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Employees (Political Tests)

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1949

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8.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, before making the facilities afforded by his Department available to commercial firms, he will come to a general agreement with them that no political tests shall be imposed on employees supplied by him.

No, Sir. In submitting workers for employment my Department does not discriminate on grounds of race, colour, sex or belief.

Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the recent proposals by the John Lewis partnership to make members of their staff sign a political declaration on pain of dismissal if they refuse to do so, and does he consider that the security problems involved in the sale of ladies' underwear are sufficiently important to warrant this intolerable intrusion into the private lives of their employees?

I can only say that as far as my Department is concerned, we do not discriminate in these political activities. I hope that firms also will follow the same example.

Would not the-Minister agree that although a great many Communists are notorious trouble makers it is very undesirable that there should be any discrimination by commercial firms against the employment of all Communists as such?

In reply to that question. I think that it is fair to state that there are many known and active Communists who in the workshops are first-class and reliable workers.

Can the Minister say whether any man dismissed under this arrangment would be entitled to unemployment benefit and, if so, whether there is any method of preventing this firm from applying their own political opinions to their staff at the public expense?

So far as unemployment benefit is concerned, without expressing myself too definitely, I should have thought that this would not deprive a man of his right to benefit, but as to whether we have any influence with the firm, all I can say is that I hope that they will not continue this practice.

We cannot go on with this Question indefinitely. I once said, "Is your supplementary really necessary?" We must get on with Questions. I called the hon. Member to ask Question No. 9.

While welcoming the Minister's assurance, in view of the tremendous political importance of the principle involved. I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity to raise the whole matter on the Adjournment.