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Volume 639: debated on Wednesday 3 May 1961

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School Leavers, Acton


asked the Minister of Labour, how many Easter school leavers are registered this year at Acton Employment Exchange; and how many of these are still awaiting employment.

Sixty-eight boys and 60 girls; by 10th April, none was still awaiting employment.

While I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask whether he would agree that the small numbers involved indicate a most encouraging trend among young people towards continuing at school at the end of the scholastic year? Does he not think that employers and potential employers should take note of this change when making future arrangements?

I agree with my hon. Friend. In the Acton area, there is a good variety of employment and training opportunities for young people.

Employment Exchange, Rothwell


asked the Minister of Labour when he intends to provide in the urban district of Rothwell, York shire, a more suitable employment exchange in view of the present office being in an area which is to be redeveloped.

The present employment exchange at Rothwell is centrally situated and in a reasonably satisfactory building which, I understand, is not likely to be affected by the demolition of property in the area. The need for re-housing is, however, being kept under review.

Is the Minister aware that this building is old, dilapidated and quite unsuitable? Does he realise that the building itself, which I used myself over 20 years ago, is a disgrace to the Ministry, and will he give a promise that he will have another look at the Question I have put to him?

As I have said, the need for providing alternative accommodation is being kept under review at the moment. The building is nearly 60 years old, and I agree that it is not very attractive, but the fabric is sound and redecorations were carried out in 1959.

Dockers, Tilbury


asked the Minister of Labour how many dockers at Tilbury have been unemployed on each working day from 1st March, 1961, to the latest convenient date; and how these figures compare with the similar period last year.

As the reply contains a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

(1) From 1st March, 1960 to 16th April, 1960:
1st March12725th March203
2nd March1826th March308
3rd March4628th March190
4th March13029th March235
5th March31530th March92
7th March9331st March448
8th March761st April482
9th March1142nd April423
10th March374th April18
11th March115th April84
12th March2896th April5
14th March 37th April10
15th March578th April12
16th March2919th April266
17th March 48611th April225
18th March28512th April152
19th March34113th April145
21st March1214th April35
22nd March615th AprilPublic Holiday
23rd March8
24th March5316th April190

(2) From 1st March, 1961 to 15th April, 1961:
1st March15925th March490
2nd March15727th March112
3rd March11628th March340
4th March37529th March351
6th March13730th March574
7th March28231st MarchPublic Holiday
8th March391
9th March7271st April639
10th March6923rd AprilPublic Holiday
11th March517
13th March834th April239
14th March1935th April82
15th March2916th April284
16th March4877th April593
17th March4368th April683
18th March58910th April535
20th March38911th April469
21st March33512th April537
22nd March39613th April767
23rd March41714th April576
24th March42415th April574
NOTE: These figures do not include tally clerks.

Tally Clerks, Tilbury


asked the Minister of Labour how many tally clerks have been unemployed at Tilbury on each working day from 1st March, 1961, to the latest convenient date.

As the reply consists of a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can the Minister confirm the information that I have received that in fact there has been unemployment every day during that period and even over a longer period? If that is so, does it not indicate that the fear of unemployment expressed by these men in opposition to the proposed further recruitment was well-founded?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is quite true that there has been an increase in the number proving attendance compared with last year when, as he will remember, the figure was very low. I am sure that he also realises that it is the duty of the National Dock Labour Board in consultation with the local labour board concerned to keep the size of the register under review and to adjust it if necessary. I also understand that the Board expects that some part of the slack will be taken up when the holiday season arrives and the new pension scheme comes into force.

Following is the Table:

1st March4125th March23
2nd March2927th March20
3rd March2028th March30
4th March4529th March44
6th March1930th March57
7th March2131st MarchPublic Holiday
8th March44
9th March531st April54
10th March613rd AprilPublic Holiday
11th March54
13th March34th April33
14th March75th April16
15th March76th April8
16th March137th April30
17th March288th April50
18th March3610th April48
20th March3111th April38
21st March512th April50
22nd March413th April65
23rd March414th April32
24th March1115th April35

Shipyard Workers, Aberdeen


asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that more shipyard workers in Messrs. Hall, Russells' shipyard, Aberdeen, were paid off on Friday, 14th April, greatly increasing the numbers unemployed there, and that this is inimical to productivity, the export drive, and intake of foreign currency; and if he will take immediate steps to ascertain the cause of this increased unemployment in Aberdeen and have the matter rectified.

I am aware that lack of orders has resulted in 45 workers being discharged on 14th April and a further 51 since then. Sixty-three have so far registered at the employment exchange, and, of these, 11 have obtained other employment. The local officers of the Ministry are doing everything possible to assist those registering.

Does the Minister realise that the great national losses referred to in the Question are due largely to the Government's contumacious refusal to implement the Fleck Report? Will he, in conjunction with the relevant Ministers, get cracking on that aspect?

The Fleck Committee's recommendations are at the moment under consideration. Despite the contumelious nature of the hon. and learned Gentleman's supplementary question, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will take note of what he has said.

Domestic Service


asked the Minister of Labour if he will consider the setting up of a wages council to regulate the conditions of employment of people in domestic service.

We have no evidence to suggest that a wages council is needed to give statutory protection of the conditions of employment of people in domestic service.

Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that domestic service is possibly the only remaining sector of employment where employees have no real protection against bad employers? Will he consult his right hon. Friend again and obtain evidence which, I am sure, he would regard as affording proof that a wages council should be set up in order that minimum conditions and wages should be laid down?

My right hon. Friend will give full consideration to any evidence which comes before him of unsatisfactory conditions of employment, but, as the hon. Gentleman will know, the demand for domestic workers far exceeds the supply, and it seems unlikely that domestic workers would find it difficult to obtain work in reasonable conditions.

I have evidence from my constituency relating to one domestic in a large house who has definite complaints about bad conditions and being asked to work long hours for no added pay. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in making further inquiries, I have found that such things seem to be more widespread than is generally known—[Interruption.]—and this is not a matter which should cause hilarity on the part of some hon. Members opposite who are themselves possibly guilty of such abuses?

I have said that we will certainly consider any evidence which is brought before us, but we have received no representations on the matter. We have no evidence that domestic workers are unable to find reasonable conditions and wages.

Is the domestic training scheme which we had at the Ministry of Labour some years ago still in operation, and under that scheme did we not ask for minimum rates compatible with the service rendered?

I take it that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the National Institute of Houseworkers. That is still in operation, and the Ministry of Labour makes annually a substantial grant to it.

Immigrants (Unemployment)


asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the fact that there is still a high rate of unemployment in many areas amongst coloured immigrants, if he will consult with the Secretary of State for the Home Department with a view to the introduction of legislation to stop all further immigration until the existing problems of employment, housing, and health have been solved; and if he will make a statement.

As my hon. Friend knows, this is a matter which is being closely considered by the Government. I have nothing to add to recent statements on the subject.

Does the unrestricted immigration of coloured people into this country cause my right hon. Friend no anxieties at all?

As I have just said, the Government are considering the position, and statements have been made recently by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider again the suggestion I put to the Government in 1954 that they might convene a conference of local authorities particularly concerned in this matter with a view to finding a reasonable solution to the problems involved?

I am grateful for what the hon. Member has said. The Government are studying the problem and will take into consideration the views of local authorities and others.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the majority of people will probably be very much opposed to any control of immigration, and that the real way to settle problems such as that created by West Indian immigration is to provide living conditions in the West Indies which will be a magnet for employment there, and that this can be done only by safeguarding Commonwealth trade?

As is obvious, there are differing views on this question. There is a problem, and the solution must be thought out very carefully. The Government are doing that.

Did we not hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day that he proposes to introduce a payroll tax because of the shortage of labour in this country?


asked the Minister of Labour which are the six areas where coloured immigrant unemployment shows the highest figures; what they are in each case; what percentage they are of the total for the area; and why they are finding difficulty in obtaining employment.

The six Ministry of Labour regions with the greatest number of unemployed Commonwealth immigrants are London and South Eastern, Midland, North Western, East and West Ridings, North Midland, and Eastern and Southern. The greatest concentrations are in London and the Midlands. I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the latest available figures for which the hon. Member asks.

The majority of Commonwealth immigrants are unemployed for relatively short periods. Some of them, however, find difficulty in obtaining employment because they lack the necessary aptitude and experience for the vacancies which are available.

In view of the fact that it was publicly stated in one of the London districts that half the unemployed were coloured people, and in view of the fear expressed by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) which shows that hon. Members now fear unemployment, does not my right hon. Friend think that something should be done to control the flood into this country if only through a threat from an employment point of view?

I do not wish to weary the House by repetition. There is a problem, and that is why the Government are considering it. I think it important, however, in view of my hon. Friend's Questions, that I should say that, of the unemployed coloured immigrants we are considering, one-third are women and two-thirds have been unemployed for less than eight weeks.

RegionNumber of immigrants unemployed on 7th February, 1961Total adult unemployed on 13th February, 1961Immigrants as a percentage of total register
London and South Eastern7,80057,67113·5
North Western78348,2411·6
East and West Ridings58218,9613·1
North Midland48319,4222·5
Eastern and Southern48336,1451·3

Will the Minister confirm that the total number of immigrants, coloured or otherwise, is infinitesimal in relation to the population of this country, and ought not any civilised nation of 55 million people to be able easily to absorb about 300,000 people? Is he aware of the infinite damage done in the Commonwealth by the racialist prejudices of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne)?

I could not more strongly deny what the hon. Member has said. There is no racialist prejudice here. All thinking people realise that there is a problem. It must be looked at fairly and without prejudice, and that is what the Government are doing.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) dragged my name into his supplementary question, almost indicating that I share his racial views, may I say that I do not, and that I regard them as obnoxious?

Did my right hon. Friend intend to convey—if he did, I think it unfortunate—that the stress should be on colour? It is a non-racial Commonwealth. The problem is not one of coloured immigrants. It is a problem of immigrants.

I hope that I did not give that impression. In answer to a supplementary question from the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), I denied that my right hon. and hon. Friends were motivated by colour prejudice in any way.

Following are the figures:

Maternity Protection (Ilo Convention)


asked the Minister of Labour when it is his intention to ratify Convention No. 103 of the International Labour Organisation concerning maternity protection.

The position remains as stated in Cmd. 9082 presented to the House in March, 1954, and the Government do not propose to ratify this Convention.

I agree that, fundamentally, these matters are better settled between employer and employee, on a voluntary basis, but what does my right hon. Friend suggest can be done when the employer and the employed fail, perhaps, to carry out what are, I think, the accepted arrangements when there are maternity cases involved in employment? In view of his hon. Friend's agreement in answer to another question to look at any problems where people are not getting on very well in industry, will he consider cases of this kind?

I agree that this is primarily a matter best settled between the employer and worker. My hon. Friend will appreciate that this Convention does not guarantee an expectant woman against dismissal. It is a very difficult problem which in the ordinary way can be settled properly only by good sense in the relationship between employer and employee.

As there are employers, including, unfortunately, the Press Association, who are still following the barbaric practice of dismissing married women employees who have been with them for 15 years simply because they have become pregnant, does not the Minister think that the time has come for us to follow the example of France and to give protection to the right of reinstatement of married women by law as is done in that country?

I think that that would be very difficult. I understand the hon. Lady's feeling about this, but, once we start legislating, we are in danger of prejudicing the position of married women and of putting them under restraints which would make life more difficult for them than it is at the moment.