MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he can say generally what are the matters which the Committee of Defence considers and decides upon, and what are its functions. Does it deal with matters of naval or military strategy, and with the numbers and composition of the naval or military forces to be employed for specific purposes? Does it take advice from naval or military experts before coming to its decisions? Does it take into consideration the bearing of political considerations upon proposed naval or military action? How are its members appointed? And is any record kept of its proceedings?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The Committee of Defence is a committee of the Cabinet, and does not differ essentially from other committees of the Cabinet. It neither removes responsibility from the Cabinet as a whole, nor from any of the Ministers responsible for the Departments either of the Army or of the Navy. Of course the Committee obtains the best information it can from experts and from others. Like other Cabinet Committees it keeps no records.
§ MR. DALZIEL
Is there any foundation for the statement that the Committee did not meet for six months after it was appointed?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
May I call attention to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman, I do not know whether inadvertently or whether perhaps because he did not wish to answer my questions, has not replied to the questions as to whether the Committee deals with matters of strategy, whether it takes into consideration the bearing of political considerations, and how its members are appointed?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I thought my answer really covered the ground. My hon. friend must be aware that Committees of the Cabinet are appointed by the Cabinet. There is no special mode of election; we do not have a ballot in the Cabinet. The subjects they take into consideration are any subjects delegated to them by the Cabinet dealing either with the interests of the Army or Navy, or those two services taken in conjunction.