Apologies for absence from Sir Nigel Mobbs
Welcome to Mr Fuller, who was presenting the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence review team's report
Honours and Awards
His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent has been appointed a Field Marshal, Mr Gordon Johnson has been appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath, Professor Prance has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, Mr Wally Silcock has been appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, Mr Abdel Hadi Aly Omar and Mr John Kagecha have been awarded the Honorary British Empire Medal.
The Chairman reported the death of M. Claude Charland
Minutes of the 592nd Meeting of the Commission and Matters Arising From The Minutes
Circulation of minutes
Tomb of an Unknown Austrailian Soldier
The Australian authorities have agreed that the Commission should be responsible for the selection of the grave of the Unknown Australian Soldier in France, and the exhumation will take place in November. The Unknown Soldier will be buried with all due ceremony on 11 November.
Mr McMahon states that the Australians would make all necessary administrative and ceremonial arrangements.
The Chairman states that it was likely that His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent would take part in the handover ceremony in France and would attend the ceremony in Australia.
Gibralter (North Front) Cemetery
Mr Dalley reports that a number of contractors had been contacted regarding maintenance work. Their estimates proved to be extremely high and attempts are being made to obtain more reasonable quotations.
Review by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence
Mr Stewart states that it is customary for the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence to conduct a review of the operations of the Commission approximately every fie years.
The report concluded that the operational work of the Commission was extremely organised and executed and paid tribute to the very high standards of maintenance achieved. Mos the the recommendations for improvement in efficiency were directed at the Commission's Head Office.
Mr Fuller states that it was recognised that the Commissioners had a duty to satisfy themselves that the Commission's management systems and its administration were sufficiently efficient to ensure that the funds provided by the memeber governements were used to good effect. He states that his review team had visited offices in the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Italy and Egypt.
He reports that the operational functions and use of resources were all in good order, with exceptionally and universally high standards of maintenance in general.
He concludes that for the Commission's Head Office, the team found examples of good management practices, however it was apparent that Head Office had not escaped pressures on public expenditure.
In response to the report, the Secretary states that in his view the present version of the report contained deficiencies in terms of incorrect factual information, ommissions of pertinent facts, misunderstandings, undue exaggeration and unsubstantiated comment. Furthermore, he believes that the thrust of the report reflected a lack of faith in the administration and its ability to carry out its tasks. He accepts the need to eradicate bureaucracy wherever possible but stressed that this criticism did not apply to all Head Office departments. He concludes that if these recommendations were implemented it would result in increased bureaucracy and costs.
Discussion on the maintenance of war graves in United Kingdom Area, the degree to which the Commission should adopt a more commercial approach, and training.
Mr Fuller states that it was apparent that attempts to adhere vigorously to the Commission's Charter obligations were extremely time-consuming, yet output in terms of maintenance of headstones and graves was not satisfactory in a significant number of instances. Mrs Golding states that each case should continue to be assessed on its own merits and that it was not a matter on which members could issue a general directive. Brigadier Malik states that is is necessary to apply a practical interpretation in order to ensure a cost-effective use of the Commission's resources. In conclusion, the Chairman suggests that the Secretary should take account of the views expressed by members and continue to bear in mind the need for economy each time alternative commemoration was considered.
The Secretary outlines charges currently made by the Commission, including a charge of £1 per casualty trace. Discussion on the cost vs staff time for additional services offered.
Mr David Parker states that the annual current training budget at Head Office was £130,000 in addition to a budget of approximately £50,000 for training locally engaged staff in areas.
The Commission agrees that consideration should be given for the use of alternative cheaper materials rather than original. The Commission confirms that it intends to continue to make provision for all war graves in accordance with its charters. The Commission agrees that a Corporate Plan be extended to cover five years, and that it should include an indication of costs. The Commission agrees that there was little scope for making a profit on such work as agency services.
The Commission agrees that the computerisation of the records project should be completed as soon as possible.
The Commission agrees to explore the possibility of secondments or exhanges for staff, and to examine the practicalities of inclreased recruitment in member countries. It also agrees to continue to employ IT consultants. The Commission agrees that it will continue to conduct systematic reviews of the Head Office organisation
The Commission confirms that a full appraisal of the typing function at Head Office will be carried out, and that it would look at the possibility of administrative staff using word processors.
The Commission agrees that the post of Director-General should be open to external as well as internal candidates.
Forecast of Outurn
The Secretary discusses the estimated surplus for 1992-93, and the effect it will have on the following year. Projects worth around £500,000 have been brought back into the programme of work, yet still leaving a surplus.
Tenth Meeting of the Commonwealth-Netherlands Joint Committee in May 1993
The Chairman discusses the value of Joint Committee meetings
Commonwealth-Foreign Joint Committees- Appointment of Members
The Commission approves the appointments and took note of another as set out in the accompanying report.
Schedule of Documents Executed on Behalf of the Commission
The Commission took note of the execution of documents on its behalf
Burials and Commemorations
Mr Dalley states that there were a number of cases where a war grave was unmarked because the next of kin had refused a Commission headstone.
The Commission approved the alternative commemoration of six war burials.
Tours by Commissioners and Head Office Senior Officials
The Secretary speaks about his tour of Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia by the President , himself, and Mr. Gee. Mrs Golding discribes how she was disappointed to note the poor facilities for staff at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium. Sir Harold Walker speaks of his adimiration of Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore. General Sir John Akehurst speaks of his visit to Kuala Lumper (Cheras Road) Cemetery and Penang (Western Road) Cemetery, Malaysia, and finding both in excellent order. The Viscount Ridley speaks of his visit to Gallipoli
The Chairman made reference to the visit in March by the Hon Kim Campbell MP to Brookwood Military Cemetery. The Viscount Ridley states he was impressed by the Commission's stand at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Exchange of Letters, Estonia
The Chairman reports that the Exchange was formally carried out during a visit by His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent
Social Insurance Legislation, Iraq
The Secretary states that all but four of the Commission's staff in Iraq had been suspended, and that the four staff members' pay was classified as humanitarian aid. Following a recent audit by the Iraqi Social Security authorities, the Commission had been presented with a bill for ID 21510 (£36,000), which the Commission is now contesting.
The Threat to Commonwealth War Cemeteries in Benghazi
The Chairman reports that the British, New Zealand, and Canadian notes had been delivered to the Libyan Foreign Laisi=on Bureau and the Australian and Indian notes had been sent directly to the Libyians
Mr Gordon Johnson
The Chairman announces that this will be the last Commission meeting to be attended by Mr Gordon Johnson.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Joseph Gilbert KCB CBE (Vice-Chairman of the Commission)
His ExcellencyThe Honourable George F Gair QSO (High Commissiner for New Zealand)
Dame Janet Fookes DBE MP
Admiral Sir Nicholas Hunt GCB LVO
The Viscount Ridley KG TD
Professor R J O'Neill
Mrs L Golding MP
Sir Harold Walker KCMG
General Sir John Akehurst KCB CBE
Mr K J McMahon (Representing the High Commissioner for Australia)
MrJ M Stewart CB (Representing the Secretary of State for Defence in the United Kingdom)
Mr R. G. S. Johnson (Representing the Secretary of State for the Environment in the United Kingdom)
Colonel B C Gilchrist (Representing the High Commissioner for Canada)
Brigadier B S Malik AVSM (Representing the High Commissioner for India)
Mr B Knoefel (Representing the Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa)
Professor Sir Peter Shepheard CBE BArch PPRIBA MRTPI PPILA, Honorary Artistic Advisor
Professor G T Prance MA DPhil FLS, Honorary Botanical Advisor
Mr D Kennedy, Director-General
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE:
Mr M J D Fuller, Head of Management Services (Organisation) Division, United KIngdom Ministry of Defence
Mr T F Penfold, Assistant Secretary, Deputy Director-General (Administration)
Mr R J Dalley, Assitant Secretary, Deputy Director-General (Operations)
Mr G.C. Reddie, Legal Adviser and Solicitor
Mr D R Parker, Director of Personnel
Mr A Coombe, Director of Works
Mr J.P.D. Gee, Director of Information and Secretariat
Mr D C Parker, Director of Horticulture
Mr T V Reeves, Director of Finance
Miss E Kennedy, Higher Executive Officer, Secretariat