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

That may relate to a particular factory, but it remains true that when correspondence took place, following the Report in which the need for greatly increasing the number of hostels was accepted by the Select Committee, the Committee did not revise their recommendation. However, there is no need for us to quarrel about this matter. In the light of the circumstances at the time it was the right thing for the Select Committee to do and the right thing for the Ministry of Supply to do. To think that there was any guesswork about this is to be under a misapprehension. The subject of hostels was very carefully considered in collaboration by the Ministries of Supply, Health and Labour, and plans were only decided after the closest consultation with all the local people concerned. Even now, it would be quite unsafe to make any final assessment on this question of hostels. Circumstances may yet change and all hostels may be required, but in the meantime 14 out of the 16 surplus hostels to which the Report refers have been taken over by other Departments, which have been extremely fortunately placed in having them. Seven of those which were suspended are now to be completed for other Departments. In regard to the hostels occupied by our own workers, careful attention will certainly be given to the Select Committee's observations. The managing associations in charge of these hostels give the closest attention to the psychological questions that arise and are striving all the time to improve the comfort and homeliness of the hostels.

Now, on the range of questions that relate to factory conditions and the smooth running of these factories, I must say that we are very conscious of the importance of the smooth and regular supply of components, to which the Select Committee direct our attention. I am glad to say that conditions in that respect have greatly improved. Both the output of ammunition and stocks of components have improved. Stocks of balanced sets are substantially higher than six months ago. The great majority of components and materials to be assembled into rounds of ammunition come from innumerable trade factories. Only a small proportion come from ordnance factories, and the closest attention must be given to the movement of this large mass of components into the filling factories. Our machinery for ensuring that there is every care taken in the assembly and stocking of components is given very close attention.

With regard to the liaison that exists between the design and the production of components, I fully accept what the Select Committee says, subject only to one limitation, and that is that the user's purpose must be served. If every design by a producer were accepted as the last word, there is no doubt that the user's purpose would not be served.

All classes of components are inspected before despatch for filling. There must of necessity, of course, be occasional exceptions to that general rule, because of new designs having to be tried out on a larger scale than that of a small trial. I believe it is true that the case to which the Select Committee's Report refers was an exception in respect of small arms which was put right as far back as March of this year.