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Royal Navy

Volume 524: debated on Wednesday 3 March 1954

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Ceremonial Visits, Welsh Ports

29.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many of Her Majesty's ships will make ceremonial visits to Welsh ports this year; and if he will give details of such visits already arranged.

The Home Fleet's summer programme has not yet been settled, but I will let my hon. Friend have the details he asks for as soon as they are available.

While thanking the Minister for that promise, may I ask him to bear in mind that, while in recent years we have appreciated these visits to Barry and other Welsh ports, we should particularly like visits from some of the larger and new types, with their officers and crews.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that what we are interested in are not ceremonial visits but the visits of ships with cargoes, and that Barry is urgently in need of cargo ships rather than circuses.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would be interested to know—it is relevant to the second part of his question—that we now intend to berth some ships of the Reserve Fleet at Barry.

On a point of order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to make such a remark as that made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), which is calculated to reflect badly on the Barry Council and other bodies in Barry who support the point of view I have expressed?

Further to that point of of order. Is it in order for an hon. Gentleman to make himself look quite as foolish as the hon. Gentleman opposite?

Admiralty Employees, Singapore

31.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that men residing in the naval base, Singapore, are often fined a day's or even two days' wages for offences committed outside working hours and that lorry drivers are fined at the will of the Admiralty without appearing at a civil court; and if he will take steps to put the civil employees resident at the base under civil law when outside working hours.

Admiralty employees who live in official quarters inside the Naval Base are subject to the civil law at all times. In addition, they are subject to local dockyard orders for the regulation of the base and are liable to be fined up to a maximum of two days' pay for offences against these orders. Motor transport drivers are liable, when on duty, to be fined under local dockyard orders. As regards the last part of the Question, I have no evidence of the need to alter the system I have described, in view of the circumstances at Singapore, where very large numbers of employees live inside the base.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the men and their families inside the base find themselves in a difficult position? Does he know that recently one of the men was evicted from his house and that a trade union official saw the camp commodore and told him that it was a case for the civil court, but the commodore said, "I am the law here "; and apparently he is the law inside the base although there are thousands of people living there and not out-side? Will the Minister look into the matter again?

If the hon. Member likes to give me more particulars, I will certainly look at them; but the point is that these families are subject to the civil law and to these regulations which are perfectly clearly laid down.

Can the Civil Lord tell us when the regulations came into operation, and whether they have ever received the consideration of the political members of the Department?

They came into force, I understand, some years ago. I do not think that they have been reviewed by the political side of the Department recently.

Will the hon. Gentleman review them to see that these people are treated in the same way as people in this country who are employed by the Services?

Certainly I will look al that, but I should very much doubt whether they could be very much altered owing to the special circumstances at Singapore, where 3,500 employees are living inside the Naval base in a way which does not happen elsewhere.

Will my hon. Friend ascertain whether the regulations were reviewed between 1946 and 1951?

Lost Aircraft, Irish Sea (Search)

32.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what efforts were made by naval vessels to locate the Royal Air Force bomber and crew lost over the Irish Sea on 26th January last.

On receiving a report of the accident on the international distress frequency, Her Majesty's Ship "Romola" altered course and searched the vicinity of the reported position throughout the night. At first light she was joined by Her Majesty's Ship "Volage," the Trinity House vessel "Argus" and a number of merchant ships as well as aircraft, with "Romola" co-ordinating. During the afternoon Her Majesty's Ship "Perseus," joined in with her helicopters. At dusk the merchant ships were released from the search. Her Majesty's Ships "Perseus," "Romola" and "Volage" together with the Trinity House vessel "Argus," continued the search until 8 a.m. on the following day the 27th January. By then no hope remained of saving life and, by agreement with the Royal Air Force authorities, the sea search was abandoned.

May we have an assurance that no naval craft would have followed the shocking example of the Fleetwood trawler captain whose vessel picked up the body of an airman a few days after the unfortunate accident—

In view of the inadequate nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an opportunity to raise the matter at an early date.

Her Majesty's Yacht "Britannia"

33.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will make a statement giving technical details of the S.Y. "Britannia" in view of the prestige associated with the building of this yacht.

Full details of the yacht have already been made public, but I will send a copy to the hon. Member. The only additional information that I need give is that she has a gross tonnage of 5,769 tons and is driven by four steam turbines geared to two shafts, giving a cruising speed of 21 knots. The performance of the yacht on trials gave complete satisfaction.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that applications by the technical and the national Press to view the vessel have been turned down? Why a/re we not taking every opportunity to tell the world of this engineering triumph and of the skill of British shipbuilders? In these difficult days, is it not necessary to allow the Press to see the vessel? Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman bear in mind that the Service should not always be the "Silent Service ".

If the hon. Member reads the details that I have given him, which were published very fully in the Press in April last year, I think he will agree that we have given very full details to the world. However, I will certainly go into the point that he raised about visits.

Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether their Lordships are satisfied with the performance of this vessel in view of the alterations that have taken place.

Purely as a matter of information, will my hon. and gallant Friend say whether this vessel should be referred to as "H.M.S." or as "S.Y.," as printed on the Order Paper.

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that if any prestige value attaches to the construction of the yacht, its ugly appearance detracts from it.