HC Deb 02 October 1941 vol 374 cc726-8
Sir Percy Harris

(by Private Notice)asked the Minister of State whether he has any statement to make on the organisation which he has set up in the Middle East?

The Minister of State (Mr. Lyttelton)

First there is the Middle Eastern War Council under my chairmanship. The members of the Council are: His Majesty's Ambassador in Cairo, the three Commanders-in-Chief and the Intendant General. His Majesty's Ambassador in Baghdad, the High Commissioner of Palestine, the Governor of Cyprus and the Governor of Aden are members and attend when they are able. A representative of the Government of India is shortly to be appointed. This body deals with general matters of policy within the framework laid down by His Majesty's Government.

There are sub-committees of the Middle Eastern War Council, of which the most important is the Sub-Committee on Supply and Transport, again under my chairmanship. This Sub-Committee deals primarily with those communications which are common to the three Services. Under it, is the Middle Eastern Supply Centre, which was set up before my arrival. This body, in close liaison with the Eastern Supply Group at Delhi, is concerned with a wide range of supplies, military and civil, over the whole area.

I have also found it convenient to hold regular meetings with the three Commanders-in-Chief in order to deal with purely Service matters and give them such assistance as I am able within my terms of reference, which, as the House will remember, include the task of relieving the Commanders-in-Chief of as many extraneous responsibilities as possible.

My own office in Cairo is organised on the same lines as the War Cabinet Office in London. I have the assistance of five administrative civil servants; the senior has the grade of Deputy Under-Secretary. There are two senior civil servants, one a Principal Assistant Secretary and one a Counsellor in the Diplomatic Service, and two Principals. The total numbers in my office, including the clerical staff, do not exceed 25. There are two Departments which are associated with my office, one that of the Intendant General and the other is Occupied Enemy Territory administration.

I have also organised a Propaganda Department, which is charged with co- ordinating the activities of the various propaganda bodies carrying on political warfare and other propaganda in my sphere.

After three months' experience of the working of this machine, which it has been my object to keep as small and as simple as possible, I think I can assure the House that the co-operation between these various bodies is satisfactory, and in particular that the three Commanders-in-Chief and myself work in the greatest harmony and accord in resolving the difficulties which combined operations of the three Services and all arms over a very large political and military field necessarily entail.

Mr. Mander

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Dominions are represented on his Council or in what alternative way they can be consulted?

Mr. Lyttelton

They are not represented on the Council, but I am in touch with them in Cairo.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Doe; my right hon. Friend's new Propaganda Department work in close liaison with the Ministry of Information and in accordance with the directions of the new Executive on Political Warfare?

Mr. Lyttelton

Yes, Sir.