HC Deb 08 June 1915 vol 72 cc162-4

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he is aware that a meeting took place in Birmingham on Sunday, 25th April, to further the manufacture of munitions of war, at which a representative of the War Office presided and encouraged those firms who were represented to prepare and organise their factories in anticipation of orders, and that the only communication these firms have since received is to the effect that their services are not wanted; and will he say whether the firm of Vickers, Son, and Maxim are building and equipping a factory in the district; and, if so, is this step being taken in conjunction with an arrangement between this firm and the War Office?


The Birmingham Committee has been in constant communication with the War Office, and satisfactory arrangements are being made. One order has already been placed, and others are under the immediate consideration of the committee. Two factories are being erected by Messrs. Vickers in the Birmingham district. They were put in hand some months ago with the approval of the War Office.

13. Sir R. COOPER

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if he can give the approximate number of firms in the United Kingdom who have offered to manufacture munitions of war and with whom no orders have been placed by the War Office?


The approximate number of firms which have offered to manufacture munitions of war but have received no direct orders from the War Office is 300. Each of these firms which appeared capable of carrying out work of this character was placed on the list of firms invited to tender for the particular articles which they desired to supply. In addition, over fifty of them are at present engaged as sub-contractors in the manufacture of munitions of war.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the extraordinary difficulty of getting on to the lists of the War Office, and can he see his way to abandon these lists altogether in war time?


I do not know that there is any very great difficulty in getting on to the lists if the firms are in a position to supply the article.


If I give the hon. Member the names of firms that have tried for months to get on to the lists, will he look into it?

15. Sir R. COOPER

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if his attention has been drawn to the offer made within the last fortnight to the High Explosive Commission of a large quantity of trinitrotoluol; if this Commission expressed their desire to secure all supplies available at the fixed price of 1 dollar but refused to pay any higher price; if France and Russia are taking all they can obtain of this product at a price of 1 dollar 35 cents; and, if so, by what means does he hope to obtain those supplies so urgently needed by the British Government?


A great many offers of trinitrotoluol are constantly being received and it is impossible to identify the particular offer referred to. The arrangements made for the production of the explosive are such as to secure an ample supply for our own use, and we are also able to assist our Allies. With regard to the question of price, I do not think it desirable to give the exact figure at which we are able to purchase, but it is substantially below that quoted in the question.

16. Sir R. COOPER

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give the names of firms who are being subsidised or guaranteed by the Government for the extension of their factories or the erection of new factories for the production of munitions of war?


The arrangements made with individuals under the general discretion given to the Admiralty and War Office by the Treasury have been made by those Departments and are not on record in the Treasury. This general discretion was given by Treasury Minute, as explained in the reply given by my right hon. Friend the late Secretary to the Treasury in answer to a question asked by the hon. Member for Maidstone on the 27th April. In any case, I doubt whether it would be in the public interest to give the particulars asked for at the present moment.


Am I to take it, then, from that answer, that at some later date, if one asks for this definite information, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to secure it for us?


That question ought to be addressed to the Admiralty or the War Office; we have no record at the Treasury.


Arising out of that answer, may I ask is it not a fact that the Treasury have to pay the amounts of money, and should not we have the opportunity, when the time comes, of securing this information upon which the House have got to vote the money to be paid?


If the hon. Member will address his question to the Admiralty or to the War Office, I have no doubt that he will get a full answer to it.