HC Deb 08 July 1957 vol 573 cc29-32
43 and 44. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Supply (1) to what extent he has sought the views of trade union leaders on the possibilities of converting Royal Ordnance factories to civil use as the defence programme runs down;

(2) if he will set up a committee, with trade union representation, to consider the possibilities of converting Royal Ordnance factories, or parts thereof, to civil production.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. W. J. Taylor)

My right hon. Friend already has satisfactory arrangements for consultation with the trades unions through the Ministry of Supply Joint Industrial Council, of which I am the Chairman. The Council has frequently discussed the question of civil work in the Royal Ordnance factories. My right hon. Friend also discussed at a special meeting of the Council the future of the Royal Ordnance factories with representatives of the shop stewards of all factories on 7th May.

Mr. Swingler

Will the Parliamentary Secretary give an assurance that no irrevocable action will be taken now, either by way of further redundancies, the closing down of factories or the selling of them to private interests, before the views of the trade unions and shop stewards have been considered and the Minister has reported upon them to the House?

Mr. Taylor

I cannot give any such assurance. I can say that my right hon. Friend is satisfied that the existing machinery in the Ministry of Supply for consultation with trade unions, both at headquarters and factory level, is adequate.

46. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Supply if he will give further consideration to the possibilities of producing mining machinery and railway equipment at the Royal Ordnance Factory at Radway Green; and if he will consult local trade union representatives about the matter.

Mr. W. J. Taylor

Discussions are taking place with British Railways which, I hope, may lead to work fitting for this Factory and which will not interfere with the main production lines.

Mr. Swingler

I appreciate that answer. May I ask whether the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that there is a definite shortage of capital goods, not only in the United Kingdom but also in the Colonial Territories? Did it not emerge from the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers that there is a great need to produce capital goods in Britain for the Commonwealth? Is he aware that factories like the Royal Ordnance Factory at Radway Green would be admirable for this purpose?

Mr. Taylor

The question of the utilisation of Royal Ordnance factories is receiving the attention of my right hon. Friend. I will convey to him what the hon. Member has said, but I cannot accept all his implications.

47. Mr. D. Griffiths

asked the Minister of Supply what steps he is proposing to take for placing further orders at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Maltby.

50. Mr. Bence

asked the Minister of Supply what steps he proposes taking to maintain stable employment at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Dalmuir, Clydebank.

53. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Minister of Supply if he will state the extent to which he anticipates that the establishment at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Enfield, will be affected by the reduction in the defence programme.

Mr. W. J. Taylor

The future of these and the other Royal Ordnance factories is under consideration at the present time. My right hon. Friend hopes to make an announcement shortly.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the Parliamentary Secretary give an assurance that the Royal Ordnance factory at Maltby, where there is first-class machinery, is given opportunities equal to those provided for private industry?

Mr. Taylor

I quite agree that there is a first-class factory at Maltby. In common with all the others, the future of that establishment is at present under consideration and I cannot anticipate the statement shortly to be made by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Bence

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the Royal Ordnance Factory at Dalmuir is the only electrical engineering plant in the whole of Scotland, and will he give an assurance that he will do everything in his power to continue the employment of the factory in the manufacture of civil work as was done after 1949?

Mr. Taylor

I agree that Dalmuir is a very fine engineering establishment. I have seen it. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will do everything in my power, as will my right hon. Friend, to ensure that the factory at Dalmuir is continued in full employment so far as possible and that civil production will be introduced if the necessary arrangements can be made.

Mr. Davies

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say when this announcement will be made by his right hon. Friend? Does he realise that people employed in the factories are concerned about the future and that the sooner the statement is made the better?

Mr. Taylor

I appreciate that. My information is that the statement will be made quite shortly. I can say no more than that today.

51. Mr. Mayhew

asked the Minister of Supply on what recent occasions, and for what reason, sub-contracting has been undertaken by the Royal Ordnance Factory, Woolwich, for private firms engaged on public contracts.

Mr. W. J. Taylor

It is not the Department's practice to seek details of the main contracts in cases in which sub-contract work is undertaken for industrial concerns. Those known to be associated with contracts placed by the Ministry of Supply are, however, small in number and value. It would be wrong to assume that the main contracts could in such cases appropriately have been placed with the Royal Ordnance factories in the first place.

52. Mr. Mayhew

asked the Minister of Supply if he will make a statement on the future of the Royal Ordnance Factory, Woolwich.

Mr. W. J. Taylor

The rôle of Woolwich in the Royal Ordnance factory organisation will be that described by the then Minister of Supply in his statement in reply to a Question by the hon. Member on 26th February, 1954. As regards the future level of employment at the factory, I have nothing to add to the reply given to his Question on 3rd July.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the Minister aware that Woolwich Arsenal is underemployed? Is he aware that it is one of the most versatile and adaptable industrial units in the country, and will he therefore give the assurance that it will have at least as much opportunity of offsetting declining defence orders with civil work as private industry?

Mr. Taylor

It is still intended that the future of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Woolwich will be that announced by the then Minister of Supply in February, 1954. The factory will concentrate on experimental work, plant production, modification and re-conditioning of equipment, the manufacture of tools, gauges and so on. The special position of the Woolwich Factory is very much in the mind of my right hon. Friend.