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National War Effort

Volume 393: debated on Thursday 4 November 1943

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Ex-Service Men And Women

1.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps are being taken, through employment exchanges or otherwise, to ensure that preference in employment shall be given to those who have served in the Forces?

At a time when all available workers can readily be placed in employment if they are fit for it, no question of according a preference to any particular class arises. In the case of disabled ex-Service men, special measures are taken in appropriate cases, under the interim scheme for the training and resettlement of disabled persons.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that Reply, might I ask whether he appreciates the anxiety of men and women in the Forces with regard to their future?

I appreciate their anxiety, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and I have elaborated the best scheme we can to deal with the problem.

Reinstated Employee, Leigh (Wages)

2.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that A. Parr, 14, Eyet Street, Leigh, a mineworker, employed at Bedford Colliery, Leigh, was discharged on 25th September; that he appealed to the tribunal, won, and was directed back to his employment; that owing to the time of the appeal and resumption of work he lost seven days' wages, and the employers refuse to pay this to him, as they claim it does not come within the Essential Work Order; and will he have inquiries made?

This workman was discharged with the permission of the National Service officer. In such a case the Essential Work Order does not make the employer liable for back pay if he is subsequently directed to reinstate the workman. I regret that I cannot see my way to impose this obligation on the employer in such circumstances.

Might I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the position where an employer wants to get rid of a workman and the workman objects? Even although the National Service officer says that he can be discharged, would it not be better to keep the man in employment until the issue of the tribunal's findings, thus saving labour? Payment could then be made to the man if he won the case.

If the National Service officer has given his decision that the man may be discharged, that is an act of a State official, and I cannot hold the employer responsible if subsequently the man is reinstated. It is only where the National Service officer has given a decision and the man is subsequently reinstated that the question arises.

Why not keep the man at work until the tribunal issues its findings? It is not a matter of misconduct.

I am sorry, but the case cannot arise until the National Service officer has given his decision. The man is at work until then. I cannot hold the employer responsible after the officer has given his decision.

Directed Women Workers

3.

asked the Minister of Labour why Miss Elizabeth McDonald, 404, Mathieson Street, Glasgow, was transferred to Wolverhampton on 1st September, where, for three days the firm could find no employment for her, afterwards she was told she could bring her own knitting or write letters; that the National Service officer refused her an interview without an appointment; that for three days employment she received the sum of £1 5s. 9d., less cost of lodgings; that her total wage for a full week was £2 11s. 6d., from which she had to pay tax of about 13s. and omnibus fares of 5s.; and whether he will see that girls are not transferred from Glasgow to places where there is no work?

Miss McDonald was one of too women transferred from a factory in Scotland to a firm in Wolverhampton during the first week of September. There was some temporary difficulty at the factory over the settling in of the large number of new workers who arrived during that week. A group of six workers, of which Miss McDonald was one, were told that the job for which they were actually wanted was not quite ready, and that they would be given other work for the time being. My inquiries do not support the statement that Miss McDonald was told to bring her own knitting or that she could write letters. Trained workers in this factory are fully employed and work long hours, and I am informed that the other women who were transferred at the same time as Miss McDonald are now settled in their new jobs. For the week ending 5th September Miss McDonald received £1 5s. 7d. for 21 hours attendance. During the next week she received £2 12s. 6d. for 45¾ hours' attendance. I have no information about Income Tax payments which she may have had to meet. No tax deductions were made by the firm from her pay packets. During the first week the daily cost of a workman's return ticket from her billet to the factory was 2d. She was subsequently billeted further away, and the return daily fare was 5d. There is no record at the exchange of Miss McDonald having been told that she must make an appointment before she could see the National Service officer, but I cannot see anything unreasonable in this.

Cannot my hon. Friend see that when girls are transferred such long distances from their homes they are not told when they get there that, for some technical reason, work is not to be found for them?

We do that when we can, but my hon. Friend, who has long industrial experience, will understand the difficulty. I am bound to admit that things are not absolutely perfect in all cases, but we do our best when such cases arise.

8.

asked the Minister of Labour how many of the women, 46 to 50 years of age, recently registered have been directed to war work; and whether; he will state its nature?

No directions have so far been issued to women of these age classes as a result of their registration, but hon. Members may be interested to know that since the registrations were announced over 10,000 women in these age classes, not already in industry, have entered full-time paid employment. The numbers who have entered part-time employment are not yet known.

Conditions Of Employment And National Arbitration Order

4.

asked the Minister of Labour whether the expression "trade dispute" in the Conditions of Employment and National Arbitration Order, 1940, covers both the case of a workman, employed under the Essential Work (General Provisions) Order, 1942, and whose contract of service has been lawfully terminated by his employers with the consent of the National Service officer and the local appeal tribunal, and the case of an employer desiring to retain a workman whom the National Service officer and local appeal tribunal have permitted to change his employment, or whether he will amend the Orders and place both employer and workman on an equal footing as regards appeals to the Ministry?

In cases of the kind mentioned in the Question an equal right is given to the employer and to the workman to bring the matter before a local appeal board. The question whether a trade dispute could subsequently be held to exist on account of dissatisfaction with the decision must depend on the precise circumstances, and I could not attempt to give any general answer; but I can say emphatically that I should be very sorry if either side attempted to carry the matter further by converting it into a trade dispute, instead of loyally accepting the decision.

Disabled Ex-Service Men (Training Facilities)

5.

asked the Minister of Labour how many training centres for disabled ex-service men now exist; and the total number of men who can undergo training at one time?

Separate training centres are not at present provided for disabled ex-Service men, but facilities for them are provided in 18 Government training centres, supplemented by three residential centres run by voluntary organisations with financial assistance from my Department, and by 57 technical colleges. There are 771 disabled ex-Service men at present in training, and additional training places are available for such men, so far as these may be needed.

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider the facilities for training these men sufficient, considering the large number of casualties we may have?

We have made provision for expansion, but I am against separate disablement training centres, except for special cases. I think that it is preferable to train disabled men with able-bodied workmen, rather than to isolate them.

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that he has given sufficient encouragement to manufacturers to train these men themselves?

I should be grateful if manufacturers would come forward in their hundreds to help me in this way.

Are these men being trained alongside of able-bodied men, or separately?

It depends on the particular case. In the main, they are being trained alongside able-bodied men or in separate parts of the same training centres, the idea being to associate them with able-bodied men, to make them forget their own condition. We regard this as the best way.

Transferred Workers (Fares And Settling-In Grants)

7.

asked the Minister of Labour what powers he has to pay initial fares and settling-in grants to workers transferred to undertake clerical duties in Government industrial establishments; and why such grants have been refused in certain cases of persons transferred to certain Royal Ordnance Factories of which he has been informed.

Fares to the job, with travelling allowances and settling-in grants, are payable to workers transferred by my Department to undertake clerical duties in Government establishments beyond daily travelling distance from their homes, under the same conditions as apply to transferred industrial workers. My Department has no knowledge of any eligible workers at the establishments of which he has notified me being refused these allowances, but if my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any individual workers he has in mind I will have their cases examined, and will communicate with him later.

Young People (Hours Of Work)

9.

asked the Minister of Labour how far the recommendation that the working hours of young people of 14 and 15 years of age should be reduced to a 44-hour maximum per week and those of 16 and 17 years of age to 48 hours has been implemented; what evidence he has of excessive hours of work still continuing among young people; and what further steps have been taken to prevent this?

I presume my hon. Friend refers to the decision announced in the White Paper on Youth Registration to review, in consultation with representative organisations of employers and workers, all cases of war-time relaxations of hours of employment, with the object indicated in the Question. A sub-committee of the Joint Consultative Committee, on which employers and workers are represented, has been set up to review the general question of authorising hours in excess of those normally permissible. In the meantime hours have been reduced at some works, and if I were to receive evidence of injury to health due to excessive hours at a particular factory, I should not hesitate to take the matter up with the firm concerned.

Has the right hon. Gentleman had many such intimations of excessive hours of work?

Sentence Of Imprisonment, Trafford Park

10.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that Marion West, age 26, of 58, Old Hall Street, Kearsley, Manchester, employed on work of national importance with a Trafford Park firm of steel manufacturers, was recently sentenced to prison for three months without the option of a fine for failing to comply with a direction of the National Service officer to return to work in a textile mill; what qualifications Dr. Smith, who examined her for the Ministry, possesses to decide whether her eyes were affected by six years' employment in that trade; whether his Department presses magistrates to send offenders of this kind to prison without the option of a fine on their first appearance in court; and whether the Trafford Park firm will be prosecuted?

I am having inquiries made about the particular case referred to and will write to my hon. Friend. I can say at once, however, that the answer to the third part of the Question is "No!".

Has the right hon. Gentleman ever thought of the distress he is causing in the homes of these poor people by prosecuting them and sending them to prison in this fashion?

Single Woman (London Restaurant Band)

12.

asked the Minister of Labour why the 25-year old single woman he has been notified of is permitted to work in a London restaurant band?

Having regard to the provisions of the Control of Engagement Order, I am having further inquiries made into the circumstances of the recent employment of this young woman in a London restaurant band, and I will write to my hon. Friend in due course.

In the fifth year of total war, is it right that young people should be used in this fashion when middle-aged women are being called from their homes and directed to work on munitions?

Insurance Brokers' Employee, Amersham (Release)

13.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has concluded his inquiries into the case of Miss Hedgcock, a 20-year old employee of a firm of insurance brokers at Amersham who, for six months, has endeavoured to secure her release so that she may take up nursing or join the Forces; and what is the reason for her continued deferment in employment where the maximum number of hours never exceeds 36 per week and where the employees are free each weekend from 5 p.m. on Fridays until 11 a.m. on Mondays?

As I have informed my hon. Friend, my information is that Miss Hedgcock has at no time applied to my Department for her release and that her short working hours are due to a special arrangement made by the firm to enable her to go home at each week-end.

Does it not indicate that there is something radically wrong when a young woman who wants to be a nurse is prevented from becoming one, and yet you are calling on women of 65 years of age to take up nursing?

Unregistered Dock Workers

16.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has had his attention drawn to delays in the discharge of ships due to area board managers of port registration committees being unable to employ dockers who, though available and full members of their union, are not registered with the committees; and whether, to avoid such delays, he will authorise such committees temporarily to employ such men?

Article 4 (3) of the Essential Work (Dock Labour) Order, 1943, provides that

"if the Minister is satisfied as regards a port to which an approved Dock Labour Scheme applies that
  • (a) port transport work is urgently required to be done; and
  • (b) it is not reasonably practicable to obtain port transport workers for the purpose of that work;
  • he may inform the Corporation accordingly, and in that case and for that work, the Corporation may allocate or send to a port transport employer a person who is not a port transport worker."
    The Order was made on 30th July, 1943, and, since that date, authority has been given for the employment of unregistered labour on eleven occasions, covering eight ports.

    Will my right hon. hon. Friend see that these instructions are understood by the port officers concerned, because cases of delay since that Order was issued have definitely occurred in certain ports of the country where ships are being held up for two and three days for discharge owing to lack of labour?

    I cannot allow large numbers of men to be drafted into the ports on the off-chance of doing one shift and then standing there idle. I have to keep the balance of labour requirements going all over the country.

    Is the Minister aware that in the case to which I have drawn his attention dock labour was available in the port except for the fact that the men were not registered?

    The hon. and gallant Member appears to be giving information and not asking a question.