HC Deb 10 June 1942 vol 380 cc1064-6
The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grigg)

I ask your permission, Mr. Speaker, to make a short statement on certain re-arrangements which I am making in the War Office and which I think will be of general interest to the House.

As I think many hon. Members know, I have been considering, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, how the considerable liaison which at present exists between our two Departments can be strengthened, in order to secure that close linking of the interests of the user and producer of warlike equipment which is so clearly essential to the successful prosecution of the war. A member of the Army Council, the Director-General of Army Requirements, has been a member of the Supply Council of the Ministry since his appointment early in the war; there is in addition a senior military officer as Military Adviser located in the Ministry; and members of the War Office sit on technical committees of the Ministry of Supply, just as members of the Ministry sit on the Army Requirements Committees. While these are the principal links between the two Ministries at Headquarters, in the field there are military officers with technical experience specially sent out from the Ministry, in consultation with my Department, to the Middle East to report both to the Ministry of Supply and to the War Office on the behaviour of weapons and equipment in the field, and on the experience of the troops which handle them.

The further steps which I am now taking, with the approval of the Minister of Defence and in conjunction with the Minister of Supply, to achieve a still closer co-ordination of the work of the two Departments consist, first, in the recently announced appointment of a Scientific Adviser at the War Office, and, secondly, in a reorganisation of the General Staff Department at the War Office. I have decided to divide it into two main parts, one to deal with the planning, operational and training aspects, and the other to deal with organisation and equipment policy of the Army, both departments being under the general control of the C.I.G.S. The department dealing with plans and operations will be the immediate charge of the Vice-Chief I.G.S., and will be more particularly concerned with those functions of the General Staff which serve the many activities of the Chiefs of Staff in their advice to the Minister of Defence. The remainder of the General Staff will be the charge of a new member of the Army Council, the Deputy-Chief I.G.S., who will have directly under him directorates concerned with Army organisation, and the assignment of finished munitions, and also will control another group of directors concerned under an Assistant Chief I.G.S. with policy and development of the main classes of military equipment in the various arms of the Services. To the D.C.I.G.S. also will be attached the Scientific Adviser who will be responsible for ensuring that Army requirements and the means of fulfilling them are projected against a background of modern science and research. The D.C.I.G.S. will be a member of the Supply Council, as well as of the Army Council, and will be a member of various technical committees of the Ministry of Supply; there will be close liaison at all levels between his officers and those of the Ministry.

The concentration under this new member of the Army Council of the administrative side of the Department of the General Staff will, I hope, free the C.I.G.S. and the V.C.I.G.S. for the planning and operational work which falls to them on the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and will also secure within the War Office a closer relationship and unified control of the various branches concerned with weapon policy and technical requirements.

Sir Percy Harris

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the new Member of the Army Council will be equivalent to the Master General of the Ordnance and be a technical man?

Sir J. Grigg

He will not be equivalent to a Master General of the Ordnance. He will however carry out all the policy functions which in the last war were carried out by the Master General of the Ordnance.

Mr. Woodburn

Can the Minister guarantee that under the new arrangement the executive part of the War Office will be advised of the processing of munitions, because in the past they have been unaware of what was happening in the production field?

Sir J. Grigg

I do not accept the hon. Member's suggestion that the right hand of the War Office has not known what has been going on in the left hand or what has been going on in the Ministry of Supply. In any case, the arrangements will, I am sure, be an improvement on the old, however good or bad they were.

Mr. Montague

Can the Minister say whether the same kind of improvement is being considered by the Government in reference to the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aircraft Production, the connection between which is very loose indeed?

Sir J. Grigg

The hon. Member had better address that question elsewhere; I have enough responsibilities of my own to look after.