HC Deb 08 April 1971 vol 815 cc658-9
11. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he intends to issue a White Paper on the findings to date of the Committee on Headquarters under the Chairmanship of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry of Defence; and what subject the Committee is now examining.

Lord Balniel

The main recommendations so far made by the Committee have already been set out in the Statements on the Defence Estimates 1970 and 1971. The Committee is continuing its activities over a wide range of areas, including, in particular, the management methods and techniques used at Headquarters and the relationships between the Ministry of Defence and the Command Headquarters.

Mr. Digby

Will the recommendations of the Committee effect a saving of civilian manpower in the command structure? Was the Committee consulted over the new procurement plans for the Ministry of Defence, and particularly the advice of the staff divisions, who are apt to change their views about the requirements for a particular weapon?

Lord Balniel

My hon. Friend will know that major changes have already been made in the command structure of the Navy and the Royal Air Force, and next year Army Strategic Command—Southern, Western and Northern Command—will be replaced by a single command at Wilton. This will result in improved efficiency and a saving of about 250 military personnel and 1,000 civilian personnel.

Turning to the changes about procurement which were announced yesterday, Mr. Rayner's Committee did not technically fall within the remit of the headquarters organisation Committee, but Mr. Rayner had a very full consultation with the members who participate in that Committee. It will, I believe, achieve a major improvement in the procurement of all weapon systems within the Ministry of Defence.

Mr. John Morris

While, obviously, we shall want to debate yesterday's White Paper later, may I ask how far the finding announced yesterday by the Government is in accordance with any finding of the P.U.S. Committee?

Lord Balniel

There will be a debate on the transfer of functions Order in Council in due course, when the matter can be debated at length. It was not the purpose of the previous Administration to wind up the Ministry of Aviation Supply. This was declared policy of Her Majesty's Government, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is welcomed by the Ministry of Defence as being a major reform in the procurement of all weapons systems.