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Volume 437: debated on Tuesday 6 May 1947

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Industrial Disputes (Negotiating Machinery)


asked the Minister of Labour what steps have been taken to improve the machinery of negotiation in industrial disputes, particularly in securing its operation at the beginning of a dispute.

I am continuing my examination of and discussions on this problem, but I am not in a position to make any statement at present.

Would the Minister consider the question of a general inquiry into the whole system? Obviously this does not work very well in many circumstances, and something ought to be done.

I do not think a general inquiry would be very helpful. It certainly would be very involved. There are about 50 wages councils. We are consulting them collectively and I am meeting their chairman. The trade agreements in the others are very wide in their scope. I hope to get the information and to take it to our advisory council shortly.

Macclesfield And Congleton


asked the Minister of Labour the registered numbers of unemployed males and females in Macclesfield and Congleton at the latest convenient date.

At 14th April, 608 males and 24 females at Macclesfield, and 119 males and 6 females at Congleton. The figures for Macclesfield include 513 males and 23 females temporarily stood off at the date of the count, the great majority of whom were working a four-day week.

In view of the fact that when the Minister last gave me figures there was practically no unemployment at all, will he consult his colleagues to see whether an extra allocation of fuel can be made to try to bring relief to these towns, which are suffering great hardship?

Apprentices (Maintenance Grants)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that school leavers in rural areas are seriously prejudiced by the fact that no provision has yet been made for maintenance grants to apprentices living away from home and that, as a result, the value of pre-apprenticeship training courses provided by education authorities in rural areas has been seriously detracted from; and whether ho proposes to take any action to meet the situation.

To meet the type of case which the hon. Member has, in mind, a scheme of maintenance grants is being prepared and will, I hope, shortly be put into operation.

Displaced Persons


asked the Minister of Labour whether displaced persons, including Poles now in the Polish Resettlement Corps, have to submit to political screening before being accepted for employment in British industry: by whom this screening is carried out; arid with what objects.

Is the Minister aware that leading members of the miners' union have publicly boasted of the fact that every Pole coming from the Polish Resettlement Corps into the mines must not only be screened by the authorities, but must be screened by them as well and, if he has not been screened by them, he will not be accepted in spite of the wishes of the Government? Is that true?

The answer that I have given is the correct answer, no matter what may be said outside this House.

May I have a direct answer to my direct question? Is my statement true or not?

I am not called upon to answer allegations of that sort. The Question on the Order Paper is whether or not there is any political screening. The answer is "No."

Road Haulage Strike


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the illegal road haulage strike that occurred during the week ended 12th January, 1947, was largely organised and encouraged by the Revolutionary Communist Party, Trotskyist, British Section of the Fourth International; and what steps he has taken, or proposes to take, to minimise the risk of the repetition of an illegal strike organised by a political party for political reasons.

No, Sir. Although this party may have tried to encourage the strike once it had started, I have no evidence to show that the strike was so organised. The second part of the Question does not therefore arise.

Staggered Working Hours


asked the Minister of Labour what has been the response from industry and the trade unions to the Government's request for staggering working hours.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what percentage of industry has in fact agreed to staggered hours?

No, Sir, I could not answer that without notice, and even with notice it would be very difficult to give the percentage; but I can say that the answer I have given covers the matter. We have had a very good response from industry.

How can the right hon. Gentleman say "very good" when he cannot give the percentage of the number of industries which have in fact responded? Would he answer that?

I gave the answer which I did give because I know it is correct, but it is another question to hive the percentages.

National Service Age


asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that some firms are dismissing youths from their employ a few months before they are liable to report for national service; and if he will take steps to stop this practice.

Only a very few complaints have been received during the last few years that young men have been dismissed from their employment because they have become liable to be called up under the National Service Acts. If my hon. Friend will let me have details of the cases he has in mind, I will certainly see what action I can take.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say how many complaints he has received during the last six months?


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the growing difficulty of boys under the calling-up age for military service to obtain work; and what steps are being taken to safeguard their interests until they join the Forces.

I am aware that some boys approaching military age are finding difficulty in obtaining employment. The Juvenile Employment Service will give them all possible assistance in finding suitable work, and I would like to take this opportunity of asking employers of labour to approach this matter with a sense of public obligation.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the reason for this is the fear about reinstatement after service, or has it something to do with training, learning and apprenticeships and the fact that employers do not wish to give training to apprentices when they are to be called up for military service so soon?

We have not had any cases reported to us, but we gather it is -mainly that the employer feels that he does not want to go to the trouble of training a lad for the few months before he leaves.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that this problem will be permanently with us so long as we have permanent conscription?

It will be permanently with us if employers think of their own convenience instead of that of the country.

Can the Minister say what steps he is taking to safeguard the interests of returning ex-Servicemen as well as those of the men who are going into the Services?

If the hon. Gentleman will put that question down, I think we can give him a very satisfactory answer.

Trawler Crews (Trade Unionism)


asked the Minister of Labour what steps he proposes to take over the ultimatum which is being given to some trawler owners that crews will not be allowed to sail unless all join a trade union.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply I gave him yesterday.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Secretary of the Fleetwood branch of the Transport and General Workers Union has issued such an ultimatum to local trawler owners, and would he like me to give him the information I have?

I am not so aware, and I would be very grateful if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would give me the information.

Miners, Ayrshire


asked the Minister of Labour the number of miners, ex-miners willing to return to the mines and unplaced mining trainees who are registering as unemployed in Ayrshire.

Disabled Persons, Scotland


asked the Minister of Labour if he will give the number of disabled persons registered in Scotland under the Disabled Persons Employment Act, 1944; and the number of these at present unemployed.

On 17th March, 1947, there were 67,899 registered disabled persons in Scotland, of whom 8,123 regarded as suitable for employment under ordinary conditions were unemployed. There were also 1,355 unemployed needing employment under sheltered conditions.

In view of that figure, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the obligations laid upon him by the Act are being honoured? If he is satisfied that they are being honoured, does he not think that the percentage laid down in the Act should be increased?

I think the figures for the time being are a little bit disturbed by the recent fuel shortage, but I must say that, as far as we know, in the main they are being honoured by employers. Therefore, if increasing the percentage is the only way to deal with it, that will be looked at.

Joiners, Falmouth


asked the Minister of Labour whether in view of the unemployment among joiners in the Falmouth area, he will consult with the other Departments concerned to provide work in the dockyard.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are many ships which require that type of conversion, which employs joiners, and will he take steps to see that they are fairly distributed throughout the ports? Is it not a fact that there is not that degree of unemployment in other ports that there is in Falmouth?

No, Sir. In the first place, it is no good moving ships about unless you have the timber to do the work. In the second place, having recently had the privilege of visiting the shipyard, I do not think there is any room for any more ships there.