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Unemployment

Volume 345: debated on Thursday 30 March 1939

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France, Germany And Italy

1.

asked the Minister of Labour the latest information in his possession as to what extent unemployment at present obtains among the workers in France, Germany and Italy?

In France, the number of persons registered at employment exchanges as applicants for work at 18th March, 1939, was 443,061. In Germany, the latest official statistics relate to the end of February, 1939, when the number of persons reported by the employment exchanges as unemployed in Greater Germany (including Austria and the incorporated Sudeten areas) was 455,621. Both as regards France and Germany the figures given are not strictly comparable with those for this country, as they are compiled on a different basis. No statistics are published relating to the numbers unemployed in Italy.

Are not such figures published in the Ministry of Labour Gazette?

We do give figures, but I would not like to say on what basis they have been compiled.

Is it not a fact that Italy is sending a very large number of men into Germany to help carry on agriculture?

Special Areas

2.

asked the Minister of Labour what complaints he has received from manufacturers wishing to establish businesses in Special Areas that the terms of assistance under the Special Areas Reconstruction Act are less favourable than those generally obtainable from commercial banks?

Does the Minister consider that this experiment has been prolific or barren, and does he claim that these conclusions could not have been obtained through ordinary means?

There is no doubt that the experiment has been a great success, so much so that there is not much left in the fund.

I could not give an answer on that subject in reply to a supplementary question.

Is it not a fact that industries in other areas are complaining of the competition from the Special Areas?

I could not go as far as that. I have seen complaints from individual industries.

Assistance Board Area Office, York

3.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that two subordinate officers employed in the area office of the Unemployment Assistance Board at York have been compulsorily transferred as a result of reports rendered by them to their official superiors relating to alleged irregular acts on the part of the officer immediately in charge of the York area; that the staff organisation representing these two men have produced evidence to the headquarters of the board in support of the charges made; and that the officer in charge of the area office has conveyed to members of his staff an expression of his displeasure that they should belong to their recognised staff association; and whether he will consult with the chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board with a view to his reconsidering his refusal to receive a deputation from the recognised staff association in respect of these matters?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the third part, the board are satisfied with the manner in which the officer in charge has conducted the York area office and that he has not discouraged members of his staff from exercising their rights as civil servants to belong to a staff association. As regards the second and fourth parts of the question, the whole circumstances of the case were made the subject of a special inquiry at the headquarters of the board in the course of which the two officers in question, assisted by representatives of their staff association, were given the fullest opportunity of submitting their representations. The chairman of the board, with whom I have been in consultation in the matter, informs me that he sees no grounds for reconsidering his refusal to receive a deputation on a matter which has already been the subject of careful and detailed investigation.

Liverpool

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any evidence to show that unemployed persons from other places go to Liverpool for the express purpose of seeking employment in that city; whether such persons have been employed to the disadvantage of Liverpool unemployed persons and ratepayers in general; and whether he will instruct managers of Employment Exchanges in Liverpool, when sending persons to employers of labour to fill vacancies, to send only those unemployed applicants who, other things being equal, have a reasonable period of residence in Liverpool?

I have no such evidence as that which is referred to in the first part of the question. As regards the last part of the question, the Employment Exchanges give a preference to local unemployed, but it is not the practice to have regard to the period of residence of applicants, except where a stipulation in this respect is made by the employer.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the last part of the question and give an answer; and in regard to the first part of his reply, may I ask if I am to understand by that, that very few of these people are taken on in Liverpool and other Merseyside places?

It has always been the practice of the exchanges to place local persons, if they are suitable for the jobs concerned. The last part of my answer referred to the regulations made by the Corporation of Liverpool.

Unregistered Persons

8.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he can give an accurate or approximate total figure of the unemployed who are not registered at the Employment Exchanges, and who have to be added to give the total number of the unemployed?

No, Sir; but I have no reason to suppose that the number is at all considerable.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the statements alleging that there are hundreds and thousands of such unregistered unemployed men and is he able to supply me with the facts with which to refute such statements?

It is the general practice of public assistance authorities to require able-bodied unemployed persons who apply for relief to register at the Employment Exchanges as applicants for work. The suggestion underlying the question of my hon. Friend is that those who apply do not register, but that is not so. In January, 1939, the latest date for which I have figures, the number of persons ordinarily engaged in some industrial occupation, who applied for relief, and who were not registered as unemployed, was under 4,000.

Is the Minister not aware that a large number of people who are refused benefit under the means test refuse to sign the register at the Employment Exchange?

Do not public assistance authorities say that large numbers of people on their funds are without registration?

I do not agree that that is so. They may say that there are numbers of people on relief who are not under the Unemployment Assistance Board, but that is an entirely different matter. I am pointing out to the House that it is a complete misapprehension to think that those who get public assistance are not registered at the exchanges; they are almost entirely so, except for 4,000, at the latest date.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number are on relief in Glasgow?

Transference (Juveniles)

11.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of young persons under the age of 16 years who have been transferred from the provinces to the metropolitan districts of London for various kinds of employment during the two years ended the last convenient date under the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1934; and how many of these persons are in their original employment or have returned to their homes?

During the two years ended December, 1938, 1,8oo boys and 776 girls, under 16 years of age, were transferred from areas scheduled under the Juvenile Transference Scheme to employment in the Metropolitan area. I regret I cannot say how many of those are in their original employment or have returned home.

Can we be assured that special care is given to these juveniles when they are sent to London?

Yes, Sir; there is a most elaborate system of after-care, and in some cases hostels have been arranged for in areas where it is not easy to get suitable lodgings.

Are they given the opportunity of returning home if they become unemployed again?

That has often been stated. I could not give an answer except by making a speech which would last at least 10 minutes.

Trading Sites (Underlying Coal)

13.

asked the Minister of Labour the amount of coal that has been purchased by the Sites Company under the Pallions and St. Helens trading sites, respectively, and the price paid per ton; and whether the coal can be worked by the coal owners and the Sites Company left without any right of support?

The mineral rights under the site at Pallion are reserved to the owners, but the Commissioner for the Special Areas is advised that, even though working the coal should be resumed, it would not involve any serious risk to buildings. The Commissioner owns the coal under the site at St. Helen Auckland, and arrangements have been made with the lessees to secure support for the surface. It would be contrary to general practice to disclose the financial details of such arrangements.

With regard to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's answer may I ask whether he is satisfied that the coal measures in this case are of such a nature that, if they were worked, it would have little or no effect as regards subsidence?

Benefit Claim, Holloway

14.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that when a claimant to benefit, Mr. W. Bailey, of 33, Frederick Street, N.7, appeared before the Court of Referees at Holloway on 21st February, the chairman of the court refused to allow a friend whom he had brought to be present during the proceedings, and later, told the claimant that he should not bring his girl friend next time; and, as it is undesirable for a chairman to advise a claimant as to whom he shall bring with him in the capacity of friend or to use expressions of this character which had nothing to do with the matter in hand, will he have inquiry made into the matter?

I am having inquiry made into this matter, and will write to the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Is the Minister aware that the person taken was not a personal or intimate friend of the kind implied; that an unemployed man is entitled to have anyone he pleases to assist him at a Court of Referees; and that there is far too much of this sort of impertinence at the expense of unemployed people?

With regard to the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, the answer is "Yes" My preliminary inquiries lead me to believe that the statement complained of was made more as a joke than anything else.