HC Deb 19 June 1941 vol 372 cc812-3
45. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the declaration, on15th June, by the Minister of Labour and National Service that it is clear that in the war effort the command of the Navy, Army and Air Force must be united; whether this represents the considered view of His Majesty's Government; and what changes are contemplated in the commands of the three services?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

I understand from my right hon. Friend that he did not intend to make a declaration of the kind suggested. In his speech on 15th June he stressed that the Government was one of national unity, expressing the united will of the people, and that this unity at the top was reflected right down, in the Services and all branches of the war effort. The arrangements for securing unity of direction of the Armed Forces through the Office of the Minister of Defence and the Defence Committee are known to the House, and no change in them is contemplated.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

May I ask whether my right hon. Friend does, not appreciate the concern caused by the report of the speech, which was contained in the "Times," of 16th June, where my right hon. Friend is stated to have said: It was clear that in the war effort the command of the Navy, Army and Air Force must be united, and the example of that unity must be reflected from the top"? In view of the principle of Cabinet responsibility, is it not natural that the country should have assumed that my right hon. Friend was talking as a member of the Cabinet in making this important statement?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I think the explanation I gave of the purposes which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour had in view is perfectly clear and convincing. I cannot conceive anyone imagining that the Army, Navy and Air Force were going to be thrown into one.