HC Deb 07 August 1919 vol 119 cc538-41
40. Mr. ROSE

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions if he will state the cost of building, equipment, and working of the Gretna Green factory, including the expenditure upon State-salaried officials and workmen; what was approximately the value of the total production of the factory; and what are the intentions of the Government in respect to its continuance or disposal?


Owing to the length of the answer I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate the reply in the Official Report.

The following is the answer referred to:

The total capital expenditure on the building and equipment ox the Gretna Green explosives factory was approximately, £9,184,000. The cost of working the factory from September, 1916, to the end of September, 1918, has been about £12,769,000. The staple product of the factory was cordite, though considerable quantities of intermediate products were supplied to other factories. Taking cordite alone, the value of the total production of the factory is estimated at about £15,000,000, on the basis of the average cost of the cordite supplied from home contractor's works during the same period.

Prior to Gretna coming into production, this country had been dependent on United States of America for a large part of its cordite. Had we bought from America the quantity of cordite produced at Gretna, the cost at the price paid to America in 1916, would have been £23,600,000. As I have recently stated in reply to other questions a report on the future use of the factory is at present under consideration.

41 and 42. Mr. R. YOUNG

asked the Parliamentary Secretary (1) whether he is aware that in November, 1918, a letter, signed by the chemists in His Majesty's factory, Gretna, and other explosive factories, was forwarded to the then Minister of Munitions asking him to receive a deputation with regard to their claim for a revision of salary; whether he is also aware that the superintendent expressed himself as being in sympathy with the claim of the chemists and that no reply has ever been sent to the letter; whether he will have this matter inquired into and full consideration given to the question of salaries;

(2) whether he is aware that a memorial signed by the chemists employed at Gretna and other explosive factories was forwarded to the Department of Explosives Supply; whether any reply was given by the Department to this memorial; whether he is aware that the memorial asked that a minimum salary of £350 be paid to chemists on the grounds that, for purposes of efficient factory control and the maintenance of discipline, the principle must be admitted that any official should be paid more than individuals for whose work he is responsible and whom he controls, and that a considerable percentage of the operatives and tradesmen employed are paid more than the chemists, while a very large number receive about the same amount; whether any consideration has been given to this memorial; and whether it is proposed to grant the claim?


As the reply to those questions is a long one, I propose to circulate it in the Official Report.

The following is the answer promised:

The question of the salaries paid in national factories to chemists and other technical officers had been under consideration before the memorial was addressed to the Minister of Munitions on 16th November, 1918, by the chemists employed at Gretna and other explosive factories, and at about the same time a memorandum was received from the Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland which covered the whole ground of the memorial. This letter was communicated to the Government Departments concerned, and finally led to the appointment of a Committee by the Treasury. This Committee is examining, in consultation with the Departments, the question of the salaries to be offered to scientific and technical officers whom it is desired to employ in the Government service. I sincerely regret that owing to pressure of work at the time of the Armistice a reply was not sent to the memorial.

I think it right, however, to add that the Explosives Supply Department of the Ministry of Munitions did much during the War to improve the status of chemists employed in industry, and even after making full allowance for the increased cost of living, the scale of salaries paid by the Department can be compared favourably with the salaries paid by private firms under pre-war conditions. At the present the number of chemists employed in the Explosives Department is thirty-five, and owing to the cessation of production this number is being rapidly reduced.