HC Deb 30 November 1964 vol 703 cc25-6
34. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Defence in what way he has now widened the responsibilities of the three Service Ministers on an inter-Service basis.

Mr. Healey

As the Prime Minister stated in answer to a similar Question from the hon. Member on 10th November, the Minister of Defence for the Army also acts as Deputy Secretary of State and has a particular responsibility in the field of defence questions affecting the alliance as a whole. The Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy takes special interest and concern in personnel and logistics problems, and the Minister of Defence for the Royal Air Force co-ordinates defence budgets and the field of defence research, development and production. Each Minister retains as his prime function the management of his separate Service.

Mr. Digby

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, since the Prime Minister made that statement, there have been fresh reports in the Press that further changes were being made? Will the right hon. Gentleman deny them now?

Mr. Healey

I am not responsible for any reports in the Press. On the other hand, I can repeat what I said earlier—that I do not regard the present reorganisation of the central staffs of the Defence Department as being final, and no doubt changes will be made from time to time.

Sir Maitland

Is there any procedure to make one Minister responsible for the housing arrangements of all the Services? If so, which Minister?

Mr. Healey

No, Sir. I specifically used in my Answer the phrase "interest and concern" rather than the word "responsibilities" in referring to the rôle of my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy and his relationship to personnel and logistics, for it is not possible to establish Ministerial responsibility in a certain aspect until the official organisation below him has been arranged to fit such a responsibility. But, of course, it is my hon. Friend who, at the Department, takes a particular interest and concern in this aspect of the Services.

Commander Courtney

Is it the interest and concern of the Minister that, although there is a 53 per cent. re-engagement rate in the Navy, there is still insufficient accommodation for married couples?

Mr. Healey

The Government are conscious of the fact that the provision of adequate married quarters is one of the keys to an adequate recruiting and re-engagement rate.