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Volume 644: debated on Wednesday 12 July 1961

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Trade Union Act, 1871 (Section 12)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will request the Chief Registrar to make a special report with regard to his responsibilities under Section 12 of the Trade Union Act, 1871, in so far as they relate to trades union voting papers and other documents.

The Chief Registrar is already required to report annually on his work under the Act and when appropriate his annual report refers to matters arising under Section 12.

Will my right hon. Friend agree that rank and file trade unionists are entitled as of right to have trade union business, including elections, conducted honestly and properly, and that the only external check against possible fraud by trade union officials is the right of the Chief Registrar to prosecute under Section 12? Will he bear in mind that in 1958 the Chief Registrar reported that his duties in this respect were impeded by the refusal of certain trade unions to provide him with the relevant documents and other necessary evidence? Will he bear in mind the national importance of this subject and, in view of the great public anxiety in this matter, will he take the necessary steps to ensure that the rights of the rank and file trade unionists may be better protected?

I am advised that the powers under Section 12 are designed to protect the property of the unions and would not be appropriate for the sort of situation which my hon. Friend has in mind. In answer to his general point, I am studying the recent judgment in this case, together with all other factors, and, obviously, I have no more to say about it at the moment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the ninety years which have elapsed since the 1871 Act, the clean decency of the British trade union movement has commended itself to the whole world and that now that there has been a smear inflicted on it by a totally unrepresentative clique of people—

Order. There is difficulty about this. I am not certain what the "smear" is, but this judgment is the subject matter of an appeal.

I was merely following what the Minister was saying. I was about to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that we on this side of the House are always extremely concerned at these matters; that we shall do our very best to ensure that the public responsibilities of the unions are met; and that the best way to do that is to allow the T.U.C. to go on with its work.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I think that we have to look at this matter calmly and in its true perspective. We do not want to take one incident as being typical. This matter has caused a great deal of concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House and to the country, and we have to give it serious consideration.


asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the judgment given in the case of Byrne and Chapple v. Foulkes and Haxell, how many breaches of Section 12 of the Trade Union Act, 1871, insofar as they relate to trade unions voting papers, have been reported by the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies in the past ten years.

The Chief Registrar has made no reports on this subject. The purpose of Section 12 of the Trade Union Act, 1871, is, of course, to protect the property of a trade union. I said this earlier in answer to a supplementary question. This was not an issue in this case.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be extremely unfortunate if this unique and isolated incident were used as a basis to mount an ill-informed attack on the trade union movement in general? Will he take steps, by a public announcement, to make clear to the country at large that this is isolated and highly unusual?

I do not think that anyone is making attacks on the trade unions. All I have said is that these are serious matters. Both sides of the House share concern about them. We have to examine the whole problem, not in the light of this one incident, but in the context of the position as a whole.

Newcast Foundries Limited, Newcastle-Under-Lyme


asked the Minister of Labour for how long his Department has been trying to find suitable workers to fill vacancies at Newcast Foundries Limited, of Newcastle-under-Lyme; and after what period of time he will be prepared to consider an application for labour permits for foreign workers.

There are at present sixteen unfilled vacancies with this firm which were notified to the employment exchange on 18th May. We are now prepared to consider an application from the firm to employ suitably qualified foreign workers.

While thanking the Parliamentary Secretary very much for the good work he has achieved so rapidly in adopting a more reasonable attitude to these applications, may I ask if he will comment on the fact that so much difficulty is being found by his Department, in view of the unemployment that exists, in trying to meet the demands from this firm for workers in the foundries?

Naturally, we seek to fill vacancies wherever possible locally. The vacancies are circulated in addition, of course, to other employment exchanges but there is difficulty in filling these places as there is a shortage of lodging accommodation, as I expect the hon. Member quite understands. It takes perhaps a fortnight to establish the fact that there are no home citizens available to fill these jobs. It seldom, if ever, takes more than a month, and, as soon as that has been established, we consider applications to employ foreign labour.



asked the Minister of Labour for the latest date for which figures are available, how many unemployed persons and how many unfilled vacancies there were in Newcastle-under-Lyme; how many of the persons unemployed were disabled; how many of the vacancies available were in foundries; and what difficulties were being encountered in trying to fill them.

On 12th June, 1961, there were 302 males and 140 females registered as unemployed in Newcastle-under-Lyme, of whom 85 males and 23 females were disabled persons.

Unfilled vacancies on 5th July, 1961, were 563 for males and 192 for females, of which 22 for males were in foundries. There are very few foundry workers registered as unemployed and vacancies, particularly for skilled workers, are not easy to fill.

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for those figures, may I ask if he has noted the fact that there still remains a residue of registered disabled workers in Newcastle-under-Lyme who for a long period have been unable to find work? Will he endeavour to use the good offices of his Department to try to bring to Newcastle-under-Lyme some special form of employment that would enable these disabled workers to have a future?

I should like to assure the hon. Member, as I think he knows, that this is a matter very close to the heart of the Department. I believe it is also true and fair to say that employers generally try to fulfil their obligations and duties towards these disabled workers. Perhaps the hon. Member would like to know that there are twenty-six people in this area who are in section 2 of the Disabled Register for whom only sheltered employment is possible or suitable.



asked the Minister of Labour what is his estimate of the percentage of boys and girls who having been recorded as apprentices in his Department's apprentice statistics subsequently have their apprenticeships terminated.

What is the right hon. Gentleman's estimate of the error in the figures given by youth employment officers to his Department when they made up the original figure? Is is not based on the report by boys and girls who go to the youth employment officer because they think they have apprenticeships offered to them and in fact have not?

I believe that the figures are pretty accurate. I think that the hon. Member knows how difficult it is to achieve supreme accuracy in this matter. Our figures show that where wastage is due to premature terminations, this is more than offset by late entrants to apprenticeship. I think that, broadly speaking, we can rely on these figures.

Would the Minister agree that three years ago the Carr Committee recommended that he should have far more complete statistics of the number of people in apprenticeship training and so on? What is he doing to carry out that recommendation?

The main task of the Youth Employment Service is to get on with the job of advising young people in finding jobs and apprenticeships. If we put on the Service this heavy demand for extra statistics, the officers would be taken away from the crucial job of work which they have to do at the moment.

Street Newsvendors


asked the Minister of Labour what steps he proposes to take to include street newsvendors within the wages and holiday provisions laid down by the Retail Newsagency, Tobacco and Confectionery Wages Council and if he proposes to amend Statutory Instrument, 1960/1 (R.N.T. (26)) accordingly.

Minimum remuneration for street newsvendors has been provided ever since the Council was set up but these workers are not covered by any holiday provisions. My right hon. Friend has no power either to amend the relevant Order without proposals from the Council, or to require the Council to make particular proposals.

Would not my hon. Friend agree that it is only because of the method by which these men are paid that they appear to be self-employed, but that in fact they are actually employed by the big newspapers? Would he, therefore, agree that they are entitled to holidays with pay and other benefits? Will he look into the matter further?

As my hon. Friend knows—and I agree with him—there are two types of person involved in this form of occupation. I think it a fact that one street newsvendor raised the question of holidays with the Council when it published its first proposals in 1949. The Council did not feel able to prescribe holidays with pay at that time. Since then no further representations have been received from these people, but, if my hon. Friend has further representations to make, I shall be glad to receive them.

Shipyard, Birkenhead (Demarcation Dispute)


asked the Minister of Labour what action he is now taking to end the inter-union demarcation dispute at Cammell Laird's shipbuilding yard at Birkenhead.

The General Council of the Trades Union Congress arranged a meeting of the two unions concerned in this dispute on 6th July. They agreed to seek clarification of an earlier arbitration award dealing with work claimed by each of them. I have arranged for the arbitrator to hear representatives of the unions on Friday next.

Whilst welcoming that statement, may I ask if my right hon. Friend does not agree that these continued disputes are completely destroying confidence in the British shipbuilding industry? Does he not consider that there is a duty on his Department to take positive steps to prevent their recurrence instead of intervening at a late stage when the damage has already been done?

I agree with my hon. Friend about the very serious effects which these disputes have. I think that they do great damage to the industry as a whole, as well as, of course, to the individual men who work in the industry. I should point out that there is a demarcation procedure agreement which has been agreed by the unions. I hope that they can make more use of it. As a result of the meeting on 6th July, a member of the General Council of the T.U.C. is to act as chairman of a meeting between the executives of the two unions. The object is to go over the whole question of the relationship of these unions and the operation of the procedure agreement dealing with demarcation issues. No date has been fixed for the meeting, but I hope that useful results will flow from it.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise—surprising though it may seem to him—how relieved we on this side of the House are to see him back again and how glad we are that we could prevent his stand-in from doing any damage while he was away?

Order. It is very difficult to discover how that arises from the Answer.

Laboratories, Technical Colleges And University Departments (Safety)


asked the Minister of Labour what action is taken by the Factory Inspectorate, and on what basis, to ensure safe conditions in the laboratories of technical colleges and university departments; and whether he will take steps to extend the scope of the Factory Inspectorate in this respect.

The closest contact is maintained between my inspectors and Her Majesty's inspectors of schools in advising local education authorities and technical colleges on these questions. The Factory Inspectorate is also helping to prepare a code of practice for protection against radiation hazards in research establishments.

Does not the Minister agree with me that that Answer is not completely satisfactory? As long ago as 1949 the Gowers Report suggested that legislation should be framed to cover students in colleges of this kind. Does he not recall that we discussed the matter in Committee on the Factories Bill some two or three years ago? Will he not accede to the second half of my Question and promise to bring in legislation to cover these students?

I am afraid that I cannot agree with the hon. Member. My information is that the present arrangements are working satisfactorily. My advice is available and is readily sought in both colleges and universities. Unless the hon. Member has information which I do not possess, I do not think that he is justified in asking for legislation.

On a point of order. In view of the fact that I am not content with that answer, I shall ask leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment on the first possible occasion.

School Leavers, Central West Fife


asked the Minister of Labour how many school leavers there will be in Central West Fife at the end of the current school year; and how many vacancies exist for them now at the local employment exchanges.

About 335 boys and 350 girls. On 5th July there were at the local Youth Employment Offices 59 notified vacancies for boys, plus an unspecified number of vacancies with the National Coal Board, and 81 for girls.

Does not the Minister recognise that this reveals a deplorable situation in which the prospects for boys and girls in this area are certainly worse than the average of the United Kingdom and worse than for Scotland as a whole? Can he give any hope that there will be some amelioration of the situation very soon? Does he recognise that boys and girls in their tender adolescent years are having to leave these areas for the Midlands and the South and that parents are desperately anxious that the Government should do something about it?

I appreciate the hon. Member's concern and I am sure that he realises that he is not the only one to have that concern. It might be some comfort to him to know that, despite the figures which have been given, all but five of the 561 Easter school leavers were working by mid-May. It is therefore possible to misinterpret the figures which I have just given. If one looks back on the recent history, one finds that practically all the school leavers found employment in the area. But I realise his anxiety, all the same. Perhaps he would like to know that the National Coal Board, for example, the Royal Naval Dockyard and the Central Electricity Board, and so on, are all arranging to increase their intake of young people.

Is the Minister aware that all hon. Members are not only concerned about whether these young people obtain employment. We are very much concerned about the kind of employment which they obtain. The graph shows that there is nothing like sufficient of them obtaining skilled work or work which requires technical training of any type.

I appreciate the general problem of the area and we are doing our best about it. It is, of course, true that if some travel to work can be accepted the prospects of a range of employment, as well as mere employment, are very much wider.

Industrial Relations (Commonwealth Countries And Colonial Territories)


asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of his speech at the International Labour Conference in Geneva, when he spoke of the acute shortage of men with ability and experience in labour affairs, with special regard to developing countries, he will consider inviting more trade unionists from the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland to this country to study British labour relations under the auspices of his Department.

I have made places available on industrial relations courses for trade unionists from Commonwealth countries and Colonial Territories in Africa. I am shortly expecting nominations from them for the next course which will be held in the autumn.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask him to continue to bear in mind that in these developing countries labour relations are of the utmost importance and that it would be a great tragedy if the enormous potential of the Federation were to be undermined through inexperienced trade union leaders?

I very much agree with the hon. Member. That was the burden of the speech which I made in Geneva to which he referred.

Industrial Accidents


asked the Minister of Labour what special efforts he proposes to arrest the rapidy increasing number of industrial accidents, particularly among young people.

I am considering with representatives of employers and trades unions what more can be done to promote safe methods of work and in particular to give young people sound safety training.

In view of the fact that the accident rate is increasing, despite reasonable precautions being taken, does the Minister agree that the extensive use of cinema films in works canteens showing the dangers in modern industry is probably the best way of getting this across at any rate to the younger people in industry?

That is a useful suggestion which I will certainly consider. It is not only a question of doing this when the young person has arrived in the factory and taken up his job. More can be done in schools and colleges, and here my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education intends to help to do more than is already being done. But I still think—and the hon. Member's idea is a contribution to it—that the main work is for all of us to preach the need for promoting safety-mindedness in industry. Individually we can all make contributions.

School Leavers (Apprenticeships)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will make a further statement on the prospects for those leaving school this summer so far as apprenticeships and other training opportunities are concerned; and whether there is any prospect of an increase in training facilities commensurate with the large increase in school leavers.

Preliminary reports covering the first few months of this year—and I must emphasise their provisional nature—which I have received from the Youth Employment Service indicate that the number of apprenticeships and learnerships is keeping pace with the substantial increase in the number of school leavers starting work.

While welcoming that reply, may I ask the Minister whether he will make a further statement before the House rises for the Summer Recess bearing in mind that we shall rise about the time that a great number of these school leavers will be leaving school? Will he bear in mind the great anxiety on both sides of the House about this, particularly in such areas as Scotland and the North-East Coast, where local unemployment is likely to aggravate the problem and to prevent training places from being found for these young people?

I emphasised in my Answer the preliminary nature of these reports. I do not want to mislead the House, but frankly I am relieved that the reports which I am receiving from every region of the country are far more satisfactory than perhaps some of the critics thought they would be.

The Minister said that the reports which he is receiving from every region of the country are far more satisfactory than he expected. Does that apply to Scotland? In particular, does it apply to Lanarkshire, where unemployment is high, where the last pit closes tomorrow in one area and where many jobs are folding up this week-end?

It does not apply to Lanarkshire, but it applies to Scotland as a whole. We have to be very careful. I do not want to mislead the House and I prefer to wait until I can give sound figures, but my general impression, which I thought the House would like, is that we are getting on with this job rather better than some people feared.

In considering the figures from different areas, will the Minister take a special look at what is being done in the Wakefield area to see whether that might provide a lesson as to how training opportunities can be improved in other areas within the existing framework?

My hon. Friend has already discussed this matter with me. The example set by the Wakefield area is one from which all of us could benefit.

Factory Inspectorate (Strength)


asked the Minister of Labour what is the present strength of the Factory Inspectorate, in both its general and specialised branches; and whether, in view of the increase in industrial accidents, he will make a substantial increase in the establishment to enable workplaces to be inspected more frequently.

On 3rd July, 1961, in addition to the chief inspector and four deputy chief inspectors, 339 inspectors were employed in the general inspectorate and 71 in the specialist branches. I keep the establishment of the Factory Inspectorate under constant review and I shall certainly bear this factor in mind when I consider the forthcoming Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories.

Are there not a number of urgent reasons for increasing the establishment? Does the Minister agree that the increase in accidents is alarming and that the frequency of inspection is one aspect of the problem which is under his direct control? Does he agree that we are inspecting our industrial establishments far less frequently than the standards laid down by the I.L.O.? Does he also agree that the recent regulations issued by his Department have increased the burden on the inspectorate? For all those reasons, does he think that there is a chance that he will increase the establishment in the near future?

I cannot make any promise about that. In 1960, of the 219,526 factories on our register, 100,518 were visited.

Is it not a fact that the I.L.O. recommendation some years ago, which was endorsed by this country, laid down a standard of one visit per year for every factory? The figures which the Minister has just given represent about one visit every two years or even less.

I note what the hon. Member said, but although we accepted the recommendation at the time, our binding obligations relate to the 1947 Convention and not to the recommendation.

Building Operations (Accidents)


asked the Minister of Labour if he is now in a position to publish an analysis of the reasons for the increase of accidents in building operations during 1960.

An analysis of these accident figures, with a commentary, will be published in the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Factories in September.

Would not it be more convenient if that Report were published now? Is not it a serious matter? Are not the Government concerned about the activities of the building industry? Are not excessive speculation and excessive profits one reason why there are accidents in the industry?

I do not know about that. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I have already expressed my great concern about the increase in accidents. It is because I want the matter to be considered thoroughly, and because I want to see that the work is not skimped, that a little extra time has been taken. The Report will be published in September.