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Shells (Production)

Volume 344: debated on Wednesday 1 March 1939

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46 and 47.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) whether he is aware that serious delays occur in the production of shells owing to dependence upon the system of shadow factories; that these delays have caused congestion in factories and necessitated the dismissal of skilled men; and whether he will cause inquiries to be made with a view to improving the present system;

(2) whether he is aware that certain types of shells are sent backwards and forwards between distant parts of the country in the course of production; why this practice is necessary; and whether he will cause inquiries to be made, with a view to short-circuiting, and thus expediting, production?

Production of shells is mainly by components with which both the Royal Ordnance Factories and contractors are concerned. Very large quantities have been completed, and satisfactory deliveries are being maintained. In order to meet the needs of the programme and at the same time to develop capacity for war potential, it was necessary to spread orders for the various components over a large number of firms. This required considerable transportation, which has been increased by recent measures of acceleration. The complex arrangements necessary are, however, controlled by a special staff, and movements kept to a minimum. I am advised that, though certain firms may be approaching the end of their orders, there have been no dismissals of skilled men in Government factories due to delays.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those who are in charge of these great factories are of the opinion that there is still an unnecessary backwards and forwards movement, and that dependence on one source of supply for a part or parts of shells is a most dangerous system, which causes this delay in production, and sometimes dismissals?

I think my hon. Friend is under a little misapprehension. The production of shells does not depend upon the system of shadow factories. As regards the second part of his question, if he will give me particulars of any case that he has in mind, I shall be very pleased to examine them.