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Volume 530: debated on Thursday 15 July 1954

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Skilled Craftsmen


asked the Minister of Labour if he will appoint a committee to investigate and report on the relative position of the skilled craftsman, which has been worsening for 40 years.

No, Sir. I do not think that this would be a useful step to take.

The facts do not appear to me to need investigation. I have put some facts, which the hon. Member wanted, very fully before him. I do not want to interfere with the system of free negotiation which governs relative wage movements.

Does that mean that the Minister is willing to agree to the exports of the country being, subsidised at the expense of highly-skilled craftsmen?

No, Sir. I did not say that. I merely said that I did not want to interfere. If anything can be done to put right any relative unfairness in this, I shall be delighted to see it, but I doubt whether it would be welcome to some of the hon. Member's Friends if I tried to enforce it.

Glass Fibres (Lung Effects)


asked the Minister of Labour if the report promised to the hon. Member for Stoke, South, in May, 1953, on the effect of fibre glass on the lungs of workers, is ready; whether the promised air and dust samples have yet been taken, and the microscopic examination made; and with what results.

Investigations, including microscopic examination and dust counts at factories processing resin bonded glass fibres, have now been completed. They have not produced any evidence of dust concentrations injurious to the lungs of the workers concerned.

Does that answer mean that it is accepted scientifically that fibre glass is not an irritant to lung tissue when it is inhaled?

I should not like to say that. All I can say is that the investigations which I promised have taken place and that the experts have informed me that, after going into the matter at five factories, including the Fairey Aviation Co., which was the one particularly mentioned, nowhere has it been shown that the processing of this type of fibre has produced concentrations which were dangerous to health.

If it is a fact that other conditions like this, such as dust infection from silica, and so on, in many cases take 10, 12 or even 20 years to develop, how is it possible to say, after a short time, that there is no effect?

These investigations have taken place over a long time. I was asked to undertake them, that is the result, and that is all I can say.

Pottery Working Party Recommendations (Implementation)


asked the Minister of Labour if the recommendations made in the Pottery Working Party's Report have now been implemented in full.

The Working Party's recommendations concerning health and welfare in the industry have been implemented in full in so far as they affect my Department. The apprenticeship scheme agreed to by both sides of the industry in 1945 has not so far been implemented.

I very much appreciate the Chief Inspector's reference to the industry in his Annual Report, but is the Minister aware that, apart from mining, this industry suffers more from the effect of silicosis than any other? In view of that, will he ask the Chief Inspector to give special attention to it?



asked the Minister of Labour the latest figure of unemployment in Dorset as a whole and in North Dorset; and how these figures compare with those of a year ago.

The numbers of unemployed persons on the registers of all employment exchanges in Dorset at 14th June, 1954, and 15th June, 1953, were 838 and 854 respectively. The corresponding figures for employment exchanges in the North Dorset constituency were 185 and 178.

Miners (Recruitment)


asked the Minister of Labour if, as part of his national campaign to recruit men for the mines, he will now consult the Service Ministers, with a view to arranging the release from the Services of men willing to enter the coal industry.

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member on 13th May last.

Should not every proposal for recruiting more miners be very carefully reconsidered in view of the serious shortage of man-power and the prospects of a fuel crisis? As I have tried to show the Minister in correspondence, there are men in the Services with mining experience who would be more usefully employed in the mines? Will the Minister discuss the question with the Service Departments?

This is a matter which always causes a great deal of difficulty because I have to balance the necessity of finding the men required for the Armed Forces with special require- ments, such as that which the hon. Member has brought to my attention. I constantly carry it in mind and shall continue to do so.

Industrial Court Award Proceedings (Publication)


asked the Minister of Labour if he has considered the letter from the hon. Member for West Ham, North, enclosing a letter from the General Secretary of the National Union of Vehicle Builders complaining of the failure of his Department to circulate the minutes of the proceedings of the Industrial Court to all concerned; and what action he is taking.

The hon. Member's Question relates to Award No. 550 of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. The Tribunal's practice is to send advance copies of such Awards to the parties concerned; that was correctly done in the normal way on the occasion to which he refers. If the parties want further copies, they can obtain them from H.M. Stationery Office.

I understand from the Tribunal that, as a matter of courtesy, and to enable the Stationery Office to decide how many copies of the Awards to print, the Secretariat of the Tribunal take orders from the parties for bulk supplies of Awards. That was done on this occasion, but, unfortunately, as the Union has already been told, an accidental breakdown in printing delayed delivery of these bulk supplies. There is no question of discrimination or bias as the union allege.

While thanking the Minister for that very full reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that one of his officials suggested to the general secretary of the union that if he put in a request for a certain number of copies it would be dealt with expeditiously? The difficulty in which the general secretary finds himself is that he has not yet received his ordered 250 copies, while the general public, who are not so intimately concerned, are able to buy as many copies as they like from the Stationery Office or from the public bookstalls, and—

Order. I do not know what has happened today, but supplementary questions seem to be even longer than usual.

Does the Minister not think that it would be better if this order were fulfilled first for the union or parties concerned?

I was not aware that the order had not yet been fulfilled, but I am sure that if the union had found itself embarrassed, it could, like the public, have got copies from the Stationery Office.

Co-Partnership Schemes


asked the Minister of Labour if his attention has been drawn to the recent announcements of co-partnership schemes by major industrial concerns; and whether he will state the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this connection.

Yes, Sir. The policy of the Government is to leave employers and workers free to adopt the arrangements best suited to their individual circumstances, which vary considerably between firms and between industries. We welcome any arrangements which create harmonious relations in industry and, at the same time, lead to increases in productivity.

Can the Minister assure us that there is no great substance in recent allegations that Treasury advice about the fiscal effect of such schemes has caused a number of them to be deferred? If there is any substance in the allegations, will he consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see whether anything can be done to meet the difficulty?

That part of the matter is for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I will see that he knows about it.

Factories Report (Publication)


asked the Minister of Labour why the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for 1952 was not published until June, 1954; and when he will resume the pre-war practice of publishing these Reports soon after the year to which they refer.

This has been a long-standing difficulty and both the Chief Inspector of Factories and I share the hon. Member's concern. The preparation of the Annual Report has recently been examined and proposals are now under consideration which, I hope, will be of assistance for the future.

I am obliged to the Minister for his answer, but as great interest is shown in this matter by those engaged in industry will he take steps not only to speed up the publication of the Report but also to ensure its wide and prompt distribution?

I have taken action which, I hope, will bring about that result. I am not satisfied to leave the position where it is.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there is a growing feeling throughout large sections of the trade union movement that the Factories Inspectorate is tending to run down in effectiveness, perhaps because of overloading, and would not the early publication of the Report enable people to see how far that is so and what to do about it?

I think that that is another reason why early publication is desirable, and I will insist on it.

Ilo Convention (Implementation)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will introduce legislation to implement Convention No. 98 of the International Labour Organisation, which has been ratified by Her Majesty's Government, by taking powers to enforce observance of the Convention.

Is the Minister aware that there is an organisation in this country which exists almost for the express purpose of violating this Convention because it debars people from membership solely on the grounds that they are members of a trade union? If so, what is the use of Her Majesty's Government going through the empty gesture of ratifying conventions and then doing nothing to see that they are applied in this country?

If I apprehend correctly the name of the only firm I know which could have come within that description, I must point out that they used to have an undertaking of the kind to which the hon. Member seems to refer and that they withdrew it at my request some time ago. If I am thinking of the wrong one, I will only say this: I think it better not to try to legislate on this matter, but we can be assured that under the organisation of both sides of industry which we now have we do enjoy adequate protection in these matters.