on excellent terms with the Naval Department there, and the information freely exchanged covers every subject except atomic weapons and special nuclear material. The majority of the senior officers in the United States Navy and numbers of the American naval scientists have a nigh regard for British inventiveness and favour assisting the Admiralty in this matter for the benent of both navies; they are particularly anxious that British scientists should be allowed to join in nuclear-propulsion research and give particular attention to the problems arising from the cost and the weight of the reactors and of this revolutionary form of propulsion. Is it possible for Her Majesty's Government to make approaches to America to ask them to make this information available to the people of this country?

In conclusion, I must apologise for keeping your Lordships so long, for devoting so much of my time to technical matters, and for asking the First Lord so many questions, to some of which I hope to get replies. My speech was technical, because in this new age of thermo-nuclear politics it is no use talking of our past glories; we must face up with reality to the problems of the future, as I am sure the Board of Admiralty are doing; they must have ideas of the kind of Navy which will emerge in this new age. No-one suggests that the Royal Navy can compete, ship for ship, with the United States Navy or the Navy of the U.S.S.R., but the Royal Navy still have existing ships and the great qualities of officers and men who are held in high respect in all countries of the world. So the real problem is to decide the Navy which Britain and the Commonwealth should aim at, at a given cost. It is obvious that it is difficult to have a Navy equal to any emergency in a time when the form which a war may take is so hard to see, but, in these circumstances, all-round security can be obtained only from the combined active fleets of the Western world, in which Britain will still have to play a large and important part.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships for the first time, I would ask for your indulgence, as is usual on this occasion. It is a great pleasure for me to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, in this debate, because he was very kind in giving me advice while I was still a naval officer and he was in office. The rôle of the Royal Navy has not changed, I suppose, for the last four centuries; in peace it is necessary to keep open trade lanes to avoid pirates, and in war it is necessary to see that supplies get to this country. In these days, instead of doing it by ourselves we have to do it with the assistance of others, and we must try to teach them from past experience. I propose to restrict my remarks to the matters of material and personnel.

Since the war, we have been woefully short of ships of all sorts to try to carry out the duties which the Navy has had pressed upon it by successive Governments, and new ships have been slow in coming along. In comparing figures for a destroyer, we find that before the war it took two years to build one, and it now takes three or four years. I am glad to see in the First Lord's Explanatory Statement that we should have many more ships coming along this year, and that these will replace the worn-out ships built during the war. I hope that such things as pickled plates below water and galvanised steel plates above water will once again be built into the ships. This will raise the original cost slightly, but the saving in eventual painting, labour and manpower, and the longer life given to the ships, is quite extraordinary. The proof of this must be the old P. and W. destroyers built in the years 1918 and 1919 which did such good service during the last war.

So far as the building programme goes, I am rather worried about the aircraft production side. This would seem to be unsatisfactory. The new projects have been held up, and I have been told by naval officers, whose position should enable them to know, that the fault is with the Ministry of Supply. Evidently they have not pushed certain projects as much as they might have done. Whether that is in fact so, it is "up to them" to argue about. It has led to quite a few statements in the Press and the suggestion that the Fleet Air Arm might be better run by the Royal Air Force. I am sure that in that suggestion they are wrong, because we have seen the run-down of Coastal Command since the war, and if the Fleet Air Arm were to change to other hands it might suffer in the same way.

If economy is to be our watchword for the time being, I would suggest that the now ships which are to join the Fleet train, as proposed in paragraph 23 of the First Lord's statement, and the buying of the new hull, might well be deferred. The bases to which the First Lord refers are in being and are manned, and the stores are there, and it would seem that they will be there for some time to come. The Fleet train is an expensive thing to run, and it will require additional manpower, of which there is a shortage at the moment. Speaking purely from the point of view of the seaman, I am delighted to see the large number of small ships that are being built and are coming along rather more quickly than anything else. Perhaps I might quote the noble Viscount, Lord Cunningham of Hyndhope (who I am glad to see is here today), who refers in his biography to the fact that the small ships in the past have managed to train and develop a vast number of officers and men, quite apart from the knowledge which was gained in suveys of coasts and anchorages about which previously nothing was known. It is rather like driving from your home to the office and back five days a week: if you have been into an anchorage or a harbour several times before, you will be able to do it again. With small ships you can explore other little known and forgotten anchorages, and in that way they can be of great use.

I come now to the question of personnel. Since the war there have been as many changes in pay, pensions and conditions as there have been changes in Governments. I only hope that the new nay and pensions scheme recently introduced will bring this to an end, because in many cases new schemes have not been properly worked out. On two occasions I have had to explain to chief artificers why they get less pay than an artificer first class for whose work they are responsible, and it is not an easy thing to do. I have had to explain to a man why he has been re-rated for the fifth time in the course of a year without any advancement in pay to himself. I hope that that matter also has been cleared up. I know that, up to two years ago, the advancement regulations were beginning to settle down. I suspect that all of this was due largely to the fact that the emphasis had been laid on National Service, which, of course, was a political matter, and therefore there were many people who liked to have a finger in the pie, as opposed to leaving their Lordships in the Admiralty to get on with it.

I do not believe that standardisation in the Services between the different ranks works. I do not believe that you can produce an equivalent man in the Air Force, Army and Navy. They all have their own different and separate arrangements, and they must work them out themselves. If the statisticians like to try to standardise them all, it is up to thorn to do so afterwards; it would be far easier not to do it beforehand. There has been a considerable run-down of men for the last five or six years, and I think I am right in saying that the new pay scheme has not allowed the run-down to continue at the same rate as it has been doing. It is encouraging to find that a large number of people are re-engaging, even if recruits are not coming in. The re-engagement of senior men is by far the most important thing at present.

As to the officer situation, the difficulty still remains. The old executive branch would seem to be sliding down the scale. The officer who used to run the Navy at the top and do everything has, since the war, as in many other spheres of life, been regarded as having a little knowledge of many subjects and being master of none. We have seen a great increase in the number of specialists. The trouble with specialists is that they always need two or three people to work with them. So where there was one man doing a job perfectly satisfactorily, there is now one man who can do the job provided he has five people to assist him. In a ship, as in an aircraft, that is a serious matter, because these men require space in which to live; and since there has been much ill-informed agitation outside the Services for better accommodation, the two problems do not work together at all. On occasions there have been rude remarks made on the subject of hammocks. Hammocks are a useful item if you have a large hole in your ship's side and you want something to stop the water coming in. To try to do that with a pressed-steel wire spring camp bed or mattress I am afraid would be impossible. It is such things as that which do not help the Navy, although possibly they help the Press.

May I refer now to the seaman and engineering branches? Due to the small number of ships it is difficult to get adequate time for these people at sea. Since in both branches it is essential for them to qualify for the watch-keeping certificate, for which the standards have been laid down by the Navy for many years past, I am afraid that the time has been cut down. I am also afraid that that is a cumulative ill, aid that as the time is cut down so will the standard be cut down. I think that is a serious thing for the Navy and may well lead to disrepute, particularly with the Merchant Service. I, personally, am sorry to see the passing of the colour bar, as I was sorry to see the passing of the warrant officer. It used to be fairly easy to go on board a ship which one did not know with the object of finding out, say, something about radar. You saw someone who had a green stripe on his arm and you went and talked to him, and you got your answer. Now, I imagine, you go and talk to him and you may be told how to boil eggs. There is obviously a great deal to be argued on both sides.

Finally, may I ask the First Lord whether a paper, consisting of three volumes which was being edited by Admiral Doenitz's late staff for the Admiralty, and which, to the best of my knowledge, contains extracts from the German Naval Staff Minutes, U-boat logs and U-boat reports during the last war, will be made Available to the public? It would be of great help to those who are interested in naval history and who wish to study in particular the Battle of the Atlantic in the last war.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken is a retired officer on the Emergency List of the Navy, and I am a very deeply retired officer of the same Service, so, technically. we are brother officers; and I am glad indeed that it falls to my lot to congratulate him upon the manner in which he has surmounted the very real ordeal of a maiden speech in your Lordships' House. He surmounted that ordeal with such ease that I was reminded of the motto which appeared in the old college at Osborne: There is nothing that the Navy cannot do. He spoke with such grace and humour, and made such shrewd remarks, that I feel all Naval officers in this House will feel proud of their colleague's performance, and that all your Lordships hope the noble Lord will in future assist us many times in our deliberations, not only upon Naval but upon other matters.

On these Benches we have the great advantage of no fewer than three ex-First Lords of the Admiralty—in fact, one might coin a collective noun and say that we have a "Pinafore" of ex-First Lords. In spite of that, we did not succeed last year in getting the Naval Estimates debated. I think the Navy is entitled to be debated on one day in the year in your Lordships' House, and I feel personally grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, for having put down this Motion and given us a chance of speaking about the Navy.

I should like at the outset to say one or two words about the Admiralty itself. I often see what I feel is unfair and unfounded criticism of the Admiralty on the score of what are called its swollen numbers. Comparisons are made between the numbers of staff employed at the Admiralty to-day and the numbers employed some forty or fifty years ago, and the suggestion is made that the Admiralty is very heavily over-staffed. In those earlier days to which reference is made the Navy was a comparatively uncomplicated affair. All types of warships were largely stereotyped. There were the battleships. The weapons were the gun and the torpedo. Those were comparatively simple matters to deal with. We built more battleships and we devised larger guns and more powerful torpedoes. To-day, however, the warship is an immensely complicated affair. Each new piece of equipment with which warships are now loaded necessitates a corresponding department in the Admiralty to administer and take charge of the affairs of that particular piece of equipment. An American Admiral said recently that "the Navy is now a vast engineering project." That is very true. Consequently, the staff at the Admiralty is bound to increase. There may be grounds for some economics and reductions, but we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that this complicated Navy requires a very much larger staff at the Admiralty to administer it.

There is one question that I should like to ask. Are the technical branches of the Navy now represented on the Board? I ought to know, but I am not quite sure. These technical matters have now become of such vast importance, and the efficiency of the Navy so largely depends upon them, that, if it has not already been done, I feel it is time that the technical branches had their representatives on the Board of Admiralty. I think that good work has been done recently by the Admiralty in regard to personnel questions, and that the Admiralty deserve congratulations upon many of the steps that they have taken in those matters. The new officer structure seems right in line with modern requirements. The Wet and Dry Lists have some painful aspects, but the situation had become impossible. There were far too many officers for the limited number of commands available. The step had to be taken and it has been taken decisively, which I feel is very satisfactory.

The troublesome case in future will, of course, be that of the post-List captain, the captain on the Wet List, who just fails to be promoted to Rear Admiral. One can feel great sympathy with officers who fail at that step, but there is now a good career prospect in the Navy without which the right type of officer could not possibly be attracted into the Service. I do not think that much more could have been done to improve affairs for the lower deck. The barracks still remain to be tackled. They are, to a very large extent, a blot in the life of the lower deck man, but I believe that that matter is being taken in hand. When that has been done and put right, I feel that the major grievances will have been removed and it will he interesting to see the effect on recruiting and re-engagement.

I believe that it is also a very good thing to have the system of entry to Dartmouth finally settled—at least I hope we have it finally settled. We have often hoped that it had been finally settled, only to find that the bone had been dug up again. Frequent changes in age rightly caused schoolmasters to avoid advising the choice of the Navy as a career. I feel it is wise to give a young officer a grounding in his profession before sending him to sea to join his first ship. It starts him off right in one of his main jobs, the leading and handling of men. The fact that he knows his job before he goes to sea gives him a good start in that respect. In my experience, the old sub-lieutenant's courses were not very well organised and were largely time wasted. Certainly the old systems have now passed into desuetude. They gave us officers who did what was required in two wars, but another war will require even higher standards yet than those which were attained in the past, higher standards yet of intelligence, training and "know-how." I confess to one feeling of regret about Dartmouth, and that is, as I have mentioned before, that I am sorry the opportunity was not taken to adopt the idea of a combined cadet college for all three Services. I believe that such a college would have immense advantages. It has been strongly advocated by people who really know what they are talking about.

I have one question to ask on personnel, because it is perhaps of general application. I heard recently of a Rear-Admiral being appointed to a quite important command. He was told before he went to take it up that he would hold it only for one year, and that there would be nothing more for him. If that is true—and I was told it upon good authority—when there are not so many jobs available for Flag Officers, why give one of these jobs to a Flag Officer who is not going on, who, it has already been decided, is not going any further in the Service? I have always felt, too, that in the past we have allowed far too many officers in the higher ranks, following the good old naval principle of never getting caught short on anything. I am sure that that is a mistake and that it 13 better to be rather short, or a little on the short side, of the number of officers required. After all, if you are caught short, and in a pinch, there is always the possibility of recourse to acting rank. I feel that to overload the higher ranks of the Service so as to ensure you are never caught short is a mistake. I hope that the new steps which are taken are designed to remedy that state of affairs.

May I say a word or two about the First Sea Lord? Lord Mountbatten has aroused very high expectations as he takes up his appointment. It seems to me that he has before him a task similar to that which confronted Fisher fifty years ago, the task of building a new Navy. I doubt whether the Navy which Fisher found on taking office would have beaten the Germans in the First World War. It was an extremely odd collection of ships, and the gunnery was not all that one could have washed. But Fisher built a new Navy which did beat the Germans in the First World War, although such is the vanity of human designs that even while he was building that Navy he was advancing to its command an Admiral who, many people think, missed the great opportunity which Fisher's new Navy afforded him. From the very day that Fisher entered the Admiralty as First Sea Lord a tremor ran right through the Navy. I am not quite sure if the new First Sea Lord has made his presence felt to the same effect, although I am quite sure that he will. One thing, in particular, to which I hope be may feel moved to give urgent consideration is the amalgamation of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. That step is so widely advocated now that I feel it is something which is sure to come in the future, and the First Sea Lord would make his name for ever if it were he who carried through that amalgamation.

I want now to refer to one or two remarks which the First Sea Lord has made, because through them runs this same emphasis upon the future to which the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, has made such extremely apposite reference. The First Sea Lord not so long ago used these words: We have inherited from the last war an ageing conventional Navy. The nuclear threat requires changes in methods and organisation. Research offers us in the future novel weapons, equipment and machinery. Careful judgment is required between maintaining adequate conventional strength and waiting for the fulfilment of research. The emphasis there is on the future, and I do not find those remarks altogether convincing. After all, the war ended eleven years ago. The nuclear threat is, I suppose, twelve years old; the research developments are also many years old. Yet the First Sea Lord speaks of "in the future". Of course judgment is required, but more especially judgment requires to be exercised. Decisions have to be taken. But we are still talking about "in the future" and "the fuilment of research."

Again, the First Sea Lord said: We are making a start with guided weapon ships, but this is only a first step. Surely the first step should have been taken long ago. I heartily agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, said on that point. When shall we have a guided weapon ship—one able to go to sea with a stock of guided weapons on board, and the equipment to fire them? That is the date we want to know. Compared with America, we are certainly all adrift in this all-important matter. Again, the First Sea Lord has said: The Admiralty have been examining the possibilities of atomic propulsion in men-of- war—our ideas are now taking definite shape. Though we shall not have a nuclear-powered submarine for some years yet, her arrival is only a matter of time. My Lords, Harwell was considering an atomic power plant for a submarine in 1946, ten years ago. Since then, America has put one atomic-powered submarine into commission; there is another on the point of commissioning at this moment, and she has ordered six more. And America expects to have an atomic-powered aircraft carrier in commission in 1961. Incidentally, I was glad to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, refer to the fact that during his recent visit to the United States the First Sea Lord was not allowed to go on board the "Nautilus", nor was he given full information about her. I can only say that I regard that as a most unfriendly act on the part of an ally, especially as I understand that we have given America all the information in these matters that we have it in our power to give.

The First Sea Lord has told us about Russia's 350 modern submarines, which he said constituted he greatest threat the Royal Navy has ever been called upon to face. That is bad. Are we equipped to face this recognised threat; or when can we hope to be so? He said that the Royal Naval Air Service disposed of 4,500 aircraft. I shall have something to say about that figure in regard to our own Fleet Air Arm presently. I do not want to go over the figures again (they have been frequently quoted) in regard to what Russia has built since the war. While we seem always to be talking about the future, America and Russia present us with accomplished facts. Our own list of ships under construction I will not go over, because that again is well known; but it is not a very impressive list, especially when we match it against the American list of ships under construction: 75 cruisers and four more of those immense Forrestal carriers built or building—a very full list indeed. I am bound to say that I think our list of ships under construction or being completed does not compare very well.

I have also noticed, running through the First Lord's speeches, the same note in regard to the future, coupled with some feeling of uncertainty, caused by the development and research which the scientists unceasingly pour upon us. I fully recognise that this development makes the decisions of which I have spoken difficult, but I still feel that they should be taken. But looking back, from being a gentleman associated in my youthful mind with what we called "stinks," the scientist has now developed into a very important man indeed. That rather meek gentleman who delighted us with the mild explosions which he used to cause during the "stinks" hour, has now developed into a man who knows how to blow up the world—and, what is more, is apparently quite prepared to do it, if somebody in the position to give the order gives it. Certainly the scientist has immensely complicated life for the Service chiefs; and, believing that the scientist has brought us to this point, I am really not surprised that a friend of mine should tell me that he contemplates writing a book entitled "Civilisation: its cause and cure."

I have one word that I should like to say about dockyards. I raised the matter in a Motion some time ago when the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, and the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, ran a combined operation against me. I was not altogether surprised at that, because both noble Lords at one time had a certain responsibility for the state of affairs about which I was complaining; and naturally I was told that all was for the best in the best of all possible dockyards. Certainly since that time (not, of course, because of my having spoken about it) opinion has been moving in support of what I said, and the dockyards are now regarded as a most urgent problem. It is now generally recognised that they need an overhaul; that they need reorganisation as a most urgent matter. I believe that some steps in that direction are being taken, and it would be most reassuring to hear from the First Lord to-day that the question of a complete reorganisation of the dockyards is under contemplation, because without it I cannot believe that our Fleet is maintained at maximum efficiency or that our ships are as much at sea as they ought to be. I believe they could be more at sea if the dockyards were brought up to date. I am also sure that there is a great waste of money under the existing system in the dockyards.

I want now to say something about the Fleet Air Arm. I think it is fair to say that the Fleet Air Arm has never in its history been well served by the Minister of Supply or by the aircraft industry. In fact it was shockingly served during the last war, and it is no good trying to gloss over that fact. I notice that an advertisement is being run in the Press at the present moment urging young men to join the Fleet Air Arm, and amongst other inducements held out to them to do so is that they will find themselves flying Sea Venoms and DH.110s. Perhaps the First Lord will tell us exactly how many of these aircraft are to-day in operational service with the Fleet Air Arm. A numerical statement of types and numbers, not including what we hope we are going to have in the future, would be very helpful.

I am greatly puzzled about the DH.110, because I believe the N.113 came out after the DH.110. What has happened to the N.113? Why have we jogged back to an earlier aircraft which we are holding out as an inducement to air-minded men to joint the Fleet Air Arm? What has the Fleet Air Arm actually got? Let us look at the list. In day interceptors, the standard aircraft is the Sea Hawk, which is equivalent to the American Grumman F9F.5. But since the F9F.5 there have been the F9F.6, 7 and 8, each better than the last, with the latest swept wing and more fuel; and the F9F.8 is already in production. The F11.F will be delivered this year, and that aircraft is twice as fast as the Sea Hawk, which will still be in service next year. It looks as if we are very much behind with day interceptors.

In all-weather fighters, the DH.110 is to be the standard type. The Sea Venoms are the FAW.20 and 21. Do pilots like the Sea Venom? Has the First Lord any reports on that machine? It has been described to me as "a wicked aircraft". The FAW.21 is described as "not so wicked"; but are there any doubts about its performance? I have even heard rumours that when it reaches something approaching the speed of sound it suddenly falls in the air. Have there been any complaints about the machine? Turning to anti-submarine aircraft, I understand that the Gannet is comparable with the American S2F. It is a good aircraft; but how many of them have we? Are they in sufficient supply? Have we met the requirements of the Fleet Air Arm in that respect? As to strike aircraft, there are two: the Wyvern, a very good conception but badly carried out and not a satisfactory aircraft; and the N.113.D, a speed-of-sound aircraft but which is not coming into service until 1958 or 1959, by which time it will be well down in speed as compared with an American aircraft which will then me in service. What is the position about helicopters? The Bristol 192 was ordered and then cancelled. The Westland Wessex has now been ordered but will still be very late; and I gather that helicopters are proving very difficult and much more expensive than was expected.

The noble Viscount has told us something about missiles, but that is in the future. America has the Terrier, surface-to-air, a missile which has already brought down an aircraft in exercises off Cuba; the Regulus, surface-to-surface; the Sparrow, air-to-air, and the Petrel, air-to-surface. America has all these missiles, and many others, in supply. Unfortunately, we compare very badly in that respect. America has one intercontinental ballistic missile, the Navy Jupiter, with a range of 1,500 miles. At the moment we have nothing comparable with that. I hope we shall collaborate with America on that missile. In the field of electronics we are said to be five to seven years late on weapon-locking fire control. Could we buy the licence from America to manufacture here a lightweight fire control and try to catch up in that respect? I say nothing about aircraft carriers., but the First Lord has told us about this guided missile ship, which is to be of 10,000 tons with both ship-to-air and ship-to-ship missiles to replace the gun——but with the inevitable proviso: "when available." When will those missiles be available? When will the ship be launched? And when she is launched, will she have the missiles which are to form her equipment?

It is very distressing to find that in one matter of this kind after another we are referred to quite distant future dates before we shall have what other nations already have in considerable abundance. I have called attention to certain defects as they seem to me. If my information on any of these points is wrong I can only say that I have made these statements in complete good faith, having obtained the most reliable information that I can; but if I am wrong in any respect I will apologise and be very glad to have the correct information. As I have called attention to defects and made criticisms, I should like to say that, I am sure like all of your Lordships, I am looking forward with great anticipation and interest to the speech which the First Lord is to make this afternoon, and I cordially agree that under his guidance great progress has been made in many directions. I have called attention to matters where progress has not been made, but I entirely agree that in many directions great progress has been made; and, taking it by and large, though much remains to be done I think that the Navy has a great deal for which to thank the First Lord.

House adjourned during pleasure and resumed by The LORD CHANCELLOR.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, it is probably true to say that at least ten years have passed since most of us who are accustomed to speak regularly in these debates in this House had an active connection with the Royal Navy, and therefore we particularly welcome the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Congleton. He has much more recent naval experience than we have, and I should like to congratulate him on his very forceful speech. I hope it is the first of many which we shall hear from him.

It has been said that a social revolution is taking place in the Royal Navy, and I believe there is some truth in that assertion. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, put it another way in saying that the First Sea Lord, the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Mountbatten, was building a new Navy in much the same way as Lord Fisher did; and I agree with him. We have come to a great period of change and, so far as officers are concerned, one of the most revolutionary changes is the abolition of the various branches and the forming of a General List for promotion. As a whole, naval officers are conservative by nature, and this new, revolutionary plan took a great deal of putting over especially with the older hands. I should like to congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty on the most admirable Fleet Order which announced the new scheme. It was very different from any other Fleet Order I have ever read, in that two pages were devoted to explaining, in excellent English, exactly why this new scheme was necessary and to endeavouring to carry officers of all branches with the Board. I must admit that until I read the Fleet Order I had many misgivings. After I had finished reading it, I was convinced that the Board of Admiralty were right, although I can see that the new scheme is going to bring a lot of difficulties in its wake.

There is one matter which I regard as of the highest consequence (it has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Congleton), and that is the problem of recognising who is who when one goes on board a ship. Some people may laugh at this, but it is a matter of the greatest importance to the Navy. Even noble Lords who have had nothing to do with the Navy must surely realise that if they went on board a liner and the purser was dressed the same as the Chief Officer they would have great difficulty in knowing to whom they were to go with any complaints about their cabin and so forth. I think there is going to be particular difficulty for young ratings and messengers, whose duty it is to find officers in the ward room or elsewhere, when they try to pick out the officer they want to see. I had the opportunity of discussing this subject only yesterday with a very senior Flag Officer. I asked him his view, and he said: "My dear chap, it is not only the ordinary seaman who is under this difficulty. The Flag Officer himself is under a most tremendous difficulty when he goes on board a ship where he does not know the officers and is taken by the captain into the ward room. He looks round and, of course, he has no idea who is who. He is quite likely to ask the supply officer some technical details about the main engines or the radar officer something about the guns." I feel that this is something which the Admiralty must face. I think that, for purposes of recognition, it will be necessary to have some sort of badge or mark on uniforms worn on board, so that the duties of a particular officer will immediately be obvious to anyone who looks at him. Perhaps a coloured patch or a distinguishing letter on the sleeve or lapel would be suitable.


Have an Ascot badge.


On one ship they have actually gone so far as to put little badges in the lapels of officers' jackets—rather like Rotary Club badges.

The other point with regard to the new proposals that I wish to mention relates to the Supply Branch. The Navy has always had an efficient Supply and Accounting Branch, and that is one reason, I believe, why one hardly ever hears of a court of inquiry or a court-martial in the Navy as the result of some misappropriation or some muddles in accounts, as one does all too frequently in the other two Services. It is because we have always had such an excellent Supply Branch, made up of men who are trained in accounting and who keep stores and cash accounts in a most efficient way, that there has been such freedom from trouble in the past. I hope that the standard of accounting will not deteriorate because of this attempt to make everyone a "Jack-of-all-trades." Whilst on the subject, I should like to ask what is going to happen to those admirable and efficient young men whose defective eyesight, or some other physical defect, prevented them from being accepted for the Executive Branch but who were keen on the sea and ably filled commissions in the Supply Branch. These young men were not able to join the Executive Branch, as I say, and now presumably will not he accepted for the General List Branch. It is most important that the Navy should not be deprived of the services of these young men who are keen on the sea but are not able to fulfil watch-keeping duties at sea and so forth. I hope that it will he possible to accept them as cadets or midshipmen for subsequent entry into the Supply Branch.

I should like to say how much I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Winster, in what he has said about the new arrangements at Dartmouth. I think that in the circumstances they are the best possible. For some years past the Navy has been losing, and will go on losing, some of those brilliant young men whom it used to pick up at the age of thirteen but who now, I am afraid, drift away to university scholarships. There is that disadvantage in losing the lower entry, but I do not think it would be possible to reintroduce it under present circumstances. I should like to say, in passing, that I understand that the quarters for midshipmen at Dartmouth are so magnificent that an officer is not likely to enjoy that standard of comfort again until he reaches the rank of lieutenant-commander. I hope it will not make them discontented when they get to sea and have to live in more cramped quarters at sea. Another revolutionary change which has now been introduced, though it does not mean so much to those outside the Service, is vitally important to those on the lower deck—that is centralised drafting. The Fleet Order which announced this did it in a most human way, and made every effort to overcome the prejudices of the older hands who naturally wanted to stick to "Pompey," Chatham, or whatever their old drafting depôt was. I am sure that, particularly with large numbers of small ships, drafting should be centralised as it is most successfully in the Royal Air Force.

Recently I had the pleasure of inspecting H.M.A.S. "Melbourne" before she sailed for Australia, and I should like to say how magnificently the Australian Navy had turned out that ship. I saw her the day after she had been visited by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. I know a good deal about carriers, for I have served in many; and I must say that I have seldom seen hangars or the flight deck of a carrier so clean and smart. Whilst on board that ship I also bad the opportunity of seeing the new lay-out of the mess decks. I thought the folding bunks, with individual reading lamps, and the care which had been devoted to the provision of lockers and stowage arrangements round the bunks most admirable. I think that within the limits of the small space available on the lower deck, these new folding bunks give the sailor a great deal more comfort than he had before.

I was also very glad to see that there has been an attempt to make use of colour in the decorative schemes for cabins, ward rooms, mess decks and so on. In a debate in your Lordships' House two years ago, I made the suggestion that an interior decorator should be employed in the next re-fit of H.M.S. "Eagle", because I was horrified at the drabness of the living spaces. I am gratified that this suggestion of mine was adopted, and that a great deal more thought is now being given to this matter of attractive living quarters. I believe that more use could be made of maranite and other modern fireproof materials, which are so easy to keep clean and which are being used more and more in merchant ship construction.

As one whose naval career was largely in the Fleet Air Arm, I was pleased to hear of the success of those newer items of flight deck equipment—the angled deck, the steam catapult and mirror device for deck landing. I have the personal gratification of seeing that some of the equipment which I helped to introduce during the war is still being used. I shall not say as much as I intended with regard to the supply of aircraft to the Fleet Air Arm because that matter has been dealt with fully by my noble friend Lord Winster. It is true that throughout its history the supply of up-to-date aircraft to the Fleet Air Arm has lagged. I know that it is a difficult problem, because not only have those responsible to think of the flying capabilities of an aircraft, but designers may have to make modifications—perhaps because the arrester gear is not up to the weight, or the lifts in a ship cannot take the size of aircraft which the designer wishes to construct. When criticising, I think that we should not minimise the grave problems the Admiralty have to face in this regard. There have been criticisms, too, of the great increase of Admiralty staff, in spite of the smaller Navy, but we should remember that the items of equipment and stores, particularly air stores, are so vast and diversified these days, that we cannot thoughtlessly take the number of Admiralty staff and divide them by the number of ships. I think that it would be unfair to be unduly critical in that regard.

As I have said, this is a time of social and material revolution in the Navy. It is indeed a difficult time for those who have to control its destinies and who have to make the grave decisions on which its future will depend. Life in the Navy to-day is certainly very different from what my generation was used to. Perhaps in some ways it is not so pleasant, but I believe that the same spirit is still there. I am sure that the new Navy will have our blessing and our interest throughout our lives.

4.24 p.m.


My Lords, according to our usual practice, I declare an interest in some of the subjects debated this afternoon. May I also add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Congleton, on his excellent maiden speech and on the delightful tang of the sea which it contained? The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, both mentioned the need for increased quality in the equipment of the Navy. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, said that perhaps this was the turning point in that sphere, and the noble Viscount complained of production lags. I should like to devote a few minutes to a subject on which I am afraid I have addressed your Lordships before—namely, the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors.

As your Lordships know, the whole design of naval ships is the responsibility of the Royal Corps, and as equipment gets more and more complicated, so their responsibilities increase manifold. There is grave anxiety that the men are not available in the Corps, either in quantity or in quality; that the organisation for designing ships is out-of-date, and that it is more suited to the "up-funnel and down-screw" era than to the era of radar, nuclear power and guided missiles. To take the manpower problem first, there is no question that men of the highest quality are needed in this Corps: that is agreed by all; but recruitment since the war has been shockingly bad. There used to be an entry of some seven dockyard apprentices a year; that has fallen over the ten years since the war to about three a year on an average. During the eighteen years in which entry direct from the universities has been in operation there has been a total of forty-two entrants, but more than fifteen have subsequently resigned. The result is that the Corps is now about thirty-five to forty below its somewhat inadequate establishment of 225. The full effect of this will not be felt for some years, because at the top there are still men of great experience and skill; but it is already being felt in the lower ranks in a shortage of junior officers. I am glad to see in the Explanatory Memorandum that a new scheme has been started of recruiting for the Corps direct from school at the age of 18 or 19: but obviously these men cannot possibly have any effect on the strength of the Corps for many years to come.

It is true that there has been a substantial and gradual improvement in the pay of members of the Corps, but it is an indication of the way that this subject has been dealt with that the Admiralty had to be taken to arbitration by members of the Corps before a satisfactory pay scale could be established. There are two other difficulties. I think it is generally agreed that the new pay scales can produce a good career in the Corps, but the best man will be attracted and retained in the Corps only if the arrangements for promotion are satisfactory, and, in particular, if promotion is not by seniority but by selection for ability. Many promises have been given that there would be selective promotion, but unfortunately there is no sign as yet that these promises are being implemented.

Let me take an example of the result of this. Qualified men who started in the Corps between 1947 and 1954 will, it is estimated, be between 50 and 53 years of age before they reach the rank of chief constructor. Until that age their level of salary is, £1,650, which is far too low for men of the calibre that is required. In order to attract to and keep the best men in the Corps, we must give them when in the Corps the proper responsibility, not only that they may feel that they are doing a job worth while, but also that that job may be clone with the greatest efficiency. At present they are not taken into the confidence of the operational people nearly enough. It is not sufficient to tell the designer that his ship is to have this speed, this power, this armament and this equipment. He must be told why, because the whole of the modern ship is a gigantic fighting unit in which every piece of equipment reacts on every other. As I say, these pay improvements give a real promise of an adequate career; but without an improvement, first of all, in the matter of selective promotion for ability and in the giving of proper responsibility, I am afraid we shall not get the men that are needed.

I turn now to the question of organisation. As has already been mentioned this afternoon, there has been a big change in the Navy now that the engineering and electrical branches and others have had their colour stripes removed and have been brought into the general sphere of executive officers. I understand that the result is that they can reach the highest posts in the Navy, including such posts as Admiral Superintendent to the Dockyard, and even membership of the Board of Admiralty. That is excellent news; but it does leave the naval constructors, who, after all, are co-ordinators of ship design, out in the cold, because they cannot be Admiral Superintendents and they cannot be on the Board of Admiralty. I suggest to the First Lord that that is a point which needs careful consideration.

Then I suggest that there is much too much division of responsibility. The constructor who is designing a ship and is responsible for the co-ordination and proper balance of the design has no electrical engineers, equipment experts or mechanical engineers in his design team. He has to pass questions across, and they have to go all through the Admiralty organisation before answers can be obtained. He has no men in the other departments under him, as is the case to-day in most branches of engineering design. In the aircraft industry it has come to be recognised in the last few years that it is essential for success to regard the aircraft as a weapon, as a whole, and the concept of the weapon system is now considered to be of the utmost importance. That means that the aircraft is regarded by its designer as a complete, integrated weapon, with its engines, its radar and all the rest of it. That outlook, I suggest, should be brought as quickly as possible into the design of ships, so that whoever is in charge of the design shall have in his team men who are equipped to deal with every item of the equipment in ship. In that way the design will grow up right from the start as an integrated design, and there will not be this appalling business of hanging on radar and weapons at a relatively late stage. It is going to become all the more important as guided weapons develop and all the complicated systems for launching and controlling them are incorporated.

Not only does this lack of proper division of responsibility affect the efficiency of the design, but it is the cause, also, of great frustration to the designer. We hear to-day a good deal about the iniquities of demarcation of work. I suggest that there is still too much of this in the design organisation of the Admiralty. To give one extreme and rather silly example, the propeller of a ship is designed, in so far as its shape is concerned, by the Director of Naval Construction Department, but in so far as its strength is concerned that is the responsibility of the Engineer-in-Chief.

It seems to me that there is only one solution to these problems, both as to manpower and organisation, and that is the formation of a technical corps in the Royal Navy. I think it is a pity that when the decision was arrived at to do away with the different stripes between the existing technical branches the opportunity was not taken to start a technical corps which would incorporate the engineers, the constructors and the electricians. In that way you could ensure that every aspect of design and maintenance was properly co-ordinated, and you would have at the head of your technical corps the best man for the job, chosen irrespective of whether he was an electrician, an engineer, a constructor, or what you will. It would mean that in every technical branch there was a clear road to the very top, that is to say, the Board of Admiralty, where I am sure it is time there was a representative of the technical branches. There are, I know, many vested interests to be overcome. Many of the older men in the technical branches may feel that this suggestion is too revolutionary, and perhaps some position they hold might be lost; but I submit that it is absolutely essential in this day of ever-increasing complexity of equipment if we are to give the Navy the ships and equipment that they must have.

I am afraid I have concentrated on one rather dull subject, but I believe it is of the utmost importance. It is often said that equipment is not everything, and, of course, that is true. We still need brave men and well-trained crews. But, equally, to-day great bravery and all the training in the world are quite useless without the best equipment, too; and unless we give that to the Navy we shall not enable it to perform its tasks, which I believe are just as important to-day, both in peace and war, as they have ever been.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, said in moving this Motion, but the fact that I am not going to argue strategically does not mean that I agree with all that he said on the strategic points. I feel that any remarks that I have to make, as an airman, will be much better made in the debate that is to take place in your Lordships' House next week on the Air Estimates. I will therefore begin by adding my congratulations to those of other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Congleton, on his excellent and well-constructed maiden speech. I was full of admiration for the extremely calm way in which he sat waiting for his turn to speak. It is not so long ago that I made my own maiden speech, and I remember with what fear and trembling I sat here, waiting through the speeches of noble Lords who preceded me, which seemed abnormally long.

I agree with what both the noble Lord, Lord Congleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Winster, said about the aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm. I should like to make a suggestion that has been mentioned in the Press and elsewhere—it is slightly revolutionary, and it is one with which, I am afraid, the Society of British Aircraft Constructors will not entirely agree. It is that, until such time as the British aircraft industry can produce aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm which are at least the match of anything that a prospective enemy can put against them, we should buy aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm from the United States, who can and do produce aircraft of that calibre. I do not suggest that this should be a permanent policy, but I think it is one that at the moment, in all fairness to the pilots of the Fleet Air Arm, is essential. It would have this further advantage: that the already overloaded British aircraft industry would be somewhat relieved of a burden, at a time when it is working hard to build up the Royal Air Force into the size upon which the Government have already decided. Furthermore, it would facilitate the maintenance and the spares situation of Fleet Air Arm aircraft on board ship when operating, as they will undoubtedly have to do, alongside the United States Navy in theatres all over the world.

I regret that I shall have to disagree to a certain extent with a remark which the noble Lord, Lord Congleton, made. I hope he will forgive me, but I cannot allow the remark to pass unnoticed. He stated that it would be a pity for the Royal Air Force to take over the Fleet Air Arm because of the way in which Coastal Command has been run down since the war. With the remark about the Fleet Air Arm I shall not quarrel; but the remark about Coastal Command is, to say the least, not accurate. I admit that Coastal Command is smaller than it was during the war, but most units, in all Services, have shrunken in size since operations were in full scale, which is perfectly natural. The size of Coastal Command to-day is well up to what it should be, compared with all other units in other Services. Furthermore, it has been completely re-equipped since the war with Shackleton aircraft, which I am told is the finest aircraft for the job—longrange anti-submarine work—in the world to-day.

The noble Lord, Lord Winster, mentioned that he had hoped that Lord Mountbatten, the First Sea Lord, would be given the task of amalgamating the Navy and the Royal Air Force. I assume from the way in which the noble Lord made that statement that he really meant that the Navy would swallow the R.A.F. I personally think that that is like Jonah swallowing the whale, and though I entirely agree the other way round, I feel that I cannot let that remark pass without comment.


Will the noble Earl forgive my interrupting him? I had not the least intention of implying that. It is not my wish that one side or the other should swallow the other. I want an amalgamation on perfectly honest and fair terms for both parties, with the good of the defence of the country in sight, and nothing else.


I apologise to the noble Lord most heartily, because I entirely agree with every word he has said.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that I should apologise to your Lordships for not having been present in the opening stages of this debate, for reasons quite beyond my control. I was interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, and I am sorry that the First Lord was not able to be in his place when he made them. He referred to the same topic which has been touched upon by other speakers—namely, who's who? I should like to support with emphasis every word that the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said. When you go on board a ship to-day, unless you know the individual you are looking for it is quite impossible to know to whom you are talking in the wardroom. I cannot help feeling that it is not an efficient way of identifying officers in the Navy, to make it impossible either for ratings or for other officers to know whom they are talking to. Is it not more efficient to keep the old marks of distinction, which were well recognised? I never could see anything against them, and I should have thought it was a retrograde step to do away with them.

The points about which I wish to address your Lordships this afternoon are both simple and short. They may have been touched upon by other speakers, and if they have I hope your Lordships will forgive me. Paragraph 8 of the Explanatory Statement says that the prime task of the Navy would he, as it always has been in the past, to keep our sea lanes free. Then, at a later stage, it says: It cannot be stressed too often that we who live on an island are wholly dependent on seaborne supplies. Truisms—indeed, some people might even call them platitudes, but they are not: they are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Then the Statement goes on: In a global war our sea lanes would be open to attack by a massive underwater fleet, and a powerful surface fleet which would he at sea with their fleet train. The main purpose of the Navy would be to retain control of the seas by destroying enemy ships, submarines, and aircraft. Again, nothing but the truth. But how are we going to do that? Unless the Navy succeeds in its task, the Air Force will be grounded. I hope the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, will mention that in his remarks next week. Unless the Navy can "do its stuff", no food will come in and the Air Force will be grounded.

Let us examine how we are to try and keep control of the trade routes. Supposing a global war lined up the Soviet Union against us. We should be faced by some 400 submarines, most of them powerful ocean-going types all in full commission the whole time and able to be put on trade routes before, so to speak, the "balloon went up". The Navy would be faced with the most desperate task it had ever had in its history. What must we do to meet it? In the operational fleet and ships engaged on trials and training, which are more or less the same thing, and in reserve, we have 35 anti-submarine frigates and 128 other frigates, and our total destroyer strength, excluding the "Daring" class—the Admiralty never seem to be quite clear whether they are small cruisers or large destroyers—numbers only 68. We know what happened in the last war; we know how the struggle progressed, how desperate it was and how ships were sunk right, left and centre until we were able to get on top of the German submarine attacks. But the Germans at their best were never able to put against us a force of 400 submarines.

I feel that it is up to the Admiralty to explain to us how we are to keep any sort of control of the Western Approaches, let alone all the other trade routes going through the Mediterranean, round the Cape or elsewhere. It is going to be a most desperate affair, but we do not seem to have anything to tackle it. We are told in paragraph 19 of this document that we have some twelve new frigates of various types under construction. We shall have five further antisubmarine frigates—they are building. But what on earth is the good of five when we have to tackle about 400 ocean going submarines attacking our trade routes? It seems to me quite certain that the Navy cannot do the job because they are not given a chance to do it. Again, suppose we were opposed by the Soviet Union. Many have seen pictures of the cruiser of the "Sverdlov" class that arrived the other day, and others may have seen the actual ship. We can all see what powerful ships those are. It may well be that the Admiralty hope to keep control of them by the use of aircraft carriers supported by our own cruisers, but the fact remains that we are likely to be in a position of appalling danger and difficulty through not being able to tackle the hostile submarine attack.

Then we come to the aircraft carriers. Paragraph 14 of the Explanatory Statement says: The four front-line carriers now in the active Fleet are "Ark Royal", "Eagle". "Albion" and "Centaur"; and the trials and training carrier is "Bulwark". All have angled decks and "Ark Royal" also has steam catapults. Will the First Lord tell us whether "Eagle" has also got steam catapults? If she has, I am surprised that she was not included; and if she has not got steam catapults, it is an appalling state of affairs. As to the rest of the aircraft carrier fleet, it is stated in this Explanatory Statement that we have three Fleet carriers undergoing extended refit, modernization, conversion, etc. They are "Victorious", "Illustrious" and "Indefatigable". But we also have, apparently, two aircraft carriers on which construction is suspended, the "Hercules" and the "Leviathan". Could the First Lord tell us whether they are going to be proceeded with, or, if not, why are they suspended? Surely, if we ever have to fight another war, we shall want every aircraft carrier that we have got.

Another question I should like to ask the First Lord is this: have those aircraft carriers their full complement of aircraft? If they have not, what are the prospects of providing them with their aircraft on mobilisation? The reason why I am so anxious about this matter is that if our opponents are, by any chance, the Soviet Navy, all their ships are in full commission the whole time, and presumably they have their full complement of aircraft. I hope the First Lord will be able to reassure me on these points. With regard to the rest of the debate, I can only say that I am sorry that I missed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Congleton. I shall have to content myself with reading it in Hansard. I hope that these further short points to which I have referred will be given an answer, if not to-day perhaps later on.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened to a number of distinguished and highly expert contributions, as might be expected. I hope the last speaker, who is always so easy to listen to, will forgive me if I say that I have found myself attaching special weight to the contributions from noble Lords on this side of the House—perhaps that is due to Party bias, and perhaps it is not—and thought that my noble friend Lord Hall was at his most impressive this afternoon. Many of us must have learnt a great deal from the noble Lord, Lord Winster, who, in spite of the fact that he was never First Lord of the Admiralty, whereas most of the other speakers appear to have been at some time or another, knows a hundred times more about the Navy than I know or ever shall know. I had not intended to take part in this debate. I had the honour for a few months, at the end of the Labour Government, of being First Lord of the Admiralty. A crowded hour of glorious life may be worth an age without a name but it hardly excuses a speech without a point. I should not have inflicted myself on the House except for the fact that my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who leads us on this side, has been called away and has asked me, in particular, to raise certain points on his behalf. However, I have one or two things to say on my own behalf before I come to his weighty questions.

We have heard some discussions, particularly in the later stages of the debate, about naval aircraft. I think I was the first, or at any rate one of the first people, to come into the open a year or two ago with the bold statement that the Navy had never had aircraft worthy of the Fleet. That was taken up very quickly by other speakers and has now become a kind of platitude; it is accepted that the whole story of naval aircraft is deplorable. I am inclined to subscribe to that view without criticising any individuals. We have heard various suggestions to-day. The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, who has fled from us rather early to-day—on second glance I see that he has merely placed himself in a position of relative safety from criticism; I am glad to see that so bold an airman is not frightened of a very small naval gun—was bold enough to suggest that we should buy some aircraft from America if we could not make suitable aircraft here. I would not rule that out. I leave it to the First Lord to tell us what is in his mind on the whole subject.

I remember suggesting a year or so ago that the whole pace of aviation should be stepped up in the Royal Navy and that the Fifth Sea Lord should be promoted within the Board of Admiralty. That precise step has not been taken, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty has obviously had some kind of ambitious project in his mind because he went so far as to inform another place [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 549 (No. 113), col. 2343]: the Controller (Air) at the Ministry of Supply is, in fact, a member both of the Air Council and of the Board of Admiralty. There is no question, of course, of the good faith of the Parliamentary Secretary, a man of the highest repute; but that was, if I may say so, a completely nonsensical observation. It just happens to be untrue. What led him into this aberration I cannot imagine. It was just fortuitous that he intervened with this splendid thought, which has no connection at all with reality. We in this House cannot, of course, criticise our brethren elsewhere. Nobody "spotted" the mistake, and the whole question was discussed on the assumption that what the Parliamentary Secretary said was in fact the case, the whole thing being a complete fiction. But, unless some subtle change has taken place—in which case I call on the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Admiralty to tell us the truth, as I am sure he would wish to this afternoon; and certainly no one knows better than he does—I am bound to say that the position regarding naval aircraft is still one of disquiet, and, I suppose one must say, of increasing disquiet. No very big effort seems to be made or seems to be in process of being made to set it right.

Some of your Lordships may have read, as I have, the current number of that excellent journal, Navy. There your Lordships will find an article, among other particularly interesting articles, on the strength of the Fleet Air Arm by Oliver Stewart, the well-known writer. He offers his opinion that Lip service is still paid to our sea power; but there are signs that the air component of that power is falling farther and farther behind. He reminds us that A committee is now sitting which is looking into the method of procurement of aircraft. for the Navy and it is possible that it will consider the advisability of passing all requirements through the middleman of the Ministry of Supply. I think that what he means to say there is that the Committee might consider the possibility of ending the system under which the Navy goes through the Ministry of Supply. In all these matters I am hesitant of dogmatising from outside, even after a short period inside, but the failure has been so great over such a long period that some new system should be tried now. I can hardly hope that to-day the First Lord will say much about the likely findings of a Committee which is still sitting but I hope that, if not to-day then not very long ahead, the First Lord will tell us whether it is right to consider leaving the Ministry of Supply out of it, and what system he is ready to put in place of a system that seems to have been falling down on the job under various Administrations, for quite a long period.

Before coming to one or two of the points which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough has asked me to put forward this afternoon, I should like to say one word on a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Winster. Here I venture to think that I am not in as complete agreement with him as on most other issues that he raised. He was inclined, I think, to reject the criticism that the staff of the Admiralty is swollen; he was inclined to think that there was a reasonable explanation for the present size of the Admiralty staff. I question that. I should think that the staff of the Admiralty is grossly swollen. I should think that the staff of the War Office is grossly swollen, and that the staff of the Air Ministry is grossly swollen. I am not saying that there are not some other Ministries the staffs of which are not also grossly swollen, but I suspect that, if one could arrive at the truth, which is always complicated in regard to these matters, an enormous saving could be made in rather high placed staffs in all three Service Ministries. I offer that observation, if you like with no personal authority, yet it is my conviction, having served for a short time in the War Office, in the Admiralty and in other Government Departments.

I think that unavoidably there is some waste. I believe that there will always be some duplication in the Service Departments as compared with Civil Departments because of the system under which, to some extent, the same job is done by a Service officer and a civilian. I am not saying that we can scrap that system—as long as it exists, there is going to be some overlapping; but I hope that the First Lord has this well in mind. I rather think he has. I rather think that a Committee is investigating it now, though I have not seen anything about that in public. If I am right, and if the First Lord is giving special attention to this matter, may I venture to suggest that he starts off at the top, or very near the top? I do not believe that it is ever possible to achieve much in the way of saving by going to the bottom and trying to remove the odd typist. In the end the person in higher position always makes out a case for a certain number of acolytes. I think one should start to eliminate the people in a higher position and delegate some of the work done by the higher-powered people to lower-powered people. In that way, it is possible, I believe, to bring about a large reduction. These are personal thoughts; they do not commit anybody. But I hope that the First Lord, whose good intentions and success as an administrator are recognised, I think, by us all, will have a favourable report on this point, as on other points, if not to-day then in the fairly near future.

Before coming to the points raised by my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, I must add my congratulations to those which have been tendered, I thought with special sincerity and warmth, to the noble Lord, Lord Congleton, on his maiden speech. I felt that in him we have acquired a real expert, who, unlike some experts, is a very agreeable speaker, very lucid, not too long and is exactly the kind of Member who adds so much to the life of this House. We shall all look forward to hearing him often in the future.

The points which my noble friend has asked me to raise, and which I have been over with him, I feel have a good deal of solidity, and I think the noble Viscount, the First Lord, has been warned of them. They are four in number. One of them has, in fact, been raised already by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, and indeed in various ways they have all been touched on by other speakers. First of all, there is the question of bases. How do we reckon to provide base facilities in thermo-nuclear war? Do we think we can defend existing bases? And what progress is being made towards making the necessary adjustments? I will not try to repeat—because the noble Lord, Lord Winster, has already said it better —the emphasis which must continually fall on the time factor in all these discussions. I have no doubt that something is being done, that something else is being planned. But how much is being done, and when is it all to come off?

Then I hope the First Lord will not think it redundant to-day to say something (no doubt it has been said in various statements, but I hope he will say something more) about the plans for the use of battleships, carriers and cruisers. I hope he will be able to say something to clarify what is in his mind and in the mind of the Board of Admiralty, on all those subjects. Are battleships to be kept and, if so, are they to be used for some new purposes? As regards carriers, would it be correct to say that the First Lord thinks that the coming of thermo-nuclear war, particularly the mention of the hydrogen bomb, has given the carrier a wider possibility of use than was previously contemplated? As regards cruisers, can he give us any information, in particular, as to whether existing cruisers will he adapted to every form of modern attack?

My noble friend Lord Hall has mentioned the question of nuclear propulsion in the submarines, a topic of the first importance, so I will not raise that matter again. Finally, I would echo Lord Alexander of Hillsborough's point in regard to an inquiry into the three Services. We on this side of the House attach great importance and interest to that matter. For three years my noble friend has been asking from this side for an inquiry into the three Services. He feels—and I echo his thoughts—that the answers in the Ministry of Defence debates have been most evasive. He considers that rising costs since 1950 have meant that we have been spending the whole sum of £4,700 million originally contemplated by the Labour Party programme without reaching anything like our target. I put it to the noble Viscount —I know he has been given notice of this question: Are the Government quite sure that there is not a large amount of waste? There is bound to be some waste in large enterprises, but are they sure that there is not too much avoidable waste?

I know that the First Lord is most anxious on these occasions to tell us anything that he can tell us. I know that some of these topics cannot suitably be discussed by question and answer in this House, or through the processes of debate, but can the noble Viscount explain how payments are assessed on contract work when there is no competitive tender? And how are payments assessed on development and experimental work given out to contract? If he feels that these matters are too elaborate to develop at any length this afternoon, no doubt he will let us have answers in correspondence. But I must say that the noble Viscount. Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and all of us on this side of the House are not at all happy—I do not think that the country is happy, and T do not think that dispassionate people are happy—that when these huge sums are being spent value for money is being obtained. Quite frankly, we feel that a considerable amount of money is wasted, and has been wasted for some time; and we do not feel that that will ever be cleared up, either in reality or in appearance, to the satisfaction of the country, of the taxpayers, the people who are being asked to go on paying the bill, until there is some sort of independent inquiry.

Finally, just a word of a general character from my own standpoint. I do not think any of us would disagree that two dilemmas confront us and have for a year or two been confronting the Royal Navy. This is true no doubt of all the Services, but particularly is it true of the Navy. The first is how to prepare for a thermo-nuclear war and a conventional war at the same time within a tolerable Budget. There cannot be an easy answer to that problem, but we look to our leaders to give us a clearer answer than we have yet received. The second dilemma is how to prepare for a war, on the reasonable assumption that the Americans will be our Allies, while at the same time rot leaving ourselves quite defenceless if, by some evil and unexpected chance, we should be left to fight alone. It might be thought that that last issue has really been settled, at any rate in the minds of people who follow these things at all closely. But I rather question whether it has.

If I may turn back once again to this excellent journal. The Navy, I find a very important article called "The Navy and the Atom Age Jigsaw," by Mr. Donald Barry, which surveys the whole position of the Navy to-day in the broadest outline and yet in considerable detail. On page 111 of the current number of The Navy, one finds the conclusion of Mr. Donald Barry, which is not in the least one which should be in any way unacceptable to the First Lord. His conclusion is this: Many will say the Navy is becoming too small. Too small by previously accepted standards no doubt, but there are as yet no standards by which to judge naval power in the nuclear age. Whereas naval power was formerly judged by national merit it is now, in the Western world, calculated by combined strength. That, I am sure, is a point of view which is close to that of the First Lord; but in the editorial, which presumably carries even greater authority and which immediately anticipates the article on "The Navy and the Atom Age Jigsaw," we find a rather different point of view represented. There we find this conclusion: Our Navy must therefore he strong enough to deal with the Soviet Navy—with 30 powerful cruisers and 500 submarines—which means a very much stronger Navy than we have to-day. In the First Lord's view, the task of the Royal Navy must be considered:n relation to assistance to he given by the navies of other N.A.T.O. nations. Here, with respect, I must to some extent join issue with the First Lord. The final conclusion is: The Royal Navy may no longer be able to protect this grand old country of ours from all forms of attack. But if it cannot without assistance even safeguard the imports required for our survival we have no right to regard ourselves as a first-class Power. There, in the same issue of the same paper, we have opposite points of view, which shows that these matters have not yet reached any degree of clarification in these highly expert quarters. I would suggest—and here I am following, in different and inferior words, what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, at the end of his speech—that we must cut our coat according to our cloth; and I, too, question whether the best friends of the Navy (and there cannot be any better friends than those who take on, year by year, the job of running a Service paper) are performing the best service in reaching a conclusion such as that in the editorial which I have just quoted.

Let me, in conclusion, put a slightly different point. I feel that to-day the Royal Navy enjoys the unrivalled admiration and love of the British people. I should say that in that respect, among our institutions, it is perhaps second only to our revered Monarchy. But I suggest we must beware lest the Navy becomes the victim of too uncritical, too wistful and too nostalgic a devotion, because if we fall into that trap, a moment may come when the Royal Navy is swept away by harsh iconoclasts who feel that it has ceased to correspond with the actualities of this formidable age. The Royal Navy has always had a great capacity for combining tradition and progress. There was never a moment when its genius for self-adaptation was more indispensable than now, both in its own interests and in the interests of its great causes—British survival and world peace, which it is its special glory to defend. I know that, so far as one man can do it, the affairs of the Navy are safe in the hands of the First Lord. He has some Admirals of exceptional distinction very close to him —if it is not invidious to mention them, the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Mountbatten, Lamb, Davies and others. I feel that they are men who, under the leadership of the First Lord, can bring about this adaptation. But I agree with what has been said by more than one noble Lord, that there is very little time before it will be too late.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, for giving me this first opportunity of speaking in your Lordships' House on a purely naval theme. I am grateful to him, as I am grateful to other noble Lords on all sides of the House, for the kind things which have been said about the Royal Navy; and I should particularly like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for the very wise words with which he finished his speech. I was much helped by the kind intervention of the noble Lords, Lord Winster and Lord Congleton, in defence of the numbers at the Admiralty. At the same time I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, who disagreed, that while not admitting that the staff is "grossly swollen" we are ever pressing for reductions in staff. We have brought about a reduction of a fair number and we are going on, as the noble Lord says, pressing this Committee to make every possible cut that can be made in superfluous numbers.


My Lords, I am sorry to break in, but am I right in thinking that there is a special committee now dealing with the matter, or is it some routine committee?


My Lords, there are committees going on all the time, but the committee now going into this question is a special committee. I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Congleton, on his maiden speech, if I may properly do so, having only very lately made my own maiden speech in this House; but his was much more authoritative and knowledgeable than anything I said, and it will be a great asset to the Royal Navy to have him speaking for that Service on future occasions.

As I am bringing to an end my fifth year as First Lord of the Admiralty, it may suit your Lordships if I go back a little into the past and look at the changes during that period—changes which I hope your Lordships will think have been progressive, as many noble Lords were kind enough to say. As I go along I shall try to pick up and answer questions put by noble Lords on all sides of the House. My seven living predecessors in this House and my eighth living predecessor in another place know very well, as do all those who have contact with the Royal Navy, that a navy is not fashioned overnight. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Winster, will be good enough to bear that in mind in future contemplation of the First Sea Lord's achievements. I know it is difficult for your Lordships and those in another place, in comparing one year's Explanatory Statement with that of the previous year, to see what, if anything, has been achieved. But I have been lucky enough to have been at the Admiralty during a period which has seen some notable changes.

I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, about the general strategic background in naval planning. It is really unnecessary to say that Her Majesty's Government will always continue their efforts to avoid war and to build up a strong deterrent to it, but we cannot close our eyes to the possibility of global war being forced upon us. I know many of your Lordships agree with me in this, though from what he has said in previous debates the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, does not. No matter what may happen in such a war, this country will still have to import food to live; and, moreover, if we live, we light on. To do so we must have imports of oil and ammunition. As many of your Lordships pointed out, there is a possible enemy with a powerful fleet which could cut off our supplies unless our anti-submarine forces were strong enough to bring them through in convoy; and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, that it is no use gambling on the chance of knocking out submarines by bombing those submarine bases, because submarines are not going to sit still waiting to be bombed. The Admiralty, in these past years, have therefore continued to develop—and mean to go on developing—all methods of dealing with enemy submarines at sea as an important part of our national defence.

The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, put to me some questions on behalf of his noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. The noble Viscount, who is unable to be here at the present time, was good enough to send me notice of his questions. He asked about naval bases in an atomic war. I can tell your Lordships that we contemplate a far greater employment of what is known as "afloat support" to keep the Fleet at sea. But, quite apart from this, our plans allow for the possibility, of course, that many of our main bases at home and abroad may be completely denied to us in an atomic war. I still think it is unlikely that an enemy would be able to knock out by any means all of our bases, both Royal Navy and Allied, including, of course, N.A.T.O. bases. I still think that we could count on having a good number left intact over the globe, and where necessary we should set up emergency bases.

Turning from strategy to the Fleet itself, I come to the question which has been raised by Lord Teynham and other noble Lords, including Lord Winster, who made some comparisons with the Russian Navy and the United States Navy. About the Russian Navy I would say only that I do not believe that it is in any way technically ahead of the Royal Navy, but it is a very large and a very powerful Fleet, particularly in submarines and cruisers, as I have given warning in your Lordships' House on a previous occasion and frequently in another place. As to the United States Navy, they have indeed a huge Fleet in commission and a most enviable building programme under way, with first-class technical equipment, as has been pointed out during this debate. I saw something of this great Fleet during my visit to America last October, and I must say that I rejoiced to see it. But let me remind your Lordships that the Navy Estimates of the United States of America for the current year stand at just a fraction under 10,000 million dollars. It is easy to see that, with a money grant as great as all that, one can afford to back practically every horse in the race, and I hope your Lordships will bear that in mind when comparisons are made between their position and ours.

So far as our own Fleet is concerned, as the Explanatory Statement which we are debating to-day on the Motion of Lord Teynham says, we have for the main striking force of the Fleet "Eagle" and "Ark Royal" as our Fleet carriers, and "Centaur", "Albion" and "Bulwark" as our light fleet carriers, with "Hermes" and the modernised "Victorious" and "Warrior" to come after. All these carriers have the angled deck, which besides its operational value has, in combination with the deck landing mirror sight, reduced the deck landing accident rate by well over 50 per cent.—a very remarkable figure. We are planning further modernisations to be certain—Lord Teynham referred to this—that we keep fully up to date the modern carrier force we now possess as still more modern aircraft come along.

The noble Earl, Lord Howe, asked me whether the "Eagle" had yet got steam catapults. No, she has not. These catapults are, of course, one of the reasons for these major modernisations about which I have spoken.

What I have just told your Lordships about carriers outlines what is perhaps the main transformation of the past four years. One of your Lordships asked me about the value of carriers. I would say again, as I think I said in the earlier defence debate, that the carriers provide the main striking power of the Fleet through their ability to operate continuously the very versatile aircraft we are getting to-day. They can defend their battle groups against air and submarine attack, and they can strike against surface vessels or shore targets. Their range of vision is immense. It is also an interesting speculation, which is going on at the moment, whether or not we can combine in the one hull a ship that carries both aircraft and guided weapons.

A lot has been said about aircraft by your Lordships this afternoon, and I am glad to say that, after all these disappointing happenings and delays, at last our aircraft are beginning to do justice to our carriers. The Sea Hawk and the Gannet have been proved excellent aircraft in full squadron service. I am afraid it is never done to give actual numbers of our front-line strength; therefore I cannot answer those of your Lordships who asked me about numbers in this connection. As I say, these two machines have proved excellent aircraft in full squadron service. Still more encouraging is the fact that since the debate on the Navy Estimates in another place the N.113 and the D.H.110 have successfully completed their deck landing trials and offer every hope for the future. The N.113 is our new strike fighter aircraft which is much faster than the Sea Hawk and will be able to carry the atom bomb, with a very wide radius of action. The D.H.110 will be the Navy's next all-weather fighter, replacing the Sea Venom, and it will be armed with guided weapons. I do not think I have time this evening, if Lord Winster will forgive me, to go into the question of the relative age of the D.H.110 and the N.113. I think I can give him an answer which will afford him satisfaction, if he will allow me to write to him at an early date. I have not heard before the opinion which Lord Winster has expressed about the Sea Venom. I certainly have not heard that it falls heavily to the ground on reaching certain speeds! As a matter of fact, I should not like it to be thought that it was not a very good aircraft in service.

The D.H.110 will be replacing the Sea Venom, and rather further away in the future we have our next purely strike aircraft which will replace the Wyvern. The experts tell me that they are very pleased with the way it is coming along. So the picture of aircraft is nothing like as black as it was painted six months or a year ago. The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, suggested that we might re-equip the Navy with American aircraft as a practical proposition. I must tell the noble Lord that it is not as practical as all that. The first reason is that we have some first-class aircraft coming along in a satisfactory fashion and they are keeping now to their development time-tables. The second reason is that there would be considerable technical complications. American naval aircraft of the next generation will probably be too big for the lifts of our carriers. After all, we are not building carriers like the "Forrestal" which the Americans are doing to-day. I think also that, more than this, aircraft to-day tend to be increasingly part of an integrated weapon system, with everything made to measure from the bombs to the test equipment. There would therefore be very difficult logistic problems. Using American aircraft would be -unnecessary as well as difficult, quite apart from the worst headache of al], which would be finding the dollars.

I now turn from carriers to the other major units of the Fleet. Several noble Lords have mentioned the five battleships in reserve. The "Vanguard" would still be, a most useful ship, and she is earmarked for assigning to N.A.T.O. in an emergency. We therefore keep her in a condition to be got to sea very quickly. Then comes the rather controversial subject of the four "King George V" class battleships. They are unmodernised and their operational value would be limited, but it would be premature to scrap them until we judge that they have reached the end of their useful lives. Meanwhile, they are being held in extended reserve at very little cost. Of course, we have considered their conversion to platforms for long-range guided missiles. It was examined, and it was rejected. The cost would be very great and the hulls are elderly—they were laid down in 1937. The Admiralty feel that the vessels that carry guided missiles should 5e specially built, and built to last a long time.

Let me come to the cruiser. Here I must tell your Lordships frankly that the Board of Admiralty have been faced with a most difficult problem. Cruisers are most important to the Navy's peace-time role of maintaining our foreign and colonial policy, and they play a leading part with the Fleet in war. They can remain remote from base for long periods, and they carry a sizeable armament and an available force of men for landing purposes, a job which they have often done. Yet, in looking to the future, the Board of Admiralty did not feel that they could afford to lay down any more of these expensive ships until they were more certain about the weapons and the form the cruiser of the future would take. Meantime, as the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, said, we had to maintain our effective strength of cruisers. Therefore we decided to complete the three "Tigers" as soon as we were sure that the new fully-automatic 6-inch gun would be ready for them. The cruiser gap had to be filled and it was not feasible to delay the completion of these three ships until the anti-aircraft guided weapon had been fully developed and made operationally efficient. But we are now able to plan a new type of guided weapon cruiser, which will be designed from the start to take these new weapons.

In the destroyer field we have decided that our next step will be a development of the highly succesful "Darings", which will incorporate the armament of ship-to-air guided weapons as well as advanced guns, radar, communications and anti-submarine equipment. Our eight "Darings" have themselves a fighting value much above that of the conventional destroyer, but the new version will be more effective still.

The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, spoke of the anti-submarine frigate. He made the point, quite rightly, that the submarine itself is a very important anti-submarine weapon. We have also made big advances recently in the development of antisubmarine detection equipment and weapons for fitting in surface ships, and our escort forces are being equipped to find and destroy the most modern submarines. The action taken by the Board of Admiralty at the time of the Korean war under the late Government, when the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, and then the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, were First Lords—and I gladly pay them my tribute—has borne fruit in the number of Frigates that are now available to the Fleet. Thirty-one destroyers have been converted into anti-submarine frigates and the first ships of the new construction programme have now been commissioned. If noble Lords feel that it has taken a long time to get these new construction ships, I would say that one of the reasons has been that the shipbuilding industry has been giving high priority to commercial orders, especially those for export. But a considerable number of new frigates will be in commission in the next few years, and we shall keep our escort force balanced and up to date.

There has been a great deal of criticism, not so much this afternoon in your Lordships' House as in the Press, about the threat from the mine in atomic warfare. All I will say is that nearly all Soviet ships, including her cruisers, carry mines, and her huge submarine force is trained in mine-laying techniques. Here again, as the result of the rearmament programme started by my predecessors, we have a large and vastly improved force of coastal and inshore minesweepers.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, wisely devoted a considerable part of his speech to submarines and their systems of propulsion. During the last few years we have carried out as many conversions and modernisations as possible to keep the submarine fleet up to date. Now the first of a new class of fast battery-driven submarine—the "Porpoise"—has just been launched. So far as the submarine world is concerned, we are entering an exciting field of design. On the one hand, we are about to gain experience of high-test peroxide propulsion from the "Explorer" and "Excalibur", about which the noble Viscount asked me, and, on the other hand, we are tackling the problem of nuclear propulsion. I cannot give the noble Viscount the actual speeds, for security reasons, but the high-test peroxide fuel gives the "Explorer" and "Excalibur" their high underwater speed and their greater endurance when submerged. Of course, the nuclear-propelled submarine will have these characteristics to a more marked degree, and her endurance and speed will be outstanding. She will not have to surface anything like so often as the conventional submarine and so expose herself in her most vulnerable condition. Even if detected, her speed is such that she will make a most evasive target for the hunter, and, of course, the same speed will be eqally useful in attack.

The noble Viscount and also the noble Lord, Lord Winster, asked about American help in the field of the nuclear-powered submarine. As your Lordships know, this is a constitutional question for the Americans. I can only say that from our visits to America both the First Sea Lord and I realise that the American Navy would like to do everything they could to make the benefit of their experience and their trials available to us, but at the moment it is a constitutional question. Whether it will be solved or not I do not know, but I hope it will be, because it would make a valuable short cut in the time our nuclear submarine programme would take.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, asked me about the "Girdle Ness", which has been commissioned for guided weapons trials and training. This is probably the most significant step of all, because we are now entering an era of warfare by guided missiles. The noble Viscount was critical of our progress in this field of guided weapons, and I quite understand. I, too, and the Board of Admiralty would have liked to have the missile in service in the Navy already, and I only wish that we were now getting practical experience in handling it. In reply to certain remarks which have been made by noble Lords this afternoon, I can only say that the importance of this weapon to the Fleet is fully understood by the Ministry of Supply who, as your Lordships know, are our agents in this matter. The need for speed is understood by them and by the contractors who are doing the work for them. Meanwhile, we are going ahead with commissioning the "Girdle Ness". Again, the date cannot be given, but it is not very far away. We are taking every possible step to see that the weapon is produced in time to fit in with our planned programme of trials.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, asked me whether we should not be spending more on new construction. It is certainly true that this year and last year we spent less than in 1954-55. That was a year of heavy spending on the last three carriers which we were completing. Since them we have only had one ship of that size under construction, the "Hermes"; and also the minesweeper programme is tapering off. At the moment, there is a slight lull in the new construction programme until the designs for the new major ships are completed. When building gets under way on the guided weapon ships, then I hope that, if we can get the money, the noble Viscount will have nothing to complain about in regard to the spending on new construction.

I should hate to pretend to your Lordships that this has been an easy five years at the Admiralty, because it has not. It has been a difficult period for the Admiralty, as those of your Lordships who follow the fortunes of the Navy will realise.


May I put one question to the noble Viscount before he leaves the matter of guided missile ships? I did ask him whether the "Girdle Ness" was a new ship or a converted ship.


I am sorry that I forgot to deal with that point. The "Girdle Ness" is not a new ship: she was originally a merchant ship converted to a naval depôt ship. She was chosen because her hull was particularly suitable for the purpose for which she is wanted. If a cruiser had been chosen instead of her, then I believe the cost of conversion would have been much greater; besides, we have not cruisers to spare at the moment, As I say, she was a merchant ship converted to a naval depot ship.

I was saying that the past five years have been a difficult period at the Admiralty, because we have had to grapple with the problem of equipping the Navy with the next generation of ships and, at the same time, have had to keep an Active Fleet adequate to meet the ever-increasing commitments that we have in what is known as the "cold war." This dual process has been a slow one. Ships are very expensive, and they last twenty years or more, so that we cannot afford to make mistakes. Therefore, we have done a great deal by way of modernisation of ships with many years of life ahead of them; and that has, on the whole, come out much more cheaply than new construction would have done. Then there has been the problem, which your Lordships have raised in this debate, of keeping sufficient ships at sea while at the same time reducing our call on the nation's manpower. In this connection, I have been asked many questions about economising ashore. I can assure your Lordships that committees are continually sitting on Admiralty staff numbers, and there is a special committee sitting at the moment, combing our shore establishments to cut them clown to the minimum and get as many ships to sea as possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, spoke about our having a larger Fleet train. The Fleet train, as your Lordships are aware, consists of depôt ships for destroyers and submarines, repair ships, store-issuing ships and tankers. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Congleton, said, the Fleet train is very expensive to maintain in peace time, and the use of our world-wide nework of shore bases is much more economical. Previously our plan has been, if hostilities broke out, to use merchant ships for this purpose. But in a thermo-nuclear war we may not have time for this, and therefore we have had to face this question of building up a larger force of suitable Fleet train ships. We are taking steps to see that, if possible, the Fleet train is built up reasonably quickly, and a few hints of this are given in my White Paper Explanatory. Then the noble Lord made some interesting remarks about avoiding overlapping and duplication in our research establishments. I should like to assure him (I could give him more details, but I am detaining your Lordships for too long a time) that we do take every possible opportunity of seeing that overlapping and duplication does not occur.

So much, my Lords, for the Active Fleet. Then there is the Reserve Fleet, which has been referred to this afternoon. Broadly, as I have set out fully in the Explanatory Statement—I will not bore your Lordships with repetition—our policy since the advent of nuclear weapons has been to maintain a smaller but more highly prepared Reserve Fleet, a large proportion of which could be ready to go to sea at very short notice. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, also raised the question of dispersing overseas ships of the Reserve Fleet. As a matter of fact, we have dispersed quite a number, both to Malta and Gibraltar, and we have given some thought to dispersing them to other places abroad. It is not cheap, and it is not always easy, but I can assure your Lordships that if we can succeed in increasing the dispersal of ships, we shall do so. But, of course, with our policy of having a small, highly prepared Reserve Fleet, ready to be manned without delay, there is something to be said for keeping most of it in the ports of the United Kingdom, though widely scattered through those ports. Then the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, said that this year your Lordships are missing the annual opportunity of visiting the Fleet for the exercise which is known as "Shop-window." Unfortunately, our commitments this year to N.A.T.O. have been so heavy that it has not been possible to put on "Shop-window" for your Lordships or for Members of another place. However, I can assure your Lordships that if you, or Members of another place, let us know what units of the Fleet you are particularly interested in, we will gladly make arrangements for a visit to them.

The noble Lord, Lord Winster, raised the question of amalgamating the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, and he thought that the first step might be a Joint Cadet College. In passing, I should like to say how much I appreciate the remarks from all sides that have been made about the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. This is most encouraging after the buffeting we have been through since the recent innovations. In a debate only on the Navy it might be inappropriate for me to talk too much about the amalgamation of the Navy and the Air Force, but I can assure your Lordships that, although we have been slow starters, I have noticed during my five years that Service Ministers and Service Ministries are getting progressively better in making the necessary concessions and sacrifices to each other. I know that that may be hard to believe, but it is true. There, for the moment, I think I had better leave the question of the amalgamation of the Navy and the Air Force.

The noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, who is such a gallant and excellent advocate of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, made a speech on their behalf to-day. It is true that the Corps are short of members. It is only right, however, to take into account the background of full employment, and also the fact that many of these constructors have to go to places all over the earth—something which is not always attractive when full employment can be found at home. Our usual sources of recruitment are four: the best of the dockyard apprentices, the sub-lieutenants at the Royal Naval Engineering College at Manadon, university graduates and men from private shipyards. We are now also taking what are known as "late developers," up to age 26, from the dockyard technical colleges, and young men of 18 leaving school whom we train completely. The constructors are the most highly paid professional body in the Civil Service, and they have good career prospects. But the whole future of this Corps and its relationship to the Navy—the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, will know what I mean by that—is being considered by a special committee going into Admiralty matériel organisation. What their recommendations will be I do not know, but I hope that they will not be long forthcoming. I can assure the noble Viscount that what he said to-day about the Corps will certainly be taken into account, not only by the Admiralty but by the committee which is in session.

The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, told me that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, wished me to say something about the Admiralty contract system. If I do that now we shall be here all night. I have written a long letter to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, telling him what we do, and I will gladly send a copy to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. It is an extremely complicated matter, and I do not want to detain your Lordships by dealing with it at this hour. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, spoke of the continuing need for capital investment in the Royal Dockyards. About two years ago we did launch a fresh drive to overtake these arrears in the dockyards, both in building and works services, in replacing machinery, modernisation of power supplies, and so on. That programme is on its way, although I must frankly tell the noble Lord that it will take some years to complete. Certainly the moment that we had an opportunity we started, two years ago, to tackle the question of re-equipping the dockyards in a way, I hope, of which the noble Lord will approve.

Now I come to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, about the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary in another place, and the question of the Controller of Aircraft being a member of the Board of Admiralty. Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said, the Parliamentary Secretary is a most frank person, with no wish to deceive the House, and I can understand only too clearly how it happened. The Controller of Aircraft is an additional member of the Air Council from which the Parliamentary Secretary lately came, and he attends the Board of Admiralty when naval aircraft are being discussed, or any subject connected with his job as Controller of Aircraft at the Ministry of Supply. Therefore the Parliamentary Secretary—I think it was possibly my fault for not warning him—made the mistake of thinking that he was perhaps a member of the Board of Admiralty, just as he had been a member of the Air Council.


I accept that explanation in the spirit in which it is offered, and withdraw any sort of aspersion on the Parliamentary Secretary.


The noble Lord made that quite clear, and I am grateful to him. Perhaps now he will see how the mistake could happen. The Parliamentary Secretary did it under some hot "cross-fire" in another place.

The noble Lord, Lord Gifford. and one or two other noble Lords—especially the noble Earl, Lord Howe—spoke about the removal of stripes. I agree with him that now that these stripes have been removed there is not the initial check that we had in the past. But I can assure the noble Lords that the training and structure which we now have for officers would make these stripes practically meaningless, and I think experience already shows that we can do without them. I know that opinion in the Service is divided, but I maintain it is perfectly possible to continue without them now that we have this common training.


I did make another suggestion, which was also made by my noble friend Lord Howe. We have not suggested that the colours should be reintroduced, but that there should be, on board ship, a local recognition badge of some kind, so that people going on board can see and recognise it.


I am not sure how popular it would be, but I thank the noble Lord for raising it.

I began with a survey of the operational Fleet, and tried to answer the questions of your Lordships. Let me end by saying something about the officers and men, or the personnel side, as we so impersonally call it. After the fighting stopped in Korea, there was a tremendous outflow of men who had been retained for that particular purpose, and of course we lost an immense number of experienced and senior ratings. So our greatest need has been to restore the essential structure of long-service Regulars. We have never had difficulty in maintaining our strength because we have more people wishing to come to us for National Service than we can take. But, of course, it is the long-service Regulars that we want most of all. It is too early to say that this problem has been solved. In any case, the Admiralty are not easily satisfied.

I should like here to say a few words on what we have done in this field of personnel to try to achieve our aim. First of all, there are the pay and pensions codes of 1954 and 1956, to which your Lordships have paid some kind tributes —especially the code of 1956. We have tried to ensure that those who choose the Service as a career are as well rewarded as they would be in civilian life, and that they are also well rewarded when they earn promotion. We have tried to provide more married quarters, more furnished hirings, and this has done a good deal of late to help to keep families together and to ensure that a married sailor has a home life. We have helped with new education grants—a matter which has been a special worry for a family man—and in the last four financial years we have built up a considerable rising curve of expenditure on single living accommodation ashore.

It is far from easy, as those who know the sea and the Navy will realise, to improve living conditions to any striking extent by altering an existing ship, although we are always doing our best to give a little more space to the living quarters. In new ships, and in modernising old ships, if your Lordships will be good enough to go and see them I feel that you will find that we have made great strides—so far as we can, inside a ship—as regards comfort, convenience, furniture and equipment. Our new design frigates and bigger ships will have air-conditioning of all living spaces, which will greatly add to the men's comfort in hot climates.

We have overhauled and re-designed the officer structure, as I say in my White Paper, from the entry as cadets right through the careers which we have planned for officers, operationally, technically and administratively. We have successfully introduced a new system of ships' commissions, so that officers and men will now normally serve together as a living unit in their own ship, at home and abroad, for a total of eighteen months or so. That will enable them to get to know each other and further increase the loyalty of a ship's company to their ship. We have re-cast the terms of Regular engagements for naval ratings and marine other ranks. We have introduced new classes of junior entry for the technical branches, and we have set on foot proposals for adapting the training and organisation of the lower deck to meet the changing requirements of the future. We have now started this new centralised system of drafting, which I hope will make the Navy more efficient and, at the same time, add to the convenience of the men. We have reintroduced discharge by purchase for those who, for one good reason or another, feel that they are in the wrong place.

A number of noble Lords have asked me about the effect on recruiting and re-engagement in the Navy of the last pay code. We have only one month's figures to look at, and I would remind your Lordships of what I said when I spoke last March. I said that I should like to wait for a couple of years before risking a definite opinion. But the April rates of transfer to the longer engagements (which are so important, as the noble Lord, Lord Congleton, said) show a distinct improvement over the 1955 average. They cannot fairly be directly compared, because they mostly involve transfers from a seven-year to a nine-year engagement, whereas the 1955 figures were for transfer from seven years to twelve. The recruiting figures for April are something like 40 per cent. Better than in April of last year. This is a considerable improvement, and I hope and believe that time will show that that trend will be maintained.

I am afraid I have spoken to your Lordships far too long this afternoon, but there has been so much to say, both on the strategic and on the construction sides, and also on the personnel side. I must ask your Lordships to forgive me, but I have spoken at this length because so many interesting questions have been put. I should once more like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, very much for bringing forward this Motion, and all your Lordships for your valuable and constructive criticisms and suggestions. If I have not answered them in my speech, I will, as I told the noble Lord, Lord Winster, let noble Lords have answers by post as soon as possible. In answering those suggestions and the questions put to me in this debate, I have tried to show your Lordships that although the Navy has had a difficult time lately, I, for one, believe that we are weathering those difficult times, and, personally, I am full of hope for the future.

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the First Lord for the information and assurances that he has given us to-day. I should also like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Congleton, on his maiden speech. It was almost exactly twenty years ago that I made a similar speech on the Fleet Air Arm, when it was not in quite such good condition as it is now. I am also glad to have had the support of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, and the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in my plea for a strong Navy despite the advent of nuclear weapons, a support which is not always forthcoming from certain sections on both sides of the House. As I have said, the Navy Estimates before us to-day are satisfactory, so far as they go, in streamlining our Navy, but I hope that we shall hear a little more in the future, next year, about guided missile ships and about better aircraft for the Fleet. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.