Royal Ordnance Factories.

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

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Photo of Mr Ralph Assheton Mr Ralph Assheton , Rushcliffe

I am coming to deal with the question of surplus labour now. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) said it was his view that now there were 30,000 too many workers in the ordnance factories. We entirely refute that suggestion. I think the Select Committee must have misunderstood some of the evidence that was given them. They refer, for example, in paragraph 5 to one factory which already has a large surplus and is expected to release 6,000 workers by the end of the year. Owing to certain reductions in demand, and also to an increase in efficiency, a release of labour has recently been made possible at one of our factories to the extent of some 2,000 workers. At present this factory—I think it is the one referred to—is complaining of shortage of staff, and not of excess. I am sure the House will realise also that these releases cannot be made overnight. You cannot throw workers about from place to place as you can materials, and when releases are contemplated very careful arrangements have to be made with various Departments—with the Ministry of Labour, and the Ministry of Health in regard to billeting—in order to transfer these workers. And, of course, we want to make sure that they are being transferred to important war work. Arrangements have to be made with regard to rates of pay and the conditions under which they work. Therefore, it is always possible that there may be at one place or another a small surplus of labour during the period of readjustment. Again, it says in the Report, at the end of this paragraph: At another factory a surplus of 7,000 employees is envisaged. If I am thinking of the right factory—and I have not had the advantage of having read the evidence so that I do not know for certain—I hope that between now and the end of this year we may be able to release about 5,000 workers from that factory.