Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding.£453,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expense of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920, in addition to a sum of £1,447,000 to be allocated for this purpose from the sum of £120,000,000 voted on account of Navy Services generally.
§ Captain ELLIOT
Is it rudeness, Mr. Whitley, to ask the right hon. Gentleman to speak up so that we may hear what he is saying?
I would point out to hon. Members that we are discussing these Estimates under very exceptional circumstances this year, and allowance should be made for that fact. It shows the neces- 1493 sity as soon as possible of getting back to our normal custom in Supply. Then all these things can be discussed in the old manner.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I said if hon. Members were rude, should speak for half an hour. I speak as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and I should like to know if the right hon. Gentleman has considered the first Report of the Public Accounts Committee delivered in July, which went into some detail in regard to the financial organisation of the Admiralty. I have a question to the Prime Minister to-morrow, but I have not given notice to the First Lord, and therefore he will not have prepared anything to say. If he states that the matter will be dealt with to-morrow, I shall be satisfied; but as it has been before him for five months, and it is a serious matter, I feel sure he will wish to state whether it is being dealt with or not.
§ Mr. LONG
I have no hesitation in answering the question. In the Report of the Committee to which the right hon. Member refers it is suggested that there were some weak points—to put it mildly—in the internal financial administration of the Admiralty. I have not been responsible for the Admiralty financial arrangements which led up to this Report, but I regard the Report as a direct imputation upon the efficiency of the Board of Admiralty, and I have no hesitation in recommending the Prime Minister and pressing upon him that immediate steps should be taken to appoint a proper body to investigate and report whether these charges have any foundation.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I gave notice two days ago that I would raise the question of the organisation of the Admiralty Staff. In the last Navy debate the right hon. Gentleman said he was always willing to receive any hints or opinions from naval officers in the Service. Here may I say that everyone I have met during the last few months speak of the willingness of the right hon. Gentleman to hear all sides of a case, and of his sympathy and courtesy towards the naval officers 1494 with whom he comes in contact. I am now speaking as a naval officer who has been on the Admiralty Staff; therefore, I may be able to make a few helpful suggestions in the way of constructive criticism. At the present time in the Admiralty, in addition to the Chief of the Naval Staff and the First Sea Lord, who is one and the same person, there is a Deputy - Chief of the Naval staff and Assistant - Chief of the Naval Staff. Both of these are Admirals. They were appointed to meet a particular set of circumstances during the War. These circumstances have now passed and should not arise again. These two officials divide the branches of the staff between them. For example, one has operations and the other has the intelligence side. There you have one of the worst forms of diarchy which was so much criticised in connection with the India Bill. You may get these two Staffs, which ought to work together, under different heads, and liable to work against each other.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The department of the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff and of the Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, which was temporarily appointed during the War. Now that we have passed that I would suggest respectfully that it is an unsound principle, and in any case these two under officials are not so necessary in peace time as in war time. Economy could be effected by doing away with one of these high staff offices. Another economy could be effected at once by merging the trade division in the operations and intelligence division. The trade division consists of two parts, one operations and the other intelligence. The intelligence division should be under the Naval Intelligence Department, and the operations division under the Operations Department. By reducing the number you would obtain economy and get greater efficiency. Then the local defence division I understand does not deal with strategy but only with material. It is most essential that this work should be correlated with the strategical side of the staff. With regard to economy the Naval Intelligence Division is out of all reason. Before the War it consisted of sixteen officers and fifteen civilians, who were presided over at various dates by Prince Henry of Battenberg and other distinguished 1495 officers, including Lord Jellicoe. On the 1st of August, this year, there were 42 officers and 120 civilians. It seems to me that reduction there has not been carried out with rapidity. I recommend that to my right hon. Friend as a case where there could be economy. I was told—I do not know whether it is true, though I believe that it is—that fifteen officers and fourteen clerks, practically the same number as the whole prewar intelligence staff, are writing the history of the department. If that is so it seems to show a great need of attention on the part of my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. LONG
The remarks of the hon. Gentleman may be divided into two categories. The first, in reference to the new naval staff, raises questions of great importance which I freely admit are deserving the earnest attention of the Board of Admiralty, and are receiving it. He tells us that the chief of the naval staff has under him a deputy and an assistant. His knowledge is so accurate and so complete that he will remember that the chief of the naval staff had in addition to the two officers another admiral who was assistant to the First Sea Lord. In reconstituting the Board of Admiralty we have abolished that office, and it is quite possible that in a short time it may be found that we can dispense with the assistant chief of the naval staff. I would appeal to the Committee not to rush us into committing ourselves upon this question now. One of the most controversial questions, one which has been more urgently pressed on the Admiralty than any other, has been the constitution of a really qualified Naval Staff, with assistants under them, able to do their work consistently and efficiently. To begin by cutting down that staff until we are quite certain that we have completed the duty and made the necessary arrangements wisely, I think would be a very great danger. There is really no waste of money. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman works as hard from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. as the members of the Naval Staff do, he may be quite satisfied that he has done his duty. There is no waste of time. As regards the division of the subordinate departments, I am sure he will agree that that ought to be left with the Chief of the Naval Staff, who has the whole thing under consideration. Next, as to the history. Here, again, the hon. and gallant Gentleman must not 1496 attack the Admiralty. The Government —not this Government, but the preceding Government—decided that the naval history of the War should be written. The War has its naval side as well as the other side, and we are bound, whether we like it or not. The work must be done by competent officers. If he does not believe that the history ought to be written I would ask him to address himself to the Prime Minister and not to the First Lord.
Question put, and agreed to.