HC Deb 07 March 1957 vol 566 cc531-3
46. Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

asked the Prime Minister whether he will take action so as to change the style and title of the Minister of Defence to "Secretary of State for Defence", of the Secretary of State for War to "Minister for War", and of the Secretary of State for Air to "Minister for Air".

The Prime Minister

These are matters in which tradition must be considered, as well as logic; and I doubt whether it would be wise to make the changes which my hon. Friend suggests, except as part of a comprehensive reorganisation of Ministerial responsibilities for defence, which would certainly require legislation.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

Whilst this question is not intended to reflect on any of the present holders of office, does not my right hon. Friend think that the proposed change represents the real relative importance of the Minister's concerned at the present time?

The Prime Minister

Well, Sir, I think that when I discussed this at an earlier stage I tried to explain that our approach to this problem was first to get the White Paper, the Defence Estimates for this year, the longer-term picture of the future of defence, and to give the necessary authority to the Minister of Defence, so far as it was possible to do so without legislation. It might well be that at the end of a review it would be necessary to have legislation, in which case all these questions would be very relevant and very helpful.

Mr. Shinwell

Will not the Prime Minister agree that it is anomalous that persons occupying the exalted positions of Secretaries of State and having those exalted titles should be under the supervision of a Minister who does not occupy that exalted position? At the same time, if he does consider this matter, would he also consider what is undoubtedly an anachronism, namely, describing the head of the War Office, the military chief of the War Office, as Chief of the Imperial General Staff? There is now no such thing.

The Prime Minister

Oh, yes, I can see that, but that would really be a question of legislation, when all these titles would be considered. For instance, I think that it is, in a sense, an anachronism, or a survival, that the Secretary of State for War is given that title. If we were to reorganise that, we might have a Minister of Army, Navy and Air Force.

Mr. M. Stewart

Does the Prime Minister recollect that the Secretary of State for War is entitled, I think, to a salute of seventeen guns? Can he provide Ministers of Defence with an appropriate number?

The Prime Minister

I will see whether protocol would allow them twenty-one guns.

Mr. H. Morrison

Will the Prime Minister inquire whether the change of Ministers' designations does require legislation? I may be wrong, but I rather fancy that it can be done by Order. Further, does he not think that there is something in the idea that it is logical and sensible that the title of the chief of the Service Ministers, namely, the Minister of Defence, should be rather more impressive than those of the other Service Ministers?

The Prime Minister

I think that it would require legislation, because if we were to do this thing as a whole it would be necessary to make Amendments to the Act which set up the Ministry of Defence. What I tried to do was to take what action was necessary for practical purposes, and to leave over the question of legislation until we had got a little further.