HC Deb 13 May 1947 vol 437 cc1279-81
37. Mr. William Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has yet appointed a committee to inquire into economy in the use of manpower in the Army.

Mr. Bellenger

I have appointed a committee, whose terms of reference are: To consider the methods of fixing and revising establishments and the use of manpower in the Army and War Department establishments, bearing in mind that efficiency for war is the primary object; and to recommend measures for ensuring that the greatest possible economy of manpower is secured in peacetime without detriment to this primary object. The chairman is Sir Ronald Weeks, and the other members will be: Mr. Gavin Martin, nominated by the Trades Union

Mr. Bellenger

As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Is it not a fact that these commands, as well as the staff of the War Office, are very much swollen as compared with prewar times; and, as it is now two years since the war was over, is it not time that these various staffs were reduced to normal proportions?

Mr. Bellenger

I am inclined to agree-with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but it is not possible to liquidate them as quickly as that. We are doing our best.

Following is the answer:

Congress, the Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the Scientific Adviser to the Army Council, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for War, and one other independent member of the public.

If hon. Members have any suggestions perhaps they would communicate with The Secretary, Army Manpower Economy Committee, The War Office, S.W.I.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the Minister give the House an idea as to the time it will take before this report is received?

Mr. Bellenger

I cannot say at this early stage. They had better get on with their work first, and then we can see how they go. I have no doubt that they will make their representations to me as quickly as possible.

Mr. W. J. Brown

Would it be within the competence of this committee to substitute civil labour for military personnel, where the work is clearly of a civil character?

Mr. Bellenger

I should think so.

Mr. Sharp

Can my right hon. Friend say why this committee was not constituted over 12 months ago?

Mr. Bellenger

I do not think that it would have been quite appropriate then when the manpower in the Army was in a much more swollen condition; now, probably, is the appropriate time.

Mr. Harold Davies

May I ask my right hon. Friend if there are any representatives from all sides of the House of Commons on this committee?

Mr. Bellenger

No, Sir. We have not asked Members of Parliament to serve on this committee, but we hope that if they have any information to give, they will give it to the committee.

Mr. Bing

Is the Minister aware that the amount of evidence or advice which hon. Members can give to this committee is very much curtailed by his recent decision not to make available to this House in formation which was previously available to Parliament?

Mr. Bellenger

In spite of that, I hope that hon. Members will do their best.

Mr. Swingler

Will my right hon. Friend say whether this committee will have made available to it information not given to this House in the Army Estimates?

Mr. Bellenger

They will have all the information necessary to enable them to carry out their duties efficiently.