§ The EARL OF LISTOWEL rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are able to make a statement on the position of production for war. The noble Earl said: My Lords, after some consultation about the procedure most likely to suit the convenience of the House, I decided to alter the form of the matter which I had placed on the Order Paper. It was obviously the desire of the House to hear the statement that the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, would make, at the earliest possible moment in the course of our proceedings, and I therefore changed my original Motion into a plain question, which I now beg leave to ask.
§ THE MINISTER OF PRODUCTION (LORD BEAVERBROOK)
My Lords, I am asked if I am in a position to make a statement in relation to the position of war production, but I am sure the noble Earl really wishes to have a statement on the Ministry of Production. It really comes down to that, and it is on that subject of war production generally that I am prepared to address your Lordships. First of all, dealing with the Ministry of Production, that infant was born in Moscow. The joint account with the United States, when Mr. Harriman and I went to Moscow, involved us in close relations in the allotment and disposal of munitions of war. The arrangement in Moscow involved joint action and joint account. The infant grew up in Washington when the resources of Great Britain and the United States were pooled.
800 The pooling of these resources is a very revolutionary movement. I do not think, the country generally realizes the nature or the extent of that arrangement made by the Prime Minister. We not only pool all the weapons that are produced in the United States and in Great Britain as well in other Allied countries, but we have set up a Joint Board to dispose of those weapons. We also pool all our raw materials. All the stocks of raw materials in Britain now and all the stocks of raw materials in the United States are at the disposal of the Joint Board dealing with raw materials. The raw materials now in the custody of the Ministry of Supply cannot be looked upon any longer as the property of the Ministry of Supply, to be disposed of by the Minister or, rather, by my noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Portal. The disposal of these raw materials waits on, and depends upon, the Joint Board which sits in Washington. The same applies to ships and all shipping. That, too, passes under a Joint Board. The Board sits in Washington and also in Great Britain, but all these arrangements have to be taken into account, altering and changing entirely the conditions of war production in Great Britain—changing them altogether.
The Minister of Production is charged with the duty of disposing of all-questions and issues that arise in relation to these new Boards in Washington—these Boards that control the results of our labours in weapons, control our raw materials, and also our ships. I ought to exclude ships from the charge of the Minister of Production as they are specially dealt with. It has been said of the Minister of Production that it is hoped he will not find it necessary to journey abroad. That hope is very strong in my bosom too, but I fear it will not be realized. The very first duty of the Minister of Production, it seems to me, will be to journey abroad. Not only will it be necessary to go to Washington but also to Moscow, because only by such means can the decisions be reached on the questions that will now arise as the result of the Joint Board sitting in Washington. I think this Ministry involves a very great deal of hard work—much more hard work than I willingly undertake—but I am quite prepared to face it. I did not want this job—I did not want it a bit. I did not want the Aircraft Production job, or the job at the 801 Supply Ministry either. But I am looking forward to doing it just as vigorously as possible. I am anxious to do it well. I am willing to mix diplomacy with decisions, but always provided I get the decisions. I am also willing to mix patience with haste, but always provided I get the haste. Unless I get the decision and the haste I shall not feel I am doing a good job for you. Speed is the first necessity in war. Of that I am convinced after some months of very intense experience. Speed is the first necessity. Quick decision is the pursuit of duty—of that there can be no doubt.
My duty as Minister of Production has been very clearly defined. Apart from these Committees I have just described—Committees in which I take a place, Committees of which in the British replicas I am the Chairman—it is my duty to agitate and stimulate production, not here and there, but everywhere. I must persuade producers in the United States and Canada, and all the Allied countries to bring up their programmes to a level consistent with our needs in this war, consistent with Allied needs in this war, for the battle lines all over the world. That is my first duty. The prinicipal production that will have to be dealt with is not from the factories of Great Britain—not at all. The main duty of the Minister of Production is to tap other sources of supply everywhere—beyond all else to tap the principal sources of supply.
Without doubt, the United States will shortly become the principal source of supply. In the nature of things it must be the biggest source. Canada is of high importance too, and Canada must have a rapidly-growing output. Canada has all the facilities for promoting output, and for a certainty the Canadian output will grow. When all the sources of supply have been tapped, as I say, there comes the question of allotment, and it is allotment to the Allied Nations for the purpose of prosecuting the war that requires consultation in Washington and in Moscow. None the less, allotment is the task and the duty of the Minister of Production. I need not tell you that allotment becomes first of all the responsibility of the soldier. The question of allotment in its political phases is the duty of the Minister of Production. In all probability Britain will for a time give more in war production 802 than Britain will get, but the day is not far distant when Britain will get, I think, a great deal more in allocation of war materials than she will give, provided always that Britain needs the allocation, so that the British Minister of Production will one day become the agent or instrument for augmenting supply in Britain out of the proceeds of factories abroad. That is the probable ultimate position. But I venture to repeat once more to your Lordships that the first duty of the Minister of Production is to make use of all sources of supply. That is his first and principal duty.
His second task is to insist upon the development of the resources of Britain to the utmost, to get as much as possible out of the factories here at home. That is certainly his duty, but when it comes to operating the factories, the responsibility and the duty of production rests upon the Ministers in charge of the Supply Departments. They must take responsibility for the output. It is their duty. Output at home must be increased by the labours of those who are responsible for the task to Parliament—that is, the Ministers of the Departments. I have no such responsibility. It is true that I must promote production, it is true I must stimulate production, but other Ministers must be held responsible in the future for the management and direction of production. They are entitled to all the credit, they must have the measure of praise which should come from the public to those who give rising charts of production. I must not take the task out of their hands or interfere with their operations. Here is my conception of the duties in Britain of the Minister of Production. The Minister must give warning of waste in the factories; he must attack idleness. That involves the elimination of over-lapping operations, the correction of errors, the co-ordination of the labours of those who work for different Ministers. That is my conception of the duty of the Minister of Production.
Now I know it will be said by many that this is not the sort of Production Ministry that the war requires. I know that will be said. That is a matter of opinion. I can give you some evidence that you can take into account when you come to make up your minds. Production in Britain is at present on a very big basis. That is the statement I make 803 on laying down my task and duty as the Minister of Supply. It is on a very big basis. I must refute the tales of failure that are heard. I am told that there is much idle time, that many factories fail to use their resources to the full, that there is much waste. I do not deny that there is plenty of opportunity for improvement. I am well aware of it, and do not deny it at all. I am sure that waste and extravagance exist in many cases, but, to judge by results of output of the Ministries, the situation is not bad but good. As to the output of the Ministry of Supply, in the last six or seven months the production of finished munitions has actually doubled. Do not take it from me that every item has doubled; not every item has. Some items have certainly fallen short of 100 per cent. increase, while some have reached as much as 500 per cent. increase, but it is right to say that finished munitions as a whole have doubled in production in the space of six or seven months. Is that something to cry about? But from this list you must exclude wheeled motor vehicles, for wheeled motor vehicles are a controlled output. It is regulated. No more wheeled vehicles than a certain number is permitted by the Minister, and that decision is taken in favour of other production.
In January of this year we had at the Ministry of Supply a record production of tanks, the highest production we have ever known, and it was three times the output of January of last year. I am bound to tell your Lordships that the first tank week since Sir Andrew Duncan took over the Ministry is the biggest week ever. He has made a bigger record than I ever made. I would gladly give the House the figures, but others are not in agreement that that course should be taken, thinking that there must be some restraint in these statements, so I am unable to tell you what the tank production amounts to save only in this general picture of the development of tank production. But I can tell you about guns. Here I deal with the two-pounder guns and over. I said in a broadcast the other day that the output of two-pounder guns—that is the bigger guns—in the month of December was at the rate of 30,000 a year, a very, very big rate, and more than the total production in the last war. Let me say that in January it reached what 804 represented a total of 33,500 a year, an increase in that single month of over 10 per cent. on production which had already reached a very high figure. I happen to have been Minister of Supply during this six or seven months that I speak of, but I do not attribute this situation to my own efforts. My predecessors are entitled to their share of the credit. They prepared the machinery which I operated when I came into office. But it can be said that I have made full use of all the resources that were at my disposal during my stay at the Ministry of Supply.
Some critics say we give far too much attention to production and not sufficient attention to the development of new weapons. Here let me say that critics are good for the Ministries, they keep the minds of Ministers upon issues which are uppermost in public attention, and that is a very good thing. But there are several new weapons; there are very many new weapons. In particular I speak of a new heavy tank gun. The foundations are laid for production of that gun on a very big scale, but the gun was launched long before my time, and production began while I was Minister. The projects were all launched before I went to the Ministry, so I am not making a statement in relation to my own administration, I am speaking of the administration of Mr. Morrison, when the tank gun project was first brought into effective direction. We have now really got a very good supply of these heavier tank guns. We hope they will come into use shortly. They are also for anti-tank work. Many of them are mounted on carriages and used for anti-tank purposes. Many soldiers say that this is going to be a great gun, that there will be nothing to equal it, and certainly it will penetrate the armour of any tank that has ever been built. Of that there can be no doubt. The German and the Italian tanks will not stand up to this gun. The Italian tank, the M.13, is not very heavily armoured. It is true to say that the German tanks are heavily armoured, but they are not more heavily armoured than our own. The armour of the British tank is equal to the armour of the German tank. It is true that the Germans use a four and a half pound gun and that gives the enemy an immense advantage which can only be answered by the new gun that was launched so long ago and is now in excellent production.
805 Much can be said against our tanks, but a great deal can be said in praise of them toe. I do not want to appear before your Lordships as a man complacent about tank output and the quality of tanks, but I do want to say some words to repress the too many pessimistic opinions that find currency and are without justification. Our Matilda tanks—Waltzing Matildas—in the Middle East are reliable tanks. A whole brigade of them travelled five hundred or six hundred miles across the desert and not a single tank dropped out through mechanical trouble. I am not defending tanks that are manufactured during my term of office at the Ministry of Supply. These tanks were sent out before my time. The Valentine is an admirable tank, one of the finest of all. Tank tracks do not give a great deal of trouble now. That difficulty has been overcome. Some people think that we are short of spares for tanks in the Middle East. When I was at the; Ministry on January 31 I made inquiry about that matter. I found that practically all spares asked for by the Army in Egypt had been supplied. Yet the story finds currency that the Army-is short of spares. There are, of course, other tanks, newer tanks which cause difficulties. Every new weapon causes difficulties, some more and some a great deal more. Some of the difficulties are difficulties of bringing tanks into effective production.
The Minister who engages in war production has many trials, much anxiety and plenty of disappointments, particularly in the manufacture of new weapons, but the main task of the Minister of Production must necessarily be the adequate flow of war weapons, not the development of them. Is there any shortage of these weapons?. At the present time the answer is "Yes," but if we had no obligations to foreign countries, if we could keep for ourselves all that we produce, then there would be no shortage of war weapons. But it has been impossible to keep all the weapons to ourselves. We must produce a great deal more on account of the demands made by foreign countries. We have to send large supplies to the Russians and to the Dominions, and for this reason production must be raised again.
Here let me tell your Lordships the story of some shipments abroad of tanks and aeroplanes. In 1941 we sent 9,781 806 aircraft out of the United Kingdom, against 2,134 aircraft that were brought in, so that on balance we sent 7,600 aircraft abroad. This burden on the aircraft industry is very heavy indeed. We sent abroad altogether about 3,000 tanks. I cannot give absolutely accurate figures, because there is some difficulty in one or two directions about getting the record perfectly correct, but my soldier advisers agree in saying that we have sent abroad altogether about 3,000 tanks of all types. We have imported into this country only 200 tanks, so we have supplied to our Allies, to the Dominions and to our own troops a vast number of tanks. It must be remembered that in addition vast numbers of tanks were sent direct to the Middle East from the United States, and Canadian tanks also were sent direct. They have never come to this country.
Of course this strain on our resources is very great. For myself, I have been through two crises in relation to production, two battles which I frankly confess taxed our staying- powers to the utmost. Twice we were called upon to put forth everything we could in the way of production. The first was the Battle of Britain. We were short in aircraft and we created new resources out of almost nothing. Aircraft which were damaged were sent back to the factories in fragments and we assembled the bits and pieces into new aircraft. The second battle was the Battle for Moscow, when tanks were the great and urgent need, the pressing need. Your Lordships will understand that British tanks played a very big part in the defence of Moscow. That must be clearly understood. Here let me say that we have fulfilled all our obligations to Russia for munitions of war, all our Protocol obligations up to the first day of January, with the exception of one tank, and that was a misfortune. Every obligation has been fulfilled. That is a credit we are entitled to take amidst the sacrifices we made. We not only made sacrifices but we carried out our obligations completely, with the exception of this one tank. By carrying out our pledge to the Russians we have created faith and trust and have gained their confidence in us.
We have a great deal more to do. We must send to the Russians very shortly under the terms of the Protocol enormously 807 increased shipments of tanks and aircraft. The Protocol provides for increasing shipments on a certain date and that date is rapidly approaching. The Ministry of Supply and the aircraft industry are already preparing for that additional strain on their resources, and it needs saying that the Ministry of Supply could not have done so much to help the Russians without the assistance of the Ministry of Transport. That is a job which has been very well done by my noble friend Lord Leathers and by my old friend Colonel Llewellin, now, I am pleased to say, in charge of the production of oil, coal and electricity. He will do a fine job there. The needs for production at home and abroad are pressing upon us always and continuously. We have to scatter our mercies in the form of munitions over many lands now if we are to keep faith with our soldiers and airmen and all the foreign Armies that depend on us.
Three factors must immediately be taken into account. They are raw materials, machine tools and labour. I will deal first with raw materials. Here the situation has changed, and changed greatly. I have been working long with my noble friend Lord Portal, who has carried most of the burden of the disposition of raw materials in the Ministry of Supply. It was, when we began, a comparatively comfortable job, but in the last three months of 1941—we deal with raw materials in quarterly periods—our stocks and consumption of raw material had outstripped anything that had gone before. My noble friend Lord Portal and the Controllers concerned decided in the summer that they would bring into Britain as much raw material as they could possibly purchase and transport, and so they built up immense stocks. But now, as I say, the situation has changed. Not long ago we had plenty of raw materials, now it is a very different problem—very different indeed. Owing to interference with sources of supply, on account of demands made upon us by Russia, on account of necessities in the Dominions, on account of the needs of the expanding manufacturing enterprises we have real problems to deal with. Rubber and tin are two of them. Many sources of supply are cut off for both rubber and tin. In Washington we have set up with the Americans this combined Raw Materials Board which 808 will deal with both rubber and tin, but the supply of raw materials must be our constant preoccupation.
We should subject the position to scrutiny and review from day to day—and that is the charge of the Minister of Production. The provision of raw materials from abroad, the allotment of raw materials by the Joint Board are matters which are all entrusted to the Minister of Production. We must embark on great new projects for the manufacture of synthetic rubber, and already the decision has been taken in Washington to provide synthetic rubber to take the place of the crude rubber which we have lost. The combined Board have launched projects for producing 400,000 tons a year of synthetic rubber. The project for increasing production is under the direction of Mr. Jesse Jones, one of the ablest and best of the American Ministers. Out of that 400,000 tons we expect to get for Britain as much as 50,000 tons. That is what we expect will be possible. Now I am told it is proposed to increase the American output of synthetic rubber to 600,000 tons. The need for economy in in is pressing and imperative. Projects have been launched for consolidating the combined production resources of Britain and America in tin and we will get our due proportion of the allotment. In 100 octane fuel for aeroplanes—that is, according to my list, another raw material; it might be described as partly manufactured, but I describe it as a raw material for the purposes of my records—we have immense demands to meet, demands which will grow rapidly as aircraft" production increases. Again there is the duty of co-ordinating supplies as between ourselves and the Americans. The Americans under Mr. Jesse Jones have launched vast schemes for the production of 100 octane fuel, sufficient in my opinion to look after the needs of Great Britain and the United States.
So you will see that the United States now becomes the principal source of supply of raw materials. It is to Washington that we must look, and it is there that decisions will be taken. It is there that the requirements of the United States, Britain and Russia will come up for examination and review. The functions of the Minister of Production, so important, so engrossing and so necessary to our war effort, involve us in duties 809 entirely detached from the conduct of factory operations in Britain, as you will see. Yet those same factories depend absolutely on the supply and allotment of raw materials which become our charge and our responsibility—the charge and the responsibility of the Minister of Production. Some critics will say that I am making out, that I have made out, a case for the setting up of two Ministries, on the one hand the Ministry of Production which I have described, and on the other hand something after the style of the Ministry of Munitions of the last war; one Ministry to act as the Foreign Office of supplies and another Ministry to look after production in Britain. It may be. Hold your own opinion. There are plenty of arguments on both sides. I have been plain in what I have said. My statement as to the raw material is without doubt.
Next as to machine tools. Now in short supply they are another factor in production at this time. A few months ago it appeared to me that the machine tool output in Britain, a very big figure, would be equal to our necessities when backed up by the flow of machine tools that we have purchased from America. All that has gone now. The United States were to have given us a huge supply of machine tools. But now they are faced with the problem of meeting the great necessity for machine tools at home and there is a great shortage there. We cannot expect any more than a small proportion of what we bargained for. Russia has asked for, and has been given, a large quantity of machine tools from our supplies. That was a supply over and above the pledges made in the Protocol but gladly given because of the necessities of our Allies. Australia has required big shipments. Some are on the way and a great many more are to go.
It is now the duty of the Minister of Production to examine the whole field of machine tool production. I must take note of the United States output, far greater than our own. And I must coordinate, in conjunction with the United States authorities, the joint output of the two countries. In particular, care must be taken to increase the production of machine tools at home. That is a necessity which will receive most careful, and if I may say so, determined attention. It seems to me that machine tool output in Great Britain can be developed, and 810 developed to quite an extent. The firms in the manufacturing business should forthwith give much attention to increasing output.
Lastly, there is labour. Many persons say that labour should be incorporated in the Production Ministry. That statement has been made widely and has been favourably received in many directions. If I may be allowed to make use of the first superlative expression that I have used to-day, that proposition is just nonsense. The Production Minister has no right to deal with the difficult and complex questions concerning the welfare of labour save only as any other employer, for the Minister is an employer concerned with output and in speeding it up. He has no right to concern himself with problems of labour. It is the duty of the Minister of Labour to sustain, to defend and to enforce the interests of labour in all the factories throughout the land. The Production Minister could not do it. It must be the task of the Minister of Labour.
Nor is there any need for the Minister of Production or, for that matter, a Minister of Munitions, if such a Minister should come to pass, for such a Minister to possess labour authority save only in the allocation of labour supplies in his own production units. That authority he must have, and that authority is at present vested in me. Certainly he would not be able to deal with the man-power demands of Civil Defence, of the Armed Forces, of agriculture and of the various women's organizations, and with all the countless claims from all over the country. These are all pressing upon the Minister of Labour, and it would be folly to suggest that the Minister of Production should deal with such demands. The Minister of Labour must necessarily be in charge of the supply of labour for the whole of the war effort in every direction, and on that account he must possess patience and endurance, because all his customers will press their claims with equal insistence. They will all clamour to be satisfied, and they will all produce equally good reasons why their claims should take precedence over those of other Ministers. I must say, however, that, in the opening days of February, Mr. Bevin had in broad outline satisfied all the most pressing necessities of the Supply Ministries, and he accomplished that extraordinary task with 811 complete satisfaction to his customers—and I was one of them.
Now, unhappily for me I am not a man of caution when seeking after my necessities. At other times I can display more caution, but, when I am seeking after my necessities, it seems to me that I must have them. Many critics make complaints against me on that account, and I make no complaints myself on that account against the critics. It is not possible, or even desirable, for a Minister to escape from criticism. The manufacturers have at times been impatient with me. Some of them have found my control irksome, and some have taken the rough with very little smooth. They have taken it patiently, because they were convinced that the war effort of my Ministry was worth while. To them, on leaving the Ministry of Supply, I give my thanks, and I ask their forgiveness for hardships inflicted—and for hardships which I mean to inflict in the future !
From the workers, while I was at the Ministry of Supply—and I speak here on behalf of my predecessor as well—we received the most splendid support. The notion that there are idle, slacking workers here and there in the country, who do nothing but play games of crown and anchor, is an entirely mistaken one; it is a mistaken view of the real condition of the working element of the country. We have obtained immense satisfaction from our relations with the working people throughout the country. I could tell you of occasion after occasion when I asked for something more—a little extra effort here, and a little bit more there—and again and again I have received most splendid support from them. To other sections of the community I owe a great many thanks, and particularly to the newspapers. I have relied on the newspapers again and again to help me to do stirring and harsh, and sometimes startling and even spectacular, things, and they have helped me with great good will. It is with this account of the prospects, the hopes and the expectations of the Minister of Production, that I assure your Lordships of my earnest intention to do everything in my power to fulfil the highest expectations that may be formed of my administration.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, a good many of us in different parts of this 812 House, and at different times during the past three years, have urged that there should be a Minister of Production. Therefore, in offering a very sincere welcome to the Minister to-day, it will, I am sure, be expected of me that I should express great satisfaction that at last we have a Minister of Production; and that satisfaction is not diminished by the fact that it so happens that he is a member of your Lordships' House. I do not propose to say anything in detail about the White Paper which describes the duties of the noble Lord, but I should like to take the opportunity of supporting what he has said about labour. In the last war, when I was at the Ministry of Munitions, there was no Ministry of Labour; there was a sort of department of the Board of Trade, and, with infinite trouble, we had to try to create an organization as we went along. If anyone wants to handicap the Minister of Production in the discharge of his duties, he should invite him to undertake the bewildering and difficult problems which labour presents. It has been an unmixed advantage to the great Supply Departments in this war that we had in existence an experienced and well-staffed Ministry of Labour, such as we did not possess in the last war. The noble Lord has taken the course which I should expect from a man of his experience in not wanting to take over those obligations.
The noble Lord is a member of the War Cabinet, and I assume that, in his new capacity he will not have, apart from the exceptional powers which he has indicated, the ordinary duties of a Departmental Minister. That, I think, is a matter of the first importance. If I were to criticize, I would say that I think that the present Government machine is not as well staffed as it should be at the head by Ministers free from departmental duties. I am very glad to be able to infer, at any rate, that the noble Lord, except for the purposes mentioned, will be in that position. It is essential, of course, that he should have adequate powers and be capable of exercising them in regard to the matters under his charge.
I take it that, in common with the rest of us, he has one purpose and one purpose only: to get the utmost out of our national industrial capacity so far as this country is concerned—and I can speak of the matter only in terms of this country. I am not going to particularize except in regard to two matters, but I believe it to 813 be a fact that at present we are certainly not getting 100 per cent. use of our industrial capacity. I have seen it stated that the figure at present should be 60 per cent. I do not know what the figure should be, but the noble Lord has told us that we must produce more, and a great deal more—I am using his words. I am sure that he said that with the full knowledge that we can produce much more than we are doing, and I am sure that that is true. I do not think that we shall get the utmost production out of our splendid industries if we approach the problem with political leanings, whether as Socialists or as Conservatives or as anything else. There is; only one problem, I take it, before the Minister: how is he best to do it? And I am quite sure that he will be the first man to put any other consideration behind him.
I suggest that there are certain obstacles—no matter how they have arisen: I am not discussing that at present—which will present the Minister with problems to deal with, and I am sure that he will accept any suggestions I have to make in that respect with complete good will. I think that to a great extent our present output is handicapped for two reasons. First, there has hitherto been insufficient unity of central direction; and, secondly, we have not yet made anything like the use we ought to make of regional organizations. May I say a word on the first to begin with? I take it that at the centre one of the first aims of the Minister would be to take advantage of all the programmes. The programmes would be drafted originally by the Service Departments and reviewed, no doubt, by the Defence Committee; but I think it is of first-rate importance that the Minister responsible for production should be in at the formulation of the programme, that the programme should not be formulated with a complete disregard of production considerations. I say that because I know that at different times in the last war we suffered very much at the beginning by programmes being drafted in the absence of criticism and informed guidance by the Production Minister. Therefore I hope that the Minister himself will take care to be in at the deliberations when programmes are in the making.
The next matter in which I suggest it is important that there should be central control is design. I do not believe yet that we are right. I believe I am right 814 in saying that the Air Ministry is in charge of design. In the last war for nearly twelve months after the Ministry of Munitions was established its efforts were handicapped exceedingly by the fact that design was purely located in the Service Departments and was not married to production. I believe that that is the case now to some extent. If design is not a part of the responsibility of supply it will mean that you will get needless changes in design which will hamper production, because the designers—lots of them anyhow—in their spectacles or blinkers, which they draw down on each side of their eyes, look with such enthusiasm on their particular improvements—and they might be improvements if you could only incorporate them without paralysing supply. But it is vital that design, and particularly changes of design, should be associated with the functions of the Minister of Production. And I am not quite sure whether, if the Minister were to tell us all he could, he would not say that the output, for instance, of tanks has suffered—it may still be suffering—from interferences with the design which have not taken account of how much changes in design will cripple production. A very small change in a design will sometimes hold up a whole factory, and unless it is worth while it should not be taken account of.
I do not propose to follow the noble Lord in what he has said about materials and machinery supplies, except that the overlooking and control of supplies of machine tools, as well as of materials, clearly must be under central cognizance anyhow, and control as to priority, whatever local organization you may have for distribution. But I want to draw attention particularly to what I think is a defect in the existing system which I hope the noble Lord will take into consideration, and that is the method which has been adopted for giving out orders. I am sure the noble Lord will not think for a moment that I am saying this from any political motive. The system adopted early, and to a great extent still prevailing, is that major firms or groups of firms are given production tasks, and it is up to them to reinforce their production by getting their own contractors. Well, that is a bad system, because it means—it has meant, and it does mean—that the firms, themselves of high competence and great managerial skill, scramble, one may say, 815 for sub-contractors, and, quite naturally and humanly, they get the best they can. When the sub-contractors are held up, as they may be, by deficiencies or difficulties over we will say specifications, or the supplies of some kind of machine tools, or shortages of materials, it is not in these circumstances within the power of the superior contractor to supply their deficiencies. He has to look to some department or other of the Ministry of Supply or to the Ministry of Production as the case may be.
That means that under this system certain things happen—they are happening, and they will continue to happen—as long as this system is predominant. It must mean that considerable production capacity is not discovered, it is overlooked. It must mean that the contractor over this group, large or small, of sub-contractors is not able to help them with the promptitude and efficiency which they deserve. I myself a short time ago, for instance, was in a small factory of a sub-contractor, and he showed me with great pride a beautiful drill, a lovely machine, and, not being unsophisticated, I of course began to ask him questions about it. I said, "How long have you been waiting for it? "He had been waiting many months. "Well," I said, "how many people did you apply to for it? "He had applied to a large number, and, even as it was he only got it with a little friendly intervention of somebody associated with the major contractor. If there had been a proper organization for discovering the need of the man for that machine tool and for supplying it he would, there is no doubt, have had it months before he did. But it depends chiefly upon an efficient local organization.
I dare say some of your Lordships would say, "Here are these great firms—the backbone, if you like, of British industry "—and there is none better in the world—" how are you going to use them best?" I do not think this system of keeping them in watertight, or more or less watertight, groups, with their own groups of sub-contractors, is the best way of using them. I would rather devise a system—I hope the Minister will think about it—of roping them into his central system. There is an immense 816 wealth of direction and experience of management in these great firms, and I suggest that in the national interest it should be made as widely available and be as widely used as possible. Efficient management is, I should say, the scarcest commodity of all, and these great firms have, in the course of their experience and development, brought up, or found, efficient managers, to whom they pay big salaries, and I have no doubt they are worth them. The Minister should try to devise a scheme for bringing into the pool of direction the wealth of labour and skill which these great firms possess. At the present time it is not there. It is, so to say, parcelled out.
I was reading only last night a pamphlet which the New Statesman and Nation is issuing on production. I cannot say I agree with it all, but it is, on the whole, the most thoughtful and penetrating examination of this particular problem that I have seen. I have nothing to do with it myself, otherwise I should not mention it, but I do hope some of your Lordships will study it. There is a suggestion made there for bringing into the pool all the wealth of skill and management we have in our larger firms which, perhaps, might be considered. We cannot expect to get the best out of these great firms if they are looking over their shoulder all the time—not unnaturally—as to what they are going to do post-war, as to how much what they are doing now is interfering with their potential post-war activities, or as to what their neighbours are doing. The Minister wants to bring everyone to the common aim of making the most of our natural capacity.
I am now speaking for myself, and must say I am not enthused by the Excess Profits Tax. The idea, of course, is to take the profit out of manufacturing for war. Everybody will agree with that, but I am not quite sure whether the present Excess Profits Tax is the right method, and the Minister might well consider that. It might be worth while to make generous terms with these great firms, saying, "Very well, we shall guarantee you so much for the duration of the war, '' which might include the usual dividend, generous allowance for machinery replacement and renewals; and in particular, where we have gutted the whole place and turned their manufacture into something different from what it had been, 817 I should continue their salaries, would work them on the basis of costs, like the national factories, and pay a premium on output and a premium on reduction of costs, which, as the noble Lord knows, is a practicable proportion.
In the same way speaking entirely for myself, just as I am not attracted by the influence on war output—because that is the only thing I am considering—of the Excess Profits Tax, for various reasons, I am not attracted by the way Income Tax is dealt with on wages in regard to war output. I hope the Minister will take that into consideration too. Certainly levying Income Tax on a man and his wife separately is wrong. I should like to have that system replaced by a system of a stated levy per week, not to be increased for a year, which could be operated, and would remove any objection which the workmen might feel to earning more because it would all go in Income Tax. This is not an affront to human nature—it is a recognition of human nature. Both E.P.T. and the way Income Tax is dealt with on wages—human nature being what it is—are an inevitable prejudice in some respects to the utmost output, and that is the only point I am considering. I hope the noble Lord, with the big vision which he has got, will have a look at this side of the matter. At all events, I am sure it is of the utmost importance that he should get away from the sub-contracting system, that he should get away from the marooning of groups of firms, and devise a system which will bring them into the national pool.
The other handicap, and the only one I am going to mention, is the deficiency of the Regional Board system. At the present time, as far as I can make out, the Regional Boards are only advisory. They have lots of controllers attached to them, but they have no knowledge of the programme, no power to place orders subject to the scheme. I suggest that is not making the best use of our capacity. In every district in this country you have manufacturers, often small, with considerable capacity and much experience. It should be the business of the Regional Boards to discover them and to fill with orders all the capacity in the district. I hope the noble Lord will note what I have said: "fill with orders"—because that is not happening now. The Regional Boards at the present time have no capacity to fill with orders anywhere. We 818 should have an organization similar to the one we tried to develop in the last war. In the end we did develop it with some measure of success, but it was only by picking the most capable men experienced in management in the different localities, giving them big responsibilities, trusting them absolutely, and making it their job to use every machine in that district. You cannot do that from the centre. It can only be done by an efficient regional organization. At the present time that does not exist. I invite the noble Lord, in his capacity as overlooker of the whole thing, to give close attention to this, which I regard as a manifest drawback. I have made these comments, as I am sure the noble Lord knows, with every helpful intention. I rejoice that he has been appointed. I wish him every success.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, after hearing the statement made by the noble Lord on the Front Bench, the Minister of Production—so spirited and so packed with information—and also after reading the account of the debate in another place on the question of the creation of the Ministry of Production—a debate which I understand is likely to be continued for a day or two more—one reaches the conclusion that the creation of this Ministry in this form must be regarded as experimental, and that those who altogether approve of it as it stands and those who believe it to be drawn on wrong lines would be wise not to attempt to dogmatize on the subject, but to await the results when the Ministry's powers and actions are fully developed.
There is in fact no real precedent for the situation regarding production as it is at this moment. The analogies of the last war, which are so often quoted, are altogether imperfect, because the conditions of 1942 are in most respects altogether different from those that obtained in 1917. There are, of course, as appears from the noble Lord's speech, two different points of view from which this question of a Ministry of Production can be regarded. There are those, as he stated, who desire to see the whole business of production placed in the hands of one responsible Minister who would exercise the functions of the Minister of Supply, of the Minister of Aircraft Production, to a large extent those of the Minister of Labour, and the particular 819 functions exercised by the Sea Lord who fills the office of Controller at the Admiralty. That would obviously be a full-time job, and would give no scope for the other purposes to which the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, attaches so much importance, and the need for which he fully explained.
The creation of a Ministry of this find would also surely involve a marked Parliamentary difficulty—that is to say, that the heads of the Departments I have mentioned would be for all practical purposes relegated to the position of an Under-Secretary. If I remember right, in the old Testament is a catalogue of the warriors who surrounded King David, and there are some who are mentioned as valiant men, more honourable than the thirty, but not attaining to the first three—that is to say, they would not have been members of King David's War Cabinet. But there are here Ministers whose experience and position entitle them to be ranked with those warriors, and they would not at all like to be relegated to the position of being only on a par with the thirty. That appears to me to be the one insuperable difficulty in the way of the creation of a Minister of Production who would be the sole person responsible to Parliament for the work of the whole region of production.
There is also, of course, the second point of view, which Lord Beaverbrook made so clear, that of the paramount importance of the functions which he will exercise in relation to the pooling of the production of raw materials of all kinds with the United States. It is probably not quite accurate to describe his position as being identical with that of Mr. Nelson in America, because, as we all know, the responsibility of the executive power in this country differs altogether from the responsibility which in the United States Ministers have to exercise, but the parallel is sufficiently close to make it clear, and, I think, to make it a fact to be welcomed by everybody that Lord Beaverbrook will be able to devote a great part of his time to the function of co ordinating with the United States supplies for both our countries, also for Russia, and, I should hope, possibly in some degree for China. It is all very well to say that all this is merely a matter of machinery, but the efficiency of machinery depends in a great degree on the efficiency 820 and the skill of the men who work it, and it certainly does seem that with the noble Lord as Minister of Production and a Minister of Labour of the experience and knowledge of Mr. Bevin, we are entitled to hope that this plan will work out to the great advantage of the country.
Therefore, speaking of it as in a degree experimental, I think we may say with some confidence that it is a hopeful experiment. Now I do not at all pretend to follow what the noble Lord said, to which we all listened with extreme interest, on the actual production that has taken place, and is taking place, and I am very glad that some special technical points have been touched on by the noble Lord who leads the Opposition. I will not attempt to venture into that region. I would merely join the noble Lord, Lord Addison, in expressing the satisfaction which we on these Benches feel at the appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, as Minister of Production.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, I came into this Chamber sharing in common, I think, with all others in your Lordships' House interest in this debate under two heads. I hoped that we should get information in the matter of administration and of achievement. On the latter subject I am sure we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, for the generosity of his exposition of the problem. His vigorous, vehement and fluent speech will have given much satisfaction. It would be ungracious if one did not pay a tribute at once to the degree to which interest in the country and in Parliament has been hanging on this speech. I am sure we are all grateful to that extent, and I only wish that the noble Lord came to this House more often. It so happens that his first speech as Minister of Supply was on a Motion which stood on the Paper in my name eighteen months ago. Your Lordships' House then showed appreciation of the manner in which he had jumped into his task.
The atmosphere of the Palace of Westminster in the last forty-eight hours—as will be appreciated by those who have circulated in it since the announcement of the Prime Minister on this subject—has been one of considerable perplexity and curiosity. Anyone who approaches analysis of this problem under these conditions might therefore be charged with intrepidity. I fully realize the danger of 821 that, but realizing that history records that constructive suggestions from unimportant quarters have sometimes found favour, I venture to ask the indulgence of your Lordships' House with regard to the points I presume to make in this debate. I hasten to say that I speak only with the intention of being constructive and not merely critical. I can sympathize with the impatience that one can picture of the noble Lord, Lord Beaver-brook, with criticism that was not fair or was not intended to be constructive, but he has great breadth of view, and I would add that he has our admiration for the unselfish way in which he has at all times tackled his task and for the resolution with which, notwithstanding the possible ill effect on his health, he has travelled to the most distant points where duty called.
I would ask your Lordships to bear with me while I suggest that this problem is one comparable to the problems of big business. It should be examined, therefore, administratively and impersonally. Unfortunately it is often difficult when examining questions of a political character to dissociate from the problem the personalities who happen temporarily to be on the stage. I would ask your Lordships to approach the problem objectively, disregarding personalities, in order to see whether the set-up which was put out in the White Paper is administratively sound. If anyone in big business had to tackle this problem he would plot out a diagram. The first question to be put is, what do we want to achieve? Having plotted out the diagram he would then allocate to each post the functions appropriate to that particular post. Then, having made sure of that in so far as the drawing board could produce it with the skill and advice of all experienced authorities, the next responsibility would be to select the men for the posts.
It might be argued that, were such procedure followed, there would be a disturbance of traditional custom; that this during a war ordeal would be too dangerous if extended, as it logically should be, to the whole administration of government. In this matter I would address myself to the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, not as Minister of Production but as a member of the War Cabinet. Might not this method be extended with advantage to a wider sphere of Government activities? There are 22 Government 822 Departments, all with their distinct entities and responsibilities to the chief-Take the Civil Departments, for instance, Home Security, Health, Education, Pensions, Scotland. Would it not be logical to group them and make them responsible to one Minister, who would be responsible to the Supreme Council and stand between them and the Prime Minister? It would involve too much encroachment on your Lordships' time if I explored that idea and developed it more fully, but that is the thought I want to put before your Lordships.
I put it forward for this reason, that the strain yet to be put on the machine is likely to be even greater than it is today. In saying this I do not indulge in gloomy forebodings for the near future, but I refer particularly to the post-armistice period. The winning of the war is going to involve a great task, but the post-armistice problem is likely to be still worse. After the last war many countries were still prosperous. By the end of this war most of the world is likely to be ruined in the sense in which we have in the past measured such matters, financially and economically. It would be a dream to imagine that we shall reach the end without having needed to throw overboard much of what was established. Therefore it may be argued that it is better to face effective reorganization now. A later moment might be even less convenient. If this is revolutionary, would it be more so than the offer made by the Prime Minister to France in the summer of 1940? Surely that postulated an administrative situation in a moment of crisis which was indeed revolutionary. The appeal that I am making is made because of a desire to assist the present leadership of the Government and strengthen it. Now those who so chose the week before last were able to listen in another place to a series of individuals asserting how they would win the war, and those assertions were constructive. It was usual for advice to be tendered for reorganization at the top. That is why I venture to go further down the line and suggest a group of Ministers without administrative responsibilities, but with full political responsibilities, who would fit into the structure of a Supreme Council between them and the Prime Minister.
I turn to the White Paper. When coldly analysed, as I have said, it is administratively 823 faulty. But any one in coordinating production must be directly responsible for raw materials and labour. The White Paper does not provide for this, and here I pay tribute to Lord Beaverbrook's consideration in the detailed explanation which he has given us as to what was intended. But it is intimated that he is intending to discharge functions hitherto performed by the Production Executive with the exception of man-power and labour. May I read from the announcement of January 6? This stated that:It will give effect to the general policy of the War Cabinet and its functions will include the allocation of available resources of raw material, productive capacity and labour, together with the fixing of priorities where necessary.But how is this an advance? Surely that Production Executive appeared to be on paper a body which necessarily was the executive, and it was responsible to the War Cabinet. Analogy has been made with the War Production Board set up in the United States under Mr. Nelson. But there, there are six divisions which include raw materials under Mr. William Batt, and labour under Mr. Sidney Hillman. That looks to be on the lines of big business and sounds like good administration. You have a Defence Production Chief with his six departments under him, coordinated by him, and he in turn is responsible to the supreme executive, the President.
With due humility I realize that Lord Beaverbrook has so recently returned from two visits to the United States that he is necessarily in intimate touch with Mr. Harriman, and is intimately familiar with the evolution of the administrative plans on the other side. Goodness knows, they were insufficient before because you had an impossible position in D.P.M. and S.P.A.B., procurement officers of the Fighting Services. The production chiefs of the departments have no intention of delegating power to Mr. Knudsen. Now the set-up outlined in this White Paper seems to be unfair to the Minister of Production. I repeat that my intention is to be impersonal and to approach this question merely from the point of view of diagramatic desirability. But if it is to succeed it would appear to me to need to be unorthodox. Certainly the present Minister of Production is one who is most suited 824 to proceed along those lines, and we are grateful for the past example he has given us of his disregard of the orthodox. But what of the Treasury? I suggest that ruthlessness is needed with them. They cannot escape responsibility for the blunders of a Mission to make more use of Canadian and United States productive capacity in the first nine months of the war.
But in the present set-up the Ministers of Supply and Aircraft Production are to experience no limitation of their responsibilities to Parliament for the administration of their Departments, as Lord Beaverbrook explained in his remarks. They enjoy the right of appeal direct to the Minister of Defence or the War Cabinet. But we have fortunately at the present moment a Minister of Supply whose familiarity with industry and its organization, and the administrative machinery of Whitehall over a long period of years, has been exceptional, and I am sure he will be encouraged by the assurances we have gathered that the present set-up intended by the White Paper does not in any way interfere with the liberty of the Minister occupying the position of Minister of Supply.
I repeat again that I am obliterating personality and looking at it merely as a diagrammatic set-up. I would make one direct appeal to the Minister of Production. Will he in the employment of his dynamic energy bear in mind the value of young men for high tasks? Our ex-Ambassador to Moscow has given us the heartening record of the ready transfer of medium commanders in the field to the highest commands. We understand that this applies also to industry. Would the noble Lord remember that there must be to-day, through the vast machinery of production, below the top brackets numbers of men who have now been on the job in these Departments for a long time, and who would probably be more effective than the chiefs higher up who enjoy a traditional reputation? It is physically impossible for men of advancing years to endure the strain as can younger men.
Before sitting down I should like to ask the noble Lord to give an interpretation of paragraph 14 of the White Paper. He did in the course of his remarks make one brief reference to electricity remaining under the Board of Trade. I ask him, what is the position of electricity? What 825 is the position of the Central Electricity Board? The White Paper states that…the Minister of Production will concert and provide for the needs of the production programmes for which the Board of Trade is responsible, in particular electricity.I should like to ask the Minister whether he can give us an outline of what to "concert and provide for the needs" means in this connexion, because it is perplexing. What is to be the position of the Central Electricity Board? The contribution of the Central Electricity Board to the war effort has been outstanding; it is probably the most successful of the defensive precautions with which we faced the war. Had it not been for the grid system, our production might have been precarious. We do not want to see the Board now become a sort of medicine-ball for physical exercises between different Ministers. It has recently passed- from the Ministry of War Transport to the Board of Trade, and to pass it back in another way now would be extremely disquieting. When it came under the Board of Trade, it fortunately passed under the administration of Sir Andrew Duncan, who, in addition to his great knowledge of coal, brought to the problem his splendid experience of the interpretation of the Act in relation to the grid and the standardization of frequency.
In making my appeal, I am actuated by the desire to be constructive. The Prime Minister has, in another place, given evidence of his breadth of view and of his courageous acceptance of criticism. The intentions of those who ventured to be critical in another place were constructive, and the Prime Minister welcomed that fact. It is in that spirit that I speak on this matter to-day.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, in asking for indulgence when addressing your Lordships for the first time, I do so with particular diffidence, because I am speaking so soon after taking my seat in your Lordships' House. It would certainly have been my wish to wait much longer before addressing you, but the subject to-day is one in which I take particular interest, and of which I have endeavoured to make some study. I feel that the great majority of your Lordships must have rejoiced, as I did, at the announcement that at long last—at too long last—we were to have a Ministry of Production, although certainly considerable disappointment may be felt 826 with the White Paper which gives the terms and conditions under which that Ministry will operate. Both before and during the war it seems to me that we have often had to work very hard to get something which was absolutely necessary, and then, when we have obtained it, we have found that very largely we have secured the name and not the substance. That was so before the war, when we were pressing for a Minister of Defence and obtained a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, with all the; disappointments which then ensued. It was again the case when we pressed for a Ministry of Supply before the war, and obtained such a Ministry under conditions which prevented it from operating to full advantage. I feel that to some extent that has happened again now with the Ministry of Production.
We so often get half measures, and this White Paper, I think, shows that to some extent we again have a half measure. It is at any rate full of illogicalities, and I venture-to mention two of them. According to the White Paper, the Minister of Production is charged with prime responsibility for all the business of war production, but the Ministers of the Supply Departments remain absolutely responsible for the administration of their Departments, with the right of appeal to the Minister of Defence and to the War Cabinet. Whilst the Ministers of the Supply Departments are made responsible for the administration of their Departments, the Minister of Production is to control the allocation of production facilities, the allocation of machine tools and the allocation of materials, while the Minister of Labour will control the allocation of man-power. I should be very sorry for the captain of a ship who was charged with absolute responsibility for his ship being in fighting condition while all the heads of the departments serving under him in that ship had a direct right of appeal to the Admiralty about anything which did not satisfy them, and while he was dependent upon two other potentates for the allocation of his crew and for the allocation of his warlike stores.
Then there is another illogicality—shipbuilding. The Minister of Production has no power to allocate shipyard capacity. The Admiralty have control, where warships are concerned, of naval programmes, of design and construction, and of armament, 827 and, where merchant ships are concerned, the Admiralty have control of construction, of repair, and of their defensive equipment; but the Admiralty must consult the Minister of War Transport and the Minister of Production about the types of merchant ships which are to be built, and the Minister of Production is charged with co-ordinating the warship and merchant ship building programmes. It is a very fortunate thing for the human race that the Ark was not built under these conditions ! I see that it is said that the Ministers of Production and Labour will, of course, work in the closest cooperation. Some disquiet has been expressed as to how these two Ministers will work together, and it is stated that they will work in the closest co-operation. I understand that exactly the same words were used by the gentleman who put the two Kilkenny cats into the same sack.
It has not, however, been all disappointment. In addition to the task of liaison with Russia and with the United States of America, which I believe will be not only one of the most important but one of the most fruitful of the tasks which the Minister of Production will undertake, the Minister seems to have two other tasks, one of organization and one of propaganda. I should like first to make some observations on the question of propaganda. I have felt for some time that the nation at large is not yet sufficiently conscious of the urgent need for the utmost production. I feel that the nation is not yet conscious of the fact that victory can come only through reaching as nearly as possible 100 per cent. of our production potential. Very often one has the impression that people are looking to politicians or to the Commanders in the field for victory; but without production they will look for victory in vain. Politicians certainly must have victory; they want the prestige which victory gives in order that they may bring other countries into those political combinations which spell final victory; but the Commanders in the field cannot give the politicians the victories that they need for this purpose until the home front gives them production.
Production is the essence of victory. If you bring to the appointed spot at the appointed time more of everything than the enemy has, and better things than 828 the enemy has, then quite a mediocre Admiral or General can hardly help but win; but only production can give that essential condition of success. Every reverse has told the same story of lack of weapons and equipment; and, had the lesson of any one of those reverses or defeats been learnt, then indeed it might have been counted as a major victory. That production is not what it should be is borne out by a cloud of witnesses, amongst whom are members of the War Cabinet, production engineers, trade union leaders, shop stewards, workers, industrialists and others. There is abundant evidence to this effect; and that, I feel, is the essential point to bring home to the country at the present moment: no production, no victory. For this propaganda, the Press, the platform, the radio and the screen are all available. In connexion with the platform, I think it would have been an admirable thing if the Warships Week campaign which is proceeding at present had been linked up with a great propaganda drive for increased production.
On the question of organization I feel the main defect has been that we have had no centralization where centralization was required and over-centralization where devolution was required. We have had no system of one planned production programme for all the Fighting Services drawn up for as long a period as possible in conformity with the war strategical plan. We should have had such a planned programme, and it should have been placed in one pair of hands charged with its execution. Instead of that we have had individual programmes not always related to a comprehensive strategical plan, and in this sphere we have had no centralization. But when we pass from this sphere of planning to the sphere of production we find that there is over-centralization. Over an immense area of producing firms the Supply Departments have ranged very largely independently, with no central authority to curb their conflicting activities or to co-ordinate their actions. The Production Executive was set up no doubt with that purpose in view, but as it was largely composed of interested parties, I understand it was not very effective because, as was said a long time ago, it is a very difficult thing to preserve impartiality when you are trying to excel others.
829 And in all this sphere of the Supply Departments there has been over-centralization—all the strings have been held in Whitehall. There has been no devolution of authority to the provinces. Even the Regional Boards have been staffed with part-time Chairmen. Imagine production upon which victory depends being placed in the hands of part-time officials! Everything has had to be referred back to Whitehall, which, of course, has involved endless correspondence and delays—most wearing for the management of the firms trying to get on with the work. And all this reference back to Whitehall has continued, instead of the man on the spot, who knows the local conditions and who is an expert, having the power to clear the jams which inevitably arise. My noble friend Lord Addison has spoken about the Regional Boards this afternoon. I would only say that I think it is a case of "end them or mend them." If they are not to have the authority and the power upon which the successful execution of their tasks must depend, well then, it would be better if they were brought to an end altogether.
This centralization in Whitehall has been due to a refusal to recognize that war production must be built up from the bottom. War production is a science, and it can only be expanded according to the principles of modern scientific production. It is not a matter which can be handled upon Civil Service lines. It is not a matter which can be handled by civil servants, applying to it the only technique they know, which is not the technique which is required for the job in hand. And those in the provinces, the production engineers, the industrialists, at present are given responsibility but they are not given authority, and in industry responsibility and authority cannot be divorced.
Within these main lines of what I believe is necessary as regards organization lie one or two matters which I will enumerate very briefly. Something has been said this afternoon about labour. It is essential to a higher output that the utmost attention should be paid to the morale of labour. I have had many opportunities of visiting factories and workshops and shipyards, and I found that among the workers the memories of the miseries and the injustices which they had to endure after the end of the last war are not yet forgotten. It is of the 830 utmost importance that they should be reassured that there will be no return of such conditions again. I will not dwell upon the matter of wage anomalies or of Income Tax, except to say that I think this question of the Income Tax of the workers requires most speedy attention, for it is undoubtedly exercising a very deterrent effect on men's efforts at the present moment.
But there are two other matters that I particularly wish to mention, because they are fruitful causes of delay. The first is that of design, about which something has already been said. I think that it is of first importance that in design the production engineer should be consulted all the way along, so that the design may be adapted to suit the materials, the machinery, and the labour which are available. Many designs, for lack of consultation with production engineers, involve many unnecessary processes, and waste materials, machinery and labour. I recognize the great difficulty which arises from the necessity of incorporating improvements in an accepted design. We must have the best, we must keep things up to date and that, of course, does present a great difficulty. But I believe much could yet be done in that direction, and I believe that in this question of design lies one very fruitful way of increasing and speeding up production.
The other matter is ordering. That, again, seems to me a matter of great importance, to which sufficient attention is not paid. Sufficient attention is not paid to ordering well in advance and to giving continuity of orders. Without that continuity of orders, without that forward ordering there is idle time and very erratic overtime. Firms run out of work, and that demoralizes the workers, who lose both confidence and efficiency. To place orders well forward, to give continuity of orders, and to keep the same firms on the same jobs, instead of chopping and changing them about from one type of work to another—there again is a very fruitful line of advance in speeding up output.
Well, in spite of many disappointments in the White Paper I believe that this Ministry of Production will develop in the hands of the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, into a war-winning weapon. It certainly will not be the first not very promising enterprise which Lord Beaverbrook 831 has turned into a great success. And when the story of this war is finished we may look back to the institution of a Ministry of Production as a turning-point in the war, just as the institution of a Ministry of Munitions marked a decisive turning-point in the last war. We can certainly do with a turning-point. A survey of the whole panorama of the war reveals what would be a very grave scene save for what our Russian Ally shows us. On all other fronts at present the tide sets against us, and only an immensely increased output of weapons and equipment can turn the tide. That increased output can only be achieved in one way, and that is by improved organization and efficiency. There are no other sources of supply left open to us which we can press into service. It is by improved organization and increased efficiency alone that we can increase output.
We have not much time. This, I believe, may well prove to be the decisive year. I listen to programmes which are to be completed in 1945. Of course those responsible are quite right to make their long-term programmes and plan well ahead, but this is a decisive year, and time is the very essence of what is at stake. Napoleon said, "Ask me for anything save time." After Dunkirk we were given some very unexpected time indeed, and we made good use of that time which was given us so unexpectedly. Then we fell away, perhaps, a little, and now for some time Russia has been giving us a second gift of unexpected time—time that we had no right to hope for. Russia is giving us this great gift of time, and how are we making use of it? I hope that from now on we shall say, with Richard II:The spirit of the time shall teach me speed,instead of saying, with Henry IV:This were playing the fool with the time, and the spirits of wise men sit in the clouds and mock us.There will be no third gift of time. The time we are enjoying at present is the last great breathing space we shall get.
I see that a distinguished Admiral was speaking last week, and he counselled the country to have faith. There is too much faith—faith that we shall muddle through, faith that we shall win the last battle, 832 faith that Germany will crash, faith that Russia will win the war for us, faith that America will do our production for us. The Admiral, like many sailors, had a very pleasant piety, but not very much knowledge of theology, for I remember that "Faith without works is of no avail," and James said, "Faith without works is death." We have to" fill each unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run," from now on.
Nobody understands the importance of time and the importance of work better than the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook. We know how he undertakes his immense labours, great fatigues, and hardships, and his most indomitable and gallant spirit, and we know his particular capacity for putting his finger upon the weak spot in any organization or work he undertakes. Lord Beaverbrook said a little time ago that we had not yet got steam up in production. Now that he is the stoker I have no doubt we shall soon all be gazing at the pressure gauges with alarm, and some of his colleagues may be seen sitting on the safety valves; but our fate and that of civilization depends upon production. So, as has been already said, let us give the proposals in this White Paper a chance—I do so gladly—and let us wish Lord Beaverbrook Godspeed in his new task. If he succeeds in this, as he succeeded in the task laid upon him during the Battle of Britain, then he will be one of whom it will come to be written that he deserved well of the State.
§ LORD ADDINGTON
My Lords, I am sure I shall have the support of the whole House in the pleasant task I have to fulfil of extending a very warm welcome to the noble Lord and expressing our appreciation of the very knowledgeable and thoughtful speech to which we have just listened. I was very glad to note he emphasized the great importance of 100 per cent. production. It is to production more than anything else we are looking for victory at the present time. It is in that conviction that I venture to give also a warm welcome to the noble Lord, the Minister of Production, and to express my thankfulness that he has taken office at this very important time in our history. I was very glad to hear the noble Lord say that the stimulation of production is one of the chief objects which he hopes to achieve during his Ministry. I feel 833 sure that the noble Lord has the confidence of the country, as he faces that task, both of the men of the Forces and of the industrial workers who are looking to him for such leadership to inspire, direct, and guide us to the sustained, persistent, and selfless effort required to produce munitions in this hour of crisis and respite which the noble Lord (Lord Winster) mentioned.
My main purpose is to deal very briefly with what I venture to call the forgotten factor in this crucial question of production. The problem is not merely one of adjustment, organization, and consolidation, although careful planning is an essential ingredient in its solution. There are certain vital qualities of morale, spirit, devotion, and sacrifice which are needed as well as raw materials to produce enough ships, bombs, planes, and tanks. Any Administration which hopes to succeed must pay attention to this side of the problem. We are spending a good deal of time, inevitably, in securing adequate supplies of oil to lubricate our lathes, hammers, and punches. How much care is being given to lubricating the energies and relationship of the human personnel who run these machines? I should like to quote just one sentence from a pamphlet received from America to which General Pershing has written the foreword, and of which over a million copies have been distributed largely among the munition industries. It says:Friction between men slows up work more than friction in machines. If employers or workers destroy team-work by their selfishness, then the nation is in canger.After talking with many representatives both of labour and management, I find that they are emphatic that production is far below the high level we need, and that a tidal wave of energy, enthusiasm, and sacrifice, sweeping across the nation, could well nigh double the output in a few weeks. The noble Lord has indicated that production is not of the high standard he wishes to see. Men and women do not want official exhortations to increase their output. They want to be told how to overcome the human factors and blockages that are strangling it. I would, therefore, urge the Minister to give his earnest attention to this pressing aspect of the problem, particularly to removing any blockages and delays that may occur in the system of administrative 834 and financial control and safeguards which have been built up, which served us so admirably in times of peace, and which, it seems to me, need to be altered and adapted so as to obtain the quick decisions necessary in time of war. I should like to reinforce what the noble Lord who has just sat down said about over-centralization in Whitehall, to which some delays that occur are due. Do we not, therefore, need the new spirit to which His Majesty the King called us in his broadcast on Christmas day? In addressing us as one great family he reminded us that by serving each other and sacrificing for our common good, we could win the war, and win for the world after the war a true and lasting peace. And especially he pointed out further, that we had learnt once again to look for strength to God alone. That, my Lords, is the forgotten factor which we have again to make predominant—the fact that God docs have a plan both to eliminate the friction, selfishness and self-seeking which have divided and hindered us, and to give the strength, the caring and the self-sacrifice which will lead to victor and peace.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships long, but I would like to add my congratulations to those of the noble Lord who has just spoken to Lord Winster in making his maiden speech. In him we have added to this House at any rate another member who can express himself clearly. Unfortunately there are many speakers who have not that gift. I am not going through the long speech of the noble Lord, the Minister of Production, but I will read it carefully and reserve myself to raise matters upon it at a later time. There is, however, one point that I would like to mention now. We have heard from the noble Lord, the Minister of Production, the figures of the great increases that have been made from one year to another. Those statements leave me quite cold. I feel that we put a great deal too much emphasis on this figure of production, and hear very little of whether the user is satisfied with the thing that is produced. However great your production may be, if the user of the implements produced finds that they are not satisfactory then what has been the good of your increased production? I feel that these statements that we have 835 increased 30 per cent. or 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. are dangerous, because they cheer up the nation while the user may suffer. The user, after all, it must be remembered, suffered in the last war. I remember that during that war young officers often told me that machines had been sent out that were quite useless, so that, although the production had gone up, what was produced was not the article required by our fighters.
I know the difficulties of the producer. I hope the Minister of Production will not think I am criticizing. I know too well the difficulties that arise between the producer and the user. They ought to be in the most intimate touch. I have not heard the word user used this afternoon by a single member who has spoken, except the noble Lord who leads the Opposition, who said, in effect: Do not pay much attention to what is recommended in the modifications that will make your aeroplanes reliable, or your tanks reliable, or your guns have a sufficient power to knock out the enemy. I would point out that it does make all the difference whether you produce an article that satisfies the user. The Battle of Britain proved that it made all the difference. You then had superior personnel and superior machines and were able to knock out large numbers of the enemy. This is a most important point. I am not trying to criticize the Minister. I am sure he will bear, in mind this point and keep in the closest touch with the users in the field. But he cannot do his work unless he is in touch, and in intimate touch, with the users, knowing what they are feeling and what they want, and not paying all the attention to what the production figures are.
My Lords, I would like to join all your Lordships who have spoken in this very interesting debate in re-echoing the words of praise that have fallen at the feet of my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of Production. As has been said before, we owe to him a very great deal, and my noble friend the noble Viscount who has just spoken, and those concerned with the air, know well what splendid dash and vigour his son has shown in the Royal Air Force.
I would like to say a few words in regard to the question of the shortage of equipment to which Lord Beaverbrook has referred. I suggest that the shortage 836 of equipment is due, not to shortage of labour, material or machinery, but primarily to inefficiency in ordering. Perhaps this inefficiency in ordering destroys more potential production than all other things put together. What does this inefficiency of ordering amount to? It amounts to this, that machines are left idle or used inefficiently, or some vital component in a change of orders to cover one integrated piece of mechanism is forgotten, or insufficient notice is given of official intentions, or demands are not synchronized with available supplies of materials and labour, or impracticable specifications are issued, or there is a failure to co-ordinate designs for factory usage, or a failure to unify the design of several articles that are closely similar even though used for different purposes, and, lastly, the wastage of material and failure to study the best usage of process in the various factories. These are some of the characteristics of ineffective ordering. They do not arise from indifference or lack of enthusiasm, but are the result of fundamental ignorance of the coefficient in an involved technical question, and I was very much impressed with what was said by my noble friend Lord Winster, in his maiden speech, with regard to the question of production engineering.
As I see it, the primary task of my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook will be one of dynamic organization in which he, the Minister of Production, will know how to use the services of the best organizing brains that are available. Nor will he need to be reminded by any of your Lordships of the immensely important part that the technology of production engineering plays in the task that is ahead of him. Indeed, as your Lordships are well aware, and it has been very much emphasized by my noble friend Lord Winster, the solution of the problems of production hinges on the best use of production engineering science and technology so rapidly developed during recent years. That means that we have to make the most of expert production engineers not only in our workshops but, as has already been said, as advisers on the technical side to those who have to decide and carry through our production programme as a whole, and on that particular line I should like strongly to emphasize that latter point to my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook.
837 All large engineering concerns have their chief production engineers, specialists on the production side, corresponding to the chief mechanical engineers of the great railway companies and the chief mechanical engineer of such establishments as the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. Yet I doubt if there is as yet a chief production engineer attached to the staff of any one of the great Civil Departments of the Government. Increasing use is being made of these specialists, it is true, and the Minister himself has set a good example in that respect by employing already their services for special purposes. I also would like to pay tribute to the fact that many of the Regional Boards and several of the Controllers in more than one of the great Supply Departments of the Government have planned to use the expert knowledge and experience of production engineers. That is excellent so far as it goes, but it should, and can, be carried much further with great advantage to the State.
Your Lordships will probably have noticed that in a recent issue of the Economist there was a suggestion that we should bring over production engineers from the United States. By all means let that be clone if the United States can spare those production engineers, which personally I very much doubt, but if they do come over here they should, I suggest, act in close consultation and collaboration with the leading production engineers of this country whose knowledge of British industrial conditions and how these line up with those of the United States of America it is essential to utilize. I know that there are in our factories front-rank production engineers and that they are all in the shortage category, but it would well repay us to withdraw a number of them from particular factories so that their expert advice should be at the disposal of my noble friend the Minister of Production and others who have to think, not in terms of one factory but of hundreds and thousands.
In conclusion I would like to say one or two words about the question of training, particularly the training of green labour and the upgrading of semi-skilled labour and of all concerned in the production machine. Up to the moment the Ministry of Labour's scheme in regard to technical training is a self-confessed failure. Other Supply Departments have dabbled with this problem, but none of these arrangements 838 has proved in the least effective. But there exists a piece of apparatus that is in use by the Admiralty, to some extent by the War Office and to a very large extent by the Air Ministry, called the synchrophone, which has also been brought recently into usage by several great organizations as, for example, the Birmingham Small Arms Company, and which is far in advance of anything that has hitherto been offered for the training of personnel. The training of personnel should, I think, be arranged for in such a manner that the various organizations themselves come into effective play in that training, but in order that that may be effective it is desirable—I would like strongly to urge this on my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook—that a centralized Government organization should be set up under him to direct the general policy of the training of green labour and the upgrading of the semi-skilled.
Take a factory employing, say, 2,000 hands to-day. That factory, whose normal intake of unskilled hands may be forty per month, will now require eighty per month. Therefore anything that can be made available to instruct these hands as to what they can do—and they should be instructed in one operation alone—and to upgrade the semi-skilled, will be highly beneficial. I would urge that very strongly upon my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook, and I would call his attention to the fact that this programme is already in operation in several big organizations, including the Birmingham Small Arms Company, which I have already mentioned, under the control of Mr. Parmenter. Great benefit may be obtained by seeing what those organizations are doing and making this piece of equipment nationally available. I would only add that I should like to be allowed to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, upon his splendid speech this afternoon. I feel sure that he will, as other noble Lords have said, fulfil his new great task with the success that he has achieved in the past.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BRADFORD
My Lords, I apologize to your Lordships for addressing you, especially at the end of this debate, for two reasons. The first is that this is my maiden effort in your Lordships' House. In Victorian days it was said that maidens should always be bashful. My second reason is that the 839 subject under debate might well not be considered a Bishop's subject. If I were expected to speak in any way as an expert on the subject of supply and production I should not venture to speak at all, but a Bishop, especially in a great industrial area such as the one in which I live, has opportunity, if he cares to take it, of meeting men of all sorts engaged in industry, whether as employers or managers or workmen. It is because of the impressions I have formed in the last few weeks through repeated conversations with men of all sorts engaged in industry that I venture to trouble your Lordships by telling you what appear to me to be the feelings of people in the West Riding of Yorkshire and in the North and West Midlands with regard to this question.
The first impression was produced on my mind by men who are, many of them, shop stewards engaged in munition factories up and down the country, who always with one voice complain of a very high percentage of absenteeism in their works, which they tell me ranges from 30 to 40 and even 50 per cent. When they are asked why there should be this large proportion of absentees they attribute it to two main reasons. The first is the incidence of Income Tax; and the second is the fact that so many working men are not quite sure that we have been told what we are fighting for, and are not certain either that at the end of the war they are not, to use their own phrase, "going to be led up the garden path" once more, as happened to them at the end of the last war. The second impression which I get from men in business is a pretty general one. It is that there have been a large number of failures in management with the result that men and women, when they go on their shifts, find nothing to do. The third and quite universal impression, in the north of England at any rate, is that the nation has lost the sense of urgency and crisis—that, as compared with the feeling in the nation at the time of the retirement from Dunkirk, we have lost something like 50 per cent. of our feeling of crisis.
The reason may be in the first place that the wireless announcements have made so much of our small successes that we are getting accustomed to see things in wrong proportion. I believe it would be a benefit to the nation if the number 840 of news announcements on the radio were diminished by at least one half, because the result of this constant hearing of small occurrences is that we tend to think that small occurrences are every bit as important as large ones. The second reason is that the Far East is far away and English people do not seem to realize that things may be important and even critical to themselves though they happen a long way off. The nation is not yet aware of the possible danger of the Japanese Navy coming westwards. Thirdly, there is in a great many people's minds a feeling that they are not very anxious to enter into too close an alliance with Russia and that they are not quite sure that the people at the head of affairs are very keen to do so. That is very possibly—I hope it is—an entire misjudgment, but I am afraid that the errors of propaganda against Russia in this country are now coming home to roost. A great many people are distrustful of Russia because, having been told lies about Russia in the past, they do not now believe they are being told the truth. I am sure we all wish the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, God-speed in the work he has undertaken, and we all realize what an enormous job it is. But I do hope that in the task of producing machinery, munitions, and things of that sort, he will not forget the importance of producing in the nation's mind a sense of crisis, and in order to do that he must see to it that we are supplied with truth.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
My Lords, I have gained much benefit from the debate. Suggestions have been made and advice has been given to me which I am glad to get. In particular I have been impressed by the speech of Lord Winster. It is quite unbecoming of me to pay any kind of compliment to him considering in what kindly terms he spoke of me. But I cannot help saying that his was much the most eloquent speech that I have heard in this House, and it is backed by an understanding and an appreciation of the problems of production not, I think, possessed by any other member of this House to the same degree. I was grateful for what he said in relation to production. I have received benefit from his advice to-day, and I will seek something more from him. I ought to remind him, however, that it is particularly with the common services, the services common 841 to all Production Departments that the Minister of Production must deal.
His Lordship made use of a very interesting and apt illustration when he spoke about a ship. Surety the position of a ship's company is a parallel to my relation to the Production Ministers. I believe myself to be the captain on the bridge, and there are engineers down below running the engines. Now a captain does not go down from the bridge to the engine room and start telling the engineers how to run their department. He has to be on the bridge. The admiral may come up to the bridge at any moment, and I am sure he is going to be there very shortly. When he arrives the captain will take from him what instructions and orders he sees fit to give, and when he has departed the captain will continue to run the ship. There has been a mention of two Noahs. Wed, I do not know that Et is a bad thing to have two Noahs on the Ark. At any rate these two Noahs are making out remarkably well, and getting on well together.
The advice which I am given, sometimes—not from your Lordships but from other directions—is apt to be a bit confusing. I am told sometimes that the proper process to adopt in order to get more production is, to centralize; then, again, I am told to decentralize. Some-rimes it is suggested that we should have a great Production Minister who should have charge and control of everything; that all power should be vested in that one single man. Then we are told that power must be split up and some of it delegated to the provinces where a great amount of production comes from. Sometimes I am told from one side to build from the top; then from the other side I am told to build from the bottom. But with this frank expression of confusion in respect to some of the advice I receive, I acknowledge that the debate to-day has done me a very great deal of good.
I must thank Lord Addison for his very kind references to me. In particular, I thank him because when I first came here as a Minister he was the first to welcome me, and the first to put faith in my trying to do good work. He spoke of the need for 100 per cent. production, and how best to get it. It is indeed a great and difficult problem, and the whole search of the Minister of Production must be in the direction of increasing output here at home. Central direction and regional 842 organization he spoke of, and he also dealt with design in relation to aircraft. Now design, I have to say, is the responsibility and duty of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, not of the Air Ministry. Of course the Ministry of Aircraft Production must produce designs that are suitable to the user; that is the whole basis of the organization and I think it works extremely well.
Certain points were raised by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, who advised us to wait and see how the Minister gets on. I think that that is a very sound piece of advice indeed. I only hope that I shall get on with my job as well as the noble Marquess wishes that I may do. Then there was the speech of Lord Barnby. I am thankful to him also. He spoke of the need for keeping in close touch with Mr. Harriman. I can assure him that I keep in very close touch with Mr. Harriman; in fact I hardly ever let him out of my sight. I am always watching him, wondering what he is doing and hoping that he will do something more. Lord Barnby also spoke about the set-up in the United States. It differs somewhat from the set-up we must have here. It differs because the Constitution of the United States gives powers to the President which are not possessed by the Prime Minister here. So the set-up must be somewhat different from ours. With regard to electricity, I can tell my noble friend Lord Barnby that electricity is the charge, responsibility and duty of my friend Colonel Llewellin, President of the Board of Trade. It is my duty to deal with the allocation of electricity but of course these are matters relating to production and rightly the control is vested in him.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, may I ask whether the responsibility in regard to the Electricity Board and the Electricity Commissioners remains with the Board of Trade?
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
That would be an issue for the President of the Board of Trade. I am not concerned with the operation at all. As a Minister, I am avoiding operational responsibilities so far as possible; in fact I hope altogether. Therefore the noble Lord's question will have to be addressed to the President of the Board of Trade. I do not think, though, that he has any intention to change the present arrangements which seem very good.
843 Lord Addington spoke about friction between men. I am not so sure that friction between men has not got its uses. Certainly committee meetings where all the members sit down and agree with one another, get on quite happily together and pass resolutions of satisfaction and pleasure, are not going to achieve all the good results, whereas friction sometimes produces some very good results. There must not of course be too much friction, too much mere conflict, but when men have differing views and they give expression to those views in open discussion, that ought not to be a subject for criticism. Production must be increased, as Lord Addington said, on an immense scale. I would not have you think from the statement I have made about production, that there is any satisfaction in my heart about what has been accomplished so far. But the nation must have a clear understanding of what is being accomplished. People must not become entirely dispirited. I think that in the past there has been just a little too much alarm and despondency about production, and it was with a view to balancing the position about production that I gave the statement that I have made to-day. You must not think for a moment that I am a satisfied and contented man, or that I take the least pleasure and satisfaction in the present ratio of production. I think that I have made that clear again and again, and I say it once more.
The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, says that we must consult the user; and he always gives us sound advice. We do consult the user. The user is often entirely responsible for the weapon. When the producer is troubled, he is invariably troubled by design; that is where his difficulties come from. Design, of course, is closely related to the user; it is not the work of the user, but it is the work of those who have been brought up by the user and sent in to the Production Ministries to help the Production Ministers in their tasks. It would be right to say that design in the Ministry of Supply is the work of the Army. It would be wrong to say that it is under the authority or control of the Army, but it is the work of the Army. Certainly in the; Ministry of Aircraft Production design depends absolutely and entirely on trusted and tried officers of the Royal Air Force, 844 and they work in the closest relationship with the Air Ministry. While I agree with the noble Viscount that the user must be taken into consideration and should be given the benefit on every occasion and in all circumstances, I do insist that design is more closely related to the user than it is to the producer.
I now come to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Sempill. He gave me some ideas that I think I can work upon with benefit to our production system. He suggested that I should ask the United States of America for personnel, but I am sorry to say that the United States are always asking us for personnel. The personnel in Great Britain is more highly experienced in the production of munitions than is the personnel in America. There is a much wider understanding here than there is there of the production of weapons of war, and the Americans have to rely on us to some considerable extent, at any rate for a little while, to give them the benefit of our experience. We cannot expect to make any draft on the United States or on Canada for personnel just now, although perhaps both countries will send us personnel later on.
I now address myself to the remarks of the right reverend Prelate. He referred to absenteeism in scathing terms. Except in some abnormal situation such as a fire or bombing, or perhaps deep snow, absenteeism has never reached more than 25 per cent., as far as my knowledge goes, and that has always been in factories that are largely staffed by women who have not been accustomed to industrial effort, women who were brought in to their tasks and duties quite recently and who have not yet been trained up in the spirit of the factory. That is where absenteeism is most frequently encountered, but the very worst of which I have knowledge is 25 per cent., and 25 per cent. would not be a fair statement of absenteeism generally in relation to the Ministry of Supply or to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. It is easier and pleasanter to say things that are encouraging than to say things in a contrary sense, but I do want to say that absenteeism is tremendously over-stressed. There is no such absenteeism in the country as the propagandists would lead us to believe. These stories pass from one person to another, they grow and grow, and by-and-by we are told that 845 absenteeism is rampant. We are sometimes a little discouraged at the persistence of stories which we crush again and again, only to find that they are revived again and again.
The right reverend Prelate said that shop stewards thought they might be "led up the garden path." I can assure him that the shop stewards know that they will be led up a very different garden path if they do not fight in this war. I have not much doubt about the shop stewards; I find them very good fellows. Here again I am faced with preconceived notions, and must do what I can to dissipate misunderstanding and misapprehension when I hear it. There are groups of shop stewards who are an infernal nuisance, but, speaking generally, they are not the dangerous men that they are depicted to be. Many of them are very fine men, and they have a right to give their views and express their opinions. I do not know that the Minister has any right to deal with shop stewards on issues that concern the unions; such a situation would be intolerable, and I would never be a party to it. Nor would I deal with any central body of shop stewards, because they have no right to have a central body. But, short of that, I am always willing, excluding these issues, to hear what a shop steward has to say in relation to the factory in which he is at work. I think that that is the sound and common-sense view to take of the shop stewards.
It was suggested that the workers of the country would not respond to a call. Indeed they will. I had occasion to call on them not very long ago to give us tanks, so that we could send an extra big shipment off to Moscow as quickly as possible, because the attack on the capita] was developing very rapidly; and the workers responded everywhere in the most tremendous way. It has been said, "Yes, they will work for some people; they will work for tanks for Russia, but they will not work for tanks for Great Britain." That is all nonsense. They were working to enable Great Britain to give tanks to Russia. That was their purpose and intention. In my eighteen months of office I have formed the highest opinion of the working men of Britain. 846 I am not going to excuse or to deny the existence of irregularities; very many exist, as I know perfectly well, and I do not excuse them at all. I simply say that this section of the community is made up of people who fight as hard on behalf of our struggle, who feel as deeply and who are as greatly attached to Britain as any other section of the community.
Now let us take the question of the Government's attitude to Russia. The Government are entirely devoted to the Alliance with Russia. The Government have taken the most tremendous steps to assist the Russians. When I was sent by the Prime Minister to Moscow, I was authorized by him to give up to Russia what was, at that time, half of our effective tank output. We did it, and forthwith we began sending that stream of tanks to Russia. We gave up aeroplanes that we should have liked very much to have ourselves. It is very hard, no doubt, for the Armed Forces to see their tanks and their planes going hence; but to suggest that the Government have not gone to the very furthest degree in their attachment and devotion to the Russian Alliance is completely and entirely to misunderstand the whole situation.
I think that I have dealt with all the speeches which have been made, and have not neglected any of the questions raised. The office of Minister of Production I have described to you faithfully and well. Some will say that my description docs not entirely correspond with the White Paper. There is not anything unusual in that. I do not suppose that my duties, when I come to perform them, will entirely correspond, as I perform them, with the description of them that I have given in this House to-day; it is most unlikely. I do want, however, to assure your Lordships of this. You have given this White Paper the most tremendous send-off to-day, because I have not heard a word of criticism of it in any part of the House, except from the noble Lord, Lord Winster. You have given it a splendid send-off, and I shall be encouraged. I will carry the message to the Prime Minister that in the House of Lords almost everyone was in favour of it.
§ House adjourned.