Piracy, Far East (Suppression)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps he is taking to suppress piracy in the Far East.
Her Majesty's ships in the area concerned have instructions to protect merchant ships, and all practical steps to this end are taken in respect of piracy in accordance with Q.R. & A.I. Article 957.
Can my hon. and gallant Friend say whether there has been any increase in piracy in recent months?
Yes, there has been some increase in piracy in the last few months, but although the war in Korea has strained our naval Forces in the Far East to the limit, we are doing everything we can to protect shipping.
Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman do anything to prevent piracy at home, namely, in respect of the food subsidies?
Food Bill Increase (Subsidy Reductions)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what increase he anticipates in the food bill for the Royal Navy, following upon the reductions in food subsidies.
The actual price increases and effective dates have not been announced and, at present, I cannot give an estimate of the full increase in the food bill, except for bread and flour, the additional cost of which will be approximately £120,000 a year.
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman assure the House that there will be no reduction in sailors' rations consequent upon this increase in prices?
Yes, I think I can give that assurance.
Shipbuilding (Steel Allocation)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps he is taking to increase the steel allocation to the shipbuilding industry, and to ensure a balanced production of dry cargo vessels and tankers.
It is not possible to increase steel allocations to shipbuilders until improved steel supplies become available. My right hon. Friend has no power to influence the proportion of tankers and dry cargo vessels ordered by shipowners.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is growing under-employment in the shipbuilding industry due to the inadequacy of the steel allocation and that there is great danger of future unemployment? Will he take steps immediately to remedy the situation because, with rising costs, something will have to be done in respect of the proportion of dry cargo vessels to tankers? Will he take powers to allocate extra steel for that purpose, because, in view of the policy of Her Majesty's Government of reducing stocks in this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Will the hon. Gentleman increase the allocation of steel for merchant vessels because of the fact that while there is a policy of reducing stocks the merchant vessels which would be essential in an emergency are not being built?
My information is that under-employment due to steel allocations is negligible. If steel becomes available we shall, of course, take the earliest opportunity to look again at the allocation to the shipbuilding industry and give it as generous treatment as possible.
Thermionic Valves (Supply)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what arrangements he has made for an increased supply of thermionic valves, in view of their increasing use in modern naval gunnery and radar equipment.
The production of thermionic valves is planned by an inter-Departmental Committee, and I am satisfied that all practicable steps are being taken to meet the requirements of the naval programme.
Will my hon. and gallant Friend keep this matter under review to make sure that an adequate reserve is built up, and perhaps to overtake am, deficiency in supply which may have arisen under the previous Government?
Gunnery And Radar Equipment (Maintenance)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will give an assurance that the present numbers of trained ratings are sufficient to secure efficient maintenance of modern gunnery and radar equipment under sea-going conditions.
In view of the greatly increased demands on the Navy as a result of the Korean emergency and the international situation generally, there has been an increase in the number of units in commission. In consequence it has not been possible to provide full complements for all ships of the active Fleet. Nevertheless, I am satisfied that the maintenance of these types of equipment is generally satisfactory and that all possible steps are being taken to provide sufficient skilled ratings.
Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that if one has a pushbutton Navy it is not much good if nothing happens when the button is pushed? Will he keep this matter under constant review, because under active service conditions there might be a grave deficiency in maintenance arrangements?
I agree with what my hon. Friend has said, but again I repeat that, in spite of the dilution we have to accept at the moment, the standard of maintenance is generally satisfactory.