CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE – ROLE OF THE SINGLE SERVICE CHIEFS – 27 June 2011

[Paul Flynn: The statement is welcome because it recognises the waste and inefficiencies arising from rivalries between the three services, but should the Secretary of State not take the next logical step that the realities of modern warfare demand, which is to aim to create a single, unified service?

The Secretary of State for Defence (Dr Liam Fox): No one can deny the intellectual logic behind the hon. Gentleman's point, but anyone who has spoken to a Canadian Defence Minister in recent years will have got a strong message: "Whatever you try, don't try that." There are differences in the approach of the single services, sometimes differences in the ethos of the single services and, clearly, differences in their history too. As we are asking our servicemen and women to do so much for us, the last thing that we want to do is to destroy that important emotional attachment to their heritage.]

Dr Julian Lewis: I welcome that response from my right hon. Friend. He knows that he is assured of my personal support for the work that he is doing, but I remain convinced that there is a difference between the management of defence procurement and the formulation of military strategy at the highest level. What bothers me is that the single service chiefs are increasingly separated from the Chief of the Defence Staff, and that is no way to end inter-service rivalry. We ran the Second World War with a committee of three, and we ought to be running these wars with a committee of four, not with a CDS on his own on a defence board, even if supplemented by the Minister for the Armed Forces.

[Dr Fox: But of course this is not a process that is run by the CDS. As part of the defence board, we have purposely set up the chiefs of staff committee so that the views of the chiefs of staff can be discussed collectively before the defence board and reflected to it by the CDS, not formulated unilaterally by the CDS.]