HC Deb 31 July 1939 vol 350 cc1974-6W
Mr. Stuart Russell

asked the Lord Privy Seal why the price charged for the steel helmets offered to industry by the Air- Raid Precautions Department is 8s. 6d. when some firms are offering the same helmets at a lower price?

Sir J. Anderson

I am glad to have this opportunity of explaining the position. These helmets are made of manganese steel to the same pattern and under the same conditions of inspection as those used by the Fighting Services. The contracts for all Government purposes are placed by the War Office. When the Civil Defence Act was before the House it was foreseen that industrial and commercial establishments might have difficulty in obtaining steel helmets to meet their prospective statutory obligations and, with the full agreement of the Joint Committee of Employers' Organisations, who have been assisting me on the questions arising under the Act, I arranged with the War Office that a substantial amount of the necessary materials and productive capacity should be set aside for these requirements.

A contract was placed for the delivery of 100,000 helmets a week from the beginning of this month. Through the deliveries already taking place under this contract it will be possible to fulfil the whole of the requirements of industry and commerce by September. These helmets are being sold at 8s. 6d. This price includes packing, delivery, inspection, the administrative overheads, and an additional payment to the contractor for the organisation of three-shift working to produce the helmets rapidly. While this price may be higher for these reasons than that at which helmets of a similar pattern are being offered in the open market, I understand that the view of the War Office is that it will be impossible for any substantial supplies of helmets to be obtained in the open market without detriment to the supplies to the Fighting Services, and that those which are obtainable from the Home Office are all that, in view of the limited amount of materials and productive capacity available, can properly be devoted to civil needs during the next few months.

These arrangements made for industry, therefore, represent the best rate of output compatible with the requirements of rearmament and the price merely reflects the cost of securing the desired deliveries within the shortest possible time. In these circumstances I naturally look to industrial employers to co-operate by making use of the scheme specially devised to meet their needs.