§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Minister of Supply (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Seven weeks ago, at the invitation of the Prime Minister, I accepted the office of Minister of Supply. I am bound to say that of all the strenuous and complicated weeks that I have ever spent, perhaps these have been the most strenuous and complicated of all. There was a delegate to a certain political conference last year who referred to nine "something" months, and I sometimes feel a little inclined to talk about seven "something" weeks. They have been, as the House will appreciate, exceedingly strenuous for all Ministers, and our lives have been very exciting in the light of events which have happened, but I ask the House to believe me when I say that I have devoted, and I shall continue to devote, every ounce of energy and ability that I have to this task, which I recognise to be a task of very great and vital importance to the nation, and indeed to the world.
624 I took over the running concern of the Ministry of Supply. It is not for me to say whether the lay-out of the Department was right or wrong, but it was not my lay-out. Moreover, there were decisions in policy taken a long time ago which vitally affected supply and were not altered until the Spring of 1939. That was the position when it was contemplated that we should send a very small expeditionary force to Europe in the case if a war, and that being so—and I am again not arguing whether it was right or wrong —it inevitably affected the whole structure not only of the Army but of the programme of supply. Clearly it is impossible at once to translate a change in strategical policy from a small army to a very large one, because the planning, preparation, and organisation of munitions production, like all other production, must need considerable time. It is in these circumstances that the Ministry of Supply itself began.
I determined to understand the Departmental machine. That was the first thing to do, because one can only control the machine if one understands it. I would like to pay my tribute to the staff of the Ministry of Supply for the ready co-operation, support and help that they have given me in my work, and now after seven weeks I am called upon, quite rightly, to give an account to the House of Commons, but it is only seven weeks. I ask for no mercy from the House, but I am entitled to ask for a little indulgence in these circumstances, and perhaps the House will be good enough to let me continue with my speech right through, because if I am interrupted, it will make this particular task one of more difficulty. The House will not think that I am afraid of interruptions; I rather like them as a rule, but not to-day. It will be the proper time later on when the House will be perfectly entitled to call upon me for a fuller account and can then evaluate my work. At the moment I am telling the House what has happened since 10th May, when Ministers took office in the new Administration.
I want now to give the House what information I can as to the progress of production. I remember these processes of Ministers giving information as to the progress of production in earlier days. I remember the cross-examination through which they went. Fortunately I do not 625 think that I undertook that particular cross-examination myself, but this is the difficulty in which one finds oneself. One cannot give—ought not to give—specific figures of information. That was argued before. It was even resisted, but if that was true then, it is infinitely more true now, and one must be exceedingly careful what information one gives. I am therefore going to give the House not over a long period, but over a short period since the critical days which have come upon us, some percentage figures which will give a broad indication of the kind of progress that has been made. I know at once that somebody may immediately say, "If it is a percentage of so much, it tells me nothing unless I know what the figure of production was." I do not deny that that argument occurred to me when I was sitting on the benches opposite. I appreciate it; I cannot answer it. I can only say that this is the best that I can do. I want to tell the House all I can consistently with the reasonable security and safety of the country.
I will come to some of the points about these items later on, but at the moment I will content myself by giving the percentage increase, indicating the increase in the monthly rate of production in June over the monthly rate of production in April, which is a very short period of two months. The increase in the output of cruiser and infantry tanks for June as compared with April—June being partly an estimate but one based upon fairly solid information—is 115 per cent., more than double; carriers, 64 per cent. Coming to a wide range of guns—and it is best for us to take the matter in this way—the increase ranges from round about 50 per cent. for two items up to as much as 228 per cent. for another item. The small arms show increases ranging between 49 per cent. and 186 per cent., and ammunition of various kinds shows an increase in June as compared with April ranging between 35 per cent. and 420 per cent. I think the House will agree that, as far as these figures go, that is an encouraging spurt in production during these critical weeks.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman, if necessary, give some further particulars when we come to the Secret 626 Session and they cannot be made public, as perhaps Members would like to know?
§ Mr. Morrison
I will consider that request between now and the speech that I shall make at the end of the Debate. Even then the House will forgive me, I know, if I exercise my discretion. I do not ask the House at all to believe, and I do not claim, that the credit for this by any means entirely belongs to me. It belongs to the spurt of organisation at the Ministry of Supply, and particularly it belongs to the fine response of the working people in industry who responded to the appeals of Ministers, and indeed, responded to the actions of Herr Hitler and the more serious situation in France. We have received the most cordial co-operation from the trade unions in all sorts of directions. We are grateful to them, and let me say that we have received co-operation and support from the active managements of industry, who are, of course, vitally important in this matter. To all of them, I am exceedingly grateful.
As one instance of the new spirit which one is trying to bring about, may I say that on 19th June, only a week ago, I gave orders for very large quantities—millions—of a certain weapon. Already the output has reached nearly 250,000 a week, that is to say, between four and five times the previous production, and that output will grow. I think these facts are encouraging, although the last thing I would wish the House and the country to believe—because I do not wish the House and the country to be deceived —is that things are satisfactory, and I am not going to say so. They are not satisfactory. They could not be satisfactory in the circumstances of the case. I can only say that they are coming nearer and nearer to being satisfactory as the days pass.
This is a big and complex Ministry, taken over at a period of acute stress and strain, and I think the House will agree that there are two courses to follow in taking over a new Department. In the ordinary way, if things were quiet, if there were no dangers ahead, we should be tempted to say—though I am not sure that I would agree—"Blow it all up and start all over again." I do not think there is a case for that being done. In any case it would be an impossible proposition in the circumstances in which 627 we are met. One must, in all circumstances, maintain continuity of production and keep the machine in being. Therefore, I have pursued the other policy. I have recognised that in many cases change, that is to say fundamental change, would be almost impossible without endangering immediate production. Any Minister who endangered the continuity of production at this point would be undertaking a terrible responsibility. There are, however, other cases in which change is so essential, so vital, so absolutely necessary, that the risk of interference, for the moment, with production must be faced and accepted. There were two things in that direction in which fundamental change was carried through. One was the case of machine tools, to which I shall refer later, and the other was the case of tanks.
The problem of tanks has been this—and in dealing with this matter I am exceedingly anxious not to engage in controversy with hon. Members in any quarter of the House, but, on the other hand, the House is entitled to the facts. In conceiving the strategy of the war we must again remember that until the spring of 1939 the whole thing was based on the idea of a small Continental Army, and the tank required for Continental warfare is different from the tank which is required for warfare somewhere else. Consequently, there could not have been contemplated, in those circumstances, the actual circumstances of the war as they came about in the event. Moreover, this world is full of specialists and experts upon tanks. I do not say that because I resent it in the least. A large proportion of them may have very sound ideas, and many of them have first-class brains. You often find a first-class brain belonging to a man whose appearance might tempt you to think that he was not "all there." I do not scorn the cranks. I do not scorn the fanatics. The world owes much to cranks and fanatics, both in the course of politics and otherwise, but one must have discipline, and at any rate one must get decisions as to what is wanted in the matter of tanks.
The truth is that there was no clarification of what we wanted. [Interruption.] I do not wish to fall into an argument with any hon. Members, and I hope they will not seek to drag me into one. As I 628 say, there was no clarification of the idea of what tank we wanted, and, consequently, the list of tanks that we were making was a very wide list. Therefore, the Tank Board, under Sir Alexander Roger, made a recommendation which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and I thought was right, namely, that the military opinion as to what they, broadly, wanted, in the way of a tank must come as far as possible through one focal point. That is to say, that we could not have a dozen voices about what tank was wanted, that there must be one voice about what tank or what three tanks we wanted. That principle has, rightly, been accepted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, and a new Tank Board has been constituted. There will be, it is true, two representatives of the War Office upon it, General Pope and Brigadier-General Pratt, both of whom actually fought with tanks during the present operations in France. It will be for them, on the Tank Board, to speak with one voice as to what, broadly, the War Office wants—not as to design, because design will be with the Ministry of Supply, but the soldiers must say what they want the tank to do. Broadly, they will give a kind of functional outline of what the tank is required to do, and it will be for the technicians and engineers and so on to go ahead, to design it and to produce it in the quickest possible way.
Various people will be heard by the Tank Board, and I have asked them to move with all possible speed and to come to decisions as to a limited number of tanks, and then let us get on with them. You do not make a tank by giving the order for it to-day and getting the finished article next week. It must be recognised that while a tank is not a warship, it is rather more like a warship than it is like a wheelbarrow. It is a very big thing and from beginning to end, from the point of deciding what you want, to the point of getting the tank completed, quite a time is bound to elapse. Therefore, we had to consider what to do in the meantime. I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War—there had been discussions with the Prime Minister about it—what were the best tanks which we were now producing, what were the really good ones which were wanted and would do the job. Having been told 629 that, we are concentrating in the meantime on the greatest possible output of those tanks which have been proved satisfactory. That is what we have done about tanks, and I hope the House will agree that those are the right principles upon which to act. But, as I say, we must have decisions as to what we want. The argument cannot go on for ever—certainly not in these times.
There is another incidental point, not necessarily related to tanks, which I will mention at this stage. I told my people at the Ministry when I got there and the liaison officers of the War Office, that we must beware of over-elaboration of design, of frills, of fancy pieces which were not vital to the weapon doing its job. Moreover, I told them that we must seek standardisation wherever possible, because that helps in large-scale production, and We must not worry too much, as the British have worried rather too much in the past, about having everything finished to a fine point and with a beautiful polish. If the gun will shoot, and shoot accurately, that is all we want. The nice little touches will not matter. I have, therefore, asked the Department to proceed on those lines, and I know that the Secretary of State for War will co-operate in every possible way. That is the second case in which fundamental changes have been made, as they have been made in the machine tool control to which I shall refer later.
In the third case, I conceived it necessary to reinforce the staff at the Ministry. Following the military analogy, I had to apply what I thought was the best method of reinforcing the line by bringing up essential troops. This I have done by making certain new appointments at the Ministry of Supply. This has not been done on the assumption that the existing organisation or officers was in any way incompetent. If I may say so, we have to be careful, in this House, about preserving the morale and good spirit of public officers, whether they be civil servants or private-enterprise people who have been brought into the State machine. A State Department is a delicate instrument. While one may, on occasion, go for it to ginger it up and spur it on, one must be very careful not to demoralise it, because a demoralised organisation in a State Department can be as much a danger as one that is not quite up to scratch. But I did feel that the direc- 630 tion of the Ministry in some of its higher and, indeed, some of its lower branches needed strengthening. I knew I was going to drive them hard, and I did not want to see them dying in my sight. Therefore, I thought it wise to bring in reinforcements from outside in order to strengthen the organisation.
Sir George Gater, who comes to the Department, has had a very rich administrative experience and, since he has been in Whitehall, has had a varied experience of State administration. He has been appointed Joint Secretary to act with Sir Arthur Robinson. Sir Walter Layton has been appointed Director-General of Programmes, in order that we may have an over-all view of programmes and progress. That is exceedingly valuable. A Minister of Supply must have something more than mere pages of statistics set out in columns. He wants a shortish statistical summary of needs, accompanied by observations and suggestions. He wants to know why one figure may have gone wrong and why another figure has gone right. Sir Walter Layton, then, will undertake the duties of Director-General of Programmes and will have associated with hire the Director of Statistics.
The Director-Generalship of Munitions Production was a very large one, covering a wide field of production under an exceedingly able officer, Sir Harold Browne. It was really too big for one man to handle. One has to watch that kind of thing. In the desire to secure greater production, one must be careful about placing too big a bunch of things on the one Director. Either the work will not be done, or you break the man down, and that does not suit anybody. Therefore, I have taken ammunition production away from the Director-General of Munitions Production and appointed Mr. Maclellan Director-General of Ammunition Production. I have also appointed Mr. Davidson-Pratt to be Director-General of Chemical Defence and Mr. S. C. Leslie to be Director of Public Relations. This latter appointment does not refer to ordinary publicity work. It has been made because we are presented with all kinds of problems of morale and so on, within the industrial organisation and in relationships with the public. Salvage, for example, must be handled and the good will of the public secured. This will 631 be an appointment of great value. Then Mr. Geoffrey Crowther has been brought in as Director of Programmes under Sir Walter Layton.
In the Tanks Division, where Mr. Bennett had done very good work under very difficult circumstances, he has tendered his resignation, which I thought should be accepted. I have appointed Mr. Geoffrey Burton, who has considerable experience as a good production engineer—and we must recognise that production engineers of first-class calibre are very valuable in this business—as Director-General of Tanks and Transport, and he is going about his job in an energetic way. Mr. Mills has replaced Mr. Rowse as Controller of Machine Tools, and he has under him, as Deputy, Mr. Blair, who has a considerable and intimate acquaintance with machine-tool problems. Extra junior staff of the assistant- secretary and principal grade have been appointed. They will learn their job and if vacancies arise will be ready to step into them and ready to strengthen the organisation.
This is a little humdrum, but experience of public administration has taught me that if you have not got in an official organisation, direction of sufficient power and energy, you cannot get results, and it was profoundly important that what I have described should have been done. It will be seen, therefore, that my policy has been to make immediate changes where I was convinced that the balance of advantage was in favour of so doing; to reinforce the organisation as rapidly as possible, and to be prepared to deal ruthlessly and speedily with faults in organisation, inefficiency or slackness, wherever they existed. If there is any inefficiency or slackness in any way, inside or outside the Ministry, under the powers we now possess it can be dealt with, and I can assure the House that I will not hesitate to deal with it. We have wanted to make the transition from something like passive to active planning. Moreover, the military situation has been such that we could not stay pat where we were.
During the past seven weeks there have been changes in the military situation, and with each real change I have given instructions that the programme should be looked at again, and if need be 632 strengthened again, in the light of the new circumstances. Three times I have given the order that the programme should be looked at again, because in this war nothing stands still. This is a war in which revision and adaptability must be resorted to as and when the situation changes. It is not a static situation. We have concentrated, quite properly, on immediate things and immediate production for the next few months, but we will not forget the longer view for we all hope that this period of the last few weeks will in due course change. Therefore, we must think of long-term policies and of offensives as well as defensives. First things must come first, but we are not forgetting the future.
Very great attention has been and is being paid to the Area Organisation, and I have taken the step of asking my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry to take over, examine and cross-examine, sift and thoroughly look at the whole of the Area Organisation of the Ministry of Supply. I think a Minister is unwise if he does not fully use his Parliamentary Secretary. Moreover, I think it is a bad thing for a Parliamentary Secretary to be hanging around with nothing to do. It is good for him to be fully occupied. To be quite frank, I was not convinced that the Area Organisation which has grown up in other circumstances was as strong, self-reliant and vigorous as it could be. One does not want to leave it entirely on its own, but one must be ready for the possibility that one might have to leave the Area Organisation "on its own" in certain circumstances and be prepared for that time. The right thing to do is to find what can be done locally, what can be done swiftly, efficiently and properly, and co-ordinate that with the central Departmental organisation of the Ministry, so that there is proper liaison, self-reliance and vigour both at the centre and in the areas. My hon. Friend will, with the permission of the House, make a short speech later telling the House what he has been doing in this respect.
We want to marry capacity and requirement, and the Parliamentary Secretary has now been appointed chairman of a sub-committee of the Production Council which will deal with similar problems for all Departments concerned with the war. It is not enough for one Department to 633 solve this problem, because it may be the case that production capacity which is no good to me may be good for aircraft production or the Admiralty or vice versa. Therefore we are to have this sub-committee, over which my hon. Friend will preside, in order to deal with the Area Organisation for all production Departments and the Ministry of Labour, which is playing a great and important part in this matter; also to examine unused capacity, with the desire to find whether it can be used if it is at all possible, and look at it from the point of view of all the production Departments concerned. I have heard all the difficulties about finding new capacity and using it, and I beg the House to realise that some of these difficulties are very real. But I assure the House that I and my Department have instructed our officers that it is our job to utilise all possible spare capacity to meet all specified requirements. We gave directions some time ago as to priority to manufacturers, so that they should know what the priority war requirements are. There are, of course, snags about the business which it is wise hon. Members should face. Already they know a lot about them. Let me give an example. If there is a modern factory with a highly specialised plant, the idea comes quite naturally that it must be good for munitions production, but the very fact that it has a specialised plant may make it more difficult to produce munitions.
Another point is that quick and easy mass production is not as easy as it was in the last war, because mechanisation in military operations does introduce greater complexities into the kind of thing we want, and skilled men and machine-tool men are even more important to-day than they were then. Moreover, we must not live in the last war too much. We have had great help from a number of people who had extraordinary experience in the vast operations of the last war, and I have consulted them, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I shall always be happy to do so, because it would be exceedingly foolish to ignore the vast experience acquired at that time. But I am sure everyone will agree, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, that perhaps there has been a little too much assumption that this war is like the last 634 war. It is not; it is very different. I have met people who have said they did certain things in the last war, but it was the kind of thing that has so changed now that I know they could not play their part in that particular job in this war. One must not assume that all the actualities of the last war are applicable to this war. Indeed, the man I am looking for is the man to handle the next war rather than the last war, although, of course, I very much hope there will not be a next war.
I want to thank Members of Parliament and firms for their advice and offers. I promise them that I will see to it, directly and through the Production Council sub-committee, the Area Organisation and the Parliamentary Secretary, that they are properly considered. I cannot say more. We will see to it that their offers are properly examined and particularly looked at in the area itself where we must mobilise and promote co-operation among producers. There are certain things that you cannot very well use in existing factories. That is true of filling factories, where all kinds of considerations of safety arise. New factories must be built. At the beginning of the life of this Government Parliament generously gave wide and sweeping powers over persons and property. They were extraordinary and extensive powers. The first Order has now been issued, under Defence Regulation 54 (c), to control undertakings. There is a list of 1,500 to 1,600 firms, under the control not only of my Department but of the Admiralty and the Ministry of Aircraft Production as well. Under that Order I am able to give fairly meticulous instructions to all sorts of people to do particular things. I can shift a management if it is incompetent, and I will shift it if it is incompetent. I can give instructions that if things are being done wrongly, they should be done right. These powers are very considerable. On the other hand, I will not use these powers in pursuit of any particular, pet theory. Whatever is done by the Right or Left, I want production. That is the sole consideration. Where firms are efficient, competent and public spirited, and where the active management is good, I shall give them every freedom and elbow room, so that they can work without hindrance. If these people do their job well, efficiently and economically and in the public 635 interest, I shall let them get on with it, but if they play the fool with the public interest or are incompetent, I will be on top of them.
Action has been taken already in particular directions, and I can give these instances. A firm engaged in the production of small-arms munitions seemed unable to achieve the desired rate of output, and an efficient expert was sent for by the Ministry, from another firm. He overhauled the arrangements, and the whole of his recommendations were carried out, with the result that the output of this firm has already shown considerable improvement. In another case of a very important firm alterations to the management were made at the request of the Ministry. Partly owing to these changes, the delivery of the firm improved by 35 per cent. during a month. There are several other cases now being dealt with where the output has been unsatisfactory, probably for reasons connected with the management. In one such case it is proposed to hand over production to be managed by a more efficient firm in the same district. It is hoped this will result in an improvement on existing contracts and increase the number of future contracts. I am sure that the House will agree that this is the right spirit in which and the right method by which these new powers should be exercised.
There is another difficult administrative problem in connection with which I have also decided to strengthen the staff—a problem which I dare say other Ministers have experienced. Apart from marrying capacity to requirement, there is this difficulty which every Minister meets: A lot of letters come in from Members of this House and are treated with great attention and seriousness. Other complaints come in from industrialists outside. Inquiries go to the Departments concerned, and replies come back. I wish it to be understood that in the vast majority of cases the Department is right, but as I have sat in my office I have sometimes paused and said, "Are you sure you are right in writing this letter? Do you know it yourself?" No Minister can know in all cases. I have no reason to believe that the letters are other than sound and proper, and I do not wish to do anything to cause any officer to think I distrust him. There is only one thing to do with an officer you distrust, and 636 that is to sack him, but so long as he is there, you must co-operate and work with him. Nevertheless, a problem remains, and sometimes in these complaints there may emerge missing links in the chain.
You may find some lack of co-ordination—I did not mean to use that word—some lack of correspondence in the processes of production whereby there is interruption in production. With the good will and co-operation of the heads of the Departments concerned, I have decided to appoint a director of special inquiries who will, not by long, wordy minutes and correspondence, but by walking around and seeing the people concerned, both at the top and at the bottom, find out whether there is anything in these complaints, take them up, and, if he finds something which wants to be put right, he can co-operate with the head of the firm and put it right in a friendly way. If it is something which should come to the Minister, then it will come to me. Therefore, in the future, on the question of complaint, my conscience will be a little easier, when I write to hon. Members, than it has been. I hope the House will agree that this is a good step. I am having a meeting with representative manufacturers who work for the Ministry, and I am going to ask them what they are grumbling about, what criticisms they have to make, and what suggestions they have to offer whereby production may be speeded up. I have asked them that the procedure shall be as speedy as possible.
The main elements of supply are raw material, which is a very extensive function of the Ministry. I think the position can be described as broadly satisfactory, but, nevertheless, I am having that organisation looked over to see that supplies are coming forward and also in regard to problems which arise on raw material organisation. The House will be glad to know that we have recently placed very big orders in America and elsewhere for raw material, and the instructions I have given are that it is better to be on the safe side and have too much than run the risk of having too little. We must also face the consequences of possible seige conditions; all that must be taken into account. On labour supply, I have to express my appreciation of the work done by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. 637 He has been bold, imaginative and helpful. I am troublesome to him, I am running after him so much for labour here and elsewhere, and he sometimes runs after me when he thinks me worthy of consideration. There is excellent co-operation between us, and I feel that the new and developing organisation at the Ministry of Labour is going to be a factor of enormous importance in the problem of supply generally.
The third element is machine tools; and this element is of the most profound importance. The sources of supply of machine tools are those manufactured by machine-tool firms in this country, second-hand machines in private hands, which we must not forget, American and other foreign purchases of new and second-hand machine tools, and, fourthly, idle plant. We are taking steps to comb thoroughly the resources represented by second-hand machinery here and abroad. We are using to the full the sources of production in our own country, which is up to £15,000,000 per annum now instead of £10,000,000, a 50 per cent. increase. This production is not as much as we want. The importation of machine tools from abroad, where we are buying on the basis that we cannot get too many, is £1,500,000 per month, not per year. As regards idle plant, it has been decided by the Production Council to take a census of the use of machine tools. There was a feeling that they are not being fully used, and if that is the case, it is a tragedy. If a machine tool is only used part of the day when it could have been transferred somewhere else, it should be done, and, therefore, we have had a census of machine tools use, and the results are under classification. This return will give information of the idle plant available, and instead of having to wait for me, I have delegated my powers to the Machine Tool Controller to requisition any plant which is now idle and capable of being put to effective use.
This again is a problem which is interdepartmental. Therefore, we have the advice of an inter-Services Committee, representing all the Supply Departments, meeting under the chairmanship of the Controller of Machine Tools every fortnight and meeting every other day for detail work. We calculate that machine tools are being made available from all sources up to 80,000 per annum. At the 638 present time the Machine Tool Controller has recommended representatives of the respective Services to allocate all the available processes in accordance with the priority production order. It is important that there should be co-ordination between the machine-tool use and the priority order. Moreover, we have to take into account the requirements of the Dominions and India in this matter. The House will be pleased to know that machine tools ordered from America and Canada and destined for France and tools ordered in this country for France are now being diverted to our own use. We shall get these machine tools from America, and when we have completed the list that was ordered it will be well over£3,000,000.
I will refer shortly to salvage. The House is familiar with the problem from questions which have been put. I decided to appoint a committee consisting of women Members of this House to inspect the salvage problem. I have a feeling that there was perhaps a little jealousy on the part of male hon. Members of this House when I appointed a committee entirely of women Members. It struck me that this was a job upon which women could be very effective, like many other jobs upon which they are very effective, and I felt certain that they would do the work well. My experience is that they have. After all, there have been hundreds of committees appointed upon which no woman has sat, and, therefore, I do not think male Members of this House should be at all jealous that a committee has been appointed upon which they do not sit. The chairman of the committee is the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George), with the hon. Members for Wallsend (Miss Ward) and Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) as vice-chairmen. They promptly got to work and brought to me quickly a recommendation as to the future powers of the Minister. This task has been done so far under voluntary effort. Let me say that the great bulk of local authorities responded and instituted schemes. Some local authorities did it well, others not so well. This was all very well in the days of the Maginot Line, but it is not good enough now, and we have decided to take compulsory powers to compel local authorities, which will be followed by compulsory powers on the householder who does not play up. They may get 639 annoyed with us when we plant these compulsory powers upon them, but they must remember that they are vital in the interests of the nation. In this matter also there is more than one Department concerned—there are the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Food and the War Office—and we have, therefore, gone on the recommendation of the Committee presided over by the hon. Member for Anglesey and decided to appoint an inter-Departmental Committee so that the work of the Departments can be brought together properly.
Now let me make a short reference to the scientific research department, which is under the direction of an exceedingly powerful committee of scientists, with Dr. H. J. Gough, an eminent scientist, a Doctor of Science and Philosophy, a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Institute of Physics and a Member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers at their head. They have an advisory council under the chairmanship of Lord Cadman, and they have done splendid work in scientific research for the Ministry, which obviously I cannot talk about. But I should like to assure the House that proper measures have been taken for the consideration and examination of all proposals of a scientific and inventive character, and no trouble or expense will be spared. That department is one of great privacy. I can assure the House that this fine body of scientists is doing splendid work.
Our imports of munitions from the Empire and the United States are growing. We must not only manufacture the maximum munitions at home; our needs are so great that we must get the maximum also from abroad, both because we need them on their merits and for purposes of insurance. Therefore, we have made a comprehensive programme of purchases abroad. In Canada the new department of munitions and supply is taking over the work which was formerly done by the Purchasing Commission in that country under Colonel Greenly, who has been exceedingly helpful and done good work. But in the new circumstances the Dominion Government preferred to undertake that work as a Department of State, and Canada is vigorously co-operating with us, and orders to the value of nearly £5,000,000 have been placed in Canada in the last few weeks. Australia is sending 640 immediately small-arms munitions in large quantities from her own stocks of bombs, shells and fuses. The whole available surplus capacity in India has been taken up, and the Indian Government are bringing into production various private firms. Very big things are being done in India, and the most excellent spirit exists there, while the Secretary of State for India has been actively in consultation with me on the matter.
The requirements from America fall into two classes: urgent and immediate requirements, many of which are being bought from stock and include field guns, Thompson guns, magazines and ammunition, together with rifles and machine guns. Wherever we can lay our hands on suitable existing weapons in the United States—that is the wrong word—wherever we can obtain them we are obtaining them with all possible speed, and I have to thank the American authorities for their ready co-operation in the matter. We shall need also very large requirements in respect of machine tools and also in connection with our tank and gun programme. They are being dealt with by the Purchasing Commission in America, a highly equipped body which has appropriate contacts in the United States and is acting in conjunction with the Government of the United States. We must proceed on a long-term programme in the United States as well as an immediate programme, and that means that there must be co-operation with our Purchasing Commission for certain necessary adaptations of American industry. I can assure the House that a very comprehensive view is being taken of our requirements from the Dominions, from India and from the United States.
I now come to the end of my statement on behalf of the Ministry. I want to thank everybody who has so generously helped the Ministry during its existence and during my tenure of office. I wish to thank the workers in the factories for their very high morale and conduct in periods of air-raid alarms and warning. They have stood the strain with the very best spirit and with very great courage. We have experienced a very great loss of material and equipment in France, which has added to our problem and to the needs of our programme. We have revised that programme. I think the account I have given of the work of the Ministry indicates 641 that we are approaching our problem in the right spirit and in the right way. We shall welcome the co-operation of hon. Members in this House. I can assure the House that I will do my very best to see that the utmost results are obtained.
§ 4.46 p.m.