Oral Answers to Questions — Board of Admiralty.

– in the House of Commons on 17th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give particulars and publish the relevant Order in Council defining the responsibility within the Admiralty for naval operations?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate the relevant Order in Council in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the Order in Council:

"AT THE COURT AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE.

The 9th day of February, 1942.

PRESENT,

THE KING'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY IN COUNCIL.

WHEREAS there was this day read at the Board a Memorial from the Right Honourable the Loras Commissioners of the Admiralty, dated the 6th day of February, 1942 (C.E. 50967/42), in the words following, viz.:— Whereas by Order in Council dated the fifteenth day of January, 1941, the constitution and business of the Board of Admiralty were settled and defined:And whereas by Order in Council dated the eleventh day of September, 1941, there was added to the Board an additional Assistant Chief of Naval Staff:And whereas it has become desirable to make a further addition to the Membership of the Board:We beg leave humbly to propose to Your Majesty that the above Order in Council shall be rescinded, and that the constitution of the Board and the designations of its various Members and Secretaries and the definition of the business to be assigned to them shall be as follows:
  1. 1. That the Members of the Board shall be:
    • The First Lord,
    • The First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff,
    • The Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel,
    • The Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy,
    • The Fourth Sea Lord and Chief of Supplies,
    • The Fifth Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Air Services,
    • The Vice Chief of Naval Staff,
    • Four Assistant Chiefs of Naval Staff,
    • The Financial Secretary,
    • The Parliamentary Secretary,
    • The Civil Lord,
    • The Controller of Merchant Shipbuilding and Repairs,
    • The Permanent Secretary.
  2. 2. That the First Lord shall be responsible to Your Majesty, and to Parliament, for all the business of the Admiralty, the business to be transacted as follows:
    1. (a) The First Sea Lord, the Second Sea Lord, the Fourth Sea Lord, the Fifth Sea Lord, the Vice Chief of Naval Staff and four Assistant Chiefs of Naval Staff to be responsible to the First Lord of the Admiralty for the administration of so much of the general business connected with Your Majesty's Navy, and with the movement and condition of Your Majesty's Fleet, and with the Personnel of that Fleet, as shall be assigned to them, or to each of them from time to time, by the First Lord; and the First Sea Lord as Chief of Naval Staff, to be in addition responsible to the First Lord for the issue of orders to the Fleet affecting war operations and the movement of ships, which orders may be issued in his own name in his capacity of Chief of the Naval Staff:
    2. (b) The Third Sea Lord and Controller to be responsible to the First Lord for the administration of so much of the business relating to the Materiel of Your Majesty's Navy as shall from time to time be assigned to him by the First Lord:
    3. (c) The Financial Secretary to be responsible to the First Lord for the Finance of the Department, and for so much of the other business of the Admiralty as shall, from time to time, be assigned to him by the First Lord:
    4. (d) The Parliamentary Secretary to have such duties as shall, from time to time, be assigned to him by the First Lord:
    5. (e) The Civil Lord to have such duties as shall, from time to time, be assigned to him by the First Lord:
    6. (f) The Controller of Merchant Shipbuilding and Repairs to be responsible to the First Lord for the administration of so much of the business connected with the building and repair of merchant ships and for such duties in connection with the production of the Materiel of Your Majesty's Navy as shall from time to time be assigned to him by the First Lord:
    7. (g) The Permanent Secretary to be responsible to the First Lord for the preparation of all official communications of the Board and for the interior economy of the Admiralty Office; he is also responsible, on his appointment as Accounting Officer for Navy Votes and Accounts, for the control of expenditure and for advising the Board of Admiralty and other naval authorities on all questions of naval expenditure:
He shall further be charged with such other duties in regard to the business of the Admiralty as shall, from time to time, be assigned to him by the First Lord.

We beg leave humbly to recommend that Your Majesty way be graciously pleased, by Your Order in Council, to sanction the foregoing, with effect from the 9th February, 1942.

The Lords Commissioners of Your Majesty's Treasury have concurred in such portion of these proposals as requires their concurrence.'

HIS MAJESTY, having taken the said Memorial into consideration, was pleased, by and with the advice of His Privy Council, to approve of what is therein proposed.

AND the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty are to give the necessary directions herein accordingly.

Rupert B. Howorth."

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

asked the Prime Minister who now comprise the Board of Admiralty; what Order in Council or other enactment defines the respective functions and responsibility of each member; where such Order in Council may be seen; whether the Board meets to take decisions; and whether such decisions are submitted to him before action upon them proceeds?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate a nominal list of the present Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The relevant Order in Council is being circulated in reply to the Question by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner). With regard to the last part of the Question, the nature of the business to be transacted determines whether the Board meets in full session to take a decision and also whether decisions so taken are submitted to me either as Head of the Government or Minister of Defence.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

Will the Prime Minister say whether the Order in Council gives complete authority to the First Sea Lord, and whether members of the Board have any authority at all?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

The operative words are in paragraph 2 (a): the First Sea Lord as Chief of the Naval Staff, to be in addition responsible to the First Lord for the issue of orders to the Fleet affecting war operations and the movement of ships, which orders may be issued in his own name in his capacity of Chief of the Naval Staff.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Is the House to understand from the original answer that the Board of Admiralty does not meet regularly, and that, except for the exceptional circumstances in which it does meet in full session, the Board of Admiralty is really only a circumlocution office for the Minister of Defence?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

The hon. Gentleman seems to have got the Minister of Defence very much in his head. There has been no change in the composition or character of the Board of Admiralty, or the way in which it does its work. It was established in the last war, and it is well known that the Chief of the Naval Staff, subject to the general supervision of the First Lord and of the Cabinet, is responsible for all the movements and dispositions of the Fleet.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Will the Prime Minister answer that part of the Question which I addressed to him, as to whether it can be taken as a general rule that the Board does not meet regularly and meets in full session only occasionally?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

The Board meets, as it has always met, when questions of a certain class affecting the Naval Service or the general naval policy are to be discussed. The Board does not meet to decide on operations, and I hope that it will never be encouraged to do that.

Following is the list:

The present Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty are as follow:

  • The First Lord—The Right Hon. A. V. Alexander, C.H., M.P.
  • The First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff—Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, G.C.B., G.C.V.O.
  • The Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel—Vice-Admiral Sir William J. Whitworth, K.C.B., D.S.O.
  • The Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy—Vice-Admiral Sir Bruce A. Fraser, K.B.E., C.B.
  • The Fourth Sea Lord and Chief of Supplies—Vice-Admiral Sir John H. D. Cunningham, K.C.B., M.V.O.
  • The Fifth Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Air Services—Rear-Admiral A. L. St. G. Lyster, C.B., C.V.O., D.S.O.
  • The Vice Chief of Naval Staff—Vice-Admiral Henry R. Moore, C.B., C.V.O., D.S.O.
  • Assistant Chief of Naval Staff—Vice-Admiral Edward L. S. King, C.B., M.V.O.
  • Assistant Chief of Naval Staff—Rear-Admiral Sir Henry Harwood, K.C.B., O.B.E.
  • Assistant Chief of Naval Staff—Rear-Admiral A. J. Power, C.B., C.V.O.
  • Assistant Chief of Naval Staff—Rear-Admiral R. R. McGrigor.
  • The Financial Secretary—Mr. G. H. Hall, M.P.
  • The Parliamentary Secretary—Sir Victor A. G. A. Warrender, Bart., M.C., M.P.
  • The Civil Lord—Captain A. U. M. Hudson, M.P.
  • The Controller of Merchant Shipbuilding and Repairs—Sir James Lithgow, Bart., M.C., T.D.
  • The Permanent Secretary—Sir Henry V. Markham, K.V.B., M.C.