The Defence Board first met in July 1958 and served as a high level forum for the discussion of major defence policy issues. It met fortnightly when Parliament was in session until its abolition in January 1964. Its members were the Secretary of State for Defence, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Secretaries of State for War and Air, the Secretary of State for Supply, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the chiefs of staff of the three services, the Permanent Secretary and the Chief Scientist. Under the Defence (Transfer of Functions) Act 1964 the Board was replaced by the Defence Council.
The Defence Council was set up in 1964 under the Secretary of State for Defence. It bought together politicians and military staff at the highest level within the new ministry to exercise the powers of command and administrative control previously exercised by the Board of Admiralty, the Army and Air Councils and the Defence Board. Its members were the Secretary of State for Defence, the ministers responsible for each service, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the chiefs of staff of the three services, the Chief Scientific Adviser, and the Permanent Under Secretary (Army).
At the same time, the Board of Admiralty and the Army and Air Councils were replaced by the Admiralty, Army and Air Force Boards, which were subsidiary boards of the Defence Council. They too were chaired by the Secretary of State (although the appropriate minister usually acted for him in that capacity) and in effect it was these boards which took on most of the work of the Council.
Initially the Council met on a regular basis, but by the mid-sixties it had fallen into decline and was to all extents and purposes non-operational by the end of the decade. The Council did not meet at all during the early seventies, but was resurrected in 1974 following the recommendations of the Rayner Report and the Headquarters Organisation Committee for the need for a visible top level body within the Ministry.
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