HC Deb 21 February 1940 vol 357 cc1348-9
55. Sir Joseph Leech

asked the Minister of Supply to what extent the experience of this war is showing the justification for the pre-war refusal of His Majesty's Government to prohibit private manufacture of arms; and how far are the British armament firms rendering services indispensable to the national safety which could not now be as speedily performed in the Government yards, arsenals and factories at present working at highest pressure?

Mr. Burgin

The effort required to produce munitions for the Fighting Forces is such that the full services of all manufacturing capacity suited to the production of war materials is and must remain indispensable to the national safety. I should hesitate to attempt to make any distinctions or comparisons, or to attempt to draw conclusions from the present situation, though it must be obvious that the wider the available field of armament supply in peace, the quicker is the wartime expansion.

Mr. Garro Jones

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he recognises the fact that both the Question and the answer are based on the fallacy that if the Government had taken over the manufacture of armaments that would have closed down all facilities for the private manufacture of armaments and that the course of events shows that the rate of production—

Hon. Members