§ NAVY ESTIMATES, 1946
§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—[Mr. Whiteley.]
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvonshire)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House desires to place on record the importance which it attaches to recruiting for the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines in order that these Forces may be maintained in numbers and quality adequate for the tasks they have to perform in the modern world; and invites the First Lord of the Admiralty to take all the necessary measures to establish a suitable recruiting programme.This Amendment has been drafted so as to elicit the widest possible variety of opinion on the question of naval recruiting. One looks forward as always to the spirit and content of the serving Members' contributions to the Debate, and I am sure also that the House will not find unwelcome the contributions of one whose only qualifications to speak on this subject are respect, affection and admiration for the Senior Service, and its magnificent personnel, conceived over a fairly long period, and sometimes in fairly unusual circumstances. At the outset I would direct the attention of the House to the following words in the Amendment:maintained in numbers and quality adequate for the tasks they have to perform in the modern world.This is because I approach the subject of naval strength with regard to the demands of the world which we see unfold- 1256 ing and developing before us—a world in which, I think, security cannot any longer be achieved on the basis of national armaments used for purely nationalistic purposes. The two world wars we have experienced in this century were conflicts between multi-national coalitions. Within extensive groups of countries, in fact, we have witnessed to a remarkable extent the pooling of national armies. Within modern times-there has been what we might call an internationalising of forces. The Allies in the first world war, and the United Nations in the second world war, achieved to a high degree that interdependence of armed effort which, though not of a continuing or lasting degree perhaps, nevertheless was a significant one; significant, I suggest, for the future organisation of forces for the enforcement of world security. I believe there is substantial agreement in the House that things should proceed in that way; that ultimately the security and peace of the world will be based on an international force, that armaments will cease to become competitive and become contributive. In such a world, a world which is bound to move steadily towards the progressive abrogation of national sovereignty, in military as in economic affairs, it would be well if we today were to ask what ultimately will be the nature and form of the British contribution to such a world force.
I suggest that in all the circumstances —our comparatively small population, which. we are told, may well dwindle as the century wears on, our, geographical position, and our unique and glorious maritime tradition—Britain may in future contribute a naval force of a highly technical, highly selective and highly intelligent character with its ancillary land and air forces. How best can we recruit such a naval force in such a world? What are the best conditions of recruitment for such a force? What methods shall we utilise? We must clearly aim at securing the very best type of recruit, the soundest in physique and in health, the keenest in intelligence, and the finest in morale and in qualities of character. I doubt very much whether such a highly specialised naval force. with its ancillaries, can be recruited by conscription. Since the days of the press gang—and serving Members may agree or disagree—our Navy has 1257 never been recruited on the basis of conscription. The Navy of 1918, as of 1945, was a Navy which had been selected, and not conscripted. I suggest that in future our Navy should continue to be so selected.
What, then, are the conditions which will attract this type of recruit? Reading through the OFFICIAL REPORTS of earlier Debates of this character, and talking to my hon. and gallant Friends on both sides of the House about this question, I have been impressed by the tremendous emphasis that has been and is being placed on the need for improving pay and allowances. That is a major condition of effective recruitment. No one will deny that, and it ill behoves any Member of this Parliament to decry the need for improving pay and allowances of men in any of the Services. But I suggest that we must not so emphasise the importance of pay and allowances that we do not give sufficient attention to other and equally important conditions of service and, therefore, of effective recruitment. I wonder if the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty who, I understand, is to reply to the Debate, can tell us how many ratings have volunteered to stay on, or have volunteered for the first time for the Service, as a result of the publication in December of the new pay code. I have an idea that the response has been rather discouraging. The reason is that improvement of pay, by itself, is not the complete answer to the question of recruitment.
Other conditions which we might well stress today include the question of accommodation, both afloat and ashore. We know that many schemes for improvement were interrupted by the war, and I am not in a position, nor have I the disposition, to engage in a catalogue of lower deck grievances. We were all aware of the real difficulties which have faced the Admiralty in this matter, but it is essential that the accommodation of the professional naval rating as of the officer, should be placed on a healthy and sound basis. Here may I say that we shall watch with interest the developments in regard to H.M.S. "Vanguard," about which we should like to hear something bet ore the Debate closes. Then there is the question of married quarters, or, rather, the provision of homes for married serving men in the home ports. I put this point to my hon. Friend. In the coming 1258 months, when new entrants of all ages will be coming in, let there be no scrambling competition between ratings and civilians for these new houses in the home ports. I would like to see a quota of homes set aside for these serving men, not confined to a special part of the town, but spread throughout the community in an organic and natural way. The question of accommodation is linked up with the general question of health in the Service. My hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) has spoken in rather a severe way about the incidence of tuberculosis in the Service. Far be it from me to deprecate any emphasis on the incidence of this disease in the Navy or elsewhere, but I feel that we can stress this point so much that permanent and irreparable damage may be done to the campaign to attract the best type of men to the Navy as a profession. The figures given by my hon. Friend the Civil Lord, in the recent Debate on the Navy Estimates, were rather reassuring, considering all the circumstances and difficulties. Let us take a proper perspective of the incidence of this disease. There are villages in my rural constituency where the incidence of this disease is higher than it is in any comparable personnel-group in the Royal Navy. We do not want to over-emphasise difficulties of that sort which, I feel, are being tackled in real earnest by those in authority.
This brings us to other proposals in connection with welfare, the implementation of which will make a success or otherwise of the recruiting campaign. The recruit will need to be satisfied during his service that after he has finished, and reenters civil life, he will not find himself, at the age of 40 or 45, redundant in the country which he has served. This applies to officers, as well as to ratings. It applies in a serious way to many men. We are all familiar with the cases of men of 40 or 45 who, on re-entering civil life, have found that they are eligible only for jobs as night watchmen, cinema commissionaires, or billiard hall attendants. It is a wanton waste of some of the best elements in our population not to provide vocational and educational training during the period of service, so that when these men re-enter civilian life they can be properly employed with profit to themselves and to the community. I hope that the defects in the vocational guidance scheme in the 1259 Navy in prewar days for example have received attention. Perhaps the Parliamentary Financial Secretary will reassure us on this point. I certainly do not see the answer in the microscopically small item H in Vote 5 in the Estimates, "Educational and Vocational Training, £86,000." I do not know how many cinema commissionaires the Admiralty propose to train on that.
§ Mr. Roberts
I will do my best, but perhaps the hon. and gallant Member would like to cross the Floor to this side side of the House, and hear the truth even more clearly.
§ Mr. Roberts
There are other points which I shall merely enumerate. There are the questions of elasticity of discipline in non-working hours, of leave, of stations, of recreation and mental relaxation, of well-stocked libraries and so on. No doubt hon. Members will wish to dilate on these points during the Debate.
Finally, in considering conditions which will make for effective attraction to the Navy, there is the very important point of equal entry and fair, merited promotion. The recruits we want will not remain satisfied with better pay and conditions only. They will demand also equality of opportunity. This feeling has a moral content. Inequalities which were taken for granted in 1938, are today intolerable. There is a hunger for democratisation, which will be satisfied one way or the other. In the Services, the acid test of democratisation, of equality of opportunity, is, of course, the system of recruiting officers. I and many of my hon. and gallant Friends find it profoundly disturbing that while the Army and the Royal Air Force are to recruit their officers from the ranks in future, the Navy is to continue systems of privileged entry—the anachronism, for instance, of privileged entry to Dartmouth on a fee paying basis for the child from a particular class of school. I know that a few scholarships are provided for entrants from the ordinary grant-aided schools, but the proportion of hand-picked "prep. 1260 school" entrants at 13, is still as four is to one. Even more disturbing is the fact that the number of lower deck promotions to commissioned rank was lower in this war than in the last by nearly one-half. If executive commissioned rank is to be earmarked to this degree for young boys of 13—for that is what it amounts to—how can we expect the maximum response from young men anxious to enter on a basis of fair and equal opportunity, to rise to the top?
There are at least two things wrong with early entry. First, it weights the scales in favour of a definite class; secondly, it is bad from an educational and civic point of view for the boys concerned. It is bad for boys of 13 to be segregated for special training and for a particularist mode of life, when they should be, at that age, growing up with their contemporaries of all types and all intending professions and backgrounds, and so being educated for life in its variety. As I have said, it is disturbing to find that this particular type of privileged entry is to be maintained by the Navy. As with the Dartmouth entrant at 13—this is not a class question at all—so with boys who go into naval training schools at 15. These ages are too young for boys to be taken away from the formative influences of ordinary civilian life. I submit that 18 is young enough, in all conscience, for taking boys from civilian life to a regulated and, in some ways, narrow and restricted mode of living. One could dilate on this point and I have no doubt at all that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey), who 's to second this Amendment, will take the opportunity with both hands. But: hope that the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, who is very well aware of the truth of these arguments, and knows in his heart of hearts that he cannot disagree with them, will say something about the matter before the end of the Debate.
If the House will bear with me for a very few minutes more, I should like to suggest a mode of recruitment, entry, and training for the Navy of the future which will link up the Service with our educational system. The country is committed to a major educational Measure, which will be implemented in the course of the next few years. Under this, the school leaving age will be raised to 16, and that 1261 will mean that every child from the age of IIplusto 16, will have compulsory secondary school education. Some will go into a grammar school, some into a modern school, and some into a technical school. I suggest that by the time a boy who goes, for example, into a technical school is ready to leave at the age of 16, he, his parents, and his tutors should be in a position to decide whether he is likely to enter, shall I say, the profession of naval arms. His bent and aptitude should be fairly clear by that age, but cannot possibly be clear at the age of 13, or even 15. What will happen to him between the ages of 16 and 18? As I have said, I do not agree that entry should be below the age of 18. The Act provides for part time compulsory further education in county colleges for all boys and girls between the ages of 16 and 18. Could we not see the modem or technical secondary school boy at the age of 16, expressing in company with his parents to his principal and tutors his bent and interest— possibly the Royal Air Force, or the Royal Navy which is under discussion —going out from the school to a civilian occupation, growing up with his contemporaries at a formative and important part of his life, and during that two years from 16 to 18 attending a county college and having his education there orientated towards his intended profession? That means passing out from the college into the general entry scheme of the Navy, and having the beginning of his training and education 'on a very sound basis and at a very sensible age. That is the suggestion I have to make as to the proper way, in my opinion, of recruiting on the widest and healthiest possible basis for ratings and officers of the Navy of the future.
After the raising of the age, other reforms must come. If our recruiting system is to be successful, there must be a thorough overhaul of the education of all the recruits within the Navy—ratings and officers. There must be more cultural and civil, as well as vocational, instruction. Secondly, there must be a consequent appreciation of the status of instructors and schoolmasters in the Royal Navy. The Admiralty might look into the possibility, in this connection, of recruiting for some of those posts suitable officers from the existing cadet corps, and from the Youth Service generally. I believe there is a very valuable reserve 1262 of tutors, instructors and leaders—adolescents and young adults—among the present officers and leaders of these units and corps.
Finally, there must be a systematic attempt to place all the facts concerning entry, training and prospects in the naval profession fully and regularly at the disposal of all schools and colleges, and I would not rule out university and training colleges, and county colleges when they are established. There must be that systematic instruction throughout the country. I doubt very much whether, at present, any real attempt is being made to inform the general mass of the population of the possibilities of the Service. Looking at the Estimates, this would not seem to be so. How can it be done on a Vote of £ 97,000 devoted to recruiting? It is a point which the hon. Gentleman might care to look at when he replies. To conclude, it is along these lines of giving to our naval force a sense of mission, not of restricted national purpose, but a mission of the enforcement and the keeping of the peace of mankind, and of giving to the men who enter it the status and consciousness of being equal to the members of any and every profession in the country—
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
There is a point of great interest in the hon. Member's speech which concerns the period for lads between the ages of 16 and 18. He suggests that they ought to attend the schools that are to be set up for lads of that age under the Education Act. What is troubling me is whether he wants these schools to teach military discipline, and so forth—naval questions or Royal Air Force questions— along with the instruction for ordinary students who will attend these schools in the usual way. Would it not be the introduction of another military type of school?
Mr. Kinģ (Penryn and Falmouth)
Would the hon. Member also answer this question? County colleges are part-time institutions. Is he suggesting that these lads should have part-time or full-time instruction?
§ Mr. Roberts
I certainly did not suggest that these schools should become military training establishments. The theme which I have tried to develop—very imperfectly, I am afraid—is that of the making of the calling of arms generally a profession 1263 which can stand side by side with that of a grocer, doctor, barrister, Member of Parliament, or whatever you may think of. The boys of 16plus, going into a county college in Carnarvonshire, will include intending shopkeepers, quarrymen, and perhaps an occasional intending naval officer or rating. During the two or three afternoons he attends the county college, the intending shopkeeper will have his instruction orientated along lines which are going to help him at 18, when he leaves formal school for ever, and gets on with his profession. Similarly, I think that if a boy in a county college intends to go in for the naval profession, his instruction at that college during that time might well be orientated towards helping him to be a more efficient member of the profession he has chosen. It is not a question of introducing general military training for everybody of these ages in these schools, but of giving to the intending naval recruit the same kind of help that will be given to the intending entrants of any other profession. I think that answer, to some extent, meets the point put by the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Kinģ). To clinch the point, I should just say that instruction between the ages of 16 and 18 at county colleges will not be complete and full. It will be two or three afternoons a week, and I do not suggest that the whole of that time should be devoted to orientating along professional lines. Obviously, the lads will have to have time for physical exercise, civics, recreation, general knowledge and other necessary parts of adolescent and young adults' education and training.
I was striving strategically to conclude, and with the consent of the House, I shall now proceed to do so. I am afraid that my very carefully prepared peroration has been blown to bits by the two broadsides we have just witnessed. We want a modern aim for the new profession of the Navy—an international one; not an international one, which will decry tradition or reject national pride, but a view which is consonant with the inevitable development of the use of force in this century. We also want a linking up of the profession of arms with other professions and the treating of training on an educational basis. We also want to see that all men who enter the profession are treated at least as well, in regard to pay, training 1264 and prospects, as those who enter other professions in civilian life.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Commander Pursey (Hull, East)
I beg to second the Amendment.
The problem of recruitment for the Navy in the postwar period is one of prime importance. The most important factor is that in a national service there should be a full career in commissioned rank, warrant rank or the petty officer grade, for every one who joins, with full opportunity for merit and character to rise from the bottom to the top of the ladder. The House is very fortunate this afternoon because the mover of the Amendment is an authority on education who is able to set this problem of naval recruitment in the proper perspective for the first time, and relate it to the new national education system and the development of the Education Act of 1944.
I also consider myself fortunate in being asked to second this Amendment because, in the long history of this House, and of the Navy, I happen to be the first Naval officer elected to it, who started his life on the lower deck, passed through all the substantive and non-substantive ratings, served as a warrant officer and then as a commissioned officer. So I hope I can claim to have had some experience on this subject from both ends of the ship—the blunt end and the sharp end.
The policy of the Labour Party is democratisation, as has been developed by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. Roberts), democratisation in all State services—defence and civil—a free field for merit to reach the top, or go as far as ability will carry it, and without any restriction of financial means. Moreover the First Lord of the Admiralty—who as the House is aware is away on an important mission and so is to our regret unable to take part in this Debate—last year in replying to criticism of the Dartmouth scholarship scheme by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) said:If we want to get a Royal Navy which will truly stand in all the difficult circumstances that are coming in the future, I want it based upon the whole of the people. There should be no favouritism of any section over any others.Then, after discussing the scholarship scheme, the First Lord remarked: 1265If this is not going to be accepted …I will not advocate any entry of officers except from the lower deck and training thereafter provided."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1945; Vol 408, C. 2152–3.]That is the spirit of the age. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty, however, took up a totally different attitude when replying to criticism in our previous Debate on the Navy Estimates on 7th March, and tried —I suggest, not very successfully—to convince us that the early entry of 13-year old cadets was the right scheme in the 1946 Navy. This speech has caused much adverse comment in the Service Press, one journal heading its criticism, "Oh, Mr. Edwards ! ", but it would not be fair to quote it, nor will time permit. In addition, the lower deck has adversely criticised it, and so has warrant rank. Moreover, I doubt whether the Civil Lord himself really believes in that part of Admiralty policy. In his maiden speech, made only three years ago, he said:I would like to refer to the granting of commissions…. This is a very sore point with the lower deck…. The Navy is losing good material as a result."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1943; Vol. 387. C. 598.]I hope, therefore, that in spite of his assuming high office at the Admiralty, we can still count on him as a firm supporter of the democratic system which has enabled him to pass from the stoker's mess deck to the Board of Admiralty. The Conservative Party, on the other hand, particularly the naval Members, have always opposed democratisation; certainly they have never advocated it, or any expansion of the fields of entry into the officer ranks. Only last year the hon. and gallant Member for Camborne (Commander Agnew)—an old shipmate of mine and one whose views I appreciate, but this year, unfortunately, as a Whip doomed to Trappist silence—said, after advocating compulsory service in peace time and temporary officers after service on the lower deck, an ideal system and good advocacy, which he admitted had been so successful, said:I doubt very much whether the system of creating officers from the lower deck permanently ought to continue.He may have been making a point there that is not quite clear to me, but I suggest that it savours very much of unnecessary distinction.
§ Commander Agnew (Camborne)
I do not think the hon. and gallant Member, and former shipmate of mine, is doing 1266 me justice. In the Debate last year I said:I doubt very much whether the system of creating officers from the lower deck permanently ought to continue.However, the hon. and gallant Member did not go on to read what I said after that, which was:I wonder whether it is not very much better to take them younger, as the First Lord of the Admiralty has begun to do, straight into the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1945, Vol. 408, C. 2172]I said that because I believe that one of the best ways of creating officers is to mix, as early as possible, boys from all sections of the life of this country, and then begin to train them together as officers in the Service in which they will all serve afterwards.
§ Commander Pursey
I am quite happy about that, and I informed the hon. and gallant Gentleman that I would refer to this, so there is no question of any personal attack upon him. I hope that having explained a little of what he said last year, it is now clear to the advantage of us all. As it read to me, he was advocating one method for conscripts, and another method for those who want to make the Service their permanent career and that. if it had been his intention, was the point I took up.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves that point, may I put this to him? He must be very well aware that the work of training the seamen on the lower deck is not the same as training to be an officer to command a ship on the bridge. It is a very different thing. The man is wasting his time there to a certain extent if he is to be an officer.
§ Commander Pursey
If I may suggest it to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, that point does not arise, because, for over 30 years, we have had a system of promotion from the lower deck to commissioned rank which has carried officers up to flag rank.
§ Commander Pursey
I shall give the numbers later and, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will possess himself, he will then be able to take up the point, though I am quite prepared to accommodate him at any moment.
1267 On 18th March, 1912, 34 years ago, the present Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), said—and I can picture him saying it with all the zest at his command:These are the days when the Navy, which is the great national service, should be opened more broadly to the nation as a whole. The question, as the House knows, is fraught with difficulties.That was put in just as appeasement to the Tories at that time—We have thought them well over, and we are agreed in believing that there are no difficulties which, in the public interest, cannot be and ought not to be overcome".— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1912, Vol. XXXV, c. 1570.]That was 34 years ago. Admittedly, it was in the right hon. Gentleman's less reactionary days, as he was speaking as First Lord of the Admiralty in a Liberal Government. However, he broke down the barrier between the lower deck and the quarter deck, which had existed for a century, and in the following year cut the Gordian knot which restricted naval cadet entry to the age of 13 by instituting the special entry system of recruitment of youths from the public schools at 17 to 18. What has been the result? For over 30 years we have had three sources of supply. Yet in the last seven years, out of 1,708 executive officers, over a half have been early entries, about one-third special entries, and one-eighth from the lower deck. These proportions bear no relation whatever to the fields of entry from which they come, the larger number of officers going to the smallest class and the smallest number to the largest class. In spite of this backward condition, the White Paper on postwar conditions states:While there may be some change in the postwar system of entry for officers of the Executive, Engineer and Supply and Secretarial Branches of the Royal Navy, it is not expected that there will be any fundamental alterations.This is sheer obstruction, typical of Admiralty resistance to reform.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
I wonder if the hon. and gallant Gentleman can give any figures to show how many men from the lower deck wanted to become officers. How much competition was there?
§ Commander Pursey
I propose to give figures later. I have been in touch with this matter for the 30 years that the 1268 scheme has been in existence. There has never been any lack of candidates. That has been stated by the Admiralty representative in this House on numerous occasions. Right up to 1941, only five years ago, cadet entry to Dartmouth College was limited to children of 13, which made the main system a definite class preserve. The present First Lord then decided to grant 10 scholarships per term, or 30 a year, to grant aided schools. The argument has since been put forward that this sprinkling has democratised the system. That is nonsense, because 75 per cent. of the entries are still restricted to preparatory school entries only. Moreover, 10 scholarships were at that time also allocated to preparatory schools. This fifty-fifty arrangement is quite fantastic. The proportion of grant aided schools to preparatory schools is something over 10 to one, and with an allocation of 20 scholarships on any basis of equity, there should be 18 scholarships going to the grant aided schools and only about two to the preparatory schools. The whole idea of the early entry of children into their life profession at 13 is quite indefensible. There are four tests by which the system can be judged; educational, naval, individual, and State.
§ Commander Pursey
The success of the scheme does not justify its existence. If the officers who entered at 13 were capable of being successful, they ought to have been just as capable going in at 17 to 18, from public schools, or on the lower deck at 15. That is no argument whatever. On educational grounds, no independent authority today would contend that it was desirable for a child's career to be decided before 13 years of age. But that is what this system means.
Secondly, from the naval point of view, it used to be argued by hon. and gallant Members that naval officers must be caught young and given long training. That goes back to the days of sail, when Dr. Johnson was reported as saying that no one would go to sea who could get into prison. This nonsense was exploded with the special entry scheme as long ago as 1913, when the public school boys were sent direct to a seagoing cruiser and after only 12 months' training to the seagoing fleet.
1269 Thirdly, from the individual's point of view, it is entirely wrong to send a child of 13 to a monastic school, dedicated entirely to one Service. In those most formative years, instead of being isolated, he should be rubbing shoulders with future generals, future air marshals, future Members of Parliament, and members of the Civil Service and others with whom he will associate in future life.
§ Commander Pursey
It the hon. and gallant Gentleman would like to advocate that, he will have an opportunity of doing so later in the Debate. I am prepared to give way to any hon. Member opposite on this subject. But they should not ask questions about subjects I am not debating. They will have an opportunity at a later stage.
Fourthly, it is not the duty of the State to provide a special secondary school for one State service only, when there is ample opportunity in the schools of the country. Moreover, it is entirely wrong that in a national Service, compulsory or voluntary, the main stream of officers should short-circuit the ordinary entry into the Service, and so debar recruits from any chance of getting any of the greater number of the commissions which are obtained by these early entries. If this system did not exist today, there is no reason why it should be instituted, and without question, it ought to be abolished, lock, stock and barrel, at the earliest moment.
The second method of entry is from public schools between 17 and 18 by Civil Service Commission examination in the same way as all the other State Services. That is a better scheme, more open, and it ties up with the other Services. It should have been the normal scheme for the last quarter of a century.
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
Does the hon. and gallant Member mean, not public schools, but the common schools of the country?
§ Commander Pursey
I am using the term "public schools" as it has always been used in this House in naval Debates meaning schools from which a type of individual comes to the Navy at the age of 17. If one analyses the list, one finds a very small proportion of the schools of 1270 the country included, but I would not cross swords with the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) on the definition of a public school. This policy means largely a closed preserve. The numbers are small owing to the large number of cadets entered by the early entry scheme. Nevertheless, in 33 years, it has produced 135 commanders, 38 captains, one admiral and at least two hon. Members of this House on the Opposition Benches. So there is no question of its success. At present it provides some of the executive officers, all the engineer officers, paymasters and Royal Marines, and it could provide the remainder of the executive officers. Even this system, however, will not now satisfy the genuine demand for democratisation of the last national Service whether under compulsory service or under voluntary service, as it should be in peacetime. In the Army, and the Royal Air Force, a period of "other rank" service will be necessary before entry into colleges, when cadets will be enlisted soldiers and airmen and no fees will be charged.
It is against this background that the question of the future officers for the Navy must be considered. Whatever other arguments were previously used for the retention of the early entry system by which a number got in by paying fees, are blown sky high by the latest Army and Royal Air Force decisions. Preparatory shcoolboys, however, will not be excluded, if they can pass the later age tests, which, in many cases, is doubtful, and this is one of the reasons why diehard naval officers want to retain this scheme, although, naturally, they will not say so. Dartmouth College would then become the university of the Navy instead of the public school, where all officers, other than the university entrants, such as doctors, should be trained together. Before the war, marine officers were trained at Greenwich, and special entry executive officers and paymasters in a ship, because they were too old to mix with the little boys at Dartmouth. They ought to have been trained all together. That system was quite fantastic. There is ample room at Dartmouth to train all those officers for a shorter period, instead of a smaller number of officers being trained for a longer period.
I pass to the problem of lower deck promotion to commissioned rank, under what is known as the upper-yard-man 1271 scheme, with the inception of which I had something to do. The complaint is that the numbers promoted are not sufficient. In fact, the average yearly number promoted during the last war, as the hon. Member who moved the Amendment has said, was only half that in the 1914–18 war. In the last seven years they have only averaged 30. Nevertheless, the progress of the scheme has been such—and here I give the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) some figures— as to have resulted in 26 ex-bluejackets being promoted to commander, seven to captain and one to rear-admiral with another on the rear-admirals' retired list. In the engineering 'branch the figures are; 76 artificers promoted to commander, ten to captain and one to rear-admiral, so there is no question at all that, given the oppotunity, these officers make good.
The White Paper states that there are also to be substantial opportunities for young men entered as ratings to obtain commissions in their early years. This means about the age of 21, and this should be the normal method of entry for all officers. It cannot be claimed that there is a lack of candidates—here I take the point of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble)—because in 1944, 66 seamen ratings were selected for training, but only 25 were awarded commissions and last year, with two more candidates, there were three fewer commissions. The trouble is that the standard for these candidates for commissions, upper-yard-men, as they are termed, is set too high, higher, in a number of cases, than for cadets. There is too much concern at the Selection Boards about the boy's father, and his father's bank balance, the school he comes from, his accent, etc., instead of with the main test of qualities of leadership and intelligence. There is no black magic in a naval officer's job. Let us be quite clear about that. After 30 years, the Admiralty ought to have produced a successful scheme which will provide far higher numbers in the four branches in which promotions from the ranks to officers is possible, that is, executive, engineer, paymaster, and Royal Marine. What is wanted is an improved scheme and good will from the Admiralty, and the officers who have to work it. I beg the Admiralty to "get cracking" with this important task.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Touche (Reigate)
Unlike many hon. and gallant Members of this House, I cannot claim intimate knowledge of the Royal Navy, but I well remember, that in my early days of military training in 1914, the sergeant deliberately impressed upon us the importance of the Royal Navy, and his gratification at its existence. That sergeant was quite right. We should always remember that Britain's existence depends on sea power. I cannot follow the enthusiasm which the mover and seconder of this Amendment displayed for the abolition of Dartmouth. It seems to me that that system has been justified by experience. It has given us, for a long period, the best naval officers in the world. I think that the seconder of the Amendment, at any rate, was more concerned to give us an exposition of his educational theories than to deal with the question of recruiting.
It is with the question of recruiting that I wish to concern myself. The best recruiting agent is the sailor on furlough, who not only says that he is in the best Service in the world, but is able to say that the conditions in that Service are the most efficient that the Board of Admiralty can give him. It is only too true today that, in many respects, the conditions in the Royal Navy are not entirely in accordance with modern ideas and standards, and if we wish to attract the young men of today, who will make the best naval recruits, we must have conditions which will appeal to young men who have a far better education than their forefathers had, and have a higher standard of living. Everyone in the country has great sympathy, admiration and affection for the Royal Navy, but unfortunately that affection and good will are largely equalled by ignorance of the problems and the conditions which beset the men in the Services.
I would like, first, to say a few words on the question of pay. It is a very complicated subject and I do not wish to deal with the aspect which hon. Members dealt with in a previous Debate. But the general impression one gets from the two White Papers is that these two new pay codes are not very satisfactory. They are certainly far from constituting a Servicemen's Charter. The increases are too often offset, or partially offset, by an increase of taxation of allowances. Unfortunately, the increases to the junior 1273 ratings seem to be considerably offset by decreases to the senior ratings. We welcome the levelling up, but we must all deplore the levelling down. It is interesting to know that in the White Paper, for the purpose of fixing Service pay a civilian wage is taken as averaging 89s. a week. It seems doubtful whether that figure is justified, on the statistics published by the Government. But even if 89s. is justified, it should be remembered that there is a great deal of difference between average wages and average civilian earnings, and in the Royal Navy there is no overtime. The two White Papers also leave many gaps. We are told in the White Paper that the prewar engagement system will be introduced, subject to modifications. That was issued three months ago. No one has yet told us what those modifications are. We are also told there will be substantial opportunities for commissioned rank for men from the lower deck, but no one has yet told us what those opportunities will be.
I turn to the subject of conditions afloat. Here I feel there is some legacy of the old tradition that the Navy has cramped quarters and ill-served food. I do not want to go into the controversy as regards bunks and hammocks. I can well believe that many men would prefer hammocks. I do not want to go into the difficult question of whether giving more accommodation to men necessarily reduces the fighting efficiency of the ship. Surely, we might ask that every effort will be made with regard to research, and every step taken to combat the terrible menace of tuberculosis. None of us can regard the incidence of tuberculosis in the Royal Navy with any complacency. I should think, as a mere layman, that something might have been done on the subject in connection with air conditioning on H.M. ships. When we come to the question of meals, I do not think there is any complaint as regards the quality and quantity of the food which is delivered to the cook. But there is complaint of the way in which the meals reach the men. I understand the normal practice is that one man collects the meals in bulk. When the meals come to the men they are delivered cold and in the most unappetising manner. As a result of this, much food is thrown away. There is great waste. In the latest ships, I am told, the cafeteria system has been introduced. Wherever that has been tried, it 1274 has proved a great success. The men get a far better meal, and waste of food has been prevented.
I would like to say a few words on the subject of laundry. There is no smarter Serviceman in the world than the British sailor. We do not all realise the difficulties and toil he has to undergo in order to achieve that smartness. I understand that nine out of 10 men have to do their washing in a bucket. The United States Navy long ago gave up that system. It is far too primitive for them. They have installed laundries, with the result that the men can get their washing done without unnecessary toil in their free hours. Certain escort carriers built in the United States are now fitted with these laundries, I believe. I hope that the laundry system will be extended as quickly as possible throughout the Royal Navy. The suggestions I have to make on the subject of conditions afloat are these: First, that something should be done about air conditioning; secondly, there should be better messing; and thirdly, the provision of laundry facilities.
On the question of conditions ashore, the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L Thomas), in a previous Debate, referred to the abominable conditions of our barracks at Devonport, Chatham and Portsmouth. I think it is common ground that there is much that should be done. I hope that, when the 'Estimates are taken next year, the Minister will be able to tell us that some of these much needed and overdue improvements have been made. It is particularly desirable that the men should have opportunities of being with their wives in quarters outside barracks, rather than that they should be given married quarters. The period in which men are ashore is often comparatively brief. Every opportunity should be given to the men to have as much freedom as possible. At present it seems that far too many men are kept in barracks quite unnecessarily. When there are thousands of men in a depot something like a quarter to a half of them are kept in every night. Surely it would be possible to arrange that only those engaged on essential work, guards, fire parties and the rest, should be kept in barracks, and the other men should be allowed to go as free as possible. It is, of course, convenient that leave parties should go at regular intervals, as 1275 arrangements have often to be made to take the men from the ship to the shore, but it seems very remarkable that that system is carried on in naval depots. The result is that when a man, for instance, writes a letter after dinner and misses the leave party, he may have to wait two or three hours before he can go on leave. That is a requirement which could be met straight away. Unlike most requirements, it does not cost any money.
Finally, I ask that cheap, or free, travel facilities should be given for families of naval men who wish to join their husbands overseas, particularly in Malta and Gibraltar. That is a privilege which men in the Army and Royal Air Force have, and there seems no justification for denying it to the Navy. I have mentioned a number of topics, most of them, I hope, very briefly. Some of these topics may not be of great importance in themselves, but I believe that, in aggregate, they are of great importance to the contentment of the men in the Service. The country owes the sailor a square deal. It is up to Parliament to see that the sailor gets a square deal.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Mallalieu (Huddersfield)
I have listened with great interest and immense pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Touche). I do not know whether he is an ex-Navy man but he showed great warmth of sympathy with the lower deck, on which I, among others in this House, have served. As any ex-naval rating or ex-naval officer, who has served for hostilities only, will realise, we cannot possibly know the whole Navy. In any case, experiences in wartime are bound to be in some ways rather exceptional. Therefore, I myself would think twice about generalising merely from my own experiences were they not borne out by such speeches as that to which we have just listened, and, indeed, by the experience of shipmates of mine, whose service and standing in the Navy are far higher than my own. Judging from the small experience which I had, and from the much greater experience which I have received at secondhand from my shipmates, I would risk a generalisation—indeed, I put it as a challenge to the Financial Secretary—that this square deal for the lower deck, 1276 to which the hon. Member for Reigate has referred, is not being given, has not been given in the past, and, unless there are to be greater changes made than were forecast in our Debate three weeks ago, will not be given in the future. I say, as a generalisation, that, in certain vital respects, particularly to do with living conditions, the lower deck is getting a very raw deal indeed.
I want to make clear at the start that I do not blame it on the officers in the Navy. Of course, there are bad officers in the Service; we get them anywhere, but my experience as a rating, and for a time as an officer myself, was that there were very few. We have, first, the divisional officer system, whereby one officer is given personal responsibility for the welfare of a certain number of ratings. I think that, on the whole, it works quite well, and, even outside it, we get, over and over again, real human contact between officers and ratings in the Navy. Perhaps I might be allowed to give one small, trivial example which came to my notice three months ago. I saw a telegram at Portsmouth sent by a Scotsmatelotas follows:Request 12 hours extension of leave to witness defeat of Dynamos.Across it was the official stamp of the officer of the day with the one word "Granted." That is an example of the human relationship of which we get quite a lot in the Navy. On a higher scale than that, I know from personal experience of the immense efforts made by successive commodores in the Royal Naval Barracks at Portsmouth to try to make that place a little happier to live in. Those efforts have always been unsuccessful, for which I blame, not the officers, but Admiralty. I believe that the Admiralty, while prepared to spend large amounts of money in providing the finest possible fighting equipment, are not prepared to spend enough money to secure the welfare and efficiency of the men who use that equipment.
The hon. Member for Reigate referred to conditions of living in the Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth. I would like to refer in more detail to conditions in those barracks, of which I had considerable experience, along with the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan). I know that the place was condemned in 1937 anyhow, and that in 1940 it was partially blitzed, and that there were excuses for 1277 some of the conditions that obtained there. But I would like to describe the sort of conditions that obtained on the seamen's mess deck. We were so crowded there that not all of us could sit down to dinner at one time. There have been complaints mentioned already about the way the food was served up. What happened with us was that half the men could not sit down to dinner, because there was not enough room nor enough plates, knives and forks, and we had, therefore, to wait until we could grab places and knives and forks, and then grab some food, which was by this time half-cold. We were so cramped in that mess deck, that our hammocks were wedged together, and any time I sneezed I used to crack the ribs of my neighbours on either side.
Those were the conditions in which we read, did our laundry, lounged, smoked, ate and slept. When the wartime blackout was enforced and the windows shut, the kind of atmosphere there was in that crowded mess deck can well be imagined, and, by the time morning came and the sun's rays came in at the windows, instead of getting fresh air and daylight, we got the stink from the galley immeditately beside the mess deck window, and not only that but from the bins of pig swill left out there, which, by morning, were beginning to steam as the rays of the sun got on them. In the Royal Naval Barracks at Portsmouth, there was no escape from that sort of atmosphere. If one went along to the canteen, one found it dirty, dark and drab. If we went to the barrack cinema during 1942, we found that they were running two projectors. When one was showing, you could hear but not see, and, when the other was showing, you could see but not hear. The only way to find out what the film was about, was to have a very good memory, and enough money to go twice. The only way to get outside that sort of atmosphere was to go ashore, and find amenities in the city of Portsmouth, and these amenities were not provided by Admiralty, Once we were out of the Admiralty's gates, we were no further concern of theirs, and we had to get our amenities from the Salvation Army— God bless them—and from the British Sailors' Society—God bless them, too.
These were the sort of conditions that obtained in wartime. They were just as bad, and with less excuse, in Scapa. Up at Scapa, there is nothing but rain and 1278 Navy. As one comes in after 30 or 40 days—39 days was my longest stretch—to go ashore, what does one find that the Navy has provided for the men when they have a run ashore? Again, a cinema in a tin hut, though not a bad one. Apart from that, the only other amenity provided by their Lordships is another tin hut, very drab, crowded and noisy, where the only thing one could do was to drink beer out of chipped glasses—and what beer ! While I am on that subject, may I say that, if that stuff for which the Admiralty was responsible had been dished out to civilians by a landlord, the landlord would have got it back in his face right away. What right, I ask the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, has the Admiralty to give the men that sort of stuff?
Those were the type of conditions which we found ashore. Now for the conditions which we found at sea, and of which my experience was very limited indeed. It was a short, but intense, experience in a destroyer. I know perfectly well that a destroyer cannot be a paradise, because it has to be packed up with all the armament it can carry, but I do say that, in this particular ship, which was not untypical, our living quarters were quite unnecessarily cramped. One day, I paced out the space on the fore mess deck, and then, being sent aft as a sweeper, paced out the space allotted to the skipper. I know that he has to have more space than an ordinary seaman, as he has a much bigger responsibility, but I found that the amount of space given to this one man was almost exactly half as much as that given to 75 seamen for'ard. That is altogether out of proportion, and it might be reduced without danger to the fighting efficiency of the ship.
Now I will come to the question of washing. We had nine officers aboard, and they had seven wash basins and one bath between them. We had one small box of a place, about the size of the Table in front of the Clerks, as a wash place for the whole of the junior ratings. We had no shower at all. We had six wash basins, less than the number allowed for the nine officers, and we had to cram ourselves into them. This place served the needs, not only of the seamen, but of the communications ratings, the radar operators and also the stokers. There were about 150 men who had to 1279 use that wash place. If we wanted to have a bath, we had to get hold of a bucket, and wash ourselves in that, knowing perfectly well that it had probably been used the night before to be sick in, to wash up in or to make cocoa in. When the seamen went into the place while the stokers were using it, one heard language which would surprise even the Civil Lord.
Comparisons have been mace between our ships and those of the Americans. I have never sailed in an American ship, but I have seen them close to I want to contrast the conditions for a gun crew in a British destroyer and those in an American destroyer. The gun's crew, of which I was a member, was stationed aft, and however carefully I poised myself for the run along the iron deck to get to the gun shield, a sea would come over, and I would be wet through before I reached it. There, with six other people, I had to crouch wet through for four hours. It was an open gun shield without any protection at all, and, that was in the Arctic, on the run to Russia. It was bitterly cold—quite unnecessarily cold. The Americans had electric heating in their gun shields which is very necessary, because if a man's fingers are numb and an emergency arises he cannot possibly do his job properly. But the Admiralty could not be bothered to find out what we needed.
I feel that the trouble with the Admiralty is possibly that they are afraid of mollycoddling seamen. They think that if they give men something to day which Nelson did not have, they will be mollycoddling them. Alternatively, and almost more sinister, I relieve they say to themselves: "The British sailor will put up with anything and, therefore, we can afford to economise on him." It is perfectly true that the British sailor will put up with a lot but it is monstrous that, before he can achieve the great feats of which we are all proud, he has got to overcome obstacles which are avoidable, quite unnecessary, and are put there by the thoughtfulness of the Admiralty itself. I would say to any Government that was in power that they would probably get their recruitment for the Navy because, in spite of the vile conditions in which the men live, the Navy has a deep fascination for the landsman. It has for me. They will get their recruits, hut, unless 1280 they give those recruits better conditions, they will not make them into really efficient seamen. Therefore, in their own interests, the Admiralty should be prepared to spend at least as much money on the men who use the equipment as they do on the equipment itself.
To this Labour Government I would say that they ought, by now, to be establishing, as a fundamental principle, that in any undertaking the human beings who take part should be a first charge. Putting my appeal more widely, I would say to every Member of this House who has ever been in any of the Services that we ought to insist that this Government and its successors shall see to it that the seamen of Britain, of whom everyone is so proud, shall be allowed to live and shall be treated as human beings.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
All of us will be grateful to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down for his admirable speech. After the mover and seconder of this proposal had indulged in the "first battle of Dartmouth," I thought it was a great relief to find someone who, despite his rather melancholy stories, had obviously enjoyed every moment he spent in the Navy.
I would like to turn to another aspect of the Navy—the Corps of Royal Marines —particularly as this corps did not figure in our previous Debate, and, apart from one tribute paid to it by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Brendan Bracken), it passed practically unnoticed in our rather wider discussions. It is not necessary for me to waste the time of this House by reminding them in any sense of the history of the Corps of Royal Marines. Since their foundation, over 200 years ago, they have taken part in practically every big campaign in which this country has been involved. Such is their work that, apart from all other Services, they have been distinguished by Royal Command, which gave them the whole globe as their crest, to signify that they had served in every theatre and every war. Moreover, when the King was given the list of battle honours from which to choose the inscription on their colours, he said there were so many that he would reduce them to the one— Gibraltar—to represent the part they had played in the defence of this country.
1281 By the outbreak of the present war it is true to say that the Marines, unlike any other part of our Services, were used in our defence on land, on the sea and in the air, because there were Fleet Air Arm pilots wearing Royal Marine uniform. But, like so many of the forces on which we depend in case of emergency, the Royal Marines were allowed to be frittered away before the war and, on the outbreak of war, there were, I believe, only some 5,000 members of that corps—a pitiful number to pitiful the duties they were called upon to undertake. We all know the deeds done by the Royal Marine commandos; they have received in the Press and elsewhere their meed of praise. It is worth while to consider the other things they were called upon to do. They played an outstanding part in the technique of Combined Operations, and it was through their efforts that places like Troon and C.X.E. in Somerset were established, which played such a large part in ensuring the success of the invasions of Sicily and North-West Europe. They did many other things, some of them big and some of them small. They were the people, for instance, who undertook the anti-aircraft defence on the concrete blockhouses of the Thames Estuary Equally, they were the people who held the hands of the Navy when they came ashore, in France and drove their motor cars for them.
It is true to say that in the war just ended, never has a Service shown so much versatility and in the words of the late Commanding General, Royal Marines, so much ability to bridge the gap between the sea and the land. In every task they have been asked to do, whether as ships' detachments, taking part in the occupation of Diego Suarez or suddenly landing, or, alternatively, to take over the job, at short notice, of manning landing craft for the French invasion, they have always been ready and willing to do it.
This story of the war is not one of unqualified success. There were three large Royal Marine organisations—the Royal Marine Division, and the First and Second Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisations, each with some 10,000 personnel in strength, who were called into existence, very rightly, by the Admiralty to meet certain commitments which they foresaw. But none of these three organisations, occupying just under half of the total strength of the Royal Marines, was ever properly used. The 1282 Royal Marine Division was kept in existence for two years in this country, and was then disbanded. The First Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation was sent to the Middle East and was des-patched to occupy Suda Bay; it met the Germans, who came down from the air to meet it, and it lost a good deal of its equipment. It remained in the Middle East for a further 18 months, doing nothing, and then came home to be disbanded. The Second Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation was sent out to the Middle East to take part in operations against Sicily. When it got there it was not required apart from 48 hours in defending Augusta, in the initial part of that campaign, and it came home, and was dissolved.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
The First Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation went there; it took part in the fortification of Port "T." Later it was split into three brigades, none of which was used, and then it came home. I think it is necessary to make this case in order to plead for the future. As I understand it, all the work which has to do with commandos is now being thrown on to the Royal Marines. I would like to ask whether that policy is to go further? It has always, in the past, been our assumption that we shall have friendly bases through which to deploy our Forces on the Continent in any case of emergency. How false that assumption has been we have learned from bitter experience during the last few years. In the Royal Marines, we should have the nucleus of a permanent Combined Operations Division, and all the necessary ancillary Services, to secure a beachhead and safely to see the Army and the Air Force from their transports until such time as they are firmly established on the beachhead.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, in his reply, to give us some idea, on the naval side, of what Forces are being kept for Combined Operations, how many L. S. Ts. and L. C. Ts. there are to be, whether there will be sufficient for us to lift a division in case of emergency; what is to be the strength of the planning organisation, and whether the experimental stations at Troon and elsewhere are to be kept going? I think it would 1283 be folly if, once again, we were to allow the Combined Operations side of our national defence to fall down, particularly when it has taken so much sweat and tears, and casualties, such as were encountered at Dieppe, to get the experience which served us so well in 1914. I suggest that in the Royal Marines we have the perfect organisation to undertake this work, and that we should give to that body the right to look after all those things which occur between the time the men leave the ship and the time they have passed through the beachhead.
If that is accepted, we ought to ask for certain further things. The first is, if the Marines are given this job, could they not be represented directly on the Board of Admiralty? I think their services are such, and their probable duties in future such, that that position is the least they can be given. When the Caretaker Government was in Office, something was done to improve the position of the Royal Marines by giving them a larger establishment. I suggest that if the suggestion I have made were carried out, it would secure their position. The second thing I would ask is whether we cannot have a Royal Marines Volunteer Reserve similar to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. We are the only people with no such organisation. At the present time, there is a great body of men and officers with Combined Operations experience— people who, like myself, have enjoyed every minute of their service in the Royal Marines—and we ask for something to keep us together and enable us to know that, if we are wanted again, we have kept in touch with progress and developments. The Royal Marines have proved themselves in the past, and have earned the praise and trust of the country. If something is done on the lines I have suggested, we shall make them into an integral and essential part of our Defence Service, and pay a fitting tribute to all they have done in the hour of this country's need.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
I am glad the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) has raised the question and dealt with some of the jobs of the Royal Marines. I would say that some of the finest men I met during my 1284 service were those who were in the S.O.E. at Jaffna, in the North-West of Ceylon, who undertook special operations against the Japanese. They did magnificent jobs of work, which I do not think have ever had sufficient recognition. The work they did at Hammanheil ought to go down in history as one of the finest jobs the Marines ever undertook. I want to reinforce every word of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mallalieu) He and I little thought, when we sat on the mess deck together, chatting and "dripping "about conditions, that we would be able to say those things to the people who matter here, but they have got to listen now. If the Civil Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary underestimate one word of what my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield said, they will be doing a grave disservice to the men of the Fleet. There is one thing I would like to add to what he said about conditions We were in Haslar hospital, where the conditions were just about as disgraceful as they were in Portsmouth barracks. It really is not a fit place for the treatment of men who are wounded or sick. It ought to be razed to the ground and some new building put up in its place. Neither the building nor the conditions, nor the food are suitable for the treatment of men of the Royal Navy.
There is another thing I wish to say. I believe there are still senior officers in the Navy who will say that part of the trouble at Invergordon arose from the fact that in the Admiralty there were senior officers who regarded their first responsibility, and the major part of their concern, to be with the technical equipment of the ships. It was the technicians, I understand, who were in command up to Invergordon. We must, as my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield said, make the men the first charge on the Royal Navy. It is no use having the most perfect equipment unless there is a contented Force. I put it to the Admiralty that they must have this in the forefront of their minds at the present time. To reinforce what has been said in this matter I want to read a short note which has been sent to me by a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy. I have his service record here. He has been in the Royal Navy for 17 years. He started as a supply assistant, and he finished up as a chief petty officer. His record of character the whole way through has been very 1285 good. His record for efficiency in rating has been "superior" on every occassion, and any one who knows anything about this will know that those are the two top ratings. This chief petty officer, a regular of 17 years' experience, has just left the Royal Navy. He is not a disgruntled man in the sense of being a man who cannot make the grade. He has ma de the grade. This is his view:My personal reaction to my experiences was the deciding factor in the decision to leave the Royal Navy, together with at least four other messmates. We had experience in the Navy between us from just over 12 years to 17½ years, and, from conversations I had with other shipmates, I am quite sure that, had it not been for the responsibilities of marriage, they would have made the same decision. I know ratings who have been passed for warrant officer for years, with no prospect of being promoted for at least another two years. They are embittered by the whole system of promotion.I know that at the end of a war when everybody is leaving the Armed Services there is a natural swing which infects long service men, but it is more than that in the Royal Navy today. One of the matters to which the Admiralty have to pay a great deal of attention is the morale, the spirit and the treatment of those long-serving men in the Royal Navy.
I hope that hon. and gallant Members on the other side of the House will say something about the new pay code and its effect upon efficiency. I do not want to stand between them and the House on that matter. I am not happy about the Royal Navy. It is remarkable, but it was particularly noticeable when the First Lord came here. We seemed to develop a cozy, tea-party atmosphere, with people congratulating each other and saying how wonderful everything was. The whole atmosphere of the House seemed to become so friendly that we did not seem to get down to the things that the men are saying. We all love the Royal Navy, and it is because we want to see it put right that we are asking the Civil Lord and the Financial Secretary to recognise that many things are wrong which ought to be put right.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
I am sure that the whole House is grateful to those who moved and seconded the Amendment, because it has given rise to a wide discussion on all matters relating to personnel. I shall be very interested to hear 1286 what the hon. Gentleman who will wind up the Debate will answer on the subject of the figures of men who are signing on to complete their time for pension. I think it was the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. Roberts) who asked for them Perhaps my forecast is not quite the same as his. It may be that the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) has the same forecast as I have. I do not think that the figures of men signing on since they saw the new pay code will have gone up. I think they will have gone down.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts
That was also the view that I took. I did not say that the figures would have gone up appreciably as a result of the new pay code.
§ Commander Noble
I must beg the pardon of the hon. Member. I understood him to say that the men were pleased with the new pay code and that he thought the figures would have gone up. I apologise.
I would like to associate myself with the two admirable speeches that have just been made from the opposite side of the House, especially with what was said about amenities on shore. It is accepted from one end of the Navy to the other that our barracks are out of date not by tens of years, but perhaps almost by hundreds of years. Now the war is over I hope we can give attention to these things, and that every effort will be made to see that living conditions become very much better. I would add my plea with regard to laundries at sea, which I understand arc normal fixtures in American ships.
The mover of the Amendment said he thought there was something special about the Navy and that the Navy would not have to suffer conscription. If there is something special about the Navy, I do not see why it should not have its own method of recruiting officers. I do not see why it should be bound by what the other Services are doing. In this morning's newspapers the Army state what they are doing. I do not see any reason why the Navy should follow. An hon. Member has said that Dartmouth College must be abolished. I do not want to enter into any argument on that point, but we all agree, I think, that the object must always be to get the best officers. How that is done must be a matter of great study by the Admiralty and by those at sea. There can be no 1287 doubt that considerable success has been achieved in that direction in the past, and I am sure that it will be so in the future, It has already been admitted from the other side that considerable improvements in the democratisation of the Navy have been made in the last few years. I think we should stop there for the moment, and see how these experiments will work. I shall not say anything more about the entry of officers. No doubt the subject will be raised again later in the Debate.
As is right, after the two preceding speeches, I would like to pay a tribute to the Reserves. The whole question of recruiting is bound up with whether or not we are to have conscription and for how long it will be. I hope it will be possible for some statement to be made on that subject. There is no part of the Navy which it will affect more than the Reserves. I hope that the Minister who will wind up the Debate will be able to tell us something of the future of the Reserves and also what the Reserves have done during the war.
There is absolutely no doubt that the availability of the R.N.R. and of the R.N.V.R. made all the difference at the beginning of the war. Here were men trained to the sea, one body because it was their profession, and the other by the hard work they had put in during their spare time in the evenings and on their holidays, perhaps for several years. They were able to take their place at once in the fighting units of the Fleet and in many other jobs. The Reserve grew during the war out of all proportion to its beginning. I had the honour to command several destroyers during the war. In one brand new ship several of my officers and half of my men had not been to sea before. I would like to add my humble tribute to the many tributes that have been paid, and no doubt will continue to be paid in the future.
I would like to ask for information about the tuture of the Reserve and to make one or two suggestions. I imagine that the Royal Naval Reserve will go on very much as before. I hope that every consideration will be given to skippers and their crews who play such an important part in trawlers, and to keeping the older or retired Royal Naval Reserve officers up-to-date in naval affairs. There are many lobs which they can do in an emergency. 1288 With regard to the R.N.V.R. there are two problems, one immediate, and the other as to the future of their great organisation. The total number of these officers rose during the war to 45,000. They held practically every job open to an officer in the Navy, including command of destroyers and every type of small craft. It would be a fatal mistake if, by indecision, we should lose this great band of enthusiasts. So enthusiastic are they that they have started their own club in London: I hope that it will always go on as a meeting place for old shipmates. At the moment they are being demobilised but they are not being released. I hope that everything is being done by the Admiralty to keep in touch with those officers and men, and to keep them in touch.
As regards the future, if we are to have conscription it will presumably be only for a short period, for one or two years, a time which is not long enough to choose or train R.N.V.R. officers. It is, therefore, all the more important that every possible consideration should be given to the organisation for training officers for the R.N.V.R., so that they may be able to officer the enormous flow of men that must arise if we have conscription. I would like to see a situation in the Naval Reserve much more akin to the Territorial Army. If we have conscription I would like the men always to go abroad for their training, if possible with men from their own part of the country. When they continue their training in civil life, I would like them to do so with men near whom they live, and when they go to sea or on a course in their further training, I would like them to do so with men with whom they have trained before. I am sure they would renew old acquaintances and discuss their past experiences, and it would be of great benefit to the Service. The training of Reserves at sea should be under the most careful supervision of the Admiralty, and the conditions should be laid down by them Before the war far too much was left to the individual taste of commanding officers as to what was taught Reserve officers and men when they went to sea. They should be taught to do a special job which they should be able to do in an emergency.
I have mentioned the older officers of the R N.R. The same argument that I advanced applies equally to the R.N.V.R. 1289 In 1939, R.N.V.R. officers who had served in the 1914— 18 war, no matter what their ages, were allowed to return as probationary temporary acting sub-lieutenants. I suggest that a system of courses, with adequate promotion in the years between, would encourage these older men, and it would mean that in another emergency there would be a large body of fully qualified R.N.R. and R.N.V.R. officers fitted for certain duties. This would help to remove a state of affairs which caused a certain amount of feeling in the Reserves during the war, and that was the repeated and sometimes phenomenal promotion of officers in the Special Branch. There was a general feeling in the R.N.V.R. that the nearer the Admiralty the higher the rank. Do not let there be any foundation for the rumour that the Admiralty are trying to provide a Reserve on the cheap, and that they will always expect to find available men already trained in an emergency. As a small point, I understand the naval uniform can be very easily changed into plain clothes, though I have not yet seen any hon. and gallant Member so attired on either side of this House. No doubt we shall. I also understand that their wives are able to convert such garments into creations that rival only the sartorial austerities of the President of the Board of Trade. I ask the Admiralty to let us know the details of the future service in the Navy, both in the Reserves and in the regular Service, as soon as possible, so that we do not fritter away the handsome dividend that we have won. If the Navy is to make the necessary financial economies that she will have to make in manning a smaller Fleet, it is all the more important that our Reserves should be kept up to date; with a smaller Fleet this is more important than ever it was before.
I would like to dwell on a point which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Touche). That is the question of passages for the wives and families of officers and men whose ships are serving on foreign commissions. Men and their families will have very different ideas of foreign service after this war than they had before, due to the exceptionally long periods of separation which they have experienced. I hope their Lordships will consider seriously whether the Navy cannot be brought into line— especially now that the three Services 1290 have a basic rate of pay—with the Army and the Air Force in this respect, in the provision of free or aided passages and, if possible, of married quarters at some of our bigger ports abroad, such as Malta and Gibraltar. I also hope it may be possible to revise the system of foreign commissions, and that it may be possible so to dispose the Fleet that ships are not away from this country for too long. I appreciate that this is not possible on some stations—for example, in the West Indies. Bermuda, with its high cost of living, is not perhaps very suitable for married quarters, and it is a long way for people to go for perhaps only a few months, but I do hope the whole system will be overhauled so that ships serving abroad may be able to return to this country at frequent intervals, if only to allow officers and men to discuss matters with their families. One free passage each way during a commission is not too much to ask, and I hope the question of married quarters will be considered. I ask that the points I have raised may be seriously, considered. Many experienced ratings are being lost to the Service, both in the Reserves and in the regular Service, by men not signing on for pension. Only by carefully studying the points that have been raised this afternoon, such as the implications of conscription and the raising of the school leaving age, and by a very careful survey of Service conditions, can the position be improved. It may be, however, that in a few years possible officers and men will realise what chaos nationalisation is causing in the country, and the Services may benefit accordingly.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)
I wish to take this opportunity of saying a few words in the Debate. Recruiting was mentioned by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mallalieu). He said that although conditions in the Navy were often very hard, and particularly in small ships they were very difficult, yet there was something about the appeal of the sea which always brought people to serve in our Fleet. But there is one aspect of this problem which has always worried us in the Northern part of the country, and that is, while there are at all times serving in the Fleet very many men who come from the Midlands and the South of England, the Navy has never proved attractive to 1291 Scotsmen and people from the North of England to anything like the same extent. Of course, the answer is that there has been no manning port in the Northern part of the country. It is a fundamental error of strategy. We have seen in the recent war the damage which has been caused to the three great dockyards in the South—Portsmouth, Chatham and Plymouth—and we have heard this afternoon from the hon. Member for Huddersfield that part of Portsmouth barracks was destroyed in the blitz.
From the point of view of recruiting, if for no other reason, I urge that in the postwar programme the Government should proceed with the erection of barracks and the provision of a training school and manning depot in the Northern part of the country. The estuaries of the Clyde or the Forth spring to my mind as being suitable places. I leave it to some Scottish Member from the West to argue the case for the Clyde, but I would like to stress the case for Rosyth, where there is a well equipped dockyard, a fuelling station, and an armament depot at Crombie, and every other facility. We have heard that some of the barracks in the South have been destroyed, and that the general state of repair and internal conditions in the others remain unsatisfactory. Here is a glorious opportunity for the Admiralty to build grand new barracks and training schools in the North of the country. I ask the Financial Secretary to consider that point in the light of speeches which have been made this afternoon, and to give us in Scotland a chance to play our part in peacetime as in war, in sending our young men into the greatest of our national Services.
I have another point to make, and I think the Financial Secretary- knows to what I am about to refer. It concerns the recruiting and conditions of service of some of the technical officers. I think it was the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) who rather implied that technical officers in charge at the Admiralty had not assisted things at the time of the trouble at Invergordon. As a former graduate of the "Vernon" naturally I would not like to hear anything deleterious said about technical officers. I think he would recognise that the modern Navy, which is a mass of machinery, has to have technical officers, and highly skilled ones at that. If we are to get 1292 these men we must offer them reasonable rates of pay and conditions of service, otherwise they will go elsewhere, to other forms of industry, and the State will lose the benefit of their services.
I would like to remind the Financial Secretary as I have done on previous occasions, and as I fear I shall have to continue to do at intervals, that the record of the Admiralty in this matter has not been very satisfactory. I refer in particular to the position of permanent officers of the Naval Ordnance Inspection Department. When I raised the matter last, in November, the Financial Secretary said that he was going into the subject and hoped to let me know in due course what progress had been made. Nothing further has been forthcoming since then. I would adhere to the point that I put forward—and I do not really see how the Admiralty can get away from it—that officers who have been recruited to that branch so far, and any who may come in at the present time, come within the terms of Admiralty Order 2078/31 which says that their rates of pay will be comparable to the 1919 rates of pay of officers on the active list, and will be subject to similar variations as the latter rates. It is my contention—and indeed the Financial Secretary has never sought to deny it—that the rates of pay are now entirely different, due to the fact that these technical officers do not receive the marriage allowance, children's allowance, the naval scale of victualling allowance or the war service increment. Moreover, the rates of pay and allowances which they do receive compare very unfavourably with the officers of the Army and Air Force who are carrying out exactly the same type of duties.
On the last occasion on which I raised this subject the Financial Secretary made some remarks on the subject of the Naval Discipline Act, and the fact that these officers benefit by not coming under it, a statement which has aroused, as I anticipated, very considerable indignation amongst the officers concerned. I can show the Financial Secretary some letters which blister the Admiralty. I would urge the Financial Secretary to let us have some information on this subject. When we are dealing with recruiting to the modern Navy we have to have technicians, and the best we can get, and we must give them fair play and stability of prospects. The Admiralty have treated 1293 these men in the Inspection Department very badly at the present time. I think the Admiralty have definitely broken a contract with them. I wish to see that matter put right, in the interests of the officers who are already serving, and in order that others may be attracted to it to carry out the very important functions of the Inspection Department.
§ 5.34 P.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Robertson (Berwick and Haddington)
I only intervene in this Debate at this late stage in order to make one point, which I think has been omitted by previous speakers. I was very pleased to hear the praise which was given to the Naval Reserve by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble). Everyone knows that when war comes the active service naval personnel would be unable fully to man the naval vessels without the active assistance and support of the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. I hope that in future the Admiralty will do everything possible to encourage the growth of the Royal Naval Reserve. I speak with some knowledge of this subject, as a Royal Naval Reservist for more than 26 years. In Scotland the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve depend on a particularly good type of seaman, drawn from the fishing industry. I hope that in future this will not be lost sight of in the further development and encouragement of the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. One other point to which I would like to refer is the new service, the nursery, if I may so call it, namely, the Sea Cadets. In this organisation we have a nursery for training boys who desire to enter the Navy and make it their career.
§ Captain Marsden
I happen to be on one of the Committees that administer this organisation. There is no obligation about a boy even desiring a seafaring life. What is an interesting fact is, that a tremendous proportion of those who join the Sea Cadets do enter the Navy or the Merchant Service. It is not 'obligatory, though.
§ Mr. Robertson
I think the point still stands that the boys have an interest in the sea before desiring to attend the Sea Cadet classes. I hope the Admiralty will give due regard to the development and encouragement of the Sea Cadets as a very 1294 excellent nursery for recruitment into the Navy. I know the Admiralty have expressed their policy on that to some extent. I hope that when the Financial Secretary comes to reply he will reiterate the intention of the Government to continue that service.
I was very glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) referring to the question of the geographical basing of naval centres in order that Scotland might be brought into the picture more than has been the case in the past. The three main naval depots, situated, as they have been, in the South of England, are rather out of touch with the Scottish maritime sentiments. If, in the future, we are to have training establishments of a better quality I hope that at least one may find its way to Scotland. I have in mind the setting up of a naval training establishment at Rosyth, connected with the dockyard there. The same applies to the pre-entry training centres for the Navy. There is none in Scotland. In view of the great contribution which Scotland's men have made to our maritime reserves, to the Navy and to the Merchant Navy, I hope that in future we shall see the establishment in Scotland of a pre-entry training centre for lads who desire to enter the Navy. I would like to have an assurance from the Financial Secretary that attractions to enter the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve are to be no less noticeable in the future than in the past, and that the Sea Cadet training scheme will be encouraged as far as possible in the future.
§ 5.40 p.m.
The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. John Duģdale)
These are the first detailed Estimates presented since 1939. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the First Lord is unable to be here today, as I know he would have liked to be here on their presentation, but it is of course impossible for him to be present for reasons of which hon. Members are all aware. I would like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to those who have got out these Estimates. It is not an easy task, as hon. Members will realise, to get out a book of figures of this size at a time when the officials of the Admiralty are in the throes of organising demobilisation, payment of gratuities, and all that goes with it. I think we 1295 must all agree that they have done a very fine and quick piece of work in having got out these Estimates at relatively short notice after the end of the war. It may interest hon. Members to know that it has been done by an Admiralty staff reduced by some 17 per cent, since VJ Day—quite a considerable reduction.
This Debate is a very interesting one. It has sometimes been alleged from the Opposition that all interest in the Navy was on their side, that it was a perquisite of the Conservative Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think this Debate shows that that is not the case. Before replying to individual points I should like to make one general observation. The British Navy has been in existence for more than eight centuries. This Government has been in existence for less than eight months. I presume, therefore, that any criticisms of the conduct of the Admiralty or the British Navy are criticisms of previous Governments, and not of this Government. There have been many criticisms. There are some people who would ask—though I have not heard it today—why we have a Navy. They think we should depend entirely on the Air Force. I do not want to get into undue controversy with my colleague, who, I see, has just come in, but in his opening speech on the last occasion he paid a great and well-deserved tribute to the Air Force. I would remind him, and hon. Members of the House, that great as the work of the Air Force is, and great as was their service to the country in 1940, if the English Channel had dried up in 1940 the German troops would have been here, whatever the Air Force or the Army had done. It was only the existence of the English Channel and of the Fleet upon it, which, in combination with the other two Services, enabled us to keep the enemy from our door.
I have been asked a number of questions and I propose to deal with them. There was the question of recruitment. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment in an admirable and thoughtful speech said that there was not enough publicity for the work of the Navy and for the chances that the sailor had if he were to join the Navy. I would draw his attention to a very admirable booklet which has just been published, called" The Royal Navy." It has been got out in a manner which I think would do 1296 credit to the highest powered publicity office, let alone the Silent Service. I hope that he and other Members will get hold of this booklet, and of similar publicity produced from time to time by the Navy, and will help us to put the Navy's case before the ordinary men, and indeed women, whom we may want to have in the Service in the future.
Certainly. The hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington (Mr. J. J. Robertson) talked about the importance of the Sea Cadet Corps and pre-entry training, and a number of other hon. Members have also raised that question. The Admiralty attaches the very greatest importance to the further development of the Sea Cadet Corps and of the Sea Scouts. They have both performed invaluable work in the past, and we hope they will continue to do so in the future. On 31st December, 1945, there were 36,000 Sea Cadets, in 426 units scattered all over the country. I myself was very surprised, representing as I do a Midlands division far from the sea, when I was first told that there was a Sea Cadet Corps in West Bromwich. However, there is, and it even seems, in fact, that the Sea Cadet Corps are very often strongest in the districts furthest from the sea. It may be that when they get nearer the sea, they feel differently about joining the Navy, but that is in fact the case.
I think the principal attack that has been made today is the attack on Dartmouth, so I may as well come straight to the point and deal with that. The hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs—
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts
May I ask the hon. Gentleman to refer to me as the Member for Caernarvonshire?
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. The hon. Member for Caernarvonshire wanted to see more attention paid to naval technical education in' county colleges. It is a point which I cannot answer here. It will have to be introduced—perhaps the hon. Member will have the opportunity—during a Debate on education, when he can bring it to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. Whether his 1297 suggestion is possible or not I do not know, but if it were possible, no doubt it would be exceedingly useful to the Navy. The hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) made a very violent attack upon Dartmouth, and said that 75 per cent. of the places there were restricted to the public school type.
The "prep. school "type—I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will recognise is the same thing, the one leads to the other, and what I think he meant was the "public" school, in the private school sense. I do not think his figures are exactly correct, because there is in fact no actual restriction. He is perfectly correct in saying that the people from prep. schools have an advantage, in so far as their parents have more money to pay for their children to go there, but there is no actual restriction saying that that number of people must in fact come from prep. schools. Let us get that point clear first.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
I also have noticed that point in the Debate. Could the hon. Gentleman tell us how many boys have taken scholarships from preparatory schools? I have a son at Dartmouth who went to a preparatory school.
I have the figures here. The annual entry is 135—no, I am sorry, I do not think I have those figures here.
I have not got the figures, but the point I want to make, and which I think will meet my hon. Friend, is this. Before leaving for India, the First Lord gave instructions for a complete and rapid review of the system of entry into and training at Dartmouth to be undertaken by the Admiralty, with a view to seeing what changes, if any, were necessary. I stress that that review will be, not only complete, but rapid, and it will include the question as to whether boys should start their training at 13 or whether they should start it at a later age. All these matters will be considered, and when the 1298 First Lord returns the report will be laid before him.
§ Commander Pursey
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that question, will he make these figures clear, because he is disputing my percentages? Ten cadetships are available for grant aided schools. Last year that represented 25 per cent. This year the total number has gone up, and, therefore, the percentage is down to 22 per cent. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that, in point of fact, the entries for grant aided schools are limited to Io per term. By and large, the percentage was 25 per cent. last year, and this year, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy) has said, it is 22 per cent. If 25 per cent. in one year come from one type of school, the other 75 per cent. must come from preparatory schools. Fifty per cent. are paying fees and 25 per cent. are granted scholarships.
Let us get this perfectly clear. I did not say that my hon. and gallant Friend was wrong in his figures of the number of people from preparatory schools. I said it was wrong to draw the restriction, which he seemed to draw, that that number must come from preparatory schools and nowhere else. The explanation is that the parents of those boys have considerably more money with which to pay for their children's education.
I wanted only to make it quite clear that the restriction arose in that way, and was not made by the Admiralty It is a condemnation of our economic system and of our past educational system. The Admiralty is, I repeat, about to inquire into the whole system of education at Dartmouth. would say, also, that the First Lord took steps some years ago—I think it was three years ago now—as a start, to introduce a scholarship system at Dartmouth. The system as it is now, whatever its faults may be, is considerably more democratic than it was before the First Lord's scholarship scheme was introduced. We have seen the results of that scheme and its admirable products, and I hope that that scheme will continue. We are going to examine what other possibilities are open. On the question of special entry, which is another of the points raised by 1299 the hon. and gallant Member for East Hull and other hon. Members, the training and examination for special entry do, in fact, cost money. It does cost money to enter by the special entry system, and it does cost more than some can afford, and consideration is now being given at the Admiralty as to whether assistance can be given to people who wish to come into the Navy by the special entry system, so that they may not be handicapped financially, and so that all may have an equal chance of coming in by that particular system.
I turn now to the question of lower deck promotion. This subject, too, was raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Hull, and also by the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Touche). I think hon. Members will be interested to know that, during the war, promotion from the lower deck has increased quite considerably. I do not say it is as high as they would like. I am not even going to say it is as high as I should like, myself, but it has increased considerably. Let me take, for instance, the percentage of lower deck officers. The number of lower deck commissions was 75 in the executive branch, 32 in the engineering branch, and seven in the supply branch. This means that there was, in fact, a quite considerable percentage of officers in all those branches promoted from the lower deck.
During the war period. It was a wartime measure. I agree I am talking about the wartime period and not about peacetime.
§ Mr. Callaghan
During the war, 75 men were promoted from the lower deck to officer rank. Is that a good percentage?
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
I wonder if the hon. Gentleman could assist us a little further in this matter. He is referring, I think, to commissions which were granted to men in the regular Fleet. They were given regular commissions. Of course, there have been thousands of commissions to men from the lower deck in the R.N.V.R.
Certainly. I meant that. This is not a very large number, but it is a much larger number than we have been used to in the past. I hope lower deck promotion will be continued on, at least, as high a percentage as this.
§ Commander Pursey
The hon. Gentleman is disputing my figures. They were quoted from a reply given on 30th January. The total number of commissions from the lower deck for the seven years, 1939 to 1945, was 213. Divided by seven that gives an average of 3o a year. The figures for the 1914–18 war gave an average of 65 and, therefore, my contention cannot be disputed, that the actual regular commissions in the executive branch in the second world war were only half—less than half—what they were in the first world war.
I do not want to engage in a long argument with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I will give him these figures before passing on to another subject. This figure represents a 30 per cent. average of the officers entering during those years.
§ Captain Marsden
Do the figures quoted by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) for the first world war include those for the commissioned rank of mate? As that system was not successful it was abolished. That is the reason, perhaps, why the figures for this war were lower.
§ Commander Pursey
I am aware that the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) made the point previously about the mate scheme being a success. The mate scheme was a success. By it there were officers who reached as high rank as himself, who reached captain's rank and were on the Flag List. The criticism of the mate scheme does not apply in the sense that he means.
May I be allowed to continue? I think hon. Members will recognise that, if this is not the percentage they would like, it is a quite considerable percentage. The important thing to do is to see that it is maintained.
I know turn to the question of conditions on board ship. Questions were raised about conditions by the hon. Member for Reigate and the hon. Member for South Cardiff, and also by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mallalieu), 1301 who, if I may say so, made a particularly tine speech. I have paid some attention to this matter while I have been in the Admiralty, and, not having had previous experience as a sailor, I have taken the trouble to visit some ships. Recently I visited the "Vanguard," which hon. Members will know is now at Glasgow. She has now been launched and will put to sea before very long.
Yes, and where all good things come from. I was interested to study the accommodation provided, and to compare it with other ships. I also visited the "Queen Elizabeth," which was built in 1914 The "Queen Elizabeth" has, of course, been reconditioned since then, but the "Vanguard" is a 1946 ship. I noticed, on going round these two ships, just about the same difference that I would notice if I were to go round a house built in 1914, and a house of the kind my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is building today. I was impressed by the remarks made by the hon. Member for Reigate, but I would point out to him that it was not this Government which built ships like the "Queen Elizabeth" providing that sort of accommodation. She was built during the time of a previous Government, and they were apparently content that sailors should have this type of accommodation It may be that they are changing their minds now, but the fact remains that this was the accommodation they provided. There is no doubt that in these old vessels there was great overcrowding and very bad conditions. But let me tell hon. Members something about the "Vanguard." The "Vanguard" has a totally different system of messing in comparison with any other British ship. Instead of the men having to live, eat, sleep and go about their daily business in one room, they have one room in which to eat, and one room for a living room. That is a considerable difference. Another point, which may be relatively small, is that these rooms are painted in different colours. It is something to know that there will not be the eternal grey and depressing atmosphere over everything. There is considerably more space for the men in comparison with similar ships.
1302 In the previous Debate the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) was very much concerned about the comparison between officers' quarters and the men's quarters. Among other things, he was particularly concerned a bout the admiral's bathroom in some ships, which he alleged was very large, in fact larger than some of the accommodation provided for the men. I paid particular attention to this point, and I took the trouble to visit the admiral's bathroom on the "Vanguard." I can assure hon. Members that there was scarcely enough room to swing an admiral. There was, in fact, very little room indeed. The House will be interested to know of one improvement, recently adopted, which will affect all sailors. There has been a complete revolution in the equipment provided for galleys. The first ship I visited, when I went to the Admiralty, was a relatively small escort carrier. I went into the galley, and was surprised to find what good equipment was provided. I remarked what an extraordinary thing it was to find such good equipment, and was told that the ship was American-built, and that that was the reason for it. The "Vanguard" now has similar equipment, and instructions have gone out that, in every case where a ship undergoes a refit, equipment exactly comparable with American standards will be provided.
§ Mr. J. P. L. Thomas (Hereford)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the "Vanguard," may I point out, when he talked about the present Government being so successful in the equipment they are providing, that some of us on these benches had to do with the "Vanguard" up to her launching, and after her launching when we held office, as his predecessors? I think, therefore, that the hon. Member will agree that most of the credit must be given to the Coalition Government.
While giving the greatest possible credit to my predecessor in his work of equipping the "Vanguard," I must give even greater credit to the First Lord of the Admiralty of that Government, who is also First Lord of the Admiralty in this Government. I do not think that the question of equipment came before the Cabinet. The decision on the matter was probably taken by the First Lord himself.
1303 I turn to the question of shore establishments. There is no doubt that, in this connection, we have austerity standards. At the moment we have six-tenths prewar standard for ratings and four-tenths only for senior officers. These conditions have been forced upon us, but they are common to the whole nation. There is a shortage of accommodation throughout the Service. The hon. Member for Caernarvonshire and other hon. Members were very disturbed about this matter, but I can assure them that the Admiralty are equally disturbed about it. My hon. Friend the Civil Lord, who is more particularly concerned with the matter, has taken the trouble to visit barracks, and on many occasions he has visited them without notice, so that nothing could be laid on and he could see things as they really are. I know that he has been disturbed about the position, but the fact is that many of these barracks are old, and I have to make the point again, whether the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Thomas) likes it or not, that most of them were constructed in the days of previous Governments. These barracks have been constructed with very low standards, and we now find ourselves in the position of being asked to repair, or rebuild, at a time when there is a terrible shortage of labour, and there is a crying need for houses.
We hope to see that this accommodation is improved rapidly, but I would be promising something quite impossible to undertake were I to say that it can be improved before improving the housing conditions of the families of the sailors, who are suffering from bad accommodation. I think that if you were to ask the sailors whether they wanted their own barracks improved or whether they wanted the available labour used on improving or building new houses for their wives and families that they would probably prefer to have the houses. In any case, we are going to see that we get our adequate share of labour, materials and money to put the shore accommodation of the Navy in very much better condition that it is now.
I pass to another point raised by the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire and the hon. Member for Reigate. That is the subject of accommodation for families abroad. I think that is a point which needs very careful consideration. I 1304 examined it myself when I was in Malta not long ago. It would be a great help in our recruiting drive, if we could be certain that the men had a reasonable chance, when stationed abroad, of having their wives and families with them for long periods. The Admiralty have decided that, so far as it is possible to arrange—and details are now being worked out—they are in favour of free passages for the wives and families of officers and men stationed abroad. I am not saving that free passages are going to be introduced tomorrow. The details have to be worked out, but the principle has definitely been accepted by the Admiralty. The trouble is that whether the passages are free or not, there is not the transport and not the accommodation in the ships at the moment. There is great difficulty in that respect. We hope that in the future, as accommodation in the ships gets easier and transport going out from this country get easier, we can arrange for free transport for the families of men who are going to be stationed ashore for long periods.
There are great problems involved in this. It is all very well to transport families, but you have to see that they are looked after when they get to their destination. I hope that it will be possible, eventually, to provide married quarters in many places, such as Malta, Gibraltar, and, maybe, Singapore, and other stations where there will be large numbers of naval ratings. If we are to do that we have not only to provide married quarters, but we may have to provide schools and hospital accommodation, and all the other facilities that a naval rating's wife and family would demand. We are looking into this, and I hope that in future we shall be able not only to provide free transport but also to provide married quarters, although these will come a very long time afterwards. Taking Malta, as an example, the situation is not conducive to a very rapid building programme. There is an appalling shortage of houses for the local population, let alone naval ratings. It may be a considerable time before that can De done but that is our aim.
Hon. Members have raised a number of points, and I may not have dealt with all of them. The hon. and gallant Member for New Forest (Colonel CrosthwaiteEyre) raised the question of the future 1305 of the Marines and said that he thought they should have a representative on the Board of Admiralty. Quite frankly, I cannot give him an answer on that at the moment. I do not know how long it is since a new representative was brought on to the Board of Admiralty but that august body would take a considerable time to alter their composition and even if it were desirable to have a representative, it would be some time before arrangements could be made. I would like to pay tribute to the work of the Marines. During the war they performed very gallant and valuable services, and I do not think that anyone in the Admiralty or in this House looks upon them as a forgotten Service. They are right in the forefront—apart from anything else, they have a very fine uniform as anyone can see—and they are by no means the Cinderella of the Service. They are up to the highest standards which we can expect from anyone in the Navy
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Can the hon. Gentleman say something on the other two questions which I raised, concerning a Royal Marine Volunteer Reserve and the future of Combined Operations relative to their establishment of ships and training establishments?
On the last two points I cannot say very much at present. On the first point we certainly want to have a Royal Marine Volunteer Reserve, and details are now being worked out. In fact, details for the whole future organisation of the R.N.V.R. are now being worked out, but I cannot give any information at the moment.
As regards the R.N.V.R. itself, I would like to pay a tribute to the officers who have gone back voluntarily to H.M.S. "President." They started off immediately after the war to form, as it were, a club there, and to build up a preliminary R.N.V.R. spirit and organisation. I hope that the Admiralty before long will be able to make an announcement about the future of the R.N.V.R., and that we shall be able to proceed with its development.
§ Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison
Can the hon. Gentleman say something about the building of the barracks at Rosyth?
I confess that Rosyth played a very great part in my life, and its 1306 name may well be engraved on my tomb. While we have the greatest possible respect for Scotland, and for the needs of Scotland, Rosyth can only be taken as one possible place where the Navy may set up certain establishments. But as the hon. and gallant Gentleman has mentioned Rosyth, it will perhaps receive more attention than it would had he not referred to it. No doubt, the Admiralty will give careful examination to the point he raised. As regards the other points, I regret that no action has been taken about the naval ordnance inspection officers. I will see if action can be taken, because I gave him a promise that the question would be taken up, and I intend to see that that promise is honoured.
The House heard last month from my right hon. Friend the story of a part— necessarily, only a part—of the work of our sailors during six years of war. These men deserve the very best that we can give them— nothing but the best. In the past they have not always had it. Previous Governments have often neglected the sailor while praising the Fleet. This Government have already seen that the sailor's pay shall be as good as the civilian's, and that the equipment needed to give him reasonable comfort will be as good, as up-to-date and as efficient as the equipment needed to enable him to fight the enemy. A sailor cannot and does not expect the conditions of life on board ship to be as good as those he has at home with a wife and family. He has too much sense to expect that. What he rightly demands, and what this Government intend he should get, are the best possible conditions that can be achieved in the most efficient fleet in the world. This demand His Majesty's Government are determined to meet.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Captain Marsden (Chertsey)
I take this opportunity to say a few words about the Navy Estimates, because, important as are the other matters which we have been discussing, what we are chiefly concerned with is voting the money for the Fleet itself. I cannot pass from the last speech without offering a few comments. 1307 The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty kept referring to what is being done by this Government. That is the way he interprets the position of the Board of Admiralty to this House. Are not Lord Cunningham and others on the Board of Admiralty even more concerned with the benefit and welfare of the men of the Navy for whom they want this money? It should also be remembered that the party on this side of the House never refused to support the demand for money for the Fleet. Members on the Government side cannot say the same, for they voted to refuse supplies for the Fleet. If the party opposite had had their way, refusing money for the Fleet, today there would be a very different story to tell.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich)
I assume the hon. and gallant Member is referring to the time-honoured expedient in this House, of moving a reduction in a Vote when some hon. Members disapprove of the policy of the Government.
§ Captain Marsden
The time-honoured policy of the House is to move a reduction of the First Lord's salary by boo, if it is desired to talk about naval matters. The party opposite voted against any funds at all for the Navy. That is the position. I suggest that they go back to the Division records and they will see that what I say is perfectly true and correct. Had they gone into the Division Lobby and carried their opposition to the votes for the Fleet, what would have been the position? The events now transpiring in Nuremberg would be happening in London, but they would be carried through with greater brevity and despatch. "Despatch" is, I imagine, the most appropriate term.
I should like to say a few words on the entry of officers, because this is a question of which I have seen a great deal, and with which I have been closely associated. The hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) made a great point of percentages. He rather bewildered me, there were so many of them. What he omitted, to realise—at any rate he did not state it—was that, although 75 per cent. of the entrants into Dartmouth College do not necessarily come from private schools, they have to face the examiners, but 25 per cent. have to come from the State 1308 aided schools. Then hon. Members talk about democratisation and giving an equal chance to everybody, but boys are allowed in because they are from a State aided school. I will put it this way. A cadet from a private school may fail to get in, but the same number, namely, 25 per cent., must get in from the State aided schools.
§ Mr. Benn Levy
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I really think he is misrepresenting my hon. and gallant Friend's remarks, though possibly unintentionally. It is true that 10 places are reserved for grant aided scholars and that nobody can get those ten places but such scholars. But what he omitted to add was there are another ten places reserved for scholars other than those from grant aided schools.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Amendment has now been withdrawn, and subjects debated on it cannot be discussed now. We cannot go back on that Debate, but hon. Members can deal with other matters concerning the Navy.
§ Captain Marsden
It is rather tantalising when one hears statements made such as I have been dealing with, but I will obey your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and turn to the other subjects which are in Order. I shall have to refresh my memory from the Navy Estimates, because I presume I can talk about anything concerning the Navy.
§ Mr. Speaker
There is one subject which the hon. and gallant Member cannot talk about and that is the subject with which the Amendment was concerned. Hon. Members cannot go back on it, because the Amendment has been withdrawn.
§ Captain Marsden
I transter my remarks then to the question of serving officers' pensions. Some years ago there was set up by the Navy a very fine Committee to deal with that question. In fact there was never a better Committee. Admiral Jerram's Committee made a far-reaching investigation of retired officers' pensions. Had the recommendations of that Committee been attended to those pensions 1309 today would be practically equal to the recommendations now before the Admiralty, At that time the pensions were not stabilised, but rose and fell with the cost of living. It was decided to stabilise them, but the unfortunate naval officer, who had no voice in the matter, got no compensation when the cost of living went up. He stayed exactly where he was. I think that is a question which the Admiralty must consider. I quite agree that it is difficult to consider all aspects of the matter especially those relating to the rate of Income Tax, but I think the Admiralty should consider the whole question. When those men retired, they had a pension which was looked upon as reasonably good and the rate of tax was nothing like it is today. In addition to that cost of living has gone up enormously, but no help has been given to these men. This matter was brought to the attention of the last Chancellor of the Exchequer, who gave certain increases for officers in the lower ranges, up to £300 a year, but the men with £500 a year were still badly hit. I think the Admiralty must reconsider their decision.
Comparing allowances now, with what they were when I first entered the Navy, they seem today to be a sort of pipe dream. Some people when they get more, keep on demanding more. I am perfectly certain there are anomalies and irregularities, but experience will smooth out those difficulties in due course. Thinking of what officers got when I first entered the Navy, and comparing it with what they get today, it seems wonderful, and I cannot help thinking, in spite of any criticisms made, that the Navy still provides a wonderful career with wonderful prospects both for officers and for men of the lower deck. I should like to say a word about the reserves. I cannot think that the Admiralty are really going to do so much for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as is suggested, because the total sum of money to be voted for the year is £80,000. That is not much. In the last war, as the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) said, there were 45,000 officers in the R.N.V.R., and 35,000 of those were from the lower deck. To keep up this highly developed force there is only being allowed a miserly sum of £80,000. I do not think it is enough to meet the cost, because there are training centres, training batteries, anti-aircraft gun instructors and so on to be provided.
1310 Possibly these will be got in another connection and used by the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, but £80,000 for the R.N.V.R. for 12 months is not enough and I say that emphatically. Sufficient training cannot be carried through on that small sum of money.
I should like to say a word about the most important thing of all, the Navy itself. The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary referred, with much pride, to the detailed Navy Estimates. He did not give the details which are important to others. The details which we want to know are not given—details such as the strength of the Navy. We have not the faintest notion what the strength is. He mentioned the "Vanguard," but that is the only ship that is mentioned. We have seen recently visits of ships to other countries. I think there was one to Portugal, and a visit by an Admiral to the South of France. But we do not know anything about these ships. Why not? In reply to a Question today, the rather feeble excuse was made that lack of paper prevented publication of the Navy List. Judging by the quantity of paper I get, there is enough to publish a list for the Fleet we have at the present time. The only information we had from the First Lord, on 7th March, was to the effect that the Government had cancelled the building of 727 vessels, from aircraft carriers downwards. He also said that there was new construction in hand on two aircraft vessels, one submarine, two surveying ships, and six small floating docks. After winning a great war, with all our great resources, that would probably be an adequate programme, although it would not have passed muster in normal times.
But what is our Fleet? Why cannot we be told? We have not got it in the Estimates. Years ago, the Navy List and the Estimates would show our ships. We cannot even get a copy of the Navy List in the Library. In these Estimates it says, in various places, that for further details one should refer to the Navy Lists. But where is the Navy List? We cannot get it. The detailed Estimates with which the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary is so pleased, have a lot of omissions which might have been made good. The First Lord before he went away said he could not issue a return of fighting fleets, because he did not know what other countries had got. I hope we know 1311 what Germany and Japan have got. Why cannot we learn about others? We are being asked to vote £75,000 for naval attachés, and their staffs. What are they doing? Why cannot they answer the question? That is their job. Anyway we can take it that there are only two big navies in the world today—that of the United States and our own. Why then cannot we be told what our Fleet is? There has been only a vague promise that the matter is "receiving consideration." I expect the actual phrase used was, "active consideration."
What should be the size of our Navy? That is a question for the House of Commons to decide. It is for the efficient Board of Admiralty to give us all the technical details, but on the political side of the question we in this House must come to a conclusion. I firmly believe that no big war is imminent, but after a war such as we have lately been through, there are disturbances all round the world due to political, racial, and even religious differences, with riots and loss of life, and we must disperse our ships in readiness to help and succour our own people. We know from years of experience, that where there is rioting ashore, and the lives of British people and others are in danger, the sight of a cruiser in the bay is a very comfortable thing. It has a soothing effect on the rioters, and is a joy and a refuge to those who are in danger. So, we hope and believe, on this side of the House—and I think that in their hearts Members on the other side also believe it—that our Navy should be represented in all the major oceans, the smaller seas, throughout the British Empire, and in every place where British lives and interests may be endangered.
Now we have another duty. What will the United Nations organisation call upon us to do? They may call upon us to take strong action. There is only one other Fleet that can take that action with us, and that, as I say, is the United States Fleet. It is no good calling on China to send a couple of cruisers to Nicaragua. They would not know what you were talking about. Either we or America would be called upon. We have seen from experience that the finest pressure that can be brought to bear is the pressure of the blockade. The Air Force can show their bombers, and can drop bombs to cause loss of life. If the 1312 Army lands, there is a clash, and probably more loss of life, but a strong blockade has proved over and over again, that it can exert the greatest pressure, and bring about the desired result without any loss of life. There is no doubt that the United Nations organisation, in certain conditions, would call upon us, with America, to take major action.
I agree that foreign policy is closely tied up with the form of Navy we require, and I would ask whether we re making any approach to the United States for common use of our mutual bases. I have worked with United States representatives during the war as, no doubt, have many other Members. We went into American shipyards and repair yards, just as if they were British. We got on together perfectly. Apart from any written contract, signed, sealed and delivered, as to what we should mutually do, I would like to know whether we are making any approach to America in order that at any time, or in any place, we can use each other's dockyards. If so, that reflects immediately on the amount of the Vote to be provided for the Navy. I would like to have said much more, but I would only repeat that the Party opposite need have no fears about support for the Navy from this side of the House. Our fears are rather that when the Party opposite come to economise, when the great cry goes out for retrenchment, the Navy may suffer. We, at any rate, on this side, will see that, so far as we are able to decide the matter, we shall have a strong and efficient Navy
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
It gives me considerable pleasure to follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) because I happened to be closely associated with him during the recent war, and I know something of the admirable work which he did. I listened with great attention to his most interesting and excellent speech.
I would like to refer to a different subject, one not yet covered in our discussions on these Estimates, namely, the question of the protection of merchant vessels. It was noticeable, in the statement made recently by the First Lord of the Admiralty, that he devoted a considerable amount of time to that part of the Navy's work. That was not remark 1313 able when one realises that, in the whole experience of two wars, possibly the gravest threat to our survival came from the near success of the enemy's attack on our essential lines of communication and supply. I would like to quote from the First Lord's statement on 7th March, when he said:Team work between ships and aircraft at sea, between operational, training and scientific staffs on shore, and between different Services and nationalities has been the secret of the remarkable success of the campaign against the U-boats.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1946; Vol. 420, c. 540.]Everybody will agree with that statement, and great praise is due to everyone at sea, on shore, and in the air for the success of that campaign. But the success of our efforts only became effective fairly late in 1943. Previously, we had gone through times of the gravest possible danger. For instance, in 1942 the total number of United Nations' ships sunk far exceeded the total of combined building by this country, the United States, Canada, and the other United Nations. At that time, no one knew whether the United States would be able to produce the enormous number of ships which she afterwards did produce.
One does not wish to be critical of the period before we won the Battle of the Atlantic, but there are certain lessons to be learned, and it is along that line that I should like to go for a short time. I speak with some humility because I have never been in the Navy, although I was connected fairly closely with their operations in respect of the protection of Merchant shipping, but it must be remembered that the rapid advance of science makes it impossible to know at any given time exactly what form of attack is likely to be used against our merchant vessels. The success of the attack on the submarine came primarily, I think, from the coordination of a number of different methods of approach.
One cannot but remember the immense concentration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) during all that period when he turned the full weight of the ability of the Cabinet and the Services on to the defeat of the submarine. There was, first of all, the attack on the submarine bases and building yards from the air. Secondly, there was the steady and astonishing progress in scientific inven 1314 tion and then, possibly most important of all, there was the improvement in cooperation between air and surface escorts. I do not think that it is possible to give too high praise to Admiral Sir Percy Noble for his tremendous contribution in that respect while he was in command of the Western Approaches. It is no coincidence that the first period of comparative safety for our convoys in the North Atlantic dated from the availability for the first time of sufficient surface escort vessels not only to provide adequate protection for the convoys but also to make possible the introduction of what were called "hunter" or "killer" groups of escorts. As soon as a submarine was sighted, whether by air or by any other means of detection, these groups left the convoy and actively pursued the submarine with a view to destroying it or—which was also very important—keeping it below the surface and preventing it from making contact with the convoy.
In brief, the point I am trying to make with regard to the protection of merchant vessels is that the question of sheer numbers in escorts is extremely important not only for the question of safety, but for the whole question of the speed of convoys. This raises another very important point—the future speed of merchant vessels. In the past, constructive critics of our Mercantile Marine, in this House and outside, civilians and officials, have raised the question whether we should not try to increase the speed of our merchant marine, even artificially. This is not only an economic question but has been raised in the past from the point of view of national defence. Obviously the higher the average speed of our merchant vessels the better, but I submit that on the ground of security and safety alone there is no real case for artificially forcing the whole speed of the British merchant marine above its economic level. My reasons are as follows.
§ Can anyone really say what speed should be aimed at? The surface and submerged speed of submarines is increasing all the time. If we aimed at a speed of 15 knots for the Merchant Marine this would be out of date, since the surface speed of a submarine is well over 18 knots and is increasing anyway. No one can say exactly what speed will be necessary. Again, it is not only submarines that we have to be worried about. There is also the danger of air attack, and there 1315 is no conceivable surface speed of a cargo ship which could make it safe against that. Another point is that in wartime every possible ship has to be brought into service—anything that can float, carry cargo and move on its own bottom—to use a technical term—is needed, and that means, obviously, that the speed of any convoy is the speed of the slowest vessel in the convoy. The only solution to the question of speed is the provision of enough escort vessels to permit the proper subdivision of convoys into speed groups. From the point of view of safety large convoys are, obviously, a menace, but from the point of view of speed the carrying out of the cycle of sailing is all important. There is no convoy system that anyone could devise that would not be wasteful of shipping capacity. One has to accept that. The difficulties, particularly during the early part of the war, were appalling because, however clever were the arrangements for timing, ships would arrive at a certain port and might have to hang about for seven or eight days before sailing.
§ If we are to have fast movement of cargo and the maximum use of shipping we must not only have frequent convoys, but must be able to vary the speed of the convoys. The experience during the war was that up to a comparatively late date our best type of ship was the fast tanker of 14 or 15 knots, and the 13, 14 and 15 knot cargo ships, which had to be held back for inclusion in 10 knot convoys. Of course, some ships were allowed to sail independently if they did over 14 or 15 knots, but that was always a grave hazard.
§ The purpose of this speech is, obviously, to emphasise the tremendous importance of the protection of merchant ships and of having enough escort vessels to make that possible. I may very well be accused of being much too obvious because everyone knows that what I am saying is true. I think that is correct and that beyond a shadow of doubt the experts in the Admiralty, know infinitely more about this subject than I do. The same applies to the First Lord and to the other officials in the Admiralty, but may one just turn one's mind back for a short time to the period between the two wars?
§ During the war of 1914–18 we were faced with almost exactly the same position. Our existence was threatened and 1316 in the winter of 1917 I think the situation reached its worst, when we might well have been put out of the war owing to the enormous attack on our ships. The cure was the same as in this war—the provision of enough escort vessels to make effective convoys. There was an added difficulty in the last war because the escort vessel had not been thought of and it was a question of getting destroyers away from the Grand Fleet, but in due time we got them and the position was saved. In 1919 and 1920 I am certain that the permanent officials and the political Ministers in the Admiralty were just as sure about this need for adequate convoys and escort vessels as we are today, but how did we find ourselves in 1939 at the outbreak of war? The First Lord, in his statement, said that four days after the outbreak of war convoys were assembled and the first sailed, but one again would like to know just what its protection was. I imagine it was almost negligible.
§ I do not think that we must ever again ask our merchant seamen to go to sea, voyage after voyage, year after year, with the inadequate protection they had during the early years of this war. It was an amazingly gallant performance. I do not want to enlarge upon the matter, but equally the men who manned the small available number of escort vessels at that period deserve the highest possible praise. I met one commander of a destroyer in Edinburgh in January, 1940, who told me that that was the first night he had spent away from his ship since July, 1939. Of course, he had not been at sea continually but he had been going to and fro and fuelling in between and was quite an exhausted man. One feels that today we realise all this, but I should like to be certain that, in the room of every important official, in the five, 1o, 15 or 20 years to come, there will be charts on the wall showing the relation of sinkings to the new building of merchant ships during 1942. Not only now but in the future we must remember it, and hon. Members in this House must also remember it when we start thinking about economy and cutting down Estimates—and our successors and their successors must think about it. The danger is not that we shall forget all about this now, but that, if we are forced into war again, we may be short of these absolutely essential ships.1317
§ 6.51 p.m.
Mr. Christopher Shaweross (Widnes)
I hoped that the whole of this Debate would be on a completely noncontroversial basis, but I feel that I must reply to the opening remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden). He said that in previous Parliaments, the Labour Party had refused to vote for any Navy Estimates. He went on to say that if that vote had been successful, we should all now be at Nuremberg. I suggest that is really quite misleading. The vote of the Labour Party on those occasions, if it had been successful, would have resulted in the fall of the Government and a General Election, and the result of that General Election being inevitably a Labour Government, the probability is that we should never have had any war at all. Further than that, the vote against the Estimates does not necessarily mean that one is voting against any Navy. It may mean that one is refusing to vote money for the Navy Estimates because one disapproves of the use, or the lack of use, to which the Government intend to put the forces at their disposal.
§ Captain Marsden
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that that vote would have done away with the pensions of officers and men?
That would have been the inevitable consequence had the vote succeeded, for a few weeks, but it would have had the result I mentioned. I had the honour to serve during the war in the R. N. V. R. and I would like briefly to devote my remarks to three aspects of these Estimates in departments in which I had the honour to serve. They are in logical order—Intelligence, Planning and Operations. May I here, through the Financial Secretary, thank the First Lord for having acceded to my request and published the report on the "Scharnhorst" and Gneisenau "? We cannot discuss that report in this Debate, but it should have the widest possible attention from Members of this House. One of the lessons to be learnt is the supreme importance of Intelligence. Another is the cooperation which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr Maclay). According to the Estimates on page 108, the provision made for the Intelligence Division of the Naval Staff comes to roughly £70,000 That is 1318 according to my arithmetic, and I would like the Financial Secretary, if he can, when he closes the Debate, to give an assurance that that is really considered to be enough by the Board. It may seem a substantial amount, but on the other hand it may seem a very small amount in relation to the size of the Division during the war.
If one goes, back to the years before the war, and remembers how successive Conservative Governments reduced the staff and organisation of that Division—until just before the war it consisted, for want of a better expression, of little more than two men and a dog—when one thinks of the appalling consequences that might have ensued from the inadequacy of the organisation at the beginning of the war, and when one remembers what happened in 1940, one comes inevitably to the conclusion that there must be an adequate staff and that due importance must be attached to its maintenance during the years of peace. If we reduce it, as it was reduced before, to practically nothing, it may be that we have sufficient intelligence for the purposes of peace, but when war comes, the thing is quite inadequate and we have to rely on the chance of getting, as was obtained by great good fortune at the beginning of this war, some officer of supreme ability and energy who can do in a short time what most people could only have achieved with an adequate organisation. I refer to Vice-Admiral Godfrey, whose work in organising and building up that division and in the Joint Intelligence Organisation has not been adequately recognised or is not sufficiently well known. One also has to rely on the very haphazard method of recruiting civilians who are completely green in these matters—very often they wore green stripes between their gold ones—to assist. There again one may be lucky, and perhaps I may mention one officer who has been typical but nevertheless outstanding—Captain Rodger Winn, R. N. V. R., whose work in a vitally important department of the Intelligence Division would, I know, be recorded by the First Lord, if he were here, with due recognition.
Is this Vote of £70,000 for the Staff of the Intelligence Division sufficient? Does it include those inter-Service organisations for which the Admiralty was responsible, or is that included on page 5 under the heading "Inter-Departmental Services "? 1319 I wish to refer, first, to the Inter-service Topographical Department, which was set up directly as a result of the appalling lack of preparation discovered in the Norwegian campaign. That came under the Admiralty Vote and was organised by Vice-Admiral Godfrey, and it did invaluable work for the planners of all three Services. Situated in a suitable place, it enlisted members of the universities whose names have never yet appeared, such as Professor Mason, Professor of Geography at Oxford, who was responsible for the production of a series of Admiralty Geographical Handbooks which, I hope, may be continued after the war, and indeed extended and made available to the public. There were other branches of the Joint Intelligence Organisation such as the Admiralty Photographic Library connected with the I.S. T.D.
Are these to be continued? Would it not be possible as I have already asked, in a Question to the First Lord, that that Inter-Service Topographical organisation should be reconstituted as a body to which members of the public, on payment, could apply—a sort of universal "Inquire Within" upon everything—that is more or less what it did do—and furnish information on almost everything under the sun, particularly with regard to economic matters? It was found that there were all over the country separate and unco-ordinate and official organisations such as chambers of commerce working on their own. If all that could be coordinated in this department. which would exist primarily for the Government, the Services and other Government Departments, it could supply to the public information now obtained in a haphazard and unofficial manner or not at all. It would pay for itself and would perform a most useful and valuable service. I should like an answer about that matter.
I now come to the Directorate of Plans Division, figures for which are given on the same page. It comes to about £15,000 for the year. I do not know whether that includes that part of the Directorate of Plans Division which is associated with the joint intelligence organisation and the joint planning staff. What is to become of the post-hostilities planning staff? I understand that has been merged in the joint planning staff, 1320 but is it merged and amalgamated in a physical sense, or is there a separate section of those who have to consider our future strategy? I suggest that future planning of that kind, which is considering what may be required in 1o, 25 or even 5o years' time, can only be done by those who are able to devote the whole of their time and attention to the matter. I would like to know where that appears in the Estimate if it appears at all, and how it is to be organised.
That far-future planning staff, if I may so describe it, is of vital concern, not only to the Admiralty but to all three Services and, of course, to the Government. Related closely as it is to questions of foreign policy, it at all costs must be adequately staffed and adequately served by the other branches of the organisation. For example, it must have adequate intelligence service. I remember in 1944 or thereabouts that staff was considering what might be the situation of this country in certain eventualities 25 or 10 years' ahead, and we did not even know of the discovery of the atomic bomb. Obviously there may be good security and other reasons why that could not be known at that time, but whether that was right or wrong during the war, I suggest that the staff should have a scientific research section, as it had an historical research section, or some liaison with the appropriate scientific bodies, so that it may know not only of existing weapons, such as the atomic bomb and long range rocket, but also—and, it may be, much more important —what possibilities there are of future developments in any respect. Unless the staff can have that information and make its plans accordingly, the whole task of the Admiralty and of the Fleet, the whole of this Estimate and of future Estimates, may be wasted; unless that staff, or some other part of the naval staff, can decide, upon adequate information, on what kind of a rôle it will have to play if, should the worst befall, we are involved in another war, what kind of craft may be required, what kind of warfare is likely to ensue, its work not only will be worthless but may even have a very harmful negative effect.
One can find no possible indication in these Estimates as to the present state of the Fleet or as to what are the intentions of the Admiralty in regard to its future, its shape or its size. It must be, 1321 therefore, a matter to be decided within the shortest possible time. It should not depend upon the result of the tests which are to be carried out in the Pacific, now postponed, I believe, by the United States of America until the end of the year. I refer to the tests with 5,000 rats, and so on, put in obsolete warships and having atomic bombs dropped on them. Whatever the results of those tests may he, they will not be conclusive. They must he, to a large extent, misleading if you take them at their face value, and the Americans may do so. Indeed, I understand that a certain Mr. Luce, who owns a number of influential periodicals, is carrying on a campaign in one of them called, or miscalled, "Fortune" with the object of sinking the Fleet—the American Fleet and, indeed, all others, by various means, including the atomic bomb. I am sure hon. Members who know America will agree that campaigns of that kind have much more influence there than they might have if they were ever tried here. So one must not wait for those tests nor be unduly influenced by them when they have been made.
A much more reliable guide may be found in certain writings from which I would like to make a short quotation with the permission of the House. These come from the supreme expert authority on military affairs which, of course, in the broad sense includes naval—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). Anything that my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) may have said about this matter will appear, in relation to these writings, as a species of gross understatement. Yet, remarkable as it is, it was written in 1925 and has been reissued in short intervals ever since, the latest edition being 1943, I think. The title of this article is, "Shall We All Commit Suicide? "The right hon. Gentleman says this:Then there are Explosives. Have we reached the end? Has science turned its last page on them? May there not he methods of using explosive energy incomparably more intense than anything heretofore discovered? Might not a bomb no bigger than an orange be found to possess a secret power to destroy a whole block of buildings—nay, to concentrate the force of a thousand tons of cordite and blast a township at a stroke? Could not explosives even of the existing type be guided automatically in flying machines by wireless or other rays, without a human pilot, in ceaseless procession upon a hostile city, arsenal, camp or dockyard?1322 May I interpose between that and the next quotation to submit certain propositions as to the importance, at the present time and in the future so far as we can estimate, of sea power? Here I would like hon. Members to agree with me that in fact there is no such thing as air power. We have heard a lot about air power during the war, mostly by exponents of the policy of the Air Force. But is there, in fact, any such thing? Is not air power merely a form of power which is either exercised at land, or on, or over the sea? I submit that it is. Of course, one comes across certain shibboleths like '' England is no longer an island "which was first started in 1909, just after Bleriot flew across the Channel, and has now become almost an axiom—an accepted axiomatic matter upon which you might think there was no possible controversy. It is said that we are now part of the Continent, that the Channel has notionally evaporated, and so on. I suggest that, so far from that being the case, the importance of our position as an island is greater than it ever was before because, whereas on the one hand we can now be subdued by certain methods of warfare, such as aircraft attacks or long range weapons, which did not operate previously, on the other hand we are more than ever dependent, and likely to continue to be, on supplies brought from overseas.
Now this, I suggest, is really the awful crux of this problem. No number of warships, no amount of surface craft, no other means of transportation, such as heavy aircraft, which it was suggested during the war could bring supplies, are of the slightest use unless you can land your supplies. No fleet can operate unless it has a base. What would then be our position if all our ports were put out of action, as they might be with these new weapons? What use is it to plan for escort craft, fast merchant vessels, and a big fleet or any protection of that kind, if we are not certain to be able to maintain in action our ports, whether they are naval bases or ports for the unloading of merchandise and cargo? As to that, I would like to make the second quotation from the right hon. Member for Woodford in which he comes a little more to the point and says this:Nuclear energy is incomparably greater than the molecular energy which we use today. The coal a man can get in a day can easily do 500 times as much work as the man himself. Nuclear energy is at least one million times more powerful still. If the 1323 hydrogen atoms in a pound of water could be prevailed upon to combine together and form helium they would suffice to drive a thousand horse power engine for a whole year. If the electrons—those tiny planets of the atomic systems—were induced to combine with the nuclei in the hydrogen the horse power liberated would be 120 times greater still. There is no question among scientists that this gigantic source of energy exists. What is lacking is the match to set the bonfire alight, or it may be the detonator to cause the dynamite to explode. The scientists are looking for this.The discovery and control of such sources of power would cause changes in human affairs incomparably greater than those produced by the steam engine four generations ago. Schemes of cosmic magnitude would become feasible. Geography and climate would obey our orders. Fifty thousand tons of water, the amount displaced by the Berengaria ' would, if exploited as described, suffice to shift Ireland to the middle of the Atlantic.
If that or any other method could be used to shift this island, this United Kingdom, to the middle of the Pacific, without damage or injury to its inhabitants, it might be a useful purpose, but that is the problem. It is no use thinking of fleets, or any other form of protecting our merchant trade, unless we have the means to secure our ports. It is upon those lines that the Admiralty and my right hon. Friend should be thinking; and for that purpose providing adequate staffs both in intelligence and for planning to think ahead for the future.
The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs referred to the importance of team work between ships and aircraft. It has been suggested in another Debate by my hon. and gallant Friend the Junior Member for Derby (Group-Captain Wilcock) that the Air Force should be handed over to the Army. I must say I was a little surprised at that coming from him as an R. A. F. officer, but it might be quite a good thing to hand over the Air Force to the Navy. What is vital is to make absolutely certain in our minds and in the execution of our plans in relation to the new building of the fleet—air power is a misnomer—that as never before we depend upon our maintaining supplies from overseas.
Finally, I would like to remind hon. Members particularly of the "Nelson touch.- So far in the Debate no one 1324 has said what has become a rather stale and bad joke, that the Admiralty is still living in the days of Nelson. That, of course, is nonsense, but the "Nelson touch" was not what it is sometimes supposed to have been, the genius of Nelson in being able to improvise, his intuition as to what to do in the course of an action at a particular moment—it was in fact the name given by him to the very carefully prepared plan he made before and for the purpose of fighting the Battle of Trafalgar. This country, by voting this Government into power, has adopted the "Nelson touch." It has voted for a policy and a party which believes in planning and looking ahead. I ask hon. Members opposite to help in this matter. I do not know how it can be done, perhaps in their speeches. Let us not have any element of controversy in these defence matters, but let us make sure that we get the best value for our money, whatever it may be. Let us try to think ahead and realise that these catastrophic changes as described by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) might mean that all this discussion about accommodation on board ship, what type of surface craft we may have, and whether faster or larger or smaller M. T. B. s should be built, is not merely a waste of time, but misleading ourselves, and getting ourselves into that very state from which we have suffered so frequently between wars, a false sense of security and a false idea that we are living in the past. I invite the House to adopt the "Nelson touch "and plan, and look ahead towards the future.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)
I listened with great interest to the Debates held about a month ago on naval matters and also to the Debate which took place earlier this afternoon. I was surprised, if not appalled, by the fact that, with the exception of the Front Benches, not one hon. Member saw fit to mention the branch which I understand is to constitute one-third of the whole of the Navy—the Naval Air Arm. I would not like hon. Members to think for one moment that I have no feeling on the question of conditions of living in the Service. I would like to pay my own small tribute to the words of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mallalieu) and the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan). I feel that the warmth of their contributions 1325 is bound to have its effect on the hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Front Bench opposite.
I said that no tributes had been paid, with the exception of those from the Front Benches. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in his opening speech on the Estimates a month ago, drew attention to the services in war of the Fleet Air Arm. I say without hesitation that never was glory more hardly won. Of the few hundred men who started this war in the Fleet Air Arm, a very high percentage gave their lives, and the influences which the air side of the Navy brought to bear on the conduct and outcome of the war are more far reaching than many people in the country, or in this House, realise. Every bit of knowledge we have gained during the war at sea has emphasised the importance, above all else, of seapower over the water.
I would like, for a moment, to contrast the difference between the approach which we in this country have made towards the Fleet Air Arm and the American approach towards their own air service, the Naval Air Corps. Let us look at the most terrible weapon of war which was built up in the Pacific by the American Fleet, the 3rd Fifth Fleet. The Americans started building their air arm as early as 1922, and they went into it wholeheartedly, and with their eyes open. On the other hand, we in this country took our steps rather hesitatingly and timidly. But now is the time to make up the ground that we have undoubtedly lost.
I do not wish to step down into the arena of controversy which I detected between the Under-Secretary of State for Air and the Financial Secretary, as to who should be the eventual owner of Coastal Command. I have my own views, but I feel that, above all else, a few lessons must be learned by the Admiralty. First, it is manifestly impossible to run an air service as one runs a ground service, and any hon. and gallant Member who has had any connection with the working of flying services, be it the Royal Air Force or the Fleet Air Arm, will back me up in that statement. Secondly, we have great strides to take in making the Royal Navy air minded. Steps have been taken in that direction. Courses for senior officers have been instituted, and all junior officers now take an air course. But I would utter a word of caution to the Admiralty in that respect; that is, that 1326 as far as flying is concerned, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. One bee does not make a swarm, and to send a senior officers into the air for a few hours, and allow him to come down to the ground with the impression, for one moment, that he is an authority on the air, is asking for trouble. That occurred in the last war. The Admiralty must be most cautious in the application of air training.
I have listened to the Debate, and have heard hon. Members on both sides of the House talk about the Reserve. But here again not one hon. Member has mentioned any air reserve for the Royal Navy. Nothing has come from the First Lord or indeed from the Financial Secretary. I hope that the Civil Lord will give us not only a lead, but some information, some idea, as to how their Lordships propose to conduct the air reserves. What are the remedies which we can apply? In1936, a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Thomas Inskip, as he was then, considered as a whole the effect of air power on battleships. Is there such a thing as air power, which the hon. Member opposite has just mentioned? I suggest that now is the time to drag this whole question as to whom the whole of Coastal Command should belong out into the open. It is no use saying that the matter is settled to the satisfaction of both sides. It is not. One can detect the undercurrent, not only in this House but in the two Services concerned, the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force. I suggest to the First Lord and the Civil Lord that a committee similar to the Inskip Committee should examine this whole question, and that the recommendations which that committee will make—I firmly believe that they will be vast and extensive recommendations — be well learned.
We have also to take into consideration what I think has been mentioned by only one hon. Member, that is, the commitments which the Navy will incur under Article 41 of the United Nations Charter. We do not yet know what we will be required to contribute in that respect. As one hon. Member has said, it will probably devolve upon ourselves and the Americans to make the naval contribution. That will most emphatically be something which the Admiralty must remember, and no doubt they have 1327 already considered it, but nobody knows. Will the Civil Lord tell us that? I would ask their Lordships to bear in mind that they will build, or keep in being a weapon, which exists for war, but which we hope, with God's help, will never be used in war, and in their actions I hope they will feel that they have the support, not only of hon. Members on the Government side of the House, but also of hon. Members on this side.
§ 7.28 p.m
§ Mr. Austin (Stretford)
I am glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, at this juncture, because I am almost entirely in accord with the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford Holt), in all the sentiments he has expressed. That may be due to the fact that I, like himself, was associated with the Service which he has been lauding to the House. Before I supplement his remarks, I would like to put a point in the form of a query to the Civil Lord, in reference to the Polish navy. There is an allocation of £1,000,000 for the Polish navy. I would like to know whether that service is to continue after the year which is ahead of us, or whether, in accordance with the Foreign Secretary's statement of 20th March, we are to disband the Polish navy with other Polish forces, so that the members of those forces may go back to their own country and help in its reconstruction, and, incidentally, lighten the burden of the taxpayer of this country.
In regard to the Fleet Air Arm, I deprecate, with the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, the fact that there has been no previous reference to the glorious exploits of the Fleet Air Arm in the last war. Hon. Members on both sides of the House are aware that the troubled and chequered history of the Fleet Air Arm goes back to the end of the last war when the responsibility was divided between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry. There was no settled policy regarding the Fleet Air Arm, and Members will appreciate the difficulties which have been surmounted by that Force, in establishing itself in this war.
In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that it was for some years the Cinderella of the Senior Service. It may well be that in the Senior Service there was a battleship mentality, on the one 1328 hand, or a dockyard mentality, on the other. Certainly, there was no aircraft mentality until the last two or three years of the war. I would only submit to the House that in the appointment last week of the new Admiral (Air) who, I believe, is the Fifth Sea Lord, Admiral Troubridge, there is a hope that we shall see a firm and determined stand made, to ensure that the Fleet Air Arm will never be neglected in the future as it has been in the past.
I remind the House of two incidents bearing on the importance of the Fleet Air Arm. On 9th December, 1941, we lost the "Repulse" and the "Prince of Wales." This was due to the fact that we had no air cover at the time. I have read the account given to the House by the Leader of the Opposition. It is not for me to say there was any misconception in policy, or to say who was wrong, but the fact was that we suffered a grievous loss in men, and ships, and certainly a severe blow to our morale in those bitter years of the war. Secondly, by a coincidence, we had published yesterday the report on the movement up Channel of the" Scharnhorst "and" Gneisenau." I would emphasise what deep concern was felt by the men in the Service in regard to the loss of that gallant officer Lieutenant-Commander Esmond, V.C., with his pathetic squadron of Swordfish that went out to try to intercept the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau." The fault lay in the fact firstly that there was defective coordination with the Royal Air Force, who should have provided an escort from Manston aerodrome, but primarily, the fault lay in the fact that the Admiralty had been chary of providing the Fleet Air Arm with the up-to-date aircraft which were required. Swordfish, "string-bags" as they were called, whose top rate of speed was only 8o m.p.h., were sent out to attack the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" making for Germany. They had to attack in the face of bitter fighter cover from the shores of Europe. They were all lost, It was a great tragedy and one that could have been avoided had more importance been attached to the Fleet Air Arm at that time.
I feel that those two incidents in December, 1941, and February, 1942, were a jolt to the Admiralty. From, then on we saw some increased interest in 1329 the Fleet Air Arm. We began to see merchant ships supplied with single catapult aircraft. A debt is owed to those gallant airmen who took off from merchant ships in most difficult circumstances to defend the convoys. Then we saw the improvisation of what were known as "Mac "carriers, and later the development of the Seafire, from the Spitfire. The Seafire, I think, first went into action in the Mediterranean in 1942. Later, reliance was placed on the United States aircraft, the Wildcat, the Corsair and the Hellcat, of which my hon. Friend is well aware. The position in the future must be that the Fleet Air Arm is not to take second place to any of its equivalent Services in the Navy. In my view, it is today the primary service in the Navy. I understand that the personnel of the Fleet Air Arm comprises one-third of the total men in the Navy. It certainly is the Arm that will provide cover for defence if, Heaven forbid, there is any future war. It certainly must not take second place to the Royal Air Force. One of the difficulties in the war was the fact that the Royal Air Force, because of its heavy commitments, always had first priority. The Fleet Air Arm had the leavings. That was an accepted but regrettable fact in the Service.
I would like to refer to a very important point in regard to maintaining the efficiency of aircraft in the Fleet Air Arm. If I am wrong, I hope these views may be corrected by the Civil Lord. Unfortunately, it is within my knowledge that the rate of accidents in the Fleet Air Arm was abnormally high. It was certainly higher than it should have been, proportionate to the accident rate in the Royal Air Force. I maintain that that was due to one reason. The Royal Air Force was nursed by the Ministry known as the Ministry of Aircraft Production, which had a department known as the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate. That directorate demanded the highest possible standard, both of aircraft manufacture and aircraft repair. In civilian life I was fortunate enough to work in a factory and to have some personal acquaintance of the high standard required by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate in maintaining safety standards for the Royal Air Force. As far as my knowledge goes, there is no equivalent inspectorate in the Fleet Air Arm. The aircraft were repaired in a thorough fashion for 1330 the service of the Royal Air Force. Sea-fires used by the Fleet Air Arm, on the other hand, were not given a thorough inspection. Accordingly, as has been commented upon by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, many of the personnel lost their lives in training. I lost quite a number of friends in operations, but I must say, in all truth, I lost more friends in training in the Fleet Air Arm simply because of this factor relating to inspections.
I conclude by saying to the Civil Lord that the Fleet Air Arm has come to stay. It will be up to the Admiralty—and the Civil Lord will be partly responsible—to stand up against those who are so indoctrinated with a policy of battleships, and battleships only, to ensure that the Navy is defended at all times by an adequate air cover. There is no point in sending ships to sea in these days of the aircraft menace if those ships have no air cover. There is a primary responsibility upon the Admiralty to ensure that there is expenditure on the Fleet Air Arm second to no other section of the Service. I hope my remarks may commend themselves to the Civil Lord.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
The Navy Estimates contain no particulars in regard to the size and strength or composition of naval forces. That is regrettable but, no doubt, it is because the Government have not yet made up their minds as regards the strength of the Services required for Imperial defence. I trust that that decision will not be long delayed. Defence is a matter for the three Services in combination; not for each Service individually. There must be, therefore, a national policy governing Imperial defence as a whole in which His Majesty's Navy will carry out a very important part. In fact, it is true to say that the Navy is the lynchpin which will enable the wheel of Imperial defence to revolve. This war has shown, as no other war has done, the necessity of the Government deciding upon an Imperial defence policy as a whole, and, having done that, on the amount of money necessary to be allocated to each Service, so that each Service will be able to fulfil its part efficiently in the general plan. Then they will have to allocate to each Service that sum sufficient to enable it to fulfil its functions, in contradistinction to what has taken place in the past, when the Chancellor of the 1331 Exchequer has served out so much money for the three Services and told them to make the best use they could of it. The result has been that each Service endeavoured to get the lion's share of the money allocated and no Service got sufficient to fulfil its function efficiently in the general plan of Imperial defence.
This country cannot and should not have to bear the whole burden of the defence of the Empire. All parts of the Empire—the self-governing Dominions and the Colonies—must play their part in peace time. I have not the slightest doubt that they are quite prepared to do so, but, in order to make their contribution effectual, these Dominions and Colonies must be taken into the full confidence of the Government in the discussions concerning plans for Imperial defence at every stage. They rendered invaluable services to this country, not only in the last war but in the previous war, and did everything they could, financially, materially and in personnel. They all know perfectly well that the Empire stands or falls as a whole; I am sure, as I say, they are prepared to play their part, but they must do it in peace time, so that, when war breaks out, we shall not find the Empire totally unprepared, as we did at the beginning of the last war.
Whatever agreements may be reached for Imperial security, so long as sea power constitutes an effective means of waging war and of safeguarding our vital sea communications and our bases, a strong Navy must remain an important factor, both for the carrying out of our military security, and for the international agreements into which we may have entered. Whilst we all welcome the assistance which may be given to this country in the event of war breaking out in future, it would be against the sound principles of Imperial defence, if we were to rely on such assistance when deciding upon our future naval programme. I am, frankly, uneasy with regard to this matter of collective security. We relied upon it after the last war, in the case of the League of Nations. We have now got the United Nations organisation. Both these were very fine theoretical organisations, and we all hope that the United Nations organisation will prove a success in carrying out the objects and functions 1332 for which it has been brought into being. But I say that, at the present time, nobody, can say with certainty whether, in practice it will function efficiently, nor will it be possible to say that for some time to come.
Therefore, I trust that, in deciding upon the strength of our naval forces, we shall do so without relying upon any assistance which we may receive from the United Nations organisation and the other Great Powers who are members of it. The world is not safe. It is in a very disturbed state, and it would be a grave danger to the peace of the world if our naval strength were not kept up to what is required for our military security. Nor must we he led into the fatal blunders which we made after the last war, when we disarmed unilaterally, and cut down our naval forces far below what was required for our own security and trusted to other nations' strength instead of trusting to our own. I would remind the House of what was then done. I am not recriminating against any Government or individuals, but merely reminding the House of the position which existed after the last war. First, there was the Washington Treaty; then the London Treaty, which we signed, prevented the replacement of our old and worn-out cruisers, and the building of new cruisers. There was the Singapore base, construction of which was stopped. There was the 10-year policy, which meant that we could look ahead for 10 years. The international horizon seemed quite clear; there were to be no wars for those 10 years, and the Service Ministries could get on with making arrangements accordingly, as regards the strength of their forces. That arrangement might have been all right for the first To-year period, but the periods went on and on, until the last one overlapped the outbreak of war. These are examples of what went on then, and, as a direct result of all these things, when war broke out, we were totally unprepared for it.
§ Mr. Austin
Would the hon. and gallant Member permit me? Surely, any reference to the question of agreements ought to include reference to the 1935 Naval Agreement with Germany?
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
That may be another example. As I say, I am not recriminating at all. All I am saying is that the cumulative effect of all that we did, rendered us totally unprepared for 1333 war when it broke out in 1939. We must not again fall into the same kind of error, and that is why I stress the facts. It has been said that foreign policy and defence are intimately in alliance, and, undoubtedly, they are. We cannot possibly carry out a strong foreign policy, unless we have a strong Navy; neither can we carry out our commitments and agreements unless we are able to go to the assistance of other nations. The future strength of our Navy must not only be sufficient to defend our sea communications and bases, vitally important as that is. It must also be sufficient to take an immediate offensive on the outbreak of war, against any aggressor. The mere knowledge that we are capable of carrying out these two functions, of safeguarding our communications and of taking offensive action at once against any enemy, will, I think, be a great deterrent against any outbreak of war. Not being able to do these two things together at the beginning of the last war nearly led us to disaster. We must also have sufficient landing craft and offensive vessels to enable us to carry out combined operations.
I think one of the outstanding features of this last war has been the immense success of Combined Operations. It was undoubtedly one of the principal factors in the defeat of our enemies. All credit to those who prepared them and carried them out. In that connection, I would like to ask the Civil Lord, whether a combined staff college is to be set up for considering plans for Combined Operations in the future. Modern science and the production of new and devastating weapons of destruction must, of course, affect the make up of our forces, their construction, their armament, and so on. It would also very much affect the disposition of munition factories in this country, which must be dispersed over as wide an area as possible. I am glad that, last month, the First Lord said that the amount of money which should be allocated to scientific research was to be vastly increased.
An hon. Member opposite spoke for some time on the destructive effects of the atom bomb. No doubt he is quite right, but however destructive the atom bomb may be, we hope it will be possible to put it into cold storage by international agreement and for it to be kept there. If it is not, we must face the fact of its 1334 destructive power, and we must go on with His Majesty's Navy because, however destructive the atom bomb may be, it. cannot possibly supplant the purposes for which the Navy exists. There are those who consider that the Air Force has supplanted the Navy and that the Air Force will now carry out the functions which His Majesty's Navy has carried out for so long. That is a terrible mistake. First of all, ships in convoy are liable—as we found out to our cost during the war—to attack by heavy ships: secondly, aircraft are not capable of protecting a convoy throughout the whole length of its voyage owing to weather or other conditions. So long as goods are carried across the seas in surface vessels, so long will it be necessary to have surface vessels, in combination, of course, with aircraft, to protect our convoys. All credit to the Royal Air Force which did such admirable work in combination with His Majesty's ships during the last war, but it must be emphasised that they did work in combination. They cannot supplant His Majesty's Navy. We still require a large navy, with ships of all kinds.
The lessons of the war, no doubt, will result in the standardisation of certain types of ships. There may be standardisation of the escort ships for the convoy and, possibly, more standardisation will be carried out of our cruisers. I will not go into the question of battleships, but I am convinced that they are still the backbone of His Majesty's Navy, and are necessary. The question of the future construction of ships, their size, their armament, their subdivision, and all the rest of it, can, I believe, be very safely left in the hands of those naval officers who have had such immense experience at sea during the war. If we are to profit from war experience, we must maintain a navy in peacetime which will include a highly mobile offensive force of capital ships, cruisers, carriers, destroyers, so as to be able to strike without delay, on the outbreak of war, at an aggressor, and also —which is very important in peacetime—to police the seas and uphold our prestige. We must have escort vessels and carriers for trade protection, submarines for attacking enemy shipping, and for long range reconnaissance work, cruisers for dealing with isolated raiders, and monitors and landing craft of all types for combined operations. In connection with that, it is necessary to have a sufficiency 1335 of prototypes of suitable craft in peacetime so as to ensure rapid production should war break out.
I want to make some remarks with regard to the new pay code. In order `o retain in the Service officers and men who have obtained great experience through their war service and to attract officers and men of the highest possible standard to that Service, it is essential that pay and conditions shall be such as will ensure an attractive and promising career. The Navy, in common with the other two Services, is already very highly mechanised and, no doubt, will become more so. On that account, it requires very highly skilled personnel, but,;n addition to that—and I am sure the Civil Lord will agree with me—it requires men with the qualities of leadership and command, quite apart from technical ability. In obtaining this personnel, the Navy, as well as the other two Services, will be competing with the industries ashore. The new pay code claims to have bridged the gap which has existed far too long between the pay of the civilian in industry and the pay of the Serviceman. Candidly, I think that that is a rather doubtful claim. In the White Paper the wage figure is given as 89s. for a civilian. That takes no account of extra earnings, overtime, and so on, which nobody in the Service can acquire. A man in the Service may be called upon —and is called upon—at any hour of the day or night to carry out his duty on board. When a ship is at sea, there is a watch on deck and below all the time. Therefore, the period of service is 24 hours; there is no question of an eight-hour day or less about it.
I saw in the paper yesterday—and I hope it is true—that a naval seaman in the Merchant Navy will receive £4 10s. a week. Under the new pay code, a petty officer with 13 years' service will only receive £;4 10s. 6d. a week. This being so, I do not think the new pay code is so terribly good. The equalising of pay is not, in itself, sufficient. One must take account of the entirely different conditions governing the life of the civilian worker and that of the Serviceman. After all, when his work is done, the civilian worker has his home and his wife and family to go to, but not so the man in the Service. Owing to the conditions of service on foreign stations. He 1336 is often separated from his family for a very considerable time. It may be that time will be reduced, but he will still be away from his family for some time. That means keeping up two establishments. The Civil Lord also knows that when a man is in the Home Fleet, he does not repair to his home port more than once a year, when he goes for refitting. He goes to some other port. When I was in the Home Fleet, we used to get four days' leave, and then come back again. There is the expense of all that. Moreover, a man may have his home port shifted, and then he has to shift his home. All that adds to the costs of the ratings.
Another thing that must be borne in mind is that the conditions of life on board are not comparable with those ashore. A man has nothing like the amenities on board that he gets ashore. He does not have all the amusements that people ashore have. The work on board is very hard and strenuous. Therefore, it is no use saying that Service men are to get the same pay as civilians, and that is an end to the matter. It is not an end to it. I think the conditions of service should be given more weight and that the Service man should receive more pay. The uniformity of pay and allowances in the three Services and the simplification which has come out of that is an undoubted advantage, but only so far as it creates a condition in which men of equal rating and age in the three Services get approximately the same pay. It is no use trying to apply the same rules regarding the actual pay for technical qualifications in the three Services. They differ enormously. While the Army has had to introduce, during the war, a large number of nonsubstantive rates of pay, so that the accounts now are necessarily complicated, the Navy has for many years used a nonsubstantive system, and although it is necessary to improve and simplify the system inside the Navy, it would be most inadvisable to abolish the system entirely in order to bring it into line with the other two Services. This system has been evolved in the Navy over a long period of years. It gives a flexibility both in drafting and in fitting men of different calibre into positions where they can best serve the Navy according to their ability and to their own satisfaction. The war increment was a small one in comparison with that given 1337 to the civil servants, the lowest grade of whom received 24s. a week, as compared with the 7s. increase in the basic rate of the ordinary seaman in the Navy and the private in the Army. That is very small.
I would like to call the attention of the Civil Lord to the question of the cost of living with regard to the new pay. The cost of living alone provides a strong case for the increase in the rates of pay. In 1914, the cost of living index was based on a workman's family budget in 1904, but today the index is 104 per cent. greater than it was at that time. In 1904, 60 per cent. of the index was represented by food, and although the cost of living index today is only 30 per cent. above that of 1939, the cost of living is much greater, because food now represents only 30 per cent. of the family budget. The subsidising of food and the increase in wages have brought that about, and caused the proportion of the family income spent on food to be much less. In 1914, only 40 per cent. of the weekly pay packet was spent on items other than food, whereas today 70 per cent. is so spent. Whereas the great increases in the cost of rent, coal, clothing, etc., affect the cost of living index only as to 40 per cent., they have affected the real cost as to 70 per cent. I hope that matter will be taken into consideration. In the case of the Civil Service, that principle has been carried out. The new salary scales recently issued approximate closely to the war salaries, plus war increment. If that is the case with the Civil Service, I ask the Civil Lord why the same principle does not apply to Naval personnel?
One of the most widespread criticisms of the pay code is the effect on the family man. The taxation of the marriage allowance and the change over to the provisions of the family allowance, for all but the first child, mean that a man will get far less for each additional child. There is no encouragement for anybody in the Navy to have a large family. I think it will be agreed on all sides that the high standard, physically and mentally, of Naval personnel constitutes a factor which should be used to encourage them to have large families. This new pay code does the reverse.
A warship must have in her crew experts in every science and trade. This has led to a large number of specialist, non-substantive ratings in the Navy, each 1338 carrying a special badge and special pay. All that is to be abolished, and under the new code a man can be rated leading seaman or petty officer only provided he has a high technical qualification. The fact that a seaman who is a highly skilled technician must be rated leading seaman or petty officer, irrespective of his ability as a leader of men or his capacity to command, is a fatal mistake. A man may be capable of qualifying as a highly skilled technician, but it does not in the least follow, because he is capable of that, that he is a leader of men. The converse is equally true. I am opposed to the abolition of the non-substantive rating
For some years the Service has contained a large number of leading seamen who have high technical qualifications. There is no chance of their promotion. There is no future in front of. these men. Obviously they cannot be disrated. On that account I feel that the Service will he deprived of a large number of most efficient seamen. It will be a great loss to the Service. I wonder whether any provision has been made in the Estimate for this large number of petty officers. Further, on this point of the abandonment of the non-substantive rating and the children's allowance they have a definite source of grievance. It has already adversely affected their re-engagement to complete their time for pension. Rightly or wrongly, the men consider that they are likely to be worse off. If that is not true, the Admiralty should make a clear and easily understandable statement of the position.
Now I would say a few words about officers, and then I will finish. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear. "] Hon. Members cheer, but I would point out that this is the first opportunity I have had to say what I want to say on this matter. I therefore hope that the House will be patient with me. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have no chance at all."] As regards the new pay code, officers and men should receive not less under the new system than they are receiving at present. When pay for the lower deck was first revised, every man who had served more than six years had to suffer a tremendous cut. It was not until the new pay was brought out for officers that that position was altered. No man will receive less, but he will receive no more when he is promoted. He will gradually work it off by his incre- 1339 ments of pay and promotion. junior officers, lieutenants and lieut.-commanders have sacrificed service and responsibility to the consideration of age. The naval lieutenant is paid less than his equivalent rank in the Army. The pay for specialist officers is to be abolished. Take the case of gunnery and torpedo officers. They have to go through a very exacting course to qualify for their specialist duties. When serving in battleships, for instance, there is a very large amount of extra work and responsibility thrown on the gunnery and torpedo officers. They get nothing for their added responsibility. I do not know whether that will work out satisfactorily. I hope it will. Time alone will show.
Qualification pay is to be given to the Army officer going through the staff colleges or if he has a university degree. Is there anything comparable to that for naval officers? Further, the gap between senior and junior officers and senior and junior ratings has been lessened, and there has been a levelling down. I think that is wrong. I quite understand that the Socialist Party think that is a good thing, because they are all for levelling down. That takes no account of the fact that officers and men should be paid in accordance with their rank and responsibility. I am very glad that the lower ratings are to go up, but the others should go up too. The gap should not be lessened.
Whilst increased pay for all officers is universally welcomed, the reduction in marriage allowance for children from 2s. a day to 5d. a day, which is what this allowance comes to after paying Income Tax, is not very encouraging to officers to have large famliies. That matter ought to be looked at. Then there is the question of taxation of the marriage allowance. I have received letters from officers giving examples to show that they will be worse off under the new pay code. I do not think they are right. I hope the Civil Lord will pay attention to the matter. If officers have that idea it is for the Admiralty to dispel it at once. It is very bad for that idea to prevail in the Service. There is the question of lodging allowance, which is to be subject to Income Tax. It is given where the Admiralty do not provide accommodation, heat, and light, etc., for officers when on shore appointments. In the case of the men the accommodation on board or in 1340 barracks is estimated at £1 a week. I do not know what the estimated amount is for officers—and this amount is taken into consideration in their pay and therefore when service accommodation is not provided for them the lodging allowances should not be taxed.
Now I want to refer to pensions. All officers who retired before the end of 1945 do not benefit from the higher pensions of the new pay code. That is a pretty shabby thing, after the promise which these officers received that their pensions would rise as well as fall with the cost of living. The promise was dishonoured in 1935, when stabilisation took place and the cost of living was practically at its lowest ebb. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then must have known that fact perfectly well. If these officers had continued to receive the increase in their pensions in accordance with the rising cost of living, they would receive today practically the same amount as under the new pay code. They are debarred from it. I hope that justice will be done in their case. These officers are affected just as much as anybody else by the enormous increase in the cost of living.
The gratuity given to officers on retirement is very welcome. I understand that it will apply also to officers who are compulsorily retired through no fault of their own. I hope that the First Lord will state whether that is the case or not. I noticed that the war service recruits to the Indian Civil Service who may be compulsorily retired from their work owing to some change which may take place in India, also receive a gratuity. Service officers with to years' service receive a gratuity of £1,000. A war service recruit to the Indian Civil Service with 10 years' service who is compulsorily retired receives a gratuity of £9,000. The war service recruit in the Indian Civil Service who is compulsorily retired after five years receives £4,000, and it goes up each year by £1,000 until finally, after 16 years' service, he receives £15,000. I am very glad these civil servants should receive this large gratuity, but I would ask the Civil Lord to look into the question of the Service officer with 10 years' service who receives only £1,000, and to see whether that gratuity cannot be increased. In conclusion, I would like to say how glad I am that the old custom of distributing prize money is to be followed, although 1341 the First Lord said it would be the last time; I do not know why he said it would be the last time—it will remain for the future, I imagine—but I would like to know if the First Lord can say when this is likely to be issued, and on what principle it will be issued.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
In the earlier Debate on 7th March, this House received from the First Lord what I consider to be a most remarkable thumbnail sketch of the great achievements of the Navy during the war. It was a record which, I believe, created feelings of pride not only in this country but throughout the Commonwealth and Empire, and certainly in all those of us who are Members of this House and who have had the privilege of serving in the Royal Navy.
I do not think it is too much to claim that the world has been saved twice within the last 25 years by sea power. The problem which confronted the German High Command during this war was the problem which has always had to be faced by Continental Powers when confronted by sea power. Unless they are able to break the sea supremacy of their adversary, in the end sea power will always prevail. It was sea power which, after long years, finally overthrew Napoleon, and sea power in the war of 1914–18, and in this last war, was the foundation on which our victory was built. There, I think, is a lesson which this country must never be allowed to forget. It would be strange, indeed, if the First Lord who had held that office for the greater part of the war should not have learned that lesson, and I was very glad indeed to hear him state his faith so boldly when he used these words, which I think we should all keep in mind:So long as we live by seaborne supplies neglect of naval defence would be a policy of abandonment and despair.Then, again:Our experience of the last war demonstrated once more that if we ever neglected the security of our communications we should be at the mercy of any aggressor."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 7th March, 1946; Vol. 420, c. 554.]In these days which face us now—days of reduction in the strength of the Fighting Services—I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to instil into his colleagues in the Government the faith which he undoubtedly holds. It may well 1342 be a difficult task, for there will be those who will say, as was said after the last war, that air power has now replaced sea power. Others will point to the security which we should receive from the United Nations organisation, and others, still, perhaps unwisely but with the best intentions, will wish to cut the Navy to the bone, so that we may have the largest possible increase in the social services. After the experience of this last war, surely one should not have to argue that the defence of this country can be founded only on the coordination and cooperation of all three Services. Those old arguments we used to hear between the wars of the bomber versusthe battleship, and other arguments of that nature, have been shown to be completely fallacious. Each Service is dependent on the other two. Each must be efficient and must be ready to play its part in its own particular sphere. If the war taught us anything, surely it has taught us that. The United Nations organisation is in its infancy. It is completely untried. Every hon. Member will hope it will be successful, and that through it civilisation may be relieved of the dread of war and the destruction which war inevitably brings, but until it is proved and tested to the full we must look to our own defence.
The social services and that improved standard of life which we all wish for the people of this country would be swept away within a few hours if we had not the means to defend ourselves readily available. It would, indeed, be folly if we did not realise that these improvements can only be built firmly if they are built on a sure and sound defence. There are others who will say that as there is no enemy in sight, why should we maintain a Navy? To that I would reply, as was said by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) in the recent Debate, that it is quite impossible to create a Navy overnight. We all know from recent experience that humanity still produces lunatics with a lust for power, and we also know that they can gain possession of power very quickly. Then, indeed, it may be too late for us even to extemporise. I do hope we will ensure that this time we do not repeat the follies of the past. After every war hitherto, we have always reduced the Navy below the margin of safety. Last time we trusted to the League of Nations, and we were disappointed. Let me re 1343 mind the House that one of the things that rescued us from the difficult position in which we were, was the great reserve of highly skilled officers and men, which we had left over from the last war. That is a situation which may not occur again. Therefore, at all costs we must maintain an efficient Navy of a size capable of ensuring freedom for our seaborne trade, and to enable us to meet every commitment which we enter. It is the duty of this House, no matter what Government may be in power, to see that that is done.
During this Debate, and during the previous Debate, reference has been made to pay, accommodation, food and discipline, to Dartmouth, to the future of the Royal dockyards, and many other matters. Each one of these has an important bearing on the creation and maintenance of a contented and efficient Service. Of the new pay codes I would say only this, that they are a very great improvement on anything that has gone before. It is claimed for them—though, with the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), I still have my doubts on this matter—that the rates bear a very close relationship to the earnings of the civilian population. I trust that is a principle which has been accepted, and will never be departed from again, and that as wages and salaries increase ashore, the pay of the Navy will be kept in step. If that happens it will be something that has never happened hitherto.
I have two objections to the new code for the men. I do not believe it provides an adequate incentive for men to qualify for a higher rating. I know that here I am in opposition to the Civil Lord, whom I would like to congratulate most sincerely on the very capable maiden speech which he made from the Box opposite in the previous Debate. If I understood his argument aright, he did not consider that pay was necessarily an inducement to men to go for promotion, and that, indeed, promotion was its own reward. If that is true of the Navy today, then there has been a very very great change since I had the privilege of serving in it. Many and many a time I had to push capable men, in order to get them to go for a higher rating. On many of those occasions they told me they did not want to accept the extra responsibility, which carries an extra risk 1344 with it, because the addition to the pay was insufficient. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. If this system does not work, I think it can easily be altered. Another point, made also, I think, by the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington—therefore I will only speak on it very briefly—was that to bring the men's pay into relationship with civilian earnings 20s. is added, as the outlay which is saved through a man not living at home. I do not know how that figure was arrived at. I think it is put far too high. After all, there are certain expenses which must remain constant: there is rent; there are rates; there is the cost of heat and light. What is saved on food, in these days of rationing at least, can take up only a small proportion of that sum. If the balance is supposed to provide for clothing, then it seems to me to have been assumed that the great majority of the population of this land is dressed by Savile Row tailors. I hope that figure of 20s. will be reconsidered, because it seems to me to be unfair, and to that extent at least it is not bringing the men's pay into proper relationship with civilian earnings.
It is too early yet to judge the effect of the new scales for officers. Many of those who are chiefly concerned do not know what the effect is going to be on them. I think it a great pity that there was not set out in the White Paper a comparative table showing the figures for various ranks under various conditions —a single man, a married man and a married man with two children; the net income which he is at present receiving, and the net income which he will receive under the new scale. I would submit that even now such tables should be prepared and published, so that all of us may be able to assess the effect of these new scales. I agree with the hon. Member who said that the living conditions in the United States Navy, and in particular in regard to food and cooking, are far better than in our own Service. From my own experience, there is no comparison whatsoever. I am glad to have learned today, that new facilities for cooking are being provided in our new ships. I do not think too much should be made of the cramped conditions under which men have been living throughout these years of war. Many new weapons 1345 and much new equipment had to be introduced, and much larger personnel had to be carried than that for which the ships were originally designed. I must say, I felt rather hurt when a comparison was made today between H.M.S. "Queen Elizabeth," and H.M.S. "Vanguard." H.M.S. "Queen Elizabeth" was the finest type of battleship that we had built for many long years, and I was indeed proud to be commissioned to her when she first went into commission. The conditions on board in those days, for the complement for which she was designed, were far superior to those in any class of ship up to that time. I am glad to know H.M.S. "Vanguard" is so much superior.
Last year, on the occasion of the Debate on the Estimates, I had a skirmish with the First Lord in regard to Dartmouth. I still maintain, as I have always maintained, that entry into that college should be on merit alone. It is a question whether the scholarships which have been granted to the secondary schools do not have the effect of preventing more able boys from gaining entry.
§ Commander Galbraith
I am sorry, but I cannot give way. Even though I am informed that those who gain scholarships from the secondary schools "make the grade" within a very reasonable period of time, that may not eliminate the possibility of injustice being done to some boy whose father has failed to provide him with the advantages of a secondary school education.
§ Commander Galbraith
I do not follow the arguments which were used by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough Levy) during the Debate on 7th March. He spoke of 50 per cent. of the entry to Dartmouth getting in, not through ability but only because they had the right parents. I hope that hon. Member will inform himself of the great number who apply for entry to Dartmouth and corn-pare it with the few who get in. I think he will find that something other than having the right parents, has to be taken into account. Recently there has been talk of setting up a combined staff college. 1346 While the principles of staff work may be the same in regard to all three Services, their application in each Service is different. Therefore, I doubt the effectiveness of setting up a common training college. I think the colleges should be very close to one another, if possible within the same grounds, or. even in different wings of the same building, because it is essential that those officers who are to be senior officers of their respective Services in the future, should get to know one another at the earliest possible time, and should also get to know the difficulties of the sister Services.
The future of the dockyards and the home ports should be settled soon. I would ask the Civil Lord if Chatham is going to be retained; whether we are going to have a new base further North, and whether Rosyth or the West coast should be preferred I hope the decision of the Admiralty will be forthcoming soon. I would also ask what provision is being made for the training of the Fleet Air Arm, and for the overhaul of their machines. Are the existing facilities adequate, or should they not be moved to less congested areas, and if so where? These, though matters of detail, are yet of great importance. The principal matter which concerns us today is that we should have an efficient fleet, adequate for our needs. The composition and size of the Fleet are matters which we are not competent to decide. Whether the capital ship should be the battleship or the carrier, we again are not competent to decide; these are matters which must he thrashed out by the Board of Admiralty. The size of Fleet necessary in the immediate future should also be decided now. It should not depend on the contribution that we may be called upon to make to the Security Council, but upon our own requirements; it should not depend on any security that we may receive from the United Nations, because until that is proved we must rely on our own resources. It should not even await the development of atomic energy. If we want an efficient Fleet, the sooner we return to the long-term engagement system the better. I do not see that we can have efficiency, so long as a large proportion of those who are serving are looking forward to the day when they will return to civilian life. The disposition of the Fleet is also a matter for the Board of Admiralty.
1347 I had hoped to speak for a little longer on the question of reserves, which also affects the efficiency of the Fleet, and particularly as to the future of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. I hope that we shall not have the same policy of neglect as we had before the war, but that we are going to encourage the Volunteer Reserve. Let us remember that men are drifting away and leaving the Service. They would be willing to join any of the divisions, now, if they could. We know that for certain. The longer they are away, the more difficult it will be to get them back. An announcement of policy concerning all our reserves is imperative at the earliest possible date.
It is the duty of this House to see that the Navy is always maintained in sufficient strength to protect our line of sea communications. The Navy has saved this country, and has saved civilisation, twice in 25 years; it has been the foundation of Allied victory in two great wars, and it has never let this country down. Would that I could say that this House has never let the Navy down. In the past it has; let us make sure that now, and in the future, we never repeat that error.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Walter Edwards)
I think I can say at the outset that if my right hon. Friend the First Lord were here today instead of being in India, he would have been very pleased indeed at the reception the Navy Estimates have received on this occasion, as I can assure the House I am myself. With regard to the points raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), I would, first of all thank him for the kind remarks he made with regard to my maiden speech from this Box, and say that, whatever may have been the faults of Governments in the past—and I do not want to dwell upon what has or what has not been wrong in the past, or upon who has been right—I want to impress upon him and the House that the Admiralty arc fully alive to all the mistakes which have been made in the past and are determined, within their powers, to see that those mistakes are not repeated in the future. We are carefully watching every angle of the work of the Admiralty in so far as it affects the nation, and the Admiralty are rather busy these days, in this most difficult 1348 interim period, with the ending of the war and the setting up of the peace organisation. Many hon. Members, no doubt, are a bit impatient about not being able to get concrete results with regard to our postwar set up, but I can assure the House that it is under very careful consideration in every direction, and we shall deal with it as quickly as possible.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that sea power had saved us, and not only us, but civilisation, in the last two wars. I think every hon. and right hon. Member in the House will agree with that, and when he made his reference to the reserves, and said that it was the reserves which saved this country at the beginning of the war, he was perfectly right. The only thing about which I could complain is that, though I have heard the reserves spoken of today as the R. N. V. R. and the R. N. R. I have not heard anything about the Royal Fleet Reserve, of which I was a member at the beginning of the war. I entirely agree with the remarks which have been made by a number of hon. Gentlemen with regard to reserves. I can assure my hon and gallant Friend that the question of the postwar set up and the R. N. V. R. is now being gone into very actively indeed, and we really hope to make some announcement in the not too distant future
The question of the size of the Fleet is, as I think the House will admit, rather a difficult one at the present time. It is not that we have not a big Fleet at the moment: we certainly have One left over from the war. A certain number of ships will have to go into reserve, obviously, as they did after the last war. I am certain that the country would not be prepared to retain a Navy of the same size as that which we had for war operations. But that question is being kept well alive, and there are one or two events taking place in the world at the moment which, unfortunately, make it difficult for us to come to a definite decision on postwar policy. We have, because of certain circumstances, had to retain a few ships out in the Far East, which may not have to remain there if we can achieve this nice, peaceful world we all desire. However, I can assure the House that we are dealing with the question, and again we hope to be able to come to some finality in the not too distant future.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman raised the question of the £1 a week deduction. 1349 I have obtained the figures this afternoon, and I understand that, in fact, there 1s Is. 11½d. a day allowed to each sailor for messing if he is having his own mess, and this for a seven-day week amounts to something like 14s. In addition to that, potatoes and meat come outside messing, and the man also gets a kit and clothing allowance. If we were to draw up a budget, therefore, I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman would find that there would not be a lot of unlawful robbery of the sailor with regard to this particular allowance. Those, perhaps, are points which my hon. and gallant Friend had not borne in mind. However, it is a matter I will certainly go into, and if there is any good reason for a reduction of any sort we shall be only too glad to put it into operation.
Then, the question of long service engagements was raised. My hon. and gallant Friend is no doubt aware that we still have long service engagements. All the boys who have been taken in during the war are on long service engagements. We now have a short service scheme, seven years and five years, but even under that scheme it will be permissible for men to transfer from a short service engagement to a continuous service engagement, if we feel they are qualified to do so and if they so desire. I do not think that the new pay code is affecting long service engagements in any way at all. One or two hon. Members have wanted all sorts of figures with regard to re-engagements since the new pay code was announced.:The comparison of pay with industrial rates of pay was also raised. All I can say in connection with the reengagement figures is to repeat what my right hon. Friend the First Lord said on a previous occasion.
Some of these men who have had 12 years in the Service and served during the war have not taken the trouble to reengage. They probably thought the ship might go down and there was no need to worry about it. It is perfectly natural that our granting of eight weeks' leave with pay should be a considerable factor in inducing men to reengage. We shall find far more men desirous of reengaging in the Navy under the new pay code, I am sure, when we get out of the present atmosphere of release from the Service.
Complaint has been made about the gap in pay not being an inducement to 1350 promotion. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pollok got me a little wrong there, though perhaps it was my fault. What I meant, when I was dealing the other day with the new pay code and inducements to promotion, was that if a man were to get one or two hooks on his arm and only 2s. a day extra instead of 2s. 6d. a day, that sixpence would not matter a great deal. But, obviously, as an inducement for a man to seek promotion, there would have to be some extra pay, besides all those nice conditions sometimes enjoyed in the messes of petty officers and chief petty officers. There were some other points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok which were dealt with by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary earlier.
I feel I should say a word in reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden), who initiated the Debate after the Amendment had been withdrawn. I was not here then and I must apologise for my absence. I am certain he would allow even a junior Minister to go out for a little while. I understand he raised the question of the R. N. V. R., the size of the Fleet, and the use of bases with the United States of America. As I have already stated, we are actively considering the question of the R.N. V. R., the R. N. R. and the Royal Fleet Reserve. I happen to be a member of a sub-committee within the Admiralty which has been considering the future setup of the Royal Fleet Reserve, and we have made a rather rapid advance in our inquiry into that particular subject. The same applies also to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. I have already referred to the question of the size of the Fleet, a point which was also raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pollok. As to the question of the use of bases with the U.S.A., I feel that that is a very good point indeed, and I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that we shall, at least, look into that matter to see if anything can be done to meet his proposal.
The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) raised the question of escort vessels. I can assure him we have at the moment plenty of escort vessels. Instead of protecting merchant vessels now we are taking off even their own gunnery protection.
§ Mr. Maclay
My real point was concern about the future—that we shall always have enough escort vessels in the future so that we shall not be caught again as we were at the beginning of the war.
§ Mr. Edwards
That point was really covered by my opening remarks, when I said that the Admiralty at the present time were taking note of all past mistakes in that respect, and that we certainly shall do all we possibly can to see that those mistakes are not repeated. But the actual position at the moment is that we are spending quite a lot of labour in getting all the gunnery protection in the merchant ships out of them in order that they can carry out their normal trade.
The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Shawcross) made a most interesting speech with regard to the Intelligence Service. I may tell him that the Inter-Service Photographic Department is under the Director of Naval Intelligence at the Admiralty. He asked whether it was to he continued? The answer is that it is not to be continued under that particular Department. The type of work it does is, however, to be continued, and the Government are now considering arrangements for continuing the functions of this organisation by setting up an organisation for all three Services.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt) and the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin) raised the question of the Fleet Air Arm, and said we were entitled to pay tribute to the glorious achievements of the Fleet Air Arm during the war. I can assure them that nothing gives me greater pleasure than to be able to do that on behalf of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. Austin
I think we both made the point that we are concerned about the future use of the Fleet Air Arm.
§ Mr. Edwards
I did not mean to confine myself to praise. I did not have the privilege of serving in an aircraft carrier, but I know a lot about the hard work the Fleet Air Arm did; and how, at the beginning of the war, it was badly equipped, especially when it could not come out and help us with our American convoys and so on; and how, gradually, there was a great improvement, effected with the assistance of the late Financial Secretary to the Admiralty who, I feel, did quite a lot to bring about an improvement 1352 in the Fleet Air Arm. But it was an improvement, very noticeable to those of us serving in the Navy. It gave us something that had been lacking in the first two years of the war, when we scarcely ever saw an aircraft over us. I can assure the House that the question of the Fleet Air Arm is under very sympathetic consideration. As the hon. Member for Stretford said, the Fifth Sea Lord knows quite a lot about it. He certainly should do if he is the Fifth Sea Lord. During the time I have been at the Admiralty we have had very fine advice indeed from the Fifth Sea Lord and it is upon that advice that we are about to work out at the present time the establishment of the most proficient Fleet Air Arm it is possible for the Navy to have.
I ought to point this out, however, in view of the speeches which have been made today. If the Navy were to be as large as hon. Members want it to be, we should probably have a bigger Navy in peacetime than we had in wartime; and I suppose we have to be a little careful about that. But certainly there has been nothing in the demands that have been made concerning the size and proficiency of the Navy with which I, personally, find any cause for objection. I think that the more hon. Members keep the eyes of the county upon all these necessities of the country, even though we cannot all get our own way, the better it will be for everybody in the long run.
The hon. Member for Stretford raised the question of the million pounds for the Polish Navy. I do not want to keep paying out of the small sum allotted to the Navy each year, a million pounds for the keeping of the Polish Navy, but, rightly or wrongly, there is still a large number of Polish sailors in this country. They were a liability of the Admiralty all during the war. Hon. Members would not know that, as we were getting the money by Vote of Credit. We have had that liability during the war, but if there can be a disbandment of the Polish Navy, no one will be more glad than the Admiralty to find that they can spend this money, although it is more a bookkeeping matter than anything else. I was going to deal with the points raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor). I am sure that he will excuse me if I do not deal with all the points, because he had far longer time in which to make his 1353 speech than I have been allowed in replying to the Debate. He raised quite a large number of interesting points. They were certainly interesting to me, and I enjoyed his speech, although I understand that some hon. Members on this side of the House, who wanted to take part in the Debate, did not like it because he cut them out.
On the question of the Dominions and Colonies playing their part financially, I can inform the hon. and gallant Member that this matter is in our minds. As the House is aware, the Prime Ministers from the Dominions and Colonies are coming to this country in the near future. Although I cannot say anything about their financial contributions, and what they may be, I believe that, in accordance with the nice atmosphere which prevails at present between the Dominions and Colonies, matters such as that will, no doubt, be taken into consideration. The hon. and gallant Member said that we should have a strong Navy. I have no hesitation at all in agreeing with him on that point. I consider that it should be strong, as it has always been strong at least as far as the men are concerned, although sometimes it has had bad ships to take to sea. I hope we shall keep it in a state in which it will retain some form of security for this country. The hon and gallant Member was rather pessimistic about U. N. O. I do not wish to be pessimistic about U. N. O., because I hope that this country has seen the last of its wars. We do not want to see the day come when we have to increase the Navy more than is absolutely necessary for the security of our trade routes. It is only by bodies such as U. N. O. that we can prevent another catastrophe, which would he even worse than the one we have just passed through.
§ Mr. Edwards
I am not implying that the hon. and gallant Member was suggesting anything different from what I have in mind. All I say is that he was certainly pessimistic about U. N. O., and that I am one of the optimists. He went on to deal with the success of combined operations, and that is endorsed by every- 1354 one who knows anything about military strategy. I can inform him that this also is under consideration together with the other matters which have come before us. We shall, obviously, take into account, in considering the future role of combined operations, the great part which they have played in bringing victory much more quickly.
As to the Combined Staff College, I think that my hon. and gallant Friend will remember that the First Lord said we were going to set up a Combined Staff College. That does not necessarily mean what the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok fears, that Navy, Army and Air Force cadets or officers are all going to be bunched together and put through one form of training. There is no definite decision on that particular point at the moment, but I imagine that nothing would be further from the minds of the people running the College than to mix everyone in that way. From the Admiralty point of view, it might be a good thing if the College were to combine the three loin together, but it is clear that from a technical point of view there would have to be separation. The point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok will certainly be looked into.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Paddington raised the question of the disposition of dockyards and establishments. That has also been raised in recent discussions by one or two hon. Members from Scotland. All I can say in reply to that is that we have not come to a decision, which must depend on a large number of factors which have to be considered in relation to the way in which this war was prosecuted. I think that I can say that we shall come to some definite decision on this matter. I feel that we should do so in the interests of those who work in the dockyards and naval establishments. We will certainly bear that in mind and do what we can at the earliest opportunity.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Paddington also raised the subject of the pay code in comparison with civilian rates of pay. With regard to the men's pay code, it was brought into operation after very careful consideration. It was not looked upon as being a rate of pay equivalent to that 1355 received during the war. When it was stated in the White Paper that the men's pay code was being brought on to an industrial level, we were certainly thinking of the time, not too far distant, when industry would be on a more stable level than it has been for many years. We cannot compare the new Services pay code with the rates of wages received in industry last year or received in industry at the moment. There is a levelling up taking place in industries throughout the country. Overtime and weekend work have w a large extent been abolished, with the result, I am quite certain, that when we do reach a state of stability, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Paddington will be satisfied with the rates, and will praise the Government for having introduced, as he himself said, the finest rates of pay we have ever had for the men in the Forces. If I were still in the Navy, I should probably feel dissatisfied, but I have yet to find anyone who is satisfied with what he gets. If the men thought they could get more they would no doubt ask for it, and if I had the money, I would be the first to give it to them.
§ Mr. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether the basic rates of pay embody the allowances for victualling and clothing Servicemen?
§ Mr. Edwards
The basic rates of pay are something altogether separate from the victualling allowances. What we do in assessing the relationship with industrial rates of pay is to include the victualling and kit upkeep allowances. The basic rate of pay is something separate altogether from any other payment that is made I am afraid my time is up, and I am sorry that I was not given a little more time so as to be able to reply to the many matters which I have to leave unanswered. I would conclude by stating that I appreciate the reception given to the Estimates, and I thank hon. and right hon. Members for the kind comments they have made and the great assistance they have given us for the work to be performed in the forthcoming year.
§ Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.1356
§ [Mr. HUBERT BEAUMONT in the Chair]
§ WAGES, ETC., OF OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE ROYAL NAVY AND ROYAL MARINES, AND WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £35,290,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Wages, etc., of Officers and Men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines and Women's Royal Naval Service, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1947, in addition to the sum of £52,000,000 to be allocated for this purpose from the sum of £150,000,000 voted on account of Navy Services generally.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again "—[Mr. R. J. Taylor] put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.
§ PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
§ Mr. Pickthorn discharged from the Committee of Public Accounts; Mr. Cuthbert added.—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]
§ CATERING INDUSTRY
(CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (Upton)
I am very glad indeed to be able to get this opportunity to raise what I deem to be a very important subject, namely, the conditions of employment of hotel and restaurant workers in the West End of London. The House will remember that some time back, the Minister of Labour made a statement in connection with a certain hotel, referring to the fact that conditions in the restaurant trade were appalling. It seemed rather strange that many hon. Members on the other side of the House were astounded at some of the things the Minister of Labour said, but with all due respect to the Minister, he did not give to the House half the details he should have given. I feel that that may be because the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to know the facts. The position is that in the West End of London, in almost every hotel and restaurant, the conditions of the workers are appalling. It is customary for waiters and waitresses 1357 and all sections of the catering industry to work 60, 70, and 80 hours a week and sometimes longer, for the large amount of anything from 10s. to £2 a week in wages.
The rest is made up by tips. There is also in being what is known as the "tronc "system. For Members who may not be au faitwith that term, it is a system whereby the staff pool the tips, which are supposed to be shared out afterwards among the staff. But more often than not it will be found that the head waiter, or senior man, will take out a very large share, and that those who actually do the work will not get their fair share. In addition, it is quite customary for the workers in this industry to be barred from joining a trade union.
§ It being a Quarter past Nine o' Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Hr. Simmons.]
When the Minister of Labour referred, some time ago, to a certain hotel there were cries of "Shame" from hon. Members opposite. My mind went back to the time when the Catering Bill was before the House, and 111 Conservatives voted against it in the Lobby. I want to direct some publicity and call the attention of the House to what is going on in this industry. I know that the Catering Wages Act has resulted in the setting up of boards to deal with wages and conditions, and that one of those boards has met and has published its findings with regard to industrial canteens. Other boards will shortly be meeting, but, so far, conditions of service in the industry have not been dealt with.
It is customary for workers in this industry, men and women, to have to undress in the same dressing room and for them to be given food which is not fit for human consumption. I hope the Minister will be able to give authority to these wages boards to look into the problems now confronting the workers in this industry. Above all, I want him to give an assurance to them that they are free to join a trade union if they so desire. At present, they are not free to do so. When the Minister made his statement about a certain hotel recently, the House will recollect that the following day most 1358 luxury establishments in the West End issued statements to the effect that their staffs were always free to join a trade union. It will interest the House, perhaps, if I inform Members that immediately following those statements the London District Secretary of the Union of which I am proud to he a member—the National Union of General and Municipal Workers—wrote to the managing directors and managers of those hotels and restaurants who said they were not anti-trade union, and asked them to meet an official of his union to discuss the policy of trade union organisation, the possibility of discussing such a matter with their staffs, and perhaps signing a trade union agreement. These letters were sent to about 20 or 30 hotels on 14th February and to date not one of them has had the decency to reply. I say without fear of contradiction that the reason they would not reply is that they do not want staffs to be members of a trade union.
Mr. Orr-Ewinģ (Weston-super-Mare)
Would the hon. Member tell the House exactly what were the terms of the letter? There are certain types of letter to which no one would wish to reply. We, on this side, are anxious to see decent conditions of employment, but we quite understand that at times we do receive letters which we confide to places other than the post office for return.
§ Mr. Lewis
With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will read a copy of two letters. One, which was sent to the managing directors or managers of those establishments that published Press reports to the effect that they were not anti-trade union, runs as follows:Dear Sir, I was very pleased indeed to read in the Press yesterday that you have no objection to your staff being members of a trade union. As this union "—that is the National Union of General and Municipal Workers—is the responsible trade union for dealing with wages and conditions of catering workers so far as waiting and kitchen staffs, etc., are concerned. I am wondering whether you would be good enough to permit one of my officials to come along and address your staff on the advantage of being members of a trade union, and, if you so desire, to have a discussion with yourself prior to this actual meeting. Your early and favourable consideration to this matter will oblige.To the other establishments which had not issued a Press statement, but had 1359 allowed their association to do so on their behalf, this letter was sent:Dear Sir, You will be aware of the statements that have appeared in the Press recently from a number of hotel proprietors and managements to the effect that they have no objection to their staffs being members of trade unions. In view of this fact, I am wondering whether or not you would be kind enough to grant permission to one of my officials to meet your staff at some time and date convenient to yourself, for the purpose of discussing with them trade union organisation. In addition, it may perhaps be possible for my official to meet you for the purpose of signing a trade union agreement.Hon. Members opposite have made some interjections. The inference seemed to be that in having the temerity to suggest discussing trade union organisation with the staffs the trade unions had behaved in a manner that was perhaps not strictly correct. I do not dispute that and I will give hon. Members that point. But that does not prevent the managements of these hotels or their representatives writing to acknowledge the letter and saying, if need be, that no useful purpose would be served. They had not the decency to do that.
I thank the hon. Member very much for giving way again. The purpose of my interjection was not at all what he suggests, but I always say that if an hon. Member of this House quotes the fact that a letter has been sent, he should tell the House what it contains.
§ Mr. Lewis
I see that the time is rather short and, therefore, I must, of necessity, try to get as much in the five minutes left to me as possible. I am afraid of the continual efforts on the part of the employers in the industry to use every endeavour to try to stop their workers joining a trade union. We had a Debate recently, and many hon. Members put over their expressions of freedom, so on and so forth, concerning trade unions. I say, without fear of contradiction, that any worker in the catering industry in the West End of London and almost every part of the country, who takes any active part in forming a trade union or becoming a shop steward of a trade union, is out on his neck within a very short period of time. He is not always dismissed on the ground of trade union activities. No—the employers are far too clever for that. They make some excuse. That excuse may be that there is redundancy or that the employee is not satisfactory, but it is 1360 always the person who has taken an active interest in the trade unions.
In addition, it is a fact that many hotels, prior to the statement of the Minister of Labour—I am not going to say whether it has been altered since—had issued contracts of service to their employees. May I, by the way, ask the Minister to bring this to the attention of the Catering Wages Board? Not only do they issue contracts of service which the employees sign, but the employees never get a copy of the contract they sign—the employer keeps it. They do not know what they sign. They are only too anxious to get a job, and they sign a form. Many of them cannot read or write. [An HON. MEMBER: "They cannot read English."] Unfortunately, it is a fact that many of these are foreign workers and so the employers like to employ them, because they are, perhaps, easier to sweat than the English worker—[Interruption.] I am not giving way. I do not know of any industry anywhere in this country where a person signs a contract and does not keep a copy.
I must conclude by asking the Minister whether he will institute either a public inquiry into the catering industry, or an inquiry through the Catering Wages Board, and if he is agreeable to instituting such an inquiry, whether he will give the workers in the industry as well as the managements an opportunity to put their side of the picture, on the understanding that they are guaranteed against victimisation. It has, in fact, happened times out of number that they are victimised and cannot get a job. I ask the Minister whether he could get this inquiry to see that the "tronc" system, where the tips are pooled—if it is to be maintained—is controlled by the workers in the industry, with a workers' committee to see that the money is properly shared out, and that go per cent. does not go to someone in authority, and 10 per cent. for the workers who do the job. I also ask the Minister to see that, as far as possible, every freedom shall be given to every catering worker in this country to join his or her union.
§ 9.3o p.m.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)
I only wish that this Debate would go on for some considerable time to enable some of us who have studied the hotel industry, to answer many of the accusations made by the hon. Member for 1361 Upton (Mr. A. Lewis). I suggest that the hon. Member has made a great many accusations tonight but that none of them have been substantiated by facts except the letters which he quoted to the House. I suggest that this is yet another case of mud being thrown upon the hotel industry without any substantiation of fact whatever, behind the charges made—rather similar to the mud which was thrown upon Oddenino's by the Minister of Labour.
In the short time available I would like to deal with the question of the freedom to join trade unions. I happen to be President of the Residential Hotels Association, but I have no financial or other interest in hotels whatever. I happen to know that there is no restriction in the majority of hotels—there may be bad ones—against employees joining unions. I will go further than that and say that every employee of every hotel has been circulated by the unions until they are sick of it, and they have not joined the unions because they have not wanted to do so. I suggest that that is why in the hotel industry so few employees are members of the unions. It is not because they have not the freedom to join, but because they are bored with the unions.
§ Mr. Taylor
I have no connection with the Hotel and Restaurants Association, but I would suggest that the letter was very curiously worded. Had there been a demand from the employees in the industry—and there never has been—for a representative of the union to come and address them, I do not believe that would have been refused. The demand did not come from the employees, it came from the union officials. Who sent the letter?
§ Mr. Taylor
I see, the secretary of the particular union. The hon. Member for Upton suggested that there should be a public inquiry. May I remind the House that at the time of the Catering Wages 1362 Bill, we begged and urged that there should be a public inquiry into the industry?
§ Mr. Taylor
A great many of us, certainly on this side of the House, believe that the hotel industry is one of the major industries of the country, and that it has to be good, not only from the business point of view but from the employees' point of view and from every point of view. We believe that in this industry there is a great chance to help the prosperity of Britain, and throwing mud at the industry will do no good at all. We have to assist the industry to rehabilitate itself after the war.
§ Mr. Taylor
We believe that the industry should be a first-class one. I personally feel that if the Government would show some interest in this matter, some effective interest in the form of help, assistance and advice, we could make this industry one of the premier industries in the country.
§ 9.35 P.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs)
There are only a few moments in which to deal with this subject and therefore I must do so in a rather snappy form and make my points without arguing them. I would like to deal with some of the matters raised by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor). He said that many accusations were made but not substantiated by fact and that I threw a great deal of mud on the last occasion. Information I have received since shows that I only used white powder as compared with what could have been said on this matter.
As a result of the statement I made I have received many letters, and not only from people working in the industry. One came from a well-known member of a church in the locality, who wrote saying that his contact with the people concerned showed that what I said was an understatement. If the hotels want to help in the prosperity of Britain, and to keep their good name, they have to show that the goodness starts in their own places. As to the reference to the trade 1363 union organisation, the trouble is that what is happening now has happened in years gone by. On the introduction of the Trade Unions and Trade Disputes Bill, I made the reference to show that victimisation and intimidation which we thought was dead many years ago still existed. It is not satisfactory just to mention that; I want to mention what steps have been taken to overcome it. I would not have mentioned this matter except that an hon. Member on the opposite side spoke of Oddenino's. I cannot speak of Oddenino's tonight, because an hon. Member has given notice to raise that matter on the Adjournment, and it would not be fair for me to deal with it tonight. But I am perfectly prepared to deal with the question when the time arises.
I was asked for assurances. Many Members ask the Minister for assurances and fortunately many of them are on questions on which assurances can be given by the Ministers. Assurances are asked for on something which it is within the compass of the Minister responsible to give. But in this instance I do not think it is within my compass. I cannot give an assurance that there shall be no victimisation or that the "tronc" system will disappear, but I express the hope that the industry will follow the lead I have already given. There has been a good deal of correspondence in the Press 'and the matter has moved forward. I do not want to prejudice what we have decided to do arising out of the previous discussion and I am going to use this note so that there shall be no misunderstanding:
The statutory powers of Wages Boards under the Catering Wages Act in regard to the above matters are as follow: Firstly, a Wages Board has power to submit "wages regulation proposals "for fixing remuneration, for fixing intervals for meals or rest and for fixing holidays with pay Secondly, before submitting any wages regulation proposals to the Minister a Wages Board "shall make such investigations as it thinks fit."
The proposals have to come before the Minister, and I can assure the House that if the proposals come before me I will examine them in the light of what I believe to be the desire of this House. I believe it is the desire of this House to see good conditions and good relations 1364 and I shall examine them from that point of view.
Some doubts have been expressed about the conditions. The above powers seem adequate to enable the Licensed Hotels and Restaurants Wages Board to carry out an investigation as suggested. In addition, however, it may be noted that Wages Boards also have powerto consider any matter affecting the remuneration, conditions of employment, health or welfare of all or any of the workers in relation to whom the Board operates, or affecting the general improvement and development of that part of the industry in relation to which the Board operates, and may submit a report thereon.In the light of that I contemplated putting on foot some special inquiry to ascertain the facts. I hope and believe that there are still many hotel managements who play the game. It is only right in the interests of those who play the game that this should be cleared up, so that blame should not attach where it should not lie.
When I found that the Board had these powers I did not give them a direction. I thought it better to act in another way. I pointed out that in view of the fact that they had these powers—consideration of wages, conditions, and so forth—then obviously, before they could fix wages, working hours and conditions, they must know what they were at present. This was a task that would ultimately fall to them, and I asked them whether they would undertake this inquiry. A report has to be submitted through the commission to the Minister concerned. If they agree to undertake the inquiry, it will not be in the open, where someone can come and pick up some sentence, and advertise it one way or the other. I want the inquiry to ascertain facts, not to get undue publicity for any side of the question. We have offered the services of officers of my Department. In the Ministry of Labour, though no special credit is due to the present Minister for this, there are men most efficient in handling questions of conciliation and industrial relations.
Here is the one point to which I wish to make a reference tonight. Neither the Wages Board nor the officers of the Department have any legal right of entry into catering establishments for the purpose of the suggested inquiry. I hope that any of these hotels—it will be remembered that only one has been named, and that 1365 was not in connection with conditions but in connection with a form; I never raised anything about conditions in my previous speech; I was careful not to do so—in regard to which the Catering Wages Board want to get some information, will themselves freely and willingly consent to officials going in and making these investigations. No one will be more happy than myself and my hon. Friend who raised the question if we found out that the stories are exaggerated.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
Will the report be presented to Parliament afterwards? Will the Minister consider that?
§ Mr. Isaacs
I will most certainly consider that, because if it cannot be presented in the form of a report I daresay there is some way of making it known. This matter has been brought to public attention through the medium of the House of Commons. It is obvious that Members are keenly interested in this matter, and it is only right that those who have shown an interest should know the results of the investigation.
We hope we shall get this matter straightened out, because one of the most vital of our industries in the near future will be the hotel industry. If we are to make good some of our loss of overseas revenue on account of sales of investments, etc., we can do a great deal by encouraging people to come to this country. It is not only right that the hotels should make their houses attractive for those who come; it should also be possible for all of us to go out and advertise for people to come here, knowing that they will not come here and be served 1366 by people working for low wages and under bad conditions. Worse conditions than have operated in this industry have been solved but they have never been solved without trade union cooperation. These conditions can only be solved with trade union cooperation, and I hope that the industry will readily seek to cooperate with the unions in bringing this about. Many employers in this and other industries have welcomed the unions coming in and organising their workers. It is generally found that where is good trade union organisation better conditions exist. That is all I can say about it at the moment. I hope I shall present to the House, or inform them of, the successful result of these negotiations in the near future.
I think the whole House will be most relieved by what the Minister has said. Both sides of the House are keenly interested in this matter.
§ Mr. Christopher Shawcross (Widnes)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour has stated that he could not deal with a certain aspect of this question because he had been threatened with a Motion for the Adjournment by hon. Members opposite. Is it in Order for the three right hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite not to inform the House what steps they have taken to raise that matter?
§ It being a Quarter to Ten o' Clock,Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order,