HC Deb 17 June 1936 vol 313 cc981-4

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what proportion of all orders placed within the last six months by the Air Ministry were allocated to the north-eastern area; and what steps are being taken to increase the proportion?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what proportion of orders during the last six months have been allocated by or under his Department to the north-east coast; and what steps are being taken to increase the proportion compared with other parts of the country?

38. Mr. SEXTON

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what percentage of the total value of orders placed by the Air Ministry for the years 1934 and 1935, respectively, has gone to the Special Areas of Wales, the Special Areas of north-eastern England, and the Special Areas of Scotland?


I would refer the hon. Members to the reply which I gave on Monday to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. W. John Stewart). In placing orders preference is given, other things being equal, to the scheduled Special Areas on Tyneside and elsewhere.


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the serious unemployment in the north-eastern area, he will advise contract-placing Departments of the Government to take into consideration, when placing contracts, the desirability of reviving the industries in this and similar areas, so that the other-things-being-equal clause shall not operate in a merely passive way?

The PRIME MINISTER ( Mr. Baldwin)

Government Departments are fully aware of the desirability of placing orders in areas suffering from prolonged and severe unemployment, and it is for this reason that it is their practice to give special consideration, other things being equal, to firms working in those areas. It is anticipated that the contracts to be placed under the Government programme of making good defence deficiencies will result in considerable orders being placed in the north-eastern and other areas suffering from prolonged and severe unemployment; and I cannot accept the suggestion that the contracting Departments have done or are doing nothing to assist these areas.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the answer given by one of his colleagues was that only 1 per cent. of the orders placed by his Department have been placed in the North-East; and is it not a fact that this "other-things-being-equal" clause gives no advantage to the depressed areas as against those which are working full time and are thereby able to reduce working costs?


I am not sure that I can assent to what the hon. Member said in the latter part of her supplementary question. I have given a plain statement of fact about orders that will be placed in connection with making good the deficiency programme. In order to draw conclusions about the 1 per cent. of the orders, one must know something about the class and the bulk of the orders. I think that most Departments have very few orders to give.


asked the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence what proportion of all orders placed since his taking office have been placed in the North-Eastern area; and whether he is taking into consideration increasing the proportion of orders so placed?

The MINISTER for the CO-ORDINATION of DEFENCE (Sir Thomas Inskip)

As regards the first part of the question, I regret to say that to obtain information in the form desired by the hon. Lady would involve an incommensurate amount of time and labour, for the reason that the records either of contracts or sub-contracts are not normally kept by reference to the geographical areas in which orders are placed. As regards the second part, the policy of the Government is that preference shall be given, other factors being equal, to the special and distressed areas, and this, of course, applies to the North-Eastern area.


Is not the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's reply a flat contradiction of the first part, because if the first part takes no notice geographically of the distribution of orders how can he then know whether, other things being equal, geographical preference is given?


The reference to "other things being equal" applies to a single specific order. The hon. Lady, in the first part of her question, asked for the sum total of such orders, and that is the information which I cannot obtain without a great deal of inquiry.


Is it not a fact that the hon. Lady has voted against every provision for the rearmament of this country?

53. Mr. HARDIE

asked the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence whether, when he gave consideration to the building of a very large factory for frames and engines, he had in mind the many factories with ample accommodation scattered over the country, and also the highly-skilled men in well-equipped engineering works who are on short time, and some districts where the men are unemployed; and what were the grounds for his decision?


I am aware that there are a number of empty premises in various parts of the country. In the case of the manufacture of aircraft, to which, I understand, the hon. Member refers, it is essential to enlist the assistance of substantial firms with experience of the class of work required and of quantity production by up-to-date methods. In so far as it is possible to bring special or distressed areas within the ambit of the Government's defence plans, no effort is being spared to do this.


Why does the Minister think it necessary to go to the expense of building a special place? Can he not remember what took place during the last War? Was the evidence we had following on the cessation of hostilities not sufficient to convince anyone of the tremendous blunders that were made, and that while the men were being blown into bundles of bloody rags "rampers" in this country were becoming million-aires? That is what is happening now.




asked the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence whether an agreement has been reached between the Government supply departments and the executive council of the British Iron and Steel Federation when placing orders for steel with regard to giving special consideration to the Special Areas?


The Government supply departments place few direct orders for steel, the greater part of their consumption of this commodity being in the form of finished or partly-finished articles, where the raw material is obtained by the contractor manufacturing the article from the sources of supply open to him under the prevailing market conditions. As regards the small supplies of steel that are purchased direct by Government Departments, the policy of the Government is that preference is given to supplies from the Special Areas, provided all other factors are equal.