HL Deb 31 July 1963 vol 252 cc1214-48

6.20 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I should like to add a few words of welcome to this important and far-reaching proposal, and congratulate the Government on having at last had the courage to grasp this particularly spikey nettle. I think it was the American author Bret Harte who said that the saddest words in the English language were, "what might have been". If that is so, the happiest words are undoubtedly, "I told you so". I am happy to recall that in my maiden speech on Defence, in your Lordships' House over fifteen years ago, I proposed a scheme almost identical with the one we are discussing this afternoon. It has taken some time to move towards it, and it has not been an entirely smooth movement, but we have at least achieved it. I do not, like some speakers, regard this proposal as a compromise. I regard it, on the other hand, as getting the best of both worlds. We have here in this plan realistic control at the centre, and yet we preserve the value of Service loyalty at the perimeter, and I have been very happy to hear this afternoon with what vehemence your Lordships have subscribed to this view and deplored any attempt to tamper with Service loyalties. Those who are closest to this problem know exactly how valuable these loyalties are. Outside the circle of those with practical experience they tend, I think, to be undervalued.

I should have said that over the last ten years we have achieved a great deal more integration than is commonly realised. There has been integration of the three Services overseas to a marked degree; there has been integration to a marked degree in Supplies and Services and, lastly, in staff training. Here I would endorse the remarks of the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, when he stressed the need for integration of training at even the lowest levels; and I would go further and say that should be common throughout the entire Service at low and high levels, too.

We have heard mention to-day of Parkinson's Law. I am afraid that for a short time, until this scheme gets into its stride, we are bound to have a proliferation of staff appointments at high levels, and I do not think we shall be able to look for much economy for some time. We have heard talk this afternoon of bottlenecks. In my experience of bottles the neck is usually at the top. This is where I think we shall find the bottlenecks in the new Ministry of Defence. But we have at least got some savings already. In 1953 there were ten politicians in the Ministry of Defence and the three Service Departments; now we are reduced to seven. So at least there is a saving there to start off with.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, in his interesting speech made reference to the fact that the new Secretary of State, the Minister of Defence as was, now has no Parliamentary assistant, as his Parliamentary Secretary has vanished from the graph. It was always said that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, being an assistant to what was essentially a planning Minister, was not really of much use as little responsibility was given him. Exactly how useless an animal he was was pointed out by your Lordships, firmly but kindly, when I myself was posted to the job in 1957. We, of course, regret some of the changes.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I am sorry if I did not make myself plain. I was really raising the question of how the Parliamentary Questions which are now answered by Service Ministers would be dealt with when they no longer had the standing which, on the face of it, would enable them to give the answers.


I took that point, and I should like to deal with it later on. I was saying we of course regret some of the changes that have taken place. I do not regret the departure of the Secretary of State for War, which I always thought too bellicose a title. But I share the universal regret at the departure of the First Lord of the Admiralty, particularly as on this occasion it involves one of the best and best liked Ministers the Service has had for a very long time. To turn to the noble Earl, Lord Longford's, particular point. Constitutionally we are not allowed in this House to ask questions about the late running of the 8.20 from Norwich, because that is part of the day-to-day administration of the railways and comes within the purview of a statutory body appointed for that job. But we are entitled to ask questions about Gunner Buggin's pension, because it is the job of the Secretary of State for War constitutionally to answer. I should like to know, if my noble friend the Secretary of State can tell me, whether that is still going to exist and where the line is going to be drawn; how important a question concerning Army affairs is going to be left to the Minister of State for War and when will it go to the Secretary of State for Defence.

That this is going to be an immensely important new Ministry there can be no doubt—£2,000 million and 800,000 bodies. It is therefore essential that the Secretary of State himself, his advisers, Civil Service scientific advisers, and Service advisers, be of the highest calibre. If I make no other point to your Lordships this evening save this, it is that it is essential that this Ministry should be held in the highest regard, not only in Whitehall but here in Westminster, abroad, among our friends and Allies, and by the man in the street. It should be a Ministry of great efficiency, great power and great prestige. It is therefore essential, to my way of thinking, that the relationships between politicians, civil servants, industry and science, all of whom are embroiled in this Ministry, should be as good as possible. One thing I have learned in the last two or three years is that most politicians and civil servants are much more knowledgeable of and sympathetic to the problems of commerce than businessmen are knowledgeable of and sympathetic to the problems of politicians and civil servants. I should therefore like to see the inter-staff training to which the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, referred, extended to include those engineers and industrialists who will have to work closely with the Ministry of Defence. We must make certain that they are all thinking sympathetically of each other's problems.

Of the importance of the Secretary of State himself there can of course be no doubt. Noble Lords have criticised the changes that have occurred so often—too often—in the last ten years. Of course they are understandable, though nevertheless regettable. We never quite reached the speed of change among senior politicians that the French used to achieve before the days of General de Gaulle. There was, I believe, one drowsy afternoon in the Chamber of Deputies when a senior French politician nodded off and woke up to find he had been Prime Minister twice. We have fortunately not quite reached that stage. But let us in the future have at least greater stability than in the past.

Let it be an understood thing that the Secretary of State for Defence should frequently find himself on the Front Bench in the House of Lords—and, naturally, I would say on the Front Bench on this side. We have seen for ourselves in the presence of our present Foreign Secretary what a blessing it is to have a very senior Secretary of State untrammelled by day-to-day political and constituency matters. It is quite untrue to say that a senior Minister cannot be examined and cross-examined in this House. Of course he can. Technically he can be asked twenty Questions in any one Parliamentary week. And they can be addressed to a Secretary of State for Defence from a most informed body of questioners, unhampered by any rules about the number of supplementaries they can ask, or by any strict addiction to Order so far as the nature of those supplementaries is concerned. So much for the Secretary of State.

With regard to the Civil Service, there is, I believe, some hierarchy, whether written or merely conventional, about the Departments: certain Ministries are more favourably looked on by the young entrant to the Civil Service. The Treasury and the Foreign Office, of course, come very high, and wild horses on bended knees would not drag from me the Ministry that I think should come bottom. I very much hope that the Ministry of Defence will rank very high and that it will be an honour for civil servants to be posted to that Ministry. So, equally, Service officers—and we are fortunate in having about as high a standard of senior staff officers in the country to-day as we have ever had—should regard it as an honourable stage in their career, to be posted to serve at the Ministry of Defence.


May I ask the noble Lord a question? It does not invalidate his argument; it rather supports it. Is he aware that, out of 21 members of the Cabinet listed in Whitaker, the present Minister of Defence is listed No. 19?


My Lords, if you talk long enough, by the natural taws of statistical progression you will eventually say something sensible. That has just happened to the noble Earl, Lord Longford: he has made my point for me. That is exactly what I am trying to say. If I may, I should also like to voice some small doubts. I hope that those who have given so much thought and care to this matter have looked across the Atlantic to the Pentagon and profited a little by some of the mistakes, some of the teething troubles which they had. I myself at first would have liked to have the Ministry of Aviation within this Ministry, but I realise that it would place an intolerable burden on the Secretary of State, and I think at this moment it is as well to keep it out. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, I have some apprehension at the right, still maintained, of the Chiefs of Staff to have direct access to the Prime Minister. I have always disliked that. I cannot see how any business, any organisation or any Ministry can hope to run smoothly when the technical advisers can go behind their Chief's back to a superior authority. With the best will in the world, it leads to difficulties and to lobbying. Until you have seen a couple of Admirals with their daggers drawn you do not know what lobbying means.

My next doubt centres on paragraph 35 of the White Paper. This Ministry is going to become an operational headquarters. Hitherto, the three Service Ministries have all been operational headquarters, and could come into action almost as field headquarters if there were trouble in Ruritania or some "bush tire" blew up. It states clearly in paragraph 35 that that rôle now devolves upon the Ministry of Defence. Again, I share the apprehension of many of your Lordships at the number of committees. You really cannot control operations through committees. If Moses had been a committee, the children of Israel would still be in Egypt. I am unhappy about this plan for operational command, and although the paragraph is full of pious hopes I do not think that this will work if anything were to go seriously wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, mentioned, in another respect, the three-star officer. This is the first time that I have seen the use of three-star rank in an official Paper. I think it leads to the next observation that I want to make—namely, the clumsiness of our nomenclature and the need for a tidying up all round. It will take a lot of time to do this, to get clarity so that we are not always translating our defence language from our own Service into the other two. Supposing, for instance, the Secretary of State wished to seek advice on supply, he would send for the Controller of the Navy, the Quarter-Master General and the Air member for Supply and Organisation. Old King Cole sent for his fiddlers three. That is nearly what is happening here. I wish there were more clarity in language and nomenclature generally in the graph at the end of this White Paper.

That is all I wish to say to your Lordships, except once again to welcome this scheme, to hope that this Ministry of Defence will rapidly become as efficient and as respected throughout the country as possible. I have one more point to make, to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who mentioned the "change of scenery". He was describing what will happen in Whitehall when the Ministry of Defence moves into the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade move out and half the Air Ministry and the Navy move along. I can tell him what will happen—chaos! Some wag in Whitehall has decreed that this is going to start happening on All Fool's Day, 1964.

The chaos will be unequalled by anything that has happened in this country for the last nine years—I refer to September 12, 1954, at 2.30 p.m. At that precise moment I was changing a tyre in the centre of the cathedral City of Salisbury. Slightly to my surprise, Mr. Bertram Mills's circus entered the city from the north-west. Even more greatly to my surprise, two minutes later Mr. Chipper-field's circus entered the city from the south-east. The resulting chaos was indescribable. There was a summit meeting of baby elephants outside the Deanery, which is still the subject of lively recollection in the police and sanitation departments of the City of Salisbury. But that scene will be nothing to the scene which will occur in Whitehall on April 1, 1964. The last question I should like to ask of my noble friend the Secretary of State is, can he tell us exactly what time the move will start?—because I should very much like to be there.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, in considering whether this reform is a well conceived one, we should surely glance for a moment at what has gone wrong. Clearly, things have gone wrong, or the Government would not have been tempted in the first place to turn the defence house upside down as they are doing. I think things have gone wrong in two fields; first, in research and development. There have been so many rockets called "Blue" this and "Blue" that which have been cancelled, that one even forgets their names. The Americans can perhaps afford this kind of trial and error, partly because they are richer, anyhow, but more particularly because they are pushing at the frontiers of technology. What they do is new. We are not so rich, and in general we are not making absolutely new things. This is not to deny merit to British weapons designers; only to say that it is on the huge economic base that you get the spectacular advances, and can afford multiple cancellations of weapons projects, not on medium sized economic bases like ours.

The failure of "Blue" after "Blue" was a piece of living beyond our means. On top of this came the spectacular failure of Skybolt, where the central staff of the Ministry of Defence had known for months that the Americans would probably cancel it, and yet the Air Ministry was allowed to swing Government policy behind its totally mistaken impression all that time: Skybolt, leading to Nassau, leading to de Gaulle's veto on Britain's entry into E.E.C., leading to the abortive multilateral force—in other words, to the failure of President Kennedy's so-called "Grand design". These things are obviously best prevented from recurring by inter-Service integration, and even more perhaps by the integration of weapons planning, and research and development.

The second great way in which our defence policies have gone wrong since the war is exemplified by the Suez operation. The defence planners were not then, and still are not, getting a clear lead from foreign policy planners about what Britain is for at all. That operation was a Palmerstonian gunboat operation; it was a hundred years out of date as a piece of realpolitik. Is Britain a country in the last resort apt for castigating uppish Arabs; or is she a decent and law-abiding member of her alliances; or is she a pacemaker for detente and disarmament? We can hardly be all three; yet at times the Government have tried to be all three. This shows a sad lack of basic thought about our position in the world, and it shows also a sad lack of co-ordination between the Forein Office and the Defence Ministry.

I think we all know how it came about. Sir Winston Churchill was Defence Minister as well as Prime Minister; the rôle of Defence Minister was therefore able to be exercised in the only proper way, from the centre of power, in full knowledge of everything that went on and was planned, and as an integral part of the basic policy of the very identity of this nation. But then we found that having an animal called a Minister of Defence, we might as well give him an existence of his own, and so the poor creature—I am not speaking of individuals; there have been good Ministers and bad ones; I am speaking of the office—this poor creature of an office was sent into the wilderness to exist on its own, out of touch, insufficiently supplied with power, with planning machinery, and with liaison with other Departments of State. The result has been that to take this office has proved political suicide for more unfortunate Ministers than one can remember. When you see a yearly turnover of Ministers in charge of a Department, you surely know that reform is due.

Another reason why we should have this integration is that the Americans have it. I am, as I think the House knows, no partisan of slavish imitation when it comes to Washington. But it is difficult enough, anyhow, to co-ordinate our policies and actions with those of an ally so vastly our superior in strength, and in the resources of planning and buying. We have been hard put to it to keep in touch, to keep in sensible step, and we shall be yet harder put to it if we allow the central control of Defence in this country to be any weaker than it might be. No dog can run easily beside an elephant; if it suffers from voluntary locomotor ataxy, it has no right to complain if it gets forgotten, or even trodden on.

So I, for one, welcome this change. I contend that it does not go quite far enough in integration—not so much in integration of the three separate forces, the three super-fortresses as they have been called, as in the integration of Defence as a whole with the body politic itself. It seems to me that Defence is still too much of a specialist excrescence in our national planning. For instance, take the new Committee of the Cabinet for Defence and Overseas Policy. This is the key to the whole thing. It expresses, to the insufficient measure of the Government's intention, the new integration of Defence into general policy.

This Committee has no real staff to call on. It has only, to quote the White Paper, "A committee of senior officials to back it." Is this enough? Why cannot the Secretary of the Committee, like Lord Hankey in the old days on the Imperial Defence Committee, be entitled to a large and qualified staff who can prepare proper planning papers, and provide Ministers with clear alternatives saying, "You can make Britain this, that or the other thing, but you cannot make her all three"? Who will be responsible—and I ask the Government this, not rhetorically, but in the hope of an answer—when the new system comes into force, for long-term studies of national security? For relating traditional Defence with new concepts of Defence by arms control? For laying out the various alternatives between which the politicians have to choose? It used to be done under the system which is now being reformed, after a fashion, and with insufficient resources. But who is to do it now? This is not clear in the White Paper. I do not mean the sort of thing the Joint Planners do, but looking far ahead, forecasting the state of the world, its ideologies, and its balance of power between nations so that Britain may define herself in a realistic way.

Again, in regard to intelligence the White Paper mentions a Defence Intelligence Staff, which will go some way to reducing the three separate fortresses in this field. But in intelligence there have unfortunately been at least four separate fortresses. Besides military intelligence proper there has been the flow of intelligence directed by and absorbed into the Foreign Office. We have a Cabinet Committee that groups the Minister of Defence and the Foreign Office—and a good thing too. But, unless the senior officials are to be called upon to work for 24 hours a day, we have no co-ordinating body worth the name which can relate the two sides of positive intelligence.

The Joint Intelligence Bureau, as I understand it, is more of a clearinghouse than a true joint estimating agency. I foresee that, as hitherto, it may be easier for Ministers to find out what weapons systems the Chinese and Russians have than to be realistically informed of what they plan to do with them. I was recently told during a briefing at a certain N.A.T.O. headquarters that the most likely form of Soviet attack was held by the Intelligence Staff of that headquarters to be an all-out thermonuclear assault on the West as a whole. If anybody thinks that the Russians could do that with their inferior nuclear arsenal, I say that intelligence assessments of the adversary's probable intention are no more than crude and stupid horror stories. Can this not be remedied during the general turmoil by the setting up of a truly integrated and truly independent intelligence assessment agency, quite divorced from the control of any policy-making Department?


My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend, because I am interested in the discussion on this point? The intelligence staffs will be mainly concerned with appreciation. They will not be primarily intelligence collectors, except in a field which it is not really open to us to discuss. I do not quite see how the appreciation can be made except within Services which are closely familiar with the weapons and their operational use. Is the noble Lord proposing that this might be taken entirely outside the Services? It is quite an interesting concept.


I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. It is an intensely complicated field, and one with which none of us, by definition, can be familiar. I have the impression, though, that the collecting of positive intelligence (I do not mean only secret intelligence, but overt matters, too) in this country is done very well. But when the data arrive they are too often assessed and interpreted, and forced into a pattern maybe, by a Department which has an interest in pursuing its own policy. What I hoped one might see developed in time was a complete intelligence agency, which did not collect the intelligence but which saw it all; which was responsible to no one Department more than to any other, and which could not be advised or swayed by any executive organ of the Government. In other words, something that was completely independent, and on which there might be outside help, perhaps from the universities.

May I turn now, to the Chief Scientific Adviser? I am glad that the present colourful holder of that office has been given a "leg up", for he has a more realistic idea of what nuclear weapons can and cannot do than some of the "popgun soldiers" who are still, unfortunately, to be found around Whitehall. Is it a long enough "leg up"? I understand from the White Paper that if the Secretary of State wishes to take technical advisers with him to the Cabinet, he has the right to go surrounded by no fewer than four Chiefs of Staff, yet he has not the right to take even one little scientist with him. May this not be a mistake? It is surely high time that the scientist in general was redeemed from the status of an oily-handed, forelock-pulling mechanic, where there is still too much tendency to keep him in the Civil Service, and admitted to executive responsibility as automatically as any Hellenic humanist of a Permanent Under Secretary. That word "adviser" is a sad anachronism, is it not? We do not think of calling the Permanent Secretary the "administrative adviser to the Minister".

There are separate paragraphs in the White Paper devoted to the Meteorological Office and to the Public Relations Staff. This is very good. Everything should be thought of. But there is no mention of disarmament. Is this less important than the correct administration of weather forecasting? Is it less important than the job of the charming officer who will provide you with a sundowner and let his hair down in such an affable but fundamentally uncommunicative manner to the worried Defence correspondent? It seems so. It appears that in the White Paper the Government hold that this is less important.

I think the worst that can be said of this White Paper is that it shows that the Government have still not grasped the basic fact of this age: that though the responsibility of the Defence establishment is still what it always was—namely, to keep the people of this country alive and free—this responsibility cannot any longer be exercised by the former expedient of engaging in an arms race with the probable adversary. Security—national security—is now a two-faced thing: defence and disarmament; arms and arms control; deterrence and detente. We are in transition; we must relate these two faces rightly to each other. The White Paper shows a sublime insouciance about this. Disarmament is still to be left to the spirit of Metternich and Curzon, in a Foreign Office without one single scentist to call its own. Surely now—at the time of a great and, I do not doubt, painful upheaval—would have been the time for the Government to take this new world seriously, and to emerge from the dreams of Britannia invincible, of Albion booted and spurred, into the graver, less boyish realities of a complex world.

But that can be put right later. So, too, perhaps, can another matter—and this will be my last complaint. The Service Ministers have been demoted; and, sad as that is, it is right. But the new Secretary of State for Defence is thereby left, as many noble Lords have already remarked, in rather a forbidding and lonely eminence. One may doubt whether any one man can efficiently control so vast a machine and at the same time keep alive and supple in Parliament. May he not need help?—I mean functional help, not departmental help on the vertical pattern given him by his Ministers of State.

The American precedent may help us here, also. Although they often, as it seems to me, get the wrong answer, their machinery in this field is very good. The American Secretary of Defence is flanked by two powerful assistants. The present incumbents are Charles Hitch and Paul Nitze. Both have devoted many past years to the study of the matters they are now called upon to administer. Dr. Hitch is the Comptroller of the Defence Department. He is responsible, under Mr. Macnamara, for the defence budget, and for the general economic effects of the vast American arms industry. Mr. Nitze is responsible for international security affairs. He, under Mr. Macnamara, handles relations with allies, with adversaries and with neutrals, in so far as those relations have a military content; he handles liaison with the State Department, and he is responsible for disarmament within the Pentagon. For this last he has a full-time deputy, who is also a political appointment. This system works well.

I repeat that the policy decisions which come out of it often seem to me mistaken, but there is no doubt that they do come out of it; and they are adhered to and they are consistent, which is more than can be said of the present British practice in the defence field. There is control and effective control. Might not our own new Secretary of State for Defence benefit from some such system of assistance as this? One might even, perhaps, also consider an Assistant Secretary for Research and Development to keep an eye on the scientists, and to foster, when necessary, their particular way of looking at things. But that is more questionable.

My Lords, I think that we should welcome this reform and blame only certain shortcomings, which no doubt are more due to the difficulty of changing the ingrained habits of Conservative hierarchies than to basic misconception. I hope that the new system works, and that things will be carried further forward, either by this Government or by another.

6.52 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to give, as briefly as I can, my general support to the Central Organisation for Defence proposed by the Government in the White Paper, Cmnd. 2097. I think this is a step, and a very long step, in the right direction. I said "general support" just now, because I have certain fears and certain criticisms, but these have been so well expressed by noble Lords on both sides of the House that I will not delay your Lordships by repeating them here.

My noble friend Lord Teynham referred to the danger of Parkinson's Law operating here, and I must say that I agree. Other noble Lords have spoken about the tremendous responsibilities and the great burden of work which will fall on the Secretary of State for Defence in this new set-up, and on his Secretary. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, who referred to the weakness in the research and development organisation, and I must say that I am very much with him in the remarks he made there. I also have a great deal of sympathy with the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, on the question of the position of the Ministers of State. I listened to his remarks on that with the greatest possible interest, and I hope that noble Earl, Lord Home, will be able to tell us who will approve the promotion of senior officers.

My noble friend Lord Mancroft and the noble and gallant Field-Marshal both mentioned the vital need for inter-Service training for junior officers, and with that I heartily agree. That is in fact a matter to which I drew attention in the Defence debate three or four years ago, and I really think we must get down to it. Of course, I dislike a great many of the proposals in this White Paper, but I regard them as a necessity. But whatever feelings of nostalgia I may have at the disappearance of so many historic offices, particularly at the Admiralty—and I have plenty—I expressed these when I spoke in the Defence debate last March, and I do not propose to weary your Lordships by repeating them now. However, I must just refer to the disappearance of the post of the First Lord of the Admiralty. I am sorry that the First Lord had to leave us for an important appointment at Portsmouth (which I am sure he will find very pleasant) because I was just going to say some rather nice things about him. Tradition apart, I fear that with the disappearance of the First Lord the Navy will lose the services of the present occupant of the post, my noble and gallant friend Lord Carrington. He has endeared himself to serving and retired officers alike, and I know of no one in naval circles who does not regard him with the greatest affection and esteem.

The first First Lord with whom I ever had contact in my naval career was Sir Winston Churchill, then Mr. Winston Churchill, when he arrived at Dartmouth in that lovely yacht the "Enchantress" and came up to the college to inspect us cadets. He came into the classroom where my fellow cadets and I were studying the differential calculus, under a character well known to generations of naval officers as "P.T.H.". I do not suppose the then First Lord had any more clue about the differential calculus than I had then or have now, but as he progressed round the classroom looking at each boy's work he came to my desk, which was in the corner, and said, "Out of my way, boy." They are the only words that great man has ever addressed to me. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has never said, "Out of my way, boy", and I do not suppose he will, but I shall be quite prepared to say, "Out of his way" to quite a number of people, if there is any chance of his becoming our Minister of Defence.

I must turn now for a very short time to the White Paper. Like my noble friend Lord Mancroft, I immediately noticed that the inception of this great reorganisation was going to take place on All Fools' Day, 1964. Whilst I cannot recount to your Lordships an amusing story of circuses on a collision course in Salisbury, as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, did, I must say that I was reminded of a new submarine to which I had been appointed. Soon after I arrived I found that the shipyard proposed to launch this ship on a Friday, and the 13th of the month to boot! My captain and I, knowing our sailors' susceptibilities in this sort of matter, went to the shipyard people and said, "Tides or no tides, this date has got to be altered"; and it was altered. I would recommend someone in the Government to go to the organisers of this great move and shift the date from April 1 to April 5, which, after all, is the beginning and ending of the Government year.

I also rather dislike the very clumsy title selected for the so-called Second Permanent Under Secretary of State. I suppose these titles all stem from the Civil Service ranking, pay and emoluments—including the size of desk, of course, and carpet, if any. I suggest that if the Permanent Under Secretary of State to the Defence Board were called merely "Secretary to the Defence Board", then we could have Assistant Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of the Navy, Army and Air Force Secretariat and so forth, which, for one thing, would considerably simplify paper work. After all we have had a Secretary to the Admiralty for hundreds of years—since the days of Pepys, in fact, the real founder not only of our Admiralty organisation but of our Civil Service. For pay, emoluments and so forth, I have always imagined that the Secretary to the Admiralty has ranked with a Permanent Under Secretary of State.

My Lords, with other noble Lords, I am not at all happy about the decision to leave the Ministry of Aviation, or at any rate its defence responsibilities, outside the Defence Ministry organisation. I can quite see the difficulty of carving the Ministry of Aviation about and putting its civil responsibilities somewhere else (I do not wish to go into any details in this debate), but, with the ever-growing interdependence of our fighting Services, it is not only the Royal Air Force which is closely concerned with aircraft development for military purposes, but all the other Services. In particular, the Navy, in its pursuit of the maritime strategy so vital to this country, must rely more and more on suitable aircraft being available. The announcement last night, which I particularly welcome, of the decision to build a new aircraft carrier adds point to what I have just said.

I believe it is essential to keep this question of the Ministry of Aviation under review, and I will repeat here a suggestion that I made in the recent Defence Debate. That is, that the Royal Air Force should have—really needs—a Royal Corps of Aircraft Constructors on the pattern of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors which has served the Navy so well and for so long. Perhaps when the position of the Ministry of Aviation comes under review, as I am sure it will, that suggestion may be given at any rate some thought.

Finally, my Lords, I have a small point on paragraph 68 on page 11, which discusses the organisation of the principal administrative officers and the principal personnel officers. Personally, I dislike the reference to an officer "of three star rank". There is no such rank in any of our official Navy, Army or Air Force lists, and I think that this is an Americanism which could well be omitted. The real criterion is ability, not rank. I had the honour to serve on the staffs of three great Naval Commanders-in-Chief in the last war—Andrew Cunningham of Hyndhope, John D. Cunningham and Bertie Ramsay. They all held very strong views on this subject. I will not repeat exactly what they said, for some of their views, if repeated verbatim, would be too strong meat for your Lordships' House; but they were all very insistent that ability and suitability were the sole criteria, and not rank. Andrew Cunningham in fact held the view that if a naval commander could not represent him satisfactorily at a committee, of whatever exalted rank, then the individual in question was not worthy to wear three stripes on his arm.

If this new organisation is to work satisfactorily—and, what is more, is to get into top gear quickly—ruthless selection of the right men for the right places, irrespective of rank or service, will be necessary. There is no time for a policy of, "It is Buggins's turn now", or for putting square pegs into round holes. My Lords, I wish the new organisation all success, and I think this will be assured if it starts on April 5, and not on April 1.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, I think it would be fair to say that it has been made clear by the course of the debate to-day that the House as a whole approaches the problems presented by this White Paper in a spirit of bipartisanship. We may have—we have—differences of opinion on this point or that, but they are differences of opinion which are capable of being resolved with a view to making the scheme work better than at first sight it looks as if it might.

With your Lordships' permission, I shall begin with something which will, I believe, meet with the approval of the whole House. Reference has been made to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and to the high regard in which he is held, which view, of course, I share with all your Lordships. He has asked me to apologise for the fact that he is not here for the conclusion of the debate. He has just recently left to proceed by helicopter to Portsmouth to attend a dinner there on H.M.S. "Victory" at the dining out of Admiral Sir Caspar John on his retirement. I told him—I hope with the approval of your Lordships—that he might tell the Admiral on behalf of your Lordships' House that we all salute him and wish him well at the conclusion of his long and distinguished service.


Hear, hear!


My Lords, to come more closely to this White Paper, as has been said in this discussion earlier, I think it bears some fairly close relationship—not too close, but some fairly close relationship—to the American organisation. And I do not think it is any the worse for that so long as we keep our eyes carefully open to those points where the American organisation does not seem to fit in with the requirements of us here in this country and with our responsibilities. The fact that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is to close this debate on behalf of the Government shows that, as is made clear by the White Paper, there is a close relationship, now openly recognised and made clear to all, between defence and foreign policy, and that foreign affairs will have a due place in the consideration of our responsibilities in the Defence Council and on the Defence Committee.

I am glad that the principle of the Chiefs of Staff organisation is being maintained, though with one questionable change to which I will refer in a moment; that the Chief of Staff will be the senior officer of his own branch of the Services; and that there will be access by the Chiefs of Staff, in the event of differences of opinion, to the Defence Committee and to the Prime Minister But there is one new aspect of affairs in connection with that organisation to which I think full attention is due, and that is the position of the Chief of the Defence Staff. That is a position of high authority, and it is a position in which there is one person who has direct access to the Secretary of State, by whom differences of opinion among the Chiefs of Staff will be resolved. Then there is the rather curious statement in the White Paper that, having referred those differences, and expressed his opinion upon them, to the Secretary of State, he will then give his own advice. I was under the impression that, when differences of opinion are expressed to a Minister, it was for the Minister to form his opinion about those differences and to make his decision: but here it looks as if it is going to be the Chief of the Defence Staff. I think that may be open to objection, and may present difficulties, not only between the three Service Chiefs of Staff (if I may use the old nomenclature) and the Chief of Defence Staff, but also in relation to the Secretary of State.

We are in the rather odd position, which is unique in the nature of the case at the moment, that, by some strange alchemy of fortune, we have as the Chief of the Defence Staff one who has himself, as your Lordships will remember, served as a Supreme Commander-in-Chief of a great command in time of war, the South-East Asia Command. That carries manifest advantages in respect of the one who happens to have that qualification and, at the same time, to be Chief of Defence Staff. That is not a situation which can recur in the nature of the case; and it is, I think, a question that deserves full consideration as to whether there is likely to be in the Ministry of Defence anyone who carries the same unusual qualifications and is competent to present an opinion to the Secretary of State where differences arise between the Chiefs of Staff. He will be chief professional adviser to the Secretary—and that goes without saying by reason of the office he holds. But, when there are differences of opinion, I wonder whether the Ministry will be producing men who are capable of exercising the authorities suggested in the White Paper in the same way as is the case with the present incumbent of that office. I think this question is worth consideration; and also whether the old system did not work sufficiently well for us to avoid all the differences of opinion and discussions that may arise among the Chiefs of Staff by puting one head over them. I put that to your Lordships because when we have to deal with the legislation this is a subject that may be one for our consideration.

The position of the Chief of Defence Staff is, in one sense, very different from the position of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State and the Chief Scientific Adviser. The Chief of Defence Staff is there for only a term of years—short or long. I suppose usually it will be for from three to five years. In the case of the present incumbent there is now an extension to 1965, but the situation is unusual and I doubt whether a future incumbent will be given the same length of service. In the case of a Permanent Under-Secretary and the Chief Scientific Adviser, there is normally no term of office except, of course, anno domini, which, no doubt, will apply in their case as in the case of others in the Civil Service. Those who are there permanently, when the Minister, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Chiefs of Staff of the various Services are all birds of passage, come to occupy a position of the greatest possible responsibility and authority. The question is whether, in an office so complex as this and covering so wide a range of responsibilities, that is altogether a sound and safe position.

Secretaries of State will come and go—but I hope they will not come and go too often. Here you have a Secretary of State who will be dealing, so far as finance is concerned, with almost the whole of the proceeds of income tax gathered by revenue—£2,000 million a year—and within whose jurisdiction are 450,000 Service personnel and 450,000 civilian personnel. He will have responsibilities so wide, so complex and so important that, in the nature of the case, notwithstanding the long history and tradition attached to many offices, he is bound to be the most important Minister in the Government. He carries great responsibility; he spends more of the national income than any other Minister; and he has the responsibility of the defence of the nation. Having regard to all that, I believe it is no exaggeration to say that he will become the most important Minister.

Is it right that such a Minister should hold office for only a short period of time and be subject to all the changes of opinion that may exist? In the first year he will be learning his job; it is difficult enough, I and many of your Lordships, know from experience, for any Minister of a Department to learn his job; and it takes a year or so to do it. Here you have the head of a great organisation of the utmost complexity. It is not one job; it is indeed many jobs all rolled into one. It is like being the head of one of the greatest business organisations we have in this country and carrying enormous responsibility. I wonder whether it is right that such a one, being a relatively temporary incumbent of office, should have to rely very much upon a civil servant and a scientific adviser who, in contrast to himself and the Chief of Defence Staff, are permanent and with a very high remuneration—and I do not begrudge them that—and who are full of the learning of the Department and the experience and tradition that has grown up during the past. It is difficult for any Minister, however well-intentioned, however skilful, to stand up against those who have been there all the time and have all the knowledge and know-how. I think that is a matter that requires enormous consideration in a Ministry of this vast size and importance which is, if not designed, calculated to be the most important in the State, subject only to the Prime Minister himself.

I should now like to deal with some relatively minor points, but not so minor in importance. Under the terms of the White Paper manpower plans are to be drawn up on a defence basis. I should like to know what that means. Recruiting for the Army, as we know (and as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mentioned earlier this evening) has gone down to about 50 per cent. of what it was this time last year. Who is to decide, and by what criteria is it to be decided, for whom recruiting is to be undertaken? I should like to know the answer to that question. The Army certainly needs powerful reinforcements in the way of recruiting.

There is also the question of promotion. Is there to be a single Ministry of Defence list or are there to be separate lists for each Service, or are there to be four lists altogether, one for the Ministry of Defence and one for each of the Services? That is important, for what is the hierarchy to be by which relative entitlement to promotion or high office in any branch of the Ministry may be gauged? We want to know something about that and also by whom selection is to be made, which was a point to which my noble friend Lord Longford referred. Who is to make the appointment and with whom will the actual decision rest? I gather from the White Paper that for all appointments over major-general and equivalent ranks a decision will be made by the Secretary of State. That will be on some recommendation made to him; and I do not know by whom; and I do not know whether it is on the list of the Defence Ministry or on the list of each of the individual Services. I think we want to know a good deal more about that.

I do not want to weary your Lordships or detain you after this long debate. I do not think that I have a great deal more to say. There has been a good deal of reference to-day to Parkinson. I believe that we shall hear a good deal about Parkinson in this whole outfit. That troubles me a good deal. This White Paper provides for a veritable proliferation of committees; and every committee will throw off a sub-committee. I wonder whether anybody has sat down and worked out a timetable—how many committees there are; how many times they are going to meet, and how these committees will be planned so that nobody is required to attend more than one committee at the same time. My guess is that we shall be surprised. We shall find that the whole of the working day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year, will be occupied by people attending committees and unable to get on with the job. I think that it is very important to exercise a firm hand on this growth of committees. It is easy to say, "We cannot decide now, because there is a slight difference of opinion; so let us refer it to a committee"; whereas, if somebody were to take a strong line and say, "Yes", or "No", the other people concerned would accept it.

I would add that my impression is that this new organisation is going to cost more. There will be no economy at all events in the early stages. Noble Lords, like the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, who have experience of business on a great scale, know, as I do, that when there are great amalgamations, whatever the hopes held out for economy, at the beginning, at least until the new organisation shakes down, it is always more and not less expensive. Here we have few of those inducements that apply to the uniting of great industries, and I suspect that it will be found, at least for some years, until the whole thing shakes down to a reasonable size, that the expense will be much more than that prevailing at the present time. It is only fair to say—and I say it openly—that I do not read the White Paper as holding out any hopes of immediate economy. I am not suggesting that it is in any way misleading: I am merely expressing my opinion, that there will be a larger and not a smaller expense.

I believe that there is something to be said for this great orgnisation having a properly set up public relations office. I think that the public relations of the Services leave a great deal to be desired and need to be looked at. Such large and important Ministries, touching so many points of national life, should be in a position to get the very best service in this regard, and to make a proper impact upon the public mind. I agree also with my noble friend Lord Kennet, who said just now that there is room for a Central Intelligence Office, including, I should hope, first-class intelligence from the Foreign Office. I am not speaking here of security: I put intelligence and security in entirely different positions. So far as intelligence is concerned, I think that a Central Intelligence Office—not a Ministry, but an office, a special department of the Ministry—might be all to the good.

So far as the contents of this White Paper are concerned, that is almost all I have to say, and I am grateful to your Lordships for having listened to me with such patience. There will be opportunities after the Recess to discuss some of these matters in greater detail, either on legislation being presented or on some Motion being brought forward for the purpose. I should like to say a final word about the position of the Labour Party, on whose behalf I speak here at this Box to-day, in connection with the whole question of Defence. I think that there is often, perhaps among your Lordships, but certainly in the public outside, some misunderstanding about how the Labour Party stand in regard to Defence. There is a sort of suggestion, here and there—perhaps not only here and there—that the Labour Party are uninterested in defence; that they are opposed to it, rather than in favour of it.

My Lords, I think that I personally am in a pretty good position to speak on this question, because I have spent a great deal of my time and interest in connection with it, in a very minor way, it is true; but one cannot do more than give one's interest and activities to the matter which interests one. I think that it is worth noting that when my noble friend Lord Attlee was Prime Minister, it was he who produced, for the first time in peace time, a Minister of Defence—the Minister being, in fact, my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. I think it is worth quoting that, when I was at the War Office, I presented to your Lordships' House, from the Box opposite, the National Service Bill. And I think that it is worth noting that when there was a question of intervening in the difficulty in Korea, we were ready, because of the arrangements which had been made by the Government under the Premiership of my noble friend Lord Attlee and when my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough was Minister of Defence. I think that in all this post-war period the Labour Party have a record which is entitled to respect. They have in every way played their part in seeking to secure the defence of the country in all the ways that were open to them. And I may say, on behalf of my noble friends, that we hold the defence and the honour of the country as high and as warmly as do any Members of your Lordships' House.

7.27 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for the way one opened the debate and the way in which the other has concluded it, from their side of the House. Let me say at once that of course I accept that the Labour Party have played their full part in giving security to our country. From time to time we shall no doubt differ on various issues of policy—for example, it may be on the organisation of nuclear defence—but I hope that one Party will never accuse the other of in any way neglecting the defence of the country. Certainly, so long as I am at this Box I shall try to conduct foreign policy and defence policy, because the Foreign Secretary has an important influence on defence, which is the broad concern of both Parties and, I hope, the majority of the nation. I join in the generous and well-deserved tribute the noble Lord paid to Admiral Sir Caspar John. All of us who have worked with him are very sorry to lose him from our company. I hope that he and my noble friend the First Lord will have a very happy evening, as no doubt they will.

There is one principle which I think should be enunciated at the beginning of every Defence debate in Parliament, and repeated at the end. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, expressed it this way: that there must be a recognition of the relationship between Defence and foreign policy. I would put it, I think, that defence is the means to political ends, and that political considerations and aims must always dictate the basis of defence structure, and not the other way round. Not unnaturally, therefore, a number of noble Lords have taken a very close look during this debate at those sections of the White Paper which deal with political direction and control.

The White Paper makes it absolutely clear that the responsibility for making sure that the Defence forces and the weapons systems are geared to political requirements falls firmly on the shoulders of the Prime Minister and the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee of the Cabinet. If anything were needed to emphasise that, it is the change of name from that of the Defence Committee to the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee of the Cabinet. This clearly indicates that the Government fully accept the relationship, as the noble Lord put it, between foreign policy and Defence.

In these days, of course, the Committee almost chooses itself, and overseas political Ministers—the Foreign Secretary and the Commonwealth and Colonial Secretaries—must be members. They have the unenviable task of gazing into the crystal ball and trying to indicate to the Cabinet (because decisions depend on this) what British interests will be ten and twenty years from now; what obligations we should expect, and what weapons systems and forces may be necessary to fulfil the political interests of Britain at that time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has the still more unenviable and thankless task of estimating costs, perhaps ten or even twenty years ahead, so as to keep the Defence Budget within bounds. The Minister of Aviation is responsible for weaponry, and the Home Secretary for the security of the home country. If the noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, had been here, I should have told him that the reason, good or bad, for not mentioning Civil Defence in this particular White Paper is that the present organisation is not affected at all.

I have a good deal of sympathy with the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, when he says he wants simplicity in Defence organisation. But I do not see how one can simplify this part of the machinery, or how the Defence Committee of the Cabinet could be simplified. There is no one Minister, either the Secretary of State, or indeed the Prime Minister, who could possibly keep in his mind all the varied considerations which have to be taken into account when you are determining long-term strategy and the weapons systems needed to sustain that strategy. I remember that in a previous debate one noble Lord (possibly it was the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, or the noble Earl, Lord Longford; but I cannot remember which) suggested that it would be valuable if, parallel to the Ministerial Committee, the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee, there was an official committee under-pinning the Ministers. That idea is adopted and included as part of this White Paper, and I think it will be most valuable. It will preserve continuity and it will do a good deal of lone-term planning, which I think was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. That is part of the plan.

The Cabinet structure at the top is, then, absolutely of the first importance. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is quite right in saying that it is the key to everything that goes on below that level. Within the main principle, and the political structure, therefore, stemming from it, the theme of the White Paper—and, naturally enough, the theme of this debate—has been the interdependence of the Forces. Every experience in actual military operations (and the House may be interested to know that there have been 46 occasions on which the Armed Forces have had to go overseas since the war) has underlined the fact that to-day the Services are absolutely dependent one on another. One must agree with the noble and gallant Field-Marshal when he says that as a result of our operational experience anything which aims to knit the Services together must be right. So the object, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, rightly said, is not in dispute. It is how to achieve the maximum benefit of central direction under a Secretary of State for Defence without sacrificing the loyalty and pride of each Service, which must be preserved if the nation is to have a Fighting Force of the first quality and the first efficiency.

The debate has revealed, I think, a dilemma in which we are bound to find ourselves when we are searching for a solution of this kind. A number of noble Lords have said that they are afraid that the solution adopted in the White Paper would reduce the political influence of the Defence Services and the Defence set-up as a whole in the councils of the Government. We could have retained three Secretaries of State, as there are to-day: Ministers of Cabinet rank; Ministers, let us remember, in present circumstances all competing for short supplies; and Ministers, as anybody knows who has sat with them in Cabinet, who have considerable forensic ability and make their cases extremely well. There is no doubt that that gives considerable political influence, and it could be said that if we had adopted this setup the Services would have more political influence. On the other hand, I think that our experience has shown beyond doubt that the existence of three major autonomous Departments of State militates against the integration of Defence policy, which is, of course, our agreed aim and which the great majority of your Lordships have supported in the House to-day.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl? Has he finished with the question of political influence?


No. I was coming later on to some of the points the noble Earl raised. As in every human institution, of course, it depends very much (I think the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said this) on what the Secretary of State's method of working will be. If he is wise, he will devolve a great deal on the Ministers of State. Indeed, it is absolutely essential that he should do so, since he must give himself time to grasp the larger issues of policy and to give decisions on them, because he must be, as I think the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, described him, the author of policy. The Ministers of State must obviously be given a Defence rôle in addition to their primary responsibility as members of the Service Boards.

One of the great problems of Government—and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, put his finger on this—is how to achieve decentralisation while keeping a proper overall control. One of the problems of Government, as I have seen it in the last few years, is that, however exalted the deputies given to a senior Minister, the tendency is for the clients to want to deal always with the top man. Yet, if the wheels of Government are not to be hopelessly clogged, two things must happen: a senior Minister must decant work and responsibility, and, what is more, the clients must accept that position. When the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, talks about "merely a Minister of State", I rather wish he would not do so, because I think that the answer must be to give Ministers of State a status which will enable them to command respect, attention and authority, both in the individual Services and in Parliament. I have had quite a lot of experience of this in the Foreign Office. For instance, one of my Ministers of State practically takes charge of disarmament. It really is wrong to think that Ministers of State cannot be given very wide responsibilities under the supervision of a senior Minister; in fact, it is right that this should be so.

My feeling is, therefore, that on balance—and I think that probably this view is shared by the majority of your Lordships, although there are legitimate doubts on this question of how much political influence the Services and the Defence set-up should acquire—we have probably achieved a fairly correct balance between central control and direction and practical and decentralised management. I think we have it about right; but the noble and gallant Viscount the Field Marshal was absolutely right. We cannot at this moment tell how it is going to work, and, therefore, it must be kept under the closest watch and must be adapted if defects are shown. We can really only tell by experiment.

If the Secretary of State is to come to right conclusions, I think there must be no danger that he is ignorant of the points of view of the individual Services. Quite a number of your Lordships concentrated on this point. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, in particular drew attention to it. This is secured by each Chief of Staff being the professional head of his own Service; by the Secretary of State having direct access to experts of all three Services as he requires any information; and by the collective responsibility of the Chiefs of Staff to the Defence Committee through the mouthpiece of the Chief of Staff himself; and by the Service Chief in the last resort having the right to be heard by the Prime Minister. It has been questioned whether this was wise. This would happen only if there were a difference of opinion and a dispute within the Chiefs of Staff Committee of such a kind that it simply could not be settled, either by them or the Chief of the Defence Staff or, indeed, after consultation with the Secretary of State. If you get that kind of difference between the heads of the Services and the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Secretary of State, then it is much better to have it out in the open and not try to hide it. I think there is, therefore, a case for the Chiefs of Staff being able to go direct to the Prime Minister.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl to ask what he does when there is a dispute between the Assistant Under Secretary of State and the Foreign Office? Is it not parallel?


I win the argument, my Lords. But, of course, if there is a dispute which I cannot resolve, I take it to the appropriate Committee of the Cabinet and, if necessary, to the Prime Minister. So I think there is a case here, if disputes of this sort arise, for them to go to the highest fountain head of wisdom. But it must be hoped that not many disputes of such a serious character will arise that under this set-up, with the co-ordinating powers of the Secretary of State, there should be fewer even than there have been in the past.

There is one other considerable matter of organisation which claimed your Lordships' attention: that is, whether the Ministry of Aviation should be included and put under the authority of the Secretary of State for Defence. I think it was broadly accepted that, while this Department should be under one roof in the Ministry of Defence, it could not be transferred to his authority, at any rate at the present time. With his responsibility for civil aviation research and development, and for the sponsorship of the aircraft industry, the Minister of Aviation has a lot to do. I think a number of your Lordships said that to put this additional burden on the Secretary of State for Defence would be questionable at any time, and at the present time really right out of the question. The main attention of your Lordships this afternoon has been concentrated on problems of organisation and administration, and very formidable they are. I think the noble Earl very fairly asked some questions earlier to-day and raised some points, because this new Minister is going to have authority over some 800,000 personnel, civilian and military. There are going to be some 3,000 persons in the main building, and an operational headquarters has to be created which will have to work round the clock.

It is here that your Lordships have presented to me to-day the longest catalogues of anxieties—and perfectly properly. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, did not ask a question so much as pose to us the problem as to how, in modern conditions, you get the officers of the highest quality and experience, which undoubtedly will be required in the Services. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked about the Defence Operations Executive. Perhaps I might say a word about that. Within each of the existing Service Departments the senior officers who are listed in paragraph 36 of the White Paper, are senior executives in an emergency of the Chiefs of Staff and the Vice-Chiefs of Staff. The Defence Operations Executive has been set up to give formal expression to the growing interdependence of the Services by establishing in Whitehall a regular body of responsible officers for the better co-ordination of the Services in action. These officers will be able to function more efficiently than under present arrangements, because they will be provided with fully up-to-date facilities in the shape of the new Defence Operations Centre, and the facilities described in the White Paper: and, of course, they will be acting in accordance with well-established procedures. That, at any rate, is an interim answer to one question which the noble Lord asked. He then asked about the procurement of weapons and machines. This is more complicated, and I think I will ask my noble friend to reply to him by letter.

My noble friend Lord Swinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, raised matters of accounting and economy. One particular proposal which was made by my noble friend Lord Swinton and which certainly I will have considered is that there might be established what he called a second Financial Secretary, a Financial Secretary for Defence. To anybody who runs a spending Department even of the kind I run, which is a modest one, the thought of two Financial Secretaries is daunting and rather terrifying. How a Financial Secretary for Defence would work in with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury who has an overall supervision in matters of finance, I am not so sure, but certainly we will examine this question.

My noble friend Lord Mancroft asked how Parliamentary Questions would be asked and who would take them, the Secretary of State for Defence or Ministers of State. I must not lay down rules for either House, but if I may take the analogy of the Foreign Office I would say that the Secretary of State by and large tries to keep himself for the broader matters of policy and answers questions on them, and the Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries take the other matters.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, and a number of noble Lords asked who would be responsible for the higher appointments in each Service. I take it that the Secretary of State for Defence would make the appointments on the recommendation of the individual Chief of Staff of the Service concerned. I have not been able to consult my right honourable friend, as noble Lords will understand, and if the question is asked whether he will also consult the Minister of State connected with the Service—Army, Navy or Air Force—I feel sure that he would be consulted. But I should have to confirm that before I could give an absolutely firm answer to noble Lords.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether he can say anything with regard to a Defence Ministry list, and how the hierarchy will be arranged between the Defence Ministry and the Services to look after seniority—in other words, whence the future officers of the Defence Ministry will be selected?


I think I will get my noble friend to communicate with the noble Lord by letter on that matter. It is fairly complicated, and I should like to get it correct if I am going to answer him at all. It is impossible to answer a good many of the questions asked to-day, but I will ask my noble friend Lord Carrington or my right honourable friend to deal with any points I am not able myself to answer this afternoon. Having heard the whole debate, and all the questions that have been asked, I come to the conclusion that we have probably been right not to try anything more ambitious in the way of reorganization; that really we have already bitten off just as much as we can chew.

On the question of economies, the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and others have put the point very fairly. I think he was very fair when he said, in effect, that economy is not the object of this exercise; the object of the exercise is to get the best possible defence structure and service for the nation. Certain new posts have to be created and certain new staffs have to be built up—for instance, the staff of the control of the defence budget—and I agree that it is difficult to see economies in the early stages of the transition. But noble Lords have been perfectly right, if I may say so, to remind us of Parkinson and of what the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said, that the Minister of Defence ought to acquire some weed-killer. I was more apprehensive about that as I was not quite sure who, in the mind of the noble and gallant Field Marshal, were the weeds. At any rate, I think I would put it this way: while we cannot anticipate any substantial economies in the early years, nevertheless the object of the whole exercise is efficiency and, with efficiency, economy.

What then are the hopes of this new plan? The hope is that the new planning machinery, the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee, and the Cabinet will lay down the policy requirements with clarity; that the Secretary of State for Defence—and the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, made this point—will be able to exercise authority and oversight which is effective, because this is a job which essentially can be done by only one man, which is what I think he said, and which I think is true, and, as a result of his oversight, authority and foresight, he will be able to propose to the Cabinet the shape of the Forces and the weapons systems which the political strategy requires.

The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, raised a number of other points about planning which would bring me back rather to the number of operations which have been conducted overseas. The contingency planning which has to run all the time and which was mentioned, too, by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is very important, perhaps more important than ever to keep it absolutely up to date when speed in military movement is absolutely the essence of success of any operation. I should think that our planning machine is certainly capable of planning for military operations, taking into account, as one noble Lord asked us to, the problems of the Commonwealth, of Europe and the problems of limited war in any other part of the world. Our Forces must be made interdependent, but it has also to be realised that all strategy and tactics everywhere are inter-related, and I think we should want, therefore, planning staff for them all. I do not intend to say anything on security, except that I hope we shall always be preserved from a Ministry of Security. I do not like that idea at all and, mercifully, it has not featured in this debate of your Lordships.

All in all, while we should never be complacent, I think that the Government may be reasonably satisfied with the reception of the proposals we have put forward. If I can judge from the tone of the debate as a whole, while many noble Lords want many of the problems to be considered, yet, with the principle, I think there is no quarrel. The noble and gallant Field Marshal rather suggested that we should never see unification of the Forces until there was a third world war. I can assure the noble and gallant Field Marshal that it is my job to stop that, and I shall try to do it so that when we come to the next stage of unification we may do so in peace. I am very grateful to your Lordships for the trouble that you have taken to help my right honourable friend in the consideration of these very complex matters, and I think we have had a most useful debate.

7.55 p.m.


My Lords, first of all I desire to thank all the Members of your Lordships' House who have assisted in this debate to-day. It is a vastly important subject; it is projected in a White Paper which, obviously from the debate which has taken place, is unable to give us all the information that we require in order to form a final judgment, but we are told that we shall be having legislation submitted in the autumn. I hope, from the tone of the speech that the Foreign Secretary has just made, that the points made in the debate will be very carefully examined before there is anything like final drafting of legislation.

What also concerns me a great deal is this. I may be regarded by some people as wrong, but, with the enormous growth of the Budget to the present figure of £1,838 million, and estimated now to go up nearer to £2,000 million, we are yet fundamentally at the present moment so far behind in getting the modernised equipment that is really required in present circumstances; and if there is going to be any considerable delay in, say, putting the kind of plan which the Government think is the best into operation, and it requires legislation, that will be a very great pity. Decisions have to be taken pretty quickly about some of these things. We shall already wait until 1968 for a Polaris. We have had tremendous disappointments with missiles and rockets and are now holding back on questions connected with them. We are not in the position which we ought to be in at this moment, and if there is going to be any considerable delay in getting this thing going, that would be a great pity. If we could obtain an assurance, perhaps before the other place rises, that there is going to be steady, hard work now in the Ministry of Defence to get these other things on the way, then we should be more happy.

Another thing I should like to say is this. I have seen a little of big business myself, and I have seen organisations which have succeeded and some which have failed, and I am bound to say that when you have formed a big top structure to an organisation with a great increase in expense and cost you do not necessarily bring greater success to the operation as a whole. What really is needed is the growth of the spirit within the Services themselves really to co-operate as they have done over and over again. The Foreign Secretary mentioned in his reply to-night about the co-operation of the Services, and I had the thought running through my mind when the noble and gallant Field Marshal said, "All will be one eventually". I have seen no real difficulties in the military command, and I am quite sure from what he said about the African campaign and other things that he must feel the same: that a military commander has never had any real difficulty when operations are on in absorbing a naval brigade into his joint force. This was so even as far back as Ladysmith.

There has never been any difficulty in getting co-operation as is going on now in the Federation of South Arabia, of having Royal Marine Commandos working side by side with Army Commandos under an Army commander. Really, it is just fulfilling the proper spirit of co-operation that needs to be pressed, and I still think there is a great deal in what my noble, and very experienced, friend Lord Attlee said: "You can have a fault in more harness than horse". I hope that will always be remembered. I have great pleasure in saying again that I am much obliged to all Members of your Lordships' House who have taken part and those who have replied for the Government, and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.