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Navy Estimates, 1930

Volume 237: debated on Tuesday 25 March 1930

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

1. "That 97,000 Officers, Seamen, Boys, and Royal Marines be employed for the Sea Service, together with 500 for the Royal Marine Police, borne on the books of His Majesty's Ships, at the Royal Marine Divisions, and at Royal Air Force Establishments, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."

2. "That a sum, not exceeding £13,990,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Wages, etc., of Officers and Men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and Civilians employed on the Fleet Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1031."

3. "That a sum, not exceeding £2,073,950, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Works, Buildings, and Repairs, at Home and abroad, including the cost of Superintendence, Purchase of Sites. Grants, and other Charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."

4. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,679,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Victualling and Clothing for the Navy, including the cost of Victualling Establishments at Home and abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."

First Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

I wish to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty a few questions, to draw attention to Vote A and to make some remarks on it. It is a very innocent looking Vote. To the ordinary person it is merely a reduction of 6,000 men, but it is a great deal more important than that. It is so important that it appears to me that it may be the beginning of the end of the Royal Navy, which would mean the beginning of the end of this country. That is a big statement to make, but I will justify it. In effect, this Vote means that the efficiency and the contentment of the Navy are jeopardised. Without efficiency there can be no contentment, and without contentment there can be no efficiency. A reduction of 6,000 men in one year will lead to discontent and, I believe, to inefficiency. The reductions includes a reduction of 1,000 boys. Does that include the boys at Greenwich? There are no-finer sailors in the world and no finer ratings in the Navy than the Greenwich boys. They come from old Navy stock. Their fathers were men who died for their country or men who have done long service for their country, and the boys are permeated with the same feelings of regard for their country and for the great Service in which they hope to have the honour to serve. When the Navy used to be 100,000 strong, or 99,800 strong, there was some hope of promotion in the ranks, but when there is a sudden reduction by 6,000 in one year, promotions must suffer. If promotions suffer, discontent must arise.

I have not found a naval authority yet who does not admit that five years is the least period that you can give a rating before he is fit to take his place in battle in the defence of his country, that is to say, from 18 until he is 23. It took him 7½ years, approximately, when we had 100,000 men in the Navy, to become a gun-layer of the 2nd class and it took him, approximately, nine years to become a gun-layer of the 1st class, and captain of the gun, a very responsible position, with increments of pay accordingly. The same thing applies to the leading torpedo man and to the torpedo gunner and torpedo gunner mate. In the old days, when we had 99,800 men, it took a man from eight to 12 years to become a petty officer, which is, of course, the ambition of every man with ability, pluck and education in the Service. It took the chief petty officer 10 years to reach that rank. Service in the Navy is for a period of 12 years, and after that he is allowed by custom, if his conduct has been good, to re-engage for pension. He re-engages for 10 years more, and at the end of the 22 years he comes out on a reasonably fair pension, at the age of 40. A man must be 12 years as a chief petty officer before he can benefit so far as his pension is concerned and if he does not get his chief petty officership until his tenth year, although he may be a very able petty officer, he gets no benefit from all the work that he has done, the responsibility he has undertaken and the hard life he has had to lead as a chief petty officer in the Navy.

That must make for discontent or bring inferior men into the Navy. It is our boast that we have the finest men in the world in the British Navy, but this Vote, in a measure, is going to stop the flow of recruits and will give us an inferior type of man. Not an inferior type of rating, but the type of man who will not take the trouble to become a petty officer, a range finder, a torpedo gunner's mate, or a gun layer, because he will say that he will have to serve for 12 years without getting any advantage whatever. The petty officer, again, is in much the same position. The navy which is now at the bottom of the sea was on a short service basis, but their petty officers, range finders, gun layers and torpedo gunners' mates were all long service men. You cannot teach these men their work under the periods I have mentioned. No man is going to take all that trouble if he is not going to benefit in some degree for his labour. I saw a little service during the War and again and again when I asked a man to become a lance-corporal or a corporal they said that they preferred to be free men, that when they arrived at the end of a march they did not want the responsibility of going round the company or regiment or battery to see that the men were properly looked after. That is my argument in regard to the Navy. Unless you can get these things you cannot get the men.

I do not quite follow the hon. Member's argument. The only point before the House now is whether there should be more or fewer men in the Navy.

My point is that if there are fewer men the Service will go to pieces. Already the reduction of 6,000 will affect the class of man who goes into the Navy, and my point is that a reduction of 6,000 is going to hit the finest force we have and upon which the liberties of this country entirely depend, not to mention the existence of the Empire. The First Lord promised the "rot should not come from the bottom"; it cannot if foundations are cut away if the number of ratings is lessened. It is a strange thing that in this Vote it is the lower ratings which are cut down. The higher ranks are not cut in anything like the same proportion. I see no reason why the upper ranks should not give the same quota in pro portion as the lower ratings. We can always get officers. Everybody is de- lighted and proud to be an officer of the Navy, just as he is proud to be a man in the Royal Navy. But in these Estimates the officer is practically untouched, and the lower ratings are going to lose this year 6,000 men and 1,000 boys. I look upon this as an insidious step to lower the standard of the Navy. It is a gamble with the securities of the country and the Empire. The people of this country rest entirely. and absolutely on the power, efficiency and contentment of our great Navy.

There are one or two questions I want to ask the First Lord on the subject of the personnel under Vote A. I want to ask whether the type of young man and boy he is getting for Dartmouth is up to the standard of past years—

I do not see how that question arises on this Vote. We are dealing now with the numbers, not with recruitment. Rear-Admiral BEAMISH: Should I be in order in asking how these numbers are arrived at?

The only question on this Vote is whether the numbers are sufficient, or too many.

The numbers are unquestionably insufficient, and I should like to enter my emphatic protest at the tremendous reductions that are being made. Unquestionably the effect of these persistent reductions is to reduce the standard of people who are likely to follow the Navy as a career, whether as officers or as men. I want to ask a question as to the policy of the Admiralty in regard to the efforts they make for officers and men when they leave the service; whether they do their utmost to provide them with opportunities for employment. I hope I shall be in order in doing so?

No. The hon. and gallant Member would not be in order. That is a question which might have been raised on the question "That I do leave the Chair," during the Committee stage on Vote A of the Estimates; but not on Report. The hon. and gallant Member must confine himself to the Vote. In this case it is the numbers, and nothing more.

I want to ask the First Lord a question in regard to the actual numbers for the Fleet Air Arm, and again to enter my protest on the reduction in numbers. I want to know the policy of the Admiralty in regard to observers and pilots. I do not want to be out of order. Shall I be in order in asking about the entries from public schools Would that be in order?

I desire to ask the First Lord whether these reductions take account of any possible success arising out of the Naval Conference, or whether they are based on the strength of the Fleet as it now stands?

Several hon. Members have addressed a question to the First Lord as to whether these numbers are sufficient. Apart from official quarters the only information we have had as to the numbers required for His Majesty's Navy was the Report of the Geddes Committee, and they recommended that the numbers should be less even than the present First Lord has asked the House to provide under this Vote. I have risen to congratulate the First Lord of the Admiralty on his courage and tact in being able to present these reduced Estimates to the House of Commons. Ever since 1916 the First Lord has appeared to me to be more powerful in the Cabinet. than the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Every year since then he has been able to secure from the House of Commons a larger sum than the Navy actually required during the year. It is pretty clear that the First Lord has been a very powerful member of the Cabinet in days gone by. But the First Lord this year has taken note that the country, while desiring the Navy to be of sufficient strength, desires at the same time to see it reduced from the large numbers which have obtained during the last 12 years. I have been a strong critic of the Naval Estimates for some years past, and I have only risen on this occasion to congratulate the First Lord on his courage and his tact in avoiding any crisis at the Admiralty in presenting these reduced Estimates to the House of Commons.

May I ask for your Ruling in this matter? You ruled me out of order on the subject of the recruitment of naval cadets, and I see that under Vote A there are 1,205 subordinate officers, which includes 530 naval cadets at Dartmouth College. I do not want to combat your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I should like to know whether that would in any way change your view on the matter?

No. There, again, I think it is only a question of numbers. It is not a question as to how the numbers should be recruited.

I desire, briefly, to reply to the points which have been made by several hon. Members. The hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Sir B. Falle) continually referred to the fact that we were proposing to make a cut in the personnel of 6,000 in one year. He has misread the statement I made to the House last week. If he will read that statement again—

He will see that the figures were for two years; the naval year 1929 and the naval year 1930. That is very different to reducing the personnel by 6,000 in one year.

I think the hon. Member will find, when he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT, that he said we were cutting the numbers down by.6,000 in one year. That is not quite accurate, and I hope he will make it perfectly plain in any other utterances that he may make either here and elsewhere. He says that the reductions we are making are likely to interfere with two important necessities in the naval service: contentment and efficiency. Let me assure him that the Government have no desire to upset one or the other. He may rely upon it that the Government are as anxious as anybody to secure contentment in the Navy. They are certainly most anxious to secure efficiency, but efficiency is not secured by carrying more men than are necessary to man your ships. I am bound to say that the Vote of personnel, for which we are now asking, although it shows a substantial reduction, is considered to be enough to man the ships that we have in commission and to provide the necessary reserves. On what ground could we come to Parliament and ask for a larger number of men than that which is required for the purposes of the Navy? I think there is some virtue in dealing with a Service of this kind from the business man's point of view. I want to see everything possible done for the personnel in the Fleet, but, when we are at a period of inevitable reduction—if I apprehend aright, the feelings of the peoples of the world with regard to disarmament—when we are passing through such a period of reduction, must we not face it like business people? What happens to the conditions of promotion and the like in the civil establishments of this country, in similar circumstances. We hear no such protest from the other side of the House, for example, when the conditions of promotion in civil employment are affected by rationalisation.

I do not quite follow the application of that remark to what I am saying. I do not think it affects the point at all. Surely in this matter we must act in the best interest of the country as a whole, and that is what we are doing in only asking Parliament for the number of men and boys which is required to perform service in the ships and training establishments which are being carried on at the present time. The hon. Member asked me if the proposal would affect Greenwich. It does not affect Greenwich at all and he need not worry about that point. He further went on to suggest that it was going to affect recruiting. It is certainly doing nothing of the kind at present. We have no lack of applications for recruitment and the recruits are of a very good standard. In fact I doubt whether there is any Service, in any way comparable with the Navy, which attracts young persons of the physique, the general educational standard and the intelligence of those who are being attracted to the naval service. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) uttered a similar protest about the numbers, and I think I have already answered that point. He also asked me how many pilots we were working to, and I am not sure that I did not give the answer last week. If I did, I repeat it now. Of observers we have 81 officers already trained and six more under training. Of pilots we have 120 officers trained and 29 more under train- ing. In addition, a six-months course of flying for officers of commander rank has been instituted and eight officers are at present undergoing that course.

As to the distribution of these officers, 100 per cent. of the observers are naval officers and 70 per cent. of the pilots in the Air Arm are naval. An aviation course for all midshipmen and volunteers from the junior commissioned ranks serving in the Navy commenced in 1929. We have no fear at all, and, having observed the keenness of the officers, both pilots and observers, whom I have met, I am sure that we shall have no difficulty at all in keeping up the number of trained pilots and observers in the Fleet Air Arm. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) asked whether the reductions in this Vote were due to any anticipation of Conference results. I think the hon. Member will see that that point is also answered by the statement that, for the number of ships in commission and other naval services now to be provided, the number asked for in this Vote is considered to be sufficient. May I say to all Members who have raised this question that on this point we have the complete support of the Board of Admiralty.

As long as we are here, we shall always ask Parliament for that number of officers and men and boys which is requisite to carry out the service in the ships and training establishments at that particular time.

Question put, and agreed to.

Second Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

There is a provision in this Vote for marriage allowances for naval ratings, and I think it is customary on this Vote to ask why similar provision is not made for the officers. The First Lord will recollect that in 1924, when his Government were in office, owing to the persistent agitation from all quarters in this House, they set up a committee to inquire whether or not naval officers should be granted marriage allowances in respect of their wives. That committee reported favourably, after fully examining the whole of the evidence, and in 1925 a sum of £350,000 was included in this Vote in order to give effect to the decision of the committee. When the First Lord of that day, now Lord Bridgeman, introduced this particular Estimate—which received the unanimous approval of all parties—the hon. Gentleman who is now Financial Secretary to the Admiralty was quick to rise in his place and claim the real credit for the generosity, temporary though it was, of the then First Lord. He said, in effect, that the then First Lord was introducing that sum of money, but that it was really attributable to the action of the Socialist Government in setting up the committee, and he added that the policy with which the then First Lord was identifying himself was the policy of the Socialist Government. In a Debate on this matter the other day, I quoted the exact words of the present Financial Secretary to the Admiralty on that occasion, and lest there should be any misunderstanding I quote them again. According to the OFFICIAL REPORT, this is what he said on 19th March, 1925:

"We can also feel some satisfaction that the present Government are pursuing a policy with regard to marriage allowances for naval officers which the last Government took. They appointed the Goodenough Committee, which, I understand, has reported favourably to the Admiralty, and from the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman to-night, the Admiralty have decided to press it upon the Treasury, and, in so far as this is concerned, he has the support of this party, which initiated it, and will be glad to see it carried throngh."—[OFFICTAL REPORT, 19th March, 1925; col. 2626, Vol. 181.]
As I say, I quoted that. statement in a recent Debate, but owing to a misfortune, the House was counted out and the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty was not called upon to reply. That was very unfortunate for the House, but perhaps very fortunate for the Financial Secretary. The First Lord will have noticed in the Press during the last few days that those who have been describing the Spring exercises of the Mediterranean Fleet have reported that the one subject upon which naval officers eel very keenly is the question of marriage allowances. They cannot understand why they alone among the three Services should be de- prived of an advantage which they need far more than either of the other Services owing to the conditions of their lives. I do not propose to go over the arguments, because those associated with the Admiralty know them very well, and the Goodenough Committee, which the Labour Government appointed, unanimously and strongly urged upon the Government that they should remedy an injustice which has too long endured. It is therefore with some confidence that I ask the First Lord to tell us that the policy which was so much welcomed by the Financial Secretary, when the First Lord happened to be a Conservative, equally commends itself to him to-day, although he happens to be in a position to carry it out. It will not cost very much. The right hon. Gentleman has made many economies, and I am sure he can spare the very small sum which is involved. At any rate, I am sure that he would like the naval officers to feel that during his regime naval officers will not be worse off than the officers who are serving under other Departments.

It is quite true as the hon. Member has said, that I intervened in a Debate during the lifetime of the previous Government with regard to the Vote then brought forward for marriage allowances for officers. That Vote was put in before the report had been delivered in anticipation of a probable favourable recommendation. The Government of the day turned it down and declined to go further with it. The matter has been raised in Parliament on several occasions. It was raised quite recently on a Motion brought forward by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle), and arising out of that discussion the matter is now being reconsidered by the Board of Admiralty and there I must leave it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Third Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

7.0 p.m.

I wish to expand one or two points referred to in a previous Debate in connection with this Vote. My charge against the Government is that the sum in this Vote is not sufficient to ensure the safety of our trade communications, nor of the bases which are so essential for the men-of-war and also for the merchant ships. I refer in particular to Ceylon and Singapore. In regard to Ceylon I think I am correct in saying that there is a reduction in the provision for the storage of oil fuel of a sum approaching £250,000. If oil is wanted in a great hurry in the event of a war or rumours of a war, we should of necessity have to buy a great deal of oil fuel. It is not easy to get an unlimited quantity of oil fuel because the British Empire provides only a small proportion of the world supply of oil, and if the fuel were bought, it would come to Ceylon and Singapore in great tankers. It would then be discovered that there is no stowage of 7.0 p.m. any kind to be found. Oil is totally different from coal which you can put either in lighters or store in the open. You must have some special kind of storage for oil and the great advantage is that it does not deteriorate and is a form of insurance and security. I want to enter my protest against the fact that the process of providing storage accommodation for oil fuel at Ceylon has been so tremendously reduced. The same protest applies to the base at Singapore. Although it is not on anything like such a big scale, it is on a very considerable scale. I would ask the First Lord if he would give some better reason than he has hitherto adduced for such a great reduction in this connection.

There is one further point, which I raised previously, concerning the money devoted under Item 82 to the naval base at Singapore to provide for Fleet requirements. I refer to the question of the stowage and safe storage of ammunition. We have a great floating dock there, and there are also commercial docks. It is perfectly well known that it, is a very unsafe and altogether wrong thing for any ship carrying a cargo and outfit of explosives, cordite, and so on, to enter dry dock or floating dock for repairs of any kind. It is the ordinary and normal procedure for that ammunition to be discharged and put into a perfectly safe place, which is usually a building on shore, though it sometimes takes the form of floating craft, lighters, and so on. The ammunition is put in a position of perfect safety where it will not deteriorate from heat of the sun or from damp and other effects. In the previous Debate, the right hon. Gentleman referred to what he described as the adequate arrangements which had already been made, and I think the House is entitled to ask what those arrangements are. Speaking from the professional standpoint, I can quite clearly say that it is extremely unsafe and unwise to have what I would call a scratch arrangement for the storage of cordite outfits on ships while they are in dock. I hope the First Lord will be able to give us rather better assurance than he has already done that adequate arrangements are at lest in prospect. If he is unable to say that, I hope he will inform the House what are the, arrangements actually in use at the present time.

I want to ask the First Lord one question, namely, whether at Hong Kong he keeps any flying boats. I notice that, according to to-day's Press, the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty received a deputation yesterday, of the Officers Merchant Navy Federation, which represents 11,500 officers, among them being representatives of British companies trading in China. They asked that the merchant ships out in the East should have adequate protection from pirates. I should like to ask the First Lord what arrangements are being made to protect our merchant vessels in the Far East from Chinese pirates.

Under this Vote, there is a large number of works to be undertaken, some of them incidentally in my own constituency. I want to know whether the regular dockyard employés are to be engaged on these works or whether casual labour is to be engaged specifically for the purpose. I mentioned this matter when the Navy Estimates were under discussion, and I want to press on the right hon. Gentleman that we should avoid this system of casual labour being taken on to do particular jobs and then discharged. We want to make the industrial service into a civil service and give its employés absolute security of tenure. The opportunity therefore arises to ask this question of the Civil Lord, who I assume will reply to this Debate, and make one of his speeches, to which we so much look forward because he has really done admirable work. I would ask him whether he has devoted his attention to giving absolute security of employment to Government servants? As he knows, less than one-half of them in Dovonport are established, and it is not right, that these men should be under the constant, threat of discharge. When you give the personnel of the Navy security of tenure and a, pension at the end of it, you ought to give exactly the same thing to the industrial employés. They ought to know that they are going to enter upon a, career which is in every respect as advantageous as the naval service, itself. I want to hear from the Civil Lord that he intends to put the whole industrial service upon a more secure and dignified basis.

I should like to ask a question about the Appropriations-in-Aid under Vote 10. These Appropriations-in-Aid show a contribution by the Federated Malay States Government towards the Singapore Naval Base of £288,000 and a contribution by the New Zealand Government towards the cost. of the base of £90,000, making a. gross Appropriation-in-Aid towards the base of £378,000. The fact that this appears in the Vote enables me to ask the representative of the Admiralty to take this occasion to he a little more informative to the House and tell us what, if any, announcements were made to the Federated Malay States Government and the New Zealand Government before His Majesty's Government took the decision to slow down work on the base. The fact that these large contributions are made by those two Governments, not in the past, but in this very year, makes it really of importance that we should know how far they have been consulted in regard to the slowing down of work, how far they agreed to the policy of the Government, and whether they are satisfied that the work which is to be done this year and which the Government found inevitable under the contract, is sufficient to meet the needs both of the Federated Malay States Government and of the New Zealand Government. I ask that particularly, because it seems to me that a vital question of imperial defence of that sort is just the kind of problem which may come up for discussion at the Imperial Conference this year. The First Lord, apparently, agrees with that, and, if he does, I should like to have some intimation as to the views of the Government in regard to the position of the Federated Malay States Government, because the Federated Malay States obviously are not a Power which can be present at the ordinary Imperial Conference which is attended by representatives of the Dominions. Therefore, it would be of interest to know what steps were taken to get in touch with the Malay opinion in view of the fact that the Malay States have been so amazingly generous in their attitude towards constructing the base. I hope that the Civil Lord or the First Lord will be good enough to tell us exactly what passed between this Government and the Governments of the Federal Malay States and New Zealand with regard to the slowing down of work on the base, and whether either or both of those Governments are satisfied with what is being done at present.

I hope the First Lord will answer the point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish), because it is quite clear that there is a good deal of expenditure in respect of Hong Kong. Among the items I see the Naval Armaments' Depot. A certain sum is provided for the transfer of the Royal Naval Armaments' Depot to Stonecutters' Island. We ought to have some details as to this transfer, especially having in view the activity of pirates in that country. Is the First Lord increasing the facilities provided for opposing these pirates, or is he decreasing them?

On a point of Order. I think there is some misunderstanding as to what should be discussed on this Vote. I am not at all unwilling to engage in giving information to hon. Members about anti-piracy measures, but I cannot see what connection there is between that and Vote 10.

As far as I can see this Vote has certainly nothing to do with the protection of ships from pirates.

With great respect, if I was in any way transgressing, I should like to draw attention to the fact that there is a sum for Naval Armaments' Depot on page 202 of the Navy Vote. Are we not entitled to know what the reason is for this sum? I think it is very natural that at the same time we should draw attention to something which is very pertinent to the policy which the Admiralty should be pursuing in these waters at present, and that is the question of piracy.

I do not know to what the hon. and gallant Member is referring, but I do not see anything about that on page 202.

Would it be in Order, as the First Lord is anxious to explain about pirates, to have it on this Vote, in view of the fact that on page 197 the sum of 25,983 appears for salaries and allowances of superintending officers and others, who possibly may include among their many duties something to do with piracy.

I am not concerned with the pirates mentioned by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I am a little concerned with Plymouth. I do not observe in the Estimates that there is any provision made for the Torpedo Training Depot at Plymouth. Will the First Lord tell us whether in the event of the Torpedo School boats being removed this year, there is any possibility of a Torpedo School being built on shore, because we have lost very many of the training establishments at Plymouth, and we do not want to lose the Torpedo School. I should like to know what provision has been made in the Estimates, and whether there is likely to be a Supplementary Estimate for the provision of such a Torpedo School at Plymouth.

The first question put by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) was whether the Board of Admiralty are satisfied that the amount of oil fuel storage is sufficient to meet requirements. I can assure him that we are quite satisfied that the sum of £2,073,000 is quite sufficient to meet the present requirements. He referred especially to Ceylon and Singapore, and suggested that there had been a reduction of a certain sum in the provision of oil storage in those places. In the Vote, we are already providing next year a sum of £10,000, and we are leaving £7,500 to remain over till 1931 for the completion of this scheme. It is true to say that it was intended that another scheme should be provided, but taking into consideration the amount of available storage which we had, it was thought unnecessary to proceed with that scheme during the course of the next year. I might satisfy the hon. and gallant Member by informing him that we have sufficient accommodation for providing quite a large amount of oil.

I tried to make the point that this was a reversal of policy and that the present Navy Estimates show that there is a much less storage of oil fuel.

This is really done in supplementing the decision of the Treasury in the late Government, and we are quite satisfied that if we store as much oil during next year as was stored during the current year, we have ample accommodation. That is the position both in regard to Ceylon and Singapore. With regard to the other matter raised, about the provision of an armament depot at Singapore, the hon. and gallant Member must know that the work at Singapore has only just commenced, and there has only been one cruiser in the dock, for the purpose of having her bottom scraped, and while that is being done, there is no need to take the ammunition out of the cruiser. The Board, until such time as a permanent armament depot is provided, will provide for some lighters to receive the ammunition from vessels that have to use the docks.

The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) asked whether we were doing all that we possibly could to regularise employment in the dockyard, and whether under Vote 10 we would employ regular dockyard labour and not depend on casual labour. He might satisfy himself that everything possible is being done to stabilise tine labour in the dockyards, and we shall, under Vote 10 and under any of the other Votes, do all we possibly can to employ dockyard labour on dockyard work, but it is impossible to employ dockyard labour upon all the work, and it will be necessary to bring in casual labour from time to time.

I want the hon. Member to engage in the dockyard, on a permanent basis, enough men to do the work, instead of constantly taking men on and throwing them out. As lie knows. out of the 10,000 odd men employed at Devonport Dockyard, only 3,000 are established, whereas there is no reason why you should not establish every man. with a period of probation, to make the work absolutely secure.

That is raising quite a different point. Although it is true to say that there are only about 3,000 men on the establishment, the 7,000 hired men are subject to fluctuations. There must be some elasticity in regard to the question of casual labour. It is intended by the Admiralty to give as many men as possible permanent employment, but at the same time there must be fluctuations. The hon. and gallant Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank) asked about Singapore, but I am afraid I have nothing to add to the very long statement made upon that matter by my right hon. Friend the First Lord in the Debate which took place last week. This matter was then gone into very fully, and I can add nothing to what was said on that occasion. Another question was raised by the bon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) in regard to Stonecutter's Island, and I am afraid he got that mixed up with Singapore.

The question of providing this armament depot at Stonecutters Island is a matter which has for some time received the attention of the Board of Admiralty. It is a new service. The work comprises the erection of new buildings at Stonecutter's Island to replace the present depot at the Arsenal yard. The site of the existing depot is in a thickly populated area, and both the Admiralty and the Colonial Government have been concerned as to the safety of the depot and the surrounding population. The cost of the work entailed in its transfer to Stonecutter's Island, although chargeable to Navy Votes in the first instance, will be recovered from the Colonial Government.

Will the hon. Gentleman explain what he means by the word "safety"? Safety from what?

The safety of the community. The Arsenal is situated, as I have endeavoured to point out, in a very thickly populated part of the district, and it has been considered desirable from every point of view to transfer this depot from its present site to a site some distance away. The Colonial Government are as concerned about this matter as we are, and the fact that they propose to provide something like 2,000,000 dollars to pay for this new depot is an indication as to how concerned they are about it.

Question 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 want to know on this Resolution how far the Admiralty are dealing with the surplus stocks. There is a tremendous decrease, under Subhead M, of £113,990, and it says that this is due to larger surplus stocks available for current requirements. It is difficult to see why there should be this enormous reduction here, and if the First Lord will look on page 49 of the Estimates, he will see what is, to my mind, even stranger, and that is the extraordinary decreases in the Appropriations-in-Aid on recoveries for clothing and so on. He will see that there is a reduction of £20,000, in respect of clothing, etc., that there is a reduction of £65,000 on account of provisions sold to officers and men of the Fleet, and one of £22,000 for repayments by other Government Departments. It seems to me that this requires explanation. Does it mean that there are great accumulated war stocks, and how does it come about that there is this great decrease in the amounts required for clothing and so on? On tobacco and soap, the reduction is enormous, because it is the difference between £74,000 and £53,000. That cannot be accounted for by the comparatively small decrease in the personnel borne. Experience in studying these Estimates tells me that we have to keep a very close eye on any great changes that take place in Appropriations-in-Aid, because it is there that we find that differences of policy occur.

This question was raised on the Committee stage, and I have given a little attention to it. I think the hon. and gallant Member was rather over-stating the case, and I should like to tell the House that what is taken from stocks this year is by no means abnormal. I will give the House some figures from the two Votes on which this question arises, Votes 2 and 8. In 1923–24 the amount was £540,000 on Vote 2 and £1,334,000 on Vote 8; in 1924–25 it was £418,000 on Vote 2 and £1,254,000 on Vote 8; in 1925–26 it was £250,000 on Vote 2 and £799,000 on Vote 8. Then it was reduced till 1928, when it went down to £89,000 on Vote 2 and £575,00() on Vote 8, while the total figures in the present Estimate are £153,000 on Vote 2 and £364,000 on Vote 8.

They are on the two Votes. I should like to add that this drawing upon stock is no new feature. It is always happening. The reduction in stores is due to adjustments and in the overhead working stocks, which vary automatically with the numbers to be provided for. I want to assure the House that this does not mean at all that stocks are being reduced to a dangerously low level, which is what I think the hon. and gallant Member had at the back of his mind. That is the main thing we have to guard against.

Question put, and agreed to.