HC Deb 22 May 1973 vol 857 cc193-4
1. Mr. Arthur Davidson

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will ensure that adequate work is given to ROF Blackburn to compensate for any possible loss of employment due to Government policy with regard to procurement of fusing systems.

8. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of State for Defence, in view of the Government's decision to divert electronic fuse production, from ROF Blackburn to private industry, if he will now publish the Leitch Committee's report and the estimates he has made of cost savings, with a view to ensuring public knowledge of the evidence on which this change of policy is based.

The Minister of State for Defence (Mr. Ian Gilmour)

As I indicated in the Defence debate on 10th May, we have been giving close thought to the position of ROF Blackburn in respect of future orders for fuses.

We have now decided that the factory will remain within the field of consideration for all orders for new fuses for shells, bombs and mines. This includes electronic fuses. The right hon. Lady, the hon. Member and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) have been in touch with me about this, and I shall be replying in more detail within a day or so.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we are delighted that he has reconsidered the conclusions he outlined in his letter to me of 10th April? Can we now have a categoric assurance from him that, since he has admitted the capability of ROF Blackburn to operate in the electronic fuse market, it will now have complete equality and freedom with private industry in tendering for electronic fuse production?

Mr. Gilmour

I believe that that assurance is envisaged in my answer.

Mr. Davidson

May I thank the Minister for his helpful and quick reply, which will bring great pleasure to the workers at this Royal Ordnance factory? Will he agree to take whatever steps are necessary—if they should be found necessary—to strengthen the design team at ROF Blackburn? Is he aware that my right hon. Friend and I consider that the team is adequate?

Mr. Gilmour

The hon. Member and his right hon. Friend have assured me that the design capability is already adequate. Any increase in staff is a matter for the ROF board.

Mr. James Lamond

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the necessity to be fair to firms that will be tendering for this sort of work in future? Will he consider modifying his preferred source policy so that redundancies which might occur in my constituency will be avoided?

Mr. Gilmour

The answer to both questions is "Yes".

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