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Directed Women Workers (Lodging Allowance)

Volume 395: debated on Thursday 2 December 1943

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asked the Minister of Labour whether he will pay subsistence allowances to women directed to work in places away from their homes, as is done in the case of evacuated civil servants, since their earnings in many instances do not enable them to meet their living and other reasonable expenses.

As my hon. Friend will be aware, any transferred worker who was living with and maintaining dependants before transfer receives a lodging allowance of 24s. 6d. a week from my Department in order to assist with the extra expenses where two establishments have to be maintained. In addition, I have recently made arrangements in the case of transferred women not eligible for these allowances to pay a "settling-in" grant of 25s. a week for the first week after transfer, 20s. the second, 15s. the third, and 10s. for the fourth week, unless the women are living in a Government hostel, when these payments are reduced by 5s. per week. I have made these arrangements to help tide the women over the initial period during which she may need to acquire proficiency to enable her to secure a reasonable level of earnings. Further than that I am afraid I cannot go. The adequacy of earnings in any given industry is a question for settlement through the normal negotiating machinery of that industry, and where an industry is depending on an intake of transferred women, it will be necessary for the industry to see that full account is taken of their needs.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in practice it is not sufficient to provide these allowances for four weeks only, when he has taken these women to work away from their homes has he not a responsibility to see that their income is sufficient to meet reasonable expenses? Will he not treat them at least as favourably as evacuated civil servants?

I cannot undertake to subsidise low wages in an industry. If the man or the woman—because there is exactly equal treatment—has not two establishments to maintain I am afraid that it is not possible for me to recommend my colleagues in the Government to make up wages. What I do is to take what steps I can through the negotiating machinery to see that the wages are put right.

Will my right hon. Friend explain why the figure should be 24s. 6d. in the case of industrial workers and 21s. in the case of civil servants?

I always thought the appetite of a civil servant was not that of an industrial worker.