HC Deb 13 December 1945 vol 417 cc612-8
65. Mr. R. A. Butler asked

" the Minister of Labour whether he is now in a position to state the Government's policy on the control of labour.

Mr. Isaacs

I propose to circulate in the Official Report a full statement of the Government's decision, and will confine myself now to the main principles.

We shall review industries and individual undertakings now within the scope of the Essential Work Orders and decide in which cases it is no longer necessary, from the point of view of production and manpower, to continue this control. Three months' notice of withdrawal will be given in the case of any industry. Both sides of industry should begin now to consider jointly any adjustments that may be necessary in their industrial agreements when the Orders are withdrawn.

The following changes will operate on and from 20th December. In general, direction of labour will be limited to men who are liable for military service, i.e. up to and including age 30, and the direction of women will be discontinued. Similarly the control of engagement whereby labour can only be engaged through a local office of the Ministry of Labour will in general be confined to men, up to and including the age of 30. Existing controls must, however, be retained for men up to age 50 in building and civil engineering, in agriculture and in nursing,

and for women up to age 40 in nursing and midwifery. The controls in nursing will be maintained for six months only. Control under the Essential Work Orders and similar Orders which tie a worker to his employment may require the use of directions in exceptional cases.

In reaching these decisions the Government's aim has been to restore individual freedom as rapidly as possible, but this must be done without peril to the fulfilment of urgent national needs.

Mr. Butler

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his statement on the subject of women, at any rate, will give great satisfaction, particularly to those of us on this side of the House who have been pressing this policy upon the Minister for some time? Is he also aware that this statement, which, is very comprehensive, will need very careful study from this side of the House, particularly in its application to the housing programme and agriculture, which I understand are included in it, and that it may well be necessary to discuss it in more detail at a later date?

Mr. Speaker

I must remind the right hon. Member that questions should be kept short.

Mr. Gooch

In view of the conditions of employment in the agricultural industry, will the right hon. Gentleman explain his reasons for tying such a loyal body of workers to such a badly-paid industry?

Mr. Isaacs

The decision of the Government is that there are still vital industries where men must be retained if the work of the nation is to be kept going. We hope that there will be sufficient interest in the industries concerned to prompt them to get together to remove any conditions that are a drawback, and it is preferable that that should be done rather than that we should attempt to do it from outside.

Mr. W. J. Brown

Can my right hon. Friend say anything about the Civil Service (Control of Employment) Order, 1945, which has the effect of imposing the Essential Work Order on public servants?

Mr. Isaacs

I cannot say without notice. The full statement occupies four pages of foolscap, and perhaps the hon. Member may find that his point is covered.

Mr. Brooks

Will the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the Minister of Agriculture with a view to securing that farm workers, after being tied to the industry, will receive a quid pro quo in the form of increased wages?

Mr. Isaacs

No doubt the Minister of Agriculture will. note that question, but I doubt whether he has power to fix wages.

Mr. J. J. Robertson

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to see that agricultural workers in Scotland are not treated differently from agricultural workers in England?

Mr. King

Does my right hon. Friend include employees in garages in his reference to the civil engineering trade?

Following is the statement:

  1. 1.The Government have carefully reviewed the need for the continuance of labour controls in the light of present conditions. The country is going through a difficult period of re-adjustment. Many industries now engaged on production for essential civilian needs had to be deprived of large numbers of their workers during the war and are now being steadily built up again. Other industries need workers for the turnover from wartime production to vital civilian production. In spite of the rapidly increasing return of men and women from the Forces there will be for a long time to come an over-all shortage of labour. The Government's aim is to restore individual freedom as quickly as possible, but this must be done without peril to the fulfilment of urgent national needs; in particular we must preserve the existing labour force in our essential industries. We cannot, there fore, remove all controls at once, but we have decided to make a very substantial relaxation now in certain existing controls and to take steps for their subsequent easement and eventual withdrawal. The changes I am about to outline will come into effect on 20th December, 1945.
  2. 2.In the main there are two types of control —firstly, the Essential Work Orders and similar Orders for certain industries and services, the main object of which is to preserve the labour force in the essential industries and services; and secondly, the control of engagement and the direction of labour, the main purpose of which is to enable labour to be sent to those industries and services most in need of it.
  3. 615
  4. 3. The Government have decided that for the time being the Essential Work Orders must in general be retained, both for men and women, for those industries and services in which it is essential in the national interest to maintain the existing labour force. The effect of this decision will be to withdraw a number of less important industries from the scope of the Orders in the near future.,
  5. 4.The various industries at present covered by Essential Work Orders will be reviewed and, where it is decided that it is no longer necessary from the point of view of production and manpower to continue this control the organisations representing both sides of the industry will be informed that the industry will be with drawn from the scope of the Orders. It is intended to give three months notice of withdrawal. Certain features of the Essential Work Orders may have proved themselves to be of mutual advantage to employers and workers; also they may have affected the industrial agreements of the industry. The two sides of any industry covered by these Orders will be well advised to consider jointly any re adjustments in their industrial agreements that may be needed to meet the changed circumstances when the Orders are with drawn. Individual undertakings within an industry covered by the Orders will be descheduled in the ordinary way as this becomes appropriate in the changing circumstances.
  6. 5.As to the second type of control, namely, the control of engagement of and the direction of labour, the principle which the Government have decided to follow is to limit control, subject to certain exceptions, to those classes of per son who for the time being are being called up for military service.
  7. 6.In accordance with this decision directions will in future not be given to women of any age, with the exception of nurses and midwives to which I will refer later, and in exceptional cases for the purpose of making effective the Essential Work and similar Orders. Also we shall discontinue forthwith the system of registering women under the Registration for Employment Order as they reach the age of eighteen.
  8. 7.Subject to the exceptions to which I will refer in a moment, the use of directions in respect of men will be limited to those up to and including the age of 30, 616 which is the present maximum age of call up to the Armed Forces. When the age of call up is lowered, the age up to which directions are used will be correspondingly lowered. This power of direction will be further limited by using it only to meet the special needs of a few industries and services which are identified from time to time as having high priority.
  9. 8.Similarly the Control of Engagement Order, which requires that labour should be engaged only through a Local Office of the Ministry of Labour or other approved agency, will, subject to one or two exceptions, in future apply only to men up to and including the age of 30 and not to women of any age. In addition, the present ban on employers in seeking to engage workers by Press advertisement or otherwise will be removed, though employers must still make the engagement through a Local Office of the Ministry of Labour or approved agency in the case of persons still subject to the Control of Engagement Order. This general age limit of 30 will be lowered when the call up age is lowered.
  10. 9.Now I come to the exceptions. The first exception is the Building and Civil Engineering Industries which present a special problem, because it will be essential for some time to come that the highest possible proportion of their labour force should be employed on the Housing Programme. We have therefore decided that the power of direction must be retained beyond the age of 30 in respect of men in these industries up to the age of 50. In general men will not be required to take jobs away from home and directions will be spread as evenly as possible so as to minimise inconvenience to indiviual contractors. Control of engagement for men up to 50 within these industries will also be retained.
  11. 10.The next exception is agriculture. In view of the urgent need to retain experienced workers in this industry, we propose to retain for agriculture the present arrangement whereby no man up to and including the age of 50 whose normal employment is in agriculture may take a job outside agriculture except through an Employment Exchange, and that no employer may engage such a man for work other than agriculture except through an Employment Exchange.
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  13. 11.The House is well aware of the extreme shortage of nurses and midwives. The Government are taking various measures to meet the situation which have been agreed with representative organisations in the hospital services. It will take time to give effect to the agreed measures and to make other necessary adjustments and during the next six months the nursing resources which are available must be used to the best advantage. We propose for this period of six months, but no longer, to retain for use, as necessary, the existing power of direction and control of engagement of nurses and other persons who have had more than one year's recent nursing experience, and of midwives. These controls will apply as at present up to and including the age of 40 (50 in the case of male nurses) and the object will be to ensure as far as possible that nurses and midwives are distributed between the various health services according to need. The retention of the controls for the six months will not, however, interfere with the scheme of release, details of which will be announced shortly, for the Civil Nursing Reserve.
  14. 12.The Merchant Navy and the Trawler Fishing industry and the Dock industry have special arrangements where by engagements within the industry are controlled and these will continue.
  15. 13.The control under the Essential Work Orders and similar Orders cannot be made effective without the use in exceptional cases of the power of direction in order to ensure that men and women of any age in employment subject to control remain there.
  16. 14.Men and women released from the Services in Class B are required to take employment in the occupation and the industry for which they were released. Up to now most of them have been directed under Defence Regulations to a particular job. The general change in labour controls will apply to them as it does to civilians and they will not be directed to their civilian work except in circum stances in which a civilian would receive directions. Men and women who are nominated by their employers for release in Class B will be required to take the particular job in respect of which their release has been granted. Those who do not comply with the conditions on which their release was granted will be liable for recall to the Forces.
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  18. 15.I should make it clear that it is the Government's intention that the limited controls which will remain in force should be strictly enforced, if necessary by the institution of proceedings against offenders —whether they be employers or workers. At the same time they will be carefully administered so as to avoid individual hardship. Individual workers covered by the Essential Work Orders may, as at present, apply at any time for permission to leave on personal as well as industrial grounds and there is a right of appeal if permission is refused by the National Service Officers. Similarly employers may seek permission to discharge an individual worker. In the case of directions there will be an opportunity of appeal against a direction to a particular job.
  19. 16.In conclusion I wish to emphasise to the House and to the country that in deciding upon these relaxations the Government is relying upon the continued co-operation of men and women in the task of re-building our peace-time life. Workers should not throw up the jobs they are doing unless there is very good reason. For a long time to come there will be an acute labour shortage and we shall need the services of every man and woman who can stay at work. I appeal particularly to the women not to with draw or withhold their services. They have done a splendid job during the war and we need their help just as much now. I appeal also to employers to make the best and most economical use of the labour available. It is in their own interest and in the national interest that skill and experience should not be wasted. Again, while it is no longer obligatory upon the majority of men and women to take their employment through the local offices of the Ministry of Labour they will be well advised to do so. The employment exchanges, the appointments offices and the technical and scientific register have available detailed information as to opportunities of employment and as to the relative importance of the various jobs from the point of view of the national interest. They can give advice both to the worker on the choice of a job and to the employer on the labour available and it is in the interest of all concerned that this service should continue to be fully used.

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