§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
I beg to move, in page 2, line 24, to leave out "Subject to the provisions of this Sub-section," and to insert:It shall be the duty of the Minister to examine into and organise the sources of supply and the labour available for the supply of any articles required for the public service and.We attach considerable importance to this proposed change in the Clause, the 1857 reasons for desiring which we explained on Second Reading. What we propose is to omit the limiting condition imposed upon the exercise by the Minister of his powers, the condition, namely, that no transfer can be made of any of the powers which, apart from this limitation, he could use, except by agreement with the Government Departments in which the power now lies. We, therefore, propose this Amendment, to be followed by another to omit the proviso to Subsection (1). The argument for the Amendment is very simple. It is that we desire to have a real Ministry of Supply and desire to have it now. That summarises the argument. We have for long contended in favour of the setting up of this Ministry of Supply, and we hold the view that failure to set it up hitherto is largely responsible for the failure of the arms programme in terms of quantity, in terms of speed, and in terms of the prices charged. We have for a long time demanded a Ministry of Supply not in the form of a sub-section of the War Office, which is substantially what we are doing in the Bill. We demand it for the supply of all the requisites of defence, with one exception, by way of all the three fighting services. We and many others, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) among them, have held the view that long ago—but better late than never—we should have set up a Supply Ministry with very wide powers, allowance being made for the difference between peace and war, which continually dwindles under our eyes, comparable to those of the Ministry of Munitions in the War period though not identical in all details. At any rate, the Ministry of Munitions did have power to furnish supplies.
§ Mr. Burgin indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Dalton
I do not want to enter into an historical discussion, so I will leave that point and argue on the merits. The merits now, as we see them, are that the Minister should have powers, to use forthwith, which will enable him to examine into and organise the sources of supply and the labour available for the supply of any articles required for the public service. We want it to be indisputably clear that the Minister can, without any further negotiations, bargainings and discussions with any Department now re- 1858 sponsible for the supply of any of these articles, carry out all these Supply functions.
I referred to a possible exception. My hon. Friends, in a careful and detailed report submitted at the Labour Party Conference at Southport, made an exception of naval shipbuilding. We are quite prepared that naval shipbuilding should remain outside the Minister's powers, owing to the fact that the Admiralty are dealing with very large units of production and that they have long tradition and knowledge of this specialised work. But we see no reason for leaving the Air Ministry out. It may be true now that the production of aircraft is better than it was—indeed there has been a very rapid acceleration—but when we consider the confessions that were made a little over a year ago as to our failure to that date, we do not consider that there is any reason for excluding from the control of the Minister the production of aircraft, and this not only because we believe that the rate of production can be still further improved but because it is part of the argument for a Ministry of Supply that a Minister responsible for one of the great Fighting Services should not himself be responsible for the details of Supply organisation. He should be in a position to devote his mind to those military, naval or air problems which would arise in the event of war and for which he must be constantly preparing—strategical problems involving consultations with representatives of other Powers, problems quite separate from problems of Supply organisation yet quite sufficient to occupy all the energies and all the mind of an able man. Therefore, there seems to be an argument in favour of the taking of this Supply organisation away from the three heads of the Fighting Services and concentrating it in the new Minister, partly in order to relieve them of a pressure which is intolerable under modern conditions and partly in order to improve the efficiency of the Supply machinery by giving one Minister control of it all.
§ Mr. Burgin
I should like to be clear in my own mind. The hon. Gentleman says "partly to relieve them." Does his argument go so far as to say that these powers should be taken over even though the Service Ministers concerned objected?
§ Mr. Dalton
Yes. That is the whole essence of my argument. Our argument 1859 is that, in order to relieve these other Ministers from Supply considerations and to enable them to concentrate upon the consideration of getting the supplies required—their technical advisers will advise what supplies are required but, given that they know what they want—in my submission the job of getting what they want should be transferred to and concentrated in one Minister in respect of all three Services. This is particularly desirable if we are to get full value in terms of large quantities, an effective scheme of priorities and reasonable prices. Otherwise we are dealing piecemeal with the matter; there are other legislative proposals to come forward on this subject. Unless the Minister has all these powers in respect of Supply to all the Forces, then, in our view, he is not given a full opportunity to do efficiently that job for which the Bill is being put forward. I do not propose to elaborate the argument further. I repeat that we have put down the Amendment because we desire a real Ministry of Supply and to have it now, and not merely a partial Ministry and a long delay supervening before any further changes are made.
There is one further point arising out of the question which was put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). The Minister spoke of the Principal Supply Officers Committee which, I gather, includes such personnel as the Quartermaster of the Forces and even some, I am told, from the Post Office. However the committee may be constituted—and no doubt that can be ascertained—of those who advise the right hon. Gentleman, I was astonished at his reply, which was that even when the Bill has become law that committee will continue to be presided over by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. Here too, as in the case which I have been putting to the Committee, surely the Minister of Supply should take over. If, during the period before there was a Minister of Supply, for certain functions relating to Supply in which the three fighting Services, and possibly certain other Departments having an interest in Supply, were associated, it was necessary to bring in the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence because the problems of Supply were common to all the Services, surely now, when we are to have a Minister of Supply he should take over from his colleague the Minister for 1860 the Co-ordination of Defence this particular very key committee, and should himself preside over and direct it.
Possibly after a little further information has been furnished to the right hon. Gentleman—I do not blame him for not having it at his fingers' ends now—he may be able to tell us how far the Principal Supply Officers Committee which, I am advised, is very important, is to be kept within the purview of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence and what reason there is for not turning it over to the Minister of Supply. I have endeavoured to give, on broad lines, the reason why we put down this Amendment. It is an Amendment to which we attach very great importance, and if the Minister cannot see his way to meet us we shall have to carry it to a Division.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
This Amendment raises important issues and I shall have to speak upon them for longer than I would have liked. My remarks will be based upon the words which appear on page 14 of the pamphlet "Labour and Defence" which was submitted to the Southport Conference of the Labour party. In that pamphlet there appears this:In the last War it was necessary to maintain nine men in industry to every two men in the fighting line. Towards the end of the War it became increasingly necessary to withdraw men from the fighting line to maintain the industry of the nation on which the fighting Services depended for their equipment. The strength at which a, nation can maintain its fighting forces is, therefore dependent upon its industrial, financial and commercial strength.Before I proceed to make my point I would refer to the speech made by the Minister of Supply at Blackpool, when he spoke of the position of men in industry. The reference which the right hon. Gentleman made caused me to feel a little uneasy. Unfortunately I have not adopted my usual practice of preserving that speech, with the result that I cannot quote from it, but I hope that as I have raised the matter in this way the Minister will reassure us regarding the uneasiness created by one passage in his speech dealing with labour—provided, of course, that he was correctly reported.
When the Bill becomes an Act a new responsibility will be undertaken by representative people throughout this country. Representing our people, I say that we are quite prepared to accept our share 1861 of any responsibility, but having said that, I must point out that we do not want a repetition of what occurred in the last War. I have here a cutting showing that from 1914 to 1918—I can quote from it if necessary to substantiate what I am saying—the trade unions gave up condition after condition which they had established by years of sacrifice, and all kinds of concessions that they had won from the organised employers. They gave away the benefit of undertakings that had been given to them relating to piece-work prices, and many principles which they had established in the workshops, in order that the nation might secure the maximum results from the efforts that were being made. What took place was that we were subjected to a national lockout which occupied our people during six months in 1922, and that the Miners' Federation agreed to put forward no further demand for increases in wages on condition that the cost of living was kept to a certain standard. Nevertheless the cost of living rose considerably while wages remained low, and no steps were taken to carry out the undertaking that was given to Mr. Robert Smillie, the miners' representative. Our people gave up all that during the last War, but they have been subjected from 1931 to the present time to the mean means test and all that it means to our people.
I suggest to the Minister of Supply that he should undertake to consult the whole of the engineering trade unions about the policy to be adopted, and that during the consultations he should give guarantees upon a number of issues that will be raised. I suggest that such guarantees will not be good enough if they come from one individual. I am not speaking critically of the Minister as an individual, and I do not want anyone to think that I am; but we have had experience of that kind of thing. I have it here on record that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and other people who used to be Members of this House but now sit in another place, gave promise after promise and assurance after assurance. Based upon that experience we now say that the assurances of individuals are not good enough and that assurances should be embodied in an Act of Parliament in order that we can see that they are carried out. I make a special plea for the serious consideration of that proposal.
1862 I speak for the section of our movement in which we can obtain our living only by selling our labour power. All our eggs are in one basket. We are not like many people here; if we do not obtain a return from one place, we cannot make up for that by getting a return from some other place. For the people with whom I am concerned if there is no work there are no wages, and from 1931 to the present time no work and no wages have meant the harsh, mean, means test staring us in the face. This obtains even at the present time, when our men are working in the factories and exerting the maximum amount of human energy in order to obtain the greatest possible amount of return for the efforts that are being made in the workshops, and when they themselves are making suggestions in order to increase efficiency and output. As a result of all this, our men are getting increased earnings, but they are saving them in order to provide for a rainy day and a better holiday. When the time comes along and their services are no longer required, those savings will be at the disposal of the means test officer, despite the great services and the great effort which our people will have made.
If there is to be any fair play and justice to our people the mean means test should be reconsidered by the Cabinet and withdrawn in order that our people shall not have to face it. Those Members who have seen the columns of the "Manchester Guardian" the "Daily Telegraph," the "Times" and the "Daily Herald," in particular, will have seen huge advertisements for pattern makers, tool makers, instrument makers, special machinists and inspectors. It is well-known that in that developing industry and the demands which are being made upon it, those men are the key men and will be the most important. I suggest that the Minister of Supply should consider whether the time has not arrived when he should have power to direct where these men should be sent. The question of priorities should be introduced and the services of those men should be concentrated upon the most urgent national needs. This is raising the important question of the training of apprentices. I was reading to-day —
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is going rather far from the terms of the 1863 Amendment and from the points raised in the words which it is proposed should be inserted.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member may pursue his argument if he will bear in mind what I said, that he must keep within the terms of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Smith
I apologise, Sir Dennis, and I will keep to that point. It has been stated that the young men at the universities are to be allowed to carry on at the universities when their term is finished. When we raised this question in the House we were told that there would be equal treatment for the men when called up. Our point was that, if this was going to be done for well placed people at the universities, it should be done for the apprentices, especially those who are in their last year. It is most important that these boys who are being called up, and especially those who are being trained in the trades to which I have referred, should receive the technical training that is so necessary in order that they may be equipped technically to play a part—
§ The Chairman
I think the hon. Member is going rather wide. For instance, I do not find anything at all in this Amendment which deals with the training of apprentices.
§ Mr. Smith
The Amendment states:and the labour available for the supply.It is well known by those who are acquainted with the industries with which we are dealing that this matter is causing serious concern, not only to the trade unions, but also to the big employers. The big employers are concerned as to whether they are going to get these boys back.
§ The Chairman
That does not justify the hon. Member in going into a general discourse on how the Minister should organise labour. I must ask him to keep more closely to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Smith
I hope the Minister is going to see that these boys, who have received 1864 five and six years' training, will be put back to the trade. That is the matter about which the trade unions and the employers are concerned.
I want now to deal with the question of sources of supply, and to suggest that the time has arrived, especially in view of the serious situation in which we are, when there should be a pooling of ideas throughout industry. There is a tendency—indeed, it is more than a tendency, it is part of a policy—on the part of firms in competition with one another not to divulge trade secrets. There is a reluctance to pool ideas. I could, if it were necessary, give many concrete examples of this. I suggest that one of the first steps that the Minister will have to take will be to bring about a pooling of ideas, in order that the nation may obtain the best results from the whole of industry. The second point is that he should bring about a standardisation of the most efficient production methods. I remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), when he was speaking about the need for a Ministry of Supply, talking about handing jigs out, and that kind of thing. While he was only speaking metaphorically, and we knew that it was not practicable to do that, still there was a great deal in what he said. The importance of ample supplies of jigs, tools, special metals and gauges is very great, for, in the event of war, the demand for these would be enormous, and months of very highly skilled work are needed in order to produce these means of supply. It is well known that in modern wars there is great wastage. A huge supply of spare parts would be required, and the usefulness of these would depend upon the accuracy of the tools, jigs and gauges. To take one example, in the case of some fuses 200 gauges are needed to produce a fuse, so that hon. Members will readily see the importance of organising the supply of jigs, tools and gauges.
The next point I want to make is as to the importance of machine tools. I find that even now we are importing tremendous quantities of machine tools. During the month of April, we imported into this country £124,731 worth of machine tools from Germany. While I realise the importance of maintaining our export trade, it is very important in modern industry, and especially in view 1865 of the situation in which we might be involved, that we should develop machine tool production in this country. The Royal Commission which considered the private manufacture of armaments also put forward a suggestion of that character. Engineer Vice-Admiral Sir Harold Brown, a well-known and very competent civil servant, who, I understand, is Director General of Munitions production at the War Office, speaking at the annual dinner of the Machine Tool Trades Association, said that 25 per cent. of the £4,000,000 worth of tools ordered in 1938 were purchased from abroad, and that these were in the nature of specialised machines. That is alarming in the present state of affairs. It means that if, we are involved in a serious situation, we shall not have reached a stage in this country when we can produce these special machines right away to the extent that we shall require. Therefore, I suggest that the time has arrived when at least two national State factories should be set up, in order to carry through research, design, and the inter-manufacture of specialised machines of this character. I find that a very respected and competent civil servant states, in a book on "Experiments in State Control," that:In the national factories established by the Ministry of Munitions, instructions were given for careful cost accounts to be kept. By this means it was possible to ascertain with great exactness the cost of production, and to compare costs in the different factories item by item.In the course of the evidence submitted to the Royal Commission that considered the private manufacture of armaments. State official after State official, civil servant after civil servant, gave evidence of their experiences during the war which convinces us of the necessity for national factories of the kind we are advocating. In addition, I find that the right hon. Gentleman the member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) also supports us in this plea. He said in 1923, when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, that the Government sent their repair work to the arsenals and dockyards because they did it for less money and because they were more efficient.
In conclusion, I want to draw the attention of the Committee again to the very efficient production which we are obtaining from the Royal Ordnance Factory which has been set up at Nottingham. Here I quote from "Machinery," 1866 which has been circulated with the compliments of the Director of Public Relations of the War Office. The statement is made:Under the circumstances, the results which have been achieved at Nottingham have been remarkable.There is also this further statement:The development of the organisation to its present state of efficiency and high output is a truly remarkable achievement, which reflects considerable credit on all concerned.Therefore, we have evidence from State Departments, from competent civil servants, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook, and from the Royal Ordnance Factory, of the efficient methods of and the necessity for State factories in order that we may obtain the most efficient results, and that we may be able to check the prices of the products produced in the State factories as compared with products produced by private enterprise, and thereby obtain the most economical results for the people of this country.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Sir P. Harris
I feel, and I think most Members of the Committee will feel, that the Bill is framed in very generous terms. The Minister is given very considerable powers to set up a really effective and proper Ministry of Supply. But it is rather suggested by the White Paper and by the statements of the Prime Minister that the duties and purposes of the new Department in its early stages should be comparatively limited, and that the Department should concentrate in the immediate future on carrying out work for the war ministries. That is not our conception of a Ministry of Supply. One of the strongest arguments for a Ministry of Supply is that it should co-ordinate, that it should prevent the overlapping and even competition which now occurs between the various Departments. It is common knowledge—I have had more than one case given to me personally—that many industries set off one Department against another. For instance, the Admiralty, which is a long-established Department, is often able to gut the first cut off the output of one particular industry or trade. It is true that we have had for two years a Ministry for the Coordination of Defence, and one of the main purposes of that Department was to prevent such overlapping and competition, but we have contended that on the 1867 whole, on the scale on which it has been established, the Department has not achieved that purpose. I believe that the House and the country will not be satisfied with anything short of a real Ministry of Supply, not necessarily on the same scale, but on the same principle, as the Ministry of Munitions. Either the situation is serious or it is not. If it is as serious as we believe, and as I think the country believes, we have a right to ask that this new Department, which justifies the appointment of a new Minister, should have the duty and responsibility of concentrating on production and of preventing the overlapping and waste of energy, due to competition between Departments, which we believe is a serious weakness and a serious handicap—
§ Mr. Burgin
Would the hon. Baronet be good enough to give an instance where he suggests that competition has occurred between Departments? I ask for general information, because, on the information that I have, it does not happen. I shall be prepared to justify the White Paper, but let us begin where the need is greatest, and go on to other work as it arises. If the hon. Baronet has instances by which he can indicate to me in the most general terms the sort of case in which he says the Admiralty, for instance, gets what he calls the prime cut, I, of all people in the House, should be interested as a matter of research.
§ Sir P. Harris
The right hon. Gentleman has every right to challenge me. I am afraid I have not in my pocket an example. I have had examples given to me, but did not come prepared to give them to the right hon. Gentleman. I am very glad to hear that there is no competition and no overlapping between the Departments, and that the resources of the country have been evenly distributed between the great Service Departments. But, if there are none of these restrictions, the case for more concentration seems to be strengthened. The strongest case for creating this new Ministry is the argument that there should be one Minister and one Department controlling the productive power of the nation, in order to see that the best use is made of it.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan
This Clause is, of course, the crux and centre of the whole Bill; and the House is indebted 1868 to the hon. Gentleman and his Friends for moving this Amendment, which at least enables us to see clearly the character of the Bill and the way that it is proposed at present that it should operate. It the hon. Gentleman will not think me impertinent, may I congratulate him on the ingenuity with which he has found the necessary words to raise a very wide Debate within the scope of the Clause? This Bill is in effect a Ministry of Supply (Enabling) Bill. It gives the Government power to set up a Ministry of Supply, without further legislation, when they think it necessary. It leaves the decision as to the pace at which they shall move and the field that they shall cover to the Government, and not the House of Commons. I do not say that that is a bad system, but let us be clear what the Bill, under this Clause, envisages. This Bill comes at the end of a long controversy. The issue has been partly a matter of temperament. There are two ways of travelling in the tube. One is to approach the station as rapidly as possible, put your penny in the machine and get your ticket, and then get down the moving staircase as fast as possible. The Government's method has been more dilatory.
§ Mr. Macmillan
And they are like those tiresome people who, having done that, stand in the middle of the staircase without moving and prevent other people from passing them. This Amendment, as I understand it, has two purposes. By proposing to leave out certain words from the Bill, it says, in effect, that the House of Commons now decides that there shall be a complete Ministry of Supply, covering all Departments; and then, by the ingeniously-framed initial words which it proposes to insert, it goes further. In agreeing to this Amendment, hon. Members would be deciding that, in view of the circumstances in Europe and the grim prospects that confront us every day, not to leave it to the Government, but to set up a Department with these full and comprehensive powers that would constitute a complete Ministry of Supply. I cannot claim expert knowledge, but, from the inquiries that I have made, I am satisfied that it would be better to set up the Ministry now, although I quite understand that the Government make take a different view.
1869 The hon. Gentleman has repeated arguments which have been put forward during the last three or four years by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). He has said that the object of the Ministry is to relieve the pressure on the heads of these great Departments. That is a very important point. My right hon. Friend, in an interruption, asked whether they were to be relieved of that pressure even if they objected. My memory goes back to a great Department which objected to having the supply of shells taken from it. Lord Kitchener objected. Many Members of this House can remember from their own experience when the supply of shells was limited to one round a day, feebly fired from our batteries, and we were told that it was all right; and it was only under great pressure that the power to control the supply of ordnance was transferred. I frankly admit, from the experience I have had in industries with which I am connected, that on these questions of priorities there has been great improvement, and I believe that the jealousies and overlapping have been largely ironed out in what was a kind of shadow Ministry of Supply, the committee of the Departments which had to deal with these matters. But I believe that the setting up of this full Ministry is necessary. I will prophesy that it will be done within six months, and, if the position deteriorates, very much sooner than that.
The Amendment widens considerably the powers, or the duties, which it is proposed to place on the Minister. It is clear, of course, that the duty of examination into and organisation of the sources of supply and the labour available is one that any Minister must perform if he is to do his work; but this specifically points out that the problem of Supply is not only a question of what you are to make but of what you are not to make. When labour of materials are limited—and labour is very limited at present—that is important. You will never deal with the price question, you will never deal with the profit question, unless you can deal with the general control of the materials and labour which are necessary.
§ Mr. Burgin
I interrupt with respect, because I am following my hon. Friend's argument with interest and with a considerable measure of sympathy. But he 1870 appreciates that the very powers for which he is pleading are expressly given in the Bill. They are inherent in the powers given to the Minister by other Clauses.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I quite agree. They come in detail at a later stage in the Bill. But this is the really crucial Clause, which sets up the Bill; hence the importance of the matter at this point. This is not a matter of party difference. It is not a matter, perhaps of great moment—in the sense that I am certain that the Government will have to use these powers very rapidly—but I believe the Committee would be wise to see that, if the Minister cannot accept the Amendment to-day, he shall be shown by the expression of opinion from hon. Members, that the country and the House of Commons would support the most early and strenuous use of these powers, and that we should prefer to see, not these two, three or four bites at a cherry, but a decision taken to set up a complete Ministry of Supply at once.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
The right hon. Gentleman asked my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment whether he ought to press his decisions upon the other Departments even if they objected. I should think that that entirely depended on whether the objections were well founded. If they were not they should be swept aside. I think the Service Departments would have to bring forward very remarkable arguments indeed if they hoped to dispose of the logical case which has been presented by those who favour an all-embracing Ministry of Supply. Although the right hon. Gentleman may find it necessary to resist the Amendment, I cannot help feeling that it must rather make his mouth water. It cannot be very congenial to him to resist us when we bring forward an Amendment offering him such wide and considerable powers. We are really bringing him butter on a lordly dish, and, unfortunately for him, he is compelled to resist the offer.
§ Mr. G. Nicholson
Is that surprising, considering the fate of the gentleman who was offered the lordly dish?
§ Mr. Nicholson
The poor gentleman had a tent peg—supplied, I suppose, by a Service Department—driven through his head.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I can tell the hon. Gentleman at once that that slipped my memory. My hon. Friend in moving the Amendment, while agreeing that he did not wish to see certain powers in respect of shipbuilding taken away from the Admiralty, said that he would like to see the powers of the Ministry of Supply extended to the Air Ministry. We shall very likely be told, in reply to what has been said, that production at the Air Ministry is in course of such rapid and successful improvement that it would be a very dangerous thing to interfere at this juncture, as it would be likely to check production. But just as the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has become essential to the Minister of Supply, so similarly the Secretary of State for Air, since his appointment, has also been completely absorbed in questions of supply and production of aircraft.
That is not the proper function of the head of one of the Service Departments. The head of a Service Department should be occupied with the question of the making of plans and the co-ordination of plans for war. It is his duty, knowing what the function of this particular service is going to be, to elicit from his professional advisers the weapons which he will require to enable the Service to fulfil the function allotted to it by those who prepare the plans. The professional advisers having informed the Minister what weapons they will require, the production, of those weapons should be turned over lock, stock and barrel to the Minister of Supply. That I believe to be the logical and efficient way in which to go about that work, and it is not the proper function of the head of one of our great Defence Services to be occupied as largely as they all are at the present moment with questions of Supply.
There was another point of great importance to which reference was made. It certainly seems at first sight anomalous that the Principal Supply Officers Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence should continue to function when we now have a Minister of Supply. The answer, I imagine, is that the Minister of Supply is not taking over all Supply and 1872 that on that account the Principal Supply Officers Committee is to continue to function. Even if that is so, it is most important that the relations in this matter and the responsibilities as between the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, the Minister of Supply and the Principal Supply Officers Committee should be most carefully worked out and clearly laid down to the House. Perhaps the Minister may be able to say something upon that point.
I should also like to mention the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith). The difficulties which have been, and are being, experienced as regards the armaments programme are very largely due to the loss of skill which has taken place on account of the prolonged period of unemployment through which we have been passing. The intensive rearmament programmes now in hand are repairing that loss of skill very rapidly, and the institution of the Minister of Supply and his leaders will no doubt further intensify the process. But the rearmament programmes will come to an end, and the Minister of Supply will apparently come to an end also in three years. What will happen to all this labour which is being trained by such intensive methods at the present moment? That will be a most formidable problem, and it is on that account that it is most essential that the work of the Ministry of Supply should not merely be confined to our rearmament programme, but should be concerned with linking that programme to the general industrial production of the country.
The words used in the Amendment are:To examine into and organise the sources of supply.It is essential that the Minister of Supply should keep the question of essential raw materials constantly under review. I should have liked to have seen the Minister with powers that could be extended throughout the Empire and not merely bound by the requirements of the War Office. We hear a great deal at the moment about Staff talks. I hope that the Minister will be represented at the Staff talks in order that he may discuss the question of the supply of certain essential raw materials to our potential enemies. It certainly is the most remarkable anomaly that at the present moment we should be busily engaged in supplying 1873 certain raw materials, which are not obtainable elsewhere, to potential enemies. Certain materials which are being supplied to them may result in their being able to manufacture armaments which may be used against us. It is on account of such points as these, and others which have been raised by my hon. Friends that the Committee will do well to accept the Amendment, although I fear that the Minister may find himself under the necessity of rejecting it, much as he might perhaps wish to accept it.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
I think that in the attitude which is adopted by the Government towards this Amendment the Committee will have a very important indication as to what the Government really want to do and mean to do under this Bill. The Amendment as it is before us proposes in some respects to enlarge the powers which are to be given to the Government, but it also makes certain of the powers which are at present given under the Bill mandatory instead of permissive. Although there are some respects in which I should like to see the powers under this Bill enlarged, I do not propose, in the few minutes that I wish to occupy the time of the Committee to-day, to talk about them at this moment, but to emphasise the very great importance of that part of the Amendment which places a definite duty upon the Minister, and which turns the permissive powers into mandatory provisions.
The essential feature of the Bill as it is now presented to us, in conjunction with the declarations of policy we have had, is, as the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Harold Macmillan) said, that it is an enabling Bill. Nothing in the Bill tells us what is going to happen. We have to look at statements of Government policy as to the extent to which and the way in which they will use the wide powers in this Bill, to know what is going to happen. The statements of policy that we have had have been very discouraging to those of us who want to see not just a Ministry of Supply Act, but a Ministry of Supply; not merely a Ministry of Army Supply, that is an Army contracts department with another Minister, with the addition of certain duties with regard to the purchase of raw material, but a real Ministry of Supply. We have very little indication that the Government mean to set up under the 1874 powers of this Bill a real Ministry of Supply. We are told that the immediate intention is to purchase Army supplies and to buy certain raw materials, and then in effect to wait until the Departments ask for more. The Bill as it stands is not merely permissive in the sense that Parliament gives powers to the Government which they may or may not exercise. It is permissive in the further and more disastrous sense that the Government, as the Minister by his interjection showed us, did not intend to transfer the functions of the contracts departments of the other fighting services unless these departments themselves asked the Minister of Supply to do so.
I would like to put this question to the Minister. Does he really think that if the situation develops in such a way that the more extensive form of Ministry is required in the national interest, that that step will be reached soon enough if he waits until the contracts departments of the defence services come along and ask to be relieved of their powers or to be transferred to another authority? With his knowledge of the way in which Government Departments work and are related to each other, and of the history of what happened in the last War, does he really think that the Ministry will be enlarged quickly enough if he waits until that happens? He is certainly not contemplating that this will be done at once. For example, take the financial provision. At present it is suggested that the salaries, the whole financial provision for staff, including the Minister's, will be about £30,000. Of that sum the three appointments of which we have been told—the Minister himself, the Parliamentary Secretary, and Permanent Secretary—will absorb £9,500, practically a third of the total provision. Here, indeed, are generals without an Army; not only without an Army but without even officers? Why is that possible?
§ Mr. Burgin
The hon. Member could not have heard the explanation which I gave. This is the mere nucleus of the headquarters staff and does not include any salary paid to any officers taken over from any other Departments.
§ Sir A. Salter
I quite understand that, but why is it that headquarters staff can be so small as this? I suggest that it is because you are only adding your headquarters staff, not to a Ministry of Supply 1875 but to an Army contracts department. If the new Ministry were taking over the wider task of reorganising and adopting industrial resources, a task new to the fighting services and requiring a different personnel from anything that you find in their contracts departments, you would certainly want a much bigger addition than is contemplated by this figure. I agree, however, that the figure is quite reasonable in relation to the present Government policy and for the limited task the Government contemplate, namely, that of handling the increased supplies for the War Office. This is enough, added to the existing staff of the War Office. That is the explanation of the figure. But does the Minister or the Committee for a moment think, if you are going to have a Minister of Supply doing the kind of thing recommended for the last three years by those who have been advocating an extended Ministry of Supply, a figure of anything like that would suffice? Clearly not.
I mentioned that only to indicate once more the immense importance, having regard to the attitude disclosed in the Government declaration, of the Committee, and ultimately Parliament, at least placing a duty upon the Government to do the kind of things that are mentioned in this Amendment, and not leaving the whole Bill as permissive as it is at present. There is at present no mandatory indication of what Parliament requires to be done. I do not wish to take up time in repeating the kind of duties which have been described many times in previous Debates, but I would emphasise the extreme importance of the Government indicating, not necessarily their willingess to accept the terms of this Amendment, but their willingness to accept a definite responsibility to to do more than they have yet announced. I would ask them to give the Committee an assurance that they will use the powers with which they are providing themselves in this Bill in such a way as to set up a real Ministry of Supply and to do it quickly by the decision of the Government without waiting for the consent of the different contracts departments.
§ 6.16 p.m
§ Mr. Simmonds
This is a most amazing Measure. First, we have from the Government Benches proposals for the 1876 coercion of their supposed friends, the employers. Now we have an Amendment from the Opposition Benches for the coercion of their supposed friends, the workers. When one reads the Amendment what can be the substance of it as far as the workers are concerned? It is to be the duty of the Minister to organise the labour available. I do not know what hon. Members opposite read into those words, but as one of the 12 Members for the largest industrial city of the country, Birmingham, I say, without any fear of contradiction, that the million people in industrial Birmingham would be wholly against any such conception of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Supply so far as they are concerned. What is it possible to do, if one reads into this Amendment? Is it not the beginning of the complete Nazi organisation of labour? [Laughter.] It is all very well to laugh at these things, but let us look at what may be the interpretation of words put into a Measure such as this, in the hands of people in the future, of whom we know nothing.
§ Mr. E. Smith
If the hon. Member had been in the Committee during the whole course of the Debate he would not put upon the Amendment the interpretation that he is doing.
§ Mr. Simmonds
One of the difficulties of this Debate is that the Amendment is proposed in a certain vein and the Committee tends to follow that vein and I am trying to look at it objectively as part of a Measure which may be read by an executive Government in times to come, and may have to be judged by the court, and it seems to me that a Minister who claimed under this Amendment to organise British labour on the Nazi basis, would have all that he desired. From my point of view and what I know are the views of my constituents in Birmingham, I should certainly not be acting in accordance with their views or wishes if I supported such an Amendment.
Does it not mean that the Minister would have power from the time of apprenticeship to set up training camps, to which certain categories of boyhood would be compulsorily sent? Does it not mean that the Minister would have power to send those boys, on leaving the training camps, to certain work? Does it not mean that the Minister could do exactly what is happening in Germany to-day— 1877 take men away from their homes and send them to the other end of the country? He could do that under the power given by an Amendment of this sort. Therefore, I feel certain that my right hon. Friend will refuse to accept the Amendment, and I should like it to be known from the back benches on this side that as we understand the wishes of the workers they would not stand for an Amendment of this kind.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Hicks
I am anxious not to repeat any arguments that have been used. I am satisfied that the Minister has taken notice of the arguments and that in his reply he will give us his point of view. We are very anxious about having an efficient Ministry of Supply. We believe that such a Ministry is absolutely essential, and the approach that we have made to it is indicated in the Amendment. We believe that the Amendment would assist the Minister to greater powers than are proposed in the Bill. I was somewhat amazed at the imaginative flight of the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) into the conditions under which workpeople would be employed if the Amendment were carried. So far as Government Departments are concerned in this country, I think I can say with confidence that there are no British workpeople who refuse employment for a Government Department. They are very good employers generally, and many operatives would be very glad to get employment in a Government Department. They are not anxious to leave such employment, and when they are under notice of discharge they usually write to their Member of Parliament asking him to intervene on their behalf to see whether the notice could be overlooked and they could be retained. Therefore, the apprehensions of the hon. Member are a little too vivid and are not in relation to the facts.
As regards men being transferred from one part of the country to another, my own industry is as mobile an industry as any. Recently, some of our men employed in Perth signed on at the Employment Exchange and had to be sent to Margate because Margate was applying for bricklayers. The men had to go from Perth to Margate in order to get a job, and the rate of wages was substantially lower in Margate than the rate of wages prevailing in Perth. I had a similar 1878 circumstance on the North-East coast and I telegraphed to my men not to accept, as I thought we could make such an intelligent appeal to the Ministry of Labour as to persuade them not to disallow benefit in such circumstances. Interim benefit was granted and eventually we got the full benefit allowed. Therefore, I do not think that the question of transfer from one part of the country to another is entirely new to workpeople at the present time.
§ Mr. Simmonds
I do not want to interfere with the hon. Member's speech, but he is speaking of what now exists. I was not referring to that, but to what might exist in the future, as to the responsibility of the Ministry of Supply under the words of the Amendment:It shall be the duty of the Minister to organise labour.I think the hon. Member would not deny that such things as I have mentioned might be conceived by a Minister to be his duty if this type of Amendment were passed.
§ Mr. Hicks
I have respect for the hon. Member's point of view, but I think in the general application if the Minister had to consider the organisation of labour he would take a bigger view than the firm and would employ people locally, whereas the firm which happened to be short of labour would apply to any part of the country in order to get the labour transferred to its works. I think we can deal with the circumstances at the time when they arrive, and I would ask the hon. Member not to be too worried about them. In this Amendment we are offering to the Minister greater powers. We know that he is not afraid of authority and we feel that he would welcome this opportunity of getting perhaps even greater powers than are indicated in the Bill. He may think that he has large enough powers. He interrupted the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and asked him for any instance where there were certain departmental jealousies or rivalries and they were competing against each other for the prime part of what were their particular needs.
I make no apology for introducing to the House of Commons the co-ordination which took place between the Departments and the building industry in regard to the 1879 building programme for National Defence. That was purely voluntary on the part of the employers in the industry. They approached the co-ordinating Minister and asked him to agree to meet and discuss the building programme generally. The result has been, in my opinion, very successful. Each Department has been brought together and every one has been compelled to table its needs. Whatever the needs were they had to be put down and tabled, and then out of the common pool priorities were given if necessary, because of the special importance of any particular job or any particular employment.
I do not know what defence the Minister will give if he opposes our Amendment. Perhaps he will support it and give additional reasons for doing so. If he gives opposite reasons, I shall be interested in what he has to say. I raise no objection in the ordinary way to a Departmental chief being jealous of his Department. I should not like any chiefs of Departments with which I was associated if they were not proud of their Departments. Each would have full pride in his Department and all the time each would try to get the very best consideration for his Department. Chiefs of Departments would be less than human if they did not do so, but if pride and personal vanity interfere with general production, then I think we should not wait until difficulties arise, but should provide for consultation between all the Departments and give the Minister of Supply the necessary authority. At the end of Sub-section (1) it is provided:that the powers of the Minister under this Sub-section shall not be exercised in relation to the supply to any other Government Department of any articles required by that Department for the purpose of the discharge of its functions, unless the powers of that Department in relation to the supply of those articles are for the time being transferred to or made exercisable by the Minister under the next following Section of this Act.When does that arise? At what period will these powers be transferred from the Departments to the Minister of Supply? That is what we are concerned about. We want the Minister of Supply to be concerned not only with the question of producing things for the Navy, Army and Air Force, but with their relations with industry as well. It is important that the needs of all the Departments should 1880 be considered and examined to see how far they can be met without injuring anyone else. It is in that sense that I feel that the Minister must have the powers proposed by the Amendment. There might be a question about food supplies and agricultural production, a matter of great importance, and I see no reason why the Minister of Supply should not have power to tackle problems of that character. I want to make this a real Ministry of Supply. We want to make the Bill as efficient as it can be. The old method was not equal to the occasion and therefore the Bill has been introduced. I think the Minister would be wise to have sufficient powers under the Bill to enable him to deal with all the matters relating to the Services and with industry as well.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant
The major point at issue is whether certain powers in the Bill may or may not be exercised by the Minister. It will be within his discretion as to whether he does or does not exercise the powers given in the Bill. We feel that circumstances are such that power should be taken now and should be used forthwith. May I point out that as far as the supply of labour is concerned, there is already a considerable amount of overlapping and there is not the organisation, which we are entitled to expect? The union with which I am connected had to provide men for important Government work in Chester as there were no men available in the vicinity. We paid the fares of men to be brought from Dublin, and when they appeared on the job they were not allowed to start, At the same time men were sent from Burnley to Newton Abbot in Devon. That ought not to be; there should be some one responsible. Anyone who reads the daily Press and peruses the advertisements will be alarmed at the variety of advertisements which appear. We know that men are being uprooted from one part of the country and sent to another for no justifiable reason. A little organisation in the Department responsible for the supply of labour would avert that kind of thing. On these grounds we think that the Minister should have power to see that labour is being used to the best possible advantage. That is not the case now. No one who had any experience in the last War can overlook the endless pin-pricks when men were sent from one part of the country to 1881 another although employment was available on their own doorsteps. Our Amendment is perfectly justified on that ground.
I want to pass to another aspect of the problem. The Minister is going to be given powers to manufacture. I am persuaded, rightly or wrongly, that Government Departments to-day when making purchases, in spite of their costing procedure, are not getting the best possible deal. A Government Department like the Post Office, which has its own factories and engages in manufacture, is able to check costs very effectively. They are able to see at a glance whether the price offered is a fair price or whether it is unduly high. Government Departments like the Service Departments are not similarly equipped, and during the early stages of the last War the country was called upon in many cases to pay unduly high prices until the Government took upon itself —
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I think the hon. Member is getting away from the Amendment. If we are to have a general discussion on the Clause now it must be on the understanding that there will be no discussion on the Clause as a whole.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
On the Amendment the hon. Member cannot enter upon a general discussion on the Clause, unless it is generally understood that there will not be a discussion on the Clause later.
§ Mr. Viant
This is a wide Amendment and in the main covers the whole of the Clause. I want to single out one or two of the functions on which the Minister should have power and, therefore I am suggesting that as a result of our experience in the early stages of the last War we might possibly deal with the question of manufacture.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I do not think I could allow the hon. Member to do that unless there was a general agreement that we do not have a general discussion on the Clause. If that is generally understood I am prepared to accept it, but as apparently it is not agreeable to the Committee, the hon. Member must discuss the Amendment and not the Clause.
§ Mr. Viant
I must apologise to the Committee but the discussion has roamed over a very wide field and that is why I have mentioned these particular points. I think the powers suggested in the Amendment should be taken by the Minister at once and not delayed. I believe the Amendment is one which meets with general approval. I have pleasure in supporting it, and I hope to have an apportunity of speaking on the Clause itself.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Nicholson
During the past two years I have had many moments of acute anxiety with regard to what appeared to me the reluctance of the present Government to prosecute rearmament with the vigour which I thought was necessary, but I must honestly say that in this particular case my sympathies are all with the Government in maintaining this Bill as a permissive Measure. I think the Committee should remember two things. First, that from the point of view of this side of the Committee there is nothing inherently meritorious in Government interference in industry. I cannot help feeling that the Mover of the Amendment was arguing from the hypothesis that Government direction of industry is in itself better than private enterprise. For better or for worse we do not think so on this side of the Committee.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I must remind the hon. Member that we cannot discuss the question of nationalisation on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Nicholson
Nothing was further from my thoughts. I was pointing out that the Mover of the Amendment cannot expect hon. Members on this side of the Committee to look at things from quite the same standpoint as he does. I feel that in the present emergency in which we are living there is a great danger of our embarking too far on authoritarian measures and that the Government will take too much control over every single side of life in the country. There is no doubt that we are being driven bit by bit to adopt the very measures of which we complain in our opponents. The second point I ask the Committee to consider is this. I do not think the difficulty of supply is automatically inherent in Defence Departments. I do not think the Admiralty have felt the need for a Ministry of Supply. Very considerable 1883 naval expansion has been undertaken, but there has not been a great demand for a Ministry of Supply from the point of view of the Admiralty. Expansion on an astronomical basis has taken place in the Air Ministry, but I think even opponents of the Government must pay a tribute to the way that expansion has taken place, I do not say with a minimum of difficulty and of waste but I do say with little difficulty and little waste, and hardly any opportunity for those scandalous accusations which are always made when any Government Department goes in for supply on a large scale.
As I see it, the genesis of this Bill is to be sought in the War Office and in the War Office alone. The supply and contracts side of the War Office has from time immemorial suffered from the paralysing dead hand of the Treasury through the particular form of Treasury control which exists in the War Office. I believe that the Government are wise to make this Bill permissive. I think that the demand for an extension of this Bill to other Departments should be made by hon. Members in this House, and that it should not be handed to the Government on a silver plate before it is needed. In conclusion I want to remind the Committee that very wide powers are already given to the Government not in this Bill but in the White Paper, by Orders in Council. It says:It is proposed in the first instance to transfer to the Minister all the powers of the War Office with regard to supplies for the military forces of the Crown,with some slight exceptions. It goes on to say:It is also proposed to transfer from the War Office all their functions with regard to research, design and inspection of munitions of war, and all experimental work in connection therewith, with the appropriate establishments.And in a later paragraph it says:It is further proposed that where stores and equipment required by Government Departments are of common user,I take it that means the other Defence Servicespower shall be taken to transfer the responsibility for the supply of such stores to the Minister by agreement with the Departments concerned.That puts very wide powers into the hands of the Minister of Supply. I do not for one moment suppose that he will find 1884 it possible to confine his activities to the supply of the War Department. Take any machinery or equipment, and I include in that skilled labour, or anything which is necessary for armaments. It is very difficult to say that anything is particularly the province of the War Office. Take machine tools for example. Surely the Minister would find it necessary to have a complete catalogue made of all the machine tools in this country and of all the machine tools which are for disposal in the markets of the world. That affects not only the War Office but other Departments as well, and I do not see how on earth the Minister will find it possible to confine his activities. Granted that the Bill is permissive and that certain powers will be taken by Order in Council, it seems to me obvious that the Minister will have his hands completely full, and that by accepting the Amendment the Committee will give him more powers than he wants, and more powers than he can effectively use. In addition, we shall run the grave danger of plunging this country even further along those dangerous paths which lead us to a greater degree of authoritarianism and State control.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I was very interested to hear the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) refer to the Nazification of labour which might result from this Bill. I want to say that any attempt by any Minister to Nazify the industries or workers of this country would meet with such resistance from the working-class movement as would completely prevent any such thing from happening, but I am not certain that such an attempt would meet with any opposition from any of the representatives of Birmingham. As a matter of fact, the whole of their conduct in the House has shown them to be more disposed to Nazi dictation than to anything else.
The Amendment proposes that the Minister of Supply should have some responsibility for organising the sources of supply and the labour available. I could give instances of experiences during the War, and even during recent months, to show that the sources of production were in such a condition of anarchy that firms carrying out work of the utmost importance were held up because they could not get the necessary material, whereas other firms carrying out work 1885 that was not so important were able to get every kind of material they wanted. There can easily be a situation in which at a given moment material of all kinds is flowing into one industry to the neglect of other industries. The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson) said that the Admiralty have made no demand for a Ministry of Supply. Admittedly, the Admiralty are able to get plenty of material, but it may be that they are getting their material at the expense of houses for the people of this country. That is a possibility. The housing of the people is a most important part of defence. It may be that the Admiralty are getting material, but that some other Department concerned with defence is left without material. Is it not essential that some Minister should have the responsibility of examining and organising the sources of supply?
§ Mr. G. Nicholson
If another Department is aggrieved because it thinks that the supplies of certain materials are going to some other Department in preference to itself, it has a remedy, for it can ask for the powers under this Bill to be extended.
§ Mr. Gallacher
That is a haphazard way of dealing with the matter. Surely, the Minister should have the responsibility of getting knowledge from time to time of the sources of supply that are available and of considering how those supplies should be distributed. It might be that the Minister, placed in such a position, would at a given moment decide that supplies to the War Office, the Air Department or the Admiralty should be slowed down a little in order that supplies could be maintained for certain civilian purposes; or he might have to decide that supplies for civilian purposes should be slowed down in order to accelerate supplies to the defence departments. But to have a Minister of Supply who has not the responsibility of examining the sources of supply and directing the flow of it is to make a farce of the whole business. If we are to have a Minister who has any responsibility at all, and who is going to enter into his post in face of continually recurring crises, is there to be no attempt to organise labour? The Amendment does not mean that the Minister would have power to lay down conditions here and there and to transfer men from one area to another. There is 1886 no suggestion of that in the Amendment. Under the Amendment, the Minister would have the duty of seeing that labour was organised in the most effective manner. How would he carry out that duty? He would do so, not by laying down conditions with regard to this or that factory, or by moving men from one place to another, but by getting in touch with the responsible organisations of the working class and ensuring that everything possible was done to get the best results from the labour which the working-class movement could give in critical times.
A great deal has been said in the Debate about the powers which the Ministry of Munitions had during the War. The Ministry of Munitions had very great powers, but they seemed to have very few duties and responsibilities. It is duties and responsibilities which we want the Minister of Supply to have. During the War, there was under the Ministry of Munitions a situation which in many cases was sufficient to cause a calamity, and we do not want that sort of thing to happen again. For instance, there was a situation in which the Ministry of Munitions had power to keep me working in a highly-skilled job at £2 18s. a week, whereas a friend of mine who had never been in an engineering factory got a job as a handyman, for which he was paid £5 a week. I did not object to his getting £5 a week, and indeed I was pleased that he did get it; but I was getting only £2 18s. a week, as were crowds of highly-skilled engineers. Girls working in the factories were receiving £4 10s. and £5 10s. a week. I did not object to that. I was one of the men responsible for the conditions under which dilutees came in and got big wages.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I would point out to the hon. Member that too many reminiscences of the last War would be out of order on the Amendment now under discussion.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want the Committee to understand the difference between giving the Minister of Supply power and giving him a duty of the character suggested in the Amendment. If the Minister of Supply has not the power to impose conditions such as the Ministry of Munitions had during the War, but has the duty of organising labour, how will labour be 1887 organised? If the Minister wants skilled men for a particular job in a factory where there is very much work to be done, he will have the duty of seeing that highly-skilled workers are brought to that factory. This will be done not by compulsion, but as a result of negotiations with the trade unions and the payment of wages. Hon. Members opposite do not want the workers to be paid wages, and that is the reason there is so much talking round this question. We want this duty to be imposed on the Minister, so that when there is a question of labour being necessary in a particular area or factory, the trade unions will be able to go to the Minister and say, "It is necessary that highly-skilled men should be employed in this area or factory, but you are not going to get them unless the money is put up." It will be the Minister's business to see that the money is put up, and that the labour is effectively and properly organised. It will be not only a question of dilutees getting specially high wages, but of the skilled people also getting the wages to which they are entitled.
Hon. Members on this side of the Committee and the trade unions of the country will never in any circumstances give the Minister of Supply, or any other Minister, power to impose either his will or the will of any Executive upon the working-class and trade union movement. The Amendment simply states that it will be the Minister's duty to organise labour. The only way he can do that will be through the representatives of the organisations of the working class, and the only way in which he can carry out that duty, and be sure of getting the men from one occupation to another, will be by seeing that proper wages are paid. That is the only power he will have, namely, the power to demand, as far as he can, in carrying out his duty, that conditions shall be given that are in accordance with the desires and demands of the trade union representatives with whom he is dealing. That is something of which more than anything else hon. Members opposite are afraid. They are afraid that the Minister may have imposed upon him a duty that will force him to interfere in the question of the conditions under which the workers are employed.
We do not want again to have operating the conditions that existed during the 1888 War. We want the Minister of Supply to have some definite responsibility in regard to the sources and distribution of supply and some responsibility to the House in connection with the organisation and distribution of labour. He will have no power in this connection, for no power would be given in the Amendment, and no power is given in the Bill, either to the Minister of Supply or to his Department to organise and distribute labour. If there were again a situation such as we had during the War, of skilled men being tied down to impossible wages, then by the Amendment we should be able in the House to raise with the Minister the question of such conditions and demand that he use such power and influence as he had in order to assist the trade unions in getting the conditions to which the men were entitled. It is with such an idea in mind that this Amendment has been moved, not in order that the Minister should have powers of the character suggested by hon. Members opposite—powers of nazification which most Ministers would dearly like to have and which most of their supporters would gladly assist them in getting if they could —but in order to impose duties and responsibilities on the Minister and to ensure that the Ministry of Supply will be an effective weapon in any crisis.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
I think it may assist the Committee if I intervene at this stage to explain the Government's altitude to this Amendment, on which I think hon. Members will agree that we have had a wide and interesting discussion. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) rather suggested that the Committee could tell the Government's attitude to the Bill as a whole by their attitude to this Amendment. I am anxious to be as careful as I can in clearing away a good deal of misconception which exists in the minds of a good many hon. Members, judging by their speeches, as to the powers which the Bill, as drafted, gives us and as to whose initiative it is for those powers to be transferred from a Department. Let me try to make my meaning clear. Every hon. Member is anxious that the supply of every article necessary for the public service should be as adequate, as rapid, and as complete as circumstances require. If I interpret the mind of the Committee rightly, they would wish that, in the con- 1889 ception of what is adequate, one should add a certain percentage for the unknown and the possibility of others than our selves requiring some part of these supplies. The navy has been expanded, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson) said, supply has managed to keep pace with requirements. After all, the Naval programme is a somewhat simpler matter. The building of a capital ship means some years of work and the whole development of the programme can be laid down from the moment the decision is taken down to the moment of the vessel coming into commission, and everything can be made to flow into the main stream of supply centred round that ship. The Air Force has been expanded—
§ Sir A. Salter
Before the Minister passes from that I am sure he realises that when some of us have asked for the transfer of the powers of the Navy Contracts Department we were not thinking of the building of a warship, but there is, of course, an enormous mass of stores of a smaller character—very much like boots for soldiers. That is the kind of thing we had in mind.
§ Mr. Burgin
It was because the hon. Gentleman had that in mind, and because it is in the Bill already, that I wanted to approach it by stages. I understand the position about a ship. The Air Ministry has expanded out of all recognition, and a number of firms are manufacturing frames, aero-engines, and a great many instruments and much scientific gear. In both the Navy and the Air Force there is a vast amount of raw material—of armaments, ammunition, equipment and clothing—which comes under the heading of common stores. Those are already provided for in the White Paper. I do not think the Committee has appreciated the tremendous extent of the powers, beyond War Office requirements narrowly understood, that the White Paper actually does transfer to the new Minister from the moment this Bill receives the Royal Assent. But let me try and enter a little more into detail. In contradistinction to what has happened in the Navy, where there has been a gradual expansion, and to what has happened in the Air Ministry, where the expansion was determined some time ago, and where every energy has been employed to comply with the expansion 1890 decision, in the War Office only within the last three months—from a date in March—has a decision for this expansion, multiplied by five or something equivalent, been taken.
There is, therefore, in the realm of supply a Navy tolerably well supplied by the existing method, an Air Ministry expanding rapidly, making good progress with its own methods and under its own command, with different establishments, with different mechanics, with different programmes—all proceeding very rapidly. Here is the War Office with this new decision to expand, and without the whole of the appropriate machinery to expand as rapidly as needs require. Obviously, the first task of a Ministry of Supply, whatever it may come to in one month, two months, three months, must be to make good the whole of that supply for that urgent need. And so this Bill is couched in the terms of setting up a new organism, providing what it is to consist of, and then transferring to it at once the job of providing everything that is known to be requisite and necessary for this vastly expanded force.
Hon. Members mercifully allotted me a Parliamentary Secretary, because I think everybody will agree that the task of expanding a Field Force by a multiple of five represents, in terms of every single article, from clothing right down to offensive and defensive weapons, a total for which the word "colossal" is not excessive. You can draft your Bill in various ways. You can say, "The Minister shall have power to do all the following things." That would give what hon. Members opposite call mandatory power. I asked the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, not in any captious spirit but for the clearing of my own mind, whether he meant these mandatory powers to be exercised in the face of opposition from another Defence Service; because, if you operate with agreement with each Defence Service then your Clause is adequate. It is only inadequate if you are going to assume a deep opposition and an inability on the part of the governing body, the Cabinet, to compose the difference. But would it be wise, in the interests of securing supply as rapidly and as sensibly and as reasonably as possible over the whole field, for this House, without a tremendous knowledge of detail which only a secret session or 1891 something of the kind could give it, to determine against the will of the Secretary of State for Air that some new Department should take over his powers of Supply? Would that be wise with the First Lord of the Admiralty? It does not seem to me that that is a very sensible contribution to the task of Supply.
In the present Bill powers wide enough to do all these things are given. But there is a proviso that the new Minister, invested with these enormous powers, should not be able to go to another Department and say, "Against your will I am taking over, not the task of supplying what you ask for, but your functions of Supply; that is to say, I am taking over so much of the powers under certain Acts of Parliament as makes you at present the Supply authority." Because that is what the proviso in this Clause says. I cannot believe that that is a wise policy, and I think it is much more sensible to say that the Government by Order in Council, passed affirmatively by both Houses, shall have power to transfer to the new Minister this, that and the other power, as is required. And, as an earnest of what we are going to do, we tabled the White Paper indicating what there is to be put in the first Order in Council. That is where the difference has shown itself between those who are moving this Amendment and those who are opposing it.
Now I do not think the Committee can be aware of the origin of this Amendment, in other words, of the source from which those who put it down have taken it. It is from the Ministry of Munitions Order, 1915. And these words:organise the sources of supply and the labour available for the supply of any articles for the public serviceare lifted from that Order. They are words which are not necessary. The organisation of the sources of supply and the examination into the labour available are all in the Bill already. It is part and parcel of any sensible application of any powers by any sensible men. What the Committee is not perhaps aware of is that, even in the Ministry of Munitions Order, 1915, the powers were not mandatory, but were only transferable by consent. It is most curious. The Ministry of Munitions Order of 1915, made at a time when this country was at war, when the Defence of the Realm Regula- 1892 tions were in force, when there had been transferred to the Executive Government immense powers which it would be inappropriate to transfer in a democratic country in time of peace, gave to the Ministry, as from a date to be agreed in each case between the Minister of Munitions and the Department or authority concerned, any rights and functions of the Secretary of State for War, of the Army Council, the Admiralty or any other government department or authority, the transfer of which appeared to be expedient to the Minister and to the department or authority concerned. In other words, even during the War the powers were not mandatory.
§ Mr. Burgin
Well, I am dealing with one thing at a time. I am dealing with an Amendment on the Paper, and I have taken it back to the source from which it was taken and I say that these words:to examine into and organise the sources of supply and the labour availableare otiose and unnecessary This idea that you should transfer, against the will of the Departments concerned, the supply functions of the Air Ministry, the Admiralty and the office of Civil Defence under the Lord Privy Seal is a mistake, and is not in the best interests of the production of the very supply this Committee wishes to ensure. It is much wiser to have the power to transfer all those things by Order in Council, and to leave it to the Contracts Department to come along and say to the Minister of Supply, "It is about time you looked into this, so please take it over."
What happens? The matter has to go to the Cabinet, because it is a matter for the Government's decision. But the initiative is not left entirely with the Contracts Department; the initiative could very well rest with the Minister who, from his general conspectus of the whole horizon, might say from his knowledge of raw material that there is a case made out for taking over supply in the wider sense. And the principle of having an Order in Council to do it has this very flexible, common-sense, day-to-day advantage, that you can take over that which requires to be taken over, and you can leave air frames, or aeroplanes, or air screws, or whatever special requirement you may wish to leave where it is. There 1893 is something extremely flexible about the machinery which is recommended. This first Order in Council takes over from the War Office everything that the War Office does on an agency basis, which includes so much for the Dominions, for the Colonies overseas, and perhaps for allies; it takes over also everything of common user, which will include so many metals, so many raw materials, so many partly fabricated things, so many guns—for example the ordinary machine gun or the Bren gun will be common, whether it is used in an aeroplane, or a ship, or on land. A gun for fighting low-flying aeroplanes also will be common and the ammunition will be common. There are a great many of those things which have a common user which will be taken over under the first Order in Council.
And lastly certain stocks of essential raw materials will also be taken over under the first Order in Council. That Order in Council is a symptom and emblem of the very elastic way in which it is proposed to exercise the permissive powers given under this Clause. The Clause is widely enough drawn to cover everything that hon. Members want, it being left in the power of the new Minister to indicate to his colleagues in the Government the moment at which that transfer should take place, instead of this House taking upon itself the immense risk of attempting to order, against an unwilling Government Department, that its special functions should be taken from it. I hope I have covered the various points raised. If I have not, I will endeavour to do so by correspondence, because I attach great importance to the matters raised in these Debates before the Royal Assent is given to the Bill, and I will give the points raised consideration between now and Report.
§ Mr. E. Smith
Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with the reference I made to his Blackpool speech?
§ Mr. Burgin
The hon. Member was kind enough to say he would raise that matter, but he did not indicate what passage in that speech he referred to.
§ Mr. Burgin
I was endeavouring to give an assurance to labour. At that moment I had just been made aware, by the conferences on the drafting of the Bill, of the very drastic powers there would be in it for dealing with industry. What I endeavoured to convey to industry, and what has evidently secured a wide circulation, was an assurance that drastic powers would never be put into operation unless the voluntary system broke down, and that I had every belief that persuasion and taking into confidence the leaders of industry and the workpeople would produce results without it being necessary for me to exercise powers of priority. I hold that belief very strongly. I intend to use powers of persuasion to the fullest extent and to appoint controllers of establishments against the will of the management only where there is direct obstruction and where some civil interest is seeking to claim the right to come first and to put the national interest second. I endeavoured in my own way, at a rather early stage of these discussions, to make clear the conception which I had of my powers—and that I had no intention of using them harshly, but that, on the other hand I intended to take industry into consultation. Of course, the speech to which the hon. Member has referred occupied three-quarters of an hour, and it is difficult for me now to summarise it, but I shall be glad to supply the hon. Member with notes of it if he wishes. I have endeavoured to indicate the purport of the message which I sought to give 'on that occasion. In this connection the Committee may be interested to know that under the Ministry of Munitions Act there was wide power for controlling establishments, but the number of occasions on which it was used could be counted on the fingers of one hand. It was very rarely indeed that the power had to be used, and in some cases an industry was controlled at its own request, because this helped it in its outdoor relations with other customers.
The Mover of the Amendment asked me a number of questions about the Supply Officers Committee and the Supply Board. Perhaps I had better deal with this matter on another occasion when I can do so at some length. Suffice it to say that the Supply Board is a committee of officials, that the Principal Supply 1895 Officers' Committee is a superior committee, to which the Supply Board reports and that the Principal Supply Officers' Committee is itself a committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The Minister who presides over the Principal Supply Officers' Committee is my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the one who presides over the Committee of Imperial Defence is the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. It is intended not that that machinery should be scrapped, but that it should continue. Of course, the Ministry of Supply must be grafted on to all this organisation. Hon. Members will understand that the Supply Board and the Principal Supply Officers' Committee have to deal, among other things with raw materials and stocks for many purposes wider than the Defence services of the country, and that the Ministry of Supply is concerned primarily with Defence, meaning thereby active Defence and Civil Defence. I hope that the Committee is now prepared to take a decision on this important matter.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
Will the Minister, when he gives us the fuller explanation of the existing machinery which he has promised, explain exactly how his Department is to fit in with the existing committees? Will he also give us fuller information on this point? I said earlier that I understood that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster presided over the Principal Supply Officers' Committee. In a speech in another place recently the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence stated that although the Chancellor of the Duchy of the Lancaster presided, he, the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence— still maintained the claim that he could be ultimately responsible for decisions over the head of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. That has not been made clear.
§ Mr. Burgin
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I did say that the Principal Supply Officers Committee was itself a committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, which does imply what was presumably referred to by Lord Chat-field.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I am glad to have had that point cleared up in that specific way. 1896 Now we understand that there is to be a Minister of Supply dealing with Supply; there is the Principal Supply Officers' Committee presided over by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, also dealing with Supply; and at the top the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, also dealing with Supply. Then beneath all that there is the Supply Board under Sir Arthur Robinson. That machinery is very complicated and we ought to have an explanation, at some time, about how the functions of the Minister of Supply are to be interwoven, as it were, into the existing mechanism.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I do not propose to go any further into the complications of the existing machinery, but there are two points about which a certain amount of concern is felt both outside and inside the House of Commons. There are certain articles which are apt to be sent abroad in considerable quantities at the present time. There is, for instance, scrap-iron. A certain amount of anxiety is felt on the question of whether it would not be better to retain that in this country. That is a point with which I am sure the Minister would wish to deal, and we would like an assurance that he has definite powers to limit the export of that article if necessary.
§ Mr. Williams
I think that answer is very satisfactory and will go a long way to relieve anxiety. Perhaps it also covers a point which was raised earlier. Has the Minister power, in conjunction with the Colonial Office, to obtain all supplies of certain precious or raw materials which are essential in connection with the manufacture of arms?
§ Mr. Burgin indicated assent.
§ Mr. Williams
Has he also within his power any means of limiting or stopping the non-essential production of any article?
§ Mr. Burginindicated assent.1897
§ Mr. Williams
I am glad to have received those answers, because I think those are very interesting and important points and many of us who have worked in the country on behalf of the Government are very much reassured.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
The point of the Amendment in which I am interested is that which refers to "the labour available." You, Colonel Clifton Brown, said earlier that you did not want too many reminiscences of the last War, and I refer only to one. I remember that there was such a demand for man-power in the fighting forces, that no consideration was given to maintaining a balance of skilled labour to carry on essential services. In the industry with which I am concerned, owing to the wages prevailing over a period of years, the supply of young labour is rapidly drying up. The coal mining industry is complaining that it cannot get boys of certain ages to do the work. I am not sorry about that, because it has been very badly-paid labour, but now we have reached another stage at which it seems to me it will be necessary for a Minister of Supply to have power to maintain a supply of skilled labour in this and other industries. It also seems to me that at the present time the militarists in this country have got the bit in their teeth. In answer to a question which I put recently I was informed that 14,3 young men, key men in the coal mining
§ industry, may be taken away because they are between the ages of 20 and 21.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am afraid the hon. Member is now going rather wide of the Amendment before the Committee.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am dealing with that part of the Amendment which refers to "the sources of supply and the labour available." I do not think I need argue the point that coal mining is an essential industry, both for general purposes and for armament purposes, and if the available supply of labour is to be reduced, and if key men are to be withdrawn from the industry, it means that we shall once again find ourselves in the position of having to send these men back into industry where they are required for keeping up the output. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the necessity of supply being as adequate, as complete and as swift as possible. He also spoke of the possibility that we might have to supply others who were not in a position to supply themselves. How can he achieve these objects if the coal output fails? It is essential that a correct balance should be maintained in regard to this and other industries, and the Minister should have powers to enable him to maintain such a balance.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 199; Noes, 119.1899
|Division No. 179.]||AYES.||[7.30 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Dunglass, Lord|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Channon, H.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Fleming, E. L.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Clarry, Sir Reginald||Fremantle, Sir F. E.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T P. H.||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Fyfe, D. P. M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. M. (E'burgh, W.)||Gower, Sir R. V.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Craven-Ellis, W.||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Gretton Col. Rt. Hon. J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Gridley, Sir A. B|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Culverwell, C. T.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||De Chair, S. S.||Guest, Maj Hon. O. (C'mb'rw' II, N.W.)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Denman, Hon. R.D.||Hambro, A. V.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Denville, Alfred||Hannah, I.C.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Doland, G. F.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Bull, B. B.||Donner, P. W.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Burgin, Rt. Han. E. L.||Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Drews, C.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-|
|Butcher, H. W.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Hepworth, J.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Duggan, H. J.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Gary, R. A.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Holmes, J. S.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Hopkinson, A.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Moreing, A. C.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Hunloke, H. P.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Hunter, T.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hutchinson, G. C||Nall, Sir J.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Joel, D. J. B.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Tasker, Sir R.I.|
|Keeling, E. H.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., s.)|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Kerr, Sir J. Graham (Scottish Univ.)||Petherick, M.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Touche, G. C.|
|Lancaster, Captain C. G.||Pilkington, R.||Train, Sir J.|
|Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Levy, T.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Lewis, O.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Liddall, W. S.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Lipson, D. L.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Little, Sir E. Graham-||Ropner, Colonel L.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Little, J.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Loftus, P. C.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Rowlands, G.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Russell, Sir Alexander||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Salmon, Sir I.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|McKie, J. H.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Schuster, Sir G. E.||Wise, A. R.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H D. R.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Markham, S. F.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||York, C.|
|Marsden, Commander A.||Simmonds, O. E.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Mr. Munro and Mr. Furness.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Poole, C. C.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hicks, E. G.||Ridley, G.|
|Barnes, A. J||Hopkin, D.||Ritson, J.|
|Barr, J.||Jagger, J.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||John, W.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Benson, G.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bevan, A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Silkin, L.|
|Bromfield, W.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kirby, B. V.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Burke, W. A.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Leach, W.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leslie, J. R.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Daggar, G.||Logan, D. G.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Dalton, H.||Macdonald, G. (Ince||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Day, H.||McEntee, V. La T.||Thorne, W.|
|Dobbie, W.||McGhee, H. G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Ede, J. C.||MacLaron, A.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Maclean, N.||Viant, S. P.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H||Mander, G. le M.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Foot, D. M.||Marshall, F.||Watson, W. MoL.|
|Frankel, D.||Maxton, J.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Gallacher, W.||Messer, F.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Milner, Major J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Wilmot, J.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Naylor, T. E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.|
|Groves, T, E.||Owen, Major G.|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Parker, J.|
Question, "That: the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I beg to move, in page 2, line 28, after "service," to insert:or which it is undesirable should fall into the hands of potential enemies.This seems to me to be a very important power that ought to be incorporated in the Bill, and it has been raised at Question Time on a good many occasions in the last few months. The line taken by the Government has been that it is very undesirable to take any action which might have the appearance of being an economic sanction or embargo placed on exports to particular countries. I do not agree with that view, but I see it, and this is a method which I do not think would be open to any of those objections. Surely it is absurd for this country to permit the export of arms and munitions to potential enemies and to allow materials out of which they alone can be made to be sent there, and this is a method which I think is the least objectionable and the least offensive that could be put forward for dealing with the matter. The Minister would operate on the world's markets quietly and unobtrusively. He ought to have the power to buy, not only for production, but for storage also, and it does not seem to me that he has the necessary power under the Bill as it stands, because it says quite clearly in Clause 18:'Articles required for the public service' means—That does not seem to me to go far enough, because it would not enable the Minister to buy up certain materials of vital importance which he learned were going otherwise to make munitions in some other country and which he desired to prevent going there. He could only purchase them, I submit, under the Bill as it stands, if they were actually required, in his opinion, for production in this country. That is why I think it important to have words in the Bill—not necessarily these words, because I am sure the Minister could think of some thing very much better—which would en large the scope of his powers, and—
- (a) articles required by any Government Department for the purpose of the discharge of its functions;
- (b)articles which, in the opinion of the Minister, would be essential for the needs of the community in the event of war."
§ Mr. Burgin
May I, in order to shorten the discussion, ask the hon. Member whether he is talking of a substance 1902 different from one which would be required here, or whether it is only the quantity that differs? I think he will find that, on the proper construction of the Bill as drafted, no question of quantity or motive arises at all, and that if the substance that he has in mind is one which would be wanted by this country, the power to buy it is absolute.
§ Mr. Mander
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman the sort of substance that I have in mind. It is a fact, I believe, that Germany and Italy have recently accumulated abnormal stocks of the principal materials required for war purposes, a large proportion of the world production, being taken very largely from the British Empire. The sort of articles that I have in mind that are essential to Germany for war purposes, and which certainly must be imported, are nickel, copper, manganese, chromite, iron ore, steel, steel scrap, tungsten, aluminium, lead, sulphur, antimony, tin, mercury, and mica. That gives my right hon. Friend some idea of the kind of substances that I have in mind and what I want to know from him very definitely is this: If he learns one day that one of those articles is about to be sent to Germany, where it will undoubtedly be used for the manufacture of war materials to be used against us, and he desires to purchase it and sees no immediate prospect of its being used in production in this country for munitions, has he power to buy it and hold it indefinitely, in stock, as it were? That is really the point, whether he must buy for see able production or whether he can do it for stock—and material which he may possibly have to sell at a later stage on the world's markets.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
I asked the hon. Member to be good enough to give way, as he most courteously did, in order to ask the question whether the articles that he had in mind were articles which would be required by this country or were something wholly distinct and different. I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that in regard to every one of the articles mentioned by him, and dozens of others of a like order, there is no limit whatever to the quantities that I buy nor is the motive for which my powers to buy are exercised necessary to be inserted in the Bill. I have absolute power to acquire any quantity of those materials, all of which, 1903 it is recognised, are necessary for the manufacture of articles required for the public service in this country.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Craven-Ellis
The purchase of these articles might be necessary for protection against potential enemies who would acquire them, and probably use them against us. Does the power of the Minister go a little further than enabling him to buy only just those which he requires for the public service here?
§ Mr. Burgin
I have pointed out that there is no limit on quantity, and that the motive for which they are bought is not expressed in the Bill.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I must confess that the ordinary interpretation of the words both in this Clause and in the definition Clause does not suggest that to my mind. The Minister is entitled to buyany articles required for the public service.When he has bought all that he can imagine will possibly be required for use in this country in time of war, this Clause, I understand him to say, gives him power to buy further quantities which are not likely to be required by this country. I find it rather difficult to read that interpretation into these words, and I should be glad to know whether he has discussed the matter with the Law Officers of the Crown and whether they are quite certain that his interpretation is right.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
In his last observation the right hon. Gentleman attributed to me a good deal more than I said.
§ Mr. Burgin
Surely. I want to be quite frank and to tell the Committee what is in my mind. In a Bill which gives anybody the power to buy in order to hold, or to store or to sell, you do not state the motive for which you buy. We define the class of article as an article required for the public service. The definition Clause is deliberately made wide. We get away from all the old questions of munitions of war and definitions which caused some trouble during the last War. We have this new definition, "articles required for the public service," and that, of course, includes any raw material, component, 1904 alloy or substance which goes to the making of the article required. I asked the hon. Member who moved the Amendment to give me some idea of what substances he had in mind, and all those he mentioned, some 20 in number, are substances which clearly enter into the manufacture of armaments and munitions of war and therefore enter into the manufacture of articles required for the public service. There is nothing in Clause 2 regarding the limitation of quantity, and there is nothing which prescribes motives. It refers to articles as "articles required for the public service." It is a matter for my judgment whether the quantity comes within my power or not. The advice I have given to the Committee is the advice I have received in consultation with the Parliamentary draftsman.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Let us take some article which is not likely to raise any issue at the moment—say, boots. Supposing the Government contemplate that 5,000,000 pairs of boots will be wanted. Does the Minister contend that, if he wanted to, he could buy 100,000,000 pairs of boots? I very much doubt it.
§ Mr. Burgin
I have the responsibility of answering before the Public Accounts Committee for the expenditure of money, and also I am answerable to the House of Commons. The whole point of the Amendment is whether the power to purchase exists in the Bill or whether it is necessary to add any words to give that power, and my answer is most emphatically that it is not necessary. Then I was asked whether I had consulted the Law Officers of the Crown. One never goes to the Law Officers until there has been disagreement. But in order to make sure that the advice I gave was not merely an expression of my own interpretation of the law—whatever training or experience one may have had—but was an opinion shared by others, I asked the Parliamentary draftsman responsible for the Clause whether this interpretation was correct and he said that it was.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
There is one point on which I should like the Minister to give us some assurance. Supposing it is found to be in the public interest that the Minister should buy supplies of a certain article with a view to preventing them being bought by another country, possibly a potential 1905 enemy. Would his purchase of those articles be covered by the words in this Clause:to buy articles required for the public service.Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that the acquisition of articles in order to prevent them passing into the hands of another country can be described as acquiring them because they are required for the public service?
§ Mr. Burgin
If the articles in question come within the description of articles required for the public service there is no limit on my power to buy, but I hope I should not, in making the purchase, express the motive for which it was being made.
§ Mr. Dalton
The right hon. Gentleman admits that he has not consulted the Law Officers, saying that they are not consulted until disagreement has arisen. Disagreement has arisen in this Committee as to the meaning of these words. Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that before the Report stage he will consult the Law Officers and on the Report stage give us their opinion?
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
Certainly. I shall be very happy to give that undertaking. Once disagreement has been made apparent I think it would be discourteous to take any other course. I will very gladly do that. But I do not want the Committee to get astray on this Amendment. There are tremendous questions of policy behind any proposal for putting into an Act of Parliament the object and motive in exercising any powers. In my answers I have been most careful to state what the powers are. I am not going to announce to the world at large why a particular parcel of chromium, for example, is bought. I can foresee enormous consequences in foreign relations if that is done. But I will gladly give the Committee an undertaking that between now and Report stage I will acquaint the Law Officers of the Crown of the subject-matter of this discussion and obtain their ruling upon the interpretation properly to be put upon this Clause, married to the definition Clause, and report the result of that to the House.
Mr. David Adams
I do not feel that the Amendment can be brushed aside so easily by the Minister. Its purport is to 1906 give power to the Minister to make certain purchases of articles which might be used to the detriment of this country. He clearly may not have that power, because in the Memorandum it states:Clauses 2 and 3 give general power for the supply of any articles required for the public service, but the Minister is only to exercise the power in regard to supply to any other Government department if that Department's supply powers in regard to the articles required have been transferred to the Minister.Unless, therefore, the Amendment be carried if the powers of other Ministries have not been transferred to the Minister of Supply he will have no power to deal with the case set forth in the Amendment.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I appreciate the offer which the right hon. Gentleman has made to consult the Law Officers of the Crown, but, in spite of what he has said, I do not feel at all happy that everything that one would desire is covered by the Clause, and I would ask him to be good enough to bear in mind the possibility of introducing some such words as, "purchase for the purpose of holding in stock," that is purchases which would not be necessary for immediate manufacture or production. I think that would go a little further; because if he found that he had bought more than was required from the point of view of manufacture here and had to sell, that wording might help the situation. He has said that he has certain powers and that they go a long way. Will he be good enough to say on behalf of the Government that he does definitely intend, in circumstances such as we have been discussing, to use those powers for the purchase of materials?
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
I have made it as clear as I can that I do not propose to state from this Box the motive for which the Government propose to use these powers. I do beg of the Committee to remember that the world is in a. highly inflammatory state, and if I gave some undertaking which rather carried some suggestion that there was an iron ring drawn and that there were to be no supplies entering it from without, that might have the most disastrous consequences. What I have told the Committee is that I am thoroughly seized of the point raised and that I will look through these two Clauses 1907 and will consult with the Law Officers. The power to store is in the actual terms of the Clause. I have power to store whatever I have power to buy.
§ Mr. Dalton
My hon. Friends and I are most anxious to get this perfectly clear. What they, and I gather also the hon. Member below the Gangway, are concerned about is whether or not this does give a power without limit of quantity, and that is not stated. The words "without limit of quantity" do not occur, and what I am concerned about— and I am using language which I think is prudent—is to be assured that there is no limitation on the quantity which could be acquired such as might be held to relate it strictly to our domestic requirements. Can we be assured that the power to buy and store without limit is inherent in the Clause?
§ Mr. Burgin
The words "no limit" are not in the Clause, but there is nothing in the Clause which suggests a limit of quantity, and that is what I had in mind in the statement I made. I follow the point and I will have it looked into, but I think the hon. Member who moved the Amendment will appreciate that the power to store independently of manufacture or user or sale is definitely in the Clause. We are on another issue, and that is the question of motive. I will have both the points which have been raised inquired into and report the results to the House. I beg the Committee to feel assured that the points raised in this Amendment have been dealt with. I have some responsibility for the working of the powers in this Clause and I have stated my interpretation of the Clause and I have told the Committee that it has been confirmed. I want these powers to be without limit and without motive expressed.
§ Mr. Mander
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, with a proviso that something may be put down on the Report stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley
I beg to move, in page 2, line 32, to leave out paragraph (b)
This Amendment, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Hastings 1908 (Mr. Hely-Hutchinson) and myself has been put down primarily in order to get some explanation of why it has been inserted. The paragraph gives power:to buy or otherwise acquire any articles for the purpose of exchanging them for articles required for the public service.The same point seems to be covered by paragraph (a). If I am wrong in so interpreting the wording, the Minister will no doubt give me an explanation and put me right, but at the moment the only interpretation that I can put upon paragraph (b) is that it is of the nature of a barter power only, and I should like the Minister to explain why it is necessary.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
I understand that my hon. Friend has asked the question for the purpose of ascertaining why this provision is included. As Members in many parts of the Committee may be in some doubt as to why express power to exchange in this way is taken, although exchange figures in the paragraph immediately before this, I might give an explanation. On4th May the Prime Minister announced certain transactions with the United States of a barter character, a purchase of certain articles for the purpose, once they have been purchased, not of using them, not of storing them, not of making them into manufactured goods but of handing them over to another Government for the purpose of receiving some other commodity in exchange. This paragraph is expressly put in to validate those transactions. The negotiations are proceeding, and it is not possible to give the Committee more information than the Prime Minister himself gave the House, but it is necessary to take these powers. No Government Department at present has power to engage in transactions of this kind. I have taken the powers in a general form in case similar opportunities of bartering transactions might arise in future.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Hely-Hutchinson
I beg to move, in page 3, line 4, at the end, to insert:Provided further that the powers of the Minister under this Sub-section shall not without an affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament be exercised in relation to articles required for the public service, as defined in paragraph (b) of Section eighteen 1909 of this Act nor as defined in paragraph (c) of Section eighteen in so far as paragraph (c) relates to paragraph (b).The purpose of this Amendment is a little more exploratory than the last. We are dealing in this Clause with the permanent powers of the Minister, which include among other things the manufacture of articles required for the public service. When we come to the definition of "articles required for the public service"in Clause 18 we find that they come under three categories:
That is to say, (c) may be partly needed in helping out (a) and partly in helping out (b). Our purpose is to limit the power of the Minister to manufacture articles coming under category (b) except with the express permission of Parliament. As the Bill stands, my right hon. Friend has the permanent power to manufacture practically any article on earth. We are quite willing that the Government should buy experience in the manufacturing field, but we should like them to buy a little at a time. I particularly call attention to the wording in paragraph (b),"in the opinion of the Minister," and I would ask the Minister to let us know on whose advice he will be acting when he proposes to enter the manufacturing field. For instance, will his advisers be chosen from persons who have had experience in manufacturing and who have experienced some of the pains of enterprise? We all realise that Socialism is coming, but we should like to approach it in a spirit of gradualness. Hon. Members opposite consider the Tory party a little slow in the uptake. I am asking my right hon. Friend to give us time to accommodate ourselves to the new form of government which the Tory party will undoubtedly be called upon to administer.
- "(a) articles required by any Government Department for the purpose of the discharge of its functions;
- (b) articles which, in the opinion of the Minister, would be essential for the needs of the community in the event of war; and
- (c) anything which in the opinion of the Minister is or is likely to be necessary for or in connection with the production of any such article as aforesaid."
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
I oppose the Amendment for various reasons, first of all because this week-end a manifesto has been published by the Federation of British' Industries dealing with this question, and it states: 1910Apprehension about the powers which it is proposed to confer on the Ministry of Supply is expressed in a statement issued by the Federation of British Industries. Clause 2 seems to the federation to extend powers of manufacture far beyond those now held by Government Departments and to make State trading, as well as State manufacture, possible in a very wide field. The federation believes that these powers are capable of being used to the serious detriment of private enterprise and urges the Government to make the provisions temporary and to ensure that they are subject to safeguards, such as a requirement that any extension of manufacturing powers should receive the approval of both Houses.Although hon. Members opposite may not be directly associated with the Federation of British Industries, I saw several sat there waiting for this Amendment to come up who, I know, are directly associated with the federation. I am opposed to the Amendment on principle and I am opposed to it for several other reasons. First of all, it was the Federation of British Industries which first suggested the introduction of the means test. It was the Federation of British Industries which suggested a reduction in unemployment benefit. It is the Federation of British Industries which is making constant attacks upon one of the most loyal members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Therefore, we consider that, in the serious situation in which we find ourselves, these proposals which the Government are making are necessary, and all students of modern problems must come to the conclusion that they are necessary. We can produce evidence from mast distinguished civil servants, for example, Mr. E. M. Lloyd, formerly the War Office raw materials section officer and assistant secretary during the war to the Ministry of Food. He wrote a book, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, entitled "Experiments in State Control." In it he wrote:A considerable extension of co-operative and collective enterprise seems to me to be probable and desirable in time of peace. I believe there is something to be learned from the experiments in State control during the War.These men are distinguished civil servants who held some of the most important positions during the last War and, apart from their prejudices, they are putting forward their ideas, based upon their experience during that period. We ought to be prepared to benefit by our past experience. It is evident that the Federa- 1911 tion of British Industries is not prepared to benefit by any experience at all except from the point of view of their own narrow interests. I have here a letter written by Lord Rhondda on 21st May, 1918. He says:I should hesitate to commit myself to State purchase without first obtaining the sanction of the Cabinet. I cannot help thinking, however, that the distribution of milk, like the distribution of many other articles of consumption, lends itself to communal or State handling.That conclusion was based upon his experience as Minister of Food and, if it was correct then, it is correct now. Therefore, we hope the Minister is not going to give way to this proposal. Here is another important factor. We on this side are concerned about the taxes that are being paid by our people. We want them to obtain the very best value for every penny spent, and therefore we are supporting these proposals.
Here are one or two concrete illustrations of the effect of this, and it is because of this that the Federation of British Industries want to cut out this part of the Bill. The price of production of copper is £25 per ton. In 1935 it was £27; in 1936, £36; in 1937, £70 and in 1939, £42. The cost of production of tin is between £90 and £150, but the cost on the market at present is £227. It is because of the steps that will be taken to deal with the materials that are required at the source, and so be able to restrict prices, that the Federation of British Industries makes a proposal of this character in order to prevent people getting the best value they can by the method suggested in the Bill. In the last War supplies of metal went up considerably. A ring was formed amongst the suppliers of cotton waste, and the price was forced up from £42 to £70 a ton. Sir Hardman Lever, who gave evidence before a Royal Commission, and before a Governmental Departmental Inquiry, stated that one firm made a profit of £2 a ton, which was equivalent to 300per cent., on a transaction that it carried through. I would ask hon. Members who are associated with the Amendment whether they have forgotten the Lord Vestey affair. Have they forgotten the Light Castings Association affair? If they have, all they need to do is to turn to page 38 of the Royal Commission's 1912 report on the Private Manufacture of Armaments ,where it is stated:We think a rigoous system of price control over armament supplies is very necessary.Then we have evidence from Canada. An official of the Canadian Government Department of Trade said, in his report dated 31st December, 1924, page 28:For reasons of their own the combines have decided that the Britisher shall pay more.And then, on page 24, he wrote:The suggestion that British steamship lines controlled by peers, baronets and Knights of the British Empire carry freight from foreign ports to any part of the world at a low rate and are witling to carry identical freights from British ports, would be absurd, unless official evidence that cannot be contradicted would be available to prove the absolute truth of the suggestion.Therefore, we say that the Amendment ought not to be supported by any hon. Member of this Committee, that the time has arrived when the House of Commons cannot afford to take notice of any narrow organised vested interest of this character, and that we should put before such interests the interests of the people as a whole. I hope that the Committee will turn down this Amendment by a large majority.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
I thought it might help the Committee if I intervened at this stage, although I have no wish, of course, to stop discussion. As I understand the Amendment, it asks that before the powers in Clause 2 are exercised there shall be an affirmative Resolution of both Houses.
§ Mr. Burgin
I wanted to tell the Committee that the powers are put into the Bill with the intention that they should be exercised at once, and that I do not think anything would be gained even if the Amendment were accepted, because of the fact that the passage of the Bill and the Royal Assent are precisely the equivalent of an affirmative Resolution. If these powers had been intended to be kept in reserve there might have been 1913 something to be said for the suggestion that the Government, when they decided to keep them no longer in reserve but to use them, should do so subject to such procedure, but inasmuch as it is intended to use the powers right away the position is different. I hope that my hon. Friends will, therefore, see the force and the desirability of keeping the Clause as it is. There is of course no intention on my part of superseding the normal processes of trade. I am not going to start up some enormous State manufacture of this, that or the other article without due consideration merely because there are these powers in the Bill, but I am equally not going to limit our power to make something in a Government factory if it is essential for our purpose.
The Essential Commodities Reserves Act, which set up the principle of acquiring reserves of certain essentials for war, was very limited. It was limited to food, forage, fertilisers, the raw materials for such commodities, petroleum and petroleum products. General reserves for industry have not hitherto been covered by actual legislative power. The Clause will naturally give power for that purpose. The plain fact of the matter is that, as these powers are put in with the intention that they shall be used, the giving of attention to them by the House and the Royal Assent are precisely the same as the passing of an Order-in-Council affirmatively by both Houses and I hope that my hon. Friends will realise that it is quite useless to seek to insert these words in the Bill.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
The Minister has advanced a very forcible and convincing argument against the Amendment. I do not think that he has entirely met the objections which exist to the giving of the powers proposed in this Clause, and that can legitimately be raised to the lack of Parliamentary control over the exercise of those powers. The Minister told us that even if an Order-in-Council had to be made, and if an affirmative Parliamentary Resolution were needed, the effect would not be different, because he intends to use these powers at once. If he is going to use them once and for all, he is going to continue using them. We all hope, of course, that he will, but he is likely to continue to use the powers contained for example in paragraph (c), relating to 1914the erection of buildings and the execution of works.That is not something which is going to be done within a very short space of time after the Bill becomes an Act, and it seems to me that the powers contained in the Bill are exceedingly wide, particularly in paragraph (c).
Nobody will object to paragraphs (a) and (b), but in (c) the Minister is empoweredto do all such things (including the erection of buildings and the execution of works) as appear to the Minister necessary or expedient for the exercise of the foregoing powers.The expression is not "all such things as may be necessary and expedient" butall such things as appear to the Minister necessary or expedient.That is to say, the Minister is to be the sole judge of what it may be necessary and expedient to do under the Clause, and that is giving him exceedingly wide and, to my mind, very dangerous power over which there ought to be some form of Parliamentary control.
I agree that it would not be possible to proceed in the way suggested in the Amendment because the Minister might desire to exercise the powers during the Parliamentary Recess, and it would be obviously impossible that he should have to wait two or three months; nevertheless there ought to be some form of Parliamentary control other than that provided by the ordinary machinery of Supply Days and Question Time. That control should take the form of an Order to be laid upon the Table of the House. That would not prevent the Order coming into force as soon as it was made, but it would give the House more control over these excessively wide powers.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am quite prepared to believe that the Minister is right and that the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) is right, and that the Amendment is not entirely the right way to do what we set out to do. But it has never been explained to us why it is necessary that such very wide powers should be granted in perpetuity. So far as I can understand the definition in Clause 18 it is as the hon. Member has just said on the point which he was raising, entirely in the Minister's judgment what articles, manufactured or bought, shall be considered necessary. I have not heard 1915 anybody explain a further matter, relating to what was said by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), that this Clause would enable us to get the Socialist commonwealth at once. The hon. Member said that that was the impression it gave him upon reading it first, but he never explained why upon the Second Reading he had a different impression, and no other hon. Member has since explained that point at all.
It seems to me that the Clause gives the Minister complete control in perpetuity. I do not know whether it is proper for me to indicate that there is another Amendment upon the Paper which proposes to limit the time of this operation and to ask whether that Amendment is to be called. I should like to quote again the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland. He said this afternoon—I am sorry but I find I have lost my quotation but I think I can get it fairly accurate: He referred to what we have been saying off and on for the last six months, that we are not exactly in a time of peace now, and that it is getting less and less like peace. That is true enough, but still we are not getting to a condition that is so much less like war that we can put a term to it. The great difference between granting these powers in time and war and in time of peace is that in war time there is a term. Here there is no term; the powers may run for ever unless the Act is repealed. My main point is the permanence of these powers and the fact that, owing to the comprehensiveness of the definition, anything and everything, as far as I can see, may be brought in without any further Parliamentary action, because this one Parliamentary Act does it once and for all. It is rather like the argument of Henry VIII that, in so far as any Parliamentary action ever was necessary for settling the headship of the Church, it had been done once for all, and Parliament ought never again to venture to interfere in the relations between the Crown and the Church.
In a good many of the speeches to-day there has been an almost obvious looking back at the last War as in a sense a happy time—as, if I may use a slang expression, a sort of "high spot," and the Ministry of Munitions and other similar organisations seemed to be regarded as a part of that "high spot." But not all of 1916 us take that view. It has been continually assumed this afternoon that all that the Ministry of Munitions did was good, and that nothing it did was bad. I am not very learned about the Ministry of Munitions, but that is not my general impression. I think there is a very strong case for the view that the Ministry of Munitions, for at least 18 months after it was set up, did not produce a shell. There seems to be a general assumption that, if we have something now with as wide powers as the Ministry of Munitions, many of us will have as much fun as was experienced then.
The Temporary Chairman (Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward)
What the hon. Member is now saying would be more appropriate on the question of the Clause standing part of the Bill than on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I beg pardon if I was going too wide. I am not quite clear whether I am in order, but may I ask you whether the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), dealing with the limit of time, will be called.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I do not wish to continue to take up the time of the Committee, having made the main point that I was trying to make clear. None of us, I imagine, wishes to clog administration under the Bill, but the present powers appear to be very wide, and, if we had a Minister less discreet and wise than the present Minister the powers might be used to such an extent as to make the Bill an enabling Bill for complete Socialisation. It seems to me that such wide powers ought not to be given without any Parliamentary check in the future, and without more explanation than we have had.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
Some hon. Members on this side of the Committee must have been rather amused at the way in which hon. Members opposite have been haunted by their own fears. The main point seems to me to be, not whether the Bill invades the field of private industry or whether it extends the field of public ownership and production, but whether it forges an instrument which, in the hands of a vigorous Minister, can be used with safety and effect in a moment of emergency, or in the brief period that 1917 we still have left in which to prepare for such an emergency. Let us, therefore, not be influenced by fears or prejudices, but realise how urgent the situation is and how necessary these powers are.
§ 8.3 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
The Amendment asks that any exercise of these powers should require confirmation by Parliament, but the definition in Clause 18 indicates that the articles in respect of which they are to be exercised must be articles required for the public service which in the opinion of the Minister would be essential for the needs of the community in the event of war. That qualification clearly indicates that the powers are not being granted to the Minister in perpetuity, but for a specific period when, in the judgment presumably of Parliament, we should be faced with the necessity of preparing for a warlike situation. Certainly no section of the Committee is more anxious than the Opposition to preserve the rights of Parliament; that is one of our natural anxieties. We have continually protested against the placing of excessive powers in the hands of Ministers. We are confronted to-day, in the judgment, I think, of the whole House, with a new departure which, while it may appear to infringe our Parliamentary rights and authority, really extends them, because, by the will of the House, a Department has been set up with a Minister at its head in order that he and his colleagues may exercise their ingenuity in preparing for one of the greatest eventualities with which the country can be faced; and for that reason we ought not to tolerate for a moment any qualification of the Minister's powers, which are clearly necessary if he is to get on with the task which has been committed to him. Personally I feel that the powers of the Minister are far too restricted. They are restricted largely to making provision for the Army, and the other great Services are left at large until further action may be taken. For that reason we must preserve as much as we can the powers which the Minister may possess under the Measure as it stands.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Sir Annesley Somerville
It appears to me that the Minister has not met the point that was put by my hon. Friend. So far as the question of immediate need is concerned, if the Minister's powers were to be used at once, that would be equiva- 1918 lent to what my hon. Friends are asking; but that applies only to the present, and my hon. Friends are looking forward to the future. If the Minister could give an assurance that there would be some time limit to the powers conferred by the Clause, I think my hon. Friends would be satisfied.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
I hope that the Minister will stand firm against the temptations which are being placed before him by Members on the other side of the Committee. Experience has shown that in a time of crisis we cannot rely upon private enterprise. That was the experience of the last War. Examples have been cited here to-day showing that in a time of emergency it is essential that the Government, as representing the whole country and the whole community, shall have power to do the things which private enterprise has failed to do. On this side we shall resist strongly any attempt to whittle down those powers. The; Bill gives power to the new Minister to procurearticles which, in the opinion of the Minister, would be essential for the needs of the community in the event of war.Do hon. Members who support this Amendment object to the Minister getting power to procure articles which are essential to the needs of the community? The purpose of government is to look after the needs of the community; the Minister is taking powers in this Clause to do so, and hon. Members opposite want to limit those powers in a way that will defeat the whole purpose. In every emergency our experience has been that we could not trust private enterprise, which exists not to provide for the needs of the community but to provide for private interests. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) read a statement issued by the Federation of British Industries, which was in almost the same words as the Amendment. The fear behind the Amendment is that once the Government begin to introduce Socialism the people of this country will see how good it is, and will never go back. The hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Hely-Hutchinson) expressed his fears. He said that the time might come when a Tory Government would introduce so many Measures of this sort that they would constitute a very substantial instalment towards Socialism. We have said that the 1919 only real hope for saving this country is eventually to adopt Socialism, and we hope that the Minister will not give way on this Amendment.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morgan
The Labour party have often been accused in this House of bringing forward demonstration Motions of one kind and another. Here we see hon. Members opposite doing much the same thing, and bringing in an Amendment for which they try to find substance in a bogy that is at the back of their minds in connection with this Bill. The whole objection to the Bill on the part of most people is that it is a very poor attempt to do the thing which the public want. A much more substantial Ministry of Supply is wanted by most people. The Sub-sections to which the Amendment relates are devised to deal with a state of emergency, and possibly a state of war. The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir A. Somerville) asked whether some time limit could be set to these powers. During the last few months we have been wondering what is going to happen. To set a time limit to that condition of affairs is an impossibility. This Bill is wanted in the public interest: the Amendment has been brought forward in the interests of private enterprise; and it is on that simple issue that we resist it,
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Hely-Hutchinson
I do not wish to draw out a discussion on private enterprise and public enterprise, but I would remind the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that there must be something to be said for private enterprise, because it is a system which produced both himself and me. My right hon. Friend says that he wants to use these powers now. That makes a difference. But as my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir A. Somerville) pointed out, the Minister has not met my point about the permanence of the powers. I am afraid that I cannot withdraw the Amendment unless I receive from the right hon. Gentleman some such assurance as my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor has suggested.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
The powers that a Minister of Supply wants differ in peace and in war. He must at all times, as part of the permanent machinery of State, have 1920 power to buy and sell and to make and to store. Those powers are given in Clause 2. Certain exceptional powers of ordering priorities, controlling establishments and compelling manufacturers to take orders ought to be limited. That is why Part I and Part II differ in length of time. The opinion of the Government is that the earlier part of the Bill is part of the permanent fabric of the Ministry, and that the power to buy and sell and make and store are among the powers that must be permanent.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
I had an Amendment on the Paper dealing with the need for setting up national factories. That Amendment has not been called, but I was given to understand by the Chair that I should be able to deal with the matter now. I had another Amendment down dealing with the need for research, and I understand that you were good enough, Sir Lambert, to call that, but I was not able to move it, as I was away having a little food. These two issues are dealt with in the report of the Royal Commission of the Private Manufacture of and Tading in Arms.
The report says:We recommend further that the Government's own manufacturing establishments"—may I emphasise that? —should be fully equipped for the production in some measure of naval, military and air armaments, that they should specialise in scientific research, that they should be responsible for the training of technical experts, take the initiative in the production of designs and improvement of machine tools and the formulation of mass production methods not only for their own manufacture and requirements, but for the use and instruction of the private industry of the country in time of emergency. By these means the Government establishments would, in cases of emergency, be ready with the specifications, gauges and number of machine tools necessary for rapid expansion. They would provide standards by which costs could be checked.Our theoretical ideas could not have been put in better language than that of the Royal Commission that examined into the private manufacture of arms. They came to this conclusion as a result of the very fine and informative evidence that was placed before them by representative people speaking on behalf of a large number of national organisations in this coun- 1921 try who had had great experience in the last War. In addition, three or four civil servants who were released from their duties as a result of being pensioned, were able to come before the Royal Commission and speak in the open without being afraid of the effects upon themselves. As a. result of that evidence, the Royal Commission came to the conclusion which I have just read out. Lord Addison, who was Minister of Munitions, wrote as follows:During the War the State was compelled more and more to adopt methods of national control and direct tradings. In some cases they became necessary for the securing of essential supplies at all, and in other cases because it was not possible to secure either fair distribution or reasonable prices without national control and direct trading.In the Trading Accounts, 1920–21, the Comptroller and Auditor-General, in page 139℄and I wish the spokesmen of the Federation of British Industries had been here to listen to this℄said:The Ministry of Food operated its own insurance fund, credited it with premiums at commercial rates, debiting all losses. This policy has resulted in a profit to the Department which would have accrued to the underwriters of £10,500,000.The proposal of the Federation of British Industries was that the £10,500,000 should not have been saved for the taxpayer but should have gone into the pockets of underwriters and people of that character. Therefore, I am hoping that the Minister will use his powers to the maximum in dealing with this problem.
The next question I want to deal with is the need for taking power to direct and co-ordinate research. People familiar with industry irrespective of their political opinions, whether they are fundamentally opposed to us or not, especially those who are directly concerned in the heavy metal and engineering industries and in aircraft production, are in agreement with what we are proposing. We propose that the Minister should direct and co-ordinate research. I will give one or two concrete illustrations of the need for this. The products of Leyland Motors are admired throughout the world, and particularly by the Soviet Union who, although they have to pay more for the products of this firm than for similar products from elsewhere, prefer to pay the extra because the cost of maintenance is lesson the products from this firm than on the products from other parts of the world. This firm, by the use of German high-speed Widia Steel 1922 increased the output of a certain product from 50 to 80in a week with fewer men employed. This shows the importance of research and of the co-ordination of research. It is well known that in America, and in Germany in particular, as a result of what we are suggesting should be adopted here, great improvements have been brought about in production. We in this country have not kept pace with developments, and if we are to hold our own in a serious emergency it is most important that research should be coordinated in order "hat we can keep pace with the advancement and development in other countries.
There is the quantity production of airscrew blades. If the Air Force were involved in a serious situation the wastage of planes would be tremendous, but the wastage of propellers would probably be greater than that of any other part of the aeroplane. Therefore it is important that we should direct, control and co-ordinate research in this country in order to obtain the maximum amount of production of airscrew blades. In industry generally many firms are in competition with one another. They have their own research departments, which they keep as secret as possible, as each firm desires to keep in advance of its competitors with regard to research. If they are to keep pace with modern developments they realise that expenditure on research is a good business proposition. This is another difficulty and contradiction arising out of the social system under which we are living. I am dealing solely with statements of fact. We can no longer afford to allow research to be carried out entirely on that basis owing to the fact that we may be faced with a serious international situation. It should be the duty of the Minister to co-ordinate research for the benefit of the needs of the nation.
Here is another illustration. In the North of England a tremendous amount of research is taking place, while in the South of England only a small amount of research is being carried out. It may be that the research in the South ought to be linked up with the research in the North, but this can be done only by the Minister taking the power to direct and co-ordinate research. Fortunately, we are supported in the plea that we are making by one of the most competent men who has ever 1923 been engaged at the Air Ministry. Mr. McKinnon Wood gave evidence before the Royal Commission on the private manufacture of armaments, on 17th July, 1935, and the chairman, speaking to him, asked who he was. In order that I may use as much influence as possible with hon. and right hon. Members I propose to say who Mr. McKinnon Wood is, so that they will perhaps take notice of what he says. He said:My name is Ronald McKinnon Wood. I was employed in the Royal Air Force establishment from 1914 to 1934, in the Air Ministry's Research Department at Farn-borough. I have seen the aircraft industry, chiefly on the side of the development of new aeroplanes for the Air Force. I was head of the Aero-Dynamics Research Department there from 1919.He goes on to say:One has, to my mind, a rather large number of competing drawing offices, and I have felt for a long time that the industry would be improved by a reduction of the number of units.I do not altogether agree with that statement.It seems to me that the essential thing for rapid expansion is a centralised control.He was speaking about research.Very often the ideas that originate in firms are complementary ideas and the best results are obtained by getting these as quickly as possible together.That means that when research is taking place it very often produces complementary ideas, and he says, as a result of his knowledge, the best results would be obtained by getting this research work together as quickly as possible in order to obtain the results which we all desire. I understand that at the War Office at the present time there is a civilian Director of Research, who has under him six main advisory committees. I am not finding fault with that machinery, because I understand that it functions very well. At the Air Ministry there is an air Member for Development and Production who has under him a Director-General for Research and Development, with a Directorate of Scientific Research and a number of specialised directorates. At the Admiralty there is a civilian Director of Scientific Research and Experiment. The point that I want to bring out is that while that research work is necessary within the limits of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry, and while I am not speaking 1924 critically of it, the Minister ought to have power to co-ordinate all this research as far as possible, and to direct it. I am convinced that if we are to obtain the maximum of results from this research work which we are doing, it is most important that the Minister should have power to direct and co-ordinate it.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not propose to direct my attention to the merits of the Clause, which have been fully covered by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith), but I wish to make again the protest that I have made before in regard to two features of the Clause. In Sub-section (2) His Majesty is empowered to do things by Order-in-Council with any necessary modifications or adaptations. In Sub-section (3) His Majesty is empowered to apply any of the provisions of the enactments under Part II of the Schedule, to the Minister or any property vested in or under his control, again with any necessary modifications or adaptations. That is a practice against which we have frequently protested, namely, giving to a Government Department power by Order-in-Council to modify an Act of Parliament. This is what we are accustomed to describeas the Henry VIII Clause. It is in a narrower scope compared with what we have seen in other Bills, but it ought not to pass without a few words of comment. When the Government propose that a Department shall have power to modify an Act of Parliament by order or regulation, they ought to carry out the precise regulation in regard to Ministers' powers, namely, in the exercise of a power of this kind to confine it to 12 months from the passing of the Act.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
We are entitled to ask the Minister to tell us the broad grounds on which it was not thought desirable by the Government to limit the period during which this Clause is to operate. The Clause has been drawn exceedingly widely and forms a part of a Bill admittedly brought in to deal with an emergency. It would, therefore, seem very pertinent to say that this Clause with all its width and scope is apparently intended to remain as a permanent feature of our law, and I should like my right hon. Friend to tell us why, as 1925 other parts of the Bill are of a temporary character, it has not been thought desirable to give a time limit for this Clause. I can well understand that hon. Members opposite approve the absence of a time limit, because the Clause is to a very large extent giving a Minister of the Crown power to introduce Socialism according to his discretion. Naturally, hon. Members opposite approve of that, but those of us who dislike Socialism are equally entitled to disapprove. While we are willing to give these powers for a short period to meet a specific emergency, I think it is asking a great deal to ask us to give them, as we are apparently asked to do, power for an unlimited period of time. I should like to press the Minister for his reason why it has not been thought necessary or desirable to limit the operation of this part of the Bill for a definite period of time.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I hope the Minister will be able to give the Committee some assurance, especially in regard to the part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) which related to the questions of invention and research. In that connection my hon. Friend might very well have quoted another passage from the evidence given by Mr. McKinnon Wood, in which he said:The Armstrong-Siddeley engine sprang out of the work that was first done at Farn-borough. The same with the Bristol Aeroplane Company's engines; they developed not out of engines, but out of cylinders (which is the main part of the engines) that were developed at Farnborough. All along the line one has this co-operation and the basic work is done in the State institution; so that the new model is produced partly by the State and partly by private enterprise.Opinion differed very violently about the report on The Private Manufacture of Armaments, but there is one passage in it, which has been referred to to-night, about which there can be no debate or disagreement, and that is that the report emphasises the necessity for specialising in scientific research. There is no money spent by the State that yields better results than that spent on scientific research. In regard to the question of invention, I have noticed that large-scale private enterprise has very largely crushed out the small inventor and the small research worker, because large-scale private enterprise has found out 1926 that the best results are achieved by carrying on research on a very large scale, and carrying it on by means of team work instead of in watertight compartments. I think that fact is borne out by history, which shows how often inventors and research workers have made almost similar discoveries after months or years of work, which they have been carrying on in complete ignorance of what each other was doing. In regard to what has been said about the Defence Departments, I mentioned myself on the Second Reading Debate the great number of departments and committees which existed for invention and research. Each Defence Department contains its own research department, a great number of committees, and maintains a large staff of experts. It also maintains its own laboratories.
It is, of course, not merely a question of invention and research; it is also a question of design and test, and similarly they maintain their separate departments and personnel and equipment for carrying on design and test, as well as for invention and research. I have no doubt that there is a good deal of co-operation between the Service Departments in this matter; in fact I have some personal knowledge of the system, and I know that that is so. But the thing should be done on a large scale. We should envisage and carry out this co-operation on a far larger scale than is done at the present time. To my mind it is not only a question of centralising and coordinating invention and research work of the Service Departments but the research and invention which Service Departments carry on ought to be coordinated also with industrial research which is proceeding at the same time. It should be envisaged on that large scale, in fact even the Empire should be brought into it. No doubt invention and research are proceeding in the Dominions also and, therefore, the Empire should come into the consideration as well. I am sure that if the Minister will look at this matter in a big way there are undoubtedly big results to be achieved and great economies also of time, money and labour, and, above all, the most valuable results will be achieved for the country.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant
I have often heard it argued that we should permit research and inven- 1927 tion to remain in the hands of private enterprise if we are to get the best results. I hope that the Minister is not going to take that point of view. I have known associates of mine, ordinary draughtsmen in the workshop, who have hit upon an idea and put it before the heads of the company, but the idea has not been taken up for the simple reason that it would mean pushing the present system of production out of the market and the owners of the firm could not see an immediate economic result which would recompense them. The result has been that the community in general has been the poorer. I know of no avenue in industry which needs closer attention than that of research and invention. I have in mind at the moment a very important idea which appeared to be quite elementary. My associate put it before the heads of the firm. They thought it was a good idea, but gave him a very trumpery recompense. The idea has remained in the pigeon-holes of the office of the firm. That kind of thing is taking place on every hand under private enterprise, and while the Minister may not be prepared to give the attention which ought to be given to the suggestion, I hope he will bear the matter in mind.
Under the Clause the Minister is to be endowed with powers of manufacture. I speak with some experience of a trading department of the Government, the Post Office, where they have their own factories and manufacture a considerable amount of their own plant. The result is that they are in a very advantageous position in so far that when competitors submit their price it can be gauged by the price at which the thing can be made in the Post Office factory. During the last War the community was at the great disadvantage in which it is to-day—it might have been worse—and the community ultimately was compelled to adopt a policy which meant playing the part of a policeman on private enterprise. The community had to set up national factories to ensure that undue exploitation should not take place, and these national factories set the pace at which profit could be expropriated by private employers. I hope the Minister is going to continue on a large scale the policy of national factories for the purpose of producing armaments and munitions in view of what happened during the last War.
1928 I am going to give the Committee a few figures. Mr. Kell away, who was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions, said on 24th June, 1919, that the national costings had reduced the price of rifles from £4 5s. to £3 8s.; the Vickers type of machine-gun, which was costing £112 before the national factories were established, was reduced to £80; the Lewis gun, which were costing £165, were reduced to £62, and that 18 lb. shells, which were costing 22s. 6d., were reduced to 12s. It has been estimated by the most reliable authorities that by setting up these national factories there was a saving effected for the nation of no less than £404,000,000. What we are concerned about here is this. You may have your costing processes, but that does not enable you to get down to the actual cost of production. You can safeguard the welfare of the community only when you are prepared to set up this system of national policeman in the shape of national factories, by which you can check the amount of profits which are made by private enterprise. I submit these points for the consideration of the Minister.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
Doctrinal considerations apart, there has been evident in the discussion on this Clause very little disagreement in any part of the Committee. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), who opened the discussion, drew attention to the importance of research, and that line has been very persistently followed and re-echoed in all parts of the Committee. That view is shared by the Government. In these days scientific research is of great aid to production, and its continuance is vital if production is to continue efficiently. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) referred to the necessity for co-ordinating research, and said that there is already a very great deal of co-ordination between the various Departments on this matter. It is the desire and the intention of the Government that this co-operation and co-ordination in research should be further carried on and encouraged in every possible way. When one is dealing with research one is dealing with a problem which has not only its mass production aspect, but its individual side. One can do a great deal by co-ordination, but the 1929 inventor must always remain to some degree an individualist. It is very often the case that inventors are born and not made. Consequently, we have to take both aspects of the problem into consideration in order to arrive at a just balance.
The hon. Member for Stoke and the hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) referred to national factories. These have been a feature of armaments production for a long time, and indeed, to some extent, are always bound to be so. Under this Clause there is ample power for the Minister, in any proper case, where it is in the public interest, to create a factory of that sort. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) again referred to the topic of Parliamentary control over subordinate legislation by Departments and drew attention in particular to what he seemed to think was the very disagreeable practice of enabling Departments to draft Orders-in-Council varying or modifying Statutes. It is necessary, when one is setting up a new Department of this sort, to provide in the Bill that, in applying these Statutes, one shall not be bound by every little word that is unimportant, and that necessary powers of adaptation shall be given. Then arises the other problem, on which the hon. Member's remarks are probably very apposite, as to the degree of Parliamentary control to be exercised over these Orders-in-Council when once they are drafted. That is a matter that will be before the Committee in detail when we come to Clause 6, and there we shall be able to refer to the matter again. My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. O. Lewis) asked me to explain why the powers in this part of the Bill are not limited in their duration. My right hon. Friend referred to that matter earlier in the discussion, and I should like briefly to recapitulate what he said. The powers which are contained in Part II of the Bill—and which are therefore temporary in character—are powers of a somewhat drastic nature to interfere, in the interests of the country, with the present conduct of the affairs of many businesses. They are to meet the present state of affairs, and therefore, they are limited in duration. But the powers contained in Clause 2, as my right hon. Friend said, form a permanent feature of any Ministry of this nature. We cannot have a Min- 1930 istry of Supply without these powers, and therefore, it is necessary for them to continue as long as the Ministry continues. They are part of the permanent framework, and consequently, they are not limited in time.
The only thing I want to say on the discussion as a whole is to remind hon. Members that, in our legislation here, we are dealing with the question of what powers are necessary for the achievement of our object. Quite apart from the powers that are to be conferred, there is the question of the administration of those powers when they are conferred. A great deal of the discussion, which has been on familiar lines as between the rival merits and demerits of private enterprise and nationalisation, is more germane to the question of how the powers are to be administered than to the question of what powers it is necessary for Parliament to give. Those who laud the achievements of State enterprise will in future be able to urge His Majesty's Government to go in that direction in administering the powers given by this Clause, whereas those of my hon. Friends who hold contrary views will be able to watch how the administration of these powers is carried on and to make contributions from time to time either in criticism or approval. But it is essential that we should have the powers if anything is to be done. Those powers are given by Clause 2, and I hope the Committee will now agree to the Clause standing part of the Bill.