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War Economy

Eking out Available Supplies — The Powers of the Controllers

Eking out Available Supplies — The Powers of the Controllers

From the outset, the various Controllers under the Minister of Supply had very wide powers over the distribution and use of goods. The Factory Controller, for example, was given power ‘to regulate, restrict and control the use, sale, supply, and distribution and disposal of factory materials, to decide what kinds and qualities and quantities of goods may be made in any factory, and to decide the order of urgency in which goods are to be made.’ He also had power to commandeer stocks of materials and to direct any factory to use substitute materials. The Building Controller, besides his function of issuing permits, without which work could not commence, was given power ‘to regulate, restrict or control the use, sale, supply and distribution and disposal of building materials, and to direct the use of substitutes.’ Similar powers were given to the Mining Controller, the Electricity Controller and the Timber Controller. The Food Controller and the Sugar Controller were specifically given power ‘to take any steps necessary to ensure continuity of supply’, and equal powers were given to the Wheat and Flour Controller. Besides page 131 the usual powers, the Oil Fuel Controller was given a specific power to withhold supplies of oil fuel for any purpose and ‘direct that no person shall use oil fuel or any specified oil fuel or kind of oil fuel for any specified purpose if in the opinion of the Controller such action is necessary for the public welfare.’ The Medical Supplies Controller was ‘to regulate and secure the adequacy and continuity of supply and distribution of medical supplies.’

These were very extensive responsibilities and powers, and in some cases were not fully used. For the most part, the investigation work required to ensure continuity of supplies and their best use fell on the Supply Sections of the Industries and Commerce Department, which were strengthened numerically by special wartime recruitments. The following sketches relating to various commodities give some idea of the activities involved.