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Tanks

Volume 393: debated on Wednesday 3 November 1943

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54.

asked the Minister of Supply whether it is the policy of his Department now to cease the production of tanks and rely on supplies from the United States of America; and whether any of the experts who constituted the Special Vehicle Development Committee have been consulted as to the design and production of a new tank excelling the German Tiger, both in armour and armament?

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No, Sir." In this connection I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production to the hon. Member for East Willesden (Mr. Hammersley) on 22nd September last. As regards the second part of the Question, individuls who were members of the Special Vehicle Development Committee are consulted in appropriate cases.

May I ask my right hon. Friend to state whether they have in fact been consulted in regard to the construction of a tank of this kind?

I do not suppose they have been, unless it was appropriate that they should be.

Will my right hon. Friend consider the desirability of making a statement on the policy of tank production, in view of the great anxiety which exists in the House on the matter?

55, 56 and 57.

asked the Minister of Supply (1) why he sent Mr. Oliver Lucas on a tank Mission to America in spite of the War Office having expressed dissatisfaction with tank design and asked for the removal of Mr. Lucas from the post of Director-General of Tank Research and Development;

(2) why he appointed Mr. Oliver Lucas chairman of a tank Mission to America in spite of the United States authorities having expressed a desire that such a Mission should not be headed by Mr. Lucas;

(3) why he did not give effect to the desire of the United States authorities that the War Office should be represented on the Tank Commission now in America?

I cannot accept any of the statements contained in these Questions. As I explained on 20th October last, this Mission was appointed after consultation with the War Office and has their support. In addition I assured myself by consultation with the American authorities here that the Mission would receive full acceptance and co-operation in America.

As I am satisfied that all the statements in my three Questions are correct, would my right hon. Friend ask the Select Committee on Expenditure to inquire into them?

I do not know where my hon. Friend gets his information. All I can say is that I have consulted the constituted authorities and did so before sending this Mission to America. I give my assurance to the House that it has their approval.

Would it not mitigate anxiety in these matters if my right hon. Friend indicated to the House that he was pursuing a policy when individuals are proved to be failures of dispensing with their services rather than giving them alternative employment?

There is no question of failure leading to alternative employment in this case, and there never has been. Mr. Lucas was easily the most suitable person to lead this Mission and was therefore appointed chairman of it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us have information on this subject which, if he would give the opportunity for a Debate in secret, we would reveal and that it would astonish the House?