The Times – 10 November 2015
General Houghton is not the first Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) to confront the problem of nuclear unilateralism (report, Nov 9). Lord Mountbatten suggested, in September 1964, that the heads of all three Services should tell an incoming Labour government that, if they
"wished to do away with our deterrent force, they should formally absolve the Chiefs of Staff from further responsibility for the defence of the United Kingdom against attack".
Until quite recently, the Chiefs of Staff Committee had a central role in giving joint strategic advice to the government. This role has been all but dismantled, and now only the CDS discharges it. It is much easier for a Prime Minister to dismiss the advice of an individual than that of a joint committee of Service chiefs.
The Defence Committee proposed in its report Decision-making in Defence Policy (HC 682), published in March, that the Chiefs of Staff Committee should be re-engaged
"by incorporating it in the National Security Council as its military sub-committee".
The Government ignored this recommendation in its response to us. The current controversy is a symptom of this sidelining of the Service chiefs.
Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
Chairman, Defence Select Committee
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA