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Shipyard Management (Allegations)

Volume 380: debated on Wednesday 3 June 1942

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has investigated allegations publicly made against the management of a certain shipyard that they deliberately encouraged their workmen to waste time and take holidays to the detriment of the war effort; and, if not, will he do so with a view to punishing the guilty and publicly exonerating the innocent?

The allegations have been fully investigated by a local Committee of Inquiry, which included representatives of the firm, both management and men (including a shop steward), the Admiralty, the Ministry of Labour and the Electrical Trades Union. At this inquiry each of the allegations made was carefully examined, and where sufficient detailed information had been provided to enable the facts to be brought to light, it was found that the allegations were not borne out.

Since the allegation was made by an hon. Member of this House to whom I sent a copy of the Question I wished to put down, will steps be taken by the First Lord of the Admiralty to see that the shipyard on the Clyde against which these particular allegations were being made is fully exonerated as publicly as the attacks were made in the public Press?

It is very difficult for my right hon. Friend to control any statement made by any hon. Member of this House, but he, with myself, would prefer that an opportunity should be given to examine allegations such as this before publicity is given to them, because I would point out that the great majority of the men who are employed in the shipbuilding and ship repairing yards are doing their utmost to give production, as the results already show, and they are very discouraged as a result of such a statement as has appeared in the Press.

Is the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty aware, that the statement was made at a meeting of the large number of shipyard workers—about 1,000 were present—and that the man who made the statement in question offered to give evidence at an inquiry if one was held and declared that he was a participant in each of the incidents quoted? Does my hon. Friend consider that an inquiry without the presence of the man who made the charges is of any value or that such a sweeping denial as he has just made without hearing the evidence of the man is just or fair?

I would point out that the name of the informant of my hon. and gallant Friend is not yet known to the Admiralty. It has not been disclosed by my hon. and gallant Friend, and until yesterday there was no indication that his name would be disclosed. The only suggestion that has been made for him in any way to support the allegations made was that he should either meet myself or the Controller of the Admiralty, and I at once accepted and offered to meet the person, whose name has not been disclosed to the Admiralty.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the reason I gave him for not disclosing the name of the man at the time was that he might be interviewed privately so that he should not be victimised, and that I called attention to a similar case in which a man in another yard volunteered to give evidence of irregularities, but that after the inquiry was held he was victimised?

It is true that my hon. and gallant Friend did mention this matter to me yesterday, and I promised that I would make inquiries into it. I want to indicate to my hon. and gallant Friend and to the House that if there are allegations such as have been made by my hon. and gallant Friend in public and to which so much publicity has been given, and these allegations are first submitted to the Admiralty, the Admiralty will take every step to see that investigations are made and will deal with anyone who is alleged to do what is suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend in his Question.

On a point of Order. This Question has been on the Order Paper of this House for practically a fortnight, and why is it that only yesterday the Admiralty received any information or a request for information? I want to get the characters of thousands of men on the Clyde cleared of attacks made upon them over a fortnight ago.

It is high time that you spent some time in silencing these men who are too big in the mouth.

In view of the unsatisfactory answer of the Admiralty, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the question at an early opportunity.