HC Deb 24 June 1943 vol 390 cc1283-5
11 Mr. Butcher

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether brick- layers, formerly employed by small builders and who have been directed by him to work for large contractors, will now be permitted to return to their former employers so that agricultural workers' cottages may be built by local labour for local needs;

(2) how it is that large firms of building contractors have sufficient labour available so that they can start building agricultural cottages on 15th July, whereas the individual builder in the rural areas has had so much labour withdrawn that he is unable to undertake new work or to keep up with the demands made upon him;

(3) whether, in view of the heavy withdrawals of labour made by his Department and the great demands made upon rural workers at harvest-time, he will direct the large contractors nominated by the Ministry of Works to bring into the district of their operations all workers needed for the erection of agricultural workers' cottages, including ancillary workers such as lorry-drivers, clerks, cooks, cleaners, storekeepers, etc.?

Mr. Bevin

In planning the allocation of building labour, provision has been made for labour for 3,000 agricultural cottages, and this work has been given equal priority with the rest of the Government building programme. In so far as there is not sufficient local labour available for this work, I should be prepared to arrange for permission to be given for the transfer of labour or for the direction of labour from elsewhere and, if necessary, to consider the possibility of arranging for the return of workers previously transferred away from the rural areas who can be released from the essential Government work on which they are engaged. These labour arrangements will apply whether the construction is undertaken by small or large contractors. I do not anticipate any interruption of harvest arrangements.

Mr. Butcher

While thanking the Minister for his reply, may I ask him what steps he is taking to see that this arrangement, as indicated in his answer, is brought to the knowledge of local firms —small firms—who are very eager to build agricultural cottages and think it is far more satisfactory to do so by local labour?

Mr. Bevin

The question of determining whether labour shall be supplied is in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, and according to the figure and places determined then I shall see that it is supplied.

Mr. Driberg

Would it be possible to suspend the call-up of local rural labour temporarily until these cottages are completed, instead of transferring labour?

Mr. Bevin

I cannot suspend any call-up anywhere if I am to meet the requirements of the Forces for coming events.

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