March 10, 1949 (20th Parliament, 5th Session)

?

George Harris Hees

Mr. G. R. Pear Ices (Nanaimo):

The amendment which has been moved by the leader of the Progressive Conservative party (Mr. Drew) and the subamendment which is now being considered as moved by the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Low) indicate that there is some lack of confidence in the present administration. A good deal of evidence has been produced in the one hundred or more speeches which have been made during this debate, which would give abundant proof of that suggestion. Tonight I wish to indicate one other small and particular point in which I feel that there is justification for questioning the wisdom of the present government in that particular.
1 am going to deal with one point which concerns a great many men in a very personal way. In the speech from the throne reference is made to the fact that some legislation will be introduced regarding the administration of the armed forces of the crown. On February 4, the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) indicated that there was to be a change in the old traditional policy of paying prize money to the men of the Royal Canadian Navy, and he elaborated on that point in a statement which he made on February 18, when he explained the policy which the present government

proposes to follow, a policy which breaks with all naval tradition, a policy which I suggest oreaks faith with many a gallant lad who joined the Royal Canadian Navy at the commencement of the war.
I wish to take a few moments just to trace the history of this prize money, how it became part of naval tradition, how it is a century-old custom under which sailors have received a certain bounty, a certain grant of money to augment the pay which they received.
It was first introduced in the reign of Henry VIII. At that time the various ports of the United Kingdom were expected to produce a quota of warships and their crews. When the war was over His Majesty divided up among these ports the money which had accrued from the sale of the prizes which had been captured during the naval engagements. Certain changes and modifications were brought in during the reign of Charles II, when it was decided that there were different conditions under which captures were made. There were certain ships taken when they were in port; others were captured on the high seas. A distinction was made there. Certain rights, or droits, as they were called then, of the admiralty, or droits of the crown, were made under that decision. Those rights going to the lord high admiral were used for the purpose of developing the fleet.
The rights which became the prerogative of the crown were divided up after the campaign was over among the seamen who had fought at sea. It was an act of grace; but it was an act which was followed down through the centuries, starting at the time of King Charles II.
Then, during the reign of William IV, the lord high admiral surrendered his rights to the exchequer-that is, moneys which arose from the capture of ships actually in port. But the rights to the crown from ships captured at sea still remained the prerogative of the crown; and the crown in those days still divided up that money among the sailors who were sailing in the fleet during the campaign.
So it went on, right down to Nelson's day. In Nelson's time one might say an evil practice crept in, because most of the prizes captured were captured by the light ships of the navy-the frigates and cruisers. Anyone who will read any of the "lives" of Lord Nelson will see how he complained against certain of his captains who spent most of their time chasing merchantmen of the enemy rather than perhaps engaging in battle. There was a tendency to do that. And as a counterbalance to that, the prize
The Address-Mr. Pearkes bounty, known as blood money, was introduced. This was paid to the ships of the line. When they sank an enemy ship the crew of the ship engaged in that battle received a certain amount of money, according to the size of the ship sunk and according to the number of the crew on the vessel. This was frequently referred to as blood money.
However, changes have taken place and, as the years have gone by, blood money has been discontinued. But prize money was paid after the first world war. Large sums of prize money were paid then, because the Germans had their merchantmen on the seven seas, and our ships were able to capture a large number of them. At the conclusion of the second world war the amount of money available for prize moneys was not nearly as large as that at the conclusion of the first world war, simply because the Germans had brought their ships into their own ports, and the majority of those still on the high seas were scuttled.
However, last November in the British House of Commons a prize bill was introduced. An estimate had been made by the lords of the admiralty as to the amount of money which would be available from the prizes which had been captured. That money was divided among the nations of the commonwealth which had fleets on the seas; and because the air force had taken part and assisted in many of those captures, a certain proportion was allocated to the Royal Air Force-the exchequer still keeping its one-third. And when I say that it kept its one-third, it was decided as a rather arbitrary arrangement that the exchequer, according to the tradition of the old droits of the admiralty, should keep one-third of the moneys to go into the consolidated revenue fund.
There was considerable debate in the British House of Commons as to the method in which the prize moneys would be divided among the air force and the various ratings of the navy. A decision was reached, in so far as the amount of money available for the United Kingdom services was concerned. This decision appeared in British Hansard of November 12, at page 863, in a speech made by Mr. John Dugdale upon moving second reading of the prize bill. Mr. Dugdale, parliamentary and financial secretary to the admiralty, said on that occasion:
It is the intention of the government that all naval officers and ratings, marine officers and other ranks and also merchant seamen who served in the navy under T-124-
T-124, I might explain, was a special type of enlistment of men serving in the armed merchantmen who came under certain special regulations of discipline. Some Canadians

The Address-Mr. Pearkes belief that they would be entitled to such moneys? I do not care how small the amount is; it is the principle behind the question. The Minister of National Defence (Mr. Clax-ton) is trying, and rightly so, to build up the services of the country. Active recruiting campaigns have been carried on for the last twelve months. I venture to say that many members on all sides of the house-I know I have-have taken part in these campaigns.
I have urged the young men of the country to get into the armed forces. But such action as has been taken in this case is not encouragement. It is a petty, cheap, despicable business of taking a few dollars from men who gave so much during the war and putting them into certain funds when we believe that these funds are well endowed, when we know that there are large balances in them. Surely the government can rise above such petty cheese-paring practices and give these sailors the money which is their due, and to which they are entitled.
On motion of Mr. Blackmore the debate was adjourned.

Topic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY
Full View