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Volume 496: debated on Thursday 28 February 1952

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asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the anxiety which is now felt amongst workers in a number of industries owing to the extent of under-employment and short-time working; and what steps he proposes to take to remedy this situation.

Yes, Sir, I am aware of this problem, which has been under consideration by the National Joint Advisory Council. The employment exchanges are ready to give all possible assistance to any workers affected who wish to find full-time employment.

Would it be true to say that the Ministry embarked upon a policy of creating slump conditions in order to divert workers into the armament industries? If that is so, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the fact that unemployment rose by more than 74,000 people between December and January indicates that this policy has broken down?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no deliberate policy of creating a slump or anything of that sort. On the second part of his supplementary question, I would point out that although there was an increase of 74,000, to which he has referred, the figures in December, 1951, are very much the same as for December in the previous year.

On a point of order. I addressed a Question to the Minister of Labour, and he has transferred it to the President of the Board of Trade. I did not object to that, Mr. Speaker, until I saw the Order Paper and saw that the Minister chose to answer Questions Nos. 3, 5 and 7, which are of a similar kind to my Question, which is now No. 127.

My complaint is that the Minister of Labour has transferred to the Board of Trade Question No. 127, which I think is similar in character to the one which he has just answered.

Does that not show that Ministers are not willing to grapple with the problem, but pass the buck to one another?

I will look into the hon. Lady's complaint later. In general, Questions are transferred if put down to the wrong Minister.

This appears to me to be a rather more serious matter, because the hon. Lady's Question distinctly relates to the subject of short-time and under-employment. Surely, in those circumstances, it ought not to have been transferred to the President of the Board of Trade, because the responsibility lies directly upon the shoulders of the Ministry of Labour.

I have just had a look at Question No. 127, and I invite the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to it. It asks what proposals the President of the Board of Trade has to make whereby the serious situation developing in the textile and clothing industries can be overcome. It may have been thought that this was a Board of Trade question—but it is too complicated a matter to go into at the moment and I will look into it later.