|Sums not exceeding|
|—||Supply Grants.||Appropriations in Aid.|
|2.||Victualling and Clothing for the Navy||300,000||—|
|8.||Shipbuilding, repairs, maintenance, etc.—|
|Section III—Contract work||Cr. 930,000||—|
|9.||Naval armaments||Cr. 360,000||—|
|10.||Works, buildings, and repairs at home and abroad||Cr. 269,900||—|
|Total, Navy (Supplementary), 1937 £||100||—|
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out "119,000" and to insert "118,900."
I think it is not unreasonable for me to register our protest that these very important Estimates should be taken at this rather late hour. The Navy Estimates are the highest we have been debating during the last two weeks, and I want to indicate to the Parliamentary Sectary to the Treasury that in the future we shall ask for a full day to deal with the Report stage of the Navy Estimates. We regret that the First Lord, owing to ill-health, is still unable to be present, but we trust that he is well on the way to complete recovery and will soon be able to undertake his duties again. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) dealt with the general question in the main Debate, and I can only say that the huge expenditure provided for in this and other Service Estimates is a sad commentary on the work of the Government during the last five or six years. We see a few Powers allowed to create such international unrest that we are witnessing the biggest race in armaments the world has ever seen in peace time. It is arms, arms, and more arms. After all, these are the weapons of despair, because there is no certainty as to where these arms, through the policy of the Government, are going to lead us. The times are almost similar to what they were in 1914 with regard to the expedition with which arms are being provided, but the expenditure on arms has easily outstripped even that period. For all the Services it is three times as high, and in the Navy there is an increase from £51,000,000 to £123,000,000, with the promise of a very large Supplementary Estimate for new construction, and possibly there will be provision to increase Vote A.
As the Parliamentary Secretary said, we are providing for a personnel higher than at any period since 1922. We do not doubt the gravity of the situation. We on this side, and the country at large, have very much more confidence in the Navy than in the foreign policy of the Government, because it is left for the statesmen to do the mischief and for the Navy particularly to get the country out of the difficulty into which the statesmen have put them. I do not want to exaggerate the difficulties. I suppose we must have ships and, therefore, we must have men, and the nation will be called upon to pay for them. I, like everyone else, welcome the concessions that have been made in the marriage allowance and the improved conditions for officers and men in the Navy, but, as has been pointed out, it is a drop in the bucket. I was at Portsmouth when the concessions were announced, and it was interesting to hear the comments made by officers and men. Everyone is not satisfied with them. A circular has been issued, I do not know whether by a naval officer or an ex-officer, but the comment is such that, if this is the feeling among officers, it does not speak very highly for the Admiralty. It points to the difference in the treatment of naval officers and that of officers of the Army and Air Force, and winds up by saying:
The Government scheme for marriage allowances is a mockery of justice, Ministers
ought to know that for years past the younger naval officers' contempt for them has been becoming more and more deeply ingrained. The scheme will aggravate this deplorable fact.
I hope that is not the view expressed by the majority of officers, but one sailor said to me, "Thank God the seamen think their wives are worth more than the Admiralty think they are worth in the allowance granted to them." After all, with these concessions, a rating is expected to exist with a wife and four children upon 29s. a week. It is a concession, but it has not gone far enough, and, while we welcome it, we think it should be very much more generous. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the allowance for the first child of officers would be 2s. and that that applied to all officers, but when he came to warrant officers, he said the allowance for the first child would be 1s. 6d. Why make this distinction? I think the Parliamentary Secretary, with the Board of Admiralty, should look into the matter and see if they cannot all be treated alike. He said that the changes would not apply to the Accountant Branch. In order to encourage zeal and to improve the prospects of reaching commissioned rank, they had decided to double the number of appointments as paymaster-lieutenant open to commissioned officers from warrant rank in the Writer and Supply Branches. These are not early promotions to commissioned rank as in the mate and sub-lieutenant class from the executive and artificer branch, but after long service from one to four, five, six, seven or eight or just a few years before these men retire. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will look into the matter again.
The statement issued by the First Lord states that recruiting is satisfactory. I notice that in the Estimates there has been an increase of something like 50 recruiting officers—from 120 to 170. I should think that is a very substantial increase, but I should like to ask whether there has been any relaxation in physical conditions at all, or whether the same conditions apply and whether anything has been done to reduce the period of training to enable recruits to be fitted for what is expected of them. We have heard nothing with regard to the question of reserves. Possibly the hon. Gentle- man will deal with that aspect. Again, very little was said with regard to the personnel of the Fleet Air Arm. There is going to be a very large increase in aircraft carriers during the next two or three years. I think there are some five on the stocks. This must necessarily lead to some comment upon the personnel that will make up the Fleet Air Arm. Are the numbers provided for in the increase in the personnel as stated in Vote A? In addition, we ought to know when the contemplated arrangements for transfer will be completed. It is now eight months since the decision with regard to independent control of the Fleet Air Arm was announced. Eight months after the announcement was made, it is stated that the method of effecting the transfer from the Air Ministry of functions for which the Admiralty will be responsible is being examined. It would be unfortunate if suddenly there were a dangerous situation and the control of this vastly important service were still in process of being examined, as it is at the present time.
In view of the situation which has been revealed by the Minister for the Coordination of Defence, there also arises the question whether there are available adequate supplies of aeroplanes for the Fleet Air Arm, having regard to the expansion of the Fleet as a whole and the additional services which the Fleet Air Arm will be expected to provide. It must not be forgotten that, whatever may be said about other Naval methods of guarding vital supplies of food and raw materials which come to this country from overseas, the danger to merchant ships, single or in convoy, in narrow waters must increase, and that aircraft must necessarily play some part in their protection. What requisitions have been made for aeroplanes for the Fleet Air Arm? What is the supply up to date? Moreover, it is vital that we should know whether any of the aeroplanes which may be sent overseas or which may be used in active service with ships are of the most improved and up-to-date types. Hon. Members will remember with concern the statement that was made by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence about the obsolete character of large numbers of these aeroplanes which have been manufactured during the last few years. There must be no question of priority of supply of these up-to-date machines being ex- ercised by the Air Ministry. Therefore, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty will satisfy us both with regard to the date of the transfer of this valuable service to the Navy and the adequacy of the supplies of personnel and machines.
I regret that particulars as to the new programme were omitted from the First Lord's statement. I know that the size, the armament and the cost of battleships and large cruisers depend upon decisions arising from discussions which are now proceeding between this country, France and the United States, but I think it is true to say that the present situation has no precise parallel in the past. Before 1914, the new ships of the great Powers were the most powerful that naval science could produce, but at the present time, many countries are in a position to build ships of war of substantially greater power than those now afloat. They are restrained only by some treaties, and in some cases by the knowledge that any move by them would be followed by similar moves by other Powers. Naval costs will play an important part, of course, because of the very great increase in costs which is taking place. As far as I can see the race in Naval armaments is on. More ships and perhaps larger ships are being built without any security being given to this country; if we build ships, other nations build ships; if we build larger ships, they will build larger ships.
It is very interesting to compare the cost of ships to-day with the cost before 1914. The total cost of the construction of all the combatant ships in the Royal Navy from 1893 to 1913–14 was £166,000,000. It would cost almost as much as that to replace the 15 capital ships of the Navy at the present time. The 68 battleships which we had in 1914 were built at a total cost of £83,000,000, and the 107 cruisers at a cost of £52,000,000. That is a great contrast with the situation to-day. The Parliamentary Secretary replied to a point which was put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) about the increasing cost of ships for the Navy at the present time. We have no recent figures with regard to the cost of battleships, but the cost of the "Nelson" and the "Rodney," which were completed in 1927, was more than double the cost before the War. If one takes light cruisers and cruisers, the cost per standard ton has increased from £71 in 1913–14 to £200 per standard ton in 1937. The cost of destroyers has increased from £108 per standard ton to £228; and that of submarines, average for large and small, from £132 to something like £350. That is an indication as to what defence is likely to cost the nation. It is almost impossible to look for a Fleeet of the magnitude of that which we had in 1914. It was recently reported in a newspaper, for instance, that the two 35,000-ton battleships which are being built in America cost about £400 per standard ton, and that the cost, when they are completed, will be about £14,000,000 apiece. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary can give the House any idea as to what is likely to be the cost of the five capital ships which we have in course of construction at the present time. Unfortunately, we cannot get any guidance from the Estimates as to what is the estimated cost while the ships are in construction, but only the cost of new construction after the ships are completed. I ask that such information should be supplied.
In the matter of the ever-increasing costs of Naval craft, I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary that almost the only recommendation of the May Committee of 1931 which was not put into operation was the recommendation that a representative committee should be appointed to inquire into the whole cost of Naval design and construction, and to consider whether any modifications might be adopted either with or without international agreement. The committee said that such a course would lessen the cost of Naval Defence without endangering national security. So far, nothing has been done with regard to that recommendation. I also ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Admiralty are satisfied about the system of costing for this new construction. There is a formidable programme of building and there is no doubt that large profits are being made by the shipbuilders. There is nothing which creates greater moral indignation among the people of this country than the thought that a number of companies are making huge profits out of the nation's necessity.
Only on Saturday last I saw in a newspaper that two companies which are very large contractors for the Admiralty had. shown record profits. Vickers showed a profit of over £2,000,000 upon their trading last year, and we are only at the commencement of this construction programme. Another firm of contractors, John Brown, it is reported, show record profits for last year. I well remember the expression of disgust of millions of people in this country at the report of the Commission which was appointed in 1919–20 to inquire into the question of war wealth. A highly respected Member of this House, who was a great friend of mine, the late Mr. Vernon Hartshorn, told me that he was amazed at the profits which had been made by armament contractors during the War. Notwithstanding the heavy Income Tax and the Excess Profits Duty and the Super-tax a small number of people in this country found themselves, when the War was over, wealthier to the extent of £4,000,000,000 as a result of profits made out of the blood and sacrifice of the people of the country. We ask that the Service Departments, the Army, the Navy and the Admiralty, should see to it that no system such as that will be allowed to continue during this process of rearmament. The people of the country will not stand for it, and I hope that in the consultations between the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence and the representatives of the trade unions on Thursday next, that question will be discussed and that some safeguard will be provided in this case against excessive profits being made by armament firms.
I wish to touch next on the question of fuel. We cannot allow the question of the fuelling of the Navy to pass with the few remarks which were devoted to it by the Parliamentary Secretary on Thursday. Like him, I am not going to argue the merits of the Navy going back to coal or even to dual-firing. It is recognised that no naval constructor of repute would on technical or strategical grounds maintain that he could design a coal-fired or dual-fired ship having the same military characteristics as an oil-fired ship of the same displacement. Notwithstanding that, let it be said that it is only the British and American Navies which almost exclusively use oil as fuel. The only ship in the British Navy which can burn either coal or oil, apart from some small craft, is the light cruiser "Adelaide." Consider the position of some of the other great naval Powers. We have just one ship which can burn either coal or oil, America has none, Japan has eight or nine battleships which can burn either coal or oil and one which burns oil only. France has five capital ships which burn coal or oil and two which burn oil only. Italy has two which burn coal or oil and two which burn oil alone. In the case of Germany they are very old ships, but two can burn coal or oil. Japan has 20 cruisers, some of them built as recently as 1926 which can burn either coal or oil. France has three modern 10,000 ton cruisers completed in 1930–31 which are fitted to burn coal or oil. Japan and a number of other Powers use coal exclusively in some of their small ships.
I think we take oil-firing too much for granted. Notwithstanding the disadvantages of coal, I think one or two ships ought to be used for the purpose of trying out new boilers and the system of dual firing. I am not asking that more than two or three ships should be used for this purpose. They should also be used to try out colloidal fuel. This question is of vital importance. There is no need to point out the absolute dependence of all branches of the fighting services on oil. Like many other Powers we produce little or no oil from our own natural resources. In fact there are only two great Powers, Russia and the United States, which have all the oil they require within their own boundaries. A well-known Italian marshal rightly said the other day that Great Britain, Germany, France and Japan, together with Italy, were the victims of sanctions imposed by nature in that they had not an abundance of this valuable fuel within their own borders. I have no doubt that the Board of Admiralty and the Committee of Imperial Defence are keeping this matter in mind, but it should be noted that no mention of the question has been made in any of the Debates on the Defence Estimates or in any of the general Debates.
Germany does not hide its concern about this question. The Germans realise that in any future war, one of their great weaknesses will be in the matter of oil supplies, and they are endeavouring to build up a supply from coal. It has been said in the last two years that Germany hopes to make herself independent of outside supplies by producing from coal something like 5,000,000 tons per annum to meet her normal consumption. I do not suppose that that figure has been achieved, but there is no doubt about the effort which is being made by Germany to become self-supporting in this respect. During the last War, when oil fuel was not nearly as important as it is now, the Allied Powers, it is estimated, used 500,000 tons a month irrespective of the amount required for naval purposes or for the civil population. In the next war it is estimated that the consumption of oil will, in some cases, be three or four times what it was in the last War, and I think it is reasonable to estimate that the oil consumption in war-time would be about twice the normal peace time consumption. That means that we in this country would require between 25,000,000 and 28,000,000 tons per annum to meet all our requirements. Last year we imported 3,000,000,000 gallons.
There is an ever increasing dependence not only of fighting services but of whole nations upon this very valuable fuel. This is not the occasion on which to deal with the report of the Falmouth Committee, but one criticism which can be offered of the published report of that committee is that not sufficient consideration is given in it to this question of the use of fuel in defence. The report is based on present-day prices. I wonder whether the committee had their attention drawn to the fact that fuel oil cost the country anything from £20 to £30 per ton during the War? As late as 1920 we were paying in this country 2s. 3d. a gallon for oil on Thames-side, and I wish the Falmouth Committee had based their prices, not only upon the price of oil during a period such as the present, but taking into consideration the excessive cost for this valuable commodity during the period of the war.
I know it is an axiom of our Defence policy that we must obtain and retain the command of the sea, but the command of the sea is never absolute. It is a term compatible with the sinking of ships, and it will be especially tankers, with the value of oil as it is recognised at present by those nations which will be out to cripple this nation during a war. Moreover, it should be recognised that every ship assigned to the protection of tankers is diverted from other important duties. The transport of oil by sea would be subject to many hazards, and the supplies might be withheld because the oil upon which this nation is dependent is drawn from many foreign countries* Less than 5 per cent. of the oil which we consume here is produced here. We think that no risks should be taken in this vital matter. Oil is the lifeblood of our Defence forces, and everyone will admit that supplies in wartime are liable to interruption. Even if we are to continue to rely mainly on imported oil for the bulk of our requirements, it would be, in our opinion, wise statesmanship to have other sources of supply, so that if the one fails, the whole mechanism of Defence will not be thrown out of gear. What practical action is being taken by the Admiralty to give to this nation that supply which she will require in the event of an emergency such as that to which I have referred? It is no use looking to the production of oil from natural sources in this country. We know that already 50 licences have been granted under the Petroleum Production Act with no results.
Then I take it that something should be said with regard to the question of storage. One would that the cost of storage should be taken into consideration. I know that in the Estimates something like £6,500,000 is the expenditure which is to be incurred for the storing, not only of oil, but of munitions and mines as well, and I would ask the Civil Lord, whose Department is responsible—and may I say that I hope his period at the Admiralty in the position which he now occupies will be as happy as was my only too short period there—whether he can indicate that these matters are being considered and that the nation may rest assured that the fuel question is not being forgotten. I would like to ask whether the Admiralty in this matter is co-operating with the other Service Departments in providing this accommodation or is acting separately. We would ask, though I will not press the Civil Lord for a reply on this point, whether there is a programme to which the Admiralty is working and whether it is a joint one between the three Services.
One other matter which is of vital importance is whether the Admiralty is in consultation with the oil companies with regard to the places at which storage tanks are being placed. The Thames side may be the most convenient spot for the stor- age of oil for commercial purposes, but it certainly is not the safest place in the event of war, and we think there should be consultations going on between the Admiralty and the oil companies with a view to arriving at an agreement as to where these oil storage tanks should be placed. Can anyone imagine a more vulnerable situation for the storage of any commodity, important or unimportant, than the Thames-side, where we see these hundreds of oil tanks being situated, which would be a very easy target for hostile aircraft.
I would join in the plea which was put up by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), in which he suggested that, with regard to this matter as with regard to the importation of foodstuffs, consideration should be given to the ports on the Western side of this island. I do not know whether it would be too much to ask the Admiralty to consider the question of putting much of their oil storage there, and even of doing what is being done in America, that is to say, conveying oil overland through a system of piping. In America, I was informed the other day, they have no less than 90,000 miles of pipe lines. It may be costly, but the construction of battleships is costly, the construction of the whole of our Fleet is costly, and what will be the use of the Fleet, the aeroplanes, the tanks unless they can get this vital fuel? Without it they will be absolutely useless. I would that the Admiralty and the other Government Departments would consider this question, and I have not given up hope even yet that a very substantial portion of the petrol and fuel oil which will be required by the fighting Services of this country could be obtained from our coal supplies. I am not discouraged by or despondent about the report of the Falmouth Committee on this matter, for I am satisfied that in the event of an emergency coal will play a very much more important part in the defence of this country than it is playing at the present time.
In summing up what I have to say upon the Report stage of these Estimates, I would say that the world is paying a very heavy price for its failure to organise peace and security after the last War. These Estimates provide for £120,000,000 expenditure upon the Navy. The total cost of the Defence Services to the British people for the coming year will amount to some £340,000,000 or £350,000,000, and in almost every other country proportionately large sums are to be squandered for the same purpose. If, at the end of the road, peace was clearly visible, the sacrifice might be worth while, but is the end of the road in sight, is peace at that end, or does it lead to war, which is a return to barbarism and economic ruin, with sorrow and suffering for millions of peace-loving people? Surely the lesson to be drawn from the present world situation is that Britain must cooperate with other Powers which desire peace, to ensure the maximum effectiveness at the minimum of cost to all the nations working for peace. That means collective security. When is Britain going to take the road for which the world is waiting?
It is always a pleasure to hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), and to see how it is possible to combine a robust Socialism, from which I dissent completely, with a very keen interest in the senior Service, with which I have the most profound sympathy. I do not propose to follow the hon. Member into the matters to which he has alluded, except as regards the cost of the fleet and the cost per ton. We all realise the enormous proportionate increase in the cost of naval shipping, but I would make two observations about that. I would point out to the hon. Member, whose interest in those who work on the ships is as great as mine or that of anyone else, that between 70 and 80 per cent. of the increased cost goes to the workmen who build the ships or who work in other factories and provide the instruments with which the ships are fitted. The increase of cost is to a great extent owing to the greater elaboration of the instruments required by present-day naval warfare. As to our own position in the matter, the cost per ton of the German 10,000-ton battleships, which I think are the last big ships for which we have the cost-per-ton figure, was two-thirds as much again as the cost per ton of the "Nelson" and "Rodney." So far as one can form any conclusion, the costing arrangements of the Admiralty and the efficiency of naval establishments and private yards are as high as, if not higher than, those in Germany to-day.
There are two matters to which I wish to address myself. One is the question of destroyers. In the Statement Relating to Defence there is no provision for any flotilla of destroyers for the coming year. That is a feature which, for various reasons, strikes with dismay everyone who has the interest of the Navy at heart. It was a point made during the Committee stage of the Estimates, which both my hon. Friends who are responsible for the Admiralty to-night did their best to answer. Although yielding to none in admiration of my hon. Friends, I do not think that their answer was convincing. There was, first the Financial Secretary who, with his customary persuasive method of addressing us, pointed out that there were 40 destroyers in course of construction and that it was unnecessary to consider building the usual annual flotilla. The Financial Secretary in another part of his remarks pointed out that three flotillas, that is, 24 destroyers, would be finished in this financial year. By the next Estimates, therefore, there will be only 16 destroyers under construction, and that is below the normal number. In any case, to judge our standards by the number of destroyers or ships of any class that we have building would lead us into all sorts of fallacies. The proper yardstick is surely the needs of this country and its Fleet for a particular class of vessel.
Then there was my hon. and gallant Friend the Civil Lord, whose technique is perhaps more robust and who does not adopt the persuasive method. He straightly said that we could not have all that we wanted, and that there was so much building going on that the destroyers ought to be left out. As he knows, the firms which are on the destroyer list and which build destroyers are very largely specialists, such as Thorneycroft's, White's, Denny's, and Yarrow's. I do not think any of these firms build anything bigger than a destroyer, and they would be capable of taking on two each in a new programme. It would prevent gaps in the work and would prevent skilled men being put on other types of building. There appears to be a prospect of a decline in the near future in the building of merchant ships owing to the high cost of metals, and it may well be that this is an opportunity to build another flotilla of destroyers.
That is only the lesser part of the argument. The real test is what our needs are. I take the standard of 200,000 tons which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) adopted in his period at the Admiralty in 1929. That was the standard for a situation in which there was unrestricted building of submarines. I do not think anyone would suggest that the building of submarines is in any way restricted now, because I have never known a time when they were being laid down in larger numbers. Although it has been pointed out by the spokesmen for the Admiralty that we might be better off in destroyers than in some other class of ships, that is to some extent due to the fact that there is a shorter lag between the order and the completion of a ship and its commission. Therefore, those destroyers which were ordered in 1936, when the spurt was put on in naval shipbuilding, are within sight of being ready. Even so, we are now well short of the standard of the 200,000 tons of destroyer tonnage.
Of the destroyers on hand, some 60 are over age. When we add all the destroyers we have to the 40 under construction, we shall be well over the 200,000 tons, but, meanwhile, some of the 60 old destroyers will have become unserviceable and the greater number will have been reduced to the position of convoy vessels. I understand it is the policy of the Admiralty to re-equip the older destroyers up to the V and W classes as ships not fully prepared to carry out all the manifold duties of the destroyers as maids of all works of the Fleet, but to specialise them as convoy vessels and therefore as vessels which can really do the work which in the last War was done by sloops.
As regards the absence of this flotilla from the building programme, there is this final argument, that it is entirely contrary to the doctrine and policy of the Admiralty, a policy which was established in 1927 and was a policy of continuity of replacement. It was desired to avoid the unfortunate position in which this country, and even more so the United States, found itself, as a result of building a very large number of ships in one year. The United States built a vast fleet of destroyers all of which became over-age at the same time. The policy of this country has always been to build destroyers steadily at a rate which was never less than a flotilla a year, except for one year, and in order to keep the party cheerful I will not say in which year it was that the "C" class destroyers were divided by two and only four were laid down. I cannot see why we should fall into the error of having a rush of building followed by the absence of any building at all of this type of ship, because it is not only unfortunate but also uneconomical.
There is one other matter to which I wish to address myself, and it concerns some remarks which fell from the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) who, I am sorry to see, is not in his place to-night. He speaks with such authority on this subject, and I myself have such a particular regard for his observations, that when he makes a pronouncement which does not appear to be sound I think it is always worthy of a rather close examination. With one suggestion that he made I certainly disagree, and disagree rather strongly. It was that there should be more 10,000-ton cruisers armed with 8-inch guns built for the Fleet. The technical description of 8-inch gun cruisers of that type, according to the latest Treaty, is "light surface vessels, subcategory A." There are two good reasons against building any more such ships. I think they are two very convincing reasons. The first is that it is illegal, and the second that it is unnecessary. It is illegal owing to the Naval Treaty of 1936, to which we were a party. By Article 6 of that Treaty this country has undertaken not to lay down any more such ships until 1943, so for five years we cannot even begin to build them, unless we can find some way out of Article 6. There are three ways out of it, but none of them applies. If we had a ship of that class shipwrecked we could replace it, under Article 23. If we had a war, then we could start building, under Article 24, but that does not apply. There remains only the Clause in Article 25, sometimes called the "escalator clause," but that comes into operation only when vessels not in conformity with the limitations of the Treaty are being constructed or acquired by a Power not a party to the Treaty. In that case the high-contracting parties, which include this country, can depart from the terms of the Treaty to the extent to which they consider de- parture necessary, but nobody is building 10,000-ton cruisers not in conformity with the limitations of the Treaty.
The hon. Member mentions Japan, but there is no real evidence about that, nothing more than suspicion, although, of course, we are all in the difficulty of having the general naval building situation put in some confusion owing to the quite unnecessary concealment and strange policy of the Japanese Admiralty. I do not think there is any evidence about their building anything of that sort. The right hon. Member for Epping brought up the question in connection with the German 8-inch gun cruisers. Germany denounced the Treaty of Versailles. I do not propose to comment upon that action. We have all commented upon it. Germany made an agreement in 1935. The more we criticise a country for breaking agreements the more scrupulously we ought to appreciate that country when it keeps an agreement. Germany, according to all the information at the disposal of this country, has kept the Naval Treaty of 1935 not only in the letter but in the spirit. We must not look askance when we find these countries keeping their obligations, and we must recognise that they have done so.
That agreement was very reasonable. The German Government accepted a percentage of 35 of our strength, and, with one exception, they did so by categories, which meant that they would not concentrate and outbuild us in one category at the expense of the others. Germany is entitled to build five 10,000-ton cruisers, and is building only three. At present we have 15, so our proportion is five to one in that class. Some of the earlier of our ships have already undergone big reconstruction and will not be far short of new ships of that type.
The second point, that they are unnecessary, is based upon the fact that the 8-inch 10,000-ton cruiser was the modern equivalent of the armoured cruiser, a ship whose function it was very difficult to define. In the War the armoured cruiser was the most unfortunate type with which any Navy was equipped. It had a very large proportion of casualties. The "Defence," the "Warrior," the "Black Prince," the "Blucher," the "Scharnhorst" and the "Gneisenau" were all armoured cruisers and were all sunk. As to the risk of war against commerce by the big ship and by the 10,000-ton cruiser, I do not think there is any instance in history of heavy ships having successfully carried out war against commerce. Very rarely have they been sent out to do any such thing, because the big ship is too valuable. These cruisers would cost over £2,000,000, they would carry between 600 and 800 men and would be very difficult to maintain at sea without bases. In the case of Germany, the ships would have to come out past our main fleets and would have to go back.
As tar as we can take any analogy from the late War, it was not the big ships such as the "Scharnhorst," the "Gneisenau" and the German China squadron that destroyed our commerce. These ships did our commerce very little harm and their operations ended in the destruction of the squadron. The "Emden" and the "Koenigsberg," much smaller ships, did our commerce very great harm, but they were eventually caught and destroyed. The disguised merchant ship at the end of the War did our commerce even greater harm than did the "Emden" and the "Koenigsberg."
I have only one more observation to make at this late hour at which it is apparently and unfortunately necessary for us to discuss this important matter. I am trying to keep my remarks in rather smaller compass than I would wish. I would ask the hon. Gentleman one question about flying boats. After an agreement which has been come to as regard to the Fleet Air Arm, a compromise which has been honoured by the Navy and the Air Force. I think may of us regret that the flying boats were not transferred to the Fleet Air Arm. I would like to ask my hon. Friend whether the flying boats are under the operational control of the Navy. They are its long-distance reconnaissance machines in the air; they are expected to fulfil the function which was quite usefully fulfilled by the German Zeppelins for the German Fleet in the last War. It seems to me that to deprive the Navy of the operational control over flying boats is really to put a patch over their eye; and, although there was a glorious occasion in the British Navy connected with a patch over the eye, I do not think it is a thing that should be made a universal practice. That is all that I wish to ask my hon. Friends. I would congratulate them on a programme which, if I may humbly say so, is a programme worthy of this country and worthy of the dangerous times in which we live.
Major Lloyd George:
I should like to support what has been said by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross), especially with regard to destroyers. I think I am right in saying that a good deal of apprehension was felt last week in all quarters of the House with regard to the absence of destroyers from the Government's programme. The impression I got was that the reason why they did not appear was that on the whole the Admiralty were satisfied that they were building enough. The Civil Lord said that they were very happy in the fact that they had still kept their old ones, and were in a better position as regards destroyers than as regards any other ships of the Fleet. I think it will be generally agreed that, relatively speaking at any rate, from the point of view of the defence of these shores against attack by a hostile fleet, the Navy to-day is more powerful than it was in 1914; but, as I said last week, the greatest danger came to this country in the last War at a time when we had undoubtedly complete command of the sea. I believe that, at the worst period of all, we lost something like 500,000 tons of shipping a month, and we lost something like 3,500,000 tons in 1917. The serious part of the matter was that not only did we lose ships, but sailors. That was a very serious matter, and it will be still more serious in the future, if one is to judge by the conditions of the present time.
The only thing that saved this country at that particular juncture was the convoy system, and it was said by those in authority that one of the obstacles in the way of starting that system was a shortage of destroyers. Eventually the difficulty was overcome, as a result of prodigious efforts on our part, but I would point out that the crews were greatly overworked. Officers broke down under the heavy strain, and the ships themselves, owing to the constant work they had to do, suffered considerably. That is what actually happened at that time, and I think it is relevant now to compare the situation as regards these craft with what it was in those days, when admittedly one of the obstacles to the only system that overcame our difficulties was a shortage of destroyers. In 1917 we had 263 destroyers in this country, and I believe there were some American destroyers as well. At that time there were about 175 German submarines working in the various seas. To-day, including some 60 destroyers which are over age, and to which reference has already been made, we have about 149, with about 40 building, making a total of just under 200. We had 263 in 1917. With the 40 building, we have now 200. With regard to submarine building, Germany, as far as one can estimate, has about 61. I have an idea that, as far as submarines are concerned, they have some right by which they can increase the number. The Italians have well over 100 at present. Our destroyer position, therefore, is considerably worse than it was in 1917. Another difficulty which makes the position even more serious is that Italy, with over 100 submarines, was an ally in the last War.
Reference was made by my hon. Friend to oil. The Mediterranean route is vital for oil, at any rate; and the position to-day is much worse than it was in the War, because not only have we not the friends we had then, but they have bases, either actual or potential, on what must be considered the most vital of our trade routes, especially as far as the Navy is concerned. I saw in a newspaper the other day the statement that, with regard to the protection of our shipping in connection with the dispute in Spain, something like 64 craft were required. That is very different from what we would have to face in the event of real hostilities. If it took 64 craft to look after ships in those circumstances, I cannot help feeling that our destroyer programme at present bears no real relation to the situation we would have to face. The Government should really consider the position in regard to our destroyer programme. As a result of the things that have happened recently, the very work that destroyers have to do is bound to be increased, because the route that our ships have to travel in certain circumstances will be much greater, and places where, in the last War, we could look, at any rate, for neutrality will now be bases hostile to ourselves. Great efforts were made before the last War to increase our destroyer programme, but it was not done and the one cry during the War, especially in 1917, was about the shortage of destroyers. That was made up by prodigious efforts on the part of the people of this country, which managed to save the country from disaster. I agree that destroyers are much more easily built, and will not interfere to any great extent with the work that is going on.
I want to ask one question with regard to officers' marriage allowances. Obviously, there is a good deal of misapprehension as to what is actually meant. As far as I can gather, a married officer ashore on a job gets a lodging allowance of £80. That also applies to an unmarried officer. Therefore, the allowance is in lieu of accommodation that he has on board ship. The married officer now, I gather, is to get a marriage allowance. Therefore, when he is afloat he will be so much better off; but when he goes ashore to any job he will lose his lodging allowance which he now gets. In the case of a married officer, he would get, say, £45 odd, and lose about £80. I cannot understand why they mix up the two things. If you decide to give the marriage allowance, I should have thought that it would be treated as marriage allowance, and that, if you give a man lodging allowance, it would be treated as lodging allowance. Suppose an officer decides to take marriage allowance when he is serving afloat can he, when he goes ashore, revert, if he wants to do so, to the lodging allowance which he had before? If he cannot do that, he stands to lose about £35 a year. If he decides while afloat to take marriage allowance, can he, if he goes back to a shore job, go back to the lodging allowance? I shall be grateful if my hon. Friend can give me a reply to that question.
I wish to support very strongly the plea which has been put forward for the continuation of the building of destroyers, but I wish first of all to deal with the question of marriage allowances. Naval officers, when they heard that at long last the principle of marriage allowances was to be granted and put into the Navy Estimates, I am sure, heard it with great satisfaction. But now that they know the details of the scheme, I believe that the majority of naval officers will be filled with dismay and keen disappointment. The scheme, in my opinion, is an extremely mean and shabby one, and is not worthy of our great naval Service. I would like to go into some detail with regard to these marriage allowances. The marriage allowance for officers of captain rank, which is quoted as being at the rate of 5s. 6d. a day, and for officers below that rank at 4s. 6d. per day is, in fact, 2s. less than those amounts because their basic rate of pay has been cut by 2s. Therefore, the marriage allowance which is being granted to these officers in fact means an increase in their pay of only 3s. 6d. in the case of captain and 2s. 6d. in the case of officers below that rank. The Parliamentary Secretary said, when presenting the Estimates, that captains would receive £100 a year, and that those below the rank of captain would receive £80 a year marriage allowance. I asked him at the time he made that statement whether it was a net allowance, obviously meaning, would they receive those amounts over and above the 2s. cut? They will not receive it. The actual amount which officers of the rank of captain will receive as marriage allowance will be £63 10s. a year, and the actual amount which officers below the rank of captain will receive will be £45 12s. a year.
Perhaps it will help my hon. and gallant Friend if I remind him that the case which I gave was that of the married officer with one child, which is the average case. I am not disputing his figures, but I am just explaining mine.
The fact is that a captain is to receive an extra 3s. 6d. net a day if he is married. Three hundred and sixty five times 3s. 6d. is £63 10s. The officer below the rank of captain receives 2s. 6d. a day. Three hundred and sixty-five times 2s. 6d. is £45 12s. I do not understand why the Parliamentary Secretary interrupted me. That is the actual amount of money in excess of the pay they are now receiving which they will get from marriage allowance. The unmarried officers of 30 years of age and above, on their next promotion, or officers who marry and decide to co-opt into this scheme, or on next promotion, will have a reduction of 2s. a day on their basic pay. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question in regard to that. A lieutenant when he has servied seven years as lieutenant automatically becomes a lieutenant-commander. Will that be counted as promotion, and will that lieutenant who automatically becomes a lieutenant-commander have 2s. a day deducted from his pay in order to pay marriage allowance to officers in the Service?
This marriage allowance is to have effect only when an officer is serving at sea. When a married officer serves on shore he is not to receive the marriage allowance, but if he serves on shore in an appointment where service quarters are not provided for him, he will receive marriage allowance, or, as I understand, he may, if he wishes, receive lodging allowance instead of marriage allowance. He may take whichever he pleases, but he does not receive both. A single man who takes up an appointment where service quarters are not provided for him, receives lodging allowance, if he is a captain, at the rate of £100 a year, or at the rate of £80 a year if he is below the rank of captain. That is £100 a year and £80 a year in excess of the pay these officers are receiving to-day. That is the sum which the Admiralty considers necessary to compensate them for having to find accommodation and mess themselves.
The Parliamentary Secretary says that in order to place the married officer in an equitable position with the unmarried officer when he goes on shore and takes up an appointment of that nature, he will get marriage allowance instead of lodging allowance. The marriage allowance which he will obtain, as I have already stated, amounts to £45 12s., although the Admiralty have laid it down that it is an equitable thing for an officer who has to provide his own quarters and mess himself to receive £80 a year. But under this scheme the married officer is only to receive £45 12s. a year instead of £80. How is he better off? He is going to lose the difference between £80 and £45 12s. If he chooses to have lodging allowance instead, there is no difference in it, perhaps 15s. or a £1. That seems to me to be a very unfair position—he ought to receive the full lodging allowance laid down by the Admiralty.
There is another point which I wish to make in this connection. The unmarried officer when he has to provide himself with accommodation is satisfied with one or, at most, two rooms. Does the Parliamentary Secretary consider that two rooms which are sufficient for an unmarried officer are also sufficient accommodation for a married officer, his wife and one child? It is obvious that the accommodation which is required for a married officer, his wife and child, is greater than that required for an unmarried officer and, therefore, there is a greater expense on a married officer if he has to provide his own quarters. The Parliamentary Secretary stated that he wanted these two to be treated on an equality in this matter, but they will not be under this scheme. I hope he will give a reply to this point. When the Parliamentary Secretary presented the Estimates he said:
We have aimed at giving them"—
that is, married officers—
such benefit as will put them approximately in the position of officers who, being employed on shore, are entitled either to quarters or lodging allowances, which directly relieved their family expenditure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17TH MARCH, 1938; col. 633, Vol. 333.]
From the facts I have given all I can say is that his aim is very bad and that he has scored a bad miss. I should like to compare the position of the married naval officer with that of a married officer of the same age in the Army and in the Air Force. Between the ages of 37 to 42 a lieutenant-commander with marriage allowance receives £627 12s. a year, a major in the Army of the same age, with his marriage allowance, receives £782 a year, and a squadron leader of less age receives £822 a year. Therefore, under this scheme a married naval officer, a lieutenant-commander, is £155 a year worse off than an Army officer of the same rank and the same age, and £194 a year worse off than an officer in the Air Force. It must be remembered that there is no restriction on the officer in the Army or in the Air Force; he always gets his marriage allowance wherever he is serving and gets bachelor allowance as well, while the naval officer only gets marriage allowance while at sea.
The naval officer is entitled to fair and equitable treatment in this matter. He is entitled to as generous a treatment as an officer in the Army or in the Air Force. From the facts I have given—and they cannot be disputed—a naval officer is being most unjustly treated in comparison with officers in the other Services. What justification is there for a cut of 2s. in naval officers' pay, robbing Peter to pay Paul—robbing Paul too to pay himself? What a mean scheme. What justification is there for laying down that an officer on half-pay shall receive no marriage allowance? At the one time in the whole of his life when he requires it more than any other he does not receive it. What justification is there for only giving marriage allowance to an officer when he is in a post where no quarters are provided for him? What justification is there for the suggestion that the married officer does not require any more accommodation than the unmarried officer? No wonder the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench said that when he was at Portsmouth he heard severe criticisms against this scheme. The naval officer is certainly being very shabbily and meanly treated. I do not think this scheme can commend itself to hon. Members of this House, nor to the nation as a whole when they know the details of the scheme, and realise the way in which the Service of which they are so justly proud is being treated as regards marriage allowance. I beg the Government to reconsider the scheme and to do justice to the naval officer who so thoroughly deserves it.
The question of flying boats was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes). Flying boats are for reconnaissance work in the protection of trade routes. They cannot be used for bombing any military object. Their work is purely naval and yet they are manned and trained and are under the control of the Air Ministry. The Admiralty is responsible for the security of our trade routes and yet the flying boats, which form a very important part of the craft used for the protection of trade, are not under their control. They are not manned by naval ratings and are not trained by the Admiralty. For operational control they are to be turned over to the Admiralty, but there is no guarantee that they will always be at the disposal of the Admiralty. Supposing the Air Ministry is short of pilots or wants the boats for some other purpose, what will happen? There are certain qualifica- tions required for the personnel of flying boats. Seamanship and a knowledge of the sea are of the utmost importance. The Air Ministry has acknowledged that fact by advertising for young Mercantile Marine officers to join up for the flying boats. One would imagine that the Navy could supply personnel which understood the sea and naval matters, and obviously the Navy should man these flying boats. They should be trained by the Navy and should be completely under the operational control of the Admiralty.
Last year it was decided to do away with the dual control system in the Fleet Air Arm because it had such a disastrous effect on the efficiency of that all-important arm, but now this dual control is to be continued and will exist so long as the flying boats are under the control of the Air Ministry instead of that of the Admiralty. This controversy is not at an end and is not settled for good and all and will not be settled until the Navy has complete control of all craft required for the protection of trade. The dividing line between those flying machines under the control of the Air Ministry and those under the control of the Admiralty should not be as to whether they take off from the shore, the sea or a ship but what is the function of the machines, and, if it is a purely naval function, they should be under the control of the Admiralty.
I wish now to make some remarks about the design of our battleships. It is necessary to remember that although we have equality in battleships with the United States of America, we have a considerable superiority as far as every other naval Power is concerned. The best and quickest way for a navy to fulfil its functions is to bring about a fleet action between the two main fleets. What will be the position between this country and some other country on the outbreak of war? This country will have a vastly superior battle fleet, and, therefore, our enemy will not seek an action between his main fleet and ours. He will do everything he can to postpone the evil day. On the other hand, it will be our aim and object to force a fleet action on an unwilling enemy, and having made contact with that unwilling enemy, to close him to a decisive range in order that the action may be decisive. Therefore, I wish to emphasise the necessity for speed in our newly-constructed ships. I am not suggesting that they have not the speed, because I do not know what the design is, but it is not sufficient for them to have the same speed as the battleships of foreign Powers. If our ships only have the same speed as the enemy he will be able to deny action and to prevent our closing his fleet to a decisive range. In the new design of foreign ships, the speed is 30 knots, and in that case, if we are to be able to force an action on an unwilling enemy, our ships must have a speed of three or four knots in excess of the foreign ships.
I do not wish to be discourteous, but I do not think it is necessary for me to go into the question of whether it is with the bulge. I say that our ships should have an excess of speed over the foreign ships of three or four knots. The next point with which I wish to deal is that of triple turrets. For a long period of years, it has been the practice in the Navy to mount our main armament two in a turret, and to distribute the turrets over the ship. That practice has been abandoned, and the main armament is now mounted three in a turret, and the three turrets are concentrated together. I think there are very grave disadvantages in that. We are putting too many eggs in one basket. We have to visualise the possibility of one turret being disabled and if that happens, one-third of the main armament will be demobilised, a most serious matter. The same thing applies to the practice of having the turrets so close together. I at once recognise the great advantage in the saving of armoured protection by having triple turrets, and having them close together; I also recognise the advantage in the saving of available space; but I think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.
There is then the question of the size of the guns. There are ships which mount a 16-inch gun. We hear about the Japanese possibly mounting 18-inch guns, and we have 15-inch and 14-inch guns. However, it does not always follow that the fleet which has the largest calibre of guns and the most of these large calibre guns which wins the action. It was not so in the Russo-Japanese war. I think it will not be denied that at the Battle of Jutland the fire effect of the German 11-inch and 12-inch guns compared not unfavourably with that of our 13.5-inch and 15-inch guns. My point is that it does not follow of necessity that because some other nation mounts 16-inch or 18-inch guns we should follow their bad example. What we require is hitting fire effect. The more guns we can fire in a salvo, and the greater the rapidity of the fire of those salvos, the greater is the possibility of hitting and the greater the rapidity of hitting and volume of fire. Therefore although, of course, the size of guns must have relation to the armour carried by a potential enemy, I should be surprised if I were told that the 13.5-inch or 14-inch gun was not sufficiently large to do what it is required to do.
So, I advocate a greater number of guns in the main armament with smaller calibre rather than guns of huge calibre and few in number and mounted in double and not triple turrets. We must remember that no decisive action can take place at the opening range of 30,000 yards or over. In order to bring about a decisive action between the main fleets the battle fleets must close to within 15,000 yards or so and the closer the range the more important becomes the rapidity and volume of fire. I, personally, hope that we shall not follow the example of other nations in mounting 16-inch guns or guns of even greater calibre. I believe we shall do much better and our ships will have a much greater fire effect, if we have a greater number of guns of smaller calibre.
Lastly, I wish to refer to the size of the modem ship. All Capital ships today are suffering from elephantiasis. They bear no relation whatever to the function which a heavy ship has to carry out. I do not like quoting personal experiences but I cannot help recalling that 40 years ago when I went to sea in a 12,000 ton battleship. It was quite big enough. Gradually, the size has increased. The first Dreadnought was commissioned in the summer of 1906. Ever since then size has gone on increasing. Now we have 35,000 ton ships and we are told that Japan is building a 40,000 ton ship. When is this mad race in size to cease? To begin with, the economic side of the question must be considered. We must have regard to the immense cost of these leviathans. It is unnecessary to have ships of this size or, I would put it in this way, that it is only necessary because one nation wants to go one better than another, by building a larger ship. For the fulfilment of the functions of a battleship, vessels of this size are unnecessary. We require our battleships to go through the Panama Canal, and there is not too much room there now. The cost of these immense ships is not confined merely to their construction, but to their upkeep and to the alterations, and the building of new docks at home and in our overseas bases to take them, such as Singapore. We could not fight out in the Far East till Singapore was constructed, and the nation will be very glad to know that the Civil Lord has just returned from the opening of that base—a very happy event.
Then we had the unfortunate grounding of one of our latest battleships twice on leaving Portsmouth Harbour. I am not casting any reflection whatever upon the officers of that ship or upon the dockyard pilots by saying that. Anybody who has had any experience whatever in handling these immense ships knows perfectly well that, given certain conditions of tide, wind, draught of water, and speed of ship, they are extremely difficult to handle, and regrettable as it is that in going out of a harbour such as Portsmouth one of our latest ships grounded twice it is not an impossible contingency and must be considered; it must have a considerably deleterious effect on the mind of the commander-in-chief, if he is not certain that in all weathers and at all times he can, if he wishes to do so, take these huge ships to sea. I think that is an important point. I also think that these immensely costly ships must have some psychological effect upon the mind of the commander-in-chief.
Before the War we set the example to the remainder of the world in building such ships in such numbers, and of such a size as we desired to have, and all other nations followed our example. Since the War we have abandoned that policy, and I would ask, quite seriously, whether within reason we cannot again set the example to the world and reduce the size of these immense ships. Obviously we could not come down very much, but we could make a start. The gain to the world would be so stupendous that I believe other nations would welcome it and would follow our example. I hope that something may be done in the directions which I have indicated as regards the design of our new heavy ships.
In a previous discussion arising out of some suggestions that I made, the Admiralty met me to a certain extent, and I am trusting that some further crumbs of comfort may fall my way this evening. I am not qualified to follow the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) in the remarks which he has made, except to say that if his criticisms in regard to officers are correct, I trust that steps will be taken to rectify any injustice. I do not intend to refer to the policy which has led us to the state in which we find ourselves to-day. I am content with what my hon. Friend sitting below me has said, and I fully endorse his criticisms. But I would like to say that those of us who heard the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary last Thursday must have felt, as I felt, that under the present circumstances, and however much we may regret the expenditure of such vast sums of money for Naval purposes, money that might be used in many ways in a sane world for important economic progress in our country, the international situation generally and the European situation in particular make it imperative on our part to make sure that we have a British Navy equal to and ready for any task that may be imposed upon it for the defence of our own country should attacks come from any other country.
As long as we are assured that our military and naval forces will not be used for the purpose of aggression nor for anything inconsistent with the Covenant of the League of Nations, I feel that it is our bounden duty, until agreements are reached limiting the size of armaments and settling international difficulties without recourse to war, to provide all the men and material necessary to protect our shores, our lives and our freedom from the possible attacks of those who, by their methods of persuasion, chase all freedom from the earth and intellectual honesty to a concentration camp. I trust that while spending these large sums of money, and while providing this great and terrible military and naval strength, the people of the country and the Empire will remain peaceful in thought and purpose. There is no need for war scares. I deprecate public demonstrations which may incite public feeling in the direction of war. I am one of those who believe that differing methods of Government need not lead to international strife. It is only necessary, as has already been hinted to-night, for the nations to agree that they will pursue peaceful methods and avoid war in settling international difficulties of any kind. That must be the first agreement, and on that agreement all other agreements must be built. Without that agreement no treaty, pact or understanding can be relied on. In fact, it may prove nothing more than a snare and a delusion. As I look abroad I feel that the situation demands the rearmament of our own country.
Having said that, I turn to matters in the Estimates and in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, and particularly to matters which chiefly concern that part of the personnel of the British Navy in which I am interested and which to some extent I represent in this House. I am sure that hon. Members were interested, if not satisfied, when they learned from the Parliamentary Secretary the concessions that were to be made in marriage allowances to warrant officers and the slight improvements that were to be made for the purpose of facilitating promotion.
These concessions have been granted after much advocacy in this House. In my view they are tardy and belated concessions, not nearly adequate to popularise the Navy as a means of livelihood for young men skilled in the engineering and cognate professions. If I could persuade myself that these concessions were made not so much for the purpose of recruiting as because the rank held and the work done were worth such pay, I should feel more pleased than I do, for in my view they fall far short of what they ought to be.
The very tentative steps taken to improve promotion from the lower deck are far from satisfactory. Some of my hon. Friends have already referred to the matter and it has been pointed out that during the Great War many officers were appointed from the lower deck and they served our purpose nobly and well. The men to-day are equally efficient and should not be passed over in favour of those of more opulence or other social status. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that promotion from the lower deck has been refused because applicants found that warrant officers could not live on their pay. I sincerely trust that the concessions made will enable them to do so. I agree with him that this disinclination to accept promotion, for that reason or any other, is greatly detrimental to the best interests of the Service, and I therefore urge the Admiralty to do more to expedite and to increase promotions from the lower deck and to stimulate the desire for promotion among the men of the lower deck.
In that connection I ask the Admiralty to remember two things: First, that the number of commissioned officers is now more than at the pre-war expansion and that the number of executive warrant officers is only one half. Consequently the opportunities for promotion from the lower deck to warrant rank are much fewer. In the second place, I ask the Admiralty to do what they can to prevent the promotion from petty officer to chief petty officer being endangered by the re-engagement of chief petty officers after having served 22 years for pension. My hon. Friend will know of the scheme whereby these men are going back to the Navy, and there is a good deal of heartburning and discouragement among petty officers.
The Parliamentary Secretary may know that I am interested in and concerned with the status, pay and promotion of engine-room artificers. Some men of the engine-room artificer class are members of my trade union. Recently some young men from my constituency have become engine-room artificers, and I am informed that very good mechanics they have proved themselves to be. I trust that their experience of the Royal Navy will not bring regret and cause others not to join them in the Service. The Admiralty should know and should not forget that artificers who joined the Navy received at one time several shillings more than they would have done in civilian employment, and that that is now no longer the case. That class of man is now paid from 10s. to 15s. per week less than he could obtain in the district in which he previously worked. Kit upkeep allowance and marriage allowance do not fully compensate him for that loss. The artificer's working week is also of seven days instead of the five-and-a-half of civilian employment. The Admiralty will get all the men they need without the great expense of advertising which they now incur, when they make the status and pay of these men equal to that obtainable on shore.
There is one other matter to which I hope the hon. Gentleman will give some attention. Why is it stated that a very limited number of midshipmen will be promoted by selection from artificer boys. What is that limited number? One, two, three, 12 or 20? I should certainly like to know, especially as I know that 31 of the seaman class are being trained in the "Ramilles" eventually to become sublieutenants. Why are artificer boys not given the same opportunities for such special training and why is there this differentiation? Surely the boys should be encouraged to take an interest in their profession and, by that interest, make others realise that the Navy is a Service worth being in.
In spite of a large increase in the number of officer entries, only three apprentices were promoted to the rank of Cadet E in 1937. The hon. Gentleman may say that that was 50 per cent. over the year before, but that means only one over 1930. There should be a much larger number of apprentices promoted to cadet. Only by democratising the Navy can that Service be popularised and can it get all the men it needs of the standard of efficiency that the work of the Navy requires. At this late hour I do not intend to take up any more time, and I hope that the Minister, if he is not in a position to give me information on all these points, will let me know his opinion by letter in the near future.
I want to raise only one point, and that is the position and status of the engineering service in the Royal Navy. Most of us here know the history of that service. In 1903 and onwards, Admiral Fisher did his best to improve its status. Eventually, just before the War, there was a common entry to the executive branch and to the engineering branch. After the War, this was done away with, and I quite agree with that, because, after all, the engineering service and the executive branch are separate branches, both exceedingly specialised. When any engineer goes into a battleship, he cannot help being impressed with the intricate mass of machinery that has to be worked, and efficiently worked, in order to be able to go to sea if the Navy has to fight. The services of the late Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy have been recognised, in that Sir Harold Brown has now been put on the Army Council, but at the same time the Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy has not been put on the Admiralty Board. Seeing that 30 per cent. of the personnel of the Navy are in the engineering branch, and seeing that the Engineer-in-Chief is responsible for the training of all these men, and has to appoint the engineers who design and look after gun mountings, torpedoes, and so on, and to see that efficient officers are appointed to the engineering works and shipyards at Barrow, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Belfast, and to look after the engineering branches of the Royal Dockyards, I think that, with all that responsibility on his shoulders, the services of the engineering branch of the Navy ought to be recognised. There are many ways in which it should be recognised and made more popular, as suggested by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. In my opinion the first thing to do is to put the Engineer-in-Chief on the Admiralty Board, and then he will be able to look after the personnel under him and raise the whole status of the engineering branch of the Navy. We talk about the Navy being the silent Service, and when you hear of the exploits of the "Broke" and other vessels like that, you never hear of the engineers below, without whose efficient work these ships could not fight. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary or the Civil Lord will consider this question very seriously. I believe it would remedy a great grievance, and bring a sense of contentment and fair play to the men in the engineering branch of the Navy.
I rise now only to deal with two or three points which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary wishes me to take, in the first place because one or two of them are my direct concern. I will not, therefore, follow the last speaker, except to say that the value of the engineering branch is very fully recognised at the Admiralty, and that, indeed, in his speech introducing the Estimates, my hon. Friend referred to the Engineer-in-Chief personally. Everyone in the Navy knows what tremendous services the engineers render in His Majesty's ships. In saying that, however, I am afraid I do not hold out any hope that we shall put an engineer on the Board of Admiralty, because the functions of each member of that Board are carefully laid down at the present moment, and, if I may say so, after having been there such a short time, I think the divisions of the different staff branches at the Admiralty are very well organised under the respective members of the Board who have control of the different departments.
I come now to the three matters with which I was going to deal. The first is that raised by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), and I thank him, if I may, for greeting me to the office which he once held. He first dealt with recruiting. The House will be glad to know that recruiting for the Navy is extremely satisfactory. In the five years between 1933 and 1937 we have increased the naval personnel by no less than 25 per cent. We aimed at getting 17,000 recruits in this last year, including the increased numbers and the making up of wastage, and we are within 100 or 200 of our numbers at present. For the coming year we aim at obtaining 14,000. Although there was a shortage in one or two categories—for instance, of cooks; as a result of extensive propaganda there is now no shortage of that type of personnel, which must be very satisfactory, not only to the House, but to the ratings who depend on them for their well-cooked food. We had a shortage of direct-entry artificers to the extent of 248 at this time last year, but we are within 20 of the figures which were given to the recruiting officers at the beginning of this year. The only black spot, if I may call it that, is in respect of the blacksmiths. There we are having a slight difficulty, but we are hoping to train them in our dockyards in the same way as we train shipwrights. That shortage is merely because the blacksmiths' trade is a dying one in this country. The hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young) can rest assured that none of the concessions which we gave this year were caused by lack of recruits; they were given simply because we were determined to do our best for the welfare of all concerned. The great thing about the naval recruiting figures is that the greatest number of candidates apply to join in the months of January and February and of August and September, and those are the leave periods. We find that the existing ratings are our best recruiters, and that when they come back from leave they bring friends with them to join the Navy. I hope that that will also happen with the artificers from the hon. Member's constituency, whom he mentioned. While I am referring to the hon. Member, perhaps he will allow me to say how much we appreciate what both the employers' federation and the Amalgamated Engineering Union have done to help us with the direct-entry of engine room artificers. I thank both those bodies.
The hon. Member asked whether we had obtained recruits by reducing the physical standards. The answer is, No. We have been able to get our numbers without doing so. The only recruiting standard we have lowered at all is that for artificers. We allow them to come in with a slightly lower dental standard. I am told that they need to have only two back molars that connect with one another. I would like to say just one word in praise of our recruiting staff, who have done extremely well in the past year or two. The hon. Member who opened this discussion referred to their increase in numbers, which is quite true. They are getting recruits at 15s. a head less in overhead recruiting costs than they were in 1935–36, so that, at any rate, upon those figures our increased recruiting staff is well justified.
The same story can be told with regard to the Reserve Services. They are all recruiting extremely well, and especially the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. In some Divisions of that Reserve we have ample officers, and we can confine our waiting list to candidates who are young enough to come in and enter as midshipmen. With regard to other ranks, especially in the London Division, we now restrict our entry to those who are prepared to promise to qualify as signalmen. We are in fact doing extremely well in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as in the other Reserve Services. I am glad that I have a bright picture to give to the House with regard to recruitment, and, unlike my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, who hoped that the Army would one day be the most popular Service in the country, I think that I can stand up here and say that undoubtedly the Navy at present is the most popular Service, and rightly so.
The other point to which I want to refer is the comparison which the hon. Member made of building costs. He referred to the difference between 1914 and to-day. Various factors have to be taken into account. There are, first of all, higher wages; secondly, shorter working hours; thirdly, advanced cost of materials that we have to buy; and, fourthly, the greater quantity and complexity of equipment. For instance, the gunnery gadgets have increased considerably. We now have to put anti-aircraft guns of all sorts on to the ships which we had not to do before the War. The wireless machinery is very much greater, and there are many other items to which I could refer. It would be well to compare the cost of wages in the dockyards in 1914 with what it is to-day. I give them for the three main classes. The labourer in 1914 received 24s. a week of 48 hours. Now they work 47 hours, and he gets 33s., plus a 20s. bonus, so that his wages have gone up from 24s. to 53s. The wages of the skilled labourer ranged from 24s. to 28s., and now they range from 34s. to 37s., and a bonus of 20s. The wages of the mechanics are up from 39s. to 68s. Thus wages have considerably increased, and obviously, this increase increases the cost of the goods which we produce, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) has said, the greater part of the cost of building a ship is the increased labour costs.
I now come to the particular point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) on the last occasion on which we were discussing these Estimates. He referred to the £50 per ton difference between the submarines built in 1935 and those built and completed in 1937. As I saw that he was not satisfied with the answer I gave on the last occasion, I have gone into the figures more fully. The figures, on the average of 1935, were based upon two submarines, the Snapper and the Sea Wolf, one a dockyard-built ship and the other a contract-built ship. The price worked out at £349 a ton, on the average, for the two. The 1937 figure was in relation to one submarine, the Sunfish, the same size as the others, 670 tons, and the price came out at £399 a ton. So that the one that has gone up in price is a dockyard-built ship, built at Chatham. The greater part of the increase in cost was in labour charges. We raised wages 1s. in July, 1934; 1s. in July, 1935; 1s. in June, 1936; 1s. in September, 1936 and 1s. in December, 1936. There were also wage increases of 1s. 6d. in August last and 1s. 6d. in November last, but those increases did not come into the 1937 ship. The other increases did come into the 1937 ship and worked out at about 8 to 10 per cent. of the extra cost of that ship, which was 15 per cent. more expensive than the average of those built in the year 1935. But this ship has a much higher engine power; she can steam 15 knots as against a little over 13 of the earlier vessels, and there was a considerable amount of money spent on the tests of the new engines. Therefore, when it comes down to the facts, we find that this increased cost, to which the right hon. Gentleman quite properly called attention, was in a dockyard-built ship, and I have given the reasons for the increase.
I want, finally, to deal with the question which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdare raised in regard to oil. He asked about tankers. There is a committee dealing with that particular problem. The numbers of tankers available and their use have been worked out in the event of any possible contingency. With respect to the amount of money spent on oil storage, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Navy has laid up, and is laying up, ample supplies of oil in all parts of the world, and a large proportion of the supplies are being stored in places which will give a 100 per cent. security. Further than that he will not wish me to go. The same remarks apply to munitions. With regard to dual firing, we find that oil is the most effective fuel for the propulsion of any kind of naval ship. If we tried dual firing on three or four ships we should have three or four ships less efficient than if we stuck completely to oil. We do not intend to do it as we intend to have all our ships thoroughly efficient.
I do not think the Civil Lord is answering the case in regard to the experience of foreign navies, and whether the experience of dual firing in foreign navies has been successful.
I have made inquiries. With regard to France, our information is that she is giving up any sort of coal in the firing of her ships, and going back completely to oil. With regard to consultation between the Admiralty and oil companies with regard to oil supplies, that is not being done direct by the Admiralty but by a committee on which the Admiralty is represented. The hon. Member asked whether we were acting together with the other Defence Departments in the matter of stores. We are acting with the other Departments in supplies where we both need similar stores, but in the matter of storage we are acting independently; we have our own storage facilities. I have intervened for the purpose of dealing with the points which have been raised which are the direct concern of the Vote for which I am responsible at the Admiralty, and I thank the House for bearing with me for so long. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will deal at the conclusion of the Debate with the general matters raised in it.
When I came into the House last Thursday the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Commander Marsden) was making some disparaging remarks about Socialist specialists airing their views on Navy Estimates. As one of these unfortunate people I should like to welcome the hon. and gallant Member back to our Debates. I want to urge that further opportunities should be given to engineer offices of the senior class. I am sorry that the Civil Lord dismissed so summarily the suggestion that an engineer officer should be appointed to the Board of Admiralty. I hope that the suggestion will still be considered. But if it is impossible, may I suggest another way in which they may be considered? I do not ask that engineer officers should be given Fleet command, but surely the appointment of Admiral-Superintendent at one of our dockyards is a position eminently suitable for an engineer officer. I suggest that the next time a vacancy occurs at a place like Devonport, where an engineer officer gets his early training, it would be a good thing to appoint an engineer officer as Admiral-Superintendent.
I want to deal also with the position of warrant officers, which I raised last year. The hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey said that the warrant officers have been considered as the backbone of the Service, and the Admiralty last year said that in their view the best way of promotion from the lower deck was through warrant officer rank. For some time past there has been a deficiency in the number of men coming forward for the warrant officer rank, chiefly because they consider that they suffer some disadvantage in doing so. Last year I put forward certain considerations to the Admiralty, and I was told that they would all be sympathetically considered. I am sure they have been sympathetically considered, but we have not got them all. About two out of the seven have been accepted, and I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to go further than he has so far.
The first point is the question of marriage allowances. I associate myself with the criticisms that have been made on that matter. I think they might be more generous though certainly warrant officers will be very grateful for the allowances. The warrant officer is to have 3s. a day marriage allowance with 1s. 6d. for the first child and 1s. for the next. In nearly every other case the allowance is 2s. for the first child. I do not see why there should be the differentiation. Why could he not be given the extra sixpence? Another point I raised last year was that a warrant officer should be entitled to qualify for promotion to commissioned rank after eight years service instead of 10. That has been granted and I thank the Admiralty for the concession. Hitherto a man promoted to warrant rank has had a gratuity for the purchase of uniform, but on promotion from warrant to commissioned rank there is no gratuity. The Admiralty have done a rather curious thing. They have increased the gratuity on promotion to warrant rank from £50 to £70, a request that was not made though they will be grateful for it, but they have not done it on promotion to commissioned rank. The warrant officer promoted to commissioned rank is rather at a disadvantage in that respect. Very often when he gets his commission his pay is not much more than it was before. Under the new system, if unmarried, he will get a cut of 1s., 1s. 8d. or 2S. so he may be worse off than before. I should like the Admiralty to consider that again and see whether they could not give a grant on promotion to commissioned rank. According to the Financial Secretary's statement the ward room allowance has been increased from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 10d. The subscription to the wardroom is 2s. Why could they not give the extra 2d. and cover the complete subscription? It would give great satisfaction if they would do that.
Another point put forward last year was the question of pensions for widows of commissioned officers promoted from warrant rank. Lieutenant-commanders' widows receive £65 a year, lieutenants £50, commissioned officers from warrant rank £50 and warrant officers £35. Warrant officers felt that the spacing between the four was rather too wide. Could it not be revised upwards from the lower level? Another point was that broken periods might be counted for pension, that three months should be counted as a quarter of a year, six months a half and nine months three-quarters. Another point was better adjustment for climatic pay. At the present time, the position in that respect is not very satisfactory, and in view of the very trying conditions of tropical weather, the men concerned would, I am sure, be very grateful if the matter could be looked into. Another point on which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give a satisfactory answer is whether there cannot be better cabin accommodation for warrant officers in vessels of the cruiser class. I have made certain criticisms which I hope will be sympathetically considered. I think the warrant officers will be very grateful for the concessions which have been made, but I hope that still more concessions will be forthcoming. If the Parliamentary Secretary will try to meet the points which I have made, I do not think that "love's labour will be lost," and it will be "all's well that ends well."
I wish to apologise to my hon. and gallant Friend the Civil Lord for not being in the House when he answered some remarks which I made in my speech last Thursday. I had expected to get a few broadsides from my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, but I really had not expected an answer from my hon. and gallant Friend, because I realise that it is very difficult for one Minister to talk about matters which affect another Department. As my hon. and gallant Friend knows very well, it is absolutely essential for the Navy to have shore bases and aerodromes in order that it may train personnel and maintain material for the Naval Air Service. With the exception of one aerodrome in Scotland, the aerodromes which originally belonged to the Navy and which have since been used by the Fleet Air Arm, and the one which has recently been completed at Thorney Island to meet the needs of the expansion of the Fleet Air Arm, are all situated in the vicinity of my constituency.
It is common knowledge that there have been considerable misgivings about the delay in handing over those aerodromes to the Navy, which so urgently requires them. Therefore, it was a great pleasure to have the assurance of the Civil Lord that the Air Ministry is now offering these aerodromes to the Admiralty and is doing all in its power to help. If the Air Ministry could now make some generous gesture to bring about some arrangement which would enable the Navy to have all the aircraft it needs to carry out its great responsibilities, irrespective of whether those aeroplanes are carried on ships or based at strategic points on the trade routes, or whether their undercarriages are floats, wheels or boats, it would be a welcome conclusion to the 20 years' controversy, which nobody regrets more than I do. If the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence could do something to bring about that happy result, the Navy would owe him an even greater debt than it already does for what he has done.
I had intended to refer to and correct some inaccuracies in the speech made last Thursday by the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), but at this late hour, I will refrain from doing so. I hope to have an opportunity of referring to it later. Before concluding, however, I wish to refer to a matter which has been dealt with by other hon. Members, namely, the very great disappointment which has been experienced by naval officers in regard to the marriage allowances. The question has been referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), and I hope it will be referred to in detail by another naval Member. I would like to tell the Ad- miralty that they must really think again and insist on naval officers being accorded the same sort of treatment as their brother officers in the Royal Air Force and the Army. The men of the lower deck have been brought into line with the men of the Royal Air Force and the Army. Why should the officers be treated differently? I listened to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War the whole of one afternoon telling us what wonderful things he was doing to improve the lot of the officers and men of the Army, not as an incentive to recruiting, but to give them the humanity and justice which were their due. I can well imagine what a gallant fight my right hon. Friend must have put up and all the opposition he must have encountered from the Treasury, that most hard-hearted and flint-hearted body. I suggest that it is up to the Admiralty to do likewise. If they want to retain the respect and trust which they enjoy to such a high degree to-day from the Navy, they must insist on naval officers being given the same scale of justice and humanity as has been accorded to every other individual in His Majesty's Services, but denied to them.
I wish to associate myself with all that has been said about marriage allowances. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will fully realise that this has been unanimous throughout the House. I will only say one thing further about it. I hope that Members who have had circulars or who have read newspaper reports will realise that naval officers have never complained, are not complaining now, and, I have not the slightest doubt, will not complain in future. That is all the more reason why we who are not in the Service, and especially Members of the House, should see that they get treatment which is up to the standard of allowances made to the Air Force and the Army. Lord Fisher used to say that whatever was done for the other Services, the Navy at least must travel first-class. It is not doing so in the case of marriage allowances. I should like to raise a point with regard to the pensions of retired officers. Many officers when they retire are not satisfied with the provision that is made for those dependent on them in the event of death. This, indeed, applies to all sections of the naval Service. An officer may wish to commute his pension, and I would draw attention to the unfair terms on which it is commuted. The Pension Commutation Act, 1871, states that in calculating the amount payable in respect of any pension, interest shall be reckoned at the rate of not less than £5 per cent. per annum.
To take a concrete case of a man at 50, it means that if he wishes to commute £1 of his pension, he gets £12.79 cash in return. If, on the other hand, he wants to buy a pension of £1 from the Government, he has to pay £17. If a man wishes to sell £100 of his pension for cash at the age of 50, he can get £1,279 for it. But suppose he thinks he has made a mistake and that he would sooner have the pension, his only way of getting it is by means of a Government annuity, and, having just received £1,279 for his £100 of pension, he would have to pay £1,709 to buy a Government annuity of the same amount. That wants alteration. What it amounts to is that the Government, if borrowing money, pay 3 per cent., but, if lending money, charge 5 per cent., and they charge this to naval officers and ratings. If I raised this matter at Question Time I would probably be told that it would require legislation. That is true, but that is what we are asking. The legislation required would not be very intricate. I am advised that a one-Clause Bill, substituting the figure 2½ or 3. or whatever it might be, for 5, would meet the situation. I am aware that this point cannot be answered now, but I hope it will be considered.
The Civil Lord said that the Admiralty were satisfied with the numbers in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He did not mention, as I had hoped he would, the Royal Naval Wireless Auxiliary Reserve. I particularly draw his attention to this branch of the Reserve. Generally speaking, the ordinary Volunteer Reserve are enthusiastic officers and men with no great knowledge of the sea, but keen and willing to learn. The Wireless Reserve is in a rather different category. They are mostly volunteers who have great technical knowledge of wireless, and who are willing to serve in the Navy and to undergo training in order that their knowledge may be adapted to naval needs. My information is that when this body was established a short time ago the men were full of keenness and enthusiasm, but, owing to the way they are treated, the numbers are going down. In fact, I am told there have been some serious resignations of some of the most influential officers. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether it is intended to place the Royal Naval Wireless Auxiliary Reserve on the same footing as the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as regards obligations, discipline and uniform. If so, I ask him to make it known as soon as possible. Secondly, I ask him to make it clear what the duties of the Royal Naval Wireless Auxiliary Reserve are in case of mobilisation. At present there is no binding obligation to serve in the event of hostilities, no discipline and no uniform. I hope this very keen body may have from the Admiralty the terms they deserve. I conclude by saying that I was very glad to hear the speeches of hon. Members opposite. I think they now realise that a strong and efficient Navy is the biggest power for peace that this country possesses.
I am sorry to detain the House, but I am even more sorry that the Report stage of the Navy Estimates should have to be taken at this late hour. In view of the lateness of the hour, I do not propose to raise certain points which I was particularly anxious to raise, but there are one or two matters to which I feel I must draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary. I am sorry that the Civil Lord has already spoken, because I wanted to ask him some questions on the subject of personnel, but perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will answer them. First, there is the question of Royal Naval Reserve ratings and officers. There is, undoubtedly, a shortage of merchant service officers at present, and I would like to know whether a sufficient number of merchant service officers are coming forward to do their training in the Royal Navy and whether every effort is being made to encourage them to do so. The last War showed plainly the necessity of giving a great deal more training to Naval Reserve officers than they had been receiving in the days of peace before 1914.
The other question relates to the trawler section. The work done by the trawler men in the last War was beyond all praise, and everybody in the Navy bitterly regrets that times have been so hard for our fishing population. But trawler men cannot be trained all at once for mine-sweeping and the various patrol duties which they perform in war time. What steps are being taken to organise and train the trawler section on the lines of the experience gained in the War? The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) rightly called attention to the enormous size of these Estimates. I do not think it can be too clearly understood that, big as they are, they will not provide a Navy as great as that with which we finished the last War. It is poor consolation to the many officers who, through no fault of their own, were "axed" when the post-war reductions took place to know that, now, when it is too late to be of any use to them, the inevitable expansion is taking place.
But the point to which I particularly wish to draw attention is the question of the marriage allowance for naval officers. The more one looks into the scheme, the more mean and shabby it appears. I thought I detected considerable complacency on the part of the Parliamentary Secretary when he introduced the Estimates. Knowing him to be a kind-hearted man I think that complacency must now be in process of removal. The more we examine the scheme the more unfair it proves to be. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) gave figures, but the case is even worse than his figures indicate. He compared officers of relative ranks but in one case he overlooked the question of relative ages, and I trespass on the forbearance of the House to make the details a little clearer. This is the only opportunity we shall get and I make no apology for taking advantage of it to put before the House and the people of the country, as far as I can, the fact that the scheme which has been so much commended by hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench is—I was almost going to say, a piece of hypocrisy.
Take the case of a lieutenant-commander at the age of 37 who is a bachelor. He gets £582 a year and no special allowances. If he is married he is to be given 4s. 6d. a day, or about £82 a year. That is the gross figure, but to get that he has to surrender 2s. a day and the net increase brings his total emoluments to £628 instead of £664. Compare that with the case of a major in the Army. At the same age, he has less experience in his service than the sailor has had in the Navy and he has not to keep up two homes as has the sailor. The major, if he is a bachelor gets £643 a year with considerable allowances, none of which cease when he marries. If he is married, he gets £752 a year, and he is able to share many of his allowances with his wife and family at home. If, for service reasons, he is separated from his wife and family he gets an additional allowance. Nobody will suggest that the conditions of separation for service reasons are not much harder and the occasions of it more frequent in the case of the naval officer, yet if separated by service conditions, the major in the Army gets £780 a year. Compare that with the gross figure, which is arrived at without taking into consideration the loss of income of 2s. a day, in respect of the lieutenant-commander, who, when he is separated from his wife and family by service conditions gets, at the same age as his confrere in the Army, £116 a year less. How can anyone suggest that a fair deal is being given to the naval officer?
Take the position of a naval officer compared with a squadron leader. You have to take into consideration what my hon. and gallant Friend omitted, and that is the difference in ages of the two officers. The lieut.-commander of 34 years of age, which is the average age of promotion of the squadron-leader, gets, as a bachelor, £549 a year. Add the so-called £82 a year marriage allowance, making it £631. The squadron-leader as a bachelor gets £685 with allowances and with provision for servants. If he is married and separated from his wife by reason of Service conditions he gets £822 a year. Therefore, at the same age as the naval officer, he gets £191 a year more, although he is not so experienced as the naval officer. If you take into consideration the 2s. a day that he is losing, the naval officer has £227 a year less than the squadron-leader.
That is not the whole story. There are no deductions of any kind from the pay and marriage allowances of the soldier and the airman. I do not grudge them those conditions, but I say that if you pretend to be equalising the conditions and pay of the officers in the Services you might at least be honest enough to say what the real figures are. The servant supplied to the soldier or the airman may be used in their private house. That is not so with the naval officer. The soldier and airman have by custom the right to have their wives and families looked after by the regimental doctor. That is not so in the Navy. The former have arrangements for the free conveyance of luggage which are denied to their brothers in the Senior Service.
Most important of all, the soldier and Air Force officer are given married quarters. That is a thing which naval officers dream about but never hope to see. No sailor gets married quarters until he reaches the exalted rank of captain or flag rank, or unless he is employed as senior naval officer abroad. The Army officer stationed in barracks at Tidworth, Aldershot or Colchester is given accommodation for his wife. It may be that the quarters allotted to the subaltern are not very big but there is at any rate a roof over his head, and he is given a certain amount of allowance for their upkeep. No sailor employed in the barracks at Portsmouth, Plymouth or anywhere else is given anything but quarters for himself. If he is a married officer and has to keep up a separate home in the port in which he is stationed, he sees very little of those quarters and can make no use of them.
The officers of the Service to which I belong know full well that the naval officer's wife is not officially recognised, at any rate until he reaches flag rank or is employed as captain at some foreign station in a shore job. I rather suspect that the reason his wife is recognised then, is only because she is useful to perform some official service. Perhaps the meanest thing of all is the deprivation of the naval officer of his lodging allowance. An officer serving at sea to-day is appointed to-morrow, say, to the Admiralty. It is understood and recognised that because no quarters are provided for him he should have a lodging allowance of £80 a year. That is little enough, in all conscience, as one can well imagine, for an officer who has to live in London. That allowance is given to him because the Service cannot provide him with accommodation. If he is a bachelor he gets it, but if he is a married man the Admiralty say: "We are going to give you marriage allowance to bring you into line with officers in the other two Services, but only if we first take from you the provision which we have given you in lieu of the accommodation with which we are not able to supply you and which we have heretofore agreed you must have.
I do not think this House yet realises that the basis of this arrangement of marriage allowances for married naval officers is a cut in their pay for all time of 2s. a day. Naval officers joining the Service now will be paid at a lower rate. Every rank, as it reaches promotion into the next rank, will be mulct 2s. a day, bachelor and married alike, in order to provide the generous sum of money which has been defended by the Financial Secretary as such a gift to the naval officer. I do not believe that there has ever been any reference of this question to the junior officers. They have not had a real opportunity of expressing their views. Those with whom I have come into contact have all said the same thing to me, that marriage allowance is all very well and that they realise that they may have to give up some pay for it, but they all said that they did not agree to the bachelor being asked to provide marriage allowances for the married officer.
In his speech when the Estimates were introduced, the Financial Secretary said, in answer to a question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington that the naval officer was to receive £80 a year in marriage allowance, and he specified that that was for the officer with one child. By specifying that, he admits that 2s. of that money is the allowance for the child and that therefore the marriage allowance for the officer without a child is not £80 a year but considerably less; indeed, only 2s. 6d. instead of the 4s. 6d. it is supposed to be. If you take into consideration the fact that the pay of the officer has been reduced by 2s. a day, you will find that at the present time the able seaman and the lieutenant-commander receive precisely the same marriage allowance. I have often heard a request from the other side of the House for democratising the Navy; we have gone a long way towards it to-night. There is very little inducement for a man on the lower deck to apply to pass examinations for a commission and to try to come into the ward room when he is not going to be any better off by so doing.
There were one or two other points I wanted to raise, but in view of the lateness of the hour and of the natural desire of the House to get home, I shall not raise them; but I ask the Financial Secretary to do his best to get the Admiralty to think again. I ask him whether he will make some considered and detailed answer to the points which not only I but other Members have put to him on the subject of the naval marriage allowance.
Before the Parliamentary Secretary replies it may be that if I take up a few moments I shall save time later on. I do not want to be butting in afterwards. We are very much obliged to the Civil Lord for the manner in which he replied, both last week and to-day, and for the care which he has taken in dealing with details. That is the kind of thing which the House of Commons always appreciates. We hope that he will maintain the advantage with which he has started.
The discussion which has taken place upon marriage allowances for officers reminds me very forcibly how very well organised and firm about their case a professional class like this very important body of naval officers can be, when it comes to arguing in favour of remuneration. Those who have argued from time to time for good conditions for other people have always been able to point with good effect to the solidarity of the professional classes when arguing for salaries and conditions for themselves.
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that those who work in industry have their trade unions to fight for them? The naval officer has no-one, and he is not permitted to do so. He relies on the naval officers in this House, and I am thankful to say that we shall stand up for him every time.
I am making no complaint. I have simply been drawing attention to the fact of that solidarity and to the manner in which the organised case is put. I wish the same vigour could be displayed in putting the case for dockyard workers' remuneration as has been displayed to-night in respect of naval officers. I think the officers have a sound case. I hope that the Finance Department of the Government will take note of it, and that the Financial Secretary will not only also take note of it but will convey the obvious feeling which exists in the House to-night, on this matter.
I shall not go over the details which have been given. I know from experience what it means to many an efficient naval officer, on arriving at the senior rank of lieutenant-commander or commander, to go for a long period on to half pay. They are not men who are to be retired but who have been marked out by the Board for higher and more important work in the future. To say to them that although there is to be a marriage allowance they are not to get any while they are on half pay seems to me to be an insult. I could understand it happening if there were no marriage allowance and if the remuneration were based on active service. That is a very powerful case, and I hope that the proper representation will be made to the Treasury to deal with the matter.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary has not been pressed so much on the subject of marriage allowances that he will forget to reply to the points of detail that were put to him by my hon. Friend on the subject of the Fleet Air Arm. On this side of the House we are particularly interested in those points. I do not want to have to be jumping up for questions afterwards if those points have not been covered in the Minister's reply. He must remember that we shall not meet again on Navy Estimates this year, in all probability.
There is one thing that I want to say to the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Commander Marsden) as to the very great emphasis which he laid on the word "now" in dealing with the views of my hon. Friends on this side of the House in regard to the Navy. May I say to him that there are hon. and right hon. Members on this side who have never wished the Navy harm and who have never ceased to work for it in relation to the strength of other navies in the world at the time. Perhaps he will do us the honour of reading the facts on that subject, and perhaps he will arrange with the Patronage Secretary for the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, North (Sir R. Keyes) to have his promised debate with me, taking category for category and ship for ship, and then he will see that we have done our best at the right time to conserve the essential superiority and concentrated force of the Royal Navy. At any time the Government of the day asks this side of the House to vote a Navy which is necessary in relation to the commitments of this country, in proper peaceful international relationship and backing up the rule of law, they can depend upon it that they will get the vote from this side of the House for the money.
I do not wish to enter into detailed controversy with the hon. and gallant Member to-night. The other matter that I wanted to refer to was the very interesting statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Paddington, South (Vice-Admiral Taylor) with regard to battleships. No one can shut his eyes to the seriousness of the position and to the increase in the size of ships, to which he refers, but I wish I could feel the kind of optimism he displayed as to what would happen if we had suddenly made an example in what he advocated regarding smaller ships. It is the sort of thing I want to happen, but I remember that when the question of cruiser replacement in the period 1929–31 came up, we were considering plans, and some of us thought we might get a kind of cruiser that would be suitable for the trade routes at a smaller sum than had hitherto been arranged for. That was really the reason for the laying down of the Leander class, but so far from that being then the example followed by other navies we found—and I accepted the explanation from subsequent Ministers—that other navies had begun to build 10,000-ton ships and 9,000-ton ships with six-inch guns, making it imperative for us to reach the same position. So I am rather nervous about the advice given by the hon. and gallant Member for Paddington, South, to-night unless we can be certain that we shall have a firmer agreement than we have at present that that example will be followed, and that at all times when we are dealing with actual strengths of battleships the officers and men we send to sea are not sent in inferior conditions to those whom they have to fight. This is a very important point to get clear. I would have said a great deal more but for the lateness of the hour. I apologise to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty for intervening before him, and I hope we shall completely finish the Debate when he has answered.
I am very sorry that we have to conclude this very interesting Debate at this time of night, and I will do my utmost to be as short as I can, consistent with clarity. I think I shall be interpreting the mood of the House if I deal chiefly with the point most in the minds of hon. Members—that is, the question of the marriage allowance, and, if the House wishes it, I will give as short a reply as I possibly can to a number of other points which have been raised. The intervention of the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) was well worth while in that he identified himself and his party with the principle for which we stand, namely, that at all times, and particularly at this time, a strong Navy is vital to our national safety. No Minister can stand at this Box without being aware of the contribution made by his predecessors and particularly by the right hon. Member for Hillsborough and his colleagues on that bench. Constantly I am coming across his work and the Navy is grateful to them.
One point which has been raised was that dealing with warrant officers, but as there is a question on the subject to be asked to-morrow I shall not answer it to-night, if I have the permission of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) to take that course. He said he raised several points in last year's Estimates and two and a-half of his requests had come true. I make it out that much of what he asked for has been granted. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Hall) asked about reservists. Let me say briefly that recruiting in all Reserve branches is very satisfactory indeed, even in the wireless Reserve, to which particular reference has been made. Let me add that when these reservists join up and go for training in the Navy they will have the same concessions as regards the new marriage allowances as other branches of the Naval Reserves.
That is so. One of the points raised in that connection is not altogether satisfactory but I should like more time to look into the matter. We have in the various Royal Naval Reserves, and in those outside the Reserves who are now drawing pensions, some 70,000 men on whom both the Navy and the merchant service would be able to rely in time of need. Over and above these, there must be something like 150,000 men now living who have served in the Navy, in addition to the 70,000 in the Reserve or on pension. That fact must be borne in mind when we are considering the falling off in the fishing fleets and in the merchant service. In reply to the hon. Member for Aberdare, I very much regret that I cannot go very much further regarding the date of transfer of the Fleet Air Arm. I have already made a considered statement, and had the Estimates fallen a month or two ahead I could have made a very much more satisfactory statement. I can give an assurance that we have really wasted no time at all. The problem is an extremely complicated one. In the taking over of control there are all sorts of pitfalls and legal points, but if hon. Members will wait, I think that within the next two months they will see much more substantial progress than before.
Yes, recruiting there is very satisfactory indeed, and the training, particularly in anti-submarine work, is proceeding on lines that the hon. Member would approve. As regards the question of costs, perhaps the House will accept my assurance on this matter, as it is my particular job to see that when a contract is signed the country gets full value. I can say I am surprised at the experience which the Admiralty has acquired in these matters. I ran into a friend in the City the other day and he asked me where I was, and when I replied, "At the Admiralty," he said, "I have long experience of the Admiralty, and if you can get the better of them you can get the better of the devil."
The hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) raised the question of destroyers, and here again I would like to develop the point, but there is nothing of substantial importance to add to what I said earlier, in view of the fact that we have not yet ordered the last flotilla of destroyers in the 1937 programme. There does seem to be a good deal of unanimity, both behind me and opposite me, on this question, and when I report the result of these discussions to the First Lord I shall point out to him that it is the considered opinion of the House that we should press on with this smaller type of craft. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) asked me a question on marriage allowances, but I will deal with this in my general statement on the subject. The hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young) made some very interesting suggestions about the artificer branch. He is always fighting for them, and although I cannot stay I shall accept his suggestions I shall always give them the serious consideration that any suggestion coming from him deserves.
On the question of promotions from the lower deck I can assure the House that if I gave the figures I have here they would not create any impression that we had really only one system for officers, but that on the contrary we take steps to get the best men from every section of life. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, North (Sir R. Keyes) returned to the question of the transfer of shore bases, and I can assure him we are well seized of the importance of that matter. The hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Commander Marsden) raised technical points about commutation of pensions, about which, if he will allow me, I will write to him.
We then come back to the main criticism, and I think the unfair criticism, which has been launched at the Admiralty. I am not going to differentiate myself from the Treasury as we are one on this matter, and I think the Admiralty is grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the generous provision he has made to meet a long-standing grievance. I can only say that if hon. Members refer to this scheme as shabby or shoddy I take the blame on myself alone for not having made the new provision plainer, and if the House will bear with me I will put the position as I see it. I do not blame those hon. and gallant Members who have been in the Navy for fighting on behalf of their own colleagues, but I want to put a question, and those who are not in the Navy can judge impartially between us. How is it that no previous Government since the War has granted the principle of marriage allowances for officers? It cannot be alleged of the five, six or seven Governments since the War that they were all indifferent to this overwhelming claim for marriage allowances for naval officers. There have been Conservative Governments, Labour Governments, National Governments and Coalition Governments, and not one of them has introduced this change until now. I want to ask the reason for it.
The reason, in my judgment, is that in 1919 the Fisher Committee reviewed the different emoluments of the three Services, and when the Navy had to decide what form these emoluments would take the Board of Admiralty chose for naval officers a uniform rate, with no distinction at all between married and single officers, whereas the Army and the Air Force took a lower standard rate and marriage allowances for married officers. That means that although the uniform rate resulted from 1919 there must have been an element of marriage allowance in that uniform rate with which the Admiralty were then satisfied. The Gilmour Committee subsequently examined the claims of naval officers for marriage allowances, and they, in fact, reported that there was this marriage element in the uniform rate which the Navy had chosen and, therefore, they could not accept, over and above this, an additional marriage allowance, unless there were some contribution from the Navy, as otherwise it would be quite unfair both to the Army and the Air Force. This is the simple reason why the marriage allowance has never been conceded; the Gilmour Committee said exactly what I am saying.
I do not think the hon. Member has stated the facts quite correctly. Even supposing it was proposed by the committee that officers should have contributed something towards marriage allowances, that took for granted that the marriage allowances given would bring them into equality with the Army and the Air Force. The Anderson Committee said that if the Admiralty wished to follow the practice of the Army and the Air Force in granting special allowances to married officers, the changes should be made at the expense of pay. It was always understood that, when you did make a change, you should do it on a basis of equality.
I do not know whether that means that the hon. and gallant Gentleman accepts my first point, because if the House accepts the first point—I do not know whether he accepts that or not—I will come on to the point that now arises. If it is true that before you can get the marriage allowance for married officers of the Navy you must accept a certain readjustment from them then the next question you are entitled to ask, is: When you now introduce a scheme like this can you stand up and say that the total emoluments of married officers under our scheme compare favourably with the total emoluments in the Air Force or in the Army? On that I produce this evidence: that every naval officer, of course, thinks that every Army officer and every Air Force officer is overpaid. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, many do. Many Air Force officers think that Naval officers are over-paid and many Army officers think the Air Force officers are over-paid.
I thought I was just saying what everybody thinks: that everyone in every Service thinks that everyone in the other Services is paid more than in his own Service. The only way to determine whether the total remuneration is fair is to ask for an impartial review, and that we have done. I have been doing nothing else for at least six months. It is common knowledge that there has been this review of the emoluments of the Service, and there was an impartial arbitrator who went very carefully not only into the pay of naval officers but into the total emoluments of the Air Force and Army. It is on that account and on these scales I claim that this form of marriage allow- ance is fair in total emoluments as compared with the emoluments of the other Services.
Let me now deal with the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke. If I followed his argument aright it was this. Take the case of a lieutenant-commander afloat who will get an increase of £45 under our marriage allowance provisions. He opts now to come into the scheme before the next promotion and having opted, and the cut having operated, finds himself better off to the extent of £45 marriage allowance. He then gets sent to a shore billet and arrives at Portsmouth or Devonport. He is not provided with official quarters, and he rents a house. Now, the marriage allowance under our scheme is in lieu of the old lodging allowance. If our scheme had never come in my married friend about whom I am talking going to Portsmouth and finding his own house would have received roughly £80 lodging allowance. If I understand the point aright it is: if the marriage allowance is in lieu of the lodging allowance, how can you ask the man who has opted to come into the scheme and who receives the extra £45 afloat to come back to the shore billet and, instead of getting £80, to get only £45? I think this is the gist of the argument.
Let me make it quite plain. The whole basis of the scheme is that when the officer is separated from his family he shall get something towards the maintenance of his family, but when he comes back to shore billet he shall not be penalised. In the scheme the House will have noticed that this officer about whom we are talking opted to come in. Say he is in the "Hood." Clearly it is not fair that he should come home in receipt of £45 marriage allowance, rent a house, and get only £45 marriage allowance, whereas previously he got £80. What I want to explain to the House is that that option between the marriage allowance or the lodging allowance, as the case may be, will always operate, until the next promotion, on every new appointment. That prevents any child-less officer suffering. I hope I have made that plain to the hon. Gentlemen.
While the hon. Gentleman is on this point about the £80 a year for lodging allowance, when quarters are not provided. That is a lump sum of £80 without any deduction whatever from pay. But to-day he has 2s. taken off his pay. He is not getting £80. He is getting only £80, less 2s. a day. He ought to get £80, but he is not getting it.
My words mean exactly what they say. When he is given an option he should not be penalised by exercising an option which he thinks is to his advantage. If in the particular case to which I have referred, the officer serving in the "Hood" drawing £45 marriage allowance comes back, he will come on shore, and if, as he naturally would, he then opts not to enjoy the benefit of marriage allowance he will receive £80 lodging allowance, and the cut, of course, does not operate.
The hon. Gentleman took the case of the "Hood." The officer going to Portsmouth would not get the £80 allowance. He would get no lodging allowance at all. He would be accommodated in the barracks.
That position is not differentiated. There is no change now or in the future. If the man is accommodated in barracks at present he gets no lodging allowance for his wife.
If he comes back to official quarters at Portsmouth or elsewhere he will be better off in the future in that he will carry with him his marriage allowance, whereas heretofore he has not got marriage allowance or lodging allowance. These are extremely difficult questions to understand until one has the chance to look into the whole scheme.
No. I think I did say that until the officer has gained promotion he will have the option on each new appointment, and he will be able to decide between the marriage allowance and the old lodging allowance. Let the House look at this scheme as a whole. When it is understood I think the House will agree—
May I ask one question in regard to this two shillings not operating in the case of the married officer who goes to some appointment where official quarters are not provided? He can decide if he likes to take the lodging allowance of £80, and there is no two shilling deduction from his pay. Does that only operate until he is promoted, and once he is promoted then he never gets that chance again?
I have said twice that until the next promotion he has this option on every new appointment, and it is to be a real option. That applies only in the case of a limited number of childless officers, because clearly for an officer with one child the marriage allowance is equal to the old lodging allowance, and therefore he will not be penalised. If you take an officer with four children, when he is afloat he gets £136 more than hitherto, and when he returns to shore and rents a house, instead of getting £80 as in the past, he will get £136. Therefore, I submit to the judgment of the House that if you are offering to married officers who have received nothing for the support of their families something between £45 for the man without any children and £136 to the men with four children, and successively increasing it, you are doing something to remove anxiety from officers serving afloat. Those who criticise this scheme surely must admit that it is a great gain to have secured this advantage for married officers. I do not for a moment believe that when the scheme is understood it will be treated by officers of the Fleet in the same way that it has been treated by some hon. Members in the last two Debates. Indeed, I know, for I discussed it with a number of officers when I was with the Home Fleet who knew in advance what the scheme was going to be, and who knew of the alternatives of the two schemes which were offered as well as I did, and they said they would be exceedingly grateful if the second scheme could be secured. We have secured that second scheme.
Let me assure the House that we shall get another opportunity of discussing the whole principle when the Supplementary Estimate is presented. I hope in the short time which has been at my disposal I have been able to do something to make this whole question clear, and I conclude by thanking the whole House, irrespective of party, for the way in which they have received the main Estimate this year. It has been a very great encouragement to me in the first opportunity I have had of taking part in the Navy Estimates discussions.