§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
Let me make It quite clear that we wish to maintain our record in the world battle for freedom. We want the complete annihilation of the Nazi and Fascist cliques and the subjugation of the economic and social forces that gave rise to the Hitlerites, who, in the main, are responsible for this war. Therefore, we are logically bound to support more efficient organisation. We support more efficient organisation, first of all, to enable us to secure an early victory, to avoid a war of attrition and to provide our Forces with overwhelming superiority in weapons and equipment. We desire more efficient organisation in order to be worthy of our great Russian Allies and to 52 send them the maximum supplies and, at the same time, to get this war over as soon as possible and so save thousands of our lives.
I have prefaced what I intend to say, in order to point out the need, especially in the war situation, to get away from the pre-war quibbling that used to take place in this country, and which to a certain extent, when we come to deal with domestic affairs, we find is still there. The war has made this country dynamic, and we want to maintain that attitude. We want our country to gather momentum for victory and also for peace purposes. At the end of last year, the Minister of Production visited the United States, where he had consultations with those in charge of American production. I should think—and we would like a reply on this point—that agreement was reached on a united, planned strategy, on a planned production programme, based upon our strategical needs. The result of it was the Minister's statement, which, summed up, meant this: Temporary dislocation, leading to the peak production of our offensive needs in ships, aircraft and tanks, in the main.
To-day we are concerned with the following points which the Minister made and which I will give in an extract from his speech:Nineteen forty-three will be a peak year in our war production, and the total labour force employed in the munitions industries during the year will considerably exceed the numbers employed in 1942. In order to obtain the additional labour force required and at the same time to satisfy the requirements of the Forces, there will have to be, by means of concentration or otherwise, further withdrawals of labour from the less essential industries and further mobilisation of women into industry both for munitions work and as replacements for those transferred from the less essential industries. At the same time transfers of labour within the munition industries themselves must take place ….Managers and workers who are affected by the changes in programmes which I have just described must realise that, notwithstanding any temporary dislocation that may occur, these changes are part of an ordered plan. If men and women find themselves being transferred to new work they will understand that it is because the new work is even more vitally important than that upon which they were previously engaged. If there is some temporary dislocation to management or to labour, the great and insistent demand for man- and woman-power will quickly reabsorb them into new activities.We hope they are. If men and women find themselves being transferred to new 53 work, they will understand it is because the new work has become even more vitally important than that upon which they were previously engaged. If there is some temporary dislocation of management and labour, the great and insistent demand for all man- and woman-power will quickly re-absorb them into new activity.
Then the Minister went on to say:I would appeal to Members of this House, whose influence can be of so much importance in their constituencies, as well as to the managements of all companies, to give every assistance to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service in his difficult task, by explaining to their workpeople why the changes are necessary. If they are understood, doubt and uncertainty will not occur."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th January, 1943; cols. 38 and 39, Vol. 386.]That is our main purpose in this Debate. We differ from an hon. Gentleman who spoke from a Bench below the Gangway not long ago, in regard to Debates, because we believe that Debates in this House have been a great contribution to our war effort. We believe that, in this democratic assembly, Questions, in the main, and Debates have helped to stimulate the Government and Government Departments, and at the same time to provide Ministers with an opportunity of making statements which have explained matters of this kind to the country. It is with this reason in mind that we are raising this issue to-day.
An important factor in the degree of success in the new policy will be how the workpeople are treated when these transfers are being made. Upon that matter I am instructed by my hon. Friends to speak, and I gladly do so. At the last Trades Union Congress this resolution was carried:The Congress urges upon the Government the necessity of seeing that ample safeguards are provided to ensure that employers cannot take advantage of the Regulations by transferring their (the employers') liability for subsistence allowance on to the Government and, in addition"—and this is what I want to emphasise—that proper accommodation is provided for the workers prior to transference, and adequate welfare arrangements made. Further regard should be paid to the question of women workers and the need of keeping them employed as near their homes as possible.I hope that, in the policy which the Minister of Production outlined, that resolution will be borne in mind. I understand that the new policy will mean that 54 transfers will have to take place on a national scale and also within a region, and that there will also be transfers within a restricted area. What does the Ministry consider a reasonable distance to travel daily for a transferred worker, from his or her home to the new place? Over a reasonable distance, workers should receive travelling allowance daily. When the travelling distance is over the reasonable mileage, can arrangements be made for transferred people to receive a hot meal when they arrive, or, at the very least, tea, if the distance is outside a reasonable mileage? I would also ask that the transferred workpeople should be given more free travelling vouchers, especially at holiday periods. When there is sickness at home they should be given leave as expeditiously as possible, because if their minds are on the fact that there is sickness in their homes, they cannot do justice either to themselves or to those in charge of the work. It is to be remembered that in those cases they have to bear the cost of making the journey home and that sickness in the home increases the domestic expenditure, while at the same time they suffer a loss of wages. That is why I suggest that leave should be granted to them more readily than has been the case up to the present, and that they should also receive more travelling vouchers. I think in circumstances like those, transferred people are entitled to some such benefits as I suggest, and I therefore ask that consideration shall be given to that aspect of the matter in connection with the new policy.
Then, I would ask, cannot something be done to ease the difficulty experienced by workpeople who are transferred from a relatively highly-paid area to an area where the pay is lower? I can visualise that under the new policy which has been outlined this will be a cause of considerable difficulty. Cannot arrangements be made for the payment of a transfer bonus in cases of that kind? There is another point. Why have the Government not taken steps to put an end to the exorbitant charges which are being made for houses? This matter is probably causing as much friction as any other question—if not, indeed, more than any other question of which I know at the present time—in connection with the transfer of workpeople. If transference is to take place on a large scale, something will have to be done in this respect, in order that the 55 machine may work as efficiently as we desire it to work, and enable us to get the best results.
§ Mr. Craven-Ellis (Southampton)
The hon. Member has just complained of the charges which are being made for houses. Would it not be more correct if he were to say the charges made for lodgings, since house rent is controlled?
§ Mr. Smith
I was going on to make that point. My first point was in regard to houses, and I intended in the next place to mention that the same complaint applied to lodgings. The same thing applies to rent, and the same thing applies to charges for keys. All this means a form of inflation. The Government have done better than I expected as regards the avoidance of inflation in this country, but they do not seem to have tackled this particular problem, in the same way as they have dealt with bigger issues. We want to know to-day who has prevented this matter from being dealt with; who is responsible for it, and will it be dealt with before transfers take place on a larger scale? The question of housing accommodation is one of the most difficult which has to be faced in connection with large-scale transfers. In the industrial areas there were serious housing shortages even before the war, and these have been intensified by the large numbers of people who have come into the industrial areas since the war began.
Within limits, the most efficient way of dealing with the problem would be for the Government to take over all the large hotels in the industrial areas and to retain the staffs and the service in those hotels for the accommodation of transferred workers. No class of people in this country, apart from the Armed Forces, are more entitled to have the most efficient service possible than the people directly employed in the manufacture of munitions. If it was right to take over seaside hotels to house Government offices and to accommodate Civil servants, then I think it is reasonable to suggest, now that a policy of large-scale transfer is to be embarked upon, according to the Minister's own statement, that large hotels, within reasonable distance of industrial centres, should be taken over in order that our people may be housed on as decent a basis as possible.
56 I do not know whether it is generally realised everywhere what our people have gone through during the last four or five years, particularly in the industrial centres. Very few countries, with the possible exception of Russia, have gone through worse experiences, and I do not think this is fully realised throughout the world. I live among these people; I belong to them and do not desire to be any different from them, and it is obvious, when you are among them and speak to them, how great has been the effect of the strain of the last few years upon them. No one could have made a greater contribution to the war effort than they have made. I submit that we have now reached a stage at which maximum hours could be fixed at a certain figure which would enable us to get the best possible production from the people, having regard to that strain under which they have been working. After Dunkirk they worked for 60 and 70 and 80 and 90 hours—a fact of which the Minister himself needs no reminding. He is as well aware of it as any of us. But now we have reached a stage of the war and a situation in regard to man-power, in which, I think, it would be good policy if hours were fixed, except in cases of exceptional emergency or urgency, at about 54 or 56 or some figure like that. Is the Minister satisfied that we are obtaining the best results from the men and women in industry who desire to give of their best? I would follow up that question by asking also: Are we getting the best production we could get from the numbers engaged in the aircraft industry? Those are questions to which we should have satisfactory answers before any large-scale transfers take place.
I had expected that a representative of the Ministry of Production would have been here to-day, because the issues which are being raised concern not only the Ministry of Labour, but also the Ministry of Production and the Ministry of Supply. I would like to ask at this point whether better arrangements can be made to balance and to fit in the labour supply with the raw materials supply. When major modifications are made or when there is a change-over from one type to another, can we be given an assurance that transferred workpeople will not be sent to some place where they will have to mark time until production can start? Nothing has a worse effect on workpeople than 57 being transferred from one area to another, only to find that the area to which they have been transferred is not yet ready for production. There has been too much of that, and under the new policy that kind of thing ought not to take place. I would also ask whether workpeople will be allowed to remain as near to their homes as possible. I have seen a number of circulars issued by the Ministry, and we have heard speeches made by the Minister. We have noticed the spirit in which he makes those speeches, and I be-believe it is intended that the whole administration of the scheme should be carried out in that same spirit. What steps then are being taken, in connection with the new policy of transference, to see that the other Ministries involved in particular localities act in accordance with the Minister's intentions? Will there be a linking-up in the localities to avoid friction?
I suggest that where production committees have not already been set up some sort of joint committees should be established, in order that the facts can be explained to the workpeople. I have sufficient confidence in our people, and I know them sufficiently well, to say without hesitation that if the facts are explained to them most of them will respond. Unfortunately, too often a new policy is introduced and people are transferred, or some change takes place, without any explanation being offered to the people. These joint committees ought to be set up where large transfers take place, so that the facts can be put before the workpeople and so that general discussion can take place. I also suggest the setting-up of a rota, in the preparation of which everything would be taken into consideration in regard to domestic responsibilities and liabilities, and that the transfers should be made upon that basis.
We all know that the Ministry of Labour has organised the British people in such a way that a great story can be told of it. It is time that that story was told to this country and to the world. It would inspire our people to greater efforts; it would encourage our men in the Forces, and that which would assist the enemy could be left out. In my view there is not yet the co-operation there should be between the Ministries responsible on such questions as transfers. Is there the co-ordination there should be on these questions between the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of 58 Production, the Ministry of Supply, the Admiralty and the Ministry of Aircraft Production? Are we getting the co-operation we should get from the local authorities? Here is just one example. Let us remind ourselves that we are in the fourth year of war. In the last war supplementary rations were granted to workpeople. I believe that in this war those engaged in heavy manual work should have received supplementary rations, but the Ministry of Food would not agree to a policy of that kind. Many of my hon. Friends would not agree to a policy of that kind. I agree that it is very debatable.
This is the reply which the Ministry of Food made to some of us. My right hon. Friend will remember those of us in Parliament who suggested that heavy workers like miners, engineers, transport workers, steel workers should be entitled to supplementary rations. The Ministry said, "We have a good deal of sympathy with you, but it cannot be done, owing to the situation we find ourselves in." They went on to say that British Restaurants are now being established and that in industrial centres in particular the workpeople can take advantage of the facilities which the Ministry has organised at those British Restaurants and that this is equivalent to a supplementary ration.
I thought that was very reasonable, and I accepted it. But what do we find? Here we are in the fourth year of the war, and so far as industrial centres are concerned this is what has been done. At the end of January, 1943, the number of British restaurants operating in the towns mentioned, per 30,000 of the population, were as follow:—Stoke-on-Trent, 1; Birmingham, 1; Manchester, 0.4; Sheffield, 0.4; Glasgow, 0.3; Salford, 0.1; Liverpool, 0.4. I have no hesitation in saying that these figures are a disgrace to those localities, and that were we getting the co-operation of the local authorities in those areas that we should do those figures would be much higher. I go on to the numbers that have been set up—Stoke-on-Trent, 9; Sheffield, 7; Glasgow, 10; Manchester, centre of a large industrial area which will probably become more important in view of our new needs and products upon which we are going to concentrate, 11; Birmingham, 35, with 14 being prepared; Newcastle-on-Tyne, 30; Salford, 1; Liverpool, 10; Darwen, 59 Eccles and Farnworth, none; Leigh, none; Mossley, none; St. Helen's, none; and Swinton, none. Therefore, there seems to be need, before the Minister embarks on large-scale transfers, with the additional people going into those localities, to take notice of these figures.
There is too much of this, and I am going to read this, because I think the House ought to be aware of it. A man wrote to me, and I asked him, because of what he said in his letter, whether he was a trade unionist, because that is a point which carries some weight, so far as we who come from industrial areas are concerned, because we believe, in view of the part which trade unions have played before and during the war, it places an obligation on the shoulders of all British working people to associate themselves with their fellows and become a part of the trade union movement. My correspondent replied under the official heading of the Transport and General Workers' Union:Dear Bro. Ellis Smith,Many thanks for the reply to my letter. I am sorry to inform yon that my wife died a few hours after writing yon on Saturday night, from meningitis. I think you will agree with me that her death would be aggravated by the suffering and worry over my having to leave her to go out of the district at that particular time. I do not want to take up much of your time but I would like you to hear this appeal of mine. I have also addressed a similar appeal to another member of the House. I might add that I feel very sore at losing my wife through the inefficiency of these people who claim to administrate in these cases, and I would like you to interview Mr. Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour (who might know me personally) to look up my case. I have written to the National Service Officer at Malvern for my release on the same ground as before except that I have added that my wife has since died and further that my activities as a union official warrant me a job nearer to my home. I am enclosing the original copy of my appeal.Here is the original copy, which anyone can examine. This is a real tragedy. It is headed "Regulation 58A of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939." This man is being instructed to take up employment as a designated craftsman in another part of the country, and this is the case which he puts in his appeal:1. Owing to the illness of my wife, who has been suffering from tuberculosis for the last 25 years. Secondly, of the four children left at home out of six, two of them, girls of 15 and 17 respectively, a son of 19 and a little girl of 60 seven require parental control, and my effort, if I went away, would be wasted to the country if these children lost all parental control.That was sent by the man. They go on to say:This man was withdrawn from building maintenance work at the R.O.F. on instructions from Regional Office, through the Inspector of Building Labourers Supply. He was directed to take up first urgency work.I do not believe that it was ever the intention of this House that cases of that kind should be transferred. If transfers are to take place on a large scale, we have somehow to get the Minister's and the Ministry's spirit carried out right through the administration, because I do not believe that it was ever intended that that kind of case should be transferred.
When workpeople are transferred in the future, I ask for the most efficient organisation and the best possible treatment from when they leave their homes to when they settle in another. We on this side of the House—I say that in no political sense but because of where we come from and belong to—have restrained ourselves from the beginning of this war to an extent to which I never thought I should be able to restrain myself. We have done that as a contribution to the war effort. We have allowed scores and scores of Regulations to go through this House without saying a word. Now it annoys us when we, sitting here, can see Members quibbling over Regulations when they are introduced, not to move people about, but because Ministers want to improve the efficiency of the war machine. We find certain hon. Members quibbling, and in many ways that is bound to have some effect on us, considering how these matters are dealt with. In pre-war days those who could afford it had their holiday tours arranged for them. During the whole of the tours they made there was very seldom a hitch. We want to aim at the same standard of organisation in the organisation and treatment of all transferred workpeople. It is not luxury we are asking for. We are asking for human treatment, the avoidance of friction, the maintenance of good will, all leading to the maximum production. There is more consideration and sympathy in this country now for one another than at any, other time in my lifetime. We should keep in tune with the people and make care for the people's welfare a State instruction to all. I remember when I was at work one very efficient manager whose 61 policy was to give full consideration to all questions that were raised. You could not have a row with him. The result was that he obtained maximum production. That is what we should aim at in this transference policy. We take no objection to the policy; we realise that it is a contribution to the war effort; but the policy should be carried out on the basis I have indicated, to eliminate friction and to maintain good will, so enabling us to secure maxmum production. By that means we shall achieve earlier victory and take a much larger part in the battle for freedom.
§ Mr. Lambert (South Molton)
May I draw the attention of the Committee and of the Government to some strange happenings in regard to transference of labour in the West? We were supposed at the beginning of the war to be in a safe area. Unfortunately, since the spineless French Government threw in their hand we have had a considerable amount of enemy action, and we are getting it still. I submit that it is essential that industry should be engaged in an area as safe as possible. Some time ago some official, apparently, decided to build a factory in the West of England. I hope that hon. Members will allow me to be purposely a little vague, but I can say that it is in a very vulnerable place; I know the place well. Labour is being withdrawn from factories which are fully engaged on war work to man this new factory. This factory has not yet, I believe, been opened. It has a new management, the workers have to be brought there, and there is considerable irritation, to say the least, on the part of those firms fully engaged in war work in the West of England whose skilled workers are being withdrawn from them and sent to this new factory. I did not want to be drawn into this matter, but the chamber of commerce approached me and asked me to bring the matter before the Ministers responsible. I have done my best to bring it before the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Aircraft Production, but I have got no response except the ordinary official one, which we know so well.
When this chamber of commerce approached me I said, "It is no use going with general grumbling; send me to a particular spot." I went to one factory, old-established, well-managed, with the best relations between the workpeople and 62 the employers—not a cold-blooded joint-stock enterprise. They are manufacturing war material of the highest priority. I would not like to say what it is, but it is aircraft equipment and equipment for the safety of our soldiers in Africa. This factory had expanded, and suddenly some official came down, from the Ministry of Labour, I presume, and said that they must move nearly 200 girls to this new factory in this vulnerable area. The firm said, "If you do this, you will dislocate the factory." The local man-power board then saw the factory, and said that if the labour were withdrawn the whole thing would be paralysed. So it was decided-that 100 girls, instead of 200, must be taken away. The firm complained to the Ministry, saying, "We have these orders on hand, and we cannot fulfil them if you take away this labour." Down came an order from the Ministry that the labour was not to be moved. My hon. Friend has talked about co-ordination between the Departments. There was no co-ordination here. It is asking too much of such firms to take away their labour when the firms have put in expensive plant and are clamouring for labour themselves. As the manager said, "We do not know where we are." They cannot know where they are until their labour question is settled. Who really is responsible for this? Is it the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Aircraft Production, or who? I am drawing attention to this matter, not because I like doing so, but because I cannot get any satisfaction. I really am interested in agriculture, which is war production in another form.
At the moment, I am told, the factories engaged on war work in the West are being paralysed. They do not know what labour they are going to have. This labour that I am talking about is employed on an important form of production. It is well housed and looked after, and it is to be sent away now to a new neighbourhood. That cannot improve production. To have labour engaged fully, under skilled management, under congenial conditions, is surely ideal for good production. I hope that I may get some reply, but I see only the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour here. [Interruption.] I am sorry; my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Production is quite close to me, but I suppose I 63 am rather near-sighted. As my hon. Friend has said, when you transfer labour like this you send it into strange surroundings. Here the workers are fully engaged, in their home surroundings. The firms employing them have machines lying idle, and they want more labour. I ask the Government to consider this phase of affairs. I am not speaking for other parts of the country, but I happen to know the West of England very well. I am sure the Minister himself would say that a young woman engaged on war work cannot be shovelled about like a sack of coal. After all, these people are human beings. I know that they have an example in the highest quarters, and that Ministers in Departments are pushed around, but workers really do matter.
I ask that some consideration may be given to this case. I am sorry to have had to bring it forward, but having tried the two Departments concerned, and having received these wonderful letters on high priority and the rest—no one in his senses manufactures goods of high priority in a very vulnerable area—there is one thing I must say from my own knowledge and experience, and that is, that however young a Department is, it has always got, or always will get very quickly, a branch of equivocation. My old Friend the late Lord Fisher used to say that every Department had its lie factory. He called a spade a spade. We have this equivocation, but I am afraid that high priority and all sorts of officialdom do not affect me very much, because I have had experience of it. I have put these points before the Government, and I hope that I may be able to go back to Devonshire and say that labour from well-managed factories, in comfortable conditions and turning out war work, will not be transferred to factories in a vulnerable area in which the management has yet much to learn and where the labour has yet to be comfortably housed.
§ Mr. Naylor (Southwark, South-East)
As representing a riverside constituency in London, I propose to put one or two points before the Minister with regard to the existing grievances among London dockers and stevedores. It does seem extraordinary that a most ordinary Member should be speaking on such a subject to the Minister of Labour, who has justly earned the reputation of being the dockers' 64 K.C. If he were here, I would have asked him to look upon me as one of his junior counsel, tugging at his gown and throwing out a few useful suggestions. The first point I want to put before the Minister is the question of the wages paid when dockers and stevedores are transferred from London to other ports. It is well-known that in London the guaranteed rate of this labour is higher than it is in certain other ports, and the London docker has to submit to the payment of this lower guarantee. I believe that those are the facts of the situation, and it is one of the grievances of the men who have submitted their case to me and other hon. Members on this side of the Committee.
It is the opinion of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour that all questions of wages and conditions ought to be determined by the usual industrial methods, by consultation and discussions between employers' organisations and the trade unions. While I agree with that in the main, there is a great difference in regard to the arrangements for determining what the guaranteed rate of wages shall be. The difference in the guaranteed rate, while it may be recognised by the industrial organisations concerned in a particular industry, is affected by an Order from the Minister. It is due to the arrangements made by the Ministry for the transfer of London labour to other ports that the men have to submit to this lower rate. I therefore desire to support the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) when he mentioned that the best method of dealing with this injustice—and an injustice it certainly is—would be for the Ministry to arrange for a transfer bonus, equalising the guaranteed rate between London and the other ports of this country. The men have a distinct grievance. It is not only a reduction of wages to which they have to submit, but their expenses in living away from home are heavier in consequence of their transference. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that a very good case has been made out for an equalisation of differential wages when that difference does not arise from any local industrial considerations. The Ministry is responsible for the transfer, and therefore it should consider it to be its responsibility for equalising the conditions among these men.
I suggest also that there is room for improvement in the billeting arrangements. 65 These men have complained to us that the billeting arrangements are far from desirable. We know, of course, that the war is still on and that strangers cannot expect hotel comforts when engaged on work of this kind, but the least the Ministry can do is to suggest to the billeting officers that the dock labourers and stevedores of London are not tramps and that they have a right to expect that the billeting officer, whose duties are directed towards obtaining the best possible living conditions for these men, should be reminded that no effort should be spared in the attempt to provide them with suitable accommodation. I have heard stories—I do not credit all of them, and therefore I shall not repeat any of them to the Committee, because I should be reluctant to do so without having confirmation—in which the most extraordinary statements have been made with regard to the billeting arrangements, and at least the Ministry should make inquiries as to whether the billeting officers are treating the dockers and stevedores as they ought to be treated in that respect. It is not enough that the billeting officer should be satisfied that there is a bedroom to be let; he should make sure that the accommodation is what might be expected, all the circumstances being taken into consideration. I hope that the Ministry will throw out a suggestion to the billeting officers to make every effort possible to see that the accommodation is as suitable and as comfortable as circumstances permit.
Another complaint is that the arrangement for paying wages at some of these ports are very far removed from the ideal, and while we may not expect the ideal, we can at least hope that practical consideration will be given to the difficulties of men who have been transferred from London, perhaps 200 or 300 miles away, only to find that, after having been in the transferred area for something like a week or two, their wages have not been paid. They tell me that the explanation is that there are so many formalities that have to be observed and inquiries to be made before the pay-packet can be issued. I admit that circumstances may demand certain inquiries with regard to what may be due to any particular set of men, but surely some arrangement could be made whereby these men could be provided with something on account. It may be that 66 they do receive something on account; I am not sure about that.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Tomlinson) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Naylor
I understand from the Parliamentary Secretary that that is so. I had not been informed to that extent, and I am very glad to hear it. It certainly would be a great hardship on these men if they were kept a couple of weeks without having something substantial on which to live in the meantime. Another complaint that has been made—and I put it forward with all reservation, because I know the difficulties of the situation—is that men transferred from London, both stevedores and dockers, say that they have often got to the transfer port only to find that there is no employment for them. They are taken from London, where they are not so much required as at the port to where they are being transferred, but when they get to the port of transfer they find that there is no more work for them there than there was previously in London. I agree that shipping arrangements are so uncertain at the present time that it cannot be expected that men can automatically be put to work unloading ships that are not there, and that therefore the position cannot possibly be improved in that respect, and I cannot understand for a moment that men would be kept idle if there was work for them to do. I only throw out that suggestion because it has been represented to us as though the position can be remedied. I am not sure that it can be remedied, but possibly in the reply that is to be made by the Minister that point will be made clear. I hope that these matters will have the consideration of the Ministry as soon as it can get to work upon them.
§ Mrs. Tate (Frome)
I want to speak for a few moments, not on the subject which has been raised by the hon. Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor), but on the subject of trying to prevent labour leaving places where it is urgently needed. For a very long time I have been urging that there shall be formed a special branch of the Women's Land Army in order that there might be some house-stewards to assist the farmers' wives in the very-arduous housework which they now have to do, but that has been, apparently, considered impracticable. If that is not done, there is an urgent and an immediate need for the formation of a new body of women 67 workers as household-stewards in hospitals, mental hospitals, farmhouses and other places of that kind. At the present time there is no question but that there is a large number of people who are desperately overworked, while a certain proportion are still not doing as much as they could. We have in the countryside numerous examples of women who have to work 16 to 18 hours a day in order to get through their duties at farmhouses. These farmhouses have land girls or other workers billeted on them, and all their help has been taken away. In many areas hospitals are closed for lack of sufficient staff, and here may I say that you will never have a sufficient number of really contented nursing staff unless you are able to provide an adequate number of domestic workers for hospitals. The domestic workers' status would be improved if she were given a uniform which would enable the general public to appreciate that she was engaged on work which was absolutely vital to the war effort. The shortage of domestic workers in the past has been due to the lack of status, and this must, of necessity, be very much accentuated in war-time when they see companions of their own age going about in uniform with the prestige, glamour and many advantages Which a uniform undoubtedly does confer. Therefore, I urge seriously on the Minister that there should be either some badge or armlet issued or a definite corps of house stewards formed for farmhouses and hospitals, including mental hospitals.
I would also urge that considerably greater care should be exercised about the registration of women. I think it would be perhaps worth while, when there is time, to re-examine the papers of those who have registered, to find out whether women are, in fact, looking after their own children after having stated that they were looking after them at their time of registration. It is only a proportion of cases. No one will deny that the vast majority of women are grossly overworked, but there is a proportion who are not pulling their weight. The promise that women would not be called up or be directed to certain work if they had under their care children under a certain age has, in certain instances, been grossly abused. Women have gone to employment exchanges and said that they were looking after their children, and there has 68 been no inquiry. I admit that an effective inquiry is difficult, but there has been no check as to whether they are, in fact, looking after their house and children or whether they have help. In a great many cases I know women are desperately in need of help, but in others women have escaped on the plea that they were looking after their children themselves. I know of cases of women living in hotels who have taken their children away from boarding schools, at which they were being well educated and looked after, to live with them in the hotels in order that they themselves might escape the call-up. They have done this although they have done nothing towards looking after or educating their children. If we are to get in our harvest this year and keep our hospitals open and staffed, it will be absolutely essential to have a more thorough comb-out of women who could do part-time work.
There is no doubt that for many women it would be quite impossible to do a whole day's work, but if they could be found, there are many who could perfectly well do, say, four hours' work a day in hospitals or farmhouses. I appreciate the immense difficulties of checking the registrations of these women, but in view of the labour shortage and the terrible burdens which have been placed upon the women who are doing more than they should, I believe it would be in the interests of the country as a whole that there should be some such check and increased stringency on registrations.
§ Mr. Granville (Eye)
I am glad that the hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) has raised the question of part-time women. I agree with much of what she said, and I think some part of the solution of the problem of enabling these women who have children to go to factories for part-time work is to be found in the extension of nursery schools, particularly if they could be arranged near the factories in which it was hoped to get these women to work. I would impress upon the Ministry of Labour the important point that it is necessary to get the proper air-raid shelters for these children during the time that they are left at these day nurseries.
I welcome the opportunity of discussing this question of the transference of labour. On the whole, I think the scheme which was announced by the Minister of 69 Labour is working reasonably well. In total war, if your production is allied to your military strategy, you have to make considerable changes which cause certain dislocations, but, as I have said, I think the present arrangements are, on the whole, working fairly well. It would have been much better, of course, if we had set up our Ministry of Production sooner, so that earlier co-ordination of plans for production would have enabled the many changes now being brought about to have been made before. This problem now of the transference of labour is not a single problem in itself; it is a series of problems, and I think that the chief of the difficulties which have to be dealt with is the question of housing and billeting, as well as transport, and the question of more day nurseries to enable part-time women to make arrangements to leave their children. Many of these problems affect what is called the outside welfare work of the factory. Unfortunately, while some of the bigger factories have welfare officers who are working and co-operating upon this question, some of the smaller factories have no such officers and are thereby placed in a difficult position. One of the methods of dealing with this would be to ask the larger factories to give assistance to or co-operate with the smaller factories which are unable to appoint welfare officers, so that on general questions they can benefit from the knowledge on a whole range of subjects on outside welfare.
As this welfare arrangement touches the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of War Transport and the Board of Education, it seems to me that in each great industrial area which is engaged upon war production co-ordination or centralisation of Government plans on outside welfare is necessary. In December, 1942, the Government issued a report on welfare outside the factories. The committee responsible for the report was presided over by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, and I do not know whether my hon. Friends have read it, but in it there is a great deal of information about welfare and about what the Government have been doing. There was a Debate in another place on this subject, to which Lord Snell replied and promised to give some answers, but so far this report has not been noticed by the House of Commons. Certainly, it has 70 not been debated by this House. As I have said, I think the most difficult problem from the point of view of labour transference is that of billeting. I realise that the major responsibility for billeting is with the Ministry of Health, but there is a responsibility which rests upon the Ministry of Labour. No matter what may be required by way of priority of production, in some of these large industrial areas I do not see how you are to get any more industrial workers into them unless housing conditions are improved.
I happen to be associated with industrial welfare, and I have seen conditions in towns engaged upon war production which are more than serious. They are tragic and even scandalous. I have recently seen conditions where families live in one room with grown-up children, below pavement level in basements where there are poor arrangements for ventilation and fresh air. I am bound to say that unless the Government do something about this serious overcrowding in some of our industrial towns, the percentage of sickness and, absenteeism will rise in the future. I know that we have local billeting committees, usually presided over by the mayor of the town or the chairman of the council, but I am not quite sure whether the Government realise the limitation upon these commitmittees. Over and over again it has been brought to my notice that local billeting committees have not sufficient power to requisition certain houses which become vacant. I do not know whether the Minister of Labour, who I am glad to see here, is aware of that, but I certainly know it myself. Local billeting officers are continually making recommendations to the Ministry of Health asking for greater powers in order to allow them to requisition artisan houses that become vacant in industrial towns. I hope that when the Minister of Labour comes to reply to the Debate he will give us some information about that, because there is a general feeling that local billeting committees are limited in their powers. I had a case brought to my notice recently in which a war worker and his grown-up family who were living in one room were given a vacant house, but the landlord objected to war workers with families, and the chairman of the billeting committee had no power to carry through the arrangement. The result was that an evacuee with no family came from another town and took 71 the house, and the war worker was left to return to his damp and unhealthy underground basement. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to do something about this, but, of course, I realise it is partly the responsibility of the Ministry of Health.
I turn now to the hostels which have been built by the Government for single industrial workers who are transferred from one district to another, and particularly for Irish workers who are brought to this country. I do not know whether it is because the building priority is low or what may be the cause of the hold-up, but some of these hostels are in an advanced stage of completion but require something to be done to finish them. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether there is a likelihood of the large hostel which is being built at Colnbrook being finished in the near future, because, as he knows, the overcrowding in that district is very serious? I am anxious to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman how much depends upon the billeting committees. It is no good a factory saying, "We want more workers, we want part-time women," when the town in which the factory is situated is completely overcrowded. I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman's Department ought not to have direct representation on the local billeting committees in order to ginger them up occasionally. The other day a case was brought to my notice of a war worker, working upon an important machine, whose wife had had to go into hospital for a serious operation; there was nowhere for the man to take his children, with the result that he had to leave the workshop, leave his important machine, and stay at home to look after the children. When inquiries were made it was found that the local hospital had no powers to take in children under any scheme unless they were the children of ex-Service men serving in this war or the children of evacuees from bombed-out areas. What is necessary is for some change in the regulations of these hospitals or some arrangements with day nurseries which in such cases would enable the children to be looked after so that the man could continue to do his job.
I do not know whether, in regard to the transference of labour, the right hon. Gentleman has given sufficient attention 72 to the possibility of appealing for volunteers to go to different districts to work. In Russia, under the Stakhanov experiment, where there is a bottleneck in production they send special workers who do not mind going to various parts of the country; that experiment is working with great success in Russia. I have a feeling that there are many workers in this country who, if they were told that at a certain place some bottleneck was stopping vital priority production, would readily volunteer to go there under uncomfortable conditions and work to increase the war output.
As I have said, I think the right hon. Gentleman's scheme is, on the whole, working reasonably well. I recognise the difficulty there is in production when that production is closely allied to changes in military strategy. The overcoming of these difficulties depends not upon Ministers making soporific speeches over the week end, but upon solving a number of problems which are at the back of production. These problems are in the hands of a number of Ministries. I do not know whether there is sufficient co-ordination at the top, but I do know that often the chief problem of these production committees in factories, which are tackling general matters, is outside welfare—billeting, transport, and nurseries. Of course, when the demobilisation of industry from a war footing to a peace footing takes place, that in itself will present enormous problems. I can understand the right hon. Gentleman saying, "Let me get over one hurdle first." It may be that the machine will then be in the reverse. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has good advisers. I have congratulated him before on some of his advisers on the area boards who are in many cases first-class men; but in the districts, where there are overcrowding and all the relevant problems, I wonder whether the Government intentions and desires are getting through the Department and down to the area committees and billeting officers. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give attention to that probable bottleneck.
I have heard some workmen say that their welfare is being well taken care of to the extent that they get too many Ensa concerts. I do not decry these Ensa concerts in the canteens on the day and night shifts. But I have also had workmen tell me that they would appreciate it if they were told a few more of the definite facts 73 about the war. If war talks, the facts about what the Government are up against, what the Government want and what must be done, were given in some of the canteens, it would satisfy some of the hungry minds in the factories. You have a Government political warfare executive or propaganda machine, and you have been selling Government sunshine to the country by the week and by the month. I appeal to the Government to tell the workpeople the facts, what it is the Government want them to do, what are the difficulties in production, and not to give an impression that practically speaking the war is over and victory is just round the corner. In conclusion I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having tackled the central problem of the transfer of labour and I submit to him that the real solution is to overcome the allied problems and see that the real intentions and methods get right down to the local committees.
§ Sir Adam Maitland (Faversham)
I am not sure I can whole-heartedly subscribe to the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) in his concluding sentences. Sometimes I am inclined to think that in the matter of propaganda we are copying the enemy too much and are likely to suffer from some of the evils of propaganda. It is important to recognise that propaganda is a weapon of war, but it is highly important that in the selection of the propaganda to be used there should be the greatest possible discrimination.
§ Mr. Granville
I was trying to say that I think there has been too much propaganda and too much talk about everything being fine and easy. As Lord Northcliffe said in the last war, if you tell the people the facts they will back you through anything. But tell them the truth.
§ Sir A. Maitland
I would like to remind my hon. Friend what another man, a very eminent statesman, said in the last war. I will not mention his name, but I will give it to my hon. Friend privately. He said that when you are fighting a war, you could not possibly win it if you had to tell the people all the truth. However, that is by the way. The new scheme which is now the subject of debate was announced by the Minister of Production some weeks ago. Hon. Members will remember that at that time my right hon. 74 Friend made a special appeal to hon. Members to help him in every way they could by explaining to their constituents the cause and purpose of the change. I think that appeal was well timed. There is probably no other matter which would be capable of causing so much hardship and misrepresentation and so much troublesome administration as the transfer of labour.
I am sorry the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) is not present at the moment. In his opening speech he said a great many things with which most of us agreed. Among other things, he said that hours of labour should be shortened, and I think he made an appeal to the Minister that that should be done. I think that principle has long been established in the mind of every person who has any knowledge of industrial conditions, and has been laid down in numerous speeches in the House and in reports to the House. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour whether it is not a fact that his Ministry' have laid down the maximum number of hours which may be worked in certain industries. Perhaps he can inform us whether there have been deviations from that order, because, as obviously must be the case in war-time, a certain latitude must be given. I would like to know to what extent the general order has been applied.
The hon. Member for Stoke went on to say that he hoped in our war effort we would be worthy of our gallant Allies the Russians. Having said that, I rather thought his nearer approach to the subject did not seem to be quite in keeping with that expression of hope. He referred to the common efforts of the people of Russia, the sacrifices that had been made by them and the conditions in which they have carried on their campaign, and, as he spoke, I could not help asking myself how he reconciled all this with the demands he made that, before any transfers of labour are made in this country, everything should be done to provide for the maximum comfort of those who are asked to carry out their part in the war effort. The hon. Member knows quite well that in saying this I am not speaking with any lack of sympathy. We shall this year get to the peak of our war effort, and instead of assuming that all the things which the hon. Member thinks 75 should be done can be done, I feel that we must in this instance let it be known that, however much we desire to do certain of these things, war conditions make it impossible for us to do them. Let me reinforce that by saying that during the whole period of the war, time after time there have been brought to the House Reports of the Select Committee on National Expenditure dealing with production matters, labour troubles, difficulties in regard to housing and so on. These troubles, of course, are relative and do not detract from our really magnificent war effort as a whole. In spite of the hardships of the war, I believe it would be a mistake to assume that it will be possible for those engaged in the war effort now to Have anything in the nature of the comforts which the hon. Gentlemen generally desire should be extended to them. But I think we should not be true to ourselves and to our responsibilities if we did not at once recognise that in this scheme of transfer of labour there are bound to be enormous hardships inflicted upon some of those who are transferred. I think we must accept it as an inevitable fact that in war things have to be done which, if we were not at war, we would not do in any circumstances.
I should like to suggest that instead of asking for these privileges and comforts, we should try to emphasise that whatever hardship and inconvenience are endured represent the measure of a person's direct personal contribution to the war effort and I believe that is the way we should approach this very difficult task.
§ Mr. Granville
Surely the hon. Member would discriminate between workers and their families living in underground basements where they cannot get sleep during the day when they are on night shift and ordinary war hardships?
§ Sir A. Maitland
I would remind my hon. Friend that the whole of our war effort has had to be from time to time improvised and changed. There are places that are overcrowded. They have for strategical purposes arranged that certain factories shall be here, there and everywhere and places are overcrowded but I do not see, much as I should like to see it, how these conditions can be greatly improved at this particular stage. 76 The question of man—and woman—power is gradually becoming more and more accentuated. It will become even more serious. We should try as far as we can to bring home to our people the troublous times that we are experiencing and impressing upon them that this is the urgent period of maximum effort.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
As usual I find myself in agreement with almost everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) when she was dealing with the problem of women and girl labour. Her speech was extraordinarily good and I urge the right hon. Gentleman to read it because she talks a lot of good sense. She says, and I do not think it can be contradicted, that the hardest sheer labour and work being done in this country to-day is being done in the farmhouses where women Who are not enrolled in any particular trade or service are doing up to 12, 14 and even 18 hours' work a day. That goes for both Scotland and England. She said again that there was a considerable disparity between the amount of work done as far as women workers are concerned by certain classes, as compared with others. There is, I think, a very small section of the female population who are not pulling their weight altogether; and I feel that the Minister of Labour might make a little further inquiry especially where looking after children is concerned. The hon. Lady instanced cases of women who are living in hotels, and in order to qualify for exemption from work of national service have taken their children away from boarding schools, and had them to live in the hotels, so that they could claim that they had to look after so many children.
Another point that wants watching is how much assistance the mother of a young family has, or has not. No one would deny that a mother of small children without outside assistance who has to take the whole responsibility of looking after the family ought to be exempted, but there are cases where outside assistance is obtained. I do not want an inquisition, but the point wants looking into; because there is all the difference in the world between a mother who has no outside help, and another who is living in entirely different circumstances, with outside assistance, but merely by 77 reason of the fact that she has so many children under a certain age obtains total exemption from war work. This is a grievance that is felt up and down the country; and the fact that the number who are shirking is so very small tends to aggravate rather than diminish the grievance.
But it was to speak about the particular problem of Scotland that I rose. The right hon. Gentleman knows, and no doubt regrets as much as I do, that in the past Scotland was very badly treated with regard to production by a Government of which he was not a member, and for the actions of which he has no responsibility. Scotland did not receive her fair share of the new shadow factories when the rearmament programme was commenced, and we have never been able to make up that leeway. Could he give some assurance that, as far as it is in his power—I do not think he can do a very great deal—he is continuing the policy he said he was going to carry out of putting as many factories as possible in Scotland, and of awarding as many contracts as possible to Scottish industrial firms, in order to avoid the transference of mobile labour? Because we feel very strongly that, if we had had a fair deal in the past, the transfer of labour that has taken place from Scotland to England need never have occurred. I therefore ask what is being done to increase the number of factories and the number of contracts awarded to industrial firms in Scotland.
Thanks to the right hon. Gentleman, I was able to pay a visit to the Midlands some little time ago, and one of the things that seemed to me to demand improvement was the facilities for some form of recreation in the evening for these girls, who are total strangers in what is to them more or less a foreign country. I drew the right hon. Gentleman's attention the other day to a case in the Aberdeen Sheriff Court where a number of girls were convicted for having left their employment, and put up as defence the fact that their billets were verminous and their food was very bad. He said he would inquire into it. That may be an extreme case, but I was rather impressed by the number of girls I spoke to who told me in every case that they had had to change their billets three or four times before they got decent accommodation; and that the 78 billets they were originally put into were most unsatisfactory. No objection whatever was raised to their changing their billets. Indeed the welfare officers of the Ministry assisted them. But it ought not to be necessary at this time of day for the girls to change as often as they have to in order to get decent accommodation. Some billets are good, but some are very bad. I do not feel that the welfare officers take enough trouble to go round and see for themselves, and insist on reasonable conditions. It is hard, that these girls should be convicted and fined or imprisoned for leaving billets which are filthy and verminous, and where the food is not good. That is not going to lead to an improvement in the war effort.
There is also, without any doubt, a great shortage of clubs for workers who have been transferred from one district to another. In too many cases they have no alternative after heavy manual work but to sit alone in their billets, or alternatively go to the cinema. I do not think that is good. How much does it cost to start a girls' club? Usually you can get some kind of private house which will be given for the purpose; but in any case it should not cost more than a few hundred pounds; and it is somewhere for them to go and spend their evenings together, and do their washing, and have all sorts of amenities. In Birmingham there are only half-a-dozen of these girls' clubs; but everyone I spoke to, including the officers of the Department, said there is a need for 25 or 30. I want an assurance that the failure to start them is not that the Treasury is not prepared to put up the necessary few hundred pounds. There may of course be other difficulties, but I urge the right hon. Gentleman to do everything he can to start these clubs.
A word, in conclusion, about agriculture. In regard to agricultural labour, I cannot speak for England, but I do know something about the Scottish situation, and it is a very remarkable fact that we are at present producing from a vastly increased acreage with actually fewer men employed than we had in 1939. We are now absolutely down to the bone as far as agricultural labour is concerned, and I beg the Minister not to call up any more labour from the land, either men or women. There is in particular inevitable anxiety about this year's harvest. It looks as if it may be the biggest that we 79 have ever gathered. I understand that plans have already been drawn up to get the maximum possible labour for bringing it in, but I ask the Government to lose no opportunity of appealing to every single class of the population who can spare even two or three hours a day at a critical time to give up whatever else they may be doing and help to bring in the harvest; because, after the tremendous effort that our farmers have made and are making, not only in Scotland but all over the country, it would be nothing short of a tragedy if we failed to bring in a considerable amount of food for the benefit of our people and of the Merchant Service, merely owing to the fact that proper arrangements had not been made to get the maximum available amount of labour on to the land. I am sure there is no-one of either sex who can spare the time who would refuse to do their duty, provided the facts are clearly stated and they are informed of the position. There is no doubt that last year the position was not adequately brought home to the vast mass of the people. There are signs that the Government are alive to the vital importance of propaganda. There is no propaganda more important than that which impresses all citizens with the absolute necessity of gathering the harvest. If the Government form their plans now and have a hurricane propaganda campaign they need have no fear that the whole of the harvest will not be gathered.
§ Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)
We appreciate the tremendous endeavour that is being made in the transference of labour and how willingly people are putting up with the physical and mental strain of being taken from their homes. But we do not always appreciate the great changes in the internal conditions of the population in the last two or three years and how willingly people accept every extra burden added to their backs and the curtailment of their liberties. I was interested in the remark of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) that we should prosecute the war in order that we might be worthy of our great Russian Allies—indeed, I yield to no one in my admiration of their endeavours. But let me remind the hon. Member, as I have said many times, and as I proudly say again, that this country bore the whole burden of the war for one year alone, and that we, almost single-handed, rushed in to 80 stand for liberty and justice. We, like Horatius in Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient Rome," held the bridge alone. The Committee will remember his words:Who will stand on either hand,And keep the bridge with me?Now other Captains have joined to hold the bridge: Herminius, Soviet Russia, on our left hand; Spurius Lartius, the U.S.A., on our right.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that he is repeating what I and my hon. Friends have said in the country scores of times. That was only one point I made out of about six.
§ Dr. Thomas
I am sure that my hon. Friend deep down thinks the same as I do, but it is worth repeating these things at times on the Floor of this House. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) referred, to the greater agricultural production in Scotland since 1939. That is universal throughout the country however, and the agricultural production in England is what it has never been before. The extra machinery, the work of the War Agricultural Committees and the direction of crops and so on, have largely been the cause.
§ Mr. Boothby
I did not say it was only Scotland, but I mentioned Scotland because it is more important.
§ Dr. Thomas
I agree; he may think so but the hon. Gentleman's remarks did not appear to me to have the depth we usually expect from him. The hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate)—I regret she is not in her place—spoke a great deal about women dodging their responsibilities. There are, of course, some women who are doing it, but the women on the whole have not dodged their responsibilities. Too much attention is drawn to the few exceptions. Let us think of the women who have to bear the heat and burden of the day who stand in shopping queues and who have to look after the children. Let us concentrate on them instead of on the few blacklegs. I am again surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen should support such a proposition. I have had many complaints from my constituency about the hardship committees. It is said that they do not always act as tactfully as they should. They are often inclined to inquire about 81 the work a woman could do from her neighbours. Frequently women are called to investigate the affairs of their neighbours with whom perhaps they have not been on good terms for years—I have received instances of it—and the findings of the committees are not, perhaps, always what they should be. With all the regulations that are made and that are often so instinctively obnoxious to us there is a tendency for manners to deteriorate. That is a great pity. It is so much easier when compulsion is being used to say the right word at the right time. I am afraid that some of these abrupt manners are found sometimes in the employment exchanges. I suppose it is human nature, when small men find themselves in authority over others that that should be so. But it is a pity.
§ Dr. Thomas
That is beside the point; there may be need for it. I asked the Minister of Labour a few days ago a question about dock workers being sent a long distance back to their homes when they are slightly indisposed. Many London dock workers are working on the Clyde-side and like all of us at this time of the year get slight colds or something of the kind which do not entail more than two or three days' lying up, indeed, more often only a day or two by the fire. These men are sent long distances to their homes. There are, I understand, some hundreds of these cases; they are sent 400 miles to their homes because there is no accommodation where they are working. One doctor told me that he often had had three or four cases of dock labourers every week asking for certificates to show that they are fit for work, and on making inquiries he found that the men had come from Liverpool or the Clyde and had been sent home with a common cold because there was no provision locally for them. The Minister said in his reply to my question that transferred dockers were found lodgings in the port to which they are sent. The dockers say that the billeting arrangements are such that even if they get their clothes wet there are no facilities for drying, let alone being taken care of if they are slightly unwell. The Minister went on to say that should they become slightly indisposed and unable to receive proper care they could find accommodation in 82 the emergency hospital under an arrangement he had made with the Minister of Health in November, 1940. He asked me to let him have details of any case in which these arrangements had proved unsatisfactory. I am not going to mention a particular case now because there are literally large numbers of them. I have been particularly careful in making my inquiries. The Minister should assure himself that the arrangements made by the Minister of Health are what he said they were when he replied to my question. Something in the way of hutments or hostels should be arranged so that these men could be looked after by the W.V.S. or some other voluntary service and where the men could go and rest for two or three days. That would save an enormous amount of time, add to efficiency, and save the risk and discomfort of sending the men long distances by rail. Men would often rather work when they have a slight cold than travel long distances. People working under such conditions sometimes suffer effects which are felt for many years. The solution of the difficulty is simple, and I suggest that the Minister of Labour should take the matter up with the Minister of Health.
§ Dr. Thomas
I do not mind, but I sincerely ask the Minister to discuss this question with the Minister of Health and see if he can put this matter on an efficient basis, and eliminate this wasteful and foolish business.
§ Mr. McLean Watson (Dunfermline)
I am certain the Minister of Labour would have felt that something was wrong if he had not heard from Scotland in a Debate upon the transference of labour. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) intervened in the Debate, because some of the things of which he has spoken have received great publicity in Scotland, and we shall be wanting to know whether the charges which have been made against the billeting arrangements in the Midlands of England are true or are not true. The right hon. Gentleman has placed those who have to administer the law in a very awkward position. A sheriff sitting on the bench to try these cases must not take into consideration anything that is 83 put forward by those who are being tried respecting the conditions under which they were working. Those are matters which must not be laid in evidence. All that it is necessary to prove in the sheriff court is that the girls have refused to obey the directions of the National Service officer. If that is proven, then sentence follows automatically. There have been cases in Aberdeen and elsewhere in Scotland where girls have been either fined or imprisoned because they left their work in England without the sanction of the National Service officer, and that has created a considerable amount of feeling. The transference of girls from Scotland to the Midlands of England in particular has been discussed repeatedly in this House. We have been assured not only in the House but by some of our Scottish colleagues that there was not very much to complain about, but the fact that these girls continually leave their work and return to Scotland, refusing to go back and thus getting into trouble with the officers of the Ministry of Labour, shows that there is a problem still facing us in Scotland. We hope to hear the Minister say something which will allay the feeling that may still exist on this matter.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen with regard to the location of industries. In recent months we have heard of new factories erected in Scotland, and we should like to know whether they are now in operation and whether there is a lull in the transfer of girls from Scotland to England. We also want information about these new factories. No matter how many factories may be erected and brought into operation now, the outstanding fact remains that Scotland did not get its share of the factories which it was necessary to erect for the war effort, nor did Scotland get her share of contracts for war work.
I come now to a rather different point, though one still concerned with the transfer of labour, and I am glad to notice that the Minister of Fuel and Power is present, because it is a point which interests his Department as well. Miners have been transferred or otherwise dealt with in various ways. First we had men brought back to the mines who had been out of the mines for years, who had been unable to get work in the mines until there was an outcry for extra labour. Then examiners 84 were combed out of a great many industries, and in that way the mines got quite a number of men who had been physically unable to work in the mines between, say, 1926 and the outbreak of the war. I should like to know what has been the result of that comb-out. Can the Minister tell us what percentage of those men have been able to stand up to the work they have been required to do in the mines? I am certain that the percentage is pretty low. If we had been living under normal conditions I venture to say that colliery owners would not have put up with the type of men they got from that quarter. Most of them were men who could not find employment in the mines between 1926 and the outbreak of the war.
There is another section who have been brought into the mines about whom I should like some information. For some time past it has been possible for young men of military age to opt for the mines. Rather than go into military service, they could choose to enter the mining industry. My impression is that those who make the best miners are those who go into the mines immediately they leave school and before they learn some other occupation, and I do not believe that the young men who have been permitted to go into the mines rather than into the Armed Forces are very much better than the previous lot I have described. They have this advantage, that they are young; on the other hand, the others were men with mining experience, though they had been out of the mines for years. The others are young men of 18, 19, 20 or thereabouts who have been in other occupations and have been transferred, in a manner of speaking, to the mines rather than sent into the Armed Forces. Have we been able to recruit any considerable number of young men for the mines in that way?
Now the Minister is to embark upon a new scheme which will bring about more transference of labour. Married women up to the age of 40 are being brought in either for part-time or full-time work, just as it can be arranged. The Minister already has power to bring in women, but the question before us is that of extending that power to cover women up to 40 years of age. As a result we may have younger women who have been found work in local industries transferred to other 85 districts and the older married women brought in in their places. That is necessary, I suppose, in connection with the war effort, and I daresay that the Minister of Labour will get through it as nicely and as pleasantly as he has done up to the present, but there is no question that he has had a very difficult job to do and he has done it very well. I give him that praise. He has done a good job in very difficult circumstances.
I do not know a Minister who has had a more difficult task than the Minister of Labour. He has had to do the most detestable things, things which I believe he detested himself. Matters get more and more difficult as we go along, and perhaps this job of directing married women into war occupations will be as difficult and delicate a task as he has ever had to face. We can sympathise with him, but at the same time we have these complaints about unfair treatment. I know of cases to which too little consideration has been given by hardship committees. The hardship committee could have been a little more sympathetic, could have shown a little more latitude in taking into consideration exceptional circumstances, and even when circumstances were not very exceptional there was often no reason why there should not have been a little more stretching of the Regulations. I am certain the Minister would not have objected to that; but some of the hardship committees have been a little too ready to stick by the strict letter of the law, with the result that there has been more friction in connection with this work than there need have been.
I hope that under the new scheme the Minister will be able to get things to operate smoothly and well. We want to help the war effort as well as we can, but we want to do so with as little friction as possible, especially in the homes of the people. I have taken up one or two cases with the Minister of Labour by correspondence. I communicate directly with the Minister regarding most of the complaints which come to me. In a number of cases recently the problem has been that of the widower with children at home. The eldest girl, who has been practically the little mother in the home, has been called up for national service, and the man has found himself in great difficulties. I know that the Minister of Labour claims that he has the right to direct some 86 one to look after the home in such cases, but that is not satisfactory. The Minister of Labour ought to allow more latitude in dealing with cases of that kind. If that had been done, there would have been far fewer complaints about the Ministry of Labour than there have been.
§ Major Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)
I do not always find myself in agreement or in complete sympathy with hon. Members opposite, but I have much sympathy with the speech which has just been delivered. I think the hon. Member made his complaints with moderation and force. I have in me a certain partiality for Scotland, due no doubt to a remote Highland ancestry to which I attribute most of my more barbaric traits. The hon. Member put the case from the point of view of Scotland, but I would like to put it from the point of view of Northern Ireland. I do not know how the allocation of industry in regard to Scotland compares per head of working population with England, but I am sure that in the North of Ireland we have not had as much as we should have had, and that we have had a less proportion of work provided per head of the working population than is current elsewhere.
There is a special circumstance in relation to Northern Ireland. Through no fault of our own—the responsibility must be borne by the House of Commons at large—the National Service Acts were not applied to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland was the only area in the United Kingdom which did not give one vote against the principle of national service, and yet, by the votes of members from other parts of the United Kingdom, that law was not applied to us. I think it was a gesture of appeasement to Eire. Therefore, as a man will very often treat his life as of less importance than his job—hon. Members opposite are as aware of that fact as I am—if a man is called up, and then finds his job has gone to someone who does not approve of the war, the resulting position is not very encouraging to him, We have a considerable working population in Northern Ireland who need employment, owing to the fact that the Air Ministry have built very few aerodromes in the North of Ireland, despite our constant request that they should do so. There was a tremendous amount of work in the construction of aerodromes earlier in the 87 war, but as this work is completed more labour becomes available. If it is a hardship—I think it is—for people in Scotland to be transferred to England, it is a greater hardship to go from the North of Ireland to Great Britain, at far greater cost.
I think we all agree that in a time of national emergency one must put up with a reasonable proportion of hard cases, but there should not be any more than can be avoided. It is very hard for people to get back to Northern Ireland for holidays. There is a very strict restriction on travel. In addition to that, for some rather obscure reason, instead of the censorship being put on between the United Kingdom and the neutral country of Eire, the censorship is put on in the middle of the United Kingdom. Therefore, letters take a very long time, and every letter a worker over here writes to his family in Belfast, for example, is read by the censor. On the other hand, if someone in Dublin, say a friend of the German Consul, writes a letter, nobody reads it at all. It goes quite comfortably through the censorship without any interference. That is quite a hardship. I have received many letters from people who have been transferred to Great Britain complaining about the lack of holidays and how hard it is for them. It is a most unsatisfactory situation that so much transference should have taken place.
Obviously when the Government work is being settled, the Minister of Labour is the most important person among those who have to be consulted. He has to provide the steam, so to speak, that works the engine. It is no use putting up a factory without having the working people to run it. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman now that we really must have more war work in the North of Ireland. Otherwise we are threatened with an unemployment problem, a preposterous situation in time of war. We cannot carry on even the arts of peace, because the Board of Trade would stop us. The Board of Trade have complete control of other types of factory. All work is really war work or Government work. I do hot know whether that position attracts people to the idea of the Socialist State or not, but there are certain points about it which I should think would make even the most ardent Socialist a bit dubious. It would be a most remarkable breakdown on the 88 part of the Government if we could not have war work for everybody who wants it and, for the vast majority of people, work in the district where they live and have been brought up, such as in Northern Ireland. This movement of working people is a great hardship and is very unsatisfactory. I do not want to exaggerate, or to compare it with the slave labour which is moved from occupied countries into Germany, but it certainly breaks up families and leads to great discontent. I do not want to detain the Committee longer but merely to make my point, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind what I have tried to say.
The right hon. Gentleman has one of the hardest tasks of anyone in the Government. We all know what he is up against. I hope very much that I am doing him a grave injustice when I say that we rather think he has hardly realised with sympathy the particular problems relating to Northern Ireland. No doubt when he comes to reply we shall see, but I would ask him to use his influence to provide work in places where people live and that he should abominate the monstrous principle of using Northern Ireland as a kind of reservoir from which to cart workers to work in factories in other parts of the Kingdom.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I rise mainly for the purpose of appealing to the Minister of Labour. I join with my other colleagues from Scotland in asking him to look specially at the problems that have been created in Scotland by the transfer of labour. I believe he has one of the most difficult jobs that the Government could give, and that his long experience has shown him that no matter what Regulations you lay down in any organisation, hardships must sometimes be created. I also believe that it is our place as Members of the House of Commons to point out those hardships to the Minister, with the hope of having them removed.
I want to put a point that has been touched upon by other speakers. For a considerable number of years I have fought regularly in this House for a fair allocation of war work to various districts in this country. I have fought for those in localities producing the necessary articles being given the first opportunity. Instead of transferring to big organisations 89 in the South of England millions of pounds' worth of work, this should be sent up to Scotland in order to give to firms in Scotland, the North of England and Northern Ireland every opportunity of taking part in production. Let me tell the Committee that in my own constituency is a firm who produce ventilators. They produce the best ventilator in the country. It has been tested and has gone through its trials, and it is much cheaper than the one which the Government are using in their ordnance factories, yet this one Scottish firm and its employees have suffered because of the Government's policy of handing over ventilator contracts for all the ordnance factories in the country to one big organisation in the South. The same is true of various other industries, such as the building and engineering industries in Scotland.
I approached the Ministry of Production and the Ministry of War Transport recently with regard to grease being sent along the coast from London to Scotland, when, in Glasgow itself, we have one of the biggest grease manufacturers in the country, but he does not receive an opportunity in any way of obtaining work for the Government in respect of this vital commodity. That is wrong. Those firms not on war work are having their staffs depleted. Men are being taken away and sent down to other jobs in the South of England. Girls have been taken away. At the same time the Government are paying extra money daily in transporting those goods to the North of Scotland and of England, although the goods could quite well be produced in Scotland, and the jobs be given to workers near their homes. I ask the Minister to examine this point: Let him go to various Departments, such as the Air Ministry, the War Office, the Admiralty and the Ministry of Production, and ascertain what contracts for the production of materials are being handed over to firms in the South when those materials can be made more cheaply and better in the North of Scotland or of England.
There is one reason why people from the North are being transferred to the South. I would like to make another appeal to the Minister to examine this point very carefully. I know there is great production capacity in Scotland untapped to-day. Many firms have been 90 knocking at the doors of the various Ministries to try to obtain employment for their people. In post-war reconstruction, women will play a very important part, and it would be a very unwise and unsafe policy to take away from any particular area the most virile of its womanhood. Thousands of girls have been transferred to the South. I say what Glasgow Trade Council said, which is that examination would prove conclusively that many of those transfers were unnecessary and had created unnecessary hardship.
I ask the Minister to examine the position in the hardship tribunals in the North, in Glasgow or any other part of that country. There is an opinion in the trade unions in Glasgow, a very definite and considered opinion, that the Minister has not the best type of representative on those hardship tribunals. I understand that many of them were selected from an old panel that we had for tribunals in the last war. Although many of them had some association in the past, I understand that they have not any real association with the working-class movement to-day or with the people. They may have had long years of service of one kind or another, but certainly they are not closely associated with present-day conditions. We are daily receiving definite complaints of cases of people who have not had the consideration they deserve. I asked the Minister some weeks ago to give me figures of the number of cases in my own constituency in which girls had appealed against being transferred on hardship or compassionate grounds and the number of cases where the appellants were successful. The Minister said it was very difficult to obtain those figures and that he would let me know. Surely he could have let me have those figures by this time for just one constituency where a hardship tribunal is sitting.
In my opinion the figure of unsuccessful appeals is very high indeed, and there seems to be a definite Regulation, that Regulation dealing with the women who are described as mobile, that, no matter what happens, no matter what circumstances are placed before them, many of these representatives on tribunals are definitely of the opinion that the Minister desires those girls of a certain age to be mobile, and that nothing can alter it. I ask him, I appeal to him, to make up his 91 mind that in each particular district or in each particular area there shall be left, no matter whether the Regulation describes them by age as mobile or not, a definite percentage of women. Let me tell him what happens in the North. You can drive all the young women away from Scotland, move them down here, turn down their cases, and you are going to fill your ordnance factories there with married women with responsibilities that must keep them from giving the full 100 per cent. productive effort which the young women who are single can give Therefore, I appeal to him to examine that position very carefully.
I have spoken to the Minister's Parliamentary Secretary about the number of women down here walking about, free and easy, who could quite well be in war work. London is a city of luxury industry, and I say to the Minister that unless his head is in the air or he is not using his eyes, there are hundreds and hundreds of women and men in London to-day who could quite usefully be taken to war work instead of brushing shoes and catering for other people's comfort in the luxury industries in London—thousands of them, not hundreds of them. Therefore I ask the Minister not to keep turning his eye on the North, not to keep taking the women away and reducing the virility of war production in the North, but to turn his eyes to the luxury industries in the South. I say that there are literally hundreds of women down here who have not done one stroke of war work. I will give an instance. I know of a young woman here who volunteered for war work in London and was sent to a West End hotel as a telephonist by the employment exchange. I do not say that the Minister is responsible for all the different ideas of different managers of employment exchanges or of National Service officers, but I do ask him to issue a statement from his Ministry asking those representatives of his in the employment exchanges, and the National Service officers, to exercise a little more humanity, to be a little more lenient with these cases when they come before them, and I believe that if he does, we shall have a greater war effort than possibly we are having at the present time.
I join with those who pay tribute to the Minister for all he has done. I do not believe there is any other Minister who would undertake the sort of work he has 92 got. It had to be a Member of the Labour Party who would accept that job. We do not find the aristocracy of this country undertaking the job. It is a job which brings the Minister a certain amount of dislike, certain reproaches that are undeserved, from a great number of the community. It is practically the first time the job has occurred in this country of breaking up many homes by taking away girls who have never been away from home before. I ask him to see to it—I know he is human—that his own officers in the Ministry and the various exchanges insert a little bit of humanity into the administration. If that is done, I believe he will be much better liked in the future than he has been in the past.
§ Mr. Simmonds (Birmingham, Duddeston)
My hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) has spoken of the great experiment in which the Minister of Labour is engaged on this issue, and I think he has also shown that it is almost inevitable that in any matter of this scope the shoe should pinch in some constituency or other. I am confident that the Minister is paying attention to those points raised by Members to see to what extent the problems can be remedied. But for the moment I would like to ask the Committee to direct its attention to the problem of the women who are at the moment in industry. According to an investigation which I have made, it would seem that in the light engineering and allied industries possibly some 75 per cent. of the women remain in their jobs a year or more, and of the balance of 25 per cent. the average time which they stay in their jobs is only about four months, which means to say that there is a turnover in this 25 per cent of 300 per cent. per annum. I rather think, when I have been talking to those who are responsible for operating these schemes, that this division among the women as to those who do stay in their jobs and those who move about too much, has not been adequately considered.
The woman who has been in a job for a year, even if she be regarded as unskilled, perhaps would by then be regarded as semi-skilled in some intelligent undertakings, but whether it be the one or the other, the fact remains that that woman knows a very great deal about the job which women who have only been working upon it for a few weeks or a 93 few months cannot hope to have. The production of this woman is therefore on the average sizeably above that of the women who have joined more recently. As any hon. Member knows, whether they be interested in industry from the point of view of management or trade unionism, the production bonus records amply prove this point. I find that when it is proposed to reduce the number of women in an undertaking in order that they should be transferred elsewhere, there is almost complete regard paid to the question of personal mobility, whether a woman is tied or whether she is not tied in her home, and I think that that is a most vital matter to consider.
But after that has been taken into consideration, I would appeal to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to consider whether he should not, after he has made this first test, give special consideration to those women who by nature stay in the job that is given to them. It is no good taking those good women out of the industries they are now serving in, making them resentful, taking them away from their homes when they have been doing a good job of work, and turning them from the 75 per cent. of stable women into the 25 per cent. of highly mobile women. That, I am certain, is sound politics and is certainly sound production, because those women who have been in those jobs for a time do form the backbone of manufacturing organisation in our works with which it is unwise for the State to tamper. I hope that when he replies the Minister may be able to give some assurance that those people who have stayed put at his request, who have borne the brunt of monotony, shall have some special consideration in the national interest as well as a personal reward when this question of transfer arises.
There is just one other point I would like to make to the Minister. I am told that in Birmingham a very large number of the workers at Christmas time, when they went back to their homes in the North-West and on the North-East coast for example, were away for a very considerable number of days, in many cases without adequate cause being shown. It may be said that that is inevitable, when you send away from home women, and above all young women who have not been away from their own locality previously. 94 But what I would ask him to do if he would, when it comes to future public holidays, is to look at this matter from the point of view of what will almost inevitably occur, namely, that these women will again feel that they are entitled to some prolonged period in their home locality. I think therefore that the Government might do wisely to give some general guidance to industry recommending that those women who have been brought long distances from their homes should be given some special length of period leave at the public holiday with the right of making up the time when they return to work. That at the moment would not be possible in many industries, because the factory inspectors would not permit the time to be made up. When I suggest that the time should be made up, I suggest it for two reasons; first, because if it is not made up, there will be a loss of production; and, secondly, because the workers Would wish to make it up themselves, because with the prolonged holiday they lose their earnings and will want to make them up when they return to work. This is not something that can be done except with national approval, and I would like therefore to ask my right hon. Friend whether, when those public holidays come round again, he will give special consideration to making an announcement that will guide industry as to the way in which they shall overcome something which cannot be stemmed, but which will either take place under control or uncontrollably. My feeling is that these people stand entitled to some special consideration, and I know that the Minister will do what he can to see that it is given to them.
§ Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)
There are just two points I want to make, but in the first place I want to express my amazement that no representative of the Ministry of Production is here, because they are partly the villains of the piece in what is being discussed to-day. I do not know whether I should be in Order in moving the Adjournment of the Debate until a representative is here. I think it is an insult to the Committee that he is not here.
§ Mr. McKinlay
They must change so often that I failed to recognise him. I want to raise two points, one in connection 95 with the transfers and the calling of low category men from what in my view is essential work and placing them elsewhere. In food distribution things are getting to such a state of absolute chaos that it is almost impossible for food distributors to carry on their business. Food distribution cannot be carried on by children of 14 to 16 years of age, in view of the multifarious Regulations and instructions issued by the Ministry of Food, not to mention ration books and point coupons, which, unless I am misinformed, are to be extended in the very near future. Grade 5 men who were grocery managers are being put into the Pioneer Corps to dig holes, yet I know of a man who is propped up by the doctor every second day to supervise a staff of girls, the eldest of whom is 17, in a shop which has 2,500 or 3,000 registered customers. That cannot go on without the risk of a breakdown. I am not asking for special treatment for the distributive trade, but I say that a man in a low medical category can serve a much more useful purpose assisting in the distribution of food than by digging holes, as a member of the Pioneer Corps.
I would appeal to the Minister to dismiss some of the lawyers who are acting as chairmen of the tribunals. The chairman of such a tribunal is not called upon to determine questions of law, but only to determine questions of fact. Difficulties are created by chairmen who are totally lacking in human understanding or association with working-class life. They work to a rule of thumb. The tragedy of it is that very few have the courage to give a decision on the facts put before them. They think that the applicant has the right of appeal. It is the applicant who is turned down, and the onus of appeal is placed upon him. The most successful chairman of a court of referees that we ever had in Scotland was a layman, with only his common sense to guide him, I am sure that other hon. Members must have had the same experience as I have had, of seeing chairmen laboriously writing down a justification for decisions they were about to make. It is time that persons with human understanding were appointed. Surely, if questions of law were involved the regulations would not prevent an applicant taking a legal adviser with him, 96 to argue legal points. I am certain that many of the difficulties encountered by those tribunals have been due to the fact that whole tomes of umpires' decisions are quoted in connection with cases that are not at all similar. I used to have a technique, as a trade union officer—and the Minister will forgive me——
§ Mr. McKinlay
Whenever I was asked to represent an applicant, and reference was made to an umpire's decision, I used to make the chairman—knowing that umpires' decisions are like legislation by reference—go on turning up decisions until we had fixed our finger on the original one. After two or three experiences of that kind, the chairman used to say, "How many cases have you here this morning?" Then, automatically, he lifted the green slip, and granted the claim, and said no more; because he knew that the bulk of the umpires' decisions to which reference had been made had no relevance at all.
I want to raise another aspect of the same subject. Notices are sometimes served on persons to whom deferment has been granted. The notice says that the Minister has decided to exercise his prerogative, and it is signed by the national service officer. It cannot be very comfortable for the Minister to have people taking about him all round the ring. I know a case where the mother, who is suffering from tuberculosis, has three children to look after, the eldest being six years of age, and the father is a steel minder and fixer, doing an essential job, working on reinforced concrete, near his home. The local tribunal granted deferment until August. The Minister, exercising his powers, is appealing to the umpire against the decision of the local tribunal. I do not desire that any person should be given a loophole through which to dodge national responsibilities; must of us on this side of the House have given all we have got. But I ask the Minister to give us some hope that this machinery will be overhauled. It would be interesting to know the number of cases in which, on appeal, the National Service officer has failed. It is all very well to tell the applicant that the case will be heard either in Edinburgh or in Glasgow, and that if he desires he can 97 be represented, but in nine cases out of ten the people are quite bewildered, and do not know anything about it until they get the final notice that the National Service officer's appeal has been upheld. On the question of transference of mobile women workers, I congratulate the Ministry on having at least ended the bluff by which they sent for married women, interviewed them, and almost gave the impression that they had power to direct them into industry, when they had not. Some women in Scotland have been interviewed before the Ministry had power to do so. Some of these women have left their children at day nurseries—or left-luggage offices, as some people call them—and have started to look for part-time, or even whole-time, jobs. I think the time has come when the migration of girls from North to South should cease. I could say many bitter things about the persons responsible for concentrating industry—as it appears to Scotsmen at least—in that part of the country from where we get our cock-eyed economics. Mobile women should be found employment nearer home than the South.
§ Dr. Little (Down)
I want to support very strongly the appeal made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross). It is easy to move workers from one part of Great Britain to another, but very difficult and trying to move workers from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. We are doing our very best in Northern Ireland, and we want to continue doing so, under the least trying conditions. The travel permit system weighs very heavily against our men who cross to this country to engage in war work. A few men bring their wives with them, and when their holidays come the wives cannot accompany them home to visit their friends. A wife in such a case can cross only twice in 12 months; so, as a good and dutiful husband, the man is in honour bound to remain here. That is both tantalising and expensive. We have made the strongest appeal to the Ministers of Labour, Supply, and Production, to have more factories erected in Northern Ireland, and more workers employed there. This House would be ashamed if it knew how few factories have been erected in Northern Ireland in 3½ years of war, and how few people are employed in these. I have been given the number privately, and I am not going to state it. The 98 House should be ashamed to think that there is a single unemployed person in any part of the United Kingdom. We are doing our best to win the war. Why should our workers be dragged across to Britain, and then replaced in Northern Ireland by workers from Eire? That is a very roundabout method. If you require workers from Eire, why not bring them straight across here, and allow our people in Northern Ireland to stay at home? It is a tragedy, even in war-time, to take a father away from his wife and family, at a time when his children specially need a father's attention, and then to replace him by somebody else from across the Border. Again I say, bring workers from Eire here direct, and let our people do their work at home. I would appeal to the Minister of Labour, who is doing so much, to look into the condition of Northern Ireland, and not to be satisfied until, in conjunction with the Minister of Labour over there, he has ensured that there is not a single unemployed individual within the bounds of Northern Ireland.
I think that the representatives of Northern Ireland can say that our people are willing to rise to the occasion, but they feel very strongly that they should do war work at home. One of my own constituents was deprived of a lodging allowance on the ground that he came from Eire. That is the first time I have heard that County Down is in Eire. I wish civil servants would learn that County Down is not in Eire, but in Northern Ireland. When they want our people to come across here they should sec that they are treated kindly, but I ask the Minister to make an effort to provide work for them at home. It is at home where they can do the best work. We all do our best work at home, surrounded and encouraged by our wives and children. It is bound to be a weight on a man's heart to have to come across here and leave his wife, and, maybe, a number of small children, and he cannot do his best.
I ask for more work in face of the number of unemployed in Northern Ireland to-day, and it is not for the credit of this Government or our own Government in Northern Ireland that there should be so much unemployment. These people want work. When they have been discharged, it may be a long time before they can get work again, and this is most 99 discouraging. The number of factories erected and of people employed is comparatively small. I appeal—and I hope it will not be in vain—to my big-hearted right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. I congratulate him as much as anyone in this Committee for what he has achieved and is achieving, and I appeal to him to put his heart and soul into this matter and to give Northern Ireland a lift and see to it that our men and women, who are ready to do war work, and who are as deeply interested as any people anywhere in the defeat of Hitler, are given a fair chance, without favour, in order to do their best to help towards winning the war. I appeal for more and still more factories and for more and still more workers to be employed, and then we shall have much more work. Let Northern Ireland get its fair share, and the men and women will rise to the occasion. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give us a fair crack of the whip. He may depend upon it, we shall do our part faithfully. Cease taking and bringing our people across here, under the permit system and all the rest of it, and let them work at home, and the work will be done infinitely better, and there will be much more of it accomplished.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I wish to join with my colleagues in the discussion of this matter, as I am very dissatisfied with the way in which things are being done in Scotland. I was against the giving of so many of these powers to the right hon. Gentleman, and the experience of many of my constituents has wholly justified the opposition that we took to powers being given in this way. In Scotland the administration is not what it ought to be. From the office in Edinburgh downwards there has been a general lack of consideration and of common sense. I was talking to my colleague the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) about a case he had had of a man, head of a family of nine, the youngest of whom was 2½ months old, who was being sent away from Glasgow to the Shetlands. If was only at his intervention that this sort of things was prevented. There was no one to assist the mother in looking after and caring for the children, and yet officials and members of the local committee were so lacking in common sense, not to say humanity, as to act in that way.
100 In regard to the interviewing of women, some idea should be given of the ages of the women officers who undertake the task of interviewing others. There is something very unsatisfactory in a young Service officer telling a much older woman that she ought to go and work in a different part of the country. I put a Question to the Minister of Labour a long time ago as to the age of the Service officer at the Bridgeton exchange, and I was answered by the Parliamentary Secretary, not the one now sitting on the Bench opposite, but the big one. He was getting me the information, and afterwards, while giving me certain other figures, he told me that he did not think he was entitled to tell me how old this woman Service officer was. If these women are in the Service, they should be in the same position as men. I have always been an advocate of equal rights for women, and I have not the slightest doubt that I would have got the age of the National Service officer when asking how long he had been employed, but evidently the chivalry of the gigantic Parliamentary Secretary was such that he did not feel inclined to give this information. I had a constituent in the W.A.A.F. and she appealed in order to try and get out of the W.A.A.F. because of the hardship occasioned through having an invalid mother, and that Service agreed to her release. Then the Ministry of Labour National Service officer in Glasgow wanted to send her away again; some stupid woman, a woman who is a danger to the country, wanted to send this young woman away again from Glasgow when the other Service had allowed her to come home. There ought to be a change at the head in Glasgow. The person responsible for the administration should be fully informed that the House of Commons Insisted that, if this legislation was to be operated, it must be operated as humanely as possible, and with the officials responsible showing the utmost common sense.
I gather that the Minister of Labour is in rather a hurry, and I do not want to delay him unduly, but I feel, along with the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay), that, while Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom, at the same time one has to realise that there is also a national tradition. We suffered a tremendous lot during the years of unemployment, and if all these virile young women are taken from Scotland to the 101 Midlands, then it will be fatal for our country in the future. I hope that the Minister will consider that he has had sufficient Scottish girls drafted to England and that he will also see to it that his officials in Scotland show much more common sense and sympathy, and that young women in the Service offices should not interview women much older than themselves. I would like to know the ages of the women who undertake these interviews and how many of them might be suitable persons to undertake this work in England rather than their victims.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I have been wondering to-day whether this is a transfer of labour Debate or a Scottish and Northern Ireland day. At least we have this satisfaction, that we seem to have managed England and Wales fairly well in this problem. If we have not, then perhaps hon. Members will write to me after the Debate. If I may make a general observation, it is that it has been encouraging to hear of the affection of husbands for their wives. There have been pleas that they should not be parted. I am glad that seamen do not argue that way, otherwise we would have to double accommodation aboard ship, and we should be landed in many difficulties. In any case, I do not know what is the real opinion of wives about it. They never tell us; they have a marvellous way of keeping their counsel.
Let me make it clear at the onset that this problem of the transference of labour is represented by about 10,000 women. Since January about 90 per cent. of them have been volunteers; only a few from training centres have been directed. I gather that hon. Members want me to promise not to take another volunteer. Well, in Scotland now, due, I hope, to the work which my Department have done with others, there is considerable scope for employment as compared with a year ago. While the question of buildings and all the rest of it is difficult we have, nevertheless, adapted a lot of factories. There was a problem at Dundee, where I met the Lord Provost and a number of councillors, with the result that the problem is almost solved there now. There is a vexed problem in Edinburgh at the moment, but I think our pressure must be kept up until we use the unemployed women there. 102 Another black patch in Scotland is at Aberdeen, where there is scope for employment in a variety of ways. We had to create in Scotland some scarlet areas owing to the growth of production there. We say to the girl transferring from a town, "You can go from the East of Scotland to the West of Scotland, or to the Midlands. Which will you have?" Invariably the girl chooses the Midlands rather than going from the East to Glasgow. That is a fact. We allow them to exercise their choice, but I cannot keep these girls in their precise place at present in Scotland, any more than I can do the same thing in England.
It is said that Scotland has been badly treated, but may I point out that London is still a great industrial centre? That is probably not recognised. Someone said that London is a luxury place. It is nothing of the sort. London is not walking along Oxford Street or Piccadilly. That is not London; that is a little fungus which has grown up in the middle of London. It is not Londoners who are there as a rule; very few Londoners are there at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do they come from the country?"] Perhaps some hon. Members might have discovered that for themselves. In any case London, in spite of her tremendous demand for labour for her industries, is transferring far more people to the Midlands and to the North-West than is Scotland. Some of the difficulties of transference in London are more extensive, because of daily travelling, than the transfer of people from one town to another in the Midlands. It is said that there are great hardships, but this idea that some are being picked out and served badly is all wrong.
Let me say this to Scotland. I have had a good many happy associations with Scotland, in which there is one of the largest sections of the union I had the honour to represent. I heard a good deal of talk about hardship tribunals, but if I may say so I was always glad that I was never branched in a Scottish branch. I found that if one ever overstepped the rules the Scottish legal mind was such that the fine was about double that which would have been imposed in London or anywhere else. The imposition of rules under Scottish mentality used to be one of the banes of my life. If I appointed an Englishman to take charge of Scotland, then there would be a row on the next Scottish Estimates, so I have appointed 103 a Scotsman. But there are still complaints that the Scots are ill-treated. What am I to do? [An HON. MEMBER: "Appoint an Irishman."]
Now let me deal with Northern Ireland. First may I say to my hon. Friends that they can help themselves there? Dilution, expansion of management of the aircraft industry, output and all the rest of it, have been nothing like what there has been in this country. We developed employment in Northern Ireland hoping that skilled men would be spread so that unskilled men could be used. That is what we had to do in this country. I know of no place in the country which has had the aircraft business almost thrown at its feet as Northern Ireland has, yet the output has been nothing like what he had hoped it would be from there. When you start expansion and dilution, you immediately bring into train smaller sides of the industry to feed it. There is one thing about the people in London that is in their favour, and that is that somehow or another, when they get into this area, they are more adaptable than they ever were before.
§ Sir R. Ross
If it is the right hon. Gentleman's advice that greater dilution should take place in the big aircraft works there, is he quite confident that that will meet with the views of organised labour?
§ Mr. Bevin
No, I do not think it will; it did not meet with the views of organised labour here, but it had to be done. We have to face these problems. I have been facing them ever since I have been in the Government. We have to get over them. My feeling, to put it no higher, is this: whether or not you get through with these schemes really depends upon the spirit and outlook of the men at the top. If there is not drive at the top, if there is not imagination at the actual managing centre, you will not get drive through to the bottom, no matter how much you talk. Therefore, I am convinced that what is needed—if I may say sp with respect, as I have said it to the people from Northern Ireland who have been to see me—is a little drive and enterprise on that side in Northern Ireland. This would have a magnetic attraction.
§ Dr. Little
Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence in Northern Ireland to get labour dilution? He has found fault with the aircraft industry there, and it all arises from that matter. Will he use his great influence with the organisations there to see that there is the same dilution of labour as here?
§ Mr. Bevin
I have done that, but I must confess that in all the process of trying to develop this war industry, it must not be assumed that it is all the men or all the management. That would be a wrong assumption. You have to remember that in many of these older types of industries, such as shipbuilding and heavy engineering, the management is as conservative as are the men, and each side is as bad as the other. When there is brought in an entirely new development, such as aircraft, flexibility is very hard to get on either side. There must be an enlightened, up-to-date, managerial outlook if you are to get progress, I find that if the men are taken into confidence regularly, with proper production committees or works committees, and the thing is explained to them, it is not very long before things start and develop aright.
This Debate originally arose from the statement made on 19th January by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production. I do not think I need add to what the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) read from that statement. It is true that there will be more people employed this year in munitions and certainly a big call-up for the Services during the year, and the man-power situation will be intensely difficult to get over. But we can exaggerate the amount of disturbance that will take place. The number of people who will actually be affected in proportion to the total will be comparatively small. Unless the Committee and the Press understand, there is sometimes a tendency to magnify the movement of 1,000 or 2,000 people as though you were upsetting the whole war industry of the country. We are not doing anything of the sort. This will be to some extent a question of pockets or the movement from specific production.
I have been asked whether we are consulted in the planning of the changes. Yes, we are. When the Minister of Production, after appropriate consultations, has to drop down on one line of production and go up on another, the Ministry 105 of Labour are in the discussions the whole time. We get advance knowledge of the changes in the Departments. One little machine that works extremely well, and to which I would like to pay a tribute, because it has not been heard of, is what is called the Labour Co-ordinating Committee. This body was established when I was on the Production Executive. It consists of the chief Labour Department officials of the respective Ministries. They meet every week or fortnight and they have all the preferences and changes before them. Through that body, without any fuss or bother, the changes are made and notified to the Regional Controllers outside. It is just one of those little pieces of machinery without any staff. The work is done by the respective staffs when the officials go back to their own offices. I think they have done a very good job indeed. That gives us a picture of the respective Ministers' decisions, of each change in the priorities, and each change in respect of raw materials and allocations.
I would like to deal with various problems under their headings, because so many hon. Members have referred to the same topics, and it will save time if I follow that method rather than deal with the points made by each hon. Member who has spoken. The main problem is the question of what is called immobile labour. You know, one cannot have a perfectly arranged war. It is absolutely impossible. One might as well say that instead of fighting on a battlefield and transferring millions of people overseas, one should arrange for the fight to take place on every village green or at Wembley and have done with it.
§ Mr. Bevin
I am uttering no challenge to the hon. Member, because I think it would be taking advantage of him. I doubt whether the development of production for war purposes could have been planned perfectly before the war. How could you have done it? How could you have known what form the war was going to take? Since I have been in office I have seen one scientific development after another. For instance, take one thing that agitates our minds every day of our lives. It is not only labour that we have 106 to take into account but, with the tremendous movement of goods and troops and all the rest of it, and the tremendous ventures that lie ahead of us, with all their risks and possibilities, we have to pay great attention to transport. Probably one of the most vital keys in this business is transport. Therefore, if you complain that you have no fish, it is not because of the wickedness of my Noble Friend the Minister of Food, but because of transport necessities. Equally, when you have to man a factory here or there, or to adapt capacity here or there, you have not only to consider labour but to consider to what extent you can reduce the movement of raw materials, goods, components and the rest of it. Rubber, petrol, all sorts of things, come into play.
In this connection there is being developed with a great deal of success through the regional boards what we call the capacity organisation, and one way we are trying to reduce removal of labour and save transport and all the other things that come in to obtain economy and to help to make the thing more efficient is to get all the principal contractors and manufacturers of the Government producing Departments, when they have to place orders, to look for accommodation within a reasonable distance of the main factory. It takes time, but it is developing now. We certainly want to avoid the movement of goods, as well as people, from one end of the country to the other, for the sake of economy if we can. The two things are to a very large extent bound up together. The second step that we have taken on this problem of mobile labour is that we are going to direct married women without children. We are hoping by this means to utilise every possible woman that we can in the locality in which she lives and to force employers to take as many part-time women as they can of that character to save having to move people from elsewhere.
I have been asked about subsistence allowances, accommodation and welfare. It is very easy to take a few cases which may have gone wrong and brand these billets as verminous. Some of the cases that I have had to investigate have been bad, but both men and women are ingenious when they want to get out of a difficult situation, and you cannot take everything at face value. Are not many of 107 the women who are letting these billets the mothers of families who have given up part of their houses and themselves have the whole of their family life disturbed, with the arduous work of keeping their hopes going, entitled to some praise and some credit for the great service that they have rendered?. The mothers of England who have taken in these thousands of people and overcrowded their little domestic hearths are entitled to our gratitude for the services that they have rendered to this country as much as those who have gone into the factories. There is another difficulty about this question of dirt in the homes. These unfortunate people have not been able to have the house repairers and decorators in for over three years, and it is a frightful difficulty to keep a house right and protect it against deterioration, crowded with lodgers as they have been, with neither public authority nor the building trade able to keep decoration and the rest of it up to date. These things in the progress of the war have been acting and interacting on one another and have produced intense difficulties. I hope when we have made progress with the work of repairing bombed houses—that is the first essential for next winter—to be able to-proceed with secondary repairs. If there is criticism, I ask hon. Members to realise that these people, and we ourselves, have been under a very difficult strain.
We give subsistence allowances for people travelling away from home. There may be some criticism of the amount charged for lodgings. We have kept it at about the same level on the whole. The difficulty does not rest with the landlord so much as with the tenant who is letting apartments. That is a terrible problem to control. The greatest exploiters are the people who let rooms, or part of their houses, and when a man is transferred for a considerable time and wants his wife with him there is often a heavy charge for a couple of rooms. It is administratively almost impossible to get over the difficulty. I do not know how you can do it unless you requisition the whole of the working-class houses in a great city. That raises problems of administration that want a great deal of thinking about.
I have been asked about travelling expenses beyond a certain distance. Where you have a fixed thing like a Royal 108 Ordnance factory it is not difficult to work. They arrange to pay when fares exceed 3s. We offered to try to make similar arrangements if it was fixed up between the union and the employers. Many of the unions have travelling arrangements. In the building trade I have had to meet it in quite another way, and general satisfaction has been found with the travelling recovery scheme. In a City like London, where you get all this cross travelling, it is almost impossible to arrange a scheme at all. On the whole it can only be made when fixing rates of pay, and in most of the London rates the wages are usually graded slightly higher than those in the provinces, and travelling to some extent has been taken into account.
It was suggested that hotels should be taken over. Here again we are presented with a very great problem. We have beautiful hostels, but we have had a terrible job to fill them, even with all their amenities. One of the troubles is understandable. It is the British character. If you are going to house a thousand girls, in one building, it is an unsocial sort of existence compared with what they have been used to in a mixed home. On the other hand, the mixed hostels also present difficulties of management, but I think that in some of the towns the smaller mixed hostel works very well. The question of social existence comes into this business. When you say to a girl, "There is a nice environment, as good as a first-class hotel, only more comfortable than most and much cheaper," and then offer her a billet with Mrs. Jones in Such-and-Such Street, she will more often than not select the billet. This is a human problem, and hon. Members cannot expect me to decide for the girl. I would not try. We have kept on these hostels. They are a great reserve, and although there has been criticism there would have been no criticism if there had been heavier blitzing, for they would then have been a great standby.
I was asked whether we were getting the production we ought to get. I shall never be satisfied with production until we have won the war. On the other hand, I am bound to say that if you have regard to the size of our Forces, to the young manhood we have taken out, the checking of the normal flow into industry of young men and women, to the fact that the average age of people left in industry is 109 nearly four years more than when the war broke out, and that we are holding our own with anybody in the world on the production field, I do not think there can be much to complain of. I am bound to pay my tribute to the tremendous and hopeful development in management. There is growing into existence a type of managerial outlook and association with the people on a common level in our factories which I believe is one of the greatest assets we are producing for the post-war period. The war has helped us to find great managerial ability and has awakened native ability which we did not know we had. It has given thousands an opportunity that they would never have had had it not been for the war. I think that the feeling is growing up that both sides in industry have a job and that less conflict will arise in the doing of it.
The point was made that we could do more if we had dealt with the question of more food for the heavy workers. I was one of those who opposed that idea before I was a Minister. I saw it in operation in the last war. I do not know anything that caused more disgruntlement and trouble between house and house, family and family in the same street than that scheme. You had a miner or a steel-worker living next door to one another and they got the extra rations, but somebody next to them did not quite come within the same category and they did not get them. There is nothing more likely to cause trouble and domestic disturbance than that. Before I was a Minister I urged upon the then Minister of Food on behalf of the Trades Union Congress that we should have communal feeding instead. I believe that that has saved the situation. We have carried it out by canteens and have done it without coupons. In that way there is a sort of extra ration. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning took a wise decision when he was Minister of Food in arriving at the conclusion that communal feeding was the best, and I would not like to see us go back on that system.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
My right hon. Friend will remember that we did not press that request for a supplementary ration and that we accepted the policy of communal feeding. What we did say, however, was that as the Ministry's policy was to develop communal feeding in industrial 110 areas we were entitled to ask why more British Restaurants had not been opened.
§ Mr. Bevin
I cannot answer that question. This work is done through the local authorities, and my experience of my Noble Friend's administration is that if any trade council or trade union has appealed to me or my welfare department for an expansion of British Restaurants, no one has been more active than he has-been to develop this communal service. I do not think it can be said of the Ministry of Food that there has been any backwardness on their part, but if there are any particular cases where British Restaurants are needed, I shall be glad to follow them up.
I was asked about Colnbrook, and my information is that it would soon be in use. I was asked also about opting and transference. Up to now nearly 3,000 have opted for coalmining and 1,375 have been placed. It must be appreciated that this opting business is not a wholesale transfer of people. Each case has been selected and put in for training and all the rest of it.
Great play was made about dockers and hardship. I do not need to be stimulated to have sympathy for the dockers. I find that the average weekly number of dockers on transfer in the last three weeks from all ports is only 2,400. We have had no evidence of the transfer of unfit men. It is worked through their own organisation, and the arrangement to send men home was a part of the claim that was made to us to give them that facility. Another hon. Member said that we ought to give greater facilities for people to go home when they are sick. The hon. Member for Southampton (Dr. Thomas) complained because we had sent men home when they were sick. We had better continue what we are doing because between the two hon. Members it seems to be about the right thing to do. It is not correct to say that there are not facilities in Greenock and Scotland for the dockers to get treatment. As one who knows them well, I can say that the more sympathetic your ear, the greater sometimes will be the story you are told. They used to try it on me but I got used to it. A point was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). The first election I ever remember was when he was returned to Parliament at a by-election in 1891. You can guess how 111 young I was, because I was on a farm then, and I very well remember his being returned. I think the suggestion was that the labour, or perhaps the industry, should be transferred to an area which is safe—I do not know whether I quite got the point—instead of the labour being withdrawn from factories to man new war factories.
§ Mr. Lambert
Labour is being transferred from factories which are fully engaged with work to man new factories in very vulnerable areas.
§ Mr. Bevin
The probability is that it is equipped with machine tools for a particular class of production. However, I would ask my right hon. Friend to give me particulars, and if I find there is any slip-up or difficulty I will look into the matter very carefully. Sometimes what is done looks very peculiar, but there is a reason for it, after all.
The hon. Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor) raised the question of the transfer of dockers. That matter has been straightened out. There is a new agreement on the way. But I would utter this warning. Whenever it is necessary to make a change in connection with the employment of casual labour, one finds a number of people who will fight against the change even though it may be in their own interests. People who do not like a disturbance of old habits will try to break up the scheme in its initial stages. I beg hon. Members not to be influenced by agitations of that character. In trying to improve things for the post-war world one will certainly run against the habits of people who will not want changes to be made. But one must always have regard to what people will think and do in the next generation. Any reformer must always be working not for the present generation but for the next. Those of his own generation will 112 generally oppose him. That has been my experience in trying to work out schemes of this character. If it were not so, there is scarcely one newspaper which would be alive. They live, as it were, on what is likely to appeal to their readers on the day the paper appears, but statesmen and reformers have to look a day ahead, and that is why they are always in trouble.
Now I come to the question of agricultural labour. The agricultural problem will present tremendous difficulties this year. I do not want the Committee to assume that we have left it until now, before beginning to organise. We know, or at least we expected, that the assistance we have had in the past from the Armed Forces would not be available this year, and we have had to measure the problem accordingly. We have to balance the strategy of the war against the claims of the harvest and of industry and all the rest of it. It is a long-term problem to work out and it has not been dealt with in a haphazard manner. But my task is a very complex one, in conjunction with the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture for England and Wales. We have to prepare for the loss of the help from the Services, and at the same time to arrange for the in-gathering of what I hope will be a larger harvest. The Committee will not expect me to go into details of how it has been done, but I can assure them that the Departments are working in close co-operation and examining and arranging for every possible source of supply of labour, in order that we shall not fail to harvest one ounce of the food which the farmers and their labourers produce. We shall struggle hard to achieve that end. There I feel like risking the suggestion that it would be a good thing if the House adjourned in the harvest period and everyone went harvesting. It is vital to our wellbeing that we should get all the help we can at that time, and I hope all who can will go harvesting.
A point has been made about domestic service. This is another very anxious matter. I do beg hon. Members not to exaggerate differences in households. I have enough jealousies to contend with now. In every case that is examined, a lot of things are disclosed in interviews which we pledge ourselves not to reveal, and I cannot always explain just why 113 we have done such and such a thing in one case and something else in another. On the whole, I think we have acted pretty fairly. But that does not solve the problem. I am convinced that the time has come when we must try to organise a collective domestic help service, though I have not decided exactly what steps should be taken to achieve it. It is a very vexed problem. It is not a domestic help problem in the sense of the problem confronting those who were able to employ domestic help before the war. The problem is much bigger than that. We have not enough maternity hospitals, we have not the lying-in arrangements, we have not enough midwives or nurses. We are organising that side of the problem. The real problem is the type of help we must organise to tide the ordinary person over difficulties which arise from temporary illness, maternity, the husband's illness, or the illness of children—all that kind of thing. It may be a dream, but I will try to do what I can with the help of those whom I intend to ask to assist me with advice. I hope to announce at an early date that we have been able to start, at least, the development of some form of service, and the principle upon which. I have been working, though I confess I have not fully worked it out, is on the lines of the district nurse service some expansion of that. We want a service under which a woman, whether in Poplar or in the West End, who wants domestic help can get it.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman extend the principle of district nurses?
§ Mr. Bevin
That is the kind of principle on which I am working, but it is a vast organisation to create and develop and hon. Members will appreciate no doubt that I cannot elaborate my suggestion now. I think I have covered most of the points which were put up in the Debate. There are still the suggestions made by the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds). I cannot answer him now, but I will undertake to study with care what he said, and see whether anything can be done.
With regard to returning home for holidays, great difficulties arise. The trouble in Scotland at Christmas was a very human one. It does not arise at the 114 other holidays. In England we keep Christmas and in Scotland they keep the New Year. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hogmanay."] A girl is given a voucher to go home on the Christmas Eve, so that she can keep up Christmas. She celebrates the English holiday but when she gets home she stays there to keep up Hogmanay. It is a very human thing and I decided not to bother very much about it. I thought that was the commonsense thing to do and, as far as I know, nothing very serious arose. You get the same trouble again in Northumberland. The Northumbrian worker is English at Christmas and Scottish on New Year's day. So far as the shipyard workers were concerned I thought I had better forget it and not have an argument about it. It was quite improper that I should do so, judged by what the Orders said; but I do say, as far as those districts are concerned, that when the boys went in they worked, and at the end of the month they had made up all that was lost. That is to their credit, and we did not suffer. So there is something to be said for the suggestion of the hon. Member for Duddeston about whether we could not invent something which would keep those people in good heart to make up for the time lost. That suggestion rather appeals to me, and I will study it and see what can be done. I should now like to express my appreciation of the——
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
In regard to holidays, will the right hon. Gentleman deal with the case where a travel voucher, probably worth 7s. 6d., is given to the woman who has been directed into the industry, while the volunteers have to pay ordinary fare, although they went into the industry without being directed? Will the right hon. Gentleman take that matter into consideration?
§ Mr. Bevin
I will look into that point. It is a vexed problem where to draw the line. I have studied it and extended it a little from time to time, but I will look into it again. With regard to travel generally, and to the holidays between now and next Christmas, which we hope to be in a position to announce in a few days, I hope that everybody will encourage people not to travel. This year is most vital for the movement of our Forces and munitions, and for the tasks we have to carry out. Anxious as parents are to see their children who have been transferred, I 115 would remind them that the one great help they can give now in the war effort is to encourage everybody to "stay put" during the coming year. If that can be done, our work will be facilitated and a good deal of transference of labour in other directions will probably be prevented, because we shall be given greater stability. One of the troubles of this transference is connected with the point made by one hon. Member, concerning the turn-over of labour. If that could be reduced by the greatest possible stability being encouraged, our problem would be reduced to a minimum.
I would like to conclude by thanking hon. Members for the tribute they have paid to our staffs and to our Department. We have had to carry through a difficult job. I know hon. Members like to tell us now and again that we are a little troublesome, harsh, cruel and the rest of it, yet, on the whole we take it to our souls that there is another side of the work. I feel the greatest sense of satisfaction in being able to say to the Committee now, that I never believed, and certainly did not believe when I took this office, that any Minister of Labour could survive this task for two years and nine months. I believed that there would be so much ill-feeling and difficulty created in view of the character and temperament of our people that it would bring two or three of us down before we were through. To arrive at the end, I conscientiously believe that there is a general concensus of opinion among the British people, much as they have had to be ordered, moved about, conscripted, and the rest of it, that we have tried our best to do a difficult job and have done it in the sole interests of winning the war.
§ Mr. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)
The House is very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the very full and informing speech he has made and the explanation he has given of his Estimates. I do not know whether it is because I have been so long away, but it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman has not only been informing but has been even genial to-day, in the information which he has given. As a matter of fact, he is becoming—and I do not know whether he will take this, on reflection, as a compliment or not—a real House of Commons man, in his method of expression. There 116 is this fact about it all, that the right hon. Gentleman can claim—I should claim for him, anyhow—that there are very few people who would have lasted two years and nine months at that post. I think I express the feeling of the House in general when I say that the right hon. Gentleman has rendered a very great service indeed to this country during the time that he has filled that office.
It is with all the more regret that I differ from him and have some criticisms to make of his outlook in handling this problem. When I was away out of this country, I heard a long statement on the wireless about a new concentration of industry and I asked myself "Who is going to get it this time; who is going to lose and who to gain industry?" I asked that question because some of my hon. Friends and I for 10 years before the war had experience of losing industry and works. Let nobody be under any illusion about this shifting-over of industry. Some of it is temporary but most of it will be permanent. If factories are closed down in some parts of the country and new factories are opened in other parts of the country, these new factories will not stand idle after the war. They will be used. What has been, and is, taking place, all unconsciously it may be, is nothing less than a re-orientation of industry, which will have a profound effect upon the lives of the people of this country in the future. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman to hear in what part of the country the factories were to be closed and where they were to open. The right hon. Gentleman said they would come out in pockets. We know something about that, because South Wales was a pocket, Durham was a pocket, Scotland was a pocket, and so was Yorkshire. Great industrial centres were pockets and the people poured into Coventry and into London. When you speak about London you speak of a vast county with one-quarter of the whole population. The right hon. Gentleman says "Yes, but once they get down here they are more adaptable than they would be in other parts." I ask the Committee to notice that. It seemed to me that that was a kind of complacent view which did not exactly fit in with the facts.
We have had experience of that adaptation in some parts of the country. Why is this country in trouble to-day about coal? It is because of that same point of view. It is simply because whole families 117 were broken up and transferred to other parts of the country. Parliament, by its policy over the past 10 years, is directly responsible for the shortage of coal in this country. What is to happen this time? It is said, "We will transfer workers from one part of the country to the other." It is a pity the right hon. Gentleman did not speak sooner because the fact has emerged pretty clearly that there does not seem to be any relation whatever between arrangements for war purposes and future post-war conditions in this country. I know it is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that war does not allow you to go here and there and to do things in a fancy way, but that does not hinder the Government from having some relation in their mind between the present and the future. I know something of this problem. In the North, where I have had some little responsibility, I spent some time trying to get Government representatives who were building factories to have some plan in their minds related to the future, but one might as well have talked to that Box.
I think it is a tribute to the House of Commons that we can discuss, in the spirit of this Debate, the present question of transference. It is an amazing thing, after travelling through various countries, to come back here and listen to the House of Commons discussing in quite a placid way, as though it was always like this, the best ways and means of ordering people to go to various parts of the country and to do certain work—to do just what they are told. It is rather amusing too. I have seen some British Colonies during the past few months. I have seen some of this objective Imperialism which we sometimes hear about at work. I have seen market places in British Colonies which British housewives to-day would think were El Dorados for shopping purposes. As a matter of fact I enjoyed myself for a change, but it was good to go round one of these depressed British Colonies and to see ail kinds of good things which I had not seen for a long time myself. Also you could not order one of those natives to cross the road, let alone order him to go into a factory. But here we are taking quite calmly, this discussion about ordering people, girls, to go from one end of the country to the other, to certain factories and, as I say, to do just what they are told.
118 That is a very big thing. It is a grave responsibility to lay upon Ministry of Labour staffs, but on the whole I think those staffs have discharged their tasks quite well. Incidentally, I have watched certain people in this Committee who have always been concerned about Orders and Regulations. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) drew attention to them. They have always been very much concerned about this new system of putting great power into the hands of civil servants. They rise up in their wrath, and criticise this tendency to put power into the hands of civil servants. There has been a strange absence of that here to-day, and we have put into the hands of civil servants the power to order millions of men and women about in such a way that their whole home life will be disturbed and sometimes consequently damaged. The deduction I make is that the people who are concerned about watching Orders and Regulations are not concerned about how much they affect the great mass of the people but are concerned only in so far as these Orders and Regulations interfere with certain private interests. When they are busy again I hope I shall get a chance just to point the moral and adorn the tale.
It is, as I say, a very grave responsibility to lay upon civil servants. On the whole they have done the work well, but I do not know, for instance, and have never been able to determine, how they decide when a girl has to go into the Army and when she has to go into a factory, and when she has to be ordered away as a transferee. I should like to know on what principle that decision is based. For instance, I know very well that sometimes a mother is ill and that there is grave need for the girl to be near home and so she goes into a factory. But I had a case the other day of a family which had three boys in the Army, one of whom has been killed. The only girl in that house was sent away into the A.T.S. If she had remained at home, apparently, she would have been transferred. I should like to know upon what principle such a decision is based. And is it not time, if you are going to have to transfer girls, that the hostel system was more developed than it is? Surely, there is great need for that. It is all very well criticising some of the homes to which the girls have to go but it is often hard lines on people who have to 119 take in a lodger—just as much as it is for the people who have to go there. Everybody knows that before the war the housing situation in most parts of the country was not good, yet people have had to take into their homes girls—and men, too—who have been transferred. It is marvellous that the mass of the people are taking this transference as they are taking it. It is amazing how this Order is working, and how it has become a commonplace of our life. But there are families who have suffered great hardship. The Ministry of Labour would do well to give more careful thought to the condition of those families.
I rose chiefly to speak about the Minister's exposition of his case for the shifting over of industries. There appears to be a complete lack of plan concerning the changes which are taking place in industry and which will not be temporary. I hope at some time to come back to this subject. We had 10 years of it; I saw men's souls mauled by this kind of thing; and the Government must have some plan. We are not going to see in future, without some revolt, whole communities broken up in great areas of this country. There is such a thing as corporate life—family life and the life of villages and towns. The Government must have regard to that. Not only does the livelihood of our people depend upon it, but it is the very soul of that thing which we call England.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Tomlinson)
What my hon. Friend has just said calls for some reply from me, although some of the questions he raised were dealt with by the Minister. I do not think the Minister would take exception to the line which has been developed since he left. I can assure the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), with regard to the closing down of factories, that over 80 per cent. of the workers released will be in red and scarlet areas. [Interruption.] I forgot that my hon. Friend has been away from this country for so long. Perhaps I should explain that "re" and "scarlet" relate to the density of people in those areas, from a production point of view. I know it has been felt that too many factories have been put in some places and not nearly enough in others. To the extent that the present movement can rectify that position this will be 120 done. My hon. Friend referred to developments which have taken place here, and pointed out that the Minister has been able to exercise powers which we did not dream of exercising in the Colonies, and yet that in the main it had been done without a great deal of complaint. There is a little publication, which has not received the attention that I think it deserves, and which can be obtained at the Vote Office. It gives an account of the welfare work carried out by the Ministry in the last 12 months. I think that a good deal of the smooth working in regard to transfers is due to the splendid job done by the people who have been engaged by the Ministry for the purpose of welfare work since the war began. Many have had little or no experience; I have met these people, and have heard of the difficulties they have had to overcome and the way they have overcome them. I got a report from one inspector who had worked a long time in the North of Scotland. She is a woman who lost her husband in the Glasgow blitz. I think that all the money spent by the Ministry of Labour in this way would be justified by the influence of that woman alone in some of the camps for the building industry in Inverness-shire.
My hon. Friend asked me who decided whether a girl of military age should go into industry, into the Services, or elsewhere, and on what grounds the decision is made. An individual in that age group decides for herself whether she will go into industry or into the Services. She has the right to opt, and I know of no case where an option made by a girl for industrial work has not been accepted by the Ministry. But if the girl comes into industry, she is under the same obligations as if she went into the Services. If she is in the age class and single, she must be prepared to go where she is sent, unless, in the same way as in the Services, hardship can be shown. Just as the individual who opts for the Services can appeal on hardship grounds, so in industry the question of being sent away beyond travelling distance of her home is dependant on circumstances, and there is an appeal on the question as to whether she is mobile or immobile.
§ Mr. E. Dunn (Rother Valley)
Is that statement really in accord with practice? In my own district girls are being transferred to work in a factory in Leeds. I 121 heard of one girl being moved from home on the Monday morning to this factory in Leeds, and within 24 hours the girl's home was visited by someone who wished to arrange for lodgings to be provided there for another girl, to be brought from another part of the country. What basis have we for this kind of thing? These girls have spent two years in training, and moving them from one factory to another, where they have to be retrained, and bringing in other girls to take their places, cause hardship in my constituency.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
If my hon. Friend will send a number of cases it will enable us to look into the matter. Regulations have to be drawn up relating to the whole organisation.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I cannot give an assurance that no girls will be moved until we have had an opportunity of looking into the matter, but I can give the assurance that no girls will be brought from outside to take the places of those moved whilst the question of the need to move these girls arises. There have been some instances, as there must be in mass movements such as have been taking place. This may be a new development because of the circumstances of the moment, but we have been transferring people for so long that we realise the difficulties which may arise. It is not, and never has been, the desire of the Ministry—and I am sure the Committee will realise that it is not the desire of the Minister—that we should bring a girl away from her home and put another girl in her place, if the two girls can easily do the same jobs without transferring. I think the Committee will give us credit for not wishing to do anything as foolish as that. With regard to hostels, I can assure my hon. Friend that if that were a solution we would be delighted to carry it out. One of our difficulties is to get young people who have been transferred to remain in hostels, which we 122 consider much better than billets. Human nature is a curious thing, but the desire of girls in any part of the country to share the home life of somebody, no matter how good the hostel, is amazing. The home seems always to be preferred to the hostel. I will see that what has been said with regard to the other matters is brought to the attention of the Minister. I assure my hon. Friend that I come from one of those pockets where lack of foresight on the part of somebody led to very difficult and heart-breaking situations, and anything that my right hon. Friend and I myself can do to prevent that sort of thing in future will certainly be done.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported upon the next Sitting Day; Committee to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.