I am aware of the answer my right hon. Friend gave yesterday. The hon. Member may not know that the Minister of Health was present at the meeting we had in the morning. We and the Ministry of Health and the Service Departments are co-operating in this matter. I think the hon. Member can be certain that we are alive to the importance of co-ordinating Departmental action in these matters; and if improvements have to be made on what was done in previous years we will quickly make them.
What more can be done? We must accept the fact that however desirable it is that rayon should be substituted for cotton or wool, the Services cannot accept a change in the materials which are used for Services clothing unless they are satisfied that the new materials will meet in full their necessary specifications. The clothing must be able to stand up to wear in the climates for which it is designed, and often to very hard wear. It must also stand up to somewhat rough laundering treatment. It must not lose its toughness if it gets wet. and there are other needs, too: and one cannot altogether exclude considerations of taste.
Before a new type of material is adopted, therefore, there has to be a thorough test of the qualities of that material, and this must be followed by trials by some of those who will wear or use the clothing. The hon. Lady made the point of the time taken up in all these processes. I will certainly have a close look at that and see what can be done, if anything, to reduce it.
Two years ago a technical advisory committee was set up in the Ministry of Supply with these terms of reference:
To examine and report on the extent to which use can be made of synthetic fibres in the economic development of clothing and general stores for Service Departments.
This committee includes representatives of the Admiralty, of the Air Ministry and of the industry. The Ministry of Supply keeps closely in touch with the War Office. Though this committee has concentrated a great deal of its efforts on rayon, it has also had to investigate the use of nylon and other synthetic fibres. The object of the committee was not a short-term object, and it remains so. We are grateful for its hard work, although little has so far resulted. However, trials of 25 materials are now taking place with rayon.
During the first year of the life of this committee the demand for rayon appeared to be well in excess of supplies. There was not the present urgency to hurry on with the trials, and, therefore, most of the trials of important materials did not begin until towards the end of 1951. In several cases these trials have proceeded far enough to be hopeful, or even more than hopeful, that the material will be acceptable to the Services.