HC Deb 15 November 1944 vol 404 cc1958-9
46. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Prime Minister what Minister is responsible for the organisation of the change-over in industry from war to peace-time occupation.

The Prime Minister

The main responsibility for the organisation of the changeover is shared between the President of the Board of Trade, who has a general responsibility in connection with the reestablishment of civilian industry, the Minister of Production, who has a general responsibility for planning and concerting the release of resources as these can be spared from war production, and the Minister of Labour and National Service, whose responsibility extends to the supply of labour for all classes of production and services.

Sir A. Knox

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a good deal of confusion at present inasmuch as war factories have not sufficient work to employ their men, that these workers are idle and are not released, and that meanwhile the Production Departments hold on to the factories, and do not hand them over for productive work in civil capacities?

The Prime Minister

The three Ministers I have mentioned are vitally concerned in the business, and all the resources of their Departments are at their disposal. It is their business to meet together, and to take appropriate measures, obtaining from the Cabinet from time to time any extra powers they require. The only alternative to that would be to appoint a dictator for the change-over, or something like that, and I do not think it is a good thing to meet each emergency by the appointment of a new, special Minister for the task. It is far better to make those who are already there work it out between them, and I think they are doing it fairly well. The situation is extremely difficult. It is so difficult to judge what ends we ought to aim at in time. You may take decisions, and then find that they have to be reversed because events have taken a slightly different course. I am sure that the business should be left to the three Ministers. Any impression that the idea that the three Ministers rightly concerned with the topic should share responsibility is one to be laughed at, ought not to be widely entertained.

Sir Irving Albery

Does that mean that the Minister of Reconstruction has no responsibility in this matter?

The Prime Minister

In the actual executive details of the change-over of workmen from one type of employment to another, one factory to another, or one town to another the Ministers I have mentioned have the executive function.