HC Deb 06 April 1927 vol 204 cc2039-40

asked the Minister of Labour whether, with regard to the proposed discharge of 130 men at present engaged at Kew, he is aware that most of these men are ex-service men, though not of the permanent established class, owing to their physical condition preventing service overseas during the late War; that all of them have been in the service of the Department for the past six years; and whether, before assenting to the discharge of any of these or other members of the staff, he will, in view of the difficulty such men will experience in obtaining fresh employment, reconsider the whole question and endeavour to find them useful employment in other sections of his Department or in other Government establishments?

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)

A reduction in the temporary staff at the Claims and Record Office, Kew, is necessary owing to a diminution in the volume of the work at that office. In selecting persons for discharge, careful regard has been paid to the recommendations made by the Lytton Committee as to the preference to be shown to the various cate- gories of ex-service men in relation to employment in the Government service. Every effort will be made, subject to the usual rules as to preference, to re-allocate through the Joint Substitution Board redundant ex-service personnel, but I am afraid it is not possible to retain the staff now under notice of discharge pending their possible re-allocation to other Government Departments.


In view of the state of the labour market, have not the Government some responsibility towards these men, and could not they be kept on temporarily until the right hon. Gentleman can discover whether there is a chance of employment for them in other Government Departments?


For one thing, the condition of the labour market, speaking generally, is improving. On the other hand, we are taking every possible care, so far as there are discharges, to see that it is done with the least possible hardship, but we have always to consider the balance between two things—the interest of the individual man involved, and the interest of the expense of governing the country; and we are trying to do our best in these circumstances.


Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, although trade may be improving, there is an enormous number of men out of work,, and is he going to allow a further number of ex-service men to be thrown on the scrap-heap of pauperism as. a reward for their patriotism?


Could not the right hon. Gentleman do something to have these men, who have given satisfactory service so far, transferred to other Government Departments where systematic overtime is being worked?


Every effort is being made, as my answer indicates, through the Joint Substitution Board, to see that they shall be transferred where such transfer is possible.