HC Deb 24 July 1918 vol 108 cc1832-3W

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if his attention has been called to the loss which is being inflicted upon both Navy, Army, and Air Service by the withdrawal of employés from the firm of Adam Hilger, Limited, and kindred highly specialised firms of optical instrument makers; whether he is aware that before the War there was only a very limited number indeed of firms doing this class of work, and that the Government was entirely dependent upon Germany for the most modern gun-sights and practically so for other optical munitions for both Army and Navy; whether there is a shortage of certain optical munitions, notably for the Air Service, and a shortage generally of the material produced by these firms; and if he can see his way, in the highest interests of the War and of victory, to authorise the return to these firms of the men recently joined up and to withdraw the demand for the other men, even when under twenty-three years of age, remembering that these are all of the most highly technical type, and that they have been given since their boyhood the most skilled training that optical workers can possibly get?


I have been asked to reply to this question. A certain number of young skilled men have been called up for military service from firms making optical instruments. Eleven of the 300 employés of Messrs. Adam Hilger have been recruited, of whom four, all under twenty years of age, were highly skilled men, whom the Ministry of Munitions would have been glad to retain, if the Government's policy as to men of these years had admitted of any exceptions. In addition, three employés have enlisted voluntarily. The number of firms manufacturing optical munitions before the War was limited. The Ministry of Munitions have secured a large extension of the capacity of the country, and, although the continued growth of demands for war purposes has prevented there being a surplus at any time, there has for some time past been no severe shortage. It is not possible to obtain the release from the Colours of the youths recently called up.