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Government Supplies (Organisation)

Volume 415: debated on Monday 29 October 1945

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asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make on the organisation of Government supply.

With Mr. Speaker's permission, I propose to make a statement at the end of Questions.


(1) Organisation and Government Supply.

When the present Government was formed the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aircraft Production were put under the charge of one Minister. No Ministerial appointment was made to the Ministry of Production. Under the late Government the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. O. Lyttelton) held the officers of President of the Board of Trade and Minister of Production.

This statement outlines broadly:

  • (a) the organisation and responsibilities of the combined Ministries of Supply and Aircraft Production;
  • (b) the disposition of the functions of the Ministry of Production;
  • (c) the division of responsibilities between the Board of Trade and the Ministries of Supply and Aircraft Production.
  • (2) Ministries of Supply and Aircraft Production

    For the immediate future the Ministries of Supply and Aircraft Production will preserve their individual identities, but the intention is that they should be amalgamated into one new Ministry as soon as practicable. The primary duty of the combined Ministry will be the furnishing of supplies, and the carrying out of research, design and development, for the Fighting Services, to the extent that these functions are undertaken by the two Ministries at the present time. This duty will be carried out in close collaboration with the Service Departments in order to ensure that the "user" interests are given proper weight. The combined Ministry will, however, also be responsible for the supply, and, in many cases, the design, of a large range of stores used by the Government, for which concentration of purchasing arrangements seems advantageous, and will retain the functions hitherto exercised by the Ministry of Aircraft Production on behalf of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The combined Ministry will carry the primary Government responsibility in the field of engineering.

    The Board of Trade will remain responsible for general questions of industrial and commercial policy, and so far as these questions arise in connection with engineering the Ministry of Supply and of Aircraft Production will work in close co-operation with the Board of Trade.

    (3) Ministry of Production.

    The Ministry of Production has been merged in the Board of Trade organisation and has ceased to exist as a separate entity. For formal reasons it will be necessary for the immediate present to retain two Votes in Parliament.

    Certain of the Ministry's duties were of an arbitral nature—in particular—

  • (a) the allocation of materials, and
  • (b) certain priorities for the allocation of labour.
  • These functions cannot properly be performed by the Board of Trade since that Department is itself a large claimant for labour and materials, and arrangements have been made for these arbitral functions to be carried out inter-departmentally under the supervision of Ministers without departmental interest in the matter.

    Similarly, the co-ordination of military supply programmes is not appropriate to the Board of Trade, and other arrangements have been made for the discharge of these functions.

    (4) Relations between the Supply Ministry and the Board of Trade.

    The Raw Materials Department of the Ministry of Supply and the Raw Materials Controls of that Department will be trans- ferred to the Board of Trade as from to-day. Pending transfer, the Raw Materials Department and the Controls will operate under the direction of the President of the Board of Trade.

    There is, however, an important exception to this transfer of responsibility for raw materials. Since the Ministries of Supply and Aircraft Production will carry the primary Government responsibility in the held of engineering, the Iron and Steel Control, the Non-Ferrous Metals Control and the Light Metal Control will remain with the Ministry of Supply and of Aircraft Production. The Board of Trade will assume responsibility for all non-engineering industries, for example, chemicals, which during the war have been the concern of the Ministries of Supply and Aircraft Production.

    :I am sure the right hon. Gentleman realises that he has made a very important statement. Will the Government afford an opportunity of debating the matter in the near future?

    I think it is rather difficult to see at first the full extent of the statement. Perhaps when it has been considered, an application might be made through the usual channels to see whether a discussion should arise.

    On the matter of the production of civil aircraft, the Ministry of Supply and Aircraft Production are apparently ordering aircraft for the Air Force and civil aviation. Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a good deal of overlapping between the Ministry of Civil Aviation with its advisers, the Ministry of Aircraft Production with its advisers, and B.O.A.C. with its advisers?

    Perhaps the hon. Member will put down a specific Question on that point.

    :Will anything in this new arrangement hold up the promised direct association between the users of civil aircraft, when we know who they are, and the manufacturers, and can we be assured that no Government Department or combination of Departments will stand in the way of that direct connection?

    There is no question of standing in the way. It is our intention all through that the users and producers shall be in close contact.

    :Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is strong feeling among the producers or would-be producers of civil aircraft that the Ministry of Aircraft Production has outlived its functions, and, as it was created entirely for war purposes, will the Government take steps to bring it to a speedy end now that the war is over and release the large staffs and officers it now has?

    :May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the important new functions which he has just announced the Ministry of Supply is to undertake, particularly in connection with atomic research, he would consider making the Minister of Supply a Member of the Cabinet?

    :With regard to the distribution of Government surplus requirements and goods, can the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that such surpluses shall be distributed to firms who have a technical knowledge of, and are in the habit of dealing in, these particular goods?