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Royal Navy

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1947

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Industrial Workers, Portsmouth


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many civilian workers are employed in Portsmouth dockyard; their annual cost to the taxpayer; and, in view of the fact that their work is unsatisfactory, if he will institute an inquiry into the circumstances, details of which have been sent to him, and publish the findings as a White Paper.

On a point of Order. Is it in Order to ask a Question which casts a slur on good and faithful workmen who carried on very well during the war?

If the Question passed the Table, I am quite sure it is in Order. What may be behind it is not a question for me.

The number of industrial workers employed in the four main professional departments of Portsmouth Dockyard in the week ending 26th April last was 13,606, the annual cost being approximately £3,622,000. As regards the further points raised in the Question, if the hon. Member will furnish me with specific instances of unsatisfactory work I will have the matter investigated.

In view of the fact that I have sent the Admiralty particulars of what is behind this Question, and in view of the national importance of the efficiency of the Royal Navy these days, will the hon. Gentleman do all he can to stop the ca'canny and the waste of public money in Portsmouth Dockyard?

The information which has been sent by the hon. Member contained nothing of a specific nature at all. It was only based on "the following firsthand and reliable information" of which he gave no detail, and I think it would be an absolute waste of public money to institute an inquiry and to issue a White Paper on a matter which has no foundation whatsoever.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the workers in the Portsmouth Dockyard resent the gratuitous insult on the quality of their work coming from this Member of the Conservative Party? Is he also aware that the three Members of Parliament for Portsmouth are fully capable of representing the city without the unsought and unskilled assistance of the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers)?

Is it not a fact that Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton, Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth, has been responsible for fine work—

Foreign Trawlers, British Shipyards


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many fishing trawlers are being constructed in British shipyards on foreign account; and how many of these trawlers are being purchased with blocked sterling.

Twenty-three fishing trawlers are at present under construction in British shipyards for foreign owners. So far as I am aware, none of these trawlers is being purchased with blocked sterling.

Scientific Service


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many applications to join the R.N. Scientific Service have there been since 1st January, 1946; and how many of these have been accepted.

The R.N. Scientific Service is composed of both permanent and temporary staff. The permanent appointments are filled from the Scientific Civil Service, for which there is centralised recruitment. This recruitment is conducted by the Civil Service Commissioners, who are responsible for the allocation of successful candidates according to their qualifications and the vacancies in the various Departments employing scientific staff. The number of staff entered by this method since 1st January, 1946, is 571. Temporary staff are mainly recruited for work of short duration for which special qualifications are necessary.

Could the Civil Lord say whether it was due to a shortage of staff that the Navy were under-spent in the scientific service last year?

I think that point was dealt with on the Navy Estimates; it was not only a question of shortage of staff, it was also a question of the shortage of available buildings for the purpose of employing staff.

Is my hon. Friend now satisfied with the numbers being allocated to the Navy from the central pool?

At the moment we are satisfied having regard to the possibilities of employing them. There is a great demand for scientists at the present time, and I feel that we have our fair quota of them at the moment.

Dockyard Wages, Malta


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what steps have been taken to meet and reopen negotiations with the trade union representatives of the workers employed in His Majesty's Dockyard in Malta, in view of their rejection of his Department's offer of 6s. a week increase in their minimum wage.

Representations made on behalf of the workpeople in His Majesty's Dockyard, Malta, that increases of pay lately approved are inadequate were fully considered, and the Commander-in-Chief was informed that the Admiralty were satisfied that the increases were fair and equitable, and that they were unable to agree to any further increase. No further representations have so far been received.

Is it not the case that the authorities there are endeavouring to impose conditions on the workers without any consultation, or any attempt to get an agreement with the union representatives of the men?

There is not the slightest foundation for that statement. We have joint negotiating machinery there in the same way as we have in other parts of the world and in this country, and the representatives of the men have every opportunity of making a case out in Malta on this issue, but they have not done so since the award was granted.

Might I ask what facilities there are for submitting claims like this to arbitration where agreement cannot be reached through the ordinary negotiating channels?

At the moment there are no facilities for arbitration in Malta, but the whole question of arbitration is being gone into.

Has there been any attempt, since the rejection of the offer, to meet and discuss with the representatives of the men the issues involved in the award and in the rejection of the award?

There has been no attempt because the men have made no application for it, but as soon as the men's representatives make an application, as at all other times, we shall be only too ready to meet them.

Reserve (Fishermen)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will make a further statement on the reinstitution of the R.N. Reserve; and whether he will give an assurance that fishermen called up for service will, if medically fit, give service with the R.N. so as to qualify for the R.N. Reserve.

On the first part of this Question I am unable to add to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member's Question on 5th February. The future organisation and functions of the R.N.R. are still under active consideration.

As regards the second part of the Question, the number of National Service entrants required for the Navy is limited. The automatic acceptance of all fishermen for the Navy might therefore result in the exclusion of some men from other walks of life who have higher qualifications for training in the Navy's technical work. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to give the assurance asked for by the hon. Member. Fishermen who express a preference for the Navy are considered on their individual qualifications as indicated in the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on 27th February.

Did not the Minister of Labour on 27th February give an assurance that fishermen, if medically fit, would be called up to the Navy? Is it not most desirable for our defence that men who have a calling for the sea should do their service with the Royal Navy?

I understand that that assurance was given in answer to a supplementary question. In fact, it may not be possible to give a definite assurance that all fishermen, though medically fit, can be taken. I cannot give that assurance because we have other candidates, and we must see that we get the best for the Navy from whatever source.

Is there not a danger, if fishermen are not directed into the Navy, that on the termination of their service they will not be attracted back into the fishing industry? Is it not extremely important that recruitment for the fishing industry should have serious consideration by the Minister?

Yes, certainly. We want to do everything possible to encourage the fishing industry, but I cannot give a definite guarantee on this point. That is what I made clear.

Will the Minister take all these points into consideration and further take note that the whole of the personnel of the fishing fleets is absolutely invaluable to our security whenever it is endangered?

Commander-In-Chief, Portsmouth (Speech)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether his attention has been drawn to the speech of Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth Command, on 8th May, 1947, in which he stated that the Royal Navy does not like conscription, but it is the Government of the day that ordered it; and, as this speech was not in conformity with Subsection (2) of paragraph 17 of King's Regulations for the Naval Forces, what action he proposes to take.

The speech to which the hon. and gallant Member refers was made to the ship's company and to the cadets of H.M.S. "Frobisher." The published version was not a verbatim report, but Admiral Layton does not dispute its general accuracy. He has informed my noble Friend that the main point he desired to make was that a national service system involved the entry into the Royal Navy of a certain number of men who, because of the shortness of their service, have not the same interest in Naval life as the long service men to which the Royal Navy has been accustomed in the past and who do not settle down so well; for that reason special efforts are required on the part of officers and men to fit them into the general scheme. Admiral Layton did not intend to criticise Admiralty and Government policy in the continuance of national service as being essential under present conditions and made it clear that it was incumbent on all concerned to carry out that policy.

My noble Friend has accepted the Admiral's explanation, though he has considered it correct to explain to him that his statement was unfortunate and it would have been better had it not been made. He does not regard the occasion, however, as one calling for disciplinary action under Article 17 (ii) of King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions.

Will my hon. Friend make it quite clear that, despite the speech of the Commander-in-Chief, all those who are called upon to perform their national service in the Navy will receive the traditional Navy welcome; and will he give an undertaking that announcements in future on naval policy and attitude, which are likely to give rise to controversy, will be made by the Board of Admiralty and not by subordinate commanders?

With regard to the first part of the question, I have the greatest pleasure in giving the guarantee that all national service men will be welcomed into the Navy as they come into it, and that they will receive quite as good treatment as those who are there as regular Service men. With regard to the second part of the question, naturally I cannot give a guarantee that no person other than the Board of Admiralty will make a statement on policy, but I hope that in future no such statement will be made.

Is it not perfectly obvious, from the context of the speech as published in the Press, that all the Commander-in-Chief was doing was expressing the preference of the Navy for long service as against short service? Was he not acting in the best traditions of the Navy when he pointed out that it was the duty of the Service to act implicitly in accordance with the orders of His Majesty's Government?

I cannot accept that altogether. I think a statement which said that a certain section of national service men or conscripts regarded the Navy as their enemy, looked on it as a nuisance, made themselves a nuisance to the officers and chief petty officers, and spent much of their time in detention quarters, is not a statement that ought to have been made. The fact that, following on that, he then said that the orders of the Government would be obeyed implicitly, does not alter the first part of his statement, and it is that to which exception has been taken.

In view of those officers who cannot reply personally—that is officers in the Service and Whips of this House—are not personal attacks rather unfortunate? Should not the matter be left either to the Admiralty or to the Government as the case may be?

If I may reply to what I conceive to be the question put to me, although it was put rather indirectly, the action of my hon. Friend the Junior Lord of the Treasury is not a matter on which I am called upon to comment in an official capacity, but I think that all hon. Members of the House will agree that any hon. Member, whether in the Government or not in the Government, is quite entitled to comment on a speech made publicly in his own constituency.

Can my hon. Friend inform me when Admiral Layton will be retired, and whether he is likely to be re-employed?

Did not the Prime Minister himself say that he did not like conscription? Surely Admiral Layton is entitled to endorse that statement with the qualification that any decision of the Government will have the loyal support of the Royal Navy?

On a point of Order. In view of the constitutional importance of the whole matter raised by this question, and of the supplementaries from the Opposition, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity of raising this matter on the Adjournment.

Instructor Branch (Commissions)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what response he has had to the offer of short-service commissions in the education branch of the R.N.

Two hundred and six applications have so far been received for short-service commissions in the Instructor Branch of the Royal Navy. Eighty-two of these have been accepted for entry.

Dartmouth Entries


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty the total number of candidates who presented' themselves for all types of entry to the R.N. Colleges, Dartmouth or Eaton, in 1941 and 1946, respectively; and the number of candidates for grant-aided scholarships and ordinary scholarships, respectively, included in those figures.

As the answer includes a number of figures I will, with permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether there is rise or fall in the figures?

There are about two pages of figures, and, quite frankly, i could not say offhand.

Following is the answer:

As the entry into Dartmouth by scholarship did not begin until September, 1941, there was only one entry in that year with a scholarship element instead of the normal three. To enable a better comparison to be made, I have therefore ventured to substitute figures for the first complete year in 1942.

Numbers of Candidates.19421946
For scholarship only:
(a) From grant-aided secondary schools.412179
(b) From other schools5114
For ordinary entry only220121
For both scholarship and ordinary entry:
(c) From grant-aided secondary schools.4735
(d) From other schools16174

Hms "Delhi"


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty on what duties is H.M.S. "Delhi" now employed.

Is there any truth in the suggestion that this ship is to be converted as a training ship for a Royal Naval Volunteer headquarters?

I cannot state the exact future of this ship, but at present it is in category "C" reserve.