Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Munitions.

– in the House of Commons on 8th November 1920.

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Photo of Mr Godfrey Locker-Lampson Mr Godfrey Locker-Lampson , Wood Green

30.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Cabinet have lately had before them the question of winding up the Munitions Department?

Photo of Mr David Lloyd George Mr David Lloyd George , Caernarvon District of Boroughs

Yes, Sir. The subject is under consideration.

Photo of Mr Godfrey Locker-Lampson Mr Godfrey Locker-Lampson , Wood Green

Is there any indication whether this Department will be fully wound up before Christmas?

Photo of Mr David Lloyd George Mr David Lloyd George , Caernarvon District of Boroughs

I am not aware whether it will be wound up before Christmas, but I think it is now merely engaged in disposing of what has been left over. A great deal of money is involved, but we hope to wind it up as soon as possible. The view of the head of the Department is that the sooner it is wound up the better.

Photo of Mr Donald Maclean Mr Donald Maclean , Peebles and Southern

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the responsible Minister in charge stated in this House that it was hoped the Ministry would be wound up last July?

Photo of Mr David Lloyd George Mr David Lloyd George , Caernarvon District of Boroughs

I do not know whether that is so or not. I can assure the House that there is only one reason why it should be kept alive. That is, that it is very difficult to dispose of these enormous dumps, and you have got to watch your market very carefully. Lord Inverforth has shown very great skill and saved enormous sums of money to the country. The Ministry will not be kept alive one single moment beyond what the financial interests of the country demand.

Photo of Mr Frederick Macquisten Mr Frederick Macquisten , Glasgow Springburn

If there be delay, is it not due to the fact that the War Office authorities have not disclosed in time the supplies to the Disposal Board?

Photo of Mr Marshall Stevens Mr Marshall Stevens , Eccles

Is it a fact that within the last few weeks the War Office passed over to the Department a great many millions of munitions of which the Department knew nothing before?

Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD:

Has His Majesty's Ordnance Department control of the whole of these stores? Does the Disposal Board of the Ministry of Munitions get the stores from the Ordnance Department for sale, and would it not be possible for the Ordnance Department to dispose of the stores, instead of having this duplication of business which is so expensive?

Photo of Mr David Lloyd George Mr David Lloyd George , Caernarvon District of Boroughs

I do not wish to say anything about the Ordnance Department, which is a very effective Department for its own purposes, but I should doubt very much whether it has got the necessary equipment for the purpose of disposing of these stores. There is a vast quantity which could not be sold all at once, even from the point of view of putting it on the market. It would be a very unwise thing. There has been a considerable quantity of stores unsold, but I believe that they are pretty well through now.

Photo of Mr Frederick Macquisten Mr Frederick Macquisten , Glasgow Springburn

Could the right hon. Gentleman answer my question as to delay on the part of the War Office in handing over stores?

Photo of Mr David Lloyd George Mr David Lloyd George , Caernarvon District of Boroughs

It is not altogether that. If you had all the material available in one dump, it would be quite impossible to put it all on the market at once. You have got to watch the market very carefully, because it would affect the market. It has been done with great skill and care by Lord Inverforth. I have had my eye on this for some time.

Photo of Mr Frank Rose Mr Frank Rose , Aberdeen North

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman conceive the possibility of a Disposal Board without the meddlesome interference of a superfluous Ministry? Might not he get rid of the Ministry, and let the Disposal Board go on without any Ministry?

Photo of Mr David Lloyd George Mr David Lloyd George , Caernarvon District of Boroughs

Surely that is the wrong way of going about it.

Photo of Mr David Lloyd George Mr David Lloyd George , Caernarvon District of Boroughs

After all, the House of Commons has responsibility in the matter, and the Minister is responsible to Parliament for everything he does. I have heard myself a great deal of criticism of the Ministry of Munitions in this House, and rightly so.

Photo of Mr James Kiley Mr James Kiley , Stepney Whitechapel and St George's

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of half-a-dozen cases of manufacturing businesses, employing thousands of hands, conducted by the Ministry in competition with traders, which have not yet been handed over to the Disposal Board?