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Volume 440: debated on Tuesday 22 July 1947

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European Volunteer Workers


asked the Minister of Labour what action he is taking to ensure that displaced persons now arriving in this country with experience in agriculture, horticulture and forestry, are being encouraged to take up such employment.

European volunteer workers possessing such experience are quickly placed in agricultural employment, subject, of course, to no British or Polish worker being available, and we are particularly anxious to obtain from farmers applications to employ a man and his wife where suitable accommodation is available.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that a number of these Baltic displaced persons with special university degrees in agriculture and forestry are now employed in humble positions in the textile industry, and that one Balt who has a forestry degree is washing dishes near Cambridge? Will he look into this matter again?

Certainly I will have the details about any such Balt looked at. Our intention is to try to put them into the job where they can make the best contribution.

Is not the experience of each displaced person known and compiled before they are brought here?

Each person is interviewed and states his qualifications, and as far as possible he is fitted into the job in our economy in which he can make the biggest contribution.

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that individuals supplied to positions of this kind are very fortunately placed compared with those applying for employment in the mines, in so far as they have not to he screened by the miners' union?


asked the Minister of Labour why the recruitment of displaced persons as European volunteer workers has not been extended to Italy; and if he will now so extend it.

The outstanding labour demands in this country which the scheme for the recruitment of European volunteer workers is designed to help to meet are to a very considerable extent for women workers. It is understood that the displaced persons in Italy are mainly men, and that the field for the recruitment of women workers is extremely small. It was, therefore, at this stage considered desirable to concentrate on the recruitment of European volunteer workers in Germany and Austria as the most fruitful field. A high proportion of the men recruited in these countries are in fact relatives of women workers who are coming here at the same time. I shall, however, be glad to consider later the question of recruitment from Italy in relation to the progress of recruitment from Germany and Austria.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not there is any machinery in Italy for recruiting these people?

No, Sir. We have no machinery yet, but we have had a survey made by the International Relief Organisation, and we have all the facts at our disposal.



asked the Minister of Labour how many members of the Polish Resettlement Corps there were in the United Kingdom who, on the latest convenient date, had not yet been placed in civilian employment; and what percentage this represents of the total strength of the corps in the United Kingdom.

Approximately 70,000 at i9th July, which is about 70 per cent. of the total. Thirty-six thousand of these are employed in Polish administration or on Service Department tasks. The number placed in civilian employment up to 19th July was about 29,000.

West Cumberland (Labour Requirements)


asked the Minister of Labour to what extent the labour requirements of the proposed atomic-energy generating station at Drigg, Cumberland, conflict with those for the proposed acetate yarn plant at Sellafield; and what are the relevant labour statistics

Very careful consideration is being given to this question, and I am not in a position at present to make any statement.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in West Cumberland we still have some unemployment, and of those who are employed many of them are on temporary work and therefore there should be no labour conflict in relation to the new factories? Is he further aware that we should like to attract back to West Cumberland the thousands of people who left the area during the interwar years?

Dismissed Postmen (Glasgow)


asked the Minister of Labour how many ex-postmen, including temporary postmen, have applied for work through his Department in Glasgow this year; how many of these men are now unemployed; and how many of these unemployed men are over 50 years of age.


asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons, formerly temporary postmen, who have registered at the Glasgow employment exchanges to the latest available date; and how many have been directed to other industries.

Between 1st January and 18th July, mainly since the end of May this year, 76 men who had been employed as temporary postmen registered for employment at exchanges in Glasgow. Sixty-four, including 44 over age 50, were still unemployed at the end of last week. Of the 12 who obtained employment, seven were placed by my Department and five found work by their own efforts.

As the right hon. Gentleman cannot find work for these men through his Department, will he advise the Postmaster-General to take them back into the Post Office so that they can do some useful work?

I could not give a promise to take that advice because I am under the impression that the Postmaster-General has considered the situation very carefully and he is taking back the men who left to go to the Forces and who have a prior claim.

As some of these dismissals were made in association with his Department, because of the Government's decision to reduce the numbers in the various Departments will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of having closer contact with the Postmaster-General before dismissals take place, particularly in an area where unemployment is already much higher than it is in many other parts of the country?

Of course, the Postmaster-General must be responsible for deciding the size of his staff, and which of those staff, in accordance with established customs and the agreement with the Whitley Council, are to be dismissed. It would not be for me to intervene.

Was there any consultation between the Postmaster-General and the right hon. Gentleman before these men were dismissed, and did the right hon. Gentleman give to the Postmaster-General any forecast of the probabilities of finding employment in Glasgow for the men?

So far as my recollection goes at the moment, there was no such consultation. Quite definitely, I cannot see that there should be.

Is it not a tact that, since the dismissal of these men, female labour has been taken on to replace them; was not the purpose of getting rid of these men to make the labour available elsewhere to meet shortages; and do not these figures show that, in fact, this has not come about because the men have not been absorbed into other employment?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is basing assumptions on a position which I do not think exists. I have no information whether or not females were employed in their place. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman would get that information from the Postmaster-General.

Has not the Postmaster-General made it quite clear in this House that he has had to restrict his staff and cut down the services in consequence, and would it not be better if there was some co-ordination?

I assume that the Postmaster-General, in company with many other Ministers, has examined his staff in the light of the continual agitation that the staffs are too large. If a Minister finds that his staff is larger than he thinks is necessary, he ought not to be blamed if he cuts it down.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the action was taken by the Postmaster-General so that these men could be put into work in connection with production and, since that cannot be done, will he consult again with the Postmaster-General?

Again, I must say that I cannot answer for the Postmaster-General, but I can say that, so far as I am aware at the Ministry of Labour, the Government have never given any indication that men should be discharged from one job in the hope that, being unemployed, they will be forced into another. That is totally contrary to the policy of the Government.

Typewriter Mechanics' Training Courses


asked the Minister of Labour what is the present situation regarding typewriter mechanic vocational training courses, including the size of the waiting list and the number and duration of these courses.

There are at present 16 classes for training typewriter mechanics under the Government's vocational training scheme. The course lasts for 52 weeks, 215 men have been trained, 197 are in training, and 524 have been accepted and are awaiting allocation.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of my constituents has already been waiting for II months to go on this course and does he really think it is necessary to spend 52 weeks to train a man to deal with a typewriter? Is not that more like the time that should be allowed for learning something about an aero-engine?

If the hon. Gentleman would care to go to one of these training establishments and see what these men are taught to do—completely to rebuild a typewriter, make its parts and do all the necessary work—I think he would agree that they are doing a remarkable job in 52 weeks. He may have had a constituent waiting for 11 months. It is clear that the person cannot go until there is a vacancy. I would like to make it clear that the industry considers it cannot absorb the numbers awaiting training. Quite a number of these men may have to seek other opportunities. In the 524 we have under training, 291 are disabled and we shall see that they get absolute priority.

Foreign Domestic Workers


asked the Minister of Labour whether a decision has yet been made to allow foreigners admitted to this country to be employed in a domestic capacity for hotels, guest houses and similar establishments; when this question was first raised; and why there has been such a long delay in reaching a decision.

No, Sir. This Question, the importance of which I fully appreciate, is under constant review, but, for the reasons given in reply to the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) on 26th June, it is impossible for me to state at present when a decision can be reached to extend the field within which foreigners may be employed on domestic work.

Has not this question been under discussion for a very considerable time, and if it is answered in the affirmative and foreigners are allowed into this country, will he not make it possible to employ these people in hotels, which is, I know, their own wish?

We are recruiting these people for hospitals, farms, hardship households and the textile industry, which must have first claim, and we are trying to meet all demands as quickly as we can.

Does my hon. Friend think that he will be in a position to make a decision before the holiday period, because it is during the holidays that this help is so badly needed, as the staffs in hotels and guest houses are terribly overworked at that time?

I must impress upon the House that the textile industry has to come first. I indicated last week that we thought we had located 7,000 single women in the French zone, and we are taking immediate steps to recruit them, but we must meet first the needs of the textile industry.

Would it out be a good thing to allow in a few more displaced persons for this work and so release university professors who are now washing dishes?

What makes the right hon. Gentleman think that, if he stops these people going into hotels, he will get any more for the textile industry?

There is no one stopping people going into hotels. This is a question of a Government recruiting scheme.

Freedom Of Association (Ilo Resolution)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he gave instructions to the British Government delegate at the I.L.O. Conference to vote against the resolution condemning the "closed shop," and whether, in view of the desirability of international co-operation in the suppression of such practices, he will give further instructions to the British delegate before the matter again comes before the conference.

There was no resolution condemning the "closed shop" before the recent International Labour Conference. I presume that the hon. Member is referring to the discussion on that paragraph of the resolution on freedom of association and industrial relations which relates to the validity of freely concluded collective agreements under which membership of a particular trade union is a condition of employment or continued employment. That paragraph forms part of an article of the resolution dealing in considerable detail with the right to organise and this article should be read as a whole. Read in this way, although its details did not entirely meet the views of all sections in the conference, the article commanded general agreement and was included in the resolution which was unanimously accepted by the conference in plenary session on 11th July and which, under my authority, the United Kingdom delegates supported. It is intended to embody the appropriate provisions of the resolution in one or more In- ternational Labour Conventions which will be the subject of discussion at the conferences in 1948 and 1949. The exact terms in which the provisions relating to the right to organise shall be incorporated in any convention will requite the most careful examination.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that very full reply, may I ask whether it is not a fact that the British Government delegate voted against an amendment proposed by the Turkish delegate which would have put on record an emphatic condemnation of "closed shop" practices, and was that action taken on the right hon. Gentleman's advice?

The hon. Gentleman has not put that point to me in his Question. I have only a hazy recollection about it. There was some such action. If he will put down a Question about it, or even without putting it down, I will let him have the answer.

Could the Minister tell us which way the employers' delegate voted and which way the workers' delegate voted?

So far as my recollection goes in this matter—I was not there when the actual vote was taken, but only during the opening discussion—I think it was by common agreement that no actual decision was taken. It was built into the wider resolution relating to freedom of association.

Will the Minister consider asking the legal profession for definition of the "closed shop"?

Insured Population (Statistics)


asked the Minister of Labour to what extent the insured population in each Development Area has increased since June, 1945; and by what percentage this increase compares with London and the Greater London area.

The total insured population is ascertained only once a year in July, but the figures for July, 1947, are not yet available. From July, 1945, to July, 1946, the increases in the Development Areas were 10 per cent. in the North- Eastern area, 6 per cent. in South Wales and Monmouthshire, 10 per cent. in West Cumberland, 13 per cent. in South Lancashire, 2 per cent, in Wrexham, and 9 per cent. in the Scottish area. The corresponding increases in the County of London and Greater London were 18 per cent. and 16 per cent. respectively.

Does the Minister agree that more men and more industries are coming to London and the Greater London area than are going to Development Areas?

An observation of that kind could not be answered in relation to this Question.

Call-Up Postponements (Appeals)


asked the Minister of Labour how many appeals were made by his Department during the period April, May and June, 1947, against the decisions of Military Service Hardship Committees to postpone call-up; and in how many cases have these appeals been successful.

One hundred and thirty-three appeals against the grant of postponement were made to the umpire in April, May and June, 1947, but without an unjustifiable expenditure of time examining all the personal files it is not possible to state how many of these appeals have been successful.

Will the Minister confirm that when the Military Service Hardship Committees have agreed on a case, on some occasions his Ministry have turned down that appeal?

I would not like to give an answer on that without having a chance to consider the matter.

If I submit the matter in detail, will the Minister think about it further?