HC Deb 18 July 1940 vol 363 cc373-4
50. Major Milner

asked the Prime Minister what are the present arrangements in Departments for the consideration of ideas and suggestions, including inventions, for the more successful prosecution of the war; and whether he will take steps to obviate the difficulty of knowing to which Department to submit them and of obtaining their satisfactory consideration by Departments concerned, who are tied by preconceived notions?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

An immense number of suggestions and inventions are sent in to the various Departments connected with the prosecution of the war. It is the duty of each Department to examine those suggestions which deal with matters with which they are concerned, and to refer the others to the appropriate Department. I believe that, on the whole, considering the extreme pressure of the times, this work is well done by the research branches of the Departments. I should deprecate the idea that the scientists at the disposal of the Government are tied by pre-conceived notions. I remember that, at the time when the magnetic mine appeared to be a menace, several hundred letters a day were received suggesting remedies. However, the Admiralty succeeded in solving the problem themselves almost as soon as they were able to deal with the correspondence about it. It would therefore be a mistake to assume that there is any lack of willingness or of ability to adopt new ideas. But this in no way implies that suggestions are not welcome. Correspondents in doubt about which Department to address should forward their suggestions to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which is under the special care of the Lord President of the Council.

Major Milner

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction in regard to this matter? Would it not be well to set up some central organisation or committee which could call in expert evidence or knowledge from the Departments, and have an overriding right to make direct recommendations to himself, in cases where Departments would not take matters up?

The Prime Minister

It is very difficult indeed. I felt there was a good deal of force in the suggestion made, but when you come to apply it is is very difficult, because some of the matters touch tremendous secrets which are being actively examined at this time, and it is not possible to come into consultation with outsiders about them. There are many difficulties of that kind. We are most anxious to examine any suggestions of a reasonable character, and a good many that come from the public can be attended to by the Department to which they are sent or transferred to the proper Department. If there is no particular Department, there is always the Lord President of the Council's general committee of scientific research, and application to him will be attended to.

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