§ 6.47 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)
We are asking for the modest sum of £10 because this token sum is the means of disclosing to the Committee certain relatively substantial changes that have taken place in the Estimates.
All these changes relate to our obligations under our various international defence commitments. From the nature of many of these commitments, it is difficult to estimate accurately the money we spend on them. The N.A.T.O. structure of military agencies and commands is developing all the time. Certain headquarters and posts, for which we are now asking for provision, did not exist when the original Estimates were drawn up. Thus, in the case of infra-structure, where the major change has taken place, the work is mainly carried out on the Continent of Europe by contractors of the nations concerned, and many of those schemes are fairly long-term ones which take some years to complete. Obviously we have no direct control over the way the work goes. What happens is that the host nation pays the bill in the first instance, and its cost is then allocated between the contributing partners. It is not easy to tell what bills will come in in any one year.
Perhaps it would help the Committee if I said a few words about the actual subheads. Subhead A.4 relates to the appointment of a Deputy Chief of Staff to General Mark Clark's headquarters, and also to certain additional expenses incurred owing to the expansion of the activities of the Standing Group. Subhead B.1 relates to certain new appointments. For example, there is now a British Standing Group liaison officer in 99 Paris, and we have filled certain posts in the N.A.T.O. Defence College. Another obligation not foreseen at the time is the appointment of a small military delegation led by Air Vice-Marshal Merer to the Interim Commission which is now considering in Paris the E.D.C. treaty and the E.D.C. military set-up.
Subhead B.2, in which we ask for an additional £250,000 is the largest item. In the original Estimates, provision was made for 1,550 military personnel for the various N.A.T.O. command headquarters. The number has now gone up to about 2,000. This is due not only to the build-up of existing headquarters, but to the setting up of certain new headquarters: for example, the headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, and the headquarters of Admiral Mountbatten as Allied Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean.
It may interest the Committee to know that on the average this country supplies about 20 per cent. of the staff of the various N.A.T.O. headquarters. Next year, the number of United Kingdom military personnel at these headquarters will be about 2,150. We can say that the expansion is more or less coming to an end. We are now near the top of this expansion of the number of men that we have had to send to these various headquarters.
As regards infrastructure, the story is fairly fully set out in paragraphs 14 and 15 of the Defence White Paper. As paragraph 15 states, there have been certain difficulties over the third slice of infrastructure. It was agreed at Lisbon that our share of £20 million should be largely furnished in kind owing to our balance of payments difficulties. It is not very easy to work out exactly what we are to supply in kind, and there have been certain delays in effecting this payment. That is why the Estimate is lower this year than was originally intended.
The only other item in the Estimate is the reduction in the appropriations-in-aid. That is due to this fact: there are certain—not very many infrastructure projects which we are carrying out in this country, almost all of them being telecommunications installations of various sorts. When the Estimates were originally made up it was assumed that we would get four quarterly payments in the 100 financial year. It now appears likely that we shall not get the fourth payment before the end of the financial year; and, therefore, this adjustment in the Estimates has been required. The balance of all these items adds up to only £10 on the wrong side, and as I have said, it is mainly a means of telling the House what has been going on.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
A matter of £10 between the Government and the Opposition is a matter of little consequence but, unfortunately, there is a great deal more involved in this Supplementary Estimate. I remind the Committee, although I do not propose to transgress the rules, that recently we had what was called a defence debate, when we seemed to discuss almost everything but defence.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Gentleman says that it was not his fault. I agree, but we can apportion blame when necessary and, of course, in the right quarter.
In that debate the Prime Minister dealt for the most part with the subject of National Service. I certainly made no complaint about that. It was a subject that I had sought to ventilate on several occasions. I do not propose to discuss it in the course of the Committee's proceedings—I recognise that it would be quite out of order; I wish it were in order, because I should like to say a great deal about it, but obviously I cannot.
For the rest of the defence debate, we discussed matters which seemed to me to come more within the ambit of a foreign policy debate than a debate on defence. Indeed, we seem to know very little about what is going on in the sphere of developments. And now the Parliamentary Secretary comes to the Committee and asks us to agree to a Supplementary Estimate and talks at large about personnel and an increase in personnel, and informs us gravely that he hopes it will stop before very long. In my view, it ought to have stopped a long time ago.
To take an example, we have the reference to the British Joint Services Mission at Washington. When I occupied the position of Minister of Defence, as, no doubt, the hon. Gentleman by now 101 has discovered, I sought to reduce the personnel at Washington. In my judgment and in the judgment of my military advisers at the time, there were far too many high-ranking officers at Washington. It was thought that with the advent of Sir William Elliot, who was sent out there to take charge, we might be able to dispense with the services of some of those who had been previously appointed.
I discover now, however, that, although there is no reference to names, the expenditure has been increasing all the while. Obviously, an increase in expenditure can only be accounted for either by increase in salaries of the old personnel—and I do not suppose that that is permissible—or by an increase in the number of staff. I should like to know the reason for that.
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, in dealing with this matter, did not furnish some details of the nature of the staff, the numbers of the staff, what their work is, and whether they are doing any useful service at all. Perhaps he will take the opportunity at a later stage, as he can if he wishes, to acquaint the Committee with some of the facts relating to the British Joint Services Mission at Washington.
Now, I come to a point of real substance; that is, the ever-increasing expenditure at N.A.T.O. headquarters. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman passed so lightly over the increase in the personnel. He gave the previous figure as 1,550. It has gone up to 2,000, and he says it is going up still further, although he hopes that after it has gone up a little further it will then stop. Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell the Committee what it is all for? If what we are doing at N.A.T.O. headquarters is to produce a top-heavy staff, a grandiose military organisation, very largely provided by American personnel, it is true—as the hon. Gentleman said, our contribution is 20 per cent. of the whole—I should like to know whether this is really necessary.
I saw in the "New York Herald-Tribune" this week, an article by a well-known contributor to that newspaper on a statement made by the Supreme Commander, General Ridgway. I cannot read the whole of it, but I can direct attention to one item. The writer refers 102 to the 50 divisions which were in contemplation when the Lisbon Conference was held nearly two years ago. Whether those 50 divisions are in existence is a matter for speculation. My view is that they do not exist and that the number is much smaller.
What General Ridgway now informs us is that the equipment is not available for the 50 divisions. That is a very serious state of affairs. I am not going into the subject of equipment, but what we are faced with is that we are creating a huge organisation of high-ranking officers from various N.A.T.O. countries, including our own—and we are concerned in this Supplementary Estimate with a contribution from the United Kingdom and a large number of subsidiary elements. Obviously, we must have the subsidiary elements when we have the high-ranking personnel at N.A.T.O. headquarters, but meanwhile we have neither the divisions nor the equipment.
I ask the hon. Gentleman when we are going to inject some real defence into this set-up. We had a great deal of criticism from the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues when we were on their side of the House. They were always telling us that we were dragging our feet, lagging behind, that we were much too slow and ought to get out of the way to make room for these gentlemen of remarkable military competence. Now we discover that General Ridgway, after nearly two years experience as Supreme Commander following General Eisenhower, has neither the available divisions nor the available equipment. He has a huge personnel but what we want to know is what they are doing. Are they worth the money we are paying?
§ Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether he did not fix the establishment of these headquarters when he was the Minister?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am only too glad to respond to this question—I am glad to inform the Committee—presumably it is in order, Mr. Hopkin Morris, at least I hope so—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I was merely endeavouring to reply to the question. All I would say is that the original establishment was fixed by the United States, which usually fixes most things. Then we came in behind. We had very few at the beginning, and of course had to add to our numbers to keep our end up. But the Americans are very lavish in expenditure of personnel—far too lavish. We naturally had to pull our weight. That is why our expenditure is going up, and the time has come to cry a halt and say to General Ridgway and his associates at N.A.T.O. headquarters that we are spending far too much money on personnel and—this may not be agreeable to everyone in the Committee—far too little on the essential equipment which is necessary and has to be injected into the defence structure.
I wish to come to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, the question of infrastructure, which I am glad he raised. I am highly amused when any reference is made to infrastructure—
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Gentleman says, "There is nothing funny about it." He is unable, apparently, to recall what the Prime Minister said when I first mentioned infrastructure from the opposite side of the House. The Prime Minister, although he has an enlarged and enriched vocabulary, was apparently unacquainted with the word "infrastructure." I had to tell him what it meant and after I had told him he was still bewildered. By this time he has discovered what infrastructure means.
Everyone knows that it simply means the administrative elements that are associated with defence—airfields, communications and the like. This aspect, of course, costs a great deal of money. I confess at once that when the subject was first raised in N.A.T.O. I did whatever I could to encourage its consideration. I regard it as essential in the sphere of defence. We made a quite considerable contribution and since then we have increased our contribution. But now we discover that they are actually saving money. I know that we cannot discuss the saving of money. I have been long enough in this House to understand that that is one thing we cannot discuss. We 104 can discuss the spending of money, but we must not discuss the saving of money.
The hon. Gentleman did mention the subject and I should like to know from him what he thinks about the development of infrastructure. How are we getting on with these airfields? In particular, I should ask him this question. I hope I have not misunderstood him. He said, in reference to infrastructure, "We have no control over the work in other countries. Although we make our contribution and spend vast sums of money in the provision of airfields and communications in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the like—we have no control over this work."
§ Mr. Birch
That is not absolutely what I said. What I said was that it is very difficult for us to control the work in the countries in which it is carried out because it is done by foreign contractors, who are not, so to speak, under our command. Of course the expenditure and the work are most carefully examined on an international basis to see that there is nothing going wrong.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I thought I understood the hon. Gentleman correctly because I put it down, and he used the words, "no control over the work." Perhaps he will now be good enough to inform the Committee whether at the Ministry of Defence any control at all is exercised over infrastructure. Does the Ministry supervise the operations in any way in so far as our financial contribution entitles us so to do? In any event, it seems that the Committee is entitled, and perhaps on some other occasion the House will be entitled, to rather more information than has yet been made available on the subject of infrastructure.
Are we getting value for our money? Where did I get that idea from? I got it from the party opposite; that is what they used to ask us, "Are we getting value for our money in the sphere of defence?" I ask, quite reasonably and quite modestly, are we now getting value for our money from this Government? It does not look like it. We are getting lots of personnel, high-ranking officers and the so-called lower elements, the other ranks, but are we getting value for our money? The expectations were disclosed, not a few months ago but more than two years 105 ago, before General Ridgway assumed the Supreme Command. Are we getting value for our money? Where is it all going?
I am not speaking of the defence expenditure within the United Kingdom. I am speaking of the defence expenditure for which the Ministry of Defence is responsible in N.A.T.O., on the Continent and in Washington. Are we getting value for our money? It does not look as if we are, but if the hon. Gentleman can convince the Committee that we are getting full value for our expenditure I shall be very glad to be furnished with the necessary information.
I recognise that this is not what is usually called a "first-class debate." We are only probing and exploring the ground. We are within our rights, as you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, will agree, in asking questions on expenditure incurred by the Government before we pass this Supplementary Estimate. It would seem to me, however, that we have not had an adequate debate on the real substance of defence; and expenditure is increasing all the while on items which would appear to be not entirely irrelevant to defence but subsidiary to it. We require a great deal more information. Although this Supplementary Estimate would appear on the face of it to be innocuous, I suggest it conceals an unnecessary expenditure on items which, so far as I can ascertain, are not producing much of value to the defence system, either in the United Kingdom or within N.A.T.O.
In particular, I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman to address himself to the expenditure incurred on the British Joint Services Mission in Washington. I am not criticising Sir William Elliot. Far from it. I had something to do with his appointment. He is a first-class officer, a man of great ability, and I am sure he is able to keep our end up in the discussions that take place at the Pentagon and in Washington generally. But I should like to know who are his associates and whether he has too many of them; whether we are still inclined to send people over there to support him merely because we have no other place for them.
§ Mr. Birch indicated dissent.106
§ Mr. Shinwell
That sometimes happens, and the hon. Gentleman need not shake his head. A high-ranking officer reaches a position when there is no longer hope of further promotion. The time has not come for his retirement and he must be sent somewhere. He has to earn, or he has to get his living, whether he earns it or not. It may be that such officers are being sent to Washington; and we must not have that sort of thing going on.
I agree that defence is essential. I have said so over and over again. Defence is essential in the present situation in Europe and elsewhere. But let us see to it that we have the substance of defence, by which I mean active and battle-worthy formations on the ground and the necessary elements ready in the air and on the sea; and that we do not clutter up this defence organisation with personnel, much of which, in my judgment, is unnecessary.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
We would agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that this is an occasion for probing expenditure. One of the most difficult sorts of expenditure to probe is that which seems to be to some extent supra-national.
My hon. Friend has told us of the increase in the size of the British elements at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Are those establishments decided purely by the Ministry of Defence or at a higher level, that is to say, from the international point of view? Are they decided by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation itself? There is a good reason for asking this question. In this country, when Defence Estimates are prepared, they are afterwards carefully scrutinised by the Treasury. When estimates are being prepared at an international level the North Atlantic Treaty Council operates as a sort of international Ministry of Defence, but there seems to be no subsequent Treasury examination.
Can my hon. Friend tell the Committee what is the machinery and what is the procedure about this? To the ordinary person it would seem that the Council fixes its own establishments and that its purpose is to raise as much contribution as possible from the countries who are 107 signatories of the Treaty. It is an entirely different procedure. We would like to know where the control really resides, and to what extent Her Majesty's Government are able to exercise control.
I would refer briefly to the question of infrastructure. I was not certain of the purport of my hon. Friend's remarks in this respect. We are all very anxious that the infrastructure should go on as quickly as possible. But, as there has been a saving, the indication is that it is not being proceeded with as quickly as was expected. Is the reason for the saving that the equipment—our contribution in kind—to which my hon. Friend referred, is not ready to be sent out? Or is it because the countries in which infrastructure is to be located are not yet ready to receive that equipment? If that is so, what is being done to make certain they get on more quickly, and what is holding up the operation of this infrastructure? Is there anything that we can do to hasten it?
Though I hope my hon. Friend will also deal with those points, I feel that the really important point is the question of the control of this international expenditure, and I trust that he will say something about that.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I do not agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) when he says that this discussion is not to be regarded as a first-class debate. In my judgment, there is no more important occasion during the year, and it is a matter for regret that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee seem to agree with my right hon. Friend rather than with me. It is a fact that defence debates, ever since they were first introduced in 1946, have tended to become more and more concerned with policy on the grand scale. They seem almost to be foreign affairs debates, and there have been no debates concerned with the basic organisation of the defence services, and the position of the Minister.
A year ago I was critical of the appointment of the present Minister of Defence. My criticism was not on personal grounds, but because I thought that what we needed was someone with a great knowledge of industry, and with a strong political position, who would be able to 108 pull together the three defence Ministries and the Ministry of Supply and get on with the job of welding all together to produce a first-class defence machine. During the past year nothing has happened to lessen the fears that I expressed on that occasion.
Provided I am in order, I wish to spend a few moments in examining what has happened during the past year, strictly in relation to the position of the Minister of Defence himself, whose salary is borne on this Estimate. When this Government was formed—
The salary of the Defence Minister is not borne on the Supplementary Estimate which the Committee is now discussing.
§ Mr. Wigg
I agree, Mr. Hopkin Morris. Perhaps I put it badly. The salary of the Minister is not directly on the Supplementary Estimate, but he is responsible for the Supplementary Estimate and, therefore, it would seem to me that I am in order in discussing the Minister in relation to the Supplementary Estimate before the Committee.
The hon Member will be in order in discussing the items set out in the Supplementary Estimate. He will be out of order in discussing anything else.
§ Mr. Wigg
I defer to your Ruling. I will confine my remarks to the broad point that the political position of the Minister of Defence has become weaker and weaker during the year. Without trespassing on your feelings in the matter, Mr. Hopkin Morris, I want to point to one fact. There was, just before Christmas, a debate in which Members from both sides demanded a revision of Service pensions.
I am allowing the hon. Gentleman every latitude. I do not think that that question comes within this Vote.
§ Mr. Wigg
I have not the least intention of developing the point. I merely wish to say that there was a demand from all parts of the House and I am sure that the Minister agreed with those who made it. If his political position had any strength at all, I am sure that something would have been done. Nothing has been done because, although the Minister is a 109 most distinguished officer, his political position is weaker than that of the most recently appointed Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am doing my best to come to the Vote. I make this point by way of illustration. I am not arguing the merits of the question of increasing the retired pay of officers. I realise that that would be out of order. There is no need to mention it because the case is overwhelming. As anyone who reads HANSARD will agree, something ought to be done. I am stressing that nothing has been done. I am sure that something would have been done if the Minister had felt strong enough to do it.
Once more I must ask the hon. Gentleman to devote his attention to the Vote which is before the Committee.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am sorry if I have strayed outside the rules of order. I have been most careful not to discuss the merits of the argument about pensions. If, in fact, I have infringed your ruling, Mr. Hopkin Morris, I am indeed sorry. I quoted pensions by way of example and I thought that by linking that question to the responsibility of the Minister I should not be trespassing too far on your good nature.
I turn to the question of infrastructure. It is true that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington first mentioned the matter in the House, his statement was received with howls of laughter, led by the Prime Minister. Of course, the Prime Minister has found out quite a lot about defence since he first began to laugh about infrastructure. If I am not mistaken, when the Prime Minister assumed the office of Minister of Defence when forming his Government, he did it because he did not know then—strange as it may seem—that there was physically a Ministry of Defence with an office and an administrative machine.
He took on the job because he thought he would be a Minister of Defence rather on the grand scale. He did not realise that there was an administrative job attached to it. As soon as he found out that there was a job to be done he 110 dropped it and appointed the present Minister of Defence. Just as he had not gone into the organisation of the Ministry of Defence with any great care before he assumed office, I do not think that he has gone into the matter with any great care during the last 18 months.
The result is that the development of infrastructure, the building of communications and aerodromes, is in a parlous condition. This country is pouring out a great part of its national wealth and its economy is straining to bursting point to keep nearly five divisions on the Continent of Europe. But the fact is overlooked that these five divisions are in front of the aerodromes, in advance of the infrastructure upon which they would have to depend for their lives and upon which this country would have to depend if ever things went wrong.
I should have thought that we would have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary or the Prime Minister during the defence debates something about future progress. We have not been told about the building up of aerodromes and communications which come under the heading of infrastructure. We had a very patchy defence debate and very patchy Service Estimates debates. Now we have a Supplementary Estimate which, if necessary, I would support in the Division Lobby, but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will go back to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence and ask them to ensure that before next year we get more information.
The Prime Minister, if he is the spokesman of the Minister of Defence, should tell us the principles upon which our defence policies are based so that the House of Commons and the public who pay the bill will be able to appreciate whether they are, in fact, getting value for their money. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington when he expresses grave doubts whether or not we are getting value for money in terms that the bill is too big. I also doubt whether we are getting value for money in terms of the defence of this country both at home and overseas.
§ 7.27 p.m.
Mr. W. M. F. Vane (Westmorland)
I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary one question which is about the Supplementary Estimate and 111 which has nothing to do with the character of the Minister of Defence. Almost all these subheads are concerned with the emoluments of an increased British element at one headquarters or another. Although I understand that the establishments of these staffs have been increased and, therefore, new officers are filling the posts, those officers are not new to the Services. If they were not occupying these posts they would be occupying other posts in the Army, the Air Force or the Royal Navy.
I cannot see any note in the explanation referring to any comparable economy in the Estimates of the three Services from which the officers have been taken. I should like to think that there were some such economies. All these cannot be additional allowances. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) drew attention to the tendency of all headquarters staffs, and especially staffs of an international character, to get bigger and bigger and somehow to find within their ranks more and more major-generals. It is proper that we should examine these staffs and ensure that that tendency does not expand.
Equally, it would be wrong if this Committee poured too much scorn on the most important work which is now being done. It is extremely important that these posts should be filled by officers of the highest qualifications for what must often be despairing and disappointing duties. We do not want major-generals filling in time before their official retirement. That has happened in the past. Even the Railway Executive once had a future C.I.G.S. as deputy-chairman before there was an opportunity for his appointment.
But it is not only among the ranks of the generals that there is a difficulty. This form of staff work is not popular among the G.1 and G.2 grades. One cannot really imagine many commanders of regiments encouraging a major in a battalion to accept an offer of a post on a staff of this sort if, at the same time, the officer is in line for command of the regiment.
I should like to think that our training, particularly our staff training, encouraged the very best officers in their class who are suitable for the job to take up these appointments, because it is quality, even more than numbers, that we need, 112 although, of course, numbers play their part as well.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I have often wondered what the Ministry of Defence does. The argument for the existence of a Ministry of Defence used to be that it would co-ordinate the various Services, and that the establishment of such a Ministry would prevent overlapping and would result in a measure of control over the Services, and, to some extent, a measure of national economy. Although the amount mentioned here is only £10, the question is not so much that amount as the tendency which this White Paper indicates. I believe that we should have a document which is really understandable by ordinary hon. Members of the House.
I should like some explanation of the item of £11,000 mentioned on page 2. Here, we have the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence telling us simply nothing at all about it. Apparently, some high-ranking officers went to Washington, and some of them went to Korea. Could we be told why these high-ranking officers went to Washington? What did they discuss there? What was the need for this particular special mission? Did they discuss affairs in the Far East or affairs in Europe?
We are told here that certain expenses are in connection with N.A.T.O. I remember quite well the debate when the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was set up. Then, the great argument of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin was that, by establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, we should save money. Instead of this Ministry of Defence co-ordinating and exercising some kind of supervision over our defence expenditure, the fact is that defence expenditure has now become astronomical. It may be indicated as only £10 in this Estimate, but our actual expenditure on defence this year comes to 11s. 6d. per individual, 23s. for every two people and £2 17s. 6d. for a family of five.
The hon. Member must limit his remarks to the amounts involved in this Supplementary Estimate.
§ Mr. Hughes
I understand that, but every pound that is spent is adding to 113 the already heavy burden of defence expenditure, which is outlined in this document, and I do not see what purpose the Ministry of Defence serves. Why is this expensive Ministry imposed on all the other three Service Ministries if it is to come along with a Vote, even if limited to £10?
I hope that the hon. Member will limit his remarks to the expenditure indicated in the Supplementary Estimate.
§ Mr. Hughes
I want to ask a further question about the special mission to Korea. What did they do in Korea? Did they look at the Korean situation in any particular aspect and say "The time has come to re-examine the whole position in Korea"? Are we not entitled to some explanation about why they went there and what the findings of the mission were?
There are also items dealing with high ranking officers of N.A.T.O., and the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned Earl Mountbatten. Would it be too much to ask him if the salary of Earl Mountbatten is borne on this Estimate, and exactly how much it is?
§ Mr. Birch rose—
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Hopkin Morris, on the question of the first of the items in this Supplementary Estimate; that is, the one relating to £10? I understand that that is a Supplementary Estimate of the amount required in 1953 for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Defence. We have had no debate on the Ministry of Defence. We have had a debate on a White Paper, but we have had no debate on the Ministry itself, and this is the first time when the salaries of that Ministry have come up for debate. When salaries are raised on an Estimate, I have always understood that the whole function of the Ministry concerned in asking for money for those salaries is debatable.
Only those salaries that are included in this Supplementary Estimate are debatable.
§ Mr. Paget
I am not dealing with the second item, but only with the first relating to £10. That is a general item indicating the amount required in a year for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Defence. The second item, which is the larger figure, is relatively narrow, but the first one relating to the £10 should, I submit, cover the whole question of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Defence.
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the top of page 3, he will find an explanation in subheads A. 4, B. 1 and B. 2, and the debate is limited to what is contained in that.
There are no details of the first part of the Supplementary Estimate. The details are concerned with the second part.
It may seem curious to the hon. and learned Gentleman, but we can only discuss the items set out here and ask for information on them. We cannot go into general policy in this debate.
These items are usually set out in this form, and only those matters referred to in the Estimate may be debated.
§ Mr. Paget
Surely, the practice has been that where we have had a particular Estimate debated, we have been confined to the details of that Supplementary Estimate, but where we have to deal with 115 the requirements of a Ministry, and where a Supplementary Estimate includes an estimate for salaries—
I regret that I must tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that the debate on a Supplementary Estimate is confined to that Supplementary Estimate.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am not complaining about it. What I said was that the Prime Minister had devoted certainly 50 per cent. of his speech to the subject of National Service, and the remainder of his speech to foreign policy, which gave the tone to the debate and imparted a line to the debate, with the result that we did not discuss the subject of defence at all. That is not my fault.
§ Mr. Birch
Is that true? I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman himself had perhaps given the tone to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister by his great activities on the subject of National Service, which led my right hon. Friend to devote a large part of his speech to that subject. As, perhaps, I shall be out of order if I pursue that matter further I had better leave it there.
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by asking a question about the British Joint Services Mission in Washington. Only £11,000 extra is asked, and that includes the appointment of Major-General Shoosmith as Deputy Chief of Staff to General Mark Clark. Therefore, we can see that the amount devoted to Washington is quite small. Incidentally, General Shoosmith's appointment was fully explained in the House last year. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was not here.
As far as staff in Washington is concerned, there are 12 Service officers and four civil officers of the executive grade.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Do I understand the hon. Gentleman now to say that the 116 appointment of Major-General Shoosmith is the cause of the £11,000 expenditure? Is there no other item? Does he absorb the lot?
§ Mr. Birch
No. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the Supplementary Estimate under the correct heading, which is A.4, he will see a reference there tooth to General Shoosmith and to certain additional expenses in Washington. The point I am making is that those expenses are quite small, because General Shoosmith's appointment comes out of that figure as well. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that Washington is not a place to which dud officers are appointed. I do not think that anyone would appoint a dud officer to a place where he spends a great many dollars.
Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson), have talked about the size of headquarters and have said what a pity it is that the number of officers required has gone up. It certainly is a pity, but the Supreme Allied Command Atlantic, with which the right hon. Member for Easington had something to do, could not have been set up without British participation.
We now have a Command in the Mediterranean and, therefore, additional officers were bound to be required there. The question has been raised, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries, as to what control we have over the size of headquarters and over international expenditure in these matters. The answer is that we have quite a lot. There is a Military Budget Committee which examines all the budgets of these headquarters, and there is a Military Complements Committee of the Standing Group which examines all the headquarters establishments.
We are represented on both these committees, as are the other members of N.A.T.O., and a great many people besides ourselves are economy minded. When these headquarters are set up there is always a considerable battle to try to keep them as small as possible. It is not by any means always a losing battle, and a great many items of expenditure have been cut out.
It is clearly to our interest to see that these headquarters are not bloated and to see that the expenditure on them is 117 kept as low as possible. We have people in the Ministry of Defence whose job it is constantly to watch these things, to go round and examine how the money is being spent, and to insist where they can on economy.
The right hon. Member for Easington made great play with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's dislike of the word "infrastructure," but it is clamped upon us now and I am afraid we shall never get away from it. I think it barbarous. However, it is accepted internationally—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to say which word the Prime Minister would have substituted for "infrastructure"?
§ Mr. Birch
On the question of infrastructure, that, again, is controlled internationally. There is a committee of N.A.T.O., on which the Ministry of Defence is represented, whose job it is to watch the carrying out of the work and to see that it is honestly and correctly done and that money is not wasted. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the total size of the infrastructure programme is approved by the Defence Ministers of all the participating countries. In fact, there was an interesting debate on it between the Ministers in Paris in December last.
People ask how we are getting on with infra-structure. I think its progress is quite good. Nearly 100 airfields have been approved, and a great many are already in use. A lot of communications have been set up of which, again, a great many are in use. The work is going forward reasonably well. We believe that what has been authorised is all essential. We have been careful to point out what is not essential, and we also believe that so 118 far as the work has proceeded it has been reasonably well carried out. We do our best to see that money is not wasted, and we watch the matter very carefully.
§ Mr. Shinwell
There is one item which requires further elucidation. The hon. Gentleman referred to the appointment of Major-General Shoosmith to the staff of General Mark Clark, in Korea.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Yes, in Tokyo, but obviously with the purpose of assisting in the Korean affair. Item A.4, Special Missions and Services, costs £11,000. As I understood him, the hon. Gentleman said that this £11,000 represented expenditure incurred by General Shoosmith and some small items in addition. But General Shoosmith's salary, I believe, is paid by the War Office. He receives the normal salary of a major-general. That is not included in the £11,000.
How is the £11,000 made up? It cannot be attributed entirely to air and sea passages for General Shoosmith, unless, of course, he has been travelling round the world several times since his appointment. His salary is not included; it costs £11,000; it is attributable primarily to General Shoosmith, with some small items added. I think this requires further explanation. Does the hon. Gentleman really know anything about it?
§ Mr. Shinwell
On a point of order. Item B.2 reads:Pay and allowances of British personnel appointed to Headquarters, Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic and additional provision required for emoluments of the British Element of S.H.A.P.E. and its Subordinate Commands.One of the subordinate commands is, of course, the Mediterranean Command.
If the right hon. Gentleman will look at Item B.1 he will see that it sets out:Salaries, etc. of British Elements of North Atlantic Treaty Military Agencies, etc. (other than Command Headquarters).
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
On a point of order. The Minister specifically mentioned the appointment of Lord Mountbatten in his speech, and I suggest that we are entitled to have the figures when we are passing this Estimate.
§ Mr. Birch
Presumably, in the Navy Estimates. It certainly does not come in this Vote.
The right hon. Gentleman asked for more details about this item of £11,000. The additional expenditure for the British Joint Services Mission to Washington is made up as follows. There is a liaison officer between the British and American staff who is a group captain, an additional signals liaison officer who is a civilian, a cataloguing officer who is a major, the head of the cypher office who is a flight lieutenant and there are certain mission allowances, passages, and so on, making a total of £8.000. So the additional expenditure for Washington is £8,000.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I must say that I am very tempted to ask my hon. Friends to go into the Lobby against this Estimate. There is a shocking state of affairs here. I do not withdraw a single word that I have said in the past or today about the need for essential defence measures, but I think that we are going beyond what is necessary in having a cataloguing officer seconded to the Joint Services Mission at Washington and a signals officer and all the rest. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman cannot justify it.
I am sorry that the Minister of Defence is not available in this Chamber so that we could interrogate him on matters of this sort. I am sure that if I had been standing at the Government Dispatch 120 Box and had been submitting this Supplementary Estimate the Parliamentary Secretary would have been a bit perky; in fact, even worse than perky, as he sometimes can be.
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
If the right hon. Gentleman objects to the appointment of a signals officer and a cypher officer, how can he and his hon. Friends insist that there should be direct communication with this country, with the Foreign Office and the Service Departments, and so on? Surely the Mission must have their own cypher officer.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am surprised at the hon. Member posing that question. He must know that we have the whole of the Embassy staff at Washington closely associated with the Pentagon, and presumably there is there all the staff that is necessary for purposes of this kind. I am not saying that we should starve the Mission of essential personnel. They have various tasks that they must fulfil, but this seems to me to be going a bit too far. We cannot do anything about it now. That is regrettable. But I ask the Committee to take note of an expenditure which appears to me to be quite unnecessary and irrelevant to the purpose of defence.
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not really want to challenge the Ruling, Mr. Hopkin Morris, but it seems to me that the decisions which you have given circumscribes our discussions this evening and, as was pointed out, will circumscribe certain future discussions. The explanation given on the Supplementary Estimate says that there is:Provision for the first time for the emoluments of British personnel appointed to the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander, Atlantic, and to various military Agencies of the Standing Group.If, for the first time, we are being asked to meet the cost of the appointment of the Supreme Commander, Atlantic, it is in order to discuss the appointment itself and the machinery that is being set up. If that is not possible, the House of Commons has lost a considerable control over matters of which it should be taking notice.
It is not the first time that that subject has been discussed. As I pointed out, the reason it is excluded is that on page 3 of the 121 Supplementary Estimate, under B 1, it is stated that the expenditure relates to matters "other than Command Headquarters."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1953, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Defence; expenses in connection with International Defence Organisations including contributions and a contribution towards certain expenses incurred in the United Kingdom by the Government of the United States of America.
§ CLASS VI
§ VOTE 8. MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,975,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1953, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including grants, grants in aid and expenses in respect of agricultural education and research; services in connection with livestock; land settlement; land drainage; purchase, adaptation, development and management of land; agricultural credits and marketing; the guarantee of a minimum price for home-produced wool; the prevention of food infestation; agricultural training and settlement schemes; fishery organisation, research and development: and sundry other services.