§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 2. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,092,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victualling and Clothing for the Navy, including the cost of Victualling Establishments at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1915."
§ Mr. HOGGE
I desire to move, that the Vote be reduced by £1,000.
I want some information, particularly from the Secretary to the Admiralty, in regard to the victualling and clothing contracts, so far as Scotland is concerned. I want to know what share of the clothing that is required for the Navy is obtained from the great firms in Scotland, either in the East or in the West, because we have a very shrewd suspicion, which I think is justified by our experience in the past, that too many of these orders are 154 given outside Scotland. As a matter of fact, Scotland certainly has never had its fair share of the military expenditure of this country. I have not gone into this point so closely in regard to the naval expenditure as I did in regard to the military outlay, and I should therefore be immensely obliged to the Secretary of the Admiralty if he would tell us what proportion is given year by year to Scotland, and what share of the orders are so given under this particular Vote. Here is a Vote for £3,000,000 dealing with victualling and clothing—very important matters, bearing in mind physique and personnel of the men in the Navy. It has been known that boots not at all above suspicion have been supplied, and it is appalling when these vast sums of money are before this House that the Votes are discussed in the presence of only about sixteen or twenty Members of Parliament, and but four are to be found voting against the money being spent in this extravagant way. The other twelve vote in the opposite way, but the figures of the Division are inflated by 155 several hundreds of Members who happen to be victualling themselves at that particular moment. This is a point which should be noted by the country—that personal convenience is preferred to the discussion of these Votes. I want to know how much of the victualling and how much of the clothing contracts are given to large firms in Scotland. The claims of the small firms in Scotland ought also to be considered, because, after all, Scotland is a smaller country, and is able to effect greater economies than any other country in the United Kingdom. That, at any rate, is an accusation often thrown against us in this House. It is even reported that farthings were invented in order that Scotsmen might be generous. We might be able, at any rate, to point out to the Secretary to the Admiralty how he could reduce this enormous expenditure by giving the victualling and clothing contracts to Scotland.
Another important point is as to the conditions under which these victuals and these clothes are made for the Navy. This is a Government that is particularly keen on securing the very best conditions in connection with any labour that is done for it. It has established certain sweating boards, and by that method improved the conditions in certain trades. I should like to know under what conditions jam and marmalade are made for the Navy. A large proportion of these contracts go to Dundee. What precautions are taken to see that the articles are of proper quality, and what do the Admiralty do to ensure, under the terms of the contracts, that proper wages are paid to the workers? Do suitable conditions of employment obtain in the various factories? Those of us in this House who cannot give time and attention to the proper expenditure of these vast sums would like an assurance from the Admiralty that we may sleep quietly in our beds and not feel disturbed in our minds regarding the position of the Navy as part of the spending machinery of this Government. We would all like some assurance on that point. I would not have asked for it had it not been for the discovery that the Admiralty proved unable to look after the housing of the men engaged in building the docks at Rosyth. We are anxious, indeed, to be sure that they look after the food and clothes of the men in the Navy.
There are other points in this Vote that strike one as requiring explanation. 156 Section B, page 41, deals with the wages of "Articifers." That, at any rate, is how the word is printed, and perhaps the Secretary to the Admiralty understands all about it. Then there is another item dealing with the question of national health insurance. That raises very wide questions, and I am certain the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) will be glad to inform the House, if the right hon. Gentleman is unable to do so on the spur of the moment, what success has attended the national health insurance scheme in the Navy. That is an original point which has never before been discussed. We are told by critics of the scheme that the system of weekly payments is a great drawback to men entering into it wholeheartedly, and the great complaint of the Government against the Opposition is that employers are throwing the whole weight of their influence in many parts of the country against the scheme of national health insurance. I want to know what the Admiralty is doing in that respect. I also want to know who licks the stamps at the Admiralty. Whose duty is it to lick stamps in the Navy? Obviously that is a new post which very appropriately conies under the head of "Victualling." We ought to have some explanation on that point.
There have been many Committees set up in connection with National Health Insurance, and the Admiralty might very well appoint a Committee and secure the services of the "Enchantress" to enable it to visit various naval stations in order to ascertain how these particular duties are being carried out. I may have something more to say about national health insurance, unless I get a satisfactory explanation from the Secretary to the Admiralty. I notice that for 1914–15 the Estimate is £523, whereas in 1913–14 it was £528, that is £5 less. Has the personnel of the Navy been reduced in number? If not, what is the reason the Admiralty are paying £5 less this year than they did in 1914–15? Section C, which deals with the wages of crews on victualling yard craft, is a new subject to me. I am very much interested in it. I notice that there again the National Health Insurance Act is responsible for an increase from £86 to £103. Does that mean that more men are employed in these yards now than was the case previously? What portion of that national health insurance premium is paid in the yards at home and in the yards abroad? Why, for instance, is only £5,209 proposed to be 157 spent in 1914–15 on victualling yards abroad, while in 1913–14 the sum was £5,613. Does that mean that we are at peace with the world and able to effect economies in our victualling yards abroad, or does it mean that hidden away in the figure of £5,613 there was a naval crisis some time last year, when food was hurried to certain places in order to meet contingencies that might arise?
On page 42 there is an item for wages of the Police Force. I am rather interested in the use of the Metropolitan Police Force in these yards. Would it not be much better to have all this money—altogether over £6,000 was paid—by the Admiralty doing its own policing. It is quite unnecessary that the Admiralty should secure from the Metropolitan Police Force superintendents, inspectors, sergeants, and constables, as if they were going to control a suffragette meeting instead of a naval yard. Why cannot they provide their own men to control that yard? Are the men working in the yard dishonest? Has the Admiralty found that their own supervision of the discipline and work of the men is so ineffective and inefficient, that they require to call in the Metropolitan Police to enable them to effect the order they desire? The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) suggests that the men are employed to protect the yards from outside interference. I should have thought that if the Admiralty can protect the yards inside, and, as it is one of the functions of the Navy all over the world to protect us outside, that they should be able to protect their yards quite as effectually outside as inside. I am interested from a domestic point of view in Section E. I never like gas and electric current accounts to be rendered together, and always prefer them separate, otherwise we cannot effect the economies we desire to effect even in our own households. When a man is asked to pay £3,007 for gas and electric current he wants to know on which of the two he is saving money, whether he should give up light or heat, and whether he should get rid of the antiquated methods by which we utilise gas and devote the money to modern methods of electricity. I hope the Secretary to the Admiralty has those details with him, or, if he has not, that he will send for them, so that we may govern our own domestic affairs by the experience we get in the large Department of the Admiralty.
158 As to paragraph (g) on page 43, there is an extremely serious point, because it deals with the cost of provisions supplied to the Fleet. The sum for 1914–15 is £1,232,050, which is, fortunately, more than in 1913–14. I do not know whether they are going to get more to eat, or whether there are more men and they are going to get the same. Is the Admiralty satisfied that the best use is made of the provisions supplied for the Navy? I ask that because the Firth of Forth is frequently occupied by a very large number of ships of the Navy. We are establishing there the Rosyth Dockyard. There were in the Forth last summer a very large number of large ships and a still larger number of smaller craft belonging to the Navy. I happened to be spending a portion of my Recess on the shores of the Firth or Forth, and we could have fed the entire village in which I was stopping with the food that was floated from the Navy to the shore on the tide in the morning. It was really astounding to see the amount of good bread loaves that seemed to be thrown overboard. With his sporting instincts, the hon. Member for Pontefract suggests that that was to feed the fish. Not only would it have fed the fish, but the pigeons could have perched on the floating side or the loaves, so that they would have served two purposes at once. At this particular point of the Firth of Forth it was possible to gather up, morning after morning, all kinds of victuals thrown away from the Fleet. The explanation offered in this House before was that it was absolutely necessary to have a fresh supply for each day, and that it was therefore very difficult to know what to do with the surplus food. Hon. Members would be shocked if they had the opportunity, as I had last summer, of witnessing the amount of waste in this particular. There is good ground in what I saw myself—no doubt it will be borne out by others, for my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir H. Dalziel) has lived long enough on the shores of the Firth of Forth to know that what I say is perfectly true, and I am sure he will agree with me—for saying that this is a subject on which my right hon. Friend might appoint a Committee. I think I have made it quite plain from this detailed criticism of minor points that it is possible, if one desired it, to continue the Debate for an inordinate length, but, of course, that is not the purpose for which one is addressing the House. One 159 is addressing the House entirely on the point of economy, and viewing these items as one does not frequently get the opportunity of doing. There is only one Member of the Opposition present, and he is one of the most recent Members. There is no competition, therefore, from that side in the way of speaking, and those of us who are economists first and Liberals second are able on these occasions to draw the attention of careful men like the Secretary to the Admiralty to points to which he ought to devote his attention. The hon. Member (Sir G. Doughty) is present, as the representative of a seaport town and as representing His Majesty's Opposition. As an economist, I am certain that he intends to follow me and to give us the Opposition view of this waste of public money. I am certain he sees it incumbent upon him to take part in this discussion.
§ Mr. MORTON
I am glad we have at last an opportunity of considering this Vote from the economical point of view, and in a way which we used to do many years ago, before a good many alterations were made in our Rules. Although to-day's proceedings commenced in an extraordinary way, apparently out of evil good has come, because it has given us a few hours to discuss this Vote. Unless you criticise these Votes you will never stop extravagance. I have known a Government put a Vote back after introducing it, and I have been thanked by Ministers for bringing forward questions of this sort, because they said it helped them to overpower the permanent officials. It is the permanent officials who arrange these things mostly. On page 42 I find a Vote for Chapel allowances, and other small expenses. I should like the hon. Gentleman to explain what is "Chapel allowances" and what is "Other small expenses." On page 43 I find a sum of £24,000 for anticipated requirements of other Departments of Government, etc. Surely we ought to be told what these anticipated requirements are, and what are the Departments? I never like that et cetera. The celebrated Joseph Hume said he had inquired very closely in this House with regard to "et cetera," and he found it meant "Sherry and biscuits." I should like to know what it means here. In item K there is another anticipated requirement, and more et ceteras—£1,600. Then in the next item there is also £500 for anticipated requirements of other Departments of Government, and there is 160 "etc." again. I should like to have some explanation of what this means, because we are entitled to know where our money goes.
On page 44 there is "Miscellaneous allowances, £2,500." I should like to know what these allowances are, and where they are going. I do not see "etc." there, so I suppose it is all right. In Item O there is more anticipated requirements of other Departments of Government, £6,500, and the etc. appears again. My hon. Friend will have a good many et ceteras to explain, and I hope he will endeavour to do so, because we are entitled to it. Some people think it is no good to inquire into these small amounts, but you will find the old adage true, that if you look after the pence the pounds will look after themselves, and they cannot make the bigger amounts without the smaller ones. Therefore, I think it is worth picking out these items to get explanations with a view to making economies. On page 45—I do not object to this so much, because it is a receipt—there is an item of "Miscellaneous receipts, £252." I should like to ask what they are. There is only one thing I do not notice in these Estimates. We used to find an item for stables—there was a belief that they used to keep the Horse Marines there. I am glad that appears to be done away with. I thank my hon. Friend for bringing these matters forward, because it is one of the first duties of the House of Commons to look into the expenditure of the money and we ought to take care, whenever we have the opportunity, to look into it as closely as possible.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am very glad to give the explanation called for, and I greatly appreciate the detailed interest which has been taken by my hon. Friend in these Estimates. With regard to Scotland and the supply of stores for victualling and clothing, if my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) can offer us terms more advantageous than any other part of the United Kingdom, it will certainly be our duty to consider the matter carefully; but I cannot undertake to agree with his proposition that Scotland should get all the contracts for all the clothing and all the victualling.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
If the Scottish contractor can offer us terms more advantageous than the contractors of any other part of the United Kingdom, it is our duty in the public interest, on behalf of the public service, to consider carefully their tenders. In regard to the conditions under which contractors do the work which they are performing for us, all contractors have to carry out the Fair-Wages Clause. In regard to the payment of artificers and hired men, you are dealing here with the victualling yards, and there are certain artificers required and certain labourers required for the packing, unloading, loading, discharging, despatching of various stores which go to the Navy and which go to clothe the Navy. My hon. Friend says, "How is it you get £49,449 in 1913–14, and £53,226 in 1914–15?" That means that the rates of wages for these various hired artificers and labourers have gone up, so that whilst in 1913–14 853 were estimated to get £49,449, 870 men in 1914–15 get £53,226. That is due to the rate of wages paid. As to the sum charged in respect of the Insurance Act, that is the contribution which the Admiralty has to pay as an employer in respect of insured persons. My hon. Friend asked how the Insurance Act is working in connection with dockyard employés. So far as I know, the Act is working quite smoothly. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty made a statement in respect of the Insurance Act recently, and I would amplify that by saying that, after carefully watching the whole operations, I have no reason to suppose that the Act, so far as the dockyard workmen are concerned, will be other than satisfactory. As to the use of Metropolitan Police, it has been a long-established custom to employ members of that force in the dockyards. This has been a matter of considerable discussion, and hitherto it has been thought necessary to have this kind of protection in connection with the stores and the yards. I may say that we are considering whether we could not have the watching of the hospitals done by some other and cheaper method, such as the employing of pensioners, rather than members of the Metropolitan Police Force. My hon. Friend the Member for Sutherlandshire asked about the chapel allowances, and other small expenses. The chapel allowances, of which I can give him details, include £20 for an organist and £5 for a verger.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The right hon. Gentleman has dealt so courteously and ably with the points raised that I propose, with the permission of the House, to withdraw the Amendment to reduce the Vote by £1,000. I hope he will remember that one has his mind on this kind of economy, and that the questions will be raised again when they can be gone into with more detail.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.