HC Deb 11 November 1941 vol 374 cc2034-5
48. Sir T. Moore

asked the Prime Minister which member of the War Cabinet has the duty of deciding between conflicting priorities?

The Prime Minister

The major issues of policy which govern priority of production are determined by the War Cabinet or the Defence Committee. Conflicts of priority in the field of production are dealt with on the Production Executive or one of its subordinate bodies. Almost without exception these conflicts have been settled by agreement between the Ministers concerned. In the case of any unresolved disputes, any Minister has the right of appeal to the War Cabinet, or, in the first instance, to me. While there is no fixed procedure for referring priority questions for decision to a particular Minister, on suitable occasions this practice is adopted.

Sir T. Moore

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a certain amount of anxiety—indeed, confusion— among industrialists with regard to this question of priorities? Would he appoint, not himself, because he is already overburdened, one member of the War Cabinet to be the deciding factor in a conflict?

The Prime Minister

I went into these matters very carefully and at length shortly before leaving for the Atlantic Conference. I am always considering the matter and making such changes of emphasis and adjustment as may seem desirable from time to time, but I have reached the conclusion that no general alteration of what I then laid down to the House as the best machinery is desirable.

Mr. Thorne

Do priorities vary from time to time, say from week to week?

The Prime Minister

Major priorities are sometimes varied when a different emphasis is required in accordance with the view taken of the war.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken into consideration the fact that often members of the War Cabinet are absent on other important duties and sometimes out of the country, and would he not consider that from the point of view of laying the responsibility on very few shoulders?

The Prime Minister

I do not think they are unduly absent from their duties. I think they discharge their duties almost without cessation.