HC Deb 25 March 1942 vol 378 cc1989-91
45. Mr. Garro Jones

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the defects which exist in radio-telephone intercommunication between units of the three fighting Services, at home and overseas; whether any Minister or committee and, if so, which, is charged with responsibility in this joint sphere?

46 and 53. Mr. Glenvil Hall

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he is aware that radio-telephone communication between tanks and Army co-operation air- craft in the Libyan campaign was unreliable; and whether he is satisfied that adequate steps have been taken to obtain a prompt remedy for this defect of equipment;

(2) whether he is aware that more than eight weeks ago a report was sent from Libya dealing with a serious but remediable difficulty which had arisen in connection with radio equipment in tanks; and what remedy has yet been applied?

47. Mr. A. Edwards

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that radiotelephone equipment and organisation in the three Services is not satisfactory; and whether he can undertake that measures will be taken to improve the equipment and organisation of this vital service?

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

Radio-telephone communications between the fighting Services come within the ambit of the responsibilities of the Minister of Defence in that they are an integral feature of inter-Service co-operation. In practice, however, these questions are naturally dealt with by the technical authorities concerned in collaboration. There is a day-to-day liaison between the Signal directorates of the three Service Ministries. In London there is the Wireless Telegraphy Board, and overseas there are the Combined Signal Boards. These bodies have the problem of inter-Service communication under constant review. I am not aware that there are grave defects in inter-communication between the three Services, either at home or overseas. On the contrary, our technique has reached a high standard of excellence, and is being continually improved with the progress of scientific development. It is not in the public interest to give information about equipment in use in operations now in progress, but I should be glad if any hon. Member would communicate to me privately any information of defects which may have come to his notice.

Mr. Garro Jones

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in the organisation of Defence matters, there is, below a certain plane, no Ministerial supervision over the inter-Service committees, and that the net result of their deliberations often is that if one representative of each Service gets what that Service wants, the national and general Defence interests tend to go uncared for?

Mr. Attlee

I am not aware of that. That is why I ask the hon. Member to see me and talk about the matter, so that I can go into it.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Can I have an answer to the Question I put in No. 53?

Mr. Attlee

I dealt with that generally. I cannot give any information about operations now in progress. I have no knowledge of any report, but I shall be glad to see the hon. Member on the point.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that this matter is extremely serious, and that it cannot be put off in this way? The report to which I referred was sent on 29th December. So far nothing has been done, and men are losing their lives in the East.

Mr. Attlee

I am not aware of any report. There is no intention of putting the matter off at all; I am asking for full information. The hon. Member will realise that these matters, involving operations, are very difficult to discuss by way of Question and answer in the House. I ask my hon. Friends to come and see me, in order to discuss the subject.

Mr. A. Edwards

Will the right hon. Gentleman familiarise himself with this report before the Members who put down these Questions come to see him?