HC Deb 15 April 1943 vol 388 cc1359-60
10. Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that, in spite of some efforts to check illegal hours of work, thousands of boys are still being overworked through overtime and thus prevented from attending pre-service or apprenticeship classes; and whether he will take further action?

Mr. Bevin

I am not aware of any evidence of illegal hours being worked to any considerable extent by boys and girls in contravention of the Factory Acts. The reports made by local education authorities in connection with the registration of boys and girls are now being examined, and I must await the result of this examination.

Mr. Lindsay

Is the Minister aware that evidence has now been available for some six months, and that I have evidence here that boys are going on parade at night and are quite incapable, in consequence, of attending their classes? I have heard that there is further evidence of the same thing happening in connection with apprentices. Will not the Minister reconsider this matter?

Mr. Bevin

I have already answered my hon. Friend. I deny that this evidence was collated and available to the Government, as a whole, six months ago. We received a paper from the Board of Education quite recently, and immediately a committee was set up by the Government to go into the whole matter and make a report and recommendations.

Mr. Sorensen

When is that examination likely to be finished?

Mr. Bevin

The committee is working full steam ahead.

Sir H. Williams

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that persistent overtime is bad both for youngsters and for adults?

Mr. Bevin

That is perfectly true, but unfortunately it is not always a question that one can control. The constant representations to me for this or that urgent requirement make the thing extremely difficult.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson

Will the Minister relax the pressure for these long hours, so that employers of labour may take some steps to reduce hours, not only for boys but for men and women also, in order that their health, efficiency and happiness may be promoted?

Mr. Bevin

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that suggestion. It has already been done by the Production Ministries, but I must be frank and say that the habit of overtime entering into wages also makes a difficulty.