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Royal Navy

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 21 May 1947

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Sea Cadet Corps

63.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what is the present strength of the Sea Cadets; and what is the maximum number allowed this year and in the last financial year.

The present strength of the Sea Cadet Corps is 31,450. In the last financial year provision was made for a maximum of 41,000 Sea Cadets. The number actually reached was 33,251. For 1947, financial provision has been made for a maximum strength of 36,000.

Illegal Immigrant Ships (Bunkering)

64.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what evidence he has to show, in the case of ships intercepted while carrying illegal immigrants to Palestine, from what source their bunker fuel was obtained.

Apart from the supplies taken at their port of departure, certain ships have been known to take on coal at foreign ports on the way. The evidence of these cases has been reported by the consular representatives and Lloyds agents. As the ships' papers are invariably destroyed before interception, there is no evidence available from this source as to where they bunkered.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have received reliable information that these ships were bunkered with fuel and coal from Italy through the black market, and that the supplies probably came from U.N.R.R.A. or its successor? Will he ask the British representative on the spot to have a searching inquiry?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will send me the information first and then I will naturally inquire into it.

In view of the Mandate laying down that Palestine was to provide a- home for the Jews, how can there be such a thing as illegal immigrants?

War Memorials

65.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty how many naval war memorials for the 1939–45 war are under construction or under consideration; and whether consideration has been given to constructing a main memorial to all naval and marine personnel who lost their lives.

Proposals are at present under consideration in conjunction with the Imperial War Graves Commission to extend the existing war memorials at Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth to include the names of members of naval and marine services, including the Maritime Regiment, who lost their lives during the 1939–1945 war and have no known graves. Further proposals are also under consideration for the erection of three smaller memorials, one at Lee-on-Solent for naval air personnel, one at Liverpool for those from the Merchant Navy who lost their lives whilst serving in the Royal Navy under the T.124X agreement, and one at Lowestoft for members of the Royal Naval Patrol Service. Proposals have been considered for a general memorial to officers and ratings of the naval and marine services to be provided from funds subscribed within the Royal Navy, but these have been found to he impracticable.

Air Mechanics (Training)

67.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty why a number of men who joined the Royal Naval Air Service in October last for service as air mechanics spent the first six months of their service, apart from six weeks' disciplinary training, wholly in mounting guard, peeling potatoes, cleaning decks and other semi-skilled work and did not start their course of training until May, 1947.

On completion of their disciplinary training at naval establishments air mechanics are sent to R.A.F. establishments for their technical training Except for a few men whose training was retarded owing to sickness, all the men entered at H.M.S. "Royal Arthur" in October, 1946, passed on to these in the normal way. I understand, however, that in the early part of this year there was some interruption in training owing to the unusually severe weather, and men were employed on other duties.

Would the Minister make further inquiries, because my information in respect of a large number of these men is that after the disciplinary training they have never done anything for weeks and weeks except this business of mounting guard and so on?

I am sorry to appear to be avoiding this issue, but after disciplinary training they go to R.A.F. establishments, so the question must be addressed to the Air Ministry.

Would the hon. Gentleman agree with a number of hon. Members in this House that potato peeling is a skilled occupation and not semi-skilled?

Wrns (Release)

68.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will give any information of the date of release of the higher groups of W.R.N.S., particularly in the M.T. driver and radio mechanic categories, in view of the fact that many of these girls have been in the Service for over two years and are anxious to commence their civilian careers, and especially as there is no difficulty in getting sufficient volunteers for this service.

The latest forecast shows that Group 65 of W.R.N.S. motor transport drivers will be released during the period 16th August to 30th September and Group 64 of radio mechanics (A.R.M.) and (A.W.M.) during the period 1st October to 15th November. It is not possible at present to forecast releases beyond these dates. Although there is no difficulty in obtaining volunteers for the W.R.N.S., the speed of entry is limited by training capacity. We are, however, doing what we can to bring all categories into line by increasing training capacity for entries in those branches which are behind the average level of releases or in which large numbers have to be released in the near future.

Would the Minister give an assurance that everything is being done to expedite these releases?

Engravers (Wages)

69.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that, in considering wage awards to inside engravers on the basis of individual merit, the Admiralty Wages Board have decided that no merit rate shall exceed 405. above the standard minimum rate; and if he will take steps to remove this handicap to ability and effort.

The standard rate of wages of these men is determined in accordance with the agreed practice in the printing trade in the London district from which the hydrographic supplies department was transferred to Taunton during the war. I do not consider that a range of individual merit rates up to 40s. above this standard can reasonably be regarded as a handicap to ability and effort.

Is my hon. Friend aware that chart engravers can obtain employment only with the Admiralty and that the merit restriction is unfair to them as they are left without a choice in the matter? Is he also aware that it is utterly contrary to the declared policy of this Government to fix a ceiling on wages, and will he have another look at the matter?

Whether it is considered to be sufficient or not, I take the view that it is so, but this matter can be raised through the appropriate channels, namely, through the Shipbuilding Trades Joint Council. If the Engravers' Association so desire, they can communicate with that council for it to receive further consideration.

Instructor Branch

70.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what are the present numbers in the instructor branch of the Royal Navy; and what is the required establishment.

There are now 645 instructor officers in the Royal Navy. In addition, 31 officers of other branches are serving as full time education officers. It is not yet possible to give a final required establishment, but it is believed it will be somewhat above the numbers now serving.

Requisitioned Premises (Release)

74.

asked the Minister of Works whether his attention has been drawn to paragraph 50 of the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates regarding the slow rate of release of residential and non-industrial premises; and what steps he intends to take to speed up the release of such premises in Edinburgh.

Yes, Sir. Requisitioned flats and houses have had priority of release in Edinburgh as it other towns and any remaining under requisition by my Department will be released as soon as other suitable alternative accommodation can be found and our temporary office building under construction is completed.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that despite this alleged priority, the actual rate of releases is very slow indeed, and will he look into the matter further?

When I was last in Edinburgh I visited a large site on which very considerable building operations for Government temporary offices are proceeding as fast as material supplies permit

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that football pool offices have been derequisitioned before private dwelling houses, and will he look into this and see that private housing is given priority?

That is another question, but I shall be delighted to have the information.

Is the hon. Gentleman also aware that the National Coal Board have taken over six former residential houses in the West end of Edinburgh?

War Crimes Trials, Far East

75.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement as to the progress of the trials of the Japanese war criminals; how many have been tried; how many sentenced to life imprisonment; how many have been executed; how many are now held for ultimate trial; and at what date it is estimated that the trials will be concluded at the present rate of progress.

The progress of war crimes trials by British Military Courts in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaya, Burma and Borneo is being satisfactorily maintained. Up to 25th April, 1947, 688 Japanese and Koreans had been tried. Of these, 53 were sentenced to life imprisonment and 235 to death; the latter figure includes sentences not yet confirmed, but at least 166 death sentences have so far been carried out. One hundred and forty-one accused are now either on trial or are awaiting trial with the cases against them complete, and 1,605 are in custody whose cases ire under investigation or who are suspects held pending investigation.

The latest figures received from the Australian authorities indicate that 733 Japanese have been tried by Australian Military Courts in Singapore, Port Darwin and Rabaul. Of these, 371 have been sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment and 142 to death. In Singapore at the end of April there were five accused still awaiting trial by Australian courts. Forty-one accused have also been tried by United States courts in Japan in cases involving British victims; 34 have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment and seven to death. No figures are at present available to show how many are still awaiting trial in Japan in similar cases.

It would not be in the public interest to disclose the date on which war crimes trials by British Military Courts in S.E.A.L.F. are expected to be concluded.