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Retired List (Removed Officer)

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1952

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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.