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Volume 388: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1943

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asked the Minister of Production whether, in view of the urgency of developing a tank with heavier guns and heavier armour than any now in production for use in the future, he has now any precise information to give the House in this connection?

Did not my right hon. Friend himself say that he was proposing to follow this course and nothing has happened since so far as anybody knows?


asked the Minister of Supply which tank has been produced from the drawing board in six months and in what quantity?

The hon. Member presumably refers to the Churchill tank, and I would refer him to the full statement made by the Prime Minister on 15th December last.

Is it not a fact that A23 is a modification of A20 and was two years in production from the drawing board?

Arising from that unsatisfactory reply, have there not been two statements by the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Production in the House that this machine, the A22, was produced in six months, which every engineer knows is an impossibility?

Is it not a fact that production from the drawing board is merely designing the machine after it has been made?

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman say whether a tank has been produced from the drawing board in six months?


asked the Minister of Supply in which types of tanks the Liberty engine, designed in the last war, is still being used?

It is not in the public interest to give the information asked for. The engine has of course been greatly improved since it was adapted to make it suitable for tanks.

Will my right hon. Friend say why it is not in the public interest as the enemy must know as they have captured some? Why has no Diesel engine been developed?

Some tanks with this engine have not been captured, and are not in the fighting line.

I wish to give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of these replies which the Minister of Supply has given, I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.


asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that, in June, 1940, the whole of the Special Vehicle Development Committee warned his Department against putting the A 22 into production until it had been vetted by engineers independent of his Department; and why that advice was not taken?

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." As regards the second part, I would refer the hon. Member to the full statement made by the Prime Minister on 15th December last.

Is it not a fact that such a letter was written in May, 1940, and will the Minister say why attention was not paid to the recommendation of these people, who were the only competent people to advise?

54 and 55.

asked the Minister of Supply (1), what has now happened to the Special Development Committee appointed by his Department in 1939 to design tanks with heavy armour and heavy armaments;

(2), whether the members of the Special Vehicle Development Committee appointed in 1939 by his Department were specialy chosen for their experience of mechanical warfare; and whether he will state their names?

The Special Vehicle Development Committee was set up in October, 1939, under the chairmanship of Sir Albert Stern, K.B.E., C.M.G. Other members were:

  • Sir Eustace Tennyson d'Eyncourt, K.C.B.
  • Major-General Sir Ernest Swinton, K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O.
  • Major W. G. Wilson, C.M.G.
  • Mr. H. R. Ricardo, F.R.S.
The members of the Committee had taken a prominent part in the initiation, design and production of tanks in the last war. The Committee devoted its attention to the design of a particular type of tank and was dissolved in November, 1941.

As this Committee was experienced in tank design, why was it necessary to dispense with its services?

My predecessor in office felt that the work which the Committee had done had reached a stage when it was convenient that they should discontinue their functions as a Committee—and I fully agree with his decision—and that the services of Sir Albert Stern should be retained in the Department to develop further certain features of the tank design. That work has gone on and will be handed over to our own division in the Department at the end of this month.

Will the Minister consider appointing some of these people to the Tank Board in place of some of the incompetent people now there?

In the interests of greater accuracy, would it not be right to say that one of the members of this Committee, Major Wilson, resigned in the early part of 1940?

I was referring to the Committee as a whole. Another member of the Committee is rendering distinguished service to the Department.

Cannot this Committee design a tank which will deal effectively with the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes)?