HC Deb 08 March 1939 vol 344 cc2118-9
14. Mr. Perkins

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that Irish labourers are now employed by contractors to his Department; and whether he will give an assurance that, in view of the number of English workmen unemployed, he will specify in all future contracts that English labour must be employed?

The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Kingsley Wood)

I am aware that Irish labourers are employed to a limited extent by contractors to my Department. As regards the second part of the question, there is in all contracts between my Department and building contractors a Clause which requires the contractor to notify the appropriate Employment Exchange as and when any additional labour is required to carry out the contract, and subject to the fulfilment of this Clause, I consider that the arrangements for the engagement of labour must be left to the contractor concerned.

Mr. Perkins

Am I to understand that these Irish labourers were taken from the Employment Exchanges?

Sir K. Wood

I did not say that.

Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

Is it not possible for his Department to consider bringing men from the depressed areas who are so suitable for this kind of work, especially men from the mining areas, putting them into temporary camps, thereby restoring their earning capacity?

Sir K. Wood

I appreciate a suggestion of that kind but no doubt my hon. and gallant Friend will realise that where the Department enters into an arrangement with the contractor we must leave him to carry out the conditions of the contract.

Sir H. Croft

In the event of a national emergency of this description, might not the Department make this a particular point of national policy?

Sir K. Wood

It is difficult, when you have to leave the responsibility for carrying out the contracts to the firms themselves.

Mr. Buchanan

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that he takes no steps to have a creed or race barrier to employment?

Mr. Mathers

Could not the conditions laid down include a reference to wages and is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is grave dissatisfaction about the wages paid by sub-contractors through his Department?

Sir K. Wood

Perhaps the hon. Member will give notice of that question.