Supply and Transport Organisation

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Supply and Transport Organisation

On 8 March 1946 the Cabinet discussed the report of a Committee appointed by the Prime Minister to consider the revival of the supply and transport organisation which had, between the two wars, been held in readiness to maintain essential services during strikes under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920.  The Cabinet also discussed whether representatives of employers' organisations and trade unions ought to be consulted about these preparations.

The following extracts give a flavour of what was said in Cabinet:

A.B.

Cttee were directed to establ. orgn. My view is we oughtn't to do it at all. Such an organisation wd. be extravagant. If it were not, it wd. create more pol. diffies than it's worth. I'm not prepd to defend this theoretical plan – M/H. wd. be the organn. Cdn't be done w'out Parlt. knowing. Playing with fire.

E.B.

I helped to work this out in last war, when Gough's Army was brkg. And I watched it fr. the other side in 1926! In strikes Govt. must not allow panic, or children or hospitals to suffer. Don't agree going to Unions & employers. That wd. imply setting up a strike-brkg. organisn. This must be offl. All you need do is to prepare plans – no Union wd. object to that. Can be done w'out publicity. It is a paper scheme – like the War Book. Keep it on paper.

J.

Prefer improvised scheme when need arises.

C.E.

We thght. it might be more than strike-brkg. There might be trouble with extreme right or left-wing movements.

H.M.

Shoulder your responsibility as a Govt. or amend the Act of 1920. You must be ready incldg. prepn of draft Regns. Object to discns with employers & Unions.

P.M.

Alternative is to rely on Military in an emergency.

R.S.C.

a) Do we accept the principles.
b) If so, does that involve consultn with Unions etc. Reason was: wide Dpl. consultns wd. be followed by a leak: & awkward pol. re-actions wd. arise, unless we cd. say we were acting with employers & Unions.
b) is for Cab. But a) must be laid down clearly.

H.D.

Overwhelmg. objn to consultn with Unions etc., or Regional offls. Keep it to planning in W'hall.

P.M.

H.Q. business: planning by high & trusted officials: no consultn with Regions. Sealed orders etc., need not be sent until emergency is foreseen. There will be time.

A.B.

I accept the Govt.'s respons. for maintaining supplies etc. But what use in planning for hypothetical situation. All depends on what strike & where etc. Can't conceal it if P.Q.'s asked.

P.M.

Plans must be made: they are adaptable.

E.B.

Plenty of warning when trouble is coming. Doesn't happen so quickly as R.S.C. suggested.

A.V.A.

E.B.'s knowledge of Govt. machine (co-operatg. with Govt,) was what made it easy for e.g. Co-op. to work during 1926. No need to issue sealed orders until Precautionary Stage.

G.A.I.

Must prepare some plan. At one point I favoured consultn with Unions. On consn, don't now recommend it. Their Communists wd. blow it. Unions have taken decns wh. will prevent their being dragged into genl. strike. Don't print.

J.W.

Cdn't improvise at last moment. Need for emergency organn – in skeleton form w'out diffused discussion. Not only strikes. Political organisn might give us trouble. We were in doubt on final para. Now favour no consultn.

E.W.

Political honesty to our supporters requires that when we've made the plan we shd. publish.

P.M.

I wdn't object to saying we had a plan – tho' details shd. never be publd. Wdn't say there was an organisation – a plan.

J.J.L.

Agree there shd. be a plan: & no publicity now. But wdn't we need military help? The W.O. & Commands wd. need to prepare. They want to be brought in.

P.M.

Not too much detail.

H.M.

Volunteer no informn.

A.B.

I don't agree.
Agreed: prepare plan: no publicity: work at H.Q. only.