Royal Ordnance Factories.

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

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Photo of Mr Charles Ammon Mr Charles Ammon , Camberwell North

That is so. There are also other factors to be considered. One hon. Member said that there was not a likelihood that all the factories would be destroyed by bombing. I do not know about that. We have enjoyed the advantage lately of a measure of quietude, but when I think of what happened in my constituency and when I read of what we have been doing to Dusseldorf, where, as far as one can gather, factories of equal dimensions have been completely wiped out, we may be very glad to have taken some precautions and to have this reserve. Having said some things that are rather critical of the Report, I feel bound to say that I feel that we owe a measure of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham and those associated with him for the valuable work they have done and the tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm they have shown in interviewing a large number of witnesses. The very fact of the Minister's acceptance of the Report indicates its value and the good effect it will have. After all, the value of the Committee's inquiries and the value of its Report is not to be tested by the material which they give us for criticising or attacking Ministers, but only by the help which they give us to see weaknesses and to build up where something needs strengthening. I am sure I can say, without fear of contradiction, as a member of the Select Committee from the very commencement, that that is the motive which has actuated the Committee all through. Never have I at any time heard any suggestion of criticism for the sake of criticism; the object of the Committee has been to face the facts, to bring weaknesses to the attention of Ministers, and by that means to help in the war effort.

I have only one word more to say, and that concerns the Minister's suggestion that it might have been better if he had had an opportunity of discussion with the Committee before they issued their Report. I must confess that I cannot think of anything that would be more likely to destroy confidence in the Committee. There would be some people, perhaps people who were evilly disposed, who would say that the Report was a faked one. The value of the Report lies in the fact that even Ministers have not the right to see or to know the evidence that is submitted and that officials from the Departments can give any evidence, knowing that it will be treated as secret and confidential. For these reasons, the Report is without fear or favour. It is in this way that the Committee can discharge the obligation which they have to the House and present an unbiased and fair Report. I am sure, much as it might help Ministers, it would, in the long run, be very inadvisable for Ministers to know in advance what were the decisions of a Committee and to have an opportunity to discuss Reports before they were published. We would be bound to think, human nature being as it is, that subconsciously the Minister might have some effect and influence on those responsible for producing a Report. I hope there will be no attempt to interfere in that way. At the same time I congratulate those responsible for the production of this Report, and not least the Minister for the breadth of character, and receptivity and resilience of mind he has shown, recognising this is an attempt to help and not an attempt to hinder and make his task more difficult.