GOVERNMENT CONTROL AND PRODUCTION.
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Why are Machines and Labour Kept Waiting for Work ?
GOVERNMENT CONTROL and production are all very well and very advisable, no doubt, under the present circumstances ; but as all who have had any experience of Government Departments are aware, it is often a ,case of control run mad, • and is having the effect of unnecessarily interfering with the business of the country. So long as Government work is not. hindered in the production, firms surely should not be prevented from doing work for civilian purposes if they have the means available for doing so. We thought., and, indeed, were told at the beginning of the war, that "business as usual" was the order of the day. Not, of course, with the absurd meaning of this phrase which brought it into disrepute, it being taken to mean private business first and the rest go hang, but that it was as important. to keep the industries of the country going, even if on a small or reduced scale, as to get on with the war.
Priority Certificate Fiasco.
The war first, of course. But under the system of Government control there is an enormous amount of time wasted, which could be well devoted to supplying some of the goods of which we are so badly in need. Engineering firms in particular have ',men and machines standing idle because the Government controls their factories and has given them less work to do than they are capable of doing, and, under the sYstem of priority certificates by means of which the control is carried out, these firms are unable to touch private work at all.
Moreover, the system on which these priority certificates are granted appears to be very faulty indeed, if what we hear be true. For example, we heard a few days ago of a firm which had previously been importing a line of extremely useful motor goods, particularly adapted and designed feu commercial car purposes. This firm, having a considerable number of orders on its books, and being desirous of manufacturing here as further import had been prohibited, and as, moreover, it had been specially requested by the Ministry of Munitions to endeavour to manufacture instead of importing, made all its arrangements for production and then found itself up against this priority certificate system. All applications to the priority department have so far met with refusal.
Not only this, the astonishing part about it is that, whilst the officials of the-department admitted that the article in question served a. practical and useful purpose at the present time, and it was shown that there was a strong demand for it, to enable munitions firms and others engaged on work of national importance to carry out their engagements, the certificate was refused because, fiAboth, a certain engineer in another department to whom the matter had been submitted—the priority department, presumably, having no knowledge of engineering itself—had calmly turned it down because he did not approve the design
Censor of Design.
Further investigation showed that the reasons given for his disapproval made it apparent that this gentleman had not grasped its first principle of design or , purpose. It is needless to say the applicants were more than disgusted and now want to know what business it is of the priority department, or of any official connected with it, to act as a censor of design and differentiate between one firm's goods and another, more especially when they do not understand si3fi the goods. The situation is rendered all the more unsatisfactory because the firm in question had made all arrangements for production, and there was no difficulty whatever in regard to anything but the lack of this needed certificate.
Of course, if there were a shortage of the material required, or if the plant and labour of the country were so intensely full of work on war products that they simply could not be spared for this work, there would be nothing whatever to say ; but the contrary is the ease, as is instanced by another experience which was related to us last week.
Waiting for Work.
In this case the firm received a contract to snake a considerable number of machines of a particular nature: Not hiving the facilities to do the whole of the work themselves, they desired to sub-contract some of the particular details, and they published a small advertisement in two papers asking firms in a position to do machine work to communicate with them, and they received no fewer than 200 replies] In this case there was no difficulty as the firm in question were furnished with the needful certificate; but the experience showed that there were 200 firms Who saw these two small advertisements—to say nothing of the thousands of those who did not—who had machines and labour standing idle, a part of the time, at any rate, waiting for work, and yet the department stands in the way of this surplus production ability being employed for useful purposes I • Again, where firms have had their works taken over entirely by the Government and are supposed to be kept constantly at work, it is no uncommon thing for either departments of, or the whole factory to be standing more or less idle, sometimes for weeks, for want of material or some particular item of supplies needed to keep them in employment.
We hear this story all over the country, and only an hour before writing this article we received a call from a, representative of an engineering firm whose factory is working on sub-contracts for larger Govern ment contractors, but is equally under control. In the course of conversation he asked if we knew of any work requiring to be done which he could get on to at
once, as he had men and machines idle, and likely to be, perhaps, for a week or two, waiting for needed
material. Yet he, too, could not even' undertake such work had we been able to tell him where to obtain it, without the production of one of these certificates.
Keep Factories Going.
surely it should be sufficient in the control of factories to require that, when Government work is in hand, it should receive first consideration, and it should be possible to arrange for the further distribution of orders on a more equable and even basis. It is not economical, or to the country's interests, to have one set of factories all over the country working nights and another set more or less kicking its heels half the time. It would be a far better policy to see that all controlled establishments were kept fully employed and to release those which could not be so kept and enable them to do something to keep the tradeand life of the country together. Business firms—munition firms included—are at their wits' ends for want of the means of traneportation, yet they practically cannot buy new .lorries, and we learn that even converting units are likely to be unobtainable at a date not far distant.