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Unemployment

Volume 245: debated on Thursday 20 November 1930

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Women

1.

asked the Minister of Labour if she will state the estimated number of women who have been given direct employment by emergency schemes initiated by the present Government?

I would refer the right hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Lanark North (Miss Lee) on 6th November.

Is it quite clear that the claim is made by the Government that women obtained direct employment as a result of schemes initiated by them?

Has anything come of the Committee that was to look into the question of finding employment and training for women over 33?

Employment Exchanges (Accommodation)

2.

asked the Minister of Labour what progress has been made to provide new premises for the Jarrow and Hebburn Employment Exchange?

The site which the Department had in view for the Hebburn and Jarrow Employment Exchange at the beginning of the year proved, upon examination, to be unsatisfactory. Further search is being made and will be continued until a suitable site has been obtained.

11.

asked the Minister of Labour if she is aware of the lack of proper Employment Exchange accommodation at Eston and Marske; and if she will take the necessary steps in order to provide better facilities for those who are unemployed and reside in those districts, and who have to sign the unemployed register from time to time?

I have already explained to my hon. Friend in letters written to him in Au mist, why the circumstances at Eston and Marske do not justify the opening of separate offices. There has been no change in the situation since that time.

Is the Minister not aware that when the unemployment figures in these districts were less than now, better accommodation was provided?

Domestic Service

6.

asked the Minister of Labour if her Department has made any estimates of the vacancies available in private service for domestic servants, and if she will give the number?

Has the Minister considered the enormous number of applications there have been for private domestic servants, and is she going to do something in order to find out how many are required and to arrange for a supply?

The Employment Exchanges are taking up this work very energetically. It is understood, of course, among domestic servants that the great majority of places are places for trained women. We have no means at present of knowing the number of vacancies.

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether she can say how many women have actually been placed in the last year in domestic service through Employment Exchanges; and if she can show cooks and kitchen-maids separately?

Between 23rd September, 1929, and 6th October, 1930, 81,064 vacancies for women in domestic service were filled by Employment Exchanges in Great Britain. Of these, 38,082 were in resident domestic service and 42,982 in non-resident service. Separate figures for cooks and kitchen-maids are not available.

30.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the number of foreign girls who have been permitted to enter this country and take up domestic situations; and what is the number of women of British nationality qualified for domestic service who are in receipt of unemployment benefit?

As regards the first part of the question the number of permits issued this year up to 31st October was 4,475. I have no statistics enabling me to answer the second part of the question.

Are the same steps taken with regard to girls coming over here, as with regard to the waiters referred to in a previous question, in order that they may be more or less kept out of the country?

We make the most careful investigation as to whether the mistresses requiring this foreign labour would be satisfied with English labour.

Is consideration given to the number of women in this country eligible for domestic service who are being paid the dole; and will the right hon. Lady take steps to keep out as many as possible of these foreign girls?

Is it not the case that if girls do take employment in domestic service they immediately transfer themselves out of insurable employment?

Is it not the ease that domestic service is not an insurable occupation and therefore that the last question of the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall) does not arise; and does not the right hon. Lady agree that women corning under the unemployment insurance scheme must not be shoved out into domestic service, whether they are British or not?

In cases where these girls enter into service, does any supervision of any kind follow them, as to the conditions of service under which they work?

I believe that in the case of Finnish, Swedish, and Danish Girls there are associations in London which take that matter into account.

Transitional Benefit

9.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the liability in the present financial year of the Treasury for the payment of benefit under the transitional benefit arrangements, and what is the present weekly increase in liability?

It is estimated that the cost of transitional benefit, including administration, during the financial year 1930–1931 will be £22,000,000. The weekly increase in liability is at present about £4,000.

I require notice of that question. Broadly speaking, it is between 400,000 and 450,000.

Waiters

10.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the grave state of unemployment and of the number of foreign waiters employed by the large hotels and restaurants in this country, she will consider starting training centres for men of British nationality to become waiters so as to provide entirely British staffs for large restaurants?

In addition to the training afforded in the catering industry itself, the London County Council conduct a school for waiters and there are some other establishments of a similar kind. My Department have arranged specially with the London County Council school for the training of a number of men and the possibility of some further extension of the training of waiters or other catering trade workers is under consideration. As regards the possibility of displacing foreign waiters, it is important to bear in mind that they have for the most part been resident here for many years. New entrants are not admitted to this country except under strict limitations both as to number and period of stay which fully safeguard the position of persons already resident here. Those who are admitted, with very few exceptions, come in either under Agreements for Exchange, or for the admission of student employés for a period not exceeding 12 months.

20.

asked the Minister of Labour how many foreign waiters are in employment in this country; and how many British waiters are out of employment here?

I regret that I have no information as to the number of foreign waiters employed in this country. At 27th October, 1930, there were on the registers of Employment Exchanges in Great Britain 8,571 applicants of all nationalities classified as waiters. Separate figures for waiters of British nationality are not available. This figure includes barmen, canteen workers and restaurant counter hands.

Does the Minister not have to grant permission to foreign waiters to come here, and how is it that she has not the information asked for?

On a previous question I replied to that point. We do not, as a matter of fact, admit foreigners just now, but, as I have said, a large number of foreigners have been in this country for many years, and they do not come under my Department.

Will the Minister take steps to see that a census is taken next spring of foreign waiters?

Insurance Fund

12.

asked the Minister of Labour whether the figures given by her Department of the weekly amount by which the outgoings of the Unemployment Fund exceed the revenue do, in fact, include proper allowance for interest on the loan; whether the interest is being paid or added to the debt of the fund; and what the weekly deficit of the fund is, allowing for the proper proportion of interest on the debt?

If the hon. arid gallant Member will refer to my reply to him of 6th November, he will see that I stated explicitly that the figure of £606,000 was exclusive of a half-yearly payment of interest on 30th September amounting to £1,066,625. This interest averaged £40,000 a week over the 26 weeks in the half year.

Am I to take it that the figure given by the Minister's Department is inaccurate, and that the interest in added to the debt?

The hon. and gallant Member is mistaken. I said it was as stated in my reply to his question.

Because I understood the hon. and gallant Member to use the word "exclusive." If he had used the word "inclusive," I would have replied.

Government Relief Schemes

17.

asked the Minister of Labour if she will state the average length of time during which the 72,000 persons directly employed under schemes promoted by the Government will continue in such employment?

I am afraid that owing to the variation in the duration of the schemes, no such calculation is possible.

Roads And Bridges Schemes

19.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons included in the estimates of persons employed under schemes initiated by the present Government who are engaged on works of improvement and new construction on classified roads and bridges?

I would refer the right hon. Member to the reply given yesterday to the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Shakespeare).

Do I understand that the Government are claiming with respect to persons who have been put on road work? Is that supposed to have been initiated by the present Government?

Devon

22.

asked the Minister of Labour if she will, as an experiment, place such sums as would be involved, assuming the present payments of unemployment pay continue for six months, at the disposal of the local authorities in Devon and enable those authorities to execute needful work instead of, as now, making payments with no resultant work being done?

Cannot the Minister take the necessary powers? They would be very valuable.

Special legislation of a very fundamental character would be required.

Transferred Workers

23.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps are being taken in connection with transferred workers to ascertain that they continue to be employed as the result of their transference?

Workpeople are transferred only if there is employment for them. If that employment comes to an end, they are advised to call at the Employment Exchange and, so far as is practicable, they are assisted to find other employment.

Insured Persons (Birth Certificates)

24.

asked the Minister of Labour whether she is aware that managers of Employment Exchanges are in the habit of demanding birth certificates from insured persons; if she vii say who meets the expense; and whether more than one certificate is demanded?

The Department do not insist on production of evidence of age unless this is necessary in connection with a claim to benefit or some point of doubt with regard to contributions; but as such evidence when once supplied is noted in the records and is not normally required again from the insured person, it is obviously convenient and it should be given on entry into insurance or other early date, thus avoiding the possibility of delay in dealing with a claim made by him later on. It is, therefore, the practice to ask for a birth certificate on entry into insurance. The other occasion on which a birth certificate is commonly asked for is when the claimant is apparently approaching the age of 65 and has not previously supplied evidence of age. The cost of a birth certificate for this purpose is 6d., and is borne by the insured persons.

Cannot the right hon. Lady take steps to see that where the applicant is a poor person the cost is borne by the Employment Exchange?

I very much doubt whether I can do anything in that matter. It is a matter which affects not only my own Department, but other insurance as well.

Dock Labourers, Liverpool

25.

asked the Minister of Labour whether she is aware of the inconvenience caused to dock labourers at the Liverpool docks having to report morning and afternoon each working day, when unemployed, at the various clearing houses; that many of the men, particularly those from the new housing areas (the omnibus fare from which is 3d.), have to remain in the vicinity of the docks (after being unable to obtain work on the 8 a.m. stand, and knowing there is no prospect of work at 1 p.m.) for no other reason than to report their unemployment in the afternoon; and whether she will make regulations to make it sufficient for an unemployed docker to report after the 8 a.m. stand only?

Inquiries show that engagements do in fact take place at both the morning and the afternoon calls and, in order to secure employment, it is necessary for these men to attend at one or other of the call places on both occasions; therefore, there is no special inconvenience in their having to attend a clearing house to sign the unemployed register if not engaged. Under the present system, therefore, my hon. Friend's suggestion cannot be adopted.

Is it not a fact that these conditions do not only apply to Liverpool, but to every other port; and is the right hon. Lady aware of the fact that shipyard workers, whose employment is equally casual, have only to sign on twice a week, instead of twice a day?

Is the right hon. Lady aware that these conditions exist in Salford docks with the same general resentment?

I am aware that this is a general condition at the docks, but, as long as this system obtains, I cannot see a better method for signing on. The clearing house is the most convenient for this purpose.

Would the right hon. Lady's Department not, object if any change in this direction were proposed? If the unions arrange a different system so as to reduce the number of visits, would the right hon. Lady be opposed to that change?

Scotland

26.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of per- sons registered as unemployed in. Scot land on 1st June, 1929, and at the latest available date?

At 10th November, 1930, there were 290,897 persons on the registers of Employment Exchanges in Scotland as compared with 144,243 at 3rd June, 1929.

27.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of men directly employed on unemployment relief schemes in Scotland at the latest available date?

The number of men directly employed in Scotland on 26th September on schemes assisted by the Unemployment Grants Committee, Ministry of Transport and Department of Agriculture for Scotland was 9,502.

Does that answer indicate that the Government's relict schemes have only been capable of absorbing a very small proportion of the increased number of unemployed in Scotland?

29.

asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the complaints made by employers in Glasgow regarding their difficulty in engaging workers through the Employment Exchanges, whether she intends to take any steps to assist employers to get labour through the Exchanges?

I am not aware that employers in Glasgow have had any difficulty in obtaining labour through the Employment Exchanges except in the case of certain classes of skilled work-people of whom there is a known shortage. I should be glad to have any particulars which the hon. Member can give me.

Will the right hon. Lady look into a case, if I supply her with the name of a firm at Maryhill, Glasgow, who have been advertising and who put a letter in the "Glasgow Herald" on 11th November, but who cannot get labour, although they are appealing for unskilled labour—

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the complaint in Glasgow is on the part of the workers, that they cannot get, jobs, either from the employers or the Employment. Exchanges?

I shall most certainly go into the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train), and I shall be glad to have particulars of it.

The "Glasgow Herald" letter was unsigned—no name attached. It was anonymous, like all these other complaints. They had not the courage to sign it.

On a point of Order. Is an hon. Member entitled to quote from an anonymous letter which is a slander against working-class people in the City of Glasgow?

If the question is put in that way, the hon. Member who puts it is responsible.

United States

31.

asked the Minister of Labour whether she has any information as to the present extent of unemployment in the United States of America and as to the measures which are being taken there to cope with it?

The exact extent of unemployment at the present time in the United States of America is not known, since there are no official statistics showing the numbers unemployed; but there can be no doubt that there is a large amount of unemployment in that country. The official index of employment in manufacturing industries was 79.7 for September, 1930, as compared with 100, the average index for the year 1926. The American Federation of Labour reported that according to returns received from trade unions in a number of cities, 21 per cent. of the membership were unemployed at the beginning of October, 1930. I understand that an Emergency Committee for Employment was set up by the President last month to organise, in co-operation with State and local authorities and charity organisations, measures for the relief of the needy unemployed, and that schemes of public works are in hand or in contemplation.

In view of the fact that one Member on the Treasury Bench has taken a figure of 5,000,000 unemployed in America, and another has reported it to be 10,000,000, would it not be advisable to secure some information as to whether it is 5,000,000 or 10,000,000?

Royal Commission

46.

asked the Prime Minister if he has any statement to make with reference to the proposed Royal Commission of Inquiry into Unemployment Insurance; and, if so, whether he can state the terms of reference, together with the proposed membership and the date on which it is proposed it shall commence its labours?

50.

asked the Prime Minister when he proposes to make a further announcement concerning the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance?

I have been asked to answer this question. It is not yet possible to add anything to the reply which the Prime Minister gave to the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) on the 6th November.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when we shall be able to have that reply?

I cannot say that definitely, but I know that fairly rapid progress is being made in setting up the membership of the Commission, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that it always takes a considerable amount of time.

If I repeat the question this day week, will the right hon. Gentleman be able to give me an answer?

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider putting a woman on this Commission?