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Royal Navy (Free Travel Warrants)

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 16 July 1947

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is aware that the reduction of free railway warrants for members of the Royal Navy to two per year is causing great hardship to them, especially to the junior ratings who live a long way from their homes; and if he will take steps to improve the position by granting more warrants.

The Fleet was warned last month that it might be necessary to reduce the number of free railway warrants for leave from three to two during the current year and that pending a decision only two were to be issued. The question of free leave travel is still under consideration, however, and no final decision has yet been made.

Does my hon. Friend realise that these seasonal leaves are given for ten days each, and that it is a great hardship, particularly to lower ratings, not to have these railway tickets, because they cannot, in many instances, get home at all without them?

I quite realise that. I have been the possessor of free warrants in the past. As I have said, consideration is still being given to the matter. I would point out to the House that there were no free railway warrants given between the two wars, and that this is an advantage over what applied then. In addition to free railway warrants, members of the three Services can travel at half fare when going on leave.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the new pay code was approved by this House on the understanding that facilities such as this would be fully main- tained, and that this looks like giving with one hand and taking away with the other?

It cannot be said that the new pay code was conditional upon four free railway warrants being given each year. It was given on the understanding that it would make the rates of pay and conditions in the Services more comparable with those in industry.

When the Civil Lord speaks of the number of free warrants going down to two in the current year, is he referring to the calendar year or the present financial year?

Is my hon. Friend aware that unlike those of the Army and Air Force, all the manning bases of the Navy are in the South of England, and that this falls with particular hardship on Scottish ratings and ratings from the North of England? Would he consider that as an additional argument when considering the question of a manning base in Scotland?

I hope that the question of a manning base in Scotland will not be judged in acordance with the number of free railway warrants we issue. The point my hon. Friend has raised is certainly borne in mind by the Admiralty when these matters are being discussed.