HC Deb 04 December 1941 vol 376 cc1230-1
4 and 5. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether, to improve the existing system of interviewing women at the Employment Exchanges under the age registrations, he will where possible replace the present inexperienced women now carrying out this work by selected employees of existing private registries who understand both the type of person registering and also personal suitability for specific posts;

(2) whether he is aware of the complaints voiced by women now registering under the age limits of the treatment they are experiencing at the Employment Exchanges; that they are interviewed by young, tactless inexperienced women, who frequently adopt a bullying tone and threaten, with the prospect of imprisonment, if the official recommendations are not at once accepted; and whether he will consider removing these interviews from the Employment Exchanges to private registry offices, or some other more suitable place?

Mr. Bevin

There have been complaints regarding the treatment at Employment Exchanges of women interviewed under the Registration Orders, but the number of such complaints has been very small in relation to the total numbers interviewed, which now amount to over 40,000 a week. Most of the complaints have been vague generalisations which it has not been possible to substantiate, but on the few occasions when specific details have been given, prompt investigation has been made. I am glad to say that, as well as complaints, a number of appreciative letters have been received regarding the way in which this work has been carried out. Most of the women officers engaged on this interviewing have had years of experience in interviewing women and selecting them for jobs in industry. They include about 1,000 permanent officers, of whom 70 per cent. are over 30 years of age, and 300 specially recruited from outside the Department of whom about two-thirds are over 30 years of age. In view of the new programme I have taken steps to review the whole situation in this respect.

I repudiate most strongly the suggestion that my staff are tactless or inexperienced and that they adopt a bullying tone. This is a grave and unwarranted reflection on officers who are at present carrying out difficult and heavy work with marked ability and success. I am fully satisfied that as a general rule members of the public are treated with courtesy, sympathy and understanding. I regard the suggestion that interviews should be removed to private registry offices as entirely impracticable; but if it becomes necessary to appoint additional interviewing officers, I will bear in mind the suggestion that employees of private registry offices should be considered.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Would the Minister take it from me that complaints, far from being few, are widespread? If I send him a few of the numerous letters I have received from all parts of the kingdom since I put down this Question, will he consider them? Will he cause it to be known that civility and tact cost the country nothing but are of value in carrying out this work?

Mr. Bevin

Certainly, I will investigate, but I would also ask Members not to take complaints in letters as being facts, without investigation.

Viscountess Astor

Is it not a fact that over a year and a half ago we told the Minister of Labour what was happening and warned him of what was going on? Is it not a little late to come now and tell us it is all right?