§ 29. Mr. Ellis Smith
asked the Minister of Supply what are the geographical areas that have been set up to secure increased productivity; the names of the people who are to be in charge of each area; is it intended to set up a national committee; and what are the arrangements that have been made to see that the national supply decisions are implemented?
§ The Minister of Supply (Mr. Burgin)
The country has been divided for the purpose mentioned into 13 areas, the boundaries of which conform generally to the areas of the Civil Defence regional organisation and other organisations, and area officers are in course of appointment. With regard to the third and fourth parts of the question, I hope to be in a position to make a full statement on these matters at an early date.
§ Mr. Burgin
I think I am alive to the history of the Ministry of Munitions, and I think I understand what the hon. Member is asking, but I should prefer, if he will allow me, to make a full statement later, as I have a rather comprehensive statement to make very shortly.
§ 30. Mr. E. Smith
asked the Minister of Supply what steps have been taken, or are to be taken, to increase the output of the most urgent supplies; on what basis is the organisation to be carried out; what arrangements have been made with the firms; is it intended to make certain firms controlled establishments; and what machinery has been set up with a view of securing the maximum output in the minimum of time?
§ Mr. Burgin
All firms and Government factories engaged on munitions production have been asked to proceed on the basis of the utilisation of their full capacity. As existing orders are completed fresh orders are being placed with the utmost rapidity, and in the meantime firms have been instructed to proceed. Additional firms are being employed in accordance with allocations worked out in peace time. Steps are being taken to expedite the construction of factories and plant, and additional new factories are being undertaken. It is not intended to make certain firms controlled establishments in the sense in which that term was understood in the last War, but the hon. Member will be aware of the powers of control conferred by the Ministry of Supply Act. The whole machinery of the Ministry of Supply is devoted to securing the maximum output in the minimum of time, and I have in hand certain reorganisations of, and additions to, the staff of the Ministry designed to facilitate the attainment of this object.
§ Mr. Smith
So that the position is that it is intended to control the men and not the firms? May I also ask whether the Minister is aware of the difficulties in regard to priorities that already exist; and, arising out of the statement made by 637 the War Cabinet, that it was essential that we should maintain our export trade, the manufacturers who are concerned about this have already had to give notice with regard to priorities; and further would the right hon. Gentleman assure the young men between 21 and 25 who are engaged in these industries that they are serving the nation in their present capacity as well as they would be in other ways?
§ Mr. Burgin
The hon. Member's supplementary questions range over a very wide field. I do not agree that there is an idea of controlling the men and not the firms. The term "controlled establishment" had a very definite meaning in the last War, and what I have said is that the powers taken under the Ministry of Supply Act enable control of the firms to be exercised in a different way, and they will be exercised where necessary. With regard to priorities, an elaborate priority machine, which, I think, is beginning to function very successfully— certainly it has already dealt with a great number of difficulties and given satisfaction—is at work and is daily being added to. With regard to young men serving, that raises a great question, but I am sure the whole House realises that people engaged on work of national importance in munition factories are serving their country very well in the work which they are doing and that to disturb them unduly would not be in the national interest.
§ Mr. John Wilmot
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a large number of smaller plants that have a contribution to make, whose output is not being fully used?
§ Mr. Burgin
A great many surveys of these plants have already been made. My postbag is very heavy with offers every day, and these are being considered to see whether some of the machinery and some of the skilled staff from a number of them could be grouped together in larger units and institutions. It is a little difficult to manufacture an immense programme by so decentralising that only very little is made in small places, but the idea is to recruit the best of the machinery and the best of the men and make a larger unit. That is under consideration, and where it is possible to subcontract on a component basis, that is being done.
Is my right hon. Friend recruiting women for munition factories, because in the last War women were put in the factories so as to let men go to the Front?
In the last War, was not skilled work done by women, and did they not learn in six months work which some of the unions said could only be learnt in years?
Lieut.-Colonel H. Guest
Would my right hon. Friend consider the formation of a machinery pool so that machinery can be allocated to firms that are engaged on munitions supply?
§ Mr. Burgin
There will be, if there is not already, a controller of machine tools, which will serve the purpose my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind.
On a point of Order. Many Scottish contractors are engaged in war-time work, and surely a Scottish Member is entitled to ask the Minister whether Scottish firms are affected by any new scheme which the Government introduce. May I ask whether my supplementary was not in order?