HC Deb 17 January 1940 vol 356 cc112-4
17. Mr. Goldie

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware of the large influx of Irish labour in Warrington and neighbourhood in connection with work on Government contracts; and whether, with a view to the prevention of unemployment, he will take steps to ensure that preference is given to local labour?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Colonel Llewellin)

My right hon. Friend is aware of the position referred to by my hon. and learned Friend. When building operations were commenced in connection with the erection of a new Government factory near Warrington, a number of men previously employed by the contractor on work in other parts of the country came to the Warrington district and were engaged direct by the contractor. Among these were a number of Irish nationals, but information is not available as to the proportion of such men to the total number employed on the contract. I am able to assure my hon. and learned Friend, however, that the number of migrants from Eire engaged by the contractor through the Employment Exchange, as distinct from Irishmen who transferred direct to the contractor's employment, is only five.

With regard to the second part of the Question, I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour that it is the practice when vacancies are notified to the Employment Exchanges, for first consideration to be given to local applicants, and afterwards, so far as practicable, to suitably qualified persons from areas of heavy unemployment in this country. Arrangements have been made to ensure that, so far as possible, engagements of labour on the work in question are made through the Employment Exchange machinery, and to this end an office of the local Employment Exchange has been opened on the site, through which some 1,000 vacancies have been filled.

Mr. Goldie

Does my hon. and gallant Friend regard it as desirable that Irish labour should be employed on work of this character, and can he assure the House that the ordinary trade union rates of pay are being paid to these Irishmen?

Colonel Llewellin

With regard to the first part of that question, by opening an Employment Exchange on the site and by filling vacancies with local people as far as possible and, if that is not possible, from the heavily unemployed areas in this country, we are, I think, ensuring that nationals of this country are given preference. In regard to the second part, as that is a distinct question I ask my hon. and learned Friend to put it on the Paper.

Mr. Logan

Does the Minister think that the large influx of five is detrimental to the work that is going on?

Colonel Llewellin

No, Sir, and I did not say so.

Mr. Logan

In the hon. and gallant Gentleman's reply he said that five Irishmen were engaged; does he think that that is detrimental?

Colonel Llewellin

I said that five were engaged, but I did not say that, in my opinion, that was undermining the labour position in this country.

Mr. Tinker

In view of the fact that there is a lot of dissatisfaction in connection with this matter and that I am getting complaints from my constituency of Leigh, which is on the border, would the Minister cause further inquiries to be made in order to ease the situation?

Colonel Llewellin

I do not think further inquiries are necessary. By the setting up of the Employment Exchange and by taking labour from the locality first, and secondly from areas with heavy unemployment, we are doing what the hon. Member desires.

Mr. Poole

Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the reason why employers show preference for this type of labour is that it is prepared to work unlimited hours without insisting on the proper overtime rates of pay?

Mr. Lipson

Is not the situation caused by contracts not being given to local contractors? If that practice were more generally adopted would there be any complaints of this kind?