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Ratings (Civilian Clothes)

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 13 April 1949

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty why, in the Navy, only petty officers and above are allowed to wear civilian clothes when off duty; and why the lower ranks cannot have the same privileges as the Army and the Air Force.

All ratings on short leave except those under training and all ratings on leave over 24 hours may wear plain clothes outside the naval establishment in which they are employed. It is mainly in the wearing of civilian clothes inside naval establishments or when passing in and out of such establishments that a distinction is made between petty officers and above on the one hand, and the lower ratings, on the other hand. One reason for this is that naval ratings are always liable to be sent at short notice to sea-going appointments or to ships such as the Reserve Fleet where there are no facilities for keeping civilian clothing. A second reason is that in the barracks there is a quickly changing population which in general is not known to the guards at the entrances and, unless restrictions were placed on the freedom of passage of liberty men or extra security precautions were introduced, there would be difficulties if naval ratings in plain clothes were leaving and entering the barracks at different times, especially in the evening when the numbers are large.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise the very strong feeling on this matter amongst ratings in the Navy, and why should they be in a different position from the equivalent ranks in the Army and the Air Force? This attitude is not helping recruitment, and does not the Parliamentary Secretary realise that his answer is an extremely feeble one?

I am not aware that there is any strong feeling. In any case, these regulations have existed for a considerable time under previous Governments, of which the hon. Member was a supporter.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that although these regulations may have lasted for a very long time, so also did those for the Army and the Air Force, but those have been changed?

Is it not the case that lower ratings find it very difficult to buy civilian clothes, and is not this a further reason for supplying them with the necessary clothing?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when I have corresponded with him on this subject in the past he has said that the matter was still under consideration, and is the answer he has given now the final one, or is the matter still under consideration?

No, Sir. It is the final one. My noble Friend considered the matter earlier this year and has made his decision.