HC Deb 21 November 1939 vol 353 cc1000-1
22. Mr. Mander

asked the Minister of Economic Warfare what financial powers and executive authority he possesses to take immediate action, in appropriate cases, to prevent supplies reaching or the services of neutral shipping being made available to Germany?

The Minister of Economic Warfare (Mr. Cross)

I have no executive authority to take immediate action in the cases which the hon. Member seems to have in mind. The measures for the organisation of which the Ministry of Economic Warfare is responsible extend over the fields covered by many other Departments; but there are arrangements by which the competent authorities of other Departments act on the advice of the Ministry, or of bodies connected with it, in suitable cases. Expenditure necessitated by these measures is met by the executive Departments concerned from funds made available by the Vote of Credit in so far as it is not covered by Departmental Votes.

Mr. Mander

Can the Minister say whether this particular matter, shipping, is one for his Department or for the Ministry of Shipping?

Mr. Cross

In the ordinary course of events, all chartering is done by the Ministry of Shipping, but, of course, it could occur in exceptional circumstances that I might wish to advise the Ministry of Shipping that certain chartering was desirable, and in that case, it would be open to me to take that action.

Mr. Mander

Is the Minister aware that the other night, when this question was put to the Minister of Shipping, he said it was a matter for the Minister of Economic Warfare, and is it not possible to come to some definite understanding as to which Minister is responsible?

Mr. Garro Jones

Is the Minister aware that this is only one of the matters on which there is great confusion between his Department and other Departments as to on whom the responsibility for taking the initiative lies, and does he recognise that in this particular case the initiative rests upon him?

Mr. Cross

I cannot agree that there is any confusion whatever. The circumstances in which the initiative rests with my Department are quite exceptional, and in the ordinary way, the initiative rests with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Shipping.