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Royal Navy

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1952

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Dockyards (Select Committee's Reports)

34, 35 and 36.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty (1) what action he has taken or proposes to take on the 8th and 9th Reports from the Select Committee on Estimates;

(2) what action he proposes to take on paragraphs 21 and 75 (6) of the 8th and 9th Reports of the Select Committee on Estimates which deals with Her Majesty's Dockyards;

(3) what action he proposes to take on paragraphs 12 to 23 of the 8th and 9th Reports of the Select Committee on Estimates.

As my hon. and gallant Friend said in winding-up the debate on the Navy Estimates, a number of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Estimates in their report on the dockyards are still under consideration, and I must ask the hon. Member to await the reply which the Admiralty will shortly be sending to the Select Committee.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is some time ago since this Select Committee's Report was published, and I should have thought that ample time had been given to enable its recommendations to be considered; and in view of the uneasiness that exists because of so much rate-cutting in the past and the favouritism that exists with regard to the merit scheme, is it not time in the national interest that action should be taken?

Some of the recommendations were very complicated and some very good. The Admiralty have been going very thoroughly into the whole Report, and it will not be long before we write to the Estimates Committee. I understand that it would be improper for me to give orally to the House information which has first to be sent in writing by the Admiralty to the Select Committee on Estimates.

In view of the fact that many of the recommendations contained in this Select Committee's Report merely repeat recommendations made by the Committee as long ago as 1927 to the Admiralty, and pigeon-holed by the Admiralty, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that there should be the most earnest consideration given to these recommendations; and can he give an assurance that there will be a full discussion and statement in the reply which is made by his Department?

The fact remains that these recommendations came from the present Select Committee on Estimates, and it would be very discourteous of me not to reply first to the Committee in writing. I can assure the hon. Member that if he wishes to discuss our reply to the Report in full I will, when the time comes, certainly make recommendations to the proper quarter.

May I ask the First Lord of the Admiralty to maintain the attitude that it is against the whole procedure of the House of Commons for any statement to be made in the House before a reply is made to the Select Committee on Estimates by the Department concerned?

Colleges (Staff—Student Ratio)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state the ratio of staff to students, respectively, at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, the Naval Staff College, the Naval War College, the Royal Naval Engineering College and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

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

Will my right hon. Friend examine the staffing of these educational institutions in comparison with that of residential universities with a view to effecting economies?

Yes, Sir. It is my object, as I said in my speech on the Estimates, to effect certain economies, and I am sure that the subject which my hon. Friend mentions will be one for me to consider.

Following is the answer:

The present ratio of supervising and teaching staff, both naval and civilian, to students at these establishments is as follows:

(i) Royal Naval College, Greenwich1:4.4
(ii) Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich1:4.6
(iii) Royal Naval War College, Greenwich1:12
(iv) Royal Naval Engineering College, Devonport1:4.4
(v) Royal Naval College, Dartmouth1:5.6

Shipbuilding (Steel Allocation)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty on what grounds the allocation of steel for shipbuilding has been reduced.

At the present time steel is scarcer than it was in the first quarter of 1950, the last full quarter for which allocations were previously made, but it is hoped that this shortage will be only temporary.

While I am very much enheartened to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has said, does he realise that the shipbuilders are facing a very serious problem in trying to complete a four-year programme of orders in three years in order to enable them to hold their own in world markets, and that this is a very serious matter which merits his very careful consideration?

I can assure the hon. Member that the Admiralty, and, indeed, the Government as a whole, know how serious the matter is. I have seen a deputation from the shipbuilders and all branches of the shipbuilding industry, and I am fully aware what their difficulties are. I hope we shall be able to give them a more encouraging answer very soon.

Retired List (Removed Officer)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty why Commander Edgar P. Young has been removed from the Navy List.

The name of Mr. Edgar P. Young has been removed from the list of retired officers of the Royal Navy because the Admiralty have, and will have, no further use for his services. His activities on behalf of the Communist Party are proving a source of such embarrassment and distress to the Royal Navy at home and abroad that it has been found necessary to make it clear that the Admiralty do not hold themselves responsible in any way for his conduct, and that he is not entitled to call himself Commander R.N. (retired) nor to wear naval uniform.

I am sure there is no need to tell the House that very great consideration was given to the case of Mr. Young before this decision was taken but, acting as I am on behalf of all those who are serving their country loyally in the Royal Navy, I am convinced that this decision was the right one.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two Questions? First, are their Lordships now introducing, by a side-wind, an entirely new principle, that because of his political opinions, however repugnant, and in a situation in which there are no considerations of security, a man may be disadvantaged purely on political grounds? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There cannot be any security considerations in the case of a retired officer.

Secondly, how does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile his answer with the fact that Admiral Sir Barry Domville, who has urged Fascist opinions, and who was interned during the war as a potential enemy of this country, remains on the same list from which Commander Young has been removed?

I can assure the House that there is no intention of curtailing Mr. Young's political activities or his freedom of speech. What we are anxious to achieve is that he should not do and say these things in the guise of a naval officer.

As to the second part of the supplementary question, I can only speak from my own period of administration at the Admiralty, and, to the best of my knowledge, Admiral Domville is in retirement and is not engaged in any political activities at the present time.

As it is quite clear that Commander Young is being accused of misconduct, under what Section of Queen's Regulations is the First Lord acting, and what opportunity has been given to Commander Young—[HON. MEMBERS: "Mr. Young."]—to the commander—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—to state his case? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me of any other precedent for an officer being removed from the Navy List with this lack of formality?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman—he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty and probably knows this—that the Board of Admiralty have complete discretion by their Patent to dispense with the services of any officer found to be unsatisfactory, without necessarily giving the reasons. I have today given the reason to the House. Mr. Young was informed of the decision of the Board of Admiralty, and he has replied in full and the Admiralty have in turn replied to his answer.