HC Deb 18 August 1919 vol 119 cc2020-1

But may I say one essential word. You do not get economy by abusing Government Departments and Government officials, and by abusing those volunteers who have given their time to Government work. I am bound to say this. They have all done well. There has been a great attack upon them, as if they had been extravagant, especially the business men, without whose assistance the War could not have been won. I will give one or two illustrations, because I think this is vital. My earliest experience was in the Ministry of Munitions. What was the first step they took? To reduce the cost of manufacture—shells, machine guns, guns, rifles. The 18-pounder when the Ministry was started cost 22s. 6d. a shell. A system of costing and investigation was introduced. National Factories were set up which checked the prices, and a shell for which the War Office at the time the Ministry was formed paid 22s. 6d., was reduced to 12s., and when you had 85,000,000 shells that saved £35,000,000. There was a, reduction in the prices of all other shells, and there was a reduction in the Lewis guns. When we took them in hand they cost £165, and we reduced them to £35 each. There was a saving of £14,000,000 there, and through the costing system and the checking of the National Factories we set up, there was before the end of the War, a saving of £440,000,000




That is a point my hon. Friend is quite entitled to make, and I will give him another point. When the national projectile factories were afterwards set up, we effected a further reduction of 10 per cent. Take the Ministry of Shipping. By its organisation, by its reduction of rates, the Controller of Shipping saved hundreds of millions to this country. When you have to spend between £8,000,000,000 and £10,000,000,000 of this country's money—when you improvise great organisations, find your men where you can, find thou sands and more of absolutely new men to work out these schemes—of course there will be extravagance, of course there may be errors of judgment. Is there any busi- ness in this country which is run without mistakes and errors of judgment? Of course there is not. But what is ever said except about these little mistakes? I have seen the Reports of Parliamentary Committees. They are about comparatively small sums—I mean comparative to the gigantic expenditure. Those are advertised; those are flaunted. Leading articles are written about them. Never a word about these hundreds of millions that have been saved by these men! Is it fair? Is it generous? Is it wise? Is it wise to seek to advertise these faults, by deliberately ignoring the achievements—deliberately suppressing them? Is it wise to do so at the moment when all government is being challenged, when an effort is being made to discredit systems and institutions in every country? If you get the democracy to believe that you get nothing but mistakes, nothing but errors, nothing but what they call scandals, and that there is no efficiency anywhere, how long do you think any system or institution can possibly continue in this country? It is not fair. It is not wise. It is not right. There is no generosity in spearing supermen, who saved hundreds of millions to this country at moments of emergency, and gave their time and energy to the service of the State when they were most needed. I feel bound to say that.