asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the closing of a works to obtain room for storage purposes, the name of which has been given him, is having a damaging effect on the workpeople throughout the district in which the works are situated; that the loss of production of the men transferred to other works is 69 per cent.; that wages have fallen by approximately one-half; that the closed works are modern and productive; that the loss of output must be made up elsewhere as it is an essential war product; that there is space available for storage amounting to at least 40,000 square feet, whereas the area of the closed works is 25,000 square feet; and will he reconsider the decision?
In order to meet urgent and important demands for production and storage by the Supply and Service Departments, it has been necessary in a great many industries in all parts of the country to close, for the period of the war, large numbers of operating factories. As my hon. Friend is well aware, careful and prolonged consideration was given to the particular case to which he refers, not only through correspondence, but by conferences on the spot, and by discussions with several deputations in London. There is no alternative storage accommodation which is sufficient in quantity and quality and is situated in the locality required for this particular purpose. The authority to requisition was issued more than a month ago, use of the premises for storage has already begun, and I regret that it is quite impossible to reverse the decision. Questions relating to output, wages and the transfer of workers displaced should be addressed to my right hon. Friends the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Labour.
Does my right hon. Friend recall that it was arranged that, if alternative accommodation could be provided, this factory would not be taken, that an inquiry took place and 40,000 square feet of space was shown to be available, whereas there are only 25,000 square feet in this factory, but the decision was persisted in to take the factory?
I have been in contact with my hon. Friend on a number of occasions, and the whole matter has been gone into very carefully. I have made every effort I could to accommodate him, but in view of all the circumstances and in the interest of the war effort the decision cannot be reversed.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the transference of the men who were working in this factory to produce similar material but in much less quantity would involve the expenditure of approximately 30,000 gallons of petrol a year? Does he not consider that a substantial waste and not in the public interest?
Since this is not the only factory involved, and there is real concern as to this new practice of closing factories for storage purposes, will my right hon. Friend be prepared to receive representations on the matter and to reconsider it?
I shall be happy to receive representations on the general question, but in this particular case the decision was taken a month ago, and I cannot hold out any hope of altering it.