HL Deb 09 November 1955 vol 194 cc396-449

2.55 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by the Earl of Swinton: That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the Organisation of the Service Departments and the Fighting Services.


My Lords, I should like to echo the thanks which several speakers in yesterday's debate expressed to my noble friend Lord Swinton for initiating this debate. Particularly would I like to add my word of support to what was said by my noble friend Lord Hore-Belisha as regards the work which Lord Swinton did for the Royal Air Force in the years before the war. My noble friend Lord Hore-Belisha was in the Cabinet; I was junior Minister at the Air Ministry in 1938 and 1939, and I can say with certain knowledge that no political Minister is owed more by the nation for getting going the preparations for war of the Royal Air Force than is my noble friend Lord Swinton.

It seems to me that the debate yesterday gave us general agreement on three propositions. The first is that the new situation caused by the impact of the development of nuclear weapons means a measure of central control of the three Services to a greater degree than hitherto. These ranged in yesterday's debate from an advocacy of a single Service down to the more limited expression of my noble friend Lord Chatfield, who said [col. 367]: I prefer to integrate the spirit of the Services and not their bodies … The second proposition on which there was general agreement is that integration is required not only in the higher direction of our defence organisation but at all levels right down through the Services.

The third general proposition is that old Service jealousies, prejudices and rivalries should go. Let us face it: those in your Lordships' House who have been concerned in the past with the Services could not put their hands on their heart and say that during the last fifteen years they have not, on occasions, been guilty perhaps of prejudice, and sometimes, maybe, of overstatement. But these rivalries and prejudices are consumed in the heat of urgency for this country, in this atomic war age, to be able to play her part as a unit in the Commonwealth and in N.A.T.O. As my noble friend Lord Jeffreys said so eloquently, the three Services are not three separate organisations, but comrades in arms. It is true that the past traditions, history and Service loyalties cannot be left out of account; nor should they be. As it seems to me, they form the fount of pride and morale of our fighting men. But these loyalties must help and not hinder the evolution about which the noble Marquess the Leader of the House spoke yesterday.

If one travels along that road of evolution and of ever-closer integration, it would seem to me that inevitably, eventually, one is led to the conclusion of one single Service: indeed, the Government themselves in their White Paper (Cmd. 6923) do not dispute that possible eventual outcome, for they say: One method would be to amalgamate the three Services completely, and to place them under a single Minister of the Crown … His Majesty's Government do not wholly reject this conception: it may be that at some stage in the future amalgamation might be found desirable. Whether that final result is accepted or not, the new conception in operation, in supply and in manning of the guided missile and atomic warfare, forces all of us to work in every direction towards closer integration. Words of intention, I submit, are not enough. All up and down the chain of responsibility, both staff and executive, we must try to put integration into practical form. I would submit to your Lordships for a few moments some reflections on how we might put this integration into practical form.

First, the new position of the Minister of Defence would seem inevitably to lead to one Defence Budget. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, spoke upon that matter yesterday, If the Minister of Defence is responsible for the allocation of resources, surely so far as weapons, supply and manpower needs are concerned, these should be prepared and presented to Parliament as a whole. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Swinton said, that he did not want to clutter up the Minister of Defence with a great many administrative responsibilities. Rather, he wanted to give the Minister full power over a few important items. The administrative task of feeding, housing and clothing would remain with the individual Service Departments, but the division of resources for research, weapons and fighting men, if it is a ministerial responsibility resting with the Minister of Defence—as I gather that it is to be in the future under these new arrangements—should be by his authority, presented and justified by hint to Parliament.

I am aware that the changed status of the Service Ministers would have an immediate effect upon their position, but I wonder whether it is such a big stumbling block as some Members of your Lordships' House may think. In fact, to-day the Air Council, the Army Council and the Board of Admiralty do not discuss operations at all. They do not discuss the development of strategic planning; nor do they discuss day-to-day operations. Those are divorced from the Board of Admiralty, from the Air Council and from the Army Council and are reserved for the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Minister of Defence. It may mean some alteration in the titles of these Ministers—that I do not know—but it seems to me to be a comparatively small point if we concede the much more important point that the Minister of Defence should present to Parliament that for which he is directly responsible. We should not let administrative difficulties and obstacles, or questions of status and position, in any way prevent an improved set-up in defence. Let the improved set-up be put forward, including the single Defence Budget, and then the rest may fit into it.

Coming down this line of responsibility, and looking still at the possibilities of integration, we find the training for Joint Staff planning, first of all, in the Imperial Defence College. Below that we have the Joint Staff College. We have the interchange of officers at the individual Service Staff Colleges. But I would ask your Lordships whether that is really enough. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House said yesterday, when speaking of the Joint Staff College, that these are picked men. In staff work, the new integration must not be limited to "picked men." It is for consideration whether it is wise to perpetuate the individual Service Staff Colleges, whether, indeed, the individual Service Staff Colleges do not teach a limited staff outlook which it may not be wise for individual Service officers to absorb so early in their staff training. There is the question whether the new warfare does not call for a graded formation of war colleges, right from the time when an officer first learns staff work up to the time when he qualifies for the Imperial Defence College. There might well be a series of graded war colleges common to the three Services, in the same way as my noble friend who moved this Motion envisaged a common Cadet College.

Again, integration must be in the executive as well as in the stair field. Knowledge of men, as well as of methods and an understanding of one's fellow-men is essential if inter-Service comradeship is to exist to the greatest possible degree. I should like to see every officer of twenty years' service—which means. approximately, a man of forty years of age— have at least six years of his twenty years' service on two attachments to the sister Services. I believe that, by sonic means such as that, we should get a better understanding by the ordinary executive officer, and not only the staff officer, of what the other two Services are doing, as well as a comradeship and friendship which would exist within the life of those officers. I must say that I reject the conception of my noble friend Lord Hore-Belisha, that integration is an ideal and that a chosen few can graduate into this integration class. I think the spirit of integration is something which must he possessed by all officers.

Surely, in the field of guided atomic weapons we could take a big step forward towards the eventual single Service. Scientifically trained and qualified personnel for this new "push-button" warfare will be required by the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. There is going to be a shortage of these men, and competition for them. But the basic principle of nuclear weapons is the same, whether they be used for the Army, the Navy or the Air Force. The application is different, but the basic principle is the same. I believe that in order to stop this potential competition for the limited and inadequate number of scientists, we might well consider forming now a corps of scientific experts common to the three Services, and thus start in a small way towards the eventual aim of a single Service.

On the question of general personnel, National Service will be got rid of only when we have enough Regular enlistment—that is axiomatic. But there will never be sufficient Regular enlistment until Service life is made comparable in pay and conditions with civil life. The history of Service pay and conditions since the war is a sorry one. There are many I can see on your Lordships' Benches who have joined in debates urging for higher pay for the Services since 1946–47. Higher pay has been conceded, but it is a classic case of "too little and too late." We are all glad to know that proposals have been brought forward for assisting the education of the children of officers and other ranks, for in the past they have been at a great disadvantage compared with the rest of the civilian population.

If your Lordships look at Hansard you will see that many years ago many of your Lordships, on both sides of the House, urged the provision of assistance of that kind, and one cannot but regret that it is only in the autumn of 1955 that this scheme, which was urged upon successive Governments, has been introduced. Let us rejoice that it has been introduced, but our rejoicing must be tinged with regret that it has been delayed so long, when it need not have been. It would be interesting to be told the cost to-day, compared with what it would have cost the nation six or seven years ago, to raise the rates of pay so that civilian industry was chasing the Services for men instead of the Services always having to chase civil industry. It would be interesting to see how the cost of doing this six years ago compares with what we have spent on National Service men through the past six years. I can only trust that the new conditions of pay and allowances which are envisaged will, in the future, make Service life really and truly a rival in attraction to civil life, which it has never been since the war.

I should like now to say one word on an old controversy which must be met and faced along the road of integration, and that is the old controversy of a Coastal Command. We do not wish to resuscitate the controversy in its old form but I believe that at some time or other we should abolish the Fleet Air Arm, as such, with its wasteful duplication of training aerodromes, of supply and organisation. I should like to see a Sea-Air Command formed to take over the tasks which are performed by carrier-borne aircraft and by Coastal Command. As the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said yesterday, I should be delighted to see an Admiral put in command of that particular formation.

Finally, on the question of supply, I am not at all clear from the statement made in another place by the Prime Minister on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, where the Minister of Defence stands in relation to the Minister of Supply in connection with the Minister of Defence's new authority. What I fear is that the present costly and inefficient system of separation between the customer and the maker will be perpetuated in respect of aircraft. The Ministry of Supply are interposed between the aircraft manufacturer and the Royal Air Force, which knows its own operational requirements; and as a result of this needless step there are delays and errors. The technicians of the Ministry of Supply, through whom all requirements of the Air Ministry have to pass, are splendid men but they are not technicians equal to those in industry. They are not paid as those in industry are.

If your Lordships will look at recent transfers from Government service to industry, you will see that the best men in Government service are being lured into industry by the far greater rewards in industry. What happens is that the customer, the Air Ministry, is forced to work through the Ministry of Supply. Indeed, officers of the Air Ministry are only allowed, I believe, on sufferance and with the permission of the Ministry of Supply, to visit aircraft manufacturing firms. The requirements of the Air Ministry have to filter through this Ministry of Supply. In the case of one swept-back wing bomber, one of the directors of an aircraft manufacturing firm told me that no fewer than 700 modifications had poured out of the Ministry of Supply to his firm and were definitely holding up production. Many of the modifications were needless and appeared to the maker completely purposeless.

I believe that we should hand back the question of aircraft supply to the Air Ministry, and that the Ministry of Supply should continue to co-ordinate research and supply common needs. By all means let them supply the bedsteads and blankets to all three Services, but do not let their technicians hold up the vital production of our combat aircraft, as happens at the present time. It is on that particular point that I hope the Minister who replies will be able to tell me, without arguing the merits or demerits of the Ministry of Supply, whether in fact the present position, which I submit to your Lordships is most unsatisfactory. is to continue as at present or not. I conclude with this comment. I have tried to put before your Lordships in, I hope, not too long a form, some practical thoughts as to how we can travel along this road of integration, because along that road we shall travel till we reach the end. What that end may be is a matter of individual opinion; but marching we are. If this debate helps forward, along that road of integration, closer understanding, whatever the final end of that road may be, I submit to your Lordships that it can have done nothing but good.

3.16 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself in almost complete agreement with my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye who has just sat down. That will lead me not to try to cover again the points which he has made so well, but to see whether I can lend some further arguments—and I believe there are some—to reinforce what was said by him and also by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, when he opened this valuable debate yesterday. I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, in what he said about the need for proper emoluments and pay for the Regular serviceman. I agree with him entirely, but I think we shall have to watch that matter so closely that we may well have to come back to it at a later stage in this House. I would say only one thing before seeing the exact details of the proposal, and that is that I hope we can be assured in due course that the educational allowances which are now being proposed for Service officers bear a proper comparison with the educational allowances already in force for members of the Foreign Service, because the two things are comparable.

Yesterday, my noble Leader, Lord Salisbury, gave us some reasons, and indeed very good reasons, why everything could not be done at once. None the less, I hope that at the conclusion of this debate the message will go out that this House, in all quarters (as I believe), would like to see these steps towards the building up of a strong and central organisation for defence taken at the earliest possible moment, and not at the last possible moment, when they must take place in order to avoid disaster.

It is perfectly true, as we all know, that this defence organisation is a matter of evolution, and that that evolution has been going on for most of our lifetimes. But it is also true that there are certain major turning points in the gradual process of evolution. Many of us can recognise where those turning points have been. It is true to say, I think, that for the Army the Cardwell reforms, the Esher reforms and the Haldane reforms were major turning points, and at that moment, fortunately for this country, there were Ministers in office who were strong enough to take a line of their own and did not hesitate to use the surgeon's knife where is was necessary for the health of the patient, as indeed it was for the Victorian Army. Now, we have other forces at work, bringing us sharply up to the turning point on this road—things like the invention of air- craft, which we have almost forgotten and take for granted; the invention of the different types of bombs, and now the thermo-nuclear bomb, all of which have altered the nature of war and made it, as I ventured to say the other day, impossible to divide war into different compartments to suit the convenience of the three Services.

We come to the point of research—our scientific effort, which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, mentioned. That cannot, by any bound of possibility, be fitted into the existing framework of the three Services. It is, and always has been, an inter-Service matter and as such it must be treated. Perhaps not all noble Lords will agree that the time is rapidly coming when, just as every member of each Service is entitled to drive a motor car, if that is the right thing for him to do, so we shall get to a stage where it will not be thought wrong by the Royal Air Force if other people pilot aircraft. We must think of the function of the aircraft and not think of it the other way, asking what right anybody has to go into an aircraft. I put that out with some boldness, but, none the less, I so think.

In the last two wars we had pressure to reach a solution. It is a pressure, because during war solutions have to be reached to a timetable, and no time can be taken up with discussions; so decisions for better or worse have to be reached. It is clear to me that we are at one of those major turning points, and it will do the country and our defence no good if we fail to recognise this turning point as such. It is equally true to say that in 1946, when the White Paper called Central Organisation for Defence was produced (it is what most of us have had in our hands when speaking in the debate), we were not facing a major turning point. So far as I can recollect, we were still at a stage when we were toying with the idea of going back to 1939 or to some other time—in other words, thinking of going back to a conventional type of peace, where a peace-time Administration could do all that was necessary. Your Lordships will remember that it was not until 1947, when Mr. Molotov announced that nobody behind the Iron Curtain was going to benefit from Marshall Aid, that we realised that we were not going back to a conventional type of peace, and that in fact we were going to have something which turned out to be the cold war.

If your Lordships will read this 1946 White Paper carefully you will find that it discusses not only the immediate task of the Minister of Defence, but, also in paragraph 29, what. is called "Administrative Questions of Common Interest to the Three Services." It was perhaps a pity the word "administrative" was used and that it was limited to centralisation of supply and medical services, education and matters like that. All the same, the germ was there. What is surprising, to my mind, is that we have gone on so long with that White Paper; that it has more or less stood up to events, and that we have not required a major change before now. I think my noble friend Lord Hore-Belisha talked about a sudden change—or what he thought was a sudden change—in ministerial views. But is it so very sudden, after nine years' experience of the White Paper? I wonder. At any rate, the fact remains that the pressure of events has not been strong enough to force this issue and this debate at an earlier stage. I think it would be true to say that during those nine years the Ministry of Defence has been a continuing influence for the increase of inter-Service co-operation, even though at moments the existence of the Ministry has forced each Service, on some particular issue, to fight its corner rather harder than it might have done if it had had only the Treasury to contend with.

But I think there are one or two other reasons why this problem has not arisen a little earlier, and it is perhaps worth while to look at them for a moment. Possibly when some people were talking or this trouble they were thinking of the war years, when Sir Winston Churchill combined the two offices of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, and were a little frightened by the grip that the holder of one of those offices, leave alone two, might have on the Government set-up in peace time. I do not know. I think people wondered whether, if we had a Minister of Defence, he could effectively be anybody other than the Prime Minister himself. But I wonder whether that is a real obstacle to any of the proposals which my noble friend Lord Swinton has put forward. Because when a crisis comes and defence is the paramount matter to be considered in our national affairs, surely the Prime Minister would have to take a hold, as he would have to take a hold in regard to unemployment, or the flight from the pound, or anything else which at that moment was the paramount matter for settlement. Equally the converse is true—namely, that when defence is not a matter which should occupy the major thought of the Prime Minister, then it can safely be left to a senior Minister—not to a combination of three Service chiefs or a Minister of Defence without powers, but to someone who has, to use language familiar in this House, not only the constitution but also the powers to deal will the situation.

There are one or two other reasons which I do not think quite so important. The various operations which have had to be undertaken during the cold war, even the Korean War, have not provided any test for our defence organisation in this country. It has been possible to take it in our stride or, alternatively, in the N.A.T.O. stride. When one is talking of N.A.T.O., another matter which I think has obscured the difficulties inherent in the present set-up is the personal contribution which my noble fiend Lord Ismay has made from many directions to oil the wheels, not only during the time when he occupied much the sane position, though not in name, as Sir William Dickson is going to occupy, but ever since he has given his time and care to making various machines, including our own, work. It is quite true that the more we expand the duties and the powers of a Minister of Defence, the more important will be the personality of that Minister. There is no doubt that it is a job for the best person this country can provide. But equally it is true, I am sure, that however much of a superman we may find to put into this job, he will lot be able to do any good unless he the powers—powers of quite a different type from those a Minister of Defence has ever had, except during the period when Sir Winston Churchill held that post.

I am sure that all these are arguments in reinforcement of what has been said for a great expansion of the powers of the Minister of Defence and an expansion to the functions which are laid down in the 1946 White Paper. The expansions will have to be in three directions: they will have to be in the direction of operational control, of supply and of finance, because I am sure that a great deal of the power of the Minister of Defence is stultified by the present arrangement whereby, for a greater part of the year, inter-Service argument goes on between the Services and the Treasury over matters which, in the last resort, are bound to need settlement by the Minister of Defence and his organisation before those matters go to the Cabinet, where no doubt they can be finally settled, as those who have been in the Cabinet will know.

Those responsible will know the need for a proper staff to help the Minister exercise those powers. That is why I would join in the welcome given to Sir William Dickson and would wish him all success in his new appointment. At the same time I do not forget the work that General Brownjohn has done, bearing in mind that the job he now holds, and has held with such distinction, is not at all the same job as that which Sir William Dickson is being called to do. If it is thought to be the same job, a great deal of disaster and waste of time will occur. I go even further. As I said on Lord Nathan's Motion the other day, unless the Minister of Defence is granted extended powers, I do not think any effective solution will ever be obtained to the problems of Home Defence which we ventilated here the other day. I just cannot see it happening. Nor do I think we shall have anything but difficulties in trying to produce staff and thought and representation of the right calibre to deal with N.A.T.O. and Western Union problems, which every day are making more and more of a demand on our highly placed staff officers and Ministers. It is just not going to work.

All of us are inclined to think that we can draw a line between peace and war, and that when what we think of as war comes, we can go through the old-fashioned process of mobilisation. That is gone for ever; there will be no time to mobilise. Nothing could be more fatal than to have, in peace time, a set-up for the Ministry of Defence which will need immediate and fundamental, alteration the moment what we think of as war starts. I am going to deal only shortly with the difficulties, for they have already been dealt with in this debate and will again be dealt with presently. It would be a very major step seriously to alter the powers of the present Service Ministers, let alone to call them by any differ- ent names, if that turns out to be necessary. The more I think of the problem, the more I feel that the functions of the Service Ministers and of the Minister of Defence are two things which are very largely separate. Once each Service has been given its task, whatever that may be, given its money, its equipment and its manpower, it will still be a full-time job for any Service Minister who is any good to see that his Service is in good heart, that the men are there and are properly paid, that the equipment works, and that the Service will make the contribution to defence which is asked of it. How can it be thought that that is not a worth while job for any Minister? I am quite sure that it is.

My last words will be on this question of tradition and also on the misuse of it. Tradition is a matter which, as so many of us know, will bear a great deal of thinking about. It has been grossly misused, particularly between the wars, to justify inertia of various kinds; and I have noticed from time to time that the Treasury and people of that kind who control money invariably come in as the strongest traditionalists when adherence to tradition will mean not spending any money. But tradition is not the same thing as remaining where you were; it is a continuing thing, and I believe that when people of our age talk of tradition we often have subconsciously in our mind the picture of what was right in our time and what we should think if we were still in the Services. In these days, when conditions have changed so much since we were in the Services, that is a very misleading practice. One has to remember that the younger officers and other ranks have been brought up over the last ten years in a totally different atmosphere from that which most of us knew. Their views of the other Services and their knowledge of the people in them are quite different from ours, and I should be very surprised if they looked with horror upon these gradual changes, once it could be made plain to them that those changes were going to improve the efficiency of their Services and their power to do their job. I feel very strongly upon that matter, and I hope that, when we are praying in aid tradition, we shall think at least twice before we argue that that is a reason for not doing certain things which have been advocated in this House this afternoon.

My final point relates to combined education. Whether or not the time is ripe to go for a single cadet college (and I suspect that is much more a question of building than anything else), there seems no such argument against having a higher common factor of education among the three Services. Yet it may not be known to many of your Lordships that there is a certain higher common factor already in the Certificate A for cadets in the schools, which has long been accepted by the three Services as a suitable higher common factor. Whether or not we seek at the moment to cram Dartmouth into Sandhurst, or Cranwell into Dartmouth, seems to be only a minor consideration and not one which should stop those concerned from seeing whether we could not immediately get a higher common factor into the training of the young officers in each of the three Services. I do not believe that would be at all difficult. One could, of course, quickly get down to details on such a subject; but details will be solved all the more quickly if those concerned can feel that public opinion, and no doubt the opinion of this House, is behind those efforts, and that if those efforts are conscientiously made they will be supported from the right quarters.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am in much agreement with the general trend of this debate, but I cannot agree with some of the suggestions which have been put forward. The main theme has been closer co-operation between the three Services. I rather think that the noble Earl who moved this Motion would like to go further and seek to complete their integration. I cannot help feeling, however, that many of your Lordships would not like to go quite so far as that, certainly at the present time or even, perhaps, in future. On the other hand, I am all in favour of doing anything we can to improve on co-operation. It is true that something on the lines of the suggested Combined Services College for young officers at the start of their career is now in being in Canada and, I believe, is operating with a certain degree of success; but we must remember that the numbers involved there are far less than would be involved in this country, and I cannot help feeling that a Combined Services College here would be a very unwieldy affair.

Again, in these days a young officer has to learn a mass of scientific matter in order to be a success in his own Service, and is hard put to absorb all that is necessary to make him a good officer. Surely for a young officer to have to be proficient in the techniques of all three Services would be asking too much of him and placing too great a. strain on the young mind. Not so very many years ago the late Lord Selborne, when First Lord of the Admiralty, introduced a combined training scheme for upper deck and engineering officers of the Royal Navy, and I myself was trained under that scheme. The scheme really "fell down" because it was found that only a small percentage of young officers were able to absorb all that was required of them in the rapidly advancing engineering technique, combined with upper deck duties in the Royal Navy.

The noble Marquess the Leader of the House yesterday polluted out that a Joint Services Staff College already existed for the combined training of young officers of all three Services with an average age, at present, as low as thirty-two. I suggest that it is far better to keep to this system of a combined training of a limited number of picked young officers in the middle stage of their career rather than at the commencement of their training. A great variety of opinion is expressed in various quarters as to the perfect Defence Organisation, and no doubt great improvements can be made; but I entirely support the views of the Leader of the House that tradition should not be under-estimated in fashioning our new Defence Organisation. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, suggested, tradition may have been misused in the past in certain directions, but it is still a vital factor and we must take very careful thought upon it.

In the long run, in the new warfare unfolding before us, our defence depends not only on the man behind the gun but on the man behind the press-button, and I feel that the evolution of the Services should riot be pressed on too quickly; otherwise we may destroy tradition which, once lost, may never return. It has been said that an Admiral might one day command Coastal Command. I do not see any great difficulty in that direction, but if it is suggested that a General might command a squadron of Her Majesty's ships at sea, mal de mer might well intervene at a critical moment—with disastrous consequences. Again, an Admiral commanding an army in the field would, I feel sure, have his difficult moments, but I have little doubt that a Marine would rise to the occasion and carry the day with flying colours. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, has called for the abolition of the Fleet Air Arm. I think the answer to that is that the Air Force itself may one day become integrated with the Royal Navy, when guided missiles take the place of bombers. I do not want to go into that perennial argument now, but I think that may well happen.

It may be a good thing that we are moving towards a stronger central control of the three Services, but the vital question is: How strong should this control be? I believe that we must be careful not to give too much power and responsibility to the Minister of Defence, because he may well be unable to bear the great burden of responsibility that will be thrust upon him—a point which was brought out clearly by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, in his speech yesterday. It is true, of course, that in the last war such power worked admirably. But not all Ministers of Defence are supermen.

I too, cannot see the reason for the appointment of a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. If it is intended that this officer should attend the large number of international deliberations and functions that take place, surely he will be out of touch with the day-to-day work and views of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. It was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, that the Minister of Defence, already has a Chief of Staff. Are we not duplicating this post by appointing yet another representative of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, although in fact he will be designated Chairman? I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government will be able to clarify this matter. I realise that it would be wrong to judge defence problems with preconceived ideas, but, of course, it is necessary to look at this matter from a practical point of view: so often a nice tidy set-up which looks so well on paper does not work in practice. The "new look" in the Chiefs of Staff Committee may be a good one, but I cannot help feeling that success will depend entirely on the man in that particular post. To-day we may have the right man, but it may not always be so. I hope that we may receive from the Minister who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government full answers to the many queries that have been raised in this debate, and I should especially welcome clarification of the appointment of a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I feel just a little bit like a beagle in the middle of a Lincolnshire aerodrome, with most attractive hares going off in all directions. I shall do my best to discipline myself. I am also faced with another temptation; that is that as we are discussing the organisation in which I was a cog for some considerable time I am afraid that there will be a tendency for me to be reminiscent. I will try to curb myself, but I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I am a little reminiscent. I should like to start with a reminiscence. In late 1942, when I went to North Africa, I met for the first time a great American Commander in the field, General Eisenhower. I was urged to stay there, for a limited time anyway, to advise on the employment of air forces and on co-operation between the three forces, land, sea and air. I agreed that the newly-arrived forces in North Africa could well learn much from the lessons we had been taught with very great force in the Western Desert. That, in fact, was why I went to Algiers in November, 1942. When I was urged to stay behind to do that job I firmly refused—and I still think that I was right—on the basis that I felt that it was wrong to give advice without responsibility. Therefore, the noble Lord who spoke yesterday about power without responsibility will know that I am in entire agreement with him on that point.

In setting up any organisation the requirement which should, I think, always be considered first—though too often it is considered last—is to put the right men in the right places. It is probably true to say that almost any organisation can be made to work if the right men are put in it. But I think there is another requirement which is almost as important—that is, that the lines of responsibility should be as clear as possible, in practice if not in theory. I think it is generally agreed that our defence organisation in the last war worked amazingly well. Of course, we had the right men in the right place at that time. In theory the Secretaries of State and the First Lord were responsible for advising the Minister of Defence on all military matters, and through him the Cabinet; but, as has been pointed out here, in practice it was the three Chiefs of Staff in Committee who advised the Minister and the Cabinet on all matters of strategy and tactics. Of course it was fortunate that the Minister happened to be the Prime Minister as well. It was a simple chain of responsibility which worked, and worked well. Reference has been made to Lord Ismay, and it is not minimising the wonderful work which he did to emphasise that he was Staff Officer to the Minister; he was not in any way responsible for the advice given or the decisions taken. He served as a link, as an interpreter, or, if one may put it that way with all respect, as a buffer between the Chiefs of Staff and the Minister of Defence. And in that capacity he was, I think, one of the most outstanding examples of what the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House referred to yesterday—the importance of personality. There was a case in which personality just made things work.

After the end of the war, a period of which I have personal inside information, the fact that the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister were no longer one and the same made, quite frankly, very little difference, since the then Prime Minister took a very close personal interest in all the work of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I am a little puzzled—as I am about a great many of the proposals now made—over the argument about the powers of the Minister of Defence. As I see it, the Minister of Defence at present has just as much power as he likes to take and the Prime Minister likes to allow him. I am certain that during the period when I was with the Chiefs of Staff the then Minister of Defence (unfortunately he is not here now) had far more power in his hands than he actually used. That may have been right I am not criticising it; but he certainly had the power. As I see it, he still has, and I am not sure why we have to organise fresh arrangements to give him power.

There are some people who deride the practice of working by committees. They say that it is a British weakness, and leads only to compromises. Well, what is wrong with compromises? My own feeling is that the sound answer to almost every problem, except the most simple, is a compromise—and it is a compromise whether it is made, by a committee or by a single superman. A compromise may be illogical, but it is human, and I have the gravest suspicion of pure logic used as a means of controlling and directing human affairs. Karl Marx produced it as a theory, and Adolf Hitler tried it as practice; and it was an unhealthy one. In my view, we British owe many of our successes to our ability to compromise, and I would add that I think that we as a nation have a unique genius for—I will not say committee work, but for teamwork, which in fact is the same thing, After all, it is on that that our whole system is based: the Cabinet itself, the Chiefs of Staff Committee, all the Joint Services Committees—and there are nearly a dozen of them: planning, intelligence, administration, signals, and so on—all of which prepare material for the Chiefs of Staff. There is all the gamut of committees which run our Governmental and, incidentally, our industrial organisations. What are they but devices for getting the enormous value one gets out of teamwork? I do not suggest that all committees work well, but if they do not, if the teamwork is bad, it is the individuals who are at fault, nine times out of ten. I Look first to the individuals and not to the organisation. That is why I am rather puzzled at these changes in the defence set-up.

The noble Marquess referred to the proposals as evolutionary and I would strongly support evolution, in preference to revolution; but may I ask: evolution towards what? I can clearly understand the terrific and justifiable urge to make doubly sure that there is no overlapping between the Services, no duplication; and above all, to make sure that the Armed Forces we maintain are fitted for the present and the future, and not for the past. I welcome any move which will bring the Ministry of Supply into closer touch with its customers. Apart from that, I find it difficult to see in these proposals anything calculated to improve the organisation that we have at present. Frankly, I am glad that. I was never called upon to be Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, new style. For nearly three years I was Chairman, old style, and as such I acted as spokesman for the three Services. Each of us had his own individual responsibility towards his Service and towards his colleagues, and the responsibility for seeing that the powers and limitations of his own Service were properly allowed for in the collective advice and plan. I think that was straightforward. I do not say that it was always easy for me as Chairman. As the Minister of that date will know, there were difficulties, and of course we had to make compromises. But once we had agreed our conclusions my role was simple, and I accepted my share of our collective responsibility.

But what will the position be in this new style Committee? Is the new Chairman to be a representative, or is he to be a superman? Is he to be just a spokesman of the three Chiefs of Staff, as I was, or will he be empowered to override one, or all three? I had always thought that the overriding of the Chiefs of Staff should be, properly, the function of the Minister of Defence. I do not believe that it has ever been done, even during the war. I do not think the Minister of Defence during the war ever overruled the advice of the Chiefs of Staff. I find it difficult to see this new Chairman doing that. Are the three Chiefs of Staff responsible to the new Chairman and no longer directly responsible to the Minister and the Defence Committee? And, if so, will the three Chiefs of Staff no longer attend Defence Committees? On the other hand, if all three Chiefs of Staff are to attend Defence Committees, what have we gained?


Plus the Chairman.


We have gained a fourth leg. Instead of having a tripod, which is the normal seat for the lady who produces wisdom, we are going to have a fourth leg, which will make it a bit lopsided.

I can see one way in which this new appointment can be of value—in providing a welcome relief to the Chiefs of Staff from the wearisome travelling about the world on journeys to N.A.T.O. conferences, exercises and so on. Again I would ask a question. In those conferences will the Chairman speak, as I did on the Standing Group in Washington, as a representative of the British Chiefs of Staff, or will he speak on his own independent authority? Where does the responsibility fie? If this new post had to be created, in my opinion there is no doubt that the right man has been chosen to fill it. If it can be made to work he will certainly do so; but I do not envy him his position.

There is only one other point, among the many intensely interesting points raised during this debate, on which I should like to touch; that is the question of integration. I feel that I ought to start with a definition of integration, but there are so many definitions that I will waive that point. I feel that much of the demand for closer integration between the Services is due to the fact that few people outside the Services (of course I am not including Members of your Lordships' House) realise how close and frequent the teamwork between the Services is nowadays. It is true—I know it personally—that at the beginning of the last war there was little mutual knowledge or understanding, though I might mention that my integration began rather more than thirty years ago at the Naval Staff College at Greenwich. But the hard facts of the war soon changed that. In the Mediterranean all three Services learned the hard way that, though in one sense there was a land war, a sea war and an air war, each with its own problems, yet each of the Services in its own way was deeply involved in all three wars, and from that aspect it was one war.

Much has happened since then: joint schools, joint colleges, joint exercises, joint conferences, exchange postings and so on—in fact, I know that one of the problems nowadays is to ensure that an officer can get enough time at his own particular profession from the various courses, co-operation and things he has to do. There must be a balance. From what I know I can assure your Lordships that we have nearly reached the limit of the time during which one can take an officer away from doing what is primarily his own job. I am entirely in agreement with the spirit of everything that has been said about close co-operation and integration between the Services in that sense; but as I said before, there is a compromise, and there must be a compromise, on this matter. I was struck with what was said yesterday about spirit by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield. It is only this joint work—this is where I agree with the integrationists—which leads to mutual understanding, knowledge and confidence; and it is that alone which can give that integration of spirit to which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, so rightly referred. As he said, if I remember rightly, "You cannot impose integration."

Some of the proposals for the single Service—for what I call extreme integration—rather shocked me. I should have thought that we have had enough experience in the last ten or twenty years of what happens when you amalgamate two, three or four things into one, and the great difficulty of keeping alive esprit de corps and. morale. I am not being political; I have no Party ties; but who would not be glad to see some of that esprit de corps which one used to see on the Great Western Railway? That is the price you have to pay if you try to carry through this integration. Can one think of anybody less likely to have esprit de corps than a conglomeration (or perhaps I should say an integration) of soldiers, sailors and airmen, integrated into an armed Service, which I suppose we should call British Armed Service (B.A.S.) dressed up—or should I say dressed down?—in an integrated green uniform. Really, my Lords, with all respect, I think this is logic carried to dangerous absurdity.

Then there is the rag-tag-and-bobtail who, I think, are rather lightly dismissed as the "ancillary" Services. I believe I am right in saying that the economics of integrating those has been examined three or four times already, and the answer each time has been: "I am sorry, but there is no money to be saved in this"—but that can be checked. I have been lucky during my Service career to see quite a good deal at close quarters of sailors, soldiers and airmen, in the mass and individually, and my judgment would he that they are very distinct from each other. Each Service naturally attracts a different type of man, and despite the effect of National Service my own impression is that that distinction is still very much there. That being so, I suggest it is right and best to have the specialist—the doctor, the educationist, the chaplain and so on—who will get to know the particular brand of man of his own Service, because in each of their lives that sort of knowledge, the psychological knowledge, is vital.

I fear that there is too much logic and not enough humanity in some of the proposals that have been made for what we call integration. Let us have evolution, by all means, but not integration, revolution and disintegration. You have a Defence organisation which has proved itself again and again to be extremely flexible; it can adapt itself, and it has done, to utterly different conditions and different personalities. I suggest that that flexibility is vital if it is going to be able to adjust itself to the terrific changes which nuclear war may bring. But let us be flexible and do not try to tidy it up.

I myself have had experience of trying to tidy up organisations, and I should like to end with a reminiscence. In 1943, when we joined up with the Americans, it was arranged that I was to command the combined American and British Air Forces, and General Spaatz was to be my deputy. We had a two days' meeting about it, but we gave up trying to draw up any organisation; we just decided to get on with it; that vie would do certain things and they would do others. And it worked perfectly.

After it had been going about six months and the Normandy business was beginning to boil up, having seen the tragedy of people carving into a new theatre in North Africa, without the experience of other people, we wanted to avoid the same thing happening in Normandy and we said: "We will draw up this organization—it wants tidying up in one or two places—and we will put it down for record so that it can be used for Normandy." For three weeks we let the "back-room boys" work on it, but then I began to realise that something was going wrong. Some of my officers became anxious and wanted to do something about it, and then one of the Americans, whom I happened to know well, came to me and said: "Look here, what are you 'Limeys' up to?" I let that go for about four days, and then I had a talk with General Spaatz. He was getting "hot under the collar," too, and we had rather a warm discussion. I ended up by saying, "All right, you can have a divorce to-day if you want it. We will go separately." He said, "Oh hell! we won't do that." I said, "There is only one thing to be done: call the boys off, tear up the paper, and we will go on working." Let the Defence Organisation work, and do not try and tidy it up too much, or you will tidy it in the wrong way for the next war.

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has said that I may say a word before he makes his speech. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, was my distinguished chairman for two years, I wish to say that I heartily agree with every word he has said. This talk of integration is so easy, because all doctors give you medicine, all caterers give you food, and you can amalgamate and integrate. But you could say the same thing of the House of Commons and your Lordships' House. We both talk and we both make laws. Integrate them, and you would then say, "Mr. Speaker and Lord Chancellor." It is the same sort of argument which is put forward about Services which have entirely different jobs.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, I feel sure that my noble friend Lord Swinton, who opened this debate yesterday, will welcome as much as I do the two speeches to which we have just listened. I came into this business in 1901, and I was in it until 1938. It is a great pleasure to me to hear the tribute paid to the present system by these distinguished officers with such unique experience. That system hails back a long way. I want to deal with it under four heads: the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, the Departmental Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff. What has been said this afternoon, especially by the last two speakers, will enable me to shorten my speech.

The Prime Minister is the key-pin in our system of defence. That dates from 1904, when Mr. Arthur Balfour, as he then was, formed the Committee of Imperial Defence, consisting of the Prime Minister and whomever he chose to summon to his discussions. From that starts the flexibility to which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, has just paid tribute. It is really inescapable that the Prime Minister should be the key-pin. If war should come, the Prime Minister of the day must run the war. No one else carries the guns. The running of the war becomes the principal policy of the Government, and the Prime Minister has to defend it to Parliament and to the people. It is an inescapable function. He also has the main responsibility for the great decisions. Now all modern developments throw those decisions into higher and higher relief.

Take the frightful decision to launch a hydrogen bomb war, inescapable perhaps, otherwise the enemy will launch it first and you will not be able to launch it at all. But that is the kind of terrible decision with which Governments will be faced, and in which the Prime Minister must necessarily take the lead. It always has been the case since, perhaps, the time when Newcastle gave way to Pitt. It always has been the rule that the Prime Minister had to run the war. To fit himself for that he must prepare himself in time of peace. He ought to be in charge of the policy, the plans and the preparations, in general, at any rate—not all the details—and also the personalities, especially in the Services, on whom the Government will have to depend for running the war. The best way in which that knowledge can come to the Prime Minister is by his presiding over the body that is at the head of the Defence Organisation, which used to be called the Committee of Imperial Defence in my time, and I think ought to be to-day, but it is now called the Defence Committee.

Let us take the precedents. Every Prime Minister since 1904 has run the Committee in both war and peace. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was in office for only a short time, and then Mr. Asquith took tremendous interest in the Committee and worked very hard on it. He not only attended every meeting of the Committee of Imperial Defence, but he took the chair at the most important sub-committees that were appointed on the great problems of that day. Then Mr. Lloyd George, of course, developed the Committee further in time of war. Mr. Asquith carried the Committee of Imperial Defence system in to the war, first with a War Council and afterwards a War Committee. Mr. Lloyd George carried it further, to the War Cabinet and the Imperial War Cabinet. The Imperial War Cabinet brought the Dominions and the Dominions Prime Ministers right into the picture. It was a great extension of the Committee of Imperial Defence of peace time, carrying into the war the principle of the fatuous meeting that Mr. Asquith held with the Dominions in 1911, when they were told the exact situation that was developing in Europe.

I am not going right through the list of Prime Ministers. There are five others, each of whom always took charge of the Committee of Imperial Defence, though it is true that sometimes they were so overwhelmed with other business that they had to appoint deputies to act for them. For instance, Mr. Balfour acted for Mr. Lloyd George during the Paris Peace Conference, when we were getting the Committee of Imperial Defence going again, and for a year or two after that when the Prime Minister was constantly away. Then there were a number of distinguished people who, for a relatively short time, acted as deputies. The Marquess of Salisbury, the father of the present Leader of the House, a most distinguished man who had just completed the famous Salisbury Report of 1923, in which he had pulled into shape the Chiefs of Staff Committee that had started during the Chanak incident. Then there were, at different times, Lord Haldane, Lord Curzon and Lord Caldecote.

I cannot honestly say that the system of deputies worked quite as well as the Committee when it was run by the Prime Ministers. As a matter of fact, every Prime Minister at that time used to come to the Committee on all the more important occasions. I could give the reasons why it did not work so very well but I should be wasting your Lordships' time; I have probably done it before. But it is admitted that there must be deputies at times, and I think it is generally agreed that this is such a time. All I should like to suggest on that matter is that the Prime Minister, for reasons I have given, should, when he can spare the time, take the chair at the Defence Committee, and that he should keep in as close touch with defence as he always does with foreign affairs. Also, I should like to suggest that he should be accessible to the Chiefs of Staff, in the last resort, if they are in difficulties. It was a regular part of the old system that, if they could not agree, they went to the Prime Minister and very often he, with his great prestige, could pull them together.

That brings me to the Minister of Defence. I take that to be an example of the flexibility that has been mentioned, because, as has been said, the Prime Minister could always take over the post of Minister of Defence in case of war, and certainly would take it over, just as Sir Winston Churchill did in 1940. Somebody raised a question of whether he would have the initiative. As a matter of fact, under the Salisbury Report of 1923, the Minister of Defence inherited from the people who acted as Vice-Chairmen of the Committee of Imperial Defence the right and the duty of keeping the whole situation under review and of exercising an initiative in conjunction with the Chiefs of Staff. If the Minister of Defence would learn from his predecessors—I am sure that they would agree to this, especially Lord Caldecote—he should avoid being cluttered up with the settlement of intricate departmental disputes involving a great deal of detail such as that which greatly hampered Lord Caldecote in dealing with the larger questions.

The trouble is that many of these disputes between the Services arise because it is impossible really to foresee how a decision will operate in war. We are not dealing with things that are going to happen immediately, as in a civilian Department; we are dealing with things that are going to happen in some future emergency which cannot be accurately foreseen. Consequently, I agree very much with what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, said, that you cannot avoid compromise. I am not so sure that already a had mistake has not been made in abolishing the anti-aircraft defences, if they are abolished. I am afraid I have not been in very close touch lately.

I come now to the Departmental Ministers. I urge strongly that the Departmental Ministers should be main-tamed and that their position should not in any way be lowered. It is offensive to a great Service if the status of the head of it is lowered. Occasions arise when those Ministers perform the most indispensable services. May I remind my noble friend Lord Swinton of his own services to radar—we called it something else then—but it is called radar now. Nothing could have exceeded the energy and the foresight which he displayed in that matter. He was then the Departmental Minister. No Minister of Defence could put into that particular job the driving force that the head of the Department did. I give that merely as an example. I could give examples from the other Departments, too, in former days. Then, again, with Departmental Ministers, whether or not they are in the Cabinet, they will build up a pool of experience in Service questions. If there are to be only the Prime Minister and a Minister of Defence "right up to the neck," so to speak, in Service questions, I do not think there will be in the Parties that form Governments in succession from time to time enough people who know the war problems. I believe that to be an important point. I agree, however, with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, whose speech I read this morning—I had to be away yesterday—that it would be advisable that they should, if possible, serve for a considerable period in their offices so as to get to know them properly.

That brings me to the last of the four matters with which I said I would deal—that is, the Chiefs of Staff Committee. On this new proposal for a Chiefs of Staff Committee, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, has expressed my views clearly, but I would say first that, if you are going to have a fourth Service chairman, Sir William Dickson is, to my personal knowledge, an ideal man. If anyone can make a success of it, he will. But I am afraid the principle is all wrong. It must weaken the most important feature in the Salisbury Report—at least, I always thought it the most important feature—namely: the individual and collective responsibility for advising on defence policy as a whole, the three constituting, as it were, a super Chief-of-Staff in commission. I am sorry that my noble and gallant friend, Lord Trenchard, will not be speaking to-day, because he had an early association with that matter. The actual phrase was, I think, suggested by him to me at Adastral House a year or two before it came into the Salisbury Report. But it is the essence of the Chiefs of Staff in bringing the Services together, that they should be able to pool their wisdom and their experience, and hammer the matter out. At first they comprised some rather tempestuous people—I hope my noble and gallant friend will not mind if I say that he was one; another was Lord Beatty. There were some battles royal, the feathers used to fly; nevertheless, they built up in the Services, especially with the aid of the Imperial Defence College, a feeling of team work which, it is perfectly clear from what the last two speakers have said, exists to this day in the Chiefs of Staff. I should be sorry to lose that.

In the days when we had a Deputy Prime Minister, at first he generally wanted to sit with the Chiefs of Staff. But he was the fourth man, and they would each fight his corner. They did not work with the same team spirit as when they met alone. Each would fight his corner, each trying to induce the neutral chairman that he was right. I am afraid that that might repeat itself now. It is always easier to get three people to agree than it is to get four people to agree. Therefore, from that point of view, I think that the fourth man is a mistake. I have yet another reason. My own information is—and I get rather more than your Lordships might expect that it has not worked well where it has been tried in foreign countries. I think we have the best system of co-ordination in the world. We have been imitated in a good many countries, but certain countries, which I will not mention, but with whom, in the past, I have sometimes been in touch on this very question, have nearly always insisted on having a fourth Service chairman: and, to my knowledge, that has not always worked.

There is one other question upon which I should like just to touch; it is a question of mere detail. There used to be something called the Ten Year Rule. I am not going into that matter. I have dealt with it often before, and if your Lordships want to know how much damage was done, you should read either Lord Chatfield's Memoirs or those of Lord Templewood. A story has been put about in one of the newspapers that we are going to have, or that there is, a Seven Year Rule. It was put out on rather high authority, in a way, though not officially, and I think the House would be most interested to hear whether that is one of the dangers that we are going to run into in the future.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who will be winding up for the Opposition has kindly signified his assent that I should address the House for a few moments before he does so. But since I hold no notes in my hands, your Lordships will easily guess that my contribution will be short. It will be confined to one question and one plea, which I have made before in your Lordships' House. The question was touched upon by the noble Lord. Lord Hore-Belisha; and, I believe, by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. It concerns the future dudes and standing of Sir Neville Brownjohn, which duties, as I understand them at the moment, are to co-ordinate the work of the present Chiefs of Staff. He took over his appointment from Lord Ismay on the noble Lord's departure to N.A.T.O. Is he to be a deputy to Sir William Dickson, or an assistant? Or is his appointment to be abolished? I am sure that this is a matter about which the noble Lord who is to answer for the Ministry of Defence has an answer all ready. It is in no way a criticism; it is a question with a view to gaining information on that point. If General Brownjohn is to be retained there will be another senior appointment super. imposed on the present appointment, bringing with it an increase in staff—and by "staff" I do not mean just one man; an officer of that rank brings with him assistants, personal staff, motor cars, drivers, clerks; and offices have to be provided and all the rest of it. It is not by any manner of means just one man. I should therefore like a little information on that matter, and I have no doubt that I shall get it.

I was a little sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, when he mentioned the great reformers of the Army—Cardwell, Esher and Haldane—did not add the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, for there is no doubt whatever that in 1938 the Hore-Belisha new terms of service proved a turning point in the British Army. From then onwards the Army became a career in which an officer could tell what rank he would Teach, and at what age, provided that he was suitable to hold that rank. Before that time, he never knew. Even without the impact of the war, from that time onwards the whole approach of people joining the Army would have been better. Therefore, where the Army is concerned (I know that this debate has covered all three Services in the broadest sense) credit must go to the noble Lord who sits in your Lordships' House.

The plea that I have to make is one which I have made before: I hope that it is relevant to this debate; it hinges largely on the co-ordination of the Services. It is a plea for reductions in staff at all levels, and in all three Services. When anybody mentions reductions in staff, it is thought by nearly everybody that a measure of economy is being advocated. In the all-important matter of defence, economy is a comparative term—what you are losing on the swings you may make up on the roundabouts; the short-term view may well be the wrong one. I do not advocate a reduction in staffs for motives of economy. I advocate a reduction in staffs for motives of efficiency. By and large, the bigger the staff the more inefficient it is. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, is a most senior officer of long experience in the Army. I am quite certain that when he commanded small formations, such as brigades and divisions, he had a staff one-quarter of the size that exists now; and it is my guess that it worked infinitely better. I think he would have been the first to remove a staff officer who would not "stand over" his signature.

Nowadays, an amorphous mass of officers are to be found in an office, passing files to each other and telephoning, all of them extremely busy. I do not for a moment suggest that they are not working, because, the more of them there are, the more work they have to do, and not the reverse. That is bad enough, but what is fifty times worse is that it produces a very bad frame of mind; it produces a type of officer who will not make up his mind or stand on it, will not take the credit when he is right or suffer the results when he is wrong, so that when he returns to his duties or to other employment he has a one-track mind. He is not liked by the others. He is marked as a "Staff wallah"—he is unpopular; and rightly so. I remember that I was on Brigade Headquarters at Aldershot twenty-five years ago and there were three officers—four in the manœuvres period. Now, I am told, there are eight, with an average attachment of four or five more. I cannot believe that warfare has become so complicated as to need that—and I believe the results are no better than they were before. However, I will not take up your Lordships' time with detail when such very broad issues have been raised in this debate. I mention that merely to show the type of thing which goes on.

Perhaps I may recount to your Lordships a little anecdote. Before the war there was a certain Brigadier in an Administrative Branch on the General Staff at the War Office. He was amiable and reasonably efficient, and was in this position for many years. He sat there and did his work. Eventually he left the Army, and, as he had been in this office for a long time, it was decided to spring-clean it and, what was more (a thing which probably never happened in the War Office before), the carpet was taken up. Under the carpet were found dozens of files that had been there for years. This Brigadier had been in the habit of putting them there whenever an issue came before him which he could not or did not wish to answer, or when he could not find anybody to pass it to. He put the file under the carpet and nailed it down again. He went through his career full of years and honour. That is the type of staff officer which is quite catastrophic and on which, I hope, the Minister of Defence will keep an eye in the future.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, I know that none of your Lordships will feel that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, need apologise for his most engaging intervention which has brought before our minds a new type of officer and has given us a good deal to think about. I feel honoured at being allowed to speak as the last spokesman on this side of the House in a debate as distinguished as the present one. I know that since the war we have had many important debates on defence, but I question whether, when the history of all this time comes to be written, we shall be found to have participated in. or attended, a more influential debate than that which has been initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. I have at times found myself engaged in Parliamentary controversy with the noble Earl, and at times he has found it necessary to administer a friendly ministerial rebuke, which I have always accepted in a spirit of meekness and mildness—or at least I hope so. But never have I—or, I believe, any noble Lords on this side of the House—questioned his great services to the country. Above all, I believe that the whole House invariably benefits from his unique talent for distilling his administrative experience in a Parliamentary form for our edification and instruction. I feel that his speech yesterday was one of the finest he has ever made to us. Many of the things he said will carry the assent of all, though after some speeches to-day the approval is, perhaps, not quite so overwhelming as I had expected and, to some extent, hoped.

Without going into the question of integration at low levels—because I have been dealing with the highest administrative questions—I should like to express my personal sympathy, and there will be a great deal of sympathy from other noble Lords in this House, with what Lord Swinton said about closer co-operation on what I believe he called the "lower levels." I am bound to say that I cannot understand what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, had in mind. Though I did not take down his exact words, he seemed to imply that different kinds of person went into the various Services. I may have got his words wrong, but I think he said something to that effect; he seemed to suggest that a different kind of doctor is needed to administer different pills to the noble Lords, Lord Fraser of North Cape and Lord Tedder. That I find difficult to believe. Still less do I find it easy to believe that a different kind of cleric is necessary to administer the last rites to officers of the various Services. My sympathy lies with the thesis advanced by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton.

I feel that among so many notable speeches only one really dangerous thought was offered to your Lordships; and that by the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha. Before commenting—not very seriously—on the dangerous thought that he offered, I should like to join the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in paying tribute to Lord Hore-Belisha's work at the War Office. I feel that this country has never shown the gratitude that might have been shown to the noble Lord for what he accomplished before the war and in particular for the way in which he carried through conscription during a period when public opinion was far from well disposed. I remember that when, during the war, Lord Hore-Belisha was criticised for what he had done, his reply was, "I do not want to be judged for what I have done, but for what I tried to do." But for the actuality of his performance lie deserves the gratitude of the country.

He offered one dangerous thought, however, when he suggested that some significance should be attached to the fact that the Minister of Supply was giving evidence of an increasing likeness to the Duke of Wellington. That would be a very dangerous criterion by which to select or upgrade a Minister. It might put all kinds of thoughts into all kinds of minds. I might look like his wife, who was a grand-aunt of mine; but I do not suggest that that should qualify me for promotion. Again, I am told that someone, noticing Sir Winston Churchill's grandson as a baby, said to him, "How very like you your grandson is," to which Sir Winston replied, "All babies are like me." That might put all sorts of extravagant hopes into the minds of all kinds of grandparents and parents, and might, in consequence, breed a whole world of disappointment. I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me for those flippant observations. This is a very serious issue, and I hope that I shall be forgiven for not trying to comment too freely on speeches which have gone before. That apology is directed particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who is such an acceptable spokesman and who will shortly reply.

I will deal with one issue which runs through the debate, the position of an individual Service Minister as opposed to the Minister of Defence. I have never got as far as the Ministry of Defence and never expect to do so; but I was, for a short time, a Service Minister under the existing arrangement, and can speak from the point of view of someone who has studied and talked on the working of our Constitution in past years. The constitutional position of a Minister of Defence is a more important issue than some speakers have recognised. It has been dismissed as a detail, the kind of thing which would settle itself when the time came; and generally there has been a tendency to dispose of it a little lightly. It was thought that the Service Minister might turn into a Minister of State, or an Under-Secretary, which would not matter all that much. I want to deal briefly with this problem, which is rather near to the heart of the issue we are discussing.

While I have much sympathy for the argument on integration advanced by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, I feel that we must know what kind of solution we intend to provide to this problem before launching into uncharted seas. We have seen three stages in what might be called the decline and fall of the Service Ministers. Leaving out the Minister of Defence, and speaking only of the Ministers responsible for the three Services, we knew the Service Minister in his great days. His position was one of the highest in the Government. Before 1914 we had men like Sir Winston Churchill and Lord Haldane, and just before the last war we had those such as the noble Lords present, Lord Swinton and Lord Hore-Belisha. The Minister was a full Member of the Cabinet. He was not, until just before the war, co-ordinated by anybody. It was obvious that he was of the greatest influence and distinction. Then, just before the war, a co-ordinating Minister was brought in. It was generally thought that that was not a very successful arrangement, but that was the innovation made. The Service Ministers were then still members of the Cabinet.

Passing over the war years, we reach the third stage, when the dust has settled, and we now find the Service Ministers outside the Cabinet, with a Minister of Defence inside, The whole position, from the Service Minister's point of view, has considerably worsened. That is the situation which has prevailed. It has worked fairly well. I am not saying that a better system should have been introduced at the time. It was introduced, by our Government, and no doubt they took very wise steps. But I think we have to ask ourselves now whether that situation is to be perpetuated or whether we want to move forward to something different.

I suggest that there are grave constitutional anomalies in the present system. Incidentally, I agree with the powerful point which was made by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House in his speech yesterday, when he said that, whatever system we arrive at, it will not be perfect; there will always be arguments which can be deployed on the other side. I think it is interesting to ask ourselves why that should be so, why we cannot arrive at a tidy answer in the field of defence, as in other departments. In passing, I submit this thought. In defence it is not only a question of co-ordinating sideways, so to speak, as happened when it was decided to co-ordinate, for example, civil aviation and transport. It is also a problem of co-ordinating upwards and downwards. We saw introduced a Minister for a certain function which was, so to speak, superior to the function called administration. That, I think, provides the answer as to why the problem is so difficult in the defence field.

Be that as it may, I submit that our existing system conflicts with at least one, and perhaps two, of the fundamental principles which have always worked well in other spheres in relation to departmental matters. It does not conflict with the principle of collective responsibility of Ministers, but I think it conflicts to some extent with the idea—which is also basic in our general system—that a Minister has special responsibility for the work of his Department. On paper, responsibilities are allocated but I think that in practice it is hard to separate them, and any separation is bound to be artificial. I believe that the second principle is not very effectively carried out. But, above all, the present defence set-up conflicts with what I might call the third principle of responsibility—the principle that a Minister must be master in his own house, the principle of undivided authority; and, conversely, the principle that every Government servant, whether civilian or Service officer, pays direct allegiance to one political chief only. That principle is basic throughout the Constitution; it is implied in our existing defence arrangements. And I feel that, in consequence of the departure from it, many difficulties arise.

We were told yesterday that the present Service Minister possesses responsibility without power. I think there is considerable truth in that statement. If a rising young politician becomes a Minister responsible in the eyes of a great Service, and throws himself heart and soul into his job, I think that when he finds that, in the last resort, he will not be able to take crucial decisions in the way they were taken before the war, by such Ministers as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, he is bound to feel considerably frustrated. Here I should say is a position rather stronger than that relating to general powers. When all is said and done, the feeling of loyalty to the head of a Service is very strong. Service chiefs are working in the same building as the Minister. They are all members of the same Council or the Board of Admiralty. Speaking as an outsider, who has in the past had a little experience of these matters, I would say that loyalty towards the Service Ministers is so strong that the Minister of Defence is not able at the present time to perform his full constitutional functions in the way intended. So the present position is somewhat anomalous and somewhat confused and if we can think of a better one we should not be slow in introducing it.

What are the possible alternatives? I mention one method, but only to reject it—the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, touched on it yesterday. In practice it would mean separating Service Ministers and their Chiefs of Staff more completely from the Minister of Defence and giving the Minister a strong staff of his own, and it would lead to these people confronting one another rather like separate departments. I think we are all opposed to that. So we come to look at the details of the alternative which has been suggested by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, in a notable lecture which has been alluded to by more than one speaker in this debate. Under his proposals Service Ministers and their Ministries would disappear as independent entities: the Service Ministers would turn into Under-Secretaries. I think that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, was right in saying that if the Service Ministers were to disappear as independent entities they should be Ministers of State. I think that the doctrine advanced by Lord Montgomery of Alamein goes further than is necessary for the logic of the argument.

Let us consider the possibility of separate Ministers becoming Ministers of State. We know what Ministers of State are like. We respect them highly. We have, for example, the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, performing very responsible functions in this House and elsewhere. I think that if the Service Ministers were turned into Ministers of State it would be pointless to keep the Board of Admiralty, the Army Council and the Air Council going in any form in which we have known them. There might be more committees operating inside Ministries, but any attempt to pretend that they were the old Board or the old Council would, I believe, be somewhat fictitious, and I doubt whether any plan of that kind would last long.

I recognise that all the arguments of logic and paper planning are in favour of some scheme of this kind. I am sorry that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, is not here, for I should like to assure him that I do not use the word "logic" as a term of contempt—I use it as a term of praise. I feel that a man who is being illogical has the onus upon him to show why he should prevail against the man who is being logical. But that does not mean that logic should always prevail. I feel that great attention has to be paid to the views of people like Lord Tedder, Lord Fraser of North Cape, Lord Hankey and Lord Chatfield, with their wealth of practical experience. One cannot sweep aside experience of that kind by reference to paper logic, though it is fair to point out that some noble Lords, like the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, have had comparable experience in fields of equal responsibility intimately related to defence.

I would say that the disadvantage of full integration would not be merely a traditional disadvantage. If that were so I should be happy to adopt what I think is the full plan in the minds of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and, I presume, of the Government. The noble Marquess argued that we must proceed in an evolutionary kind of way and wait until, gradually, new loyalties take the place of old. I agree that that is the right kind of evolutionary tempo. I also agree with Lord Tedder when he asked: Evolution to what? I think that is a very pertinent question. We must know where we are going before we try to go very far along that path. I feel that we must ask whether the disadvantages of abolishing Service Ministries as independent entities are anything like as great as the advantages, which are fairly obvious. One disadvantage is the disadvantage of bigness. I think that that is not an inconsiderable disadvantage. Take it in ministerial terms—and I think this point has not been made yet in this debate, although the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, came near to it. At present there are nine Service Ministers, apart from the Ministry of Supply, where there are another two. If the Minister of Defence is to be the sole Minister with the ultimate responsibility, apparently he will preside over eight acolytes. That would he a very strange set-up, the strangest yet in the field of defence; and that is saying a great deal.

It might be said: Cut down the number of Ministers; the Minister cannot want all these Under-Secretaries. It seems to me that that would be a superficial approach. We have every reason to suppose, and no reason to suppose the opposite, that the Under-Secretaries all work very hard. They did so in our time and I do not believe that, like the Brigadiers mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, they circulate papers to one another to keep themselves employed. Among the functions they perform is the indispensable function of keeping the public in touch with the Fighting Services. So long as we have conscription, which I suppose we shall have for a little while yet, that function seems to me to be quite indispensable. I doubt whether we can reduce the number of Under-Secretaries or subordinate Ministers without doing serious damage to the relations between the public and the Services. I feel, also, that they are important because, in the argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, in particular, we need the Service Ministers to give the kind of leadership to the Services which a supreme Minister alone certainly could not supply.

It may be that all these difficulties can be overcome. If they are fairly and squarely faced, they will seem smaller than the great advantages which the noble Earl has unfolded. Therefore, I do not say that difficulties of this kind should set a veto on progress. I say only that all of us, particularly, perhaps, the Government, should clear our minds about how we mean to deal with these problems. I hope that nobody who reads this debate will consider it academic thinking because we are concerned with the arrangements for office planning so far removed from the battle front and from the blood and sweat of the struggle. Those noble Lords who have had experience both in the front line and in the higher council chambers (and I have not far to look to see them) will be the first to agree that the one way of inflicting a terrible penalty on the young men who will bear the supreme brunt is that the older men at the centre of things should be careless or prejudiced, or should rely too much on thoughts at second hand. Therefore, I feel that what we think and what we say here is of tremendous importance. We ought to be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. The kind of thoughts we are working out together, whatever the precise solution reached, are bound to be fruitful and to increase that strength, both apparent and real, on which depends so much of the intensive influence for preserving a just and lasting peace which falls on this ancient country of ours.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, we are almost at the end of a long and most interesting debate, and all your Lordships will agree with me that those who have taken part in it have given us all a great deal to think about. We have had speeches from some Members of the House, such as the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Chatfield and Lord Tedder, who have spent a lifetime in defence matters; from others, such as the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, who have been concerned in the organisational and constitutional problems for very many years, as well as from a number of noble Lords who have been Service Ministers and Ministers of Defence. I shall not try to answer in detail all the varied points and points of view which have been put forward, but I can assure the House that these will be most carefully examined by my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence and by the Government. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House made a most important statement of policy yesterday at the beginning of the debate, and it seems to me therefore that my task is briefly to summarise the Government's position and to try to answer some of the points which have been raised in speeches during the debate.

It is almost exactly nine years since we had a debate of this kind in the House. The occasion was a Motion introduced by the noble Lord. Lord Chatfield, who took the opportunity of discussing the White Paper, Central Organisation for Defence, which was published in October, 1946. I have spent some time this week re-reading that debate with great interest. Your Lordships will remember that it was that White Paper which set up the Defence organisation under which we are working at the present time. The Minister of Defence was appointed and his responsibilities were laid down. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, made a speech in that debate, not one word of which I think he would alter to-day, and if I may with respect pay him a tribute, it is that he has been so consistently right on this subject over the last thirty years that the very greatest weight must be attached to the views he gave us yesterday.

The proposals of 1946 evolved from the experiences of the war and of prewar days, and it was acknowledged by noble Lords on all sides of the House that they were an advance in the right direction. Now, with the experience of nine years of working the system, we have taken another step forward, not perhaps as big a step as some would like, but nevertheless one which in our opinion makes big improvements in the organisation of our defence.

In this debate there have been, I think. three main issues which have been discussed by almost every speaker: first, the integration of the Forces; secondly, the Chiefs of Staff organisation and the appointment of a chairman; and thirdly, Ministerial responsibility, which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, discussed so interestingly just now. I should like to say a word about each one of these problems. I have always had great difficulty with the word "integration." I am not at all sure that I know what it means. Everybody uses it. It seems to mean entirely different things when used by different noble Lords. In some cases it seems to mean fusion or amalgamation; in other cases not much more than close co-operation. My definition of integration in this context would be a common effort with maximum efficiency and economy and the minimum of over-lapping; and if this is what is meant by your Lordships then most certainly the Government are in full agreement. No one, for instance, has seriously suggested that any particular benefit would result from putting the members of all three Services into some common neutral-coloured uniform. The real practical issue is whether we should be wise to extend the amalgamation of certain common services—medical service, chaplains, and so on.

Before dealing with this topic in some detail, there is one general dilemma to which I feel I should draw your Lordships' attention. Various speakers have said how important it is—and I agree with them—that the Minister of Defence should confine his activities to broad issues of policy, strategy, and the like. He must not get buried in detailed administration. But if we amalgamate any of the common services, is it not likely that their resting place would become the Ministry of Defence? The moment this happened the Minister of Defence could not escape responsibility for detailed administration, and detailed administration in what at times may be a troublesome field. Those who advocate amalgamation see the possibility of major economies. I wonder whether those possibilities are not exaggerated and whether insufficient regard is not had to the problem of control and responsibility.

The various services—medical, ordnance, and the like—are an essential component of any operational command. My noble friend Lord Jeffreys suggested that the possibility of amalgamation might be considered by a committee of senior officers. I can tell the noble Lord that in the last twenty or thirty years this particular problem has been considered on many occasions and the conclusion has invariably been reached that amalgamation would have more disadvantages than advantages. If those who favour integration arc thinking of it primarily in terms of base or static organisations, then I agree that in organisations of this character there are many opportunities for one Service to act or to help another.

Some of the speeches I listened to yesterday gave the impression that little co-operation existed at the present time between the three Services. Of course there is room for further improvement, but there is to-day more co-operation than there has ever been before. For instance, the medical services in Ceylon, at Trincomalee, and in Malta at the Royal Naval hospitals, are responsible for treating the sick of all three Services and their families. In Singapore the British Military Hospital caters for the Navy as well as the Army, and helps out the Royal Air Force with the overflow of cases which cannot be handled at their own hospital. Again, there is very great co-operation and co-ordination between the chaplaincy services at home and abroad. A Ministry of Defence Committee which included the heads of the chaplaincy departments was set up early in 1948, and as a result of the work of that Committee in many places chaplains of one Service are responsible for the men of all three.

This is even more true in the education field, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, yesterday. In Germany, the Army Higher Education Centre caters in addition for the Royal Air Force, and in the twelve months ended March, 1954, 162 R.A.F. students attended the Army centre at Hamburg. Similarly, 71 Army students went to the R.A.F. Higher Education Centre. The British Families Education Service in Germany caters for all Services and certain other British children as well. The school population in Germany in March, 1954, consisted of 7,050 Army children, 2,350 R.A.F. children, 40 Naval children, 250 Foreign Office children and 400 others. That seems to me to be a. good example of inter-Service co-operation. Similar co-operation exists in the Far and Middle East. I will not weary your Lordships with other examples of this sort of co-operation and co-ordination, of which there are many, but I can assure the House that it is very widespread and is working very well.

We shall give careful thought to the views which have been expressed on this subject of integration, but I would suggest that more immediate and more practical benefits are likely to result from pressing on with inter-Service arrangements of the kind which I have mentioned rather than by undertaking a root and branch reorganisation, the effect of which it seems to me would almost certainly be to place a heavy administrative burden on the Ministry of Defence.

I should now like to deal with the question of the Chiefs of Staff organisation. The noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, was, I think, somewhat critical of the changes we are making, as was the noble Lord, Lord Tedder. The noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, quoted extensively from the 1946 White Paper, although he did. I think, suggest to us that during the last ten years the whole complexion of war had changed. In this connection it is interesting to bear in mind the last sentence of the 1946 White Paper. It said: The Government are satisfied that the functions of the various parts have been defined with sufficient precision to enable the duties to be carried out effectively, while at the same time the organisation as a whole remains sufficiently flexible to allow the process of evolution to continue, as it has throughout this century, so that the central machinery for defence may be progressively adapted to changing needs. My Lords, this is exactly what Her Majesty's Government have done. We have taken advantage of the experiences of the last few years, we have realised that we live in changing times, and we have made these changes with the object of meeting these new circumstances. This was, I think, the view of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, to whose experience we listened with much interest.

It may be said that whilst the 1946 White Paper envisaged change and development, why has this particular change of the appointment of a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff machine been made? The noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, referred to paragraph 17 of the 1946 White Paper where it was said that the methods adopted in the British organisation were adopted without alteration in the machinery of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. But it is interesting to note that since 1946 American practice has changed: they now have a chairman of their Joint Chiefs of Staff. In Canada there is now a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. And a similar form of organisation also exists in France. It is, I think, significant that, quite independently, so many countries have moved throughout the last decade in the direction of the form of organisation which we are now adopting.

The appointment of a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee will in no way diminish from the position of the Minister of Defence, as my noble friend feared. The Minister will in future be in as close contact with the Chiefs of Staff Committee as he has been in the past. He will, however, be helped in the heavy task which falls upon him by having a chairman closely associated with him. I think we were all much impressed by what the noble Lords, Lord Chatfield and Lord Tedder, said about the working of the Chiefs of Staff machine. I ought, I think, to make it clear that although this chairman will be the United Kingdom representative to N.A.T.O. and to the international military bodies, it would be wrong to picture him as someone constantly flitting from one part of the world to another, for by far the greater part of his time he will be in the United Kingdom.

The noble Lord, Lord Tedder, asked me some questions about the new Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff. As the Prime Minister said in another place, this new appointment will in no way alter the rights of an individual Chief of Staff to tender his personal advice should he differ from his colleagues. The noble Lord asked, also, whether all the Chiefs of Staff would attend the Defence Committee. All four will attend, but, normally speaking, the chairman will be the spokesman. But the main question that the noble Lord asked (I know he cannot be here; he apologised because he had another engagement) was why the chairman was appointed at all. He talked about tripods and tridents. I would rather talk about coaches. A fourth wheel is a very convenient thing for a coach, and I should have thought that the answer to the appointment of a Chairman of Chiefs of Staff was quite simple. It has been generally admitted on all sides of the House that any future war will be a three-Service war. Therefore, it is desirable, without going into the question of integration, that the Chiefs of Staff Committee should give three-Service advice, and there seem to be two ways of doing it. The first way is by a committee of three Chiefs of Staff, one of whom acts quite fortuitously as the chairman. The second way is by a committee composed of three Chiefs of Staff, with a chairman specially selected for that purpose to synthesise those views on a three-Service basis. If any Chief of Staff disagrees he has the right to express his view to the Defence Committee. I should have thought, without doubt, that by far the better plan was the one with a chairman of the Committee, and that a much more balanced view would more likely be obtained that way.

The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, referred to the need of a combined staff working in close association with the Chiefs of Staff. Such an arrangement is an essential part of the present machinery. Immediately under the Chiefs of Staff Committee is the Joint Planning Committee. This consists of the three Directors of Plans. They meet in the Ministry of Defence and they have a secretariat provided by the Ministry of Defence. In addition, they are served by a number of inter-Service planning teams. The Directors and the officers in these teams are members of their respective Service Departments but they work as a joint planning staff directly responsible to the Chiefs of Staff. Similar arrangements also exist in other parts of the Chiefs of Staff machine. My noble friend also referred to the need for some administrative staff to assist the Minister of Defence. I do not know whether he used the term "administrative" in the Army way, thinking of "A" and "Q," or whether he had in mind primarily civilian staff. It has been the policy of successive Ministers of Defence to keep the staff of the Department as small as possible, and machinery under both these heads does exist.


May I interrupt my noble friend? I would say that I particularly referred to a very small staff to keep him in touch.


I am glad that my noble friend and I are in complete agreement.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? I do not know whether he has finished with the Chiefs of Staff Committee. He has given a courteous answer to part of the questions put to him and, of course, there is no question but that our organisation should he flexible. But paragraphs 17 and 18 of the White Paper say that it is a cardinal principle of our defence organisation that the Service members of the Chiefs of Staff Committee should be persons representing their own fighting Services, and that it would be wrong to have an independent chairman, because that would remove them one step from the political control. It is laid down that the Minister of Defence, who used to be the Prime Minister, should take the chair whenever he is asked to do so or whenever he wishes to do so and that he should always be in touch with them so that the political and Service elements may know one another's minds and the policy may thus be moulded. The White Paper therefore rejects an independent chairman on those grounds. Is the Minister of Defence in future to take the chair or have meetings, either formal or informal, with the Chiefs of Staff, or has that system been modified? Secondly, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, asked, are we now to have present at the Defence Committee not only the three Chiefs of Staff, but also this chairman? If my noble friend is not ready to reply to that I do not mind, but I think those were really the points.


Not only am I ready to reply to it, but I have already done so. I did say that the four would be present at the Defence Committee, but that normally the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff would be the spokesman.


But will the Minister take the chair, as is laid down in the White Paper?


I was just coming to that. With regard to my noble friend's first question, all this was carefully taken into account. We do not think that the results which the noble Lord seems to suggest will in point of fact happen. My right honourable friend the Minister of Defence will keep in the closest touch with the Chiefs of Staff. He meets them frequently, and there is no suggestion that because there is a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, the Minister will meet the four any less frequently than at the moment he meets the three.

My noble friend, Lord Hore-Belisha, who made a most interesting speech yesterday, also rather suggested that scientists do not play a sufficient part in the central organisation for defence. I can assure your Lordships that the Government attach the greatest importance to this matter. For instance, the chairman of the Defence Research Policy Committee attends meetings of the Chiefs of Staff Committee whenever he wishes. I doubt whether a week passes in which there are not some matters which he discusses personally with the Chiefs of Staff. Although he is not a member of the Defence Committee, his views are invariably known to, and expressed by, the Minister of Defence. The Defence Committee can and does on occasion invite him to attend, and there have been many occasions in recent years when the Chiefs of Staff have asked the Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defence to be the chairman of sub-committees to consider long-term problems. At the major exercises which the Service Departments and N.A.T.O. hold, there is always a strong representation of scientists. I can tell your Lordships that scientists are encouraged to put forward their ideas, and they are warmly welcomed by members of all three Services. I entirely agree with what my noble friend said about scientists, and the Government have this very much in mind.

The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has repeated his suggestion that there is a need for an inquiry to ensure that we are getting the best value for money and manpower. As he will know, a great deal of detailed information about both these subjects is made available in the Annual Statement on Defence, and in the Service Estimates and their accompanying memoranda. It is possible to see from all these documents, just to take an example, that the estimated expenditure on defence research and development—which the noble Viscount said he could not find yesterday—has risen from about £100 million in 1953–54 to about £160 million in 1954–55. Another example is that the Air Ministry will spend this year £186 million on buying aircraft and spares. This sort of information is subject to the scrutiny and the examination of the Select Committee on Estimates and the Public Accounts Committee.

I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, was not suggesting that we should reveal details, for instance, of the amount of money which we spend on stockpiling atomic bombs or on the research and development of surface-to-air guided missiles, because obviously here there is a security problem. We go as far as it is prudent in making public information on defence expenditure and defence activities, and it is the Government's view that it would profit nobody to superimpose another inquiry upon the existing machinery for scrutiny and control available to Parliament in this field. My noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye suggested that the Minister of Defence should present to Parliament the Estimates for men, material and research. If he does that, he must be prepared to defend the details in the Estimates. This means either that he must get involved in the whole complex problem of administration, which my noble friend, in common with almost everybody in the House, said he did not want to happen, or else, failing that, he must try to explain and defend something about which he knows very little.

The other point put to me by my noble friend was the question of the Ministry of Supply. I do not intend this afternoon to go into the whole vexed question of whether or not there should be a Ministry of Supply. All I will say is that I am not at all sure that my noble friend's suggestions are an improvement on the present system. He asked me whether the existing set-up will continue. It will, but subject, of course, to the change that the Ministry of Supply will come under the general co-ordinating powers of the Minister of Defence. I am afraid I cannot answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, about a Seven-Years and Ten-Years Rule, because I do not know what he means. I have never heard of a Seven-Year Rule. Perhaps that will give him encouragement, because I understood he feared it.


Perhaps I could send them to the noble Lord. I happen to have them here.


I will gladly look into them and write to my noble friend. My noble friend Lord Windlesham asked about the appointment of the Personal Staff Officer to the Minister of Defence. That appointment will now lapse, as in the future my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence will be in the closest touch with the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Finally, I come to the third main issue which has been discussed in the debate, the question of ministerial responsibility and the position of the Minister of Defence. I think all your Lordships will have been most impressed by the speech we heard from the noble Lord opposite. Several noble Lords during the debate have said that they thought the right course was to give the Minister of Defence ministerial responsibility in every respect for the three Services, and to replace the Service Ministers by Ministers of State. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, asked me what is the ultimate intention of the Government, and whether or not we are in broad agreement with this aim—"What we are evolving to," as he put it. The steps announced by the Prime Minister in another place a fortnight ago are a considerable strengthening of the powers of the Minister of Defence, and they certainly entail a stronger central control of policy. In future, the Minister the Defence will be responsible not only for the apportionment of resources between the three Services but also for seeing that the composition and balance of forces within the individual Services meets the country's strategic policy.

Further, as I have just mentioned to my noble friend, as a result of the transfer from the Ministry of Supply of the iron, steel, and engineering industries, that Department now comes in the main within the co-ordinating powers of the Minister of Defence. This is a considerable step forward and I tell the noble Lord frankly that it has not yet been decided what the next step should be or, indeed, if there should be a step at all. There must be a period during which we can test out the effectiveness of the new organisation.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, we have listened to some most thoughtful and constructive speeches, and even if I had the knowledge I would hesitate without much care and thought to pass judgment on some of the proposals which have been made, but I will undertake that the speeches made yesterday and this afternoon will be most carefully studied. Some Members of the House may think we are going too slowly and that decisions on these great matters should be taken at once. They will probably agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who in the debate in 1946 in this House said, when referring to the appointment of a Minister of Defence: …it was only adopting the plan set out in the Haldane Report as long ago as 1918. It is to be expected from our experience that a period of between 20 and 30 years is the time which usually elapses before something that is obviously right is put into practical effect in this country. Well, my Lords, it is only nine years since the system which we have now altered and I think improved was first operated. That system has had a good trial and has worked well. Before making the changes which have been announced the Government have studied the matter most carefully and have come to the conclusion that the proposals are on the right lines, and they are confirmed in this by the generally favourable reaction of your Lordships during this debate.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, if I make a few concluding observations from this position, I hope it will not be assumed that I am in process of crossing the Floor of the House. I should be less than human if I did not express a most sincere appreciation of the way in which this Motion and the suggestions I was bold enough to put before the House have been received, both by the Government and by, I think, nearly all the speakers in this interesting debate. I should like to deal briefly, first of all, with two or three points made by non-Governmental speakers and then say a word about the Government policy.

The first point I should like to deal with is that it was said—I think I said it myself—that a criticism of the proposals was: "You must not overload the Minister of Defence." I could not agree more. My suggestion was not to add to his duties. Indeed, I said that he must be kept clear of practically all administrative duties. All I wart is that he should be given the power and authority to do what he is supposed to do to-day. It is quite possible to retain in the existing Service Ministries all those vast questions of administration, discipline and so on which, after all, each individual Service Minister dealt with during the war. I suggested rather quickly that they should be Ministers of State, but I intended only to indicate the position. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that there is a good deal to be said for their retaining not only a great many of the powers which they have to-day but also their ancient titles. I think the three councils, the Army Council, the Air Council and the Board of Admiralty, would certainly find quite enough to do, just as they did in the last war.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, said that all decisions must be compromise. Of course we English have a genius for compromise, and in politics, which is the art of what is possible and not an exact science like the law, compromise is a most desirable thing; but I am not sure that it is so desirable in defence. If by "compromise" is meant that every decision has to be what either the Minister of Defence or the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee can get all the three Chiefs of Staff or the three Service Departments to agree to, then there is a risk, as I said yesterday, of having a lowest common denominator of compromise and not a highest common factor of efficiency. Therefore, I would reject compromise in that sense. But I do not mean that the decision or the argument of any one Department is to be taken—not at all. In fact, in very few matters in practical life does right or wrong lie wholly and exactly on one side. Often a compromise is called for, in the sense that from the hammering out of clashing intellects, minds and views, there emerges the best solution, though not necessarily one with which everybody agrees.

The only other point I would take is a comment of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who told me that he could not be here to-day. He said: "Well, we do not want the Minister of Defence to be made into a dictator." God forbid! None of us wants dictators. But we should not be making him into a dictator. Of course, we should be giving him power and authority, really the power and authority which the Government want him to have. The power and authority over the Service Ministers is subject, of course, to agreement with his colleagues in the Cabinet. That does not make the Minister of Defence a dictator. In respect of his duties, powers and functions, he would be responsible to Parliament, exactly as, in so far as he is responsible at all, he is to-day, and as the Service Ministers are responsible. There really is no question of taking away any Parliamentary responsibility.

For the Government, the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has explained to me that he cannot be here this evening. I am grateful to him for his speech, and I should like to say at once (I have looked again at what I said) that I think the criticism he made of me was entirely deserved: that it would appear that I tended to underrate the great advance there has been in combined training and staff work. I have had some part in that work and fully appreciate it. There are still some hard-shelled separatists preaching autarchy instead of co-operation. We find them in all three Services, but today they are, or are becoming, the "Blimps." I would agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield: I do not think that inter-Service relationship, which I have known for thirty-five years, has ever been better than it is to-day.

I am sure that the noble Marquess would agree with me in one matter: I want more opportunity for the officers of all three Services to carry out and practise what they learn in their combined training in any of the three Services—what I ventured to call the avenue open to talent in all the Services, to whichever Service the man himself belongs. I do not think there is anything between the Government and myself on that; nor, indeed, as I followed the speech of the noble Marquess yesterday, and of my noble friend this afternoon, is there really any difference between us in the objectives that we seek to obtain; we all want to get to the same place. I must say that yesterday I felt a little like the Presbyterian who, having had a long theological argument with a Roman Catholic priest, was told by the priest at the end of the argument: "Well, we each serve the same Master—you in your way, I in His." I think that was rather the attitude. It may of course be right. As somebody said, the more one goes on the more one is struck by the many-sidedness of truth.

My noble friend the Leader of the House, like Mr. Sidney Webb, Lord Pass-field, is a great believer in "the inevitability of gradualness." I hope that, to get us where we should hope to be, he will not think me impertinent if I say that as he developed that argument, there crept into my mind some words of Robert Louis Stevenson, that To travel hopefully is better than to arrive. That might be a consoling text for the Minister of Transport to put up on some of our roads. But I sincerely hope that my noble friend the Leader of the House is right and that I am wrong, and that what the Government have done will give, without undue delay, and without waste of time, money and resources, those results in co-operation, combined action and decisive decision that we all want to see. Nobody will be more pleased than I if that is so. I most sincerely hope that, if we do not get where we all want to get to as quickly as he hopes we shall, the Government will not hesitate to have second thoughts—indeed, they quite rightly say that they are thinking all the time—and will make proposals for a further and faster programme. If they saw fit to do that, then I am sure that Parliament and the country would support them. My Lords, I thank the House for their courtesy in this debate and for the kind things that have been said, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.