HC Deb 08 December 1920 vol 135 cc2091-3
26. Captain BOWYER

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that at Manchester a certain firm recently received a contract to build 1,000 brick houses; that, as there were not sufficient bricklayers to carry on the work at the desired speed, it was decided to adopt composite concrete construction (Fidler) system; that this system consists simply of placing concrete slabs on edge which are held in alignment by strips of metal, and that no mortar or trowels are necessary; that directly arrangements were started for the adoption of the composite concrete construction system, the bricklayers notified their intention of deserting the brick houses if the simple system of building concrete blocks was carried out by unskilled labour; that this threat was issued as a protest, as the bricklayers claimed that the composite concrete construction system work was their work, despite the fact that there was sufficient work upon the brick houses for at least three times as many bricklayers as were obtainable; and whether, in view of the urgent need of new houses and of reducing the unemployment amongst unskilled labour, he will make representations to the trades unions concerned that this boycotting of a system which would be of real value to the country should cease forthwith?


I understand that the question is being referred to the local demarcation committee for the building trade, and I hope that in this way a satisfactory solution of the difficulty will be found.

Captain BOWYER

In view of the delay that has taken place, and the way Members of this House have been put off, will the right hon. Gentleman give full publicity to such cases as these as and when they arise in order to enlist the sympathy of public opinion and get the best settlement of the question?


I will certainly adopt my hon. Friend's suggestion and publish full lists of this and other cases that crop up.

Colonel ASHLEY

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that if this case is not settled within a week he will take steps to show up this trade union which is holding up work, and whose selfishness is preventing ex-service men from getting employment?

Major NALL

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that owing to this action of trade unions under housing schemes only 88 houses have been completed in 18 months in Manchester?


I think that it would be convenient to collect together the ascertained cases dealing with this kind of thing, and circulate them to Members.


Will the right hon. Gentleman also circulate the list of merchants and combines in his possession who are preventing housing because of increasing prices?


I am only too anxious to place before Members all the information we have got on that particular point to which my right hon. Friend refers; but the matter was, as he knows, investigated only lately by a Committee of the Board of Trade at great length, and its Report is available. We have no information beyond what is contained in the Report.


Is the statement of facts in the question correct or not? The right hon. Gentleman has hitherto avoided answering that point.


No. I have not intentionally avoided it. The case has been referred to the Departmental Committee which deals with these things in each area. I am not prepared to say that the statement is fully accurate.


Is there no possibility of fixing some time limit in this dispute?

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