HC Deb 12 March 1942 vol 378 cc1174-6
1. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that, in the view of many experienced industrialists, it is time to consider the effect of three years continuous long hours on production; what steps are to be taken to deal with the problem; and will he arrange for all workpeople who have been in continuous employment since 1939, and have worked on an average of 52 hours a week or more, to have their hours restricted for a given period in order that they may recuperate and increase output?

Mr. Bevin

The effects of long hours on production have been repeatedly considered, and the Government have made recommendations on the subject from time to time with good results. The Industrial Health Research Board have recently issued another report on the subject. Earlier reports of the kind have indicated that proper weekly rests and holidays are of the greatest importance. The views of the Government on Sunday work were published last November in the twenty-fifth report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, and the Government issued last month an announcement as to the taking of holidays in 1942. In these circumstances, I do not think that any special steps are necessary at the moment, and I am unable to accept the suggestion at the end of the Question; but the position will continue to be closely watched, and if my hon. Friend has in mind and will send me the name of any particular factory in which there is alleged to be excessive fatigue, I shall be glad to have inquiry made into the case.

Mr. Smith

Is there complete consultation between all Government Departments on this question?

Mr. Bevin

Yes, the Production Executive went over the question with everybody time and time again.

Mr. Rhys Davies

In view of the comments made by the Committee on National Expenditure and the Medical Research Council on the amount of fatigue consequent upon the long hours, may I ask whether anything has been done by the Department to implement the recommendations which have been put forward?

Mr. Bevin

We work through the Production Executive down to the contractors. The last report of the Industrial Health Board referred to optimum hours which, in fact, were rather longer than the hours which I myself as Minister thought ought to be the optimum hours.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson

Is it the policy of the Minister to insist upon those hours?

8. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the chairman of the local education committee recently stated that many of the 17-yearOld Huddersfield boys who recently registered were working such long hours that they could not be recommended to join pre-Service units and that they suffered from exhaustion, mental and physical; and whether he will look into the matter?

Mr. Bevin

My attention had not previously been drawn to this statement, and I am making inquiry about it.

Mr. Davies

Is the Minister aware that I sent him a cutting containing this information, and will he tell the House whether he is satisfied that the factory inspectorate are employed on the duties which they were intended to perform in this connection?

Mr. Bevin

The factory inspectorate are employed on the duties which they were intended to perform, but, like every other Department of State, they have had far greater duties imposed upon them as well.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

Is the Minister aware that this is the fourth week in succession that this question has been raised, and on each occasion he has said that it had not been brought to his notice? Is there not something wrong with the machinery? Is the Minister aware that yesterday figures were given that in Lon- don 400 young people between 17 and 18 are working above the permitted hours?

Mr. Bevin

That was one of the reasons the Cabinet agreed to the registration of boys and girls, and this is the first time there has ever been an opportunity of finding out how boys and girls are actually being treated. I am getting the information as fast as I can. I wish it had been done before.

Viscountess Astor

Could not the right hon. Gentleman have asked any mothers of children? They would have told him that boys of that age could not work the hours they are supposed to work. Any idiot could have told him that.

Mr. Lindsay

In view of the unsatisfactory answers that have been given, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Radford

Does not the Minister agree—

Mr. Speaker

Notice has been given that this question is to be raised on the Adjournment.