Royal Ordnance Factories.

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

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Photo of Sir Patrick Hannon Sir Patrick Hannon , Birmingham Moseley

I agree very largely with what my hon. Friend opposite has just said. During the last couple of years there has been developing in this House a supercritical faculty; committees are appointed to examine into administrations outside the House, and notwithstanding the exigencies of war and the stress imposed upon Ministers in the discharge of their obligations in the preparation for defence, there is too much criticism of the Ministers and of what they have had to do in connection with the war effort. Therefore, I am glad that my hon. Friend who has just spoken has borne testimony from his own personal experience, as I can bear from mine, to the work that has been done in the various factories throughout the country, where workpeople and managements are putting their best into the contribution they are making to victory. One sometimes forgets the magnitude of the task imposed upon those responsible for the organisation of those factories at the time their development had to be undertaken. If one looks back for a couple of years, the immense problem which had to be faced at the time because of our unpreparedness before the war can be realised, and, in looking at the heavy task that lay upon the shoulders of those who were called in to organise production, one must be a little tolerant and sympathetic, because the work had to be done in very difficult circumstances.

I would like to say at once, as one who has been in constant contact with the development of organisations for production since the war broke out and even long before it, one cannot pay too high a tribute to the Minister himself, and to those responsible to him, for the work which has been accomplished. I am delighted to pay a tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) as chairman of the sub-committee of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, but there is more to be done besides having interviews with managements and workpeople. There ought to be some process of check upon the actual figures, and the circumstances at the moment ought not to be the guiding consideration in arriving at a report. One ought to be able to discover what were the processes of development before the investigation was made, and how the great productive organisations have come into existence. I am bound to say, with all due respect to my hon. Friend for the admirable work he has done, that I think he ought to have spent a longer time on an examination of the conditions which prevailed during the development and organisation of these factories. My hon. Friend has quite rightly called attention to the organisation of hostels, but what does he expect? When we brought great numbers of girls down from Scotland and the Border country—