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Volume 496: debated on Thursday 28 February 1952

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asked the Minister of Labour the number of persons engaged in the textile, furniture, clothing and distributive trades in Bristol; and the number registered as unemployed there at the latest convenient date.

As the reply includes a table of figures I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the Minister aware that this matter is causing great concern in his constituency and mine? How is he proposing to deal with the situation?

I am prepared to place figures before the House so that hon. Members can see the extent of the difficulty, as a preliminary to discussion.

The table below gives the information desired:

Estimated numbers of employees in the undermentioned industries in the area of employment exchanges in Bristol at May, 1951, and the numbers registered as unemployed at those employment exchanges at 13th February, 1952.

IndustryEstimated number of employees at May, 1951Number registered as unemployed at 10th February, 1952
Furniture and Upholstery1,81039
Clothing (including Boots and Shoes)7,150182
Distributive Trades29,210315



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.



asked the Minister of Labour if his attention has been called to the recent increase in unemployment in Southampton particularly in the shipbuilding and ship-repairing trades; and if he will make a statement.

The increase in unemployment at Southampton is mainly a seasonal increase among shipyard workers, following the completion of winter repairs to liners. The numbers involved are lower than in the two preceding years.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there were 2,000 men and women unemployed in Southampton last week-end and that this is causing grave anxiety in the port? Can he use his influence to get more Admiralty work for Southampton and to have a start made on the building of the generating station at Marchwood and the re-building of the cold storage in the docks in order to provide alternative employment?

I will certainly look into the figures which the hon. Gentleman has given me, which are perhaps later than any I have. If there is anything I can do with my right hon. Friends to help, I will endeavour to do it.

In view of the answer of the Minister, would my right hon. and learned Friend consider having unemployment figures published by his local offices from month to month, particularly since, not only in my constituency, but, no doubt, also in other places, the figures are being exaggerated beyond the truth because the Government is now a Conservative one?

I will do what I can to ensure that the latest available information is before the House. It is difficult to get it checked right up to date, but I will certainly consider the suggestion made by my hon. Friend.

West Cumberland


asked the Minister of Labour the total number of unemployed at the latest available date, compared with the corresponding period last year, for Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Millom Employment Exchanges, respectively.

As the reply includes a table of figures, I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Could the Minister say if it is true that the figures have increased during the last two or three months? If so, what has been the cause of the big increase?

I think it is true to say that there has been an increase during the last two or three months, and I will see if there is anything I can do to help in this connection.

In view of the fact that the three towns in question are in the West Cumberland Development Area, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confer with the President of the Board of Trade to ensure that the priorities laid down by a Labour Government will not be reversed?

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider reviving the pre-war practice of sending these figures monthly to the local newspapers?

The table below gives the information desired:

Numbers of unemployed persons on the registers of the Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Millom Employment Exchanges at 10th February, 1952, and 12th February, 1951.
Employment Exchange10th February, 195212th February, 1951
Cleator Moor394196


asked the Minister of Labour when a start is to be made on the building of the disabled persons factory at Cleator Moor, Cumberland.

I am informed by Remploy Limited that the building of the new Cleator Moor factory has been temporarily deferred, but that Remploy will reconsider the position later in the year.

Is the Minister aware of the rather disgraceful conditions in which severely disabled men are working and have been working in this factory during the last three years? Why is it that this has happened when we were told in July, 1951, that everything was ready for beginning the job? Why has it been stopped?

I am aware that the factory is not in that condition which one would like it to be, but Remploy, Ltd., assure me that they are in difficulty in undertaking this drastic development within the means available to them.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.



asked the Minister of Labour how many cotton mills in Burnley were closed, wholly or partially, in the week ending 9th February; how many weavers registered at the local exchange as wholly or partially unemployed in the same period; and what steps he is taking to restore full employment to the cotton industry.

Fourteen cotton mills out of a total of 66 in Burnley were wholly or partially closed during the week ended 9th February; and on 1lth February, the nearest date on which a count was made, 1,471 weavers were registered as unemployed including 1,418 temporarily stopped. The last part of the Question primarily concerns my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in consultation with whom I am keeping the position under review.

How does the Minister account for the fact that in September last year, at the Burnley Labour Exchange, there were vacancies in textiles alone for 443 operatives and now there are 1,470 operatives unemployed? What is he doing to stop this decline, which is causing so much anxiety?

As I have indicated, this question affects the textile trade as a whole in which the employment situation began to show a tendency the wrong way in the spring and summer of 1951. The encouragement of that trade, a most desirable object, is a matter primarily within the compass of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the position is much worse than the figures indicate, because so many married women have opted out of the scheme? Further, in his discussions with the President of the Board of Trade, will he remind his right hon. colleague that in many parts of Lancashire there are no alternative industries to which unemployed cotton workers can transfer?

There are at present about 2,400 outstanding vacancies of all types in the area, and there are several thousand additional posts in defence work in prospect. However, I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend appreciate that there is understandable anxiety in East Lancashire on this account, and will he represent to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply that as many orders as possible should be placed in that area?

I will certainly bear that in mind when I have discussions, as I shall do, with my right hon. Friend.

Can the Minister say definitely that it is not the policy of the Government to create a pool of unemployment in the textile industry?

Youth Employment Service (Information)


asked the Minister of Labour to what extent teachers in State schools may refuse to supply any information sought by officials of youth employment committees to be embodied in the files which these officials keep of young people seeking their assistance.

Schools are only required to provide information to the Youth Employment Service in accordance with the terms of Section 13 of the Employment and Training Act, 1948: that is, particulars in respect of health, ability, educational attainments and aptitudes.



asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to check the growing unemployment in Scotland.

The growth of unemployment in Scotland in recent months is largely seasonal, and the total is slightly less than a year ago; but I am continuing my efforts, in collaboration with my colleagues, to get more work there.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in Clydebank unemployment has nearly doubled, due entirely not only to the irregularity of steel supplies, but to their hopeless inadequacy, and will he make representations to the Minister of Supply to increase the allocation of steel?

As I said, the total unemployment is less than a year ago. Male unemployment has gone down, but unemployment among women has gone up. I will certainly indicate to my right hon. Friend my anxiety to get work, materials and orders in places where there is a shortage of employment.

Is it not a fact that the upward trend in unemployment, which is mentioned in several of these Questions, is due to the financial mess left by the late Government?

Pottery Industry


asked the Minister of Labour what action he has recently taken to increase the numbers engaged in the pottery industry; what action he intends taking; how many decorators are required; what special steps are being taken to meet the urgent needs of the industry.

Special attention has been given to the requirements of the industry, and at the end of 1951 the total number of workers employed had in nine months increased by over 2,300. There are vacancies for about 350 decorators and employment exchanges will continue their efforts to fill them.

Could not a great increase in output be brought about if more decorators were available? If so, is the Minister aware that the Bank of England, with a large staff, was brought into the area during the war? If that were done during the war, why cannot a big hotel or hostel be taken over now, which would provide an opportunity for women from other parts of the country who are relatively well placed and who are making no contribution to Britain's economic recovery?

I appreciate the importance of this industry in relation to exports. One of the difficulties is that it is close to a re-armament factory, and one has to consider where the employees should be encouraged to go. Other things permitting, I hope to visit that area in a very short time, and I shall then be in a better position to inform the House.

Is the Minister aware that people are hoping that re-armament will not take precedence over this important industry, which is making such a vital contribution to Britain's economy? Can he give an assurance that this industry will still have priority?

I can only give this assurance, and I think that no more could reasonably be expected of me: that in looking at the importance of the rearmament factory there I shall not overlook the importance of the export trade. I shall endeavour to see that we fill both if we can.

When my right hon. and learned Friend visits the Potteries, will he go a little further north and visit Macclesfield, where there is plenty of scope for people from the textile mills to make armaments?

When the Minister visits the Potteries, will he inquire whether facilities are available for training women when they are found; and when he comes back, after finding that there is a shortage of facilities for technical training, will he impress upon his right hon. Friend the Minister of Education how shortsighted is the policy of cutting educational expenditure?


asked the Minister of Labour the number engaged in the pottery industry in 1939, 1945 and 1950, respectively; and the number of women engaged in the same years.

As the reply includes a table of figures I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The estimated numbers of insured persons in employment in the pottery industry in Great Britain at mid-1939 and mid-1945 were as follows:

TotalNumber of females included in Total

These figures relate to persons who were insured under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and they therefore exclude men aged 65 and over and women aged 60 and over, non-manual workers earning more than £420 a year, and part-time women employees. These classes became insured, however, under the National Insurance Acts, which came into operation in 1948, and they are therefore included in the following figures for the end of May, 1950:


Number of females included in Total


Notification Of Engagements Order (Administrative Workers)


asked the Minister of Labour why employment in managerial, professional, administrative and executive capacities has been excluded from the Notification of Engagement Order.

The general object of redeployment of labour to meet national needs would not be materially assisted by requiring such vacancies to be notified to employment exchanges.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that amongst older people there is considerable unemployment in these categories, and will he consider whether the powers given to him under the Order could be used to persuade employers to get away from the prejudice which some of them have against older people?

I have appointed a committee to look into the question of the employment of older workers. The Order, however, is one which follows Orders which have preceded it, and the whole matter was discussed and agreed to by both sides of industry.

Is the Minister aware of the present danger that manual workers in the industries covered by the Order may feel it is unfair to them that administrative people are not brought within its confines?

I can only say that that point was not taken in the long discussions we had with the representatives of labour.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that recently in the steel industry, where men are being asked, hypothetically, to remain after the age of 65, in a constituency where there are 300 vacant jobs in one firm alone, seven good men, with over 35 years' service each, have recently had their notices to quit?

Road Services Depot, Symington (Strike)


asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to a stoppage of work at the British Road Services Depot, Symington, Lanarkshire; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. I understand that 29 men stopped work on 25th February in protest against the decision to close down the operational side of the British Road Services Depot at Symington. This decision, which involves the transfer of 21 drivers and fitters to another depot, was taken after discussion through the normal joint consultative machinery. The strike is unofficial and officers of the trade unions are endeavouring to secure an immediate resumption of work.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the decision to close the depot followed an assurance given to me, the Parliamentary representative of these men, that the depot would not be closed and that this assurance came from the Chairman of the British Transport Commission and was later endorsed by the Chairman of the Road Haulage Executive?

That is a matter which does not come within my responsibility. The fact is that it is an unofficial strike. Although yesterday, I understand, the men decided by a majority vote not to resume work, the national union officials are calling another meeting tomorrow and I hope that will succeed.

Is the Minister of Labour aware that this stoppage has occurred through the intervention of the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Maitland), through his not allowing the trade union to deal with these labour questions but obstructing trade union officials?

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that that allegation is wholly unfounded? I, as the men's Parliamentary representative, take the greatest care to keep out of trade union issues, but if I passed on to the House what trade unionists have told me the hon. Member opposite would be greatly embarrassed?

Is the Minister aware that two evenings ago I had a visit in the Central Lobby of the House from two officials of the trade union concerned, who reported to me that the unofficial stoppage had occurred because of the intervention of the hon. Member opposite?

Is this not one more example of the friction which occurs between organised labour and nationalised industries?



asked the Minister of Labour the number of unemployed persons in Sheffield on 1st November last, and on the latest convenient date since 4th February.

The number was 1,230 at 12th November, 1951, and 1,470 at 11th February, 1952.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consult the Minister of Supply to see that a full allocation of raw materials is sent to industries in Sheffield, so that they can keep their people supplied?

Is it not the custom Mr. Speaker, for the hon. Member who put down the original Question to ask the first supplementary question?

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consult the Minister of Supply and other Ministers concerned to see if the substantial increase in unemployment can be mitigated, particularly in view of the fact that a number of firms have advised their workers that substantial redundancy must be expected in the near future?

As I have been invited, I will attempt to consult my right hon. Friend, but I ought to draw attention to the fact that whereas the figure I have given for 11th February is 1,470 the figure for February, 1951, was 1,405. That will put the matter into some proportion.

Industrial Relations Handbook


asked the Minister of Labour if he will arrange for the publication of a revised edition of the Industrial Relations Handbook.

A revised edition is being prepared. Meanwhile, the present edition should be read in conjunction with the supplements which have been issued.

Does the Minister appreciate that this decision will be received with gratitude by all those concerned in industrial problems? Will he expedite that new edition and, meantime, issue supplements to cover the changes which have taken place, particularly under the new Notification of Engagement Order, since the supplements were last issued?

The only thing holding up immediate issue is printing trouble and getting rid of some of the stocks of the old issue. I will consider what supplements should be issued in the meantime.

When the handbook is available, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman send a copy to the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Maitland)?

If this handbook has not been completely revised, will the Minister see if it is possible to get a statement from the Federation of British Industries similar to that issued by the Trades Union Congress, because industrial relations are a two-way matter and there is evidence that employers are taking advantage of the situation to get rid of good shop stewards in industry?

I do not know that any amendment of the document would be required, but I ought to say that I have had, and desire to acknowledge, co-operation from both sides of industry in dealing with this matter.

Painters, London Area


asked the Minister of Labour how many painters are registered as unemployed in the London area.

At 14th January there were 3,726 painters and decorators whose last employment was in the building and civil engineering industries, registered as unemployed at employment exchanges in the Greater London area.

Is the Minister of Labour aware that this figure is increasing at a rate far more than the seasonal fluctuation, largely as a result of the interference by the present Administration With housing programmes in the London area?

Would my right hon. and learned Friend consider asking his right hon. Friend the Minister of Works to consider taking painting work away from the licensing system as long as there are plenty of painters out of work and plenty of paint is available?

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend and will pass on what he has suggested to the appropriate Department.

Industrial Electricity Load Spreading


asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any statement to make on the arrangements for spreading the industrial electricity load.

Yes, Sir. I am glad to be able to inform the House that excellent results have been achieved in industrial load spreading this winter; power cuts have been to a large extent avoided.

The Electricity Sub-Committee has been reviewing the position, and has recommended that regional boards for industry should have discretion to relax load spreading arrangements, in the light of regional circumstances, as from 1st March next. This recommendation has been accepted by the Government and the regional boards have been so informed. The need remains for full use of private generating plant and for economy during peak hours by all classes of consumer.

I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to all concerned for the co-operation that has made this relaxation possible.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that that statement will be heartily welcomed by workers and managements throughout industry?

While endorsing what the Minister has said about the admirable co-operation by everyone this year, may I press on the Minister that load-spreading in the winter months ought to remain a national policy probably for many years to come? Will he bear that in mind when considering this winter's results?

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that, in principle, prevention is always better than cure and that this problem will never be overcome until there is a realistic reform of the Electricity Authority's tariffs.

On a point of order. Could I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the Minister of Labour could now answer Question No. 6? He referred to it in his reply to Question No. 10. He said he was going to make a statement in reply to Question No. 6. It is a Question which is of considerable importance to hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent agricultural constituencies.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said he would answer this with Question No. 22. I called both hon. Members whose names are attached to those Questions and I cannot go back now.

Retail Prices Index


asked the Minister of Labour what progress is being made on the compilation of a new Retail Prices Index.


asked the Minister of Labour whether he can now report further progress on the establishment of a revised cost-of-living index.

The Cost of Living Advisory Committee has submitted to me a report on the working of the present Interim Index of Retail Prices and possible means of effecting temporary modification in the present index until a new index based on the results of a family budget inquiry can be instituted. I hope to be able to make a further statement very shortly.

Will the Minister expedite that report, because he may not be aware that not only the benches behind him but many of his colleagues in the Government of other days have expressed the opinion that this index is a fraud to stop millions of workers from demanding increased wages, and that therefore there may be precipitate resignations of many of them if they feel that they are now parties to the maintenance of such an index.

I have expedited this report, but I thought it undesirable to make a statement until it was printed and available.

Is it not unreason-to complain of the delay since last November in view of the fact that this Committee was appointed in 1947, that previous Governments were asked repeatedly to do something about it and that the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee), who was a member of the last Government, stalled on it?

Embassies (Labour Attaches)


asked the Minister of Labour if he will give a list of embassies to which labour attachés have not been appointed.

Labour attachés are not at present attached to 18 embassies or legations. I will, if I may, circulate the list in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The list excludes countries in which the embassies have available the services of labour advisers appointed to the office of the Commissioner General for South-East Asia or the British Middle East Office. A number of the labour attachés cover more than one country.

Is the Minister aware of the importance of having labour attaches particularly in countries which do not operate our system of maintaining peace in industry and our system of democratic trade unionism?

Yes, Sir. I well understand the importance of these attachés. There are now 22 of them in posts, and they cover some 53 countries.

Will the Minister give an assurance that he will withstand any attempt to reduce the number of labour attachés which have already been appointed?

I cannot give that undertaking in that form. The need for economy in overseas expenditure has to be taken into account, and when we do that I cannot say how this review may affect the present appointments.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that it is our considered view on this side of the House that labour attachés are highly important and should be retained?

Can my right hon. and learned Friend make clear exactly what is the prime duty of these labour attachés? Is it to aid our ambassadors, to aid my right hon. and learned Friend's department or to give an example of our methods in the countries to which they are posted, as the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) tried to indicate? These are three very different things.

I do not underestimate the importance of the work that is done by labour attachés. All I was indicating was that, important though that work is, it has to be looked at in the setting of our economy as a whole.

Following is the list:

Afghanistan; China; Czechoslovakia; Nepal; Norway; Portugal; Soviet Union; Turkey; Yugoslavia; Bulgaria; The Holy See; Hungary; Iceland; Korea; Liberia; Philippines; Roumania; Switzerland.