HL Deb 31 July 1963 vol 252 cc1143-69

2.20 p.m.

EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH rose to call attention to the proposals of the Government for the central organisation of defence; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I hope we shall all recognise this afternoon the importance of the issues raised in this White Paper on the Central Organisation for Defence. I think there is in paragraph 5 of the Paper a very frank admission that the hoped-for improvement in co-operation which was foreshadowed in the 1958 White Paper has not really been effective. I am not surprised.

The idea of having a separate Minister of Defence in peace time came from the Labour Government, after their associated experience under the Ministry of Defence in war and the organisation of staffs, production and research and everything else, so far as it had gone then. I believe that in the period from early 1947 until October, 1951, the main objectives of setting up that Ministry were successful. However, I should not like to be the judge of that, because I was the first of two Ministers of Defence in that period. I leave further comment to my noble friend Lord Attlee, who not only had the great experience of being Prime Minister throughout the period from 1945 to 1951 but also had served right through the premiership of Mr. Winston Churchill (as he was then) in the course of the war; and I think there is no one in this House with a greater and broader knowledge of the facts of the situation, which was continually changing with the changes in strategic considerations and weapons.

I come to the general question which is raised in my mind by paragraph 5 of the White Paper. The history of the Conservative Government since they took over in October, 1951, in regard to defence plans is quite extraordinary. I have been looking back through the volumes issued by the Government over the past two or three years. Not the least noteworthy was the last, which was issued last February in its new form, in its coloured jacket, containing the Estimates for the three Services and about 80 words of comment by the Minister of Defence upon the general work of the Services and, I suppose, the whole work of the Ministry of Defence. Not another thing was supplied in print at that time by the Minister of Defence. In dealing with that during the debate at the time, I made the comment that when, in the debate in another place, the Minister of Defence referred to the number of inquiries to be made as to the greater co-ordination of Ministry of Defence operations, it was a sort of smokescreen to cover up in the course of the debate all the faults that were in this volume, the explanation of which was contained in only 80 words. I think it is pretty clear that that was a smokescreen.

The admission of failure in paragraph 5 is, I think, something which can also be deduced from the comments which have been made from all parts of the House in the course of the last eleven or twelve years with regard to the Government's policy. If there has been any departure from the kind of success that we as a Labour Government wanted in the working of a Ministry of Defence in peace time, has been largely due to ministerial incompetence, in the series of nine Ministers of Defence in eleven and three-quarter years. The necessity to attempt this major reorganisation and reconstruction of the Ministry of Defence is largely due to the incompetence either of the Prime Minister or of the Ministers of Defence in arranging the conduct of the control of defence in general.

There are certain important questions which arise out of this. First of all, I suppose it is clear to everybody that this general proposal means the formation of one Ministry, and one Ministry only, for defence. It does away with the Parliamentary responsibility of the Ministers in charge of the three separate Services to both Houses of Parliament. That is a very important decision to take. It is easy to put that down on paper without considering all the detailed things likely to happen, from the point of view of the actual conduct of operations, of administration, production and research, as they arise; and above all, from the point of view of the maintenance of Service discipline.

I remember that we had a terrible naval mutiny at Invergordon in 1931. Because the other Cabinet Ministers concerned at that time are dead, I can say now what happened without revealing very great secrets. When certain very severe cuts were proposed, including the breaking of pledges to the pre-1925 naval enlistment, I said to the meeting of the Cabinet which was dealing with this matter, "If this is the line you take, then I cannot answer for the discipline of the Navy." One of the other members said, "Well, what has that to do with you, anyway? You are not responsible for the discipline of the Fleet." I said, "The discipline of the Fleet is in the hands of the first officers of the Fleet, but I have to be responsible to Parliament." Do I understand that the new proposed Chief of the Defence Ministry is going to be responsible to Parliament for the discipline of each of the three Services? I should like a specific answer on that point fairly early in the debate—perhaps the First Lord, who has himself some experience of this matter, will give me an answer. Is it going to be at third-hand or second-hand? If the Chiefs of the Service staffs are to be responsible to the Minister of Defence alone, will that relieve entirely the actual Service Ministers from any responsibility?

I now come to the point of the management which is to be carried on in future. If we go through the White Paper—and perhaps your Lordships will be good enough to have it in front of you as we go along—we see that the first heading is "The New Approach". Apparently the new approach is to be fastened down through a line from the Minister of Defence—or, rather, the First Secretary of State for Defence: I must give him his proper title—and to be maintained on the lines therein set out. I am anxious to know how far it is going to work. In the first place, he is to work with the Chiefs of Staff; and the Chiefs of Staff, who were changed in their actual control and composition by this Government some seven years ago, will be made permanent by, I suppose, legislation, which is what I think is proposed here. That Committee of Chiefs of Staff will have what is so frequently referred to now as a Supremo, who will be the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. For how long that will be, I do not know. We used to have rotation of the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, one from each of the Services in turn.

The principal of the Chiefs of Staff will sit in the chair, and when there is disagreement he will report to the Minister; and it is specifically stated that he will also tender to the Minister his separate advice. I find it difficult to see how that will be fully acceptable to all the Services concerned. A great deal will depend on the origin and training of the Supremo for his high office, and which Service he comes from, whether the dispute is settled or sent to the Secretary of the Ministry for settlement with the special advice of one who has the support of somebody of his own training in the Chiefs of Staff Committee. That Committee may be comprised of two Navy representatives, two Army and two Air staff. I must say that I never found it necessary to have this sort of thing when I was Minister of Defence; nor was it found necessary in the case of my immediate successor. Nor should I think it was necessary at any time, until it was brought in in about 1956. I hope this is going to be looked at carefully, because it might lead to far more trouble than appears likely on the surface.

I want to make it clear, so far as my noble friends on this side of the House are concerned, that we are very much in favour of all real efforts to increase co-operation between the three fighting Services. It is to be noted that in paragraph 10, on page 1, it is specifically required that the Services should be kept separate. Apparently, there is some anxiety in the mind of the Secretary of State for Defence—I suppose it must be through him—that there is a great job yet to be done in settling their plans and programmes and the like which will cover the commitments and the rôles of all three Services. I must have read pages and pages in the last eleven and a half years upon the rôles of each of the Services, which are stated in the Defence White Papers. I still find it difficult to understand why, in the minds of a Government who have been in office for nearly twelve years and had nine Ministers of Defence, the rôles of each of the three Services have not yet really been settled. It is perfectly true, as they say in the White Paper, that the loyalty of each man in each of the Services is very much due to the history of his particular Service, his unit or its battle honours and the like, and it is necessary to keep these Services separate in organisation. But will the kind of organisation set up under this White Paper provide the best way to maintain that situation?

As I say, we are in favour of anything that will increase co-operation between the three Services, whether it is in the nature of streamlining to avoid unnecessary additional expense, cutting out delays—if that would be so—having more concentration upon particular and urgent problems than has perhaps hitherto been the case, and maybe preventing some of the grave errors which have occurred, in the last seven or eight years especially, and which have led to such considerable waste of public money on the development of weapons or methods of equipment, or whatever it may be. The real factor, however, is this. There is a widespread feeling in the talk one hears that you must not leave out of account the sort of thing that is often said about similar operations in industry and the like. Is this set-up, of one Ministry of such a size, of such importance and with such equipment as to make it slightly top-heavy, likely to produce the kind of results which are spoken of in connection with what is known as Parkinson's law, because of constant expansion?

In this connection, let me take the history of the Ministry of Defence itself up to date. It was started early in 1947 as a result of the decision we took in the Cabinet under Mr. Attlee (as he then was) to set up a peace-time Ministry of Defence. Its expenditure in the first year was about £500,000, and in the next year about £600,000. In the third year—I have a copy of the accounts which were the last I was responsible for preparing, published in February, 1950—the total cost was under £800,000. Now you have a Ministry of Defence organisation, not very different from the organisation which was formulated in 1947, which, according to the Estimates for the current year, costs£20 million. Anybody quietly commenting on that would say that it was a piece of evidence supporting Parkinson's law.

Is that going to be the experience in this one complete Ministry set-up, the expenditure of which, in the mind of the Secretary of Defence and again clearly set out in the White Paper, is likely to reach a little below£2,000 million per annum? Having regard to the projects now in front of us, with such objectives as the new nuclear submarines equipped for the operation of Polaris, or the development of aircraft of the type of the TSR.2—its history and its future project —and the great work still to be done upon other projectiles, is it not much more likely that the expenditure will be considerably above the estimated £2,000 million per annum which is referred to in the White Paper as a possible maximum?

There are to be about 400,000 men in the Services, and they are to be matched on the other side by 400,000 civil servants of different kinds; and these are all to be under one Ministry in which the Secretary of the Defence Department will be the only man responsible to Parliament. This is a very big project indeed. I am suggesting that unless the work is very carefully organised, you are likely to have less efficiency rather than improved efficiency.

I see a reference to the appointment of three Ministers of State for Defence, to be designated as Ministers of State for Defence (Royal Navy), (Army), and (Royal Air Force), as the case may be—not a very nice way in which to publish their particular activities and their position in these very important matters. Take, for example, the abolition of the office of First Lord of the Admiralty, which has been there for over a couple of centuries, and take his new position as Minister of State for Defence (Navy). What will it appear to be in the eyes of the various servants of the Admiralty all over the world? I suppose that with the personnel of the Fleet and the Civil Service, including industrial workers in different parts of the world in naval yards, there must be some hundreds of thousands. At present, they all feel that they have the right of access to the principal Minister in charge of the Navy. It is true, of course, that the three separate Departments under their present title managements are being abolished. You abolish the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty; you abolish the Army Council, and you abolish the Council of the Royal Air Force. But what takes their place? Boards—the Navy Board, the Army Board and the Air Force Board, which will meet in the Ministry of Defence, and are described as Navy, Army or Air Force, again in small brackets. It seems to me that unless the management is very efficient and economical, you will do worse under this arrangement than under the present one.

It does not seem that tradition is altogether being wiped out by the Government, because, although they abolish the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, for some reason or other they keep the two special reserve titles for the two first naval members of the Lords Commissioners at present. You still call the Chief of the Naval Staff First Sea Lord—"Lord" of what is not clear, because there are no Lords Commissioners left. And in the case of the Second Sea Lord, you call him still the Second Sea Lord—(Personnel), I suppose, although there are no Lords Commissioners left. It does not seem to me to be very effective to have just a slight bit of tradition left only for two senior sailors in those circumstances. I feel that something ought to be done to try to get a proper recognition of the importance of the nomenclature all the way round for the three Services if the members of the Services are to feel that they have the same full right of access to the various Councils which they have at present.

There is another point that I want to raise. In the course of the White Paper it is clear to several of my colleagues, at least (I do not know that we are all 100 per cent. agreed), that there is likely to be a good deal of duplication in what is set out therein. Of course you will have your Defence Staff. You are going to put them down to a certain level, all within one building. You are going to do the same, apparently, under the operations of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State, through the machine which he will set up with the help of his Assistant Under-Secretary of State. It seems to me that you are going to house in the central building not more than about 700 or 800 of the staffs of each of the Departments, comprising both their actual military sides and their actual civil sides, and that you leave in the rest of the buildings the work which is going to be carried on; and unless you duplicate by having a sufficient number at every stage, in both the military and the civil services, of somebody able to direct the course of the work in carrying out the main policy decided in the main building, then you will have very widespread and possibly growing duplication.

Speaking by and large, I would say from my consideration of the White Paper that, so far from there being any likely economy in costs as a result of the working of this White Paper, at the start, at any rate—I will put it in that qualified way—there will be a considerable increase of cost. On this point I think Parliament has a right to complain that on this matter there has not been a word of advice from the Government. Here is this great project, and there is not the slightest idea in the White Paper whether there is to be an expected reduction of cost or what—not the slightest. We do not know. All we know at present is that we are paying £1,838 million a year for our defences—which, with regard to personnel, are less than half what we handed over in 1951; and, with regard to a good many other matters like equipment and development of new weapons, we have been thrown out of stride and are not properly equipped for the next five years to meet the possible commitments that will arise. We really ought to be treated in Parliament with far more respect than that, and in an important matter of this kind we ought to have had some rough estimate as to whether there is going to be an actual economic effect; whether there is going to be a saving in money, in time or in what direction, in setting up this proposed organisation.

The other thing I want to say is this. In all these things coming along, as we take them stage by stage we can see some that are quite new and also likely to be duplicated. There is the paragraph in which it is stated quite specifically that four new organisations are to be set up. I should like the First Lord of the Admiralty to take that up and to tell us whether it will mean that nothing of a similar kind will still be done afterwards in the Service Department concerned. If you take the same sort of question with regard to actual planning, it is quite nice to read about the hopes that they have in joint planning for the future. But this is not the first time we have had a joint planners' organisation. Yet in all the Departments concerned we have always found it to be fundamental that each Department should have its planners. And very often, before a Chief of Staff can go to his own meeting with the other Chiefs of Staff to deal in discussions of joint operations he has to have some idea from his own planning staff how they will be affected in their own office and he will have to make up his own mind what he will have to say about it. There are many things to be done after that by joint planners with regard to the joint operations of the Services; and something also will have to be said about the method of communicating.

There is one thing I should like to be cleared up—and it will fall to experienced staff officers, like the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, and others to comment upon it. There is one favourable line which shows that the Chiefs of Staff in the end will have retained the right to issue their orders to their own Services. But I also see there is to be set up a joint operational Department in the Ministry of Defence, and it reads to me in its context as if there would be some question whether or not the actual instructions with regard to operations would be sent direct from the Defence Department.

There is also the suggestion in the same section that there could be more co-operation with regard to signal services. I should like some assurances about that; what really it is expected to achieve and what will be the economic effects of more co-operation in dealing with signals. A good deal of signalling to-day has been rationalised, but I suppose that, by and large, if one looks at the almost worldwide basis that each Service Chief has to face, one realises that he will want his messages at all times to be fairly quickly despatched and to reach their destinations in the shortest possible time. But what economies could be effected in that direction? Is there any danger of there being a reduction in the number of networks? Is there going to be a suggestion that one network only would be in operation for the Services? There must be at least three now in operation. What economies can be effected, therefore, in the sort of set-up they are going to make in that respect? The same applies to the other Departments which are referred to in the section to which I am referring.

There is one other thing I should like to say. I am very pleased to see the emphasis placed upon the research and development which is so much under the control of the scientific adviser and his committee; that is very good indeed. But I am sad to see—and I do not know how this will strike other Members of the House—that the only profession which is never mentioned, yet which to me has always been important in dealing with the Services, especially with the Navy, is that of the engineer; and the engineer, as well as the scientist, the professional soldier, sailor and airman, is fundamental to all three Services. I should like to know how it is that in this connection there is no mention at all in the White Paper of the engineer. When I ask this I am not charging the Government with being the first offenders in this respect; I am not putting them in the dock in any way about it; but I should like to say a word of encouragement, at any rate at this time of reconstruction of this organisation, to the engineers, who have done magnificent work for all three Services. Theirs is a service which I have always very greatly valued.

The other matter to which I want to pay some attention is the question of concentrating Intelligence under the Secretary of State for Defence. Apparently he will be the only one responsible to Parliament for Intelligence in connection with defence. I do not know how closely this matter has been looked at or exactly how it is going to be worked. Intelligence and security are matters which spread quite widely in the Services and the Government—not only the military Services, but in the foreign service and home service. There is also commercial and trade intelligence of very great importance. This proposal, I take it, is to apply solely to defence, although, when the Admiralty were very much under discussion with regard to an espionage case, I think called the Vassall case, common remarks that I heard from the ordinary public and which I read in the Press were rather to the effect that if anybody ought to be sacked it was the Ambassador in Moscow at the time. The Government did not sack him because he was already retired; but your Lordships can see how widely this question, both of Intelligence and of security, goes.

If the Secretary of the Defence Department is going to take full responsibility for all the things which are set out in this White Paper, and is unable even to achieve the amount of successful delegation which any Prime Minister has to make, then I should think he will be quite in danger of what is called "going round the bend", because there is a concentration here which might do more harm than good. I hope it will do good; but I think that until we have had much further explanations we shall still have to wait before we can make up our minds. I beg to move for Papers.

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches and myself, I should like to say that we welcome the White Paper and the statement of policy it contains on the Central Organisation for Defence. We believe that it is essential in these days to have a unified Ministry of Defence with the absorption of the present Service Ministries. We think that this plan is right; that there will be central management in the Ministry of Defence with the structure of the individual Services retained. There may, of course, be criticisms as to detail; there are always differences of view as to detail. I think there is a justifiable criticism that this reform has come in rather late, but we think, "Better late than never", and we do not wish to impede the progress of the new Ministry.

We believe that it is right because it forms part of the pattern of defence requirements in modern times. We think that this pattern consists, so far as the military forces are concerned, of the security obligations for collective defence; that is, our responsibilities to NATO and the Atlantic Alliance, both in conventional forces and, so long as the Government retain their view on nuclear weapons, the V-bomber force with its missiles and, later on, the Polaris submarine. Secondly, we think that it ably provides for the sort of problems that we have called the "bush fire" problems, such as were found to be present in Kuwait and Brunei. Thirdly, there is the question of the Strategic Reserve, which is probably quite as important as any of the others. There, we need fast, mobile airborne and seaborne forces with bases in Britain, Malta, Aden and Singapore, and garrisons in those places, together with garrisons in Hong Kong and the West Indies, and possibly now in Mbabane in Swaziland, because very soon the High Commission territories are going to be pretty well isolated. We also need a task force east of Suez. This is one reason why we gave such a warm welcome to the advent of the decision to build a new aircraft carrier, which was announced by the First Lord in this House yesterday. This means that up to 1980, at all events, there will be three fast carriers in service, two of them East of Suez, and we regard that as a very important matter indeed.

But it is not only in military questions that we feel the need for this Ministry of Defence. There is also the economic question. The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, pointed out that the new Ministry will be responsible for the spending of something like £2,000 million a year, which is about half of the total expenditure of this country. It will control 400,000 men in the Forces together with 400,000 civilians. These are vast sums. Such expenditure is probably necessary, unhappily both on the conventional forces and on the deterrent—there is a difference of opinion on the deterrent, but I do not want to go into that to-day—but, while these commitments are maintained by the Government, they must impose an immense strain upon our national resources. This defence requirement, £2,000 million a year, together with the manpower it takes up, must compete with the export trade, with home requirements and particularly with our research facilities, which are very definitely limited. One Ministry, we believe, should be able to oversee this problem with its effect on manpower, taxation, and the balance of payments, far better than the system hitherto.

The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, talked about the expense of the Forces and compared it with the expenditure in his day. Of course, these expenses of armaments, like all other expenses are going up the whole time—in fact more than anything else. Mr. Lloyd George said in 1909, or thereabouts, that one Duke cost as much to keep up as two battleships. He would not say that today. He could not even compare a Duke to a sloop, leave alone two battleships. This aircraft carrier is costing £60 million to build, and I do not know how much it will cost a year to run—some fantastic sum—and I do not think any Duke can compare with that.

So far as the structure of the individual Services is concerned, we think the need for interdependence is highly important. The days when the war seemed to be not between Britain and the enemy but between the War Office and the Admiralty have gone. But there is no doubt that the loyalty of the individual in the individual Service is often to his Service, and to an even greater degree to his regiment or ship or squadron, as the noble Earl pointed out and as is pointed out in paragraph 10 of the White Paper we are discussing. I think that when making these vast plans we ought never to forget that; we must remember that so far as the man in the regiment, particularly, is concerned, it is a question of the historical continuity of the regiment, which he knows all about, and the sort of shadowy comrades that lie behind him, possibly back to the days of Marlborough.

There are only one or two further points I should like to make. The first is with regard to Commonwealth defence. I think that in future we shall have to give much closer attention to Commonwealth defence than in the past. It is going to be a rather different type of defence. We have two cases looming up at the moment. I hope neither will come to fruition, but there is a possibility and a danger. The first is the threat to India by China. That will possibly call for more aid, and I was very pleased indeed to see how promptly Her Majesty's Government offered aid on the previous occasion to India, and I hope we shall do so if the need arises in the future. The other case is perhaps different, perhaps not so different, but certainly of another type. I refer to a case such as that in Borneo, the new Malaysia. It will be quite impossible for the new Malaysia to defend its frontiers, those enormously long frontiers running through bush and across the tops of mountains and so on, without aid from the rest of the Commonwealth. I hope that that will be looked at by the new Minister of Defence, and that he will realise that Gurkhas and irregular troops, and all the rest of it, may be very important in those areas.

The only question I would ask the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who is replying, is with regard to recruiting. However good the paper plans are, unless there are enough men and women to carry them out they are not going to have much effect. I have been very disappointed to see in the latest figures given to us by the present Minister of Defence, which are for April this year, that the all-Services recruiting as compared to April, 1962, has gone down, so far as men and boys are concerned, from 6,543 to 3,093, which is a drop of more than 50 per cent.; and so far as women are concerned, from 703 to 368. That is a very sharp decline indeed, and I do not know the reason. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to enlighten us. It may be, so far as the Army is concerned, that they made rather a mistake in appearing to decline the services of married men and those who desire to get married; and there may have been other reasons as well.

One point which has not been mentioned yet but which comes up on this reorganisation is the fact that the Ministry of Aviation is not to be part of the new Ministry of Defence. In our last debate on Defence on March 13 last I urged the Government to retain a separate Ministry of Aviation, and I am very pleased they have done so. On all occasions when there has not been a separate Ministry of Aviation, civil aviation has suffered appallingly. It is an absolutely right decision, and I hope the Government will stick to this through thick and thin. Of course, there must be very close liaison and co-ordination, as indeed I understand there is going to be. But I feel that civil aviation is so different from the Service aspects of the Ministry of Defence that to put it in, and to have it controlled by, the Ministry of Defence would be quite wrong, and in this very difficult time through which civil aviation is passing it would perhaps do it irreparable injury.

We welcome the nuclear test ban agreement which is to be signed by the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary quite soon in Moscow. We are delighted to hear that, and we urge upon the Government, and we will support them in, every possible and proper measure of disarmament they will be able to achieve.

I have an apology to make to the House. As your Lordships know, I never, if I can possibly help it, avoid being present throughout the debate to the end; but it so happens that to-night I have an important meeting which I must attend, and it may be that I shall have to leave before the conclusion of the debate. I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Home, and all speakers whose speeches I shall not be able to listen to. With those few words, I would extend to the Government, on behalf of my noble friends and myself, our very best wishes at the launching of the new Ministry for a smooth and successful voyage.

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I think all of us are very grateful to the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition for having put this Motion down and given your Lordships the opportunity of debating this White Paper. I think it would be also true to say that while the noble Earl has given the Government's plans a rather lukewarm welcome, that was made up for, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who welcomed them wholeheartedly. In fact I think he had only one criticism: that they were not put into effect sooner. I have noticed that if the Opposition ever agree with anything the Government propose they always ask why it was not done years ago, so I do not take that criticism too much to heart. Perhaps I may answer at once one question which the noble Lord put to me—because I do not want to be diverted into questions of equipment and manpower and so on. He asked about recruitment. I would say this: my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War acknowledges that the present situation is unsatisfactory. He is taking a number of steps to encourage recruiting and also to ensure that the needs of the Army are kept in the public mind.

I should also like to apologise to your Lordships if I leave a little time before the end of the debate. I think I have explained to most of your Lordships that there is a very special naval occasion this evening in Portsmouth which I think it would not be proper for me, as First Lord of the Admiralty, to miss; and I hope your Lordships will forgive me.

The noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition has spent very many years in Defence Departments, twice as First Lord of the Admiralty—on the second occasion during a very critical period in the history of this country, then as Minister of Defence—so anything that he says must be listened to with great attention and with great care. I intend, therefore, this afternoon to explain as best I can why the Government have decided to reorganise our defence organisation and on what principles we have tried to base our proposals.

Before doing so, however, perhaps I may be allowed to say one personal thing. It is, I suppose, rather unusual for a Minister to introduce, or to support, proposals which will entail the disappearance of his office and of the Department over which he has presided for a number of years; and it would be foolish to deny that there are those of us in the Admiralty—and I am sure, too, in the War Office, and in the Air Ministry—who are sad to see the disappearance of traditional offices and institutions which have been valuable in their time and played a great and honourable part in the history of this country. The Board of Admiralty has a long history, and it and the Royal Navy, as your Lordships know, have served the country more than well; and no one could be more proud or more honoured than I am to have held the office of First Lord for nearly four years. I should not, therefore, contemplate coming to your Lordships' House and advocating the abolition of these time-honoured institutions if I did not believe strongly that the time had come when we should take a step forward in our defence organisation.

We should not be afraid of altering our policy because we look back too much on the past. No country or Government can run its defence policy, or indeed any other policy, on nostalgia. I also was at one time at the Ministry of Defence, not in the great capacity of the noble Earl opposite, but as Parliamentary Secretary. I served three Ministers—first the Prime Minister, then Mr. Selwyn Lloyd and, finally, Lord Monckton of Brenchley. I came to the conclusion during that time, which was between the years 1954 and 1956, that if our defence policy was to be cohesive and if our resources were to be used properly, it was necessary for the Minister of Defence and the Ministry of Defence to have greater powers.

As your Lordships know, we went some way along this road in 1958, at the time when Mr. Sandys was Minister of Defence. I think that the time has now come when we should take another step forward. I think this mainly for two reasons. The first is that since the war we have been living under a sort of armed truce. It has been quite out of the question to follow the pattern which we usually follow, of starving the Armed Forces of resources in peace time until forced to reverse the trend by the threat or the reality of war. We have had to maintain carefully balanced forces over these last years, and the balance is necessarily a delicate one. It is political, it is military and it is economic.

The second reason—and it is closely related to the first one—lies in the cost and complexity of modern equipment. Prices for aircraft and ships and tanks have gone up out of all proportion to the general rise in industrial and consumer goods. I agree with all that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said on that point, though I should hesitate to say that my noble friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations was not more valuable than a sloop. But as the price of equipment soars, so does the competition for scarce money from the Defence Budget become more intense. Of course it is the business of the Royal Navy to state the case for sea power, as it is for the other two Services to state their cases. I do not believe that unless there is a strong central control by a Minister of Defence it is possible to balance the three forces and their requirements properly, all, of course, subject to the overall political, military and economic considerations. As each of the Services becomes more and more interdependent, and as they co-operate more closely, the need for a single responsible Minister in a unified Ministry of Defence has become stronger—not of course to stifle opinion and comment in the individual Services or to stifle differences of view. The idea is that the new Secretary of State shall have access to all the facts and all the interpretations put upon them. But the decisions must be his and those of the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee and the Cabinet.

Having got so far, the Government then had to decide how this was to be brought about. There were two possible ways, I think, in which this could be done. They could either unify the three Services and administer them as one in a single department on a functional basis, or they could retain the separate identities of the Services, unite them in a common headquarters building, under the single control of a Secretary of State for Defence, delegating such duties as he himself would not have time to perform. As your Lordships know, the Government chose the latter alternative; and I am quite sure that they were right. I do not believe that at this point of time it is possible or desirable to unify the Services. Sailors are sailors; soldiers are soldiers, and airmen are airmen: they chose their ship; they chose their regiment, and they chose their squadron. Their loyalties are to their Service. Ever-increasing demands are placed upon their skill and their ingenuity by the increasing complications of modern weapons, and that of itself imposes greater demands for specialisation and not integration. I am quite sure that it is vital that the Services should retain their own distinctive traditions and identities.

Nor do I believe that functional organisation is possible. Ninety-five per cent. of the time of the Second Sea Lord in the Admiralty (as your Lordships know, he looks after manpower in the Navy), is spent necessarily on single Service matters, and only 5 per cent. on matters which affect the other two Services. And this is even more true of the Controller, who looks after production and equipment, whose time is spent almost entirely on naval issues. That of course is not to say that there are not fields in which it may be possible to integrate; but as a generality, that is certainly not so. It will, however, be necessary for the new Ministry of Defence—and this is embodied in its structure—to delegate.


My Lords, may I just say that there is no reason why you cannot get good co-operation between the particular kind of senior officers, the production officers, about whom you are talking. We did have some body which met in a hotel just the other side of Cockspur street, at the bottom of the Haymarket—it was called the "Plumbers' Club". It really comprised the Controller of the Navy and the man in charge of production for merchant shipping and repairs, and the men in charge of production for the other two Services. They did a lot in the war; they got together and did the job.


My Lords, I am sure that is true. I am trying to explain the reasons why we have decided to create this kind of organisation. I think that as I go along the noble Earl may perhaps be more convinced that the Government are right in what they are proposing to do.

I was saying that it was necessary in this new structure to delegate. The advantage of this new system will be lost unless the Secretary of State for Defence can devote the time required to policy questions and to overall direction of policy, which should be his prime function. If he became involved in the day-to-day administration of the three Services, he would be lost in a mass of detail and so overworked as to be unable to do his job—and I think the noble Earl recognised that fact in his speech. Of course, it will lie within the Secretary of State's authority to intervene whenever and wherever he may think it necessary, but in practice he must delegate much of his authority for the management of the Services, and this delegation, to be effective, must be understood both by Parliament and by the Departments and the men and women of the Services themselves. In the words of the White Paper, efficiency, leadership and morale require a focus for the management of each Service and for safeguarding the career interests and the welfare of all ranks and all civilian staff.

It is proposed that this requirement should be met by the Navy, Army and Air Force Boards. A Minister of State who deputises for the Secretary of State will be identified with each of these Boards and with the management of a particular Service. And the Chiefs of Staff, as the professional Heads of each Service, will remain the senior Service members of each Board, and their position, as I hope to explain a little later, is extremely important.

The Government then had to consider the question of the Ministry of Aviation, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about which there have been a number of different views and comments outside your Lordships' House. The main reasons why the Ministry of Aviation cannot readily be absorbed in the new Ministry of Defence are the indivisible character of the Ministry's responsibilities for civil as well as military research and development, and the gross overload on the Secretary of State for Defence which would result from the transfer of these responsibilities. This is a factor which we regard as overriding the arguments which can be advanced on other grounds, both for and against retaining the Ministry of Aviation as a separate Department.


My Lords, does that mean that the Minister of Aviation has won his way clear from what was intended to be thrust upon him?


The noble Earl must not go back too far in his experience of what happened in the Labour Government. We attach great importance to the strengthening of the existing links between the Ministry of Aviation and the present Defence Departments.


The noble Lord has not answered my question.


The White Paper explains a number of steps which are to be taken. I did answer the noble Earl's question. I was saying that the Government, having weighed the arguments carefully, had on balance come down to feeling that we should leave the Ministry of Aviation outside the complex. I was going on to explain exactly how it was going to be tied into it, if the noble Earl will be a little patient.

The Minister of Aviation and the appropriate senior officials will be accommodated in the main Ministry of Defence building in Whitehall. The Minister of Aviation will attend the Defence Council whenever matters affecting his Department are being discussed. His Ministry will be fully associated with the new arrangements for the formulation of operational requirements, for the control of defence research and development and for weapons system evaluation. The Secretary of State for Defence will have ready access to the Minister of Aviation's establishment and staff. The normal arrangements for the conduct of inter-departmental business will be developed to provide for the fullest possible representation and inter-communication as between the Ministry of Aviation and the new Ministry of Defence.

Lastly, my Lords, the Government set out to retain as great a degree of flexibility as they could. My view is that the proposals in the White Paper should not be regarded as final but as part of a process of continuous development which has gone on since the war. As I mentioned earlier, although the management of the individual Services will be decentralised, we intend to try to encourage rationalisation of administration and the integration of management organisations wherever possible and we hope to extend a good deal the practice of one Service undertaking a task for another Service, or the other two. The Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Personnel and Logistics), a new appointment, and a Second Permanent Under Secretary of State have a particular responsibility for advances in this direction and for identifying what sort of thing might happen. These changes must be reflected in the organisation, and the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Administration) shown in the chart under the Second Permanent Under Secretary of State will preside over central establishment branches and over a Defence Establishments Committee.

My Lords, there have been outside—and I suspect there will be this afternoon—those who believe that the proposals for reorganisation should have been even more radical. I think that we have gone as far as we reasonably can, consistent with our responsibility for maintaining efficiency in spite of the inevitable temporary disruption. These, then, are the reasons behind the decision taken by the Government and my right honourable friend, the Minister of Defence, with the help, I may say, of two notable figures in the defence field, Lord Ismay and Sir Ian Jacob, who played a conspicuous part of their own in the defence machinery during the war years, who investigated the question and made a report to my right honourable friend. I think all your Lordships will be grateful to them for the hard work they have done and for the advice they have given.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, could he tell the House whether in fact those two distinguished officers are in agreement with the Government's Defence White Paper proposals?


I think I ought to leave that to the two distinguished officers. What I was saying was that they have been very helpful to Her Majesty's Government in making up their minds. That does not necessarily mean what the noble Lord is laughing about. I was being very non-committal.

There are one or two more detailed issues which I should like to touch upon. First of all, there is the question of the Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy which is to be set up under the Prime Minister. It has, I think, for some time been apparent that it is very difficult to separate these two functions: when we talk about our overseas problems and commitments we inevitably include defence, and vice versa. It has therefore been decided to amalgamate these two separate committees to examine questions of defence policy, not in purely military terms but in relation to foreign and economic policy as well. Though the regular membership will be small—the Prime Minister, the First Secretary of State, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor, the Home Secretary, the Commonwealth Secretary and the Defence Secretary—other Ministers will attend as necessary and so will the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chiefs of Staff. So too if necessary will other officials and the Chief Scientific Adviser.

I should like to break off for a moment to say how much I agree with what the noble Earl said about the engineers. The fact that this White Paper concentrates in some paragraphs upon scientists does not mean that the Government do not believe that the engineers are important, and I know in my own Department what important work they put in.

Your Lordships will have noticed in all these new arrangements that the position of the Chiefs of Staff has remained unaltered. They remain the professional Heads of their Services and I believe that this is of great importance to each Service. There must be a focus and a Head. Sailors, soldiers or airmen must feel that there is someone who has a special duty to represent their interests and I am particularly glad—and I am astonished the noble Earl is not—that in the case of my own Service it has been found possible to retain the titles of First Sea Lord and Second Sea Lord, both of which are so well understood and well known throughout the Royal Navy. The Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chiefs of Staff will attend at full Cabinet meetings when appropriate and their right of access to the Prime Minister is preserved in the new organisation.

As the noble Earl and the noble Lord. Lord Ogmore, have said, we are setting up a Department which is very large indeed and of unprecedented size in this country. For this reason, and because of the delegation about which I have already spoken, the Secretary of State will be assisted by three Ministers of State for Defence. I stress "for Defence" since they will discharge whatever responsibilities the Secretary of State may delegate to them from time to time over the whole of the defence field. Their terms of reference will thus be different from those of the present Service Ministers, though I must say that I have found myself talking for the other two Services as well as the Ministry of Defence on a number of occasions in the last four years. At the same time, these new Ministers will have a special responsibility for a particular Service since it is necessary for the purposes of good administration and political control that there should be a Minister closely identified with the Boards of the Services and their general conduct. The noble Earl opposite asked whether the Secretary of State for Defence will be responsible for the discipline of the Forces. Yes, he will, but the day-to-day management will be delegated to the Ministers of State and the Boards.

Our general approach, therefore, is that there should be integration of the Services consistent with the maintenance of the essential individuality of the Services. This has been the approach, too, in the Defence Council and in the three Boards which supersede the present Councils. Policy concocted in a vacuum tends to be neither responsible nor realistic, and we have tried to avoid this. Management must be inspired by a proper appreciation of policy issues. The Department is unified by the Secretary of State being Chairman of the Defence Council and also titular Chairman of each Board, even though he will normally delegate this responsibility to the appropriate Minister of State. There is in addition a degree of common membership of the Boards and of the Defence Council itself, inasmuch as the Ministers of State and the Chiefs of Staff are members of both.

There is one matter which I have not yet mentioned and that is the relationship between the Sovereign and the Services. There is to be no change whatever in the relationships and traditional links, except in the one case of the Board of Admiralty and the Lord High Admiral, and it is a particular pleasure to my colleagues on the Board of Admiralty and myself, who have been commissioned by Her Majesty to execute the office of the Lord High Admiral, that the Queen has graciously consented to assume herself that ancient and honourable title. So it will be that, although the Silk Flagg Red with a yellow anchor and cable in the Fly"— as the Lord High Admiral's flag is described in Narborough's Journal of 1672—will be lowered from the Admiralty, it will continue to be hoisted by Her Majesty when she goes to sea and on other naval occasions.

To sum up, I believe—


My Lords, I do not recollect that the First Lord answered my question in connection with those four new organisations to be set up. I dealt specifically with Intelligence and with Signals.


I did not answer that in detail, my Lords, and I apologise if I overlooked that. But I think that the noble Earl himself overlooked that, in paragraphs 35 down to 41, we do go into fairly full detail as to what we propose to do in these matters, and that is as far as I can take the subject this afternoon. Of course, these things have still to be worked out in final detail, but I think if the noble Earl will read these paragraphs he will see that they give him a very good idea in general terms of what is proposed.

My Lords, I believe we have effected a major and timely reform in our central organisation for defence which gives us the opportunity to improve the central control of defence policy without detriment to the efficient management, the fighting efficiency, the morale and the contentment of the fighting Services. I believe that we have created the means for achieving the objective laid down, to strike a proper balance between political and military commitments, resources and the rôles of the Services. The Secretary of State for Defence will be able to do this by gaining access to all the facts and all the experts, and through his mastery of a strong central organisation for administrative and financial control. I also believe that the new organisation, while it preserves the necessary unity of policy and management, does not preclude further progressive development in the direction of integration and rationalisation, wherever such development may be seen to be profitable. For all these reasons I believe the proposal to be worthy of your Lordships' approval.

My Lords, I know there are those in the Services and outside—and I think the noble Earl is one of them—who are anxious as to how this organisation will work. They look back, as I said at the beginning, with regret at the passing of some very familiar institutions. I do not believe that under the Government's plans those in the Services will notice that there has been any change. They will still have as their professional Head the First Sea Lord, the Chief of the General Staff or the Chief of the Air Staff. They will wear the same uniforms; they will owe their loyalty in exactly the same way as they do now, to their Service, to their ship, their regiment, to their squadron. Their pride in their Service should be unaltered. For those who work in Whitehall there will be some change, a change of scenery for two Services and the Ministry of Defence; some new neighbours for the Air Ministry. To begin with, they will have to learn the new organisation and get to know their opposite numbers even better than they do to-day—and they know them well to-day. If, as we profoundly believe, these proposals will make for better defence planning and better budgetary control, then everybody in all the three Services will benefit.

The other day my colleagues in the other two Services and I, and the Minister of Defence, sent a personal message to the Services and in it we said this. Ultimately organisation is not a matter of lines upon a chart. It depends upon people. The proposals now before Parliament create a framework for the new organisation. But in its growth and development the major part will be played by those who serve in the new Ministry of Defence, and those who from time to time join it for a tour of duty from the Services. My Lords, these are the people who are now engaged upon the massive task of implementing the proposals before you in the White Paper. I ask your Lordships to support and encourage them by endorsing these proposals.