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Volume 148: debated on Wednesday 9 November 1921

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Employment Exchanges


asked the Minister of Labour to state the number of Employment Exchanges which now exist in the county of London and in the Greater

Area.Number of Employment Exchanges (including Branch Offices).Number of Persons employed on 28th October, 1921.
County of London231,137
Greater London (including County of London).571,668

The actual cost of these offices for the first six months of the current financial year (April to September, 1921, inclusive) in respect of salaries, travelling and incidental expenses, is as follows:—

Exchanges in the County of London228,476
Exchanges in the Greater London area (including the County of London)329,489

These figures do not include any proportion of headquarter charges or of charges borne on the Votes of other Government Departments in respect of rent and maintenance of premises, printing and stationery, postal services, etc., nor has any deduction been made in respect of appropriations from the unemployment fund under the Unemployment Insurance Act in aid of expenditure.

The cost of the same Exchanges for the remaining six months of the present financial year depends upon the course of unemployment during the period; but so far as can be foreseen the expenditure during the second half of the year is likely to be about the same as in the first half.

The total number of unemployed persons registered during the year 1920 at Ex-changes in what is known as the London London area; what is the approximate cost of the same for this year; what is the total number of persons employed at these Exchanges; and can he state the number of unemployed persons dealt with at the same during last year?

As the answer is a long one, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The following is the answer:

The present number of Exchanges and the staff employed therein within (a) the County of London and (b) the Greater London area (including the County of London) is as follows:—

Division of the Employment and Insurance Department (a division which closely approximates in area to the combined area of the County of London and Greater London) was 1,075,264. This number included 17,260 casual workers and ignores second or subsequent applications by the same individual during the year. It will be realised that the first figure in no way indicates the volume of work represented, since a very substantial number of the 1,075,264 unemployed persons received unemployment benefit for lengthy periods during 1920 and regularly at Exchanges, in consequence, at least twice a week and in many cases daily.


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the great inconvenience caused to the unemployed by the closing of the sub-office at Tideswell; that Tideswell is the centre of a district in which there are many large factories and quarries; and that the nearest Exchange is at Bradwell, which is four miles away over very hilly country; and whether, under the exceptional circumstances, he can re-open the office at Tideswell, as unemployment is increasing, and in the, severe weather the roads are often impassable between Tideswell and Bradwell?

The arrangement previously in operation was that the branch manager at Bakewell attended twice or three times a week at a sub-office at Tideswell. This arrangement was discontinued on 17th September owing to the small number then claiming benefit at Tideswell; but on account of the increase in this number since that date it has been decided to restore the arrangement for the time being.


asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the fact that there are 23 counties in Great Britain in which there are no Employment Exchanges at all, and considering that these 23 counties are getting on quite well without Employment Exchanges, and that there is no reason why all other counties should not get on equally well without such Exchanges, he will take steps to have all Employment Exchanges done away with with the least possible delay; and what will he the saving, in establishments, salaries, and cost of buildings that would be effected by this reduction?

I cannot follow my hon. and gallant Friend in the deduction which he draws from the fact that in 23 counties there are no separate Employment Exchanges, though there are, I may inform him, Branch Offices. I have for a long time past now been reviewing with the greatest possible care the whole question of these establishments; and, indeed, shall have closed by the end of the present calendar year 185 Branch Offices. But how in the industrial areas the needs of the working population are to be met, and particularly the administration of the Unemployment Insurance benefit, without the Exchange system, I confess I do not understand.

Are we to understand that this great work of the present Secretary of State for the Colonies is being cut down by the right hon. Gentleman, his colleague?

If there is any difference as between the administration of unemployment benefit and the finding of employment for the unemployed, is it not a question as to whether those Exchanges can find employment and should they not be done away with?

I am afraid I cannot argue this at any length, although I should be very glad to do so. I am bound to make provision in the great industrial areas for the needs of these poor people, and, as I have already said at the end of my answer, how this is to be done without the Exchange system and the Insurance Act I do not understand.

State Grants


asked the Minister of Health if he proposes to publish at intervals, for the information of the taxpayers who will find the money, the exact use made, under legislation passed this Session, of the large sums voted for the relief of unemployment or the stimulation of trade?

I will consider how the suggestion of my hon. Friend can best be carried out.

Relief Works


asked the Prime Minister whether any, and, if so, what safeguards are insisted on to prevent private landlords from reaping the benefit of relief works such as roads, reclamation and drainage, parks and playgrounds, tramways, and railroads?

I have been asked to answer this question. Relief works are carried out by local authorities under their ordinary powers, and in the absence of express statutory authority, no provisions in regard to betterment can be enforced, but as the hon. and gallant Member is no doubt aware, there are special powers under which, in the case of roads, land may be acquired, where advantageous to the community, in excess of that needed for the actual site of the road. In some cases owners have not only given the land required for a road, but have also contributed to its cost. Land reclamation and drainage are matters within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Agriculture. As already stated, it is proposed to recover the greater part of the cost from the owners of the land affected.

Can the Lord St. Davids' Committee not give preference to these schemes that the right hon. Gentleman has outlined, and where the improvement in value will go to the local authority which has executed the work, rather to those where land has not been given by the landlord?

I think most of the cases that my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind will not come under the purview of the Lord St. Davids' Committee; so far as they do I have very little doubt that the case indicated will be borne in mind, and that public money will preferably be spent on schemes that mature for the benefit of the community rather than the ordinary individual.

Seeing the present plight of landlords, are not questions of this sort adding insult to injury?

Forth And Clyde Ship Canal


asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the proposal for a Forth and Clyde ship canal; whether he is aware that if the Government will sanction the scheme it will not involve the Treasury in any financial outlay at present, as there are firms who are prepared to finance the scheme until the completion of the work; and whether, in view of the necessity for opening up every possible avenue of employment and of the fact that the canal would be a profitable asset to the nation, he will consider the possibility of sanctioning the commencement of the scheme without delay?

I have been asked to reply to this question. As stated in my reply to the hon. Member for the Dunfermline Burghs on the 27th October, the proposal mentioned has been considered with reference to the question of unmployment, but the scheme is not one which can be undertaken by the Government at the present time. I am not aware that any firms are prepared to finance the scheme during construction, but even if such were the case, these firms would require to be fully recouped and the financial position of the Government would be practically the same as if it had borrowed the necessary money in ordinary course. With regard to the suggestion that such a canal would be profitable, I would refer my hon. Friend to my previous reply.

Forest Of Dean


asked the Minister of Agriculture if his attention has been called to the request of the Gloucestershire County Council and to a similar request from the East Dean Rural District Council that his Department should receive a deputation from these bodies to explain the local circumstances affecting the proposals to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for unemployment relief work; and whether, having regard to the unusual conditions connected with the Forest of Dean, he will arrange to receive such a deputation?

The answer to both parts of the question is in the affirmative, and I will communicate with the hon. Member as to the date on which I can receive the deputation.

Milk Distributive Trade Board (Scotland)


asked the Minister of Labour whether at a meeting in July last the Milk Distributive Trade Board (Scotland), representative of employers, workers, and appointed members, unanimously agreed to certain wage rates; whether on 5th October the Ministry of Labour refused to confirm the raters on the ground that, if passed, they would reduce the number of persons employed and increase the cost of milk to the consumer; and whether, having regard to the fact that these rates were fixed by people having intimate knowledge of the trade and anxious to promote its prosperity, he can state the reason for this decision?

The facts are as stated in the first two parts of the question; with regard to the third part, I received representations that the rates, if confirmed, would cause unemployment and increase the price of milk, and I felt that in the faoe of these representations I should not be justified in confirming the rates until I had had the considered views of the Board on these two points.

Is it not the case that the right hon. Gentleman has had a considered reply from the Board, which fully investigated this matter and which was thoroughly representative of both sides of the trade? What is to become of the system if such a decision is not given effect to?

As my hon. Friend knows, the whole system is considered by a Committee, and I shall be glad to get the services of Lord Cave as its Chairman, but while the serious matter of unemployment is before us it is necessary to put that back.