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National War Effort

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 25 March 1943

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Women Agricultural Workers

2.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that, under recent directional orders, full-time women agricultural workers on the land have been directed to do part-time work with the National Fire Service and other bodies, in some cases three or four miles from the farm on which they work; and whether, in view of the importance of the fullest possible hours of labour being made use of on the farms, he will make some concession in these cases, so that the programme of farm work will not be unduly disturbed?

No complaints have been brought to my notice, but if my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any cases in which he considers that hardship has been caused through directions issued by my officers, I will have them investigated.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that food is an all-important munition of war, and will he issue some comprehensive instructions so that girls on outlying farms having to walk four or five miles should not be made to waste time which could be used for the production of food? It will be worse when the harvest is here.

I am afraid that I cannot do this job under comprehensive instructions. Man-power has got so tight that I have to deal with almost individual cases.

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that that is the reason I am rubbing it in?

Food Distributive Trades

3.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, before he decided on the latest call-up of persons employed in the distributive trades, he consulted with the Ministry of Food, employers and trade unions concerned, and satisfied himself and them that there would be a sufficient staff left in food shops to conduct the distribution of rationed and other commodities efficiently; and how many food shops he estimates will close as the result?

By agreement with my Noble Friend the Minister of Food and after consultation with representatives of the employers and workers concerned, arrangements have been made to regulate the withdrawal of men and women from the food distributive trades in such a way as not to impair an efficient service to the public or to cause the closing down of any business which is necessary for the proper distribution of food.

If I send the right hon. Gentleman one or two cases where employees and employers are feeling very desperate about this business, will he look into them?

Ordnance Factory Workers' Meeting

5.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he received any report regarding police interference at a workers' meeting of those employed at a certain ordnance factory; will he say from whom the report came, the nature of the meeting and the reasons of police activity; and whether the demand for an inquiry will be granted?

Did the right hon. Gentleman see the telegram I sent him about this matter?

Yes, Sir. The hon. Gentleman asked me whether I had received a report of the circumstances, but all I have received up to now is his telegram.

Disabled Persons (Training)

6.

asked the Minister of Labour how many disabled persons are being trained for industrial work and how many for the professions, respectively, under the Tomlinson Scheme?

The scheme recommended in the Tomlinson Committee Report is designed for the post-war problem, but interim measures are in operation to meet current needs. Under these measures approximately 1,250 disabled persons are now receiving training for industrial and commercial occupations, while about 25 persons are receiving training for the professions or are taking courses of higher education in accordance with a statement which is being circulated to-day.

Will my right hon. Friend see that the greatest publicity is given to this valuable Report?

Industrial Health Advisory Committee

7.

asked the Minister of Labour whether the Industrial Health Research Board is specifically represented on the newly formed Industrial Health Advisory Committee; how liaison will be maintained between these two bodies; whether the new committee is to be concerned with the industrial health research; and whether he is satisfied there will be no duplication of the functions of the two bodies and that there will be no need to alter again the recently revised terms of reference of the Industrial Health Research Board which include the carrying out of research into health and disease of industrial workers?

The Industrial Health Research Board is not specifically represented on my Committee. A number of members are common to both bodies and effective contact will be maintained through these members and through official channels. Duplication of functions will be avoided; the Board is a research body whereas my Committee will not conduct research and will advise me on technical and scientific problems arising out of the current administration of my Department. The terms of reference of my Committee were settled with due regard to the revised terms of reference of the Board and will not therefore occasion any alteration in the latter.

Would it not be useful to have a representative of each body on the other body so that the results of research of one committee are applied in the other?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the organisation is so arranged that immediately it ceases to be a thing that can be dealt with currently and needs long research it will be passed on. I think that is the better way of dealing with it.

8.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the dissatisfaction in the Women's World that women's representation is inadequate on his new Industrial Health Advisory Committee, he will take steps to balance his committee, particularly on the industrial, nursing, nutrition and canteen sides?

This is a Committee to advise me on technical and scientific matters and not to represent particular bodies or interests. It is, therefore, a question of personal qualifications and not of balancing the sexes. I am, however, considering the addition of one or two people with suitable qualifications who are women.

Does the answer imply that there are no technical women suitable to be put on the Committee?

Has my right hon. Friend elucidated the meaning of the words "Women's World" in the Question? Is it a new paper or a new hemisphere?

War Factories, London (Male Labour)

9.

asked the Minister of Labour whether there is any shortage of male labour in the munition and other war production factories in the Metropolitan area?

In the Metropolitan area, as in other parts of the county, there is a shortage of male labour of certain types required for munitions production, including skilled workers and men capable of heavy manual work.

Will my right hon. Friend approach the Home Secretary with a view to getting some of the police on traffic duty into some of these factories, or is that a reserved occupation?

Childless Married Women

10.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will make arrangements by which a childless married woman, whose husband lives at home, who has no domestic help but who has voluntarily taken on full-time work and finds later that she is unable to run her home and do her job, can appeal to the women's panel for redirection to part-time work?

No new arrangements are required. If such a woman works in an undertaking scheduled under the Essential Work Order she may apply to the National Service Officer for her release, and if dissatisfied with his decision she has a right of appeal to a local appeal board. In other cases she should consult the local office of the Ministry of Labour and National Service and ask for her position to be reviewed. In the event of disagreement her case would be referred for advice to a women's panel.

Employment Agencies (Naafi)

11.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, since the Control of Employment Order offers, as an alternative to application to a labour exchange, recourse to an employment agency approved by his Ministry, Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes is such an approved agency: whether it recruits only for its own needs; and how many employment agencies in all have been approved by his Department under the said Order?

My hon. and gallant Friend is no doubt referring to the approval of agencies for the purposes of the Employment of Women (Control of Engagement) Order. The answer to the first two parts of the Question is in the affirmative. With regard to the last part of the Question, 28 agencies have so far been approved.

Is not the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes a concern whose primary duty is to cater for the wants of the Services, and how does that fit in with its use as an employment agency?

Works Canteens

12.

asked the Minister of Labour why the Essential Work Order is applied to British Restaurants and not to essential works canteens?

As I have explained in reply to previous Questions, the proposal to schedule works canteens separately from the factory which they serve gives rise to difficulties which are at present under consideration. These difficulties do not apply to British Restaurants.

The right hon. Gentleman says that these difficulties have been under consideration for some time, and may I ask how much longer they are to be under consideration? Already a long time has elapsed.

That is quite true. On the other hand, we cannot amend the whole of our factory procedure in a moment, and I am averse to treating a canteen as if it were another part of a factory.

In view of the fact that it is the policy of the right hon. Gentleman's Department generally to accept a decision which has been come to by both employers and employed, as is the case here, may I ask why he does not accept the decision in this instance?

I can assure my hon. Friend that that is not the issue involved. It is a different issue entirely. The question is whether we should remove all obligations of the principal employer for the persons in the canteen. Up to now I have taken the view that the canteen is a part of the factory, and I have to look at the Canteen Order to see what changes must be made.

13.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that some British Restaurants, in addition to employing voluntary labour, are paying lower wages to their paid staff than the rates paid by industrial caterers to canteen workers at essential works under a National Joint Industrial Council agreement; and whether he will apply the terms of such an agreement to British Restaurants?

According to my information the rates of wages recommended for British Restaurants by the Joint Industrial Council for local authorities non-trading services (manual workers) are in general higher than those provided for in the agreement with industrial catering contractors, to which I assume my hon. Friend refers. I have no authority to impose this latter agreement on local authorities in respect of British Restaurants.

14.

asked the Minister of Labour under what authority factory inspectors enter works canteens, criticise the cooking and service, and express opinions on the desirability, or otherwise, of factory occupiers engaging industrial caterers under contract; and whether he will see that the factory inspectors called on to perform these duties have experience in catering?

I have wide powers under the Factories Act as well as under Defence Regulations to impose requirements on occupiers of particular factories for the welfare of the persons employed, including arrangements with regard to meals at canteens, and I am advised that factory inspectors have full powers to investigate such arrangements. It is not within their authority to advise that industrial caterers should, or should not, be employed. A fair judgment as to whether meals are well or badly cooked or served can be formed without experience of catering, but the inspectors are assisted by expert canteen advisers, who also give advice or make suggestions to factory occupiers and catering staffs.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the replies on all these three Questions, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on a subsequent occasion.

British Broadcasting Corporation (Staff)

15.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the world-wide importance of the service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, he will cease calling up men or women working at the British Broadcasting Corporation and call up all men and women working on the land who can be replaced by prisoners of war?

No. Sir. Adequate arrangements exist for the retention of essential staff by the British Broadcasting Corporation, and workers who can be spared from agriculture are called up.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the time has not come to call up a few more farmers to fight for England?

Is it not essential to leave on the land as many skilled agricultural workers as possible?

Could the right hon. Gentleman not replace them by Italian prisoners?

Does the right hon. Gentleman think the B.B.C. can really live by eating their own words?

16.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will return to the British Broadcasting Corporation Mr. Bruce Belfrage and Mr. Alvar Liddell, in view of the importance to the national war effort of their radio services?

Both these men are in the Forces, and my hon. and gallant Friend should address his request in the first instance to the Service Ministers concerned.

Discharged Employees (Appeals)

18.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that a man who has appealed against his discharge from his employment is frequently unemployed for some time owing to the delay in the hearing of his appeal and, in view of the waste of man-power involved, will he fix a maximum period of not more than seven days within which an appeal against discharge must be decided?

A man who appeals against his discharge need not necessarily remain unemployed pending the hearing of his appeal, and it is the policy of my Department to place him, wherever possible, in temporary employment meanwhile. The Department aims at securing a recommendation from a local appeal board within seven days, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that it is not always practicable to keep within rigid time-limits.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether a man who is directed to temporary employment must necessarily go outside his own area if he is appealing?

It all depends. If he goes outside the area, he is brought back when his appeal is heard. What I have to do is to place him where work can be done.

If a man is directed to temporary employment outside his area and appeals, when his appeal is heard are his expenses met?