11 MARCH 1966, Page 9

Spectator's Notebook

HWILSON seems to be getting a little touchy these days. Following my comments on the recent changes in his private office and in the Cabinet office a fortnight ago, the Prime Minister has solemnly decreed that I shall not set foot in Number 10 again so long as he is there. Undaunted by this temporary deprivation, I continue my stint as, inter cilia, this paper's Whitehall correspondent. But today I look beyond the peaks of Downing Street to the foot- hills of the lesser ministries, to give a progress report on the Whitehall revolution which bulked so large in the Labour party's 1964 programme and in those breathless accounts of the first hun- dred days.

First, Mr. Denis Healey's Ministry of Defence. Here the dynamic new initiative was to have been the integration of the three service sections into a new structure divided strictly functionally. Result: the biggest bout of inter-service in- fighting for many years and the total abandon- trent of the integration programme—which, if c.,rried through, would have saved considerably ore money than the abandonment of the Aden

b t se will do. Next, there was the separation of t.te Commonwealth and Colonial Offices (pre- % .Jusly united under Duncan Sandys) and the (:-eation of the brand-new Ministry of Land and Natural Resources. Well, Labour's 1966 mani- festo has something to say about these: `We shall streamline the organisation of many departments; For example . . . by integrating the Colonial Office in the Commonwealth Relations Office; and bringing into the Ministry of Housing the Ministry of Land.'

I can't wait to learn about the purposive plan to streamline the Treasury by merging it with the Department of Economic Affairs. But mean- while I can only deplore the folly of marrying the Colonial Office—an administrative depart- ment--with the diplomatic and entirely non- administrative work of the CRO. Every school- boy knows (for the good Lord Plowden has spelled it out to us) that the only sensible merger is between the CRO and the Foreign Office. The proposal in the Labour manifesto betrays a con- ception of the Commonwealth that is as dead as the dodo and provides a sure-fire recipe for seeing that we continue to enjoy the maximum confu- sion and muddle in our relations with Afro-Asia.