§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Sir A. Gridley
I beg to move, in page 10, line 4, after "required," to insert:and who has a current contract with the Minister.The effect of this and the next two Amendments to this Clause standing in my name would be to limit to some extent what would appear to be a roving power of commission contained in the Clause as drafted. Under the Clause any firm could be compelled to give full information of any kind and extracts from any books which a busybody drawn in from outside to help the Minister for the time being might think it necessary to ask for, and it would seem to give that power not only in reference to a firm which may have contracts with the Minister, but in reference to firms with no orders at all. There is no limit to the investigations that may be made. I can understand that it might be necessary to seek information from a prospective contractor if he had already been a contractor and it was proposed to place a repeat order with him, and it was desired to see whether his price for the original contract had been fair and reasonable. That I can understand, if it was the intention of the Minister to place a second or third order with that firm, but I think it very undesirable to give a power which would allow perhaps secrets and confidential information which a firm was entitled to keep to itself to be handed over to someone else, who might wish to prosecute an inquiry into the affairs of another company and to discover a secret that they might be very glad to obtain possession of.
We had a very long Debate on a previous Amendment of mine, which resulted in a very much greater and longer struggle than I hoped would be necessary. I am anxious to curtail my observations as far as possible now, and to help the Measure along, and I hope the Minister will agree that it is reasonable to limit these powers to firms which have a running contract with the Minister. Any such firm, I agree, should be called upon to give any and all information which the Minister might reasonably require, and I do not want to restrict his powers there in any way whatsoever. With regard to my next small alteration, to insert the word "relevant" in line 5, the Clause 2114 calls for extracts from any books or documents of any description specified in the directions. I think it is reasonable to ask that all books which contain any relevant information should be available to the Minister, and any copies of them that he may desire to have, but to have words as wide as these is, I think, giving powers far wider than any possible circumstances could allow. I hope the Minister, after his recent triumph, will be inclined to be somewhat more magnanimous this time.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
I hope the Committee will feel, when I have been able to explain the object of this Clause, that really these Amendments are not desirable. Clause 9 is one of the Clauses which give to the Minister power to ascertain information, and it is one of the main operative Clauses under which check and control of prices, costs, and profits are to be exercised. Take the first Amendment. The immediate effect of it would be to exclude every sub-contractor, and that cannot be what my hon. Friend means. It is the sub-contractor's books that are vital. Take the next Amendment, to insert the word "relevant." Why every accountant knows that it is the seemingly irrelevant books which often contain the really interesting matter. I have no wish to go and pry into secret processes, that is not the point. The point is discovery in the full legal sense, and you must have access to every mortal paper relating to the matter. It does not matter whether it is a book labelled "Costs, to be looked at by the Government Accountant," or whether it is an old exercise book in a cupboard labelled "Not to be looked at by the Government Accountant." The Minister must be, in either event given the power to overhaul any documents. Let me assure the Committee, first of all, that we are talking here of information as to production costs in cases where Government contracts may be with people other than direct producers, that we want to ascertain the costs to sub-contractors, and that we may want power to look at the books of people in this line of industry other than those doing the particular job. The only yardstick with which you may be able to determine what is the proper cost for work, say, under contract A in a particular factory may be to look at a similar firm working in another factory and not yet working for the Ministry.
2115 Remember that under Clause 7 the Minister has power to say to any contractor, "You shall do Government work." It seems rather odd that you should seek to limit the power of ascertaining information to those who already have a contract. You want to find out whether it is wise to place a contract with a particular firm, and one of the methods may be to find out whether they are particularly efficient in costings and methods of producing work through their factory. I do not think the word "relevant," therefore, need have any further argument. There might be a great deal of difficulty between the Minister's officers and contractors in obtaining information which one side considered relevant and which the other side considered not relevant. I think that any hon. Members of the Committee who are business men will feel that it is wiser not to have this limitation, although in the exercise of these powers nobody is proposing to go and turn a stockroom upside down and do all kinds of spring cleaning among counting-house records. That is not the idea at all.
The third Amendment would leave out the reference to documents "of any description specified in the directions." I think that that power again ought to be without limit. It is necessary that access to documents by the Minister's advisers should be insisted upon, and while I can assure the Committee that nobody wants to cause industry trouble unnecessarily, the power of the Minister to get to the root costs of every possible thing must be unfettered and unlimited. I would ask my hon. Friend, with his very wide industrial experience, to realise that if he were in my place, this is one of the Clauses to which he would attach particular value. I think he will feel that in asking the Committee not to accept these Amendments, I am the realist, looking at the probabilities of the way in which matters will develop, and that the cost accountants and specialists employed by Government Departments may be relied upon to be reasonable people who will exercise their powers without undue inconvenience.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
This Clause states: 2116The Minister may direct any person producing, dealing in, storing or having control of any articles required for the public service …I do not consider that the powers which the Minister has in this Clause are great enough. A new Clause is to be proposed later, and I do not consider that that Clause will deal adequately with the problems with which we are faced, but if the Clause is taken to a Division, I shall support it, because I believe that it is going along the right road.
I hope the hon. Member will remember that we are not now dealing with the proposed new Clause.
§ Mr. Smith
No, Sir Dennis. I am dealing with the Clause in the Bill, and I am arguing that the Minister has not adequate powers to deal with the problem with which we are faced. I find that on the average £100 invested in War shares in 1932 is now worth £600, and that is a very serious situation for the people of this country, because it affects them in so many ways. Profits have not been restricted to the extent that they should have been restricted, and the people whom we represent are much concerned about it. I want to make an appeal to the Minister on behalf of the industrial side of our movement in particular. Before I proceed, however, let me say that much damage is done even before the manufacturers start manufacturing. In this Bill the Minister will have wide powers, and if those powers are used in the way in which we hope they will be used, a good deal of what I am going to speak about will be prevented from taking place, but unfortunately a great deal of damage has already been done.
2117 I want to refer to a large amount of speculation that has taken place in metals, which has sent up the cost of those metals and of raw materials tremendously. I refer to the speculation which has taken place on the Stock Exchange. I remember raising this issue three or four years ago, on several evenings, one night in particular between 11 and 12 o'clock. I pointed out the serious effect of speculation upon our people, and hon. Members opposite were inclined to ridicule what I said. Those who claimed to have great experience on the Stock Exchange came to me later in the Inner Lobby and told me that those speculations had not the effect that I suggested. It is a fact that speculation on the Stock Exchange affects prices directly and indirectly including the prices of metals, and it also affects our people engaged in industry. Therefore, I am hoping that with regard to speculation and the brokers the Minister will take steps to prevent the inflated prices which result from speculation taking place.
The hon. Member is going rather wide of Clause 9. There is nothing in the Clause connected with such matters as the hon. Member is talking about. The Clause simply gives power to the Minister to require the production of documents and the keeping of records.
§ Mr. Smith
That is what I am dealing with. The Clause says:The Minister may direct any person producing, dealing in, storing or having control of any articles required for the public service—I am arguing that the Minister should use his powers in order to prevent speculation taking place and to prevent the cost of raw materials, metals in particular being sent up to the extent they have been sent up during the past few years.
The hon. Member has already done that, and I am afraid that I cannot permit him to go into a general discussion of the question of speculation.
§ Mr. Smith
I respect that Ruling and I will not proceed any further on that line. I was dealing with that problem because it is dealt with within the limits of the Clause, and it is necessary that someone should raise the question, in view of the fact that the country has suffered very much, and to an extent which it ought not to have done. The next point—and I am 2118 raising this on behalf of the whole trade union movement—is, that we are concerned about the danger of inflation arising in this matter, and we do not want a repetition of what took place in connection with the last War. If the Minister will use the powers which are given to him in this Bill he will be able to take steps towards preventing inflation, of which there have been signs because the Government have not had powers to deal with it in the past. We consider that if the powers which the Minister obtains in the Bill are properly used he could prevent that inflation which brings about a vicious circle—sending prices up, causing demands for increased wages being made, the wages not keeping pace with the cost of living. That vicious circle does not assist us to prevent inflation.
Now I come to the question of costs. I have stated that the Minister's powers in this Clause are not adequate, and I want to bring out one or two difficulties we shall be up against when the Bill becomes an Act. I was reading yesterday and during the week-end the report of the Royal Commission on the Private Manufacture of Armaments, and I find that the firms met privately before the evidence was given, in order to prepare their evidence. If they will do that for a Royal Commission, what will they do now when a Bill of this character is introduced into the House of Commons? It is, therefore, very necessary that the Government should be aware of the position in order that between now and this Bill becoming an Act of Parliament other firms should not meet together in that way. During recent times it has been alleged by respective newspapers and other periodicals that fictitious returns have been given, and that depreciation accounts have been dealt with in such a way that auditors and accountants have not been able to detect the exact cost. This can be done in so many ways, and it is most important that now that the Minister is going to have the responsibility of making firms produce their books, that we should watch this kind of thing.
I suggest that in order to prevent fictitious returns being made the Government should take steps to see that no more fixed capital:is put into a firm than is absolutely necessary. During the last War any amount of fixed capital was put into firms in order to conceal the net profit.
§ Mr. Smith
I would rather not do that, because it would create difficulties which I do not want to create. The hon. Member knows only too well what went on. At that time he was familiar with what was taking place in the engineering industry, and there is no need in this House now to create further difficulties by giving further concrete examples.
Again, I am afraid the hon. Member is going far beyond the Clause. He cannot go into the whole question of costs and capital on this Clause. The Clause gives certain powers to the Minister and defines how he shall carry them out. His powers as to prices relate to the making of contracts, but he has no powers for dealing generally with the matters that the hon. Member is raising.
§ Mr. Marcus Samuel
The hon. Member said that he was speaking on behalf of his party. If he has orders from his party to do these things, what can the poor man do?
§ Mr. Smith
May I direct attention to Sub-section (1) which says:Produce to any person authorised for the purpose by the Minister any book or document.The point I am making is that, in order to prevent what I am suggesting took place on the last occasion, and has taken place since, it is necessary that the Minister should have his attention directed to the methods that are adopted.
The hon. Member does not see my point. The Minister is given these powers for a special purpose. He is not the Minister responsible for all the questions the hon. Member is raising.
§ Mr. Smith
I am dealing only with firms that will be carrying out Government contracts, and I am alleging that firms carrying out Government contracts may be responsible for adopting a policy of the kind I am outlining, and, in order to prevent that taking place in the future, I am saying that it will be necessary for the Minister to use all the powers contained in this Clause. I am drawing the 2120 attention of the Minister to these things that we know took place, in order that he may be conversant with them and can give his attention to them.
The hon. Member must confine his remarks strictly to those matters which come within the duties and powers of the Minister of Supply.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
On a point of Order. If you look at the Amendments that have been accepted, Sir Dennis, you will see that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith) is quite in order, because those Amendments have the object of crippling the action of the Minister, so that he will not be able to do what the hon. Member desires he should do. He desires that the hands of the Minister shall be strengthened in order that he shall be able to do these things.
I am afraid I do not understand the hon. Member's point. At any rate, the fact that an Amendment is put on the Order Paper would not make something in order on this Clause which would not be in order otherwise. I would point out that no Amendment to this Clause has been accepted.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
While appreciating the desirability of keeping this Debate within certain limits, I would draw your attention, Sir Dennis, to the wording of the first two lines of the Clause:The Minister may direct any person producing, dealing in, storing or having control of any articles required for the public service.There is no limitation whatever there upon articles for the production or supply of which the Minister is given specific powers in this Bill. This Clause gives the Minister power to require information about all articles required for the public service, whether they are produced for any purpose for which he requires them, or any other purpose.
I have been very careful in my Ruling. I have pointed out that the Minister by this Bill or by any of the Amendments on the Order Paper is not given power to deal with the matters which the hon. Member is raising.
§ Mr. E. Smith
The Clause states in Sub-section (2):If the Minister is satisfied that the records kept by any such person as aforesaid are in- 2121 sufficient to enable a fair and reasonable price for the article in question to be determined.I am arguing that firms have adopted all kinds of methods in order to prevent the net profits from being shown, and those of us who were familiar with what took place in the last War know that what I am dealing with took place. Since then firms have adopted other kinds of methods, such as forming subsidiary companies, finance companies, holding companies. I cannot go into that, but I am dealing with what the Clause allows us to deal with.
The hon. Member now sees what he can deal with and he knows what he cannot go into. I have said that I think he is going far beyond what can be dealt with on this Clause, and I must ask him to confine his remarks to somewhat narrower limits.
§ Mr. Smith
What I am leading up to is that there is no accountant competent to deal with these problems, and I was going on to show what takes place. They put more fixed capital into tools, cranes, machines, etc., and the point I am making is that there is no accountant competent to deal with these problems. The Minister should set up a cost checking department, which should be composed of an accountant, an auditor, and at least one technical man. That department should receive the advice of specialised people, who should be called in to deal with specific points as they arise. They should have power to examine the men's work rates and time cards, but I suggest that this checking department will not be able to carry out the proposals in the Bill unless they adopt the system that I am outlining.
The hon. Member has just made a definite suggestion. If he had put it down on the Order Paper as an Amendment to this Clause I should have had to rule it out of order and tell him that the only way he could do it was by way of a new Clause. It has nothing whatever to do with this Clause.
The Clause does not deal with that at all. It deals merely with the question of the Minister being 2122 able to obtain information that he may require. These other matters may be very relevant to other matters which the Minister may have in mind, and which the hon. Member may have in mind, but they do not come under this Clause.
I am sorry, but this is a matter on which the opinion of the Chair has to be accepted. I have expressed it several times and I cannot have it argued.
§ Mr. Silverman
I was not presuming to question that these matters are to be determined by the Chair but merely to put a point before you for your consideration. Sub-section (2) deals with the Minister's powers to obtain sufficient records to ascertain what is a fair and reasonable price. What I wanted to put was whether or not my hon. Friend would not be in order in arguing that the Clause did not provide the Minister with sufficient powers to enable him to determine what is a fair and reasonable price.
The hon. Member is doing something which I deprecate very much indeed. He is asking me a purely hypothetical question, whether if the hon. Member argued something he would be in order. If the hon. Member argues it and I think he is in order I shall not interrupt him. If I interrupt him and say I consider him irrelevant it must be accepted by the Committee.
§ Mr. E. Smith
What I am submitting is that the Government should adopt a valuation of depreciation. Anyone who had experience of what occurred in the last War knows that, if anything, I have understated what took place. We shall watch to see how this is administered.
§ Mr. Tinker
I look upon this as a valuable Clause. If the Minister cannot get the information that he desires it is evident that someone is withholding it and making excessive profits. Have the Government any means of recovering profits that may have been made through misdoing? Many employers will go on evading their legal responsibilities if they think they can get away with it. They are willing to risk a fine, and public opinion does not weigh very much with them. What means has the Minister of dealing with those who will not recog- 2123 nise their public duty and try to help us in an emergency of this character?
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The Clause gives the Minister power to "direct any person having control of any articles required for the public service." What is the Minister's attitude towards that class of persons who exercise their control of articles required for the public service in some sort of restrictive organisation, such as the Tin Restriction Committee, for example, or other price-fixing organisation, or any one of those bodies such as the Import Duties Advisory Committee, whose operations, though not directly controlling these commodities, exercise a powerful influence upon the price that has to be paid for them? If there were no restriction on tin in operation the Government would be able to secure its supplies at a far lower price. That is a matter which the Minister has power to supervise under the Clause. Would he conduct inquiries into that aspect of the inflation of prices?
The second matter on which I should like him to give information is this: The actual books and records themselves are of little value in my view unless they are actually linked up with the producing machine. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) was making an extremely important point when he sought to obtain assurances that the Minister would breathe life into the books by connecting the figures up with the actual manufacturing operations. I will give one example. Take a jig which is being manufactured in a factory. In the books of the factory it says "so many hours of milling, price per hour is. 6d.," total milling operations so much."If he is content to accept the hours and the cost, the books are worthless, but if he says he not only wants the figures shown in the books, but he wants records showing how long each of these operations takes in the factory, and in corresponding factories, he will be able to compare them. He will not be able to achieve this without employing not only accountants but technicians, and that is the extremely important point which my hon. Friend, with his practical experience, was making. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give the assurance that we are asking for both on that point and on the question of price-fixing associations.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Sir H. Williams
I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith) and I will refer to that part of it where he had not got out of order. He was dealing with depreciation, and naturally he wants these books to be examined with a view to that. He alleges that during the last War there was a great deal of faking with regard to depreciation. It is the first time that I have ever heard that particular thing suggested.
§ Mr. E. Smith
I am very loth to make allegations of that character against any one. What I said was that the Government should fix a valuation for depreciation in order that firms should know exactly where they stand.
§ Sir H. Williams
I think the hon. Member is under a misapprehension. Under the Finance Act to-day it is the practice, by agreement between an industry and the Board of Inland Revenue, to fix rates of depreciation for most classes of plant. If a rate of 7½ per cent. is fixed on something that is worth £100, £7 10s. is deducted in the first year. In the second year it is not £7 10s. but 7½ per cent. on what is left of the capital value. All that is done every year by the Income Tax authorities. During the War, when people were working two shifts and there was a great deal of overtime and a great deal of unskilled labour was being employed the effect was to increase very much the actual depreciation of machinery, and, on application, various industries, because of these adverse factors, were quite properly allowed higher rates of depreciation, and subsequent circumstances showed that in most cases the extra rates of depreciation were inevitable So that any suggestion of faking with regard to depreciation is totally unfounded. The real problem during the War was not the ability to buy more machinery than you wanted and charging it to revenue, thus evading tax and Excess Profit Duty. The real problem that the manufacturer was. faced with was not his inability to obtain plant like that. He could not get any plant as a rule without going to the Ministry and getting sanction to buy it. That is a complete misapprehension on the hon. Member's part. I do not suggest that everyone engaged in the business was a plaster saint.
§ Sir H. Williams
When the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) was speaking and your predecessor, Sir, was in the Chair, he got rather beyond the point of depreciation and records. I was only replying to that and basing my speech on the knowledge that I acquired in the Ministry of Munitions.
I understand that the hon. Member's speech, to which the hon. Gentleman is replying, was ruled out of order. If he is replying to something that was out of order he himself is out of order.
§ Sir H. Williams
As a matter of fact, the hon. Member was permitted to make all his references to depreciation and fixed capital. It was only when he got on the question of examining time and wage statistics that he was asked to confine his remarks within a narrower scope. I was only seeking to reply to that part of his speech which was permitted to be delivered.
It is hard to say exactly what was and what was not in order. Perhaps it would be better not to reply to any of the hon. Member's points.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
If the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) is allowed to proceed, I hope you will allow me to tell him something about the colliery owners and their profits during the War. It will take me all night.
§ 8.15 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
I support the Clause as it stands, and am glad that the proposed Amendments were not accepted by the Minister, for they would certainly have restricted very substantially his powers of obtaining the knowledge he seeks as to whether the prices charged to the Ministry are fair and reasonable in all the circumstances. While I sympathise with my hon. Friend's efforts to bring into the Clause the question of price control, I would point out that there is a further Amendment on the Paper which may enable him to discuss that, and we look forward to an effective contribution 2126 from him on the question of price control. If there were no price control, the Clause would in my judgment be of relatively little effect in preserving the interests of the Ministry and of the community. There cannot be any difficulty in ascertaining what prices are fair and reasonable. The Mover of the Amendments which were withdrawn was apprehensive lest either competing firms or chartered accountants might obtain a knowledge of a business which embraced many secret processes and so on, but, after all, we live in a business age, and everyone knows that the chartered accountant has, and in the nature of things must have, access to the books of all the concerns for which he acts, so that the only apprehension that can be felt must be as to the disclosure of information in certain directions which are undesirable.
We have heard something in the Debate with reference to costing systems, and it seems to be thought that they can play a part in the preservation of the interests of the Ministry of Supply in the matter of prices. They can, however, do no such thing. Costing systems are applied to all sorts of businesses nowadays, and, indeed, to municipal purchasing, hospitals and so forth; but, while they will tell you what your concerns are costing you to run, they can play no part in enabling you to secure from contractors and others fair and reasonable charges. That is not the function of any costing system with which I am acquainted. I am satisfied that the Clause as it stands will enable the Minister to have a very much better control than was obtainable in similar circumstances during the Great War, when the most phenomenal things were done by contractors without let or hindrance, because of the lack of the powers with which the Minister is now to be endowed by this Clause.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
I hope that the Committee will permit me to have this Clause shortly. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) suggested that the powers of inquiry into documents were not adequate, but I hope he will feel that these piece-rate dockets and time cards come within the documents which I am enabled to inspect under the Clause. One of the reasons why I had to decline an Amendment moved by an hon. Member behind me was that I did not wish any limit to 2127 be placed on the documents, because these are the very things which, as the hon. Member knows, may shed a lurid light on what is happening. In reply to the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones), it is certainly the intention to add technicians to the auditing staff and that practice will be considerably extended.
The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) asked what would happen if a contractor were found to have over-costed some article over a period before the error was discovered. The Clause gives two powers. It gives a power of prosecution in a bad case, but it also gives a much more important sanction, namely, that the Minister can appoint a control representative. The hon. Member, perhaps, is not aware that the contracts entered into with firms very often contain a Clause that the price shall be determined by arbitration, so that in those cases the arbitration Clause will be operable. Another very common practice is for an immediate price to be agreed at the time the contract is let, and for the parties then to proceed to work, the final price being assessed when it is seen how the contract has turned out. Obviously, in both of these cases the instance that the hon. Member had in mind would be provided for, and there would be an opportunity if anything was wrong, to ascertain what it was. But by far the most valuable sanction is the fact that the Minister can take over the business, appoint a controller, and run it. That is the sanction which is the most dreaded of all by industry. It is a power which, I am sure, with the collaboration of industry, will not have to be exercised; but, kept in reserve, it is a useful deterrent.
The hon. Member for Stoke also referred to the possibility of a rise in the price of metals, and the hon.Member for North Aberdeen referred to tin in particular. I am as willing and anxious as anyone to prevent that spiral of rising prices to which the hon. Members referred, but I am sure they will both remember that the conditions of the world to-day are such that the demand for these metals is far beyond that of our own country and our own supplies. The trouble is that most countries are engaged in a rearmament expansion programme, bidding against one another for the same 2128 raw materials, the supplies of which may be limited, not only as a result of restriction schemes, but as a result of production failing. While there will be a great deal of inquiry into prices with the object of preventing what is called sporadic inflation, hon. Members must not take me as saying that an English price for an article which has a world price can keep the world price from soaring if the world demand is very great and in excess of the supply.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Poole
I think the real point of difference that we felt might exist between the Minister and Members on this side was not as to whether the powers contained in the Clause were adequate, but as to whether an effective effort would be made to implement them and see that they were utilised to the uttermost. I visualise the Minister having a difficult time with the Bill, and, in the exercise of the powers conferred upon him by the Clause, I feel that he is going to need tremendous courage if he is going to tackle the problem in the way in which it ought to be tackled. It is all very well to talk about collaboration between industry and the Ministry. He will have what collaboration he requires as long as he is prepared to pay the price that industry requires. As soon as he desires to interfere with the prices to be charged for the commodities he requires, he will find that the forces arrayed against him will call for a good deal of effort on his part if he is to be successful in arriving at the conclusion that we all desire.
The difference between the Minister and Members on this side is reflected best in a very old saying. While the Minister believes that figures cannot lie, we on this side of the Committee are equally convinced that liars can figure. I speak with some knowledge of the preparation of statistics, and I know that it is the easiest possible thing to manipulate figures and to arrive at different conclusions from the same set of figures. In view of the colossal effort that is being called for from people in industry at the present time in connection with rearmament, and in view of the enormous sacrifices that men and women in this country are called upon to make in heavy taxation, greater than many sections of the community can bear, we ask that this Clause shall be implemented to the full; that there shall be 2129 no loophole, but that it shall fulfil the purpose for which it is inserted in the Bill. Our major regret is that this provision to check profiteering in arms is so belated. We could have done with the Minister having these powers 18 months ago. Colossal profits that ought never to have been made have been made, and we hope the Minister will use these powers to the full, so as to put an end to this profiteering in arms.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
When the right hon. Gentleman comes, at the end of the Committee stage, to review these discussions, will he take into consideration the advisability of publishing a White Paper on the subject of costing? There have been a great many Government statements on this subject from time to time, but I feel that it would be very much for the convenience of hon. Members if this White Paper could be issued. Would he also take into consideration the possibility, at long last, of publishing the terms of the McLintock Report?
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Burgin
The hon. and gallant Member is right in suggesting that, the appropriate method for a Minister to adopt after a Debate of this kind is to go carefully through the Official Report and pick up the ragged ends. I can assure him that that procedure will be followed by me. The suggestion which he has made—and to which he will not expect any answer across the Table now—will be seriously considered in the course of that review.