asked the Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that the Admiralty are refusing to demobilise naval writers who joined for hostilities only on the ground that they are required for the clerical work in connection with demobilisation; whether the bulk of the clerical work is of so simple a character that a boy of eighteen is expected to perform it after a few hours' instruction on joining the Navy; whether work of this kind has been performed satisfactorily by ratings of the Women's Royal Naval Service; whether, in the present state of the labour market, further clerical assistance could, if necessary, be obtained through the Labour Exchanges, sufficient, with the naval writers who have joined for a term of years, to carry on the work; and whether, through the paying-off of ships and the closing of store establishments, a large number of naval writers can now be demobilised immediately?
A few naval writers entered for hostilities only have already been demobilised. The work on which writers are engaged, however, is not of the simple character suggested by my hon. Friend. As regards the ratings of the Women's Royal Naval Service, certain clerical work has been, and is being, satisfactorily performed by them, both in connection with demobilisation and in connection with the general work of the Royal Navy. The suggestion that we should get clerical assistance through the Labour Exchanges is not, I am advised, very useful. Persons engaged would have, for some time, to be instructed by the men whom they would replace, and this would result in delaying demobilisation. As regards the last part of the question, we hope that the rate of demobilisation of writers will increase as demobilisation itself progresses.
We do our best under the circumstances, but the writer really is the pivotal man of demobilisation, and therefore is of the utmost value to us at this moment.