HC Deb 13 February 1947 vol 433 cc535-6
Mr. Driberg (By Private Notice)

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware that 15 building trade workers at Maldon, Essex, have been entirely without pay or unemployment benefit for two weeks, and are now, in their third week, in the same condition because their employers are not members of the Master Builders' Federation and, therefore, do not consider themselves bound by the national agreement for a guaranteed week, while the local officers of the Ministry of Labour have no authority to pay benefit to men in an industry covered by such an agreement; and if he will take immediate steps to rectify this situation.

The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. James Griffiths)

I am awaiting a reply to urgent inquiries which I have made, and will inform my hon. Friend of the result as soon as possible.

Mr. Driberg

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that some of these men were, ostensibly, not stood off on account of the weather, but sacked on the pretext that there was no work for them to do? Are they not, therefore, entitled to draw unemployment benefit as a right, rather than be referred to the Assistance Board?

Mr. Griffiths

I am sure, having had some experience of these matters, that my hon. Friend will appreciate the principle here involved. The employers are claiming that they are not bound by the national agreement because they are not members of the employers' organisation. That is a very important point indeed. If these men are admitted to unemployment benefit, it may involve a very important principle.

Mr. Driberg

But what are my constituents to do this weekend—their third week without any money?

Mr. Griffiths

That is another question. There is other assistance available to them. The question involved here is one about which I must take great care because it raises the important principle whether employers can say that they are not members of the employers' association and are, therefore, not bound by the national agreement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Will the right hon. Gentleman take equal care to protect the interests of men who lose their employment because they will not belong to a particular union?

Mr. George Hicks

Will my right hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Works whether, in the event of an employer in the building industry not subscribing to the conditions negotiated between the employers and the operatives in the industry, their certificate of building should be withdrawn?

Mr. Griffiths

I made urgent inquiries into this matter, which is of very great importance, as to whether particular employers are bound by the national agreement. I must have full information from both sides of the industry before I can decide the question.