Royal Ordnance Factories.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 5th August 1942.

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Photo of Sir Andrew Duncan Sir Andrew Duncan , City of London

I feel confident that the Ministry of Labour has missed no chance in taking from ordnance factories any miners who fall within the qualifications for return to the pits. I would emphasise to the House that the relationship between ourselves and the Ministry of Labour is of the closest, mostly friendly and co-operative character. In regard to the recruitment campaign, to which reference is made in the Report, it was initiated last autumn in agreement with the Ministry of Labour. In the spring of this year we again consulted with the Ministry of Labour and greatly reduced activities of that kind, engaged in by the Ministry of Supply. In answer to the recommendation made by the Select Committee we propose to close this section for special recruitment altogether.

In considering the recommendations and observations of the Select Committee as to hostels, I think it is necessary to remember how difficult it is to reconstruct the conditions that existed when decisions were first taken on these matters. I feel certain that members of the Select Committee will themselves agree that it is difficult completely to put their minds back to over a year ago. Efficiency in factories has greatly improved; in fact it has improved more than it was reasonable to anticipate, and that, of course, has meant that the numbers of workers required are less. There has been freedom from air raids, which has made it likely that people are willing to travel—and it certainly has made it possible for them to travel—much longer distances than they could have been expected to travel at the time when the severe "blitzing" was on, as it was when these hostels were originally planned. Transport has been excellently maintained; one might almost say surprisingly well maintained. Concentration of industry and the registration of women have also made much more local labour available for these filling factories than was apparent before these steps were taken. For all these reasons I think we must, in considering what the Committee calls "this remarkable miscalculation," be guided rather by the advice given to us by the Select Committee in July, 1941, than by that given to us in 1942. In 1941 the conditions and the outlook were different and the advice was also different. Then the Committee recommended that the provision of hostels should be increased and speeded up as a matter of urgency.