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War Factories, Merseyside (Demonstration)

Volume 411: debated on Wednesday 13 June 1945

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I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question, of which I have given him Private Notice: Is he aware that today, in Liverpool, a demonstration of war factory workers of Merseyside is being held; that men and women workers, after years of service in the interest of the nation, are fearing dismissal, and they are anxious to know from the Prime Minister what security of employment the Government can offer them?

With all due respect, the notice was handed to officials last night at 6 o'clock, addressed to the right hon. Gentleman by me, after I had referred the matter to Mr. Speaker.

I certainly have not had it. I am not in any way prepared to deal in detail with the very difficult, delicate and also immense questions connected with the function of women in the immediate post-war world. I imagine that many will seek release to retire to their homes. The arrival of the demobilised Army men will make great changes. I remember being much worried about this when I was Minister of Munitions at the end of the last war, when I had, I think, over 1,250,000 women under the direct control of that office. It all worked out quite all right for the actual moment; when men came back, the women, in many cases, gave up their jobs. My misfortunes did not begin until a year after that.

In the first place, my letter was addressed to the Prime Minister. I take it that the Prime Minister is in the House and that officials know the Prime Minister. Therefore, I cannot understand why this letter should go astray. The subject of the question I now ask the Prime Minister ought, as a matter of policy, to be in the mind of the Prime Minister, and he ought to be able to answer it, even though a letter has not been addressed to him. Having conformed to the rules of the House, and wishing to meet the desires of the people now meeting in Liverpool, may I ask the Prime Minister if he will attempt to allay their anxieties?

The hon. Member must remember that he himself was alone responsible for seeing that the notice went to the Prime Minister.

If I hand a letter to the duly accredited representative who takes letters, is not that sufficient?

I do not understand what the hon. Member means by "the duly accredited representative."

On a point of Order. This question is not one of women in industry, but of redundancy.

That is not a point of Order; it is a point of argument. A point of Order must relate to the procedure of this House, and to nothing else.

The question is about a demonstration of 3,000 Liverpool workers, men and women, who are afraid of being dismissed. Surely the Government have a policy on redundancy.

The hon. Gentleman is one of the greatest employers of the policy of using a point of Order without any relation whatever to the rights of Members in that respect. I have watched him for a long time. He thinks he can always get in by saying that it is a point of Order. I would like to answer my hon. Friend the Member for the Toxteth Division of Liverpool—[Hon. Members: "No, Scotland Division"]—well, I was not far away; I should have said the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) by saying how very sorry I am that the accident occurred. I take no responsibility at this stage for the accident, but the fact that it has occurred is patent. How it can be remedied is also patent. If my hon. Friend will put down this Question to-morrow, as a Private Notice Question, and if the Chair allows it, I will take steps now to receive from him particulars of the Question which he wishes to ask. He has only to repeat it, and I shall be, as ever, at his service.

Is the Prime Minister not aware that this ogre, unemployment, is beginning to rear its head in many parts of the country?

If this demonstration was arranged yesterday, as we are informed, would it not have been the proper procedure to put the matter to the Minister of Labour for arbitration?

That is not a matter for me. My duty is to see that the Question is in Order. That is as far as I am concerned.