§ The Air Council shall not order warlike operations or make war by itself, but the Air Council shall transfer and attach to the naval and military forces of the Crown such corps, units, officers, and men of the Air Force as may be determined in consultation and agreement with the Board of Admiralty or the Army Council, or both of them, and the Board of Admiralty and the Army Council may attach and transfer such corps, units, officers, and men to any part of the Force subject to their orders, respectively.—[Colonel Gretton.]
§ Colonel GRETTON
I beg to move the Clause. 740 I wish to explain to the Committee that the two Clauses standing in my name are part of the same subject. Very late on the Committee stage it was explained to the Committee that the duty of the Air Council will be to supply and hand over to the command of the Army and Navy, as the case may be, all the aircraft which is required for the conduct of naval and military operations, but there is a third question still remains which has not been definitely explained to the House. The Air Board has hitherto been a Board of Supply only, but the Army Council is to provide machinery and undertake the training of personnel as well as the supply of apparatus. So far there has been no criticism offered on that principle. The Air Council under this Bill, as it now stands, will have power to order warlike operations and undertake them independently either of the Army or the Navy, and it is a matter upon which I desire, if possible, to obtain some information from the Government. I put before the Committee arguments which I think will not be refuted and cannot be, that one of the main principles which leads to success in war is unity of command, and that violation of that principle always leads to weakness in the conduct of war, if not to disaster.
I am not going to discuss strategy or tactics, but so far as the principle of command is involved in naval and military operations, that is provided for by the explanation given by the Government. It will be the duty of the Army Council to provide all that the Army and Navy require. The Government have not yet explained whether the whole of the Air Service in every part, including the Antiaircraft Service is to be handed over to the Air Council. No doubt some explanation will be given on that point before we part with the Bill in this House. The point which arouses apprehension is that a third command is intended to be established by this Bill. We already have the Army Council, and we have a separate command in the Navy acting under the Lords of the Admiralty and the officers appointed by that Board. Even this division of command has great difficulties, and may lead to still further difficulties in the future, but this Bill proposes to set up a third War Council, and it opens up new problems and difficulties which will cause considerable apprehension. It would appear that the naval force, when acting in conjunction with land operations, should be in 741 command of the military officer, and the same would appear to apply to the officer, commanding the naval forces dealing with .a large area of the sea. The problems involved in the unity of command are very great. We suffer in this country from the fact that we have no supreme War Staff manned by men whose whole training and career have been spent in the study of problems of war and how to conduct war successfully. In this country the War Cabinet is a civilian body.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now wandering all over the place, and he is not confining himself to the subject-matter of this Clause at all.
§ Colonel GRETTON
Then I will bring nay remarks directly back to the point. It will be difficult to combine the warlike operations of the Air Council with the warlike operations ordered by the Army Council and the Board of Admiralty. That is the difficulty I am anxious should be avoided. The difficulty of a third command which this Bill apparently proposes to set up is bound to create this difficulty, and there is no machinery to overcome it. Unless a strong reason is given to the contrary, it would appear that the Air Forces should be at the disposal of the Army Council or the Board of Admiralty, and that this new Air Council should be a board of training and supply, and the actual operations of war should be entrusted to either the military or naval authorities. Those are the considerations I wish to place before the attention of the House.
§ Mr. BILLING
I beg to second the Amendment. If this proposal were carried out it would defeat those purposes of the Bill which are beneficial to the Service.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has just given a very good reason why this Amendment is out of order, and I must decline to put it. The other new Clauses, standing in the name of the hon. Member for East Herts (Mr. Billing), should come as Amendments, but not as new Clauses.