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National War Effort

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 18 March 1943

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Nurses And Midwives (Welsh Representation On Council)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he has considered the communication from the Monmouthshire County Council asking for the appointment of a representative from Wales upon the National Advisory Council for the Distribution of Nurses and Midwives; and the nature of the reply sent to the Council?

I have this matter under consideration and have not yet replied to the Council.

Am I entitled to anticipate that there will be a representative from Wales on this Advisory Council and that the claims of Monmouthshire will not be neglected?

Worker's Appeal, Stoke (Reinstatement)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that W. Berks, 11, Parkhead Drive, Weston Coyney, Stoke-on-Trent, in May, 1942, won an appeal, and the firm was ordered to reinstate the man and pay his wages and expenses; why that has not been carried out; and what action is it intended to take to carry out the Appeal Court's decision and pay the £25 owing to Mr. Berks?

I am aware that Mr. Berks was not reinstated by his employers, but I was advised that any proceedings which I might institute for contravention of the Essential Work Order would be unlikely to succeed. I have no authority to institute such civil proceedings for recovery of any wages that may be due. It is open to Mr. Berks to institute such proceedings himself in the civil courts.

Can my right hon. Friend say what action is taken against employers who refuse to carry out a decision? Are they prosecuted like other people?

They are prosecuted and fined. In some cases I have de-scheduled their works, and other cases I have dealt with through my right hon. Friends who are responsible for production.

In a case where a workman has to take his employer before a court how can he afford to do that? This is something new from the Minister of Labour.

That is the law at present, and I cannot alter it, but most workmen have a union which would help them if they had to go to court.

Will my right hon. Friend look into this matter again, because several cases have been reported already, and it does appear unfair to a workman that when a decision has been given in his favour he has to go to court to have it implemented?

The case of the recovery of wages has always been a civil matter, and unions have always maintained that. The question of fining an employer is a matter for the court. This is a case of the recovery of wages.

Protected Establishments (Managerial Staffs, Calling-Up)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the dislocation that is caused by the calling-up of staff men under 30 years of age from protected establishments and of the pressure that is being applied to accelerate output; and will he, in future, give greater consideration to men who have been continuously engaged on the same work for more than seven years?

I assume that, in the first part of the Question, my hon. Friend is referring to men who are on the managerial staffs of the establishments which he has in mind. I am, of course, aware of the call for increased output but not of any dislocation caused by the calling up of the men in question who are under 30 years of age. With regard to the last part of the Question, while duration and continuity of a man's employment on the same work are taken into account in deciding whether his calling up should be deferred, the decision must rest mainly upon the importance of that work and the need for the man's retention for its continued performance.

Clydeside Rivetters


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the discontent, particularly among Clydeside rivetters, caused during recent wet weather, by the varying interpretations by employers of section 4, paragraph (d), subsection (11), of the Essential Work (Shipbuilding and Shiprepairing) Order; and whether, to assist union officials in their efforts to avoid friction and stoppages and to meet the discontent of the men, he will restate the obligations of the employers under this section and so place the subject beyond ambiguity?

There is an agreement between the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation and the trade unions concerned according to which questions arising in this connection should be settled by means of the ordinary industrial machinery. I am not aware that difficulties are occasioned owing to any ambiguous wording in the Order, but if my hon. Friend will let me know more precisely what he has in mind, I will consider the matter.

Transferred Workers (Post-War Employment)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that a worker compulsorily transferred from a civilian job to war work has no statutory right to reinstatement in his old job when the war ends; and whether he will take the necessary legislative steps to give those workers such a right?

This matter has been considered on a number of occasions, and the conclusion has been reached that it would not be practicable to make legislative provision on the lines suggested. I have no doubt that most employers will in any case wish to reinstate their former employees wherever this is practicable. In addition, it will be the aim of the Government to assist in ensuring that opportunities of suitable employment will be available for workers generally.

Old Age Pensioners


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give the figures of the number of old age pensioners who are working and of those who have taken up work since the war started?

I regret that the information asked for is not available. Certain information is contained in a reply I gave to the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) on 21st January, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy.

Marine Engineers (Wages)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the basic rate of pay of marine engineers is 11¾d. per hour, raised by various bonuses to 1s. 8 13/16d. per hour for a 47-hour week; that wages have been reduced by the loss of Sunday work and overtime; that negotiations on the men's demands for an increased wage have been going on since September; and whether he will use his powers to consolidate wages, doing away with the bonus system and to grant the men a larger increase than has so far been agreed to by their employers?

No, Sir. I cannot accept my hon. Friend's suggestion. The question whether there should be any modification of agreed rates of wages is a matter for negotiation between the two sides, through the recognised machinery of the industry.

Is the Minister not aware that these negotiations have been going on officially since 5th November? My union have asked the Minister of Labour to intervene. Will he use his influence to have this matter settled as early as possible?

It is not correct to say that my hon. Friend's union have asked me to intervene. What they have done is to ask my hon. Friend not to intervene.

Probably the Minister is right as regards the executive of my union, but members of my union all over the country are asking me to intervene.

Is it not the case that the Minister has continually encouraged trade unionists to pay a political levy so that they could get their trade union activity supplemented by Parliamentary activity? Will he not encourage such supplementary Parliamentary activity?

Yes, Sir, but I have also encouraged trade unionists to do politically things which it is wise to do politically and industrially things which are more properly done through industry.

I will raise this matter again on the Adjournment. I have been here for 20 years and a member of my union for many years.

Widowers (Domestic Help)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that widowers with families are being deprived of the services of their daughters for housekeeping even where the girls are only experienced in domestic work; that these girls have been told they must take work of national importance and that other girls, already engaged on munition work, will have to undertake household duties; and will he say what purpose is served by this action?

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to cases where a widower father has two daughters, one of whom acts as housekeeper, and the other is employed on munitions. In an area where immobile women are available as substitutes it is in the national interest for one or other of the daughters of the widower father to leave home and go to work which has to be done by a mobile woman and for any consequent vacancy in munitions to be filled by a woman who in no circumstances could be expected to leave the district. I am prepared to leave it to the family to decide which daughter shall leave home. The other who remains at home will probably be available for some employment locally. In other areas where the daughter on munitions could not be replaced by the services of an immobile woman, the housekeeping daughter is not sent away from home, even though, when considered solely from the point of view of exceptional hardship, postponement would not be justified.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that a considerable amount of hardship is being caused through daughters who have been working as housekeepers being called up for National Service, so that no-one has been left to look after the house?

I have dealt with a number of cases, but if my hon. Friend has others and will let me have them, I will look into them immediately.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that in the last few weeks I have sent him a number of cases on the same point? Last week I had a reply from him which had the effect of depriving a widower of any female help whatsoever.

Childless Married Women


asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the variations in practice among employment exchanges in different parts of the country, it is the policy of his Ministry to direct childless married women under 40 years of age, whose husbands live at home and who have no other domestic help, into full-time or part-time occupations?

The hours of full-time and part-time work vary very much with different occupations as do the arrangements made by employers for the convenience of their married women workers. Accordingly, each case has to be considered on its merits on the advice of independent women's panels who have knowledge of local conditions, of the work available, and the individual circumstances of the woman concerned. I have arranged for meetings of members of women's panels to be held in different areas at which common problems can be discussed, and have recently drawn their attention to the responsibilities of a married woman for running her home which must be taken into account in considering the work she should be asked to undertake.

Does that mean that where a woman has domestic responsibility, looking after her husband, and has no other domestic help she would be asked to do only part-time work and not engage in a full-time job?