HC Deb 08 November 1939 vol 353 cc208-9
47. Mr. Mander

asked the Minister of Supply whether he will consider the advisability of arranging, through the chambers of commerce in association with representatives of the trade unions in various districts throughout the country, for a survey to be made of the quantity of goods of various types that could be made during the next 6 or 12 months in small as well as large factories?

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Burgin)

Information regarding manufacturing capacity likely to be useful for meeting Service requirements in war is to a very large extent already available. In finding the additional capacity needed to meet expanding requirements, my Department and the Admiralty and Air Ministry are already in close touch with Chambers of Commerce and other representative trade organisations. For these reasons I do not think that at this stage it would serve any useful purpose to undertake a general survey of the kind to which the hon. Member refers.

Mr. Mander

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is very great dissatisfaction in different parts of the country, especially in the Midlands, at the policy of the Ministry in doing nothing to make use of the resources of many firms, particularly small firms, who could manufacture armaments and have supplied full particulars of their resources, and yet nothing whatever is done?

Mr. Burgin

I am aware that there is a great deal of misunderstanding. A number of these small firms when called upon to make a list of requirements have asked in turn that they should be supplied first with machine tools. It is because of that difficulty of balancing equipment that expansion on a large scale cannot at once take place, but orders on a substantial scale have already been placed with many small firms.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it not of primary importance that the Government should conduct some kind of survey into the country's capacity?

Mr. Burgin

Yes, Sir, and the supply boards have been doing that for three years.

Mr. Moreing

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the sample rooms which he has introduced in different parts of the country have been of very great assistance to manufacturers, and will he consider extending such sample rooms to small towns?

Mr. Burgin

Yes, Sir, that is under consideration, and it is proposed very considerably to extend the centres in which the sample rolls are to be made available.

Mr. Kirkwood

It is not the case that the experience of the Department in the last war showed that the idea of getting small firms to make munitions of war was a gigantic failure, and it will always be so, as the Minister has said, because of the lack of precision tools?

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