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Volume 466: debated on Tuesday 28 June 1949

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Cost-Of-Living Index


asked the Minister of Labour by how many points has the cost-of-living index risen since it was decided to grant unemployment benefit to the extent of 26s. per week.

The rate of 26s. applied in respect of the first benefit payable on or after 3rd June, 1948. Between mid-May, 1948, and mid-May, 1949, the interim index of retail prices rose from 108 to 111.

In view of the increased cost of living in this period and likewise in the earlier period, will the right hon. Gentleman consider raising the amount of unemployment benefit at least in proportion to the increased cost of living, for which the unemployed cannot be responsible?

The question of the raising of the value of the benefit is not a matter for my Department.

Does the Minister endorse the statement of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that the cost of living has now been readjusted in a downward direction consequent upon the reduction in the Beer Duty of 1d. a pint?

Is the Minister aware that 40 years ago the Foreign Secretary threw up a job at 28s. a week because he could not live on it? How is it possible for anybody to live on 26s. a week now when we take into account the value of the £ compared with 40 years ago?

Factory, Newport


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now state when the new factory for disabled men will be started in Newport; how long it will take to complete; and what type of work it is proposed to provide.

I am not yet in a position to give definite information. I have the matter under consideration in consultation with the Remploy Corporation and will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Ex-Service Trainees


asked the Minister of Labour why training centres are not permitted to supply to prospective employers any reference as to character and ability of ex-Service trainees.

My hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. No such instructions have been issued and every trainee who satisfactorily completes a course of vocational training is given a certificate that he has done so. If my hon. Friend will let me have particulars of any case where he thinks something more might have been done I will look into it.

Is the Minister aware that in at least one case, of which I will gladly give him details, the training centre refused to give any information about the man's character and ability, although it may well be that it gave the information to which my right hon. Friend has referred? Cannot the reference be extended to give more information to employers who want to give these men jobs?

We have given employers all the information for which they have asked. I have no knowledge of the case to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, but if he will let me have particulars I will look into it.

Docks Dispute


asked the Minister of Labour from what sources he obtained his information and what inquiries he made as to the docks dispute.

Information was obtained through the usual channels. [Laughter.] All necessary inquiries were made.

I am sorry, Sir, I did not hear the last part of that answer because of the reasonable laughter at the first part of the answer.

The second part of the answer was that all necessary inquiries were being made.

The last is even worse than the first, if I may comment. Will the Minister tell the House what are "the usual channels"? Really far more important, may I ask the Minister if he was not aware at the time of his statement in the broadcast that the Canadian Seamen's Union were fighting against—

The hon. Member is not asking, a question, he is making a statement. He is giving information.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I really want to find out the source of the information which the Minister of Labour had. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ask for it."] On a point of Order, Sir—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."]—I want to establish my point to know whether I am on good grounds, for the reason that the Minister used on that occasion certain expressions, and it is important for this House to know whether those expressions were based upon bona fide information. Am I in order to pursue the matter?

The hon. Member is not entitled to give information. He is entitled to say that he thinks the Minister is misinformed.

Can I therefore ask the Minister if he can give the source of the information? Can he say whether, among other sources, he inquired of the Canadian Seamen's Union itself as to what the conflict was about?

There were two specific pieces of information which I published relating to the dispute. The only comments made upon the merits were a statement issued by the Canadian Trades and Labour Congress and a statement issued by the International Longshoremen's Association.

In view of the fact that the particular union involved in this struggle was and is the Canadian Seamen's Union, how is it that the Minister of Labour does not find out from the Canadian Seamen's Union in Canada what are the problems, but consults an organisation which is opposed to it, and on that basis how dare he speak in the name of this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—to the country?

I do not want to become involved in an argument, but the fact is that the Canadian Trades and Labour Congress issued a statement. Their statement, coming from a responsible trade union organisation in Canada, I accepted, and still accept, as being in good faith—

The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) cannot take it, can he? The International Longshoremen's Association, an organisation concerned with the loading of these ships, also published a statement. In view of the statements published by the Canadian Seamen's Union here, which are completely unreliable and untruthful, I could not accept anything from them.

Further, as I have no right to intervene in the merits of the dispute itself, I did not think it necessary to do so.

Agricultural Workers


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now consider amending the Control of Engagement Order so as to permit of agricultural workers being free to choose their own occupation as a means of earning their livelihood.

I am keeping this question under constant review and will not retain this control any longer than is necessary.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that what might have been perfectly all right as a temporary expedient has now become an abuse, and that the continuance of this control over agricultural workers is a complete negation of democracy? Surely it ought to be done away with now? We want to keep as many people as possible on the land, but not against their will.

If the hon. Gentleman could give me any examples of where this has become an abuse, I will gladly have them examined.

Is the Minister aware that this Order is probably stopping more young men from coming into the industry, because of the fact that they will be under control, than it is in keeping men in the industry?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has not got the right facts. Young people, indeed any persons coming into this industry, are free from control for a period which gives them an opportunity to see whether they want to settle down or not. I repeat what I have said before, that this matter is under consideration and that we shall not keep the Order a moment longer than we need.