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Employment

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1949

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Lodging And Travelling Allowances

1.

asked the Minister of Labour in what industries he is paying subsistence and travelling allowances to workers living away from home; why he is not doing so in the case of the building and civil engineering industry; and whether he will reconsider this position in relation to municipal housing contracts in areas where there is a severe shortage of labour and where the cost of these allowances is at present borne by the local authority.

Grants and allowances are payable by the Ministry of Labour to workers who transfer to industries such as coalmining and cotton, or to very important branches of other industries, such as the manufacture of heavy electrical plant, where there is a special demand for labour. In the building industry, movement from job to job is normal practice and industrial agreements make provision for lodging allowances, where appropriate, to be payable by the employer. There is, therefore, no ground for special provision to be made by the Ministry.

Is it not an anomalous position that private industry is assisted and charges for subsistence allowance are met by taxpayers, whereas in the case of an increase in municipal housing contracts, where large blocks of workers are transferred from, say, South Wales to Staffordshire, costs have to be met by the municipal tenants or the ratepayers?

That anomaly would not be cured by providing another one, which would be the anomaly between private building and public authority building. This arrangement has been made within the industry, and the Ministry cannot interfere.

Disputes (Settlement Methods)

2.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will appoint a committee of inquiry into the machinery for dealing with disputes and grievances, in view of repeated unofficial strikes that have occurred; and if he will arrange for the committee to have powers to investigate methods of conciliation to deal with recurrent troubles or disputes on minor points.

I am satisfied that the present methods for the settlement of disputes, including conciliation, are most effective, and in the circumstances no useful purpose would be served by the appointment of a committee of inquiry as suggested by my hon. Friend.

Ministry's Offices (Teleprinters)

3.

asked the Minister of Labour how many teleprinters are installed in Ministry of Labour regional offices; what was the capital cost of providing them; what is the annual cost of maintaining them; and what is the approximate number of messages sent by the teleprinters per week.

There are 77 teleprinter machines in use in Ministry of Labour offices, of which 16 are installed in regional offices. The weekly average number of messages sent by all teleprinter machines is about 2,000. As regards the second and third parts of the Question, the machines are provided and maintained by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General.

Is it not true that the number of messages sent between the regional offices does not justify the high expense of installing these machines?

I am afraid the hon. and gallant Member is under a misapprehension. The vast majority of the messages are sent out from London, from the headquarters, and I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will appreciate the necessity of having quick means of communication so that we can supply the greatest possible information in answer to Questions in this House.

Calico Printing Industry

4.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that shortage of workers in certain sections of the calico printing industry is causing serious delay to export for important markets; and what action he proposes to take to remedy this situation.

No, Sir. If my hon. Friend has any particular instance in mind, I should be grateful if he would let me have particulars.

Would my right hon. Friend have another look at this matter, because my information is that large quantities of printing cloth lie for a very considerable time after they have been manufactured and that that is very largely due to lack of labour in the printing works?

I only want to say that we have no vacancies notified to the Ministry of Labour for this kind of work.

Disabled Persons, West Cumberland

5.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will consider the erecting of a factory for disabled persons in the district of Workington and Maryport, West Cumberland.

The Disabled Persons Employment Corporation has for some time been endeavouring to find premises or a site suitable for a factory to cover the needs of Workington, Maryport and Whitehaven, but has not so far been successful.

European Volunteer Workers

7.

asked the Minister of Labour how many female German workers have been placed in employment in the hosiery industry; and how many more are likely to be available monthly.

One hundred and seventy-seven German women have been placed in the hosiery industry. The number available in the future depends on the numbers who will prove willing to volunteer for transfer to Great Britain, and it is not as yet possible to estimate this.

Will the Minister appreciate that this industry is 30,000 short of its pre-war female labour force and do his best to get more of these workers?

Yes, Sir. I would say, however, that the greatest help we could have in the matter would be from letters to Germany indicating the satisfaction of these German girls with their employment in this industry.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the question of hostel accommodation is a very important factor in solving this very difficult problem?

Our difficulty is not with hostels at the moment, but in getting girls.

8 and 9.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) how many European volunteer workers from Full Sutton camp have been detailed by his Department to take up certain employment; and how many have refused;

(2) how many European volunteer workers from Full Sutton camp have been placed in employment and have since returned to this camp.

From May, 1947, to the end of April, 1949, approximately 25,000 European volunteer workers were offered approved employment, and of these 153 have been reported for refusal to take it. From May, 1947, to 30th April, 1949, about 25,000 European volunteer workers from Full Sutton holding hostel were placed in employment for the first time. About 4,600 of these people returned to the hostel for further placing, and most of them have since been placed in other employment.

Cannot arrangements be made to place these voluntary workers in gainful employment more quickly so that idle time is not left on their hands? When they have been offered employment and have refused, are they deprived of their meat ration?

The number of cases in which we have had a refusal is so small that it has not been necessary to take special measures. An indication of the smallness of the number is the figure of those who have had to be deported back to Germany, and that number is just under 200. That indicates that, on the whole, the European volunteer workers have reacted very well to the scheme and have played the game.

10.

asked the Minister of Labour whether, as the result of his inquiries into the damage caused by European volunteer workers at the Full Sutton camp in Yorkshire, he will now state what disciplinary action he proposes to take to ensure that the damage to neighbouring farms is not repeated.

As my right hon. Friend has already explained in correspondence with the hon. Member, the management of the camp are already doing all they can to prevent trespassing on surrounding property.

Is there any point in the right hon. Gentleman's giving assurances to the farmers that he will protect them in this matter if he is not prepared to take any disciplinary action?

I have not indicated that there is no disciplinary action taken in this matter. Disciplinary action has been taken.