HC Deb 27 June 1940 vol 362 cc567-70
1. Mr. Mander

asked the Minister of Labour his plans for the organisation of welfare work in factories on war work, giving the names of the organisations and persons engaged thereon?

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)

I am glad to have an opportunity of making a statement on this matter, but, as it is somewhat lengthy, I propose, if I may, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Briefly, I may say that I have established a Factory and Welfare Department, which includes the Factory Department and its staff transferred from the Home Office and also a Factory and Welfare Advisory Board. I am appointing a number of Welfare Officers to deal locally with welfare outside the factory, and to act in close association with my Labour Supply Committees and with all the local organisations concerned, including the various voluntary organisations who have promised full co-operation and have set up a Central Consultative Committee for this purpose.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

If Members send any letters they receive from their constituents in which, for example, names of mills and factories are given where conditions are not too good, will the Minister see that such letters are not passed on to the mill-owners in question in order that the interests of constituents may be safeguarded?

Mr. Bevin

I think it is preferable for Members to go to their unions and put it into the hands of the local supply board.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

To what extent is it intended that this organisation should cover hours and general conditions outside factories?

Mr. Bevin

The hon. Member had better put that question on the Order Paper.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

If these welfare committees have advisory area committees, will one be set up in Scotland connected with the trade union movement?

Mr. Bevin

There is a Question on the same subject later on.

Following is the statement:

I have established a Factory and Welfare Advisory Board, the membership of which was recently announced, to assist me in stimulating and developing to the fullest extent the health, safety and welfare arrangements inside the factory, and the billeting, feeding and welfare arrangements outside the factory in order to help in maintaining maximum output. I have also established in the Ministry a Factory and Welfare Department, of which the Factory Department transferred from the Home Office forms a part, for the purpose of carrying out the new duties imposed upon me. Divisional and local welfare officers to deal more particularly with welfare arrangements outside the factory are being appointed. The local welfare officers will be attached to the local Labour Supply Committees and will act in co-operation with the local authorities and the various local voluntary organisations. I am glad to say that I have obtained the co-operation of the national voluntary organisations, who have agreed to set up a Central Consultative Committee for this purpose under the chairmanship of Lady Cynthia Colville.

As regards the organisation of welfare work in the factory, I propose to make a general Order with regard to the hours of women and young persons in factories with a view to preventing excessive hours of work, while at the same time allowing such relaxations of normal peacetime standards as are necessary on urgent priority work. I have under consideration the measures that may be necessary for ensuring the provision of medical, nursing and welfare services so as to secure adequate attention to the health and well-being of the workers and to reduce the risk of breakdown and overstrain. In addition, a manual containing information as to the optimum hours of work with the necessary rest pauses for keeping up output and suggestions to workers on the maintenance of their health and efficiency is being prepared, and steps are being taken to improve the canteen arrangements in factories, a matter on which I am pleased to say I have received, through the British Employers' Confederation, an assurance of the fullest co-operation by employers and their organisations. Arrangements, too, are being made to provide some entertainment for workpeople at meal times and other moments of respite from war work, for which purpose I have also been giving special attention to the important question of lighting and ventilation, and I am taking steps through the factory inspectors to see that the necessary standards in these matters are operated and maintained.

11. Mr. Davidson

asked the Minister of Labour what specific measures have been taken by the Welfare Committee recently set up by his Department to deal with the social amenities of munition workers in Scotland?

Mr. Bevin

The Factory and Welfare Advisory Board is a central advisory and not an executive body. It is contemplated that specific measures to supplement or modify action already taken in the matter of amenities for workers in any particular area would be secured through local machinery, and that this will include the special appointment of a regional and at least two local welfare officers for Scotland. A conference of representatives of voluntary organisations is being held in Scotland this week to consider the organisation and co-ordination of voluntary services.

Mr. Davidson

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that in the past there has been great difficulty in a central organisation dealing with the needs of workers in Scotland, and will he reconsider the position with a view to appointing a Scottish industrial representative on the central committee?

Mr. Bevin

I will bear that in mind.