§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
This Bill seeks to set up the machinery for the distribution of prize money to the officers and men of the Fleet eligible to receive the same. For the better understanding of its proposals, let me state in as brief outline as I can the facts relating to prize money and prize bounty, asking the House to bear in mind that the two things are entirely different. Prize money is an award to the Navy for the capture of enemy merchant ships and cargoes, the award being paid out of the proceeds of the sale of the same. Prize bounty is a Grant by the State of a certain sum per head of the personnel of enemy war ships sunk or captured to the officers 1670 and men of the Royal Navy taking part in the sinking or capturing of the same. Prize money is older than the Navy itself as at present established and maintained. Down to Henry VIII.'s time the ports of the Kingdom furnished their quota of ships for the defence of the realm, and in consideration, as an act of grace, the Crown made an award to the mariners from the proceeds of the prizes captured. Time brought its changes, notably the establishment of a navy supported either by the Crown or, as in later years, by the Votes of Parliament. But the policy of awarding, as an act of grace on the part of the Crown to the ship or ships of the Navy capturing an enemy merchantman, the net proceeds of the capture, remained. Down to the present War the award of prize money has been made to the crew or crews of the ship or ships directly and actually engaged in capturing the prize. I call particular attention to the fact because a fundamental change in the mode of award is now proposed in this Bill.
Of course the award of prize money to the actual captors in each case, which was the old system, was a much simpler piece of administration than that now to be followed, but when the Naval Prize Bill was before a Grand Committee of the House of Commons in 1911 attention was called to the injustice involved in awarding prize money to those fortunate enough to be stationed on the trade routes, whilst the men who actually brought the enemy's ships of war to action got nothing from the distribution, though they did, of course, get their chance of earning prize bounty, as to which I will presently say a word. The injustice seemed to be accentuated by modern developments both of ships of the Navy and of the Mercantile Marine. It appeared possible that a small ship of war with a personnel of certainly less than 100 could hold up, capture, and bring in a great liner worth, say, a million of money—not sink her, of course; that is the German method—but bring her in, and undoubtedly, had the enemy Mercantile Marine kept the high seas, that is what certainly would have happened. It was, therefore, decided that, whilst retaining, by grace of the Crown, the old Navy privilege of participation in prize money, to alter the principle of award, so as to make possible a more general scheme of distribution to the Fleet. The net proceeds of each prize were no longer to be presented to its captors, but to be placed 1671 in a general pool out of which the officers and men of the Fleet as a whole actually taking part in sea operations in the present War should participate. I want to make quite clear this change in the method of award. Of course this necessitates the postponement of the final distribution of the award until the pool is full, which, of course, will not be until the close of hostilities. Now this Bill proposes to give statutory sanction to this important change in the method of distribution, announced, as it was, by Order in Council of the 28th August, 1914.
I said I would say a word or two on prize bounty, which is quite a different thing from prize money, and this would appear to be a convenient point to do so. The award of prize bounty is not of such ancient origin as the award of prize money. It dates from the time of the Commonwealth. It represents, as I say, a Grant from the State of a fixed sum per head—in recent times, since 1708, £5 per head—of the ship's company of any enemy armed ship—not a peaceable merchant ship, please remember!—actually sunk, burnt, captured or destroyed, to be distributed under an approved scale to the ship's company effecting the destruction or capture of such enemy ship. The policy of direct award in the case of bounty has been perpetuated in the present War. The Order in Council of 2nd March, 1915, sanctioned this, and the Orders in Council of 29th February, 1916, and 24th October, 1916, prescribed the scale of distribution. The procedure prescribed by the Naval Prize Act of 1864 has, of course, been followed. Claim has been made in the Admiralty Court, the President has given judgment, and the Accountant-General of the Navy has made payment. Down to 9th July, £53,539 has been distributed to officers and men of the Fleet by way of prize bounty out of £55,704 distributable.
I return to prize money, and come to certain important features of our proposals other than that of pooling; and here I must go back to history for a moment. In the Crown, from the beginning, as already said, is vested the right to prize, and, by its favour, awards of the proceeds of the capture of enemy merchant ships and their cargoes captured at sea have been made to the Navy. All prize, therefore, originally was the perquisite of the Crown. In the course of time the office of Lord High Admiral, 1672 originally held by the Sovereign, was conferred on a subject. It was so conferred in the reign of Charles II. on his brother the Duke of York. For the maintenance of his office the proceeds of prize taken under certain circumstances were allocated to the Lord High Admiral. The original Order in Council—and I think the House will be interested in this—is dated either 1665 or 1666, and provides for the maintenance of his office of Lord High Admiral by Charles II.'s brother, the Duke of York. It reads as follows:1. That all ships and goods belonging to enemies coming into any port, creek, or road of this His Majesty's Kingdom of England, or of Ireland, by stress of weather, or other accident or by mistake of port, or by ignorance, not knowing of the War, do belong to the Lord High Admiral: but such as shall voluntarily come in, either men of war or merchantmen, upon revolt from the enemy, and such as shall be driven in and forced into port by the King's men of war, and also such ships as shall be seized in any of the ports, creeks, or roads of this Kingdom, or of Ireland, before any declaration of war, or reprisals by His Majesty, do belong unto His Majesty.2. That all enemy's ships and goods casually met at sea and seized by any vessel not commissionated, do belong to the Lord High Admiral.3. That salvage belongs to the Lord High Admiral for all ships rescued.4. That all ships forsaken by the company belonging to them are the Lord High Admiral's, unless a ship commissionated have given occasion to such dereliction, and the ship so left be seized by such ship pursuing, or by some other ship commissionated then in the same company, and in pursuit of the enemy: and the like is to be understood of any goods thrown out of any ship pursued.Here you have the beginning of what were subsequently known as the droits of Admiralty and the droits of the Crown. The prizes thus allocated to the Lord High Admiral have come to be known as droits of Admiralty, while that portion of the proceeds retained by the Crown are known as droits of the Crown. The House must please get these two categories clear. Droits of Admiralty fell to the King in his right of Admiralty and they were surrendered by King William IV. when the Civil List was established. They therefore fell from that time into the Exchequer. It is important to bear in mind the state of the existing law in this respect in order to appreciate why, in certain cases, the proceeds of prize revert to the Treasury and are not distributed to the Navy. This is, of course, no innovation. The purport of this Bill as regards 1673 these two kinds of droits is to secure for the Navy what it has enjoyed for centuries by ancient custom and practice—no more and no less.
I now come to the application of this ancient custom and practice in the present War. In the early days of the War, at any rate, certain Prize Courts did not distinguish between droits of the Crown and droits of Admiralty. It is not disputed that the net proceeds of droits of the Crown have by immemorial custom been given to the Fleet by the pleasure of the Crown. The net proceeds of droits of Admiralty belong to the Treasury. The phraseology is apt to mislead, I admit, but the difficulty at the moment is the allocation of the value of condemned prize into these two categories. The Government has decided to appoint a strong and impartial tribunal to essay this task of separating these two kinds of droits. The tribunal will, it is proposed, consist of three members. I am glad to be able to announce that for the chairmanship we have secured the services of Lord Phillimore, better known as Sir Walter Phillimore, lately one of the Lords Justice of the Court of Appeal. He bears a name which is as well known in the naval service—as well of to-day as of the last century—as it is in the law. The son of a very distinguished judge who presided for many years in the Court of Admiralty, himself for many years a distinguished leader in the same court, and since then, for twenty years, a judge, Lord Phillimore combines in a peculiar degree the qualifications necessary for the post. The distinguished gentlemen who have consented to act as his colleagues are Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Callaghan, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., and the Eight Hon. Sir Guy Fleetwood Wilson, G.C.I.E., K.C.B., K.C.M.G., who has bad a distinguished official career and was lately the Finance Member and Vice-President of the Council of the Governor-General of India. The tribunal will have all such powers, rights, and privileges as are vested in the High Court or in any judge thereof in regard to the attendance and examination of witnesses, the production of documents, and punishment for contempt of court. They may appoint a clerk who will be paid a salary, and provision is made for meeting the remuneration of the clerk and any other expenses of the tribunal to such amount as the Treasury may sanction. Provision is also taken for the filling of a vacancy amongst 1674 the members of the Tribunal, if unhappily one should occur. All this will be found in Clause 2 of the Bill and paragraph 6, Part 2 of the Schedule.
The total sum standing to the credit of the London Prize Court on the 30th June was £9,818,845, and to that must be added the amount standing to the credit of the Overseas Courts. It is quite impossible to give any estimate of those amounts, but the total standing to the credit of the several Prize Courts must not be taken as the amount to be distributed as prize. So much must be clear from what I have said, because part of the total consists of droits of Admiralty and part droits of Crown. Further, part may be neither the one nor the other. I refer to the cargoes ordered to be detained in this country under the various Blockade Orders in Council, and, again, the expenses incurred in safeguarding ships and cargoes before they have been sold or otherwise disposed of, warehouse rent, dock dues, watch-keepers, as well as the expenses of sale, have to be deducted from the gross proceeds before any conclusion can be arrived at. When all legitimate charges have been met and when the droits of Admiralty have been properly separated from the droits of Crown, the net proceeds of droits of Crown will constitute the prize fund and be ready for distribution. The regulations which will determine eligibility to shave in the distribution and the scale of distribution will be authorised by Proclamation as provided for in Section 1, Sub-section (2). For the better information of Members they have been laid and issued in draft form as a Command Paper, so that Members may be duly apprised of that important side of the matter who is to be eligible for a share in this prize fund and what is to be the scale of distribution. I felt that the discussion would not be complete unless hon. Members had this document before them. The officers and men of the Fleet will naturally be very interested in these Regulations, and I make no apology, therefore, for endeavouring to explain them in some detail. I should like before I do so to express on behalf of the Board our thanks to Admiral Bethell and his Committee, who examined the whole question of the problem of eligibility and the scale of distribution with a care and thoroughness which I cannot praise too highly.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Certainly; I will read the names:
Admiral Bethell, President, Captain H. T. Buller, R.N. (Naval Assistant to the Second Sea Lord), Mr. Evans (head of the Naval Law Branch), Mr. Drake (Accountant-General's Department), with Staff-Paymaster M. G. Bennett, as secretary.
Prize money was earned in the old wars by service at sea, and in this scheme it has been considered desirable to adopt the same principle while a more general distribution is being made of the proceeds of prize. We propose to lay it down that to qualify for a full share each individual officer and man must have completed a certain period of service at sea in a seagoing ship. At present we contemplate that this period should be thirty months for a full share, but if the War should last more than double that length of time a longer period of sea service would be required, and we should issue another Proclamation amending this. When the sea service of an individual has been less than the prescribed period only a proportionate amount of the full share will be given, but in no case will any portion of the share be given unless the individual has had at least one month's service at sea. Special conditions are laid down to enable the relatives of those who have lost their lives and of those who have been invalided in consequence of wounds or injuries received while on sea service to receive a full share irrespective of their total period of service at sea, and also in the case of those who die or are invalided on account of disease contracted in the Service, though in the latter case a minimum period of service at sea, namely, ten months, is stipulated as a necessary condition of the award. Prisoners of war will also be treated with special consideration in regard to their eligibility for the distribution. If hon. Members desire more detailed explanation, and will put questions, I will endeavour to answer them.
The scale of distribution of prize money which it is proposed to adopt is based, as far as possible, on a system of relative responsibility of the various ranks and ratings concerned. It is, of course, only an approximation to the value of the services rendered by the various classes. We adopt the principle of a fixed number of shares for each rank and rating, and those of the same relative rank have been grouped together in classes. Under the old scales of distribution, before those 1676 eligible for awards were allocated their share, a certain proportion was set aside for flag officers and officers in command. For instance, under the last of the old prize money scales of distribution, flag officers took one-thirtieth and commanding officers of all ranks one-tenth, such one-tenth being of the whole fund where there were no flag officers or one-tenth of the remainder after deducting the one-thirtieth in the cases where flag officers participated. We have departed from this policy, and no one, I think, will object to our having done so. From the lower deck, supernumeraries, right up to the Commander-in-Chief, all now come upon the fund for their appropriate number of shares. Further opportunity has been taken to recognise the importance of the services rendered by the engineer-officers in charge of the engines of the larger ships. Compared with the past, our scales setting forth the number of shares to be awarded to each rating and rank represents, if I may so put it, a less steep progression upwards than the old scale.
At the bottom of the proposed scale are the canteen staff, and other supernumeraries. I make no apology for going into these details of shares, for I am quite sure the House will desire to know them. These, then, that I have just mentioned will get two shares each; the boy bluejackets and ordinary seamen come next, with three shares each; the able seamen, and equivalent ranks and ratings get five shares each; the leading seamen, six shares each; petty officer, second class, six shares; petty officer, first class, eight shares; midshipmen, and chief petty officers, ten shares each; warant officers, not in command, twelve shares each; if in command, fifteen shares each; sub-lieutenant, mate, commissioned warrant officer, not in command, fifteen shares each; if in command, twenty shares each; lieutenant, not in command, twenty shares; if in command, thirty shares; lieutenant-commander, not in command, twenty-five shares each; if in command, forty shares; commander not in command, and officers of equivalent rank, lieutenant-commander serving as second in command in a ship commanded by a captain, engineer-lieutenant-commander in charge of the engines of a ship commanded by a captain, thirty shares each; captain not in command, and officers of equivalent rank, commander serving as second in command in a ship commanded by a captain, engineer-commander in charge of the 1677 engines of a ship commanded by a captain, forty shares each; commanders in command, sixty shares; captains in command, from 100 to 160 shares each, according to their position on the captains' list. Above this are the commodores, rear-admirals, vice-admirals, and admirals. They go up from 160 to 1,250 shares each. At the top of the scale is the Commander-in-Chief in command of the Grand Fleet, with 2,000 shares. That, then, is the proposed new scale. As I have said, it represents from the bottom to the top a flatter rate of progression than in the past. So much by way of general explanation. I wish I could, but I could not, under the circumstances, make it shorter.
Questions will arise, and have arisen, respecting two or three matters with which I may as well deal now. The policy of pooling, as I have already said, made distribution after each condemnation and sale out of the question. The country, therefore, has had the use of large sums of money from the beginning of the War down to the present time, part of which, at any rate, belongs by grace of the Crown to the Fleet in the form of prize money. The Bill provides that any accumulation of interest on the moneys in the hands of the Prize Court shall be added to the funds. Again, in this War the Government has, as on previous occasions, taken prize ships into its use for the conduct of the War. It has also done what, so far as I am aware, has never been done before, made use of ships which have been condemned, whether as droits of the Crown, droits of Admiralty, or to be detained, for the purpose of trade to meet the necessities of the civil population. As regards those ships which may be classified as droits of the Crown, it has been decided that it would be equitable to credit the naval prize fund with the value of such ships at the time they are taken over by the Government, and to allow compound interest at 4 per cent. per annum, with half-yearly rests; that is, interest is added to capital every six months on such values until the money is paid over to the naval prize fund. Interest at the same rate will also be paid on the net proceeds of goods condemned as droits of the Crown which have been sold.
I should like to add that in certain respects we are improving the machinery of the past in the interests of the Fleet. The deduction of 5 per cent. taken from 1678 the proceeds of prizes before distribution to the captors which, under the Naval Prize and Agency Act of 1864, was appropriated by the Exchequer, will no longer be made. The Treasury waives that in the interests of the Fleet. Similarly, the various odds and ends of forfeited and unclaimed shares and the balances which remain after the distribution has been made will no longer fall into the Exchequer, but will form part of the residue of the fund. As to the fund, one word in a moment! It is also provided that, as the employment of ships' agents is no longer necessary in connection with prize money, they shall have no claim for any percentage such as is reserved to them under the Naval Agency and Distribution Act. Up to the present, as regards prize bounty, they have a claim of 2½ per cent. on the sum distributed. In regard to this there is still some necessity for their employment, but in this case also power is taken by Clause 3 of the Bill to reduce the allowance to a sum not exceeding 1 per cent. We have gone into this matter carefully, and we believe—as experience shows—that this will be equitable. It is not to be supposed, of course, that even at the close of hostilities and the distribution to the Fleet, to which I have just referred, that the matter will then by any means be finally disposed of. Claims will be coming in and matters will remain for final adjustment probably for years to come. It is proposed that after the main distribution, the "sweepings up," if I may so call it, will—I do not deny—involve a very considerable sum of money in the aggregate. This, it is suggested, should be devoted to naval charitable purposes. This is provided for in Clause 1, Sub-section (3). I should like here to say that the officers and men belonging to His Majesty's Dominions outside the United Kingdom, who have contributed so loyally and materially to the success of our operations in this struggle, will share in the distribution of the prize-money to the same extent as members of the Royal Navy. Further, members of these forces will also be eligible to benefit from the income to be produced by the residue of the fund, after its application to naval charities. I have stated the matter quite broadly—a task by no means easy in the case of a most ancient and most complex problem like this. I do not doubt hon. Friends have questions of details in their minds which have not been 1679 answered in the course of this general statement. If they have, we will do our best to reply to them. I beg to move.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I should like, first of all, very warmly to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the very clear and lucid statement which he has made. I especially congratulate him on treating this subject first from a historical point of view, and also on his having paid reverence to the past, for this is always specially pleasing to the Services when it comes from one educated in the schools of Radicalism. If I make any criticism in the course of my speech that criticism is in no way personal to my right hon. Friend, who has always met us and explained things to us privately to the very best of his ability, and who has always treated Members of this House with the greatest kindness and consideration. Nor is it personal from myself, because my object simply is this: while we are discussing the droits of the Admiralty and the droits of the Crown we also desire to insist upon the rights of the House of Commons. There may be one or two questions in connection with this Bill and Amendments that it may be considered desirable to make. I am not at all sure, for instance, whether my right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Peto), who more than any other Member in this House represents the interest of the Mercantile Marine, may not desire to extend certain portions of this Bill to the Mercantile Marine after he has read the Bill, for up till now we have not had much opportunity. In Clause 1, Sub-section (6) of the Bill there is laid down the officers and men to whom the Bill is applicable. It is possible that an Amendment might be in order to extend that. I do not know, but in Clause 3, Subsection (2), an extension is made to the members of the Air Service, and you give a reason for it. You sayshall include the officers and crew of such of His Majesty's aircraft operating under the directions of the Admiralty as are determined by the Prize Court to have been actually present at and to have assisted in the taking or destroying of an armed ship of any of His Majesty's enemies.They share in the droits of the Crown which constitute prize money. It is not a question of prize bounty but of prize money. As my right hon. Friend opposite knows, again and again Mercantile Marine officers have, like the Air Force, helped in the destruction of enemy submarine craft, and they certainly, more than any 1680 other class of the community, have shared in the dangers of the sea. It may well be, if it is in order, that someone may, for the purposes of discussion, seek to extend the operations of this Bill to the Mercantile Marine. There is another point in regard to Sub-section (5) of Clause 1. I think it is the Sub-section dealing with the White Paper or the draft Proclamation. Whether or not it will be in order to move Amendments dealing with the Proclamation I do not know, but I put the matter in query form so that it may be considered.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
That deals with the Proclamation? My point is whether we are entitled to move Amendments dealing with the Proclamation, because that Proclamation is only issued as a White Paper. As a matter of fact; however, we had a distinct promise in the House of Lords that the scale of charges for prize money would be in the Bill—and we are accustomed to Ministers referring to what takes place in the other House as applying to this House—we had that promise from Lord Lytton this year on 14th May, and he said:It has been decided in this War that all prize money shall be pooled and distributed throughout the Navy upon a scale to be submitted to Parliament which will appear in the Naval Prize Bill.That scale does not appear in the Naval Prize Bill, but in the White Paper. Only 170 copies of that White Paper have been printed, none of which have been issued to Members of Parliament. As my right hon. Friend knows, a White Paper is issued to the Vote Office only to the extent of 170 copies, and it is issued from the Vote Office later, perhaps at the end of this week we may have a Pink Paper asking us whether we desire this particular White Paper, and if we do we put our initials to that Pink Paper and get it. For the moment the result is that a very large number of Members who have seen the Bill will never have seen this scale. My right hon. Friend recited what that scale was. It is a question which very much concerns the House of Commons, because of the original scale to which reference is made by the right hon. Gentleman. He said the Committee had fined down that scale so that there was a less steep progression upwards than formerly. I think those are the words he used. The old scale was based on very aristocratic times.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Yes; exactly. We followed traditions, for I think that scale which we propose to replace dated from the seventeenth century. This new Proclamation still has vast differences like the old scale—that is my point. After all, however, the House of Commons has very much changed since the French wars. It is a democratic House of Commons. It might desire in its wisdom that the awards shall be much higher at the lower end of the scale, and also lower at the higher end of the scale. For instance, my right hon. Friend mentioned that an able seaman gets five shares, whilst the lowest amount is two shares. On the other hand, the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet gets 2,000 shares, which is 400 times as much as an able seaman. The two richest men in the whole Navy, the two Commanders-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, Lord Jellicoe and Sir David Beatty, will get 2,000 shares each. The thing has to be judged upon its merits. We are going to concede to the Admiralty for all time the power to issue Proclamations under this Bill, and that scale is the one which the Admiralty tells the House of Commons is a fair scale. My own view is that, should an hon. Member at a later stage table an Amendment proposing to cut down the higher limits or to increase the lower limit, and it should be in order, I shall feel bound to go into the Division Lobby to support him, providing he does not ask too much. After all, the honour and glory in all these matters mainly goes to the officers, and the doings of individual men are not publicly recognised to the same extent. For that and other reasons I should be inclined to give any increases to the lower end of the scale. I asked the right hon. Gentleman what was the constitution of the Committee which settled the matter, and he mentioned that it consisted of two or three officers and two or three official civilians, but there was no civilian directly to represent the interests of the lower deck. And, after all, it is the lower deck which later on frequently comes on to the Poor Rates and all those sad cases of men going about who have been discharged from the Army and Navy.
I am much more concerned in preventing anything of that kind happening by giving them higher payments instead of giving it to the senior officers, whose future is 1682 safeguarded. I would rather see the upper limits rather toned down and the lower raised up. I remember a story of the old days regarding a man in the Navy who, in the middle of a naval action, was caught praying, and the officer asked him what he was praying for. He replied that he praying that the bullets might be whacked out like prize money; and in that case the bulk of them would have gone to the officers. There is another point as to whether it is in order to discuss the question where the Foreign Office comes in. I was wondering whether any Amendment would be allowed as to the way the prize fund would be compensated where the Foreign Office takes ships out of the Prize Courts when the Prize Court may or may not have given a decision condemning the ship. As far as I can make out, under this Bill the Navy would lose that money. I take for instance, what Lord Grey offered to agree to on 25th April, 1916, and again on 2nd August, 1916. He offered to agree formally, and in advance of the decision of our Prize Courts, to submit Swedish vessels to arbitration after the War. All those vessels would have been held up if they had gone to arbitration if that had been agreed to, but the Foreign Office were prepared to offer all these ships to arbitration, and the prize fund might have lost the benefit. The Foreign Office again set up a secret Committee of the Foreign Office to sit in judgment and revise the Prize Court decisions. That is a new factor. I am far from arguing that the Navy has any rights in this matter, and I believe it is merely a matter of established custom. The Naval Discipline Act of 1864 expressly laid down in Section 55 that:Nothing in this Act shall give to the officers and crew of any of His Majesty's ships of war any right or claim in or to any ships or goods taken as prize or the proceeds thereof, it being the intent of this Act that such officers and crews shall continue to take only such interest (if any) in the proceeds of prizes as may be from time to time granted them by the Crown.If the prize money ever was taken away, then I would contend you should level up the rates of pay all round, because prize money is partly a compensation for the absence of higher rates of pay, and of the two I should infinitely prefer to see the rates of pay raised all round. While you recognise this custom, I think there is an argument for saying that when the Foreign Office takes ships which have been condemned out of the prize fund, then 1683 the Government should compensate the prize fund. Now let me go back to the time when we had an Order in Council dated 28th August, 1914, suspending the Naval Prize Act. It is nearly four years now after that date that the Naval Prize Bill is introduced in spite of our continually asking for its introduction, and it is being brought forward towards the end of a Session, at a period when the House grants almost anything. I would be disposed to put down Amendments myself on the Committee stage, but I cannot feel the same inclination to put them down at the end of the Session, when I know His Majesty's Ministers are all suffering from their labours and the House itself is anxious to get away. Personally I am ready to sit all through September, but I am not prepared to go against the general sense of the House by prolonging the Committee stage of a Bill like this. May I point out that last night, when it was proposed to take this Bill, the White Paper dealing with this question was not even out, and I pointed this out at Question Time. When I asked my question drawing attention to the fact that this White Paper was not out, a few copies were rushed at 7.40 into the Vote Office. I do not complain, but that is not the way to treat the House of Commons in regard to a big Bill like this.
My right hon. Friend points out that you are going to deal with a sum amounting to £9,819,000 in the Central London Prize Court alone. You have to decide how much of that is droits of the Crown and how much droits of the Admiralty. To that has to be added all the money in the Prize Courts abroad, and possibly the proceeds of a good many of the 251 detained ships. We were told on the 20th July, 1916, that the draft of this Bill was already in existence, and that is exactly two years ago. Then on 9th April, 1918, we were told in the House of Lords that the Bill would no doubt come before their Lordships at an early date, and we were promised numerous times that it would be brought forward at an early date. I know the excuse is that the Government had to consult the Dominions, but between July, 1916, and the present time I should have thought you might have finished your consultation with the Dominions, and got this Bill before the House at an earlier period of the War, instead of four years after the War commenced.
1684 I would remind my right hon. Friend that there are all the widows and orphans of men who have been killed in this War to be considered, and I cannot help thinking that some system might have been devised, in spite of the pool not being complete, under which those widows and orphan? might have had some of the prize money to which they are entitled. That is why we were continually pressing for this Bill to be introduced much earlier in the War. There was an officer advertising in the "Times" the other day for cash for the surrender of his prize money. What results he obtained I do not know, but he did advertise for anybody who liked to accept a sporting chance as to his share of the prize money. My right hon. Friend told us the constitution of the tribunal which is going to judge as between the droits of the Admiralty and the droits of the Crown, and I have no fault to find with its constitution. I do not think a better judge could have been selected than Lord Phillimore, who, as my right hon. Friend said, possesses naval associations, when you put a clever financial authority like Sir Fleetwood Wilson up against a sailor like Sir George Callaghan the advantage as a rule would rest with the financial man. After all, as Sir John Jellicoe pointed out the other day, navai officers suffer from an inability to express their ideas easily. [HON. MEMBER: "Not all of them."] Well, nearly all of them. I remember reading of what occurred in this House when Admiral Lord Clarence Paget represented the Navy—as my right hon. Friend opposite does so well to-day, and has done for the last ten years, in fact, he is the oldest member of the Government as regards keeping the one position all the time—Mr. Disraeli got up from the Front Opposition Bench, and said to Lord Clarence Paget that there was no getting answers from the Noble Lord, for whenever he is faced with an awkward question he hitches his breeches and says he is only a simple sailor. If that difficulty arises in regard to officers, it is still more a difficulty in regard to the men, and I ask the Admiralty whether they cannot give a greater award to the men, even at the expense of those higher up amongst the officers, when they come to deal with the details of this Bill in Committee.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I should like to add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend upon having at last introduced this Bill. I myself more than a year ago, when I was 1685 at the Admiralty, invited Sir Walter Phillimore to take up the post under this Bill. I really thought at that time that we had everything ready, but I do not think it is really any use going back into the question of delay. We have been at war four years, and there is a good deal in what my hon. and gallant Friend opposite says, that in the exigencies and calamities of war it might have been well if some scheme could have been devised to allocate a portion of this money to the hard cases of those who had suffered in naval warfare. At the same time, we are bringing about a very great change as regards naval prize, and anybody who has had anything to do with this question cannot help knowing that there were very great difficulties that had to be overcome, and not the least of them was fighting the Treasury on behalf of the naval forces. What we really tried to do when we were framing this Bill, which is, I think, practically the same as it was when I left the Admiralty, except for the addition of two extra members to the tribunal, was in making the change foreshadowed in the Proclamation of the 28th of August to preserve absolutely to the naval fighting forces every privilege they had had under previous Proclamations. After all, the officers and the men enter the Service with the knowledge that in the event of war there are certain sums which come to them in addition to their ordinary pay, and certain rewards which under certain, tragic circumstances they are entitled to. The one thing that I was determined was that no privilege which they had had hitherto should be in the slightest degree infringed upon, and that the fund to be distributed by this new tribunal should be the fullest possible substitute for the old prize fund, which was distributed in an entirely different way, and I congratulate the present officials at the Admiralty that they have succeeded in bringing into the House legislation which in no wise infringes upon the fund which has always been distributable as prize money. I do not believe that any Member, knowing what naval warfare is, knowing the daily and nightly hardships and sufferings which the officers and men have to go through during this long period of anxiety, and that their wives and families waiting at home go through, would like to see one single shilling that has ever been applied to the prize fund not applied in the present case.
1686 I say that also in reference to an observation made by my hon. Friend (Commander Bellairs). He said that it might be necessary to move Amendments to include in the number amongst whom the prize fund is to be distributed the Mercantile Marine. The Mercantile Marine have won, a place in this War which is beyond all praise. It is impossible to describe what we owe to them. Nothing could be too good for them. At the same time, I do object to any portion of what is properly naval prize and properly distributable amongst the officers and men of the Navy being applied for any other purpose, no matter how worthy it may be. If, as is true, the Mercantile Marine have taken a part in this War which deserves the highest commendation of the House and the gratitude of every citizen of the Empire, surely we are well enough off to make a sufficient fund for them without doing the mean and niggardly thing of saying that we will pay the Mercantile Marine out of the prize fund of naval officers and men. So far as I am concerned, I could never be a party to any such suggestion, but in any steps that my hon. Friend opposite, who takes such an interest in the Mercantile Marine, may take to secure for them an equivalent prize fund out of public funds he shall have my most earnest support. I hope, even though it is late in the Session, that this Bill may have a speedy passage through this House. It has been very fully considered already in all its aspects both by the Admiralty and by the Treasury, and I can assure my hon. Friends that the amount of work and labour that this tribunal have taken upon themselves is simply colossal. They will have to go through all the different cases that have arisen in the Prize Courts, and, indeed, through all the cases by which the fund has accumulated, and, although there has been no special earmark to show the droits of the Admiralty and the droits of the Crown, they will have to distinguish between them. I think this House and the country will be under a deep obligation to the learned Lord who has taken upon himself the burden of being chairman and to the other members of this tribunal. The best service that the House can do is to pass the Bill at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. PETO
I rise to deal with one point to which the right hon. Gentleman and my gallant Friend have just 1687 referred. I look with considerable interest upon this Bill, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) has suggested, I do so from the point of seeing just who it does include and who it does not include. I wish at once to say that I am in entire agreement with what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) has said. I do not believe that the Merchant Service have the slightest desire to poach on a fund which almost from time immemorial has belonged to the officers and crew of His Majesty's ships. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could tell us a little more clearly what Clause 1, Sub-section (2), really does include, because, as he knows, the officers and crews of His Majesty's ships have been recruited to an immense extent during the War from the Mercantile Marine? I am quite sure that he would be the last to wish that officers who have joined in such numbers, and who have got commissions in the Royal Naval Reserve, and in many cases in the Royal Navy, should be in any worse position than any other officers on His Majesty's ships. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell me whether, in interpreting the words "officers and members of crews of His Majesty's ships of war," we are right in inferring that they include all officers and crews in the direct pay of the Admiralty, all who are serving His Majesty, no matter in what exact capacity, so long as they are persons who have commissions in the Royal Naval Reserve or the Royal Navy. I should be glad if he could tell us where the line is drawn, because it is not a very hard and fast line, and this Bill is not sufficiently fully drawn in all particulars to enable one to see who is included and who is not included. I am not putting in any claim on behalf of others who are not entitled to share in this prize fund.
I should like to say one word with regard to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) has said about a special fund for the Mercantile Marine. It is not inappropriate on this Bill that we should have some indication from the Admiralty whether they would regard with special favour and insist in pressing upon the Board of Trade, the Department specially concerned, the formation of some fund to which the nation should have the opportunity of contributing through the 1688 Treasury to signify in some practical manner our appreciation of what the nation owes to the Mercantile Marine. I have suggested to the President of the Board of Trade that he might very appropriately appoint a Committee, upon which there should be representatives of officers, engineer officers, men, engineers, shipowners, the Treasury if necessary, and certainly the Board of Trade and the Admiralty, to consider the question of a special fund of the sort indicated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I think a pensions fund would be the most appropriate form that it could take; but, so far, beyond receiving a sympathetic reply from the President of the Board of Trade, I have not had any answer that has given me the satisfaction of knowing that he proposes to appoint an official Committee for that purpose. I am grateful to you, Sir, for allowing me the latitude to diverge from the strict matter of this Bill, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Admiralty if he could make it quite clear just how far those words "officers and members of crews of His Majesty's ships of war" carry us.
§ Major Sir BERTRAM FALLE
Perhaps the most interesting part of the very interesting speech of my right hon. Friend (Dr. Macnamara) was the historical part, in which he told us that the Duke of York was Lord High Admiral of England in the time of King Charles the Second. There was another Lord High Admiral during the same reign, Sir George Cartaret. He came from the island of Jersey, to which I have the honour to belong, and he further had the honour of representing Portsmouth, which was then a small town of 20,000 people. This is a very good Bill, and I was very glad to hear that the dependants of those who have been killed in our service are to draw their share of the prize money, that invalids are to do the same, and that generous treatment is to be meted out to prisoners of war who have had the misfortune not to be able to serve their country any further. My right hon. Friend spoke of charitable institutions. I should like to know if he includes the possibility of Greenwich Hospital?
§ Sir B. FALLE
I am very glad to hear it, and the possibility of getting a little of what may be left over. Another point that struck me was that our cousins from the Dominions should take their share. They most certainly should do so along 1689 side ourselves. The question of the Mercantile Marine is one which I think we shall be able to settle in Committee. As I understand it, those who have joined the Royal Naval Reserve will naturally participate on the same footing as naval men. There are two blots on the Bill. One was spoken of by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs), who seems to be under the impression that naval officers have a difficulty in expressing themselves clearly. I refer to the 2,000 shares that are handed to the Commander-in-Chief. No one would wish to cut down what is due to the higher officers or to the officers generally, because upon them victory to a very great extent depends, but at the same time I am with my hon. Friend when he says that the difference between 2,000 shares and five shares is very large. Of course, there have been two Commanders-in-Chief, but if there should happen to be ten commanders—
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Sir B. FALLE
The other blot is the pool. If a ship in these waters or in Dominion waters has a severe action and captures a prize, I cannot follow the idea that the men on that ship should share with others at the other end of the world. It is not a reasonable, a fair, or an equitable idea. A great deal of the work of the Admiralty falls upon my right hon. Friend, but I have not asked him, and I shall not ask him, to pool his salary with the 670 Members of this House. I do not think it makes for discipline or for heroism, or for the good of the Service, for the men on a ship going into action to know that if a large percentage of the complement happen to be killed their prize money, which they leave to their widows, will have to be divided with men who probably have been in safe waters for the period of the War. It is no catch being in the Persian Gulf, but let us say that the ships serving in the Persian Gulf would share with all those ships which were engaged in the Battle of Jutland. That appears to be an inequitable arrangement and one which we shall have to amend in Committee.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA expressed dissent.1690
§ Mr. WING
I should like to associate myself with the remarks of preceding speakers respecting the introduction of the Bill, although it is late in the Session. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will tell us the scope of the definition of the various ships engaged in His Majesty's Service in a naval sense. Does it include motor launches, drifters and trawlers, and what would be termed in ordinary circumstances our small craft, not regularly associated with the Navy in olden times? I rather doubt the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) as to the inability of the sailor or an officer to express himself clearly. I have mixed very much with them and I have found a freedom of expression and a vocabulary that a King's Counsel might almost envy. The hon. and gallant Member raised the point of the great inequality in the distribution of the prize money, which ranges from five to 2,000 shares. I should like that to be somewhat revised. I do not suggest that anybody is getting too much, but it seems a very great difference between the top and the bottom. Another point is the delay in the distribution of the money. If you keep this money until the close of the War a great many of these men, through the misfortunes of war, will not survive the period, and it would be a very wise thing if in some way a percentage could be paid out, in order that the widows and others should have some advantage arising from what would have been due to their husbands had they survived the War. As to the eligibility of the persons to share in the money and the amount which is to be distributed, I see that there are many deductions, and I wonder what the fund is really going to be. My fading hopes were somewhat revived when I realised that there is still some more money to be added to the amount mentioned. It would be an advantage to the Service to really know what is going to happen both to the lower deck and the men of the auxiliary services. I believe they will be generously and justly treated by this new tribunal. I congratulate the 1691 right hon. Gentleman on the introduction of the Bill, and hope that it will easily pass into law.
I have tried to gather what is the fundamental principle of the Bill. It seems to me that, instead of the prize money being distributed among those who take part in the action or assist at sea in the capture of the prizes, which I believe was the old system, the money is now to be pooled and divided between every seaman and officer in the Royal Navy, whether or not he has been engaged at all at any time in any sea fight of any kind.
He may have been coaling the Fleet. He may have been on the ship in a clerical capacity or as a canteen assistant. This is a principle which requires a little thinking about. I should like the House of Commons to be able to consider it and see whether or not they approve of it, but I am afraid there is very little chance of that being done. The House is a thin one, and unless it could be circularised, and told exactly what it was, it could never come to an opinion. If it did form an opinion, however strongly held, and ventured to oppose the principle, the right hon. Gentleman would put the Whips on and tell us that we must not vote against the Government in a time of war, and there would be an end of it. I suppose that, whether we like it or not, we have to accept this principle. That is the first deduction I draw from what I have heard to-day. I should like to know very much what are the droits of Admiralty? I have asked my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson), but he could not tell me. It is very difficult to discover what they are, but upon what are or are not the droits of Admiralty depends how much money the sailors will get. If the droits of Admiralty are extensive or are extended, by so much the less will be the droits of the Crown which are to be distributed among the sailors. I am sorry that I have to plead ignorance as to what the droits of Admiralty are. I know one or two of them. One is that if a ship is taken in a port or creek or what they call a roadway—that is to say, either in a port or a place near the shore—that is a droit of Admiralty, and the Crown gets nothing and the sailors get nothing. Again, if 1692 the prize is captured by a naval ship which is not a ship of war, that is also a droit of Admiralty. Those are the principal droits of Admiralty that I know.
I would remind the hon. Member that that matter was expounded at considerable length by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. It is not a new point.
I am very sorry that I came in just at the end of that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. In these circumstances I will not persist any further in that point. But I still would like to have, if possible, a definition in the Bill itself of what are the droits of Admiralty. There is no definition at all. It is to be left entirely to the decision of Lord Phillimore and the two gallant admirals who are to be associated with him. I suppose they know or will get to know. Those are the two principal criticisms I want to offer on the Bill. The question of the merchantmen has been mentioned, and we hope to have a statement from the right hon. Gentleman that something is going to be done for them—I quite agree, not out of the Naval Prize Fund, but out of some fund provided by this House. I noticed on reading the Bill through that the Royal Air Force is not included in Clause 4. It should be included, if possible.
In one case the Royal Air Force is brought in, but it is not mentioned in Clause 4. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will look into that and see that it is put right.
§ Brigadier-General McCALMONT
I should like to congratulate the Admiralty upon having broadened the basis of the distribution of this fund. It was an inevitable change, and one which will be popular throughout the Navy. It does not seem to have struck some speakers that the majority of the people who go to sea in the Navy in these days are at imminent risks at all times and should share in the prospects of their more fortunate comrades who are engaged in capturing enemy vessels or are the means of obtaining prize money. The one point I desire to put to the House is due to the fact that a great deal of sympathy has been expressed for the lower deck and not very much for the officers. I was rather surprised to hear the 1693 hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) pressing the claims of the lower deck as against those of the officers. He did not mention the terrible-responsibilities which the senior officers in the Navy have at all times to bear. If it should so happen that this matter is discussed in Committee—at present, I understand, it is unlikely—I, for one, shall support the claims of the senior officers very strongly, because of the fact that their responsibilities are always greater than those of the lower deck. One point I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill is that, although he has provided for a vacancy occurring in the chairmanship of the tribunal, no provision is made that in the event of the one solitary representative of the fighting service becoming a casualty, so to speak, his successor shall be a sailor. It is quite possible that some future Administration will fill the place of the distinguished admiral whose name appears in the Bill by appointing a civilian.
§ General McCALMONT
I do not think my right hon. Friend would do it, but we have to legislate for the future, and I hope my right hon. Friend will be prepared to accept a short Amendment to enable what I regard as an omission to be repaired. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, from personal experience, I know that this Bill has been anxiously awaited throughout the Service, and that even its rather belated production will be popular with the officers and the lower deck.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I wish to raise a point with regard to the tribunal. I did not interpolate any remark with regard to this point before, because I did not want to interfere with the general discussion. Probably it is a point that would be better debated in Committee. I give notice that in Committee I shall raise the point of the deletion of the proviso to Sub-section (1) of Clause 2. In support of what the hon. and gallant Member opposite (General McCalmont) has said, I do not see any provision that a naval member of the tribunal should be succeeded by a naval man, although there is a proviso that the legal member of the tribunal shall be succeeded by one of the same profession. I do not very much object to that, but I object to the limitation in the proviso, because it would debar an eminent lawyer, who might be suitable and available for this work, from being appointed. Take 1694 the present Home Secretary, or the ex-Prime Minister, both of whom are distinguished for their skill and balanced judgment. They would not be available under this disqualification, and it might be that if there was a successor wanted to Lord Phillimore and there was no judge available no one would object to the appointment of any other exceptionally suitable person who might be so available at that time. I do not see why he should not be chosen. I am only mentioning the matter now, and I give notice that I will raise the question when we come to Committee.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I can only speak by the leave of the House, but there are one or two matters with which I should like to deal in reply to the Debate. At the outset I wish to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson), my hon. and gallant Friend (Commander Bellairs), and the other hon. Members for the kindly reception which they have given to this Bill, and especially, if I may say so, my right hon. Friend the late First Lord of the Admiralty, with whom I was in close touch during his occupancy of office. I would like to say, if I may, with great respect, that I shall always look back with the deepest pleasure to my association with him at the Board of Admiralty. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone and other speakers have referred to the case of the Mercantile Marine, which is only natural. We all look with great admiration to the services which have been rendered during the War by the men of the Mercantile Marine, and I am asked how far, if at all, men belonging to the Mercantile Marine will come into this scheme. The answer is that if they are serving—and no doubt a large number of these men are serving—in vessels which are now commissioned ships they will come into the scheme; and this applies to armed merchant cruisers and other armed mercantile fleet auxiliaries, armed boarding steamers, armed examination tugs, armed fleet sweepers, armed mine sweepers, Admiralty patrol yachts, and other miscellaneous armed auxiliary vessels. If they are serving in any of these commissioned ships they do come in. I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham is not present to hear this, but he will be interested to learn that these men do come in as members of the Navy for the time being, and are eligible for prize money.
1695 There will be, of course, a very considerable body of officers and men of the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, from the Mercantile Marine, and the great fishing fleets serving with us, who will be eligible if they qualify for the distribution. But in regard to the Mercantile Marine proper I think it is commonly agreed that much as we deeply appreciate their services it would not be desirable to put the Mercantile Marine on this particular fund. If they are to be assisted or rewarded, it should be in some other way. As regards what my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) said about the appeal he had made to the Board of Trade for a fund for the purpose of superannuating officers and men of the Mercantile Marine, I should like to read a letter sent by me on behalf of the Board to him, which, I think, shows a very sympathetic attitude on the part of the Admiralty towards the Mercantile Marine:
§ "16th July, 1918.
§ My dear Peto,—
§ In a letter to me of the 23rd April, you said:
§ 'I should be much obliged if you would let me know whether, from the experience of the Admiralty during the War, they would favour a national scheme of pensions for merchant seamen to which (1) officers and men, (2) shipowners, and (3) the State should contribute in agreed proportions; particularly whether, from the Admiralty point of view, it would be a source of strength to the Navy that such a scheme should be constituted to encourage men of British birth to enter the Merchant Service and adopt the sea as their career?'
§ I sought occasion to bring the matter before the Board of Admiralty, and I am authorised to assure you that the Hoard are entirely sympathetic to the proposition that some scheme of retiring allowances for merchant seamen should be worked out.
§ Of course, the matter does not come directly within the jurisdiction of the Admiralty, but it would, indeed, be poor return for the magnificent services rendered by the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine during this War if the Board of Admiralty in such a matter hesitated to express their opinion on the ground that to do so would be going outside their proper province. The Board, therefore, desire me to say that they would cordially welcome any step which may improve the status of the Mercantile Marine, encourage British youth so minded to follow the sea as a permanent calling and not as an intermittent occupation, and steadily increase the proportion amongst those by whom the British Mercantile Marine is manned who are persons of British birth.
§ The Board observe that in a communication of the 25th May to the General Secretary of the Navy League, the Board of Trade—while sympathising with the object which you and the Navy League have in view—call attention to 1696 this fact, that the governing body which is being constituted under Section 27 of the National Health Insurance Act, 1918, to administer a special fund, will have to prepare a scheme of benefits, which scheme may provide for the payment of pensions to officers and men of the Mercantile Marine.
§ The Board of Trade suggested that this may possibly form the nucleus of a pension scheme. They further undertook to act as the channel of communication between the shipowners and the representatives of the other interests concerned for the purpose of the appointment of a Committee to study this question of the establishment of a scheme of superannuation for the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine.
§ I am desired to say that the Board of Admiralty will watch with an entirely sympathetic eye the discussion of this problem, and if they can at any time render assistance and advice, they will certainly be most glad to do so.
§ Very faithfully yours,
§ T. J. MACNAMARA."
I only mention this to the House in order to show that whereas we could not agree to the Mercantile Marine coming upon this fund, it would be quite wrong to put the Board of Admiralty in the position of being unsympathetic to the Mercantile Marine or unappreciative of the noble services it has rendered during the War. That would be far, indeed, from our real point of view. As regards the Proclamation to which my hon. and gallant Friend (Commander Bellairs) has referred, I would like to deal with his inquiry as to whether it can be discussed or amended in the progress of the discussions on this Bill. The Proclamation is referred to at the end of Sub-section (2) of Section 1—
and in such manner as His Majesty may, by Proclamation or Order in Council, determine.
I submit with great respect that it would not be competent to go through this Proclamation and amend it, because it is not a Schedule of the Bill. What I thought was that it should be set out in draft form, so that hon. Members would look at it, and I will go as far as to say that if they have any suggestions which they would like to make to us of any kind regarding this Proclamation—although a discussion is not possible by way of proposing an Amendment to the Bill, because it is not a Schedule—we would certainly give them most careful consideration.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Does not my right hon. Friend recognise that Lord Lytton, in the House of Lords in the quotation which I have given, dated 14th May last, promised that the scale which is in that White Paper and the Proclamation should be submitted to Parliament and would appear in the Naval Prize Bill?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was not aware of that, but I would point out that we are adhering to the original procedure of Parliament in proceeding by way of Proclamation. I was not aware that Lord Lytton had said that it would be in the Bill, and it certainly was not intended that it should be. It must be by Proclamation, as it always has been, as my hon. Friend knows, and all that we have done is to let the House of Commons see it in advance, because we think it is of great importance that we should have any suggestions that can be made in regard to it.
As regards the scale, two or three hon. Friends, and particularly my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone, have called attention to the Commander-in-Chief's 2,000 shares, and have made a comparison between that and the amount received by the men at the bottom of the scale—namely, the supernumeraries, and so on. I was sorry to hear that from him. I have stated that, as regards the past, we have flattened the upward progression, and we have agreed that flag officers and officers in command should not take a fraction out of the fund before you begin the distribution. But, having done that, I hope it will be agreed that we have not been too generous to the high naval officers. My hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel McCalmont) referred very properly to the responsibility which the naval officer has upon his shoulders, and, when we consider the 2,000 shares which the Commander-in-Chief is to get, it must be remembered that the whole safety of the personnel and materiel of the Grand Fleet are in his keeping, and not only that, but the whole Allied cause depends largely upon his genius and his courage.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I am sure my right hon. Friend recognises that that is already provided for in the pay.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I know, but I want to put to my hon. and gallant Friend a consideration which I think he will see is very relevant in one moment. The whole safety of these realms depends to a very large extent upon the Commander-in-Chief's action. I have every reason to be as solicitous about fair play for the lower deck as my hon. and gallant Friend. I do not come from the lower deck, but I come from the next door to it, which is the barrack-room. After careful consideration, I think the House will agree that this is a fair and an equitable distribution, and one which is not too generous 1698 to the officers, and I hope my hon. and gallant Friend, after consideration, will come to the same opinion. Supposing we were to divide the 5,250 shares which are taken by the four men at the top of the list and divide it by half. It would only mean the addition of a few pence or a few shillings at the outside to the men at the bottom of the scale, because these men are so many, and the distribution would be so wide that the 1,000 shares which you might take away from the Commander-in-Chief would only add a few pence or shillings to them. In face of that, I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will take the view that this is not too generous. Personally, I do not think it is.
With reference to the pooling arrangement which was raised by my hon. Friends (Sir Bertram Falle and Mr. Wing), I have only to say that I have already tried to explain why we had gone in for pooling as being a fairer method than the method by which those who had had the good luck of being on the trade routes in this War would have had a large sum of money while those who had brought enemy ships to action did not share at all. I feel sure that opinion in this House and opinion generally will be in favour of this system of pooling. I have every sympathy with the case of the widows and dependants of those who have lost their lives, and in regard to the point of whether an interim payment should not be given I may say that that has been considered more than once, but the great difficulties in the way made it quite impossible to carry it out. The hon. Member for Oldham thought that Clause 4 related to the Naval Air Service. It really does not do so. Clause 4 simply extends the power of the Admiralty to deal with an estate up to £100. It might be that if the prize or bounty award were added to such an estate it would bring it to over £100 in which event the poor people would have to go to law in regard to the administration of the estate. What Clause 4 does is to modify the existing law, to read the £100, which we can administer without going to law on behalf of these poor people, as if it included both the prize and the bounty, which is another thing entirely.
I quite understand that. I see the object of the Clause. I saw it before. But it is limited to officers, seamen, or marines. It does not say anything about the Royal Air Force.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
With regard to the Royal Naval Air Service, we cannot allow the time they spend on shore to count for participation, but they will participate to the extent to which their service at sea will entitle them under the Regulations which have been drafted. The principle of sea service is the fundamental principle to qualify for an award, and, so far as the Royal Naval Air Service is concerned, we have expanded that principle to the fullest extent to allow those who are stationed on shore to count flying time at sea towards eligibility. As regards the Royal Air Force, though they are not eligible for prize money, if they are under the authority of the Admiralty they can claim prize bounty.
As regards vacancies in the tribunal, supposing anything should happen to Sir George Callaghan, of course the Board of Admiralty would insist on filling that vacancy by a Naval officer of high rank. We should not think of allowing that post to be filled by any other than a Naval officer of flag or high rank. Complaint has been made of the delay in bringing in the Bill, but once you agree to pooling, and get away from awards made in each case, you cannot distribute this fund till the pool is full at the close of hostilities. Therefore, no one's interest is prejudiced by the fact that the Bill is brought in to-day. All we want now is that droits of the Crown and droits of Admiralty shall be separated, and that the charges paid into and out of the fund shall be examined, so that at the close of hostilities the money will be there ready for distribution to the Fleet. The tribunal will have two months immediately before it of the legal recess, and a certain period of Parliamentary Recess, during which it can do most valuable work. It is most anxious to commence its duties, and I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) say there should be no delay in allowing us to get the Bill, so that the tribunals can get to work as early as possible.
§ Commander BELLAIRS rose—1700
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I wish to ask a question, with the leave of the House. The expression "during the War" occurs in the Bill. We have never had that defined. Ought it not to be defined in the Bill? You may be in difficulties as to what it means.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I should like to look into that question. I do not quite follow what the hon. and gallant Gentleman means.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Colonel Gibbs.]