§ [MR. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
§ MINISTRY OF LABOUR.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £196,466, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including the Contribution to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and Repayments to Associations pursuant to Sections 85 and 106 of the National Insurance Act, 1911, and the National Insurance (Part II.) (Munition Workers) Act, 1916."
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I should have thought that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour would start this discussion, in view of the fact that notice was given when this Vote was brought up on Thursday last, that this large question of the training of the demobilised officers and men of His Majesty's Forces was to be under consideration. The Committee will observe that a revised Estimate, which is practically a new Vote altogether, of £150,000, is taken for this purpose. What the House would like to know is precisely what arrangements have been come to between the Ministry of Pensions and the Ministry of Labour with regard to the training of these men. As the Committee knows, under the Ministry of Pensions Bill the whole subject of training and treatment was entrusted to the Pensions Minister, and since the House gave its sanction to that procedure the Ministry of Pensions has devolved the functions the House handed over to them to other Ministers. They have handed over, for example, the treatment of disabled men suffering from tuberculosis to the Local Government Board, and now, we understand, that they have handed over to the Ministry of Labour the training of disabled men and officers. But there is added to that a new function, namely, the training of demobilised men and officers who are not disabled, but who, on account of their war service, are not able to pursue their pre- 258 vious occupations and who desire to be trained in new occupations and professions. I think it is useful when a Vote of this kind is put down, which, after all, affects the future not only of the men but of the officers in the Army and the Navy, that the House ought to have some statement from the Minister in charge of this Estimate as to what he means to do. Incidentally, it is a personal pleasure to myself to welcome another Edinburgh man. We are all glad to seethe Minister of Labour in his place for the first time in order to take part in the discussion of this House. I should be glad to hear what the Minister of Labour has to say in regard to this question of training, and possibly it would save time if one spoke after his statement rather than before. I would only like to make this preliminary suggestion. I am convinced, and I think the Committee is convinced, that it is going to pay the State every time to spend money now on that kind of training in order to save money in years to come. If, as is done now, you send disabled men to be trained under the Ministry of Pensions scheme and the remuneration is not nearly sufficient to maintain them and their wives and families in comfort then the tendency obviously is for those men to go into other occupations where they will get more money and they will therefore lose their training. The net result is that every one of these men will claim and will get a larger pension and will be a greater charge on the State. Two things the State wants to do. They want to give the men a new interest in life and remove them from what has been referred to by hon. Members as a handicap—no occupation while they are disabled. They also want, for economic and industrial reasons, to make as many men fit to engage in the industrial life of the future as possible. Both of these things will save an enormous amount of money to the State. If, therefore, my right hon. Friend can tell the Committee straight away what is in the mind of the Ministry of Labour the Committee will be glad to give such helpful criticism as it can.
§ The MINISTER Of LABOUR (Sir Robert Horne)
I rise with diffidence to make my first speech in the House of Commons, but I feel sustained by the recollection that this House has always shown a generous spirit towards its new Members. The Member for Edinburgh 259 has made some criticism of the fact that I did not begin by giving some explanation of particular items that are covered by this Vote. If I have erred, I urge my ignorance of the proper practice. The question of the training of disabled soldiers is one of the most important with which the country can deal at the present time. The problem is one that must excite the solicitude and the sympathy of everybody who values the great services these men have rendered to the country. The particular position with regard to them at the present time is this. Up till only a few weeks ago their case was dealt with entirely by the Ministry of Pensions. About a month ago it was decided by the War Cabinet that the industrial training of disabled soldiers was to be put under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour. That conclusion was arrived at very largely for the reason that the Minister of Labour is much more in touch with those great trade organisations whose consent, approval and help are most necessary to a successful carrying out of any scheme of training.
The Royal Warrant still stands in favour of the Ministry of Pensions. The necessary alterations have not yet taken place, but in view of the great work which the Ministry of Labour has to undertake in connection with disabled soldiers, we have already made certain arrangements. We were in a position to command some of the national factories, and at the present time we have been investigating the conditions under which they are worked in order to select the most suitable for this purpose. Final arrangements have not yet been made, but these are being hurried on with all the rapidity that is possible. The conditions under which the training is to be given are already contained in the Royal Warrant, and will be familiar to the House. It may be remembered that the training grant given to each disabled soldier is fixed at 33s. a week plus certain allowances for children; in respect of the first child 6s., and in respect of succeeding children 3s. for each. There is also an allowance for the wife, and there is a separation allowance in the case of a man undergoing his training having to be away from home. That, I think, really covers the case of the disabled soldier. I am not sure that my hon. Friend wishes me to give any further explanation with regard to this matter, but so far as the present condition of things is concerned I 260 have fully disclosed everything which has taken place in regard to the arrangements that have been made for the training of disabled soldiers.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The question of officers has been raised, and perhaps the Committee would like to hear what I have to say on the question of officers. What is really covered by the Vote before the Committee concerns a different Department of the Ministry of Labour altogether—the Department known as the Appointments Department, which deals with the training on demobilisation of officers and men. I say officers and men, but it is really officers and men of like standard, men of a certain education which fits them for a position in, perhaps, professional life or for the higher grades in business. The Appointments Department was formed in 1918 for the special purpose of making arrangements for the future of the young officers and men who found themselves stranded at the end of the War either through the interruption of their ordinary training or from the fact that businesses which they had begun had disappeared during the time of the great conflict. The Appointments Department acts in this way. In the first place, it establishes committees which act as guides to officers and men of the position I have described. They advise them of particular courses which they ought to take, and obtain for them information so as to disclose in which businesses the earliest opening may be obtained. Recently, in order to facilitate the arrangements that I have described, groups of business and professional men were sent to France, one group was attached to each Army, and the people in each Army who wished for advice as to their careers at home were given the advantage of the assistance of these groups of business men. We found this to be of the greatest possible help and assistance to officers and men who were puzzled in regard to their future careers. The next function which the Appointments Department exercises is this. It acts as an exchange which puts the employer in touch with the officer, and already during the time in which it has been in existence it has brought together officers and employers in over 130,000 cases. We are not in a position to say exactly how many men have obtained situations by means of this mechanism, but we do know that it is very large. There is no system by which 261 an appintment once got is duly notified. Perhaps that is a gap in the method. But, in any event, we know that the number who have obtained appointments by means of introduction through the Appointments Department is a very large number indeed. Further than that, the Appointments Department carries out a system of training for officers and men. Supposing a man wishes to take up an agricultural career, what the Appointments Department does is to find out all about his capacity and his suitability for an agricultural life. Then they pass him on to the Board of Agriculture. The Board of Agriculture makes its own examination, and arrives at a conclusion as to whether the man is suitable, and, if he is, he is sent to one of their training centres. An allowance is made of £50 for the training, and, in addition, a subsistence allowance of a certain amount limited by the sum of £175 in one year.
In a similar way, supposing a man wishes to go to a university, or to complete an educational training on which he had entered prior to the War, the Appointments Department investigates his case, and, if he is suitable, his name is passed to the Board of Education. The Board of Education thereafter deals with him, supervises his case, sends him to the appropriate institution, and, in a similar way, decides upon the amount of grant to be given to aid him in the career he has taken up. If, on the other hand, the man desires to take up a business career—to enter into commerce or industry—then his case is looked after by the Appointments Department itself. It deals with his case; it finds, if it can, the appropriate business for him to embark upon, and it decides the amount of grant which he ought to be able to obtain for the purpose of keeping him, and, if necessary, his children, while he is undergoing the process of training. That, roughly, is a sketch of what the Appointments Department does, and, if the Committee will allow me to conclude this picture of its training activities, I would like to add this. In addition to the Appointments Department under the Ministry of Labour, there is a section which is known as the Industrial Training Section, which was set up only a few weeks ago under a distinguished educationist in the person of Mr. James Currie. Under that section the case of the disabled soldier will come, but it is also part of 262 its duty to deal with the case of the apprentice whose apprenticeship has been broken through his having to enlist in the Army for the War.
§ Sir R. HORNE
There is a limit to age. I will explain that, if the Committee will allow me, in a moment. I think the case of the apprentice, perhaps, is one which will appeal very readily to the sympathies of everybody. The apprentice, as a rule, is a boy for whom his parents have made some sacrifice in order that he should become a skilled workman, instead of an unskilled workman. A boy who went into the Army at the age of eighteen may have lost two, or even three, years of his apprenticeship, and the situation of the boy coming home is one which deserves our utmost consideration. He has, as I say, lost his period of training. He comes back a man, but he has lost the time in which he could have acquired skill, and he is not a skilled man. He may have married in the interval. He is unable to live upon an apprentice's wage. The result is that his needs are greater than what he can earn as an apprentice, and, on the other hand, his skill is not so great that his employer can give him the wage of a skilled man. It is perfectly obvious that, under these circumstances, the State is bound to give its assistance. We cannot afford to lose the chance of skilled men in these days. Accordingly, a scheme was approved, under which it was arranged that an apprentice should obtain something approximating to the wage of a journeyman—and the only question which remains to be decided is the precise proportion of the assistance which the State is to give. The apprentice is to have the opportunity of completing his course of training in some shop, and, if a shop is not available, then he will get the chance of being trained in some other way, which will be arranged by the Training Section of the Ministry of Labour. If he has got to be trained otherwise than in a shop he will get 33s. a week during his period of training, and he will get an allowance, similar to what I have described in the case of the disabled soldier, for his children.
At the moment, negotiations are going on both with employers and with the trade unions with regard to the precise course of training which will be approved of, so that the man may be acknowledged 263 as a skilled man after he has come through the training which we have devised for him. It is perfectly obvious that in some cases he will not be able to spend so long a time as he would have done under ordinary circumstances, and the course of training which will be given to him will be of an intensive kind, so that he may be able to acquire the necessary skill in a shorter period than would be the limit of ordinary apprenticeship. A question was asked with regard to the age at which the boy would be dealt with. He does not get the advantage of the scheme which I have described unless the natural period of his apprenticeship has been exhausted—that is to say, if when he comes home he is still within the range of time in which he would have been an apprentice had he never been to the War, he does not begin to get the advantage of the scheme until after the period of his ordinary apprenticeship would have been exhausted, and, so far as the age is concerned, he does not begin to get any advantage until after the age of twenty-one in England and twenty-three in Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]
§ Sir R. HORNE
I am not quite certain why. It must be that in Scotland we mature more slowly. At any rate, it is a longer apprenticeship. The figures were arrived at by people who are acquainted with the conditions upon which it is necessary to decide. I think that really concludes what I need say upon the Vote which is on the Paper to-day, and if there is any other point which the Committee wish to raise, I shall have an opportunity of answering it.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The blind will, of course, come under the ordinary case of the disabled soldier, but there are special considerations which apply to the blind which will necessarily cause differences in their training. In any case where it seems to be necessary, special arrangements will be made to have all people whose conditions are the same trained together, and I have no doubt at all that 264 when the final arrangements are made there will be special places for the blind to be trained in.
§ Sir EDGAR JONES
Will the hon. Gentleman consult the joint committees, who have been engaged in training these disabled soldiers up to now with the Ministry of Pensions, before adopting a new scheme? Because some are very much concerned as to what is to be done with regard to various schemes in hand.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that we would welcome all advice these Committees could give, and, if necessary, they will be consulted.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I think the Committee will agree with me that the hon. Gentleman had no need to ask its indulgence in so far as his maiden effort is concerned, and that he is quite capable of holding his own in any criticism or opposition in the House in the future. I am sure we are all glad to have the advantage of his presence. I am rather disappointed, however, at the meagre statement of my hon. friend in regard to the training and provision for payment of disabled men. What I find, as a matter of fact—and probably many Members of the House find the same thing—is that the disabled man in training has at the back of his head the notion that his labour is being exploited by the factory where he is being trained. There is, for example, to-day a strike in Dublin at the Government's instructional factory, affecting, I think, something like 250 disabled men who were supposed to be being trained in that factory to take up some further vocation, and I have had the opportunity of discussing this with Mr. Currie, to whom my hon. Friend referred as head of the Training Department of the Ministry, and with the men concerned, and it does seem, at any rate, a fact that the disabled man, while he is engaged in this work, is receiving a remuneration for that work, but that he is not being trained. Whenever a man in one of these instructional factories gets off the work of running a machine, he is up against the difficulty of getting skilled instruction from any trade unionist. I am rather in a quandary with regard to this, because I know hon. Friends who sit around me are trade unionists, and that, in their own hearts and minds they have no desire to prevent the disabled man receiving skilled instruction. But there are certain difficulties in the way which prevent the skilled trade 265 unionist in this country lending all his skill and all his enthusiasm at the moment to the training of these men.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The difficulties are these. Probably some trade unionists will explain them more intimately than I can. But there is the question, after the men have been trained, as to what is to be considered a satisfactory test for the admission of the men to the skilled trade union. Take the case of Scotland, in which we have longer apprenticeships. It is rather a tall order to ask the skilled trade unionist, who has put in many years at his trade, to accept as a fully-fledged man of his union a disabled man after a limited period of instruction. It can be easily seen what difficulties arise from that, and I should have been glad to know from my hon. Friend whether it is not going to be possible—I do not know what my trade unionist Friends in the House think of this suggestion—after a maximum amount of training, to get over the difficulty by a test which will be accepted by the trade unionists of the country and by those who represent the discharged and demobilised soldiers. I am perfectly certain of this, that the trade unionist is not giving of his best at the moment, and the discharged man is not getting what he might expect to receive, because of certain barriers which have not yet been broken down. I imagine the Committee does want those barriers to be broken down. I know the average trade unionist has no desire to make it difficult for the discharged man to get back into a skilled trade. I think one of the difficulties, however, is that which my right hon. Friend has just given in connection with this particular point.
The second point of criticism—which I hope is not destructive, but is given with the object of finding a way out—because we all want this question of the apprentices properly attended to—is this: I was rather uncertain about what my right hon. Friend said, and as to whether it is the case that the allowances in regard to apprentices does not come into force until the period of apprenticeship is finished. Obviously, if you take a lad who joined up at eighteen, say, in the second year of his apprenticeship, and latterly comes back, demobilised, after two or three years' service in the Army, to finish, it may be—as in Scotland—his seven years' apprenticeship—does my right hon. Friend mean to 266 say that that lad, having had three years' apprenticeship cut out by the War, has to resume in what will then be the fifth year of his apprenticeship at the low rate of apprenticeship wages, without receiving any additional help from the Ministry of Labour? I hope my right hon. Friend sees the point, for it surely cannot be right that that boy has to complete his apprenticeship before he gets this allowance. Obviously, if the boy had taken his apprenticeship on the ordinary terms he would by now have been a skilled worker, and would not have required the grant suggested by my right hon. Friend. I shall be glad, if wrong, to be corrected on that point. As a matter of fact, any grant which is given, or ought to be given, should be given to the lad while he is completing his interrupted apprenticeship, and on the basis of what he might have earned had he been a skilled man engaged in the work to which he had been apprenticed. I shall be very glad for my right hon. Friend to deal with this point.
My further short point is this: The right hon. Gentleman has not told us exactly what institutions the Ministry of Labour are dealing with or are engaged in with regard to this training. I need not refer my right hon. Friend to one example of training with which he is probably as familiar as myself in our own city of Edinburgh. There we have what I believe is one of the best facilities for training discharged men that exists in the United Kingdom. The Ministry of Pensions had a Report made upon all the systems obtaining in this country, and that Report stated that the facilities afforded in Edinburgh were of the best in the country. I believe there are certain Members of this House who were engaged upon that Report, and who can give their personal experience in regard to these training shops. In that very Report I remember phrases being used in regard to other training facilities in the country in which those who reported on the scheme said this:That the machinery in those shops for training these men was of the most antiquated description.We are in this difficulty this evening: Before my right hon. Friend finishes I trust he will tell the House what has been done by the Ministry of Pensions—for this applies to the same men—though the Ministry of Labour, of course, cannot be held responsible for what does not come under their purview. For this reason I 267 point the thing out; whether it is under one or the other Ministry, or both, what the House wants is that these men shall get the very best training possible, and shall get it in the best and most effective way. I should like my right hon. Friend to say whether this scheme covers the whole country, and how it deals with the question of the training of those men, and whether or not he is allowing that training to grow up in a haphazard way. If I may revert again for the moment to the existing strike at Birmingham of the 250 men, trained in the instructional factory, presumably under the control of the Ministry of Labour—in their case there was nothing else available at the moment when they began, which was when the Armistice was declared. I rather myself wonder, however—I do not know whether or not the suggestion is of any use—whether the model existing in Edinburgh, and which is an extremely good one, could not be copied all over the country by bringing that training into co-relation and co-operation with the educational authorities in each of our great cities. It has done very well in Edinburgh. In fact, it is in the training shops of their own technical school that so much of this training is done, and as members of the Committee will realise, as frequently happens with disabled men, they can be so much better trained in the smaller kind of shops, with the right kind of tuition, than in larger workshops.
While I am glad to hear what my right hon. Friend has said, I want him to appreciate the fact that there is no subject which the House of Commons and this Committee is more concerned in than that this problem should not be lost sight of. After all, we have given a pledge to the men concerned and to ourselves that once they did the work they were asked to do we should do our share, and one does not like to know of men scattered all over the country who are not getting the facilities for putting them back into civil life. We should like to be assured that this is going to be a real live department in the Ministry of Labour. Frequently one Government Department pushes off one or other obligation on to another Department, which pushes it still further on. For instance, I do not suppose if one had not seen this Vote that anybody would for a moment have mentioned that it was possible to raise the question of pensions on 268 it, and the treatment of men who are receiving pensions. I am desirous that this should not be hidden up in a great many other items. While one could say a great deal more, I trust that my right hon. Friend will take the three suggestions I have made into his consideration, and so let us help him in what will be one of the most satisfactory pieces of work in which he could engage while at the Ministry of Labour.
§ Mr. ALFRED HOPKINSON
I trust the Committee will not consider it discourteous on my part if I speak without preparation, because I did not know that this was coming forward. As I have had some personal experience of this question, both as regards the apprentices and in respect of disabled men in my own works, I think, perhaps, I might add to the discussion something useful by bringing forward that experience. My first point is this: I am strongly of opinion that all these things ought not to be left in the dead hand of the State. There are many responsibilities that may and should be undertaken by the various trades of this country, which are quite well able to undertake them without all the cost falling upon the taxpayer in general, or their asking the taxpayers to do it for them. I do not desire to waste the time of the Committee, bat the scheme I have been working for some little time at my own engineering works may in its narration prove interesting and useful to the House. At Mossley I employ skilled labour and also many semi-skilled men. My works are not very large, and so we are able to make experiments, both with regard to labour conditions and other things, and particularly as regards this question of the training of apprentices and disabled men satisfactorily, I trust, and without ruining the whole business.
As regards my own apprentices. I went into the Army at the beginning of the War, and was immediately followed by all the boys of fifteen and upwards, who promptly said they were going there too. They gave their ages as eighteen, nineteen, and twenty-one, said they were unmarried, and were accepted, leaving me to settle with their parents. These boys—that is to say, those who have not been killed—are beginning to come back at the age of nineteen and twenty, thoroughly full-grown men in mind and body. It seems to me most important that these boys should be in a position to marry at the earliest pos- 269 sible moment. I mean to say that there will be endless social difficulties which we shall have to face if we do not render that possible for them. So the plan we have got at the works is that where a boy left at fifteen or sixteen, having done a year or two of his seven years' apprenticeship as a fitter, turner, or in a similar skilled trade that when he comes back he receives exactly the same rate of pay as he would have been receiving had he remained with us during the War. Hon. Members will see the effect of that. The years that the youth has spent abroad in the service of his country simply drop out. We regard those years as having been worked at the trade, and the period for coming out of his time is exactly the same as if he had not gone into the Army. His wages are given accordingly.
Take a case in point. I remember one lad. He was an apprentice-turner. At the age of eighteen he went into the Army and served in Egypt, France, and other parts of the theatre of war and was demobilised quite recently. He still wished to be the same trade. He came into the shop again and was paid forty shillings or forty-five shillings for a forty-eight hours week. In about two years time he will be paid as a journeyman. Of course, it might be said that it is impossible to train these boys in the two years that is left to them to a trade of the sort I have named. It is not. Hon. Members on the Labour Benches who have had some experience of the engineering trade will agree that, supposing the employer keeps the boy at a good class of instructional work and lets him go at it the whole time, and the men in the shop, to the best of their ability, teach that boy, that in two years with the brightened intelligence that he has got in the Army—I know it is customary in this respect to sneer at the Army, but as a matter of fact it does brighten up these boys—I say that with the experience and with the goodwill of the men in the shop and the goodwill of the employer I am quite convinced that a boy, in such a case, in two years will be as good a journeyman as anyone who has been there the whole of the seven years. These two factors, however, come in. First of all, the goodwill of the employer, and secondly, that of the trade unionists. The employer spends the money, because it does cost money, and it is a loss to the employer to do this, and in the second place, you must have the goodwill of the 270 men. In this particular instance I am pleased to say I can afford to do it. I have suffered through the War as others, but I can afford to pay this money, and I find my own men and the officials of the trade unions concerned have all fallen in with my plan. So much for the apprentices. There is absolutely no cause for the taxpayer to come in at all. The men supply the instruction and I supply the money. If such a thing is done throughout the whole of the engineering trade it is perfectly possible for every employer in the country to do it. So with many other trades.
In the case of the disabled men a great deal depends on the amount of the disablement. It is extremely difficult to put a man into the engineering trade who has lost an arm. At the same time there are a certain number of jobs in any works—store-keeping and the like—which these men can do just as well as a man in the possession of all his limbs and faculties. All jobs of this sort in my works are reserved for the men who cannot be put to a trade. In respect to disabled men lost legs makes the thing more difficult, because such a man must not be kept standing—he cannot be a fitter—but there are many jobs that he could be put to. There is, for instance, certain machine tool work. I trust I am not boring the House with all these details. [Hon. Members: "No."] There is certain machine tool work that such a man can do just as well, though both his legs are missing, and as if he was perfectly well.
In cases of that sort what we do is, we take two machines of a similar type placed together in the works. To one of these machines we put a fully-skilled trade unionist and to the other there is a totally disabled man from the Army. For these two machines I pay the double district rate for that particular work. In the early stages the skilled man receives the greater proportion of these wages than does the unskilled man. It is his duty to teach the unskilled man to help him in his work, and to do his level best to make him a skilled man as soon as possible. Then the wages are paid on a sliding scale, so that as the disabled man gets more and more towards the position of a skilled man his wages rise, and the other man's wages fall, until eventually the verdict is given, either by myself or by a trade union official, that the man is worth the trade union rate of wages. He is paid this with the knowledge that the union will admit him to 271 membership, and the union has the satisfaction of knowing that he will get the trade union rate of wages. As the hon. Member for Edinburgh has said, there maybe a certain feeling on the part of the trade unionists. Honestly, I have not found it. I know that this is so in one particular trade which I need not mention. If the thing is done by employers with thorough goodwill and with the intention of benefiting the men and the country, and not with a view of making something out of them, these difficulties will not arise. With regard to my scheme, everybody can see perfectly well that I am not getting anything out of it. As I pointed out to the trade union officials, my plan stops that bugbear of the unions which is termed "the thin edge of the wedge." As a matter of fact, it is the thick end of the wedge. I think all these difficulties will disappear in the course of time. I hope it will not be thought that I am boasting, but I wanted to point out a direct case to show how these apprentices can be absorbed into their own trade without any cost to the taxpayers. The engineering trade has benefited by the War, and it is our obvious duty to spend some of the money made in that trade in doing the best we can for those who have not been so fortunate.
§ Mr. JOSEPH JOHNSTONE
I was very glad to hear from the Minister of Labour that the training of disabled sailors and soldiers is to be handed over to the Labour Ministry. I happen to be the Chairman of a Committee formed for the purpose of drawing up a scheme for dealing with disabled sailors and soldiers in the furniture trade, and in connection with that proposal I found the trade union leaders were just as sympathetic and earnest as the employers in their desire to do the best they could to make the scheme a success. In this particular trade, although the normal period of apprenticeship is from five to six years, the trade union leaders assented to the period of training being reduced to two years, one year at a technical school and one year as the improving period in the workshop. During the whole of our preparations for that scheme no body of men could have acted more patriotically than the trade union executive. The difficulty is that there are not sufficient technical training centres for the purpose. I was asked by the Labour Department to visit a 272 number of training centres, and I had occasion to go to Queen Mary's Auxiliary Hospital a Brighton and Queen Mary's Training Workshops at Roehampton, in order to see the work that was being done there. I have also visited a number of technical training centres throughout the country, and my experience is that those schools are most inadequate. In many instances they have not got the proper tools, and they are not fully equipped for instruction. If the instructor had once been qualified, at any rate he has now become fossilised, and the whole of the equipment ought to be brought more up to date. In my opinion, the best place to train these men would be in the workshop, and you will not get enough men trained if you depend upon technical schools.
With regard to apprentices, the time spent by these boys in the Army has not been lost. At the workshops at Brighton I found young men twenty years of age who, prior to the War, had been doing labouring work, some of them employed in coal mines, and these young men in the workshops were turning out good work after a few weeks' experience. When a lad has reached the years of discretion he will learn more and learn quicker than when he was an irresponsible schoolboy and more inclined to play and waste his time. I urge in connection with the training of disabled soldiers and sailors that a greater effort should be made to make arrangements for them in suitable factories under the supervision not only of the employer, but of committees of the trade unions. The modern system of doing work largely by machinery cannot have its full play in a technical school, and there are very few schools fitted up with machinery to give proper training to these men to make goods under present conditions in which machinery is so largely used. I may say as a word of comfort to my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) that of all the training schools I have visited I have found none to compare with the Tyne-castle School, and I wish to pay that compliment to Edinburgh. But as a rule the schools are quite inadequate if disabled soldiers and sailors are to be trained to any extent, because there are not sufficient schools to go round. I suggest to the Minister of Labour that he should utilise to a greater extent the factorial and workshop for training purposes.
273 In connection with the scheme I have mentioned, when a man has had twelve months at the technical school and twelve months at the workshop his wages are to be determined not only by the employer, but by a committee of workmen in the shop. For the first month the employer will determine the wage, but after that time the men will have a say in determining those wages. If due facilities are to be afforded to these disabled soldiers and sailors it certainly cannot be afforded by the present technical school facilities, and if you enter into a large programme of fitting up technical schools with suitable teachers I am afraid you are entering upon a large expenditure which I do not think will be attended with good results. The best way to train these men is to train them in factories under the supervision of large-spirited employers associated with a committee of his own workmen and trade union men, and I am sure that can be done with great advantage not only to the workmen, but to the State.
Lieutenant-Colonel Sir JOHN HOPE
With regard to the training of officers and men who have returned to civil life, I wish to draw attention to one or two points. I am glad to hear that the Minister of Labour is going to provide a certain amount of money for the training of officers to allow them to pursue their educational courses. I hope he will consider those men who are now officers, and who joined up early in the War and have since married, and who now have no provision for their families, and require to take some fully paid post. I suggest in those cases that the Minister might agree to make an additional allowance to the officers while they are in the workshop and other businesses until they have learned enough to enable them to support their wives and families. It is true that a great many improvident marriages have been made, but we have to accept that fact. I am referring to the class of officers who married on receiving a Commission. There are also men in the Army who were married when they joined up, who took a Commission, and are now in a very difficult position, for they have no real occupation to support their wives and families, and I hope the Minister of Labour will consider those cases.
In reference to the question of apprentices certainly the scheme which the Minister has outlined appears very satisfactory, but I think he admitted that his 274 scheme is not yet in working order. I have had a case referred to me of an apprentice to a chemist; he has been discharged and he was anxious to continue his apprenticeship. This young man is only receiving 6s. per week, which obviously is quite insufficient to support him, and unless something is done quickly in this and in many other similar cases, these young men will have to give up their apprenticeships because they are not ably to maintain themselves. I hope the Minister of Labour will at once take steps to get his scheme into going order so that these apprentices may soon receive journeymen's wages. Perhaps it may be possible to make some provision for apprentices who have been discharged under very difficult circumstances. I was very disappointed to see that the age at winch an apprentice could receive the allowance is two years higher in Scotland than in England, and I can hardly believe the present Minister of Labour will allow that inequality to continue. I also notice that the Minister said that no allowance would be granted to apprentices unless and until they arrive at the age at which their apprenticeship would have terminated. That may inflict rather a hardship, and it is precisely the same case as that which I mentioned in the case of officers. An apprentice has enlisted and now he is married, and is faced with, the position that because he has not arrived at the age of his apprenticeship being completed he cannot receive this grant. If that rule is adhered to many of them will not be able to pursue their apprenticeships. I hope the Minister of Labour will be able to ensure that all Government Departments shall give their full share of employment to ex-officers and soldiers. I suggest, as the Ministry of Labour is undertaking the reinstatement of ex-soldiers and sailors, that all appointments in Government Departments, and certainly subordinate Departments, should be in the hands of the Minister of Labour. I notice that last Thursday there was a question put to the Postmaster-General:Colonel Yate asked whether, in view of the importance to recruiting, and to the fact that a large number of Regular soldiers have already registered their names for permanent positions in the Post Office, it is intended that the 50 per cent. of vacancies in the Post Office reserved in the past for the Regular ex-Servicemen will still be reserved for them?The answer was:Mr. Illingworth: All vacancies for postmen and porters which are not required for ex-boy 275 messengers will be given to ex-soldiers and sailors. I hope that the 50 per cent. proportion will be exceeded during the period following the end of the War."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1919, col. 1957.]That was only vacancies for postmen and porters. There are many other Government Departments, and I only quote the Post Office because it is an outstanding Department. At the end of this War we ought not to have 50 per cent., but 90 per cent. of the appointments reserved for ex-soldiers and sailors. I cannot for the life of me see why only vacancies for postmen and porters in the Post Office should be reserved for them. I hope that the Minister of Labour will take the question up and urge all the other Government Departments to give first claim on all vacancies to ex-soldiers and sailors. If that is done, it will probably ensure that they get the vacancies in the best possible manner.
§ Mr. CAIRNS
I welcome the statement from one hon. Gentleman that the training of demobilised men has the sympathy of the trade unions. I was asked on Sunday last in the city of Newcastle to raise this matter in the House. We have an orthopædic centre there, and the Government have been good enough to make a bargain with us. If we raise £40,000, they will give us £10,000 from the Treasury. We have raised £80,000, so that we want the £10,000. In justification of my statement that this object has the sympathy of the trade unions, I may say that eighty of our collieries have levied themselves to support the orthopædic centre in Newcastle. We are sympathetic because these men are our own sons and brothers. We have lost 3,000 men killed from the county of Northumberland alone, and if you multiply that figure by twenty you will probably get the number of miners that have been killed. Some hon. Gentlemen said that this was to be no cost to the taxpayer. I think the taxpayer ought to pay his share towards the training of these wounded men. A lot has been said about officers, but I want to put in a plea for Tommy—that man who has probably lost both his arms or both his legs, or the disabled man who has five or six children. We want to do all that we possibly can to restore these men, and I would suggest to the Ministry of Labour, who has charge of this matter, that he should do all he can to help us. Workmen working for a daily wage have levied themselves, some to the extent of 10s. and 276 others to the extent of £1. It is going to cost us £150,000. We have raised £80,000, and I can give the House the guarantee that we shall not be long in raising the other £70,000. There are some objections raised in some trade union quarters, because these men are not getting the same rate per hour as other men. The pay ought to be made up by the Government. A Government representative came down to Newcastle, and promised that if a man earned £3 before he enlisted, and by reason of having been wounded could now only earn £2, the Government would make up the difference of £1 per week. I asked who was going to raise the question, and he said, "You, for one." The State is a great employer of labour, and it ought to be at least as generous as my hon. Friend on my left. If there is any difference in a man's earning power between the time when he was whole and enlisted, and now that he has been wounded, it ought to be made up by the richest State in the world. The right hon. Gentleman the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, in appealing for War Loans, said that whenever he wanted money he could always get more than he asked for. The country, therefore, being extremely rich, it is not fair that our men, who have been wounded and maimed, should have to go and earn less than others who have never been in the War, and I suggest that the Government ought to help us in all big cities where men are being trained in orthopædic centres.
§ Mr. R. YOUNG
I want to ask the Minister of Labour one or two questions relating to these Supplementary Estimates. In the first place, I wish to draw his attention to paragraph (e), where it is said that the total excess is £65,000, of which £54,300 will be met from savings, and I want to ask him if he is taking any steps to abolish overtime and thus secure employment for some of those who are out of employment at the present time. I also want to know what rates are paid for overtime. Is it time and a quarter, time and a half, or double time? I have heard that it is less per hour than the amount paid for the ordinary working hours of the day. If that is so, then there is need for radical alteration in the rates of pay for overtime. I desire him to get rid of overtime as much as possible, so as to secure employment for other people, and possibly for disabled soldiers. I now come to paragraph (x). 277 There is a difficulty in certain trade unions allowing men to be trained in their respective trades, not that we have any lack of sympathy, or that we desire to prevent them being trained, but we want to know that satisfactory conditions are attached to their training, satisfactory to the men who are to be trained and at the same time satisfactory to the men who have already been trained or are in process of being trained. One thing which at present leads to ex-soldiers and sailors being prevented from entering certain workshops is the fact that some employers of labour are not too anxious to restart able-bodied apprentices who have returned from the front in their occupation. Lads after having been two years at a trade have gone into the Army and have been away two or three years. They are now coming back and presenting themselves for re-employment, and, sad to say, many of them are not being re-employed. It is evidently the opinion of the employer that the lad has forgotten a good deal of that which he learned during his first two years, and I am afraid also that the employer does not want to pay him any rate which is an advance upon the one which he was receiving when be joined the Army. You cannot expect men to allow new men to come into a trade when there are men already clamouring for work who have been at the trade and have served part of their apprenticeship. I am not referring to premium apprentices at the present time. That is one of the difficulties.
I have only recently come from the North of Scotland. I went up to Dundee and Kirkcaldy especially to forward a scheme which we have submitted for the training of disabled soldiers and sailors, and to induce them to agree to the inclusion of these workmen in the workshops. While they are willing that these men should be trained, they cannot consent until certain things have been done. They want a guarantee that the returning apprentice will have an opportunity of completing his apprenticeship before new men are taken into the industry. I hope the Minister of Labour will assent to that. I want to ask another question in relation to the able-bodied apprentice. What machinery is to be laid down to secure that he will get an intensive training? I quite understand that the intensive training for disabled soldiers and sailors will be governed by a body to be set up, but I have not come across anything which lays 278 it down that the returning able-bodied apprentice will be supervised in such a way that the employer will be bound to give him that intensive training which will make him a skilled man in a very short time. I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what he has to say on that particular point. I now come to the disabled soldier or sailor himself. I agree with an hon. Gentleman on the other side that there is a scarcity of technical institutions for training those men, but the Committee which considered this matter were in agreement with the hon. Gentleman that the men would be better trained in the workshop than in the technical college. We laid it down, however, that a man should spend the first six months in a technical college and that if he did not prove himself likely to be capable of following the trade selected then the employer should not be burdened with him under any circumstances. There was no intention that the training in an institution should be for a longer period than six months. I want to recommend to the Ministry of Labour this particular scale for his consideration. He is probably aware how by the Marjority banks Committee the scales have been made out. We have been very generous to the man who is disabled and who is going to be intensely trained. After two years in a workshop he gets up to a rate only 1s. 6d. below the standard rate of the district, and at the end of the third year he will be entitled to the full district rate.
I want to point out to the Minister that his draft Bill, or that of his predecessor, when it was issued stultified to some extent the negotiations that were proceeding between representatives of the trade unions and representatives of employers of labour. We had almost induced the employers of labour to allow the returning apprentice to receive the full period of training to complete his apprenticeship, and at the age of twenty-one to be paid journeyman's rate. The employers and ourselves were almost on the point of agreement, and I am not quite sure whether the subsidies now offered constitute a better scheme than that which was likely to be arrived at as the result of those negotiations. However, the scheme came to an end and our arrangements had to be set aside. While it is perfectly true that a man returning after two or three years absence is likely to apply himself 279 to his trade more diligently than before he went away, in order to make up for some of his lost time, yet there is just a chance that he may be utilised immediately he is twenty-one on some particular job in the workshop, and not be allowed to get that full training to which he is entitled. We are particularly anxious about that. It is all very well to pay full wages, but you are not guaranteeing the man a job for ever, and it may be that if he is discharged six months or a year later, not being fully qualified, he will be regarded by another employer and even by his own trade union as not fully skilled. I trust, whatever else may be done, there will be ensured both to the disabled soldier and sailor and to the apprentice not disabled that intensive training which will make him fully competent to follow his employment.
I want to say one or two things in relation to the difficulties that may crop up, and which are disturbing the minds of many men in trade unions, especially seeing that there are so many unemployed and that so much industrial unrest obtains in the country. We want these men, when they are in the workshop, to have the freedom of the ordinary individual in the workshop, so that if there is a trade dispute they will not be tied down not to co-operate with their fellows. Again, I may say the employers on the committee to which I have referred agreed to that. It would be all very well as between employers of labour and ourselves, providing that the employers are paying the piper. But immediately the State steps in I become suspicious, for when you commence to subsidise the payment of these men, if their wages are partly made up by the subsidies from the State, then if there is a trade dispute likely to occur I want to know if they will be free to leave their work without punishment, along with their fellows, for the purpose of carrying out what they consider to be a right and just claim against the employers. I want the right hon. Gentleman to take that into consideration in so far as his Department is responsible for the payment. Then we would like some sort of assurance, and I candidly admit it is very difficult to give it, that at the end of the three years the employers of labour will pay trade union rates, and that if a man is disabled and is ultimately discharged for one reason or another his new employer shall not take 280 advantage of his disability, great or small, as the case may be. We are anxious that something should be said or done in relation to that matter.
We are also concerned in the trade union movement as to what is going to occur should there be a slump in trade. Men who have served all their lives in the trade and are qualified to work at it in all its branches are concerned as to what is going to occur to them in the case of industrial depression setting in. Naturally, they imagine that the men brought in under this new scheme would be retained, and that they would be sent out. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman is going to get over that difficulty. Unfortunately, it is a difficulty which appeals to many men who are concerned about their bread and butter, even while they are willing to be generous and sympathetic to other people. I was pleased to hear the speech of an hon. Member opposite, who is evidently a model employer of labour. When I get into committee meetings or conferences, or even in the House of Commons, I find I am supposed to meet the best employers of labour, but they do not seem to be representative of some whom I meet elsewhere; and, while we are prepared to admit there are many employers of labour who would not take advantage of the disabled soldier or sailor, or of the returning apprentice, we have grave doubts whether there are not many who will be only too ready to exploit these men at the expense of their fellow workmen. I trust we shall have some assurance from the Minister that all these matters will receive attention at his hands. I am sure, if we can get these difficulties moved out of the way, the sympathy and readiness with which we are prepared to do our best for the disabled soldier and sailor will meet with the ready approval of the rank and file in industry.
§ Mr. R. M'LAREN
The raising of the question of returning apprentices in connection with demobilisation is one of stern necessity, and we should be very glad if the Minister of Labour can formulate a scheme which will settle this difficulty. Surely it should not pass the wit of man to devise a scheme which as between employers, trade union leaders and the men themselves will be sufficiently good to satisfy all the parties most concerned. Every post brings to me letters from fathers of boys in which they say how anxious they are to get their sons home as 281 soon as possible in order to finish their industrial training, and many of them are perfectly willing not to press for any subsidy to be given so long as the boys can be brought back. Something has been said about the question of technical schools. I happen to know something about these institutions, having myself been a teacher in scientific subjects for many years. I particularly know about those in Scotland, and I was rather surprised to hear it suggested that there was only one good technical school in Scotland, and that was at Edinburgh. I am afraid the hon. Gentleman who made that statement has not visited the technical colleges at Glasgow and other places. Had he done so he would have found them well equipped to do good work in connection with the training of apprentices for various trades. It is true, however, that no amount of training in technical colleges can make up for the training to be had in the workshop. The principal place for such training must always be the workshop, and I am very glad that the schemes which are being framed will ensure that the young men coming back shall receive the principal part of their training eventually in the workshop.
My purpose in rising was to ask the Minister of Labour to take into consideration a class of men who have been hitherto neglected. When the War broke out many men were asked to leave the mines in order to drive tunnels for military operations, and a very large number of boys who were serving their apprenticeship with a view to becoming mining engineers and colliery managers responded to that appeal and were so engaged up till the time hostilities ceased. These men were practically engaged in mining operations all the time, yet they are receiving no consideration whatever at the hands of the authorities now that they have come back. Under the Coal Mines Regulation Act before a young man can become a colliery manager he must have served underground for five years, a certain period being taken off if he takes a degree in a college or university. It seems strange to those who are acquainted with this question that these young men, who left their training and their work and did good, noble work, as miners at the front should, now that they have come back, not have the time in which they have been engaged on this practical work counted towards their service underground for the purpose of getting mining 282 appointments. I do want to impress on the Committee the fact that they have been engaged in tunnelling and other mining operations all the time, and I cannot see why the authorities should not permit some part of that service to count towards their underground training period for positions as colliery managers. It will mean, unless something is done and unless some of the time is added I to their record, they will be unable to undertake the work of these colliery officials for some years to come. Of course it is necessary men should have a good practical training, but in the interests of the country and in fairness to these young men I do suggest they ought to receive more generous treatment at the hands of the authorities. I hope the Minister, who will have something to do in connection with the demobilisation of these men, will take this matter into serious consideration and allow these boys to have the same chance as others coming home. It will be of advantage to the country to do so. I am very glad that the Minister of Labour himself comes from a mining district, and must know a good deal about the conditions of miners' work. He must know that unless we can get well-trained men, men who know their business thoroughly in connection with both the scientific and the practical side, it is impossible for the mines to be well managed. I, therefore, plead with him to take this matter into his serious consideration and see that these boys, who have done this great work in France, shall have some portion of their military service counted as part of the period they are supposed to spend underground.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel Sir SAMUEL HOARE
There is one question I should like to put to the Minister before he replies with reference to a branch of the subject not yet touched upon. I refer to the training of men to work on the land. I raise that question, because in the last two or three months I have been interested in several cases of men who were anxious for training to work upon the land. I have approached several Government Departments. I have been in communication with the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Pensions, and the War Office, but, so far, I have not succeeded in getting any one of these men trained for work on the land. I should like the Minister to explain to the Committee what is the machinery for dealing with these cases. Supposing, for instance, that 283 one has the case of a man returned from the front who is anxious to get into the country and work on the land, what is the machinery to deal with him? Has the Ministry of Labour the machinery? If so, what steps do they propose to take? My experience seems to show that these cases are thrown about from one Department to another, and it is almost impossible to get a man of this kind the training he requires. I am pledged as fully as any hon. Member can be pledged to attempt to ensure every facility for the training on the land of returned soldiers who wish to work on the land, and I should very much like information from the Ministry on the subject. Is there any machinery in existence for dealing with such cases; if so, is that machinery already working, and are men already receiving training for work on the land, about which we were talking so much two or three months ago? I hope that the Minister, when he comes to reply, will deal with this question, which is a very urgent and important one.
§ Sir R. HORNE
In reply to the last speaker I should like to say that I explained the method by which arrangements were being made for those who wish to work on the land in my opening speech. The hon. Member may not have heard it, and, in order that he may be fully aware of the conditions under which such applications are made, I may say briefly that if he has any case in which he is interested where a man desires to work on the land, if he will get his friend to apply to the Appointments Department of the Ministry of Labour his case will be dealt with there. Thereafter, if on consideration his application is considered satisfactory, it will be forwarded to the Board of Agriculture. If the man wants to take up agricultural work in Scotland, the Board of Agriculture in Scotland will deal with the matter; if in England, the Board of Agriculture in England; and if in Ireland, the Board of Agriculture for Ireland. The method thereafter to be followed will be that the appropriate Board of Agriculture will investigate the case, and see if it is a suitable one in which a grant should be made, and determine the amount of the assistance the State ought to give.
I turn to other matters which have been raised in the course of the discussion. I am very much obliged to the Committee for the very fruitful suggestions which 284 have been made in the course of the afternoon. We have had some very interesting illustrations from the experience of two employers as to what can be done if zeal and interest are applied to the problem. One hopes that throughout the country we shall find in dealing with the case of the disabled soldier the same sympathy and solicitude shown by others, because undoubtedly if that is so, the problem will be much more easily solved. That attitude, indeed, affords a solution of some of the questions that were put to me. For example, the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. R.Young) asked whether an employer would receive at the end of his apprenticeship as a fully trained man a workman who had been trained under the schemes which the Ministry of Labour was about to inaugurate. Again, it was asked by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) whether trade unions will receive a disabled soldier who has emerged from a similar training as a fully qualified man. Both of those questions are answered by what the employers and trade unions are willing to do. The endeavour of the Ministry of Labour at the present time is to get the full acquiescence and approval, both of employers and trade unions, to the scheme they have put forward. The hon. Member for Newton has been of very great assistance upon a Committee which has been dealing with this very matter, and I have no doubt we shall still have the great advantage of his experience and assistance. I do not despair at all of getting a scheme upon which all the great employers and all the great trade unions in the country will agree. I find exactly the same note of earnestness in these committees as the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) has described. I think the ultimate result of what we are attempting to do now will be that we shall get the employers and the trade unions together to foster this scheme in their various works and to carry it through to a successful conclusion.
A question was asked by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh with regard to the period at which apprentices would begin to receive the benefits of the Government's scheme. He made the suggestion that the scheme should be reconsidered to the extent of allowing an apprentice who came home before the natural period of his apprenticeship was concluded to begin at once to obtain the benefits of this system. That suggestion 285 I am prepared to look upon with every sympathy. Other members of the Committee have dwelt upon it in the same way as the hon. Member for East Edinburgh. I can assure the Committee that I shall take the matter into further consideration and, if it is possible to make this concession, I shall do it with the best will in the world. With regard to supervision, doubts seem to remain in the mind of the hon. Member for Newton as to whether cure will be taken to see that the training the men actually get is of a nature not merely remunerative to the employer at the time, but sufficient to fit the man for skilled work in the future. The same question was asked with regard to the disabled soldier and whether he would be similarly treated. The provisions which are being made by the training section of the Ministry of Labour at the present time provide for such supervision as will ensure, both in the case of the disabled soldier and in the case of the apprentices, that the training is of such a character that it will justify everybody in saying at the end of it that the man has had every opportunity to become a skilled man. The arrangements which are being made will be fruitful to that end. So far as the disabled soldier is concerned, our intention is to train him for six months in a technical school before he begins to take his part in the shop; but with regard to the ordinary apprentices and others, I agree with what the hon. Member for East Renfrew said, that the best training school is the shop, and provided the man is getting the character of training in the shop which is required to make him a thoroughly skilled man, undoubtedly that is the place for him to get it.
The hon. Member for Newton was the only hon. Member who raised a question dealing with the figures in the Vote. His attention was attracted by the fact that the Vote covered a sum of money which was intended to be paid for overtime to certain officials of the Ministry of Labour. All of us have a rooted objection to overtime, if we can avoid it. In this particular case it was only the circumstance that a very heavy burden of responsibility has been put upon the Employment Exchanges, as the Committee can well imagine, in connection with the paying out of unemployment donations that compelled this money to be paid for overtime. I am sorry I am not able to give the hon. Gentleman the 286 exact rate at which overtime is paid, but I can assure him that the Ministry of Labour will work as little overtime as possible. The hon. Member for Midlothian expressed the wish that the scheme should be brought into operation as rapidly as possible. I can assure the Committee that that is the ardent desire of the Ministry of Labour. The sooner we can get the scheme working, the sooner we shall be pleased. At the present moment the whole matter turns upon getting these agreements between the employers and trade unions which will enable us to set the scheme going. As soon as that is achieved, I can assure the Committee the scheme will be put into operation at the very earliest possible moment. I confess I am glad to have had an opportunity of hearing this discussion before we came to any final conclusion on the scheme, because undoubtedly it has enlightened my mind upon many points, for which I am grateful. One of the matters in the course of the discussion which has given me the greatest possible hope has been the clear evidence that both those who speak on behalf of the employers and those who speak on behalf of the trade unions are seeing as nearly as possible eye-to-eye. I have seen great evidence of this spirit with regard to labour matters in recent times, and, in particular, in the attendance this morning at the new Committee which has been formed out of the Industrial Conference. These symptoms—this coming together of employers and employés—are the most hopeful signs of the present situation. The burden of responsibility which lies upon the Ministry of Labour at the present time is greater than that which lies upon any other Department of State. It is my ardent desire that the Department should do everything possible in order to bring the country through the shoals of its present difficulties into a safe haven.
§ Mr. NEIL M'LEAN
I wish to ask the Minister of Labour a question or two regarding an incident which happened in the city which he represents together with myself, and which comes under that phrase which he used, that the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour in the bringing together of the workers and the employers in the solution of the labour problem was as great a responsibility as rested upon any other Department of the State. I should like to know why it is that when a 287 request was made to that Ministry by the Lord Provost of Glasgow to intervene in the labour dispute at the end of January, the responsibility which he speaks of was shelved by his Department instead of taking advantage of the opportunity given by the request of the Lord Provost to send someone down, or at least to make some inquiry into the merits of the dispute at that time raging upon the Clyde. Had the Government, through the Ministry of Labour, taken any steps with regard to that question I feel certain, as one who knows the men concerned in that dispute, that the unfortunate incidents which occurred on 31st January, which led not only to rioting in the city but to the military being sent down, would never have taken place. As a matter of fact, the men were promised through their deputation to have a reply from the Government on the Friday. They assembled in the Square on the Friday as they had assembled on two days before that week—two days upon which the utmost order prevailed, on scenes took place, and tact was displayed by the police and the crowd.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir E. Cornwall)
The hon. Member must confine his remarks to the question of the payment of demobilised officers and men of His Majesty's Forces.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
No; for the moment we are only on the item marked X—payment of demobilised officers and men of His Majesty's Forces.
§ Mr. M'LEAN
Is there another item upon which I can raise this question at a later period in the Debate?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The practice of the House in Committee on Supplementary Votes is to keep to the supplemental items and also to have regard to the item which is being discussed. We have taken the items from A to X. Hon. Members will not be entitled to discuss the whole question of the policy of the Ministry of Labour.
§ Mr. HOGGE
It is quite true that it is the practice of the House to confine itself to the special items, but I suggest that when the Minister of Labour has replied on Item 10 that discussion is exhausted, and on the general discussion on the Question which you put from the Chair my hon. Friend is entitled to discuss it.