Supply. — [4TH Allotted Day.] – in the House of Commons on 12th March 1919.
I count myself very fortunate in that it falls to my lot to ask this House to pass this Vote for the Navy for the first time during the long period of five years when the heavy cloud which has rested upon us during the period through which my predecessors were responsible for this or similar Motions has been lifted. It leaves us, no doubt, with the problem of impending peace, difficult, serious, and of great importance; but, at all events, we can feel to-day that the final stages of peace are within sight, and I think the Committee will agree that in the attainment of this great end the British Navy, on whoso behalf I make this Motion today, have borne its full share nobly in this awful struggle. The full tale of what the Navy has done will in due course be told by pens far readier than my tongue can pretend to be. None the less I think the Committee will agree with me that before I come to the strictly business part of my speech it is due that a brief, and I am afraid altogether inadequate, reference should be made to the work which the Navy have done. I said that in due course the story would be told. The Board of Admiralty have in perparation a statement for presentation to this House. It will not be an embellished account of what the Navy has done. Nothing will be in it in the form of a picturesque description. It will be a plain, straightforward statement of the part which the Navy has played in this great War, and I think the country is entitled to have this statement. I venture to make this forecast, that when they have it and study it they will agree with me that the story is one of the most wonderful that has ever been told. I think that it is necessary that something should be said, before we proceed any further, as to the part the Navy has played, not only because it is due to the Navy, but also because I cannot help thinking that, although from time to time accounts have appeared in the newspapers, stories have been told,, great incidents have been recorded, yet I think there is a tendency to fail to appreciate how great is the part the Navy has played in this War, a tendency to concentrate our thoughts and attention upon particular incidents or particular parts of the world, and a failure to recognise that the action and the support of the Navy has not been limited to a few places, but has been universal.
It is not too much to say that in almost every sea in the world the Navy has made its appearance during this War. In every campaign the Navy has played a prominent part, either by active intervention or by support, and when we remember what these campaigns have been, how numerous, how widely spread over the world, it is interesting to know that not only in the great battles in France, in Mesopotamia, in Egypt, wherever this great War has been waged, but from Scapa Flow to the great African Lakes, the Navy has made its power felt and the weight of its hand has been fully appreciated by the enemy. I hope the Committee will not think that in saying these few words I am trying to claim for the Navy any work superior to that done by the Army or trying to make any invidious comparison. There is nothing which the Navy would resent more, in all its different parts, including in the Royal Navy the Volunteers, the Mercantile Marine, and the fishermen who formed our Auxiliary Patrol—there is nothing that they would resent more than that their spokesman here should say anything calculated to lead to the impression that comparisons are being drawn to their advantage between them and the Army, or between the work done by them and the work done by the Army. It is not for any reason of that kind that I make these remarks; it is solely because the force of events has led, as I think, to a failure to appreciate to the full how universal the work has been that I desire, before coming to other details, to place on record the fact that in this War, wherever it has been, whatever form it has taken, the Navy has borne a prominent part, to its eternal credit and to the immense advantage of the country, the Empire, and the world.
It is not only in the battles that the Navy has borne its part. Let the Committee remember what the Navy has done in the work of escort, the troops that have been brought across the seas of the world, and the goods. Let them think of the blockade. What a contribution was that to our War, and how great a part it played in the ultimate victory! The supply of food—we in this country, no doubt, suffered some inconvenience for a short time which may have reached even the point of privation, but it never was really anything of which we have any right to complain when we remember what was the struggle in which we were engaged and the issue at stake. It is to the Navy we owe it that during these years we have had food in this country and our people have been saved from the horrors and sufferings which afflicted the peoples of many of the other countries where the War was carried on. In this respect I venture to quote a very few figures. When I read them I confess I was amazed. I thought I knew something of what the Navy had done and how gigantic had been the task accomplished by it; but when I read these figures I was thunderstruck, and I felt that this House and the country ought to have them at the earliest possible moment. Here, in brief, is a record of the personnel, animals and vehicles transported by military sea transport from August, 1914, to 2nd March, 1919: Personnel, effectives, 23,388,228 persons; non-effectives, 3,336,241; prisoners, including sick and wounded, 192,899; animals, 2,264,134; vehicles, 512,400; British military stores, 47,992,839 tons; Allied stores, 4,964,811 tons. I venture to say that these colossal figures will give, better than any poor words of mine can do, proof of what part it is the Navy has played.
On these occasions, when one is talking of services like this, ones natural inclination is to talk of men by name. The names of sailors, great men, great sea captains, will spring to the lips of every Member of this House. They would rather, I am confident, that no name should be mentioned here and that we should say that in this work our great sea captains, our commanders, our officers and open, the Mercantile Marine, Volunteer's, Fishermen who have acted as Auxiliary Patrols—everyone of them in their own way to the best of their ability served their country with magnificent loyalty, with splendid efficiency, and that to them is due our unbounded thanks. In connection with the great work that they have done, may I just tell the House that under the head of mine-sweeping alone—and the Committee knows what mine-sweeping means; it is a most dangerous business—since the Armistice no less than 5,500 moored mines have been destroyed by the mine-sweepers and no merchant ship adhering to the prescribed routes suffered damage from a moored mine. It is work well done, Sir; work which still remains to be done. And is it not a wonderful thing that when we look back, we in this House who used to read of these things, when we look back on the days that are now happily gone, when we think of the awful records from time to time of the results of mines and torpedoes—is it not a wonderful thing that not only has this great work been done but that, in addition, we can say that never a ship failed to sail for want of men? And yet there are among those men—some of whom I have seen myself—men who have been torpedoed or mined two, three, four times, and yet what happened? No sooner were they landed, with all these experiences and sufferings fresh upon them, than they were ready to sign on to another ship to do their duty again and run the same risk. A fine record of the men who have composed the Fleets, in their various forms, of this country—a fine record, one which cannot be beaten, and of which we have every reason as an Empire to be proud.
It is I know sometimes said that so far as the Navy is concerned we have had no great victory. This War came to an end without that great naval victory which might have been anticipated and would have been, in the opinion of many, a fitting and glorious end. I ask myself if that criticism is really a well founded one. After all, a great sea victory—what does it mean? It means, no doubt, ships being Bunk under fire, booming out defiance and death to the last moment and with their crews cheering as they go down—a glorious sight! What was the naval climax and finish of this War? Is there anything in that picture of a great naval victory, however brilliantly done by the most talented artist, to compare with that surrender of the German ships to the British Navy in mid-ocean—sudden, complete! Surely to Germany that was a more humiliating thing than anything that could have been achieved by a naval victory. All of us used to hear that our enemies were preparing for "The Day."
We were waiting for the day. The day came. The British Navy was ready for it. They did their work and we know to-day what was the result of "The Day." I venture to say here, without any doubt, that the final surrender of that great navy to our keeping was a greater naval victory than anything that could have been achieved by us by fighting of any kind, however terrible or however determined its character. It marked the most complete defeat by our Navy of their most formidable opponent. It marked, I hope and believe, a new step in the progress of the world. I hope it means that in the future we shall be relieved from those terrors which have made the world so miserable for many a year past.
When we talk of the work the Navy has done in the directions indicated in what I have already said, we have not told half the story. Behind this wonderful screen of the British Navy what has been going on? Work of all kinds of the most extraordinary character; great booms being created which rendered the harbours where our ships were safe from submarine attack; devices and inventions, of all kinds being steadily developed; great harbours like Rosyth and Invergordon and others being created; skill, industry, and determination on the part of officers and men to turn what was a waste of water and mud into splendid harbours in which the biggest ships could be docked and repaired. Science was called upon to aid warfare by every kind of mechanical device. Perhaps the most wonderful of all was the way in which hearing was made to serve to give warning of the action of the enemy even more effectively than, or certainly as effectively, as sight. Officers were being trained to new duties, ships altered, damaged ships repaired. All this work was going on. How was it made possible? It was made possible because, in addition to the great operations to which I have referred, the Navy made this screen behind which all this work of preparation was rendered possible. Without it victory would have been impossible and our losses must have been very much greater. Fleets were organised and brought to the highest pitch of organisation. Work was done of all kinds, not only such as I have described, but many others to which I have not time to refer. All this was done because the British Navy created this mighty shelter behind which all the work of development could go on quietly and steadily. I have been
long enough a Member of this House to know that hon. Members do not care about compliments passing from one Minister to another. There is also the relative position of Ministers to be considered. I remember one talented Member of this House, who is not in his place to-day, after listening to a panegyric by a Member of the Front Bench of one of his colleagues, saying,
It is always interesting to hear candid opinions of your colleagues from colleagues, but it is not always desirable for the man who plays the triangle to praise one of the leaders of the band.
That, no doubt, is true, but it is also true that nobody is in such a good position to judge of the work that has been done and of its value as the man who succeeds another. It is given to me, as the representative of the Admiralty here to-day, to reap where others have sown. It is because they have sown well and because the work was well done that I am able to make on behalf of the Admiralty and the Government the statement I am making. Of course there are critics. It would be a bad thing for us if there were not. Of course there are those who are very anxious to find fault. So far as the Board of Admiralty is concerned, by all means let us have the criticism and let there be fault-finding, if people think there is a case for it. But looking back on the past, we are bound to admit that, although there may have been mistakes here and there, we owe a great debt to the successive Boards of Admiralty, to the men who sat on them, who have worked and given all their energies and abilities and thought to the development of naval affairs. To them we owe, in its proper place and in proper perspective, a very great debt for the work they did, which made these results possible. My immediate predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir Eric Geddes), has handed on to me as his successor at the Board of Admiralty work in progress which is going smoothly and well. The Committee knows what he did as a War Minister, and that before he left he laid securely and well the foundations for the peace policy of the future. I venture to pay this tribute not only to him but to his colleagues and to previous Boards of Admiralty, because, although it is right to criticise—I have had plenty of criticism in this House myself in my time—and it is right to find fault if you are quite satisfied there is something wrong; yet in common fairness we ought, when we
are looking back on a great record of achievement such as this, to bear our testimony of gratitude and of praise to the men to whose labours, in the main, those results were due. I feel far more strongly than any of those who are listening to me can feel how inadequately I have paid this tribute to the Navy. I undertake to say that in this distinguished Assembly there-is nobody who feels so strongly the inadequacy of the tribute as I do myself. But I felt it right on this occasion, when asking the Committee to assent to this expenditure, to pay this short tribute to the Navy, to the work the Navy has done, and to the work that has been done by the great Department which I have the honour for the moment to represent, because I believe the true story is not altogether realised, and because I also know this House well enough to know, having sat in it now for many years, that it is the most generous and just Assembly in the world, and that, when this House is reaping the advantages of all that has been done, it would wish that there should be some statement, something placed on record and some opportunity for them to testify their gratitude to those who have done all this for them, and not only for them, but for the Empire and for the world at large.
I turn now to the more prosaic part of my task, which is to explain briefly and as clearly as I can to the Committee what are the circumstances in which we are asking for this Vote. These are called the Navy Estimates, but they are really not Navy Estimates in any sense in which we have hitherto understood that description. For reasons which I am quite sure will be obvious to everybody, it is impossible for the Admiralty to prepare and present detailed Estimates now. The old controversies are for the moment over. We have fought in this House in days gone by over the Navy on the Estimates. We have taken different standards; we have held that the Navy should be based upon the result of certain, estimates of other Navies, and so on. All that, for the moment, is suspended. We know what has happened to the German Navy. At this moment, as the Committee knows, the great Peace Conference is sitting in Paris. They are discussing all these questions, and probably the most important among them is the question of armaments. Until we have their conclusions, until we know what is the general scheme for the world armaments of the future, it would be absolutely idle to ask any naval experts to frame recommendations and give us their views as to what our policy ought to be. But there is another reason which I think will appeal equally to the Committee and to the country. We have just emerged from a tremendous War. In that War we have learned a great many invaluable lessons. Surely we intend to apply the lessons we have learned in the development of our future policy. I am not going to make any appeal to this Committee or to the country for charity, but I do say this: The best brains we have connected with naval affairs have been engaged for four long years in the strenuous work of war. I think I am entitled to ask, on behalf of the Board of Admiralty, that the House and the country should give them a short time—not a very long time, but a short time—to rest from their labours before they turn their minds and their attention to the final solutions of those great problems with which we are faced now.
I wonder whether any hon. or right hon. Gentlemen in this Committee has ever stopped to ask himself this question—it ought to be asked—what have these men, whether afloat or ashore, been doing during the last four years? I do not think it is possible for anybody who has not been continuously inside one of our great offices to realise how tremendous has been the strain upon men both afloat and in the office—it has been a continuous strain during these four years—and how imperative it is that they should have some short interval of rest from their labour before you ask them to turn their attention to these altogether new problems. Not only do I make that suggestion, but I venture to say that until the dust of war is completely dispersed, until we are able to look at what we have learned in the War in its true perspective, we should be very rash—indeed, I think we should be criminally wrong—if we were to adopt definite plans now and proceed to carry them out rather than to pause a little, in order to be quite certain that what we are doing is the real result of the War and is a proper application of the new principles and new methods which have been discovered and developed during the War. I do not want the Committee to think this means that we are not at work now. The Board of Admiralty is, and has been all along, hard at work collecting facts, preparing their views, and getting ready for the work which has to be done and done very soon. Do not let the Committee think I mean by making this appeal for consideration, postponement of questions for a dangerous time and therefore a dangerous delay. It means nothing of the kind. The Board of Admiralty has been and is at work now. The work is of a colossal character. I do not care whether you talk of the type of ships, the form of armament, or of any of the scientific discoveries which we hope to make full use of in the future. All this work is being proceeded with and it is impossible at this moment to present definite suggestions, based upon matured, considered views, entertained by our experts after they have had an opportunity to look into all the facts and examine them fully.
I am asked if I can explain how these figures of to-day compare with pre-war Estimates. It is obvious that no comparison can be made at all between the figures of to-day and the figures before the War. Before the War the figures that appeared in the Estimates were figures that the Board of Admiralty hoped to be able, with good fortune, to work up to during the coming year. But these figures in the White Paper are figures which we intend to work down from in the days that are coming. For instance, we ask for 280,000 men. That means that at no time until we come to the House again can we pay one more man. It means the maximum number. It does not mean that the Admiralty contemplates retaining 280,000 men in the service of the Royal Navy. It means a number which will come steadily down. Already the reduction has been considerable, and will be continuous. It only means that that is the maximum number which we can pay at any time. Demobilisation is proceeding as rapidly as is consistent with safety. Fifty-four per cent. of those to be demobilised have already been demobilised. I make this appeal to the Committee and through the Committee to the country. In connection with demobilisation—this applies to all ranks—it is of vital importance that, if possible, re-employment of some other kind should go hand-in-hand with demobilisation of the force itself, and I believe the country can do more than it is doing by looking out for likely men and offering them opportunities. Opportunities there must be in the new developments of the future, and I want to appeal to all those who think they owe a debt of gratitude to the Navy whether they cannot help the Admiralty in this important work of demobilisation by endeavouring to find employment for the men who will no longer be required in the ranks of the Navy. I wonder how many of those whom I am addressing have ever gone carefully over a great battleship. It is worth doing, if merely for curiosity. I think they will come from their visit with one idea, above all others, present in their minds, and that is that the officers and men who are able to work and control a great ship of that kind, with its marvellous machinery and its extraordinary arrangements, must have had a training which will fit them for almost any occupation or any work in the world. It is a marvel. I do not believe you can find any training anywhere which gives to the officers and men that wonderful equipment for the future which is to be found in the training given in our Navy. Therefore, I am not asking that employment shall be found for useless people. I am not asking that the country shall say, "This man deserves well of us, he has served us well, he is not much good to me, but still I must find work for him." What I am asking is that the country will realise, in the first place, the debt it owes, and, in the second place, that it has got magnificent material in these men of every rank who have had their training and learned their business in the Royal Navy.
I come now to the amount of money. We ask for a Vote on Account of £60,000,000. Again, this is a maximum sum. There are no Appropriations-in-Aid. Definite Estimates will, of course, have to be prepared and presented. I hope that will be in June or July. Certainly the Board of Admiralty will lose no time in their preparation, but they obviously cannot be prepared until we have the information which we have not got at present. This sum of £60,000,000 and the various figures set out in the White Paper cannot possibly be compared with pre-war figures. Let me give three very simple reasons. In the expenditure of the coming year liabilities are included which were incurred in 1919. They will not mature until this coming year, and therefore we have not made provision for them. It merely comes to this, that this is an overlapping as between the coming year and the past. We are still clearing up, and shall be for some time, the expenses of the War. Another reason is that there is a much larger number of officers and men in the first quarter than there will be in subsequent quarters, and there are all the war gratuities to demobilised men. I think that will make it clear that the figure is not one which can be compared in any way with any other figures which the Committee have had to deal with on previous occasions, and all hon. Members can do is to regard them not as Estimates but as danger signals, as a maximum amount which can be asked for and which we believe we shall want during that time, and they must postpone detailed criticism and examination until the Board is in a position to offer detailed proposals. Then in connection with construction, the same thing is true. You cannot compare the sum asked for under that head with any previous sum. To begin with the cost of everything to-day is more than twice as much as it was before the War, and a great deal of this work is proceeding. We are doing everything in our power to cut down. I have here a long list of ships of all kinds which have been cancelled since 11th November. Anyone can see it who is curious. It includes three battle cruisers for instance, the "Howe," the "Rodney," and the "Anson," which were on the slips—these slips are now being cleared as rapidly as posible in older that they may be utilised for modern ships—cruisers, mine layers, destroyers, submarines, auxiliary vessels of all kinds, sloops, mine sweepers, patrol gun beats, eighty-two trawlers,—133 others are being completed as mercantile vessels—sixty-four drifters—111 others are being completed as mercantile vessels.
Is the right hon. Gentleman engaging in mercantile shipbuilding in the dockyards, or is this outside?
No, certainly not in the dockyards. These three ships were being built under contract. It is in order to free the slips for other mercantile work that we have decided to break them up. Everything is being done which can be done consistently with safety and with due economy. It is quite obvious that we are bound to examine the facts—how much has been spent, what is the point which has been reached—and the Board of Admiralty is constantly going into all these facts. Only yesterday we were discussing further reductions, our object being to avoid spending a penny which can be legitimately saved, with due regard first of all to the safety of the country and secondly to the condition of the existing expenditure. As regards dockyards, there again we are reducing what we can, but the dockyards have full employment at present and, while the employment must in process of time come down, we are anxious that nothing should be done there to dislocate labour in such a way as to cause difficulties which would be as troublesome to the country as any of the difficulties we have already had.
I ought to say a word about two questions which are of great importance and are attracting a great deal of attention. I mean the promotion of men from the lower deck to the commissioned ranks and the question of pay. I have been at some pains since I have been at the Admiralty to learn what the facts of the case are as regards promotion, and I said in answer to a deputation which discussed this and other questions with me, that coming, as I had done, quite new to the Board of Admiralty, I found it beyond question of doubt that so far as our naval advisers are concerned—obviously it is not necessary to refer to the civilian members—not only is there no difficulty with them as regards this question, but they are just as anxious, as sincere and as determined as any Member of the House could be that every legitimate opportunity should be given for promotion. I find that there has been in the past year and up to the present time a great number of promotions. There were sixty-seven promotions to mate and 451 to warrant rank in 1918 The number of commissioned warrant officers and warrant officers on the list in January was 4,276, or 50 per cent. over the number borne during the War. There are Committees sitting on this question now, and I can, I think, without doubt, assure the Committee that this question is engaging the attention of the Board of Admiralty and will continue to engage it, and that the anxiety of the Board is to find a solution that will be satisfactory to the men of the lower deck.
Then there is the question of pay. As the Committee knows, an advance in pay has already been made. It is called a bonus. I do not say that bonus is a very happy term, but it seemed to be one that met the general convenience of all concerned. The Committee will remember that we have to think not only of the Navy and naval conditions, but of the Army and military conditions. The term bonus perhaps meets the case as well as any other at the moment. But we said then, what I repeat now, that the word is not used in its strict literal sense—that is to say, this advance was not given as a sort of gift to induce the sailor to be a good boy. It was not a lump sum handed over there and then and not to occur again. It was really an advance of pay in anticipation of what might happen when the Jerram Committee had finally reported. The Jerram Committee are now sitting. The Board of Admiralty have been in constant communication with them, and we are in hopes that we shall have their Report before the end of March.
I say this very frankly, that whatever changes may be in store for us, I believe that the people of this country are determined that we shall always have a Navy sufficient for the needs and services of that British Empire. I believe they are determined that that Navy shall be as efficient as the skill and industry of men can make it. But you cannot have a Navy which is going to answer to these requirements unless you are prepared to pay fairly and justly. If ever that great saying were true of anything in the world, surely that is true of the British Navy, that the labourer is worthy of his hire. If you are going to have a Navy such as you mean to have, and intend to have, you must face this question of pay, and rest assured that so far from this bonus being the last word, it is only an advance awaiting the recommendations of Admiral Jerram's Committee. Here and elsewhere the Board of Admiralty have made it perfectly plain that they realise fully that the advance must be considerable, and that this is only the first step and not the last in the work that has to be done in this regard. With respect to the officers the case is just as strong. We have a Committee sitting to inquire into the question of half-pay—a most unsatisfactory feature of the present system. I do not like to say now what I hope will be the result and the outcome of that Committee, but I do feel that the question of half-pay has to be dealt with in a drastic manner, and that we have to remove what is at present a very real grievance. I will not say a grievance, because I think that is the wrong word to use in connection with any naval officer or any sailor, but it is a rank injustice, which this House ought to rectify at the earliest possible moment.
I would remind the Committee that Admiral Lord Jellicoe left the other day in the "New Zealand" on a tour to India. and the Dominions. The object of that distinguished admiral's visit to our Dominions, and to the Indian Empire, is to try to secure greater and more efficient co-operation in the future between the Navies of the Empire and the Navy here at home. I might perhaps be permitted to say that whilst I was in my previous office as Secretary of State for the Colonies, before I was removed to the Admiralty, I had many discussions on this subject with representatives of our various Dominions, and I am confident that with the spirit of give-and-take, and if we rightly realise our respective responsibilities and our respective possibilities, out of this visit may come very valuable results. I look forward to the time when the co-operation of the various Navies of the British Empire will be very close indeed, and that they will play an even greater part than some of them have played in the naval history of the last three or four years.
I do not think I have anything to add except a few words in conclusion, first of all to thank the House, as I do very warmly, for the indulgence and patience which once again they have been good enough to extend to me. These statements are always difficult and necessarily rather dry, and I am very conscious of the fact that I, to put it mildly, am not at my best in making a statement of this kind. I spent most of my time in the House of Commons in Debates when parties were pretty evenly divided, and sometimes when we were in a great minority. It was in that kind of thing that I got most of my training, and that docs not help me now very much in making statements of this kind. Therefore, I do thank the Committee for the patience with which they have been good enough to listen to what I have had to say. I hope that they will believe me when I say that, speaking as I am privileged to do, on behalf of the Board of Admiralty, I can assure them that we fully realise our responsibility. We know that it is our duty to provide a Navy sufficient and efficient for our Imperial needs. The only plan that we have laid down, and the only plan that we can lay down, is that in the Navy of the future we must be able to show the British flag throughout the British Empire. We believe that that means everything to the British Empire, to its prestige, its greatness, and its trading honour. We realise that it is our duty also to remember that this country has incurred a tremendous burden as a result of this War, and it will be our bounden duty to avoid any expenditure which can be avoided, and which it is possible to avoid, consistent with the safety of the country. But we feel that our bounden duty, our first duty, is to see that the British Navy is able to do its task—a double one—of maintaining, and playing continuously a leading part in preserving, the peace of the world. In this spirit the Board, which I unworthily represent, will steadfastly pursue its duty, and in that spirit I confidently ask the support of the Committee in making the Motion which I now make.
It is a very happy incident that concurrently with the introduction of the Naval Estimates by the right hon. Gentleman there has been introduced into this House an hon. and gallant naval officer (Rear-Admiral Sir Reginald Hall) who has rendered distinguished service in the War. I sincerely trust that the gallant admiral will render as great service in this assembly as I know he has rendered during the last four years at the Admiralty. The Estimates of my right hon. Friend, combined with the other Estimates of the Government, I must confess are startling to me in amount. My right hon. Friend asks for 150 millions. The Army asks for440 millions. The Air Force asks for 65 millions. A total for the next financial year of 655 millions, and these are Estimates which the Government thinks are necessary up to the 31st March, 1920, something like seventeen months after the signature of the Armistice. All I can say is that we shall welcome every effort for economy on the part of the Government. I do feel strongly—my right hon. Friend used this in another instance—that there is a danger signal going up with regard to finance. We have great difficulty in discussing these Estimates now because we do not know whether we are at war or whether we are at peace. I know full well that the country will shrink from no sacrifice in order to ensure the fruits of victory, but we are puzzled and bewildered at the slow and lumbering progress of the Peace Conference in France. For four months now since the Armistice was signed we have been compiling terms, and we do not know whether Germany will accept them. She may be forced to accept them, and I presume she will be forced to accept them, but will she carry them out? These are points which make it very difficult for us to discuss these Estimates in anything like a business spirit.
There is a most mistaken impression abroad that war is a splendid preparation for prosperity. We have been indulging in an orgy of victorious prosperity during the last four years. Everybody imagines that we can spend more and earn less. On the contrary—and this will be my one expression in political economy—we shall have to practise frugality and industry, and in this country there will be no room for idlers. Instead of spending more and earning less we shall have to earn more and spend less. I hope the lesson will come home to all the Government Departments at Whitehall. My hon. Friend who represents one of the West Country constituencies says, "Let us finish the War first." If I wanted to make a reply, I could easily say that he went to his constituency and said the War was finished, but I do not want to engage in these polemical observations. I suggest to my naval friends that they might regard these Estimates and the whole of the expenditure of the Government with a considerable amount of suspicion. Prodigal expenditure is the parent of poverty, whether it is in Government Departments or on the part of individuals. My right hon. Friend, I confess, is the least off ender. He has only increased his Estimates by three times. The Army Estimates have been increased many times. I fully agree with the eloquent language in which he described the exploits of the Navy. The gallantry of the Navy is beyond all praise. I am glad that he included in that the Mercantile Marine, for to the Mercantile Marine men must be given the palm of bravery among even all the brave actions of the British Forces. Theirs is the two o'clock in the morning courage, and they never failed. The decisive rôle in this War was played by the Navy, and culminated, as my right hon. Friend said, in the abject surrender of that great Navy which cost the German nation so much to build up. The Navy is not so much in the public eye, but, having watched it fairly closely during the last four years, I think that my right hon. Friend might have claimed that it had three times achieved the impossible—first, when it landed the troops at the Dardanelles; second, when it evacuated them; and third, at the Zeebrugge exploit.
I have been somewhat of a critic of naval policy during the last three years, and I have thought, and think now—and that is all I will say on the matter—that if the forces of the Army and Navy could have been co-operated in offensive action the War would have been over much sooner. But there is no use going back over that now. I congratulate the Navy on having my right hon. Friend at their head. At any rate, they have an English gentleman, and I hope that he will be there long enough to learn his business. It is a remarkable fact that during the last four and a half years period of war, in the crisis of this country's history, there were no fewer than five First Lords of the Admiralty. I do not care who the First Lord of the Admiralty may be, or however able he may be, for the first six months, possibly for the first twelve months, he will be at sea, very much at sea. It is a great mistake to imagine when we talk of naval experts, or even, I expect, of military experts that they always agree. They do not. They differ constantly, as all other experts do and the First Lord has to make decisions sometimes of far-reaching importance. The First Lord of the Admiralty has immense power. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would exercise it wisely. I wish that he had more experience and that he had been there longer, and then he would have been able to exercise more his own initiative and act more on his own responsibility. But there is one thing which rejoices me in the appointment of my right hon. Friend. He, like myself, has been engaged a great deal in agriculture. Agriculture is coming into its own. There is a kind of Press delusion that agriculturists are slow, dull, lethargic. That is quite a mistake. I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend will plough a straight furrow, and if he goes to Paris, will not involve himself in casuistical discussions as to the freedom of the seas, but will maintain that it is the duty of Britain to protect the ingress of imports to these shores and to protect our manufactures when they go from our shores. The maritime power of Britain, has never been used in a revengeful spirit. Our coaling stations even before the War were open to Germans, but if the maritime power of Great Britain is weakened, then an enemy could always grip her by the throat.
May I ask one or two questions as to the military policy of the Government? In the days when I was at the Admiralty our chief arm was always recognised to be the Navy. The Navy was our sure
shield; and a sure shield indeed it has proved during the last four years. But is the Navy to-day to be subordinated to the Army? I hope not. But some words were used by the Secretary of State for War the other day which almost led me to believe that the Army was to come first and the Navy second. Speaking on the 3rd March, the right hon. Gentleman said:
Our British Regular establishment before the War was, however, of most moderate and even meagre dimensions. However far the process of disarmament may be pressed it seems very unlikely, that having regard to our responsibilities we shall ever fall or ought to fall to the slender scale of 1914.
Does that mean that the Army is to be increased in days of peace to more than the pre-war level? If so, I trust that it will not be at the expense of the Navy. More than that, if the Army is to be increased to more than pre-war level, I imagine that there will be a great deal said about it in the House of Commons, for the taxation that will fall upon the country will be simply of a ruinous description, and it must be always remembered that an Army in this country can be of no use unless it has got a Navy to protect it on its voyages abroad to take it wherever it is to go. Every soldier who ever left these shores always required a little bit of a ship to carry him I do not know whether I shall get a reply from the Government, but it is very necessary to know what is to be their future military policy so far as they can give it. At any rate, I would like to have an assurance that the Navy will always be regarded as our first line of defence and not the Army. Not that I have a word, for none could have a word, to say against the incomparable achievements of the British Army. Still we have been passing through a time of war, and we shall now have to make up the wastage occasioned by war. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that in construction the Admiralty propose to pause a while. There are problems, of course, but to me it is somewhat distasteful to be thinking of future wars when we have had four and a-half years of this terrible agony.
I hope that our country and the world have learned a good many lessons since 1914. If not, we have had enough experience to do so. The problems of the defence of these Islands, are completely changed. Science has almost dried up the Channel. You have got aeroplanes that will be going across and submarines that will be going underneath. I do not know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), when he talks about the Channel tunnel, is not rather thinking in. terms of the Iron Age, and perhaps by the time the Channel tunnel is finished we may have other means of crossing the Channel, possibly more expeditious and more convenient.
Possibly not. I know that my hon. Friend is generally in advance of the time, but I think that he is now a little backward. These are the problems which will have to engage the attention of the Admiralty. They are difficult, they are novel, but I am sure that under the very able Board which my right hon. Friend has around him Obey will be well solved. There is another point as to the disposition of our Fleets. "We were told by the Secretary of State for War that we have now got a fleet of armed vessels on the Caspian Sea. To me that was a very surprising announcement. It came out quite accidentally in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The North Sea—I have just rubbed up a little of my geography—is 120,000 square miles. The Caspian Sea is 170,000 square miles—that is 50,000 square miles larger than the North Sea. What real good can any Admiralty Squadron do in the Caspian Sea in helping to put down a revolution, say, in the centre of Russia. I should have thought that you might as well have gone up to the Zoo and tickled the rhinocerous with a feather. I do not understand what this expedition can do in the Caspian Sea. It must be very costly. I do not know whether we shall have an explanation of it by the Admiralty. I hope that provision is being made for the safely of these men should they be in any danger of being overwhelmed out there. We have got detachments scattered all over the world. Some of these detachments have received very severe treatment. I hope that the health of the men is being well cared for and that everything for their comfort is being done. I put that as a minor point beside the. question of policy, but I trust that my right hon. Friend in introducing the Naval Estimates will be able to give us in clear terms, and in the lucid language which he always employs, a plain statement of the purposes and policy of the Government with regard to these Russian expeditions.
It was rumoured some time ago—I trust that it is not true—that a large Fleet was to be based at Malta. I remember when I was at the Admiralty that from 1905 to 1908 we had great battles to bring ships home to base them on Britain. I remember being a subordinate then and trying to help my old friend, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher, and I can say that the country does not know yet how much it owes to Lord Fisher for having concentrated our Fleets in the North Sea, where they have had to be for the last four and a half years. Of course there is a temptation for a great Fleet to be based on Malta. Every admiral when he comes out of port likes to have a long string of ships behind him; but the real base of the British ships today is Britain. Malta is an enervating station. One of the matters which must be taken into consideration is that though our sailors if sent to do their duty will do it, a large number of the men of the Navy to-day are married men, and want to be based near their homes, if possible. I wish every success to Admiral Lord Jellicoe, who is the adored commander of the Grand Fleet, on his voyage to ensure the co-operation of the British Empire in naval matters.
I come now to a point that has been exciting my mind for some time, that is the future officers of the British Navy. I am one of these who hold that the education at Osborne and Dartmouth is probably the finest in the world, but it costs the parents about £120 a year. It costs the State £200 per year; it costs every parent who sends a boy to Osborne before that lad becomes self-supporting, and he will not run riot on the pay he gets at twenty years of age, something like £1,000 in educational fees. That means that the officers are drawn from one class, that is a class that can afford to pay £1,000 for the education of one boy. The British Navy wants the best British brains. I do not care whether the boy is a duke's son or a cook's son. All who are fit to go into the Navy should be permitted to go into the Navy, and these unfitted to be in the Navy, however blue blooded and aristocratic, should be cleared out of the Navy. I cannot help thinking that we should so far as is possible draw from all sections of the community in the British Isles the officers for the Navy. We know what splendid fellows are the petty officers and chief petty officers who are in the Navy to-day. They are deserving of all praise, and they are gentlemen as much as are many of the officers. I do hope my right hon. Friend will lay down this principle that we should have a wider selection, and that the depth of the parent's purse should be no criterion of the son's brain. May I allude to the question of the lower deck and the men of the lower deck to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred in his speech. They have had genuine and legitimate grievances, and there has been no real and proper method for them to express them. We have Members from the dockyards who come here and they make speeches about the grievances of the lower deck, but the dockyard Members unfortunately are always suspect of endeavouring to please their constituents.
I do not know why, but it is so. It is the House which is suspicious, not myself. I know that the hon. and gallant Member who asks "why" is always animated by the purest and most patriotic motives.
The Army is far more numerous than the men in the Navy, and therefore every Member is interested in them, but the lower deck has been voiceless and voteless. It is largely due to the tact of the officers that there has not been more trouble than there has been in the Navy. I remember the time when I was at the Admiralty and my right hon. Friend was Parliamentary Secretary, when on 7th November, 1906, owing to the tactlessness of some there was an occurrence at Portsmouth Barracks and there was an order given and things went wrong, and there was an explosion. But what I am talking about is far more serious, and refers to last year. I do not want to particularise, but I can if you wish. The conditions were very, very serious, as the representatives of the Admiralty know, at the end of last year, and I think they would have been more serious had it not been for the tact of the officers, and I can quite understand it. The men of the lower deck are not machines. They saw in the newspapers, and they heard of the rise in the rates of pay of civilians, and that reacted upon them in the increased price of food on their wives and families. They were not making big profits; they were risking their lives daily in their ceaseless vigil in the North Sea or the Channel, or they might have been swooping mines in the Heligoland Bight. But undoubtedly there was at the end of last year grave unrest in the Navy—[HON. Members: "No, no!"]—and that grave unrest was aggravated by the publicity. [An Hon. Member: "There was no grave unrest!"] I do not want to be violent, but I think I am correct in saying that a match would have touched an explosion. My hon. Friend may not know, but I happen to know, and if I am challenged as to what preparations were being made I can tell the Committee. It was not because of war weariness, and not because of any disloyalty to the officers, but because of pay and other grievances gradually accumulating, there was being prepared a striking act of insubordination. I am certain of that. It was not anything like the mutiny of 1797, but there was something which was very serious, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend has appointed Admiral Jerram and a Committee to inquire into these grievances. I believe Sir David Beatty has also appointed two Grand Fleet Committees. I hope these men will be treated well. They ought to be treated well, they have deserved well of the country. My right hon. Friend gave us to understand that the advances given last September were only an instalment.
And that the men of the lower deck would have more. I have trust in the consideration of this matter by Admiral Jerram's Committee. I have heard of the great prudence of that Committee, and I believe that they have really won the confidence of the men. That is the information. I get, and of the good impression that has been created by the very fair and courteous and painstaking manner in which they have taken the evidence, and the sympathetic way in which they have received the recital of the men's undoubted grievances. May I suggest, when the matter goes to the Admiralty, that it should be dealt with by the representatives of the Admiralty and the Treasury sitting together, instead of the Admiralty having first to consider the matter and
then sending it to the Treasury for their consideration? I think that is a suggestion which might well be followed by my right hon. Friend. I make it because I want to avoid delay and dilatory action, and I know my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will be very sympathetic. He has often had to stand up here to answer for the sins of others. I know his position. I know how hard he has worked, and how sympathetic He has been towards the men. No one knows it better than I do, because we were colleagues for some years. Sometimes in the Navy it is thought there is the Financial Secretary, who has got plenty of money to spend. That is not so, and it must be remembered that my right hon. Friend has often to be the mouthpiece of decisions with which possibly he does not agree. Can there be any machinery for the future with regard to such matters as I have been adumbrating now? The men, by Article 11 of the King's Regulations, and rightly so from one point of view, are forbidden anything like combination. They may not even approach the commanding officer in combination. It must be individually, and anything like combination is contrary to the Regulations. The Regulation dealing with the point says:
Every person is fully authorised individually to make known to his superior officer any proper cause of complaint, but individuals are nut to combine, either for the appointment of committees or in any other manner, to obtain signatures to memorials, petitions and applications, nor are they to collectively sign any such document.
I would suggest to my right hon. Friend to consider whether it would not be possible to devise some machinery whereby men in the lower deck, who can only individually approach their officer, and naturally they do not care to do that in the case of any personal matter, could make their grievances known. I do not make any remarks I have made in any polemical or party sense, but simply and solely with a view to rendering more efficient the great Service of which we are so proud and which has saved us in the past. The Navy has proved to be the sure shield of this country, and it is not only the officers but the men of the lower deck, the chief petty officers, petty officers, and men, who have made the British Navy the incomparable instrument which it is. I am perfectly certain that this House will desire to treat these men with that generosity which their great and inestimable services merit.
Lieutenant - Commander NORMAN CRAIG:
At the time of the outbreak of war, according to our respective ages and abilities, we all endeavoured to do what we could in serving our country. For my part, I was at that time by profession a lawyer, but the accident of love of the sea with a practical knowledge of yachting enabled me, first of all, to get a commission in the Royal Naval Reserve and subsequently in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. I have during the past four and a half years been, in a sense, a sea lawyer, not carrying the implication, I hope, and certainly not on the speech I desire to make, that one seeks to make small points for personal advantage, because what I wish to do is to speak with a good deal of sincerity and a good deal of seriousness as the result of the experience I have derived during four and a half years as a naval officer. During that period, and until the ignominious surrender of the German Fleet, following the tradition of the Navy, I, like every other naval officer, held my peace. The necessity for that silence is no longer apparent, and the example of the great Commander-in-Chief Admiral Lord Jellicoe, by the publication of his experiences during the first portion of the War, certainly justifies me as a junior officer in submitting to the Committee, to whom, I think, it may be an advantage, some ideas, as we are considering to-day what future naval expenditure is to be sanctioned and how it is to be guided. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), who has just spoken, appears to me, in the light of the experience I derived as a naval officer, to have shown what surprising results a sanguine temperament and short memory can produce. The right hon. Gentleman should know, if he does not know, the peril in which this country stood from a naval point of view at the outbreak of war as a consequence of successive years of the Administration of which he was a member. It is because that peril has passed, and because that peril was so real, far more real than I believe this country or even this Committee know, and because the margin of security was at times so small, that I think it is necessary now, in considering the new expenditure to be made and the new provisions, to bear in mind the lessons we should have learned, if we have not learned them, from naval warfare. We have heard from time to time eulogies passed upon the present Secretary of State for War, who was First Lord of the Admiralty at the outbreak of war, for having the Fleet mobilised. We have heard that and seen it over and over again. What we have not seen is what is equally true and far more grave, and that was that though the Fleet was mobilised there was not for that Fleet when war broke out one of the accessories which alone make the existence of a fleet possible or efficient. That was a state of things which I would commend to the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton.
We had, under the guidance of the two First Lords who held sway at the Admiralty before the War broke out, grudgingly granted to us capital ships, and to that extent they deserve the credit that these capital ships were supplied, and they were supplied in the face of the objection of these who in these party days owed allegiance to them. They provided capital ships by a narrow margin of safety. The other things which make the Fleet safe were non-existent. It is just because that was the condition then, and because the risk was so great then—far greater than the people of this country ever knew—that in advancing the Vote on Account of Estimates again it must be made certain that under the new administration of the Admiralty there can be no recurrence of any such danger as then occurred. We had a certain superiority in capital ships. It was a narrow one, and I remember early in the War, when two battleships were in collision and both had to dock, that that narrow margin of superiority in capital ships had well-nigh disappeared. Our destroyer force was utterly insufficient, and, as regards oversea ability, was actually less than the destroyer force of the Germans alone. Our submarines were outnumbered and had not either the radius of action or the gun-power of these of the enemy. Our aerial reconnaissance was non-existent. The Zeppelin, in its true usefulness, does not bomb undefended towns, but as the eyes of a fleet it is at the lowest estimate equal to two light cruisers, and some people put it as high as the equivalent of six light cruisers. Our aerial reconnaissance at the outbreak of war was non-existent. Our armour-piercing shell was inferior to that of the enemy. The protection of our cruisers—the deck protection and the hull protection alike—was inferior to that of the enemy; and all these things presuppose equality in action, and that is what an island people attacked by a continental people never have. Your moment of danger as an island people is the enemy's selected moment, and your average moment has always to be such that it presents elements of safety against the chosen moment of the enemy. That you had not at the beginning of the War. During the progressive administration since the War began and since other hands have guided the ship, the position has progressively improved, until, thanks to the efforts of various First Lords and First Sea Lords who have thrown such energy, enterprise, and initiative into their work, when the end of the War came security came with it. But you, an island people, had no right to be in such a position when war broke out that you were gambling on a narrow margin of safety, when you, an island people, were fighting a continental people whose first arm was an army, when you had to meet with your average moment the selected moment of the enemy. You live in an island here, and your island is the centre of an Empire and the symbol of an Empire. What railways are to continental nations the seven seas are to you. Interrupt them, and you interrupt the whole arterial life and system of your Empire. Unless you keep these seven seas open, and open without question, you are gambling with your destiny. You can have military disasters, you can fail over and over again as an island people if you have got your Navy and got that behind the Navy to keep the Navy strong and safe; you can fail over and over again from a military point of view, but one Naval disaster means the destruction of Empire to an island people.
I want to make sure, and I want the Committee to have the benefit of the experience that I, a lawyer, have derived from being for four and a-half years a Naval officer. I say that in the administration of the Admiralty which preceded the War the Government were guilty of criminal folly in paltering with the safety of the country. You had none of the accessories which make a navy safe. I will go rapidly through the sort of things that matter, and first I will take ships, and then I will take those things which are more important, perhaps, even than ships. At the outbreak of war the Germans had ninety-six destroyers at thirty knots, and forty-eight destroyers at between twenty-six and thirty knots. What had we? We had seventy-six destroyers, nearly half of them unequal to that speed, and only forty of them could serve with the Grand Fleet; the remainder were working at Harwich. You had your Tribal class of destroyers at Dover, and the River class serving on the East Coast. You had not sufficient destroyers to screen your Grand Fleet battleships alone, and you had not destroyers to screen your battle cruiser squadron You had not enough if they were always at sea, and when the Fleet had to stay at sea it had to be without a destroyer screen; or else the Fleet had to go back to its bases. That was because your supply of smaller craft was utterly inadequate. Those forty, a number which was worked up to 100 serving with the Grand Fleet, made no provision for ships refitting or under repair, no margin for losses, no margin for escorts, no margin for checking enemy raids, no margin for submarine chasing, no margin for the multifarious other duties which fall upon destroyers. The same story was true of submarines. Germany had twenty-eight fit for oversea work, four of them perhaps not too good, against our seventeen, of which eight were of doubtful advantage. We had a number of others, thirty-seven, I believe, uneffective for oversea work. There again we were at a disadvantage compared with the enemy, an enemy primarily relying on military force, you in the last resort only depending on naval security. Mine-laying—precisely the same story. We were utterly unprovided. The enemy were highly developed, both offensively and defensively, in the art of mining and in the material necessary to its application. Mine-sweeping—exactly the same. We had an utterly inadequate number of mine-sweepers and an inadequate speed. We had again the unpleasant alternative of sending the Fleet to sea into possible minefields either without sweepers working ahead or with sweepers working ahead at ten knots, so that you had to choose between the danger of working your Fleet into a minefield which had not been explored by sweepers in advance or of your Fleet risking from torpedoes perhaps more than they risked from mines. That is the sort of condition in which under previous administrations at the Admiralty our Fleet was placed when the terrible menace of this War developed at the end of 1914.
So much for the ships. The story of the other accessories is even worse. It is hardly credible, but it is true that there was not one defended base in the whole of this Kingdom to which our Fleet could go when War broke out. I have seen it—and one can say it now and say it with shame to these who held the reins of government and held their duty so light—I have known the Grand Fleet hunted from pillar to post, not because of its lack of power, but because it was not fighting another Grand Fleet, because it was in danger of being chased about by little submarine craft and smaller craft. Whether it was Scapa, whether it was Cromarty, Rosyth, Loch Ewe, or Lough Swilly, there was not when War broke out one single place, one single base, to which the British Fleet could go and be safely at anchor, even during coaling, even during repairs, even during refuting, and the peril of being in port was to these who had the anxiety of great command a greater anxiety that being at sea with the Fleet. In considering what is to be done for the future, I hope there will never be again in the history of this country a recurrence of such a criminal risk to the State, as to imperil the one arm, the sure shield that my right hon. Friend opposite refers to so glibly, but which I cannot help thinking he might have made a little surer during the time that he had a share in its control. Scapa, at the outbreak of the War, was utterly defenceless against destroyers and submarines. There were not even guns there. Guns had been talked of, but none had been mounted. One of the first things the Fleet had to do when they got to Scapa Flow was to land twelve-pounder and three-pounder guns to defend that great area of water, with its many entrances, against possible enemy attacks. Surely that is a serious indictment against those who were responsible for naval administration before this War broke out. Here was a great area of water, with many entrances, with no searchlights, no obstruction, no guns. And the greatest, the proudest, the most powerful Fleet in the world goes there, the chosen harbour—because in Admiralty discussions in pre-war days no other basis was selected as the basis from which the Fleet could work in the event of war with Germany—with no obstruction, no guns, no searchlights, no mines, and twelve-pounder and three-pounder guns landed from the ships to assist against destroyer attacks but utterly useless against submarine attacks. Hurried efforts were made to sink ships to block the waterways—a process of months.
For months and months after war broke out the great British Fleet was being hunted from pillar to post, and when we are voting money for Naval Estimates let us see that these who have succeeded to this great responsibility are not guilty of the crimes—for they are crimes—against the nation and the Empire of which the Government which preceded this War was guilty. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Lambert) may laugh, but if he had seen what some of us have seen, he certainly would not laugh if he had any sense of the responsibility he owes his country. Cromarty was in exactly the same position. It had guns, but in other respects no obstruction. Rosyth—some guns but no obstruction. Lough Ewe—nothing at all. The Fleet was there in August, 1914, but was chased away as soon as it got there. Lough Swilly—nothing at all, A flimsy obstruction was hastily put down by the Fleet itself in October, 1914. And these were the bases—and the only bases—from which the Fleet was to work, and when we went to war, and were reposing behind our sure shield, it is well the country should know, now that the naval peril is past, that the margin of security in favour of our Navy when war broke out was—if we had had any enterprising enemy—too near to make it nice to talk about even now. The result was that in those early days of the War the Grand Fleet had to remain at sea, because it was safer at sea than it was in harbour. The Grand Fleet had to coal hurriedly and get back to sea, because in its harbour bases it was less safe than it was upon the sea.
So much for the bases. Floating docks are another example of the sort of accessory to a fleet. At Scapa, the selected northern base, there was none. At Cromarty there was none. The decision had been arrived at by the Board that, if war broke out with Germany, northern bases having been selected to work from, a floating dock should be moved from a southern base—Portsmouth—to Cromarty. One was moved, and later in the War—in 1916—another one was also moved. At all these bases there were no floating docks, no accessories—nothing in the way of preparation or precaution to make the Fleet efficient. Owing to this arrangement, the Fleet was in the northern bases, and all the accessories were down in the Channel, at the various dockyards and bases there. Your Fleet in the North of Scotland, your accessories in the South of England. That was how we went to war, and the preparations made for a sure shield, as understood by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton—
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that I am talking about the position as it was at the outbreak of war. That position has been changed since other Administrations have come in. It has progressively improved since then in every respect; but I am speaking of it as it then was. I am speaking of it as a risk that was then taken.
I do not think I need go back so far as that, nor have I the details in my hand. I have dealt with bases and with floating docks. Let me give you one other instance—tugs. There were practically none. I was a witness of the loss of the "Audacious" in October, 1914, and was actually with her all the day. The Fleet was then at Lough Swilly. The "Audacious" struck a mine at nine o'clock in the morning and blew up at nine o'clock the same evening. She was afloat all the day from twelve to fifteen miles from Lough Swilly, and the Grand Fleet—or a large portion of it—was there. She had come a long way under her own steam to within twelve or fifteen miles of Lough Swilly. All that day, as I saw her, the heavy sea was running up to her aft-barbettes, but the bulkheads held, and, as she raised herself, she showed her stern all that day, and in twelve hours she was down. The Grand Fleet was at Lough Swilly in 1914, but do you think there were any tugs there? There were none, except a little thing called the "Flying Buzzard," and actually, at the end of 1914, there was a capital ship worth over two millions of money, and representing one-twentieth part of the super-Dreadnought Fleet of Admiral Jellicoe, lying fifteen miles at most from port, and they had to send a collier called the "Thornley" to try and tow her into harbour. That is the sort of provision that was then made. That is the sort of thing that I hope and believe my right hon. Friend the present First Lord, will not allow to happen again. I saw the "Olympic'' trying to tow the "Audacious," but the great steel hawser snapped like cotton in the heavy sea. I believe the ship could have been saved—and I am not alone of that opinion—if tugs had been available, as big ships cannot salve one another. That is another example of the light-hearted and irresponsible way in which the naval defences wore conducted in pre-war days, and I do beg this Committee that it wall see we do not get a repetition of this sort of tiling. Capital ships put in the front windows, and everything else that makes these capital ships effective non-existent! It is not honest. We started utterly unprovided.
The various Boards of Admiralty which have existed since then—all honour to them—have worked hard, and have altered the whole conditions—altered the whole balance of power in every respect during the progress of the War, until, at the time of the German surrender, there was no alternative for the German Fleet but surrender or defeat. We won through. That sort of traditional luck of muddling through has gone on too long with us in this country. I do not want to see the luck of the British Army applied as a byword to the Navy, so that we can only win by the luck of the British Navy. It is too serious for the British Navy to live on luck. If we had had an enemy less lacking in enterprise than the Germans proved themselves from a naval point of view, we might have found ourselves in a very serious place in the early days of the War. They never attacked our undefended bases or our Channel traffic or transport. They showed themselves throughout utterly lacking in enterprise. If you had transferred—and, after all, it is the test of security—British submarine officers to German submarines, and told them to harass the British Navy at the beginning of the War, I do not like to be too sure about what the result would have been to our proud Navy and our great history. The position was far more grave than is commonly known in this country. I felt strongly about the matter ever since I joined as a Reserve Naval officer, but I held my peace, because until the naval menace was past, and certainly so long as I was a naval officer, it was my duty to hold my tongue, but I do want this Committee to realise, while the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord gives a triumphant record of the services of the Navy during the War, that beating the big drum is not everything. You beat the big drum because you have won. I very much doubt whether we ever deserved to win. We have won. Let us be thankful for it. Let us also learn the lesson to which our experience points. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord, in so far as he has anything to say in dealing with the Conferences in Paris, particularly in regard to the League of Nations and the freedom of the seas, will see, as I believe he does see, how real a necessity a real Navy is to this country and to this Empire. Peace prattlings are all very pretty to countries that are on the Continent. "Freedom of the seas" is a pretty expression, too, but not very interesting to these who do not fare by the sea. To these who are surrounded by the sea, and whose possessions are flung wide all over, the phrase "the freedom of the seas" holds quite a different meaning. I do hope my right hon. Friend, in discussing this matter, in case the opportunity occurs to him, will bear in mind the difference in the position of this country of ours and the Empire centring round it, and the position 6f Continental peoples. "Freedom of the seas" let there be, and conferences to consider the naval points of view. Let them open the Dardanelles, the Black Sea, and the Baltic, and the freedom of the seas will be greater than before the War. This freedom of the seas has never been fettered by our Navy, never to any ships faring upon the sea and performing lawful actions. In considering naval problems and naval perplexities, I hope the First Lord will bear in mind the difference of this country compared with the countries of the Continent. For the rest, in asking this Committee for money for naval purposes, I hope the Committee will bear in mind through what a period of grave peril we passed through in the early part of the War from the naval point of view. We trifled with destiny, even from the naval point of view. We have been forgiven. I hope in that forgiveness we shall not lose the lessons that the experience of the War has taught us.
In addressing this Committee for the first time, I hope the Committee will extend their leniency towards me. Like the last speaker, I served in the Fleet throughout the War with the exception of the first two or three months, and I come to this House direct from the ship on which I have been serving. I should like, if I may, to submit a few remarks for the consideration of the Committee which are the result absolutely of my personal experience and my personal knowledge. The first subject to which I should like to allude is the question of naval pay. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton alluded to the fact that at the end of last year there was considerable unrest in the Navy. I can say from my own personal experience that that statement was perfectly correct. I do not mean that I agree with every thing the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I do say that at the end of last year the state of affairs in the Navy was by no means satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman made one remark which pleased me very much, because in it he did justice to these who really did their level best to settle the matter. He said it was owing to the officers' tactfulness that the unrest did not assume more formidable proportions. That is a fairly true statement of what actually happened. The unrest was due to two causes. The one was demobilisation, and the other was pay. On the question of pay the Admiralty set up, as we have heard, Admiral Jerram's Committee. This is going round the ports, and I trust they are now busy' compiling their Report. The Commander of the Grand Fleet at the same time set up four Committees, A, B, C and D, to deal with the same question. I have asked in this House on two occasions already that as soon as the Reports came before these Committees they might be placed at the disposal of Members of the House. I do not wish to be thought exaggerating, but I venture to say that if reports of the evidence are made public and placed at the disposal of this House, that there will be a great deal of indignation throughout the country at the way in which the Navy has been treated in the past in the matter of pay, and in the way the Navy has suffered.
On the question of pay, I do not wish to differentiate in any way between officers and men. I have always found—at least I will not say always—but I have in the past found when people discuss the question of pay there is often a wish to differentiate between the pay of the officers and the pay of the men. I should like to point out some things in connection with pay that affects the naval officer and the naval man. First of all, the sailor has to keep up two establishments. That involves a very heavy tax upon his purse. This particularly applies not only to the officers, but to the men actually serving in the Grand Fleet during the War. Then there has been a great rise in the cost of living. All this has affected the men of the Navy very much indeed. I should like to point out the position of the officer. The evidence given before these committees I cannot exactly quote, but I am in touch with, and I know personally, a good many officers who gave evidence before the officers' committee, and I may say that the hardships which the officers have suffered during the War owing to the rise in the cost of living and their own bad pay have been such that their position has been absolutely desperate. They have had a difficulty in providing food and clothing and also in keeping up the two establishments. In many cases, in order to do it their savings have gone. They have had to give up their life insurances and to borrow money. They have had their wives and families, in many cases, dependent upon charity. They have come through the War very heavily in debt. This statement, I think, the right hon. Gentleman will know is a true one. If the country could only see the evidence given before that committee, it would cause a great wave of indignation.
Not only so, but the only hope for the great many naval officers—and it affects the officers particularly—appears to lie in the prospects of their obtaining gratuities and prize money. On the question of prize money the Navy so far has absolutely no assurance. We hear rumours of delay in the distribution of prize money. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there is any truth in these rumours? These rumours of delay make me and naval officers generally very suspicious. They do not like the delay. They cannot see really why at the end of four and a half years—now nearly five years—they should be still waiting for their prize money. It is the only hope of the naval officer—that he will be able to obtain a gratuity and prize money, a capital sum in order to put him on his feet. Another thing: Officers and men have noticed what is the effect of direct action. I should like to read some of the remarks of the Commander-
in-Chief of the Grand Fleet which he issued as a guide to the Grand Fleet Committees to which I have alluded. He said:
It is no good trying to rob Peter to pay Paul. Comparisons are odious. Do not compare your hard lot with what you imagine to be the more favourable position.…The country has heavy burdens in taxation and increased cost of living, and naval officers and men must bear some share.…For the guidance of the Committees I may say it is legitimate to hope that such improvements in pay and prospects will be possible as will prevent officers and men suffering hardships which they would not have to suffer had pre-war conditions remained unchanged…
The sailor has seen the effect of direct action outside the Service. Also dockyard labour has been employed on beard ships of the Grand Fleet during the War, and you have had cases where L.T.O., torpedo ratings, have been employed in wiring work, especially alongside, say, electrical fitters from the dockyard. Two men cannot fail to compare their rates of pay, and, as a matter of fact, this has been very much to the detriment of the sailor. Another thing I should like to point out is that these Committees of the Grand Fleet itself sent in their Report, roughly, six weeks ago. They are still hung-up waiting for the Report of Admiral Jerram's Committee. The demands which they submitted are intended to be, both in the case of officers, and men, the absolute minimum. What I should like to submit to the right hon. Gentleman is the fact that if these demands are cut down in any way it will increase very much the suspicion—an unfounded suspicion—with which I regret to say the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty has been regarded ever since he made the reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh on 4th April, 1917. I will not read that reply. It is urged by a lot of people that the naval officer and the sailor are all right; that they have got their pension. But the pension is not treated as a right. It is not even treated as deferred pay. A pension can be withheld. It is not necessarily granted to the officer, or even, I believe, to the men. In any case it can be withheld for misconduct. I should also like to point out that the pension is treated for the purposes of Income Tax as unearned income. Anybody can see that the pension comes very far from making good the deficiency in the pay. I was glad to hear what the First Lord said when he talked on the subject to-day, because I think the
matter will be sympathetically dealt with. I urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that this question should be dealt with and dealt with quickly, and the question of how much should be given in regard to the demands put forward by the officers and men should be seriously considered and not cut down if possible. I will give two quotations on this point. Adam Smith says,
Honour forms a considerable part of the reward of the honourable professions.
Dr. Johnson says,
No man with sufficient contrivance to get into prison would go to sea.
I think probably the happy mien would be somewhere nearly right, but I should like to point out that if there is too much honour about it it will be very difficult to get the able men you require to man the Navy. With regard to half-pay, the First Lord of the Admiralty, in introducing the Estimates, foreshadowed a large reduction in the Navy. The effect of that should be clearly understood. This will enormously reduce opportunities for employment on the part of naval officers and men. I believe it is estimated that something like 200 to 300 captains will probably have to retire or go on half-pay. All officers with the rank of lieutenant and above are liable to half-pay, but the men are not liable to it. After the Napoleonic Wars there was very great distress in this country, and what I want to urge as strongly as I can is that no officer willing to serve should be placed upon half-pay whether employed or not, and all officers should be allowed to draw lodging and provision allowance, half-pay being reserved for these not wishing to go to sea and cases of misconduct. If an officer has to go on half-pay the Admiralty should make a real endeavour to find him employment.
This morning I got a pamphlet from the Minister of Labour entitled, "The Resettlement of Officers." I have read it with interest, but I could not find in it a single paragraph that referred to a regular officer of the Royal Navy. I found allusions to temporary officers, but the position in regard to temporary and regular officers is very different. A temporary officer has very often his business connection, and he must go back to the life he led before the War. A permanent officer, however, is educated in the Navy, and the Admiralty take him away from civil life at the age of twelve or fourteen, and they have educated or have not educated him, and have made him what he is. If an officer is willing to serve, and the Admiralty cannot employ him, they should see that he receives employment. I think we should follow the example of America. Before the War they had very much the same problem; they had more officers than they could employ, and an American naval officer before the War only served two-fifths of his time in the Navy and the remainder of the time he was employed on shore.
There is a great demand in America for the employment of naval officers. The Admiral who lately commanded the Sixth Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet (Admiral Rodman), was the traffic manager of the Panama Canal, a position which he filled to the advantage of the Navy and himself. I hold that it is better that officers should be employed rather than be a burden to the State, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman really meant it when he said that the question of half-pay would be dealt with sympathetically from this point of view.
The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last made a very formidable indictment against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton, and he said many things which are perfectly true. He said that at the beginning of the War we had no refitting bases, and he enumerated a large number of other things which we had not got. What is the reason that we had not got them? Because we had no real naval staff, and even to-day we have not got a proper naval staff. I earnestly urge that as soon as possible a real thinking naval staff should be got together. The Secretary forward has alluded to the possibility of a great General Staff for the Army, and I believe that is an ideal which is very earnestly desired in the Army. At any rate, there is no prospect of the Navy being able to co-operate effectively until we really have our naval staff. At the outbreak of war we had no war plans and no battle orders, and the fact that we escaped disaster at the outbreak of war was entirely a matter of luck. Before the War everything was worked out in terms of "Dreadnoughts" and destroyers, but we want a school that will provide us with a real staff which will think of strategy and the necessary defences of our naval bases, and we should, through the Chief of the Staff, be able to urge all that is required upon the Admiralty to the utmost of our power.
One other point I wish to allude to is the Battle of Jutland. In the Press lately we have seen a great, uninformed discussion going on upon the Battle of Jutland. We have had two books, one written by the Commander-in-Chief, who took part in that action, and the other written by a very eminent civilian critic. There have also been many newspaper articles as well. What I urge upon the First Lord is that we should have a real and proper Committee of Inquiry set up, and that it should have power to go into all the operation orders, the signal logs of all the ships, and all the papers should be examined in connection with that action. That Committee should take the line of the Committee set up after the Battle of Trafalgar, because it is bad for the Navy that you should have a discussion, and an uninformed discussion, and people saying hard things which are probably not founded on fact. I am sure if we know the facts the country will be able to judge.
The question of Antwerp is one which concerns me intimately, as I had the honour of taking part in these operations. So far as my information goes, these operations are not understood by the country. The people understand that a British force took part in the Antwerp operations, and that a Naval Division was employed. What I urge is that the First Lord of the Admiralty should make a statement or inform the country whether those operations were part of a great strategic plan or not. What was the object of those operations—and we should also know whether the object was attained? We want to know who was responsible for the capture and internment of so large a number of the force employed. I have endeavoured so far as I can to bring to the notice of the Committee, at any rate, one or two of the problems which most closely affect the Navy to-day. I can only urge on the Committee that the Navy is very seriously considering these problems. They are thinking of them almost night and day in many cases, and I do urge that as part of the great debt of gratitude which the country owes to the Navy these questions should be sympathetically and generously treated.
Rear-Admiral Sir REGINALD HALL:
I crave that indulgence and consideration which this House so generously accords to one who addresses it for the first time. I would not have presumed to speak so soon after taking my seat, but, finding the House in Committee on the Navy Estimates, I make bold to think that I may be able to contribute something to the discussion. I am happy in the honour of being a representative of one of the greatest mercantile ports in the world, and I venture, on behalf of the Royal Navy, to associate myself wholeheartedly with the world wide admiration for the imperishable gallantry of the officers and men of the British Mercantile Marine during the War. They have placed us under a debt of gratitude difficult to fully repay. I beg to thank the First Lord for his references to the officers and men of the Fleet, references which, I am sure, will be warmly appreciated by my Into comrades of the sea. How well deserved are these references is not yet fully realised, but when the promised statement of the effort of the British Fleet is laid on the Table I am convinced that these who read it will be amazed that so small a band of men should, by their patient effort and endurance, have contributed so dominating an influence to the success of the Allied cause.
Under the heading of "Navy Estimates" there is quite a variety of subjects one is tempted to discuss, but I will only presume on the consideration shown to me by the Committee by alluding to two or three specific topics. The all-important question with the officers and men in the Navy at the present time is the question of pay. I cordially agree with what has been said, that in considering the question of pay it is not fair to include the question of pensions. A pension is regarded as unearned income, while pay is regarded as earned income. Apart from the fact that in an Empire such as ours our first line of defence must always be the Navy, I venture to think that the Fleet is one of the great educative factors. Our ships sail the Seven Seas, the officers and men are seen in our Dominions and in foreign countries, and they, in some degree, are an advertisement and propaganda of the manhood and sentiment of these Islands. They are taken as the standard of Great Britain, and on that ground alone I cannot help feeling that fair and just pay is not only their due, but is jolly good policy for the country. We cannot have it said of a great Empire like ours, so dependent upon its Navy, that its officers and men who are sent abroad are rated by their country at a scale of pay below that which they give to crossing sweepers. I rejoice that the First Lord of the Admiralty has touched upon the question of half-pay. I am fully aware that it is a question which only affects the officers, but if the Navy is to be, as it should be, a career which, will attract some of the best brains and the most adventurous spirits the pay which is given to the officers must be so consistent throughout their career that they can maintain not only themselves but their families. When an officer enters the Navy at the immature age of fourteen, he is at least an A1 or a grade 1 boy, and we want these A1 boys, when they grow up, to be A1 men and to have A1 children. Every officer, however, as he reaches the higher ranks, has to face with dismay a period of half-pay. I can assure the Committee that the rate of half-pay given to senior officers in the Navy is totally inadequate, and I trust it will be found possible to abolish entirely the principle of half-pay, except in cases of misconduct or where officers do not wish to serve.
Following upon the question of pay, I should like to say a few words on the question of pensions. It is one on which the men, I know, feel very strongly, and so do I. A man may have served in the Navy and have received his pension, but should he die the next day, then under the Regulations there is no pension for his widow. I cannot help thinking that the man by his service has earned the pension for his family, and it should be possible to make it so that if a man die within a reasonable period of earning his pension a generous proportion of the pension should be paid to his dependants. I am quite certain from what I know—and I have many friends on the lower deck—that the settlement of this question will go far to produce the contentment which I am quite certain we all wish to see. In recent years promotion from the lower to the upper deck has been widely spoken about. I welcome it, and I hope to see it further extended. It is quite possible now for a young, able man to be taken straight from the lower deck into the warrant room as a commissioned officer, where I can say with confidence that he is welcomed by the wardroom officers, because the wardroom on beard ship has the one great quality that it does not judge a man by his blood, but solely from the point of view whether he is a man and a good shipmate. I hope that before long we shall be able to see it made so that it may not only be possible for a good man to go up high in the Service, but probable that he will go up high and that he will be able to reach the very highest rank in the calling of the sea. It would be intolerable if we lowered that standard of efficiency which long experience has shown to be necessary for the sake of a false popularity by promoting men to the rank of lieutenant who are not competent to keep watch. It would be neither fair on the captain or the nation, but, providing that the standard of efficiency is maintained, there ought to be no limit to the position to which a man can rise if he has the ability.
I trust there is ample provision in the Estimate for personnel, both civil and naval. If the statements made by the hon. and learned Member for Thanet (Lieutenant-Commander Norman Craig) are correct, there can only be one conclusion, and that is that before the War there was no school for war. I think that is true. It was very largely due to the fact that the personnel at the Admiralty was so over pressed with work that it was difficult to say of any Department that it had time to think. I can speak from personal experience of the naval side. During the War the pressure was so great that we had to make repeated applications to the Treasury, because no naval officer can be appointed without the permission of the Treasury. But finally we got together a staff of naval officers of something like adequate dimensions, and the heads of the Departments were free to think and to work out major problems. I can assure the Committee that the German casualties during the last year of the War afforded ample justification for that increase in staff.
There is one point which is apt to be forgotten. Ships and men do not make a fleet. A fleet or a navy is a perfect living organisation. It is alive from the boy on the lower deck to the highest officer in the Admiralty. They are all part of a living organisation, and you cannot keep an organisation of that nature alive by treating it as a mere machine. If you try you are going to fail. Most of us can admire and remember with pride the wonderful discipline of the Fleet during the last four and a-half years of stress. It has been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) that there is the possibility of certain trouble. There may or there may not be, but as long as there was an enemy at our gate there was no trouble. I venture to think that the reason why there was no trouble was that there was the most perfect confidence established between officer and man. The men knew that so far as the War was concerned no officer would or did give an order which he himself was not prepared to carry out, and with regard to his position on beard ship, the men found by experience that the proper representation of complaints—I do not use the word grievance, it is a word which I hate—to the officer brought redress. In order to obtain that redress, representation had to be made by the officer to the Admiralty, and by the Admiralty to the Treasury. The reply came back through the same channel. That was the chain of confidence which was established before the War, and which has been more firmly cemented during the War.
You cannot expect in peace time to reorganise a Service such as ours, unless you got, first and last, good personnel. If you get good personnel good material will follow automatically. I would urge that there should be sufficient officers at the Admiralty who are in constant touch with the sea, so that when representations come from the Service regarding some complaint that complaint may be instantly and sympathetically dealt with, otherwise you cannot expect men to continue to trust their officers. I would rather see young officers somewhat ignorant of the higher mathematics and knowledge of material, but taught from the day they join the Service that their first duty is towards the men under their charge. I would urge with all the force at my command that nothing should be omitted which will tend to strengthen and foster that chain of confidence which we have now between the officer, the man, and the Admiralty. Maintain that, foster that, and act upon it, and I venture to say that we shall have no cause now or at any time to fear anything that will interfere with the efficiency of the Navy, which is at one and the same time our joy and our pride.
I am sure that the Committee would like to express its congratulations to the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down upon a very delightful and charming contribution to the discussion. I listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty with extreme interest, and I would join in his expressions of gratitude to the Navy for all that they have done for us during the War, and when we speak of the Navy we not only mean our fighting Service, but the Mercantile Marine as well. The First Lord was only placing on record the real sentiments of this House and the nation. Without the Navy we should have perished in this War. When one remembers that in August, 1914, the only thing that stood between civilisation and humanity and very nearly entire destruction was the comparatively small body of men which made up our Navy, no language can express our debt of gratitude, and no undertaking into which this House may enter, by way of honour or of pay, can give to these gallant men one-quarter of that which we owe them. This Estimate, after all, is a very formidable application when it is read in conjunction with the other figures which form part of the demands for the Army and the Air Services. One hundred and fifty million sterling for the Navy! That is what I consider the amount. I understand from my right hon. Friend that he will come again to the House of Commons and that upon that occasion we shall have an opportunity of entering into a more detailed discussion than can be usefully undertaken to-day. I feel, myself, that this discussion must be of rather an artificial character in face of the fact that we do not know what is really going to happen at the Peace Conference. If we only knew the commitments of this country we would be in a very much better position for discussing these Estimates than we can possibly be this afternoon. The Estimate amounts to-£60,000,000 on account, and it will in all come to £150,000,000. This, plus £440,000,000 for the Army and £65,000,000 for the Air Service, in a time of peace is an Estimate which would compel any Committee of the House of Commons to put in a caveat that an unanswerable case should be made out before we are asked to vote the amount.
The Labour party is bound to discuss this financial aspect of the question. We stand as a party in a peculiar sense for a programme of social reform, and no one could know better than we ourselves do that finance is the key to our social reform programme. That being so, we have to be more than ordinarily cautious in not associating ourselves with any Vote for a large sum of money—unless, indeed, it can be shown by the Minister speaking for the Department that the case is entirely unanswerable for voting that sum of money. I would not have the Labour party misunderstood on this matter. We know as members of this nation and as citizens of this Empire we are an island people who must depend on the Navy as our first line of defence, and consequently if there is to be any benefit of the doubt, the Labour party, with every other citizen of this country, must of necessity give the benefit of the doubt on the side of our great maritime defence. I feel, therefore, a little difficulty in discussing these figures, because the First Lord and the Government cannot tell us what the commitments of this country are likely to be in the future, and we shall not be able to know them until we become aware of the result of the Peace Conference. But I would like to have some kind of declaration on the part of the Government as to what it really means by asking us in a time of peace to enter into commitments of over£600,000,000. It is a really formidable amount for the Navy, Army, and the Air Services, and we are bound on every one of these Votes to raise this issue. I would have the First Lord believe, however, there is no one more desirous of seeing the members of the Navy paid, irrespective of their rank, the highest possible salary.
As a matter of fact, we shall have to recast our views about payment. I do not think we have a right as a nation to expect men to undertake the arduous duties of protecting these shores by service on the waters unless we can guarantee them a higher standard of life and comfort for their families and themselves than they would have had if they had followed some civilian occupation. When the First Lord comes down to the House and asks for a Vote on Account which means an increase in payment to the men of the Navy, I fissure him he will carry with him the Labour party every time. How are you going to know whether you give satisfaction to the members of the Navy unless they have an opportunity of expressing their desires? My right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) showed just now that, under existing regulations, it is a serious offence for members of the Navy to attempt in a collective sense to present their grievances either to their officers or to bring them before the Admiralty. That kind of thing has to be dealt with. We are living in a new world. The members of our Navy are brothers of our population, and they live side by side with others who have a right to protection through powerful organisation. It is really inviting trouble in the Navy for the Admiralty to decline to set up machinery which will give to members of the Navy an opportunity of presenting in a collective sense what they desire. As far as I can see, it is the inherent right of man to present in the most powerful way possible his complaints and grievances with a view to having them redressed.
We should be in a very difficult position if we granted the men of the Navy the right to strike. I can quite understand that Members of this House would stand aghast if I were to suggest at this table that the men of the Navy should have a right to strike. [An Hon. Member: "And to a six-hours' day?"] If the Navy man can do his work in six hours in the same way as we believe the colliers can do theirs, why not give it to them? There were over 400,000 miners who enlisted into the Army; 300,000 volunteered, and they had to stop recruiting. Therefore I should have no hesitation in standing here not only to defend the miners as good patriots, but as some of the best soldiers who were sent out from this country. I hope I shall not get into a contest with my hon. Friend on that point. What I wanted to say was this. I do see difficulty in giving the members of the Navy the same rights as they would enjoy if they were in civil occupation—the right to use the power of withholding their labour in older to bring pressure to secure better conditions of employment, but there is no reason why the Admiralty, or any other public Department, should not erect in place of the right to strike some machinery which shall allow these men to get that justice in the absence of the right to strike which they would have had if the principle of striking were the accepted principle to put into operation.
Take the case of the police. Some time ago this House would have looked askance at any proposal for allowing the police to present their grievances in a collective sense to the authorities, but to-day the police authority themselves have set up machinery by which the police force not only are able but are entitled to present-as a collective body their grievances. I submit very respectfully to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty that he would do no injustice to the country if he allows the right to set up machinery which will enable members of the Navy to present in a collective sense under proper regulations their grievances to the authorities. It is only in that way that we are going to deal with the new spirit abroad. You cannot keep down among your people legitimate grievances—you cannot by discipline keep down men who feel that they are aggrieved, and therefore I am presenting this idea, I hope in no improper spirit, but with a full sense of responsibility, because I believe that it is in this direction we shall save this land from many difficulties which other countries are having to face at this moment. I would suggest to my light hon. Friend that he should consult the Beard of Admiralty to see if some machinery cannot be set up under which the men of the Navy will be able to present in a collective sense their grievances.
Upon the general matter I have simply risen to say that my right hon. Friend will find us with him every time in improving the status and pay of the members of the Navy. But there is something more than that, and that is we must carry into the Navy the democratic spirit which the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last referred to. This is a democratic House of Commons. There is no more democratic assembly in the world than the British House of Commons. Here we never inquire whether a Member is the son of a duke or the son of a cook. He is judged not by his purse, but by his readiness to help in assisting towards a solution of the problems with which the House has to deal. I say carry that spirit into the Navy. Let all the channels be clear, so that when you are going to officer your Navy you will make it possible for members of the working classes to have an opportunity of sending their lads to the Osborne and Dartmouth schools, there to have a chance to be trained. I go all the way with my hon. and gallant Friend when he says that the men who are going to be placed in offices of responsibility must have the necessary knowledge, capacity and culture in order to create the atmosphere in which officers and men will be best able to act together. I am putting this forward as a democrat. My proposal is simply that, given brains and capacity, social rank ought not to be a bar or to afford an added opportunity, and if we are a democratic race, as I believe we are, then in that way we shall be doing the most popular thing if we clear all obstacles out of the way, so that the children of any class in this country may have the opportunity of being properly taught and trained to take the highest positions that this great branch of the British public service can offer. My right hon. Friend need have no misgivings as to the position of the British Navy in the hearts of the British people. It is the one thing which has no tinge of party polities about it. The British Navy is the shield we rely upon, and what has occurred in this War has surely placed its position beyond all shadow of doubt.
If my right hon. Friend goes to the Peace Conference, as I think he will have to, let me say at once I hope he will keep an eye upon what is called the Freedom of the Seas. We are an island people. Our frontier is the sea. The roads to the granaries of the world which have to feed us are the waters of the Seven Seas. Therefore, when the Freedom of the Seas is spoken about, it must have an entirely different meaning to the inhabitants of this island home of ours than it can possibly have to a nation with an entire land frontier. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I got up to speak to-night in no antagonistic spirit. We feel what we owe to the Navy. We are most anxious that the men of the Navy shall be paid at as high a standard of wage as they would have earned if they had spent their lives in civilian occupations; and if the right hon. Gentleman will come down here and assure that, and clear the way so as to allow the children of the working classes to aim at training, so that they may take part in the higher commands of the Navy, then surely this democratic race will have a democratic Navy to represent it. I commend the right hon. Gentleman for the tone and manner in which he has introduced these Estimates, and on the next occasion, I hope he will be able to come down to us and speak with greater detail. I simply put in my caveat against this enormous expenditure because I fear that we may be over-spending ourselves, and raising a barrier against our social reform programme. As long, however, as the right hon. Gentleman comes down with a defensible case for a vote he need not fear violent opposition or criticism from the members of the Labour party.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend, speaking as a Labour Member, made these remarks at the concluding part of the speech dealing with the Freedom of the Seas, because they will enable other nations to understand that nearly all parties in this country are united in their determination to maintain the British interpretation of what constitutes the Freedom of the Seas. I would like as an old Member of this House, who has taken part in Naval Debates now for many years past, to congratulate the Committee on the reinforcement which it has received in the person of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Liverpool (Rear-Admiral Sir R. Hall), and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon). The Committee testified, by its approving cheers, that their speeches had won its confidence, as they had already won the confidence of the electors. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Liverpool has rendered the most distinguished services in the Navy; he has been the head of the great Intelligence Department of the Navy; he has commanded battle cruisers; and he will bring to the House an experience of War and of the secrets of the Admiralty which will be most useful to us in our Debates. I am sure that the House needed reinforcement in Naval Debate. Very few naval officers found their way into this House, and it is largely because of the War, I suppose, that more have now come in. The man who has been out of the Navy any length of time soon gets out of touch with the latest developments in material and other matters. It is therefore most important that the House should constantly receive new Members who have experience of the Navy afloat and who are thoroughly in touch with conditions. I would like also to refer to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet (Lieutenant-Commander Craig). He, at the very outset of the War, gave up a great practice at the Bar, and joined the Navy in a very arduous, hard-working position. He has made a speech for the first time in our Naval Debates since the War began which, I think, has been a most valuable speech, and one which it would be well for hon. Members who were not present to read afterwards. He showed up the want of preparation, and he pointed to the want of a proper War Staff. He referred particularly to Scapa Flow and other ports; how they lacked all boom defences, all searchlights, and all guns. It was well known, four years toe fore the War, that Scapa Flow had been decided on as the base of the Grand Fleet. In regard to all the secrecy that was maintained, when you were not allowed to mention Scapa Flow, even with bated breath, I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty that in the year 1910 an article appeared in the "Glasgow Herald," giving a plan of Scapa Flow and a column and a half of description, saying that it was going to be the base for the Grand Fleet in War. Yet, when the War broke out, there were neither guns, booms, nor searchlights; and they had to denude the ships of their guns to provide any sort of defence against submarines. Three hundred years ago Sir William Monson wrote a book in which he pointed out: It is a well known and proper expedient to defend a harbour by means of booms and sconces to defend the booms. How is it that the Admiralty did not provide the necessary defences for the Fleet? The answer was quite conclusive. There was not a proper war brain at the Admiralty. There was no planning in regard to these problems. We have not really succeeded, even in this War, in creating a proper War Staff. A War Staff not merely makes plans, but directs plans. My right hon. Friend continually spoke of the Beard of Admiralty. He knows that the Beard of Admiralty, as at presented constituted, will always be overworked with details of administration. It would fill half a page to detail the duties connected with mere material which the Third Sea Lord performs. He cannot possibly give his brains, after considering all these details, to the consideration of war problem such as I have in mind, plans for the future, so that we shall go into war thoroughly prepared. He is absorbed in a mass of material, and I noticed that the First Lord of the Admiralty, in speaking of the work done at the Admiralty, spoke mainly of material. He spoke of ships, armaments, inventions, and material, but from our point of view material is much less important than that you should get clear thinking, and the right men into your War Staff.
I do not want to interrupt my hon. and gallant Friend, but that was not my attitude.
I heard the right hon. Gentleman deal with detail, but I did not hear him deal with the question of the War Staff, although I am sure he has that in mind. The right hon. Gentleman made another reference which seemed to me likely to lead to erroneous thinking. He said it would be idle to expect our experts to lay down the lines of war policy now. A naval expert does not lay down policy. The Cabinet lay down policy, and the naval expert afterwards comes into consideration, and lays down what armaments you will require to carry out the Cabinet's policy. He does advise the Cabinet—for instance, they will ask him about the freedom of the seas. In some cases, I think, he gives wrong advice. I think the advice he has given about sinking the German ships is advice which will not commend itself to any country, or to the people of this country. I do not think the advice he has given that we should put Heligoland below the level of the sea, costing anything from £2,000,000 to £3,000,000, will be advice that will commend itself to experts in other countries, or to the people of this country or any country. What I do think will commend itself to people generally is that Heligoland should be deprived of all its defences. These defences were built up by years of effort, and, if deprived of them, it would not be possible for Germany, by a coup de main,ever to put back the armaments before we could turn them out again. Therefore I think the advice given was wrong advice, and it shows the necessity of a good War Staff even at this moment.
My right hon. Friend the First Lord referred to the visit which Viscount Jellicoe is going to make to the Dominions, and said he hoped to find greater co-operation and co-ordination between our own and the Imperial Navy from that visit. It should be a sine quâ non, in regard to Lord Jellicoe's negotiations, that whatever we undertake to do we shall more than do, and that we shall not fail in our promises to the Dominions. My right hon. Friend knows quite well why I say that. The 1909 Agreement which we made with the Dominions to keep three battle cruisers on the Pacific station was broken in the year 1912 by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and it is a fact that the Dominions protested against the breach of faith, and that there was a saving on the Navy Estimates by withdrawing two of these battle cruisers from the Pacific. It was a curious fact that we had to send two battle cruisers out to the Falkland Islands to fight the "Gneisnau" and the "Scharnhorst," and they succeeded in clearing up the mess at once when they went there. But, had they been on the spot, as they should have been under the original agreement, we should never have had that long-drawn-out agony which led to the Battle of Coronel and the loss of the gallant Admiral Craddock.
I quite recognise that the First Lord of the Admiralty is new at his duties. I think we may congratulate him on the start which he has made. We may congratulate him on the speech which he has made. He has shown himself—his record in the past has shown—if he will allow me to presume a little by speaking of the matter, that he has the utmost sympathy with questions of pay of officers and men. He fought the battle in this House for the pay of the officers and men of the Army; he fought, not only in the House but outside the House, and secured essential reforms. I do not share the suspicion which has been expressed by some hon. Members of the Committee with regard to the action of the Admiralty over the Jerram Committee. I believe that the Admiralty mean business in regard to this matter of the pay of the officers and men, and therefore I do not feel it necessary to make any comments. The First Lord has said that we shall have another opportunity in May or June of criticising them if they do not come up to expectations.
Another question referred to in the course of the Debate was the question of promotion. I am not going to raise the question of promotion by selection again. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has had time to consider it. But I would point out to him that there has not been one single case of promotion by selection from the captains' list to the admirals' list, except in the case of Commodore Tyrwhitt, who was given the acting rank of rear-admiral. We have seen dozens of colonels promoted in the Army to the various higher ranks by selection, and we find that there that system works well. I submit that the system of limited selection for promotions from captain to rear-admiral is essential to the efficiency of the Navy. Then comes the question of the promotion from the lower deck. There is a tendency at the Admiralty to consider that as simply being promotion to commissioned rank. What the Committee, I think, asks for, is that the system of promotion from the lower deck should be an avenue to the very highest ranks in the Navy. They want to see it possible for it to happen in the Navy as it has happened in the Navy in the past when we were not a democracy, for a man to rise from the lower deck to the very highest position in the Navy, just as Sir William Robertson rose from the ranks in the Army to the highest position in the Army. That cannot be if the system is going to be an expensive one calling for large disbursements on the part of the father of a family. I would also submit to my right hon. Friend that he should consider this paint: The Osborne system is necessarily expensive. You enter a boy at thirteen. I do not agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) that it is the best education in the world. On the contrary, I have met a great many Naval officers and I believe the majority of the captains in the Grand Fleet have reported that the public schoolboys with only three months' Naval training have shown far greater Naval initiative than your forced product, the Osborne boy. If that is true, why do we go in for this huge cost of the Osborne system of training? I want my right hon. Friend to consider that question with an open mind and I would beg him not to yield to the political pressure which comes from the Isle of Wight and the vicinity of Portsmouth on this question.
Another point in regard to the War Staff is this: The Secretary of State for War has adumbrated a proposal for giving the war mind to officers of the Army, Navy, and the Air Service, so that they should consider their problems as a whole. If the War Staff is going to be isolated in naval circles or to be housed at Greenwich, you cannot possibly get that. They ought to work side by side at Camberley. I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that we should get rid of Greenwich, and that we should hand it over to the Imperial War Museum for a house. It is far too big for naval purposes. Your Naval War Staff should be housed at Camberley, where they could work side by side with the officers training the great Army War Staff, and ultimately they could be combined with the War Staff formed under these conditions. One other suggestion I should like to make to my right hon. Friend. There is practically no free discussion whatever in regard to the Navy The Royal United Service Institution is still occupied by the Censorship. It has been the deaf and dumb institute of this country for four and a half years. There is very great necessity for having the utmost discussion, and public discussion, too. I hope that in
regard to my right hon. Friend history is not going to repeat itself. He is known throughout the world for the great Muzzling Order, by which he saved this country from rabies, and he rendered a priceless service to the country in doing so. But we do not want a Muzzling Order for the Navy. We want the utmost discussion. In fact, a little hydrophobia would be a good thing. There are certain officers who are accounted mad, but in my opinion it would be a good thing, as George III. remarked of Wolfe, if they bit the other admirals, because the admirals' list is far too conservative. It is much too imbued with old methods, while it is the juniors to whom you have to look largely for the brains of your War Staff. I want to get rid of secrecy; that is why I have pleaded that we should have the Reports of the courts martial and the Reports of Committees like the Dardanelles Commission. In connection with that matter, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. H. Smith) asked a question at Question Time with regard to the escape of the "Goeben." I asked on the 26th February whether we might have the Report with regard to the escape of the "Goeben," also the Report of the Troubridge court-martial, and also papers in regard to the bombardments of the Dardanelles in March, 1915. We have never had them. These matters are four to four and a half years old. The Leader of the House answered as follows:
I shall ask the Departments concerned whether the time has yet come when these documents can be published without detriment to the public, interest.'
Surely my right hon. Friend would not contend that the publications of any of these documents would be detrimental to the public interest from the point of view of foreign policy! Why need you keep on saying it is detrimental to the public interest, and then later on, when years have elapsed, say, "What is the good of washing all this dirty linen in public?" The House never gets the information. What is happening now? The admiral connected with the escape of the "Goeben," who was Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean station, has gone on to the retired list. Take the Dogger Bank action. The admiral who succeeded to the command when Admiral Beatty's ship was put out of action abandoned the action. He has also gone on the retired list. If we want inquiries it is just the same. It is
said that we are washing dirty linen in public or that we are pursuing a man who is on the retired list. We are doing nothing of the kind. We simply want the truth, not merely in order that the public shall know, but that naval officers shall be able to learn the lessons and be able to apply them to future war. Under the secrecy policy naval officers do not know anything about the courts-martial. They are held in private. Courts of Inquiry, which are not on oath, are also held in private, and the only people who know anything at all about the matter are the privileged Lords of the Admiralty, who really have not time to read the proceedings. I would therefore ask my right hon. Friend to circulate the information as far as he possibly can. If he cannot give it to the public, let him give it, at any rate, to the Navy, and let us have the utmost discussion, because I contend that the Navy never made such progress as in the 'eighties, when the Admiralty encouraged free discussion of all kinds.
Commander HAMILTON BENN:
I have followed this Debate with great interest, and listened with much pleasure to the fine tribute which the First Lord of the Admiralty paid, not only to the men of the Royal Navy but to the Mercantile Services and to fishermen. I have seen a good deal during the War of that "two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage," which has been referred to. Among no I section of the men at sea was it displayed in finer manner than by the fishermen manning the trawlers and drifters on our patrols. It is probably common knowledge that in the early part of the War they carried out their patrols night after night in vessels which were practically unarmed, in many cases only having rifles, and in one case of which I know they did not have even rifles. I would like to pay my small tribute of admiration and respect to the men of the Royal Navy itself. I have been an observer during the past four years of a good deal of what has been going on at the various bases and in the various Fleets, and I can assure the Committee that the spirit which animated the Fleet during the whole of the War was one which could not be improved upon. The relations between officers and men were of the finest, and as the hon. and gallant Member for the West Derby Division (Admiral Hall) bias said, the real reason for that fine spirit is the fact that the men of the Navy can always approach their officers, I will not say with regard to a grievance, because I do not like the word grievance, but with any complaints they may have. The men in the Navy realise fully that the officers know their job and do not ask any man or tell any man to do anything that they themselves cannot do, or would not do, if it were their business to do it. The men of the Navy know that the officers will lead them and that the officers have their best interests at heart at all times. I can assure the Committee that that is really the position that exists as between the officers and men of the Royal Navy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) made a very interesting speech and one which, I am sure, will be welcomed by the Committee. He seemed to think, however, that the men of the Navy require a union, or some form of combination, in order to get what is due to them. I do not believe that at all. I do not believe that the large majority of the men in the Navy desire anything of the kind. They realise when they enter the Navy that they do so on certain conditions, and that the conditions are fairly carried out. Of course, there will always be some individual "grousers," but the majority do not take much notice of them.
The very remarkable speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Thanet (Lieutenant-Commander Craig) was a speech which required to be made. It is undoubtedly a shock to the people of this country to realise that the Navy was not all that it might have been when war broke out. The great majority of the officers afloat will agree with every word the hon. Member said. It was not only in regard to ships and naval bases that we were inferior to the Germans. There were many other important matters in which we were very much behindhand. I would refer in particular to projectiles, torpedoes, and torpedo-controls, the mounting of our guns, range finders for day and star-shells for night-firing. These may appear to be small matters, but they are most essential for actual fighting. On all these points the Germans were far ahead of us. It is not at all a fact that the Germans had more scientific ability or more inventive genius than we had. The War proved the exact contrary. When necessity arose, and, fortunately, we had the time to do it, we not only caught up to the Germans on all these points, but surpassed them on many of them, and by the middle of 1917 the British Fleet was undoubtedly far in advance of the Germans in most of these matters. The First Lord has referred to one matter in particular in which I think we were far ahead of the Germans and that was in using ears instead of eyes. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Lieutenant-Commander Craig) said it was luck that saved us I do not think he was right in that. Undoubtedly there was an element of luck, but there was the great prestige of the British Navy and the knowledge of the fighting powers of the personnel of the Fleet. It was fear of the British Navy which kept the Germans from attacking it, and many of the successes which we gained during the War from the naval point of view were due to that fear. I would refer to the actions in the Channel of the "Broke" and the "Swift," and the action of the "Botha" and the "Morris." In both cases they had divisions of German destroyers—two ships of ours against six or eight Germans. The Germans never believed that there were only two British ships, and they retired, with the result that two or three German ships were sunk by our small force, and if the Germans had known there were only two or three of ours there, the result might have been very different. But the point I want to ask the First Lord to give some assurance about is that these scientific matters are being thoroughly provided for in the Naval Estimates. One quite understands the difficulty the Admiralty is in in preparing a programme for the future. The present state of the world is one in which we cannot forecast what kind of Fleet would be required for our protection. But the scientific part of war preparation must be carried on with full efficiency and not in one direction only. I would refer to the necessity for experiments and scientific research in torpedo, gunnery and anti-submarine, navigation, and surveying—all very important and allied points.
A great deal has been said about the personnel of the Navy. I fear we shall have difficulty in manning our fleet in the future unless fair play is given to the seaman branch. The seaman branch is recruited in the main by the entry of boys direct from school. They are given a good training, and they are brought on from one stage to another till at the age of twenty or twenty-one they are able seamen. Their pay is about 3s. 11d. Five years later they may become leading seamen with 4s. 8d. pay—that is with the present bonus—and if they are capable and reliable men after ten years' service they may be petty officers. But how does that compare with the artisan branch? The E.R.A's, shipwrights, and other artisans are entered at twenty to twenty-one, either as petty officers on entry, or with one year's training they become petty officers, and their pay is 5s. 11d. They have no sea experience, but they are on a higher scale of pay than a leading seaman who has been in the Navy perhaps for eight or nine years, and they have the same pay and the same rank as a petty officer of the seaman branch who has been in the Navy perhaps for fifteen years, a man thoroughly trained and thoroughly capable of taking charge of parties of men, as they do often in beats, including these engineer ratings. The point I desire to make in this respect is that the seaman is a man that you cannot make in a hurry. In the emergency of war electricians and engineers can be obtained from civilian employment, as was proved in this War. There were plenty of them to be obtained in the early stages of the War. But the seaman is a man who cannot, be improvised. The sea is a difficult and exacting mistress and she requires to be wooed by long apprenticeship. I, therefore, urge upon the First Lord that this matter may be considered. If it is desired to maintain the seaman branch in full strength, fair treatment must be meted out to the seamen in the Navy. I was very glad to hear that the matter of half-pay for officers is going to receive the right hon. Gentleman's early consideration. It seems to be an anachronism, really a survival from the dark ages, that a man who has been all his life devoted to the service of his country, when he reaches the higher ranks should be put on half-pay for a long period of time. I also want to ask for the most careful consideration of the grave cause of complaint which at present exists on the part of what are known as "kept-on-officers" during the War. Officers of a certain rank are compulsorily retired at 50 in peace time, and if they are recalled for service they are given a bonus of 25 per cent. A certain number of officers who reached fifty during the course of the War were not allowed to retire and they also had arrived at their maximum pension, so that their staying on in the Service did not improve their position in any respect, but they had to stay on and they received no bonus and no increase in pension. It seems to me that the great thing at present is to deal justice all round and that does not appear to be justice. I hope we may hear that this matter will be remedied.
I am not a very old Member of the House but I have heard a good many opening speeches from First Lords of the Admiralty, and I have never heard one that pleased me more or the matter of which was more clearly put. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the story we had heard of the Navy was the most wonderful ever told, and it was one of magnificent loyalty and splendid efficiency. We would all agree most thoroughly with that. He further remarked that we owed an unbounded debt to the officers and men of the Royal Navy. Of that there is not the remotest doubt, and it is for us to see that that debt is in a measure paid. The right hon. Gentleman will understand that no strictures are intended to fall in his direction, for I am convinced he will realise when this matter is brought before him that he personally would not treat his loyal servants in this way, and that he will not allow the great Department of which he is the head to treat these officers and men in any way but what is perfectly and absolutely fair. At the outbreak of the War there were a number of lower-deck men recalled to the Service, and their pay and pension were naturally continued. But there were a number of men who attained the time of pension after the War Had started, and they served on only for pay and a few coppers a week. They did that for a period of three long years, working alongside men who were receiving pay and pension. It speaks for itself of the magnificent loyalty of the men and of their discipline that no trouble ensued. It also speaks for itself of the Treasury. During the whole time I have been in the House I have always found the right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Macnamara) most sympathetic towards all the demands of the lower deck, though I know at this moment that is not the opinion in some places. I think the opinion of these places is mistaken. At the end of this three years, during which some of us strove without ceasing, the Admiralty decided to give pay plus pension to all these men who had qualified for a pension, and as if to make apologies and to seek condonation for having made them wait so long they made the pay and pension retrospective, as was only fair. They did even more than that, for they said if any man had been killed in action previous to the issue of this Order, the balance of the pension should be paid to the next of kin. This is, of course, proper and fair treatment for a great Department and a great Service.
The rules governing the pensions of the men of the lower deck and the officers do not vary very greatly, but at the same time there is no naval officer who has received pay plus pension. Surely what is true of one is true of the other. We know that the pensions are earned. The Financial Secretary in answer to a question last week told me so. It is not very long ago that a question was put to a First Lord in regard to an Admiral, Sir Percy Scott, who was then in receipt of pay plus pension and was given some small job. The question was asked whether the admiral was not drawing a pension, and, if so, why the right hon. Gentleman did not interfere. The First Lord said that he could not interfere with Admiral Sir Percy Scott because the pension was in the nature of deferred pay. When is pension deferred pay? When the First Lord so decides! When is it not deferred pay? Again, when the First Lord so decides. The curious part of this pay and pension for officers is that every senior or old officer of the Army, what we call the dug-outs, on being recalled or volunteering for service, received pay and pension. I had one old acquaintance under whom I served for a considerable period. He was a full colonel, and he drew his full pay, his full pension, his command pay and his allowances, and he used to say very frequently, "When I look at myself in the glass, when I shave in the morning, I say to myself,' Are you worth it? and almost before the words are framed the answer comes, 'No.' "That probably showed that he was worth it. The Army is very largely in excess of the Navy in numbers and here we have these Army officers, the Army "dug-out," drawing full pay and full pension. Why is this? Is it that the Royal Navy is a subsidiary or unimportant part of the nation's defences, or is it a fact that not one single soldier could have fought on the other side of the Channel and could not have fought so very long on this side if it had not been for the Royal Navy and for the ceaseless vigilance and silent heroism of the Navy, or is it that the Secretary for War is all- important and that the Secretary to the Admiralty is at zero? I do not think that is public opinion. I had the honour to serve in the Army for more than three and a half years, and I feel certain that there was not one man who did not recognise what he owed and what we all owe to the Royal Navy, and not one of them but would say, "If we deserve well of the country the Navy deserves better, and if we have been paid in silver the Navy should be paid in gold." I say that after very considerable experience and having been in command of a very large number of men, especially at a reserve camp in the North of England where I had 3,000 men under my care.
There are many men who have risen from the lower deck to commissions and have retired on pension after forty years' service in many cases. When they have been recalled they have dropped their pension and have been given pay and 25 per cent. bonus. I need not tell the Committee that they are not satisfied. It was not an easy matter before the War to gain a commission in the Army, but it was an almost impossible task to gain a commission in the Navy before the War. It was an extraordinarily difficult task to gain a commission in the Navy, and when a man got a commission from the lower deck he won it by patience, hard work, intelligence, and, what is still more difficult, a twenty-four hour character. During the whole of the twenty-four hours of every day he was liable to have some mark put against him, and if he had a small mark put against him he had no possible chance of getting a commission. Can you wonder that when he has got it he clings to it, and to the small pension, which he looks upon as his own—a pension which, on authority, we are told he has earned. Can you wonder that these gentlemen feel hurt and indignant when that hardly earned money is taken from them and in its place pay and 25 per cent. is foisted upon them? I say that no one but a sailor of proved discipline and great loyalty could have tolerated such a thing, and on no less a person would such a thing have been tried. I have a friend in the Navy who has risen from the lower deck to a commission. He has forty years' service, or thereabouts. He had 7s. 6d. a day pension and a civil billet which paid him fairly well. He was called up, his pension was dropped, and he received 10s. a day pay, but he wrote to me stating that his messing bill was 4s. a day. That was rather a blow to him. He is a married man, with a family. It is true that he received 25 per cent. bonus on his pay, which came to about £45, but he was at a very heavy loss on the transaction. He looks and they all look on their pension as earned, and it is theirs, short of misconduct; so much theirs that they can commute it, which is to me proof that it is theirs. When the War is over my friend will recover his pension, but his pension will be worth four and a-half years less than it was, and he will get no compensation, and he will receive practically nothing for his services which have been of inestimable value to the country.
The story is the same, whatever the rank. I have a major friend in the Royal Marine Artillery. He had retired on £225 a year, and he also had a civil billet. He was called up and had to drop his pension. He was given £275 pay—that is to say, he was serving for £50 a year, or £6 a year less than his bombardier. It is true he was given 25 per cent. bonus, amounting to £75 a year, and that means that he served for about £125 a year, giving his service and risking his life while his wife and family and his pension were in the hands of the Treasury. All these things do not make for happiness in any Service or any rank of the Service. What is it that makes the Treasury heart so hard I Is this what the country would wish in regard to the Royal Navy, upon which, under the Providence of God, the wealth, the safety, and the strength of this country chiefly depends? But there is some thing worse than this. These gentlemen, who are retired, at least get full pay and bonus, but there are some who, though they have qualified for pension and have served long past the age of compulsory retirement, are still serving, and receiving: less than their full pay and no bonus what ever. These gentlemen, after giving their life to the Service, are treated in this manner—
Even with this treatment there has been not a grumble, not a syllable, not a breath of indiscipline or remonstrance from these men. It is the old story of the bullfinch and the parrot. The bullfinch sang his song sweetly in tune and beautifully, as was expected of him, but he was neglected and starved to death. The parrot was wiser. He shrieked, and yelled, and cursed, and bit, and attention was paid to him, and he was fed and cherished. Engineer-captains, paymaster-captains, commanders, and Burgeon commanders, are compulsorily retired at the age of fifty, but in the case of the engineer-commanders they made a bargain with the Admiralty in 1908, and the bargain was such that the Admiralty required every engineer-commander to signify his acceptance or otherwise. In that case they did accept, and the age of compulsory retirement was changed from fifty-five to fifty. At that age the engineer-commander had qualified for his maximum pension. Let me give an instance of what this means. An engineer-captain at Folkestone had reached the age of fifty in July, 1914. He was compulsorily retired on pension. He was recalled and received full pay, plus an increment of 5s.and 25 per cent. bonus. Engineer-captain, Dover, who was six weeks junior in age to engineer-captain, Folkestone, but senior to him in the Service, reached the age of fifty at the end of August, 1914. He is that miserable thing called a "kept-on," and he does not receive the increment of 5s. or a bonus of 25 per cent. And now, at the end of four and a half years' service, the difference in pay received by engineer-captain, Folkestone, and engineer-captain, Dover, mean over £1,200, for the same rank, the same duty, the same work. Engineer-captain, Dover, cannot understand it. No more can anybody else. The curious thing is that recently it has been decided that officers who were on active service, and who for some reason or other have been retired, are given full pay and bonus. They are carrying on at some job or another, not their original job. They are given full pay and bonus. So are emergency officers who are not pensioners. The class who are treated so cruelly in this way are these who, not having reached pensionable age before the outbreak of the War, are kept on. It is especially hard on the engineer, for his work is harder, perhaps, than any. Think of the nerve and grit required by an Officer working in the very belly of a ship! Think how he must keep cool and set an example! Even to most brave men such as we have in our Navy the example of a cool, brave officer is sometimes necessary while the ships are fighting—a fight which these men cannot join in or see— when every second may bring a shell or a torpedo may mangle the ship. We all know the prayer of Ajax, who was counted the bravest among the brave, that he should be allowed to "perish in the face of day." He knew that death was inevitable, but at least he wanted to die in the daylight.
The engineering officer, if death comes to him, has to die in the belly of his ship. Now that the danger is past, and the work is over, and the victory is won, we do not give these gentlemen the pay to which, by every honest rule of life, they are entitled. That pay has been denied them, not one or two, or three years, but for more than five years. I should despair of my country and my countrymen if I thought that the right hon. Gentleman could resist, much less tight, against this appeal. I have endeavoured to place this grave injustice before the Committee temperately and moderately, but that is not how I feel, or how many of my colleagues, or how the Royal Navy feel. They feel that this is a burning shame, and they look to the right hon. Gentleman to right it. Half measures are of no use. The time is past. We must see that these officers should get what they are morally entitled to. That is what the men are getting. It may be said that they are not entitled. To me that is a quibble. They should be compulsorily retired and pensioned according to their definite contract with the Admiralty on reaching compulsory retirement age, and their loyalty should not be exploited. What the lower deck has got the officers should get. The lower deck has got pay plus pension, and these who are qualified for pensions are getting them, and nothing less but pay and pension will satisfy the officers of the Navy itself and the people of this country.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Glamorgan is not present. When he said he did not want strikes in the Navy I interpolated, "What about six hours?" and the right hon. Gentleman, thinking that I was referring to the miners, at once began to attack me. I yield to no one in the views which I hold with regard to miners. I think that they behaved most patriotically in helping to win this War. I myself made several speeches in Wales, and had a great deal of opportunity of seeing the Welsh miners, and would like to join the right Hon. Gentleman in expressing the feelings of admiration which we have towards these miners, but at the same time I think that if he was present he would allow that we could not have a system which gave to the men of the Navy a six hours' day. However, I pass from that to the so-called Estimates which have been presented to the Committee to-day. As the First Lord has said, they can hardly be regarded in the light of Estimates. I have taken part in every Naval Debate, or certainly every Debate on Naval Estimates which has taken place since I came to Parliament in 1910, and I miss very much indeed these volumes which told us what the Admiralty were going to do and how much it would cost and gave various other particulars which enabled us to judge the policy of the Admiralty during the ensuing year. That is unfortunate, as the First Lord of the Admiralty has told us, we shall have later on, probably in June or July. Therefore the Debate to-night must be to some extent hollow, because we cannot deal with the facts of the case. While I join with what has been said in praise of the speech of the First Lord, I do not think that that speech said one word about the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to the Navy.
During all the years I have been in the House the speech of every First Lord gave a fair statement of the policy of the Government with regard to the Navy. I quite admit that pending the League of Nations and the Debates in Paris as to the freedom of the seas it is somewhat difficult, but like the right hon. Member for South Glamorgan, I would have liked to hear something more about the policy of the Government with regard to the freedom of the seas. The First Lord dealt in many generalities with regard to naval supremacy, but he did not go in my opinion sufficiently into the question of assuring the people of this country that we do intend to adhere to what the Prime Minister has said with regard to the freedom of the seas, that we do intend to have a Navy large enough to meet our commercial requirements and to defend this mighty Empire. The First Lord paid a very high compliment to the officers and men of the Navy. I join with him. No compliment can be too high for the gallantry which officers and men have shown during the War; but when the right hon. Gentleman came to another part of his speech which related to the men who built the ships he was content with very few words. There was no encomium and no praise for the men in the dockyards. That was the point I was looking out for. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have brushed that matter aside. We feel that he was not entitled to do so, and that it would have been better in the interests of the Navy if he had found it convenient to give some praise to the men who had built these ships which have defended these shores and helped so much towards gaining the victory.
I have not risen merely to say that everything is going well, but to make a few remarks by way of criticism and to offer a few suggestions. We have had two Committees sitting, one the High Fleet Committee and the other the Jerram Committee. Both Committees are concerned with the same object, that is to say, the pay and pensions of the Royal Navy. The High Fleet Committee has reported both as regards officers and men; the Jerram Committee has not yet reported, but I think I am right in saying that the Report of the High Fleet Committee has been handed to the Jerram Committee and when we get the Jerram Committee's Report we shall know what the Report of the High Fleet Committee contained. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman are the Reports of the High Fleet Committee to be seen by the Treasury before they go to the Jerram Committee, or is the Jerram Committee to see them without the interference of the Treasury?
I ask that because the Treasury would have put their pen through many items which I know do exist in Parts (A) and (B) of the High Fleet Report. So I am afraid that we shall have to wait until we see the Report of the Jerram Committee. From what we have heard to-day we may look forward, I think, to a very excellent Report. That Report will deal with the question of Naval pay. We have heard a great deal about Naval pay to-night, and I think that I need not labour that part of my speech, but I do wish this Committee to understand that the Navy is primarily responsible for the victory of the Allied Forces. Without the Navy there would have been no League of Nations, and if there was to be no League of Nations, then what would have happened in the future? The men in the Navy are receiving certain bonuses, but those bonuses do not meet the requirements of the officers and men. I think from what the First Lord has said that he did not anticipate that they would, and he gave us a very fair hint that we might look forward to better things from the Report of the Jerram Committee. The men of the lower deck are expecting at least that, whatever the findings of the Jerram Committee may be, at any rate so far as Naval pay goes, it shall be made retrospective to 1st October, and I would impress that point on the Financial Secretary, because the men of the lower deck will not be satisfied unless their pay is made to date from the 1st October last.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Glamorgan very properly said, dealing with the question of Naval pay, that if you expect men to do the work which the men of the Navy will have to do in the future, and which they have done in the past, they ought and must be paid more in accordance with civilian rates. When he said that he voiced the views of the lower deck. The lower deck think, and in my view they rightly think, that they ought to receive payment on the same basis as civilians do for the work that is done. They perform duties in all parts of the world. They risk their lives at sea and they go to all sorts of climates and they have to submit to discipline. They have the disadvantages of ship life and their hours of duty are unlimited and they get no overtime pay. I think with these statements before the Committee there is not a Member of the Committee who will find fault with the conclusion at which I have arrived, that these men of the Navy should be paid on the same basis as men who do civilian work. I refer both to officers and men of the Navy. I believe I am right in saying that the pay of captains has not been raised for the last sixty years. I know also that the pay of the men has only been raised during the same period by a few pence. I have often pressed in this House for more pay for seamen, and particularly for married men. It will be within the recollection of Members who were in the Parliament of five or six years ago that I divided the House on the Naval Estimates on that very point. I regret, however, that on that occasion I did not receive the support which I had anticipated from Members who sit on the Opposition benches. But I am glad to see and to know that they have changed their views since that time. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are more reasons for it."]You are right, there are many reasons for a change of views, and I congratulate hon. Members opposite on having done so. The married men must not only be considered in the question of pay, but their wives must be considered in the question of allowances. Married men have to keep up practically two homes. They have their own life to lead at sea, or wherever they may be, and they have their homes to maintain and their children to educate and to bring up and place out in the world. That cannot possibly be done on the present pay, and there must be some separation allowance given to the wife of the married man. If this were done we should have many more early marriages, and is not that the policy of His Majesty's Government to encourage the young men and young women of this day to get married, and to do so at an earlier age than that at which some Members of this House were married. That can only be done by a system of separation allowances.
With regard to the question of pensions, they are, I submit, altogether inadequate. Why should a policeman have a bettor pension than a man who has served all his time at sea? For the life of me I cannot see that there is any ground for making such a distinction. The naval pensioner, I would remind the Committee, is the only State pensioner liable for service up to 55. There should be pensions for the widows of the men. That system is recognised with regard to officers, and why not with regard to ratings? I have often spoken here about widows' pensions; I refer now to widows in peace-time—that is, of men in the Navy who have lost their lives in the service of the Navy. The pensions that these widows get—and the Committee will hardly credit this—range from 5s. to 9s. How can any women live upon 5s. per week; and if she has a child to-bring up how can it be done? It cannot be done, and, therefore, she must cither be-dependent on charity or on relatives or go upon the parish. I put a question the other day to the Prime Minister upon this subject, and he said He could hold out no hope that these pensions would be raised. I trust that the Committee and the House will force the hands of the Prime Minister, and I hope that the First Lord will join in that forcing. The cost of living is just the same for the peace widow as it is for the war widow, and it is no use saying, as the Prime Minister said, that the wives of men
who fell in former wars have had their pensions brought up to the same level as the widows of men who have fallen in the present War, while you allow the wife of a man who has lost his life in the Service to subsist, or try to subsist, on 5s. or 9s. a week. No! there must be an addition, and a very considerable addition, made to these pensions. You have done it in the case of old age pensions, and you can do it in the case of war pensions. I pass from that to the Jerram Committee and the question of the representation of the lower deck. Quite recently an order was issued called Admiralty Weekly Orders, dated the 24th of February, which said:
The Board of Admiralty have noted with satisfaction the successful working of the special machinery set up for dealing with the consideration of the question of pay of the service.
In another paragraph it states,
The election of the men's representatives will be carried out in such a manner as the Commander-in-Chief of the home port may decide.
Here we have machinery set up for considering what the lower deck call their grievances, but those men can only sit upon these advisory committees if they are selected by the Commander-in-Chief of the home port. It might be advisable, in the interests of the men, to make some other selection, and I suggest that this order should be altered to that extent, so that, instead of the Commander-in-Chief having the sole power of nominating the men on the advisory committees, that this power should be entrusted to the men themselves.
Then we come to another clause in this Order, which says that the institution of the system of getting representations is in no wise to be considered as conflicting in any way with Article 11 of the King's Regulations, which directs that all combinations of persons belonging to the Fleet formed for the purpose of bringing about alterations in the existing Regulations or customs of His Majesty's Naval Service, whether individually or collectively, are prohibited. So far, so good, but it goes further than that, and makes it impossible for these men to meet together and discuss amongst themselves the very questions which they are asked to sit upon the Committee for the purpose of advising on the questions of pay and allowances; of promotion, accommodation, messing and canteens, uniforms, clothing, pensions, etc. All these matters are of vital interest to the men of the lower dock, but they cannot discuss them among themselves unless in a hole-and-corner way, and they must not have any propaganda on this subject. Supposing a man at Portsmouth wants to talk to a man in Plymouth, or a man at Devonport wants to speak to a man in London, he must do it, according to this Regulation, at his own expense. He cannot go round to his friends in Portsmouth, in the canteens, for instance, and get a subscription to pay his fare to London. That apparently is against this Regulation, and the commanding officer says, as he did the other day and as he has done this week, "You must give that money back. That is against the Regulations, and I will not allow it to be done." The result is that the man has to stay where he is. He cannot meet his friends or his fellow men in Portsmouth, Devonport, Chatham, or London, and he has to do the whole matter by correspondence I am sure that that was not the intention of the Lords of the Admiralty, and I beg the Financial Secretary to represent the case I have endeavoured to present to the Committee with a view to getting this Order amended as soon as possible.
Now we come to the question of the Welfare Department of the Admiralty. This is a Department which the men of the lower deck are very anxious to see set up. There is a Department of the Admiralty which deals with welfare already in existence, but that Department does not admit into its counsels any ratings. I suggest that if this Department is to continue, the men's point might be met by naval ratings being allowed to sit upon it. If that is done, I think then the point which the men have raised with regard to welfare will be met. I have already asked the Financial Secretary on many occasions about prize money. The men are getting a little anxious as to when it is going to be distributed. Many men have died, many widows have died, and many dependents of men who had hoped to get this money have died, and all we can get from the Financial Secretary is that next autumn, or at some distant time, there will be a distribution of the prize money, and that the legal representatives of the men who are entitled to it shall then receive their portions. I am very much afraid that by the autumn in many cases the legal representatives will be very difficult to find, and I would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman to do all he can to hasten the distribution of this naval prize money, and not, if possible, to leave it so late as the autumn. Just a few words upon the "kept on" officer The "kept on" officer is divided into three classes. At the outbreak of War the Admiralty suspended retirements of officers on the active list, and recalled many retired officers. One class of these officers retired before the War were called up for further service, and they were given 25 per cent. on their pay. The second class was of officers retired during the War who have continued to serve. Until the concession made a fortnight ago, these men only got their pay, but they now get the 25 per cent. also I pass over the difference between the "kept on" officer in the Navy and the "kept on" officer in the Army. The Army man gets his pay and gets his pension, but the Navy man only gets 25 per cent. of his pension, and his pay. I think this is a great injustice. Both Services ought to be treated exactly alike in this respect. The third class is the officers who have reached the compulsory age for retirement but are not retired, being held for service. These men get only their pay, avid I do appeal strongly to the Financial Secretary to put this matter upon a right and proper footing. Here are three classes of officers, all of whom are retired or eligible for retirement. Two classes are placed in one category, and the third class in an entirely different category. The injustice of this is apparently recognised, because the rank of acting engineer-captain was given to a number of engineer-commanders retained on the active list, but as this acting rank does not entitle the holder to the pay received by the engineer-captain the pay of the retired officer and of the officer not permitted to retire is now £912 and £638, respectively. The total difference in pay since August, 1914, is in many cases upwards of £1,000. I think I have placed before the Committee a case which will enable every Member of the Committee to join with me in the appeal which I now make to the Financial Secretary to see that all these three classes are placed upon one and the same footing.
One word about the junior officers of the accountant's branch. Before the War an officer served seven and a half years as a gun-room officer and was then transferred to the wardroom at the age of twenty-five. On the outbreak of war young cadets were brought to sea as midshipmen, and in two years and ten months they reached wardroom rank. What are the results? I have had them sent me by a man in the Navy who is well acquainted with this particular matter. The paymaster sub-lieutenants receive much less pay, bonus, war gratuity, prize money, and prize bounty than the junior lieutenants who are younger in age. Paymaster sub-lieutenants, aged twenty-four, suffer all the restrictions of the gun-room, whilst lieutenants of twenty enjoy all the privileges of the wardroom officers. The appointment of president of the mess is always given to the senior sub-lieutenant of the executive branch, and therefore in many ships the paymaster sub-lieutenant at twenty-four finds himself for all messing purposes under a sub-lieutenant of eighteen, his junior officer. If this matter is not soon taken In hand, the difference in ages between these two branches will continue throughout the whole Service. I therefore suggest to my right hon. Friend that, as soon as possible, he should take this matter in hand.
I have already brought to my right hon. Friend's notice the question of the lieutenant-commander promoted for action in face of the enemy. I do not know whether hon. Members were in the House when I brought up that case, but it is hardly to be credited that an officer who is promoted to lieutenant-commander for action in the face of the enemy only gets his stripes but not the pay. The promotion is nullified, except for rank, on the ground that eight years' seniority is necessary. That is absolutely unfair, and I hope the Financial Secretary will take special note of this, because we all want to do the best we can for men who have done heroic work in the War, so that they should not be able to say, "All I have is these stripes and rank, and no pay to keep up the position." I am sure the Admiralty will desire at the very first opportunity to do what they can to remove this unfairness. There is one more matter with regard to the Navy, and that is the disability pension. It is a very small but a very important matter to one or two men. In 1915 and 1916 the Admiralty gave orders that men of experience, "even although they may have lost a limb," were to be retained in the Service and not to be invalided. The result was that men of long service who have lost a leg were so retained. What happened in 1917? Owing, presumably, to the dearth of ratings, an order was issued to the effect that ratings already invalided could be re-entered, and paid their disability pension in addition to their full pay. It is obvious therefore that the men of long service and experience who are retained with no disability pension, although experiencing all the discomforts attendant upon the wearing of an artificial limb, are penalised. Officers who may have been wounded or injured on duty and are retained on active service can be paid their wound or injury pension in addition to full pay under Article 1906 of the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions. Why is there a difference between an officer and a man! Surely this is a difference which ought not to exist. I pass on to the Greenwich age pension. This is a matter I have often discussed in this House, and I wish to ask the Financial Secretary two questions on this point. First of all, is he able to tell the Committee now at what age a man is able to get the 5d. a day? Is it still sixty-three or sixty, or has it been reduced to fifty-five? Then will he say how many pensions were paid last year, and how many men are still on the waiting list? Next, can he say at what age the men are going to get their 4d. a day? Is that as high as it was before the War? How many men were eligible last year for the extra 4d., and how many are on the waiting list? I will now say a few words about the dockyards. I have not much fault to find with the pay in the dockyards. I think the Financial Secretary has done remarkably well during the time he has been in his office, if I may be allowed to say so, and the pay of the men in the dockyards has risen proportionately. During the War, though they have done excellent and yeoman service, they have been paid very fair wages for the work they have done. There is only one point about the pay, and that is with regard to the ship-riggers. I should like to know why their maximum is 35s. as against 37s. for skilled labourers. Here I may say I welcome the titles for skilled labourers, which were recently announced. I understand 27s. is to be the minimum pay. That is a rise of 2s. The minimum for unskilled labourers is 24s. Should not they have a corresponding rise? What does the Financial Secretary say to that?
I pass on to the question of demobilisation. The apprentices, we have heard, cannot be demobilised any more than the apprentices in other walks of life, or even boys who have their school period to continue. But why are these apprentices who are eligible not sent home? We have apprentices in India, Salonika, and even in France, eligible for demobilisation. Will the right hon. Gentleman not see that their demobilisation is hurried up? With regard to female labour, of course we understand there must be certain dismissals of women in the yards, but I do press the right hon. Gentleman, as far as he possibly can, to see that the greatest discretion is used by the authorities in the yards with regard to the dismissal of the female workers, because in many cases they have been taken into yards owing to-great stress of circumstances, and they are in great need of the money they earn. Take Devonport, for instance. There are no industries there other than the shipyards for these women to go into, and therefore when they leave the yards they can do nothing else practically but housework of some kind, for which the payment is very small. Therefore, I would, ask the right hon. Gentleman, so far as possible, to show a discretion in the matter.
Lastly, with regard to the pensions of the men in the yards. The majority are established under the Superannuation Act of 1909, which entitled them to a pension and a lump sum. The man retires at sixty, having contributed from 1s. to 2s. 6d. a week. To a certain extent, therefore, these pensions are deferred pay. Now many pensioners only get 12s. to 14s. a week, and there has been no-increase during the War. Their overtime does not count as service. Is that quite a fair system? I venture to think it is not quite a fair system. I cannot elaborate what I would suggest or what is suggested by the men themselves. It would necessitate going into too many figures and calculations, but it is manifestly wrong that a man, after paying 1s. to 2s. 6d. a. week himself for his pension, should retire on a pension of from 12s. to 14s.
I think also that overtime should be counted for pensions. The Police Pensions are very much higher than dockyard pensions, yet dockyard men spend the same number of years, or more years, in the service of the State. The men themselves sent a petition to-their Lordships of the Admiralty, and the Financial Secretary will, of course, be conversant with that petition. If he can see his way to grant the request of the petitioners I need hardly say that the men of the dockyards will be exceedingly grateful. Dockyard pensioners, men who have been pensioned for some time, find their pensions are even lower than 10s. 6d. a week, or at any rate as low as that. I have asked the Admiralty, I have asked the Treasury, over and over again to take up this question of the pensioners of the Royal Dockyards. These men cannot live on their pensions. Many are starving at the present time. Most of them have to live upon their relatives, or upon charity of some kind, and their number is very large. Before sitting down I would endeavour again to impress these facts upon the mind of the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. I would ask him to consider the question, and see if he cannot have some discussion with the Treasury on this subject, and do something to raise the pensions of dockyard pensioners.
In rising to address the House for the first time I would crave the indulgence of Members while for a few minutes I draw attention to a matter which, I think, has a distinct bearing on the question of recruiting in the Navy, and also of the fishermen who have given such valuable service during the War. I was pleased to see the First Lord, in his statement to-day, give them such due credit. After the great War through which we have just gone, and all the sacrifices which have been made—and these sacrifices have been gladly given—I think there might be a natural desire on the part of many people in this country, possibly, to seek an occupation which is not fraught with so many possibilities; that they would seek one which they might enjoy and have less trouble. I should have thought, therefore, it would have been the duty of the Departments most interested to see to it, in the interests of recruiting, that they did whatever they possibly could to popularise the Services, and especially the Navy, and that by way of voluntary enlistment. An occupation which has ever been regarded as one of the nurseries of the Navy has been the fishing industry; indeed at one time it was subsidised on that account. The industry has served the State in the hour of need and amply repaid the encouragement given to it. The minesweepers have done their duty well in all parts where they have been called upon to sweep up mines, or to give other auxiliary services. There is one town in the North of Scotland, in the constituency which I have the honour to represent, Banffshire, where 99 per cent. of the available men joined up at the beginning of the War. Indeed, in all Scottish fishing: villages they have more than done their part in sending men into the Navy, especially into the mine-sweepers. It is desirable, I think, that the cordial relations which have ever existed between the Navy and the fishing industry should be cared for, and that everything should be done by the Admiralty to continue to-foster the good feeling that has existed up to the present time and which has ever been the basis of its prosperity.
Individual effort and enterprise enter into this branch of industry almost more than in any other branch of which I know. As the House may know, most of the fishing vessels in the North are owned on the share principle by the fishermen themselves, so that every vessel is virtually privately owned. Consequently, the Navy in the past has had a class of men to draw upon whose spirit of enterprise, adventure, and courage is unexcelled. In the House the representatives of the Government have from time to time extolled the bravery and courage of these men. Today, again, the First Lord was good enough to refer to them in his speech. How are the Admiralty dealing with these men at the present time? That is the point I coma to and on which I would possibly ask the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty one or two questions which I have in my mind. In what manner are the Admiralty repaying these men for their devotion to duty? In what way are they ensuring that the same stock will be reared, and be ready to repeat the same deeds, if need be, should a similar occasion arise in the future—which, please God, may never happen?
In the first place, the Admiralty have taken their vessels for mine-sweeping purposes, and, having lost them, make no practical effort indeed to settle the claims for the loss of these vessels. That has happened since the beginning of the War. These claims have been outstanding now for years. I hold that the Admiralty are making really no practical effort to settle the claims. Secondly, the Admiralty have repaid by holding out promises in this House that every effort would be made to assist in obtaining vessels to replace these vessels lost, and then failing to do so. Thirdly, by endeavouring to sell by tender the fishing vessels they have built during the War without giving the individual owners an opportunity to purchase them, unless by putting them alongside syndicates who have naturally very much more money than these poor fishermen—if I may call them so—can possibly put up to buy new vessels. Fourthly, by refusing to settle with the fishermen for the loss of their gear, which has been wasted through having it lying about unused during four and a half years of war. These, I hold, are a few of the methods adopted by the Admiralty to break that fine spirit which has imbued these hardy fishermen, who, if the need arose again, and their services were required—which I very much hope they will not be—would fly to the Colours as they did before. If they did not, the Admiralty would have themselves very much to blame, in view of their action at the present time. These people do not say very much—especially the Scottish part of them—but they think a good deal. At the present moment it is safe to say that the whole of the fishing villages in the North of Scotland are seething with discontent—I do not like to use the word-but really that is practically what it amounts to—at the shabby manner in which they have been treated. They ask no thanks. What they do ask is that having given of themselves, they may not now return and find that their vessels have been taken from them, and that, instead of getting vessels in their place, or cash to buy them, they are offered about one-third of to-day's purchase price, while the vessels they ought to have are offered to syndicates having large fleets, and that their possibility of earning a livelihood is taken from them.
I say no more on that subject. I hope that before any further damage is done to the cause of recruiting in these waters that the Admiralty will see to it, and, before it is too late, see that not only is fair remuneration granted to these men, but that vessels built on Admiralty account are offered, first of all, to the owner fishermen—to the men who have gone away during the War—than to these who have been at home earning large profits by fishing: that they be offered to these men, first of all, so that there will be a chance of earning the livelihood which is all they desire. I hope that they will get them on terms equal, at least, to the price the Admiralty are willing to give for the vessels they have lost while they have been away. All they want is to be able to resume their calling and earn an honest living, and any scheme which does not ensure the maintenance of the individuality of these men will be wasted. The individuality of the Britisher during the War has very much contributed to winning it, and yet here we have a Department, whose attention has been repeatedly called to the latter, deliberately endeavouring to stamp out the small fisherman and drive him into the hands of the syndicates. Such a position, I hold, is intolerable, and I do not wonder at the indignation against Admiralty methods. During the election campaign many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen throughout the country stated that soldiers and sailors should have the first consideration, and they said they should be settled on the land. Now, I contend this policy is driving the older fishermen off the seas. The Admiralty are simply seeking to stultify ambition, and in the end they will be the loser. If the men are forced into the hands of the syndicates, many prosperous fishing villages will have to close down, and the land question will be again revived in these villages. I say, with all gravity, that this policy will not only commit a grave injustice upon a hard-working and industrious people who before the War were prosperous, but it will completely spoil the fine field for recruiting which the Government has previously had. I thank the House for listening to my remarks.
Practically all the points that need to be raised in this Debate have already been touched upon. As the representative of Portsmouth, one of our principal naval ports, I shall appreciate all the points which have been raised. Having had the opportunity of hearing the views of these Hon. Members who have preceded me, I shall content myself with listening to whatever explanation the Admiralty can give; but there are one or two points I wish to raise. We are grateful to the sailor and the marine for his great services during the War, and I was delighted to hear the First Lord speak upon the work these men have done. In order to show the gratitude of the Admiralty and the Navy to these men, what I hope they will do is to treat them liberally on the question of pay. That, however, is a question which I think we can safely leave to the Admiralty, and I am sure they will not mind me expressing my strong trust and belief that justice will be done to these men. We have heard something about them having representation. I have been an in and out Member of this House for many years. I was here first in the year 1900, and even at that time the men of the Navy were seeking to get representation at the Admiralty. Certainly, when I was returned again, in 1906, this was one of the very strong points of those days. The men wanted to make their own representation to the Admiralty on the subject of their grievances and the Admiralty were afraid, I suppose, of rebellion. They made a mistake, however, and I am very glad that the proposal now to take the men into consultation has come from the Admiralty itself. History shows that, in connection with employment in different trades particularly, there is nothing so safe as to take the men into your confidence. The Whitley Report is an instance of combining employers and employed together. I feel sure that the new system which has been adopted will meet with exceedingly satisfactory results. The men are to have representatives from the three home ports, who will form a consultative council with a committee of officers, and they will be able to apprise the Admiralty from time to time of the points the men desire to put forward. In Portsmouth I know the men are looking forward to this proposal, and they are prepared to give it a fair trial. I believe it will ultimately be to the advantage of the Navy and the Admiralty as well.
I want to emphasise the fact that when this final Report comes to the general Committee I trust the Admiralty will make the payment retrospective. It would not be fair were it otherwise to keep those men out of their money so long, because their loyalty to their country has been beyond all praise, and we should give to them that justice which is their due. I understand that the naval pensioners have sent a petition to the Admiralty, signed by some 10,000 of their number, and they call attention to the amount of their pension and the bonus and the present purchasing power of money. The purchasing power is really very small indeed, and I hope the Admiralty, with the assistance of that bugbear the Treasury, will be able to get over the difficulty and grant to these men that which they ought in justice to have, and the same also applies with, regard to the dockyard pensioners.
I listened with some interest to the speech that was delivered by the hon. and gallant Member who represents the Isle of Thanet. I would recall to the House the unhappy picture he drew of the conditions of unpreparedness that ensued when the War broke out. He indicated that we had few vessels, few destroyers, and few torpedo boats, and he said we had no docks capable of accommodating the Grand Fleet, and that, generally speaking, we were in a very hopeless condition at that time. If the picture drawn by the hon. and gallant Member be correct, then it is not merely a condemnation of His Majesty's Government, but also a condemnation of the advisors of the Government of that day. I should like to remind the Committee that the chief adviser of the Government in naval matters was, I believe, Lord Jellicoe, the gentleman who is to travel round the world, and to secure that welcome co-operation from our Colonies in naval affairs. Further, I would recall to the Committee that the conditions which the hon. and gallant Member condemned were largely in the control of the right hon. Gentleman who to-day is Secretary of State for War. And so I could go on indicating that those who now hold high office in the Government, and are responsible for the direction of our destinies upon the sea and in Army matters, are these who in the days referred to held similar offices. If that picture be correct, and, as I say, I do not challenge it altogether, then, remembering that we were unprepared and that we were not in the possession of the remarkable facilities that we now enjoy, it does bring into relief the remarkable and phenomenal achievements and the magnificent victories won by the Navy over the devilish designs of a merciless foe.
Order, order! Hon. Members should not read newspapers in the House.
It should not only recall to our minds those achievements, but it should call forth from this Committee even greater recognition of those achievements than was indicated by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Estimates. The Labour party certainly view with some alarm the large expenditure of money that is involved in these Estimates, not because it is expenditure upon the Navy, for after all the Navy is necessary and imperative, but because we can see nothing in the programme of the Government to indicate that there is going to be a real development of the resources of the country to secure the great finances necessary to meet the extraordinary expenditure that has been placed before the House during the last few days. We are spending £1,200,000 per week on unemployment benefit, but it would be much better if the Government would organise and coordinate the resources of the country, to ensure the services of the people being utilised in productive activities, in order to meet this abnormal expenditure better than it is likely to be met. I was very happy to hear the right hon. Gentleman refer to the valour of the Navy, for which I have every admiration, and to learn that he proposes to lay upon the Table a Report dealing in detail with the extraordinary activities of this side of our armed forces; but I was also happy to hear him express the belief and the hope that never again should we be faced with horrors similar to these that we have had to face during the last four and a half years. There is great hope that as the Result of this War we shall secure a League of Nations, but I believe that the preservation of the Navy is of vital importance. I do not possess any sentimental ideas regarding the League of Nations drawing its power entirely from moral force. I admit the importance, and I believe that the world of democracy is attaching greater importance to moral principles than to the forces of might, but, in view of the state of Europe and the possibilities of the future, and in view of the uncertain commercial condition of the world, I cannot conceive of a League of Nations being effective unless you have some means of enforcing its decisions, and I believe that a naval force is the best means of securing the enforcement of the conditions laid down by such a League.
There is no doubt that a large measure of unrest has arisen in the ranks of the Navy owing to the undemocratic conditions that prevail. The hon. Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) has told us that no real advances in pay have taken place within a period of sixty years. We have had Committee after Committee appointed, Committee A, Committee B, Committee C, and Committee E—I suppose I could go on to the limit—and we have now got the Jerram Committee sitting to consider the matter. If I understand the rank and file, and I have had opportunities of meeting the sailors—I have come straight from the workshops to these benches and I have met many of them as I have travelled about the country—they want something more than sympathy. They have had a great deal of sympathy from the right hon. Gentleman and these who have preceded him in office, but they want something of a tangible character. They want some real changes in the conditions associated with their everyday life, and I would make an appeal not only for retrospective pay but for that representation of the rank and file whereby they can express their legitimate grievances, not only to their commanding officers but also to the Admiralty itself. I have no desire to undermine the discipline of the Force, No one realises the need of discipline more than I do. No one admits its necessity more than I do. But it does not necessarily follow that, if you give the rank and file an opportunity of expressing their legitimate grievances, you are going to interfere with the discipline of this magnificent force. I was very happy to learn from the right hon. Gentleman that he proposed to make the force an attractive force which would appeal to the best brains. He indicated that if this force was to become a real force, it would have to embark upon different channels and have to develop on different lines. I should like to know whether he proposes, when he appeals to the best brains, to afford the rank and file an opportunity of bringing to the notice of the Admiralty and of the chief officials, improvements and inventions which they may be in a position to put forward. I am convinced this War has proved that all the brains and all the intellectual power and capacity is not confined to one particular class in the community, and, consequently, if we are going to secure a really efficient service and maintain the Empire in all its grandeur and its beauty, we must develop it on finer democratic lines than in the past.
I should like to refer also to pensions. I think they should become the pensioner's own property, and that they should not be liable to be taken away from the pensioner, because he may have been guilty of some small offence. I can see, of course, that my suggestion may have far-reaching effects; nevertheless, I submit that if a man commits that which, in the eyes of the civilian population, is a small offence, it should not naturally follow that, in addition to the penalty which is the result of that offence, his pension should be taken away from him. There ought to be some modification of the law and regulations regarding this matter. Then, again, in connection with prize money, which constitutes a burning question with the rank and file. What they desire is that these who are particularly concerned—these who are serving when prize ships are captured—should have greater consideration as regard to prize money than is given them under the present arrangement. Further, I share the views of hon. Members who have made an appeal on behalf of officers. After all, officers are essential and necessary to the Service, and their ability and capacity should be recognised in all departments of their activity. I, therefore, plead not only for the development of the Service on really democratic lines on to half of the rank and file, but for a real development, also on democratic lines, on behalf of the officers, and in so doing I believe I am taking a very generous attitude so far as the officers are concerned. In conclusion, I hope that this Service is not going to be neglected. I attach great importance to the Service and to the auxiliary forces. I believe that these forces have yet to play a very important part in the development of our own country, and that is both important and imperative. But I hope we are not going to take merely that view. I trust we are going to consolidate our efforts with a view to making these forces an instrument not only of good and beneficence and of value to our own nation, but to use them efficiently to ensure that never in the future shall this world be faced with a war so devastating in character as that through which we have just passed.
I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the distinguished Member who has succeeded one whom we all respected, the late representative in this House for Portsmouth. I feel sure the House will be all the better for his wise advice, and I congratulate him especially on the very interesting speech which he has delivered this afternoon. At the same time, in common with other hon. Members I should like to congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty on the very able, exhaustive, and illuminating speech which he delivered in introducing the Estimate for that great branch of our forces whose magnificent services during the War the people not only of these islands but of Greater Britain beyond the seas, gratefully acknowledge. I can only express the hope that the success which attended his régime as Secretary for the Colonies will follow him in his new sphere of administrative activity. I feel I am voicing the opinions of the people of the Overseas Dominions, both officially and private, when I say that the success which attended the right hon. Gentleman in his capacity as Secretary for the Colonies was largely due to the fact that he was extremely anxious to make himself thoroughly well acquainted with the conditions existing in the various Dominions, as well as with these prominent men who are responsible for guiding the destinies of the various countries over which they preside. Having largely succeeded in this object, in accordance with the usual political practice, he has been placed in a new post. Having qualified for the position he was then occupying, in accordance with political precedents which are common all over the world, after he had got to know his job, he was shifted to another. It is very certain that time must elapse before he becomes au fait with the duties of his new post. I can only say that we wish him every success in his new sphere. We are sure he will be helped by the experience which he has gained during many years' Membership of this House.
As one of the Members of the group particularly interested in overseas matters I may say that the future naval policy of this country is a subject of special concern to us, and the part that will be played by the Mother Country and the Dominions in connection with policing the seas, as the result of the decisions of the Peace Conference, will be awaited with the keenest possible interest. As hon. Members are aware, no uniform policy has been followed by the Dominions beyond the seas in connection with their naval affairs. So far as Canada, New Zealand and South Africa are concerned, their contribution to the Imperial Navy has been, in some cases, the presentation of a cruiser and an annual naval subsidy. Australia, however, has adopted the policy of a local Navy, a policy to which I personally was very pleased to subscribe when in Australia. That policy, which was rather a bold one for a small community of less than 5,000,000 people, provided for an ultimate force of fifty-two vessels, and no less than 15,000 men, with the necessary naval bases and docks. That scheme was adopted on the report of Admiral Henderson. It was acquiesced in by the Commonwealth Government, and proceeded with. It was expected that there would be an annual Naval Vote, when this was completed, of approximately something like £5,000,000. What modifications or amplifications will be made, as the result of Admiral Jellicoe's visit, remain to be seen. We can only say that the Overseas Dominions appreciate the fact that the Government of this country have placed the services of such a distinguished admiral at their command.
The First Lord of the Admiralty said the idea was to secure co-operation. The co-operation that has been secured during the War has, I think, been eminently successful. With regard to the question of local Navies, that is perhaps a matter of method more than of principle. For Australians it is for several reasons, in my opinion, eminently sound. Australia's geographical position, like that of New Zealand is very remote from the seat of the Empire. It is a great, and perhaps vulnerable outpost, fronting an ocean which has already become and, with the opening of the Panama Canal, must increasingly become, an active theatre of commercial and political power. She shares the Pacific bases with the great Powers remote from Europe. Modern British naval policy, as was pointed out by the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs), is to concentrate her naval forces more at home and in contiguous waters. In time of war, this would leave Australia and New Zealand largely open more or less to attack from a Pacific Power which might, in the shifting arrangements of international politics, be allied with the Empire's European foes who might choose such a time to dispute the white Australia policy which reigns at present in the Commonwealth. Besides which Australia has an enormous ocean-borne trade to protect. It is realised that she cannot wholly make this defence herself, and that she can best assist the Empire by strengthening the outer links of the chain of naval defence. When, however, this scheme was approved by the Commonwealth Government, it was never anticipated that in a short time it would be put to the test. This arm of defence, very young but vigorous, has proved itself capable of sinking its teeth into the vitals of our resourceful enemy, and this, the first opportunity of achieving fame, was taken advantage of, with the result that to-day the Union Jack floats over 100 square miles of territory in New Guinea and other islands, and the Expeditionary Forces were conveyed to their destinations. That is one of the results which followed the adoption of a local Navy in Australia. She was able to convoy, without delay, the troops of New Zealand to Samoa, a German Colony, and at the same time enable the Australian Force to take possession of New Guinea and the adjoining islands, which conclusively proved the wisdom of the policy adopted by the Australian people. This was a policy, not of one particular party, but endorsed both by the Liberal and Labour parties, and carried unanimously. The waters of the broad Southern ocean, thanks to the co-operation of an Ally there, were set free to all ships save these of our enemy, and that terror of the sea, the "Emden," was reduced to scrap iron early in the War. As a matter of fact, in connection with our naval activity, Australia has contributed one armoured-cruiser, the "Australia," which was present at a good many naval engagements; three amoured-cruisers of the latest type—one of which,, the "Sydney," as I say, gave the Germans-a taste of their quality when she laid the "Emden" by the heels—six destroyers, and three submarines. It is estimated that they cost considerably over £4,000,000, and that the present annual sum for maintenance would be considerably over £1,000,000.
The entry of the British Empire into the War immediately swept German commerce from the seas, and turned the Central Powers into a huge beseiged fortress. The fact that Australia was able to utilise her naval forces was responsible for the occupation of the neighbouring German bases in the Pacific—the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and other groups, while the Australian Navy cleared the way for the occupation of Samoa by the New Zealand troops. So marked was the absence of German sea power that had any hon. Member, in November, 1915, been standing on the shores of the Red Sea—that was within three months of the Declaration of War— he might have observed seventy-one huge transports—forty-two Australians and twenty-nine Indians, containing, approximately, 70,000 soldiers, passing unmolested up the Red Sea to one or other of the theatres of war. Sea power has enabled this transport of men to be continued, until the Overseas Dominions have provided something like 1,300,000 men to the King's Forces, a contribution which, no doubt, has had its effect in turning the tide of German aggression.
I would only like to say that I agree with a lot which has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), who pointed out how necessary it was that an opportunity should be given to all to aspire to the highest positions in the Navy. It is very gratifying to know that a new Member, one of His Majesty's admirals, spoke tonight and subscribed to the same doctrine. As a man who comes from, perhaps, the most democratic community in the world, it is very pleasing to me to know that such unanimity exists on both sides of the House in desiring that equal opportunities should be given to every man to aspire to the highest positions in the Navy. In that connection, we may not be unwise to follow the example of Australia, where, in military and in naval matters, equal opportunity is given to all, whether the boy is the son of a labourer or of a wealthy merchant, provided he has got the brains to pass the preliminary examination. He has an opportunity, in the case of his desiring to follow a military career, to go to Dundroom College. Some of the most successful of our staff officers in the present War are sons of humble parents, who have had an opportunity of being trained as staff officers, under the supervision of English staff officers, at that college. The same thing applies as far as the Navy is concerned, and I see no reason why that principle could not be introduced here. With regard to the question of pay, and the big discrepancy between the pay of an admiral on the active list and that given to the same man when he is on the retired list, I am thoroughly in accord with the protest which has been made. It is a very serious matter when a man, who has been drawing £1,800 a year, is retired and is suddenly brought down to an income of £400 per annum if he has a family to educate. I should like to remind the Government that there are many opportunities for placing these gentlemen in positions which they can fill admirably. I refer more particularly to the position of Governors in the various States and the Crown Colonies. During the time I was Premier I had the privilege of serving under as Governor, Admiral Bedford, a gentleman particularly well equipped for that position, while in other States similar posts were filled admirably by Admiral Rawson and other admirals. It would be preferable to give these gentlemen the opportunity of taking these positions when vacancies occur. In conclusion, I desire to associate myself with the tributes that have been paid to the gallant merchant seamen, who repeatedly faced death in order not only that our fighting forces might be fed, but that the civilian population of these islands might be saved from starvation. The policy which the First Lord has announced to-night of providing a Navy sufficient for the needs of the British Empire, and which shall be as efficient as man can make it, is one that can be unanimously endorsed by every member of the Committee. The Government need have no hesitation in asking for money in order that the pay and allowances may be fair and just.
I make no excuse for intervening in the Debate, because I represent a Division which is an important Naval Division, within which the greater part of Chatham Dockyard is situated, the Naval Hospital, and the Royal Naval Barracks; also at the last election I was opposed by a candidate from the lower deck. I, therefore, feel it my duty to His Majesty's Navy, and to the men who voted for me, to express my ideas in this Debate. I share with others surprise and some anxiety at the magnitude not only of this Vote, but of the Army Vote. I confess I never liked the Naval and Military Service Bill, but I did expect that to-night we should have had some explanation from the First Lord why it was necessary to extend the Military Service Bill to the Navy.
So far as I am aware, it does not come into our discussion to-night.
It comes in in this way: Very much may depend upon whether and to what extent you are going to retain men who are volunteers in the Navy. It is very important from the point of view of demobilisation. It is within my knowledge that men who volunteered for the Navy, who never came in under any Conscription Act whatsoever, who were added as writers to the Navy, who have served and shared the risks of battle with other men on every occasion, are being retained. They are being refused demobilisation, although they have businesses to attend to. I protest that that is not right. To my knowledge, there are over 100 at Chatham. I have raised the point with the Admiralty, but have not yet had an answer. Further, there are some ninety victualling assistants, all volunteers, the bulk of whom have taken their share in the great risks of this War. They are all men who have businesses to go to, and they have come to me protesting against these things. I do not know who is to blame, but no discharge is made. I ask, why is it that there has not been an explanation of this matter? Who are the men they are going to retain, and what are these retained men to be paid? It is absolutely wrong, when you have these volunteers doing writing and pay work in the Navy, to retain them against their will. It is the duty of the Admiralty to make service in the Navy so desirable that men will volunteer and rush to it. They are the finest body of men we have. If Admiral Jerram's proposals are to be carried out, why is it necessary to conscript men for the Navy? We have never done it yet. The whole of these men volunteered for the Navy? doubt whether one conscripted man was taken. We ought to have an explanation whether it is intended that men shall be forcibly retained, who have done their duty to the country as well as the finest man who walks.
The matter does not rest there. I hear little about the Marines. We hear about the Navy and the officers and men, but scarcely a word has been said for the Marines. They are the worst treated force in the Service. I cannot understand it. You talk of the officers' pay. Does the Committee appreciate that the pay and pension of an officer in the Marines are worse than these of an officer in the Navy or in the Army? I hope that something is going to be said and done for them, and that they are going to receive the reward of their services. We talk about democracy, and yet we treat an officer, who is a gentleman just as much in one branch of the Service as in another, in this way. Why are these officers treated worse than the others? I trust that by these reforms that are coming through they are going to be placed in a position which will put them on a par with the officers in any other branch of the Services, whether Army or Navy. Another point in regard to Marines I have raised by question in this House and I have raised privately, but I can get practically no relief. I now complain of it publicly, because I believe that if attention is paid to it and the Press takes notice of it these abuses will cease. In the Marines there is a number of men who are shoemakers and tradesmen of various classes. Many of them have been retained or were called up at the outbreak of the War. Some of them had put in their time for pension before the War began, some of them had accrued for pension since the War began, while some of them had served the first period of continuous engagement for twelve years. Why are these men retained? You are retaining the men who were volunteers in this War. These men are actually told, "Oh, find a substitute and you can go." I ask myself, is it just, when outside the Army, the Navy, and the Marines, every civilian is getting enormous wages at his trade, that you should retain men in this Service at a pittance of about 1s. a day? In other words, you are conscripting labour when the risk of war is over, and you are conscripting it at a remuneration which is wholly inadequate. What is more, you are depriving these men of the right which they ought to enjoy of getting these employments which are now open to them. I have had numbers of letters from men, not only from Chatham but also from Mudros, complaining that they are being retained in this way, If the Admiralty wants the men's boots mended, they must get it done outside. They have no right to deprive these men of their profession and cast them adrift as if they had done nothing for the country. I protest very strongly against it. The men feel this very deeply, and that is why they seek representation in this House, because they say in this House there is no one to voice their views.
I want to say a word on the question of pay and pensions. Unfortunately this Debate has come before we have had Admiral Jerram's Report. The men look for several things. Undoubtedly each and all of them look for increased" pay, but they also look for better pensions, and they look for pensions which will inure for the benefit of their widows if they should die. I know the First Lord is entirely sympathetic on this. Really that rule applies from the warrant officer upwards. It is only when you get to a man who has not the rank oil an officer in the Navy that he suffers. My idea is that the men will be largely guided in the demands they make by what has been done for the police. I do not approve of the manner in which during the War the police got their increase of pay. What are the services of a policeman compared with the man in the Navy? The man in the Navy serves twenty-two years. He is rarely at home, and he takes all the risks. Why is not he, when he looks for his pension, put somewhere on the grade of the policeman, who sleeps many a night comfortably at home and is never distant from horned They say the policeman's lot is not a happy one. I think a great many men in the Navy, if they had the chance, would say it was a jolly happy lot compared with theirs. That is the kind of guiding consideration to which the Admiralty should give attention when they come to consider the Report of Admiral Jerram. I want the Admiralty to deal with this in no niggardly spirit. That is the sort of thing that breaks men. Let them deal with it in a broad and generous spirit. It may be a few days or months before Admiral Jerram's Report comes to be adopted and improved pay and pensions are given. Are they going to get rid of all the pensioners now serving under Reserve conditions in the Navy at the old cheap rate? If they do, they will make a great mistake. Treat the men generously and do not leave them with burning grievances in their minds. Of course there is no justice when the pensioner has taken all the risks of the War, and luckily this War has brought the matter to a head. We raised it for years to empty benches, and never got the least support from the House or the country. Now we have it burning, and we know the worth of these men, and I know the First Lord will see they get justice. But I am asking him, in considering these things, for God's sake to deal with them generously! I ask the Admiralty and the First Lord to consider the position of the old pensioners who have wholly inadequate pensions, barely sufficient to maintain life. Look at these things broadly, and while giving men who are serving now these improved pensions I am satisfied that the House, Labour, Liberal and everyone will be willing to do justice to all who have served His Majesty in the past and the present.
There is another thing on which I am satisfied feeling in the Navy is very strong, and on which I can never see the answer to their argument. That is the retention of separation allowances. It is just as necessary for a man to be married and to keep his wife after the War as it was during the War. He is just as much separated from her in time of peace as during the War, I will not say necessarily for so long—he may get more leave—but there can be no question about it that the ground for it exists, I want to bring home the position of these men. Take a leading seaman with 1s. 11d. a day. He has to provide his own clothes and there are certain small payments he has to make. How could he bring up a wife and family respectably. I do not think I could do it. I do not know how it is done, but they have done it. It is wonderful. But because they have done it surely we owe something more to them than that. It is the ambition of the men and the ambition of the Admiralty to have continuous service men—twenty-two years' service. Of course you expect these men to marry during that time, or else it would be a deplorable loss to the country. How can you expect them to marry and live decently and respectably if you deny them the right of a separation allowance to help them to maintain their families? These are the considerations I urge in regard to what I feel is now impending, and I trust will be made in a generous spirit, a real improvement in the conditions of service not only in the Royal Navy but in the Royal Marines.
There are other matters I want to draw attention to. There is a very considerable and I think a very legitimate grievance in regard to pensioners. Pensioners who were liable to serve, and who were in fact mobilised for service, were told it was more important for them to remain at the work they were doing—telephones and what not; I cannot say—than to sail with their comrades in the Fleet. Those men have been mobilised and yet they will not benefit one halfpenny. What I ask or their behalf, and I think it is reasonable, is this. Let them receive an increase in their pension, so much for each year, from the moment they were mobilised just as any other pensioner would do. If you tell these men their services are more important at their post than at sea with the Fleet, you ought indeed to increase their pensions just in the same way as you increase the pensions of the Reservist who is with the Fleet. A question also arises in regard to men who have been invalided. I have a case which the House will consider incredible, but I have question and answer upon it. A chief engine-room artificer, a Reservist, was called up. He is entitled to a pension of 25s. a week. He was in fact wounded in the War, and he has been awarded a disability pension of 8s. 2d. He should be entitled to 33s. Would you believe it, by some process that the Admiralty has invented, instead of receiving his 33s. he only receives 32s. In other words, by some wonderful scheme of the Admiralty, which is more in favour of men who have not served so long, they have cut off this man because he has served twenty-two years and deprived him of 2s. I have raised it with the Admiralty. I could not believe the Ministry of Pensions. I wrote to them two or three times. I got an answer to a question which I put in the House. Whilst in this House we are always preaching—and I know the Labour party were strong upon it—that a man's pension should not be taken into consideration in regard to his employment, the Admiralty are doing this very thing. I have no doubt the scheme is admirable in its way, and if I had only served eighteen years, and you give me something, I should say, "Thank you"; but if I had served twenty-one years, and you take 2s. away from me, I should like to punch your head. That is what you are doing in this case. I wrote to the Secretary to the Admiralty recently about this case—he knows all about it—and I shall write to him again. I want this money and the arrears. This sort of thing drives these men wild, and it would drive anyone wild. It is a sort of thing that is quite impossible. If you deal with men on these lines, you are sure miserably to fail.
There is another question which is of great interest to my Constituency, and that is the question of dockyard labourers. I should like the right hon. Gentleman when he replies to say whether we are at the end of this system of petitions. I am satisfied that it is all wrong. I have have often protested against it. I have not the least objection if the Financial Secretary or any other representative of the Admiralty see these men in the first instance, and say, "We agree" or "We disagree," "We grant your demand or we do not"; but the men say we do not do that. I do deplore the view which the men of the Navy have taken in regard to the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary I can assure him that I have told them that they have no better friend than the right hon. Gentleman, and that their resolution, if they only knew the facts as I know them, was wholly wrong. But, unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman is in a position of responsibility without power. As if he could by his dicta say, "Pay this money" or "Pay that"! Not a bit of it. It is in the hands of the Treasury.
It is the Treasury who hold up these things, and it is a great injustice to the right hon. Gentleman. I know that in cases which I have brought before him—and I bring plenty—he has taken any amount of trouble, and he has gone round personally to the Treasury and said, "You really must do this." He is a good friend to the man in the yard, in the Navy, and in the Marines. He has done a great deal for the men, but not understanding the position and thinking that he is holding them up, they pass these resolutions against him. I trust that so far as any words of mine can gratify him, he will accept them. I am sure the men are quite wrong in blaming him. I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to welcome my suggestion to get rid of these petitions, and let these men go to Conciliation Boards to settle their grievances.. Why should he take the responsibility? Why should he have the odium thrust upon him of refusing a just demand? It is the Treasury which is to blame, but you cannot get at them. There are the junior Lords of the Treasury and all the officials behind them. They are perfectly hidebound. You do not know who is in error, but the net result is that the men fix upon the Financial Secretary and say he is to blame.
There are two other points. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to explain why the slips were filled in in Chatham Dockyard during the War. A committee was appointed to examine public accounts and they suggested that Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth ought to be swept away. I think that is all nonsense, though the Report did come from a most respectable body of people. The people locally view the suggestion with some concern, and I would like an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the work of Chatham Dockyard will continue in abundance and steadily. I hope he will also give us some explanation why the slips were filled in during the War. There is an assurance on another point which could be given to me to-night and it would be a very gracious concession. I have been struggling for years for the name of constructive officer to be given in lieu of the old name of carpenter. We have got the name changed from "carpenter" to "shipwright." We never asked for the name "shipwright" for the officer, but we asked for the name "constructive officer." By means of question and answer I have been informed that Admiral Hyde Parker had reported in favour of the title "constructive officer" as appropriate. Then I get this further admission that there is a body at the Admiralty, who never go to sea, who are called "The Corps of Naval Constructors," and they hold this thing because they say we are appropriating their name Was there ever such nonsense? The Admiralty have made a concession to the shipwright branch which has been highly appreciated, and it will be a gracious concession if they allowed the name "constructive officer" to be used instead of "shipwright officer," and "constructive lieutenant" used instead of "shipwright lieutenant."
Will the right hon. Gentleman reply to the point raised by the hon. Member (Mr. Hohler) respecting these excellent men who joined the Royal Naval Sick-Berth Reserve in 1914–15 with a view to their demobilisation, and will he also deal with the point with regard to the allowances given to the dependants of apprentices who were contributing to the home before they joined the Navy?
I will do my best. On behalf of the Beard I desire to thank the Committee very sincerely for the spirit which has pervaded this discussion. It has been from the beginning to the end most admirable, and, I am quite sure, will be very greatly appreciated by officers and men of the Fleet. There has been a general demand in all quarters, by all speakers, almost without exception, that the question of the sailors' pay should be dealt with fairly, squarely, and quickly. That has been the main feature of the Debate, and it is fully appreciated by the Beard of Admiralty. As I said at Question Time to-day, Admiral Jerram is working to report to the Board on pay by the end of this month, and the Hoard will—I am sure I can say this on its behalf—at once consider the recommendations—[Mr. Long: "Hear, hear!"]—and will take its decision and press their immediate adoption upon the War Cabinet. The Debate has been specially interesting and informing. Indeed, of the many Debates in which I have taken part for a great many years on the Navy Estimates, I have never known one more interesting, owing to the fact that five members of the Naval Service have taken part in it.
That is all to the good. After all, civilians, no matter how highly informed or sympathetic they may be, cannot be expected to interpret the sailor's point of view with such an intimate touch and as accurately as the sailor can himself. Three of the speeches have been by hon. Members who addressed this Assembly for the first time. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Admiral Hall), my hon. and Noble Friend the Member for Battersea South (Viscount Curzon), and my hon. Friend the Member for Banffshire (Mr. Barrie). We heard their speeches with great pleasure and interest, and heartily congratulate them upon them, and upon their successful intervention in the Debate, and from the promise given us tonight we look forward with lively hope and expectation to their assistance in the future. The Debate has also been interesting because, of the intervention of the Member for North Islington (General Sir Newton Moore), who is sin old representative of that great Overseas Dominion, Australia, which has laid the Empire and the world under such a deep debt as a result of the supreme gallantry of her sons by land and sea.
I hope that the Committee will forgive me for the draft I am compelled to make on its patience. It is my duty once more, as for as I can, to cover the points raised in a discussion lasting for several hours, and if I fail to do so in every detail there will still remain the Report of these Votes and the general discussion which may be resumed, subject to the Chair, if Members so desire. My right hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) if I understood him aright, thought that we ought not to ask for a vote of £60,000,000 on account, with a prospective expenditure of £150,000,000 for the year 1919–20, so far as we can see the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, without a closer justification of the demand than has already been given, though it is only just to the right hon. Gentleman to say that like everybody else so far as the money to treat the sailors fairly is concerned he would vote for it with both hands up. Let me try as briefly as I can to explain the Vote on Account and the provisional sketch, we can scarcely call it an Estimate, which is submitted for the information of the House a little more closely perhaps. For reasons with which I am sure the Committee is fully familiar all we can do at present is to ask for this Vote on Account which will probably last us between three or four months. We shall then, as the First Lord stated, submit to the House Estimates in the old form as contained in the pre-war volumes to which my hon. Friend (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) referred. All we are able to do to-day is to submit the purely provisional sketch, so far as we could with the knowledge at our disposal as to the general scope of Naval expenditure during the coming financial year.
Will there be opportunity for the Committee upstairs to debate the Estimates to which my right hon. Friend refers?
The Committee will only be asked now to give us Vote A and a Vote on Account of the money. Opportunity will arise in the House or upstairs, I cannot for the moment say which, for taking other money Votes into consideration, and as my right hon. Friend (Mr. Long) points out it will be open to my right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean) to ask that they should betaken here and not upstairs. No Vote is taken now except the £60,000,000 on account, until we know the details. Looking at the provisional sketch of the Supply Votes for 1919–20, that is for food, clothing, coal, oil, and material for ship construction and repairs, they must be divided by two to get at pre-war value, and any comparison with the Estimates for 1914–15, when the last detailed Estimate was presented, must be made bearing this fact in mind. There is scarcely a Vote in this sketch with the exception of the non-effectives, which is not materially increased as compared with 1914–15 by the increased cost of labour, or material, or by both. Then, again, in the expenditure of 1919–20, and particularly in the earlier months, we have to bear heavy war charges. The process of getting back from war to peace expenditure cannot be a clean cut. That is perfectly obvious.
For instance, take Vote 14, Naval Pensions, Gratuities, etc. That is increased in this sketch for 1919–20 by £8,600,000 in respect of war service gratuities. Take Vote 15, Civil Superannuation and Gratuities. There is nothing under this head for 1914–15 for Compensation for Injuries in War. The figure in this sketch is £54,000. Take Vote 11, charges such as compensation for damages done by His Majesty's ships, which were much increased during the War. For 1914–15 the amount under that sub-head was £20,000. but the amount in the sketch is £200,000. Take compensation for loss of kit by men. That was £2,000 in 1914–15. It is £65,000 in the sketch. The payment for the hire of certain auxiliary vessels serving with the Fleet and compensation for the total loss of these vessels is £1,465,000 in the provisional sketch, and there is nothing under that head for 1914–15. Coming to Vote 8, the greatest Vote on the Navy Estimate, let me say a word. Part 1 of that Vote provides for the personnel of the dockyard. We do well to pay a tribute of gratitude to the loyalty with which the employés of the dockyards have borne themselves in the long and anxious strain to which the hon. Member (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) has referred. Under this Vote the expansion of staff and higher rates of salaries and wages, including the, war bonus, considerably swells the amount. There will be during the year a reduction in numbers probably, but we must carry out these reductions with as little hardship as we possibly can. But the rate at which these reductions will be carried out, if necessary, depends on the amount of work that has to be done, and it must be remembered that few of our ships have had a complete out-fit since the commencement of the War. That fact will be a little reassuring to my hon. Friend (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) as to the amount of work for the Royal Dockyards. The higher rates of wages remain the principal factor in accounting for the larger total of this section of Vote 8.
As regards Material that covers naval stores, metal, timber, hemp, paint, electric and other appliances, and fuel for the Fleet. During the year considerable expenditure will be incurred on material required for the repair of ships and for sea stores which we cannot meet out of our existing stock. As regards fuel, the expenditure on actual coal and oil in the 1919–20 sketch is estimated at from £3,250,000 to £3,500,000 in excess of the Vote for 1914–15, and of that amount £2,750,000 represent the increased price of coal and oil, and the cost due to the substitution of oil for coal as fuel.
As regards the Vote 8, Part III. (Contract Work), there, is £37,500,000 for shipbuilding under contract, and that, of course, is the largest figure in the sketch. The First Lord pointed out that there you have got to divide by slightly over two to get back to pre-war values, and the expenditure which is proposed in the sketch is very largely due to the completion of new construction in hand which was too far advanced to be abandoned. Wherever, consistent with national safety, that abandonment seemed to be justified by balancing the amount of expenditures already made with the amount which would have to be undertaken, abandonment has been adopted and, as the First Lord stated, we have taken off the slips, and are turning the slips to merchant uses, three large ships of war, and a much larger number of smaller craft and a very much larger number of auxiliary craft. Here is an interesting figure. Out of this sum of £37,500,000 there is a sum of £7,500,000 for repairs and alterations to ships by contract. The figure for 1914–15 corresponding to that was £134,000, and a considerable proportion of that £7,500,000 is required for the reconditioning of armed merchant cruisers and for commissioned auxiliaries. It is a very significant fact that the corresponding figure for 1914–15 was £134,000. So far as new construction, to which the Vote has been committed by previous programmes, has to be carried to completion, the ultimate increase in the number of ships that will be completed does not necessarily mean an increase in the number of ships in commission. Replacement, with the latest word in naval construction, of the older vessels may very well be the alternative policy to be adopted.
From that general statement, which I thought it necessary to make, I turn to a particular matter which has arisen during this Debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) find my right hon. Friend the Member for the Abertillery Division (Mr. Brace) referred to the cost of training cadets, and asked whether it was not the fact that the fees which parents have to meet, and the charges which they have to meet during the whole course of the young naval officer's training does not amount to £ 1,000 charge on the parents. I should myself say that it is between £750 and £1,000. They asked whether that does not mean that the failure of a large number of parents to be able to put their hands upon that amount of money during a series of years secures a restriction in the field of selection. I have a great deal of sympathy with what they said, and as a matter of fact we have had appointed by the late Board a special committee to consider the question of whether the amount of the fees charged to the parents does not restrict the area of selection. That committee has just reported, and their report is now before the Beard for their consideration. My Noble Friend the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon), to whose maiden speech we listened with so much interest, is, I think, under a misapprehension in regard to pensions. He spoke of pensions as being taxed as unearned incomes, but surely he is wrong there. Pensions are taxed as earned incomes, and if I may say so, what I think he really was trying to put to us was that pensions should be taxed at service rates. That is a matter which, with great respect, I think might be looked into. It will be a matter for the Beard to make representations, if they think fit, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon. My hon. and gallant Friend rightly said that complaints and doubts have arisen in regard to prize. The moment you have a policy of awarding prize to the whole of the naval service engaged in the War under the conditions set out in the Proclamation, as against the policy of making the award to the individual captors in each case, which was the old policy, then obviously there cannot be any distribution till the pool is complete. That point was not reached until the 11th of November last, when hostilities ceased. The Accountant-General's Department of the Admiralty got to work as hard as they could to get the records of service of officers and men, to determine eligibility and share, completed as soon as possible. We hope that they will be ready—and the record of every individual has to be completed in order that it may be seen whether he is eligible or not, and what share he should receive—by the time the Prize Courts and the Tribunal under last year's Naval Prize Act have completed their labours. We hope that the Prize Courts and the Tribunal will have completed their efforts by the autumn. Our records of eligibility of service will certainly be complete by that time. There is no reason why they should not be, and if the Prize Courts and the Tribunal have not completed their labours by that time it will be a matter for the Beard very seriously to consider whether, the records being complete and there being a considerable pool of money already declared as prize, it ought not at that time to make an ad interim payment
No; I think not. They are not in the purview of the Act of 1918. Let me just say this—I am much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for raising it—except for the delay, which we all regret, but which I am afraid is inevitable in a system of pooling, no one's interesting prejudiced. Interest is payable on the value of all ships and stores that have been taken into use by the Government, and on the moneys that have been received. Farther, it is provided that the shares due to men who are dead shall be paid to their representatives, and the fact that a man may have left the Service will not deprive him of his share of prize-money, unless, of course, he has been discharged for misconduct. As regards my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Admiral Hall), whose maiden speech we all listened to with great pleasure, I agree cordially with all he said about the necessity of meeting the legitimate aspirations of the, lower deck for the possibility of rising to commissioned rank. I subscribe to everything he said on that matter.
With regard to half-pay, as hon. Members know, during the War half-pay to naval officers has been abolished except in the case where a naval officer would not take up a billet offered to him, or for other reasons which they know would be good. The expressions of opinion in the committee to-night will not be lost sight of by the Board. The question of the future of half-pay under peace conditions is now before the Beard, and it is a considerable advantage that we should have heard the views of hon. and gallant Members and other hon. Members on this question of the carrying on of the system of half-pay for naval officers. That the war system, under which there is no half-pay, except under the conditions I have mentioned, will be perpetuated in the future, I cannot say—I have no authority. But, at any rate, the expressions of opinion heard to-day will not be lost sight of by the Beard, which is now considering this question of half-pay. My hon. Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Greenwich (Commander H. Benn), and my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke), referred to what is colloquially known as the "kept-on officer." The position is this: The naval officer retired to pension before the War, if called on to serve during the War, receives active service pay, plus 25 per cent. of active service pay. Within the last few days the naval officer retired during the War, but still continuing to serve, also gets active service pay, plus 25 per cent. of active service pay. The change has been made as the result of representations in this House by the hon. Member for North Portsmouth, the hon. Member for Devonport, and others, in the last few days. There still remains the naval officer who has reached the age for compulsory retirement, is not retired, and is continuing to serve. Now he gets active service pay. My hon. Friend has been eloquent in his claim that at any rate that officers should be treated like the other two categories. All I can say is that we will continue to make representations to the Treasury to that effect.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport asked me some questions about Greenwich Hospital. On that let me say, first of all, that the Greenwich Hospital pensions are additions from a fund which is made up from all kinds of sources, and are paid in addition to naval life pensions. The figure for the total estimated expenditure for Greenwich Hospital for the year 1918–1919, or shortly contemplated, is £225,118. Of that amount there is provided for Greenwich Hospital ago pensions £114,000. That will provide 5,670 pensions of 5d. a day in addition to the naval life pension, and 5,630 pensions of 9d. a day. In 1913–14—this is what my hon. Friend desired to know—the corresponding figures were 3,836 and 5,689 respectively. At the present time age pensions are awarded to all eligible applicants of fifty-five years, or over, but they may get it at fifty-five. There are exceptions. There are a small number who do not get it because they have incomes which place them beyond absolute necessity. So far as money goes, we give them to the most necessitous.
No; but I can give a figure which I think will be of equal interest—the average age at which these pensions are and were awarded. Five years ago the age was about fifty-eight; tan years ago it was sixty-three; therefore we are working down. It means that we are better able to give to more of these men as time goes on. The advanced age pension is awarded automatically, on application, at sixty-five, to these who are in receipt of the age pension. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich called attention to the fact that the figure in the provisional sketch is £400,000, on Vote 6. The net expenditure in 1913–14 was £53,375 on Vote 6, and in 1914–15 £87,090. Between £20,000 and £30,000 of the increase in the 1919–20 sketch is due to increased prices—price of paper, rates of printing charts and other increases. Another increase is due to the inclusion of a provision for the compass department previously provided for under other Votes. But by far the largest increase is due to the provision for scientific research and experiments—which is an entirely new provision since 1913–14. Here the provision is roughly £200,000 on half the total in the sketch. The hon. Member for Devonport referred to what he rightly called the welfare committee. He called attention to the Admiralty Order of 21st February, under which it was decided to make permanent arrangements upon the same lines as the advisory member on the Jerram Committee at each port for the purpose of reporting the views of the Fleet on certain matters. He called attention to the method of electing these representatives which we have adopted in principle. The phrase in the Admiralty Order dealing with the setting up of these welfare committees says:
The election of the various representatives will be carried out in such a manner as the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces may decide.
I understand that in this particular case the Commander-in-Chief has held that
men whom he nominates will represent the lower deck on this local welfare committee.
At any rate, you have the spirit of the whole scheme there, and if there is any misunderstanding we will look into it again. I think this will be a useful addition to our machinery. I noted that the hon. Member for West Derby and the hon. Member for Devonport thought we ought to strengthen this machinery at the centre and that the personnel ought to be more representative and stronger. We shall bring that matter before the Beard and try to strengthen this welfare scheme at the centre.
Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with my last two points?
I will read the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech very carefully to see precisely what the suggestion is, but I will not deal it with it now, and I must first see what the complaint really is. My hon. Friend referred to the question of skilled labour, and I will say a word or two upon that point. We have in the Royal dockyards a threefold system of industrial organisation—the labourer, the skilled labourer, and the mechanic. In certain cases the skilled labourer does work which is done outside by a mechanic. The hon. Member has spoken of it as skilled labour employed in drilling and caulking. It is not a question of wages, because since the fall of 1917 such men would be eligible and would get the maximum skilled labour time rate of 37s. a week. The point at issue has been dealt with by the Beard of Arbitration and Conciliation, and their award calls upon us to give these drillers and caulkers these titles, and we shall do so at once. The award of 14th February raises the time rate minimum from 25s. to 27s. a week, and we shall adopt that. The award, however, does not touch the wages of the labourer which are 24s., but we have gone beyond the award to this extent, and we think we ought to increase 15 per cent. of the labourers to 25s. and another 10 per cent. to 26s., the governing consideration being length of service. That is beyond the award, though I do not make much of it. The award of 28th February recommends that we should make better provision for the training of the yard boys, but not the apprentices, who become skilled labourers and from whom this class are recruited. We shall take up this recommendation in a sympathetic frame of mind. I was asked by the hon. Member for Chatham whether we should continue the system of hearing petitions, but before we resolve to re-adopt it we shall consider the development of the Whitley Commission Scheme as applied to industrial workers in Government establishments. We have advanced a very considerable distance along the line of creating Joint Industrial Councils for Government establishments, and before we determine whether or not the annual hearing of petitions shall be resumed we shall get the machinery into being. It may very well be that will be the better alternative, and I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that any representations that the men themselves may wish to make upon the matter will certainly be very carefully considered by the Beard. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Barrie) made an earnest and admirable speech appealing on behalf of the fishermen who at a time of stress have come to our assistance and served us as minesweepers. He spoke very severely indeed of our attitude towards them. He said that it was shabby and that we were trying to drive out the small fishermen in the interests of the financial syndicates. This, I think, fairly represents his criticism. I am very sorry to hear it. It is the last thing that I or any Member of the Board would wish to do. I gathered that his complaint against us was that we were not treating these men fairly regarding the gear that they have lost.
If there are any particulars regarding the replacement of gear which my hon. Friend wants to bring before us he has only got to come to the office. With regard to the general question, it is certainly up to us to do what we can to give these men a hand, so as to enable them to come back advantageously to their old vocation. They have helped us, and to allow them to come back to find themselves run right out of their ordinary vocation is a thing which no member of the Board or of the House of Commons or of the public would view with equanimity. I have given my hon. Friend an invitation. I invite him to come and see us who are engaged upon the scheme which we propose to announce shortly for giving these men a band and reinstating them once more in their old calling—I am sure he will accept the offer—and to see if he can assist us. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Portsmouth (Sir T. Bramsdon) referred to a petition, signed by 10,000 naval pensioners, calling attention to the fact that their pension, in view of the great cost of living and the purchasing power of the money, is not now adequate. I saw the reference in the Press, but I have not seen the memorial. I cannot say whether it has been received or not, but I will make inquiries. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham referred to the non-demobilisation of certain representatives of the Navy in Chatham, including writers, victualling assistants, and sick-berth attendants. We cannot demobilise the writers as quickly as we should like, because they are the pivotal men for demobilisation, just as the Army Pay clerks are the pivotal men for demobilisation in the Army; they are invaluable to us.
Could you not employ some of these men to whom you are giving unemployment pay?
The writers have to do the records and to fill up the forms, and even with the very best intentions in the world, the person who is untrained for that work would probably delay demobilisation
Surely these forms are new? We have been demobilising for many months.
I am speaking of the naval forms which have to be filled up to give the man's record of service. When my hon. Friend has seen them, I think he will modify his view that it would be easy for a civilian outsider to take up the job. I admit at once we cannot demobilise the writers as fast as we should like. But I repeat they are pivotal men for demobilisation purposes, and in the interests of the greatest number I am sorry we cannot, but we do let them go as fast as we can. It is not true to say that none have been demobilised. With regard to the sick-berth attendants there is delay complained of, and I will inquire into their case. The same reason does not apply to them as to the writers. I cordially agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Hohler) and others who hare spoken in their praise of that fine corps the Royal Marines, and I admit it is up to us to see that when it comes to dealing with their conditions we must not be unmindful of their claims. My hon. and learned Friend referred to tradesmen in the Royal Marines at Chatham and elsewhere—tailors and beotmakers—and he says we are not letting them go to their civil employment, but are keeping them on in order that we may get the work done cheaply. It is not quite so bad as that. Although he spoke of a 1s. a day, these men, in addition to their pay—which is not 1s. a day—get piece-work pay when they earn it.
More than that, at any rate in the case of tailors, I think. It is desirable, however, that rather than that we should be under the suspicion of keeping these men for the sake of getting work done at a cheap rate and underselling people outside, they should be released as fast as possible, and that is the desire of the authorities at Chatham. In many quarters of the House the question of pensions and allowances, and particularly of the pensions of the dependants of deceased pensioners, has been raised, and I would like; to remind hon. Members of the terms of reference to the Jerram Committee. They are that the Committee shall inquire into the present rates of pay and allowances and retired pay or pensions of all ranks and ratings in the Royal Navy and of officers and men in the Royal Marines, and that they shall advise the Beard as soon as possible whether any and what alterations are necessary either in the rates or in the Regulations applying thereto. For this purpose they are to consult on matters affecting the lower-deck representatives attached to the Committee in an advisory capacity; and, finally, they are to consider whether the system adopted during the War under which a large proportion of the men's remuneration has been given in the form of separation and other allowances to their families is satisfactory. There you see that covers pensions, and the question of separation allowances. All I can say at the moment is that we shall await the Report of the Admiral Jerram Committee on this matter. Then, there was the case of a pensioner who has-a disability pension. Not to put too fine a point on it, the hon. and learned Member has said that we have done that man out of 2s. a week. My hon. and learned Friend came to me a little time ago with the case, which was, of course, quite new to me. I could not quite make out whether we were supposed to be the offending persons or the Ministry of Pensions, but I undertook to make the closest inquiry into it, and he may be sure that when that inquiry has been made, and directly I can get the whole of the facts, I will go into it with him. I think that the Committee would agree that it is a mistake to suggest that the Beard of Admiralty tried to do any man out of 2s. by some wriggling and haggling.
I have asked for the complete and most detailed figures. Let us see where this matter is wrong, and we will put it straight. As regards the old slips filled in at Chatham, that again is a matter of ancient controversy. We have received a petition with regard to that, and if it will be any comfort to my hon. and learned Friend, I can let him have the whole of the papers justifying the action of the Beard in filling in these small slips. With reference to the title which was changed from "carpenter" to "shipwright," my hon. and learned Friend thinks it ought to be changed to "constructor." The difficulty is that we have a great and admirable corps called the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. I was sorry he spoke disparagingly of this corps, for to them we owe the designs of the British Fleet. They are an extraordinarily able body of men. Many of them, by the way, are ex-apprentices of his own dockyard at Chatham. If we used the word "constructor" it would be misunderstood.
That comes rather near to the title of "Royal Corps of Naval Constructors." I thought the title "shipwright" gave satisfaction. Apparently, I am mistaken; well, then, the Beard will look into that again. Now, I think, I have covered the whole of the Debate, although perhaps I have not dealt with one or two of the points—
Can my right hon. Friend say if the pay awarded by the Jerram Committee will be considered retrospectively?
That is a matter which the Beard must consider, if it is a recommendation. I would now ask the Committee to give us Vote A and the Vote on Account. Of course, the whole matter, according to our usual practice, and if it is so desired, will be before the Committee Again when we come to the Report stage.