HC Deb 28 January 1947 vol 432 cc743-6
10. Air-Commodore Harvey

asked the Minister of Labour how many Poles and other Allies were employed in the British coalmines and heavy industries at the latest convenient date.

24. Mr. Wilkes

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that, on 3rd January, out of 142,000 Poles in the United Kingdom only 1,750 were employed in civil trades and industries; what steps he is taking to speed the rate at which ex-members of the Polish forces re-enter trade and industry; and whether he will publish a schedule of trades and industry showing the number of Polish ex-Servicemen employed therein.

26. Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

asked the Minister of Labour the number of Poles -in this country available for helping the production drive; how many are now actually employed in industry and agriculture; and how quickly the remainder are likely to cease being a drain on this country's resources.

Mr. Isaacs

Members of the Polish Forces now in this country eligible for enrolment in the Resettlement Corps number about 142,000, of whom about 52,000 have enrolled. About 58,000 are employed in uniform on Polish administration, maintenance of their own camps, and other War Department and civilian work. Of those enrolled in the Resettlement Corps, some 42,000 have been registered for employment by the Ministry of Labour and about 2,100 so far placed in civilian employment. In addition, there are in the country some thousands of dependants and others who have been attached to the Polish Forces in various ways.

My Department has had discussions with a number of industries and has reached agreement for the employment of Poles. The most important industries concerned are agriculture, coalmining, building and civil engineering, the gas industry, retail bespoke tailoring, and parts of the iron and steel industry, though in one or two cases, final details are now being worked out. There is also a sub-committee of the N.J.A.C. which keeps the representatives of industry in touch with the steps being taken for the resettlement of the Poles. I emphasise to the House the very serious effect of accommodation difficulties on the rapid settlement of this problem. All possible means of using camp and hostel accommodation are being taken, but the lack of accommodation, particularly in the localities of labour shortage, must nevertheless be expected to remain the chief difficulty.

I have every hope that the arrangements which have been made will prove adequate for handling the difficult problems involved, particularly if we have the goodwill of both sides of industry, and of public opinion. The task is, however, bound to take a very considerable time. In view of the interest of Members in this matter, I propose to keep the House informed from time to time of the progress made.

Air-Commodore Harvey

While thanking the Minister for that information, may I ask him if he is aware that he has not answered my Question? Does he not consider that, in view of the serious economic position of the country, particularly in regard to coal, the House is entitled to the information asked for?

Mr. Isaacs

The numbers are spread over so many industries in small groups that it is difficult to get the figures. What I hoped to convey about coal last week —and I am sorry if I slipped up—was that men have been allocated to the coalmines, but that all have to go through their training. I am not sure how many, but a few may have been placed outside the scheme. The coalmining industry has agreed to accept them, and arrangements for their training are being made. So far as the heavy industries are concerned, work is beginning now. I am most anxious to give the House full information. May I quote one example which I have in mind? I know of one firm which wants to take 1,000. All the men in the firm are anxious to take these men and would welcome them, but when we start sending the men in, there is nowhere within a reasonable distance to accommodate them, and we have to send them back to the camp.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

In view of the fact that it was only on the understanding that these Poles were rapidly absorbed into work of national importance that approval was given to their retention in this country by many hon. Members on this side of the House, will the Minister speed up the machinery for fixing up these men in useful work?

Mr. Isaacs

Yes, Sir. The steps we are taking are intended to speed up this machinery. I am happy to say that negotiations which I have had with industries concerned, which were previously reluctant, have been successful, and, as a result, we hope the process will be speeded up. That is why I suggested that I should keep the House informed, and I would suggest a monthly statement.

Mr. David Renton

Will the Minister say why there has been a year's delay in coming to a decision of an obviously necessary and satisfactory character?

Mr. Isaacs

There has been great difficulty in getting the men here and in sorting them out, and there has been a good deal of misunderstanding among the men themselves. There has been the problem of getting the scheme of resettlement into operation and a number of other problems, but every effort is being made and I hope we shall be successful.

Mrs. Middleton

May I ask the Minister what action has been taken by his Department, or is contemplated, in those areas where local employment committees have passed resolutions against the employment of Poles in their localities?

Mr. Isaacs

We hope to use some persuasion. May I put this to the House? I took advantage of an opportunity a few days ago to pay a visit to one of these camps and seeing the Poles being enrolled, and I am sure that if anybody with human feelings went there and saw these people and realised what fine types of men they are, and the unsatisfactory conditions in which they live, all sorts of opposition would fade away.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is there any industry in which the principle of employing these men has not been agreed to?

Mr. Isaacs

I think partially, and that is in the iron foundry industry, because at the moment they have agreed to take, I think, 2,300 Italians, and they are anxious to see what the effect will be on their own set-up. There has been no actual objection up to now.

Mr. Douglas Jay

Is the Minister aware that, in the opinion of many people, his Department is handling this matter with great tact and success and they are anxious for them to get on with the job?

Mr. Martin Lindsay

Cannot we have a straightforward and sensible answer to the Question? Will not the Minister say how many of these men are employed?

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

On a point of Order. Owing to the inadequacy of the Minister's replies, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment.