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Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 10 May 1961

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Trade Union Officials (Elections)


asked the Minister of Labour what steps he takes to satisfy himself that the rules and regulations for the conduct of elections for trade union officials as laid down by the Registrar of Friendly Societies are observed; and what action he takes with regard to persons who infringe these rules and regulations.

The Registrar of Friendly Societies has no power to lay down rules and regulations for the conduct of elections of trade union officials.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only existing external check of the conduct of trade union elections is the Chief Registrar's powers to prosecute in cases where voting papers or other documents have been fraudulently misapplied? In view of the disturbing evidence which has been given——

In view of the national importance of this question, will my right hon. Friend say whether he is satisfied that the rights of rank and file trade unionists are adequately protected at the present time?

As you have already indicated, Mr. Speaker, that the matter is sub judice because of a certain court case which is going on, it would be better for me to refrain from making any comment at the present time.

Whilst agreeing that it is an issue on which one should not comment, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would not agree that from long usage it has been shown that there is a very fine level of democratic elections within the trade union movement and that it is not for an organisation which never has an election of its officials to criticise a trade union?

I still think that as Mr. Speaker has indicated that the matter is sub judice, it is better for me not to comment even on what the hon. Member has just said.

Fishermen (Medical Examination)


asked the Minister of Labour what consultations he held with representative organisations concerned with the fishing industry before deciding not to ratify Convention No. 113 of the International Labour Organisation concerning the medical examination of fishermen; what views were expressed by those he consulted; and whether he will make a statement.

Both sides of the industry were fully consulted during the various stages of discussion leading to this Convention, and their views have been well known throughout. The reasons for the decision not to ratify are set out in the the White Paper Cmnd. 1318, which was laid before the House on 23rd March.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the arguments in the White Paper are very unconvincing to the trade union mainly concerned here? Would he agree that in the smaller fishing vessels, in particular, a man is often on watch for long hours unaccompanied, either on deck or in the engine room, and that a sudden illness could be serious? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the better employers insist on medical examination? Should not the others be brought into line?

This is a matter of opinion, but I think that the hon. Member will agree that the provisions of the Convention go well beyond what is laid down in the United Kingdom not only for the fishing industry but for the Merchant Navy and indeed for industry generally. I think that this was made clear when the matter was discussed.

School Leavers, Kirkintilloch


asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to provide employment for the increased number of school leavers in Kirkintilloch.

Absorption of the additional numbers in Kirkintilloch this year and next should not present undue difficulties.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is a quite unsatisfactory Answer? We want some positive efforts. Is he aware that the population is increasing rapidly as a result of the overspill agreement with Glasgow and that there is some frustration among young families who come out of Glasgow because of the lack of opportunities for young people in the town of Kirkintilloch? Would the hon. Gentleman take some steps to see that there is a drive to bring industry into Kirkintilloch as well as the overspill from Glasgow?

The employment position at the moment is healthy and we have every expectation that that will continue. The Easter school leavers, for example, were absorbed into employment very rapidly; of the 36 boys and 54 girls, only one boy was still on the register on 10th April.

Apprentices, Dumbarton


asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to increase opportunities for apprenticeship in industry in the County of Dumbarton.

Opportunities for apprenticeship depend largely on the general employment situation. The Government, through the Local Employment Act, is encouraging further industrial development in Dunbartonshire. A Committee on which all sides of industry in Scotland are to be represented is about to be set up to keep the apprenticeship position under review and encourage employers to increase their intake.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that as a result of the rapid expansion of the new town of Cumbernauld some frustration is felt among young families who come out of Glasgow into the new town because of lack of opportunities or apprenticeship for young people there? Will the hon. Gentleman see what can be done in that direction?

I am grateful to the hon. Member. That is the sort of point we would gladly look into.

Pottery Industry (Tuberculosis And Pneumoconiosis)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the special danger of tubercular infection to workers in some sections of the pottery industry; and what action he is taking to reduce the number of cases of pulmonary massive fibrosis.

I am aware that there is a close relationship between certain forms of pneumoconiosis and tuberculous infection. As my hon. Friend told the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) on 6th March, a Committee comprising both sides of the industry and the factory inspectorate has been charged with following up the Survey on the Pottery Industry. In an interim report, the Committee made recommendations about dust control appliances which have been circulated to every pottery firm in the country. The Committee is continuing its work and I am sure that this is the most effective way of making progress.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is something further which he himself could do at once, by seeing that no entrant comes into the industry suffering from tubercular infection? Will he, by regulation or some other means, see that entrants are X-rayed by the mass X-ray centre, because that would certainly preclude a great deal of suffering and some deaths?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that I was considering the point he raised in an earlier Question on this matter. I am considering this and will be writing to the hon. Gentleman.

Pottery Industry (Dust Sampling Programme)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he has yet received a re quest for financial aid to expedite the work of the Joint Industrial Council in the Potteries, particularly in the estimation of dust counts.

The Joint Standing Committee has suggested that financial aid be given to the British Ceramic Research Association to enable it to carry out the proposed dust sampling programme. Government aid to research associations is made available through the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. I understand that the Director of the Association has expressed an intention of raising the question with the D.S.I.R. If he does so, I shall certainly be prepared to make clear the importance I attach to the work.

May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply? Is he aware that I put this Question down because as long as ten months have gone by between the taking of these dust samples and the announcement of their significance? In view of the importance of this, may I again say that I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his sympathy?

Dispute, Mansfield


asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the dispute between Harwood, Cash & Company, of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and the union representing the employees; and if he will endeavour to bring the two sides together with a view to ending the dispute and entering into negotiations.

Yes, Sir, I am aware of this dispute. Our officers have been in touch with the employer and the union. They will continue to do what they can to end the dispute.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this dispute has been going on since last November? In the meantime, there has been a strike, which was called off in the hope that the employers and trade union could get together, but that move has failed. Will he continue his efforts to get the two sides together, because the central problem is one of recognition?

As I have told the hon. Gentleman, we will certainly continue to do all that we can, but at the moment, as he knows, there is a certain amount of ill feeling over the strike. I hope that this can soon be dissipated and that the two sides can get together and enter into discussion of their problems.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is a particularly unfortunate case of a firm not allowing the ordinary decencies of trade union recognition and discussion? Would he agree to meet my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor) and me to discuss the matter if we can be of any help?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish me to take sides in this matter. I have already met his hon. Friend and have had a full discussion with him on the matter. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am fully aware of the position.

Vacancies, Wales


asked the Minister of Labour how many unfilled vacancies exist in Wales, in South-East Glamorgan, and in the Borough of Barry, respectively; and how these figures compare with a year ago.

On 5th April, 14,808 in Wales, 2,053 in the Cardiff, Bute Docks, Penarth and Llantwit Major area, and 216 in Barry; and on 6th April, 1960, 10,290, 1,658 and 133 respectively.

Should not these figures of increased vacancies be good encouragement for areas which suffered from inter-war unemployment? Does not this reflect the remarkable success of the Conservative Government's policy in bringing new industries to these areas and creating extra jobs?

How many of the unfilled vacancies are in coal mining in East Glamorgan?

If the Distillers Company, Limited, is making such a big contribution to the expansion of employment in the area represented by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), can we, through you, Mr. Speaker, suggest to the company that it should also store whisky in the area instead of always in Scotland?

Iron And Steel And Tinplate Industries


asked the Minister of Labour how many persons were employed at the latest convenient date in the iron and steel and tinplate industries in England and in Wales, respectively; and how these figures compare with the numbers who were employed in 1951 and 1956, respectively.

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

19511956Latest available date19511956Latest available date
Iron and steel (including tinplate)321,440331,630381,790(a)70,88077,16078,530(a)
Tinplate only1,060940460(b)16,84014,1509,910(b)
1. The figures given are those for mid-year.
2. Separate figures for tinplate are not available after 1958 owing to changes in industrial classification.



asked the Minister of Labour what was the number of immigrants unemployed in the London and South-Eastern and the Midland areas, respectively, on 7th May, 1961, as compared with the corresponding date in 1960; and what percentages they are of total unemployment in the said areas.

On 2nd May, 1961, the numbers of unemployed Commonwealth immigrants were 7,913 and 3,722 for the London and South-Eastern and Midland regions respectively, representing 15·4 per cent. and 13·5 per cent. of the total unemployed register in those regions. The corresponding figures for May, 1960, were 4,754 and 1,202, representing 10·2 per cent. and 7·7 per cent of the total unemployed register.

While I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for circulating the figures, may I ask him whether there is evidence that the greatly increased number of people required for the expansion of these industries in South Wales will be forthcoming, in view of all the problems, such as housing, which must arise?

It is my hope that these vacancies will be filled as they come forward in the future.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider the other point that if the Steel Company of Wales is allowed to import coal from the United States there will soon be no vacancies?

Following are the figures:

Does my right hon. Friend realise that these figures indicate that unemployment benefit is paid in these areas at the rate of over £1 million a year? In view of the high incidence of unemployment among immigrants, will he urge his Cabinet colleagues to introduce regulations insisting that immigrants can enter this country only if they have guaranteed jobs to come to?

As my hon. Friend knows, Questions on this subject have been put to my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary as well as to me. I have nothing to add to what they have already said.

Is not the answer that most of the immigrants are unskilled people? Among British personnel, the majority of those unemployed are unskilled people.

I think that there is truth in what the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) says. As I said only last week, one-third of the unemployed immigrants are women, and two-thirds have been unemployed for less than eight weeks.

Manpower Situation


asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the recent discussions of his National Joint Advisory Council on the manpower situation.

At its last meeting the National Joint Advisory Council considered a paper on the manpower situation which had been submitted by the British Employers' Confederation. This emphasised particularly the shortages of skilled labour and suggested a number of points which the Council might discuss. It was agreed at the meeting that my Ministry should seek some further information, particularly about the composition of the unemployed labour force and that a working party of the Council would consider the whole problem.

While welcoming that statement, and hoping that these further discussions will have constructive results, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will say what views were expressed at the last meeting of the Council about the payroll tax? What was the view of the employers' representatives and of the T.U.C. representatives about the effect of this tax on the manpower situation?

Again, that is hardly to do with the original Question. The employers' representatives asked me to convey to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer their feelings about the payroll tax, but very little expression was given about the matter by the trade union representatives. That applied purely to discussion on the payroll tax—not to the discussion to which I referred in reply to the Question on the Order Paper.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether both sides are against the payroll tax?

While not desiring to create difficulties, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that the trade unions catering for highly-skilled tradesmen have another point of view on this matter in view of their experience in the last twenty years? Will he also bear in mind that certain hon. Members who have made so many observations about this are not necessarily representing the trade union point of view about it?

This is a complicated and difficult subject, and there are many aspects to it. That is why it will be useful to have the working party, which will consider all those aspects, including the point which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has in mind.