HC Deb 07 November 1940 vol 365 cc1411-4
4. Mr. Tinker

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is in a position to state why there are over 600,000 persons registered as wholly unemployed at the Employment Exchanges when it is known works and factories are short-handed and many are working overtime; and whether he will devise a scheme by which all registered unemployed can be made use of in the national effort?

13. Mr. Craven-Ellis

asked the Minister of Labour when he will have brought into the war and export industries all able-bodied unemployed men and women who are capable of being absorbed into these industries; and thereby satisfy the country that we are organised for total war?

Mr. Bevin

As the answer is somewhat lengthy I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Tinker

Will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity to make a statement to the House in regard to the position of the unemployed, because there is much concern about it in the country?

Mr. Shinwell

Why is the figure of 600,000 registered unemployed allowed to appear in the newspapers, if it gives information to the enemy?

Mr. Bevin

The exact nature of the movement and disturbance in industry, published in the figures in regard to various trades, etc., is very valuable information to the enemy which I do not propose to give.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

How many unemployed has the right hon. Gentleman been able to draft in, to clear up debris?

Mr. Bevin

That is another question.

Mr. A. Bevan

If this information will enable the enemy to judge of the Government's war effort, what information are we to have to enable us to judge of it?

Mr. Tinker

Might I press for an answer to my request that the Minister should make a statement to the House?

Mr. Bevin

If the information I give in the circulated statement is not satisfactory, then, if my hon. Friend puts down another Question, I shall be happy to make a statement, but I think the information I am giving is very explanatory.

Following is the answer:

On 16th September last there were 613,671 persons registered as wholly unemployed, of whom 318,214 were men and 227,293 were women. It is impossible in the scope of a Parliamentary Question to give in detail the reasons why these persons are unemployed, but my hon. Friends will be aware that at all times there must be a considerable number of workers passing from one job to another, and though every effort is made to move them without any intervening gap, it is unavoidable that many of them should be unemployed for short periods before they are fitted into new employment. The figure also includes a number of women who have registered for employment in war-time, although they are not normally in the industrial field. Furthermore, a proportion of these workers are the long-term unemployed for whom because of old age or other infirmities it is unlikely that further employment will be found. Panels of the local employment committees with the assistance of representatives of trade councils are reviewing the employability of all men who have been on the Register for one month or more.

In certain highly skilled occupations and in certain industries, there is an acute shortage of workers and the Employment Exchanges have been given, as one of their primary tasks, the duty of en-deavouring to fit into these occupations and industries workers who are unemployed in other industries, either immediately or after training, and considerable progress is being made in this direction, but I must secure a keener willingness on the part of employers and unions for developing schemes of training in the works. For this purpose, it is necessary to have the cooperation of all employers and unions in endeavouring to make use of substitute labour, even though this may necessitate a certain period of trial to allow the workers to get accustomed to the new work.

It will be appreciated that it is not easy to synchronise the contraction of peacetime industries precisely with the expansion of war-time industries. In so far as the contraction of peace-time industries is caused by the Limitation of Supplies Order, I have recently arranged with my right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Supply to ex amine jointly the operation of the Order with a view to the mitigation of any effects it may be having on employment.

6. Mr. Tinker

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that persons sent from Employment Exchanges to Government munitions factories for interviews to see whether they are suitable for employment there have to pay their own fare both ways; and whether he will consider refunding this money, as it is hard on those who have had a long period of unemployment to be called upon to meet this cost when they are trying to fulfil the country's call?

Mr. Bevin

I will send my hon. Friend particulars of arrangements which have recently been made to meet the hardship to which he draws attention.

9. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Minister of Labour whether there is any age limit beyond which unemployed persons cannot be compelled to accept employment on work of national importance at places a long distance from their homes?

Mr. Bevin

No, Sir, but age and other personal considerations would be taken into account before directions were issued to take work at a long distance from home. I would point out that the power to direct persons to perform specified services does not apply solely to unemployed persons but to all alike.