§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield):
I do not feel that the question of unemployment is a party matter at this stage. It is far too serious for that. After all, we have been through a very long and trying war, and it was to be expected that we would have at least some unemployment, 454 during the transition stage from war to peace in industry. However, in my view, it is the duty of all of us, and particularly of the Government, to be constructive in solving this matter.
In mid-February of this year, there were 875,000 ex-Service men and women, who had not taken up employment. I mention this figure because a number of these people will not get jobs. The percentage may be very small, but it should be taken into consideration when considering the overall figure of unemployment. There are 875,000 people on their demobilisation leave. Unfortunately the figures of unemployed are increasing at rather an alarming rate. The unemployed figure in March, 1946, was 371,900. This figure included 24,581 ex-Service men and women—those whose leave had expired. Many ex-Service men have been reinstated in industry under the six months agreements, but my information is that a great number of these men who have gone back to industry are virtually unemployed because the employers are short of materials for the goods they want to manufacture. Therefore, men and women are taken back but are not really fully employed, so that the figure of 24,581 is probably somewhat greater in terms of production.
The distressing thing about the figures generally is that the rise in unemployment is greatest in Wales, Scotland, North and North-West England. It would appear that the growing unemployment in these regions shows that the old distressed areas are coming Lack again. Nobody thought they would disappear in a matter of months, but it is my view that more could be done to help these particular areas. We heard much last July about full employment. Personally, I do not think there is any such thing as full employment. We shall never achieve what we really want to see—full employment—so it would be far better to think of a certain number of people passing from job to job and of those who are unemployable. The Government have given some indication of their plans, but they have not gone far enough. There is a lack of boldness and decision in approaching this matter. I would like to give one or two examples of what has happened in the borough of Congleton. It was a distressed area for many years before the war.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey:
Congleton, in Cheshire, with a population of about 16,000. Nevertheless, similar conditions which prevailed then prevail today and are steadily getting worse from week to week. There are jobs for women in that town, but not for men. Surely, here is a case in point where the Government could have directed new industries to the area. In February of this year, I took a deputation to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. The deputation was well representative of the trade unions, the mayor and councillors of all parties. I do not blame the Parliamentary Secretary, because he had only just taken office. I am still waiting to hear whether Congleton is to be included among the scheduled areas.
A case in point is that last November a firm wanted to open a factory in Congleton, to employ 150 men and women. Negotiations were opened with the Board of Trade, but the licence was received only within the last two weeks. It has taken six months to issue a building licence. The contractor was ready, and had the materials and labour, but had to wait all this time. I fully appreciate that it might have taken three months but it should have been no more. If we can get factories built rapidly, particularly when the materials are available, it would do everybody's heart good to see the buildings going up, and the wheels start turning. There must be similar cases throughout the country in connection with new industries. I ask the Government to make up their minds, not to shelve these matters and pass them from Department to Department. My impression was that in this case the hold-up was in the regional office in Manchester, and not in Whitehall, and that the whole machine should be overhauled.
I would like to refer to free enterprise, or private enterprise, as it is called by Members opposite. Obviously, it must play its part to the full in absorbing these unemployed, and increasing our output. But it must be given guidance and encouragement by the Government. It cannot go along on its own. We get many appeals from the Government for increased production, yet we frequently hear Members opposite slanging free enterprise, which is not constructive. We must all help to solve the unemployment 456 problem. The Government's policy and plan—if they have one—should be to adopt a more generous attitude towards free enterprise. I do not necessarily mean by any form of taxation, but in giving decisions, in withholding threats, and generally helping employers to make their burdens easier. The Government should abolish uncertainty and threats. In Manchester, there is a firm employing 500 to 600 people on making up clothes, and I was told only yesterday that last autumn 100, 000 yards of cloth were handed to the disposal department of the Ministry of Supply, and that it was five months before it found its way through to the factory, to the makers-up. That very bad. Delays must be cut out all the way through so that industry can get on with its job. If the Government pursue their present policy, I do not believe we shall get the expansion we require to absorb these unemployed.
Thus likewise with the building industry. The latest figure of unemployment in that industry is 11, 000. There may be very good reasons why all that number cannot be absorbed, but when there are tens of thousands of families crying out for houses surely the bulk of those unemployed could be absorbed by the building trade. After all, the ex-Serviceman does not care where his house comes from, free enterprise or the local authority, so long as he gets it. With regard to ex-Servicemen, most of them were led to believe, during the last few months of their service, that there would be no difficulty in getting a job. They had heard of the great labour shortage in the country, and they came out of the Services full of expectation. But many of them did not find jobs. The training centres, in my opinion, are quite inadequate to deal with the numbers who have to be trained. The Minister has said that there is a lack of accommodation. I am unable to believe this, because there are many vacant aerodromes which have buildings which could be used for accommodation, for workshops, and recreational facilities. The land on these aerodromes could be taken for agriculture, and the buildings could be used for training centres. I recently asked the Minister of Labour a supplementary question on this point, and he said he would look into it. Surely, the Department should have looked into this matter months ago, and should have made a survey of the aerodromes best suited for this purpose. 457 On the Motion for the Adjournment, on 18th April, I discussed the question of the Appointments Board. I thought that was quite a useful Debate as a preliminary canter to today's Debate, but I hope that the Minister of Labour will tell us what the Government intend to do. I would like to suggest that an analysis should be made of all those who have been on the register for three months or over. There is probably a good reason why certain individuals cannot be employed; if so, let us find out the reason. My postbag on this matter is heavy. I get numerous letters every day from ex-Servicemen, complaining of their treatment. Many are embittered. They give their story, and, although I know there are always two sides to a story, I would like to quote part of a letter I received from an ex-warrant officer, who served with the 8th Army in this war, and who had HI years' active service. He says:I have served my country for 27 years, 10 of which have been on active service. My pension is 27s. a week. I have no home, and, until recently, slept in a shelter and fed with friends.That letter was well written, and I have had very many others like it. Unless we do something, all these men will become embittered. Cannot the Government get busy and make a national appeal to absorb these 24,000 men and women? Cannot they use the radio and the newsreels, and put the matter over in a big way? The figure of 24,000 is not large in terms of our overall population, and the strength of our industry.
I feel particularly sorry for officers who have served in both wars. These men have a prior claim to a job. We all know that at the age of 50 it is difficult to pursuade an employer that you are as good as a man of 30, but there are many jobs a man of 50 can do, perhaps better than a younger man. The Minister said recently that a number of these men would probably be taken back into the Services, to complete their full period for pension. I hope he will tell us something more about his plans in this direction, if he has discussed the matter with the Service chiefs. Many of these men have done from 12 to 14 years' service. Let them continue for another nine or seven years, and give them a minimum pension. I know there will be difficulties, and that if that is done it will be said that they will not get the same pension as they 458 would otherwise get, but if they received a pension of £5 a week it would be of great help to their families. The three Fighting Services will be short of personnel. After a war many people are not keen to go back to the Services. They have had enough, and want to get back into industry. But many, having had a taste of civilian life, want to return to the Services, where there is real security. Here is an opportunity for the Government to got these men back, bcause I think many of these 24,000 would go back if given the opportunity, and if they knew the terms of service. The longer this matter is left in abeyance, the more difficult it will be to persuade these men to go back into the Services. I feel that the right hon. Gentleman is very sincere in his efforts in this matter, but that is not enough. The Cabinet must tackle this problem vigorously; there must be coordination, drive and energy. Otherwise, we shall have tens of thousands If embittered men.
§ 11.20 a.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South):
I think we all appreciate that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) did not raise this matter in any party spirit, neither did he deal with it in a party spirit. We are all concerned, not only with unemployment in general, but with the ex-Servicemen's position in particular. I only wish that some of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's predecessors in the years before the war had taken the same active interest in unemployment when they were addressing their own Government. Then perhaps we should not have had to say some of the things which I shall probably have to say this morning.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman was right in saying that we must get this matter into proportion. With regard to unemployment among ex-Servicemen, we are dealing with 24,000 men who have not had a job since they left the Armed Forces. That means that they have exhausted their eight weeks' leave period, so that we are really talking about men who were demobilised up to Christmas. As we know, the demobilisation figures up to Christmas were of the order of 1,500,000, which means that the overwhelming proportion of demobilised men up to the moment have secured employment. That is, undoubtedly, a factor to keep in the front of our minds. It is in striking contrast with 459 the situation which existed after the last war when, in the corresponding period, there was a total of over 350,000 unemployed ex-Servicemen. It is a tribute to the smoothness with which the transfer from war to peace is taking place, that the figures of unemployed among ex-Service men should still be so small.
There are one or two points to which I would like to direct the attention of the Minister in connection with the ex-Service problem. The first is the question of Government training centres to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred. The number of centres is, at the moment, pathetically small. I know the Minister has a programme, which he has announced, for providing 69 centres, with 25,000 places, by the end of the year. It is not enough. The numbers now waiting to go into these training centres will eat up all those places, and I suggest to the Minister that there are one or two methods by which he might increase the capacity of the training centres. The hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested one, and that is to search for odd buildings, such as aerodromes, where people could be accommodated. Then, what has happened to the idea of working a two or three shift system in Government training centres? I do not know what the situation is over the country as a whole; I can speak only for the training centre which I visited last week where that system has not been started. I do not know that they have had any instructions to start it, but certainly that is a way of doubling the capacity. I hope the Minister will be able to tell us that shortly the Government training centres will be working on a two or three shift system.
One other feature I found in the training centre was this. The men are doing a very fine job of work; the instructors are extremely keen. There is a fine spirit about the whole of the training centre, and it did one's heart good to see so many bent backs, and so many people getting down to their jobs. I was told that the only discouragement that the men experience is when they have done a particularly good job of work, such as plastering a wall or decorating a room, and then have to pull the whole job down. They say, "Even though we are slow and we cannot do this job at the pace of skilled craftsmen, could not we be given an outside job, 460 decorating a room or plastering a wall which has not to be pulled down? "There is a certain feeling of discouragement among these trainees because some of their work is not left as a lasting memorial to what they have done. There may be difficulties with the trade unions and that sort of thing, but cannot the Minister do something to ensure that these men, who are doing fine work in a fine way, do something to add to the national effort? I think the work that is being done there will upset many of our preconceived ideas about the necessary length of apprenticeships. The skilled craftsmen in charge of these men take the view that in something like six months they can turn out men who are almost the equivalent of skilled craftsmen, except for pace, and that, of course, they will rapidly acquire as they get into industry. The other factor of great concern is when a man gets his training completed and finds that he does not go out to a job. I know it is inevitable at the present stage in our transition, but we must make every effort to ensure that when a man has been through this period of training he should get a job immediately afterwards.
I would like also to refer to the higher appointments bureaux which the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield mentioned. I am sorry to say that I do not think this scheme is a success. I know it is still in its comparatively early stages, but I think research will show—and I expect the Minister knows this—that employers are not going to the exchanges for men for these higher appointments. I hazard a guess that not five per cent. of the vacancies are filled in this way. It means that the scheme, which I believe was proposed by Lord Hankey, and which both sides of the House supported in the hope that it would become of real value to the man seeking a higher appointment, is not fulfilling the great hopes we all had at the outset.
There are one or two points I would like to put to the Minister in this connection. Can he avoid switching his staff around in the higher appointments bureaux? When a man goes along to see a member of the staff and puts his personal problem before him, he goes away feeling that at least someone there knows what he is talking about. It is disconcerting, to say the least, and discouraging, to say the most, to come back a week later and find that particular member of the 461 staff has gone, his place having been taken by someone else, and the man has to start his story all over again. It is the difference between personal contact between two people who get to know each other, and treating the man as though he were just another case. There is nothing so discouraging to a person as to be treated as "just another case." I ask the Minister to keep his staff engaged on this work fairly static, because that would help in the psychological approach of these men who go to these bureaux. I would like to know something about the liaison in London between the higher appointments bureaux and the employment exchanges. In the provinces the scheme is working as well as possible, I believe, because the job is of a manageable size. That is to say, the number of higher appointments is not too big in relation to the employment exchanges, and contact can be maintained, but in London I feel that there is not this same close contact between the exchanges and the higher appointments bureaux. I would like the Minister to say something about that.
May I now turn from the ex-Service aspect to the broader aspect to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred in opening this Debate? He said the old depressed areas were coming back again. I do not think that is right. There is a great deal of unemployment in those areas, but there is not the same feeling of despair to be found in the valleys of South Wales, for example, as there was in the 1930's. The Government have prepared for South Wales an excellent programme of factories which will provide a great deal of employment. In HANSARD of 1st May, 1946, there were enumerated 122 schemes for projects for new factories, which will give a vast amount of employment. However, there is no doubt that the situation is bad at the moment.
I want to reinforce the request of the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield to the Minister to import a considerable degree of urgency into what he is doing. For example, there are 122 new schemes projected for Wales but we have been given completion dates for building for only 28 of them. When are we to have the completion dates for the others? How soon can we expect that? The list which appeared in HANSARD showed that those schemes for which completion dates have been given provide employment for 7,700 workers. It is a start, but, as the Minister 462 knows only too well, there are 70,000 unemployed workers in South Wales at the present time. What is preventing the Government from pressing on with the remainder of these schemes which will more than absorb the unemployment in South Wales? I know I shall have the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield with me on this, despite his advocacy of private enterprise, but, I warn him of the path he is treading, because when he follows me in this, he must understand that what we are asking for, and what South Wales is asking for, is greater Government control and intervention, more and more Government assistance.
§ Mr. Callaghan:
More jobs, certainly, and that is the way we will get more jobs. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman's leader makes speeches praising private enterprise, telling us of the boons and blessings we derived from private enterprise in the 1930s, a hollow laugh goes up from South Wales. We have no time for that sort of thing. Every time the right hon. Gentleman reminds us of the 1930s, in those speeches which he makes in Edinburgh or Aberdeen, or wherever it may be, I can assure him it makes it more and more certain that no Conservative will ever be returned for South Wales, because we remember those years only too well. I ask the Minister, in as firm a way as I can, what is holding up the pressing on with these other schemes in our area? Yesterday we heard disquieting rumours that one of the largest schemes was being slowed down because of a shortage of either men or materials.
§ Mr. Callaghan:
I understand it was the scheme for the nylon factory at Pontypool. It was in the newspapers yesterday. What priority is Wales getting in connection with these building schemes? Is building in other parts of Britain holding up the schemes in Wales? I think I would have the Committee with me in saying that we ought not to be building new factories in areas where there is no unemployment when there are 70,000 out of work in South Wales. I ask the Minister the specific question: is building which is taking place in 463 other corners of Great Britain, holding up the development schemes in South Wales? Another question which concerns us very gravely is: what is the building materials situation? I understand that if we pursue our building projects for factories, by mid-June the new factories in South Wales will need every bit of building material that can be produced, to the exclusion of building a single house. Is that the case? If it is, we ought to know. We ought to be told what is the position. Has it been considered? Has there been any allocation of building materials for houses and building materials for factories? Is the dynamic Minister of Health overriding his other colleagues in his search for materials for houses? Here I would express the personal view that, as far as South Wales is concerned, the people there would be prepared to go on living as they are now, provided they could have work, and that factories ought to become top priority. What we do not know, and what I ask the Minister is, whether in fact any decision has been taken on the allocation of materials between houses and factories, and, if so, what is the decision? What is the relative priority? What is the position as regards building labour in Wales? There are now five training centres there with accommodation for 1,850 trainees. I believe there are about 500 places for builders. That is hopelessly inadequate. I understand that in South Wales at the moment there are something like 10,000 skilled building trade workers, whereas before the war there were 40,000. How are we to make up the difference? Where are they coming from? Will the other corners of Great Britain help us? Will they help us by sending men to South Wales to assist us in our building projects? We need skilled workers, not only in the building industry but in many other industries to be established in South Wales in the next two or three years. In two or three years' time, the problem will not be the shortage of unskilled workers but of skilled workers. The problem will then be how to place the unskilled men. Looking down my labour exchange list at the moment, I see the principal problem is that of the men over 40 years of age, and of the elderly women. What special plans will be made to train these unskilled workers in order to make sure that when there is a shortage of 464 skilled workers we shall have the men we need to fulfil those plans, which are excellent in conception, which have brought new hope to the people of South Wales, and which I believe will bring new prosperity in the future?
§ 11.38 a.m.
Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, West):
We have heard from one hon. Member from England and one from Wales so far. I think it is therefore appropriate that I should now rise and speak for Scotland. There are two aspects to this problem which I wish to discuss.
The first is in regard to unemployment generally. It has been pointed out that the figures have been rising during recent months, especially in certain areas of the country. Only yesterday at Question time the hon. Member for Everton (Mr. Kirby) referred to the unemployment developing in Liverpool. I will take the case of Scotland as a whole, as an illustration of this rather disquieting trend. For example, on reference to the official returns we find that in July, 1945, there were approximately 25,000 registered unemployed in Scotland, whereas in February, 1946, that number had increased to some 69,000. I believe this figure is slightly larger than that now. In other words, the total has nearly trebled since last summer. We all know that the Government are pledged to a policy of full employment, and we sincerely hope that end will be achieved. However, it would be idle to deny that there is disquiet in many quarters in regard to the present trend.
The hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) said that there was no longer any feeling of despair in the country. That may be, but there is considerable apprehension, certainly in my own country, Scotland, as I think the Minister of Labour well knows. Only a few days ago, at Easter, the Scottish Trades Union Congress at Dunoon discussed this matter. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of habour was there, and also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. That Conference left them in no doubt that there was considerable apprehension in Scotland. It is not only what I would call the industrial organisations which are concerned about this matter, but also the organisations representative of ex-Servicemen. In Scotland, very deep concern is felt by the British Legion about the position. In the last few 465 days, the British Legion in Scotland has issued a circular letter to all Members of Parliament representing Scottish constituencies. I would like to read to the Committee some extracts from this letter, which is of such importance. It runs as follows:The rising figures of unemployment especially in Scotand are looked upon by the Legion with much perturbation. Full employment was prognosticated as the solution for unemployment troubles after the War of 1939–1945, and relying on its achievement, many Members of Parliament considered ex-Service preference should not be encouraged as it was after the War of 1914–1918."
Those Members who sat in the last House will remember that this question of preference arose very acutely in the discussions which took place on the Disabled Persons Employment Bill. Some of us, particularly in my own Party, supported the idea of preference at that time, but the Bill went through without any major concession being given. The letter goes on:Many ex-Service men and women are unemployed; and many have to wait for lengthy periods for admission to suitable Vocational Training Courses: many find that their confident expectation of being granted such courses is disappointed, owing to training facilities being inadequate for their accommodation."
That point has already been made, and I think it is generally admitted. The letter then says:The British Legion (Scotland) therefore urges that a policy of full ex-Service preference be restored, and that full use of the Coloured Cards used (on the suggestion of the British Legion (Scotland) ) at Labour Exchanges for the Registration of ex-Service personnel, should be made in applying that preference."
I commend that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. The letter concludes:It is considered too that pressure should be brought on the Government to speed up the extension of Vocational Training facilities and the admission to the Centre of a wider range of applicants for training than those to whom admission is at present confined."
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western):
Where would the hon. and gallant Member draw the line of demarcation in regard to Service people? Will they include air raid wardens, firewatchers, and all the people who took part in home defence?
Lieut. Commander Hutchison:
No. The Reinstatement in Civil Employment Act, 1944, includes everybody who served in the three Services, and the various 466 omen's Services. Speaking from memory I do not think it includes the Merchant Navy; it certainly does not include wardens, firewatchers and the like. The definition is laid down in that Act, and that is the best I can suggest at the moment.
§ Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston):
Would it include individuals who would have gone into the Services but who, against their wishes, were directed into industry?
No, that could not be done. Preference must be confined to those who have actually served in the Forces or, in the case of women, in the Women's Auxiliary Services.
§ Mr. Scollan:
Would it apply to ex-Servicemen who had been in the Forces but had never actually taken part in overseas operations?
Certainly. Everybody in the Services would come under it. There are a good many people in this House who are perturbed about the position of ex-Servicemen, and more particularly about the older men and the older ex-officers to whom reference was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey). I feel that this House owes a very special duty to the men and women who served in the Forces, a good many of whom suffered wounds, while others have suffered injury to health. There is, as everybody knows, a good deal of illness arising out of service in certain theatres during the late war. For that reason, I would urge the Government to do two things. The first has already been referred to—to speed up and improve the vocational training arrangements. The second is to see that preference is given to ex-Servicemen and women in filling those vacancies which may be notified to the Ministry of Labour employment exchanges.
There is one other matter I wish to deal with—in regard to which I think my suggestions will be received with sympathy by the whole Committee. I believe that there are coming into existence a number of rather undesirable, or at least doubtful, agencies which are advertising posts for ex-Servicemen. One of these organisations was mentioned in this House not so long ago by an hon. Member in a Question. I, think it was 467 called the Forces Employment Bureau. I ask the Government to watch developments in this direction very carefully. Nothing—no amount of legislation—will stop a fool and his money from being parted, and some people ask for trouble by investing in horses and dogs and other hazardous enterprises. Obviously we cannot legislate for them, but I submit that the position is quite different as regards the type of agency I have in mind. A small group of unscrupulous persons get together and issue an attractive circular which may very well catch out men who are in no way fools, but just honest, plain, decent soldiers, sailors and airmen, who have very little knowledge of the various wiles and lures of "Civvy Street." Those latter are the people whom we should try to protect, and for that reason I ask the right hon. Gentleman to keep a watchful eye on the growth of agencies of this type and, furthermore, to notify the Service Departments on such matters.
I say that for this reason. It has come to my knowledge that circulars and advertisements are sent to Service messes from some of these organisations, and I think that if there were a proper liaison between the different Government Departments something could be done to warn officers and men—before they are actually demobilised—against this type of organisation and against some of the pitfalls that may lie ahead. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into this point. Further as I understand that such employment agencies very often require to be licensed or registered by the local authorities I would ask the Minister to consult with his colleagues at the Home Office and the Scottish Office to urge the local authorities in both countries to be careful about granting licences to organisations with whose antecedents they are not perfectly satisfied. After all, we all know that there is a fair amount of money in circulation at the moment in the pockets of ex-Servicemen, by way of gratuities, deferred pay and so on, and just as there are sharks in the sea, so there are quite a number of very formidable sharks on the land, who are quite ready to gather in some of that money. It is up to us in this House to do what we can to safeguard the interests of those who have fought for us, and to see that they are not deprived of their just rewards. I urge the Minister to look into this matter.
§ 11.48 a.m.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem):
I welcome the opportunity afforded this morning of considering the problem of unemployment, not in relation to ex-Servicemen only but in its more general aspects, because, from time to time, I receive letters from my constituents—and I think this is a common experience—pointing out that we are getting pockets of unemployment, and indicating anxiety that something should be done for those men and women who are unemployed, and who are going on from month to month without finding anything to do. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) has already said, everybody envisaged that, in the turnover from a war economy to a peace economy, this kind of difficulty would inevitably arise. That, I think, would be conceded in all parts of the Committee, and even when things become easier, no matter what kind of planning we may carefully devise, and no matter how efficient our control of the economic life of this country, we should all admit that there are certain seasonal occupations, and certain difficulties inherent in any economic structure, which will mean that, for a short time at least, small numbers of people here and there may find themselves out of work. But I am not satisfied that that is the true explanation, or a satisfactory answer, in regard to the position which seems to have grown up already and may, indeed, become worse as time goes on.
Apart from the men who have been demobilised from the Forces, many millions of people in this country have been freed from their wartime occupations in the munitions works and in the wartime industries. Such is the case in my own area of North Staffordshire, where we had two huge ordnance factories, in addition to ancillary factories producing war material. Many thousands of men and women have been discharged from their wartime employment. The majority of them, I would say, have found their way back into civil employment, into the production of consumer goods, and that is all to the good and what we desire; but there is, it seems to me, a hard core, limited in its dimensions, of people who have not yet found a place in society where they can later be employed and feel themselves wanted and socially useful, and, what is equally important, in a position to obtain sufficient 469 income to keep their families and themselves in decency. As I go to my constituency week after week, and meet some of these people who have been walking the streets for some five or six months, I cannot help feeling this matter most strongly, because these are men of middle life who are most anxious to work, and whose income is sadly inadequate to their domestic needs. They see, after months of experience, that there is no hope.
I think I may say that I have submitted some facts to the Minister of Labour from my own area—I am not anxious particularly to talk from a constituency point of view, although, of course, that is my primary responsibility—indicating that, this number of unemployed people includes men and women who were trained on a semi-skilled, or, perhaps, in some instances, a completely skilled basis, during the war, and for whom there no longer exists opportunity for their labour. In this connection may I say that the engineering crafts loomed largely in some figures I recently called for from the Ministry. They referred to dilutees—I suppose that is the term—in the engineering industry, these men who in middle life, some skilled and some semi-skilled, are finding it difficult to fit in once more. I know that the Minister of Labour is most anxious to bring new industries into my area. Indeed, I gather from the White Paper on Employment Policy that all sides of the Committee desire this. That White Paper was a Coalition production. Particularly, however, do the Labour Government intend that, where there is dependency upon one or two industries, as early as possible there should be a greater diversity of industries. In North Staffordshire, I think, we may claim to be heard on that account. I want to bring one or two aspects of this subject to the notice of the Government, which may be helpful. My area, like many other areas in this country, is a product of the Industrial Revolution, which left us with a great legacy of work to do, it seems to me—no less than the complete rebuilding of the area.
I would remind the Minister of what was said in the White Paper on employment, to the effect that consultation would go on with the local authorities in the development of schemes likely to be socially useful, and capable of helping, in times of such difficulty as we are considering, to provide useful work for men and women temporarily unemployed. 470 Are we satisfied that, in all the areas throughout the country where these pockets of unemployment are appearing, the local authorities are fully alive to the opportunity for the development of socially useful schemes, such as sites for houses, playing fields, and community centres, street works, the manufacture of simple housing requirements? I believe that in my own area, as in others, there are men with the necessary skill and with the urgent desire to find employment in this direction. It seems to me that while the housing programme is making great progress—despite what is said by hon. Members on the other side of the Committee—we could usefully help it forward if we could marry this unemployed labour to the work which is necessary in some of our areas. I wonder if the Minister would consider approaching the local authorities, reminding them that they have these unemployed people and that there is work to do which may not produce an immediate revenue, but is a gilt-edged investment, and likely to be profitable in the best and widest terms.
Among this number of unemployed are people who fall into a special category, people who, perhaps, are not Zoo per cent. fit—partially fit people, people in receipt of partial compensation, men getting towards the eventide of their lives, or suffering from some physical disability. Most of these people found a place during the war when labour was at a premium. They go to employment exchanges and get a green card which says they are fit for light jobs; but it is most difficult to obtain light jobs. I say that the municipalities and the Government have a special responsibility to these people, either to provide them with work on socially useful schemes or to direct them to some sort of training scheme or, better still, to invite them to training—although I do not think they would object to being directed under reasonable conditions to some work to help the country forward in the times that he ahead. There are many people in those categories, and I would supplement the appeal which has been made on both sides of the Committee that there should be an increase in training facilities, and that there should be consultations with the trade unions and with employers, to see how far the existing facilities can be utilised, and how far such men can be taken into 471 factories, or into little places, to be trained on the spot, without necessarily building new places. Let us hammer out some conditions that will not undercut established trade union practice. I think that can be done.
My colleague, the hon. Member tor South Cardiff (Mr. J. Callaghan), in a most useful contribution, said that in South Wales, while there was apprehension about the volume of unemployment, in some degree, there was not the bitterness which had been known to exist a decade or two ago. I am very glad to hear that, but I would not bank too much upon it. I have a letter in my hand, which I do not propose to read in its entirety because it is rather voluminous but which is the heart cry of a man who has been walking the streets for some five or six months. The lesson which that letter teaches me is this. If a spirit of despair does not exist at the moment, if men are anxious that this Labour Government, in whom they have such great faith, should progress and produce the conditions of society they most earnestly desire, yet if such conditions as have been described are allowed to continue, in course of time the spirit of patience may break down in the hearts of a few men and may be replaced by a spirit of despair I will read an extract from the letter to which I have made reference. This man says:If our Government leaders and Members of Parliament, who for some reason call themselves Socialists, could enjoy the benefit and happy position of being unemployed, and try to balance a family budget on an income of £2 10s. with which to feed, clothe and provide shelter for a man his wife and two children, they would be wishing and working for a bloody revolution, and not waiting comfortably for a gradual social change. Whilst waiting, they could deny to themselves the small luxuries of a ' fag,' or a half-pint of beer. They would also have to give serious consderation as to whether twopence could be spent on a 'bus fare, or whether they could go to the pictures for sevenpence. They would have the opportunity of seeing themselves develop into a hitter personality, and torture themselves about the things the family needs—the absolute necessities of life—knowing that such needs cannot be satisfied because Society decrees otherwise.I should not be doing my duty, if I failed to bring to the notice of the Government and this House, the cry which comes from men such as the writer of this letter. I am proud to do so, not because I think it indicts the Government; but I am proud 472 to stand here and represent these men who have sent me here to speak on their behalf. I want to make an appeal to the Minister before I sit down. If it is impossible to provide work for all these people—and in some circumstances I believe it is impossible to provide work for every man and woman—then let us reconsider the economic standard upon which these people have to exist. If we cannot, in some circumstances, provide employment for all, we can at least provide a standard of living which will enable them to support themselves. I believe that increased salaries for Members of Parliament and increased wages for other people, will go down very badly, unless we give attention to the unemployed, the aged and the infirm. That is the message which Keir Hardie tried to preach in this House many years ago; and, if my humble words have continued that message, then I shall have done my duty.
§ 12.2 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Price-White (Caernarvon Boroughs):
I am sure that there are many thousands in this country who will thank the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) for introducing this Debate, and this Committee for considering the question of unemployment. I was interested to hear the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. J. Callaghan) refer to a figure of 24,000. I suggest, in all friendliness, to the hon. Member that if there is anything conservative about him at all, it is the figure which he gave. The figure alters almost daily, and by the next time publication is made, we shall have seriously to consider another, and perhaps an alarming, figure. We appreciate the anxiety of the Minister to solve this problem, which is a growing and grave problem for the unemployed ex-Service men. I can assure the Minister that the Committee are desirous of assisting him; not by mere criticism, but by sensible, serious suggestions. There is no doubt that, unhappily, there is growing up an embittered and disillusioned spirit among ex-Service men. With all sincerity, I feel—and I think the Committee will accept my view—that the ex-Service men who have been away from their homes for six years, many of whom have been engaged in actual fighting, are entitled to a little consideration in preference to other claimants when it comes to employment. 473 I should like to know whether the Minister is really satisfied with the operations of his Ministry's training schemes, the employment exchanges and the specialist employment bureaux which have grown up. The hon. Member for South Cardiff referred to the fact that hollow laughter would go up from South Wales, and has been going up, at certain utterances of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I suggest to the hon. Member that if he knew the whole of his Wales, he would realise that much of the hollow laughter is echoing across our borders. Workers, and particularly ex-Servicemen, are seeking employment elsewhere because they cannot find it in their own country. We in Wales, in common with our Scottish cousins, are prepared to share our abilities and put them at the service of people across the border. It is true that our fees in the matter are not so high as those of our Scottish cousins. In Wales, we cannot afford—nor can any other part of the country—to have the flower of our manhood and womanhood who were in the fighting Services during the war, having to look elsewhere for the work which they are entitled to find at home when they come back. It is true that we welcome the voluntary transfer of ability and craft, but it is entirely wrong that it should be of necessity.
I ask the Minister seriously to consider some speeding up of his training schemes. I know it is easy to cite instances and to criticise, but I am satisfied that some very stupid decisions are being made by departments within the Ministries. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote one or two examples. In one case, particulars of which I have given to the Minister, two young men coming out of the Forces applied for training as sanitary inspectors. These men are 27 and 28 years of age respectively. Both received a stereotyped reply to the effect that they were considered unsuitable for training as sanitary inspectors. Before being called up, each had been articled for 18 months to a borough sanitary inspector, and had it not been for the war, would have gone to Liverpool University to complete their training for diplomas. Yet they are considered unsuitable for training. If the Minister looks into this sort of stupidity, he will make a great contribution towards solving the problem of unemployment among ex-Servicemen. 474 My second case concerns a very gallant gentleman who served in the first world war. During that war, he was the first officer of a "Q" ship, and I think that those who are older than myself will agree that the crews of "Q" ships represented a fine type of Britisher. This man enlisted in the last war, and was administrative assistant to the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), who has the very highest regard for his ability. This man is now in a pathetic condition. He has an invalid wife, and for eight months he has endeavoured to find work. His one crime is that he is 54 years of age. He was sent for, by urgent wire, to report to the Cardiff employment bureau. He set out on the overnight journey, and duly arrived in Cardiff, which, as hon. Members will know, is a beautiful city, but an overnight journey from North to South Wales is not a suitable introduction to it. This gallant commander was interviewed by a lady at the employment bureau, and solemnly handed a copy of the previous day's issue of "The Times," in which she indicated a job for which he had already applied. If the Minister would seek to eradicate that sort of nonsense, he would be making a very considerable contribution.
Another distressing case is that of the ex-Servicemen who are totally or partially disabled. Their number is growing, and their plight is allied with the whole problem of the revision of the Royal Warrant, which, I am pleased to see, will be discussed here next week. Many of these men do not realise what is available to them under the operation of the Disablement Act. I am doubtful if they all appreciate the type of training which will be forthcoming. If the Minister would use his endeavours to speed up the operation of that Act, he would again be helping these ex-Servicemen who are in such a tragic plight. Many of these partially disabled men are in jobs into which they are forced of necessity, and which are physically inconvenient and Hurtful to them in their infirm and unfortunate condition. They are not producing of their best, and they are not seeking, with any ability or motive, the real positions to which they are entitled. I suggest, with all humility, that there might be some increase in the operation of disablement training to ensure that the partially disabled are employed in work consistent 475 with their defects and abilities. They are, in many cases, to my own knowledge and no doubt the knowledge of other hon. Members, in a pathetic condition of mind and body, which could be speedily overcome and eradicated by proper treatment and training.
Shortly before entering this Chamber today, I received a letter which illustrates my case. I apologise for reading it, but it seems to put admirably the whole position. The writer is a young man who had six years' service, and, for the last six months since his demobilisation, he has been endeavouring to find employment. He writes:In view of the Government's statement that there are plenty of available posts, and their entreaties to women and men of pensionable age to continue in work, I feel bewildered and a bit resentful at not being able to get employment, either through the Ministry of Labour, or by my own efforts."
That is a reasonable attitude of mind for a man in that position. There are many men in this country who are not merely a "bit bewildered and resentful" but who are already tragically in debt. It is the duty of the Minister, and the Members of this Committee, to see that that bitterness of mind departs for ever from these men. This man is living on the earnings of his wife, who took up a temporary job during the war, and he quite rightly says:I, like other self-respecting men, do not wish to live on my wife's earnings, and it is a position we should not be reduced to after the service which we have endeavoured to give to our country."
I know that it is very easy to criticise, but I think that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are endeavouring to assist. May I suggest that there should be a complete overhaul of all Government Departments? I recently asked two Questions in this House, one of the Minister of Food and one of the Assistant Postmaster-General, with regard to married women who are in Government Departments, and who, quite rightly and properly, were taken into those Departments, and, indeed, directed into them, during the war years, because of the need for, manpower in the Armed Forces. While I have every respect and admiration for these ladies, and the work which they have done, I feel that there are many of them holding down what were temporary and necessary jobs during the war, who might very well now be relieved of that 476 work, so that they may look after their homes and families and their returned husbands, and, thereby, make work available for ex-Servicemen. I see that the hon. Member for South Cardiff disagrees with me. I do, however, suggest that such reconsideration of the employment position within the Ministries would assist these ex-Servicemen, particularly the partially disabled men, and I suggest that this might well be worthy of consideration.
I also think that the position would be helped if, at the demobilisation centres, there were some additional organisation. I am glad to have this opportunity to pay a tribute to the admirable organisation and working of these demobilisation centres. I have been through one of them myself, and I was struck by the smooth efficiency of its working. I had been, however, six years in the Army, and that being so one approached a demobilisation centre with anything but a jaundiced eye; but, nevertheless, there was available admirable assistance and help. The Ministry of Labour employment cards, and the various explanatory booklets, are, indeed, very helpful. I would suggest, however, that there should be some system whereby, at these large regional centres, information could be given on what particular work is available in the area. It would also be useful if details were noted of the ability and training of the ex-Servicemen going through them, and their work previous to entering the Services, so that they could be told what work was available for them at once, and what was likely to be available in a month or two.
There are many ex-Servicemen today who have had their release leave, and would like to return to the Forces, if they could do so, with married quarters available, so that their wives and families could be with them. But too few of them knew that they can elect to do that within 12 months. I think that that might be explained at greater length and made more widely known in the country. I think that this would probably assist the Government in their problem of finding men for the Armed Forces for the years which lie ahead. They would find, I am sure, many ex-Servicemen who have had their leave, trained men, returning to the Forces, under conditions which, I think, they would prefer to the conditions which they find in 'Civvy Street" today. I make an earnest appeal to the Minister 'o consider the whole of this problem on a 477 priority basis. The Government have come here with an obligation to a very gallant body of men, and if they fail in their obligation, those men will not forget it. I suggest that those who have fought and suffered should have a priority, which is not available to them today.
§ 12.20 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall):
I do not wish to palliate the administrative stupidities to which the hon. and gallant Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Lieut.-Colonel Price-White) has drawn attention, nor, I am sure, would any hon. Member on either side of the Committee wish in any way to dissent from his plea for urgent, sympathetic, and preferential treatment for those who have enabled us to win the war. Nevertheless, in the first place, I would wish to differ from him very strongly in his suggestion that the Government should now seek to remove from their Departments all or most of those women who have come into them during the war, have learned their job, and are doing it admirably. In other circumstances it might be quite a reasonable thing to do, but the facts of the present time are that, while there is admittedly a very substantial body of unemployment in the country, there is, at the same time, an acute shortage of manpower which will last, on the estimates of all reputable authorities, for a considerable period.
The problem that the Government have to face, as I see it, is to sort out a number of local anomalies and temporary problems in order to ensure that what is now an inadequate labour force will be sufficient for the tasks with which it is confronted. Taking that analysis of the situation, which I am sure is a correct one, it would be a fatal mistake at this time to take out of Government Departments women who are doing jobs which they can do and putting into those jobs men who could very well do something else, and something for which, as men, they are probably better suited. Let us try to see the whole problem in perspective, and in this respect I wish to associate myself with my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan). The total unemployed figure for Great Britain for March was 372,000 persons. The comparable figure for July, 1938—in those happy thirties, references to which we are becoming accustomed to hear from hon. 478 Members of the Opposition—was no less than 1,688,000.
§ Mr. Wells:
I do not follow the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) on this point. I was referring to the unemployed figures now and those for July, 1938. I do not see what relevance the direction of labour has to those figures. If the hon. Member wishes to explain, I shall be happy to give him the opportunity.
§ Sir W. Darling:
I am grateful to the hon. Member. He is doubtless aware that today an employer is compelled to take into his employment all those persons who were working for him before the war. No such regulation or compulsion existed in 1938.
§ Mr. Wells:
I quite appreciate that in 1938, when there had been no major war for nearly 20 years, there was no direction to employers to take back employees who had not served in a war that had not taken place, but I really do not see what relevance that fact has to the situation with which we are confronted today.
When we turn from the unemployment figures to the employment figures—and for this purpose I am taking the months of June, 1939, and February, 1946—although we find, for reasons which we all understand, namely, the large number of men still in the Armed Forces, that the total figure of employment is less in February, 1946, than it was in June, 1939, we have one extraordinarily interesting difference. In June, 1939, the total manpower employed in the export trade was 930,000; the comparable figure for February of this year is, to the nearest thousand, 1,020,000, and I think the Government are to be congratulated on the fact that within less than a year of the end of the war, when there were scarcely more than 400,000 persons employed in the export trade, that figure has swollen by two and a half times in the space of eight months, and that we have already more than a 10 per cent. increase on employment in the export trade compared with those glorious prewar days of June, 1939.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Brornley):
The hon. Gentleman has given us very valuable figures, and what he says is, of 479 course, a great tribute to the cork of the export trade. But surely he has regard to the fact that a certain proportion of the production of various industries is now directed to the export market, which naturally affects the figure of the number of men employed in the export trade. The hon. Member must take that into account.
§ Mr. Wells:
With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I was congratulating the Government on directing employment where it should be directed.
§ Mr. Macmillan:
Directing the product of the employment in order to make up the enormous losses of our investments and to improve the balance of payments. We quite rightly direct a certain part of the product to the export market and, therefore, I say—and it is a very interesting argument—that one must hear this in mind in considering the figures of men at present engaged in the export trade to fill a gap made by the war.
§ Mr. Wells:
The right hon. Gentleman has made a perfectly fair point, for which, I am sure, the whole Committee will be grateful to him. The Government had a certain situation in hand and these figures show that they have taken appropriate action. When we come to analyse the unemployment that exists, it falls into three main categories. There is the kind with which my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff has dealt, the local unemployment in what were, before the war, distressed and special areas, and with which it is the urgent duty of the Government to deal as soon as may be. I am sure nobody recognises that duty more clearly that any right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. The duty exists and the Government must press on. The second kind of unemployment is local in its incidence but to some extent national in its causes. We are living in a time of acute industrial dislocation due to the war. The result is that supplies of materials needed for industry are necessarily erratic, and what happens is that sometimes, as I know from my own constituency, a manufacturer or contractor finds that he has a job on hand but has not the material with which to do it, and so has to lay off a certain number of men until such time as the materials arrive. That is a temporary problem, and as and when the balance of industry is restored if will gradually pass away. 480 The third problem is that of ex-Servicemen. I do not follow at all the hon. and gallant Member for Caernarvon Boroughs in his statement that my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff was conservative in quoting a figure of 24,300 for unemployed ex-Servicemen. So far as I can recollect it was not my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff who quoted that figure; it was the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey); and I am a little curious to know where he got that figure because the figure I have got from the Statistical Digest——
§ Mr. Wells:
If I have made a mistake, let me at once withdraw, and apologise to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but "to the best of my recollection and belief," to use a technical expression, a voice from the opposite side of the Committee quoted a figure of 24,300, and to the best of my recollection and belief the hon. Member for South Cardiff did not quote that figure. The hon Member for South Cardiff appears also to be under the impression that he did not quote that figure. It would have been surprising if he had, because we both obtained our figure from the same source, the "Monthly Digest of Statistics," and it would be very curious if the hon. Member for South Cardiff, even at half past ten in the evening, read 24,300 when I read 21,300. However that may be, it is not a very important point. The point is that since June of last year over 2,000,000 men and women have been demobilised from the Forces, and of that figure, according to the Digest, roughly 20,000 only have not had employment since demobilisation. That means to say we are faced with a problem of roughly one in a 100—not a trivial problem, but not an extremely acute or serious one.
In the few moments that remain to me I wish to address myself to what is a rather limited but, I think, not unimportant aspect of Service unemployment. It is very likely that there are cases which for some reason or another do not come within the figures quoted in the Monthly Digest, where, because the families concerned have a certain amount of resources, the men concerned do not register as unemployed. That is a very 481 limited problem indeed, but it is not unimportant. We are faced with an acute shortage of men in industry. We are also faced with a number of men who have held fairly high and responsible positions in the war who look on themselves a s administrators and who expect to come into administrative jobs in civil life. It is an inherent feature of a time of industrial and economic transition, particularly of this type, that there is a shortage of work for certain classes of administrators and for certain grades of professional workers. That condition may or may not last for a considerable period , but I ask that the Government should take two kinds of steps to ease tho problem for the large numbers of very worthy and deserving officers who now find themselves unable to get employment.
It is important, in the first place, that such men should be reminded that they cannot because they have been, shall we say, lieutenant-colonels in the Army immediately become managing directors. nor, indeed, is it possible to say that everybody who held a rank equivalent to captain shall, since 1st April, become a Member of Parliament. It is, therefore, imperative to prepare their minds before they leave the Service for the kinds of difficulty which they will encounter when they come into civil life. There is a great opportunity in industry for men who have had this kind of Service experience, but there has got to be a great deal of give and take either way. These men must be prepared to face the fact that they come into new jobs and new work. They must be brought into this work because industry obviously needs them, and it would be a great pity if they were sidetracked into minor clerical or other posts, but they have to face a very horrible period through which they are starting at the bottom again. They have got to know the job, and they have got to face that fact. It is very unpleasant to prescribe a medicine for somebody else when one has not to take it oneself, but it is important that those people should take it. On the other hand, it is most important that they should be helped to do it, and, therefore, not only should their attention be directed before they leave the Service to the opportunities that exist if they will only go through this horrible period of six months' or twelve months' probation, but also there should be a more sympathetic and 482 imaginative attitude enjoined upon employers, particularly, I think, upon the smaller employers.
I, therefore, ask the Minister to say what is being done in this matter, because I believe that in the tremendously difficult industrial struggle that lies ahead, we need the services of the men who have served the country in war, and it is a matter of great national importance, as well as great personal importance to the men, that their attention should be directed to the fields where the best opportunities for themselves and the country lie.
§ 12.38 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale):
I want to make a few brief observations. The hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) has said that the Army needs telling what the position is, but I do not think that is true. I think they understand it very well, and that they realise that a great many of them voted for the wrong chaps. As a matter of fact, I have hardly been able to find an ex-Serviceman who will admit which way he voted——[Interruption.]
§ Sir I. Fraser:
The Minister of Agriculture in the Coalition Government told us of plans to help ex-Servicemen to get on to the land. There were those who could go and work on farms for a year or so, and, having gained experience, might hope to become smallholders or farmers. There were those who might go to agricultural colleges or the universities to learn this art and science. What has happened to those plans? The Government might well inform us what is being done to help ex-Servicemen to get on to the land in these two directions. I have not seen any evidence that there is any active scheme and I have been told that a delay of many months, possibly a year or two, will occur before many hundreds or thousands of these men can get agricultural education. If that be so, it is a shocking neglect, for which the Government must be held accountable. The figures that I am going to give are limited ones but they are rather important. I understand that there are nearly 15,000 men, of whom 2,400 odd are seriously disabled, who are waiting for places in Government training establishments, and many of them have been waiting for many months. This is 483 a very small problem in comparison with the planning to which we have been accustomed for major enterprises in war. The amount of foresight, material, and skilled personnel required to solve the problem involved is surely infinitesimal. Yet for months the Government have either done nothing or done what they have done ineffectively, leaving us at this period with 15,000 on the waiting list. Many in addition to these 15,000 men would have liked to go to these training establishments, but they got fed up and instead have gone into blind alley jobs. Had there been adequate training facilities in these places there would be many more than 15,000 on the waiting list.
Let me emphasise that more than 2,000 disabled men are waiting for jobs. We understood the disabled were to have a preference in this matter, and I should like to know what has happened. I want to emphasise the points made by previous speakers as to ex-officers and those with similar qualifications, which might lead them reasonably to expect executive or administrative jobs. There are 21,000 people on the higher appointments list of the Ministry, of whom more than half are ex-Servicemen. I have met them in different parts of the country and the Ministry of Labour cannot find them jobs. It has been said that there is a shortage of manpower, and yet there is unemployment. We are today directing attention to a particular class of the community who are unemployed, namely, these ex-officers and men. What is the solution? Surely, we must face the fact that the solution is to give preference to those particular men whom the Committee have in mind as deserving our attention, and for whom clearly there are jobs if only they can be guided to them. I am not now blaming the Labour Government for not having put into force one single scheme leading to their policy of full employment, because, with the present manpower shortage and the extraordinary demand all over the world for goods, that policy has not yet become necessary. I might mention in comment that we have no evidence that they are even thinking about making any plans to meet such an emergency when it does come
At the moment there are jobs, but the men we want to see in them are not in them. How can we get them into them? 484 We can only do so by putting them at the head of the queue. Many of us made this plea in the last Parliament to the present Foreign Secretary, who was then Minister of Labour. I noticed today that two speakers on this side of the Committee, and the hon. Member for Walsall, from the other side of the Committee, used the word "preference" which they all were so afraid of then. The hon. Member for Walsall, in his opening statement, said he was not averse from these men having a preference. The Government must face this issue, and must place the men who served at the head of the queue. The primary reason and justification for?this is that, having been away out of the country, they are out of touch with industry, and have not the same chance of getting help from a foreman or friend or from the trade union supporting them—many of them are not yet members of trade unions—as those who stayed at home. I am not speaking against trade unions in what I am saying, but simply showing that men who stayed at home have a better chance of getting a job when they fall out of one than have those who went away. Therefore, we must help those who went away.
As regards the disabled, the Government fixed two per cent. as the percentage of the number of persons an employer must take into his factory. I think for the time being that percentage is adequate, and I make no complaint about it, but I repeat the complaint that many disabled ex-Servicemen are not able to get the training which would enable them to go into factory employment. I want to ask two specific questions of the Minister of Labour. When the Disabled Persons Act was under consideration in Committee of this House I put down a new Clause which would compel Government Departments and the local authorities to give the same preference to disabled men as private employers were going to be compelled to give. I was told then that Parliament cannot force a Government Department to do anything—a very extraordinary doctrine. No doubt it is more technical than I am able to explain. An assurance was given that pressure would he put on Government Departments and local authorities, and that, in fact, the preference quota, which had not then been fixed, of disabled men to be given employment would operate. Can the Minister state how many disabled 485 men are being employed by Government Departments and by local authorities? If he does not know that figure, he ought to, and I ask him to find out before be comes to reply.
There is one other observation which I wish to make. It has already been observed that there is some unemployment amongst the population generally and amongst ex-Service men as well, caused by the lack of materials or by the distribution of materials. We must hold the Government responsible for not making up these deficiencies more rapidly in the time at their disposal. We must hold them responsible for a bad distribution of the materials. In a most important town in my own constituency there are two factories where there is not as much employment as might be given owing to the small quantities of a particular material that are available. That must be dealt with. The time has not yet come when the full ineptitude of the Labour Government to provide employment for our people will be shown, but the signs are multiplying that we are moving into a phase of unemployment, and I am deeply concerned that amongst those who will suffer through deprivation of their work are the ex-Service men and women to whom our hearts go out, and to whom hon. and right hon. Members opposite made such pledges during the recent General Election. Let them redeem those pledges by putting these men at the head of the queue, so that they may have a chance of a job which they will be able to keep.
§ 12.49 p.m.
Mr. Layers (Barnard Castle):
I welcome this opportunity to say a word or two on this problem, especially as it affects the North-East part of this country. Hon Members opposite will not want me to say very much about the treatment ex-Service men, who seem to be uppermost in their minds today, received after the last war in the North-Eastern part of this country. I speak as one. I had the unpleasant experience of looking for a job after having been promised that I was to go back to a land fit for heroes to live in. When I went to look for a job I found it was extraordinarily difficult for either myself or my colleagues to get one. When I heard the speeches from the Opposition side of the Committee today I could not help hoping that they were really sincere. 486 My experience in local government in County Durham in the previous postwar period, when the Opposition held Governmental sway, was that even when approaches were made to the responsible Ministers to allow palliatives to deal with unemployment, we received little consideration from them.
I do not want to appear to be too critical today; neither do my people in Durham. But it is true to say that we were known as a distressed area, and our people have been encouraged to believe that we are now a development area, and the people in Durham are desirous that we should start to do some developing. During the Recess I had the unhappy experience of addressing meetings of unemployed, both as a politician and as a trade union official. I am speaking not only for ex-Servicemen of all ranks of this war, but my plea today is also for the ex-Servicemen of all ranks of the last war, because, unfortunately, those unhappy chaps, who did a grand job of work on the last occasion, who had 10 years of nerve-racking experience of the dole sapping their vitals, are once again back in the same unhappy queue. Therefore, it can be readily understood why I, with my colleagues, who have had such an unhappy experience of this problem, are greatly concerned at the present time.
There is another angle about which I would like to speak in relation to my plea. Countless thousands of our miner friends suffering from miner's nystagmus, from the effects of slight accidents and from industrial disease, today find themselves, in consequence of the speed-up of mine mechanisation, among the number of unemployed who have to be catered for. I desire to speak pretty straight about the present position as far as the administrative county of Durham is concerned. During the war the Government erected three factories. They were the Aycliffe Royal Ordnance Factory, the Spennymoor Royal Ordnance Factory and the Birtley Royal Ordnance Factory. These factories employed approximately 38,000 men and women. These people, who in the main are now unemployed, rendered valuable service to the community by entering the factories at the request of the Government. Many of them were unemployed miners who had never been in a factory in their lives. Many were their wives and daughters who also had never 487 been in a factory in their lives. The contribution they made was valuable, and it seems rather a shame that today those people are out of a job. The Prime Minister makes a plea over the wireless that everyone should "go to it," that women who have retired from industry should return, and other Ministers make statements every weekend urging the same thing. The people cannot understand what is wrong here. They say, "We are assured that the Government's policy is a sound one; we are waiting for an opportunity to do a job of work. What is wrong that this unhappy position exists?"
Another thing which our people in Durham cannot understand is that when there is a war there can be Government sponsored factories that can employ every available man and woman, but when the war has been brought to a successful conclusion the people who came forward and gave such valuable service are rendered completely ineffective and become victims of the dole. Many of them are now exhausting their covenanted benefit, and though I suppose that the means test is not now so harsh as it was in the dark days, people in County Durham, at least, have an esprit de crops, and they have a feeling that it is rather degrading to be humiliated by that particular type of test. On their behalf I would say that we can quite appreciate that there may be an interim period of difficulty but, as has previously been said, the amount now being allowed in the form of unemployment benefit will not keep body and soul together today. If this interim period is to be an extended one, the time has come when there should be some interim allowance, in the form of greater financial benefit to our people, to meet that position. If that were done it would receive the approbation of our people, who are so desirous of being loyal to the Government of the day in their efforts to restore this country to its former greatness.
I would like to know from the Minister about what plans there are, although I am not so sure who is the right Minister to ask. I remember that shortly after I was elected, I went to the Board of Trade in Millbank, in company with my hon. Friends, and saw a very fine picture in fluorescent lighting, and I was told that the plans for the North-East coast would employ 40,000 people. In the main, the factories that have so far been put up 488 are employing young women and girls. In the administrative county of Durham there is not an example of a Government factory, sponsored directly or indirectly, which is employing a man. The fathers are saying, "Have we gone back to the unhappy days of the daughter keeping the father? "I suggest that that is a reasonable attitude for the father to take. There are areas in the administrative county of Durham where there is not the slightest prospect, as far as they are concerned.
With regard to disabled ex-Servicemen, quite recently I contacted a body of employers who were desirous of going into County Durham to employ 500 people, and who were prepared to take 50 per cent. disabled men. That spirit is to be commended, and I hope that the Government will encourage a firm of that character on every occasion. While I was making inquiries at the regional office I was rather alarmed, on speaking to the officer who is dealing with this problem, to discover the colossal numbers of disabled men who are returning under the paternal care of the Minister. I discovered that in a little place like Bishop Auckland there were 357 disabled men. I discovered in Birtley, where the Government employed hundreds of them, not only disabled ex-Servicemen of this war but of the last war, that every one of them, as a consequence of the transition, had been thrown on to the scrap heap. I have received a letter this morning from the chairman of the Bishop Auckland Disability Advisory Committee dealing with three constituencies in North-West Durham. He suggests that at the moment, out of an insurable population of 26,000, there are 1,904 disabled persons actually signing the register. Out of those in that little locality, there are 500 who today are unemployed.
These people are suggesting to me that the factory which is to become redundant belonging to Messrs. Vickers-Armstrong, and which has a floor space of 94,000 square feet and recently employed 900 people, should be taken over by the Government with a view to giving training to these disabled people. There is a miners' hostel in Crook that is also likely to become redundant and which could cater for 250 of the trainees. I am not disguising the grand work which is being done in the county of Durham by the Minister of Works and his officials 489 in connection with this disablement service, but I believe that, on balance, the county of Durham is out of proportion with the rest, and I submit, on behalf of the people concerned, that both this factory and the miners' hostel which I have mentioned should be considered for training purposes.
I would like to offer one or two practical suggestions to the Minister to overcome the present unhappy position in Durham. The Durham County Council, of which I have recently been a member, in 1943 prepared a comprehensive list of schemes of public works. I happened to be the chairman of the committee. It was a 15 years' plan for modernising the highways, and details of the proposals for the first four years of that plan were submitted to Government Departments with a view to their implementation to anticipate the very thing that is happening now in Durham. The county council were prepared to spend up to £11 million in the first four years. I am glad to say that, after kicking the ball around, the county council have now got an expression of good will from the Minister of Transport regarding a scheme costing £66,000. It is a pleasure to see the boys in their khaki dungarees doing a job of work, and they are very appreciative of the fact, but, unfortunately, there are a great many more of them who are still waiting for the opportunity.
The Durham County Council prepared this scheme to employ immediately 3,500 returned Servicemen, but the Ministry had a doubt whether there were any unemployed in Durham. The highways surveyor, quite recently, quickly convinced the Ministry that there were. The county council had seven days in which to start the job; the job was started on the third day—proof positive that there were the men and the materials to do the work which is so necessary. While I appreciate the difficulties of the Minister and his colleagues, I would say to him that the Durham County Council have the machine ready to get these men back to earning a living and keeping them in good heart. I ask the Minister to look into this matter again with a view to the absorption of still more ex-Servicemen in Durham.
There is another point to which I wish to refer. I have received word this morning of the closing down of an iron ore 490 mine in the Weardale Valley. I am told that it is a consequence of the Government consenting to the importation of foreign ore. I have asked the appropriate Minister, in a letter this morning, if that is a statement of fact. If it is, it seems to me that it is a disgrace. I ask the Government whether, in view of the possibility of unemployment raising its head in the Weardale Valley, they would give consideration to the suggestion of using the disabled in industry in the lead mining area of the Weardale Valley. I am told by people of authority and by experts that a material of which the Americans have a great monopoly at the present time is abundant in these valleys, and I ask that the Government, in view of the dollar situation, should give reasonable consideration to this suggestion.
What I have said on behalf of the people in Durham has been said in all sincerity. I do not want to be too critical. I have been in the game too many years to know that, when we get an unholy mess pitched at us like that which was pitched at us on this side of the House, it is not possible to wave a wand and say, "Hey, presto." I do say that the Government's policy is sound, and that there is a desire on the part of Ministers—who are overworked at the present time—to get every available man and woman back to work. It is the administration that is sadly at fault, and I ask the Minister, quite kindly, to see to it that more pep is put into the job, not necessarily in his own Department particularly, but in every Department.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea):
I am very glad to have this opportunity of saying a few words with reference to unemployed ex-officers and men. It is a subject of particular interest to all hon. Members, on both sides of the Committee, who have served in the Forces during the war. Especially so, perhaps, as the occasion for our own early employment was in some cases much luckier, than the experience of others. I find the figures given in this House and in another place before the Recess, very disturbing —I refer to the figures of unemployed ex-officers. They could not be laughed off by the Minister of Labour on 19th March, by saying that a great many of them were asking too large salaries—as was subsequently shown by the Parliamentary Secretary, in reply to a Question 491 by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) on 4th April. I consider that the majority of these men want a living wage with prospects. I understand that many who now have to make a fresh start, are very glad of being offered a modest income, say, £5 or £6 per week, and that all they want is a chance. Very many of them simply cannot get that chance, and we see, every day, advertisements in the agony column" of "The Times."
There is one point which I feel is of the very essence of placing ex-officers successfully in civil life, and that is the personal touch and understanding of the man's background and potentialities by responsible officials in the Ministry of Labour appointments offices. This is of great importance not only to those seeking jobs, but also in order to gain the confidence of the employers, whose support Sand cooperation is required. I think that an employer, if he is going to employ an ex-officer, wants to feel that the candidate put forward to him by the Ministry of Labour has been "vetted" personally by someone who understands both the employer and the candidate. Can the Minister say with confidence that this is indeed the case? I do not think that it is. I do not think that young civil servants, except in exceptional circumstances, are the people to do this. More use should be made of the Service Departments, with, of course, the requisite Treasury backing. Good will towards the Services could then be preserved and used to the advantage of the ex-officer, who is constantly at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the man who remained in industry during the whole war. The same applies, of course, to ex-Servicemen below the appointments office level, but their unemployment problem is riot so great, as there are more suitable jobs. Perhaps I might mention, in conclusion, that there are several problems affecting men over 40, things such as superannuation schemes and other factors, which are against their employment. We must be prepared, in future, for further difficulties when the compulsory period of re-employment under the Reinstatement Act has expired.
§ 1.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Acock's Green):
In the opening sentences of the speech of the hon. and gallant 492 Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) he referred to the definition of full employment, and seemed a little worried about it. It seems to me rather important to know precisely what we are aiming at, and to keep that constantly in our minds. I would say that the definition of full employment is quite simple. It is a state of affairs in which there are more jobs looking for men, than there are men looking for jobs. I believe that that is the position which this Government intends to perpetuate. It is also true that while you can have, theoretically, full employment there are circumstances which make it difficult for all people to be employed. That is a state of affairs which is temporary, and which it is our job to make as short as possible.
I would like to make two other points which, I believe, have a considerable bearing on our problem, particularly with regard to the employment of ex-Servicemen. Speaking as an engineer and an employer, think there is a definite fact which must be recognised, namely, that men coming back from the Forces are not very easy to employ. They have a background which takes some years to wear off before they find industrial life as easy for them as for their comrades, who did not go away. This means that the problem we have to face is to make the running of personnel in industry as smooth, as efficient, and as pleasant as possible. We need to eliminate all causes of resentment and difficulty. I believe there is one way of doing that which is tremendously important, and which is inherent in the policy of this Government and the fundamentals of Socialism. It is to allow complete freedom of movement of labour. We must create a state of affairs where a man can sell his labour where he wishes. He must be allowed to leave his job freely, and take another somewhere else. There must be no compulsion on him to stay in his particular job.
Some employers would say that this freedom will cause difficulty. I believe it will do the reverse, that it will, in the long run, create a good system, and produce good results. Surely, it will do this: It will allow people to learn for themselves that there is nothing very thrilling in doing a routine job, that all jobs are, inevitably, somewhat boring, but that there is nothing worse that being out of a job. That is the lesson which a man has to learn for himself. If he is free to 493 prove for himself that the job he has is as good as one he is likely to get anywhere else he will continue to do that job happily and of his own free will. There will not be resentment. It is the few people in a large firm or industry who feel that they are pegged down to a certain job by economic circumstances over which they have no control when they would like to leave for another job, who feel they are being compelled to keep this job against their will, and who consequently stir up trouble. One per cent. of such people in a factory can do a lot of harm. If you allow labour freely to move you will relieve that tension, and automatically create a larger amount of goodwill in an organisation.
There is another advantage in this principle. It is that in the early years of a person's working life, between 16 and 20, if he freely moves from one job to another he will not only find for himself the kind of job for which he is best suited, but will at the same time gain extremely valuable experience. At present, often the best employee in a factory is stereotyped, for he knows only one way of doing a thing, of tackling a fixture, a jig. or a machine operation. If a man, in the first three or four years of his working life. moves around and gets different viewpoints he will later make a better foreman and a far more useful and ingenious craftsman.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull):
I am sure the hon. Gentleman would agree that this is not in the least practical politics, and is not likely to be so for the next three or four years, because of the housing shortage.
§ Mr. Usborne:
I fully realise that it is not immediately practicable, but in some areas and in some circumstances it could be done. I do not want to see overall, blanket regulations made, which would prevent the operation of this freedom of movement at the earliest opportunity. In order to make the employment of ex-Servicemen more easy, I want to eliminate other difficulties in industrial management. People realise that under a Labour Government, and a planned Socialist economy, we intend to abolish unemployment for good and all. To us, unemployment is not a problem; it is a disgrace. Unemployment is merely a product of bad management. I admit that at the moment circumstances are so difficult that 494 there is inherently some transitional unemployment but if, after a period of years, there is any unemployment under Socialism then it will be the result of sheer bad management. Let us admit that right now.
§ Colonel Wheatley (Dorset, Eastern)
Would the hon. Gentleman say for what period of years he considers unemployment might be transitional?
§ Mr. Usborne:
I am prepared to say that seven years from now, if there is any hard core of unemployment, we shall have fallen down on our job. I believe that the period may be even less. I do not mind saying that, and I am quite prepared to have this brought up in seven years' time or even less by the hon. and gallant Member. Those who believe in, and have an understanding of, Socialism know that we intend to make good use of the mechanical advantages and knowledge which we now have in our industrial age. In the next seven years we shall develop our technical efficiency so that men will not have to work so many hours or so long in order to create the wealth we all require. Thus as a product of scientific management we are faced with a situation which apparently makes unemployment necessary. What are we going to do about that? By a scientific method we abolish unemployment, only to arrive at a situation which creates unemployment. The answer is quite simple. As soon as we are sufficiently technically equipped to have reached that stage, a new commodity comes on the market—the commodity of leisure. We will balance the demand for leisure with the demand for other goods, and we shall have to cater for it scientifically.
That brings us to the question of how we are to find the best use of leisure. It is a long-term programme in the sense that it may take many years, but it is a programme which must now be considered if we are to lay the foundations for it. Frequently we hear discussions of the 40 hour week and of reducing the hours that people need to work per week. In principle that is sound, although for the next few years I believe there is so much work to be done that I personally deprecate any talk of shortening hours of labour. Nevertheless, I realise that because we are now technically masters of the machine, we must begin thinking seriously about reducing the number of 495 hours which mankind has to work. I would like, however, to suggest to the Minister of Labour that instead of thinking in terms of 50 weeks of 40 hours, we might think in terms of 42 weeks of 45½ hours. Both work out at about 2,000 hours a year. The advantage of working 42 week years of 45½ hours is that we will get ten weeks' holiday. We could spend two weeks recuperating, convalescing and lying on the beach at Blackpool, as many now do, getting roasted like a turkey. But today in present circumstances, as soon as we are rested and fit again we have to go back to the same old drudgery. With the ten weeks' holiday I propose, after spending one or two weeks convalescing, we will have the remaining eight or nine weeks in which to develop usefully our leisure and our inclinations.
I do not believe that at the moment people with only a fortnight or a week's holiday each year ever get a chance of learning how to use their leisure, because they need a period in which physically to recover their desire and initiative, and now, just when they are physically ready and able to use it, their leisure comes to an end. I am not, of course, suggesting that this should be enforced on everyone. I am merely suggesting that facilities might be provided for young people so that in some factories they could work long hours and then have ten weeks' holiday. It could be done with a rota system, so that the keen apprentices and younger people who wished to avail themselves of the system could have a long annual holiday and work long hours during the week to make up for it. They would then be able to go to summer schools, camps and cruises, and to work on farms long enough to have. got physically strong and to have developed the necessary muscles for the job. They would thus have time to work out their bents and to discover effectively how to use their leisure. I believe the provision of facilities for the long working week with the long annual holiday ought to be considered and should be put into operation as an experiment as soon as it is possible.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull):
I would like to reinforce the plea which has been made by several speakers on behalf of 496 ex-Servicemen and, particularly ex-officers, because the problem of re-employing ex-officers is more difficult than that of the men. Ex-office's usually hope to obtain executive positions, however humble, which they believe will give them greater scope for ability and leadership as well as a higher economic reward, and obviously those positions are harder to obtain than employment at the work bench. I must admit that when this problem of the employment of ex-officers began to arise, I expected that we would find a lack of sympathy, if not of hostility, from the benches opposite, but I am glad to say that I feel that I can entirely acquit the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour of any such suggestion. Indeed, it would be very wrong if any such attitude were adopted towards this problem, because the problem of ex-officers is in no sense a class problem. Ex-officers in the recent war have, in almost every case, gone through the ranks. They have had the same chances as the other men in the ranks, and they have been promoted by virtue of the ability which they have shown. It is very tragic that so many of these men who have done so well in six years of war should be unemployed today.
The right hon. Gentleman said that as on 8th April there were registered at the appointment boards no less than 9,600 ex-officers, compared with 3,333 "other ranks." That is to say, there were three times as many registered unemployed ex-officers as men from the ranks. When one considers that the proportion of demobilised ex-officers as compared with men, is about one to 12, one sees that the incidence of unemployment among ex-officers is about 36 times greater than in the case of the man from the ranks. These are the picked men who have done best in the test of war, and in many cases they are the flower of the nation. It is not only a tragic shame on personal grounds; it is most unfortunate if the nation, as appears at present, is unable to absorb the ability of these individuals.
It seemed to me that there were two fields, apart from industry, in which ex-officers would appear to be particularly suitable for employment. The first is in the appointments which are made by the Colonial Office, and the second is under the Control Commission in occupied enemy territory. I, therefore, put down 497 two Questions about six months ago to the Colonial Secretary and to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, asking whether they were satisfied that they were absorbing as many unemployed ex-officers as was possible. The reply of the Colonial Secretary could not have been more satisfactory. He told me that over 80 per cent. of the new appointments made by the Colonial Office were men from the Services. I regret that the reply of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was much less satisfactory. He said that he had no particular responsibility for absorbing this pocket of unemployment and all he was concerned about was getting the best men for the job. The hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) has spoken about preference. Surely, it would be perfectly simple, without waiving the principle of trying to get the best men for the job, for the Chancellor to say that wherever two men with equal qualifications apply for a job, preference should be given to the ex-Service man, whether he is an officer or from the ranks. This would appear to be a particularly suitable field for absorbing the older man, who is the greater problem, the man of 45 or 50, or more. The unsatisfactory nature of these appointments under the Control Commission is that there is no certainty of employment after seven years. For the man of 50 those seven years are a critical time in his life. If only he can be found employment for this period he may well be in a position to retire at the end of it. The right hon. Gentleman stated in the Debate on 18th April, with reference to these regional appointment boards:"Our main point is to induce the employers to come to this service."I have the honour to represent a largely industrial constituency. I thought it would be useful to check up how the regional appointments board was functioning in relation to the employers of labour in my constituency. I made inquiries at the seven largest works and factories, which between them employ about 6,000 men at the present time. The report I have received is that in two cases the management are extremely satisfied with the regional appointments board in Birmingham, and in one case not so satisfield; but in four cases they have had no approach whatever from the regional appointments board in the last six months. How does that square up with the Minister's statement: 498"Our main point is to induce the employers to come to this service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1946; Vol. 421, C. 2981.]Apparently there has been no attempt whatever at inducement in four large factories in and on the edge of the city of Birmingham. At the same time the appointments boards have 20,000 registered unemployed. Surely the regional appointments board in Birmingham should have been informed and be doing their best by trying to get in touch with all large employers of labour in their region. When one discovers what is obviously a glaring error in one small investigation, it makes one less confident that these regional appointments boards are as efficient as one had hoped.
When the Minister was speaking about employers on this occasion I believe he was thinking particularly of industry. I would suggest there are two other big employers in this country who have an important part to play in absorbing the unemployed ex-Servicemen. The first, of course, is the Civil Service, and the second is the local authorities. I hope the Minister may be able to tell us what approaches have been made to local authorities and what contribution they are making. I think every hon. Member of this Committee knows of cases of people in their constituencies who would like to leave the Civil Service, but who at present are not allowed to do so—for example, in the Post Office. Surely the time has now come when such people should be allowed to leave the Civil Service, which would provide additional possibilities for the employment of ex-Servicemen.
The hon. and gallant Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Lieut.-Colonel Price-White) referred to the bitterness caused after the 1914–18 war by the very shabby treatment which was accorded to ex-Servicemen. I do not think anybody would accuse the Party opposite of any share in the responsibility for that situation, because in 1919, 1920 and 1921 that Party was in its infancy. I venture to suggest that the fact the Party opposite was free from blame on that occasion, was one of the main reasons why the Services voted predominantly for that Party at the last General Election. Therefore, I state categorically that the honour of the present Government and the Party opposite is very closely bound up with how they solve this problem of the resettle- 499 ment of the ex-Servicemen and women. I hope they will prove successful in this most important task.
§ 1.36 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Mackeson (Hythe):
This problem of resettling the ex-Servicemen depends largely on getting them divided into the correct categories. I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan). I am inclined to agree with him when he says the more elderly men present the most difficult problem. By and large, that is probably true. The three categories into which I would divide the ex-Servicemen and women are as follow: first, the more elderly, those of 35 and upwards, secondly, those who had the opportunity of working in, or anyhow becoming apprenticed to a trade before they were called up; thirdly, the younger ones. All those categories contain men and women who have assumed family responsibilities since or during the war. It is a very serious thing that the family life of some of those who have done most for the country is to be jeopardised through unemployment. I believe, however, that the category including the younger men and women presents nearly as serious a problem as that of their elders. Many of them, particularly those who have had an adventurous time in the past few years, find it very difficult to settle down. They will require much assistance and sympathy from the employers and from all corporations and associations concerned. Nearly all those who are unemployed—I am speaking of ex-Servicemen and women—have been separated from their families for a long time. There is a very large psychological feature involved in getting a man who has been separated from his home back into civilian life.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Mackeson:
Thousands of these men are involved. I doubt very much whether training will assist the more elderly ones. I ask the Minister not to consider only one or two of the suggestions, but all the suggestions that have been made, and many others which will spring to his own mind. I believe the Civil Service, the Colonial Service, trades unions, and local authorities all have room for absorbing men who have 500 reached the age of 35 to 50 and who are not suitable, psychologically, to be retrained or sent on courses. I find it very difficult to answer the man who comes to me and says, "You could find us courses quickly enough during the war to make us into soldiers or airmen. Why cannot you find us courses now, when we v-ant to relearn a trade or learn a fresh one. Unless the Government solve this problem, there will be a great deal of bitterness and disappointment. All hon. Members know of constituents who are waiting for courses. Disappointment is involved particularly in regard to those waiting for Ministry of Education courses, which I believe could be hastened. Anybody who has had anything to do with training or forming cadres in the Service knows that one has to wait until one sees the dividends. It is necessary to make sacrifices now in order to receive increased dividends later on.
I am certain that, if we take the bull by the horns now and if the Government increase their effort, taking the most ruthless steps to get some of these men trained quickly, the problem will resolve itself much more quickly than if we go on with a rather long-range policy, without making drastic decisions now. I asked the Minister a Question on the subject of officers on 12th March, 1946, and the figure he gave me then was 9,204 officers unemployed. Since then, of course, it has gone up. It is difficult to tell at the moment whether it will go or going up or whether. the absorption of unemployed ex-Service men and women is starting. I have had over 100 letters myself, and some of them are now getting rather desperate about it. I am afraid that some of the young ones, as an hon. Member opposite said, will take jobs for which they are really too good. Many ex-Service men have the most exceptional ability, which is not being used because they have not been trained. With our great shortage of skilled men we cannot afford to have them forced into unsuitable jobs by economic necessity.
I do not want to make a party speech, but the Party opposite said that they had a sacred duty. They asked the Army, Navy and Air Force to vote for them, and they did. As my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) said, the honour of their Party depends upon a solution of this problem. Any support we can give in solving this 501 problem will, I know, be given. I am not at all certain that there is not, at the moment, a growing feeling that it does not pay to take promotion from the ranks. I have had men, particularly quartermasters, come to me and say that they wished they had never taken a commission. It would be a very serious thing for the Forces if that feeling grew. Somehow or other, it must be killed immediately, for it really does exist. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consult his colleagues the Service Ministers on this subject, because if it becomes apparent that it is more difficult for an ex-officer to get a job one can hardly expect that clamour for promotion, which should exist in any healthy service.
I do not wish to delay the Committee any longer; I believe that this is an all-party problem. I consider that a Royal Commission or a Select Committee should be appointed at once to go into details. All the help that we can give to men who have suffered mentally or physically from the war should be examined. Constructive suggestions should be made. Somehow we must avoid having on our country the slur which has been on most countries after most wars—that those who fought and led the men are to be thrown out and left to tramp the streets unemployed, as has happened so often before.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central):
It has been repeatedly said in today's Debate that during the transition period we all expected to find some measure of unemployment. Events have borne out our anticipation, but the tragedy is that we are finding the heaviest incidence of unemployment in the very areas which had to bear that grievous burden in the years between the wars. I believe that no friend of the Government can afford to "pull his punches," on this question. It is increasingly evident that there is an utter lack of co-ordination between the various Ministers, at least so far as South Wales is concerned. Recently a list was made known to Members of Parliament for the Principality of factories which were to bring new industries to our area. Months after that list had been given, I find the directors of one of the firms coming to me and begging my assistance to get past one of the Ministries which was holding them up.
Another example is that of a firm which wanted to bring a factory which would employ a thousand people to the city of 502 Cardiff, and was advised by one of the Ministerial Departments to go to the Midlands. I know that this matter has now been taken up by the Minister of Transport, but it is an illustration of the fact that the Government are not showing the co-ordination and drive which we have a right to expect from them in regard to employment. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) has said today that the problem is mainly that of the older men. In South Wales the problem is that of the breadwinner. The younger members of the family, or even the mother, can get jobs, but the breadwinner once again is finding it extremely hard to do so. I believe that in what were formerly the distressed areas, the Government are leaving far too much to the estate companies.
The Treforest Trading Estate Company, which deals with employment in South Wales, is a most remarkable concern. They specialise in little things. We have this shocking example of maladministration. A factory of 52,000 square feet has been empty for the last six months, though there is plenty of skilled and adaptable labour there—men who are members of the A.E.U. and who keep coming to ask Members of Parliament to help them—while right across the road from this empty factory, which is in first class condition, the Government are building another factory to bring industry to South Wales. There is something very much wrong with this position. The equipment, the men and the buildings are there,. and if there was better co-ordination between the Ministerial Departments I believe that we should fare a lot better.
A proper use is not being made of manpower. There has been talk of preferential treatment for certain people in the field of employment, and every hon. Member will, I know, have sympathy with the returning ex-Service man. But I do not want to see the returning ex-Service man set against his compatriot who was a civilian. There are people in this country to whom, from time to time, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) paid glowing tributes. During the war they left their homes and, though they were never in the Services, they went to various parts of our island to work in factories. Some of them saw even less of their families during the war than did a good many Service people. We must appreciate that such people also have a 503 prior claim, if there are to be prior claims, upon us. Heaven forbid that we should set officer against private in this competition for jobs. The hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Lindsay) said it was not a class issue, but the development of his argument left me with an uneasy feeling that he was suggesting that executive posts might be given to ex-officers, in preference to anybody else. I know first-class honours graduates who remained privates throughout the whole of their military service, and the less we discriminate between group and group, the better it will be for the community in general.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Mackeson:
I am sure the hon. Member does not mean to convey the impression that disabled men should not have preference.
§ Mr. Thomas:
No. I am very grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for bringing to my attention the question of disabled ex-Service men, whether they have been disabled in the field of industry, or in battle. They have a special claim on the conscience of the nation, and according to the Government's plans, have priority in employment in certain industries. But we believe in bringing work to the people, and I find there is an increasing tendency today to suggest that that is not practicable after all, and that we must tell people to go to the work in Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester or this great metropolitan city. I have seen an exodus from South Wales before, and believe me it is in operation again.. Last Monday morning when I caught the train to London there were on my train a number of boys with their bags, leaving the valley to take work which had been found for them in the Midlands. I want to see a greater effort to bring the work to where these people of proven ability are to be found. Let us make the best use of the human material that we have, and recognise that to direct people away from their homes is not to solve this problem but to create another. I would ask the Minister who is to reply if he will convey to the Cabinet the feeling which a good many of us have, that a greater coordination between the Departments, at least, so far as labour is concerned, is very necessary.
§ 1.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon):
It is very difficult this afternoon to deal with this major 504 issue effectively because it extends over a wide range of Departments. The Minister of Labour is not altogether, by any means, completely responsible for the situation which has now developed in South Wales. I believe that foreign policy is involved, that financial policy is involved, and that certainly the Ministry of Supply and the Board of Trade are involved; and, therefore, while those Ministers are absent—I do not mean this in any derogatory sense—and only the Minister of Labour is here, it is rather difficult to have an effective Debate.
It is remarkable that today, from our Benches on this side of the Committee, voices have come from the same areas which were affected between the two wars. Already along the North-East coast and in South Wales people are beginning to ahiver. I have had letters this week which have, indeed, not only made me anxious, but have hurt me. What do I find? Already terrible fear is creeping amongst the people; not only a fear of the future, but also—and this is what hurts me—the fear of a division taking place between the people who are in work and the people who are out of work. It has been pointed out to me that certain women are in jobs at certain rates of wages while ex-Servicemen are out of work. It has been pointed out to me that men who remained in industry are there still at work, and the "demobbed" soldier's wife writes to me and says, "My husband has been abroad for five or six years, has now come home and he is in the unemployment queue at the employment exchange." I deprecate such a division of feeling between sections of the community, and in this respect I would support my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas). There ought not to be that deep division of priority between the officers and the rankers or between the industrial workers and the Servicemen; between the industrial worker who had to remain at home and was directed, and the soldier who was directed into the armed Forces.
The real cure is not in priority. It is very easy to state the theoretical cure. The cure, of course, is full employment, and if there be full employment there need be no question arising about priority. But where I differ from even my hon. Friend who spoke just now and one or two other hon. Members opposite is that, personally, I do not believe, though I may 505 be wrong, that the capitalist system can provide full employment. It is a false analogy to argue that the economics of the war period can apply to the economics of the peace period. I have never accepted the Beveridge theory that, if men and women can be put into work during a period of war economy, it follows that men and women can, under the present system, be put into work in a peace economy. One has only to look at the system to see that. I am not going into more detail.
In a war period the Government come in and become the largest customer. There is no danger of not being able to sell the goods that are produced. There is no competition between gun and gun. The community comes in. The terrible tragedy of it is that this is collective economy for the purposes of waste and destruction, and the terrible indictment against the capitalist system is that it cannot provide full employment unless it is for the purposes of waste and destruction. If has never provided full employment for the purposes of human welfare. I will not go any further into the argument, but I do not believe in the Beveridge thesis that full employment in war can be transferred to the economy of peace.
Appeals have been made to the Minister about his employment exchanges, and his officers having sympathy and understanding with the men who go there. I have had experience of employment exchanges in my Division and some remote experience of others, and frankly, I have never met a more sympathetic body of men. I have never been in touch with a body of men more ready and willing to do what they can to help both ex-Service officers and rankers who are unemployed, and the industrial workers, too. The officers in the employment exchanges are magnificent fellows, interested in their work, desirous of pleasing the men, of understanding what they can do, and show all the sympathy in the world. But there is still unemployment. The problem does not lie in the employment exchanges—not at all. It lies outside the employment exchanges. That is the issue the Government have to face.
As I have said, cold shivers are already creeping down the spine of the people in my Division. I see the queues there. I should like to support from my own experience what my hon. Friend the Member 506 for Central Cardiff said about the lack of coordination amongst the Departments. Lying, as it were, between, say, the Ministry of Supply and the Board of Trade, I have found great difficulty. I have often wondered who is the boss. I have often wondered who could give a final judgment and decision. One gets shuttled about from one Department to another. Surely, that ought to cease. Let the Government now have some body of Ministers that can coordinate and can decide, and give us something definite when these great issues arise.
I do not know whether the Minister of Labour can do anything about it. What is happening is this. Even with the suggested capital expenditure, for instance, on the strip mill at Port Talbot, I wonder sometimes whether the big employers are sabotaging the effort. I will put it more kindly: I wonder if they are finding greater difficulties than they anticipated. Anyhow, it is clear that there is not the will, the desire, and the enthusiasm to erect that strip mill. There is nothing but delay. The numbers of men who are unemployed are growing bigger and bigger.
I should like to enter a broader field, but I will end by saying this to the Minister. He knows, as well as I know, the tragic demoralisation—physical, mental and spiritual—which takes place in thousands of men through long periods of unemployment. In my constituency, between the two wars, there was physical deterioration. There was not only physical deterioration, but a blighting, blasting helplessness. When the war came, we lacked the skilled reserves we ought to have had; we lacked the trained labour we ought to have had. The war came, and it found us lacking in this respect. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that, if he cannot find work for these men and women, he should provide them with a decent standard of life. If work cannot be found, and if there are to be unemployed, let them become the idle rich. Do not let them become demoralised, and do not let them, as happened in my constituency between the two wars, have to keep themselves warm in bed in winter by using newspapers, and when frying pans and saucepans became communal property, because people could not re-equip their homes. If a kettle or a saucepan was required, or if bedclothes needed replacing, such things could not be provided out 507 of the unemployment benefit. There could be no capital re-equipment of the homes in those depressed areas. While I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to be able, through his single Department, to give us an answer to this growing and menacing problem of unemployment in South Wales, I hope he will be able to say to us that even if men are out of work, their physical nutrition shall be safeguarded, and that they shall not be allowed to become demoralised. The Minister must see to it that if there is no work, there is a decent standard of life maintained in these mining valleys in South Wales.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Sparks (Acton):
I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), and I am sure the Committee is very much concerned with the picture which he has put before us this afternoon in regard to the question of unemployment in some of our distressed areas. I happen to represent an industrial area in which there are 450 factories, large and small, where there is a shortage of labour. My constituency borders upon the great North-West London industrial belt, and in the whole of that belt of industry there is a general shortage of labour. Many of these factories are engaged upon the changeover from war to peace production, mostly for the export trade, and in many cases labour is urgently required fully to develop the potentialities of these factories. Therefore, it seems to me very odd that we should have Members of this Committee bringing to our notice the existence of pockets on unemployment in their own localities, while we have other parts of our country with a shortage of labour, which might be satisfied by transfer from the parts where unemployment exists to the parts where labour is needed.
I think it is true to say that the Distribution of Industries Act was a Measure designed to avoid a return to the unemployment experienced in special areas during the inter-war years. I do not know whether the Minister of Labour is able to give us any indication of the development of that Act and to what extent it has been possible to develop new industries in the distressed areas, in order that we may avoid the unemployment experienced in 508 the inter-war years. I think that the Committee are unanimous that we shall not return to the turmoil, distress and suffering which characterised that period between the first and second world wars. We on these benches are determined that there shall be no return to that bad era. I think that the Committee will readily admit, that, inevitably, there must be pockets of unemployment here and there in various parts of the country, because it is impossible to gear the nation up to a great war effort in a life and death struggle, and then automatically to revert to peacetime economy in the space of a month or two or a year or two. The changeover is bound to take some time, and during that period, we must admit that here and there there will be pockets of unemployment. I do not think there is any fear, for many years to come, of unemployment on any substantial scale in this country. There is a great wastage to be made good, and there is an almost unlimited demand for a wide range of goods and commodities which will take many years to satisfy. Therefore, the future is bright and hopeful. So long as we are able to remain on these benches, I am satisfied that it will be our chief concern to see that the resources of our nation are used and developed to the utmost in the interests of our people.
I was very interested to read in the Press a few days ago of a conference which has recently taken place between representatives of the Dominions and of His Majesty's Government. They met to discuss questions of high policy and strategy, but I think there is a new factor of which our statesmen have to take cognisance. We are told that these islands have become very vulnerable, that in view of the destructive powers, so recently released by science, we have become the most vulnerable spot in the world. We are a great industrial nation, and we have contributed much to the trade and commerce of the world. In view of the latest development in the realm of science, questions of defence have to be considered. Heaven forbid that we should ever have to face another world war, but we must be cognisant of the destructive power, so recently released by scientific knowledge, as the result of which, if war were to descend upon our island, it could completely paralyse and destroy our great industrial life and energies. 509 According to reports of this conference, we find that a new consideration has arisen, namely, that of the industrial decentralisation throughout the Commonwealth region. We are already talking in terms of this island being too small, and of the vast open spaces, and I believe that we intend to develop atomic research and practice in the continent of Australia. We are talking about training our soldiers in various parts of the Empire, and of dispersing our defences. It is beginning to be realised that it is very necessary, too, to disperse our vital industries. It may be that coming events are casting their shadows before, and that the inevitable logic of scientific development and discovery will drive us to look more and more to our Dominions—Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa—and to disperse our great industrial concentration to other parts of the Commonwealth for the safety of the English-speaking nations throughout the world.
I think we are rapidly approaching a point at which we can no longer consider our employment policy as being confined to the coast line of this small island. I believe that we have to take a far wider view of our employment policy. We must have some regard to the English-speaking peoples—to our own people, and to the British people in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and other parts of the Empire. I should like to know from the Minister whether his Department, or the Government, have considered the development of an employment policy which embraces the whole of the British Commonwealth in some kind of unified scheme. I believe that there are great opportunities in the British Commonwealth for many of our people, provided they have reasonable opportunities to attain a decent standard of life there, and that many of our people would be willing to contemplate going to one of our British Dominions. Therefore I should like to know whether the Government have considered the possibility of developing, jointly with the Dominions, our economic resources and of providing some overall mutual scheme of employment.
I do not, by any means, take a pessimistic view of the future. I believe that, with the nationalisation of many of our basic industries, we are going to release a great economic incentive in this country, which will do much to prevent a return to the period of unemployment, as 510 we knew it between the two wars. I believe that the nationalisation of the transport system of this country will be one of the finest means of infusing into our economic system, new life, new energy and new development. I believe that for many years to come this country will experience an era of prosperity such as it has not known for many decades. I hope and trust, taking a wide view of our responsibilities and our liabilities, that we shall see to it that we have a common bond of brotherhood with the men and women who speak our language in other parts of the world, and that we shall try to develop those large potential resources in the Dominions which have lain there for many generations, and even centuries, without any attempt having been made to develop them on account of opposition from financial and other interests involved.
Now that we have a new Government which will cooperate with the Governments of the Dominions, and jointly develop and exploit the large resources which exist in the British Commonwealth, I do not think that there will be any danger of this country having to go back to the old state of unemployment which existed between the wars. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will give the Committee some information upon this aspect of the Government's employment policy; I think that it is most important that he should have some regard to that wider aspect, in addition to the smaller and narrower aspect, of which we have heard earlier in the Debate today.
§ 2.17 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester):
On one thing I think all Members of the Committee will agree, and that is that the hon. and gallant Member who opened this Debate has touched a responsive chord with regard to this employment policy. I wondered as I sat here looking across at the right hon. Gentleman opposite, rapt as he seemed to be in Socialistic contemplation, whether, with his inward eye, he was looking up at the wall behind in the front of the Press Gallery and seeing written thereon those historic words "Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin."
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks:
I think the hon. Member is too well read 511 to require any translation. It is a very sober matter which we are discussing this afternoon.
§ Mr. Viant (Willesden, West):
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to interpret, for the benefit of those who do not quite understand?
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks:
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the original Book, which I am sure he has studied since he was first able to read and write. We, on this side of the Committee, equally with hon. Members on the other side, want to see full employment in this country. We had our own policy, which we put before the electorate at the General Election, and which we were convinced would produce full employment. Hon. Members opposite had another policy, or, at any rate, they claimed that they were able to produce full employment. They have an opportunity now of putting into practice the claims which they then made. I think that I can say on behalf of any who sit on this side of the Committee, that it is our desire to see that the results of whatever policy is put into operation produce what we all wish, namely, full employment; but there is not the slightest doubt that things, at the present time, are not going well. I have been away, and have not been able to follow in detail what has been going on in this country for some four months. But in the week since I have been back, I have been amazed at the number of actual instances brought to my knowledge of difficulties which have arisen over the employment question in this country.
I had many examples last week and I should like to quote one or two of them to the Committee. Only yesterday two gentlemen came to see me in this House. They were constituents of mine who had served for about 20 to 25 years in Malaya, and were gentlemen of experience, qualications, and considerable ability in that as soon as the war demanded it they were employed in Malaya as temporary Government servants of senior rank. They were, of course, interned but they have now got back to this country and their health has been restored. I asked them what they were going to do, and why they had come to see me. They replied, "To try to get your help to get out to Malaya." I asked, "Why do you 512 want to go to Malaya instead of staying here now that you are here?" and they replied, "We cannot get a job here. Are there any chances of getting back to Malaya?" I asked what steps they had taken to find a job and the principal move they had made was naturally through the Higher Appointments Board. They had applied time and again but all they could find to do was either manual work, for which they were not trained, or minor clerical jobs at a maximum salary of £3 a week. That is one type of example, which I have quoted because stress has been laid very properly this afternoon upon the ex-officer, but there are others who have suffered in the war as these gentlemen have—being interned by the Japanese for some three years—and who also have calls upon our consideration.
Another case came to my knowledge yesterday. It is that of a man who had been a barrister in the Far East for 20 years. He came to see me after being in this country for four years, having had to leave. Hong Kong owing to the war. He wanted a job but was unable to get one of any kind despite very high qualifications indeed. It may amuse if not interest the Committee to learn that in order to try to help him, and as I, personally, had no opening for him, I telephoned to a colleague in the legal profession and asked if he could help. He replied that he had no opening for a person in that particular capacity, but had I any typists I could spare? I said I had minus seven typists, but had he any office girls or office boys? He replied that he had not seen an office girl for seven years, and asked what was an office boy—was it something like a dodo? There are no juniors of any kind available for office work at the present time. We therefore get the position that there are seniors and managers, experienced people, seeking jobs but a complete and utter dearth of juniors, who must be somewhere, although where they are, we in commerce and the professions are unable to discover.
There is another aspect of the matter to which I should like to call the attention of the Committee. It is that even when a man has a job he is not necessarily safe in it. The right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office may know of the case to which I am referring since I put down a Question to the Secretary of State about it, but I 513 feel that his attitude, if it is a genuine case, is one which must perturb his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. The case is that of a man who was released from the Army under Class A with 73 days' release leave, during which period he found a job. At the expiration of 71 days, he received a telegram from the War Office recalling him for service and duty in India. It is this aspect of uncertainty and the lack of knowledge of whether or not the individual can plan his own life and, with safety and security, set about his own business that is handicapping both employers and employees in getting down to the task of reemployment
There is a further case which I should like to mention quite briefly and which indicates the confusion in the administrative system. There are eight local authorities in my division, one of them a city corporation which is actively engaged, or seeking so to be engaged, in the question of housing. For that purpose the city engineer engaged an assistant qualified man who came from another city, was aged 21, and had been deferred for the whole war period. As soon as he got into the swing of his work in the city of Chichester, he was promptly called up by the right hon. Gentleman's Department. The right hon. Gentleman may have some knowledge of the case as I have written to him about it and am hoping for an answer in due course. I am not asking for a reply on this specific case this afternoon, but am calling attention to the uncertainty which is being caused to employers and employed by the attitude of the Ministry of Labour and their failure to pursue a set policy. This has resulted in the accumulation of many cases and to a very great degree of uncertainty, and consequent failure to maintain employment at the present time.
That, I believe, is one reason for it, but there is another reason. I am sorry the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) has left. He referred to a particular company and cast what I thought to be rather unworthy suspicions upon the bona fides of the management in their efforts to carry out their job. It is a pity that remarks like that should be made without knowledge of the actual facts and circumstances because there are many reasons why companies may not be able now to carry out their contracts or fulfil the particular specifications which they anticipated being able to fulfil at the time when they accepted the 514 responsibility of the contract. One case came to my notice only this morning. It is that of a very large body of builders and contractors. I learned today that they had just had to put off 250 bricklayers and bricklayers' labourers, the reason being that they were unable to get the materials with which these men should be carrying out their work. They expected to have to put off another too men for the same reason but the local authority, for whom they were working, accepted a certain type of brick which the company were able to get, but which was of In infinitely lower standard than any local authority would have contemplated accepting before the war. Thanks to that action on the part of the local authority—whatever its ultimate result may be—the firm were able to maintain in employment those further 100 men. They were asked when they expected to get the bricks which would enable them to re-engage the first 250 men and their answer was that the suppliers hoped to be able to deliver in three months, but that this was so hedged about by qualifications and doubts that it might be any time at all.
That is another example of uncertainty, and all these matters, accumulating and building themselves up into a general picture of uncertainty, mitigate against getting the wheels of industry and commerce revolving again so as to result in full employment, the policy which we all want to see satisfactorily carried out. While I have been away, the Government have placarded the countryside with advertisements saying that "Labour gets things done." I must say that we are very grateful for the assistance of hon. Members opposite in prodding the Minister of Labour to try and get something done about this subject today What we want to ensure is that, in whatever way it may be achieved, even by the methods which the Government may put into operation, full employment is maintained in this country, and, still more particularly, that men and women of the Services and those special cases such as I have referred to. are not disappointed.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant (Willesden, West):
No one who has listened to the Debate today can say that it has not been an interesting one. Furthermore, it has shown the enormity of the problem with which the Minister of Labour is confronted. Innumerable aspects of the unemployed 515 problem have been ventilated, ranging over a very wide field, and, in addition, a large number of Members have advanced ideas as to the causes of certain of the complaints. There is some justification for what has been said in regard to the lack of coordination between various Departments. I have had a number of instances. I had one only this morning, of a case in which there were three joiners working under the Admiralty who became aware of the fact that in the vicinity there was a demand for at least 200 carpenters and joiners on housing construction. They went to the responsible authorities in the Admiralty establishment where they were employed and asked to be released to play their part in that housing scheme. But they were informed that their labour could not be dispensed with. In the course of two weeks they were discharged. Surely the Minister of Labour is entitled to ask any Government establishment in the vicinity to inform his Department when discharges are likely to take place. If something of that kind were done, a great deal of the hardship and sense of frustration that exist, apart from the that must develop as a result of these things, could he avoided.
I pass to the subject of training mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) in an admirable speech this morning. This is not an easy task, and he suggested that quite a number of those with whom he had come into contact at one of the training schools felt a sense of frustration and astonishment that they were doing work—plastering and decorating walls—which was afterwards destroyed. I happen to be a mechanic and am associated with the building trade. A great number of people are being trained for the building industry. The industry needs a tremendous number of mechanics, but it is very difficult to train young men on the job. There must be a preliminary stage, and, in conjunction with the trade unions, the Minister of Labour has brought the minimum period for training in the training establishments down as low as possible, that is in regard to bricklaying, carpentry and joining, and plastering. There is an opportunity, probably, for a shorter period of training in the training schools in regard to decorating. Local authorities could help very materially in 516 this regard. It is not easy for the ordinary competitive painter and decorator or the ordinary competitive builder to play the part in regard to training that might be played by local authorities.
Throughout London and other big cities and towns, there is a tremendous amount of partially destroyed property. A number of these men being trained could have a shorter period in the training schools and then go on the job. They would in no way be in competition, in the sense that the results of their labour would not be up to the standard of the craftsmen, but, none the less, after three months, and in many instances less, of decorating, they would be able to do a good job of work in repairing properties. There is a tremendous amount of property in our cities and towns fast reaching a condition of disrepair, by virtue of the fact that repairs have not been effected quickly enough to retard the complete destruction of the property. I hope the Minister of Labour will go into this subject and into the possibilities of getting a greater measure of cooperation from the local authorities in order that the suggestions made by the hon. Member for South Cardiff and myself may be given consideration. It would be to the advantage of the men who are being trained. They would feel that they were doing something worth while, something which was not going to be destroyed, and, as a result, it would be a greater inspiration to them to pursue their training. I will not detain the Committee any further, but I hope these few points may, be worthy of consideration.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Beechman (St. Ives):
This Debate is a very useful occasion on which we can call the Minister's attention to matters which have occurred to us without using it as an occasion for some attack upon the Government's action or inaction or to unfold some economic theory. I confess that during the Recess I was surprised to find rather more unemployment in the extreme West of this country than I expected. I ought perhaps not to have been surprised, because there must be difficulty at the end of a war in fitting people in jobs in every case. I should like to call the Minister's especial attention to the fact that there is not sufficient effort given to applying the Ministry's endeavours closely to a district which may be suffering from unemployment. That is to say, we think in terms of the export 517 trade or we say that the building industry must be built up, but in a district such as the one with which I am familiar, it is important to consider the place as a whole and see what is happening and what can be done. In the agricultural field I was surprised to find that ex-Servicemen were not finding work although employment was being given to German prisoners of war and Italian co-belligerents, or whatever the term may be.
What is a particularly serious point with me, as I think the Minister knows from some of the letters I have had to send to him, is that in my part of the world the fishing industry, which could have been saved and which could have been built up into something very well worth while, is actually threatened with extinction. I had very great hopes that when the war came to an end we would see a great revival of this industry, which means so much to the character, nutrition and indeed the safety of the country. One of the difficulties is that so many Departments are concerned with this industry. There is the Ministry of Fisheries itself. At least, I wish it were the Ministry of Fisheries but it is the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and then, of course, there is the Ministry of Labour. The right hon. Gentleman could help us enormously by getting some sort of coordination of all the Departmental forces which are brought to bear on this problem. Here I want to pay a tribute to the work of his Department in the area which I know. I have not been able to say it before, and I do not like West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly being run from Bristol, but the work done by the office of the Ministry of Labour and National Service at Bristol during the war and now has been beyond all praise. As far as I am able to judge, the work in the employment exchanges has also been most admirable. I know of only one case where there has been a complaint in regard to the way in which a seeker after work was treated. That was in an exchange which was not in my Division and which I will not name, where a fisherman, I understand, was not treated as a human being ought to be treated. However, that was some little time ago.
What I should like the Minister of Labour to do is to get together all these various forces. I cannot mention them all in this Debate. There is, for instance, the question of prices. A little 518 extra could be paid and our industry saved. Then there is the question of boats and the question of deferments. I wrote the Minister about a case which to me seemed an appalling one. There was a young engine man on a boat which was most successful in fishing. I followed his career and he was really doing very well. This young man was called up and the crew are threatened with unemployment. This young man would be far better from the Service point of view if he continued working his boat, because in that way he learns the way of the sea and in the event of another war—which God forbid—he will be useful on the patrol boats and minesweepers, to which the fishermen generally go. He has been called up to the Army. This boy and his whole family as well as the fishing community along that coast are really in despair because of an incident of this kind. I do ask the Minister to see that this sort of thing does not happen. It does not help the Services. That boy goes into the Army and he does not like it; he does not want to be there. He would be much better off associated with those lads who, before the war, belonged to the Royal Naval Reserve.
There is one other matter in connection with the industry to which I wish to refer, and that is in regard to training. Young people would go into the industry to make a living but training is required. Some attempts were made in that connection before the war. I should like to see our education authorities giving training to young fishermen about the operation of boats and so forth Finally—having come from the Private View of the Academy—I should like to refer in two sentences to the matter of the employment of artists. There is plenty of genius and a lovely countryside in this land of our, but the difficulties with which artists have to contend are great, particularly in regard to obtaining materials and so forth. Into those points, however, I cannot go in detail now. Let the right hon. Gentleman see that our pictures are used in our public buildings, because, at any rate, people who cannot find a job will have the benefit of inspecting some of the masterpieces of our land.
§ 2.49 P.m.
§ Mr. Younger (Grimsby):
I intervene for a very few moments in this Debate not because I flatter myself that there is much new that I can say after so many 519 interesting speeches, but because I want to join in convincing my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, if that is necessary, that very great anxiety is felt by Members representing constituencies all over the country and in all parts of the House about this problem. I agree entirely with what has been said by several hon. Members opposite, that the honour of the Government is involved. I also believe that the recollection of unemployment after the last war was one of the determining factors, as was said by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay), in the last General Election, and I believe that that was a fair consideration and perfectly right. It does emphasise the tremendous responsibility which now lies upon the Minister.
I do not think that the problem of the employment of ex-Servicemen can be dealt with in isolation. It is true that we can see that there is a preference for Service candidates in appointments, all other things being equal. I do not think we should ask any greater preference than that. We should not ask for a preference for an ex-Serviceman unless he is as good as the other candidate. We all know that such a preference will not take us very far. The truth is that the unemployment of ex-Servicemen is a problem that cannot be solved unless the whole problem of unemployment is solved. That will inevitably take time, and there are bound to be local pockets of unemployment in the transition period. The particular plea I would like to make to my right hon. Friend is that he should use this transition period, when perhaps there cannot be jobs for everybody, to give training to those who cannot get jobs. One of the disabilities of the Serviceman is that very often, through no fault of his own, he is not particularly suitable for civil employment—he needs training. I know of the organisation that has been set up, but I know also that there are long waiting lists, and that many people who want training cannot get it. I hope that the Minister will emphasise what he is doing for the immediate training of people who cannot find employment.
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Max Aitken (Holborn):
I am sure that all Service Members will appreciate fully the fact the Debate has been raised by 520 my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey). I also fully appreciate the position of the older officers and of other ranks, as well as civilians, who are at the moment unemployed. But I would like to speak briefly of the younger officer, who came straight from school into the war. This young man had no training whatever until he joined the Army. He then stood on his merits in the O.C.T.U., or in the Officer Training Corps of the Royal Air Force or the Navy, and won his commission by merit. He is, in fact, the flower of the youth of this country. He was the leader of the men in the battle which we won. He is the young fellow who came to the top through the other ranks, and here he now sits, jobless.
I suggest that we do something for this young man, who has not up to now, after the war, had a fair deal. Either this young man should be taken and trained for a job in which he can succeed, or else we should give him a chance to emigrate. I agree that shipping is difficult and that there are many difficulties in the way of him going overseas now. But I ask the Minister of Labour to give the young soldier, who has succeeded in his O.C.T.U. course, who is a leader of men, a chance to get overseas to the Dominions. The Dominions want our young men, and if we cannot see our way to keep the flower of our youth in this country, we should give the Dominions a chance to accept them into their fold.
§ 2.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Orbach (Willesden, East):
I intervene only in order to deal with two aspects of the problem which have not been touched upon as yet by any speaker on either side of the Committee. I shall deal with them briefly, but I trust that the Minister will reply to the questions which I raise. Just before the House went into recess, the Minister replied to questions in connection with the issue of a circular by an organisation in which employment was offered to individuals subject to their not being of a certain creed. I raise this particular issue with the Minister because there has been an increasing tendency in industry for discrimination to be levelled against ex-Servicemen and women and other persons purely on the grounds of creed. A great departmental store, some public institutions, even at one time a Government 521 Department, refused to employ persons of the Jewish faith. I should be very grateful if the Minister would make it quite clear that that sort of discrimination, leading, as it might, to discrimination against Catholics or other religious creeds, is abhorrent, not only to the Government but to the whole Committee.
The other case is also one of discrimination. I have been receiving letters from my constituents who complain that they can no longer obtain employment because of old age. This House of Commons is a younger House than ever before. The average age of its Members is 44. Men are being refused employment by great organisations in this country at the age of 44, and even 40, on the basis that they are too old. It would be to the advantage of these men if the Minister would make a statement, calling upon employers to assist him in the task of giving men, who are still in the full virility of youth, employment at these particular ages.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley):
The Committee will agree that the action of my right hon. Friends in asking for the Ministry of Labour Vote to be put down today has led to a useful discussion. I have no doubt it will be the first of many other occasions on which the Ministry of Labour Vote will be asked for. The right hon. Gentleman and others whom I see on the benches opposite no doubt have a lively recollection that in the past, sometimes day after day, the Ministry of Labour Vote has provided the central feature of our Debates. Nevertheless we trust that the character of this Debate, which I think has been constructive and helpful to the Government, will remain, and that the right hon. Gentleman, who has taken office under very happy conditions, in many ways, will be assisted by good fortune throughout his period as Minister.
This Debate has fallen into two categories—what one might term the narrower but vital field of demobilised officers and men and then some reference to the general problem of employment. Perhaps the first is the one on which we can all agree with the greatest amount of collaboration, in trying unitedly to find a solution. It is one in regard to which I am bound to say that the figures I have heard today, and have studied, give 522 cause to a good deal of anxiety. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey), and other hon. and gallant Members on this side of the Committee, supported by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, have brought to the Minister's attention a number of detailed points, which I hope he will seriously consider.
The higher appointments bureau has been under review. It is not at all satisfactory to know—as I understand to be the case—that there are some 20,000 persons registered there, ex-officers and men, who have not yet been able to find suitable employment. I know that the first duty lies upon employers. I know also that there are some considerations that have not been mentioned today, which make their position more difficult. I speak from personal experience. First, employers have a considerable number of men coming back to them from the Forces; they have also, according to the size of their undertaking, a considerable number of men who have not yet come back. The problem of fitting these men into positions, not only appropriate to the legal position—the right of the men to return to the positions they held—but positions appropriate to the stage they have now reached through their war experience, is not an easy one.
Therefore, naturally, managements are apt to say "Before we take on men in this higher managerial capacity, we must make sure that we can place our own people, who may have started in quite humble positions and have worked their way up during six years of war, and find the right places for them." That is one of the alleviations which will come with the ending of demobilisation, but it is a consideration which affects employment to a considerable extent. The Government is also, at the moment, and, I regret to say, likely to be in future, a very large employer of labour, directly or indirectly. Are the Minister's colleagues carrying out the same high standard of patriotic endeavour which is urged upon private employers? I am not at all satisfied about that. A very great measure of patronage is in the hands of the Government. Indeed, I suppose that no Government since the dissolution of the monasteries has ever had patronage on such a vast scale. Great industries are falling almost day by day, or are about to fall, into their hands. They have great armies of civil servants, or what 523 I believe are called temporary civil servants, some of them in great positions. The curious thing is that the great majority of the people temporarily employed by the Government are trying to get out of their employment. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) is always telling us how anxious these people are to get out. There are also people employed in the higher field, and other people, whom we shall be debating in a week's time—an immense number of people on these Control Commissions and organisations resulting from the war or the conditions following the war—and I want to be sure that people are not kept in those positions against their will when they would be better employed in productive industry in this country. Secondly, I want to be assured that, in making these appointments, due regard is paid to officers of the Services who have had considerable administrative experience in the war. After all, modern warfare is not a matter of merely engaging in perpetual battle, and a great part of officers' work is that of general administration, for which type of job many of these men, I should have thought, would have been highly suited.
Reference was made to the performance of the Colonial Office in this respect. The Colonial Office is presided over by one of the most genial and popular Ministers of the Administration. It also has the advantage of having a very gallant soldier as its permanent Under-Secretary—a man with the finest of war records—and it has done very well, though I know other Government Departments that have not done at all well. I hope the Minister will press his colleagues to see that appointments are made available in the great realm of the Civil Service on a scale at least as good as, and, indeed, better than, that which is expected from private industry. There is, of course, as was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman when we last debated this matter, the great problem that younger men were moving on to the commercial side of business in such positions as travellers, salesmen and the like. That is true, and, unfortunately, though we are here discussing the Ministry of Labour Vote, the actions of some of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues do, to some extent, add to the Minister's difficulties. There will be, for instance, a considerable number of people returning to Liverpool who will 524 not get employment in the cotton market, and there are other great markets threatened with destruction. It is just in the commercial and sales side of industry that these men were very often employed, and there hangs over them a great cloud of doubt and uncertainty, in a great field of industry, which makes it more difficult for employers to offer the opportunity of employment to men of this character.
With regard to ex-Servicemen generally, apart from the officers we have been discussing, I think that the figure at the moment, if I have it rightly, is that the number of men who have not obtained any employment since leaving the Forces amounts to about 21,300, which is the April figure. It is not a very large figure in some ways, but still. it is substantial, and much larger than would appear when one remembers that the Minister is tremendously buttressed and supported by the whole system of demobilisation. At the same time, there are about 875,000 men on leave at the moment. That is a very large figure.
§ Mr. Macmillan:
Of course. But it is true that while 21,000 have not succeeded in obtaining work since their demobilisation, there are 875,000—this is the April figure—who are on leave wondering, expecting and hoping, and it is not until the months begin to go by and we see at what rate these figures move parallel to one another that we shall get a true picture. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), who always speaks with the sympathy of the House on the question of disabled men, said that 15,000 are now awaiting the opportunity for training. They have made applications but they have not been given the opportunity because the situation does not allow it. Of these, some 2,300, I think he said, were in the disabled category. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to tell us that he is putting in motion with the greatest possible urgency, the provision of training facilities for ex-Servicemen in general, and more especially for disabled men, for this is the time to take the men before a sense of despair or unhappiness descends upon them and they feel that they are not cared for.
There are one or two points concerning the disabled men to which the right 525 hon. Gentleman might care to reply. I would like to know what progress is being made with the Disabled Persons' Employment Corporation, of which Lord Portal is chairman, which is trying to set up factories for the special purpose of employing disabled men under special conditions. With regard to the register, I would like to know the right hon. Gentleman's present estimate of what the full register should be if it were comprehensive. I think there were about 1,000,000 according to some figures which I heard some months ago. I would like to know the number of men now registered. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the 2 per cent. quota, which, I understand, came into force on 1st March, 1946, will be a satisfactory figure? How far is it being carried out? What response is being made to enforce it, and will it have to be raised? I think there should be the greatest possible publicity urging the men who fall into this category to register, so that they will be able to take advantage of all the arrangements which are made for their help and support. I have never been Minister of Labour, but I should think that the right hon. Gentleman, who takes objectively an interest in employment as such, is beginning to shed his interest in more dogmatic disputes, and if his civil colleagues cause him anxiety I do not think his Service colleagues have aided him very well. The new short-term service scheme, which is a splendid idea, would have been more useful had it been timely. We have waited, and there are hundreds of thousands of men who would have made the decision had the scheme been announced earlier. I have seen only one Service representative present at this Debate, and my experience of Service representatives is that the one who is present is often the wrong one.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont):
The right hon. Gentleman should be aware that he is out of Order in discussing that matter
§ Mr. Macmillan:
Of course, I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Beaumont, but I thought I might be allowed to develop a subject which was taken up without objection in the Debate, namely, the effect of re-enlistment upon the unemployment question. At any rate, perhaps you will allow me to say that this short service scheme, now 526 that it has been brought into operation, affords a valuable possibility of helping to deal with the problem. The long service conditions for officers are not, yet known, but there was one point which was made with great force by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Lieut.-Colonel Price-White), and I do not think men generally understand that the opportunity for returning to the Services is given to them for, I think, a period of 12 months. I hope the Minister of Labour and the appropriate Departments will use all possible publicity to ensure that it is generally known that this right of re-enlistment is not one which must be taken within the period of 56 days, but at any time in the 12 months. I have no doubt that if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite remain in Office for another 12 months, they will be able to make conditions in civil life sufficiently disagreeable to have a very large and enthusiastic response.
So much for the narrow but vital human problem of the Servicemen and ex-Servicemen, upon which we have particularly directed this Debate. There have naturally been thrown out a number of observations on the broader aspects, on which perhaps I might be allowed for a few minutes, before I make way for the right hon. Gentleman, to say a few words. First, I think he is a fortunate Minister in many ways, because, although we have often heard the years which are called the "thirties" compared with the present day, the true comparison is not with those years at all. The true comparison is much more likely to be with the years 1918 to 1920 or 1921, and even that is not a complete comparison. The Minister of Labour is a seller of labour and he is in a seller's market, broadly speaking. There is an enormous demand for labour, as for everything else. There are still something like 1,500,000—I do not know if that is the exact figure?employed in making munitions. There has been none of that rapid cutting off of contracts which was, ruthlessly, perhaps, decided upon in 1918. There is a much easier gradation by which people go on making things, even if they are of no particular value. If the tanks and shells have to go straight from the production line into the sea, it is an agreeable occupation and does not waste too much raw material. That is a great cushion upon which the right hon. Gentleman depends. 527 Then there is a feeling that in a great number of our undertakings the managements are not being pressed too hard. Of course, the buffer of the Excess Profits Tax helps there. During the period while they are awaiting the change-over from war to peace production, they are anxious to keep round them the team of workmen that they have got together. Then, of course, at any given moment, there are nearly 1,000,000 men on leave. That is an agreeable support to the right hon. Gentleman's figures, because in those worse days they would have been called temporarily unemployed. Finally, the scale of destruction, the great need for commodities, capital and consumption goods, after seven years, is so huge that, broadly speaking, it looks as if the right hon. Gentleman were in a sellers' market for such a time as to make a sufficiently great reputation in order to leave his position for an easier one when the time comes.
We listened to an interesting speech by the hon. Member for Acock's Green (Mr. Usborne) who referred to some of the wider themes. It is, of course, true that we are all pledged to the policy of full employment. If we are frank, the problem of maintaining full employment in a society which is to be at once free and peaceful is not an easy one. It is easy to maintain full employment in a society which is servile. That is one solution, which has been generally adopted in some parts of the world. It is fairly easy to maintain full employment during a period, of war, because, as the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, whose voice reminded us of the old days, told us, in war the Government become the great and almost only buyer of highly specialised commodities without regard to the consumers' choice. However, if we are frank with ourselves, we know that the problem of maintaining full employment in a society which is to be at once free and peaceful is not an easy one. We certainly did not solve it —I frankly give this to the right hon. Gentleman—in what we call "the bad years between the wars." It was not solved in 1929–31, even in that happy period. Hitler solved it, temporarily.
We are all committed to a line of economic thought associated with the name of a great economist, as well as a great humanist, Lord Keynes. It may be that by the application of the lines he has 528 laid down the solution may be found. We shall all try. Whatever are the facts, which the future alone can reveal, unless we become a completely servile society, complete direction and control in every part of a man's life, there will be some of these problems in certain parts of the country, with certain localised unemployment, the signs of which are already beginning. In this Debate I recognised a technique, on which I congratulate hon. Members opposite, familiar to myself and some of my hon. Friends when we were in their position, namely, by an occasional attack upon the Opposition to cover up a much more dangerous criticism of your own Front Bench. Hon. Members opposite did it very well today. I can see the beginnings of a movement which shows deep anxiety. Where do those voices come from? The same places. There were voices from Durham, the North-East coast, the North-West and South Wales. Some of the speeches were almost word for word those which I have heard made when another Party and other Ministers sat in those Benches opposite. Those problems are not solved; they will recur. They are partly technical, bound up with the technical character of the industries in those areas.
In the Coalition Government we adopted certain powers, in my view of a negative character. The problem of the location of industry cannot be solved by a merely restrictive power to stop somebody doing something. There must be concentration upon the positive aspect, of causing something to be done. I trust the Minister will give some indication of how he is to use those powers. One sees the beginning of that—it may be small and a little clouded—reflected in these figures in regard to the same old problem of what we have called at different times, the "distressed areas," the "special areas," and now the "development areas." Names and words will not cure the problem. It will be cured only by the most comprehensive attempt to use the powers of Government, in what I join with him in thinking should be a strategic control. If the Government would abandon some of these tactical exercises, interfering with every twopenny-halfpenny thing all over the country, and concentrate upon the real job, then they would find themselves in a much stronger position as the years develop. Nevertheless, I would add this: no Government has ever raised expecta- 529 tions so high as the Government which is now in office. In the Services and among the families of Servicemen, as well as in homes up and down the country, they have raised hopes by offers more lavish than have ever been dangled before an electorate. They have won power by promises, but they will be judged by performance.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs):
I too, would express my appreciation to the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) for having initiated this Debate, and also for having initiated it at the very friendly level on which it has been conducted all the way through. I am very appreciative also of the attention given by my hon. Friends, both opposite and behind me, to the subject, and for their evident and very real interest in it, but I am not quite so thankful for the great number of questions which they have asked me and which I shall have to attempt to answer before the Debate closes. I will do my best to do so.
Attention has been directed in this Debate mainly to the shortage of work, but not enough attention has been paid to the fact that there is a shortage the other way round There are queues of men in some districts looking for jobs, but there are queues of employers in other districts looking for men, and the problem is to get the men to the jobs or the jobs to the men. I hope to show, before I sit down, that we are tackling that problem with some measure of success, perhaps a sufficient measure to justify my anticipation of the approval of the House. The Debate also went very far outside—it could not be helped—the confines of the Ministry of Labour. It has touched upon matters connected with the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Food, and one hon. Member behind me even took me overseas and wanted the Minister of Labour to intervene between Great Britain and the Dominions. Far fetched as that might seem. I would like to tell my hon. Friend who raised the question that we have had quite informal discussions with representatives of one of the Dominions, not really on the subject of providing employment in the Dominions but with a view to seeing that, if our people go to the Dominions, they will 530 not lose their social benefits to which they have established a claim in this country. So far we have only had conversations, but it indicates that some attention is being given to the problem.
Before I go any further I should like to say how much I appreciate, not for myself but for the really devoted staff who are serving the Government and the Ministry of Labour, the kindly references that have been made to them. Maybe now and then there is some slip-up, but I am pleased that this afternoon no one has grumbled, and that all who have mentioned the staff have had a good word to say.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) allowed his very vivid imagination to run away with him a little, when he talked about our relying upon making tanks and driving them into the sea to keep men employed. It was a picture which was meant to be exaggerated to draw attention to his point, but I hope to show that it is not the case, and that it is the right hon. Gentleman who is out of his depth and not the tanks. He made another very good point too when he mentioned that the Government, and the Ministry of Labour, are in a seller's market. That is quite true. There are plenty of people coming along and wanting to buy labour, but although they are anxious to buy it, they sometimes say they cannot take some of it just yet—they have nowhere to put it and they have not got the material to keep it occupied. So it is a question of the premises—upon which I shall say something more in a moment—and of the raw material which is necessary to keep things going. We may not push ahead with factories in some cases where we know there is a very considerable shortage of raw material coming from overseas; it is obviously the idea of the Board of Trade to press ahead with those factories which will use material which will be available much earlier.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman referred to something on which I am sure we shall all agree, namely, our anxiety not to see return to us the times we knew in the distressed areas between the wars. He said there was a cloud on the horizon and that he heard deep voices here. I do not know whether the voices were coming out of the cloud, or what exactly he meant; but we can understand the idea. There was deep anxiety in the 531 voices heard in this Committee as to that situation arising again. Between the wars those distressed areas existed, and an attempt was being made to tackle them. Unfortunately, the war came before they were finally dealt with, and the result is, now that the war is ended, we are back where we were. The position is not quite as bad as it was when those areas were at their worst; but the remedies have not had time to become fully effective. Therefore, we are trying to go ahead with that problem now.
Perhaps I may best answer the questions put to me by giving the answers under four or five heads—ex-Servicemen, disablement, training centres, appointments, and development areas. I hope that, as I go through the figures I have prepared, I shall have answered most of the questions put to me. We must consider the switchover from war to peace. I do not want to weary the Committee with figures, but this is a figure with which we must start. In mid-1939 we had a total working population of 19,750,000. Out of that population 557,000 were in the Forces, auxiliary services, civil defence and police. At the end of February, 1946, the total working population was 20,695,000. But out of that number we had 3,219,000 in the various Services, civil defence, National Fire Service, and the police. So there is still a great proportion of the potential man and woman power of the country doing what in a sense may be called unproductive work. They are not producing goods for the community.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned some figures. I will just mention them again. At mid-1939 we had 1,270,000 registered unemployed, just before the war. It is important to remember that these were the registered unemployed, because there were some thousands who were not registered, who, seeing nothing coming along, got tired of signing. At the present moment—I have got these figures up to March—there are 372,000 unemployed. That is far too many. I will make some further reference to this in a moment, which will let the Committee see we are reaching a point where unemployment is levelling out and not increasing. It is perhaps a very minor indication and we do not place too much reliance on the figures until we can see those for another month or two ahead. 532 Since mid-1945 unemployment has increased by 269,000. The increase between February and March was 16,000, and lower than the average rate of increase during the preceding months.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley mentioned the figures of those employed on munitions. At mid-1943, the peak period, those employed on the manufacture of equipment, supplies, etc., for the Forces numbered 5,180,000. By the end of February, 1946, there were 1,385,000. I draw attention to that figure, and to the comment made about it in a previous return, in which it was said that it was then what might be called an estimate—that this figure was taken during the period of changeover in many factories from war to peace production, and that employers, because they were supplying a certain Government Department, had registered their people as being on war work, although they had changed to peace work. The number on war production is therefore lower than that, although we take that number as a basis from which to start.
And so there is some considerable reduction, which is continuing, and which we hope will rapidly continue. Before the end of the year, we hope that conditions in the world will make it perfectly safe for us to rely on the United Nations organisation giving us some hope that in future we need not depend so much on armaments. The totals for February show that since mid-1945 the numbers employed on the manufacture of equipment and supplies for the Forces had fallen by 2,502,000, which is 64 per cent., and that the numbers employed on civilian manufacture and services had increased by 2,540,000, or about 21 per cent. A good deal of this work, as has been previously indicated, is on export.
On the question of unemployment, the general position in the country is one of shortage of labour. The total number of insured persons registered as unemployed on 11th March was 371,900, which represents 2.7 per cent. of the insured population. That is satisfactory as far as it goes, but the fact is that in those old distressed areas, now known as Development Areas, the percentages in some cases are considerably higher. We are trying to meet that position, but it is not my business to give exact details on what the Board of Trade are doing in the matter. I can assure hon. 533 Members who ask about closer coordination, that there is close coordination, not only at the centre, but in the regions. The right hon. Gentleman might be glad to know that in regional offices there are officers of the Board of Trade and others, who not only work closely together, but have been given a large measure of local responsibility, so that they can move forward on any project without coming to headquarters for instructions. That work is going ahead, and there is cooperation between the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Trade. When we find unemployment is growing there is cooperation with the Board of Trade and with the Ministry of Works as to premises which can be taken over for other work.
The hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) referred to the fact that there was a factory on one side of the road which was empty, and that the Board of Trade were building another factory on the other side of the road. There has not been time to check on the actual case and to get all the facts, but it may be something of this kind, from other cases I have had brought to my notice. A Government factory becomes empty, and a firm say that they will take it over. It is let, and then the firm have to get their machinery and equipment, and train the workers. Everything then has to be moved in, with the result that the building may not be in actual occupation while someone else requires a factory in the same area, and the Ministry of Works go ahead and prepare another for them. On the whole, this process of reconversion is going on very well. The increase of employment in the home civilian industries and services since mid-1945 was nearly 2,000,000, and the numbers employed on manufacturing for the export trade, in February, 1946, exceeded the mid-1939 figure by 52,000, or just over five per cent. That is what we are pressing on with, and we have to get the export trade going to make good our overseas loss of investments, as has been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman.
As an illustration of the general situation in the Midland Region, there are five jobs outstanding for every two unemployed workers. In London and the North Midlands, the ratio is still higher. Here in London, we are crying out for workers, and in other areas workers are crying out for jobs. I have visited exchanges in Scotland, and I found that in 534 two towns, which were about 50 miles apart, that in one there were jobs which could not be filled, and in the other unemployed who could not find work. If it were physically possible to move the towns closer together, we could have solved that problem.
When we went into the question of why these unemployed men could not be moved, we found that it was because many of them had children going to school and homes to keep, and it was difficult to tear them up by the roots and send them away; and even if we could have sent them to the other town, there were not sufficient houses there for them to live in. The same considerations apply in the development areas. South Wales and Scotland are the two areas that are giving us the greatest concern. I think that so far as Cumberland is concerned, the position has been largely overcome. I do not say that it has been overcome at the moment, but sufficient industries have decided to go there, and plans have definitely been made, so that when those industries can be got working in three, four or six months, they will take up all the local people who are unemployed. The position does not look quite so good in other areas, but it is improving.
I do not think that there is much about which I have to argue, because the Debate has not been critical, but there is much which I ought to explain. What is the cause of the present unemployment in these areas? One of the causes has been referred to this afternoon—the lack of diversity of industry in the prewar days. Towns had to exist on one industry alone, and when anything went wrong with that industry, there was unemployment. Therefore, the need is to encourage industries of other types to go to towns which have been one industry towns. Then, there is the turnover of employment, which is inevitable, owing to the change from war to peace. We hear a lot of talk about square pegs in round holes. For many years, I have been associated with the great newspaper industry of this country, and I have always expressed a high opinion of the employers in that industry. I say that with all sincerity. Employees who were in that industry have come back from the war, and for some reason or another—which does not concern my Department, I am glad to say—there is not enough paper for them to print all the newspapers 535 required. I want to see more paper, because I want to see more men getting work. But these printing firms have taken every one of their men back. It has been said that they ought to count among the unemployed, but do not tell one of my fellows, earning a nice wage for doing half a day's work each week, that he ought to be counted as unemployed. In the Cockney's language, he thinks that he is on Tom Tiddler's ground. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not an export industry."] Never mind, let us give the employers the credit for the fact that they have kept on these men when they need not have done. Suppose these men were on the labour market. A skilled compositor, or a skilled linotype operator, or binder is not a person whom you can put to do a job of mending roads.
When we come to the question of training people who are unemployed we must look at their background to find out what kind of training they would have to undergo. Another of the problems that has arisen about training, which has already been referred to, is that some of the men who have been trained are still waiting for jobs. That is one of our problems. Then, there is another complaint that we do not take in for training as many people as want to be trained. Obviously, the first thing, and the sensible thing, to do—and in spite of its Minister, the Ministry of Labour is a sensible Ministry, due to the greatness of those who preceded me, I have no doubt—is to make a survey of the industry and find out what it is possible for that industry to absorb by way of new trainees. If the number is 100, 200 or 5,000, we say we will take that number and train them. It would be no good to the industry, the trainee, or the Government scheme, if we were to train people, and then find that they were pushed on to the labour market, and that, if they could get a job, someone with longer experience was being pushed out.
I have only the overall figures here of what is being done for the development areas through the system of inducing firms to take up work in them. I think it was the right hon. Member for Bromley who said that a negative control, saying, "You shall not build here" is not sufficient, but that there should be a positive control saying, "You shall build there." Schemes of that kind are being operated. 536 Take a firm on the edge of London, for example, which sees opportunities of business, perhaps foreign business, and wants to develop and build a factory that will take in another 500 workers. My hon. Friend who represents Acton (Mr. Sparks) referred to this kind of case and his constituency is in one of the areas in question. It would be very foolish to allow that firm to build a new factory on the spot and go into the market for another 500 workers, stealing them from the other firms, which would be left high and dry, when they could just as easily put up their factory 100, 200 or 250 miles away, where there were unemployed workers and where they would not be competing with anybody.
To give the employers credit, the Board of Trade officials who interview them have found them most willing to cooperate in the vast majority of cases. All they are anxious to do is to get the job going and except where there are most exceptional reasons for allowing the business to develop on the existing site they cooperate. What has been the result? Developments completed or approved up to the last available date will find employment for about 217,000. These are already moving ahead, spread over South Wales, the Southern part of Scotland and other development areas. I want to say at once that we are not satisfied; enough has not by any means been done because we are still a long way behind, but after all it took us about five or six years to build up our war potential, and it may take us a little longer than the eight or nine months since the end of the war, to attain our peacetime potential.
In case it might interest any hon. Member of the Committee, these plans for the development areas provide as follows: Schemes approved up to 31st March, will find work in the North-Eastern district for 67,500, in South Wales and Monmouthshire for 89,500, and in Scotland for 48,700. In case any hon. Member from Scotland is waiting to pounce upon me, I will say immediately that we have not done so well for Scotland as for other areas, but the thing, is moving. I have already told the Committee about the development for Cumberland, which will provide work for 11,500, and will completely wipe away the pocket of unemployment there.
That deals with the general question of unemployment figures. I should like now 537 to say a word or two on the many points which have been raised about the training centres. The hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate asked that I should give attention to the vacant aerodromes, Army camps and so on. He said they should have been surveyed long ago. They were, but we have had to wait until stores and materials were removed after which we have had to go in and find out whether they would be entirely suitable, since it is not every bare building which is good enough for a training centre. If it is just a hangar, a lot of changes and equipment are necessary.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey:
The aerodromes should have been considered when the Americans evacuated them last August or September. It is not just a question of hangars. There are workshops available on all aerodromes, in many cases with good machinery in them.
§ Mr. Isaacs:
Yes, that is so, but I had hoped to be able to point out as I went along that there are several different sides to this question. First, we had to get our instructors. We concentrated on the building industry in the main, in all its phases. This work began under my predecessors and was a scheme thought out largely in the Ministry and not outside in the industry. There was the question of getting the necessary instructors and materials, and therefore we concentrated on those places where we could get going immediately. I ask the Committee to accept the assurance—I think I am becoming a bit of a nuisance in some quarters with my continued insistence on it—that we are trying to get other places for our trainees to work.
The hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) referred to the disappointment of men who did good work which had afterwards to be knocked down. We cannot help that. If we are teaching a fellow how to build a doorway and a window, when it is done, he cannot take it home with him and it is no good on the ground, and has therefore to be knocked down so that it may be rebuilt by the next man. There was also reference to plastering and indoor decorating. I appreciate the disappointment of men who have done some of the jobs I have seen. They have done first-class work within six months of training. I can understand a man thinking that it is a pity that it has to be knocked down. So far as plastering is concerned, 538 it will have to be knocked down. The industry has now agreed to take these men out as soon as possible, and put them on constructive work when they have learned the necessary rudiments to enable them to do that, and they learn those rudiments very quickly. So far as painters and internal decorators are concerned, we hope to make use of them as soon as they have grasped the job. But we cannot make use of them in a competitive way in the market, so we hope to make use of them in various Government Departments and offices in the towns near where they are located. Nearly all the employment exchanges I have seen could do with a wash and brush up, and we hope to use these men, under their instructors, in jobs of that kind so that they will not feel they are doing a job which will be destroyed afterwards.
It is interesting to note the difference between the men who are being trained, and apprentices. Apprentices are young boys such as we all were once. At that age, we were not putting in a hard day' s work. We were thinking about cricket and football—at any rate those of us who had cricket and football fields; I did not. We were not keen on the job, and were not worrying about it. Here we have men who have been up against it, and have had a pretty stiff time. They have come back and have gone into the training centres with the determination to suck as much information as they can out of their instructor. They are always on the job—never playing about. It does one's heart good to see them and the work they are doing. For six months they concentrate completely and absolutely on the work of the training centre and, in addition, they go to technical schools at night and continue the work there. They not only do the work with their hands but they make notes of the technical instruction. Employers have come along and said they did not believe that men with six months' training could have done the work. Those who have been satisfied with men, have taken them out and given them jobs. They could give the men an improver's wage, but many have quickly given them the proper wage. All this was possible only after negotiations—begun before the end of the war—with the employers, who cooperated most heartily and with the unions who found the instructors. They have given us all the assistance possible and taken men 539 willingly when their training was finished. The thing is going very successfully. We are pressing on and we shall not be satisfied until we get a great number more than we have now.
There were some other references to ex-Servicemen which I want to mention before coming to the question of the disabled. There is this problem of the agencies that are out to catch these men. I am very glad that this question has been raised because it will once more help to draw attention that there are such agencies. This is what the Ministry and the Government face—if we want these men to come to employment exchanges in place of those other bogus agencies, if I may for the moment use that term, we must provide an exchange which will deliver the goods and be of service to them. We want to be of that service to them. We want to see that the Government can give that service, and we want to keep the men from getting those things that will be of no advantage to them or anybody else.
Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison:
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman to ask whether he will communicate with the Service Departments, and let them know of any doubtful agencies, because I know these circulars do get around?
§ Mr. Isaacs:
Many valuable things have been said in this Debate, and I promise that they will be studied most carefully. Everything put forward will be considered and a suggestion such as that made by the hon. and gallant Member will be given most careful attention. We do not like the way in which some of our ex-Servicemen have been caught outside the demobilisation centres by men who have come along and offered fancy prices to them for their bundle of clothes and have got away with it, largely because the demobilised Serviceman did not know how difficult it was to get clothes when he returned to "Civvy Street." One of them knew all about it, however, because he was met by a man who offered him £8 for his box of demobilisation clothes. He accepted the £8 and gave his box, but when the "tout," later on, opened the box he found it was full of bricks and old sods. At least one of them was caught.
May I now come to what I feel is of great interest, namely, the Appointments 540 Department? One hon. Gentleman said that it was a bit awkward for a man who went to a Department and saw an official, but when he went back later on, the official had gone to some other Department and a different man attended to him. The trouble is that the appointments service has been growing, and we had to train people and push them out to take control of other departments. We could not keep the same men, but we are trying as far as possible now to meet this difficulty. I have here some figures about what the Appointments Department has done. It may not have done all that is required, and it certainly has not done all that the Ministry of Labour requires to be done. However, the question is whether it justifies the suggestion made by one hon. Gentleman behind me that it serves no useful purpose. Perhaps the figures I am about to give will help the Committee to decide this matter. Since May, 1945, the Appointments Department succeeded in placing in employment something like 27,500 applicants. It may be it could have done more, but that it what has been done. The Committee must remember that 190,000 officers have been demobilised from the Forces, but only about 5 per cent. come to us in the Appointments Office, and are unemployed, for a position. Then we get the difficulty of the regular officer who is over 45 years of age. It is not the Ministry who will not give him a job; it is the employers of labour who say the man is too old. We in the Ministry do not like that, and, therefore, what we have to do is to get hold of a better salesman, who will be able to sell that type of worker to the employer and the local authorities.
§ Mr. Isaacs:
I want to say at once that this scheme applies in exactly the same way as the quota for disabled ex-Servicemen, to all employers, and to the Government as an employer as well. Linked up with this, there are the Further Education and Training schemes. The business training scheme is just in its infancy and it is beginning to move. I think it is going to be good. We have got 600 or 700 men started on a course of business training. It is a special course where younger men are trained for the higher positions in business above those of clerk and foreman. Here we find the employer anxious 541 naturally enough to get the bright young fellow who went into the Services, passed through all the ranks and got an executive position. Employers hope they will have the same sort of capacity in business. It is for us to try at the same time to get them to take the older men as well. We try to do that and we will continue to do so until we have attained some success.
The hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and the right hon. Member for Bromley made some reference to the disabled ex-Servicemen. Ministers ought not to have any favourites, but if I have any favourite in this matter it is this disabled workers scheme. The Act was passed by the Coalition Government with the general consent of everybody. It was one of the happiest moments we had ever spent in the House. Everyone was moved to expressions of gratitude that an Act of this sort should come into operation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) had a great deal to do with it behind the scenes. This scheme is going well. The two per cent. quota is being put across, and is being accepted by employers with practically no difficulty. The trouble is that when one reaches many big industries and big firms, one finds that sometimes they have already got up to 16 per cent. let alone two per cent.
The two per cent. will not be sufficient. The figure will certainly have to go up to four per cent. but registrations are not yet complete. We are proud that in the Ministry of Labour itself our percentage at the moment is 4.3. Here again we find the same difficulty that we have found elsewhere. We put out all the publicity we can urging disabled persons in employment to register, yet even in our own Ministry we have to go round, dig them out and say, "Why do you not register? "I think we have got over the fear that registration will he a deterrent to continued employment, and the register is increasing. The numbers registered as disabled who were unemployed on 1st May were 53,540, of whom 44,294 were adjudged to be capable, despite disability, of work under ordinary competitive conditions, so that the register is going ahead. There is much more to be done.
The other reference in this connection was to the Government factories, the Disabled Workers Employment Corpora- 542 tion. That is actively proceeding. The first is now in operation at Bridgend, having started last week. The next will be opened this week in Salford. The Government, through the Corporation, or the Corporation through the Government, have plans for 60 of these factories, several of them in the South Wales area, where they will deal with the silicosis cases and cases of that character, and there are others of a kind which will fit in with the industries in the different areas. This scheme is working well.
I regret that time does not permit of my going into the other questions which have been raised, but if any hon. Member whose question has not been answered will communicate with me, I will be glad to deal with the matter. As one who himself in his early days was unemployed, and who has known what it is to walk the streets looking for a job, I hope we shall not see those days return. In conclusion, I would thank hon. Members for the kindly references they have made to the services of the Staff in the Ministry.
Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again "—[Captain Michael Stewart]—put, and agreed to.
Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.