HC Deb 25 February 1920 vol 125 cc1680-1

asked the Minister of Health how many men in the building trade are at present out of employment: how many skilled and unskilled workers are still in the Army; and, in view of the fact that the employment of the unskilled depends on the employment of the skilled workers, what steps will the Government take to bring back into the industry skilled workers from the Army and from other occupations into which they were driven by the uncertain character of the trade before the War?


I have been asked to answer this question. The number of men on the live register of the Exchanges as belonging to the building trades on 13th February was 25,000, of whom about half were skilled men and half labourers. The Noble Lord will appreciate that these men include a large proportion of the least able workers and exist in small numbers spread over the whole country. While there is a large unsatisfied demand for building labour of every kind, it is more difficult now than at any time to shift the man to the place where he is wanted owing to the lack of accommodation.

No precise information is available with regard to the number of building trade operatives still in the Army, but this number is now inappreciable. The remainder due for demobilisation will be released within a short period.

The general question of the recruitment of operatives for the building trades (including, I understand, that of the measures which may be practicable for bringing back into the industry skilled workmen who left the industry before or during the War) is under consideration by the Resettlement Committee appointed by the Building Trades Joint Industrial Council, and I am informed that this Committee will shortly make its report, which will receive the immediate and careful consideration of the Government.


Will the right hon. Gentleman put himself into communication with the War Office and really find out the number of bricklayers and other men connected with the building trade in the Army; and see whether that class of men cannot be released at once?


I have done that repeatedly, and I am in a position to assure my hon. Friend that—though I cannot give the exact numbers now—there were very few men of the building trade left in the Army.


Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the best way of bringing skilled men back into the building trade is to devise some scheme of insuring them against unemployment and broken time?


I hope that will be one of the results of the measure which I am moving to-day.