HC Deb 20 April 1939 vol 346 cc466-8
12. Mr. Lunn

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that Mr. Jack Smith, aged 19, of School Lane, Emley, who was employed at Messrs. Firth Brothers, Limited, Scissett, Huddersfield, on work of national urgency as an apprentice engineer for 5½ years at £1 per week, was discharged from his employment because he asked for an improvement in his wages, and objected to being paid 6½d. for 1½ hours overtime, and to working 5¾hours without a break for a meal; that the court of referees at Huddersfield, who had these facts before them, disallowed his claim for benefit; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent the occurrence of similar cases?

Mr. E. Brown

I am having inquiry made into this case and will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as possible. I am obliged to him for the information which he sent to me yesterday.

Mr. Lunn

Is it not a fact that firms which engage on work of national importance should pay trade union wages and observe trade union conditions, and will not the right hon. Gentleman withdraw the possibility of firms such as this having Government contracts?

Mr. Brown

I will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as I have had full inquiries made.

Mr. Lawson

If these facts are as stated, have not the court of referees been badly instructed?

Mr. Brown

I should not care to give a final judgment until I have all the facts.

13. Mr. Burke

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that young girls of 19 and 20 years of age have had their insurance benefit stopped at Burnley because they would not accept work at a chocolate factory at Norwich, 170 miles away; and will he take steps to restore payment pending full inquiries as to the suitability of the employment and the desirability of breaking up the family life of these young persons?

Mr. Brown

I am having inquiry made in this matter, and will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Mr. Burke

Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly see that benefit does not cease while inquiries are going on? Is he not aware of the strong attachment to home among British folk, and does he think he is doing a good service either to these lasses or their employers by driving them, under the threat of starvation, to seek work so far away from home? Would it not be better to bring work to the people?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Member is prejudging the case. I will await the evidence, and then perhaps he will care to pursue the matter further.

Mr. Petherick

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was the willingness of British people to go out and search for work that built up the civilisation and the strength of Britain, and is it realised that it would be a great dis-service to the spirit of the people and to the country to suggest that people are not to look for work?