I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether it is his intention to send out forms to employers in certain trades calling for a return of the number employed, conditions of labour, wages, etc.; if so, in order to make the return more complete, will he consider the desirability of sending out forms bearing distinctive numbers only, retaining in his office a complete register of firms called upon to make a return, with the number attached in case of reference, with a view to removing the objections on the part of many employers to make the return; and will he consider the desirability of following a similar course when collecting returns under the Census of Production Act.
With regard to the information which is being collected respecting earnings, I am glad to be able to inform my hon. friend that a large proportion of the employers who have been asked to send returns to the Board of Trade have already done so. The employers were all informed that the identity of individual returns would not be disclosed in any way. In making second application to firms which have not as yet supplied returns, the Department is giving them the option of making use of a reference number instead of stating their names and addresses. The Census of Production Act requires the signature of the person filling up the form, but the names will be detached from the forms when received in the Board of Trade so that they will only be known to the officer receiving the returns.
Will my right hon. friend explain how he proposes to treat the considerable proportion of firms who do not return their wages? How will those firms be treated in working an average of the whole sum paid for wages?
I think we have sufficient information already. It gives a very good idea of the wages paid in all the leading districts and industrial centres in this country. In fact we have returns already which cover over 3,000,000 of workmen, whereas in returns twenty years ago they only covered about 1,500,000.
I am sorry to trouble my right hon. friend again. Is it not true that the firms who do not return information are the worst employers and pay the lowest wages?
[No Answer was returned.]