HL Deb 21 July 1965 vol 268 cc748-51

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I should like to intervene to repeat a Statement which is being made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence in another place on the progress made in rationalising Service functions. May I, at the same time, apologise to the noble Marquess, who is about to make his maiden speech, and to my noble friend Lord Stonham, who also has a Statement to make. I am sorry that we should have to do it at this moment. The Statement is as follows:

"I have decided to introduce new schemes in two separate fields of activity. The first scheme relates to the organisation of the Intelligence Staffs in the Ministry of Defence, while the other results from the study of centralised responsibility for motor transport in the three Services which was mentioned in this year's Statement on Defence Estimates.

"The Intelligence Staffs of the former Service Departments were merged in a single Defence Intelligence Staff with effect from April 1, 1964. In the light of experience since then, I have decided to take a further step in reorganisation by substituting two functional Directors—a Director of Service Intelligence and a Director of Management and Support of Intelligence—for the present Director of Naval Intelligence, Director of Military Intelligence and Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Intelligence) "—

that is, two new "across the board" Directors for three Service Directors—

"I believe that this change will improve our ability to deploy our Defence Intelligence effort with the maximum flexibility and effect, and that it will open the door to economies—including the immediate cut of one two-star-post—over and above the substantial saving which has resulted from the original merger.

"On Motor Transport, I have accepted an outline plan under which the Army Department will assume responsibility for the development and procurement of all mechanical transport and spares for the three Services, except for a few specialist vehicles which are the responsibility of the Ministry of Aviation. The Army Department will also assume responsibility for the distribution of Service vehicles, for central storage and the repair of vehicles, assemblies and spares above unit or formation level. The three Services are now collaborating on the preparation of detailed plans and revised procedures, and the changes in organisation and responsibilities will start to take effect from the 1st April, 1966. It is not possible to be precise about the financial effects of these changes, but I would expect to save about half a million pounds a year at the start, and to make additional savings when the full scheme is in operation."

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for repeating this Statement. It seems to me that the decisions announced in it flow naturally from the process of merger and integration which was initiated by my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Defence in the last Administration, and I think they are to be welcomed.

I should like to put three questions to the noble Lord. The first one is a relatively minor and semantic one. Am I right in assuming that "one two-starpost" means one post of major-general rank? If so, would it not be better if we could be told this in English rather than in "McNamarese"? Secondly, can he tell us a little more about the reorganisation of the Defence Intelligence Staff? I think I see the meaning of it, but I am a little foxed by the functions which are embraced by that rather intellectual title "Director of Management and Support of Intelligence". Is there anything which he can say to clarify the functions comprised within that title? Thirdly, I notice that motor transport, or those aspects of motor transport, covered by this Statement are to become the responsibility of the Army Department. I should perhaps know this, but can the noble Lord tell us whether one of the Service Ministers is to have a special responsibility vis-à-vis that integrated Intelligence Staff and, if so, which one?


My Lords, I am sorry, but I had certain semantic difficulties with the noble Earl's speech. "MacNamarese" was, of course, introduced by the previous Administration. It may well be that this is another matter that we should reform. But a "two-starpost" avoids inter-Service difficulties, as to whether one should call it a "major-general" post or the comparative rank in the other Services. Without going into it in great detail, I think I ought not to try to explain these particular two roles. I think the noble Earl probably has a good understanding of it. If he would like me to pursue it further, I could do so either by writing or by making a further Statement in the House. But it would be necessary to go rather deeply into the whole of the Intelligence structure if one were to explain these things, and I hope the noble Earl will not press me on that matter. Therefore I have not answered usefully two of his questions, and I am afraid I did not quite understand his third question. Perhaps he would like to repeat it.


My Lords, I said I should perhaps know the answer, but I do not. I notice that the responsibility for motor transport is to be transferred to the Army Department. I was wondering whether one of the Service Ministers will have a special responsibility vis-à-vis the Intelligence Staff, and, if so, which one?


My Lords, I think the simple answer to that is that most operational and Staff matters go directly to the Secretary of State himself. One of my right honourable friends, the Minister for the Army, does have certain responsibilities on rationalisation and functions, but the Service Intelligence operates primarily to the Chiefs of Staff, and they report direct to the Secretary of State.


My Lords, as a matter of general principle, I should have thought it was a good thing to have a combined Intelligence Directorate replacing the three Service Directorates as heretofore. Whether it is right to have one Director or, as in this case, two Directors, apparently of equal rank and unexplained duties, one does not know. This is a typical example of what happens in the fog of Defence arrangements and the way in which Parliament is always at a loss to make any intelligent criticism of anything to do with Defence, particularly of the Intelligence Services. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has already excused himself from describing what these two gentlemen are going to do, what their duties are, and what the division is between them. In view of this, I do not see that there is any intelligent question on it which I can ask.


My Lords, it is clear that the noble Lord has failed to ask an intelligent question. I would only remind the noble Lord that a Statement made in this House is not a suitable occasion for going very deeply into organisation. If the noble Lord wishes to have a debate on this or any other Service matter, it is in his hands.


My Lords, could the noble Lord say where the responsibilities lie in regard to amphibious vehicles and hovercraft?


My Lords, that really is another question.