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 think that four times is rather an exaggerated figure to apply in this particular case. I have been to a good many of the shadow factories, and while I have found that the hostel organisation is admirable and in some respects more than absolutely necessary, I have always thought it was the duty of those responsible for the administration of the works to see that when girls came in accommodation was provided for them. I think it is far better to have additional accommodation available, rather than that girls should come into a new district, remote from their own homes, and not have proper accommodation provided for them.

All this gigantic organisation for war production was rushed upon the country in the atmosphere of a disturbed outlook, without any great knowledge of the consequences involved, and there must be a tolerant attitude to those responsible for this vast organisation. The whole of the country to-day, with all our splendid workpeople and efficient managements, is organised in working together for war production. I do not think that we in this House ought to be continually carping and criticising the effort that has been made. Those of us who have the opportunity from day to day of visiting our factories and of going among the workpeople see what energy, enthusiasm and loyalty they are putting into their efforts. I cannot help feeling how grateful we ought to be for what has been done in these fateful days. When I think of the great work accomplished by the Director-General of Ordnance and by his colleague who is responsible for the engineering side of the shadow factories, I cannot help feeling that this House ought to be grateful that we have public servants of that quality to undertake such great tasks when their services were called upon.

Of the Minister himself I may say this: I have been in this House for 22 years, and I have seen a great many changes. I have sometimes seen this House inclined to lose its head a bit, now and again I have seen the atmosphere surcharged with a little surplus excitement, and I have heard contributions to Debates which might have been better left out altogether. I feel that all through that time I have never known a great public servant throw himself into the administration of his Department with more foresight, energy, enthusiasm and constructive capacity than the present Minister of Supply, whose public career in this country is a credit to the profession to which he belongs.

In a Debate like this do not let us be carried away by an outburst of criticism. Let us examine the facts and coolly reflect upon the story of the past and of what has been accomplished by those responsible for the development of these factories. How little was known and how much had to be learnt in the process of their development. We should treat kindly, considerately and gratefully the efforts made by the officers in the various Departments of defence organisation and supply, who were responsible for building up, with great effect and in my judgment beneficent results, in the interests of the safety of this country, the productive organisation which exists to-day. Our hostels are a great accession to our war production organisation, and I would not like to leave the ladies who are in charge of these hostels—they have been carefully selected and are doing their duties admirably—under the impression that we like the suggestion made from the other side of the House that there is any danger to the morals of the people who occupy the hostels. My experience is that the wardens of our factory hostels are just as careful of the morals and the safety of our girls as any other person. I am prepared to defend these splendid women in charge of these working girls in any corner of the country at any time.

This Debate has served a useful purpose. I hope it will serve as a model for the House while we have almost day after day this long series of Reports by the Select Committee. We are not always carried away by the conclusions which these admirable colleagues of ours arrive at. There are perhaps occasions on which they are sometimes in a hurry to reach conclusions. Sometimes perhaps they have not examined the whole of the facts before they come to a decision. We Members of the House of Commons are entitled to examine and check for ourselves, and exercise our own judgment on the facts presented in this series of Reports. They are all valuable, all helpful, all suggestive, but not always conclusive regarding the administration of Departments in the public service. I hope that as a result of this Debate the Members of the House will make themselves more familiar with the immense work which is being done in these great factories throughout me country. You cannot visit one of these factories, go among the workpeople, meet the management, and cross-examine them if you like, without observing the vast effort which is being made to win the war by the magnificent co-ordinated effort of management and workpeople. Not the least interesting part of the story of these days to be told in the future is that in these great factories and from the central directing organisation at headquarters there is a co-operative effort of supreme moment and value playing its part in deciding the destinies of the country in the grimmest time through which it has ever passed.