Skip to main content


Volume 656: debated on Monday 19 March 1962

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Ministry Of Labour Gazette


asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the discontinuance of his Department's Annual Report, he will ensure that all matters normally covered in the reports will be reported on in detail in the Ministry of Labour Gazette during the year.

The main topics previously covered in the Annual Reports will most certainly be dealt with in the Ministry of Labour Gazette. I hope that it may occasionally be possible to add some additional material of interest.

What is the point of discontinuing the Annual Report? Surely the material is there? It is only a matter of editing and printing it, and this can hardly cost very much money. Surely the value of the Report is out of all proportion to what will be saved?

I do not agree. The Gazette comes out monthly, and the Report, as the hon. Gentleman said, was issued annually. I think, therefore, that this information will be more valuable if it is produced more frequently.



asked the Minister of Labour if he will take steps to limit the working hours of juveniles aged 15 to 16 years to 30 hours per week and of juveniles aged 16 to 18 years to 40 hours per week.

I have no evidence that the hours being worked by young people within existing restrictions are harmful, and I have therefore no plans for measures in this field.

If the right hon. Gentleman will not take action, will he do what so many of his colleagues do—cause an inquiry to be made? Will he have an inquiry made to see whether there is any causal connection between fatigue and juvenile industrial accidents?

I do not believe that there is much point in having an inquiry unless there is evidence for having one. If the hon. Gentleman or any hon. Member can produce any evidence for an inquiry, naturally I will consider it.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman has seen the information in the questionnaires returned by juvenile employment officers, that there is a strong connection between fatigue and accidents? As the right hon. Gentleman does not know the figures, why does not he try to find them out?

I think the evidence is that accidents are due more to inattention than to fatigue. These are two different things. I am sure that the answer is to instil safety-consciousness not only in young people, but in middle-aged and old people.

I do not dissent from what the right hon. Gentleman said about safety-consciousness, but would not be agree that in many cases the sudden change to long working hours from school hours can lead to exceptional fatigue towards the end of the working day or week? Because of the serious rise in industrial accidents among young people, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the point made by my hon. Friend?

I said that if there was evidence for it I would be prepared to consider going further, but I have some evidence that the first two hours of work are one of the peaks for accidents.

Lost Working Days


asked the Minister of Labour what was the toal number of days lost at work in shops and offices through tuberculosis and bronchitis from 1960 up to the latest convenient date; and what was the total number of fatal accidents in shops and offices for the same period.

I regret that this information is not available.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I, too, regret that he has not taken sufficient interest to find out what these figures are? Is he aware that the largest trade unions catering for this type of worker, the U.S.D.A.W., the Municipal and General Workers' Union, the Transport and General Workers' Union, the association of shipbuilding, engineering and draughtsmen trades unions and so on, are concerned about the health, safety and welfare of their workers? Will the Parliamentary Secretary take the initiative to do something about this, because the Government made what appeared to be a sincere promise to bring in new legislation to cover these points?

With respect, I think that most of that supplementary question did not arise from the information requested in the original Question. But, as the hon. Gentleman knows, a Bill to deal with safety, health and welfare in offices is promised for next Session, and I recommend that the hon. Gentleman should wait until that Bill arrives.

Engineering Industries


asked the Minister of Labour what action he proposes to take to deal with the worsening industrial relations in the engineering and allied industries which manufacture approximately 60 per cent. of United Kingdom exports.

In the great majority of firms in the engineering industry relations between managements and their employees are good.

Is the Minister aware that a national ballot is now being taken, following on the two days' stoppages which have already taken place? Does he agree that this industry is responsible for at least 60 per cent. of Britain's exports and that if a prolonged dispute took place it could have a very damaging effect on British economy? If he accepts these points, should he not take the initiative in order to prevent this taking place?

Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right in quite a lot of what he has said. It is true that the unions and employers are in dispute at national level about a wage claim, but as I said in my main Answer, I do not accept that relations between unions and firms in the industry are generally bad, which is the inference of the Question. I do not think that it would be useful for me to intervene in this dispute, although I am naturally watching what is happening with very great care.


asked the Minister of Labour what steps are to be taken to remedy the 50 years worsening relative position of wages of the most skilled men engaged in the engineering industry.

Wages in the engineering industry are settled by collective bargaining, as the hon. Member knows. The wages of workers in the engineering industry, like the wages of all workers, have gone up greatly during the period and I certainly do not think the relativities which were acceptable in 1910 are necessarily relevant to the 1960s.

Will the Minister convey to his officials who prepared that excellent statistical information which appeared in the OFFICIAL REPORT a few weeks ago in answer to a Question of mine my appreciation of the work that they must have put into it? Will the Minister now look at this statistical information in relation to the Question and then consider what action should be taken?

I much appreciate what the hon. Gentleman has said, which will encourage those responsible for producing all this information. Naturally, I am considering these matters, but I do not think that it would be fair if I gave the hon. Gentleman an impression which I did not feel. Things have changed and I do not think there is quite as unfair a disparity now as there was.

Family Expenditure Survey


asked the Minister of Labour whether the results of the Family Expenditure Survey have provided evidence of distinctive changes in the patterns of domestic spending; and what have been the recommendations of the Cost of Living Advisory Committee about the weighting system of the Index of Retail Prices in the light of the survey results.

The Report of the Cost of Living Advisory Committee which was published last Friday shows that the Survey has revealed some changes in the pattern of expenditure since the Household Expenditure Enquiry held in 1953. The Committee has recommended that, in order to keep the Index of Retail Prices as up-to-date as possible, the weighting pattern should be revised annually in January on the basis of information obtained from the Family Expenditure Survey over the three years ended in the previous June. I have accepted this and the other recommendations made by the Committee.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this latest evidence of generally rising standards in real terms will be welcomed on all sides? May I ask him to reconsider further refinement? Would he consider asking his Advisory Committee to look at the tax content of this expenditure by families—indirect tax content, such as Purchase Tax and Excise—with a view to going on from there to consider whether the total contribution, tax-wise, of certain groups with certain incomes can be related to the receipt of State benefits which have measurable value?

As to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, it is true, and I think that we all welcome the fact, that living standards have very considerably improved in recent years. That is shown by the fact that the proportion spent on staple foods has gone down, and this has left more to be spent on items which perhaps in earlier days were considered luxuries but which today have become part of everyday life. As to the second part of the supplementary question, this involves very wide issues. Probably my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others of my colleagues would like to consider very carefully what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Will the Minister tell the House what are the objections and difficulties to publishing another set of figures which could be derived from the same sources but which would measure only the necessities of life? Would he not agree that the movement of prices of such necessities is apt to be blurred by the movement of a whole host of other things embraced in the present survey? As the majority of old-age pensioners can only be interested in necessities, would it not be fairer if we could see exactly what was their standard of life from time to time?

There is another Question on the Order Paper on which I should like to take up this point. I think my reply would be more relevant to that Question than to this one.

Independent Television (Dispute)


asked the Minister of Labour if he will now intervene in the dispute between the Independent Television Companies and the members of Equity.


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the dispute between Actors Equity and the Independent Television Companies has now been unresolved for five months; and whether he proposes to intervene to try to arrange a settlement.

My officers had informal talks with representatives of Equity, the Independent Television Companies Labour Relations Committee, and the Independent Television Authority in the early stages of this dispute. No request however for intervention by my Department has been made. I understand that discussions between the parties are in progress.

While I would not under any circumstances want to embarrass any talks going on at the moment, is the Minister aware that many actors and actresses are now experiencing tremendous hardship? I am told that there is an appalling deterioration in the programmes of I.T.V. at the moment. In fact, I understand that even "Coronation Street" has deteriorated in recent weeks. In view of all this, will the Minister give an assurance that if the present talks break down he will intervene with the purpose of helping the situation?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he phrased the first part of his supplementary question. I do not think that any of us would want to say anything now which might make settlement more difficult. As to any new situation that might arise, I do not want to prejudge the decision. I do not want to say anything that might damage the possibility of these talks ending successfully. On the other matter, I do not know whether I am using Parliamentary language, but I assume that both he and I are not quite such regular viewers of I.T.V. as some of our hon. Friends.

I can appreciate the difficulties of the Minister at this stage in making a statement, but will he bear in mind that in the event of the present talks not being fruitful of agreement it will become essential for the Minister to intervene and to ensure a complete settlement, particularly in view of the Independent Television Companies' representations to I.T.A.?

There is not much that I can add in reply to the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question to what I have already said to his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Royle). I think the hon. Gentleman knows that it is not the normal practice to intervene unless we are asked to do so. Again, I do not want to prejudge the issue. I think that we had better wait to see how things go on.

Government Training Centres


asked the Minister of Labour how many classes for apprentices are now being provided at Government training centres; how many firms are participating; how many apprentices are attending.

There are 25 classes, with a membership of 287 apprentices coming from 175 firms.

Are not the figures still rather disappointing in that the number of apprentices attending, for example, has not even reached the original target figure of 300? In view of that and the immense amount of good that schemes of this kind can do, would the Minister not reconsider his decision to close two of these training centres and instead embark on a programme of expansion of these facilities?

No, Sir. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not trying to imply that any of the economies that I have made have in any way affected our programme for first-year training of apprentices, because they have not. These classes were set up to demonstrate the advantages of full-time training in the first year of apprenticeship. I think that they are very successful. Although the figures of boys are 13 lower, the orginal target of twenty-five classes has been achieved.

Although the closing of the Government training centres at Kidbrooke and Long Eaton may not have reduced the number of classes, if they had stayed open could not the Minister have extended these classes? In view of the important report on manpower of the N.J.A.C. Working Party, does not this emphasise the need for a still higher standard of training and cannot the Minister enlarge the training which is carried out by G.T.C.s?

I think that the report to which the hon. Gentleman referred did not apply only to the training of apprentices. It also went into the whole question of the training of adults. I am studying the proposition whether or not my Ministry might supply facilities if employers were prepared to pay. This is a subject that we are discussing. On the general point, the whole concept of my Ministry's first-year training courses was to set an example to show people in various parts of the country how this could be done properly and the benefit which concentrated training could give. I think that this is carrying out the purpose.


asked the Minister of Labour how many classes are now being provided for apprentices at the Hilling-ton Government Training Centre; what kind of classes they are; how many firms are participating; and how many apprentices are attending.

There are two classes, both in engineering, with a membership of 24 apprentices coming from 15 firms. A third class in radio and electronic servicing is planned to open later in the year.

Are these not very low figures in view of the tremendous number of apprentices and potential apprentices in the Glasgow area? If, in the words of the Minister, these classes have been so successful, is not there a case for rapidly expanding them?

I can only repeat what my right hon. Friend has said. I have been to see them myself, as the hon. Member may know. These are intended as demonstration classes, and they are being increasingly successful. To change the concept to one of Government training instead of allowing the industry to do its own job in this field would be a very real change of policy.

Can the Minister indicate what percentage is attending out of the total number of apprentices who could attend if facilities were available for them? What steps does he intend taking in order that firms should be made to toe the line in the provision of facilities so that these centres could be made a success?

I cannot answer the first part of that supplementary question without notice. If I remember it aright, it had a hypothesis attached to it. As for the second part of the question, as the hon. Member knows, my right hon. Friend is paying great attention to the need for securing improvements in training for skill, including apprenticeships and also learnerships.

Young Persons, Northern Region


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that at 12th February, 1962, 2,534 boys and 1,411 girls were out of work in the Northern Region; and, in view of the fact that this is almost double the total number of young people out of work in the Northern Region on 12th February, 1961, what action he intends to take to improve this position in the near future.

Yes, Sir. Unemployment among young people on 12th February was higher in all regions than a year ago. The difficulties are likely to be temporary and the Youth Employment Service is doing all it can to help the young people to find employment. Parts of the Northern Region are listed as development districts, and the Government will continue to encourage the expansion of employment opportunities in those areas.

Is the hon. Member aware that if effective action is not taken by the Government hundreds of these youngsters may have to leave their homes and go to other parts of the country in order to find jobs? Apart from the human aspect, this could be disastrous for the industrial future of the Northern Region. Therefore, what real action do the Government propose to take in the near future? We are tired of promises.

Twenty-eight per cent. of the insured employees in the Northern Region work in areas listed as development districts—so that some action has already been taken. It would be quite wrong to say that nothing is happening in that region. About 26,000 jobs are expected to accrue over the next four years.

Is the Minister aware that these figures, far from being temporary, are likely to increase in the next few years? Is he further aware that the manpower available in the mining industry is being reduced by 22,000 in the next three years owing to a curtailment of recruitment of young boys leaving school? How will the Minister deal with this problem if steps are not taken to bring in other industries?

To arouse fears ahead of the event is not necessarily doing very much good to the region in which the hon. Member is so deeply interested. It is necessary to regard the matter more factually. I understand that the Coal Board is not unhopeful of finding jobs for people who are affected by the closure of collieries. There is a growing diversity of industry in the area. Last year, 42 per cent. of the boys obtained apprenticeships in the region, and that compares favourably with the 38 per cent. for young people in the country as a whole.

Bread Prices (Cost Of Living)


asked the Minister of Labour how many times the price of bread has increased during the last six months; and to what extent this has contributed to the increase in the cost of living.

The prices of bread are not changed simultaneously throughout the country, and information is not available about the number of times individual retailers have changed their prices during the last six months. The increase in the price of bread between mid-July, 1961, and mid-January, 1962, accounted for about one-seventieth of a point in the "all-items" index.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the last six months bread has risen in price by 3 per cent.? Although this may seem a small percentage, it is a very real factor in the cost of living for old-age pensioners and people in the very low income groups. It is a very much more important factor than the bringing of transistors and motor cars into the cost of living index. Will not the right hon. Gentleman make some representation to the Ministries concerned in order to try to restrict these constant increases in the price of bread?

The hon. Lady should realise that the rise in the price of bread accounts for only 0·5 per cent. of the total rise in the cost of living during the last six months. That is borne out by the fact that living standards among the people, including the old people, have improved in recent years. The proportion of income spent on bread forms a smaller proportion of total expenditure than it used to.

Is it not true that there has been no increase in the price of wheat to the farmer during this period?

I am no longer Minister of Agriculture, although as a farmer I could comment on that.

Plean And Airth, Stirlingshire


asked the Minister of Labour what consultations he had with the National Coal Board regarding the effect on the future employment prospects of the area of the decision by the Board to suspend work on the sinking of a new pit between Plean and Airth in Stirlingshire; and what are the prospects of alternative employment being made available in the light of the recession in the coal industry in this area.

No precise estimate is available of the number of jobs which the new pit would have provided. Employment prospects in the area remain fairly good. I understand that the National Coal Board expects to be able to offer alternative employment to most of its employees who are likely to be displaced this year.

Is the Minister aware that there is a definite possibility of a number of pits closing down in this area in the not too distant future? The suspension of the sinking of this pit means that there is no possibility of future employment for miners in the area. Will the hon. Gentleman use his influence to get this work resumed so as to get down to the coking coal, which is the only coking coal in Scotland that we have at present? At present this coal is being imported from England to fill the needs of many of our basic industries. In view of the fact that local authorities have also provided a considerable number of houses for coal miners in the expectation that the sinking of this new pit would provide work, will the Minister use his influence to try to get the Minister of Power to influence the Coal Board to sink this pit immediately?

I am sure the hon. Member will appreciate that a technical judgment as to whether or not the sinking of a new pit should be proceeded with is hardly for me to make. It is for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power to answer that question. I may be able to assure the hon. Member on one point. The Government are concentrating on areas of high and persistent unemployment, and this area is not so bad as some others. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is keeping a very close watch on any pit closures in areas of this kind, and he will help to steer other industry there as it is needed.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we have been told about this close watch on the position in Scotland for a long time, but that many of these mining areas may become derelict as a result of pit closures? Is he aware that there are many areas in Scotland in respect of which we want some real initiative and planning directive from the Board of Trade to bring in alternative employment?

The reason why I suggest that he should do so is that there is already a fair amount of diversification of industry. It includes engineering, brewing and distilling, brickmaking, paper and printing, agriculture, construction and textiles. Therefore, his main point is already being met. This is not a question of the complete disruption of the locality because one pit has closed.

Is the Minister aware that these continuing closures and stoppages of mining in Scotland are having a bad effect? What they do is to reduce the total number of jobs available. That is the question to which the Minister should address his attention, in view of the fact that Scotland now has 85,000 unemployed. What we want from the Ministry is some positive action to provide new jobs in these areas.

I can tell the hon. Member—although he probably knows it—that a good deal of industry has already gone to Scotland. It is not a question of its being in the pipeline.

Some industry has already gone there. We are building up on that. I share with the hon. Member the hope that the real build-up will now go forward. I need mention only Bathgate and Ravenscraig.

On a point of order Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Index Of Retail Prices (Old-Age Pensioners)


asked the Minister of Labour whether he will bring forward new proposals for a revision of the cost-of-living index, and include in it special provision for old-age pensioners.

As I informed my hon Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Leavey) a few moments ago, I have accepted the recommendations of the Cost-of-Living Advisory Committee for revision of the Index of Retail Prices. The Committee did not recommend any change in the group of households to be covered by the new Index.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that such things as roasting chicken and motor scooters are not very realistic when considering the cost of living of old-age pensioners? Does he not think that it would be a good thing to have a parallel index of necessities so that the position of old-age pensioners may be gauged more accurately?

We know that a substantial proportion of old-age pensioners live in households with younger people. That is a fact. To compile an index for those pensioners who live alone in households or with other pensioners would be misleading if it were to be regarded as applying to all pensioners. But in order to cover my hon. Friend's anxiety and that of the hon. Member for South-wark (Mr. Gunter), I should explain that we regularly collect, at the request of the National Assistance Board, statistics about changes in price levels which affect the pensioners' group. We publish these in considerable detail in the Ministry of Labour Gazette, and we shall continue to do so.

Does not the Minister agree that it would be wrong and cowardly to use the figures which will emerge from the new Index of Retail Prices as an argument against an increase in old-age pensions?

That is an entirely different point. I was asked whether my Ministry could or should produce figures in respect of old-age pensioners where they lived alone or with other pensioners, and without larger earnings going into the house, in order that proper care should be taken to give the National Assistance Board facts on the level of prices which most affect that group. That is not only being done for the National Assistance Board; the figures are also made available by publication in the Ministry of Labour Gazette.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman collects figures such as these for the use not only of his Department but of other Departments. How can the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, for instance, or any other people decide how much is fair and just for old people and people on low incomes or on National Assistance unless they know the true facts about the cost of living to these people? Is it not rather stupid in these days to say that because some old people live with relatives therefore they must not be counted as among the most needy?

The hon. Lady must not misinterpret what I said. Statistically it is not right to assume that all old-age pensioners do not live with younger people. Fortunately, many live with relatives, and more money is going into the household than their pensions. Statistically, therefore, it would be wrong to do as the hon. Lady suggests. What is right is that the National Assistance Board should have full information about the price levels affecting the pensioners' groups.

Is it not a fact that the pattern of spending of old people living alone is becoming further and further removed from the pattern of spending indicated by the cost-of-living index? Is it not a fact that those pensioners must spend a big proportion of their income on food and that they will not spend very much of it on motor scooters, sherry, jeans and other things which will be included in the cost-of-living index when it is reformed?

That is the precise reason for which my Ministry provides a special service for the National Assistance Board—in order that they may take it into account for the group of old-age pensioners to which the hon. Gentleman refers, where obviously less money is spent on transport costs and so on. That is the precise reason that full information is made available for those who need it.

Isle Of Sheppey


asked the Minister of Labour how many of the formerly un-established Admiralty employees have secured alternative employment on the Isle of Sheppey, since Her Majesty's Dockyard, Sheerness, was sold; and what is the number at present unemployed.

I regret that the information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available. Nine such persons are registered as unemployed at Sheerness Employment Exchange, out of about 1,000 made redundant by the closure.

Is the Minister aware that the unemployment figures for the whole of registered workers on the Isle of Sheppey is over 8 per cent.? Will he urge his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to implement the promise made that if the Associated Motor-Cycle factory did not come to the Isle of Sheppey he would re-schedule the Isle of Sheppey under the Local Employment Act?

I appreciate the concern over the level of unemployment in Sheppey. A number of industrial firms have taken buildings in the former dockyard and are now in occupation, and I understand that there are well over a thousand jobs in prospect from these firms and from the expansion of existing firms. The majority of jobs will be for males.

Is the Minister aware that we have been told that for the past two years and that the jobs have not materialised? Will he please do something about it?

I do not think that the hon. Member heard what I said. I said that I understand that a number of firms are now in occupation. Presumably they will be building up their labour force from now on.

Payment Of Wages Act, 1960


asked the Minister of Labour what consultations he is having, or intends to have, with the banks, and with the National Union of Bank Employees, on the operation of the Payment of Wages Act, 1960.

The banks have given me in confidence information about the payment of wages direct into bank accounts. This is being studied and I propose to consult the Trades Union Congress and other interested organisations very soon about the fixing of an appointed day authorising payment of wages by cheque. As the hon. Member knows, the National Union of Bank Employees is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress.

Will the Minister consider this matter with a view to consulting the National Union of Bank Employees directly, both because of the union's obvious concern in this matter and also because he could use this as an opportunity to give the banks themselves an example of consulting bona fide trade unions in banking?

I do not think that the hon. Member is right in saying that bank employees are universally represented by N.U.B.E. They are not. I said that N.U.B.E. is affiliated to the T.U.C. I am prepared to consider the views of any interested organisation. I am prepared to consider the views of N.U.B.E. or the Central Council of Banks Staffs Association in any representations which they care to put to me.

Industrial Accidents


asked the Minister of Labour what progress has been made in his campaign to reduce industrial accidents among young people.

I cannot assess the position until the detailed analysis of the statistics is completed later this year, when it will be published in the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. Supervision, training and safety-minded-ness are much the most important factors. In all my recent approaches on accident prevention to the B.E.C. and T.U.C. and to particular industries I have laid stress on the special problems of young workers and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has again recently drawn the attention of local education authorities to the importance of safety-training.

I should like to thank the Minister for the interest which he is taking in this very important matter. To what extent is the use of cine-film being considered? Is the Minister not aware that this is probably the most fruitful approach which can be made to these young people?

I thank the hon. Member for what he says. I am prepared to consider the use of any method. Experts vary in their view of what is the best method of approach. Whether the cine-film has a particular advantage, as he says, would probably be a source of argument for other experts who think that other means are better, but I am prepared to consider all means to try to push this safety campaign so that people, especially young people, are made more safety-conscious.

Will the Minister bear in mind that most of these young people are completely immune from all forms of exhortation whereas they are impressed by cine-films?

I do not accept that young people are immune from good instruction either in schools or technical colleges. Our experience is the reverse.

Wages And Salaries (Cost Of Living Agreements)


asked the Minister of Labour in how many agreements between employers and trade unions wages and salaries are regulated by changes in the cost-of-living index.

Is my right hon. Friend able to say whether any new agreement has been brought into operation since the advocacy of the pay pause?

London Area


asked the Minister of Labour to what extent unemployment has increased in the London area compared with last year; and what action he is taking in the matter.

There were 55,041 registered unemployed on 12th February, 1962, compared with 44,007 on 13th February, 1961; my local officers are doing everything possible to find suitable employment for them.

This is a very substantial increase compared with last year, amounting to about 25 per cent. Although conditions may be even worse in other parts of the country, will the hon. Gentleman publicise these figures outside London to dispel the illusion that the streets of London are still paved with gold?

I see the point of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, but we must bear in mind that the percentage unemployment rate in the London area this February was only 1·2 per cent.

Gartcosh And Coatbridge

24 and 25.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) what alternative employment there is in the Gartcosh area for those men who have become unemployed as the result of the run-down of operations at Smith and McLean's steel works; and

(2) how many are now registered as unemployed at Coatbridge Employment Exchange; and what percentage of the insured population this number represents.

At 12th February, there were 1,644 workers registered as unemployed at Coatbridge Employment Exchange; in the North Lanarkshire travel-to-work group, which includes Coatbridge, the numbers unemployed at that date represented 6·2 per cent. of the insured population. There are few local vacancies immediately available for unemployed workers from Smith and McLean's Steel Works, but I understand that Messrs. Colvilles Limited will continue to give priority to these employees in recruiting for their new plant at Gartcosh.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a high unemployment rate of 6·2 per cent. is worrying those who are now leaving Smith and McLean's with no sign of any work? Is he also aware that only in 1957 Smith and McLean's employed 1,100 workers but today employ less than 200 and the steel rolling mills employ less than 300? Does he not realise that the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Trade need to do something serious? What are the prospects?

The prospects for the iron and steel industry, which I presume is what the hon. Lady referred to at the very end of her supplementary question, are very difficult for me accurately to assess. Perhaps she would like to table a Question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power. The Government have done a good deal in this matter, and I hope have shown their concern in a thoroughly practical way. The new cold reduction plant and the Ravens-craig strip mill are concrete evidence of this. It is in these newer steel producing processes that the workers from the older plants are being absorbed.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that these new steel production plants will not employ as many men as the old steel production plants? Is he also aware that I was not referring to what is happening in the steel industry, which is working at only 57 per cent. of its capacity in Scotland? I was asking what the Ministry of Labour, in conjunction with the Board of Trade, is doing to attract new industry to this area which has been so seriously hit. Further, would the Ministry of Labour, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Fuel and Power, through the National Coal Board, get together to see if they can do something for this area which is so badly hit?

I understand that there are—I hope not to be laughed at for this—about 7,000 new jobs coming along in North Lanarkshire. I quite appreciate the concern felt by the hon. Lady and by her hon. Friends. [Interruption.] I hope that future prospects of the area will not be so lugubriously written off by those who express such interest in it. Of course the Government are concerned. A good deal of new industry has gone up to Scotland, and we hope to see more.