"to provide, during Twelve Months for the Discipline and Regulation of the Army and Air Force," presented accordingly, and read the First time; to be read a Second time To-morrow and to be printed. [Bill 79.]
Second Resolution read a Second time.
I beg to move to leave out "£14,244,000" and to insert instead thereof "£14,243,900."I would like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he has any desire to leave a monument to himself. I do not mean a stone monument, but something by which he will be remembered by the officers of the Navy. My suggestion is that he should introduce a proposal making provision for the marriage allowances of the officers of the Navy and Royal Marines. No one has traversed this proposal, and, although the hon. and learned Member for Gilling- ham (Sir G. Hohler) once objected, when he found out what we were talking about he withdrew his objections. I want to know what has happened to the £600,000 which was originally voted for this purpose? Has it gone to help to make up the £23,000,000 to the mineowners. Is there any hope of preventing this continual injustice to the officers of the Navy and the Royal Marines? It has been said that in reducing the pay of the officers and men in the Navy the Government took into consideration the fact that the cost of living had gone down. I would remind the First Lord of the Admiralty that the two main items of expenditure which the naval officer's wife has to meet are rent for housing or lodgings, and the education of her children, and the cost of neither of those two items has gone down. In my opinion, the First Lord of the Admiralty in this respect has betrayed a very deserving class of the Navy that has served him and his predecessors well in the past, and I think some explanation is required. I want to raise another aspect of this question. During the War, marriage allowances were granted to the seamen, stokers, petty officers, sergeants of marines, and the warrant officers. If they were married men, they received a separation allowance, and they still receive a marriage allowance. Now the Board of Admiralty have raised the age to 25, with the result that, if a seaman or a petty officer aged 26 chooses to marry, he receives a separation allowance, but, if he is 24, 23, or 22 years of age, he does not receive that separation allowance. What right has the First Lord to say at what age a seaman should marry? We take the pick of these young men for the service of the State, and we take a very fine type indeed. You have in the Naval Service to-day what is really an hereditary class, who join as seamen and boys, and they have as much tradition in naval families as any generation of Admirals. These young men are looked after from the time they enter the Service, and, if at the age of 21 they choose to marry, I should have thought that it would be a very good thing for the State to encourage them to do so. What right has the First Lord of the Admiralty to lay down that, if these young men choose to marry under 25 years of age, they shall not have separation allowances. May I have an explanation on that point? I do not want to divide the House on this question, but I hope that the House will support me, so that something may be done to rectify the matter. I want also to ask a question referring particularly to pay. Is it a fact that the petty officer instructors of boys in training ships—a very important body of men indeed, who have the handling, training and supervision of the young seamen boys, who mould them and lead them by their instruction, and whose work decides very largely their future usefulness to the Service—receive no extra pay as boys' instructors in the Fleet training squadron, while in the shore training establishments they do receive extra emoluments? This is not a very great matter in money to the State. The extra pay for boys' instructors is only a few pence—6d. I think—a day, but it means a lot to a married petty officer. I have had a good deal to do with the training of boys in the Service, and very interesting work it is. We got an excellent type of petty officer—men of very good character, very devoted and industrious in their work, who were really fathers to the boys, and looked after them extremely well; but they were mostly older petty officers, who had not taken the higher gunnery and torpedo ratings. They had not the chance of earning the higher pay of the higher gunnery and torpedo ratings, and the little extra money that they got for looking after the boys was most welcome to them, as they were mostly married men with families. I do not know what the present scale is. If they receive this extra pay, well and good, but, if they do not, I think that the First Lord should look into the matter, because it is essential that you should get the very best of your petty officers for this important work, and ambitious and efficient men should be encouraged to volunteer for it. If the right hon. Gentleman would be kind enough to look into that matter, and if he could give me an answer now, I should be very grateful.
I beg to second the Amendment.I do so in order to ask one or two questions. I am afraid I cannot see why my hon. and gallant Friend should not divide on this Amendment, as it would not take away from the officers and men any sum of money even if we were to carry it. There is an item on page 20 of the Estimates with regard to which I trust some explanation will be given. It refers to the wages of officers, seamen and boys, and speaks of a decrease of £189,000. The explanation given for that is a very curious one. It is said to be mainly due to reduction in numbers, lower average rates of pay, and smaller requirements for special pay and unemployment insurance, modified by increased requirements for good conduct pay. May we know what is the lower average rate of pay which is referred to, and also what is the nature of the modification due to increased requirements for good conduct pay? I should also like to call attention to a statement of a somewhat similar nature on page 23, dealing with wages and allowances for the Royal Marines. There is a decrease of some £8,000 in that case, but this decrease is said to be mainly due to reduction in numbers, modified by an increase in the average rates of pay and in the requirements for good conduct pay. On page 20 a decrease in pay is referred to, while here we find that there is an increase in pay. Is it the case that the decrease applies to certain sections of the Forces, while other sections are being given an increase? I desire also to ask for some explanation regarding the Nab Light. I notice that the Admiralty have decided to hand over to Trinity House the Nab Tower at Portsmouth. It is mentioned on page 28 of the Estimates, and I should like to hear some explanation as to why it is being handed over, and what are the conditions. Does any financial responsibility rest with the Admiralty in regard to this light? While I realise that the First Lord of the Admiralty has some control over it at the moment, and will still have some control as an Elder Brother of Trinity House, I should like to be quite sure that the conditions of those who will be working in the Nab Tower will be equal to, if not better than, those existing while it is under the control of the Admiralty. Then I should like to ask one or two questions with regard to the civilians employed at Malta and Gibraltar on miscellaneous services. On page 31 of the Estimate there is an item of £1,583 in the case of Malta, and of £1,604 in the case of Gibraltar. In the case of Gibraltar the amount is the same as that which was asked for last year, but I think we are entitled at this stage to know something more about these items relating to civilians employed on miscellaneous services, and this applies to most of the items which follow those relating to Malta and Gibraltar. Are the people concerned under this heading men who have been sent out from the home yards, and are their conditions similar to those operating in the home dockyards; or are they people engaged in the locality who are paid lower rates and are working under worse conditions than those operating in the home dockyards? I should have liked, had it not been for the time it would take up, to ask also for some explanation with regard to those who are so employed at other places abroad, in the Far East. I ask these questions because one wants to be sure that those in our employ who are called upon to render service to the Admiralty are being properly paid and have proper conditions. While it is considered essential that we should have the Navy, we should see that those employed in its service are adequately paid. I shall never complain of increased pay for those who are in our employ. I may, and I hope I shall, make big endeavours to reduce the numbers in the Forces, but, while we have those Forces, they should at least be paid a wage of which we need not be ashamed, and one that will afford a reasonable standard of life.
I should like to make a few remarks on a subject raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), namely, that of marriage allowances. It is a subject on which I have taken up the time of the House on previous occasions, and it is so important that it cannot be allowed to pass without further consideration. Personally, I hope that the Admiralty will not give in for one moment to blandishments or persuasion or pressure of any kind in order that marriage allowances to officers may be granted, as suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull. It is, perhaps, proper that I should say that I am neither a bachelor nor a woman-hater, and, therefore, have no personal feeling—
I must draw the hon. and gallant Member's attention to the fact that he is out of order in raising the question of officers' marriage allowances on this Vote.
Naturally, I bow to your ruling, but the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull always seems to "get away with it." I hope I shall be in order—
On a point of Order. With every respect, I submit to you, Sir, that the question of marriage allowances is referred to distinctly on pages 24 and 25 of this Vote, where the amounts which are to be paid for this purpose are stated.
I am quite aware of that fact, but those are not officers' marriage allowances.
Further on the point of Order. May I ask if it would be in order for an hon. Member on this Vote to argue that the pay of the officers was insufficient, and to ask for a special allowance for married officers—which is what I ventured to do—or, alternatively, to say that it was already sufficient and an increase was not necessary?
An hon. Member can argue that the pay is not sufficient, and can give reasons why it is not sufficient, but it is quite clear that the discussion must be confined to what is actually on the Vote. Officers' marriage allowances are not on this Vote; in fact, they do not exist at all in the Navy.
May I ask on which Vote it is possible to raise the question of marriage allowances for officers? It has certainly been discussed here on more than one occasion.
A question of this kind can be discussed in the general Debates on the Navy. It might have been discussed on the question of getting me out of the Chair, or on Vote A in Committee, but it certainly cannot be discussed on Report.
I shall not return to that subject, but I hope I shall be in order in congratulating the First Lord on the steps that have been taken to help forward a scheme for pensions for the civilian officers and men of the Admiralty Fleet Auxiliaries. There is one other small point which I should like to raise, and which has a bearing on the pay and emoluments of officers and men in the Navy. More cases than one have come to my notice in which men have died, after having served for many years in the Navy, and their widows have been left without any pension of any kind, the reason being that, when a man has served for, perhaps, 10 years or so, and then has become a warrant officer, it is not until he has served for a certain time, according to the regulations, as a warrant officer, that his widow becomes entitled to a pension in the event of his death. I have already put before the Admiralty a case of that description. My point is that the Admiralty, or in fact any department of the State, should be responsible for the widow of a man who has served in the Service in any capacity at all, and who at any time has been qualified, as far as his widow is concerned, to draw a pension in the event of death, and that they should see that the widow is not left without anything at all. The difficulty which has arisen in this case is that, while the man was on the lower deck as a rating, he was paying in the ordinary way for health insurance and so forth out of his pay. There was an interval between his ceasing to be a rating and becoming an officer and his widow becoming qualified when he died for a pension. She never did become qualified, because the money that was paid during the time he was a rating was discontinued in the interval while he was qualifying for a warrant officer's pension.The result is that the widow of an excellent man and officer has not at the present time one single farthing of pension either from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Pensions, or the Admiralty. That does not seem right. I would like to impress on the Parliamentary Secretary the necessity for filling that gap and of making perfectly sure that such a case of real hardship as that cannot arise. No rating who becomes a warrant officer should ever be put in the position, as in this instance, of having to leave his widow without a single farthing in any form of pension. I should very much like the Parliamentary Secretary to answer that and to give me an assurance that it will be looked into and this gap filled.
I do not see anything in this Vote about pension rights. It is a question of pay and not of pensions. That comes under another Vote.
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I was not referring so much to pensions as to deductions from a man's pay, which incidentally go towards the building up of a pension.
I rise only to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman an opportunity to itemise the account as to the reductions set forth in Vote A. There is a total reduction of £201,700. That cannot be accounted for wholly by the reduction of 2,000 officers and men and staff. Is it accounted for by the lower rate of pay which has come into operation under the régime of this Government or are there any other factors which go wholly to account for it? It will be remembered that in 1924 the rate of pay of naval ratings was raised, and that since then it has been reduced on the ground of the fall in the cost of living. It is difficult to discover from the statement now set before us exactly where the amount of reduction has taken place. It will help us very considerably if the hon. and gallant Member can tell us to what extent it is due to a reduction in the numbers of the forces and how far it is due to reduced rates of pay. Can he also say whether there have been any considerable change over and transfer in the Navy through passing out under the old rates and recruiting in under the new rates?
I am afraid, owing to the ruling from the Chair, that I may not be able to answer just as I should like to do, the question which the hon. and gallant Member for Hull Central (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has put as to marriage allowances. If the hon. and gallant Member will read what I said in the Debate when I first introduced the Estimates, he will see what I then stated and will be under no misconception as to my attitude on the subject. The hon. and gallant Member asked why we should not allow marriage allowances to the men when they marry before 25, and he argued that the age should be reduced to 21. The reason is not that I claim—as he attempted to show—to dictate as to the particular time of life when a perrson should marry, but because, in regard to claims for marriage allowance, we go by similar practice to that pursued in the other Services, the Army and Air Force. Therefore, we have that limit in regard to marriage allowances.
Two wrongs do not make a right.
No, but all the Services must have some practice, in regard to the interests of economy, if nothing else. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is very fond of talking about economy, but not in this case.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the pay of the Navy has been reduced, but not the pay of the Army, and therefore there is an additional reason why this marriage allowance should come into operation as suggested?
It is not a question of the marriage allowance, but whether they should have it at 21 or 25. In the interest of economy and something like common practice in the three services, we felt that we were not called upon to give it. The other question which was asked me was about the privileges that boys' training instructors have when they are ashore. The answer is that the men who are employed as instructors on shore are picked men for rather a special kind of training. That is the reason they get advantages which are not given to those who carry out work at sea, which is not quite similar.
Do I understand from that answer that training instructors at sea are not picked men?
They are all good men, of course, but these men are specially chosen for their particular apti- tude for the work, and that is the reason why they have these special privileges. It is not an uncommon thing for men who are very skilled in one particular line to be paid more than those who are less skilled.Another question was put to me regarding the Nab Tower and as to its transfer to Trinity House. The structure remains in the custody of the Admiralty, but the light in it and the attendance is transferred to Trinity House. I will look into the matter, but I am quite sure that those who are engaged in it will receive the same terms as they received before. Then there was a question about people employed in Gibraltar and Malta. Might I ask the hon. Member to be good enough to put his points on paper? I hope to go to Gibraltar very shortly, and I will then inquire and see if I can provide him with an answer to the points which are troubling him.
There is one point the right hon. Gentleman missed. On page 20, there is a decrease of £189,000, and then it speaks of some increased requirements, as though there was an increase.
In the first case, the decrease on the page to which the hon. Gentleman refers is due partly to the entry of men at lower rates of wages owing to the cost of living. In the second case, where there is an increase, it is not an increase in the rates of pay. The reason for the extra amount in 1929, as compared with 1928, results from our having under-estimated the average rate in 1928. With regard to the pensions question raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish), I will certainly look further into the matter and see if there is any possible way of meeting it. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Camberwell North (Mr. Ammon) opposite about the numbers and pay, I think I had better leave that to the Parliamentary Secretary, who knows rather more about that subject than I do.
The reduction is entirely due to reduction in numbers, and that is why I felt that hon. Gentlemen opposite should be more indebted to us as economists than they appeared to be.
Question, "That '£14,244,000' stand part of the Resolution," put, and agreed to.
Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
Third Resolution read a Second time.
I beg to move, to leave out "£1,907,700," and to insert instead thereof "£1,907,600."My reason for moving this Amendment is once more to bring before the House the question of the building of the new dock at Singapore. On several occasions, we have discussed this project, and it is a little difficult to understand exactly what advance has been made with it, and the amount of money that has been spent. I have no doubt we shall have full information during the course of the Debate. I do not want to keep the House too long, because this matter has been discussed so frequently that, quite frankly, there is hardly anything new to be said about it, but there seems no reason whatever on the part of those who opposed the project to alter their opinions under any circumstances. I stated the other day that there were two grounds on which we opposed it. First, there was the ground of policy, and, secondly, the ground that it was unnecessary expenditure. Let us take the first point. It certainly has, whether with good reason or not, caused some considerable alarm to other Powers, as can be seen from extracts from the Press which have been quoted from time to time, that the building of the dock, if not altogether to be taken as an unfriendly act, was one which was not entirely viewed with equanimity. While it can be argued, as has been done, that it is as far from Singapore to Yokohama as from Plymouth to New York, it can also be argued that it is just as far the other way, and therefore that there is little reason, if any, for erecting this particular structure. It is based undoubtedly on a re-orientation of the Navy which has been moved from narrow waters, and is now based on the broader waters of the Pacific, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic. At a time when the nation is concerned with discussing questions of disarmament, the establishment of permanent peace, courts of arbitration, and so forth, it appears absurd to go on with a project which seems to belie all the statements we have made, and equally it is most absurd, at a time when we desire to economise in every possible direction against unwise and unnecessary expenditure, to embark on a scheme which, on the most conservative estimate, will cost us not less than £10,000,000. When discussing this matter some years ago, I said that, if we got away with an expenditure of twice £10,000,000 by the time we were through with it, that was about the minimum, because not only have we to consider the building of the graving dock and the setting up of the floating dock, but there is the question of armaments and fortifications, the provision to be found for the Air Force, etc., and all those things, when you have added them together, are going to let us in for a very considerable expenditure over and above that first estimate. As soon as that is established, the world, no doubt, will be subjected to those alarms and excursions with which we were familiar in the North Sea preceding the conflagration of 1914. It has now become quite a platitude to point out that the greatest assurance against war between the United States and ourselves is not our armies and navies, bat the undefended frontier line between Canada and the United States, where there is neither a single soldier nor it single fort. Up to now, in a certain sense we might have said that was very much the position in regard to the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, that we were not seeking to extend our fortifications and our armaments in that direction, but immediately we do so, whatever may be the intention of the Government at a particular moment and however pacifically we may talk, there are all the potentialities of trouble and warfare in the future, and it only wants people on either side to talk and write as, unfortunately, they are doing in this and other countries to set up that state of mind which the presence of these fortifications and armaments help to accentuate. It has been said again and again that it is unthinkable that we can ever go to war with our cousins of the United States, and certainly until quite recently Japan was our very good and close ally, and there is no reason, I imagine, to think she is likely to be otherwise; but any display such as this certainly lends colour to the expectation that such a thing might happen some day. God forbid that it ever should. Certainly, it seems to me that there can be no danger. The threat to Australia seems to me quite fantastic, having regard to the distances and the steaming power of modern ships. So much for the question of policy. When it comes to the question of expenditure and utility, it seems to me the case breaks down even more for, until quite recently, we had adequate accommodation in the docks at Singapore and, until our bigger capital ships were bulged, there was accommodation for the biggest ships we had afloat, so that there was hardly any lack in that respect. There is considerable division of opinion, not among persons like myself but among naval experts, as to whether the day of the capital ship is not numbered. If that be so, it seems a sheer waste of money that we should pour it out in the way that we are doing. Very likely by the time it is completed the capital ship which it is built especially to accommodate will have disappeared as a serious factor in the navies of the world. It is not that we are decrying the Navy by talking like that. That is ridiculous. We are simply pointing out that the development of the Navy and of modern implements of war is causing one implement to pass out and bringing another in its place, and the development of the fast, heavily armed cruiser and the Air Force and the submarine between them are rendering obsolete the capital ship. Under all these circumstances, it seems absurd that we should go on wasting money in this way. I return once more to a point I have raised again and again, not so much that there has been some alteration of policy as to whether a graving dock or a floating dock should take precedence in order of establishment. That is after all a very minor concern, unless it throws some light on the construction and the development of that armament. From an answer to a question I got to-day as to the results that have been achieved by the borings preparatory to building the graving dock, there seems to be no very satisfactory answer to be given. There has been a good deal of difficulty in finding rock foundation among the mud flats before the graving dock can be established, and the House would like to know exactly what development has been made in that line. Has the graving dock been started, and is there any possibility of it being established there, because that will make a considerable difference to the discussions that take place on the construction of this project. Up to now we have simply been pouring our money into these mud flats and swamps. I concede at once that it is probably money well spent in the draining of the hinterland in the prevention of malaria in the mosquito infested ground, but for the purpose of armaments it seems that we have wasted our money very considerably. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us exactly what has been the expenditure up to now, and in what manner it has been expended, that is to say, how much in the actual building of the graving dock, how much in the draining of the hinterland and how much in taking the floating dock out there. I have seen a considerable amount of criticism in the Singapore Press as to the alleged tremendous waste of money that is going on in connection with this dock. It is stated that there is an army of unnecessay officials being sent out from Europe and there is also some complaint—I give this with all reserve—as to the workmen who are being engaged, that they are not qualified European workmen but are, in the main, Chinese. If this phase of the question gives rise to criticism in the Press of Singapore, it calls for some official answer to be made in this House in order that the country may be reassured.
I beg to second the Amendment.I want to join with my hon. Friend in asking for some clear explanation as to why we are proceeding with this enormous expenditure at Singapore, as to which we have had no explanation up to the present. I hope we shall also have an explanation of the further expenditure to which we have committed the country next year of £580,000 and the further amount of £5,644,000 so far as the Navy is concerned, which has yet to be voted and expended in this way. I should also like to ask as to the conditions of those who are working on this job. Are the wages regulated by anything that the Admiralty has in operation for its own employés? Is it a case of indentured labour? Is it the case that the Admiralty have not insisted upon the contractors paying higher wages because the planters declare that, if reasonable wages are paid, they would lose the labour they now have on the plantations? If it is essential to proceed with what appears to many of us to be a waste of the money of the people of this country, those who are engaged upon it should be inadequately paid. I should like some information on some other items that appear in the Vote. I notice that a considerable sum of money has been spent on the purchase of mosquito netting for Bermuda. It is not so long ago since one discovered netting of this kind being purchased by another Department of the State, but not in this country. I would like to ask where this purchase has been made. If it has been purchased outside, from which country did it come? With regard to Chatham, which is mentioned in page 202 of the Estimates, I notice an item in the account of £35,000 for accommodation for artificer apprentices, and an entry of an amount to be voted upon in the years that are to come of £131,000. May we have an explanation as to why we are called upon to provide this huge sum of money for the additional accommodation of artificer apprentices at Chatham? I will come back to a point which I mentioned in my speech on the last Vote, and the First Lord may be able to ascertain information on the matter on the occasion of his visit next week if he does not already possess it. I notice we are spending some thousands of pounds on the reconditioning of railways both at Gibraltar and at Malta. Are those railways the property of the Admiralty, or are we spending money on the re-stocking of railways in Malta and Gibraltar which belong to other people? I should like an explanation as to the small amount of money that is being expended at Deal. I am glad to see that the Admiralty are spending money in regard to the saving of land in that part. It has to do with sea erosion. I am not taking exception to this expenditure; I would even like to see a greater amount expended in that direction. With regard to Holton Heath, may we know why a considerable sum is being spent on new buildings—£15,000 this year, with £50,000 to follow in the future? I realise that many of the old buildings which I know well are unsuited for permanent work, but the amount required appears to me to be very considerable. Is it now determined that at Greenock there are to be extensive expansions, and does this mean that we are to have the whole of our torpedo work carried out in that part of the world? I note that a sum of £50,000 is asked for, and I think that some explanation is due to the House. I wish there were some better method of getting to the bottom of matters and securing clear explanations of the vast sums of money which are being spent on the various services. Judging by the amount which is being asked for, there does not appear to be much indication in the minds of those in charge at the Admiralty as to disarmament in the near future. We are certainly building many permanent structures, but I am hoping that in the very near future we shall be able to secure such a relationship with the nations of the world that it will not be necessary to make such heavy demands upon the people of this country as are being made at the present time.
The question of Singapore is so much a question for experts that one may well hesitate to speak about it without expert knowledge, but there is a point of view which seems to some of us to be a commonsense point of view, and as it is not that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), perhaps it should be expressed. In the first place, I think one ought to utter a word of caution against the assumption which is indicated in the hon. Member's speech, and is not uncommon in speeches from hon. Members who speak from the benches opposite—the assumption that the days of the large capital ship have been proved to be over. It has not been proved. To the outside world it is a doubtful point of view. The point of view of those who argue that the day of the capital ship is over is what one might call the point of view of the extremist against the point of view of the mass of central opinion on the subject. It would be a dangerous day in a matter of such vital moment as our naval safety, when we were committed to an extremist point of view.In regard to the question of Singapore, it appeared from the hon. Member's observations that he made the assumption in discussing this matter that Singapore must be necessarily directed against this or that foreign Power. It appears to me that the precise contrary is the truth in explaining the existence of Singapore from the commonsense point of view. Since the War and the cessation of the German menace, the whole political position with regard to our naval situation has become distinctly generalised. We are no longer considering hostilities with any particular Power. We are considering the general possibilities of the whole world at large. In order to do so we have to extend and decentralise the efficient scene of action of our Navy. What is remarkable is not that we should be making a base at Singapore now, but that we did not make it long ago. The reason we did not make it long ago was because we were so entirely concentrated on the German menace that we could not spare time and effort for this. Now we have to consider a completely generalised situation. We have to provide that our Navy shall be equally efficient in all parts of the world, and that, I suppose, is the object of the new departure in making the Eastern Base. It is quite obvious that particularly large, ships with their radius of effective guns cannot be equally efficient in all parts of the world unless we have adequate base accommodation in the East, as at Singapore. It is simply and solely for that purpose, to increase to the maximum the efficiency of our existing forces, that it is necessary to increase the base accommodation in this manner. There may be a question of what sort of Navy we should have, whether we should have a Navy of this size or that size, but having the Navy on the seas that we have, and that which is apparently prescribed by our naval advisers, it is common sense economy that we should make it as efficient as possible, some of us remember the great perils and anxieties of the early days of the Great War, when we had no adequate base accommodation even in our own North Sea. Lastly—and it appears to me that it is a new aspect of the situation that has to be taken into account in considering this particular provision—is it not a fact that the British Empire is becoming rapidly more decentralised? It is becoming less and less a band of Dominions under the leadership and to some extent under the control of the old country. It is becoming more and more a band of equal and free nations bound together by the bonds of the Imperial tie. That being so, is it not perfectly natural that we should find it necessary also to decentralise the scene of action of the British Navy, and that we can no longer continue looking upon one particular point of the sea, that centred in the British Isles, as the only centre of the sphere of its operations? One looks for the brightest hope for economy in naval expenditure in the future not so much to saving on essential auxiliary services, such as base accommodation, but to the day when a greater share of the cost of the Imperial navy shall be taken by other member States of the Imperial family of Nations. In order to further that, the Navy must render equally effective service to all members of the Empire.
The only aspect of the Singapore question, as it appears to me as a practical man at the moment, is that the new works there are to have 15 times more money than the works at Devonport. Devonport is full of unemployment, and I rise solely for the purpose of saying this. There are a number of works to be undertaken, according to this Estimate, in Devonport, most of them works of great urgency, which are being delayed—works which mean the employment of men. No announcement made by the First Lord in his speech last week gave greater cause for hope than his statement that we had now reached, or he trusted that we had now reached, a state of stabilisation. Within seven days of that announcement being made which brought, as I say, so much relief to my constituents, 20 labourers have this week received notices of discharge, and it is anticipated that more are to follow. I want to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, what he meant when he held out that hope to my constituents. One would imagine that after discharging nearly 9,000 men and reducing the numbers employed in the dockyards from 36,679 to 27,808, he would have done enough. One would have thought also that the Government could have afforded to prevent the invasion of Devonport and other dockyard towns by discharged miners when there are a great many men being thrown out of work in this way.I want to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he cannot possibly find some way of helping these men who have received these notices of discharge and withholding the further notices of discharge which, I understand, are contemplated. The position is made very much worse by a recent decision of the Admiralty, come to for some inexplicable reason, to reduce the period of notice that a dock-yardman is to receive from two weeks to one week, as if one week were enough for a Government employé to look round and make a new life for himself. I invite the First Lord of the Admiralty to reconcile the action taken by his Department this week with the speech which he made last week, and to hold out some hope that these men will not be flung on to an already overloaded employment market.
The hon. Member raised the question last week, and he knows that there is no point in it. He suggested that miners from South Wales were being employed in Devonport Dockyard.
No, I did not.
Then there is no point in the statement.
Will the right hon. Gentleman try to appreciate my point? If he throws men out of the dockyard, as he has been doing for the past five years, those men become unemployed and have to seek other work. If you send miners into Devonport, the chances of our own people getting work are diminished. If the miners are put into work, they are put to work which discharged dockyardsmen ought to have, because they have been waiting for it in their own town.
I quite understand that, but the hon. Member knows perfectly well that that matter comes under another Ministry. If he has any case against me he will have to prove it, and he cannot do that. He cannot prove that I have employed discharged miners in the dockyards when there were dockyard men out of work whom I could have employed. He cannot prove that. Therefore, he had better transfer his attention to the Ministry of Labour. To try to make a case against the Admiralty on such a matter is very unfair, and he ought not to attack the Admiralty on that particular point. He knows perfectly well that one cannot always keep exactly the same number of men employed. With respect to stabilisation, I said what I meant. I said that, subject to small fluctuations, I hoped to secure stabilisation. Now, the hon. Member proceeds to say that I am providing for fewer men in the Estimates for this year in connection with the dockyards. Again, he is wrong. It is true that under Vote 8, with which we are not engaged at the moment, there is a reduction of 680, but on other Votes there is an increase of 1,140, so that I am actually providing in these Estimates for an increase of 460 men. Will the hon. Member please understand that, and not repeat his statement that I am reducing the number of men?
Is it not a fact that the estimated numbers to be employed in the dockyards are decreased? I am referring to the numbers of men and not the amount of money.
I am providing for an increase of 460 men. With regard to Singapore, the hon. Member for Camberwell North (Mr. Ammon) knows quite well that the general question has been argued at great length. He said that he did not wish to reopen the whole subject. Since the policy of the Singapore base was started it has been argued several times and I do not think that there are any fresh arguments to be advanced one way or the other. My right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Sir H. Young) hit the nail on the head when he said that the advantage of Singapore was that it was a pivotal point which enabled our fleet in the Pacific and Indian oceans to be more mobile and to be nearer to the place where they can be repaired. I have been asked for information as to the amount of money that has been spent upon the Singapore base. The floating dock cost £936,000, including the cost of towage and insurance. Before the Labour Government closed down the works, in 1924, a sum of £72,000 had been spent on preliminary works. From early in 1925 to the 31st March, 1929, the expenditure actual and estimated, for berth for floating dock, auxiliary works and preliminary works over site has been £630,000, making a total of £693,000. There has been further expenditure on a floating self-propelled crane amounting to £31,000 and on furniture, £2,000. With regard to the total cost, as I said last year, the sum has been reduced by over £3,000,000 from the Estimate, to £7,756,000. Of that, part is contract work and the other part is Admiralty work.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the figures of contributions from the Dominions?
From the Dominions, altogether, we received £250,000 from Hong Kong, £1,000,000 from New Zealand, and £2,000,000 from the Malay States. These contributions are being paid in instalments. In addition, the Straits Settlement gave us the land, which I think is valued at about £140,000.
Did Australia withdraw?
When the hon. Members' party were in office, Australia, naturally, did not contribute what they had intended to the Singapore base, because the hon. Member's party declined to go on with it. It would have been a foolish action on the part of Australia to contribute a large sum of money to a Government who were not going to do what they wanted them to do. Instead, Australia spent the money on two cruisers, which were laid down in 1924, for the Australian Navy. The hon. Member asked for information with respect to the staff at Singapore. From the latest return, to the 31st January, the British supervisory staff numbered 25. The workmen sent out under agreement totalled 18, local men employed departmentally, 642, local men employed on contract work 407. The 18 workmen sent out under agreement include pivotal masters, engineers, etc., of dredging craft, which are manned by Asiatic crews.The hon. Member also asked me about the borings for the graving dock. I am glad to be able to tell him that the foundations are all right. All the local labour is engaged and employed in accordance with the Labour Ordinance of the Straits Settlements. Therefore, the local conditions as to wages and hours are observed. Generally, Admiralty practice regarding staffing of work at Singapore is, in essentials, on all-fours with that of corresponding authorities such as the Public Works Department, the Singapore municipality, the Federated States Railways, and the Singapore Harbour Board. The House may rest assured that the rates of pay are in accordance with what is paid to other people in these various classes of labour. The subordinate technical staff such as foremen are with few exceptions on European agreements. Outdoor foremen of the ganger type are generally Asiatics. The staff sent out from England is the minimum number required for ensuring the efficiency of the work and as the contract work extends it is anticipated that the number will have to be increased. This information answers the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) and also the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), who is not present.
I think the right hon. Member did himself an injustice. I said that he was taking power to reduce the number of men employed in the dockyard, and I find that that is so. I do not understand why he should have corrected me on that point. On page 430 of the Estimate it is stated that the numbers for 1928 amounted to 28,484, while the estimated number for this year is 27,880. It was on these figures that I based my statement that he is taking powers to reduce the numbers employed.
The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) represents his own views with regard to the Navy Estimates and not the views of his party. His party, as is well known, has seen fit to put forward a policy which means a reduction of the Navy. The Liberal policy would mean reductions in work to the extent of about 80 per cent. Of course, they could not effect reductions to that extent and throw the officers and staff and men on the streets without making provision in regard to pensions. With regard to Pembroke dock, I think we stand in a rather more favourable light and that it is to be utilised for the service of a coming arm. There is a realisation that that great harbour upon the Western ocean will be the future aeroplane and seaplane base of this country. Whether my expectations will be fully realised or not I do not know, but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say that he has concluded arrangements with the Air Ministry for the establishment of a seaplane base at Pembroke in the near future, and that that will be the commencement of an era of prosperity in the dockyard.The hon. Member for Devonport is wrong in the figures which he has quoted. If he will look at page 430 he will see that the total of all classes of men to be employed in the naval dockyards at home is 31,260 this year, compared with 30,800 last year showing an increase, as the First Lord said, of 460. His arguments and the arguments of those who belong to the Liberal party upon naval matters must be exceedingly difficult to square with the policy of the party that they serve. The provisions made in regard to the Singapore base have been so admirably explained by the right hon. Member for Norwich (Sir H. Young) that anything that I could say on that matter would be useless. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to make a definite statement with regard to the future of Pembroke Dockyard, and relieve the anxiety of those who are suffering.
I should like to answer the statement made by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). He quoted figures which are given on page 430, but he stopped at a point convenient to himself. There is an apparent reduction in the figures that he quoted, but, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke (Major Price) has said, if the hon. Member will look at the last item he will see the statement:
8.0 p.m. That is an increase of 1,140, which you set off against a reduction of 680 and gives you, as I have said, an increase of 460 altogether."In addition, the average number expected to be employed in the several Dockyards at home upon work provided for under other Votes, and charged direct thereto, or upon other Services on Repayment, 2,840 this year, as against 1,700 last year."
They are not in the dockyards. Those are other persons.
No doubt the right hon. Gentleman has quite satisfied the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) that he is trying to do his duty by keeping up or increasing the number of people employed in the Royal Dockyards, but I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman has a responsibility in other directions to other people who may not be directly in the employ of the Admiralty. I do not intend to pose as being sufficiently an expert in naval strategy to criticise the Singapore dock venture, but I am afraid, if we are going to spend £10,000,000, or what is more likely, £20,000,000, that the right hon. Gentleman will have to skimp other employment in this country. I want to point out that there are other places beside Government dockyards which are well equipped for shipbuilding. May I refer to my own constituency, Barrow-in-Furness. We have suffered a tremendous amount of unemployment but, after great efforts, we have been able to get to grips with it. We have a naval dockyard equipped especially for Admiralty work. It employs a minimum of 15,000 men, but at the moment it is employing about 12,000. I am told that they can see the end of the work—
Unless the hon. Member is raising a question in regard to naval dockyards it will not be in order on this Vote.
I am sorry if I am not in order, and I of course bow to your ruling. I thought, having regard to the responsibility of the Admiralty and the First Lord himself for an increase or decrease in the employment at the shipyards, that this would be within his province, and I only desire to point out the difficulty of finding increased employment in my own constituency when we are spending £10,000,000 far away on something on which even the naval experts appear to be in grave doubt as to its utility.
That is a very suitable argument for a proper occasion, but it is not suitable on this Vote.
I want to put a point with regard to the Singapore base, and I shall be able to put it in one or two brief sentences. I am able to put it with much more precision now than I should have been last week on the Navy Estimates, when I spent several hours trying in vain, Mr. Speaker, to catch your eye. We have heard to-night for the first time the authoritative figures of the all in cost of the Singapore Base. It is now £7,750,000, of which the Overseas Dominions are contributing £3,750,000, because they believe that this naval base in Eastern waters is for their benefit as well as for the benefit of the whole Empire. But I should like to hear how it is, if these are the accurate figures with regard to the cost of the Singapore Base, that we get the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) a former Prime Minister of this country stating repeatedly in the country quite different figures. I have in my hand his ipsissima verba, in a speech which he made at Elgin in 1925, when he said that the cost of this base is to be £60,000,000 sterling.
Have you given notice to the right hon. Member that you were going to attack him?
No, how could I give him notice? He is not here. Besides I am not attacking him at all. All I want to do is to get the real cost of this base proclaimed to the world. The Government has been constantly attacked on the ground that they are squandering money in these vast proportions on this base and then we hear that the actual figures are one-sixth of the figures which are quoted in the country. We have had an example of the same tendency in the House even to-night from the Labour benches, when the figure of £10,000,000 was mentioned, and it was suggested that £20,000,000 would be a much nearer figure. Since the First Lord has given his reply we have had yet another suggestion that it might be another £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 more. My only purpose in intervening in the Debate is to get the matter cleared up so that the taxpayers of this country should know what they are being asked to expend on this project.
I have every sympathy with the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher) for not having been able to raise this point before, but I have no sympathy with him in not giving the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) notice that he was going to attack him.
It is not an attack; it is an inquiry.
It is usual to notify a right hon. Member or an hon. Member when you propose to refer to something they have said in the country. The First Lord of the Admiralty found fault with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) for being out of the House at the moment. I must remind the First Lord that this is not the hon. Member for Rochdale's Vote. This is the First Lord's Vote; and I notice that he has found it convenient to go out of the House himself. We are all human, including even First Lords of the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman, when questioned by the hon. Member for Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) about the withdrawal of the Australian grant for the Singapore base, said that the reason why the Australian Government withdrew their grant was that the Labour Government in this country, very wisely I think, dropped the Singapore scheme, and, therefore, it was but natural for the Australian Government to withdraw their grant. But that is not the whole of the story. There was great opposition to the expenditure of this money in Australia by the Labour party there. They opposed it tooth and nail. They won elections upon it, and the Labour Government in Australia was glad of the excuse to get out of the grant of this money. As a matter of fact, I have reason to know, as I meet many Australians, that there are many in that country who believe that this expenditure at Singapore is unnecessary and that if a large battleship base is required in the Pacific it would be far better to have it at Sydney. There are many reasons for this. You can defend a battleship base at Sydney far better than you can at Singapore. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth North (Sir B. Falle) seems to be amused. I remember the election at Portsmouth when he ran in double harness with the late Lord Charles Beresford. I supported Lord Charles Beresford not on political grounds, and in doing so I also supported the hon. and gallant Member who only got to this House on the back of Lord Charles Beresford.
Is the hon. and gallant Member making these statements about me? If so, I must point out that on the first occasion Lord Charles Beresford beat me by 1,200, and on the second occasion by 250. That is scarcely getting in on his back.
And that is nothing to what the hon. and gallant Member will be beaten by next time. But to return to Sydney. You have there a shipbuilding industry, a skilled population, mechanical engineers and fitters, and the whole Australian Army behind it. I would wager this—I am sorry that great naval strategist, the right hon. Member for Norwich (Sir H. Young), has found it necessary to leave the House—that if there is any real threat to Australia, and that is the only reason on which we could defend this expenditure at Singapore—and there is no sign of it at all—our fleet would remove to Sydney. The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth has said that the hon. Member for Camberwell was wrong in saying that Singapore would cost £10,000,000. My hon. Friend was not far wrong. In this Vote we are discussing a total sum of £6,900,000 for the naval base, and another £1,000,000 for oil fuel depots. That is £8,000,000. In addition to this sum which is being spent on this new Port Arthur, as Sir Ian Hamilton described it, the Air Force have to spend another £500,000 on an air base and the War Office another £500,000 on shore batteries and defences. That brings us up to nearly £10,000,000.
£20,000 was mentioned by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Bromley).
That was the original cost. That was the Estimate of a former Conservative Government. The fact is that the present dock at Singapore is amply sufficient for the new cruisers of 10,000 tons. I admit that the Straits of Malacca are a very important strategic area, but it was quite unnecessary to build this vast naval arsenal with its floating dock, its graving dock, and refitting shops, in order to defend the Straits of Malacca. You could defend the Straits by a submarine mine- field, long range guns, submarines, and a small Air Force and destroyers; and no Admiral in his senses, in face of such a threat, would attempt to get through the Straits of Malacca. It was absolutely unnecessary to embark on this vast dock and arsenal. The Germans embarked on a similar policy at Tsintau. They created a great arsenal and fortress but the moment the threat of war arose their squadrons were ordered to clear out and get away. They did so; and the whole of that money was wasted. The place was besieged by the Japanese but it did not impede the Allied progress, and all the money which the Germans spent there was sheer waste. This Singapore policy is on the same lines as that. Singapore is unhealthy. I know the place very well. It is all right for a week or two but you soon get run down in the climate, and to keep a large Fleet permanently based there will affect the health of the men very seriously indeed.I press for an answer to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), as to the wages paid to native workmen engaged in this construction. Is it a fact that local planters complained that the Admiralty were paying too high wages and were taking away the labour that they wanted for the rubber plantations? Is it true that on these representations from the planters the wages were reduced? If so, it is a very serious piece of work. A very handsome contribution has been made by the Federated Malay States, the Sultan of Jahore and other Princes out there, and our subjects there might have some compensation in steady employment and good wages when it is decided to employ coolies instead of British workmen. Then the planters would have to raise the wages on the estates, and a very good thing that would be. I consider that we had no business to proceed with this Singapore expenditure. This year we are being committed to £580,000. Last year the expenditure was £693,000. But the main part of the expenditure has not begun. The contract has only recently been entered into by the firm of Sir Thomas Jackson, and the heavy payments will come later, unless this ridiculous policy is scrapped, as I hope it will be after the General Election. One of my objections is based on the fact that we have already signed the Kellogg Pact. Surely that will make some difference to our policy? I find no trace of it in any of the Estimates, certainly not in this one. I think it is extremely likely that in future it will be agreed by the three great naval Powers which alone can build battleships—England, Japan and the United States—not to Build any more, and to allow the present vessels to become obsolete and gradually come off the Navy list. I also think it likely that after the Washington Naval Conference in 1931 these great battleships, costing £7,750,000, will no more be built. That being the case, all this money is being wasted at Singapore. There is another question. Is it a fact that even the machinery for excavating the graving dock at Singapore and deepening the Channel for the floating dock, has not been ordered in this country and will not give employment here? Is it true that the firm of Jackson have been permitted to order these great excavators from an American firm although, as I am informed, the same excavators could be supplied by British labour in this country? This Singapore policy was entered into in haste without true appreciation of all the factors. It is a mistaken policy. It has given great offence to Japan. The Japanese think that we distrust them, although in the most criticial period of our history they were faithful to us and the Allies. They had no particular reason to come into the War against Germany. Many of the sympathies of Japanese officers were strongly with Germany. The Japanese are-a-sensitive people and they have been greatly offended. However far Singapore may be from Japan, one cannot help feeling that the reason for the building of this base is that we fear some possible future cause of hostility with Japan. Secondly, it is a sinful waste of money. Thirdly, it would be a criminal policy to station a great British fleet there, with young men and boys, in an unwholesome climate right on the equator. I intend to support a reduction of the Vote. I hope that before much more money is spent in the swamps and wastes of the Straits of Malacca, a more sensible Government will be in office.
I must say that I listen with great interest and due respect to the hon. and gallant Gentle- man who has just spoken, but when listening to him I am always reminded of the outburst which Oliver Cromwell made in respect of the Scottish Covenanters who, like the hon. and gallant Member were always right and could never see anything in anybody else's opinion. Oliver Cromwell said:
I am quite convinced that a great deal of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said to-night is wholly wrong. However, it is not a question into which it is worth while entering now, because it has been already dealt with by the First Lord. The hon. and gallant Member referred to Singapore. That is a matter of policy on which the Government has made up its mind and come to a decision, and I believe that decision to be a right one. As to the labour at Singapore, I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we have not reduced the rate of wages paid to the men who are working for us on any suggestion or complaint of the planters. When they suggested, as I understand was the case, that the wages we were paying were too high, a conference was held, and it was then decided that the kind of work that was done on their estates was not comparable with the work for which we were responsible; we therefore maintained the rates of pay which had already been fixed. As to the machinery used by the contractors at Singapore, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman no doubt knows, the contract did not specify that the plant was to be of British or Dominion manufacture; it would have been impossible for us to insist upon such terms with the contractors, who might already have been in possession of foreign plant which they could use for the purpose. Certain foreign plant has been bought by the contractors, and the reason is that it was supposed to be the most efficient for the purpose. We are convinced, from what the contractors have told us—and I have already informed the House on this point—that throughout the contract they will always give British firms an opportunity of competing in any tender that is made. Of course, it is interesting to find a party which disbelieves in the Singapore scheme; which regards that project as entire waste of money; and which is also opposed to any form of safeguarding, taking this keen interest in seeing that British industrialists get full advantage from the scheme."I beseech you, dear Brethren, think it possible that you may be wrong."
Some of them are members of our trade unions.
We believe in buying British goods!
Certainly, and it is interesting to find that the party opposite have adopted that cry. With regard to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher) as to the figures put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) of the cost of the building of the Singapore Dock, I am afraid that I am not responsible for any of the right hon. Gentleman's exaggerated estimates about this or any other matter. All I can say is that the figures of the estimated cost of the scheme given by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty show the actual sum that we expect the dock to cost. I should like to inform the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Price) that negotiations are now in progress with the Air Ministry on the proposed transference of the dockyard to the Royal Air Force for use as a flying boat station and training centre and it is anticipated that a satisfactory arrangement will be reached. Although we expect an agreement to be reached shortly, it must not be expected that the transference of the dockyard will lead to a large employment of labour, at any rate in the immediate future, but I hope the fact that the dockyard is going to be utilised will be some consolation to the inhabitants of that district.Various questions were raised by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), and I am sure he will agree with me in describing them as minor matters, but nevertheless I will do my best to answer his points. The expenditure at Deal about which he spoke is a continuation service and is rendered necessary owing to extensive erosion. It is necessary that we should take measures to preserve access to the range and prevent further erosion. The total cost of the work is estimated at £10,300 but we are only going to spend £3,500 this year. It is a necessary work and will be spread over a number of years. With regard to the Holton Heath expenditure, that is a new service rendered necessary in order to meet the requirements of cordite production. Certain works have to be carried out in connection with alterations to plant, and the raising of the level of the ground and other matters of that kind. This also is a necessary work and is to be carried out this year. The hon. Member also professed some slight anxiety with regard to an expenditure on wire netting at Bermudas.
Surely not wire? It is mosquito netting.
It is made of brass wire.
They must be fearful mosquitoes.
The hon. Member was anxious to know whether this wire was of British manufacture. He again showed himself to be very anxious for the interests of the British manufacturer, and I commend him for it.
That is because Members of the Government have not shown themselves to be anxious.
As a matter of fact, when tenders were obtained for the supply of this wire from England the price quoted was 6d. per foot super, to which would have had to be added the cost of freight. The Officer of Works in Bermudas found that the material could be obtained there at 4¾d. or 4¼d. per foot super without any cost for freight. It was decided accordingly to purchase it from the local ironmongers in Bermudas. In connection with this work, however, the greater part of the cost is entailed by the provision and erection of the woodwork frames. The expenditure at Greenock, to which the hon. Member referred, becomes necessary because we are enlarging Greenock and making it the sole place for the manufacture of torpedoes. The cost will be spread over some years, and should, in the end, lead to a considerable saving of public money. I do not think there are any other points for me to answer.
What about the railways at Malta and Gibraltar?
The work at Gibraltar is rendered necessary by the fact that the railway has become out of date and is in a bad state of repair. It was constructed 20 years ago, and many of the lines are out of the level and at times are submerged by water. The sleepers are practically rotten. The railway has to be reconstructed, and this
Division No. 271.]
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Albery, Irving James||Grotrian, H. Brent||Phllipson, Mabel|
|Applin Colonel R. V. K.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Plicher, G.|
|Apsley, Lord||Hacking, Douglas H.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Hammersley, S. S.||Ramsden, E.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Harland, A.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Berry, Sir George||Harrison, G. J. C.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lane. Stretford)|
|Bethel, A.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Bevan, S. J.||Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxfd, Henley)||Ross, R. D.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Bourne. Captain Robert Croft||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hills, Major John Waller||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hilton, Cecil||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Savery, S. S.|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.O. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen, Sir Aylmer||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Burman, J. B.||Hurst, Sir Gerald||Smithers, Waldron|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).||Storry Deans, R.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Lamb, J. Q.||Sugden. Sir Wilfrid|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Templeton, W. P.|
|Christie, J. A.||Looker, Herbert William||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Cobb. Sir Cyril||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Thomson, Sir Frederick|
|Cochrane. Commander Hon. A. D.||Luce. Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Colfox, Major William Phillips||McLean, Major A.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Couper, J. B.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Margesson, Captain D.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Watson. Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Withers, John James|
|Ellis, R. G.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Womersley, W. J.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Fermoy, Lord||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wright, Brig.-General W. O.|
|Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Oakley, T.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Major Sir William Cope and Major the Marquess of Titchfield.|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hardle, George D.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Harris, Percy A.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Duncan, C.||Hayes, John Henry|
|Barr, J.||Dunnico, H.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Batey, Joseph||Edge, Sir William||Hirst, G. H.|
|Bellamy, A.||England, Colonel A.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Forrest, W.||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.|
|Broad, F. A.||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Bromley, J.||Gillett, George M.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Kennedy, T.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Not!||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Cape, Thomas||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Clarke, A. B.||Grundy, T. W.||Lowth, T.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Montague, Frederick|
work is essential in the interests of efficiency. We have already expended about £4,000. The total estimate is £10,600, and we are asking for £2,000 this year.
Question put, "That '£1,907,700' stand part of the Resolution."
The House divided: Ayes, 146; Noes, 73.
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Murnin, H.||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Welsh, J. C.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Scrymgeeur, E.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Oliver, George Harold||Shield, G. W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Palin, John Henry||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Pcthick-Lawrence, F. W.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Potts, John S.||Snell, Harry|
|Purcell, A. A.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Keel, Sir Beddoe||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Mr. A. Barnes and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Strauss, E. A.|
|Ritson, J.||Townend, A. E.|
Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
Fourth Resolution read a Second time.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
I am sorry the First Lord has found it necessary to be away while this Vote is under discussion, because it particularly affects the right hon. Gentlemen, not so much in his capacity as First Lord of the Admiralty as in his capacity as a Member for an agricultural constituency. I understand that only a very small portion of the meat supplied to the men and officers of the Royal Navy is British. On the last Vote the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary had some sarcastic things to say about my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) and myself, because we were disturbed about the purchase of American instead of English machinery for Singapore. I will now give him another opportunity of stating why the Admiralty does not practice what the Members of the Government preach on the platforms of the country. Why is it that so much meat is bought from abroad, when there is such grave distress among agriculturists at home? It would cost a bit more to buy British meat, but the meat would be better.I am glad to see the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Lamb) in his place, because he has a peculiar knowledge of this subject, and he will agree that British meat is better than foreign chilled meat. Then why is it not supplied to the Navy? Why cannot our gallant lads be fed on British beef instead of on frozen meat from the Argentine? I should have thought the Admiralty, which is always talking about our vital trade routes and how necessary it is to protect them, would have wanted to encourage British agriculture, but perhaps they do not want British agriculture to thrive, so that they can come and frighten the lieges and get money for the Navy, because we are only partly self-supporting. I think some explanation is required. This country is not so poor that it cannot afford to help the British firmer. I am glad to see hon. Members for agricultural constituencies on the benches opposite, and I hope they will not be silent and allow this Vote for £3,800,000 for the purchase of Argentine beef to go through while the farms of this country are going out of cultivation, while the farmers are in the bankruptcy court, and while unemployment among agricultural labourers is rife all over the country. I hope the result of the Boston by-election will shake them out of their complacency. My demand is, British beef for British tars. Boys of the bulldog breed should be fed on British bullocks, on mutton from Staffordshire and Oswestry and not from across the ocean. I would also like to ask the hon. and gallant Member opposite how often fish is given to the sailors. I spent many happy years in the Royal Navy, but fish was never served as a ration in my time. We used to get it ourselves with nets and when we occasionally engaged in exercises with explosive charges that killed a lot of fish, but it was never served out as a ration. The only fish we could get on board, except what we caught ourselves, was tinned salmon. At present, the fishing industry is in a sorrowful plight. We have had to stop the herring fishing season in its height, because there is no market for the fish. From the health point of view, it would be a good thing to have a voluntary ration of fish for the Navy. There are now refrigerating arrangements on board ship which never existed in the old days. It is true that Nelson's Fleet were not served out with fish, but they had no refrigerators. Now we have them and skilled cooks, and fish would help the men and the British fishermen. It must be remembered that on them the Navy depends for valuable reserves, so that to serve out fish to the Navy would cut both ways. I hope that in future fish will be served out as a voluntary ration, and that, in addition, our brave British tars will be fed on the incomparable meat which is produced in their own country.
I should like to emphasise the latter portion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech. It has been said that fish is food for brains. I suggest, therefore, that it would be good in a double sense, for it would supply nutriment to the men's bodies and assist, if it were necessary, their brain power. Fish is supplied to the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes in considerable quantities. Not long ago, I visited an establishment in Grimsby where some of the finest and best fish—of course, that is the kind we do send from Grimsby, and it is superior to the kind that is sent from Hull—was being prepared for conveyance to certain naval ports.
I did not attack Grimsby.
I am not attacking the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I do not wish to do so. He may have to be responsible some day for supplying the victuals of the Royal Navy, and I may have to appeal to him to supply fish. Is the fish which is supplied only supplied through the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes. If no ration of fish is supplied, I wish to press that it should be supplied, for I am sure that it would be in the best interests, not only of the fishermen and the ports, but of the men of the Navy who would have the pleasure of eating it.
I should like to support what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) said about the desirability of supplying fresh meat to the Navy while it is in home waters. A very large proportion of the Navy is serving overseas, where it is impossible to provide them with fresh meat, but as far as practicable, it is desirable that British meat should be used for the Navy while it is in home waters. It would not only be an advantage to agriculture, which requires and should receive all the assistance that we can give it, but also to the men of the Navy to have fresh British meat.
I want to turn for the moment from fresh meat and fish to a question in which I am interested. I have a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary in reply to one which I sent to him in regard to recreational outfits for the apprentice artificers in the Royal Navy. In this he says that he is investigating the matter, and I should like to know if that investigation has been carried through, and what decision has been arrived at. The recreational kit of these apprentices is detailed in the Navy Appendix. Somebody took upon himself to order that these boys should get two additional jerseys for their football recreation. Their wages are 1s. a day, and they cannot very well afford to pay the additional expense. Apart from that, anybody who knows anything about the rough and tumble of Rugby football, knows that more than two jerseys are required. Many of the parents felt that this was an additional charge put upon them for which they should not be responsible. The boys were instructed to get these jerseys, although they were not included in the detailed clothing as stated in the Navy Appendix, and the money for them was to be deducted through the canteens. There is no authority for such a deduction through such a channel, and I ask under what authority it was done. I wish to enter a protest against what appears to be the act of some individual who has no real authority for doing it. If there were any authority for it, there was no real authority for deducting the wages through the canteen in the manner in which it was threatened to be done. Probably the details of the recreational outfit will be altered to include these two jerseys, If they are, the two jerseys ought to be given without any charge being inflicted on the boys, or an additional allowance should be made for the upkeep of the recreational outfit.
We have had beef, mutton, fish, and jerseys, and I should like to make an appeal on behalf of the cotton trade, and the supplies for the Navy in which cotton plays a part. I agree with the attitude of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), although it is rather surprising to hear him advocating British stuff.
If the hon. Gentleman were here more often, he would have heard me frequently advocating it.
I am here very often, and I shall be here oftener still I hope. I believe that the last big contract that was made for supplying the Navy with shoe laces was placed with a foreign country to the extent of 2,000,000 pairs per annum. If the Admiralty do not know this fact, I would like to bring it to the attention of the hon. and gallant Member who is in charge of the Vote. The last contract placed was put up for open tender to the Lancashire manufacturers. Those laces are made of polished yarn, and the polishing of it is a trade which is peculiar to one or two little towns round my district, though not in my constituency. Those laces, when they were delivered, had tags on them marked "Made in England." It was the tags which were made in England; the only part of the laces that were made in England were the tags, and the whole of that yarn, cut in 24- 28- and 30-inch lengths, came from abroad.
I do not say that. What I say is that every little helps, and in Lancashire we want every possible assistance that we can have, and we are not getting it. I cannot think it can be to the benefit of Lancashire, or the country, or the Government to give preference to a foreign nation in the matter of supplying 2,000,000 pairs of boot laces for the British Navy. It is a tremendous order, which would keep a huge firm employed for the whole of the year, and I say to the Admiralty, whether it be a question of beef or fish or anything else, that where it has an order to give it should give it where it will mean employment for British labour. I would go further, and say that the Admiralty have been too careless to allow anyone to dump on them laces with tags stamped "Made in Britain" when the laces themselves were made abroad. It shows a little slackness in the Department. If a friend of mine who is an hon. Member of this House happened to be here he would supply more details of the matter of which I have spoken. It is essential that the Admiralty should tighten up the present slack methods and not allow any foreign material coming into this country to be sold to them as British. I can give chapter and verse for my statements. A contract for 2,000,000 pairs of shoe laces was placed with a foreign country, though we in Lancashire were on short time.
I hope we shall have an explanation of why it has been found necessary to purchase in foreign countries the various supplies which have been mentioned when we believe they could very well have been produced here. I have a question to ask with regard to the victualling yard craft. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the Admiralty are now prepared to state what is to be regarded as a normal week for the men of those craft, so that if they are called upon to work longer hours they may be paid extra for the additional time worked? Sometimes they are called upon to work an excessively long week. Another point with regard to these men is that while the mates and masters are established only a small proportion of the crew are established, and I say the time has arrived when consideration ought to be given to placing a larger number of the men of the crew, if not the whole of the crew, on the established list. This question has been before the Admiralty time and again, and I think a decision might now be come to. The hon. and gallant Member will find the item on page 42 of the Report.Another point I wish to raise is as to why it has been found necessary to change over from the Metropolitan Constabulary to the Royal Marine police force, a change from a civilian force to a military force? On page 46 there is a curious item. The Estimates speak of a reduced number of men, and yet in regard to supplies which may well nave been purchased from combines like Lever Brothers or the British Tobacco Company—I refer to soap and tobacco—we find an increase of nearly £8,000. I put these two or three points forward for some explanation. They are minor points, no doubt, but they do not show that we are tending towards that reduction which is claimed by those who are presenting these Estimates.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) was very anxious about the meat supply of the Navy, and wants British beef for British tars. He made a speech on the subject which, I am sure, will endear him to British farmers. The position is, however, that even if the Admiralty bought nothing but British meat it would mean only infinitesimal assistance for our own farmers, the quantities required being so small. The total quantity of meat, other than tinned, purchased annually in the British Isles for His Majesty's Navy is approximately 3,125 tons. All of this is frozen meat, with the exception of fresh pork, which is probably less than 2 per cent. of the whole, and a negligible quantity of fresh beef bought at some of the smaller ports which are situated at a distance from commercial cold stores. Fresh meat is, of course, bought for the naval hospitals, the total annual cost of that being £7,000. All the frozen meat purchased last year was of British Empire origin, coming from New Zealand and Australia, and since supply from the Board of Trade stocks ceased in 1922 it has been necessary on only very few occasions to purchase foreign—Argentine—frozen meat, on account of the insufficiency from the Dominions. During the past year the market prices of fresh meat were a little over 85 per cent. above the cost of frozen meat, and it is estimated that a complete return to fresh meat would have entailed an extra cost of £130,000. Another point to be remembered, altogether apart from the question of extra cost, is that frozen meat will always be necessary, as the cold storage plants on the sea-going ships are not capable of freezing fresh meat. On the whole, therefore, and even if the Navy were prepared to face the extra cost of reverting to British meat, I do not think it would really be of any substantial benefit to British farmers.
Why will you not take that risk?
No, because the cost is prohibitive from the point of view of the Admiralty. The Navy's requirements of meat are not much more than 0.15 per cent. of the country's consumption. I agree that by purchasing fresh meat individual farmers might benefit, but the cost to the country would be a very serious one.
The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned meat other than tinned meat. Can he give us the figure for tinned meat supplied to the Navy?
I have not the figure with me at the moment, but I will certainly supply it to the right hon. Gentleman.
If the quantity supplied is so small, why is the cost prohibitive?
If we purchased fresh meat instead of frozen meat the extra cost would be £130,000 a year.
What is the total value of the 3,000 tons of meat mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman?
I am afraid I cannot give that information. I am quite unable to calculate what the farmer would get by the change suggested, although no doubt he would gain. The Admiralty are responsible for the maintenance of the Navy, and we must be as economical as possible. The use of fresh meat instead of frozen meat would make the maintenance of the Navy very much more expensive, and for these reasons it is impossible for us to have fresh meat. I notice hon. Members who represent constituencies which are interested in the fishing industry, are anxious that the Navy should have as much fish as possible. Where the standard ration is adopted, the men can buy their own fish if they like, but, where general messing is the practice fish is served when possible. We know from the personal experience of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull that when ships are at sea the men and officers can catch fish for themselves.
No, only when in harbour.
I am afraid that I cannot give a reply to the point put to me by the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. R. Young), but I can assure him that the matter is occupying our close attention, and I will let him know the result. I am not aware of the contract to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. Hilton) referred, but I shall be glad if he will give me full details, and I will certainly look into the matter. With reference to the point raised by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), relating to tobacco supplies, the increase in that item is due to the introduction last year of cigarette tobacco. This tobacco has now become very popular, and large quantities are taken up on repayment. Soap is included in the same item, and therefore the increase may be due to an increased use of soap as well as tobacco. I have been asked a question why we have been substituting Royal Marine police for the Metropolitan police. The reason is that it is much more economical to use the Royal Marine police than the Metropolitan police, and we are particularly well satisfied with the change.With regard to the questions put to me about yard craftmen, they serve under seafaring conditions, and the hours they work on vessels are not limited. When the vessels are in home ports the men are usually required to be on board during the working hours of the shore establishment, but the hours they are on board cannot always be restricted to this extent. It is of course impossible to limit the hours when the vessels are at sea proceeding from one port to another. I have now answered all the questions put to me to the best of my ability.
Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us whether the naval officers are fed on the same quality of foreign meat as the rank and file?
The same meat is supplied throughout the ship.
Question put, and agreed to.
Fifth Resolution read a Second time.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
May we have an explanation of this Vote?
The necessity for this additional grant arises from the fact that the "shadow" cut that was made at the time the Estimates were prepared was larger to the extent of about £500,000 than events have proved to have been warranted. This cut applied particularly to the Contract and Works Votes, and was intended to discount in advance the amount under-spent due to delay on the part of the contractors and to industrial troubles. The effect of this could obviously not be estimated with any precision. The system has been followed for some years and has been justified by the results. There is always the possibility that the cut may have been too large, and, consequently, that there may be a liability for an additional grant. This was made clear by the First Lord in his statement last year at the time when the Estimates were issued. Although the expenditure on the contracts and works services exceeds the actual money provision made for those particular services, it is not necessary to ask for any additional money for them if the House will allow the Admiralty to make use of money saved on other services and extra receipts which have come to hand. These together are sufficient to balance the extra provision required for the Contract and Works services, and it is for this reason that a token Vote has been presented.The circumstances in which these savings on expenditure, and the extra receipts, arise, are briefly stated in the Estimate itself. The savings are spread over a number of Votes, and I do not think they call for special remark. The extra receipts are mainly the result of supplies made to the Dominions and to other Departments on a repayment basis. It is always difficult to forecast the extent of the demands that may be made, and no opportunity is lost of disposing of materials that are surplus to Admiralty requirements. The savings made and the extra receipts are sufficient to cover also the extra expense that was thrown upon us owing to the repairs necessary to the "Dauntless," as well as the payment of £50,200 which it has been agreed shall he made to the Greenock Corporation in respect of their claim for the cost of providing additional power facilities for national work during the War.
Are any of the savings due to the dropping of the two cruisers last year?
Question put, and agreed to.