HC Deb 27 April 1982 vol 22 cc714-5
15. Mr. Straw

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future organisation and ownership of the Royal ordnance factories.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)

I hope to be able to make a statement in the near future.

Mr. Straw

Is the Minister aware that he and his colleagues have been saying that since December 1980 when we first debated the future of the Royal ordnance factories? The Prime Minister has said that the prospects for privatisation of the ROFs in the near future are not good. Will the Minister now make it clear that the Government will abandon all ideas of privatising the ordnance factories and allow the employees to get on with the excellent job that they are doing?

Mr. Pattie

This is a complex issue. We have been right to take our time before reaching a decision. We do not want to delay that decision much longer. Immediate privatisation is not in prospect, but we believe that changes should be made to the constitution of the Royal ordnance factories to allow them to operate more competitively than hitherto in commercial life.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that putting the Royal ordnance factories in the position of Companies Act companies and giving them a separate sales team, as the ROFs believe is necessary, would go a long way to increase their already great effectiveness both in this country and abroad?

Mr. Pattie

I agree with much that my hon. Friend has said. I know that he will await the announcement with interest.

Mr. Golding

Does the Minister agree that the present crisis shows the importance of keeping the Royal ordnance factories under Government control and ownership? Is he aware that it is important to my constituents who work at Radway Green that an announcement is made as quickly as possible in order to dispel the uncertainty with which they have lived for too long?

Mr. Pattie

I assure the hon. Gentleman that an announcement will not be unreasonably delayed. I take this opportunity to congratulate the ordnance factories on the contribution that they have made and are making.

Dr. McDonald

Will the Minister assure the House that in any changes that the Government envisage, this now extremely profitable enterprise, with an expected profit of £30 million this year, will not go to benefit the Government's friends?

Mr. Pattie

The hon. Lady should wait for the announcement, which will not be unduly delayed.

Back to
Forward to