HC Deb 23 September 1943 vol 392 cc366-9
29. Miss Rathbone

asked the Minister of Labour to what extent arrangements have been made to utilise the services of the large number of aliens now in this country?

Mr. Bevin

As the answer is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's consent, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Commander Locker-Lampson

Does my right hon. Friend think of employing German prisoners in this country?

Mr. Bevin

I would like notice of that question.

Following is the answer:

(a) Service in the Armed Forces.

The Allied Powers (War Service) Act, 1942, gives me power by Order in Council to conscript into the British Forces male allied nationals of military age who have not joined their national forces or been exempted from service by their own Governments. This Act has already been applied to men of Belgian, Czechoslovak, Greek, Netherlands, Norwegian, Polish and Yugoslav nationality, and arrangements are in hand for its application to United States nationals in this country. It is not possible to call up to the British Forces aliens of enemy or non-allied nationality, but considerable numbers are serving as volunteers. Though I have no power to call up foreign women for the Armed Forces, considerable numbers are voluntarily serving either in the Women's Auxiliary Services attached to the Armed Forces of our Allies, or in the British Auxiliary Services.

(b) Civilian Employment.

Provision was made in the International Labour Force Registration Orders of 1941 to register the industrial particulars of all men and boys between the ages of 16 and 65 and all women and girls between 16 and 50 of Belgian, Czechoslovak, Netherlands, Norwegian, Polish, French, German, Austrian and Italian nationality,

Table showing progress of review of employed aliens registered under the International Labour Force Registration Orders, 1941.
No. of cases examined. Found to be already in work of National importance or utility. Students or unavailable for transfer. Transferred to work of greater importance.
MEN: 11,432 7,602 1,423 2,407
WOMEN: 13,460 11,047 1,669 744
24,892 18,649 3,092 3,151

and I have recently made further Orders to provide for the registration of Greek, Yugoslav, Danish, Bulgarian, Finnish, Hungarian, Rumanian, Japanese and Siamese nationals in the same age groups. This registration has recently been carried out. Further, under powers conferred on me by Regulation 58A of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, I can direct into suitable employment persons of any foreign nationality in the same way as I can direct British subjects. A review of those registered under the International Labour Force Registration Orders, 1941, taken shortly after registration, showed that 82.5 per cent. of the men and 60 per cent. of the women were then employed, the majority in work of general utility, and a considerable number in the production of munitions and military supplies. A considerable proportion of the women who were not in regular employment were engaged upon household duties at home. Since 1941 it has been found possible to increase the opportunities open to aliens to engage in war work, and the number who now remain unemployed is negligible. It includes some who by reason of health, inability to speak English or unadaptability by reason of previous occupation, are well-nigh unemployable.

A review of all those who when registered were already in employment is now taking place in order to ensure that the best use is being made of their services and that, so far as is practicable, those without military obligations are dealt with similarly to British subjects registered under the Registration for Employment Order. This review of some 75,000 cases is not yet complete, but the results so far (summarised in the table below) indicate that the consistent efforts of my officers, of the various refugee organisations and of the aliens themselves are resulting in a considerable change-over from non-essential employment to valuable productive war work.

In a detailed scrutiny of a sample consisting of 5,000 German and Austrian men's registration cards, it was found that nearly 3 per cent. were under r8 years of age, approximately 18 per cent. between DS and 35, and the remainder between 36 and 65, nearly 23 per cent. being over 55. It was also shown that, in spite of the preponderance in the upper age groups, there had been a considerable changeover from sedentary and professional occupations (for example, lawyers, journalists and clerks) to manual work; on the other hand, a large proportion of men in the sample group with high professional and technical qualifications were found to be employed in their normal occupations; for example, of 184 physicians and surgeons all but nine are employed in the medical profession; of 55 dentists all but two are employed as dentists; all dental mechanics are employed in their trade; of 88 teachers, 83 are teaching, and of 94 scientists 65 are engaged in scientific work. The Government Training Centres to which I decided to admit selected aliens have already trained approximately 2,600 in about 20 different engineering operations, and these include a considerable number of individuals formerly holding important professional positions in their own countries. Sixteen different nationalities are represented amongst the trainees, approximately 750 of whom are of allied, 1,500 of enemy, and 400 of non-allied nationality or stateless condition.

At first there was difficulty in placing these foreign trainees after their training had been completed, but that difficulty was soon overcome, and the great majority have not only responded well during training but have subsequently proved a valuable addition to our total labour force. I am happy to say that the experience of my officers shows clearly that the great majority of the aliens in this country are anxious to play their part in the war effort of the United Nations and to advance our cause in whatever way is appropriate to them.