(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour and National Service whether any special arrangements have been made for consulting industry centrally on matters relating to production, and whether he is now in a position to state what steps, if any, have been taken to improve the effectiveness of the organisation of the Area Boards?
On a point of Order. Why is a Private Notice Question in this matter being put when a two days' Debate is to take place on the Second and Third Sitting Days, which will give the Minister ample opportunity of making a full statement which can be discussed? Is it not undesirable to anticipate an important Debate of this kind in this way?
Further to my point of Order. May I submit that it would be in accordance with the practice of the House that, if an arrangement has been made for an immediate Debate upon production and if there is to be a statement made on the matter, it ought to be made in the course of the Debate, when it could be discussed?
Further to the point of Order. May I submit that the mere fact that the Debate is to take place is a justification for the Question? I am extremely interested in the Debate, and I feel that if there is any statement which can be made to show what action the Government are going to take, it is very desirable that the House should know this before the Debate takes place?
May we take it that if the answer to the Private Notice Question contains Government or Ministerial decisions, they will not anticipate the decisions which should be reached after duo Debate?
The answer to the Private Notice Question is, Yes, Sir. In addition to the normal consultation, which goes on continually, both centrally. and locally, between Government Departments and representatives of employers and work-people, it has recently been decided to set up a Central Joint Advisory Committee to the Production Executive, composed of 12 employers' representatives nominated by the British Employers' Confederation and the Federation of British Industries and 12 workpeople's representatives nominated by the Trades Union Congress General Council, with the following terms of reference:
' To advise the Production Executive on general production difficulties (excluding question relating to wages and conditions in individual industries normally subject to joint negotiation) and on such other matters relating to production as may arise from the proceedings of Regional Boards or be referred to the committee by the Production Executive.
The Production Executive has given careful consideration to the matter referred to in the second part of the Question, and has decided upon certain changes which are designed to strengthen the Area Boards as instruments for furthering the production of goods for war purposes in the areas which they cover. The Boards, of which there is one for each Civil Defence Region, have been re-named the Production Executive's Regional Boards and will in future be directly responsible to the Production Executive instead of being directed as hitherto by the Industrial Capacity Committee. The functions of the Boards and their relations to the Executive Departments have been more closely defined and extended in certain directions with a view to the Boards being in a position to render more rapid and effective assistance in the solution of problems affecting production. Amongst other things, it is intended that the Regional Boards should, where necessary, set up Capacity Clearing Centres in order
to assist in the better utilisation of industrial capacity.
In order to obtain the benefit of the knowledge and advice of those officers in the regions who are directly or indirectly concerned with war production, membership of the Boards has been extended by the addition of the representatives of certain important official organisations. With the permission of the House, will circulate the composition of the Boards as now constituted in the Official Report. The work of each Board will be directed by an Executive Committee of the Board consisting of representatives of the three Supply Ministries, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour and National Service, with the chairman and or deputy-chairman, and will be conducted in detail by sub-committees. Arrangements have been made whereby questions which in the view of the Boards merit consideration at the centre can be brought to the notice of the Production Executive without delay.
Will the terms of reference allow the advisory committee to recommend the abolition of the cost plus 10 per cent. system, or the prosecution of managements which lose thousands of hours per month through waiting time?
In view of the fact that it was decided three weeks ago to have a Debate on production, may I ask whether these reforms, which my right hon. Friend has announced to the House, were decided upon before or after the announcement that the Debate would take place?
The main function of the Boards is to assist the industrial capacity and the utilisation of industrial capacity in their districts, which has been the demand of this House, or, in other words, it is a process of decentralisation both in the placing of orders and in the supervision of contracts for effective production in the district— the utilisation of machine tools and everything else.
As there may be some risk of overlapping between the work of this sub-committee and the supervisory work of the various Departments of Supply already established, will there be any contact with the Departments of Supply, such as the Ministry of Supply, other than upwards through the Production Executive and downwards to the Department?
My right hon. Friend stated a few moments and that certain executive powers are to be given in advance to these Area Boards. Surely it is most important to know what these advance powers are, and is it intended to define them in the statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT?
If you are speeding up production in a particular direction, or urging action in a particular direction, you ask these Boards to undertake these duties, and you give them executive authority to carry them out. I would remind the House that war production is changing from day to day, and that you cannot seek to define in advance; indeed, it has been the attempt to define everything in advance which has stultified some of our efforts.
As my right hon. Friend knows, one of the complaints has always been that workers with grievances— whether they are working on time work instead of skilled work, and matters of that kind— have had no particular place in an area to register their grievances and have their complaints dealt with. Will these Boards be able to deal with matters of that kind?
We do not intend that the Boards should deal with wage difficulties, and we are anxious not to cut across the ordinary machinery of negotiation which exists. As the central body includes employees, production executives and the Confederation of Employers, any difficulties of that character which are impeding production can be raised direct at the centre.
As there are technical and expert managements very closely associated with war production who may not be represented through the Confederation of Employers or trade unions, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that they should be represented on the Area Boards and the central panel?
Will the Scottish trade unions have any representation, through the General Council, on the central committee, or will important Scottish industries be left to an area committee with no executive powers?
So far as Scotland is concerned, I understand that there is a close liaison arrangement between the British T.U.C. and the Scottish T.U.C., but it must be remembered that the unions which operate in England must be represented in Scotland and that we cannot have dual representation of the same unions.
I do not think that situation exists in the case of war-munition production. Practically all the unions covering munition work are, to their credit, British unions.
I understand that as far as they can the British T.U.C. are endeavouring to arrange representations regionally, but I cannot interfere with the constitution of the trade unions.