HC Deb 24 July 1940 vol 363 cc804-5
48. Mr. E. Smith

asked the Minister of Supply whether he will make a full statement on the reconstruction of the machinery of the Area Advisory Committee; and whether it is intended to carry out further decentralisation and to confer more power on the local organisations and compulsory authority subject to national supervision?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

As was stated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply on 27th June, the Government have recently had under examination and review the area organisation which has been set up to secure the best utilisation of the industrial resources of each area in connection with the national war effort. Hitherto the Area Boards have consisted of the official area representatives of the Ministries of Labour, Supply, Aircraft Production, the Admiralty and the Board of Trade, and have been assisted by advisory committees representative of engineering employers and workers in the areas covered by each Board. It is now intended to reconstitute each Area Board by the addition of three representatives of industrialists and three representatives of trade unions. The chairman and deputy-chairman of each Board, who will be drawn from these representatives, have already been selected. The existing Area Advisory Committees will not be dissolved but will be called together from time to time by the chairman of the Board and will act as a consultative committee on engineering matters.

The official members of the Area Boards will continue to be responsible to their own Departments, but the Area Boards in their corporate capacity will be responsible directly to the Industrial Capacity Committee of the Production Council, of which I have been appointed chairman and Sir James Lithgow, deputy-chairman. The revised organisation which I have outlined will place at the disposal of the Government the knowledge and experience of leading industrialists and representatives of labour in each part of the United Kingdom in the task of mobilising the industrial capacity of the area so far as technically possible, having regard to the needs both of the three Supply Ministries and of the export and civil trades for which the Board of Trade is responsible. A list giving the names of the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the Area Boards will be issued shortly.

Mr. Smith

Am I correct in understanding that these boards will be called together only on the initiative of the chairmen, and, if so, is that considered to be satisfactory? Secondly, have the organisations representing all the interests in the supply industry been consulted on these arrangements; if so, are they satisfied, and will compulsory powers be given to the boards to act?

Mr. Macmillan

With regard to the first part of the Supplementary Question, the boards will be responsible in their corporate capacity to the industrial committee, and the chairmen will receive instructions as to how they will carry out their duties from the committee. With regard to the second part of the Question, I am in very close touch with the Trades Union Council, and all the appointments as regards the trade union representatives have been made after consultation with Sir Walter Citrine.

Mr. Stokes

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in one area at least the committee has met only twice since the war started? Can he assure us that under the new arrangements the committees will meet more often?

Mr. Macmillan

The whole purpose of this arrangement is to set up new machinery in order that the boards may have additional members who will carry out the duties of the boards so that they will be continuous.

Mr. Liddall

Will my hon. Friend repeat who is the chairman of the committee?

Mr. Macmillan

I am the chairman of the committee, and Sir James Lithgow is deputy-chairman.

Mr. Maxton

Does that mean that Sir James Lithgow has given up his position in the Ministry of Shipping?