asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to the fact that work on one of His Majesty's ships in a North-West shipyard was held up for at least one day in order that the captain of the ship might hold a private party on the ship; that valuable labour and material were diverted to make the vessel suitable for the party and much expense incurred to that end; that quantities of expensive articles of food were consumed, causing bitter comments among the workpeople on the ship; what authority the captain had for such action and from whom; what portion of the costs of labour and material will be borne by the public; and what steps are being taken to bring a disciplinary charge against the officer concerned and to prevent further hold-ups of production in this manner?
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that while an important ship, par- ticulars of which have been supplied to him, was being repaired at a British port, the location of which has been also supplied, a marriage reception was held on board at which the guests at the marriage of the captain's son were received and entertained; that the repairs on the ship were suspended during the reception and the repair work of a full-working shift lost; whether he can state the loss of time involved; and whether any action will be taken by him on those responsible?
My attention was called to a Press report which made certain allegations corresponding to those in the Questions. A Board of Inquiry has been held into all the circumstances, and evidence has been taken from those concerned including representatives of the firms engaged on the work. The occasion of the party was the marriage of the daughter of the Captain of the ship, who is in the Women's Royal Naval Service, to an officer of the Royal Marines, and the time was fixed after consultation with the managing director of the shipbuilding firm so as to ensure that there would be no interruption of any repair work being carried out in the ship. The entertainment of the guests after the ceremony took place in the ward-room and lasted just over an hour. The great majority of the guests were officers of the ship, and the buffet lunch which was served took the place of the normal meal in the officers' messes. After a very careful examination of all the evidence the Board of Inquiry reported unanimously—I quote their words—that there is no foundation in fact in any of the allegations or insinuations that have appeared anonymously in the Press, that the refit was in no way retarded by the party being held on board, and that no unauthorised expense was incurred by the Crown. In fact, I can say that all the expenses of the party were borne by the Captain. Whilst it is clear from the findings of the Board of Inquiry that no disciplinary charges arise in this instance, I would add that the Admiralty are issuing a general instruction that parties are not to be held on board His Majesty's ships under repair when to do so would involve even the slightest possibility of interference with production.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask him whether, when the court of inquiry was held, evidence was taken from any of the workers engaged upon repair work on the ship, and if it was not, will he accept from me written evidence to the effect that work was seriously impeded and that there was grave dissatisfaction among the workmen on account of the delay?
I shall always be glad to receive representations from my hon. Friend, but there has been a full naval court of inquiry, and evidence was taken from all the officers concerned, from the representatives of the shipbuilding firms concerned and from the stevedore firms concerned, including a charge-hand in charge of the men. If there is any further evidence which my hon. Friend would like to bring to my notice, I will look into it.