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Mobile Labour Force

Volume 480: debated on Monday 13 November 1950

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asked the Minister of Works if, in view of the amount of work in isolated areas and the requirements for National Defence, he is satisfied that the disbanding of the Mobile Labour Force at Porton will not mean increasing costs when the work is put out to contractors.

The Mobile Labour Force will complete the work for which it was required at Porton. Any further construction needed afterwards can be let out to contract and should not result in increased costs.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since the Mobile Labour Force arrived in the Salisbury area work on temporary sites at Porton, on contracts for the War Office and at Oldstock Hospital, has come out at less than estimated cost, and that the force has built houses in Dover, Plymouth and for the L.C.C. at less than the contractor's estimated price? Before my right hon. Friend finally decides to disband this force, which it was costly to bring into being, will he give consideration to these points?

On a point of order. Could we have that supplementary question again, so that we can follow exactly the Minister's reply?

I will certainly study in the OFFICIAL REPORT what my hon. Friend has said. I can only assure him that the work of the Mobile Labour Force has been limited to work in cases where labour is not readily available or cases of great urgency. That is the policy we have been following.

Could my right hon. Friend look again at the whole question of this force, because it is doing a wonderful job and, as my right hon. Friend knows, throughout the country there have been constant complaints of building schemes having to be ignored because this force is not available?

As I have already said in the House, the work done by the Mobile Labour Force is quite admirable, but the conditions under which it was originally required have, thank goodness, passed, and I do not think it advisable, in the interests of the taxpayer, to keep it in being.

Before coming to a final decision, will my right hon. Friend consult with the trade unions of the building industry with a view to finding a solution of the difficulties which he mentioned and which, I know, are very real?

The trade unions are perfectly aware of what I am doing. They knew before I did it, and the Mobile Labour Force is not suddenly coming to an end. It is engaged on a considerable quantity of important work which should take about another 18 months to complete.