HC Deb 15 June 1939 vol 348 cc1483-6
32. Major Milner

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the widespread complaint of the employment of imported Irish labour on Government and municipal contracts to the detriment of our own unemployed; whether any regulations or conditions are in force regarding this matter, and whether he can give or obtain details of the imported labour at present employed on Government contracts?

Mr. E. Brown

I am aware that Irish labour is employed to a limited extent on some Government and municipal contracts. As regards the second part of the question, there is included in ail Government contracts of the value of £500 or over entered into since 1st January, 1938. a clause requiring contractors to notify the appropriate Employment Exchange as and when any additional labour is required to carry out the contract. In the case of municipal contracts, I am informed that a clause is inserted in contracts undertaken by local authorities on behalf of the Ministry of Transport, requiring the contractors to engage men employed on the work, with the exception of supervising staff, through the Employment Exchanges. As regards other contracts it is the practice of many local authorities to include a note in the form of tender to the effect that their contractors must give a preference to men residing in their area. As regards the last part of the question, the information asked for is not available and the supply and collection of this information from the large number of Government contractors concerned, would involve contractors and contracting Departments in an amount of labour which in present circumstances I cannot ask them to undertake.

Major Milner

Is it not clear that the only obligation, according to the first part of the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, is to notify Employment Exchanges? Is it not true that unless the condition is inserted which is set out in my next question, No. 33, the contractors have no difficulty in evading that condition and engaging imported Irish labour?

Mr. Brown

Perhaps the hon. Member will await my answer to Question 33.

Major Milner

Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to obtain from the contractors whose names I have given him—

Mr. Buchanan

Why not give the names to the House?

Major Milner

— the numbers relating to the imported Irish casual labour which they employ?

Mr. Brown

I suggest that the hon. and gallant Member should await my next answer.

Mr. Maxton

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that these contractors have some intelligent reason for preferring Irish labour, or does he think that it is sheer malignity on their part?

Mr. Brown

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman needs to impute an ethical motive. It is well known that there are Irish labourers of very great skill, particularly for heavy work, and it is well known, also, that some contractors require that kind of labour.

33. Major Milner

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will arrange for a condition to be inserted in all Government and municipal contracts involving a contribution from the Government, compelling contractors to engage additional labour, other than key men, through the Employment Exchange system, so as to ensure local labour being employed when available?

Mr. Brown

The practical difficulties raised by this proposal require detailed examination in consultation with the industries affected. These discussions are not yet completed, and I regret that I am not yet able to add anything to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Pilkington) on 11th May.

Major Milner

Will the Minister press the matter forward and be good enough to let me know when I may put down a further question?

Mr. Brown

Yes, Sir.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

Will the Minister be careful to see, in making these

Date. Numbers of persons registered as unemployed.
Men, aged 18 and over. Boys, aged 14–17. Women, aged 18 and over. Girls, aged 14–17. Total, aged 14 and over.
16th May, 1938 4,655 133 1,480 112 6,380
15th August, 1938 4,367 162 1,108 153 5,590
14th November,1938 5,253 149 1,197 131 6,730
13th February, 1939 5,967 244 1,556 128 7,895
15th May, 1939 3,721 129 1,262 56 5,168

The following table analyses according to length of the last spell of unemployment the numbers of applicants for

Length of period on register at 15th May, 1939. Numbers of applicants for benefit or allowances.
Men, aged 18–64. Boys, aged 16–17. Women, aged 18–64. Girls, aged 16–17. Total, aged 16–64.
Less than three months 2,348 67 800 16 3,231
Three months but less than six months. 377 2 143 522
Six months or more 660 110 770
Total 3,385 69 1,053 16 4,523

some of the persons who had been on the Registers for extended periods will have had one or more short spells of

arrangements, that there are no repercussions on English and Scottish labourers in Ireland?

Mr. Brown

The point at issue is the one raised by the hon. and gallant Member in his question.

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