HC Deb 08 March 1939 vol 344 cc2119-21
15. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is satisfied with the organisation of the whole of the shadow factories and of the Birmingham Austin shadow factory in particular; and is he aware of the shortage of precision tools, blue prints, and lack of organization which would enable production to be carried out with efficiency, and the low piecework prices offered having regard to the conditions and state of organisation?

16 Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) whether he is aware that in the air-frame tool-room of the Austin shadow factory, many of the machine tools are placed at a disadvantage as regards light, with the result that operators are trying to get work accurate within a thousandth of an inch in most unsatisfactory conditions; and will he immediately cause an investigation to be made with a view to remedying a state of affairs which bears particularly hardly on pieceworkers;

  1. (2) whether he is aware that the work in the tool-room of the Austin shadow factory is being held up because of bad organisation causing work to be interrupted at the drilling machines, and delayed by shortage of precision tools, and by the inadequate arrangements for the issue of blue prints; and whether he will immediately take steps to have these defects remedied;
  2. (3) whether, in view of the defects disclosed in the organisation of the tool-room of the Austin shadow factory, he will satisfy himself that the rest of the factory organisation is of a nature calculated to produce aeroplanes in the quickest and most efficient manner?

Sir K. Wood

The lighting of the Austin factory has been inspected by Home Office and Air Ministry representatives, and I am advised that it is generally in accordance with modern practice and is satisfactory. The local lighting of machines in the tool-room is in accordance with the recognised standards, and supplementary lighting is fitted when required for special operations. Precision tools are provided on a sufficient scale and there is no shortage of blue prints. There are sufficient machines in the tool-room to meet all normal requirements, and if all the drilling machines are occupied, alternative work is provided for any man whose earnings might be affected. The piecework rates for men in the tool-room are generally in accordance with those for similar work elsewhere in the district. I am satisfied that the Austin factory is well organised, and that is has, in fact, attained a satisfactory rate of output.

Mr. E. Smith

According to that reply the state of the organisation is perfect. In view of that, if the men are forced to take action to secure their reasonable, legitimate rights, which are to enable a man to earn at least 25 per cent., the Minister must not be surprised if that happens.

Mr. Buchanan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that among the workmen in these factories there is great dissatisfaction, and will he in future inquiries take steps to interview the workmen on this subject before making up his mind?

Sir K. Wood

I have already answered a question on this subject, and have said that a considerable number of these matters are matters between the local trade union organisations and the contractors.

Mr. Buchanan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these firms have never shown themselves too sympathetic to trade union approaches?