HC Deb 07 July 1958 vol 591 cc27-8
45. Mr. Wigg

asked the Prime Minister whether he will publish a White Paper setting out the proposals of Her Majesty's Government for the reorganisation of the defence services.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend will consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

Mr. Wigg

Would the right hon. Gentleman call the attention of the Prime Minister to the admirable precedent set by the Labour Government in 1946 when a White Paper was published, the principles were then debated and then, after the Government had had further time for consideration, there was a further debate when legislation was introduced? Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that stories about the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence are being leaked by Ministers to every journalist in the Lobby? Is it not time that we had an authoritative statement so that the House and the country may know where we stand?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Member's question to me was related to the medium by which this decision should be conveyed to the House and to the world, and I have told him that his valuable suggestion, for which he now quotes a precedent, will have full consideration by my right hon. Friend. Beyond that, I will not accept the full course which he mentioned in the case of the Labour Government. There is no certainty that all these steps would be necessary. What is important is to assure that people know what is going to happen.

Mr. G. Brown

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether this White Paper, if it is issued, will be preceded by a statement by either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence to the House? Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication whether we can expect a statement to be made this side of the Recess?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I can only give the answer which I gave to the original Question. I will convey to my right hon. Friend the observations of the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the first part of the supplementary question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) is the subject of a Question on the Order Paper from me to the Prime Minister for answer tomorrow?

Mr. Brown

I have a Question down for tomorrow, too.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that we should not, therefore, expect a reply to that question today? If legislation should be in contemplation affecting the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence, may I ask whether there is likely to be any consultation with the Leaders of the Opposition, if there has yet been no consultation?

Mr. Butler

In answer to the first part of that supplementary question, I was aware of the Questions on the Order Paper for tomorrow, and I thought that we would take one course at a time, and so we shall be able to take, another course tomorrow in which the right hon. Gentleman can join. I have no further observations to make, except that it would be a pity to jump to conclusions that the courses suggested by the right hon. Gentleman in this connection, namely, legislation and so forth, are necessary in this case.