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Redundancies announced from the Royal Ordnance factories during the past twelve months affected 3,997 full-time and 350 part-time workers. Discharges became or will become effective at a number of dates between October, 1956, and the end of July, 1957. I am in close consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply about future redundancies, but until a final decision is taken about factories to be closed or reduced in size, it is not possible to say what are the prospects of placing in employment the workers who will be affected.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House are extremely worried about the Government's policy towards the Royal Ordnance factories which is causing such widespread redundancies? Is he aware that we have now heard that at least one of these factories is to be sold to private enterprise? Would he ensure that the type of work to be done in that factory will make it possible for those workers who are now working there to be maintained in their jobs if private enterprise takes the factory over?
I do not think we should under-estimate, or over-estimate either, the inevitable result of switches in the Government's defence programme, which in any event are, in general, welcome to the whole House. There are bound to be difficulties, but those difficulties, as indeed the Questions today have shown, on the whole have been concentrated in Scotland and in the Potteries. There are many areas in which we shall easily be able to absorb the redundancies which have been created. The only way of answering the hon. Member's question is to say that as long as the economy keeps expanding we ought to be able to absorb within it those who are displaced from Royal Ordnance factories.
Are the Government looking at the question as a whole? There are many repercussions of what seem to be direct orders to Government Departments and shipbuilding yards as a result of which the productive effort may be considerably dislocated. Are the Government looking into the question as a whole to see whether they can make these changes in the form of a phased reorganisation rather than allow it to happen haphazardly without calculating the Costs?
Yes, we try to do that. I devoted part of my speech in the defence debate, in April I think it was, to that, and the right hon. Gentleman will find details of these arrangements recorded in HANSARD.
One hundred and five men and 51 women out of 1,180 discharged from Radway Green are now registered as unemployed, representing 14 Per cent. of those discharged. Ninety-four of the men and 49 of the women were discharged on 28th June. Of 350 part-time women workers discharged from Swynnerton in mid-June, six are registered as wholly unemployed. Sixty-eight others have sought assistance in finding other employment but most of them are available for part-time work only.
Is the Minister aware that those of us who represent North Staffordshire are still extremely concerned about the prospects for these men and women because of the unemployment which exists in the area? Will he ask the Minister of Supply to discuss with him, before any further redundancies are created, the possibility of conversion to civil production in these factories so as to avoid further unemployment?
I am in constant consultation with my right hon. Friend on exactly these sorts of problems. Considering that the redundancies referred to at Radway Green took place only on 28th June, the figures on the whole are not discouraging. Of course, it is probably the case that many on holiday have not yet registered, and the figure may go up later. We shall probably have a clearer picture in a few weeks' time.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what percentage of the work now being performed in Royal Ordnance factories is civil work, and what percentage that is of the maximum amount of civil work being performed in the factories some years ago?