Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £30, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following Departments connected with Production for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, namely:—
|Class X., Vote 19, Office of the Minister of Production (New Service)||£10|
|Class X., Vote 11, Ministry of Supply||£10|
|Class X., Vote 2, Ministry of Aircraft Production||£10|
§ The Minister of Production (Mr. Lyttelton)
The last Debate on Production ended on 25th March, and therefore three-and-a-half months have elapsed since the whole matter was put under review. I think the Committee would wish to know how those three-and-a-half months have been spent. I would like to give an exhaustive account of production over the whole field, but my difficulties are that in doing that I may exhaust the Committee long before I have exhausted the subject. I will therefore confine myself to the three main sections of the subject which I think are of the greatest importance—first of all, the suitability or quality of the weapons which we now manufacture; secondly, some account of the organisation which I have set up; and thirdly, as far as it can be given, an account of the volume of production, and how production is getting on. 1104 I put the suitability or quality of the weapons first, because I think it is on that subject that the Committee is most concerned. What steps are taken to get the practical lessons gleaned from the battle field back to the supply Ministries, where the design engineers, the development engineers and the production engineers can work upon them; what arrangements are there for new developments?
First of all, let me discuss aircraft, because I think that in the air technical development is, more than in any other element, the dominating factor in the fortunes of war. There are two representatives of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, the Controller of Research and Development, who is an Air Force officer, and the Chief Scientific Adviser, who is a world-renowned scientist, who are members both of the Air Council and the Aircraft Supply Council. Similarly liaison, and it is more than liaison, is maintained with the Navy by the residence in the Ministry of Aircraft Production of two senior naval officers and staff. In this way there is a constant interchange of technical operational knowledge on the one hand, and technical design and research on the other. I think that we have some reason to be proud of the results, and I claim that the aeronautical industry in this country leads the world in adapting itself to the changing conditions which air fighting brings. I am quite convinced that that lead in the air—and I am talking now particularly of quality—with which we started, has been maintained.
Let me turn to the Army requirements. What steps here are used to bring tactical information into the factories? There are two parts of the organisation. The General Staff has, of course, a constant stream of tactical information from the battlefields and from the operations of our troops on manœuvres in this country. That tactical information is sifted and applied to any technical problem, and handed into the Ministry of Supply. That is not all. The second part of the organisation is that highly qualified scientific observers have been formed into operational research sections which are on the battlefield. These operational research sections report direct to the commander-in-chief in the theatre in which they are operating, and direct to the Ministry of Supply, and whatever may have been the 1105 case in the early part of the war, this particular marriage between tactical lessons and production practice now works satisfactorily. New enemy equipment, as soon as it is captured is, after a preliminary investigation, of course, sent home to see what lessons can be learnt from it. On this particular subject there is also a Weapon Development Committee under the D.C.I.G.S. from the War Office, and it includes officers from the Ministry of Supply, and the Chief Scientific Adviser of the War Office is a member of the Committee.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
Would the right hon. Gentleman say at what stage the mechanical engineer enters into this? So far we have had design engineers, research engineers and operational engineers mentioned, but what of the mechanical engineer who deals with the production side?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
That comes after design or alteration of design has been passed over to the Ministry of Supply, who then deal with the matter from a mechanical aspect.
During a recent Debate I gave a lot of information, past information, about tanks and guns. I think it is very easy to gain a wrong impression from comparing one piece of British equipment with another piece of German equipment. A correspondent called me to task because I had mentioned the 25-pounder as being a very successful gun against tanks in the open. I said it was a slower firing gun. Its rate is 8 rounds per minute compared with the 12 to 15 rounds of the 3.7. He said that I should have mentioned the fact that the 25-pounder had a lower muzzle velocity than the 88 mm. gun. I might well have done so, and I might have gone on to a discussion of the 3.7, which is a comparable pre-war gun, and also in large production. I think that some light might be thrown on the subject of artillery if I gave just another three calibres of comparable weapons. The Germans have an anti-tank weapon of 37 mm., and that corresponds to our 2-pounder. The German weapon throws a projectile of 1.9 pounds compared with 1106 the 2.4 pounds projectile thrown by the 2-pounder. The diameter of the 2-pounder is 40 mm. Next in the range is the 50 mm. German anti-tank gun, and that compares with our 6-pounder. The 50 mm. German gun throws a projectile of four-and-a-half pounds compared with the 6¼ pounds projectile thrown by our 6-pounder, so that the 6-pounder is a more powerful gun than the 50 mm. German anti-tank gun, and is strictly comparable. Both are designed as anti tank guns. [Interruption.] I think that the range of the 6-pounder will compare favourably with that of the 50 ram.
Lastly, there is the 88 mm., about which we have heard so much, and the comparative weapon in British equipment is the 3.7. Both these guns are high velocity anti-aircraft guns. There has been some suggestion that the 3.7 cannot be used in an anti-tank role. On the mobile mounting exactly the same as the 88 mm., it can be used very effectively. Neither gun is an ideal anti-tank gun, because they are not low enough, but when either of these guns gets a good target of tanks the effect will be devastating. These are exactly comparable Weapons.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
Yes, we have very large numbers of them—[Interruption]—also in Libya. [An HON. MEMBER: "Used as anti-tank guns?"] I cannot say what part they have taken in the battle except that they have been used; but there are large numbers of them, and they can be used in an anti-tank role, like the 88 mm. I do not think that in the field of artillery we have any reason to be afraid about our equipment as compared with that of the Germans. I had a curious confirmation of that yesterday when I was speaking to an artillery expert who had been captured at Sidi Omar, and who had been in conversation with the German commander of an 88 mm. battery. This battery had knocked out several of our A tanks, and this officer said to the German, "You had a good gun." The other said, "Oh yes, but I prefer the 3.7. I was on the wrong side of it in France."
Turning to tanks, I do not propose to go into the past history which I ventilated largely in the last Debate, but I want to 1107 try and give the Committee some assurance that we are making the right tanks now and are going to make the right tanks in the future. First, we sent to the United States a Tank Mission, and it did very good work. That mission fixed the tank programme and allotted to the United States on the one hand, and to the United Kingdom on the other, a programme of manufacture. [An HON. MEMBER: "When was that?"] It went out in March. So if there are any mistakes—and I do not think there are—in the foresight which we are showing towards this tank problem, the programme is one which has been made by the United States and by ourselves. It is a carefully considered programme. Moreover, the tanks that are actually coming out of the production line now will have the necessary fire power for to-day's battle and the new types which are designed to be made in the United States and this country, give us a reasonable assurance of that superiority which is required for victory.
Before I leave the general subject of quality I think I must plunge into a technical subject, and that is the difficulty caused by the pull between mass production and flexibility. This is the constant production problem with which we are faced, because mass production and flexibility are opposite terms. One is the antithesis of the other. The strategist would like to feel that in any theatre of war he is going to have the right weapon available at once, and the tactician requires that tactical lessons should be translated into steel in a few minutes. But the production engineer requires something different. He requires to have types very steady, if possible, and one of the reasons why this is particularly so in this country is that we are using diluted labour to an extent that has never been attempted before. If you dilute your skilled labour, it means more elaborate tooling of your factory, and, again, elaborate tooling is the enemy of flexibility.
It is no good burking the fact that your constant production problem is there; and the greatest ingenuity must be used in striking the right balance between volume production on the one side and flexibility on the other. The tooling for a heavy bomber costing we will say £100,000 would be £2,000,000 and for a 6-pounder 1108 gun, worth probably £1,200, it may be £200,000. You have this very elaborate tooling, and all these tools have to be designed and put into the production line before you produce one thing. It is absolutely necessary to stress that there is an irreducible minimum between the moment when design is, as engineers say, frozen or fixed, and the moment when you can produce the first one off the production line. We cannot reduce that. What we can do is by constant study to try to get the maximum flexibility which is consistent with volume.
Before I leave the matter of quality, may I say that there have also been suggestions that the scientific organisation is faulty? The Lord President of the Council and I are at this moment investigating it, but I would like to say that I think the scientific work which is being done is of a very high order. I do not for a moment say that it cannot be improved, but when this matter has been looked into before, it has been found that the scientific organisation has reached a much higher point than is generally supposed. My hon. Friend the Junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Prof. A. V. Hill) is a member of a committee which deals with this particular subject, and the last report in the hands of the Government was from that committee just to the effect that I have stated—namely that notwithstanding these criticisms, the scientific organisation has reached a high state of efficiency. The Committee should also know that there is no branch of the war to which the Prime Minister devotes more personal attention than this and the country should know that it owes him a very great debt for the way in which he has inspired scientific bodies to experiment with new weapons and to invent new explosives and new means of waging war. There are many things in which we are a great deal ahead of the world, at the moment.
Now I turn to the organisation which I have set up, and I will try to keep my remarks on this matter as short as possible, because I have made, at various times, statements dealing with the organisation, and I do not want to weary the Committee with repetition. Nevertheless I think some general recapitulation would be an advantage. The staff is divided into several sections. The first is the Joint War Production Staff; the second dealing 1109 with raw materials and for convenience I here include allocation of machine tools; the third is the Industrial Panel and Industrial Division; the fourth deals with regional organisation, and the fifth is the section which deals with industrial information. The Joint War Production Staff has been at work since the beginning of March. It represents the three Services. It has sailors, soldiers and airmen on the staff, with my production staff, and they are at work continuously. Very little work is done in committees, and the top level committee meets very occasionally.
This staff is the central planning organisation of production, and it works out problems which involve many Departments, or which involve policy which is above the power of any one Department to solve. Its main task, I suppose, expressed broadly, would be to give the right proportion of the national effort to each of the three Services and to civilian requirements. At this moment is the balance between expenditure on merchant shipbuilding, on the naval programme, on aircraft and on Army requirements correct? In 1940 we had to have aircraft or die. In 1941, with the entry of Russia into the war, the emphasis became more on tanks. In this year, with the mounting production of both the United States and this country, we have to look to the means of transporting those weapons to the country where they can fight the enemy. Therefore, recently, the Joint War Production Staff, with the approval of the War Cabinet, have given a higher allocation of raw materials to the merchant shipbuilding and naval programme, and are at this moment, in the course of arranging with the Minister of Labour for the transfer of certain skilled labour, which will be followed by raw labour, into the shipyards to bring this particular branch of our national effort into its correct perspective. This matter of shipbuilding, again, is closely linked up with the United States shipbuilding programme, which is one of the most fascinating—almost fantastic—industrial achievements that can be imagined. Mr. Kayser, director of the Boulder Dam, who never made a ship before, is now turning them out at an almost unbelievable rate. You can see the superstructure of a ship, with the captain's shaving glass, and the carnations, and everything else, being lifted in like a child's toy. Some- 1110 body says, "What is missing?"; somebody else says, "The bows are"; and then they are lifted in, to make the thing complete.
The next subject is the Raw Materials Division and the Machine Tool Control. This, again, I can deal with fairly quickly. This part of the organisation is charged with the allocation of the machine tools, with the fixing of the import programmes for all raw materials. This, too, has to be closely interlocked with the raw materials programme of the United States. This allocation follows the plan fixed by the Joint War Production staffs; and there are officers in this section dealing with the conservation of raw materials, which now, with the massive programme we have, has to be very closely looked into if raw materials are not to become one of the limiting factors over the whole field. One of the ways in which economy can be secured is by cutting down their consumption drastically, and then getting substitutes to replace, perhaps in smaller quantities, some of the things which have been taken away. The changes in the course of the war have made violent changes in our whole raw materials situation. Rubber is an instance. We do not consider at present that we should make synthetic rubber in this country, because there is no saving in shipping unless the synthetic rubber is derived ultimately from coal. The present method is to extract oil from coal first, and then to use that oil for the manufacture of synthetic rubber. Our policy is to concentrate the production of synthetic rubber in the United States.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
You have also to take into account the raw materials used in constructing the plant. That is a long subject. Perhaps the account would work out if the war lasted three years, but would show a debit if it lasted for two. Our considered policy is that the synthetic rubber should be manufactured in the United States, where, among other 1111 considerations, it will be manufactured out of range of enemy bombers.
I should like to deal with the regional organisation on the same lines as I have dealt with the raw materials and machine tools part of our organisation. The Citrine Report was first submitted on 1st May. It was considered by the Government and, in the main, accepted by "them, except for one matter to which they have since agreed, that matter being the appointment of the vice-chairmen of the regional boards. I must say that the old regional boards did very useful work, and we owe a great deal to them. At my request, they continued their work until the new boards were constituted. In appointing the regional controls, my office was in very close touch with the Trades Union Congress and the employers' federations and I have reason to believe that the appointment of these men was readily acceptable to both the T.U.C. and the employers' federations. I have very high expectations of the contribution which the regional boards can make in regard to our production problems, and these expectations, I think, are shared by the House and by the Select Committee. We have reached a point in our production where we cannot look for much more help from getting more labour into our industries. We have to rely on greater productivity from our existing resources. It is not a matter of absenteeism or of harder work, but of better, more detailed, planning, greater use of our machine tools, and better adjustments of loads.
The last subject is the most important of all. The load is now maldistributed in many cases. That is inevitable. We are going to try and put that right through the regional organisations. I was in a plant the other day which was making 100 medium-sized products for the electrical industries. If the number, by re distribution, could be reduced to 50, there would be an increase by 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. in the production of that plant, without the addition of a single machine tool or a single worker. The other question is that of getting the complicated jobs done by those firms with special skill, and releasing the simpler jobs to the smaller plants, where skill is necessarily less. Another problem is that of firms with big names getting too many 1112 orders, while the less well-known firms get too few. That sounds a simple matter, but the problem does occur. In all these matters it is local knowledge that is required, and local enthusiasm. We want the personal touch between the regional organisations and the district committees and the various plants.
§ Major Braithwaite (Buckrose)
Have the regional boards directional authority, or can they only make suggestions?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
No, they are not merely suggestional boards. The right of appeal from the decision of the Regional Controller by the individual controllers to the Supply Ministries exists, and must exist from the constitutional point of view. Nevertheless, since the regional boards have started, the whole of the contracts given by my Department, the Ministry of Aircraft Production, the Admiralty, and so forth are all the same. It is an absolutely agreed basis, and I think it will work very well. If it does not, some other arrangement will have to be made.
The Industrial Division is the next subject with which I want to deal, and I will do so very shortly. This division is mainly concerned with co-ordinating matters between the headquarters of the various supply Departments on special subjects. It has recently produced a scheme for the repair of motor vehicles, which has been approved by 10 Departments. It is concerned with the electricity supply industry, water supplies, hand tools, contract and costing procedure, the co-ordination of inspection, and subjects of that sort. The Industrial Panel is composed of very well-known industrialists on a part-time basis, and they are not in any sense a court of inquiry or a coroner's inquest. They are a body of industrialists who can be called upon by any Ministry which has some particularly difficult industrial problem to solve. At this moment, the panel are engaged upon, and will shortly finish; a report upon the dilution of labour in the shipyards; and they are conducting a very wide inquiry, at the request of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, into the time taken in changing from one type of aircraft to another and are suggesting means by which that interval can be shortened. That was done at his request. I might also mention that this panel was not set up by me only. It was set up by the 1113 Minister of Supply, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Aircraft Production. It is a joint effort to help to solve some of the more difficult industrial problems.
And, lastly, the last part of the organisation is that part dealing with industrial information. It is very necessary that we should have some focus, some policy by which all the various production bodies should publicise what they want publicised and that we should disseminate the information in a co-ordinated way. There is another part of the subject to which I attach particular importance. That is the dissemination of technical skill. I recently came to an arrangement with the Minister of Labour by which the "Ministry of Labour Bulletin," which is, I think, universally regarded as an excellent publication, will be expanded by a production section prepared by my office. This production section will not deal with exhortations or propaganda; it will deal with technical ideas. I am going to ask every plant engaged on Government work to keep, if I may express it so, a suggestion book in which all the ideas coming from workers or managements are entered, and I am thinking—I am taking advice on the subject at the moment—of a national system by which special recognition should be given to these ideas, because we want ideas, and if we get them we will acknowledge them and see that they are recognised not only by publicity. I think that we shall get great benefit from such a system.
I must refer shortly to my visit to America. It resulted in the formation of the Combined Production and Resources Board, which I regard as the most important recent step in production, and I must give the reasons. It makes the production of these two countries one. There is a common pool from which each nation can draw in accordance with a prearranged plan. That plan is a strategical plan laid down by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, but once it is laid down there ceases to be a British requirement or an American requirement. There only is an Allied requirement, and that requirement is not related to the establishment, as the Army term goes. It is related to an actual operation of war, to a particular date, to a particular force allotted a particular task in a particular theatre, and 1114 this is a matter of very great importance. There is no question that our Forces of equal strategical importance in any of these plans with those of the United States receive the same priority as they do all down the line, from finished munitions down to raw materials with which to manufacture them. The task of following up these requirements, which is done by various missions, is enormously simplified and expedited, because the whole organisation now has what you may term a master document on which the exact priorities can be determined.
But there is more than that in the Combined Production and Resources Board. Through it we can do three things. First of all, we can save shipping, secondly, we can save skill and plant, and thirdly, we can exchange technical information. How do we save shipping? I think it is better to give a perfectly simple illustration. The United States will manufacture clothing for our troops in the Middle East, and we shall manufacture clothing for the American troops in Great Britain, a saving in shipping. This, of course, could have been done before if America had been in the war and we had had this Combined Board, but it has really come about now. The equivalent in shipping is the saving of one voyage from here to the Middle East or practically that equivalent for every ship that is engaged in the traffic.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
A lot of clothing comes from here. Mr. Harriman, who has been dealing on the American side with these matters in a very broadminded way, is personally watching all these possible re-routings and savings of shipping. It is going to extend to certain weapons, to Army equipment, to aircraft and so forth. It cannot extend over the whole field of weapons. That is quite clear, and it requires a great deal of good will and hard work by the military authorities—and I may say it is getting both—to make proper use of one another's weapons. That is another way in which shipping will be saved, and there is a great range of other things. We require rolling stock in this country and in the Middle East. We shall manufacture our own rolling-stock in this country, but that will cause 1115 a certain fall in the production of weapons of war. That reduction in weapons will be replaced by the United States, who will at the same time relieve us of making and shipping rolling-stock to the Middle East and to the Persian Gulf. That is another way in which the thing works. I do not think that I need say anything about the saving in skill and in the use of plant by concentrating in the country most appropriate to the manufacture of this or that article. The rubber instance is perhaps an example.
With regard to the exchange of technical information, I again think that, between the United States and ourselves, this is a matter of prime importance. I spoke the other day of the great ingenuity and resilience of mind which is displayed by American engineers in this field, but I would not like the Committee to think that engineers here are not constantly conducting researches both into means of easing production and into the simplification of design. I would like to give some actual instances. An important machine-gun component took 2½ man-hours to manufacture and by ingenious re-design that 2½ man-hours has been reduced to six minutes, and a great economy in material has been made. Perhaps the money value that has been saved has also some significance. It amounts to £220,000 for 100,000 machine guns, The Bofors platform, which was a foreign design, took 1,000 man-hours to manufacture, but redesigned it now takes 230.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am afraid I cannot give the date. It was some time ago. I think the re-design is at least six months old.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am not sure when that started. I think it is more than six months old. The 2-pdr. barrel originally took 193 man-hours and the far larger 6-pdr. is now, by re-design and so forth, being manufactured in 72 man-hours. Again, the Sten gun, which is by far the cheapest and most rapidly produced weapon of conventional design, is another instance of the ingenuity which has been displayed. Components of aero engines taking 8¼ hrs now take three, and in a 1116 standard aeroframe we have reduced the material by 25 per cent. and the time by 75 per cent. Nevertheless, I still think that the United States are ahead of us in simplification of design and in substitution of materials. That is not a statistical piece of information; it is just my opinion. We have organised the exchange of technical information between the two countries. We have nothing to be ashamed of; indeed, in many things we are far ahead of the United States and in saying that I give some weight of course, to the fact that we started before they did. But in such matters of the dilution of male and female labour we are far ahead of the world. The control of raw materials—a most important part of the war—is carried to a much finer point here. We also lead the world in quality of fighter aircraft, we make the fastest heavy bombers, and in the very wide field of radio detection I think we can claim to be very much in advance of anybody else in the world.
§ Mr. Woodburn
In case the Minister's statement gives a wrong impression about the ability of British engineers to design for mass production, which is as efficient as any in the world, is he not aware that British engineers are doing at least equal to anything that America is producing, but that there is conservatism by other engineers who will not adopt their methods?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I know there are mass production engineers in the United States, Englishmen—and Scotsmen as well—who have attained great eminence there. One of the reasons why it is impossible to organise mass production on the same scale is not that given by the hon. Gentleman but because it would be impossible for military reasons. When I was at the Willow Run plant, Mr. Henry Ford said to me, "We have not begun here; there are only 15,000 men in the plant, and we shall have 75,000 to 100,000 when we are in production." [Interruption.] I think all the information about the Willow Run plant has been published in the technical Press in the United States. It is quite impossible to get anything like that concentration in this country.
Now I want to touch upon our volume of production and how it is coming off. It is coming off well. It is very difficult to get figures in a shape in which they mean anything. Obviously, individual figures cannot be given, and there is a 1117 natural impatience with index numbers. But I have given the matter a good deal of thought, and I think the best thing I can do is to give the long-term and short-term trends. If we take aircraft by structural weight and take January, 1941, as 100, by 1st July, 1941, the index number had gone up to 152; by January, 1942, it had risen to 191, and in June, 1942, to 244, representing nearly two-and-a-half times the starting point of January, 1941. If we look at warlike stores, taking again, January, 1941, as 100, production had risen to 153 by 1st July, 1941, to 216 by 1st January, 1942, and to 289 on 30th June, 1942. Production between January, 1941, and June, 1942, has nearly trebled.
I could pick out one or two other items. For instance, guns—2 pounder and upwards—are now producing at the rate of 60,000, and that includes no aircraft cannon. The production of armoured fighting vehicles since January, 1941, has nearly quadrupled, so I think we may say that our volume of production is satisfactory. It will grow; the trend is steadily upward, but there is above us, not a peak, but a plateau where we shall be limited by the amount of labour we can put into our industries and the amount of raw material available. We have now reached the point of mobilisation of our people where we cannot look for increased production. We cannot look for increased production by building new plant, because we cannot afford the raw materials or labour; neither can we increase production by cutting down civilian use. Already we have imposed great hardships and sacrifices on our people, and gladly have they undergone them. But we can, out of our existing resources, improve production by better planning, design and openness of mind.
I ask the Committee to believe that I will never be satisfied in these matters. I am sure things can be improved. I am not concerned with the amount of criticism directed at me—I thrive on it—but I ask that some praise be given to workers and managements in the many hundreds of factories in which a really prodigious job is being done. That is where you should give your praise. Since the recent Debate there has been a great deal of pessimism among workers as to whether their efforts are properly recognised. I hope 1118 for nothing better than a bouquet of nettles for myself, but I trust a better tribute will be paid to the workers and managements in our countless factories all over the country who are making such a notable contribution towards production.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
Before my right hon. Friend sits down will he tell the Committee what progress is being made towards production by the advisory committees which have been set up in works?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I take it my hon. Friend means the production committees. I cannot say they are universal, but they are almost universal, and I have seen their notable contributions to production.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
Let me make it quite clear in the first place that our movement stands by all its previous declarations in regard to the organisation and ownership of the supply industries. I heard frequent interjections, when some of my hon. Friends were speaking in the last Debate, about our attitude in the past. Well, I ask any Member of this Committee to look up the speeches that we have made on this question since 1936. The situation to-day, however, does not warrant dwelling upon that aspect now, nor can we afford to do it. We are reviewing our production efforts at a very opportune time. The Minister has given a good report of his visit to the United States and on the steps taken to bring about the synchronisation of our joint production effort and the utilisation of our resources. I have always been friendly towards America. I remember in 1936 putting a series of Questions on the need for improving our relationships with the United States, and being subjected to opposition from certain quarters of the House, but I want to remind the American people, as a friend, that the people of this country have now been straining themselves for three years. The establishment of a second front somewhere in Europe is now an urgent matter, and production is the key to that question. We shall require an overwhelming superiority in equipment, and, therefore, during the course of this Debate we should devote ourselves to being as constructive as possible in order to stimulate the Government and the people of this country and America so that production 1119 can be speeded up as rapidly as possible. In his American report, the Minister said that we have now set up a Combined Production and Resources Board, and he went on to say that we have also a common pool. That is good news, and it will be welcomed by all freedom-loving people throughout the world. It will sow seeds of concern, which will bear fruit, in Germany, Italy, and Japan. I want to ask the Minister whether these arrangements include the Soviet Union and our other Allies, and whether they will include, when necessary, our potential Allies.
The Minister has now had a few months' experience as Minister of Production. I want to ask him a few questions, to which I would like to have unequivocal answers. Has he the power that he should have? Has he inquired into the mistakes that have been proved of the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aircraft Production? Is his organisation satisfactory? Has he the staff to enable him to carry out the Ministry's work in the way in which he thinks it should be carried out? Is nothing allowed to stand in the way of securing the accelerated maximum output? I emphasise that question. Are all the machine tools being run for the maximum time without any regard to postwar considerations? Are the machine tools being run on sites where they will produce the best results in the national interest? Is the raw material allocated to bring the best results?
The Minister said that an investigation is being made into scientific organisation. I welcome that statement, as will all those who have been giving consideration to this matter. Based upon intimate contact with some of the most competent people dealing with these things, I have for many weeks been putting a series of Questions, to the Secretary of State for War in particular. The Replies have been very disappointing, and not only the Replies, but the tone of the Replies. But in a situation of this kind we must not be discouraged even if we obtain insolent answers in a democratic institution. There is too much at stake. Some of us have been stressing for months the need for a central scientific directing council. I have not time to go into that matter now, but I have here some notes which I propose to hand to the Minister. 1120 I hope he will be good enough to have them typed out so that he and the other Ministers responsible can give consideration to them. Is the Joint Production Staff functioning efficiently and to the satisfaction of the Minister? The Minister is assisted by the Planning Group. Have they already studied the lessons to be drawn from Libya? Have they asked for a reliable officer to fly home in order that the lessons of Libya may be applied to the design of equipment and the modification of types in production at the present time? Last Friday, the following advertisement appeared in the newspapers:Wanted: Work of National Importance. Plant and machinery available for sheet-metal work, spot welding, electro-plating. Willing to extend or adapt plant.This is an indication that there is still need for inquiry into why machines should be standing idle, and why it should be left to individual firms to decide whether they should extend or not. I would like the Minister to go into that matter. Is it correct that there are only 36 capacity clearing centres in the country? Have we organised on the basis of the best geographical production areas, and not only on the basis of the geographical areas? When are we going to insist on the pooling of technical information, the pooling of production methods, jigs, tools, and gadgets—which can only be brought out and perfected by the people directly engaged in every-day production—all of which, in the aggregate, can have a big effect on output? I would like some attention to be given to the problem of overstaffing in some firms and under-staffing in others. I would like the Minister to consider whether post-war considerations are not being allowed to affect overstaffing in some firms. Here we have a potential supply of managerial, administrative and supervisory staffs, composed of research workers, draughtsmen, pattern makers and process and rate men. The men hesitate to move when they have an opportunity to move. I do not blame the men, I do not blame the firms too much, because there are reasons for this hesitation. I believe that post-war considerations are being allowed to play too big a part in these questions. Therefore, the Government ought to consider making an inquiry into whether I have stated the facts; and if they are facts—and I know they are in certain directions—consideration should be given as to how the Gov- 1121 ernment can give the firms and the men satisfaction with regard to their future security. If the matter is considered on that basis, I am convinced it will be a big step in the right direction.
Works councils and production committees have been set up throughout the country, in spite of opposition from certain people who are now claiming publicly to be supporting them. These are steps in the right direction. But the councils and committees are not yet functioning as efficiently as the employers and the workpeople desire. I suggest that the time has arrived when an educational campaign should be conducted throughout industry in order to deal, first, with the employers, secondly, with the managerial staff, and thirdly, with the workpeople. There is as yet too much "I" about production, too much "we," instead of looking at the question from the point of view of national needs. In addition, there is reluctance among all grades in industry to accept responsibility. These times are the test for management, and, therefore, an educational campaign is required in order that the representatives of the workpeople, the managerial staff and the employers can be brought to see the necessity for being prepared to accept greater responsibility. I believe this would be a step towards further increasing production.
I was pleased to hear that the Minister has at last given national recognition to the need for a Suggestions Committee. I know scores of people who are as good and competent as anybody can be, but they have not the social position, the social status, the necessary education, to enable them to develop in the way that many people have done; nevertheless, within the limits of their own experience, directly engaged on production, they have made many suggestions which enabled British industry to become as efficient as it was in the competitive world before the war. It is good that the suggestion committees are to be given national recognition. In addition, the Minister is proposing to give recognition in some concrete form, and this again will be a big step in the right direction. There are great possibilities for increasing production by improving jigs, tools and gadgets. Men engaged on everyday operations can make suggestions for simplifying design, and when the Minister makes his statement to industry, I hope that he will encourage them to do so. I should like 1122 the Minister to consider carrying out a campaign to stimulate greater enthusiasm. At football matches great enthusiasm used to be shown, and Steps should be taken to whip up the same enthusiasm to improve our national effort.
During the last 20 years, during the best time of my life, this country has been too apt to take a complacent attitude with the result that we have been left behind in certain directions by other countries. I am convinced that great steps could be taken to increase output by encouraging individual initiative and individual interest and by emulating methods such as those adopted in the Soviet Union in regard to improving piece-work and other methods. I have an example of this from a wall newspaper of one factory. The atmosphere in that factory is as good as it possibly can be between workpeople and the managerial side. When the management go through the factory there is an atmosphere of respect and confidence. They are all engaged in bringing about the maximum output in the national interest. These are steps which could be taken, and I hope more of this will be done. I propose to hand this paper to the Minister for his consideration.
British democracy has great achievements to its credit, and I am glad to hear the Minister give the recognition which is due to the workpeople. I emphasise that our people should be made more achievement-minded. Take the Lancaster bomber. From every point of view the Lancaster bomber is the finest bomber in the world, but there are thousands of people employed in manufacturing the smallest parts who have never seen one, owing to the division of labour and the sub-division of labour. So far as the engineers are concerned, this war did not start in 1939 but in 1938, and they have been engaged on manufacturing the smallest parts for 12 hours a day. A few months ago I visited at 7 o'clock at night one of the largest factories in this country. One of the managerial staff took me through the die-casting section, and perspiration was flowing off the faces of the people engaged on that work. I saw a man and his wife and his wife's sister all working there as hard as they could, and the representative of the management asked me whether I know the secret of this. He told me that a few months ago these people were engaged on manufacturing parts to enable planes to fly blind, 1123 and they knew whenever a bomber went over to Germany or to any other part of the world, it was largely because of the results of their work. That is stimulating pride, interest and achievement, and making the workpeople achievement-minded. I suggest that the time has arrived when workpeople should be given a tonic by taking them to see finished products. Let them see a Lancaster bomber. Anyone who knows anything about aeronautical production cannot help being aroused on seeing a Lancaster bomber, in the same way as my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) was aroused when he saw the "Queen Mary" and "Queen Elizabeth." I realise that it may not be possible for all the workpeople to see the finished product, but I suggest that their representatives should be taken to aerodromes and that pilots should be invited to visit the workshops. Such action would be a great tonic to the workpeople.
After nearly three years of war we have had the report of the Committee on Regional Organisation. Some of us have stressed the importance of this from the beginning of the war, and we have got a little tired of talking about it. Nevertheless, it has come at last, and it should result in a great improvement in regional production organisation. Much, however, will depend on those who are to operate the regional machinery, and on Tuesday we were disappointed when the Minister announced the names of the Regional Controllers. It is time we recognised that the competence, efficiency and dynamic qualities required in war-time are not to be measured by the social status of an individual. Merit should be the basis for the promotion of both men and women. One of the best scientific engineers I know, and one of the most virile men I know, is at present directing operations in Iran. Had that man been still living in England, he would have been too young to have held such a responsible position.
We should be producing more by employing arc-electric welding. In the days when this country was short of a certain anti-aircraft gun, the carriage was not acceptable unless it had been rivetted, and it was nearly two years before the authorities were convinced that a welded carriage was not only satisfactory in every respect, but could be more cheaply and 1124 more quickly produced. As a matter of fact output increased as much as three or four times. There are too many responsible people in the graveyard of custom, and that is a typical example. The Germans are mass-producing submarines at the present time, and they are employing arc-electric welding processes.
The Minister made no reference to our organisation and production plans in India. In India we have teeming millions and a country of great resources and great possibilities for production. If production was organised as it should be, it would save shipping space and would speed up the delivery of supplies to quarters which may still become war zones. I hope that between now and the closing of this Debate the Minister will give attention to this problem.
Are we sure we are adopting the right policy in regard to shipbuilding? The shipbuilding industry is far too conservative. Arc-electric welding methods have not been introduced to the extent that they should have been. Are we utilising our materials, industrial capacity, time and labour to the best advantage? Let me quote a leading and competent American engineer. Mr. Grover Loening, a leading aeronautical engineer, comparing the carrying capacity of a slow freighter to the largest American plane, says that 15 planes could carry as much in a year as an average 11,000 ton steamer between the United States and the Red Sea. The difference in time is enormous. The American Army has ordered cargo planes which can transport light artillery, and even reconnaissance cars. Has consideration been given to using a fleet of Douglas 54's and Curtiss C46's for that purpose, the jigs and tools already being there? I put a series of Questions to the Secretary of State for Air with a view to bringing out who was responsible for our policy with regard to dive-bombers. He replied:As I informed my hon. Friend on 20th May last, dive bombers were ordered in July, 1940."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1942;col. 1032, Vol. 380.]I put a Question another day with a view to bringing it out more in the open, and I got an ordinary pre-war Civil Service Answer. From some of the Answers given to constructive suggestions made in Questions with a view to helping our war effort, 1125 it is evident that some people are not aware of the serious situation that we are in. I have a report here which states that big concentrations of shipping were caught by United States dive-bombers, which sank two large aircraft carriers, at least one cruiser and seven destroyers, and damaged many others. After attacks by waves of dive-bombers an aircraft carrier rolled over and sank immediately. The second was bombed and attacked with torpedoes and set on fire from end to end. Why have we not admitted this in the House and in the country in general? The feat accomplished by the American dive-bombers was a great feat, and we should make amends for our shortcomings as soon as possible. The same thing applies to our men in Tobruk. They were dive-bombed at 2 p.m., according to a reliable report which I have here. We should plead with the Americans to increase and accelerate the output of their dive-bombers and send us over thousands of the new Curtiss Hell divers as quickly as possible.
The Minister rightly paid a great tribute to Mr. Kaiser, who is doing a remarkable work in America, but we have our Mr. Kaisers, who have not been allowed to do in this country what he has done. Vested interests in too many instances have stood in the way of the British Mr. Kaisers bringing about the results that he is doing. This is an engineers' war and a war of machines. Is there an engineer in the War Cabinet? Is there an engineer among the supply Ministers? Is there an engineer on the General Staff? Do the General Staff accept the advice tendered to it by the engineers? I have documentary evidence to prove that they do not. I know that great steps have been taken in the right direction during the past few weeks. Mr. Weekes, whom I do not know, is, I understand, a very fine type of man and an example of the kind of man some of us thought should have been brought into the War Office long ago. Is there still that conservatism in the War Office preventing developments of that kind taking place? Let me quote from the "Manchester Guardian":Looking back on the Debate on our deficiencies in Libya, one must be struck by the amount of information we gave away. Some things, especially about our difficulties with tanks, it would probably have been better not to advertise so freely. Now that they are exposed, the questions arising from them should be pressed farther. Evidently no lessons were learned from Spain or from France in 1940. 1126 The enemy had the more heavily armoured and strongly gunned tanks. He had the heavier anti-tank gun. This at once takes some of the blame for defeat from the generals in the field and places it on the generals who choose our weapons. They have extremely little excuse. But the thought will persist that two years of intense national effort, complete Government powers and a willing people should have been able to produce something better. The Ministry of Production must enlist the best scientific and technical help and break through the muddling methods that seem to have afflicted the War Office and the Ministry of Supply in planning new weapons.There have been, and I have found by visits to certain Departments there still are, too many in high places with the bow and arrow outlook. Lord Beaverbrook on 1st July explained the system that determines responsibility. Here at least we have an acknowledgment of where responsibility lies. According to this statement, the War Office is responsible for tanks. The Prime Minister once wrote of generals fighting machine guns with the breasts of gallant men. For 20 years we must have neglected the development of the tank, for we had 6-pounder guns in our tanks in the last war. Are we increasing our tank units as quickly as possible? Have we all the available productive capacity on the output of tanks? The Russians have produced the Voroshilov 40-ton tank. They claim that it carries more shells than any other.
Here we are, the leading industrial and engineering country in the world, and yet we have been left behind. These facts are an indictment against the people who have been in charge of our tank development. We invented the tank. I remember how with pride we used to drive the tanks. When we landed in the Army of Occupation at Aix-la-Chapelle, Duren and Cologne, the Germans came for miles around and stood admiring our tanks. There must be some guilty men somewhere, many in high places. For 20 years they have preferred to strut about with spurs on instead of encouraging mechanical engineering. Tanks have revolutionised, quickened and mechanised warfare and led to machine warfare, only limited by the resources and productive capacity of the nation. Machine warfare demands quick production, quick changes, quick movement and quick men. I hope the Minister will have regard to that. I doubt whether we in this House are really reflecting the dynamic movement to the extent that we should.
1127 If I had more time I should like to deal with the lessons which have been drawn from the Soviet Union. Stalin has given instructions for infantry to be trained in tactics of tank extermination, creating an army of tank destroyers. I have here a secret document, which I propose to hand over to the Minister; It is not a Secret Session, and, in spite of the discouragement of some of the most competent engineers, and of me, I do not propose to give the details of this to the public for fear that Germany, Italy and Japan make use of them. But I am convinced that, had this been proposed in the Soviet Union, it would have been adopted long ago. It reminds me of the Prime Minister's experience in the last war. For years he had to fight the War Office in regard to the introduction of the tank. It was not until 1917 that the War Office agreed to the development of the tank in the way the Prime Minister intended. His experience in the last war has been the experience of some industrialists with regard to the developments in this. Here is monumental evidence of frustration and procrastination. This is a concrete example of the point I am bringing up.
In a war of this kind we can only meet steel with steel. Germany has mobilised her steel industry on a mechanised steel basis, and we will have to do the same. We cannot meet steel with the bare breasts of men. We can only meet tanks with superior tanks. We have done that with our aircraft, which will well bear comparison with any aircraft in the world. We have not done that yet with mechanical appliances used by the Army. The Prime Minister gave us something to be concerned about when he said on 2nd July:On the 13th June there came a change. On that morning we had about 300 tanks in action, and by nightfall no more than 70 remained … All this happened without any corresponding loss having been inflicted on the enemy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1942;col. 594, Vol. 381.]We should find out the explanation of that as soon as possible. Was it faulty mechanism?. Were we outgunned? Had we the mechanics ready to do small adjustments to things like magnetos, carburettors and oiled plugs? Some of us who have had experience of this kind of thing know how easily adjustments can be made. I had an example of this a few mornings ago. I was on a bus, and at 1128 every stop the conductor signalled the driver on by kicking the bus. I asked him, "Is that your bell? "He said," Yes, I have had to do it since five o'clock, and I am still kicking the bus about." After a while a service man got on the bus, and within half a minute he had the bell ringing. What applies to that bell can apply to magnetos, carburettors, plugs and many other small adjustments which a relatively skilled man could make on a tank in no time. This brings out the need for the Army Engineering Corps which at last has been decided upon. Necessity is the mother of invention. The workers in this country have a saying that a lesson dearly bought is a lesson well taught. Are we going to apply that to Libya? Are we going to apply the lessons of Libya as soon as possible? Our engineers could apply them if they were allowed to. We need to move with extreme speed in adaptation of types in production, on changed designs where required and on concentration on new and improved types. Colonel Guderian wrote in a book just before the war:Four weeks drum fire, a four months' pitched battle and 400,000 casualties gained for the British in 1917 a strip of land nine miles by five miles. At Cambrai with 400 tanks and the loss of 400 men they obtained the same results in 12 hours.Lieut.-General von Metzsch, a German general, said in 1932:It was not the genius of General Foch that beat us but General Tank.I hope that we will apply the lesson to be learned from that. We evidently have not done it to the extent we should have done in the third year of the war. The Government should make another appeal to the British and American people and the lovers of freedom throughout the world to increase output and to expedite deliveries in order that we can have overwhelming superiority in equipment as soon as possible. Our people have made a great contribution in the world battle for freedom. We can and must increase output by better organisation. We can still improve the efficiency of management, welfare work and transport facilities in particular. The engineering industry has produced remarkable results during the past four years. The British people have slaved for victory for three years. We have produced the weapons and equipment that we have been allowed to. We have built a powerful Navy and a great Air Force, and we have shipped 1129 huge supplies to our noble Russian Allies. That has won the admiration of peoples throughout the world, and we have great potential Allies in all parts of the world, Some of us saw the other night the film "The Young Mr. Pitt." The Government should see it and learn the lessons of history which are to be drawn from it. I do not remember the exact words of Pitt, but they were something like this: "Believe in your cause if you are to convince and rouse others." They conquer who believe they can. Victory will not come of itself. We must have improved organisation and greater output.
§ Mr. Granville (Eye)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) has made a speech which can in no way be referred to as a sedative. Like so many speeches he has made in the House, it will be a stimulant to the Government's effort. The House always listens to the hon. Gentleman with great interest, particularly on the subject of production, and I hope that the Minister of Production will give heed not only to the practical suggestions which he has made, but to the spirit behind the speech. We have had a statement from another Minister of War Production. The right hon. Gentleman has been in office four months, and I hope he will not show any resentment of criticism or of questions which may be put to him. The right hon. Gentleman must be patient, because some of us have had to be patient on these questions. When he was President of the Board of Trade, then Minister of Supply, and later in charge of our preparations in Cairo, many Members on this side of the House were asking and demanding a war production Minister and an allied war production council. With the United States, I take the view that if this House had exercised its authority we should have had a Production Minister 18 months ago. I also take the view that if the Prime Minister had used his enormous influence we might have had in the days of cash-and-carry and lease-lend, a production council with the United States.
Following the visits of Mr. Hopkins and preceding the visit of Mr. Nelson, whom we welcome to this country, the Minister of Production paid a visit to America. Some of his statements when he got to America sounded to me rather like those of an industrial Christopher Columbus. He has found, what some 1130 people were saying a long time ago, that you cannot have a grand strategy without a grand production, and that you cannot knock out Mark IV panzers with Trans-Atlantic noughts. The Prime Minister has recently paid a visit to the United States and with President Roosevelt made a statement referring to "the coming operations" which "will divert German strength from the attack on Russia." That is extremely important. The Government, through a statement of the Lord Privy Seal, are also in some way committed to a second front, and, according to the newspapers, now Russia is beginning to ask when it will happen. Presumably the decision to be made will have to be referred, first, to the production of weapons and, second, to the shipping to get the weapons to the theatre of war.
We have had several Debates on production and on supply and on the Ministry of Aircraft Production, but what the public really want to know, bearing in mind the lessons of Libya, is whether the vast productive effort of this country and the United States of America is turning out weapons of the same striking force and fire power as the weapons which we may anticipate that the Nazis will use against us on some potential second front. Presumably large numbers of Allied troops would be engaged in any such operation. Can we have an assurance from the Minister of Production that they will be equipped with weapons equal to those used by the enemy? My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke asked whether we had learned the lesson of tanks and guns and equipment, and I would reinforce his appeal. I believe that the public may forgive Libya, but if we sent vast numbers of troops from this country and the United States into great battles in the future and it were found that failure to learn the lessons of the past had not given us absolute equality in weapons with the Axis forces, then such a culminating inferiority in armaments would never be forgiven by the people.
As I have said, much depends upon shipping. The great mass of production in the United States of America which has been referred to by the Minister must be transported to the Far East, to the Middle East and to Britain, and the great production in this country has to be transported to Russia and to the Middle 1131 East. First we have to produce the right type of equipment—the right armour, the right gun, the most up-to-date weapons; secondly, we have to get all that stuff to the various theatres of war; and, thirdly, we must get it there in time. A letter in "The Times" recently set out this problem of Governmental responsibility better, perhaps, than it has been stated in this House:War as we see it to-day is a conflict of systems of organisations on the grand scale. We command the human material, the resources, the readiness to offer every sacrifice of both. But the initiative and the impetus to organise these elements in terms of war winning can only proceed from the centre. Granted that time was needed to overcome great initial handicaps and shortcomings, it is disquieting to realise how little progress had been made in doing so at the date, significant for success or failure, of the Libyan battle. It is still running against us. The success or failure of future campaigns is being determined now. Is even now an organisation which can engender victory evolved at the centre? It is on this we had hoped for encouragement and remain, after all the dialectical triumph of last week's Debates, without reassurance.That, I think, states exactly the problem before us in this Debate. I have never believed that democracy can be as tightly organised as is the totalitarian industrial system under the Nazis. On the other hand, I know that there are those who say that the Germans will make more mistakes than we shall, and that the outcome of this war will show that the Nazis have made more mistakes than are made under a democratic system. I do not know which point of view may be right, but I am convinced that at this climacteric of the war there is only one policy for this Government and the Allied Powers to adopt, and that is a policy of speed. We must have absolute speed in the present situation. There has been a great deal of wishful thinking and complacency, engendered by the Ministry of Information and all the back-door stuff sent out to the Press in this country, but we are up against hard facts to-day, and if we are not to be too late there must be more speed, The Germans had two years start.
I have read the Debate upon Libya, and the speech made by the Minister of Production shows that he seems to believe still that production in this country began in 1938. It had begun in 1935 and 1936, and more than £1,500,000,000 was spent. Nevertheless, the Germans had two years' start, and in connection with this vital 1132 question of shipping it should be pointed out that they are operating upon internal lines of communication, whereas we have to send our armaments a long way round to reach the scenes of operations. Their industry, too, is organised with flexibility. The Nazi industrial and general staffs realise that he who can act quickly and produce tanks and guns embodying the lessons of the latest battle starts the next one with a great advantage. Their economic general staff and their operational planning staff work together in close contact and are also in close contact with the actual battlefield.
The Minister of Production has set up an organisation, but I wish to ask whether he is absolutely satisfied that he has secured close co-operation between production and operational planning and the actual experience of the battlefield. To the ordinary citizen who has no special knowledge of the problems of production the test above all others, is how long it takes the lessons of Libya, or the Atlantic, or the Russian front, to get through to the factories in this country and to materialise in the form of modifications of design and the production of new and improved types of weapons. Have the Nazis a great advantage over us in that respect? Have they shorter red tape lines of communication from the battlefield to the offices of the designers and to the factories and then, after production from the factories back to the front line? Have they considerable war advantage over our present industrial democratic set up? I should like to ask, further, whether these lessons of the battlefield get through to the factories in America as well as to those in this country, because that is a very important point. Could the Minister also tell us whether he has an organisation, a War Production Council or whatever you like to call it, which does not depend upon constant trips across the Atlantic by the Ministers concerned or upon a mass of paper work but which can give industrial and strategic decisions quickly on the vital questions which determine whether our troops are to fight their battles with equality of equipment against the enemy? In addition, where is the Allied War Production Council actually going to function? In Washington or in this country? At this vital stage of the war, although we might not be able to get a united Allied command, which was the turning point of the last 1133 war, have we, in order to face the ruthless Nazi war machine, an Allied combined organisation, for co-operation between industry in this country and industry in the United States? After the right hon. Gentleman's experience in Cairo, where he was for nine months, he must know that a small but well-trained Army with up-to-date equipment and perhaps with a few surprises in the shape of new weapons or new inventions used for the first time in battle, and fighting in full co-operation with other Services, can outfight larger numbers of men with inferior weapons.
The right hon. Gentleman occupies a position of enormous responsibility. We have had endless Debates in this House on production, but the crucial point is simple. All kinds of appeals are made to the workers to work harder. I believe they have responded splendidly in the past. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that the weapons being produced in our factories are up to date, efficient and give effective fire power against the enemy? Can he give an assurance to factory managements and workers that they will be working night and day upon improved types of weapons? There must be some high starred priorities. We read in the newspapers about a new tank being tried out in the North of England. Has it been made clear to production committees which are the highly starred priorities? If the production committees, managements and workers of factories in this country are told which are the vital priorities needed for Russia or for our Forces, they will give the Minister the backing and the production that he requires.
I would make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. We have been sending Press reporters to the front line. I listened to the Minister's detailed description of the various committees and subcommittees set up in order to get the right contact between the Services, the battle-front, the producers and the scientists and technicians. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) suggested that we should send Members of Parliament to the battlefront, as well as war correspondents. There may be something to be said for that, but why hot send to the battlefront the designers and production engineers? I am told that the Germans use transport 1134 machines to put their designers and production engineers into the battlefront where they can see tanks being tested, not at some Army testing depot but actually on the battlefield. I suggest also that we might exchange more production engineers and technicians with the United States and with Russia. The more Allied- minded we can become in these matters the better it will be. I am glad the Minister of Labour has just come in. I want to ask whether the views of the real production experts are heard at the top. I do not believe this is the kind of war which will give you the production which is required if you have capital and labour sitting round a table. You need a different type of industrial organisation. You have young men who were trained in continuation and technical schools, but very likely they are the young men who can organise efficient production and can take short cuts for the removal of bottlenecks. In the appointment of regional committees and other committees are we certain that these younger elments in production can have their views heard at the top where production problems have to be settled, and that the views heard are not merely those of representatives of employers federations and of trade unions? Can the Minister of Production give an assurance that on all the Councils of the supply departments the men in control are the production men and not the financial controllers? Is there still delay in fixing prices and checking contracts? Now that the Minister of Aircraft Production is here—
§ The Minister of Aircraft Production (Colonel Llewellin)
I have been here for a long time.
§ Mr. Granville
I would call his attention to the need for a transport plane. I know the arguments for and against it, and I know the difficulties. I would make a suggestion to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. The Stirling bomber was designed originally as a civil prototype for the purpose, I believe, of carrying mails and passengers across the South Atlantic. It has a considerable range. I shall not mention in public where it is made, but has the Minister considered turning it into a transport-carrying plane? Would it not be possible to give the production of a transport machine, based on the Stirling civil prototype, to another unit of production other than the unit which is pro- 1135 ducing the Stirling military bomber? Would it not be possible to turn some of the Wellingtons and Whitleys, with their famous reliability, into transport-carrying machines, similar to the old Bombay? The Under-Secretary of State for Air knows all about these problems, and I hope that he will give us a satisfactory answer on this subject. I would ask the Minister of Aircraft Production for an assurance that we have not put the whole of the aircraft production in this country and the United States on to big bombers, to the detriment of Army co-operation machines and of torpedo-carrying aircraft. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that on this question of torpedo-carrying aircraft the Admiralty have a fair allocation of factory space for the purpose not only of producing new machines but of improving old types?
I would like to ask the Minister of Production whether he can give the Committee an assurance that he has not lost sight of the particular problems of propellers, engines and auxiliary equipment and their relation to the main production. Can the Minister of Aircraft Production in his reply tell us something about new fighters? I realise the difficulty, but could he give us some assurance on that question? Is he satisfied with the performance of the Typhoon and the Tornado? I understand that the German Focke-Wulf fighter has a special performance in climb and at bomber level, and I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us an assurance that this is being taken care of.
Finally, I would again emphasise the necessity for speed. Even at this hour, I beg the Government to be bold, and to try and concentrate their production on the new types and designs which will be comparable to the types which our soldiers will have to fight against in future battles. I would ask the Government to mobilise all the production they can possibly concentrate on these new and effective designs. This is not the occasion on which to go into the problem of whether the 2-pounder gun should continue to be used in tanks or not; such problems could perhaps be discussed more adequately in Secret Session, but speed in getting new types and new production to the battle field, speed, and speed again, should be the policy of the Government and of the Allied Powers. I hope that to-day we 1136 shall receive an assurance from the Government that the vast series of noughts which have been given so much publicity—trans-Atlantic noughts, as I call them—and the great production of this country, when finally assembled and taken by shipping to the theatres of war, will not only not be obsolete, but will be modern weapons, so that we may be sure that the British and American soldiers, when they go out to fight in the great battles of the future, will be given every chance to achieve victory.
§ Mr. Higgs (Birmingham, West)
I have listened with very great interest to the speech of the Minister to-day, and it strikes me that he has a very complete idea of what is happening in production from the head of his Department down to factory level. But all is not right; the Minister realises that. We have now been talking production in this House for three or four years, and certainly we have achieved something. It would be a disgrace if we had not, for this nation at present is doing nothing else but produce war materials and food. I was very pleased to hear the figures given by the Minister, but we expect figures of that description, we expect increases, and we have got to have them. Our results are nothing to be proud of.
The Ministry considers that to get efficient production the Government must interfere in detail of control, and I take the liberty of referring to a pamphlet written by Sir Alfred Herbert which appeared in the "Machine Tool Review" some six or eight months ago. It is written by a man who has proved his worth in industry; I am not referring to him as the only man who has achieved success in industry, but am just giving him as a typical example. He has built up a huge business, he has saved the turret lathe industry for this country, and, during the last war, he was Controller of Machine Tools. When he held that position he was trusted Now he is running his own business, and he is dictated to by the Government and by Government officials in exactly the same manner as any upstart firm knowing nothing about the industry at all. More freedom must be given to those people who have proved themselves and are capable of running industry. I would like to read a paragraph from this pamphlet to show the sort of instructions 1137 which industrial concerns receive from time to time from Government Departments, It runs like this:When goods are or were invoiced by a registered person who, in relation to the supply of those goods, is or was the agent either of the supplier or of the person to whom or to whose order the goods are or were to be supplied, the supplier shall be deemed to supply or to have supplied those goods to the agent, and when the goods are supplied to or to the order of the person to be supplied, the agent shall be deemed to supply or to have supplied them.That is not a typical example of what we receive, probably it is an extreme case, but my point is that we should never receive instructions of that description. Yet those are the people who are telling industrialists like Sir Alfred Herbert how to run their businesses.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
May I interrupt my hon. Friend for a moment? He knows perfectly well, both he and I being engaged in day-to-day work on these matters, that we do not pay the faintest attention to that sort of tosh.
§ Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)
Is the hon. Member aware that those silly communications received by Sir Alfred Herbert are received from his own employee, who at present is the dictator referred to in the Department?
§ Mr. Higgs
We will wait and see. If Sir Alfred Herbert was in charge of a Government Department, he would be 1138 trusted, but as he is in charge of a large industry, he receives the same control and dictation as anybody else. What does he have to contend with? There are special inspectors, factory inspectors, the Minister of Labour, progress inspectors for the Admiralty and munitions supply, performance inspectors and costings inspectors, and many others as well, and no one Department co-operates with another. The reason why the industrialist is successful is because he has control of all his departments and co-ordinates them. That is the difficulty with Government control. The fear seems to be that the industrialist will make a profit. It would be far better for the country if the industrialist was permitted to make a little more profit. Give the capable man a little more incentive, more control of his business, and I am convinced that we should get more efficient production. We are using these men who have proved their worth in industry. There is not sufficient confidence entrusted in the man who has proved his capability.
On simplification, the Minister to-day referred to the reduction in price of a certain gun. This reduction in price is being published in every technical paper throughout the country in the last month or two. The price to produce a Bren gun has been reduced from £2 8s. to 2s. 3d. I say that it is an utter disgrace that we have ever manufactured the part at £2 8s. if it can be produced for 2s. 3d. There is nothing clever in it. Reductions of this description should not be possible if there were efficiency in the industry. The Minister of Production received a memorandum from the Institution of Production Engineers giving that and other typical examples. I have had personal experience this year of drawings over 30 years old from the Admiralty. We have to make electric motors to them to-day. Has no improvement taken place in the electric motor in the last 30 years? If we want to get anything altered, we might lose the contract altogether. Government organisation is slow; it is difficult to avoid that; therefore delegate greater powers to those people who do know how to do what is required. We have heard from the Minister to-day about the marvellous result in shipbuilding by Mr. Kaiser, I think he said. If he had been hindered in the manner in which the industrialists in this country have been, 1139 he could not have got the work done. It was freedom—a certain amount of freedom delegated to him—that permitted him to get that job done. Then in this matter of costings, it is always a question of "What profit you are making?" never "What price can the job be produced at?"—two very different things.
Price investigation in order to reduce costs of production is very necessary, but the Government have never investigated the cost with that object. It has always been "What profit is the firm making?" A man must have some reward for his labour, whatever his work in life. If he does not get a money profit, give him some honour for doing it. There is a great fear on the part of some hon. Members of a firm making a profit, in peace-time as well. It is a great honour to a firm to be able to make a profit in peace-time; I do not say that that point holds good to-day. I came across a switchboard the other day, a panel of which cost £2. It hurt me to see them being made, hundreds of them, because I knew that they could be made for 2s. if a specification was altered from a certain insulation to steel. A man to whom I spoke said, "We are making these things, but it hurts me. My Income Tax is paying for this job." Yet one cannot get Government Departments to alter these specifications. Leave specifications to half-a-dozen of our leading industrial firms, and we shall get some results without this constant interference and interruption.
With regard to the delay in decisions, it is impossible to get a straightforward "yes" or "no" from a Government Department. I have never seen it or heard of it. It is always qualified with, "subject to further investigation," or "provisionally," or something of that kind, playing for safety all the while. One can play to safety far too much and get nothing done at all. The industrialist spends threequarters of his time making decisions. He makes some wrong ones, but the proof that he has made a majority of decisions right and made them rapidly is that his business is successful. A quick "Yes" or "No" will be a deciding factor as to whether a problem is dealt with successfully or not. Another difficulty we get is the delay in obtaining agreement between 1140 various Departments. I suppose a number of hon. Members have had some experience of trying to put up a building recently. I quite agree that the Government should be very cautious about giving permission for extensions for buildings. I support their attitude in that direction, but one has to get about four or six Departments to agree. The major Department having agreed, the minor Departments could hardly refuse, but they have to be consulted, Time is taken to get the building value, then to get the construction agreed to. It has to go to the Ministry of Works and Planning, and if they give their sanction, there are the materials to be obtained. Their agreement does not sanction materials. Then we have to go to the local authorities for permission to erect. Simplification is what we need. The Government do not seem to understand the word. Complication is the only one which seems to be understood.
On the subject of industrial unrest, I am sorry to say that it is greater than many hon. Members in this Committee appreciate. I think it is due to some extent to the weak treatment of the transgressors both by the Government and the works managers and industry as a whole. To take the question of late arrivals. I know a certain firm in Birmingham who, because of the blitz, relaxed the time of arrival. The result was that until the new summer-time came into force late arrivals were getting there half-an-hour and three-quarters of an hour after starting time. The firm made a bold decision; it was not the Government but the individual management. They said, "We will lock out everyone who is more than five minutes after starting time." They took that decision and locked everyone out who was more than five minutes late. The result, I heard last week, is that no one arrives late; no one goes in the shops late. If that can be done by one Birmingham firm, it can be done by other firms, but it should have the support and encouragement of the Minister of Labour. I believe that, with the Government backing up industry, timekeeping could be very greatly improved. Managers do not always set a good example by arriving at a reasonable time. The soldier who is late does not get any consideration, and in war-time people in industry should be put on the same basis.
1141 I am pleased to see the Minister of Labour here. Can he say why absenteeism is at its lowest on paydays, and at its highest on Saturday mornings? There is a ramp in doctors' notes. I have half-a-dozen here, which I will refer to. Here is No. 1. I cannot read the signature, which is filled in in pencil. I have an objection to a doctor's note being filled in in pencil, and I will tell the House the reason in a moment. As for No. 2, there is no indication who issued it. It is filled in in ink, but there is no proper signature. No. 3 says, "The bearer attended here to-night, and is able to follow her employment." What is the good of issuing a note if the bearer is able to follow her employment?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Major Milner)
The hon. Gentleman ought not to pursue that line of argument. The Estimate under consideration is not that of the Ministry of Labour. Only questions of priority of labour come under the Ministry of Production.
§ Mr. Higgs
These notes were handed to me by my own employees. They are firsthand information. Someone has discovered that only 4 per cent. of all the engineering firms in England employ more than 500 people each, and that two-thirds employ less than 50 people each. A lot of publicity has been given to that statement lately, and it is assumed that the larger unit is more efficient. I do not agree with that. Efficiency does not increase with size. It is up to the Minister of Production and his assistants to allocate the work that is most suitable to particular firms. Who would think of giving an order for a battleship to a firm employing only half a dozen people? In the same way, one does not want firms employing thousands of people to be given orders for percussion caps. Efficiency is often fostered by personal relationship. In 1142 peace-time, small firms are the nation's goodwill. Some firms grow and expand, which proves their efficiency. I cannot appreciate the importance which is attached to this argument that the large firm is the more efficient. Our production is great, but it has got to be greater. The Minister has a big job, and he knows it; and I hope that this Debate will give him further hints and ideas. As one backbencher, I wish him luck.
§ Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)
I am glad that the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) brought out in the way he did the question of the silly communications that manufacturers receive. I interrupted him in order to show how much more stupid it is when the gentleman who is supposed to be dictated to is dictated to by one of his own employees, who has been seconded to the Ministry for the war, and will go back to his job when the war is over. It shows that our criticism should not be directed primarily against the gentlemen who sit on the Front Bench opposite, or against their assistants in the Departments, but against this silly system, which makes fools of men who are anxious to do a good job. The men who send these silly communications are not in any way responsible for them, any more than the man who is responsible for machine tools was to blame for that silly communication to which the hon. Member referred. When we have these Debates, we know that the Ministers go back to their Departments and that they are tied hand and foot by the silly regulations which exist. They would like to do something, but it is almost impossible. I have taken part in many Debates on production, but I have yet to know of any serious change being made by a Minister in Civil Service methods. I have seen people victimised in the Departments because they have complained. This makes people inside the Departments, who know what is going on, afraid to open their mouths; and they become very depressed. Many of them leave the Departments, and go back to industry, where they can do much more efficient work. I have a report here of something that was said by one of our best-known scientific writers, only last week. He said:There are cases where ideas are considered for four months before a decision is given—four months, when in two weeks a Continent may be lost!1143 How true that is. How tired many of us are of discussing serious matters with the Departments, and seeing weeks and weeks, months and months, pass, with nothing done; not because the Ministers do not want to do anything, but because they are tied by the rules, and cannot do anything. In the last debate on production, I gave some figures, and, because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour had occasionally challenged Members on that side for not giving him details, to allow him to investigate, I gave some figures, and begged that they might be followed up. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply took a great deal of trouble in following up statements that I made. I made, on good authority, a statement about the number of people with nothing to do in one Department. The Minister asked me to see him the following day. He handed me a document, remarking that it was a private document, but that I had better see it. He said, "I do not think it fair for you to make those statements without checking up on them." I said that I would withdraw it if what I had said was wrong. But his own document confirmed everything that I had said. He could not have read it.
In connection with another statement I had made, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury demanded that I should quote a certain document which I had merely referred to. I said that if the facts were denied, I would quote. After a little time I gave my quotation, which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not deny; but, with his usual sophistry, he excused his own Department. I said that the Department was overloaded with people having nothing to do. I will go so far as to say, as the Minister of Aircraft Production is here, that it is the view of many important people in that industry that, if the Department were wiped out, the result would be a considerable increase in production. This is not said in a jocular manner at all; it is a very serious matter. It is felt that the Department does not help but does very much to hinder the production of aircraft. How can it be otherwise? I talked this over with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I thought that, coming fresh from another Department, he would do 1144 something about it. He has not an engineer within reach in his Department.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
Would not the object that the hon. Member wishes to achieve by sacking the Minister of Aircraft Production easily be obtained by sacking half the boards of the aircraft firms?
§ Mr. Edwards
I am willing to adopt any alternative method that the hon. Gentleman cares to put forward so long as we can do one or the other. I am satisfied that the Ministry is almost redundant, and I was proceeding to make a few remarks to substantiate that claim. Here is a purely engineering and production proposition, and the Minister has not among his high officials a competent engineer to advise him. He has an Advisory Board, but how often are they listened to? How often, when they tender the best advice, is that advice accepted? I believe that the highest paid engineer in the Department has £1,400. Is it likely that a man with £1,400 will be competent to tell people who have built up large industries how to do their own job? That is what these officials are endeavouring to do. One of the most famous engineers in the world—and we are not lacking in skilled engineers in this country—has produced a very remarkable piece of machinery which I believe has been accepted by the Government as being as nearly perfect as possible. Not long ago one of the Minister's officials went along and told him how to improve it. Just think of that engineer being told how to improve what is well-nigh a perfect piece of mechanism. There was a little remonstrance, and I believe that the official had to climb down. But these things do not make sense. I do not believe there is an engineer on the Air Council. Why do we keep the only people who really can do the job well so much in the background? It is several weeks since I discussed this matter, and I thought that I might have had a further discussion or something might have been elicited on this occasion, but the Minister has apparently done nothing whatever about it.
There is another matter to which he ought to give his attention. The aircraft industry in this country is positively controlled by a small group of people. The Minister of Aircraft Production has done his best to change that, but the fact remains that this small group of people—this ring—have deliberately kept other manufacturers out of their charmed circle by 1145 their doubtful methods. I will not give the Committee any details—the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that what I am about to say now is the fact—but there was a very important development in aircraft production recently. Only one company proved itself capable of being able to do the job that the Department wanted, but the ring came along and tried to take it entirely out of its hands and to manufacture the thing themselves. It was only the intervention of the Minister himself that enabled that particular company to get a square deal and eventually to receive a fairly substantial order. The Ministry of Production is almost entirely dominated by the ring, who will not allow anybody else to do these jobs. It is a very dangerous thing at this stage of the war. If the Minister does not do something drastic, this matter will have to be the subject of very serious discussion in this House.
I am given to understand on very good authority that the important consideration now is not so much one of large-scale production, because we might find ourselves before very long producing on a very large scale some machines which are obsolete. You will always get obsolete machines from an obsolete mentality. Are these people looking ahead to see what we may have to meet from the enemy and preparing plans and offering advice to the Government? The particular proposal to which I refer has been turned down by the Treasury. It is not the first time that very important developments have been turned down by the Treasury. The Minister of Supply knows that there have been cases in his own Department. This Committee should take notice that the Treasury have the right to interfere in certain cases, but once a production Department has satisfied itself that it wants a certain thing in the interests of winning the war, the Treasury ought not to have the right to step in. This has happened on more than one occasion and is a very serious matter indeed. I think the Minister knows to what I am referring. I shall be glad to give him full details of the proposal which has been turned down by the Treasury. Two years hence we may find ourselves still fighting a war and still seriously in need of machines which the Government have been urged to get into production at the present time.
Why is it that the Minister has surrounded himself with chartered account- 1146 ants? I believe that one of the important appointments on the Ministry of Production staff was that of a chartered accountant. Why should you put chartered accountants into jobs which are essentially production engineers' jobs? How can they make suggestions? They become the tools of the Department, and within a few weeks they themselves conform to all the rules and regulations. Even if they have the capacity, they do not have the opportunity of exercising it. They become the slaves of the Department or become so disgusted that they go out. [Interruption.] I have the greatest respect for chartered accountants. I have no doubt that they are doing a very good job, but I want them to stay in their own sphere. I know that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply has had a lot to do with the steel industry and that very few people in this country have as much knowledge of that industry as the hon. Member. He has some justification for his appointment, but very few of the chartered accountants have any justification.
The Admiralty buy millions of pounds' worth of produce and manufactured goods which are vouched for by men who have to rise from the ranks and have special training for this job. When I inquired into their remuneration, I found that a fully qualified man received £4 10s. 0d. a week, and that he was the only man who could say to the Admiralty, "You are getting value for your money." On inquiry we found there were not enough chartered accountants to do the work. I had in one of my companies a young man who was a high-class accountant, although not a chartered accountant, and I said to him, "They need accountants at the Admiralty. If you insist on joining up, go there." Well, instead of letting him do an accountant's job, 12 months was spent on turning him into a very moderate mechanic. When he was trained there was a demand for labour, and 5,000 of these people, who had been trained as engineers, were released. But did they put them on to work as engineers? No. A dozen men I know were put on to unskilled work, alongside girls. I will say that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour had them quickly removed when his attention was drawn to it, but that is the mentality of this machine. Do you wonder that we get 1147 hold-ups, bottle-necks and that kind of thing? I have a friend who is a real chartered accountant, and he tells me that he spends his life in the Army diddling soldiers out of their legitimate allowances. It is not necessary to have chartered accountants to do this sort of work. They should not use all their ingenuity and training for this sort of thing.
I could ask a lot more questions and make a lot of suggestions, but if Ministers answer the questions already put to them, they will need the rest of the time of the Debate. However, I do ask some Minister to tell us at what point and in which Department a single thing has been done to alter the Civil Service machine to free those who want to get on with production in this war. Has there been any occasion when there has been a change in procedure? The committee I worked on tried to find some changes, and I had great hopes that when the right hon. Gentleman came to office he would do something about this terrible Frankenstein monster which is throttling us and destroying the nation. There is not a Minister who has had the courage to say, "This is obsolete and I will do something to change it." No Minister dare get up and say that in his Department he has taken hold of the Civil Service machine and attempted to bring it up to date. The Committee is entitled to know in which Departments and to what extent this is being done.
§ Professor A. V. Hill (Cambridge University)
I hate being a bore but I realise that sometimes one has to be if one wants to get things done. The point I have made again and again had, I thought, been made clear, but the Minister of Production has so completely misunderstood what has been urged about our higher technical control that although I had not intended to try to catch your eye, Sir Dennis, I felt bound to do so. The need on the technical side—the qualitative side, as the Minister called it—is to provide for some high level, some central body to see that the scientific and technical resources of our Departments and the country are properly and effectively used. In the Departments there is no question that good work is being done. That is not the point. The question is whether our scientific and technical resources are being effectively used as a homogenous whole, as they should be. We have committees and 1148 advisers, but the question is whether advice is taken or whether advisers have authority to get done the things they advise.
My right hon. Friend referred to the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aircraft Production and to the presence there, as he said, of one of the most famous scientists in the world in his field—I presume he meant Sir Henry Tizard—as a member of the Air Council. But the question is not whether Sir Henry Tizard is on the Air Council; it is whether he has any authority on the Air Council or the Council of the Ministry of Supply, whether his advice is taken and whether his influence there is really effective. The question is whether he is continually thwarted in what he wants to do, whether he continually finds his efforts there fruitless. It is still true that strategy depends upon tactics and that tactics depend upon weapons. The man who knows about weapons and tactics should be able to have some influence upon strategy; because it is certain that most of those who deal with strategy, know nothing whatever about weapons. This might seem to be outside the domain of production; but it is not, because the three subjects of production, strategy and technique are inevitably mixed together. The question is not whether Sir Henry Tizard is there or not, but whether his advice is able to have the effect on strategy it ought to have.
We heard from the Minister about the operational research sections in the battlefield. How long have they been there? We have heard that enemy equipment may now be examined by experts. How expert are most of the examiners? I know of a case in which a demand was made for a certain piece of equipment. This demand was made on the authority of the staff in the battlefield and it was passed back home. Here, fortunately, there was a technical officer who knew that it was based on a complete misapprehension and the order from the General Staff for that particular piece of equipment was cancelled. But that demand would never have occurred, had the people who had been examining that piece of equipment in the field been adequately trained on the technical side. The Minister told us, too, of the Weapons Development Committee under the Deputy-Chief of the Imperial General Staff. That, as he admitted, is a very 1149 recent affair and we must remember that there is no technical branch of the General Staff which goes out beyond the War Office into the Army and formations to ensure that the Development Committee is properly fed with technical information from the battlefield. We hear of things being handed over at a particular stage to the Ministry of Supply: that misses completely the point of these criticisms. You cannot divide the thing into one lump here and another lump there. Things have to be done with continual contact between the different departments—operations, production, and technique.
The Minister referred to a report of a committee of which I am a member and said that the committee reported that our scientific and technical organisation was—I forget the exact words—in good order. That report was written 16 to 17 months ago. The committee in question was instructed by the Prime Minister at the beginning that it was not to "meddle with our innards." That is to say it was not to examine organisation dealing with the central direction of the war. It had no authority to examine the organisation at the top. It dealt only with the scientific work in the Departments, and I think that those who know what is going on in Departments know that very much of it is good. Our complaint is not about what is happening tactically in the Departments, but what is happening strategically in the use of all the work of all the Departments together. As for the comment that this committee said that all was good, I may say that the then chairman of the committee is entirely in agreement with me now as to what needs to be done, and that other members of the committee are of the same opinion.
§ Professor Hill
The committee is not able to report, according to the Prime Minister's instructions, "on our innards."
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I do not want to interrupt my hon. Friend, but surely the terms of reference of the committee would enable it to make just the report which he says it is not making?
§ Professor Hill
If the Minister will look at the terms of reference of the committee, he will see that it is entirely forbidden from making such a report on the organi- 1150 sation of the higher direction of our scientific effort. It has never reported on the organisation at the higher level, but if it were asked to do so, I have very little doubt of what its report would be.
My right hon. Friend did not refer to the research and development side of work in the Admiralty. No doubt he will know that the First Lord set up a panel some 16 months ago to examine the working of the establishments in the Admiralty connected with research and development. Perhaps he knows that the chairman of that committee is the man who is in charge of the staff in the establishments which might be criticised by the panel. Does my right hon. Friend regard that as an effective way of getting a report which will really tell him the truth about the effectiveness of the working of those establishments? It is, I insist impossible to get accurate information about Departments by asking the Departments themselves. They will inevitably cover up their boobies and hide their failures. The only way to get it is to have some properly constituted authority, with technical knowledge, centrally placed, that can insist on getting the information that it wants. If my right hon. Friend knew the state of affairs in certain establishments he might regard more benignly the need of a central organisation to see that they functioned more effectively.
My right hon. Friend spoke about the missions in the United States. He admitted that there are a very large number of these missions. There are. That is one of the troubles. There is no properly organised central agency for bringing together the work of all the missions, and there never will be as long as we trust to Departments individually to send their missions, not in contact with one another and not co-ordinated with each other's activities. If we had this central technical direction it would be easy to attach to it a central information bureau from which scientific and technical liaison could be conducted, not in order to prevent Departments from having their own missions, but at least to keep these missions in touch with one another, so that people at the centre would know what they all were doing.
Finally, my right hon. Friend spoke about the pessimism induced in workers by complaints about the products of their efforts. We sympathise very deeply with 1151 the workers, but would not the workers themselves be the first to resent any suggestion that we should hide up errors in order to save them from the disappointment of knowing that their efforts were wasted? Why not do something more positive than that to allay the apprehension of the people who are working so hard and with such devotion for the country? If we find that there are 122 defects in the Mark IV tank, it is better not to attribute them to 122 separate causes. Probably they are due to a single cause. All of these troubles on the qualitative side of our production, and in the operational use of the products of our production, have not got hundreds or thousands of separate causes corresponding to the hundreds or thousands of failures. They have probably a single cause, or at any rate a very few causes. That is the way the human mind works: we look for single causes for a large number of different effects.
I am convinced there is a single cause for these many failures. I believe that if we had a central organisation which would watch over Departments, which would see that the activities of two different parts of the same machine, for example, the Ministry of Aircraft Production and the Air Ministry, or the Ministry of Supply and the War Office, were as well co-ordinated as they should be, these defects would be largely got over. But the body which will watch over these things and see that they are well ordered and critically examined must be outside the Departments, for otherwise it will inevitably, as was remarked to me to-day, adopt the attitude, "Be a good chap and do not say anything about it." We must have some body at a higher level than that which will insist that these things shall be critically examined and their defects put right.
§ Mr. Horabin (Cornwall, Northern)
My hon. Friend the Junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Professor Hill) has made a very strong case for what I would call a Ministry of Efficiency. It does appear to those of us who have followed these things that there is need for a body of the sort referred to by my hon. Friend, independent of all other Departments, to watch over the matters about which he has spoken. But what I am concerned about primarily is the func- 1152 tions of the Minister of Production. My right hon. Friend has made a very reassuring statement. At last, tanks very much like those of the Germans in quality are to be produced; we have operational scientific sections working on the battlefields; the world is to be a very much better place in the future. But I wonder. It is not our fault if we regard with suspicion these assurances given by the Minister of Production. After all, in 1940 several of us were making criticisms and expressing doubts about the way in which the production machine was working. Of course, the Government promised vigorous action at that time and promised that things would be all right in future; but when it came to the campaigns of 1941, again there were failures in the field. In 1941, criticism of production was far more strident. At that time we were pacified by changes in the membership of the Government on the production side. But once again, in 1942, the changes and promises that had been made to us were belied, and we were faced by defeats in the field.
What has been happening consistently during this war is that the Government are always securing tremendous victories in Debates—and they are going to procure a victory to-day—but the critics have always been proved right by what has happened on the fields of battle. If there is one thing upon which I can congratulate the Government, it is the effectiveness of their propaganda. If we could have hurled speeches at the enemy, Hitler would have been defeated long ago; if propaganda were an effective weapon on the battlefield, Rommel would have been driven out of Libya by Lord Beaver-brook's brochure on tanks, and the film of troop-carrying gliders shown on the screen would have made an effective contribution towards the same end. What I am concerned about is what is wrong with our production. Something is wrong. To get at what is wrong I go back to the points which the Government have made.
Every time the Government justify their production situation by saying that Germany started preparing for this war long before we did; that it is this tremendous quantity of munitions which she is now using on the battlefield, and that, therefore, we cannot be in the same position as Germany. Quantitatively we cannot, but surely qualitatively we should have been in a better position than 1153 Germany, because we started to design and produce our weapons long after Germany was committed to her designs? The thing which has gone wrong—and this was referred to by my hon. Friend the junior burgess for Cambridge University—is that the Government have failed to plan production properly at the centre. They have failed to get the Service experts, the scientific experts and those experts with an understanding of the latest industrial methods to combine to produce weapons which would have given our men qualitative superiority on the battlefield. So it is that during this year we have passed from defeat to defeat due everytime to the one thing—that we have failed to produce qualitatively the tanks, the anti-aircraft guns, and the anti-tank mines we ought to have.
§ Mr. Horabin
I am not going to speak about aircraft. If we accept the Government's explanation that they have been producing the wrong type of equipment for the Army, we then come to their next defence, the defence made during the Debate on the War Situation when we were told that we could not produce the right equipment during 1940–41 because the whole of our productive capacity was used up in producing these wrong weapons. In other words, we could not afford to use part of that productive capacity to produce the right weapons because we had to put something in the hands of our soldiers who were without weapons. I know that the Minister said something about the difference between desert fighting and close fighting, but if it did come to fighting in enclosed country, the relative inefficiency in weapons would be just the same as it is in the desert.
It misrepresents the facts to say that we had no productive capacity available. Industrialists and workers know there was a tremendous amount of capacity going to waste during 1940 and 1941. A census of machine tools was taken in the Autumn of 1940, and to that census query a card was attached asking industrialists, who had special machine tools which were urgently required, to say what capacity was available. My information is that at that time, in 1940, in one month, some- 1154 thing like 2,000 firms offered the Government something like 600,000 hours of idle capacity. If that is so, it is equivalent to work on these machine tools of 12,500 men working 50 hours a week. It is a very substantial production. A similar thing happened when the return was sent out in 1941. If my information is correct, something like 1,000 firms offered 250,000 hours of unused capacity on these machines. The men and the machines were available, and it is not a question of shortage of labour. I suggest that the failure to start production on these new weapons—I am not saying they could have been mass-produced—was not due to shortage of capacity but to the failure of the Government to organise effectively the use of the capacity we already had.
In the Debate a fortnight ago the Minister justified the time it took to get weapons into production. I wish he could find out what Russia has been doing in the matter, and I wish he would find out what America has done. He dealt specifically with the causes of delay in production on the 6-pounder gun. He said that the War Office had placed the first order in September, 1940, and then added, and this is the thing I quarrel with, that the development and production of the 6-pounder gun happened to have been an outstanding industrial achievement. But was it? Is the Minister referring to the gun ready for firing, complete with two spare barrels, or is he referring to the gun barrels only? Is he aware of the severe bottle-neck in respect of recuperators? One firm of contractors could not produce any at all, and all the others were behind schedule, Does he know of the variations and alterations made in the design, and the consistent modifications which took place in the design of these recuperators? In view of that does he seriously call this an outstanding industrial achievement? If it had not been for this we should have had a larger flow and many more of these guns would have been in Libya.
What about the bottle-neck in small arms ammunition? Last September I raised this question again during the Debate, and, as far as I know, nothing whatever has been done. There are still serious shortages and serious bottle-necks in the production of small arms ammunition. We have heard a great deal about the tremendous flow of munitions which 1155 we are to get from America and which we are to make ourselves. It has been referred to to-day, although it is true the Minister did not to-day talk about a Niagara of production. The thing which alarms me is that the Minister, in making comparisons, made them with American production and not with German production. I want to ask a blunt and straight question. We have heard a great deal about the overwhelming superiority of the industrial war potential of the Allied Nations, as compared with the Axis. Has that any real basis in fact? In other words, are the Government basing this statement about the overwhelming superiority of the potential of the Allied Nations upon their optimistic assumptions, or on the results of a cold-blooded examination by their economists and statisticians? Sternberg showed before the war that it was going to be a very close thing.
What is the position? Nazi Germany has organised her industrial machine for years to produce war material, and it is tuned up to 100 per cent. Long-distance bombing has not scratched that machine. In addition, the Germans to-day have the whole of the industrial potential of Europe—Czecho-Slovakia, Holland, Belgium, France and all the rest of it. Besides that, of course, there is Italy, for what she is worth—and she is worth something—and there is Japan's tremendous production. Germany has immobilised a substantial part of the Russian potential. Having regard to what has happened, I am sure that the superiority of the potential of the Allied Nations is dangerously small, and it may well be that the boot is on the other foot. I am not saying that it is, but it may well be. Therefore we must use the potential that we have for all we are worth. We must not waste a single ounce of it. It is our duty to focus the attention to the country and the Government upon the defects in our productive machine at home, and we must not be seduced by optimistic talk of the hopes of production from America. That production may come—I am not criticising what the Americans are doing or doubting their word—but we should be acting foolishly if we allowed ourselves to be seduced from our criticism of things here at home.
We have now come to the crux of the whole situation. We have to bring the 1156 maximum strength of the Allied Nations against the enemy. Russia, a tremendous part of the war potential of the Allies, is now being attacked. Are we going to allow Hitler to play his own game in destroying us one by one, or are we going to intervene? In the March Debate the theme of my speech on production was that we should be faced by the necessity of a second front, whether we wanted it or not, this year and that we should build up the reserve of equipment which would be necessary for forming that front. Obviously the Minister was thinking on the same lines because he said:I can assure the House that the relentless pressure of time and the sense of urgency are uppermost in my mind and that for two reasons: first, that we are about to see a new campaign starting and we must take our proper part in it.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1942;col. 1850, Vol. 378.]If that did not mean that he was contemplating the situation which exists at the present moment, I do not know what it means.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
Those particular words referred to the opening of the campaign in Libya which has since taken place.
§ Mr. Horabin
The campaign that was due to open at that time was the campaign in Europe. Now the crisis is on us. The time, in the Minister's words, has now come for us to play our proper part, not for the sake of Russia, but for the sake of the people of this country. What has been happening? The last five months, five of the most vital months of the war, have been eaten away by inaction at the most critical point, that is, in the organisation of the central direction of production. At the beginning of February Lord Beaverbrook was appointed Minister of Production. Straight away the Production Executive, which at that time was the only central organisation of production, was paralysed. We were waiting while Lord Beaverbrook worked out his own scheme. He appointed the Citrine Committee to go into the question of regional organisation. That immediately paralysed the regions. The new Minister of Production, after some delays which were unavoidable, said on 21st March that he realised the urgency of these problems, yet the paralysis continued and it was only on 1st July that regional controllers for the Ministry of Production were appointed. A Ministry of Production has been demanded again and again from all sides of the House. It was demanded 1157 before war broke out, and one of its greatest advocates was the present Prime Minister. When he gave us, under the pressure of criticism justified by events, a Minister of Production, he took care that there was not a Ministry of Production, and all that we have been given is a facade behind which the Supply Ministry carry on their tug of war, and things go on as before. The Prime Minister has defeated his critics once again and has produced inaction in the organisation of production at the centre for something like five months.
The Minister has dealt with the organisation of his office. I will touch on only one side of that—a very important side—the progressing of contracts. It is true that the Citrine Committee made very tentative proposals about the progressing of contracts. The Minister should have formulated his own proposals, so that delays in deliveries of components would be brought to the notice of his Planning Department by the Production Directorate at the moment they occurred. The Planning Department, then, would be able to establish priorities in the light of the urgency of relieving bottlenecks, and this would have dictated the allocation of shipping and the types of tools required and given the industrial section something to do instead of playing about with additional factories without work, they would have been able to consider the problem on a broader basis. The regional officers should have the right to go into factories and report directly. If Departmental officers report on the work of their Departments they cannot give a proper report. They must cover up their Departments. As I understand it, the Planning Department is not getting any view of those bottlenecks at all. All it is getting is target figures from the Supply Ministry of the estimated rates of delivery, and it then checks those estimated deliveries with the actual deliveries to the Armed Forces. In other words, it does not see that deliveries are falling down until they are delayed. It does not check them when the bottlenecks begin to show themselves. Now we have a Minister of Production. In my view and the view of many other people this Minister is not capable of carrying out the functions of a Ministry of Production as we understood it. That means that the five most critical months 1158 of the war have been taken away from us by the Prime Minister and handed over to Hitler.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
I feel very sad at the picture of unrelieved gloom which we have had from the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Horabin). No one in his senses would say that a war organisation which involves anything up to 20,000,000 people can be worked without mistakes and blunders. It is easy for any of us to become a champion picker of holes in the war machine. Such a picture as the hon. Member has painted gives the country a wholly distorted view of the situation. I am not proposing to be wholly complimentary in my remarks, but I wish to keep my sense of proportion.
I can speak with some little knowledge of the subject. Apart from my personal experiences, I have been perhaps the longest continuing member of the Select Committee on National Expenditure which has been investigating war production. Taking my view back to the beginning of the war, I can say without hesitation that the picture is one of steadily improving efficiency. Progress has not been as quick as we would have liked, but there have been tremendous industrial achievements In the case of one aeroplane, for example, the production time of thousands of hours has been brought down by one-half within the last year. To depict things as getting steadily worse, or getting no better, is to mislead ourselves and the country. I hope, therefore, that the little information I can give will cheer up even the hon. Member for North Cornwall a little, and that he will not feel so pessimistic.
§ Mr. Woodburn
There is no guarantee that we must gain a victory anywhere. The hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that Germany had six years to prepare before we started. That is a tremendous gain. If there is any crime involved in our position to-day, it certainly does not lie at the door of the present Government, because there is no major weapon being used in the field that was designed by the present Government. No major weapon could have been designed and mass produced since they came into office. The actual process of preparing 1159 machine tools, building factories and creating plant takes longer than the whole time this Government has been in office.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Does my hon. Friend mean to say that since this Government has been in office it has not had time to produce a tank equivalent to the German Mark IV?
§ Mr. Woodburn
A tank is not a weapon; it is a vehicle for carrying weapons. The point is that no major weapon is being used that has been designed since this Government came into office.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I said nothing of the kind. Some Members may not be familiar with the process and I will give an example from America. An American aircraft designed for mass production, in 1938 was not actually brought into mass production until 1940–41, Therefore, America, with all its capacity for speeding up production, cannot produce anything in the way of industrial miracles by quickly getting over the almost insuperable difficulties that have to be overcome before there can be mass production.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter (Hertford)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the last war we got some of our machines out in two years?
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am certain that no mass production of aircraft, if the design of a new engine is included, ever took place in two years in the last war. If the hon. and gallant Member is talking about putting new wings on to another engine, I will agree that it could be done.
Sir M. Seuter
If the hon. Gentleman looks at the history of the Sunderland Company he will see the time it took to get out the Sunbeam engine.
§ Mr. Woodburn
It must have been an adaptation of an existing engine. Otherwise, there must have been phenomenal luck. The designer may conceive what he thinks will be an ideal engine, and it may be decided to lay down millions of 1160 pounds worth of machinery for its production, but when produced it may be found that it does not work as the designer thought it would. So, much labour, time and expense have to be wasted therefore and the machinery altered. That has happened since this Government came in.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
The hon. Member has made a remarkable statement about producing new weapons. Will he tell us on what authority he based that statement and where he got his knowledge?
§ Mr. Woodburn
From experience and knowledge. The proper way to design a machine is to build a prototype and see whether it fulfils what the designer has conceived. If it does, you can start designing the machinery for its mass production. You may, however, cut out that preliminary process, but in that case you take the risk of losing all the preliminary work. That means that you may do more damage than good. The point is that that has been done in some cases since this Government came in and they have been successful in producing right off the drawing board. In other cases they have not been successful and there have been expensive failures both before and since the war in this regard. As tens of millions of pounds can be wasted by a mistake in this way the Government have to be rather careful. The hon. Member referred to recuperative blocks and the Government are charged with not improving the design. If they do not improve designs they are condemned for failing to do so, and if they do improve designs, they are condemned for making alterations in production. So that the Government must be condemned either way. I have in my knowledge a case in which a recuperative block which was occupying valuable drop forging capacity was redesigned, with a saving of 35 per cent. in time of production and 60 per cent. in material.
It is the conservatism of some people who do not want to make alterations that keeps production back. In making alterations we have to weigh up the pros and cons. I was pleased that the Minister finished his speech by giving signs of som 1161 dissatisfaction with things as they exist. I gathered from the early part of his speech as he skipped lightly over his subject that, having tipped his wand here and there, everything was delightful and satisfactory and he was pleased with it. Therefore, I welcome the fact that there was some divine discontent in his mind, and that he recognised there was something still to be put right, because there are a great number of things which are far from being as good as they ought to be.
The field is so vast that it would be unreasonable to expect the Minister of Production, who has been surveying it only for a short time, to be acquainted with the enormous scope of his task. Therefore, I am sure this Committee will be able to give him some guidance on some of these matters. What disturbed me was his choice of examples to show what had been achieved. For instance, he referred to the Sten gun. The Sten gun has received great publicity in the last few days, but, so far as we can judge, it has never been used on any mass scale in warfare. I would like to know why it had so much publicity. Are we frightened to surprise the Germans with a new weapon? Must we give them notice of it months beforehand, so that they will know what is coming and will be able to devise a similar weapon, because, as sportsmen, we do not like to take advantage of them? It seems to me that the first people to know about any of our new weapons should be the Germans, when they find them being used against them, and not the general public here.
§ Mr. Woodburn
That only makes things worse. It is equivalent to our action in sending a few tanks against the Germans in the last war, thus allowing the tank to be disclosed to the enemy before we were able to use it in mass numbers. In other words, we have sacrificed the value of a new invention for the sake of allowing a few commandos to stunt it. The greatest value of the gun has gone. It was the same with the 6-pounder gun. We publicised it and talked about it until the Germans must have thought that we had thousands of those guns on the field. I take it they made great preparations to meet the 6-pounder, and must have been more surprised than our own soldiers 1162 when they found it was not there. If there had been less talk about weapons and greater application in the production of them, it would have been much more satisfactory from the public point of view.
Again, the Bofors gun. The very fact that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned it shows how little he knows about its history. I have had an intimate connection with it. The record there was not a case of going from efficiency to greater efficiency but of putting a stop to the most blundering inefficiency that has taken place in this war. Curiously enough, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the platforms. A firm that was making the platforms had never dealt in millimetre sizes before. The design of the gun was in millimetre sizes. They ordered steel to within the nearest inch in size and then put a planing machine on it and planed away the metal, thus making the platforms weaker in order to get them down to the exact millimetre size. This stupid rigidity in specifications and the fear of firms to propose any alteration results in many hold-ups. It is not a thing which ought to be mentioned in public, but I merely give that as an example to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should keep the Bofors gun out of the list of his prize exhibits.
While it may not be right to criticise this Government for the weapons which we have to use now, and right to criticise the past Government for the weapons we have not got for use now, because other weapons ought to have been in existence, yet this Government may be subjected to criticism over the unnecessary delays which have occurred since they came in. I should like to get a balance in these matters. The hon. Member who spoke about 1940 seemed to forget there was quite a war on in that year, and that any number of the bottle-necks were caused by lucky bombs hitting certain places in this country or sinking ships which were bringing us machine tools and other apparatus. Even if the Government had possessed all the genius that he would wish them to show they could not have made any difference to that situation. He spoke about 12,000 men being unemployed, I think the Minister of Labour will confirm my statement that one factory with 5,000 workers who had been brought together from every part of the country was stopped because the stuff it was waiting for had 1163 been destroyed. Such cases are bound to occur in present circumstances. I should say, so far as I can judge, that the greatest problems have arisen not because of the lack of Ministerial desire to put difficulties right or Ministerial inefficiency in putting them right, but are the outcome of a multitude of trifles which have been a cumulative handicap upon our production.
Look at the firms in this country. Only 4 per cent. of them employ more than 500 people, and 66 per cent. employ fewer than 50 people. The administrative task of getting into communication with all those firms, organising their capacity and linking them up, is so tremendous that the Ministry would naturally like to do everything through the 4 per cent. of the big firms who employ 66 per cent. of the labour. They would like to make the big firms the parent firms. But this has led to great inefficiency, because while big firms are efficient in the work they do they are not necessarily the most efficient firms. Many of the big firms have a kind of superstructure of administrative staff which itself brings about delays. A great value of a small firm with 500 workers or less is that it is usually under the direction of the owner or of a managing director who has a personal connection with the workers and who works as part of the organisation. There one gets the personal interest of the man in charge, one who knows the whole of his workers, and there is no doubt that under that system we get an efficiency which can never be achieved by any other kind of organisation. It would be extremely disadvantageous to sacrifice that efficiency, and I think the Government lost something in not recognising that fact and in continuing to think that because a firm employs 5,000 or 10,000 workers it must be more efficient than a firm employing 500.
Our engineering industry has been built up on the basis of highly specialised skill. Many of these firms have specialised skill and can work more efficiently, perhaps, than any other organisation, and I think more use should be made of them. One thing that happens is this: Suppose there are 100 firms making fuses and the time comes when we have made too many fuses. Nobody seems to think ahead and arrange for the firms that are making fuses to transfer to some other form of production. Hold-ups of that kind are 1164 extremely annoying. Then there is general untidiness in the staff work. For instance, I have to-day had a complaint concerning a number of iron fitters from Falkirk who were transferred to England to do certain work. When they got to England they found that the work was not available for them, and they were then told that they could go into the Army. This information has come back to the unions in the area, and the complaints from these men create a feeling throughout the district that there is looseness and inefficiency in the arrangements. The staff work in the transferring of workers should be done in such a way as to make it intelligible to the workers who are being transferred. They should see that things are being handled in a businesslike way. I hope that the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Production will note the fact that this sort of loose ness does more harm among workers than all the speeches of pessimists or others who may suggest that this country is going to lose.
The question which the Government have to answer is whether they have designed new weapons which will be required to win the war. Are new weapons required, and have they designed them? Are these designs being carried through into production in the most effective way? We do not want to hear the details about the weapons, but we should like to know that something is being done in the matter. That would give more assurance to the country than talking as though the weapons now in existence were the last word. There is a looseness between design and production. I put a Question to the Minister asking when the mechanical engineer was called in, in these questions of getting new weapons. The designer and the operational man may sit down and draw the most ideal picture of the ideal weapon, built in the most ideal way, but they may never ask the man who has to make it whether it can be made in that way. When the plans go to him, he has to start all over again and break them down in such a way that the article can be manufactured. I ask the Minister to look into this matter. The man with the fancy ideas in the designing shop may never consult the man who is to produce the thing designed.
This is not a new gap in British industry. It existed long before this Government came into existence. It 1165 always is likely to exist in an industry where there is a drawing and design office who never ask the works how their designs are to be produced. The production engineers should be sitting around while the other two people are discussing design. A great deal of work would be saved if you had the ideas of the production engineer as to how the weapon might be efficiently produced. There is a good illustration of this matter. An engineer designed a cradle for a gun. It was all built up and constructed. Along came somebody else who showed quite easily that by bending the steel the cradle could be made in one piece without all the unnecessary construction. It is difficult to get ideas across. No doubt there is justification for the complaint that it takes a long time for a new idea to be adopted in Government Departments. What liaison is there—this is the job of the Minister of Production—between the chief design officers of the Admiralty, the Air Force and the Army, particularly between the Army and the Navy? Do they consult each other and adopt each other's perfected methods of breach mechanisms and of obtaining the best results? Do they ever consult together at all? Have they ever met each other? So far as I can judge, they work in watertight compartments quite separately from each other and never take the slightest notice of what is going on next door. That is a great disadvantage. There ought to be the minimum variation in specifications of all kinds. I am not satisfied that the spit-and-polish attachments to all kinds of weapons and machinery of war have been got rid of, and I am certain that great simplification can still be effected.
The Minister referred to the labour difficulty. If labour has been exhausted for industry, I agree that you have to make more use of the labour you have got. That can be done by getting rid of unnecessary designs, taking skilled labour into the places where it is required, in the tool rooms; in repair places, fitting and other operations can be done by unskilled people. I am not satisfied that the spare labour of this country has been exhausted. I see that there are a number of luxury ladies who still have a dilettante existence, although they are obviously capable and able women.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Many of them could be brought in, to serve in some way in the production machine. I am sure that if that were put to them, their patriotism would make them do it.
§ The Chairman
I must ask the hon. Member to take notice of what I said. The subject of the duties of the Minister of Labour is entirely outside the scope of this Debate.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I bow to your Ruling, Sir Dennis, and pass from that point. I end by saying that the Minister of Production has made a great step forward in co-ordinating three committees. It must be difficult, when he has no executive function, to carry out the work. I am satisfied that the real cause of complaint is in many of the little things rather than in any big and serious deficiency. I would make the constructive suggestion that he ought to have a body of capable production engineers on his staff, and when a real problem is brought to his notice he could pin it down and get personal responsibility of the person who is to blame. If every obstacle of this kind were removed from the path of production, the flow of production would be improved. There is still too much committee work. Committees are not effective in executive work, where you must have personal responsibility as far as possible. Somebody must have the responsibility of doing the job, and if he does not do it you know whom to remove. If you have a committee you get lost in argument about it. Committees can settle policy at the top.
§ Mr. A. Hopkinson (Mossley)
It seems to me that one of the main reasons why these Debates on production seem to come to very little in the end is that the House of Commons is apt, as we have seen, to devote itself to all sort of piffling little details instead of discussing, as it is better qualified to discuss, the main principles involved—in this instance the functions of the Minister of Production and the method of exercising those functions. I would remind the Committee at the outset that the Ministers of Production, Supply, and Aircraft Production inherit a certain amount of that slimy trail to which I referred a fortnight ago. Therefore, it is as well at the outset that we should realise that the Minister must not be hauled over the coals without consideration. After all, the Ministry originated 1167 in response to ignorant popular clamour, and nothing else. It was a very good shout and slogan: "Let's have a Ministry of Production." It suited Lord Beaverbrook just at that time to be Minister of Production, and in due course the Ministry was formed and Lord Beaverbrook was appointed—and we had the utmost difficulty in getting rid of him.
§ Sir P. Hannon
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for a Member of this Committee to make a reflection of that kind upon a Member of another place?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I made no reflection of any sort. I said that we had had the utmost difficulty in getting rid of him. That is not a reflection upon Lord Beaverbrook but a reflection upon a much more important person. I think the Committee will agree that no proper consideration was ever given to what functions that Minister should perform and how he should perform them or what powers he should have. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate might possibly welcome, even from an outsider like myself, a few suggestions or considerations to bear in mind in making his Ministry function effectively, which I am afraid he is finding rather difficult just at the present moment. It is admitted that the function of the Minister of Production is really to be the chairman of an expert staff planning production. Just as in operations, strategy and tactics we have the Committee of Chiefs of Staff presided over by a chairman, so in the same way I think there is room for a committee of the chiefs of an industrial staff, also presided over by a chairman whom we know as the Minister of Production.
A better analogy perhaps is that of the organisation of the Committee of Imperial Defence which was set up some years before the war. That organisation was based very largely upon sundry minutes by that remarkable authority on those matters, the late Lord Haldane. If I remember rightly, the whole basis of the arrangement was that the Committee of Imperial Defence was a committee of such immense power and prestige that it was impossible for anybody except the Prime Minister to be chairman of it. In actual fact, it was a physical impossibility for the Prime Minister to be an effective chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and therefore he 1168 appointed a deputy known as the Coordinator of Defence, who should have been—although he always failed to be—Deputy Prime Minister for Defence, and not a Cabinet Minister in the ordinary sense of the word The Prime Minister who appointed Lord Caldecote to that position had, I think, the intention in his mind that the Co-ordinator of Defence should be Deputy Prime Minister for Defence and therefore an effective chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The whole thing broke down because Lord Caldecote did not regard himself as anything more than a Cabinet Minister.
In the case of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and of the Ministry of Production, surely we have a similar difficulty to meet. Production is now a matter of such immense importance, and affects every phase of our lives to such an extent, that the chairman of a real Board of Production must be a man as powerful as the Prime Minister himself so far as his functions are concerned, and therefore he must hold, as it were, a limited power of attorney from the Prime Minister, to whom alone he should be responsible for his actions, and should not have to justify himself to the whole of the rest of the Cabinet. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider this proposal, if he has not done so already, because I cannot myself see his being in a position to exercise the functions which we mean him to exercise unless he has a position of that sort. We cannot have a Minister of Production in a position where, having taken rather drastic steps with regard to one of the Supply Ministries, he has to justify himself to the whole Cabinet. He must justify himself only to the Prime Minister, who has given him a limited power of attorney and whose business it will be to justify the Minister's action to the Cabinet or, if he cannot, to dismiss the Minister. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that and see whether something of the sort could not be arranged.
The next point is the composition of the committee over which he has to "preside. Fundamentally, the trouble with production has been this: Production hitherto has been in the hands of men who knew nothing whatever about the subject. You need only go back into the history of the various Ministries concerned. I see the Minister of Supply is 1169 here. The Minister of Supply has a great reputation in industry, but by what did he make that reputation? Not by producing things, but by preventing things from being produced. That was where he made his reputation; the formation of cartels and other devices, in accordance with what we call the "new economics," which consists of creating a famine so that prices go up and then saying, "How prosperous we are!" That is how the right hon. Gentleman made his reputation. As to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Production himself, I doubt whether the activities in which he made his reputation really helped our industrialists to get on with their work. I have a suspicion, for instance, that when I pay £300 a ton for tin on Monday, £270 on Tuesday, and £350 on Wednesday, the peace-time activities of the right hon. Gentleman may have something to do with it. I assure him it does not help production.
We have then got to this position: that we should have a general staff for production, a Board of Production if I may call it that. I think the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee would agree that the selection of the actual persons to put on that Board is of the utmost importance. I cannot conceive that any useful object of any sort would be achieved by putting on professional economists, chartered accountants, women, and trade union officials. After all, what do they know about production? What does a chartered accountant know about production? I know it has become customary for firms who do not know how to run their own business to allow a firm of chartered accountants to run it for them. I do not do that. The chartered accountant is a paid servant of mine, and he would be shot out of the place if he tried to run my business, because he is totally unfitted for it. His job is to tot up figures and tell me what those figures amount to. The thing is too serious to play with. We must treat this matter of production seriously; to put on trade union officials to plan out production, to put on a woman just because she is a woman, or to put on professional economists——
§ Mr. Hopkinson
We are talking about the composition of this Board, of from six to ten people, and I challenge the hon. Lady to inform me of some woman who is superior, and who is known to be superior as a producer of engineering works, to the half-dozen men who could be found for the job. It is perfectly obvious that women are put on these boards just because they are women. In the same way Sir Walter Layton is put on to production just because he is Sir Walter Layton. What does he know, what can he know, of production? It is a thing you have to live with for years and years before you know anything about it. I have been in it 45 years myself, and I do not know the first principles yet.
Having selected a board, how is it to function? Surely in this way. In war every decision as to ultimate objects must be a political decision, and must originate from the Prime Minister. Therefore the Prime Minister and his Cabinet must lay down what are the ultimate objects to be attained by warlike operations. Having done so, they approach the Chiefs of Staff with a view to finding out what military operations are necessary to carry out those political objects. It is for the Chiefs of Staff to say whether the military operations which are required can be carried out with a reasonable chance of success and consequently of achieving the ultimate political object. If the Chiefs of Staff say it cannot be done, in an ordinary Well-governed country the Prime Minister would change his political strategy, but if on the other hand they 3ay it could be done with a reasonable chance of success, it is their business to make their plans, and having made their plans, to ascertain what long-term and short-term production will be required to provide the necessary material for the operations contemplated.
The Chiefs of Staff Committee having ascertained what material they need, it should then be their business to go to the Minister of Production and give him their programme, and ask him to fulfil it for them if it can possibly be done. His 3uty, after consulting with his experts, is to return them an answer as to whether what they ask is possible or impracticable, and what modification must be permitted if, within a certain time, he is to produce such and such work. Again, this is all very elementary, but it seems to me to be 1171 the natural thing to do. The Minister of Production has given the Chiefs of Staff a definite opinion and promise of production of certain things within a certain time. Upon that the whole of the major strategy of the war may depend. Is the Minister to be left in a position where, if he finds that one of the supply Ministries is breaking down hopelessly, he has to wring his hands and cry, "Unfortunately we cannot carry out what we have undertaken to do. The military operations cannot be proceeded with and the ultimate political object cannot be obtained."? I say that it is absolutely essential that he should have within his power, such as the Chiefs of Staff Committee should have, a direct limited power of attorney from the Prime Minister himself. Otherwise, he cannot possibly be an effective Minister of Production and he cannot possibly give undertakings to the Chiefs of Staff Committee such as I have outlined.
Obviously, he acts on the advice of his Board of Production, and he will be in a hopeless position unless every single member of that Board is a man of such reputation that people will believe in him and trust him. It has been said, I believe with a very great amount of truth, that the British Navy was built up out of the threats of resignation of the Sea Lords, and the reason we could build and maintain the British Navy through the peaceful days of the 19th century was that on every Board of Admiralty were the Sea Lords, each with his resignation written out in his pocket, ready to be slammed down on the table if politicians stood in the way. I should like to see the Board of Production as powerful as the Sea Lords of the Board of Admiralty used to be. They can only get that power by being men who are known to deserve it. I would beg the right hon. Gentleman—I know he cannot himself carry out these changes—to bear them in mind. But the Board will be utterly useless if he allows it to carry any passengers. He has to clear the decks and throw overboard all the passengers and get down to brass tacks. We have never faced up to production yet, and we do hope, perhaps we do not all expect, that the right hon. Gentleman may succeed where everyone else has obviously failed.
§ Commander King-Hall (Ormskirk)
I am sure that the Committee will be 1172 grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for bringing the Debate back, if indeed he has not brought it for the first time to a broad survey of the Ministry of Production. The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) will forgive me if I remind him that the Board of Admiralty were technically politicians, not naval officers. That is why they were able to resign. Had they been officers, they would have been court-martialled had they resigned, so they had to be made politicians, which seems to indicate that even politicians have their uses. With regard to another aspect of his speech, I was a little disappointed—because one can always rely on the hon. Member to take an original and broad view of the subject—to find that he still seemed to regard production solely from what I should call the strictly material point of view. He was criticising the fact that trade union officials or women might be appointed to committees in connection with production. I can see that the primary purpose of appointments of that character is on the psychological side of production, because those concerned have special knowledge of classes of persons engaged in production. I should be out of Order were I to try to discuss the question of the supply of labour to the production Departments, but I think I am in Order, however, in discussing an aspect of the production problem not mentioned by the Minister. I recognise that obviously, as he himself said, he could not hope to cover more than a section of the field of his activities. The aspect I wish to discuss is what I think is officially described as publicity in industry for the stimulation of production, which is certainly one of the important aspects of his job.
Before I come to that, may I also support strongly the remarks made in a speech by an hon. Member in which he pointed out that it was perfectly easy for anyone to pick out isolated examples and paint a gloomy picture, and make out that everything was absolutely wrong? I entirely agree with him. We must try to take a balanced view of this production situation. Of course, we have made mistakes, but so have the enemy. If we could imagine a state of affairs in which a Debate like this could take place in the Reichstag, what play the critics could make of the fact that the German Government had all the powers it wanted since 1936, but even in those circumstances it had forgotten 1173 all about radiolocation. Yet the towers were there on the Straits of Dover, visible for all to see. They could say that the Luftwaffe had apparently overlooked the 8-gun fighter, and so on and so forth. It would be easy to paint a distorted picture on their side. If one wanted to make a case that things were worked very swiftly in our production system. I could give the Committee instances of some extremely rapid and decisive actions that have been taken. I can mention one, now that I am no longer connected with the Department concerned, which was all done in half-an-hour's conversation in 1940. There was urgent need for small armoured cars for aerodromes belonging to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Four hundred light armoured cars were ordered over the telephone, and the thing was fixed up in 25 minutes. It is true that the official Treasury machinery for doing this kind of thing ground forward on its task, but the contract only arrived in the office six weeks after the first car was outside the building and when the other cars were on the way to where they would be needed in the event of airborne attack. After a few months the military authorities, seeing that these were good little cars, expressed a desire to have them, and in 30 minutes' conversation they were handed over to the Army without any fuss. All this was done with the acquiescence and knowledge of civil servants in one of the Supply Departments. It would be as mischievous to suppose that this is typical of speed as it is mischievous and depressing to have the kind of speech made by my hon. Friend over there who I thought was going to burst into tears every moment because of the shocking state of affairs.
On this subject of publicity in industry for the stimulation of production may I remind the Committee that it used to be said that the important factor in war was the man behind the gun? I suggest that we have to enlarge that definition, to include the men and women behind the machine tools. The Minister said that he did not mind bricks being thrown at him, but that he hoped there would be some praise for the work the men and women are doing in industry. If the workers are to receive a proper tribute, the Press and the country at large must have adequate information. I have often been around the night shifts, and 1174 have seen remarkable things. I have also noticed the remarkable lack, in the past at any rate, of any publicity arrangements, by means of which information about what is taking place in the factories may get out to the public. I remember one night watching a woman who was making 400 components a day, by working two machines, when the best man in a very, large factory had never been able to make more than 360. I have been struck by the work of what might be called the unknown heroines in the industrial field—women with four, five, or six children, who, in some incredible manner, work through the night shift, and at the same time look after their children during the day and get food and sleep. I do not know how they do it. A lot of things are happening on the industrial front which would make a magnificent story if put out on the lines of "Bomber Command" and other such publications. We need an industrial booklet of that character.
On this psychological aspect of production, two conclusions emerge: there; must be a machine of some kind to put across the policy, and we must decide what kind of policy we want to put across. I will not detain the Committee about the nature of the machine which is required, because something is happening, but it has taken a long time for any organisation to be set up on this question of publicity or propaganda for industry as a whole. Industry must be treated as a whole, because the problems are common to the whole of industry. The question of Income Tax, which had a bad effect on production, was common to Ministry of Aircraft Production factories, to Ministry of Supply factories, and to others; and it should have been tackled long before it was. If we agree that there should be a policy, I would suggest one principle which should underlie that policy. I will put it very briefly, as other hon. Members wish to speak. The policy should be to make the workers feel that they are part and parcel of the Fighting Forces in this war. The more we can do to eliminate the idea that there is any real distinction between the man or woman behind the machine tool, or in the transport services, or in the mines, or anywhere else, and the men using the weapons, the more successful we shall be.
How are you to do that? There is a great variety of ways. An important point 1175 to concentrate upon is that of giving the workers as much information as possible about the use which is to be made of the weapons they are producing. I have often been shocked to discover people making small components who do not appreciate that what they are making is an effective part of some important weapon. Another important thing is to arrange visits from men in the Fighting Services. That is a particularly good way of bringing the factories and the Fighting Services together. There should also be the reciprocal process, of visits by factory workers to the fighting stations. There is not nearly enough imagination shown in these matters. Officers who have made tours of the factories, and who have had the most wonderful receptions, have found that certain incidental expenses occurred, which they have had to meet out of their own pockets; and one could hardly imagine the difficulty that there is about getting any special grant made. It is not that the Treasury is unwillihg to meet the expense, but there is no regulation which permits it to be done.
The next point is that We must look ahead. The publicity Department of the Ministry of Production must be looking ahead for problems of psychology in exactly the same way as the technical experts are doing for new weapons. They must be thinking what kind of mental problems will be troubling the workers in the winter months—such problems as transport and the difficulties of women workers in shopping. There is another important point. I have not the slightest idea whether there will be a second front of not, but I am certain that if there is not a second front, or something that rather resembles one, some sort of explanation must be given to the people in the factories. I say that without committing myself to any opinion on the merits of that much-disputed question."
Finally I warn the Government that it will not be able to go on much longer avoiding saying something more definite about post-war Britain and what we are aiming at, for this is something about which shop stewards and other people are asking questions. I see, Colonel Clifton Brown, that you are looking at me and thinking that I am getting out of Order. But production may be held up because the Worker says, "I am being urged to do 1176 this and that, but I remember what happened after the last war, and perhaps we shall be disappointed again." I submit that there is an organisation being set up in the Ministry of Production to deal with this propaganda question, which will be paid for out of the Vote we are discussing to-day; and that I am in Order in discussing it. In the long run, wars are lost and won in the hearts of men. That is where the decisive battle is fought. I recognise that the Minister in his review was unable to cover all fields of what he has to do, but I want an assurance that he is attaching to this question of morale and the psychological aspect of production an importance equal to that of any other side of production.
§ Mt. Stokes (Ipswich)
I find myself very much in agreement with the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) in his examination of the production triumvirate. I have always been astonished that the whole of the organisation of production, which is essentially highly skilled and technical, should be left in the hands of what the hon. Member roughly described as an industrial diplomat in the Ministry of Supply, a lawyer—no doubt a very able one—in the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and a man as the chief of the Ministry of Production who had a marvellous reputation before the war for restricting output. In view of that, it seems not at all surprising that we had to listen to the kind of speech we heard from the Minister to-day. I disagree with the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs), who congratulated the Minister on his speech and said that he showed a complete grip of what he was talking about. The right hon. Gentleman is comparatively new to this House, and I also know, being of a timid disposition myself, of the difficulty of speaking in these abnormal circumstances, but surely we really were treated to one of the most depressing accounts I have ever heard from a responsible Minister of the Crown after nearly three years of war. He gave a lot of figures which mean nothing if you analyse them. He told us the 2-pounder gun fired a 2.4 pound shell which was interesting, though no doubt correct, and he finally failed to give the comparative weight of the shell of the 88 millimetre German gun and the 3.7 British gun. He got on to tanks and really did not tell us anything at all. At one moment my blood very nearly froze 1177 in my veins when, speaking of the great efforts which we all know our American friends are making, he referred, at this serious stage of the war, to the fact that the carnation for the captain's buttonhole was in its right place as the bridge was lowered on to the ship. What a thing for a Minister of the Crown to say in a Debate on the situation in which we find ourselves to-day.
I have not as much time as I had hoped in which to develop some of my arguments, and I shall confine my remarks in the main to three separate subjects. The first thing to which I wish to call the attention of the Minister of Production and the other Ministers of the two Departments concerned is that it is still astonishingly difficult for producers of equipment, and no doubt producers of weapons, to make contact with the users. Our industrial and commercial safety in peacetime lies in the fact that we are faced with competition in our methods of keeping ourselves up-to-date. We have somebody against us who is prepared to supply the user of the particular machinery with something better if we are backward. It is of fundamental importance, if we are to get the best out of our industrial production, that the users of industrial equipment should be allowed to obtain contact with the actual users of the equipment in the various Services. I have been round the country and have seen expensive equipment being absolutely wasted. I have seen thousands of pounds' worth of equipment being used when far cheaper and simpler equipment could be used to do all the things required on these particular jobs, and yet we as producers are not allowed to get into touch with the men who have to use the goods in the Services, but have to deal with a whole series of mechanically incompetent people who really do not know what it is they are ordering, ox now it is to be used or the effectiveness of the different designs. Merely because of that awful block in the way, there is a most appalling waste. I could give numerous examples to the Minister, but I will merely ask that that barrage should be got out of the way and that we should be allowed to get into touch with the people actually using the weapons and equipment. I am glad to get that point off my chest, as it has been there for some time.
1178 I am sorry that the Minister is not now present, because I propose to make a large number of extremely rude remarks. He has just come back from America, and, from the very vague reports we have had, his visit appears to have been a success. I would ask the Minister and the Government not to place the whole of their faith in what America is going to do for us. The only bright spot in the Minister's speech was that America was going to be able to do marvellous things. While I recognise—and I know something of their industrial production—the gigantic efforts they are making now, do not forget that the Americans are slow starters, whatever else they are. A good deal has been said about the Lease-Lend arrangement. In September of last year Alistair Cooke, writing in the "Daily Herald," said:After a year of publicity and promise only 75,000,000 dollars of tanks, etc., delivered against 7,000,000,000 promised.In October John D. Biggers in America said:The combined efforts of the present programmes of the United States and Great Britain, if properly synchronised, would out-produce the Axis by mid-1943.I should like to hear—I do not know whether it would have to be done in public or in secret—a far wider exposition of the steps that are being taken jointly by the Minister and his opposite number in America to co-ordinate the joint production of the United Nations. We were not told nearly enough about it today. The Minister, I am bound to admit, gave me a most horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. It is more than likely that the Americans will be turned on to produce all the wrong things. That is what has been happening in this country. America is capable of a most gigantic production effort, but for goodness sake let the responsible people see to it that they are turned on to produce the right weapons and not the wrong weapons. The whole object of production is to see that the most efficient, up-to-date and modern equipment is put into the hands of our fighting men.
I want to speak about tanks. We have been told all sorts of strange and untrue things about the equipment in Libya. The Prime Minister has told us that our weapons were "ample," which in its broadest sense means that they are good enough for the job as well as numerous. 1179 At least, that is what the nation understood when the words were used. We have been told that they were "equal" at least on two occasions if not three, and finally in the Debate the other day that they were "adequate," and at the same time in another place Lord Beaver-brook referred to what had gone on at the Ministry of Supply when he was there. We were strongly urged by the Prime Minister to read that speech, and for once in my life I took his advice. I read it, and I was not amused. It seemed to be one of the most muddled statements I have ever read by a person who ought to know something about the difference between diameter, calibre, weight of shell and size of gun. I defy any competent man who knows anything about engineering and gunnery—and I know more about the latter than the former—to find anything which makes sense in certain of the passages in that oration dealing with gun calibres and weight of shell. We knew about the German Mark IV tank before the war. My hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn)—heaven knows what was in his brain—told us that this Government was entirely forgiven or exonerated for failing to produce in two-years something equivalent to the weapons the Germans were now using. As far as I understand him, all the faults were with previous Governments and that is about the same, carried to its logical conclusion, as saying that the Government would only be to blame if we do not have adequate weapons for the next war.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I confess that it must be my fault if my hon. Friend did not understand. The point was that this Government was being indicted in connection with the weapons being used now. The point I made was that the Government should not be held responsible for the deficiency in weapons being used now because these were designed before the war started. They can only be held responsible for any delays which take place in production.
§ Mr. Stokes
Well, I can only say that I think Parliamentary Private Secretaries make extremely bad advocates. This war has been on for nearly three years now, and everybody knows that the present Prime Minister, who was First Lord of the Admiralty in the early days of the war, 1180 became, in effect, Minister of Defence shortly after the turn of 1940. We were calmly told in the Debate last week that nothing was done in this matter until July, 1940. Why should that be? I have my own reason to give at the end of my speech, but I do ask this: I want some kind of assurance—and Parliament, too, ought to insist on an assurance—that the right kind of weapons are being produced now. Nothing of this sort was said to-day by the Minister; all he gave us was some "airy fairy" reference to the fact that everything at the end would be lovely and that output was colossal. I should not feel comfortable if I were sitting in a British tank with a 2-pounder gun with an effective range of 600 yards, or an even bigger tank with a 6-pounder gun which has an effective range of 1,200 yards, taking on a German tank with a 13 or 14-pounder gun with an effective range of 2,000 yards. A Minister who has no better to tell us than that, stands condemned, and the Government stand condemned, and the sooner those responsible get out the better. I want to know who was responsible for nothing being done from the period September, 1939, to July, 1940, and who has been responsible for apparently doing nothing from June, 1940, to the present time to bring out something equivalent to the German Mark IV tank. My conclusion on this subject is this—
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
Does the hon. Gentleman know precisely what is the thickness of the armour of the German Mark IV tank?
§ Mr. Stokes
I can answer the hon. Gentleman if he likes, but I will not quote the person who told me, because we all know what happens to such people once their- names are disclosed. I have been told by the people who use these tanks that the 2-pounder gun shell will bounce off the front of the German Mark IV tank. What the thickness of the armour of the German tank is I do not know. I am interested in what the people who operate our equipment say when they come back. I say it is a great mistake to hand over the production of weapons to the Ministry of Supply; it ought to be in the hands of the people responsible for their use. 1181 see the force of an argument for a Ministry of Supply for overcoats, trouser buttons, gas masks, etc., but we shall never get our weapons to the standard of efficiency required unless the people responsible for their use, distribution and effectiveness are in control. I fail to see how you are to get effective weapons out of a Department which is influenced largely by political reasons. Ministers are much more interested in giving great figures of production to the Cabinet than driving home the fact that the stuff we want should be really effective. So long as that situation endures, we shall not get the right stuff.
Now I want to say a word or two on a parallel subject—the Ministry of Aircraft Production. I am terrified that we shall hear soon the same dreary tale in connection with aircraft as we have heard about tank production. We know that the Battle of Britain was won by the guts of the young men who flew our aeroplanes and by the technical qualitative superiority of our equipment. At that time we led the world in fighters. Can the Minister of Aircraft Production assure us to-day that that technical lead has not been lost? The Minister of Production said to-day that we still have that lead. I deny it; I think he is wrong, although I take it that the Minister of Aircraft Production knows more about this particular job than his right hon. Friend and may perhaps be able to-give an answer when he winds up the Debate. I would like to know whether we have fighting aeroplanes which are as much better than the German Me. 109 F/G and the Focke Wulf 190 as our aeroplanes were superior to the Germans in the Battle of Britain. I am told by the people who ought to know and by pilots themselves that this is not the case, that German aircraft have caught us up and that there is one reason for this, and one reason only. At the time of the Battle of Britain, when Lord Beaverbrook happened to be in office, all technical development was stopped, it is suggested. If that is so, then it really is tragic. I have it on good authority—from which, again, I will not quote but I know many pilots—that that stopping of development has put us behind. We have the right to hear from the Minister of Aircraft Production to-day whether I am right or he is right. He should tell us, either in Secret or in Public Session, whether we have something 1182 which is still ahead of our enemies, as we had in the Battle of Britain. Many people believe that the Ministry of Aircraft Production, which has 6,000 officials and employs over 55,000 people, is altogether redundant. I would like to see the production of aeroplanes go back again to the Air Ministry so as to ensure that our technical advantage is maintained or restored.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the Air Ministry itself or the Secretary of State for Air acquiesced in this stopping of development or, if they did not acquiesce, did not make a protest? Is the hon. Gentleman's statement true or false?
§ Mr. Stokes
We shall hear that from the Minister. I am not responsible for the conscience of the Secretary of State for Air or for that of any other Minister, past or present. All I am saying is what I believe to be true. It is no use our coming here with soft soap or soothing syrup. I am told on good grounds that the best thing that could happen would be to put the Ministry of Aircraft Production back with the Air Ministry for the production of aeroplanes and that, quite definitely, owing to the cessation of technical development, we have lost the lead we had. No matter what the Minister now says, time will prove that right or wrong.
My contention is that our production has never been right. We produced the wrong tools in the main, largely because the central control of the war is wrong. There has been no comprehensive strategy—and strategy controls the weapons you produce. The speeches I have listened to to-day make me believe that the movers of the Vote of Censure recently were more nearly right than the rest of the House of Commons. I ask the Minister to examine his own conscience and see to it that things are put right now and that we do, with the minimum possible delay, get the right and the most efficient tools into the hands of our fighting men.
§ The Minister of Aircraft Production (Colonel Llewellin)
In reply to a Debate, I usually try to answer the great majority of the questions put to me, and I regret that on this occasion, perhaps because of one interruption or another, the time at my disposal is rather shorter than I would like. It was refreshing to hear the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and the 1183 hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) say that my Ministry should be wound up. I was surprised to hear this said by the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough, because he made no suggestions for putting anything else in its place, so that, as far as I could gather, although he has advocated quite different policies in the past, he would in war time leave the whole of the aircraft industry without any form of Government control. But the hon. Member for Ipswich put the matter on a different ground, which was that he could not trust me, because, after all, I am the man responsible for providing the quality of aircraft that our pilots need to do the job. I can assure the hon. Member—I can assure the whole Committee and the whole country—that in saying that he was absolutely wrong. There is no man in a responsible position who would deny our pilots the best possible aeroplanes that we can produce, To supply them will be my policy as long as I am Minister of Aircraft Production.
The point which the hon. Member for Ipswich made was that in 1940 all technical development was stopped. As a matter of fact, that is not true. I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry at the time and, from my own knowledge I can say it is not true. It is true to say, however, that at that time, for very good reasons, Lord Beaverbrook, who was then Minister, laid more accent on quick production than on future development; but when one realises that we were then faced any week with the outbreak of the Battle of Britain, that we had to get every ounce that we could ready for that battle, and that largely because of the efforts of Lord Beaverbrook at that time, we succeeded in that task, I think it will be agreed by all that that was the right line to take. But while taking that line, technical development did not stop, and I say that as a man whom the Committee knows and who was in the Department at the time The next point made by the hon. Member for Ipswich, and also by the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) was whether we still had planes coming out that are as good as, or better than, the German planes, particularly fighters. I quite agree that the fighters are the class in which we have to keep superiority. There are two new German planes, and we know a great deal about both. The 1184 newest plane that is now coming out of production is better at nearly every height than those new German planes, and is as good as them at any height. For the greater part of the heights—because machines vary in performance at different heights—the newest planes that we are now producing are superior to those new types of the enemy. I am very glad that I can stand here and say that quite affirmatively to the Committee.
§ Sir M. Sueter
Can the Minister tell us about torpedo aeroplanes for the Fleet Air Arm? Are new types being brought out and are they in production?
§ Colonel Llewellin
Another hon. Member asked a question concerning them, and if my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me to do so, I will deal with that matter later in my speech. The hon. Member for Ipswich then implored us not to put the whole of our faith in what America is going to do for us. I can assure him and the Committee that we are not doing that We shall still have to produce in this country, at any rate as far as aircraft are concerned, the great majority of our needs. America's effort will come in to supplement our own. Let nobody in the factories, whether managements or workers, think that our own efforts can be in any way relaxed because we have talked about these large figures of American production. We shall want everything that we cap turn out from our factories in this country. Let that be quite clearly understood.
The next point which the hon. Member for Ipswich made, and which he said he had been wanting to get off his chest for some time, was that the industrialists were not allowed to get near the users of their products. I assure him that is not the case in the aircraft industry. To take one well-known instance, the makers of the main number of our fighter engines, Rolls-Royce, have an extremely good organisation, and we encourage then) to visit every squadron which is using a Merlin or any other type of Rolls-Royce engine. They are continuously there, and they are in extremely close touch, and so are a large number of the other aircraft industrialists. The main big bomber producers, the main fighter producers, continuously have people with the squadrons which are using the products of their factories.
§ Colonel Llewellin
Some of that may come under the Ministry of Aircraft Production, but some may not; if there is any article of aerodrome equipment which the Department orders from the hon. Member's firm and he would like to go to see how that equipment is being used on any aerodrome, I can assure him that I will secure from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air the necessary facilities for that visit.
The Debate was started by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), and we all recognise how sincerely he always speaks, and what good points he made in his speech in this Debate. He asked whether machine tools are being used to the fullest advantage. On the whole, they are, but here and there, quite obviously, they are not. In some factories we still cannot man the machine tools for the two or three shifts that we would like. As soon as we can do that, we shall do it. As a matter of fact, in the aircraft industry we are now manning the critical tools—and by critical tools I mean the ones which are extremely difficult to get—I should say, in every case, for three shifts practically the whole of the 24 hours. There must be some minutes for a few intervening meals. The hon. Member asked whether raw materials are properly allocated. I think they are In my early days at the Ministry of Supply, I happened to start the allocation system, and it has gone on being improved by me. I presided over that Committee when I was at the Minstry of Supply, when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, when I was at the Ministry of War Transport, and over one meeting during my very short tenure of office at the Board of Trade and one meeting in my present job, until, having done my hundred meetings, I retired. The Minister of Works and Planning has now taken on that job.
I think the system is working extremely well. It is operated through the controls. Bulk allocations are given to Departments. Very often their users are definitely cut down by the central machine, but, of course, they have the right of appeal to the Minister of Production and the controls allocate the materials according to the central direction 1186 given to them by that committee. My hon. Friend made two comments on aircraft production. He said he would like people to know more about the achievements of the machines they make. I am all in favour of that suggestion. We are doing it to a considerable extent, and we have done it not only in this country, but in the United States as well. We know that where we can show them the achievements of the things which they are turning out, it encourages the workpeople, and that naturally they like to know. We also started at our Ministry visits of pilots to the factories, and that has been a great success. I will see whether the point of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) can be looked into on the question of officers being out of pocket when they go around; they do such a lot of good by these visits that certainly they ought not to be out of pocket as a result especially when, normally, they give their leave or their rest time to this very valuable and important work.
The hon. Member for the Eye Division asked whether there was close co-operation between strategy and production, and how soon the lessons learned were brought into effect. Of course, there is the closest link between strategy and production under the new set-up made by my right hon. Friend. In regard to the lessons learned, my Ministry have some technical Air Force officers out in the Middle East. They have been there throughout, and they report back immediately to my Controller of Research and Development, himself a distinguished Air Force officer, and an extremely capable man, on the operational results of fighters in distant fields, and we are always in the closest touch with the Air Force Commanders-in-Chief at home. We have people from our Department continuously having meetings at their headquarters. I myself frequently see them. I spent one Sunday flying with the Commander-in-Chief Fighter Command, piloting the aeroplane. It was quite a small plane, and there was not much room for the two of us. We visited 14 squadrons and spoke to the flying personnel in those squadrons. I think that is a good thing to do—to keep in touch with the actual users of your goods. The hon. Member also asked a question which I cannot answer by giving any date. He asked how long the modifications or a new type took to get into production. It just 1187 depends what the modification is: some are quickly and quite easily done, and others, of course, take a considerable time to bring into the production line.
The hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) said alterations to specifications were impossible to achieve from Government Departments. That is not so. We have local technical committees of which local representatives of my Ministry and the representatives of firms are members, and they deal with modifications which come from operational use and modification suggested to ease production methods. A firm's representatives can always suggest those modifications and talk round the table and, if they will not weaken the machine and so make it less airworthy for its job, such modifications are always incorporated in the machine. With regard to the others, some may concern mere frills, and we try to cut them out, but where the Air Force needs improvements to make the machine better, either from the point of view of safety to the pilot or of fighting efficiency, we incorporate them. The hon. Member asked whether the weapons produced in this country are of the best types and whether the workers could have an assurance that they are building those types. With regard to aircraft, with which alone I am dealing, we are of course still making some machines which are not the newest. I refer largely to trainers and machines of that sort. They are quite good enough for their job. They are just as important as fighters and bombers and reconnaissance machines, because we must train our pilots. They are sometimes long dated but it is better to go on producing them if they are efficient for their job. With regard to the rest of the machines, I think we have the best bombing aircraft in the world.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) asked me about torpedo-carrying aircraft. We have some, and we have a new type coming out for the Fleet Air Arm. We are also equipping machines, built for other purposes, to carry torpedoes. If you can do that, it is a very good thing because, when you want to use the machine as part of the Coastal Command, it will go out armed with its torpedoes. When you want to use it as part of the Bomber Command it can go out and bomb Germany, or something of that sort.
§ Sir M. Sueter
Are we in touch with the Americans in the matter of torpedo-carrying aircraft and do we exchange ideas with them?
§ Colonel Llewellin
We have a very close link with the aircraft industry in America, and on the Joint Aircraft Committee in the United States the head of my mission over there and the head of the Air Ministry mission sit together. They know all the Americans are doing and we tell them all that we are doing. I was also asked whether we are turning the Stirling into a transport plane. The Stirling was not built as a transport plane. It was made to the Air Ministry's specification as a bomber. As a matter of fact, we have tried conversion of one of our bombers into a transport plane. The order was given on 24th March and the House will be glad to hear that it is flying to-day.
§ Colonel Llewellin
It would not be the Army that would apply for transport planes. The Air Force operates any plane that has an engine in it and it would be for the Air Ministry to apply for transport planes.
§ Mr. Bevan
I will alter the question. Has the Air Ministry at any time applied for transport planes? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is now talking about the conversion of bombers into transport planes. Has the Air Ministry at any time, at the instance of the Army or of its own initiative, ever applied for transport planes?
§ Colonel Llewellin
I think the question of transport planes has been discussed to a certain extent here before. We have a limited aircraft-building capacity in this country from the point of view not only of factory space, but of man power, materials, machine tools and all that goes to make it up, and so we can either build transport planes or bombers. That is what we are really faced with in this country. At the moment we are building large quantities of bombers and—I think there is no secret in this as it has been talked about for some time—we have no 1189 large transport planes in production in this country. There are, however, good transport planes in production in the United States, and it is far better to order where we can get them ready-made than to start to jig and tool in this country for a new type of transport plane. We are taking the precaution of seeing whether we can convert—using a great number of the same parts—one of our existing bombers into a transport plane which does not need all the jigging and tooling that the others do.
§ Colonel Llewellin
That is a matter of opinion. I would like to thank the Committee for the reception they have given me, which as usual has been extremely courteous. I want in my concluding words to make this point. A lot of hard things are said about managements and a lot of hard things are said in the Services about some munition workers. Taken on the whole, however, both managements and workpeople in this country are doing a great job of work, at any rate in the production of aircraft. That applies particularly to the vast number of women who have come into our aircraft industries who never worked in a factory before in their lives. It is the great work that they are doing which has enabled us to be free in this country from day and night bomber attacks. It is their great work that enables us to bomb German industries. It is their great work that has, to a large extent, freed the pressure upon our shipping. It is their great work that has enabled us to put up such a good fight by the Royal Air Force in Libya—because let nobody go away under the impression that the Royal Air Force has not put up a great fight against the enemy attacks there. It is the great work of the people in the factories which has also helped us to send large quantities of aircraft to Russia. I should like to take this opportunity publicly of thanking all those in industry who do that good work. I am sure we can rely on them to go on producing these good planes in the same quantity in future months.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again"—(Major Sir James Edmondson)—put, and agreed to.1190
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.