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 quite appreciate that. We were very glad to read it. I also appreciated the second paragraph, which said: Your Committee are glad to state that these hopes appear to some extent to have been justified, and in the last year, and more particularly within the last six months, substantial increases in efficiency and output have been achieved. But the impression given to the general public is apt to be the impression which they gather from headlines in newspapers. One cannot blame the newspapers for quoting from the Report. When you see headlines, as I saw the day after the Report was published: "Orgy of Muddle," "Waste Disclosure," "Idle Floor-Space in Factories Alleged," and so on, you can see what impression is being created. I do not want the House to think that we are in any way complacent, or uncritical of ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are aware that there are many shortcomings. But I claim that there are few achievements in the history of the war which are greater than the building, the equipping, and the putting into production of these great Royal Ordnance factories. I should like to add to the tribute already paid to the Director of Ordnance Factories and to the Director of Filling Factories. These Royal Ordnance factories are a great national enterprise. The superintendents and all who work in them are immensely proud of their service, and of the great tradition behind it. I was in an ordnance factory last week which has a history going back to the days of Elizabeth, and which was taken over by the State in the time of Pitt, in the Napoleonic Wars. Incidentally, I talked to a foreman in that factory who had worked there 52 years, and who had lost only one hour in the last war and hardly any in this. These factories form a great national insurance in time of peace, and a great national asset in time of war. Great work is done in them, experiments are carried out, and one could only wish that more use had been made of them before the war.

Of course, there are faults in national enterprise, as there are in private enterprise. But when I see the enthusiasm, the energy, and the public spirit of those who are responsible at headquarters, whether professional civil servants or men drawn in from outside during the war, I can only feel encouraged and inspired, and I should like to pass on this encouragement and inspiration to the House. I have seen the work done in the factories. A great deal of it is done by women unaccustomed to factory life. They accept very cheerfully the hard life and the risks which they run from explosion and from air attack. This great achievement of the Royal Ordnance factories has not been accomplished without blood and tears, toil and sweat. There are many stories of heroism in this war which cannot yet be told. The stories of the Royal Ordnance factories are among them: the heroism of those who do their daily work amidst these risks, the heroism of those who experiment with new explosives. Let us, therefore, praise the management and the workers for what they have accomplished, and let us seek thereby to encourage them to greater efforts in the future. Let us give them confidence in the higher direction of the Department, by discounting some of the stories of incompetence and muddle which we have heard. If there are faults—and no doubt there are—we will do all in our power to cure them, but pray let us go forward on our task with the knowledge that we have the full confidence of the House of Commons and of the country.