§ 3.06 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl of Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Transfer to, and discharge by, Secretary of State and Defence Council of certain statutory functions]:
§ LORD TEYNHAM moved, in subsection (1)(b), to leave out "Navy Board" and to insert "Admiralty Board". The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I am afraid that it will be necessary to repeat a portion of my speech which I gave on the Second Reading of the Bill, in order to make clear the point I raise in this Amendment and also for the benefit of your Lordships who were not able to be present on that occasion. The intention of this Amendment is to substitute the words "Admiralty Board" for "Navy Board" in Clause 1, followed by two consequential Amendments.
§ I really cannot understand why Her Majesty's Government should offer any resistance to this Amendment. It cannot in any way interfere with their ideas of integration, and I hope that at this stage they are prepared to accept this Amendment or at least to consider the Amendment again. I have previously suggested to your Lordships that we must be on our guard against the tendency of planners to forget the greatly different roots and great traditions of the 768 Armed Services. I would say that this applies particularly to the Royal Navy. There is a fundamental difference between the Navy and the other Armed Services. A soldier has loyalty to his regiment—although I believe there are to-day those in some quarters who would like the regiment system to disappear and be replaced by a corps of infantry. In the Navy the advent nowadays of short-service commissions of only some eighteen months means, of course, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to build up a similar loyalty to a unit such as one of Her Majesty's ships. I maintain that something higher is required which the sailor can look up to as a focus for his loyalty, and this must be the Admiralty.
§ I would repeat what I said on Second Reading: that the word "Admiralty" goes back many centuries into the shadowy mist of the past. It is also a collective term for the Royal authority vested in the office of the Lord High Admiral. This was the case whether the Lord High Admiral was an individual as, of course, he was for many years, or whether the office went into commission, as we know to-day, as Lords of the Admiralty. Throughout the Royal authority has been maintained, and with Her Majesty resuming the office of Lord High Admiral there will be a continuity of the Royal authority exercised through the collective term "Admiralty", now to be changed for no apparent reason to "Navy Board". It is so easy to discard the old name and throw it away, but how many years will it take to build up the new one? I earnestly commend this Amendment to your Lordships. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 10, leave out ("Navy Board") and insert ("Admiralty Board").—(Lord Teynham.)
§ LORD COLYTON
I rise to support very briefly my noble friend's Amendment. Unfortunately, owing to a longstanding business engagement in Germany I shall have to leave from London Airport in a few minutes and shall therefore not be able to be present at the end of the debate. I would, however, most strongly urge the House to pass this Amendment, the arguments for which 769 seem to me to be conclusive, as much from the practical point of view as from the sentimental and historical angles. The practical importance of retaining the term "Admiralty" was fully demonstrated by my noble friend in his speech on February 4 and he has repeated some of the arguments to-day. There can be no question whatever that the abolition of this name would have a damaging effect on morale in the Royal Navy, and I imagine it would also be repugnant to the majority of those working in the Admiralty itself.
On what might be called the sentimental side, I feel sure that the disappearance of this great historic name of "Admiralty" would also come as a shock to the great mass of the British people. They would ask themselves why this was done, and would find the arguments in favour of this step adduced by my noble friend the First Lord and by my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence in another place in Committee on December 5 very weak and unconvincing. With all respect to the other two Services, I venture to say that the general public know and perhaps care very little about the Army Council or the Air Council, and the minor changes involved in this Bill in that respect would cause little criticism or interest. On the other hand, I feel that people in this country and, indeed, throughout the Commonwealth would be much distressed by the abolition of the ancient name of "Admiralty" which has played such a part in our history. We may even remember Kipling:If blood he the price of admiralty,Lord God, we ha' bought it fair!It is on this historical side that I should like to say a word or two this afternoon. The conception of the Court or jurisdiction of Admiralty goes back to the dim ages, certainly as far back as the reign of Henry I. As related to the fighting Navy, we first hear of the appointment of a Lord High Admiral in the person of John, Earl of Somerset, in 1406, under Henry IV. The term "Admiralty" itself appears on the second page of the first volume of the Black Book of the Admiralty, which your Lordships will find in the Library, written in Norman French, Latin and English, somewhere between 1440 and 1460. Again, according to Clowes' History of the Navy, 770 when the Navy was reorganised under Henry VIII in 1546 the Admiralty Office or Board was formed under the Lord High Admiral, who was described as Minister of Marine, for purely naval and operational matters. The Admiralty Board had no fixed abode at that time and met at the Lord High Admiral's house or even afloat.
At the same time Henry VIII also set up a Navy Board, which consisted of civilian officials and was entirely concerned with questions of supply. This Navy Board—the term now suggested to be revised—continued right down to the Crimean War when its inefficiency led to its abolition and the absorption of its functions by the Board of Admiralty. It is not a term, I would venture to suggest, which commands any great respect or meaning in the Navy or in the country. It seems to me that, as my noble friend said, the change is unnecessary as part of this great reorganisation of our defence machinery, which I think we all support. The new name which is proposed in this Bill, moreover, constitutes a far greater change so far as the Navy is concerned than it does in the case of the other two Services. I strongly hope that Her Majesty's Government will think twice before abolishing this great and honourable name, by accepting the Amendment that stands in the names of my noble friends and myself. I would make a special appeal to my noble friend the First Lord and to the former First Lord who sits beside him to accept this Amendment, and I feel sure that if they do so it will be a decision which will be popular as well as wise.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
I also rise to commend this Amendment to your Lordships' House. I myself can see very little merit in change merely for the sake of change. Nor do I see merit in change in a case of this kind merely to obtain uniformity. As my noble friend has suggested, the word "Admiralty" has been in use for hundreds of years and has, I believe, a better reputation than that of the late and unlamented Navy Board. Further, many other Navies are governed by Navy Boards but, as I understand it, only in this country by an Admiralty. So far as the maritime nations of the world are concerned, that body which governs our 771 Navy is known as "the Admiralty", and if we change to Navy Board presumably the Admiralty in future will be known as the British Navy Board, to distinguish it from the Canadian Navy Board, the Australian Navy Board and no doubt from others. For these reasons, as well as those advanced by my noble friends, I sincerely hope that your Lordships will accept this Amendment and so preserve this ancient and honourable title for that body which in future will govern the British Navy.
§ LORD SOMERS
I also support this Amendment. I am constantly dumbfounded by this wave of desire for simplification of terms and names which seems to have swept through our country—so that even those who are mentally retarded, I suppose, can understand them. I can assure Her Majesty's Government that the Board will not work any better for having a simple name. I am tempted to believe that they would have called it Sea Board had it not been for the fact that that name was already used by the South Eastern Electricity Board. I sincerely hope that the very ancient and very honourable name of "Admiralty", which has inspired so many people not only to love the Navy but also to join it, will be retained.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
I rise to support my noble friends in this Amendment, both on the grounds of tradition and on the grounds of practicability. My noble friends who have already spoken have covered the grounds of tradition so fully that I will not repeat them. But the word "Admiralty" has one meaning all over the world; it is the Admiralty here in Whitehall. I have served with French, American and Dutch naval officers. They always spoke of "the Admiralty"—meaning our place in Whitehall. They did not say, "your Admiralty", or, as they might have to say now, if this Bill is passed in its present form, "your Navy Board". In our previous debates on this subject we had some discussion on the practicability of the Admiralty Fleet Orders, confidential Admiralty Fleet Orders, Admiralty charts and all the rest; but nobody has mentioned Admiralty Chart Depôts all over the world used by all the navies of the world and the Merchant Navy as well—and 772 exceedingly useful places they are. During the Second World War, Admiral Cunningham, in Algiers, was served by the Admiralty Chart Depôt in Gibraltar which supplied different Allied Fleets in the Mediterranean. It did a wonderful job, and everybody knew it as the Admiralty Chart Depôt. I reveal to your Lordships that we on Admiral Cunningham's staff also used it to supply ourselves with an occasional case of sherry. I remember an occasion when a ship sailed into Algiers harbour and made a signal to the commander-in-chief:Have three cases of charts for you. One is leaking.That is a signal that we did not show to the late noble Viscount, Lord Cunningham of Hyndhope.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Before the First Lord of the Admiralty replies, in what is approaching his last use in the House of that great title, I should like to say that, having served as First Lord of the Admiralty altogether for nearly nine years—the longest of any elected Member of another place in the history of the Admiralty—I am shocked at the temerity of the Government in introducing such a change as this. I am perfectly persuaded that had a Socialist Government made this proposal, all the Party now opposite would have wanted to tear us limb from limb.
This is an astonishing decision to make. I am quite well aware that the noble Earl may say "Ah, but then this term 'Navy Board' was once in use for a time"—although it was not for long —"in the days of the famous Sam Pepys." Perhaps that is so; but both before and after that date the British Royal Navy made a place for itself in the world which has never yet been matched. I listened to the Secretary of State for the Navy of the United States of America in the Royal Navy College, where we entertained him during the war. We did not ask him to say it, but he said, "This is the greatest institution of its kind in the world, and what it has turned out is the greatest." He said that the White Ensign of the Royal Navy was a major factor in keeping the world from world wars, and he said, "We in America must take a greater share in part of the great work that they have been doing and will continue to do." 773 This is in accordance with the term "Admiralty".
I am glad that the noble Lord, who first served under me as a Captain in the Royal Navy not so many years ago, has raised the question of charting. From all the things which have been introduced by the Government during the last twelve years which have led to financial failure the charting establishments of the Navy are exempt. I was able to point out from time to time that not only were we able to erect new premises at Taunton and continue to widen our services to the world, but we did it at a profit to the State. International maritime law is practised in the Court of Admiralty in this country in numbers of cases covering all nationalities. I think it would be a great retrograde step for this term now to be abolished simply as a matter of verbal convenience, to make all three Service Departments conform to the name of a board. We do not mind the use of the term "Board" but it must be "Admiralty Board". I am going to invite as many of my honourable and noble friends as agree with me to come into the Lobby to support the Amendment moved from the other side.
§ 3.24 p.m.
I think it might be convenient if at this stage I were to state the Government's view on this matter, as my noble friend Lord Carrington will also be speaking later. I should like to say how grateful I am to noble Lords who have put down this Amendment, because I know that they have the interests of the Royal Navy greatly at heart. I am grateful for another reason: that they have given me an opportunity of explaining to your Lordships in rather more detail than I was able to do earlier, the reasons behind the Government's approach to this matter. My noble friend Lord Colyton described my arguments on Second Reading as "thin and unconvincing". I hope that my arguments on Committee stage may be rather more convincing. They will, I fear, be rather fatter, and for that reason I shall not be able to deal with this matter with quite the brevity with which my noble friends who have spoken on this Amendment have done.
774 First of all, I must remind your Lordships of what this Bill really is all about. In the circumstances of contemporary warfare, when everything moves so fast, and when almost every military intervention depends on the intimate co-operation of all three Services, we believe that our defence policy requires a stronger and more integrated central direction. It is our belief—and this belief underlines the Bill which we are discussing—that this object is best achieved by establishing a single unified Department: one Ministry concerned with defence, instead of four Ministries or Departments—Defence, Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry, who are at present concerned with defence matters. Of course, my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence already has considerable powers, but in the last resort many of these powers are in essence co-ordinating powers. At the present time, as my noble friend Lord Swinton pointed out on Second Reading, he is often more the arbiter between the conflicting Services and their claims than the real and absolute controller of defence policy.
As I see it, the essence of the new set-up is that the political head of this new unified Ministry should become not a sort of referee between the three Services, but the effective captain of a truly inter-Service team. That is what we are getting at. To this end, the Government have proposed, and the Bill embodies, two main constitutional changes. The first is that the statutory powers for the defence of the realm which are now vested in the existing Service Ministries should be vested in the Secretary of State for Defence; the second is that a Defence Council will be established to exercise the powers of command and administrative control previously exercised by the three Service Departments. Under the Secretary of State and under the Defence Council there will be three Service Boards—the Navy Board, the Army Board and the Air Board—to exercise, on a one-Service basis, those functions which are devolved upon them by the Secretary of State for Defence and by the Defence Council. That general set-up was not, I think, challenged in another place. Moreover, despite the nostalgic glances 775 a little bit backwards by the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on Second Reading, it was not, I think, challenged on Second Reading in this House.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, would the noble Earl allow me to interrupt him? I think we are starting again on a Second Reading debate. We have already debated this. With the greatest respect, I would suggest that the noble Earl devotes his remarks to a reply to the particular Amendment, otherwise this debate will go on for a long time. He is already beginning to make remarks in a wider context to which some of my noble friends may wish to reply.
I think that the noble Lord is being a little unfair. I think it was perfectly valid and legitimate for me to sketch in the general background before coming to the immediate points, because the general background is extremely relevant to the particular argument which I am now going to adduce. I should now like to explain why, in the Government's view, given the proposed new organisation, it would be wrong for us to call the new Navy Board the "Admiralty Board", as this Amendment proposes.
I would remind your Lordships that "Admiralty" as defined by Statute—the Interpretation Act, 1889—is "The Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom for the time being, or the Commissioners for the time being for executing the office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom." I do not deny that, as my noble friend Lord Colyton pointed out, the term "Admiralty" has a wider and, indeed, more ancient connotation than this. But the particular functions of Admiralty to which this Amendment is addressed are those discharged by the Board of Admiralty, as defined in this Statute of 1889. That is the legal position. What happens under the new set-up to the responsibilities at present discharged by the Board of Admiralty? Because of the historical associations of the office and the desire to perpetuate its name, Her Majesty has consented to continue to assume the title of Lord High Admiral, but the functions of Admiralty, as distinct from the title, will be transferred, under the new set-up, either to the Secretary of State for Defence or to the Defence Council. That was why I 776 thought it right to sketch the background of this matter; because it is extremely important: this is where the functions are going.
It is true, as I explained on Second Reading, that important responsibilities, especially in the field of management, administration and discipline, about which the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, was concerned, will be conferred upon the new Navy Board. We must have continuity and, as my right honourable friend put it in another place during discussion of the Bill there, we must keep the shop open for business. But although the new Navy Board will be discharging many of the responsibilities at present exercised by the Board of Admiralty it will not be doing so—and this is the important point—in its own right. The responsibilities which it will be discharging will be those specifically devolved upon it by the Secretary of State or by the Defence Council. Therefore, constitutionally it will be a very different animal from the animal which at present exists, and over which I have the honour to preside—the Board of Admiralty.
The principle may be right or it may be wrong—and so far as I know, it was not challenged on Second Reading or in another place. But if the principle is accepted; and it is cardinal to this Bill, I suggest that it would be wholly inconsistent to retain the title "Admiralty" for this new Board. We are in fact making a real and substantial change here, and, that being so, it would be wrong for us to obscure or fudge the issue by retaining something closely akin to the old title. It would also be confusing. This new Board would possess in its own right none of the powers of the present Board of Admiralty; but if we retain the name "Admiralty" the new Board would inevitably be identified, not only in the public mind but also in Whitehall, with the present Board of Admiralty, and this would be bound to make for confusion.
I now venture on to rather more delicate ground. There is a rather special reason why I feel that it would not be in the Navy's interest for us to depart from the term Navy Board and to opt for Admiralty Board, as the movers of this Amendment would like us to do. 777 The War Office and the Army Council are to disappear; the Air Ministry and the Air Council are to disappear. Speaking very parochially, I cannot quite bring myself to regard those titles as quite so old and as glorious as those of Admiralty and of the Board of Admiralty. But those bodies mean, and have meant, a great deal to the two Services concerned. I realise full well that those who are moving this Amendment have the interests of the Royal Navy just as much at heart as I have, but I should like to put it to them that it might well not be to the advantage of the Navy for us to appear to go into this new organisation on a basis of what I would term incomplete equality with the other two Services. If your Lordships persist with this Amendment there is a danger that the Navy might appear to the other two Services as being the odd man out. I do not wish to labour this argument unduly, but I know that it is one that weighs with professional naval opinion, and it is therefore a factor which your Lordships should at least weigh. I would not put it higher than that.
I should feel very differently about this if I did not myself feel that the Navy Board was a distinguished, honourable and fitting title. Historically, the old Navy Board, going back, as it does, to the time of Henry VIII, pre-dates the Board of Admiralty. The Board of Admiralty existed in that form, of the Lord High Admiral being in commission from Charles I in 1628. This is an historical point which I could perhaps argue out with my noble friend Lord Colyton later. Your Lordships will recall that Samuel Pepys was Clerk of the Acts of the Navy Board before he became Secretary of the Admiralty. It is true that the Navy Board has not been in existence for some time, but it is not true that it went out with a whimper in the Crimea War. I do not know where my noble friends have got this piece of historical fiction from, but in fact the Navy Board was abolished by the Admiralty Act of 1832. So if there was a nigger in the Navy woodpile at the time of the Crimea War it was not the Navy Board. From the point of view of history, I can see no harm in reverting to this old and distinguished title, Navy Board.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
My Lords, I apologise for intervening but would my noble friend remind the House what were the functions of the Navy Board?
The function of the Navy Board involved matters of management affecting the Royal Navy. I do not wish to prejudge what the functions of the new Navy Board are going to be, but they will certainly include that broad function. That is another reason why I believe it is perfectly fitting that this new Board should be called the Navy Board. In any case, if we are going to move away from the title "Board of Admiralty," I, for one, would much prefer to go back to its old title of "Navy Board" than to adopt this hybrid "Admiralty Board". I would entirely agree we must not be iconoclasts in this matter. It would be absurd to abolish old and honourable names just for the sake of change, and I have sought to explain the real and solid reasons for our choice.
If some of your Lordships feel—and I have detected this from what has been said this afternoon—that we are intent upon abolishing old titles just for the fun of it, I would remind your Lordships that it is precisely because we agree we should make the minimum disturbance of tradition that my right honourable friend proposes, perhaps against the grain of logic, to retain the great titles of First Sea Lord and Second Sea Lord. It is precisely for that kind of reason that it is proposed to retain names such as Admiralty Arch, Admiralty Flag, Admiralty House, Admiralty moorings—and, as the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, will be glad to hear, Admiralty charts. We are also to retain Admiralty Notices to Mariners and Courts of Admiralty.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, says I am giving him the case. I am not giving him the case. The point here is that, for example, the Admiralty Chart Depôt will not change its function. But the Board of Admiralty is going to change its function. The Navy Board is going to be a different animal altogether. There is a Naval vessel—I am not quite certain I know what it is—called an Admiralty 779 spud pontoon. After April 1 the Admiralty spud pontoon will do precisely what it does now, and there is therefore no reason at all why it should change its title.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
The noble Earl will agree that the functions of the Navy Board as proposed under the Bill will be different from the functions of the Navy Board associated with the name of Samuel Pepys, which surely was more in the nature of a supply organisation than otherwise.
It had a great deal to do with supply, but it also had a great deal to do with the actual execution of the administrative side of Naval policy. This is certainly going to be one of the functions with which the new Navy Board, whatever title it has, will be very intimately and vitally concerned.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
May I say, on this change of attitude, that I welcome very much the idea that the two senior officers should be First Sea Lord and so on. But the appointment of First Sea Lord is made by the Admiralty, in which there is a Board of Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. As a matter of fact I was greatly honoured to-day to receive an invitation to a dinner at Greenwich, to take farewell of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. But abolishing the Lords Commissioners, and keeping the title of "First Sea Lord" is just as bad as dropping the name of "Admiralty" from the Board.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I consider that the present First Lord of the Admiralty has given his whole case away, and I think the whole House will recognise that fact.
I was careful to preface my remarks in this respect by saying that this was somewhat against the grain of logic, precisely because my right honourable friend was so anxious to preserve these particular and very distinguished titles. But, following the noble Earl's interjection, I would merely hastily add that I hope very much that he will be accepting the invitation which he has just received. May I say (because I think this is rather important), 780 that I am most anxious that the name "Admiralty" or "Royal Naval" should be retained for the Admiralty outside establishments—important establishment like the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment and the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment. There are about 40 or 50 establishments of that sort. I must go carefully here, because I do not wish in this matter to shelter in any way behind opinions other than my own. But I should like to emphasise that such soundings as I have taken of naval opinion, and, indeed, of civilian opinion in and around the Admiralty, have certainly led me to the conclusion that there is a much stronger desire among those who serve the Navy to retain the word "Admiralty" for establishments such as these, these very important outside establishments, than there is enthusiasm for the retention, or for the adoption, of this hybrid "Admiralty Board".
Finally, I would say that I agree entirely with those other Lords who have expressed the view that in the last resort men are much more important than names. If I believed that by refusing to accept this Amendment I was in any way diminishing the loyalty of those in the Navy to the Naval Service, then I, for one, should not support the Bill as it stands. My noble friends have, I think, argued that the loyalty of Naval officers and ratings past and present is focused to some extent on the Board of Admiralty. But this has not always been so. Perhaps I might bring to your Lordships' recollection two extracts from the correspondence of a famous Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Fisher. In 1900 he wrote that:The intense ignorance of the men at the head of affairs in the Admiralty is what frightens and appals.And, again, in February, 1916, in a letter to my father he wrote:Balfour can now put the case for Admiralty lethargy and apathy without you being there to refute it.Of course things have changed for the better since then, thanks to the administration of First Lords like the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, my noble friend Lord Selkirk and my noble predecessor Lord Carrington. But, more seriously, I would express the view—and it is a view which I hold strongly—that 781 the loyalty of the officers and men in the Navy is basically to the Navy itself.
May I, in conclusion, very briefly summarise my argument, which is really three-fold? In the first place, I believe that in this Bill we are making an important change in our constitutional arrangements for defence. The functions at present exercised by the Admiralty are being transferred elsewhere. Given that, I think it would be wrong to retain the title "Board of Admiralty". Secondly, if we are going to make a change, then I believe that the title "Navy Board" is better and more fitting than that suggested in the Amendment. Thirdly, and lastly, I do not believe that this change of title will in any way impair the efficiency of the Royal Navy or the loyalty of the officers and ratings who serve in it. I can assure your Lordships that it gives me no particular pleasure to advise your Lordships against accepting this Amendment. The name "Admiralty"—and, more so, what lies behind it—means as much to me as I think it does to any other Member of your Lordships' House. I should therefore not advocate the retention of this title "Navy Board", unless I believed, and, indeed, believed rather strongly, that this was both right and in the best interests of the Service that I represent.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ EARL ATTLEE
I find the noble Earl's argument entirely unconvincing. The suggestion that the titles of various offices should have some reference to function may be all very nice, but it is not of course what happens in practice. We have in this country historical precedents. Why should we not embody them in the names we use? We have the Chancellor of the Exchequer but he does not play chequers now. I suppose we have abolished the Lord High Treasurer's Office. The old Lord Treasurer, no doubt, never imagined that the Lords Commissioners exercising the functions of Lord High Treasurer would be from the Government Whips. But we are always having these changes, and always getting more and more dull. I like these old names. I like the picturesque names like "Master General of the Ordnance". I suppose that the Government would call him Minister of Gunnery, or something like that. I do 782 not think there is any need whatever to try to bring us down to the level of some newly formed State which adopts these dull epithets. In this particular case, the name "the Admiralty" embodies very ancient traditions. During my life I have not liked the word "Board" very much: it had a curious Victorian smack about it—like the Poor Law Board. I much prefer the Army Council to the Army Board, and I was Vice-President of the Army Board nearly 40 years ago. I like these names, and the longer they last the better liked they are. I object very strongly to any attempt to play down our old historical names, and to adopt something which might refer to a newly set-up State with no traditions.
§ LORD AILWYN
I listened with the closest interest to my noble friend the First Lord, and, as usual, he exercised his well-known charm and persuasion to try to justify what I believe to be a very thin case. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that he has not made out his case, and I am bound to say that I am unconvinced. I rise in a very few words to support the Amendment. I believe that the Government have been unimaginative and rather unclever in this matter. One would have expected them to do all in their power to preserve wherever possible old honoured titles and traditions in fact, almost to lean over backwards in order to minimise the feelings which are bound to be aroused—feelings of nostalgia or frustration, that might be expected to follow these drastic changes in organisation. They were bound to bring feelings of that sort at the top. Instead of that, the Government seem almost to have gone out of their way to destroy utterly—I would have said needlessly and quite pointlessly—such fundamental matters as this time-honoured name of "Admiralty". There is a quite deplorable lack of vision here, an absence of discernment—in fact, if I may so put it, a lack of finesse.
In addition to the retention of the word "Admiralty", I should very much have liked to see the preservation of that honourable title, "First Lord of the Admiralty". I know I cannot discuss that, because it does not arise on the present Amendment, but one cannot but sympathise with my noble friend the First Lord in the melancholy task 783 which falls to his lot at this time. One can almost hear the bones of the old sea captains of the past, not least those of the illustrious and never-to-be-forgotten father of my noble friend the First Lord, under whom I had the honour to serve a half-century ago, stirring uneasily in their graves at this unhappy and hurtful proposal of Her Majesty's Government. I beg the Government to think once more on this matter.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
May a member of another Service join in and say straight away to the First Lord that I cannot really believe that the Royal Air Force will suffer such acute feelings of inferiority as to be unable to co-operate with the "Admiralty Board"? I think this oversensitivity on the part of the Admiralty, although in many ways admirable, is misplaced. The First Lord deployed as good a case as was possible. Indeed, I thought he made an extremely able case; and, for those of your Lordships who accept the principles behind the Bill, to which he referred, he destroyed the argument for the change by admitting that there was no logic in the retention of "Admiralty".
There are some noble Lords who do not like any of this change. I think I go further than some of my noble friends in accepting the principle of the new Ministry of Defence. But the history of the word "Admiralty", to which there has been much reference this afternoon, is far too varied for us to be bothered about the precise contemporary meaning that has been applied to the "Board of Admiralty". May I also refer to Sir William Laird Clowes's great History of the Navy?—and although my own personal connections are mainly with the Royal Air Force, I may say that he happened to be a cousin of mine, and therefore I was brought up on his great book. He makes very clear that the history of this word and its meaning has changed and developed. I suggest that the First Lord would have done better to consult, not his friends in the Navy but someone like Professor Richard Hoggart, who understands linguistics, and who could have pointed out to him that language is a living thing, that the meanings of words evolve and that it is perfectly acceptable to give a new use to a word which 784 already has six or seven meanings. It was Bacon who, in 1626, wrote:For Admiralty or Navy I see no great question will arise.No great question does arise: the reorganisation of our defence forces will go on.
Although I am not as emotionally committed as many of your Lordships are to this particular proposal, I would urge the Government very strongly to accept the feeling of the House in this matter. It is, I think, pretty certain that if the Government resist this Amendment they will be beaten in a Division. I therefore suggest that the First Lord has done his best, that he has done a very good best, but that the case is not good enough; and I hope he will now accept this Amendment.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I think the balance of argument is rather closer than has been represented. Both "Admiralty" and "Navy" are very splendid words. I sympathise entirely with what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said about what a great pity it is to do away with some of these ancient titles. In fact, I wish that the sailors who have spoken so eloquently to-day had backed me more, as did the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, when I objected nearly four years ago to the proposal that a "leading signalman" should become a "tactical communication operator". I remember asking the then First Lord, who I see has put his name to this Amendment, whether he could assure us that a naval officer would never again make a signal but would "operate a tactical communication". I so far forgot myself as to remind him [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 211, col. 120]:that for centuries our sailors have been masters of terse and vigorous English",and to ask him whether it would not be better tohonour this tradition instead of wallowing in gutless verbosity?The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, who was not then in the Government, asked the very pertinent question whether an Admiral would be called a "leading personnel operator".
Having said that, I can see the force of the First Lord's observations to-day. I should greatly prefer, for instance, "Board of Admiralty" to "Admiralty 785 Board", but it would have the disadvantage, such as it is, of being slightly misleading, if we consider how very different its functions are from those of the new Navy Board. I am, however, very much impressed by the fact that all the sailors and ex-sailors who have spoken feel very strongly that the name "Admiralty" should be retained. I rather agree with two of the speeches that have been made from the Front Bench opposite, that there are no great demands of logic either way, and I think that there are some advantages in supporting this Amendment, which will at least ensure that this important question is considered in another place.
§ LORD ALPORT
May I add very shortly to what noble Lords have said with regard to the value of the Amendment before the House? I speak completely objectively, having had no connection whatever with the Navy in the past. I am sure it is a misconception on the part of the noble Earl the First Lord, when he believes that there may be some feeling of distinction between the Navy and the other two Services if the Admiralty Board is entitled to retain its old name whereas the Boards controlling the other two Services are not. The Army, if I may speak for them in a very modest way indeed, have never, I think, felt any sense of jealousy of the special position occupied by the Navy among the Services of the Crown. Indeed, we have always been proud of that and have derived some advantage from it, because I remember that at the War Office we knew that if we could get an allowance agreed to on behalf of naval officers it was the best argument we could advance for obtaining the extension to Army officers as well.
Therefore, on these grounds, I think, there are strong arguments in support of this Amendment. Indeed, it follows an institutional principle of British life. We have on many occasions faced changing functions among our institutions, but have always maintained a continuity of value in our public life by maintaining old designations and names. Frankly, I see no reason at all why it should not be done in this case, and I hope that the Minister will accept it and that the House will support this Amendment.
§ LORD SOMERS
May I ask my noble friend Lord Jellicoe why he does not go the whole way and call this House the Lords Board?
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
May I say one or two words? I am glad that my noble friend Lord Conesford drew attention to the appalling re-naming of certain offices which took place during my period of office. When I found it on the Paper I was no less appalled at this than he was. But it demonstrates that sometimes naval officers are not wholly wise in the selection of terminology of certain high offices. I will only say to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that I do not think it is simply a question of nostalgia; it is not simply this point. The name "Admiralty" is known all over the world. You would miss something which would never be replaced.
I do not know—and, as a matter of fact, none of us knows—just what they want these Boards to do. We do not know whether they are a false prop to the Services, or whether, in fact, there is a genuine determination to have some decentralisation of this enormous organisation. I hope it is the latter; but if it is the latter then they want to have all the fortified strength that they can. I hope sincerely that the noble Earl will think about this. There was the suggestion that the Admiralty Board might draw allegiance to itself and take allegiance away from, perhaps, the new principle on which the pentapod is being developed. I do not know whether this is true: I am much more concerned about the outward appearance of this great Department. We do not want to do anything to make the task of the Minister of Defence more difficult than it will be. I believe that this Amendment will help, rather than make it more difficult.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
Roses, they say, smell much the same however you label them. This Amendment has been put forward by a group of noble Lords whose opinions, especially on naval matters, are always listened to by your Lordships with great attention. They support their argument by speaking of tradition and morale; and those are both things which we all value greatly; certainly I would claim to do 787 so. They put forward their plea on behalf of the Royal Navy. It does not matter what profession or Service one comes from, I am sure every man and woman in this House and outside has real pride and love for the Royal Navy and would wish to do anything within reason that was asked for on behalf of that Service. So, for anybody to stand up this afternoon and resist this Amendment takes, shall I say, a good deal of courage. I heard the noble Lord, Lord Somers, say that anybody who did that must be mentally retarded; and that may be the trouble with me. Certainly I feel that it is a brave thing to do, in the tenor of this debate at the moment, particularly coming from me, a mere landlubbing "pongo". But I would say this, in extenuation of my crime: that I would take exactly the same view if it had been a question relating to an Amendment to retain the title of the Army Council.
I have heard it said this afternoon that one should not mind about the disappearance of the title of the Army Council. That is as may be. It is a point on which there might be two opinions. But I am not putting forward my view as a soldier. I have not been in communication with any soldiers on the subject: nor am I aware that there is any jealousy on the part of the soldiers towards this Amendment. I doubt if there is. I have been told—it is only a rumour and no more, and I hope I am in order in saying this—that the proposal for retention of the title of the First Sea Lord came from the soldiers. I do not think there is any jealousy on the part of the soldiers towards this Amendment, but I feel bound to speak against it, and I am encouraged in my reckless path by the fact that the noble Earl the First Lord—and a Jellicoe—has spoken against it. He has done what I think was extremely necessary to do; that is, to remind your Lordships what this Bill is about. He has done it, so I need not do so; but I ask the Committee to bear in mind the wisdom of his words on what this Bill is about.
The fact is that the conditions of war have changed fundamentally since the last war was fought; and there are many people who do not seem to appreciate that point. What was right in the last war is not necessarily right now. In this connection I am aware that I am speak- 788 ing against something that was said by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, during the debate on Second Reading; but I feel very strongly that if there has been a complete change in the conditions of war then one must be careful about pressing for the retention of things of the past simply on the grounds that they worked well in the past. We need a change in organisation and, as the White Paper says, we needan organisation in which defence rather than single Service considerations would be paramount".That is something new. Hitherto we have had soldiers, sailors and airmen each arguing from the point of view of his own Service and hoping to arrive at a compromise.
We want a complete change of organisation; and the Committee will agree that what is more important is that we need a change in mentality; that is what is involved. Keep former names and you will run the risk of keeping the former mentality. This was a good mentality in its day; but we need a change, and we need to show that we have made a change, and we need all to see that a change has been made. That is why, it seems to me, it is right to change the name. We all hate to break with tradition; we are a people greatly attached to our traditions; and those surrounding the Royal Navy are among the strongest and dearest of all. But there comes a time in history when one has to be careful about traditions, when one can become a prisoner of traditions, when for the sake of tradition one resists necessary changes. I think we have to be careful about that. There come times when one should break with tradition and endeavour to build up a new one. I think this is one of those times.
It has been argued by many noble Lords this afternoon that the Amendment is right for the sake of morale. I have said before that I do not want to underestimate the importance and value of morale; but whose morale are we thinking about? I have not had as close contacts with senior officers in the Royal Navy as some of those who have supported this Amendment have had; but I am not without some contacts, and I listened without surprise to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, when he told us that he did not think there was any great enthusiasm for the Amendment 789 among those officers. That confirms what I have heard. Indeed, I have heard it said that they do not care about it too much, not because they fear jealousy from the other Services, but because they do not want to give the appearance that the Royal Navy are "dragging their feet" over this new organisation and over the great changes that it will imply. As to the officers and ratings of the Royal Navy and their morale, I find it difficult to believe they will fight their ships less skilfully and less bravely because the focus of their loyalty is a Navy Board instead of an Admiralty Board. I find it difficult to believe that it will make that difference in battle; and, after all, that is what loyalty is about. The only test of loyalty that is worth while is what happens in battle, and I find it difficult to believe that it will make that difference.
The Government have already made a number of concessions on this Bill. A long time ago, when the Bill was being drawn up, they agreed that the First Sea Lord should retain his title. Although the Chief of the Imperial General Staff was to drop his rather grandiloquent title, the First Sea Lord was to retain his. That has been accepted, and good luck to him! Then, when this Bill was under discussion in another place, the Government agreed that the titles of the three Ministers who are to have special responsibilities towards the three Services should be modified in some way to increase their status, a concession which undoubtedly gave great pleasure to that body of opinion which, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, rightly said, exists and which does not really accept the rightness of having a single political department in charge of defence. It gave great heart to those people. The Government made these concessions, but I, for one, hope that the Government will now draw a line to concessions of this sort, which seem unimportant in themselves, which are urged upon us with arguments that, as it were, touch the heartstrings, that bring back nostalgic memories and touch our pride, yet which are really unsound in themselves. I hope that the Government will draw the line, or they will end up with a Bill that does not mean very much.
§ LORD KENNET
Only two reasons have been adduced against this Amendment: first, that it might make the Army and the Air Force jealous—and this point has not been supported by noble Lords associated with those Services; and, secondly, that when demoting an organisation, as this Bill proposes to do in the case of the Navy Board or Board of the Admiralty, it is wrong to keep the same name. You must change it, in order to rub it in. I would remind the House that various other organs in our history have been demoted over the years. The Monarchy was sharply demoted in the 17th century, and we did not find it necessary to re-christen the King "the hereditary President." This House itself, at the beginning of this century, was sharply demoted, and we did not find it necessary to re-christen it the Board of Parliamentary Revision. I think that, once we begin with this principle that when we move anybody down one in the scale of power, we must give them a new name, we shall never get anywhere and may, indeed, make future such moves difficult.
§ LORD FORBES
In view of the feelings of the House, may I ask the Government to make a tactical withdrawal, which would not be regarded as a retreat?
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CARRINGTON)
I have listened with great interest to the debate on the Amendment moved by my noble friends behind me, and I have listened with sympathy to what they have said, since I know very well that they have moved this Amendment with the idea of preserving and continuing the important and historic title, "Board of Admiralty" or "Admiralty Board" which is held in such high esteem. I think that they have made a formidable case. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I intervene for a short time, but since we have heard from the First Lord of the Admiralty, and from all available ex-First Lords, I think it right that I should not remain silent, lest it be thought that I was at variance with my noble friend the present First Lord. I had the honour to be First Lord of the Admiralty for four years, and there can be no-one, not even the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, who is prouder than I am of his connection with the Royal Navy or 791 more determined to see its tradition and heritage maintained. I hope, therefore, that my noble friends who have promoted this Amendment will acquit me of any motive other than to serve the Royal Navy if I say one or two things on the other side of the case.
My noble friend the First Lord has explained that the Board of Admiralty is really the Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom for the time being or the Commissioners of the Board for the time being for executing the office of the High Admiral. There is a distinction, as he has said, between the Board of Admiralty and the term, "Admiralty". This ancient and honourable body is greatly respected, but I confess to having doubts whether my noble friend Lord. Teynham and others are right when they suggest that the Board of Admiralty has ever been, or ever can be, the focus of loyalty in the Royal Navy. Certainly, my experience has been rather more like that of Lord Fisher, who thought that the average officer and rating might greatly have respected some of the individuals on the Board of Admiralty, but that the Board of Admiralty itself was generally regarded as a rather remote body of men, who made irrevocable decisions based on what was considered the most inadequate and out-of-date evidence, long after decisions had to be taken and months after they ceased to have any relevance. This may be rather a harsh view, and I do not go along with it; but I do not believe that the change of term from Admiralty to Navy Board would have much effect on the uniformed members of the Royal Navy. I think that their loyalties go much deeper than that.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, that the real crux of the matter seems to be that it was decided by the Government, with the agreement, I think, of most competent observers—certainly of noble Lords on this side of the House, and I think also of more noble Lords on the other side than might at first be generally supposed—that the time had come to reorganise our de fence set-up. It was felt that, now that the Services were irrevocably joined together, the separateness of their organisation was a hindrance rather than a help. And, as my noble friend reminded your Lordships, 792 this Bill provides for a single unified Department in place of the four Ministries that now exist, with a Secretary of State to be in charge of the three Services. The Defence Council will take over largely the duties of the Board of Admiralty and of the Army and Air Councils.
These are far-reaching changes. The Admiralty, as we now know it, will disappear, and an entirely new outlook will be necessary among those who work in the Service Departments and will now find themselves working in one new Defence Department. I do not know—I think that it is arguable—whether this drastic change should be recognised by a change of title, and I am not sure that the name "Admiralty Board" should be kept just for the sake of retaining the word "Admiralty". Because, like my noble friend Lord Conesford, I am not sure that I like the suggestion for "Admiralty Board" better than "Navy Board". But if your Lordships insist upon this Amendment, why should not the other two Services ask that their previous titles be reinstated? If that were to happen I think that there would be a danger that the purpose of this reorganisation would be forgotten and that once again the Services would tend to revert to their old independence.
I remember that Lord Fisher, who has already been mentioned by the First Lord, once described the Board of Admiralty in the following terms:That mysterious body, the Board of Admiralty, without a body to be kicked or a soul to be damned. Admirals and all are involuntarily compelled to an obedience to and a boundless faith in that mysterious force above them, so ubiquitous that while regulating the length of a shoelace at Portsmouth, it castigates the Admiral of a distant Fleet, reminding one of the elephant's trunk, which can as easily pick up a pin as tear up an oak tree by its roots.I wonder whether the Board of Admiralty, with all its historic connections and its great associations with our history, when it ceases to exist, when it loses its power and becomes, to all intents and purposes, a shadow of its former self—I wonder whether we should not rather see it disappear and start again, with a new, yet ancient and honourable title.
Those are the arguments on the other side. But I think, having listened to what your Lordships have said, there is 793 no doubt that the majority of the Committee feel that the word "Admiralty" should be retained in some way or another. I think, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said, that if we went to a Division the Government would be beaten. I know that my noble friend the First Lord would be happy to have conversations with the Minister of Defence between now and the next stage of the Bill to see whether anything can be done to meet the point of view which your Lordships have expressed, and I wonder whether my noble friend who moved this Amendment would consider withdrawing it on the Committee stage. I cannot say that anything can be done, because I have not the authority or power to do so. But I can represent, as I will, and as I know my noble friend the First Lord will, the sense of opinion of your Lordships in Committee about this matter. If my noble friend will withdraw this Amendment, I will most certainly do that.
§ LORD SILKIN
I hope that the Amendment will not be withdrawn. I think the noble Earl will be strengthened in his representations, when he makes them, if he has the feeling of this Committee behind him. At present, all he can say is that he has heard a number of speeches. I think he ought to have the decision of the Committee, and then he can go back and will be in a much stronger position to make representations to his right honourable friend.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
I hope that my noble friend will accede to what the Leader of the House has suggested. I have seldom known an appeal of that kind made by any Leader of the House to be rejected by the Mover of an Amendment of any Party. When the appeal is made by a Leader in whom we have such confidence and for whom we have such affection, I think it would be very odd for this Committee not to accede to it. I would just add this. I am not going to argue the merits of this for one moment (I said a few things on the last occasion), but I think that the argument is pretty nicely balanced. I feel—and I appeal to Members opposite, and those who have been Ministers—that it is really an impossible position for a Minister who is not the Minister in supreme charge of a particular 794 measure to take a critical decision immediately in Committee. We have always recognised that where the leading Minister is here, then the thing is put to him, and, in my experience, on both sides no Minister in that position has ever failed to give a firm decision. But neither the First Lord nor, as he said, the Leader of the House is in that position in regard to this Bill. We know that there will be perfectly sincere representations made. After all, we all turn up here, and it is just as easy for us to vote next week as it is to vote to-day. I think it would be a reasonable thing for my noble friend to withdraw the Amendment now and to let it come back to us on the next stage of the Bill.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Before any decision is taken in this matter, I may say that I appreciate the spirit in which the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, has put up his proposition that he would have his Government reconsider this matter in the light of the debate to-day, but it is the province of the mover of the Amendment to say whether or not he will withdraw. I do not think I have ever been in a debate in your Lordships' House where the majority feeling has been more adequately expressed than it has been this afternoon. We have no guarantee at the moment from the Leader of the House that the will of the Committee as expressed this afternoon will be accepted. I think the noble and gallant Lord who moved the Amendment will have to consider this. I hope, too, that before withdrawing the Amendment he will consider that, in any case, we should be notified beforehand that the Amendment will be put down again on Report, so that those who have supported it today may reassemble and vote on it at that stage I think it would have been much better and wiser for the Leader of the House to accept the view of the Committee and then take the case to his Government.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
As the noble Earl says, it can be done on Third 795 Reading. I may say that, in saying what I have said, I have no intention of trying to outsmart noble Lords on the other side. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is not suggesting that.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
Of course, there will be the opportunity to divide. I should have thought, from the point of view of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment, that if the Government were prepared to accept the Amendment (I can make no promise, but I will ask my right honourable friend to reconsider it) there would perhaps be more chance of his getting his way.
I appreciate very much the views which have been put by the First Lord and by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, but I feel that I must have a strong recommendation from the Leader of the House to the Minister of Defence that this word "Admiralty" will be kept: otherwise I feel I must reserve the right to move the same Amendment on the Report stage. On that condition, I am quite willing to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Consequential and transitional]:
§ 4.27 p.m.
LORD SHACKLETON moved, in subsection (6), after paragraph (a) to insert:
(b) 'future service authority' means the Secretary of State charged with general responsibility for defence, the Defence Council, the Navy Board, the Army Board or the Air Force Board, if Her Majesty is pleased to make the arrangements described in section 1(1) of this Act.
§ The noble Lord said: I rise to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. The purpose of this Amendment is to find out what really are the Government's intentions (perhaps I might have the attention of the First Lord on this) in regard to the Joint Staff that are going to exist in the new Ministry of Defence. On this we have found it difficult to establish exactly what the Government are hoping to do. There is a great suspicion—and, indeed, 796 it has been pressed strongly by noble Lords who have been critical of this particular Bill—that one of the chief results will be the establishment of an enormous machine, a Pentapod, filled with tens of thousands of staff officers, and that there will also be a duplication of some of these Services in the old War Office, Air Ministry and Board of Admiralty buildings.
The noble Earl the First Lord knows that, on the whole, I am in favour of the proposals in this Bill, and I am not debating the entire question which we dealt with on Second Reading. However, we have very little information, and I should like to draw the attention of the First Lord to what was said by Mr. Thorneycroft when this question was debated on a Motion on the White Paper. He then said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 682 (No. 159), col. 571]:
The numbers will, I admit, be about 25,000 in the future"—
this is in regard to the headquarters—
if we take all the Service Departments together. We shall have to study whether we can reduce staff, but the number will start at about the same. I attach importance to reductions of staff where they can be achieved.
Then he went on to say something which is not relevant to my main argument, but in fairness, I will quote it:
But the savings there are nothing like as big as savings which could be secured if we get the operational requirements right and get real control over cost effectiveness studies, estimates and the rest.
I grant the force of that argument. It might be worth while seeing an increase in the size of the staffs if a gain in efficiency was going to result. But the Minister of Defence at that time indicated that he was hoping to get reductions of staff.
§ Let us now look at what has happened. We have to-day—and it is only a few minutes ago that I was able to get it—the Defence Estimates. I did not know they were published. I tried to get them in another place, but they did not have them. Obviously we are more efficient down here. We find that there is going to be a very big increase. The amount of money that will be spent under the Ministry of Defence's Central Vote on Headquarters and Outstations, goes up by £2 million. When we look at the 797 actual numbers of headquarters organisation, we see that the Central Defence Staffs go up from 757 to 1,484, and the Defence Secretariat from 282 to 534. The Central Defence Scientific Staff goes up, and the Common Services go up from 39 to 445, making quite a considerable increase in the total salaries and wages. In the absence of all the Votes, it is not possible to make a direct comparison, but when we look at Vote 3 in the Army Vote on the Army Department Headquarters, where we should reasonably expect, as a result of these transfers, to see a reduction (and I would especially draw the First Lord's attention to this point) we see an increase. We find the same thing in regard to Air Force Department Headquarters.
§ I do not know whether these figures are as a result of increased pay, because I have not been able to break down the numbers, but the fact remains that, at a time when the Minister of Defence had initially said that he hoped he would see a reduction or, at least, that it would remain about the same, we see quite a big increase. It is possible to argue that there will be a big increase for a period of years, and that it will be subsequently reduced. But I would ask the Government to "come clean" on this, and not to start talking about possible savings when in fact there are going to be considerable increases.
§ The purpose of this Amendment is to establish what is going to result in regard to this matter. The Government may not have been able to answer these questions at an earlier stage, but the new Bill will be coming into force within a few weeks and it must now be possible to see the sort of pattern of organisation. Concern was expressed that when the joint operations centre was set up, there would be duplication in the Service Departments, and I would instance particularly the operational Departments. In fact, is the Air Ministry still going to retain its War Room? How would it operate? I think we ought to hear from the Government on this subject, and I hope we shall be able to get a satisfactory explanation of the increase which is already apparent from the Defence Estimates 1964–65. I beg to move.
Page 5, line 35, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Shackleton.)
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I, in a few words, support my noble friend in this Amendment? He spoke of the figures which are now available in the Defence Estimates, and about the obvious increases there may be in Whitehall. Many of us have had experience in the Services. The noble Earl opposite well knows that headquarters over the years tend to grow. The noble Earl had service in the Middle East, during the War, and he may well remember that when the Eighth Army, as it then became, was desperately short of officers in the field, there was never any question of a reduction of the headquarters in Cairo.
When I was in Singapore last year, where we have a new set-up, an integrated headquarters, I expected to see a proper form of co-ordinated headquarters, with the various headquarters staffs of the three Services integrated. What in fact has happened? The noble Earl will know this to be true, because it is an Admiral who is Commander-in-Chief. The headquarters side of each of the Services has remained exactly as it was before we had this combined headquarters; they have remained basically the same. What has happened is that you have superimposed a new set-up over these three Services, with more officers, more men, more signals equipment and more transport.
We all support the bringing of the Services together, because we believe that this will, or should, bring efficiency. But I do not believe it is right that the numbers of our headquarters should grow, as we know they have grown, unless there is a very special reason for them to do so. If this Amendment were accepted, or at least the principle behind it, then where the numbers at headquarters grew above the figure which is suggested in the Amendment, the Secretary of State would have to make a case for it. I believe that in many instances within the Services these headquarters have grown without a case having to be made to the Minister responsible for that Service. They have grown little by little, without anybody appreciating it. We anticipate that this may be so.
This Amendment relates merely to the first two years. The first two years of the life of this headquarters will be 799 important, because it is during that period that the principle (shall we call it?) will be established. The figures which the Ministry of Defence consider adequate for those two years I think will become the permanent establishment. I hope the Minister can give us some assurance on this matter.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I should have made clear that I was speaking, with your Lordships' permission, to the whole of this group of Amendments, and not merely to the one that I moved.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
Might I briefly support in principle what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said: namely, that the numbers we are likely to see in the new Defence Staff appear to be very great and are clearly due to the fact that the Government have chosen to work upon what one might call the principle of cohabitation rather than integration. As an immediate step, that may be a necessary or a tolerable thing to do. I myself have some doubt whether it is good to deal with this matter by an Amendment to this Bill. This is an enabling Bill and does not go into detail of what is to happen. That will be explained later, and it may be that a formal Amendment to this Bill on this subject is a rather heavy way of dealing with the point. But I think there is a case for asking the Government to tell us in which way they are proposing to go, and what steps they are going to take to reduce these swollen staffs to something that is more in tune with the revolution in organisation for which we are looking.
I feel that I should make it clear straight away that I am not at all opposed to what I think to be the principal objective behind this Amendment. The new Ministry of Defence will inevitably be a very large Ministry, and we all wish to prevent the leviathan from swelling still further, save for some very good reason. We are all too perfectly familiar with the operation of Parkinson's Law, and any of us who has any Service experience, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, pointed out, knows how quickly these things can grow unless one is quite determined from the start to keep the thing down to size.
That said, I should like to add that I tried to make it clear at Second Reading that it was wrong to assume that, by some 800 mysterious process of growth, the number of staff in the new Ministry as at April 1 this year would be larger than the numbers of the four Ministries combined a year ago, at April 1, 1963. There is some very complicated arithmetic here and I think I should get into very great difficulty if I tried to explain it across the Floor of the House, but I should very much like the opportunity between now and Third Reading to explain what is in the Estimates by letter, if I may, to the noble Lords who have just spoken. But the position is this. I can renew the assurance that there is, in fact, going to be no overall increase over the 1963–64 figures, despite the appearances of the Estimates. What has happened is that the 1963–64 figures for each Service Department have been adjusted in order to simplify the comparison between the two years for each Department separately, and this gives the misleading impression that there has been an overall increase.
In fact, there has not. I should like to explain this point in more detail. It is excessively complicated and one needs to be something of a senior wrangler to digest these particular figures. That is why they are not in the Estimates, despite the appearances.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Surely Government figures for Parliament ought not to be presented in a form that only a senior wrangler can understand? Why should they not be presented in the Paper in a form which speaks for itself?
I think the noble Earl, the Leader of the Opposition has a point there, if I may say so. That is for the present, but I can renew the assurance that there is not an overall increase. As for the future, I would merely wish to remind your Lordships that my right honourable friend made it clear in another place that, once the new Department is going, it will certainly be his aim to reduce staff and not to allow increases; and he believes this will be possible as a result of the greater efficiency due to improved business methods and also to some rationalisation. As your Lordships know, there is going to 801 be some rationalisation—and it is written into the White Paper—across-the-board in certain areas. This has already been decided on. Headquarters Signals, Intelligence and Public Relations are three, and there are other possible areas. I would not wish to be tied down, but the kind of things concerned are lands and operations of motor transport of the various Services. There will be fields for economies which may be won here. That at least is the aim of my right honourable friend, and I can certainly confirm—and am glad to do so—that this is his very firm aim.
That said, I wonder whether I could briefly address myself to the Amendment itself. I know that it is in something of the nature of a probing Amendment, or I take it to be so, but I should like to say why it would be difficult to accept if it were more than a probing Amendment. In the first place, there is no precedent, so far as I know, for limiting in this way by Statute the numbers employed by specific Government Departments, and I do not believe that the fact that there is no precedent for this is a fluke. There is, in fact, a very good reason for this lack of a precedent: that it is surely right for the Government of the day to have freedom to adjust the size and shape of Government Departments to match changing circumstances.
I would have thought that principle applied with particular force to this particular Ministry which is likely to be faced with sudden emergencies. I do not think I need elaborate on what sort of sudden emergency, but I might merely say that I do not believe it to be a remote possibility, in the troubled circumstances of the world to-day, that we might be faced with a grave and sudden emergency abroad which necessitates an urgent increase in the number of our Central Defence Staff. Surely, in such an emergency your Lordships would not wish the freedom of action of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence to be fettered in the way proposed by the machinery in subsection (2) of the new clause. That emergency could take place in the first two years which this clause covers.
I would feel differently if there were not plenty of controls already. As your Lordships know, numbers of staff are 802 controlled, in another place, through Estimates; that is, of course, a money control. Nevertheless, the Estimates show the related staff proposed in some detail and the scope for variation as a result is really pretty limited. Then there are the Departmental controls, and, last but not least, the Treasury control; and those of your Lordships who have tried to get staff increases through the eye of the Treasury needle know how effective that Treasury control can be. I do not wish to labour this particular point, but there are of course technical deficiencies in the particular Amendment; I would not wish to rest heavily on these deficiencies. I hope I have made it clear that I am certainly at one with noble Lords opposite in their desire to ensure that this new leviathan is kept down to size. More important, my right honourable friend is at one with them in that very firm objective. But I am not able to advise your Lordships to accept this particular technique of achieving that objective.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am much obliged to the noble Earl for his reply to this Amendment. I am quite prepared to accept the charge that this may have been a probing Amendment, but I am quite sure that he understands the difficulty, in going into a Committee on a Bill of this nature, of getting an Amendment which could really secure the provisions you want. This is an enabling Bill and we are placed in a very difficult position if we want to put into words our exact objective. We felt that we were completely justified in putting down this Amendment in its three sections because of the nature of the statement originally justifying the Bill—the White Paper that explained to us what is going to happen in actual organisation and the distribution of powers and of accommodation. It was quite clear, for example, that instead of a Ministry of Defence being one of real co-ordination, it was to be turned into a unitary power of defence, housed in a special building, and was going to have at least about 25,000 people of one sort or another on its staff. It was also clear that in certain respects duplication was bound to take place.
I have always argued myself, as the first Minister of Defence in peace time, that it was never necessary to have a separate Chief of Staff advising the 803 Minister. I did not need it, and the Secretary of State does not need it any more than I did then. You have your three Chiefs of Staff; they are there, they meet together and they decide who, for the particular year, is to be their chairman. I found no difficulty at all in doing the business in that way and, of course, of having the opportunity myself, whenever I desired, of taking the chair at the Chiefs of Staff Committee. There is no need for this extra work. I wonder how many are on the staff of the Chief of Staff. I have not the slightest idea at the present moment; I have not been able to look it up in detail. But when you come to the reorganisation of the civil as well as the military side, then the thing grows.
The noble Earl says: "Think of the difficulty; all those who have been in power in the past know how difficult it is; it is like getting it through the eye of a needle to get something through the Treasury". Is it? Did they not hear about Ferranti? Have they not heard about the enormous expenditure of £251 million in one certain Department, partly civil and partly war, air navigation. Wasted! This Government has been able to put money through the Treasury like a flowing millrace. And the Budget now is—I will not say double, but getting on for nearly double what it was twelve years ago. And this Defence Department comes along now with an Estimate this year of over £2,000 million. Is it difficult to get money through the Treasury? The record of the Government as a whole makes it appear that is quite a wrong assumption.
When you come to look at the detailed analysis as to how it would work, you will have in the Ministry of Defence not only a separate Chief Staff Officer, with his military and civil staff serving him, but in respect of every Department covered—that is, the Defence Science Department, and each of the three Service Departments—a duplication in the central office. That will include the three opposite numbers to the Permanent Secretary of the Department he is going to serve in the Central Ministry; Admiralty, War Ministry, Air Ministry—all three will have to have duplications of staff, at the very highest salaries, to do the job that still has to be done for them at the base in the Service Departments. Who is going to 804 take the place in the actual central department of the present Accounts Officer? And you are going to duplicate him in the Ministry of Defence. Why? And you may rest assured that this experience, which I say will be expected to happen under the White Paper, will be repeated in other Departments as well. Therefore, we had to fall back upon this method, in which I was greatly assisted by my noble friend.
We talked over the difficulty of bringing it up on this Bill—how we could have a probing Amendment on an enabling Bill, to make sure that this was properly discussed, and that there should be some check in the Houses of Parliament upon how money is unnecessarily wasted by the duplication of work. And it would not be the first time that a so-called amalgamation had merely become the building of an empire: you need only look at big business for that. There seems to be no special reason for the Government, which has to go to the taxpayer for all its money, to be put in the position of the take-over bidder. You should have a very much better idea of things like that. There will not be any chance for the Government to have resources like some take-over bidders, who will perhaps sell out buildings and land they take over and then lease them back to the shareholders. You cannot do that in Government finance, but you can go on building an empire of people you have to pay for. And you create it and push it up until you have a cost account with the actual amount of defence rendered out of all proportion to common sense.
Here we are now, with the three Services very much reduced. This was the settled pattern under the Ministry of Defence in 1957; it was going to show an immediate economy a year afterwards of £100 million, merely by wiping out National Service and by substituting for our general defence in the main nuclear power. You would be able, we were told, to get along nicely on a voluntary basis in the three Services. What has happened? Can the Government explain it to us to-night? What was the Budget in 1957? Ask your secretaries to tell you now. And ask what the Budget is going to be in the current year—£2,000 million- 805 plus. And we are asked to approve an organisation now which would undoubtedly unnecessarily increase the personnel, especially at the top, in dealing with management of the new system. I hope that, unless we get a better explanation than we have had yet from the noble Earl, we may persuade enough Members of the Committee to show their opprobrium in the Division Lobby. I do not want to divide, but unless we get something better, I think we ought to do that.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
May I press the noble Earl the First Lord to overcome these mathematical difficulties? It is, of course, always possible in a Defence Estimate or any similar document to put simple notes to explain figures which are difficult to understand. But I cannot understand how it is that the Ministry of Defence, the central part, has increased in terms of senior staff by, say, 40 people, and yet for the senior staff at Air Force Department headquarters we still find exactly the same number of Air Commodores—or, rather, there is one Air Commodore less, one Air Vice-Marshal less; but there are still five Air Marshals and two Air Chief Marshals. Surely some have moved over; and if they have not, where does the Defence Staff of the new headquarters come from? Have they been taken from other units, from Service units, or have they had to create new posts of Air or Flag rank to fill these posts? This is why one is so concerned about this set-up. We should have no desire to press this Amendment to a Division if we felt that the Government could explain this point. It may be necessary. Let them say, "Yes, there is going to be an increase, for the following reasons". But here we have figures which suggest that there is an increase, and I should have thought it was possible to explain the reason.
What worries us is that the Air Ministry (and they may have very understandable reasons) maintain a war room, Assistant Chief of Staff of Air Operations with all his directorates; and, in addition, there is to be a new central headquarters doing the same sort of thing. This is where we get very technical again. Is the line of communication going to be through the Service 806 Department headquarters, or will it go straight to Command? It does suggest that this particular reorganisation—and I am grateful for the views of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge—is a bit of a paper tiger. They have produced something which is going to produce greater efficiency, and we hope economies, and all that is happening is that we are getting the principle of cohabitation instead of real integration. I think the Government ought to tell us clearly how they are doing it.
§ 5.0 p.m.
I should like again to compliment noble Lords opposite on the ingenuity with which they have framed their probing Amendment and also the persistence with which they have probed. On the question of the total staffs I trust that the noble Lord will accept the assurance I have given him, that there is not going to be a net increase. I have made it perfectly clear that I should be willing to go over the figures with him and noble Lords opposite in detail. If they are not satisfied, there is no reason at all, so far as I know, why they should not put this Amendment down again at our next stage. I assure them that I will communicate with them in advance of that, although there will be only a short time.
That said, I should like to speak on a couple of points which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has just mentioned. I was not certain of the precise part of the Estimates which he was quoting, but I think the explanation for what he was saying lies in the first sentence of paragraph 32 of the White Paper:The Naval, General and Air Staffs, with the joint Service staffs of the present Ministry of Defence, will together constitute the Defence Staff.Thus, for instance (transferring it to the Navy), the present Vice-Chief of the Naval staff, or the present First Sea Lord, will be a member of the joint Service unified staff, but he will also be the single Service channel and will retain that single Service responsibility. Therefore, to answer the second specific question which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, put to me, so far as operational control is concerned (I speak subject to correction, but I am virtually certain that what I am saying is right), on single Service matters, when they 807 affect merely one Service, the operational chain of command will be from that Service to the field. Where it is a joint Service matter, then it will go out through the joint Staff, but the single Service chain of command will still remain for single Service matters.
With regard to the points which the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition has made, may I just take up one or two which are in my mind at present? He has criticised the retention of the Chief of the Defence Staff in the new set-up. I have, in fact, written to him to-day to explain the Government's intentions in this particular field. I would say merely that, if that is a criticism, it is of course a criticism of the existing set-up. There is at the present time, alongside and over the three Chiefs of Staff, an existing Chief of Defence Staff. This is not an augmentation or increase in staff.
The noble Earl also referred to, and slightly pulled my leg on what I have said about, difficulties of getting increases through the Treasury. There I was talking about staff increases. I am sure that, as Minister responsible in his time for so many Departments, he will agree with me how difficult it is to get the Treasury to assent to staff increases. I was limiting myself quite specifically to staff increases when I was replying to that question.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I think that if I totted up the increase in the staff in the Ministry of Defence since 1950 the figure would be quite astonishing.
I shall be glad to look into that. The noble Earl also asked me who I thought would exercise the financial control—who would take the place of the present accounting officer in the present Service Ministries. As is pointed out in the White Paper, it is clear that there will be a separate Vote for each particular Department. The Navy Department of the Ministry of Defence will have a Vote, and the accounting officer for that Vote will be the Second Permanent Under-Secretary for the Royal Navy. He will be the successor to the present Secretary to the Admiralty. That is the position. So far as the particular Service is concerned. I do not think that this will 808 make a vast change from the present position.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Do I understand, taking the Admiralty as an example, that all the accounts every year will have to be gone through primarily in the Ministry of Defence as such, and not in the Service Department, whatever that service may be called in the Naval sphere? Is the basic work of the accounting officer to be within the Service Department? How otherwise will the accounting officer in the Ministry of Defence be able to deal with the whole of the accounts? As I understand it, there is a duplication there which has not so far been explained in the speech of the noble Earl.
I think these would be brought together in the Defence Secretariat; but in the preparation of the Vote for the particular Service and the particular Department, the Second Permanent Under-Secretary concerned will be responsible, as I understand it, ab initio.
I appreciate the reasons why noble Lords have put down this particular Amendment, but I would ask them, whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the answer which I have given, not to press it, because if they do, I feel bound to say that I shall have to rehearse to your Lordships all the technical limitations which attach to it. I would assure noble Lords opposite that, whatever they may feel on this question of staff economy, I have sought to explain that there is not going to be a net increase. I hope that they will not press this particular Amendment, which is, technically, highly deficient.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I do not want to prolong this debate. I am as well aware as is the noble Earl of the technical deficiencies of this Amendment. It is, however, not unusual to have an Amendment of this kind in order to raise a particular matter. I reckon now that our case is a good deal better than I thought it was when we started. I think it is quite unforgivable to have a matter of this kind in such a state of obscurity that it is not possible to put it before Parliament. It is a mere coincidence that the Defence Estimates 809 came out to-day and that I was able to find evidence of what I suspected. I admit that there are various explanations (such as "deduct ten officers by March, 1965"), but there is no attempt to pull the facts together in the statement on Defence.
I do not want to go into a defence debate, because we shall be coming to the Defence Estimates. Unless the Government can give us more information we are going to be in grave difficulties. Parliamentary control will slide away completely—we know that Treasury control works only in a certain way, and then, in two years' time, the Public Accounts Committee will have something nasty to say and it will be another Government who will get the blame for it. In the circumstances, I do not feel inclined to withdraw the Amendment.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
We will not withdraw at the moment. What I am perturbed about is that I am not getting clear answers. May I start again on the question of the Accounting Officer? Is it to be understood from what the noble Earl said that each present Permanent Under-Secretary to the Service departments will personally be transferred to the Ministry of Defence in order to act as the principal Accounting Officer for the Service he has left as a Permanent Under-Secretary? Is that the position? Otherwise, who is, what will his rank be, and what will his duties cover? Will they include his being an Accounting Officer, and will he in each of the Service departments take the place of the officer who has left? I am bound to come to the conclusion from the White Paper that there will be duplication. I have had no clear answer on this. If I do net get a clear answer, then we ought
§ to divide the Committee, not on the merits of the Amendment before us, but on the fact that we have not got this matter cleared up.
I find myself in some difficulty here, because it seems to me that the general framework is perfectly clearly explained in the White Paper.
I am sure the noble Earl has read it, but I would assure your Lordships that paragraph 59 says:The Permanent Under-Secretary of State will be responsible for co-ordinating the views of military, scientific, and civil administrative staffs. In this he will be assisted by the Second Permanent Under-Secretary of State (Defence Secretariat) and by the appointment of a Deputy Under-Secretary of State (Programmes and Budget). The latter will control a part of the Defence Secretariat which will be responsible for the full scope and content of the defence programme and the Defence Budget.The Second Permanent Under-Secretary for each of the three Services will work closely with the Deputy Under-Secretary of State (Programmes and Budget) in drawing up that part which specifically concerns him and will be the Accounting Officer for that specific Service. It does not seem to me that this involves a duplication.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents 26; Not-Contents 60.811
|Addison, V.||Hobson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Inman, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Kennet, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Champion, L. [Teller.]||Latham, L.||Taylor, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Lindgren, L.||Walston, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Morrison, L.||Williams, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Rusholme, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Gardiner, L.||St. Davids, V.||Willis, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Derwent, L.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Allerton, L.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Lansdowne, M.|
|Ampthill, L.||Drumalbyn, L.||Lothian, M.|
|Atholl, D.||Dundee, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Ebbisham, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Falkland, V.||Molson, L.|
|Blakenham, V.||Ferrers, E.||Newton, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Forbes, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Boston, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Braye, L.||Fortescue, E.||Sandwich, E.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Selkirk, E.|
|Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.||Gosford, E.||Somers, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Greenway, L.||Spens, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Grenfell, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hanworth, V.||Suffield, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hastings, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Craigton, L.||Hawke, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Hereford, V.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Horsbrugh, B.||Vestey, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Ingleby, V.||Wynford, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.