HC Deb 27 July 1982 vol 28 cc915-6
11. Mr. Straw

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he hopes to introduce legislation regarding the future status and organisation of the Royal ordnance factories.

Mr. Pattie

It is the Government's intention to introduce legislation as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows to enable the Royal ordnance factories to operate under the Companies Acts. I cannot at present forecast when this legislation will be introduced.

Mr. Straw

Is the Minister aware that his reply is very unsatisfactory, particularly to employees of the Royal ordnance factories, who, year after year, have to accept uncertainty and procrastination while the Government decide what to do? Will legislation be introduced next Session? When will we see further details of the privatisation plans which he promised nine weeks ago would be produced as soon as possible?

Mr. Pattie

I cannot anticipate the content of the Queen's Speech on the legislative programme. We do not wish to prolong any more than is necessary any uncertainty in the minds of employees. That is why we made the recent announcements about the future of the Royal ordnance factories. We believe that the future of those employees would be better served if they were part of a viable and commercial organisation.

Sir Charles Fletcher-Cooke

Is my hon. Friend aware that manual workers at the Royal ordnance factory at Blackburn in my constituency welcome the opportunities afforded by the new freedom that this legislation will give them, and also the possibility of more capital and more opportunities for selling their excellent product?

Mr. Pattie

I welcome what my hon. and learned Friend has said. He obviously agrees with me that the work force can see the benefits of the proposed reorganisation.

Dr. McDonald

Will the Under-Secretary assure the House that the consultative document on terms and conditions for employees under the new Companies Act scheme will be published on target and that it will contain a no-detriment clause? Does he agree that it is high time that the employees of these factories were decently treated by the Government, bearing in mind that many of them worked overtime to produce ammunition for the Falklands war, and that some of those who so worked were thanked by redundancy notices?

Mr. Pattie

The intention is to publish the consultative document in the near future, and we shall notify the hon. Lady when it is available. It is not the intention to prolong the uncertainty in the minds of employees. I take this opportunity of once again recording our appreciation of all their efforts during the Falklands conflict.

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