HC Deb 21 March 1940 vol 358 cc2096-7
2. Mr. Salt

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that men are coming before the rating authorities and before the justices, owing to the defaulters belonging to reserved occupations, such as the building and kindred trades, in which they are unable to obtain employment and yet, owing to this being their normal occupation, they are refused registration for training in the manufacture of munitions; and can he either vary the instructions with regard to their registration or take some steps which will enable them to meet their liabilities?

Mr. E. Brown

Men are not accepted for training in the Government's training centres if they belong to occupations which, for the purposes of recruitment to the Defence Services, are reserved on account of their immediate or prospective importance to industry. In the case of the building industry, most skilled occupations are thus reserved at certain ages, but men in the occupations of plasterer, house painter, gas fitter, steel bender and fixer and ironworker for ferro concrete, and foreman roofing felt fixer are permitted to join any Service as volunteers. I have decided that such men may be accepted for training in the Government's training centres.

Mr. Salt

Is my right hon. Friend aware that carpenters are not mentioned in that number, and that there are cases of carpenters who have never been out of work before, who cannot pay their rates or meet their commitments, and yet are unable to get work in another trade; and can he do something to assist these men?

Mr. Brown

My hon. Friend will understand that the situation is a difficult one and that the word "prospective" gives a hint of the nature of the problem. It is true that in certain parts of the country, owing mainly to the suspension of house-building, there has been the great difficulty in plasterers and such like people finding work immediately, but that may not be so in a short time if certain things should happen.

Mr. Thorne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last night there were 50 unemployed builders' labourers of military age asking Members of Parliament to do what they could to find work for them?

Mr. Brown

We are fully alive to this problem, which is the reason that we have made this arrangement since the war, and the hon. Member will understand that this is beyond the original arrangement in the Schedule of Reserved Occupations.

Dr. Haden Guest

Will not the list of reserved occupations require revising, in view of the fact, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, that substitute building materials are being used instead of wood?

Mr. Brown

There is no reason why it should not be revised after inter-departmental discussions, and discussion with the Joint Council, whose advice we regularly have.

Mr. Windsor


Mr. Speaker

There is a large number of Questions on the Order Paper.