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Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1949

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Building Workers


asked the Minister of Labour what was the shortage of building workers in Scotland on 31st March; and what steps are now being taken to build up the labour force necessary to increase the rate of house building in Scotland.

The total number of outstanding building and civil engineering vacancies on 31st March, 1949, was 2,642, including 1,164 for housing contracts. Every effort is being made to divert available labour to those housing contracts which are seriously short of labour, and housing vacancies are now being filled at the rate of 680 a week.

Can the Minister tell us whether the labour situation is really getting better or getting worse?

The fact that we are able to fill all the vacancies in Scotland is an indication that the position is very much easier.

What is the cause of this shortage? Is it due to a drift of workers South, or is it due to their going into other trades? Does the Minister realise that it is having very serious results?

It is due to the fact that we are starting very large contracts in Scotland and that it takes time to get a balance in the contracts as well as in the building industry.

As the Secretary of State for Scotland is presently proposing to place new responsibilities on the building industry in Scotland, will the Parliamentary Secretary make every effort to increase the available supplies of labour?

I am going to Scotland next week to examine the position on the spot.


asked the Minister of Works what percentage of building tradesmen in Scotland were engaged on the erection of permanent houses on 31st December, 1948, and 31st March, 1949.

The percentages of building operatives employed on construction of permanent houses and preparation of housing sites on the two dates mentioned were 30.2 and 28.2 respectively. Both figures include direct labour employed by local authorities.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us where the rest of the building labour was employed, in view of the fact that such a small percentage was on house building?

This is house building. A very large part of the labour was engaged on house repair and maintenance, as well as on industrial and other building.

Pig And Poultry Feedingstuffs


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now restore the allocation of feedingstuffs for pigs to those breeders of both pigs and poultry who lost their allocation for pigs last October when the new scheme for improvement of poultry stocks was introduced.

No, Sir. Until the feeding-stuffs supply position is more assured, I am afraid no further improvement in ration issues is possible.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that a great deal of hardship is caused to many small people who have always been accustomed to keeping two or three pigs and who could continue to do so if an amount of feedingstuffs, small in comparison to the total, were made available to them? Is it good enough to remedy one hardship only to create another?

Of course, as the hon. Gentleman is probably aware, part of the idea of the scheme was that the local small farmers should do something from their own resources in keeping pigs. We are very anxious to increase the pig population, and are continually examining the position with a view to helping as early as possible in this situation.

Agricultural Wages


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the minimum rates of wages for agricul- tural workers fixed by the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board from 23rd May; and how they compare with the rates prevailing in Scotland in 1938.

In the case of male general workers of 20 years and over the minimum agricultural wage will be 94s. per week as compared with 32s. to 36s. 6d. in 1938.

Could the Secretary of State confirm that skilled shepherds are now to get 104s. per week? Is not this the most remarkable piece of progress ever made in agriculture in Scotland?

Yes, Sir. I have not given the details of all the grades. This is a minimum wage. In Scotland skilled people are paid more than that. I will circulate detailed information in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this shows the wisdom and foresight of Tory misrule, which set up these wages boards?

is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 36s. in 1938 could buy a great deal more than 104s. today?

What was the purchasing power of the pound sterling at the two dates?

I am sure that all these things will not influence the farm workers, who know they are much better off than ever they were.

Following is the detailed information:

The minimum agricultural wage rates to come into effect in Scotland on 23rd May for male workers of 20 years of age and over are 94s. per week for general workers; 104s. 3d. for shepherds; and 102s. 3d. for other specialists. For women workers of 18 and under 21 years the new rate will be 63s. 6d., and for specialists 71s.; with 70s. '6d. and 78s. 9d. respectively for women of 21 years and over.

Proportional increases have been made in the hourly and overtime rates and also in the rates for juvenile workers.

The comparable minimum rates for 1938 were: male general workers, 32s. to 36s. 6d.; shepherds, 35s. 6d. to 44s.; other specialists, 34s. 6d. to 45s.; women of 18 years and over, 21s. 6d. to 24s., with 26s. to 27s. for specialists.

Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what increase there has been in the number of persons employed in the Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen, since 5th July, 1948; and in which departments.

There has been a net increase of 64. With permission, I shall circulate details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether this increase is on the administrative side, and, if so, whether he is satisfied that the extra people employed are, in fact, fully occupied and necessary?

There are only about six of them on administrative work. Over half of them are nurses, and the rest are in various sections of the medical staff.

Following is the information:

Department of HospitalStaff at 30th June, 1948Staff at 30th April, 1949
Technical (X-ray, laboratory, physiotherapy, etc.2837

* Excluding vacancies.

† Honorary and consultant staffs in June, 1948, now regional appointments based on the hospital.

Hearing Aids

19, 20 and 21.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) the number of applications for hearing aids under the National Health Service in Scotland and the number for whom the only type of hearing aid has been proved to be unsuitable;

(2) if he will make other types of hearing aids available to applicants under the National Health Service when the Medresco hearing aid is unsuitable;

(3) if he will make all types of hearing aids available to applicants under the National Health Service on condition of payment of additional cost.

The number of applications for Medresco hearing aids under the National Health Service in Scotland is 6,486. So far 1,278 have been issued. Complete figures of persons for whom the aid is unsuitable are not available, but the proportion is estimated at less than 10 per cent. The Medresco aid was based on research carried out by the Medical Research Council, and I am advised that it is suitable in its present form for the great majority of patients. Further experimental work is being carried on to develop an additional type to meet the needs of the remainder. It is intended also that research and development work will continue. In view of the arrangements which I have mentioned, I cannot undertake to provide commercial hearing aids.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that there are at the moment other types of hearing aid that would be suitable, and that there is a large proportion of applicants, 10 per cent. of the total, who could be assisted if he would make that type of aid available? Is it thought likely that the Medresco type of hearing aid will be made suitable for them?

All we can hope is that the new device we are expecting to be developed will be as successful in relation to other patients as the Medresco hearing aid has been in relation to the majority of patients.

Three-Apartment Houses


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the reasons which have led to a relaxation in his policy concerning the building of three-apartment houses in Scotland.

Since the cessation of the temporary house scheme, several local authorities have reported difficulties in providing suitable accommodation for small families, and where it is shown that a real need exists, a limited proportion of three-apartment permanent houses is being allowed for this purpose.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the fact that three-apartment houses already form a high percentage of our housing accommodation, and that a large proportion of these houses are grossly overcrowded; and will he take steps to prevent a perpetuation of this overcrowding?

Yes, Sir. These three-apartment houses are being provided for a different purpose. Where an authority is developing a new estate, it is obvious that three-apartment houses in some other part of the town would not fit in with the general housing development, and these houses, are being provided with a view to getting balanced development in each housing site.

Is the Minister aware that a great deal of overcrowding is due to the fact that there are several small families in one house who need separate houses, and will he persevere with the building of three-apartment houses?

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that he will not use the same argument to allow two-apartment houses?

Yes. Sir; although there are cases where local authorities may want to build two-apartment houses for old age pensioners living alone, and in those exceptional circumstances that may be allowed.

Key Workers (Houses)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what special steps are being taken to meet those housing shortages which, according to Command Paper No. 7676, Industry and Employment in Scotland, 1948, are holding up the development of forestry, mining and new industries, and the transfer of the unemployed to areas where there are unfilled vacancies.

I would refer the hon. Member to what is said on this subject in paragraphs 76, 97 and 246 of the Report. Later information shows that the Forestry Commission have completed 149 houses out of a programme of 605 so far approved, that 8,772 houses have been let to miners since the war, and that 1,022 houses have been approved or made available for key workers.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the steps which he proposes to take will not simply result in a diversion of houses, but in an increase in the size of the programme?

Some of these houses are being arranged in such a way as to provide a livelihood for people who go to live in the houses. When the key workers are housed, this will provide a livelihood for a great number of workers once the industry is established.

Is it not a fact that houses provided for the development of forestry are service houses?

Industry And Employment


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether it is intended to publish a popular edition of Command Paper No. 7676, Industry and Employment in Scotland, 1948.

No, Sir. The White Paper on Industry and Employment in Scotland is a plain factual review of trends and developments during 1948 and I do not think that it calls for a popular edition each year.

Is it not a fact that the existing edition is a very popular edition and that no second edition is required?