Skip to main content

Royal Navy

Volume 441: debated on Wednesday 30 July 1947

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

Dockyards (Whitley Councils)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will arrange for regular weekly or fortnightly meetings of the Whitley Councils in His Majesty's dockyards for the purpose of achieving, through regular periodic discussions with representatives of the management and workers, schemes for the more efficient working of the dockyards and for utilising to the full any suggestions of value which operatives may desire make; or whether he will set up production committees in each of His Majesty's dockyards to work to the same ends.

Suggestions for improvements of methods and organisation of work are among matters which may be discussed at meetings of the yard committees. So far as workpeople are concerned, the Whitley constitution provides that these committees may meet as frequently as once a month, if necessary, at the request of either the staff side or the official side; and evidence shows that yard committees in each of the three home dockyards have met on four occasions during the past twelve months. In addition, following discussion with the trade union side of the Admiralty Industrial Council, in 1943, machinery for setting up joint production committees was agreed, and is still operative. Non-industrial Whitley committees in the dockyards are also empowered to meet as often as necessary, and full provision is made for the receipt and examination of suggestions for improvements in methods and organisation of work.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many men in the dockyards are of the opinion that the present machinery is not efficient enough to bring organisation and production up to the level at which it could be brought? Will he overhaul the machinery, to add to the efficiency of the dockyards, and at the same time give a lead on behalf of the Government to other backward industries?

This Question concerns the setting up of joint production committees. I have said that agreement has been arrived at with the trade union side that these committees will be operative. We shall be only too glad to welcome any assistance from the staff side.

Will my hon. Friend say what initiative will be exercised by his Department in ensuring that committee meetings take place more frequently than once a quarter? Is he aware that the opinion of many trade unionists in the Royal dockyards is that the facilities in those dockyards are not being used to the best advantage?

There may be that opinion, and there can be opinions about various other industries. We are trying to make the dockyards most efficient. The question of calling meetings oftener has been left to the staff side, for them to make application if they think that a useful purpose would be served by holding a meeting. I think it is far better to do it in that way than to call a meeting merely for the sake of having a talk.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the trade unions concerned were signatories to this machinery, and that there is a clause in it whereby, if necessary, a special meeting can be called at the request of either side?

That is true, and I think it is far better to deal with the trade union side of the Admiralty Industrial Council rather than pursue this matter by question and answer.

Flying Exercises, Port Phillip Bay (Accidents)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will make a statement on the casualties sustained during the recent exercises of the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia.

The series of accidents to which my hon. Friend refers occurred on 20th July during the course of flying practices carried out by the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, in preparation for subsequent exercises with ships of the Royal Australian Navy. In the first of these a Firefly strike fighter from H.M.S. "Theseus," collided with another Firefly in the same formation and both crashed into the sea locked together. It appears that the aircraft failed to see each other, one pulling slowly up into the other from below. The body of one of the pilots was recovered but the other pilot, together with an observer and a telegraphist air gunner are missing and they too must be presumed to have lost their lives. Shortly after this accident, a Seafire fighter also from H.M.S. "Theseus," in the final approach to land on, drifted and ran up the extreme port edge of the flight deck before entering the safety barrier, striking and killing a rating of the aircraft handling party who was in the walkway. The third accident occurred on board H.M.S. "Glorv" when a Seafire fighter, on landing, bounced and failed to catch the arrester wires, cleared the safety barriers and crashed into the deck part at the forward end of the flight deck, resulting in the death of an air mechanic and slight injuries to another rating. Boards of inquiry into the causes of these accidents have been convened. I would wish to take this opportunity to express the deep sympathy of the Board of Admiralty with the relatives of those who lost their lives in these accidents.

In view of the high ratio of accidents on this particular day, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is completely satisfied that the postwar training of the Naval Air Arm is satisfactory or adequate for its present task?

I am quite satisfied as to that. The process of landing on and taking off from an aircraft carrier is of necessity a hazardous one, and one must expect that, from time to time, there will be accidents. Everything possible is done to prevent accidents. As regards this particular accident, a court of inquiry is inquiring into the cause, and will report in due course.

Seamen Ratings (Releases)

65 and 66.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (1) if he is aware that for the purpose of demobilisation, the seamen's branch of the Royal Navy is placed in Group 66 and that this group is considerably behind other categories; and if it is proposed to adjust this disparity:

(2) if he is aware that Royal Marines in Group 72 who were called up approximately 12 months after seamen in Group 66 will be released several months before the latter group; and what is the reason for this disparity.

All seamen ratings are not in age and service group 66. They are given age and service groups according to age and date of entry in exactly the same way as other ratings. It is not possible, at present, to release the age and service groups of seamen ratings at the same speed, group for group, as ratings of other categories. For this reason it is possible, but not certain, that Group 72 of the Royal Marines will be released two months before Group 66 of Seamen. No dates for the release of these groups have yet been published. Since the first announcement of the release scheme, it has been made clear that it would not be possible to release age and service groups in the different branches at the same rate. The disparity has been reduced by the transfer from time to time of men from surplus branches to shortage branches, but at this late stage adjustments of this nature are not practicable because of the time occupied in re-training and the short period of further service to be expected from the ratings concerned before their turn also comes for release.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider issuing a Fleet Order clarifying the position, because there is a lot of disquiet and confusion about it?

I am satisfied that in this case it is quite clearly known, but if for any reason I thought it was not, naturally, I would consider the suggestion. My information, however, is perfectly clear that the people do know about it.

No 24 Map Review


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty by whose authority No. 24 Map Review, published on 29th March, 1947, issued by the Bureau of Current Affairs, was distributed to the Fleet; and if he will see that no further such issues are made.

No. 24 Map Review was distributed to the Fleet in accordance with normal practice. I can see no objection to the contents as such, and I am unable to give any assurance that similar Reviews will not be issued in the future.

Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this map, of which I sent him a copy and which I see in his hand, contains party political propaganda and that the principle of putting party political propaganda on the notice boards of sea and shore establishments is entirely wrong and should not be allowed to take place?

I emphatically deny that. The only thing that could be called political propaganda in this pamphlet is a reference to what is called the Butler Education Act.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the answer I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter at the earliest opportunity on the Adjournment.

Warrant Officers (Status)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will make a statement after consideration of the report of the recent committee on the status, etc. of warrant officers.

Yes, Sir. I will communicate with the hon. and gallant Member when I am in a position to make a statement.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say when the statement can be expected, and also will he give an assurance that all reasonable demands put forward by the warrant officers themselves will be given every consideration?

All reasonable demands will be given every consideration, but I naturally cannot make any promise as vet. I hope we shall be in a position to make a statement shortly after the Recess.

Compassionate Leave


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what are the regulations which debar a man from getting compassionate leave to see a dying father when other relations are near home to give the parent attention; in particular, whether such regulations absolutely debar a son from getting the opportunity of compassionate leave merely because of the number of other members of the family who reside in the district; and if he will consider granting immediate compassionate leave to P/KX 797029 Stoker T. Brennan, Mess 23, H.M.S. "Theseus," to enable him to see his father who has had several strokes and is in a serious condition.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 22nd May last to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers). I understand that. Stoker Brennan is the youngest of 12 children and that the rest of the family are available to help and are, in fact, doing so. In the circumstances, I regret that he cannot be given compassionate leave.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there are more things in life than mere attention when a father is dying, and that there are special reasons why a son in the Services should be allowed to go home on such occasions?

I do realise it, and I can assure my hon. Friend that I get no pleasure at all from making such a decision as this nor does my noble Friend, but we have to consider the fact that we are short of men and that we must strictly keep to our commitments.

Can my hon. Friend say when the Royal Navy will show the same compassion in these matters as is shown by other Services?

Surely, if the state of affairs is as stated in the Question and that this man is dying, it is possible for the Navy to arrange for a short period of compassionate leave for this rating.

There are a great many men in the Service who from time to time have relatives who are dying, but we have got to keep the same rules operating for one as for another, and we cannot send some men home and not do the same for others in similar circumstances.

Is not the Minister aware that the regulations now existing have been commented on by hon. Members in this House who have asked that those regulations should be made more elastic?

Will not the Minister allow humanity to cut red tape and in all such cases give leave when someone in the family is dying?

It has nothing to do with red tape, but rather with the fact that the Navy has got to continue. I will convey the views of the House to my noble Friend but I cannot hold out any assurance of any change.