HC Deb 27 May 1941 vol 371 cc1688-90
18. Mr. Hammersley

asked the Secretary of State for War, whether he is aware that, due to the rigidity of War Office orders, there is frequently a great and avoidable waste of transport and petrol, in some cases lorries having to travel 60 miles empty to do a journey of six miles loaded; and will he take steps to amend the instructions to enable the most economical methods of transport available to be utilised?

Mr. Law

I do not consider that the existing instructions with regard to the provision of transport for the Home Guard, to which I understand my hon. Friend refers, are unduly rigid. In order to secure economical co-ordination of transport requirements, the provision of vehicles is normally carried out through the officer in charge of transport in the district concerned or the Territorial Army Association, but Home Guard commanders may also be authorised to hire locally, where this course is cheaper and more convenient. These instructions were carefully framed to meet the needs of Home Guard units with due regard both to economy and to administrative convenience, and I do not think that there should be any real difficulty, if they are properly carried out. I have, however, called for a report on the cases which my hon. Friend has been good enough to bring to my notice, and I will communicate with him as soon as possible.

Mr. A. Edwards

Is the Minister aware that I submitted a case to him several weeks ago, where a motor lorry ran out of petrol within three miles of the official military petrol pump, and the driver had to wait according to his instructions until a lorry brought petrol from a distance of 40 miles, which meant a journey of 80 miles in all?

Mr. Law

I have seen references to cases of that kind, and my right hon. and gallant Friend is very conscious of the necessity to economise petrol. However, I think the House ought to remember a recommendation of the Select Committee to the effect that it is undesirable to set up very expensive organisations solely with the idea of saving expenses. It would be possible to create an organisation to provide that this sort of thing should never conceivably happen, but it would be expensive and involve the Army in an extensive amount of paper work and administration. I think we had better leave this matter to the common sense of those responsible, and I do not think the general results are as bad as some seem to think.

Mr. Edwards

Will the Minister withdraw his reference to the recommendation made by the Select Commitee, because the Select Committee never made any such recommendation?

Mr. Law

I think, if the hon. Member studies the Fourth Report, he will see that I was right.

Commander Locker-Lampson

Will the Minister reward economy in the use of petrol?

Mr. Levy

Does the Minister really suggest that it would require a large organisation to deal with a simple problem of this kind?