HC Deb 16 April 1948 vol 449 cc1371-95

Order for Second Reading read.

2.39 p.m.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I have to ask the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill this afternoon, because we are anxious to proceed with its provisions. I shall not go into as full an explanation of its Clauses as I think it really deserves, but I will ask the House to accept from me one or two general propositions. First, the purpose of the Bill is to bring up to date, legislative enactments relating to employment exchanges. The first Exchange Bill was in 1909. Since then there have been other Bills. Some of them have been repealed apart from certain Sections which have been left in operation. New powers and new duties have come into existence, and it is advisable that we should clean up the legislation and include it in one Bill.

Some of the new duties that have come upon us, especially in the years between the wars, are those relating to training. At one period, we trained the unemployed. Training the unemployed came to be looked upon as something in the nature of a punishment for being unemployed. Now we not only want to train the unemployed to be fit for an industry or occupation, but we also wish to train unskilled persons for skilled occupations. A great deal has been done in that way since the scheme came into operation during the war years, and many thousands of skilled and unskilled workers have been trained to be of value to industry, to themselves and to the community.

Those are the principal new powers that come under Part I of the Bill. They were rather encouraged and brought about by the White Paper on Employment Policy (6527) issued in May, 1944, which sets out the need for retraining, re-education and development of the services proposed in the Bill. Part I of the Bill gives effect to those suggestions. It gives authority to organise a training service for adults and juveniles. It places special duties on the Minister to assist persons to select and fit themselves for employment, to obtain employment and to retain employment suitable to their age and capacity. It also makes provision to assist employers to obtain suitable workers.

There is one special provision which is of some importance. That is to obtain information relating to the distribution of employment in various areas, so that there can be brought into Operation special circumstances to meet the requirements —for example, in the development areas. Hon. Members on all sides of the House have been most interested in the development areas, where there has been heavy unemployment, and to which efforts are being made by special means to bring industries for the purpose of providing employment. That will be given more definite legislative sanction in this Bill.

It is the juvenile employment service to which I want to pay a little more attention. I am glad to know that for this part of the Bill there is general approval of its principles, although there may be some criticism of its details. We have raised the school-leaving age, which is a blessing for them. Another three years at school would have been of advantage to me in my early days, but if some of us did not have that advantage, there is no reason why we should not help others to get it.

Mr. McCorquodale (Epsom)

May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he has not done too badly?

Mr. Isaacs

One must be careful not to advertise that one has left school at an early age, because that might induce other youngsters to say, "You did not do so badly, so why should I stay at school?" What we want to do now is to make the best use of the extra time spent at school. The valuable Education Act which went through the House under the Coalition Government, pioneered by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), assisted by the present Home Secretary, extended the school-leaving age. It was hoped, at that time, that some use could be made of the extra time to give the children more educational opportunities for their future employment.

I think that it is clear to anyone in industry that children who have had a longer period at school, with some guidance as to their employment, are likely to be of more value to industry than those who left school under the old system. The purpose of the Bill is to help them in the transitional period from school to work. Some children know very well what industries they want to go into, and they do not need any guidance. Others know what industry they want to go into, but they have no opportunity of getting what they want. That is a tragedy for many youngsters. Most boys, when I was a boy, wanted to be engine drivers at some time or another, but they could not all be engine drivers, and they grew out of that idea as they grew older, especially when they got to know about the wages and working conditions.

Some have ideas in the right way and some in the wrong. The purpose of this scheme is to help the youngsters to get their opportunity, and to give them information as to the kind of work they think they want to do; to find out their aptitude and ability, to bring out the interest and capacity of the individual boy or girl, and to guide them into suitable employment. Let me make it clear that this service is not, and cannot be, a substitute for the teacher and the help of the teacher in the schools. It means that we shall bring into the service others with a knowledge of industries and capacities, so that with the co-operation of the teacher, the parent, the child and the service, children may be put on the right lines.

May I make it clear that there is to be no element of compulsion of any kind on the child or parent? Our recommendations arise out of the report of the Ince Committee in 1945. The Committee recorded the fact that for over 3o years there had been schemes of encouragement and guidance for children leaving school; but control under the old Act was divided between the Board of Trade, whose employment functions were taken over by the Ministry of Labour in 1917, and the Board of Education. Local administration was shared between the local education authority and the Ministry of Labour. It was in 1927 that the central administration was established and vested in the Ministry of Labour.

The purpose of the Ince Report was to try to get the whole matter brought within one general scheme. At the present moment, an education authority can have an employment advisory scheme, and, if it is approved by the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry provides 75 per cent. of any reasonable expenditure incurred in running the scheme, the other 25 per cent. falling upon the rates. But—and the trouble is in the "but"—the education authority can, on giving three months' notice, terminate the scheme. That was a serious drawback, because when they had established the scheme and got it working, they could give three months' notice to terminate. There was no time to get another scheme into operation by the Ministry of Labour, and so the scheme fell into disuse, to the great disadvantage of the youngsters concerned. Therefore, it was decided to adopt the recommendations of the Ince Committee to establish a proper service.

The recommendations fall under two headings, first, those concerned with the organisation of the juvenile employment service and, second, those directly affecting the aim and scope of its work. At the top of the scheme there will be a Central Juvenile Employment Executive. The Executive will be staffed by officers of the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Education and the Scottish Education Department. The executive will be responsible for questions of policy and procedure. This experiment has been tried out on a voluntary basis, and the administrative plans tested, and it has proved a very great success. We are now anxious to give it statutory authority. We want to bring the authorities into closer co-operation with the proposal and to have definite schemes prepared which will become operative.

Therefore, it is laid down in the Bill that a local authority must adopt the scheme within six months of the Bill receiving the Royal Assent. It may be argued that this is a very short period, but the Ince Report has been out for 2i years with its recommendations and, indeed, the local authorities have had an option of this sort since 191o. Therefore, we ask that they shall get their proposals ready for approval within six months of the passing of the Bill. The second point is that their scheme must cover the whole of their area. That is very important, especially for large towns in the rural areas. There has been too much division of the work into small areas. There is the awkward small fringe round the large towns, small villages in isolated places which may find themselves outside the scope of this scheme. Therefore this Bill insists that the scheme of the local authorities must cover the whole area. We see no real problem of the local authorities failing to comply in this matter.

The Bill will now include Scotland within the scope of this service, whereas it has previously covered only England and Wales. It is desirable that we should get a uniform system throughout the country. There is one recommendation to which I would draw the attention of the House because it concerns the need to provide boys and girls who are still at school with advice as to what they mean to do when they go out into the world. The juvenile employment officer will talk to the children in the schools in co-operation with the teachers and parents. We are most anxious to remove the idea from the minds of the children that they have to aim at what is called a white collar job. We have to get them to understand that there is as much dignity and usefulness and very often as much economic satisfaction to them if they take up a dirty overall job as there is in a white collar job. The right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) will agree that there is as much value in the inky side of the printing trade as there is in the white collar side of it.

We are placing one compulsory provision in this Bill. That is the compulsion upon the education authority to submit to the employment officer a report as to the capacity of the child. Most education authorities will be co-operating in this scheme and will therefore be reporting to themselves; but there may be schools outside, and we want them to tell us something about the children. All we wish to know is about the child's health, ability and progress at school, and any particular interests and aptitudes which he has shown. The information will be in the form of a report which will be a confidential document. The juvenile employment officer will not be allowed to let that document out of his hands for any person to inspect it, or for any cause whatever.

When that document has been received, arrangement will be made for the child to be interviewed at the employment exchange, in company with a parent. All children will be invited to come but they need not come unless they want to. There will be no compulsion about it. They will not be persuaded against taking up any kind of employment on which they have set their minds, and provided that all things are equal, and it is clear that they are suitable for that employment, they will be encouraged to take it up.

May I give another example from my own industry? A youngster may want to become a compositor, but if it is found that he is a bad speller and has no idea of punctuation and no idea of grammar, it would be a pity to make him a compositor. He would be switched into some other branch of the printing trade where that lack of education would not be an impediment—

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

He might become a trade union organiser.

Mr. Isaacs

That is not a bad idea. That is how I got that job. I daresay it is quite obvious that I am short of a good deal of grammar—

Mr. Percy Wells (Faversham)

He may become a book-seller.

Mr. Isaacs

There are a lot of things that we could suggest, without going all round the House. Whatever advice is given to the children, they will be free to choose their own employment. After they have got a job we want them to keep in touch with the juvenile employment officer in case a mistake has been made and they are in a job for which they have no capacity or liking.

Under this Bill we shall get the children from the remote villages into the skilled trades and high grade occupations and professions, if they have the capacity. We shall provide grants that will enable those children to come from their homes to the places where jobs are available, and where they can be apprenticed. An interim scheme is now in operation, and there are at the present moment over 400 of these applicants actually receiving assistance under this scheme. There are just as good brains and as much aptitude amongst children in these remote areas as there are in all the big cities, except London, and we wish to give these children opportunities.

In conclusion I would say that we should express our thanks to the members of the Ince Committee for the attention they have given to this matter and for the great value of their report. Their reward will be the success of these proposals. This is an opportunity for giving boys and girls a good chance in their own interests and in the nation's need and for giving the nation an opportunity of getting the best out of the children. It is in that spirit that I ask the House to give us the Second Reading of this Bill.

2.58 p.m.

Mr. McCorquodale (Epsom)

May I first apologise to the House, as I am anxious to leave by 4 o'clock, and I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I leave while the Debate is still running.

We on this side of the House wish to facilitate the passing of this Measure, which we think is a valuable one, and likely to be to the good of the people who come under its purview. The Minister has said that the Bill is divided into two parts. The first part is merely an opportunity to bring up to date the powers of the Ministry with regard, to training and the like, I think that all of us would wish to encourage to the best of our ability the work the Ministry of Labour undertake in the training of people. We all realise that the training and developing of the skill of our people is certainly our most valuable economic asset. The higher the training and the more skill that can be developed the better it will be for the whole community. Therefore, to the first half of the Bill, I do not think we would offer any criticism, except that I would say that I read the Bill and I think I understood bits of it, but the Explanatory Memorandum, is one of the most difficult things to understand that I have ever read. The Bill is certainly more comprehensible than the Explanatory Memorandum.

The few remarks I wish to address to the House this afternoon concern the second half of the Bill, that part of it which deals with the juvenile employment service which, as the Minister said, is based on the report of the Ince Committee. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the country is indebted to the ladies and gentlemen who served on that Committee, and who issued an extremely valuable report. We on this side of the Committee cannot often congratulate the Government, and I am glad to see that the Government feel as I do about the one section of the Report with which I find myself in complete disagreement, and have cut it out, namely, the compulsory section.

I cannot imagine a more important job than that which will fall to the lot of the juvenile employment officer. If he does his work well, he will be of im- measurable use to the country. If he does his work perfunctorily or badly, he may do a great deal of harm. Indeed, when listening to the Debates during the protracted proceedings on the Criminal Justice Bill, I could not help thinking that if the employment officer fits the young men and women who come under his purview into the best possible jobs, far fewer of our people will ever have to be dealt with under the Criminal Justice Bill—which, surely, is what we all hope. I am sure all hon. Members would like to send out a message to those who are, or who will be selected to be, national employment officers: that we regard their work in advising and helping young people when they leave school and first. go out into the adult world as of the greatest importance, and that we wish those officers well.

The Ince Committee had a very difficult job, and I am sure they all realised that the Ministry of Labour and National Insurance should be paramount in conducting this scheme. Nevertheless, the educational authorities must play not only, as I was about to say, a valuable part but an essential part in procuring a complete service. The Committee must have been most ingenious in finding an acceptable compromise between the rival claims of those two worlds of industry and education in the claims they put forward. It is in the nature of a compromise; but, after all, the genius of our race is very often shown in compromise, and I believe this to be one which will work. I hope it will. But if it does not, we shall expect the Minister to come down in due course and tell us that there must be a change.

The Bill is all right, but what is of importance is how the Bill is administered. That is the whole importance of this scheme. I urge the Minister to take the utmost care in selecting these important officers. Of primary importance is care not to let cranks get into this service. Believe me, I am sure that a number of them will wish to; but we want people of normal common sense to apply the scheme.

There are one or two detailed comments I should like to make on the Ince Report, on which the Bill is based, and then I will have done. To my mind the Report does not place enough emphasis on the influence of the parent. I believe that the parent must be considered first and foremost all the time. We should do nothing further to damage family life in this country. On the contrary, we should do everything we can to build it up. The influence of the parent, rightly directed, is of paramount importance. One of the great services these officers will perform will be to instruct parents in the opportunities which lie before children, so that the parents as well as the sons and daughters may be guided in the right way. Therefore, I was a little alarmed on reading in paragraph 80 of the Report about the interview with the employment officer, which is the culmination of the whole scheme. The Report says: The interview should, therefore, be intimate. In addition to the guidance officer, a teacher and the parent should normally be present;"— I should say that a teacher and a parent should, if possible, always be present— but there may be cases where it is desirable that the child should be seen by the guidance officer alone. I cannot imagine any case in which it is desirable that the child should be interviewed completely alone. It would always be better for the parent, where possible, and if not the parent the teacher, to be present, so that the child, or young man or woman, is not thrown into the new world with somebody he or she does not know without having either the parent or the teacher present to give guidance. Where possible the parent should always be present.

There is another paragraph in the Report with which I am afraid I must take issue. In paragraph 101, talking about some of the difficulties met with in the placing of juveniles, the Committee say: Again there are still employers who base their choice of juveniles on the ground that they are children of their own employees. The firm with which I am associated plead guilty to that and will go an striving for it as much as possible. I am sure there is nothing better for industry in general in this country than that it should be a family affair. The business with which I am associated strives to keep up the family spirit, not only in the white collar jobs at the top, but right through, and it is a source of special pride and gratification that we have so many sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, cousins, and aunts and uncles working together. I am sure it is a good thing, and I take issue with the criticism that this Report seems to imply of the son or daughter following in their parents' footsteps. In general, I believe it a good thing that the child should endeavour to follow in, and if possible to tread well in advance of, the parents' footsteps. I hope the employment officers will not follow that part of the Report which suggests that it is not a good thing.

In paragraph 88, the Committee laid down three main principles in placing juveniles: (1) to fit them into the right jobs according to their qualifications, aptitudes and interests; (2) to divert them from jobs harmful to their health and character or to those leading to no suitable career; —with those objects I am sure the House are in agreement— (3) to ensure so far as possible that the limited supply of juveniles is distributed in accord with national needs. The third object must be watched with care, for however important the national needs may be, the interests of the child must remain paramount. National employment officers must not be regarded merely as collectors of juvenile labour for whatever industry the Board of Trade believe at a given moment needs labour for the export drive. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will agree with that. I hope that third principle will be kept in the background in the selection of training for children.

In regard to the rural services, it is of importance that children in country areas should have the same advantages as those in town areas in regard to a service of this sort. But the danger here, about which the House are rightly anxious, is the continual drain from the countryside to the towns. We do not want urban-minded juvenile employment officers—and they will be mostly, by the nature of things, urban-minded—telling boys in the countryside to get out of agriculture, and come to factories in the towns, where they will have splendid jobs. I am quite sure that all of us in this House want to encourage not a drift to the town but a purposeful guidance, if possible, away from the town into a rehabilitated agriculture and a country life in general, if we are to save the spirit of our people.

Therefore, while certainly confirming what the Minister said, that it is desirable that the service should apply to the rural areas as well, I hope that the administration will bear in mind that the aim should be to encourage those in the country to seek the best of country jobs, but, of course, if there are no country jobs, then to take any town jobs that are available. En so far as coming into a town job means leaving home and living in lodgings, I would say that, although that may be necessary, it is always better, if possible, for the boy or girl to remain at home during the first formative years in industry.

I wish to refer to the report on the boy which is to be compulsorily demanded from the schoolmaster. If the juvenile employment officer and his advisers are to deal satisfactorily with the young men and women, it is necessary they should know as much as possible about them. Therefore, I am glad to see that a standard form of report is to be prepared. It will, however, have to be treated not only confidentially but with some care. Some young men or women may fall foul of their schoolmasters; we have probably all done so at one time or other. If that should happen towards the end of their school career, they might get a bad report which would seriously militate against them getting a good job in later life. None of us would wish to see that. I am sure that those who are to use the form will not use it exclusively. It should be useful as a background but it is the interview with the boy or girl which is the important thing, not what misdemeanours he or she may have committed in his or her school days.

Apart from that, I do not think there are any other points I wish to raise today on this important service, except once again to impress upon the House, if I may, the value I attach to it. I am quite sure that if we can only get the young people coming out of the schools—and they are scarce material these days—into not dead-end jobs but the right jobs—I hope that as much as possible this service will foster apprentice schemes and schemes of that sort—the Ministry of Labour will be doing a most valuable work, not only for the economic life of the country but for the happiness of the people in the country as well. Nothing is more conducive to our happiness as individuals than that we should be in jobs in which we can express ourselves and find satisfaction. I am sure that all hon. Members will wish the right hon. Gentleman and his administrators at the Ministry well in their task of carrying out one of the most important services that can be performed for the benefit of the whole of our community.

3.14 p.m.

Mr. Dumpleton (St. Albans)

I would say nothing to hamper my right hon. Friend in getting the Second Reading of this useful Bill this afternoon. Therefore, while there are quite a number of matters in it upon which I should like to comment, I shall confine myself to dealing very briefly with one particular point which I think is important. It is something more than a point to be left to be dealt with during the Committee stage.

I have been privileged for some years now to be closely associated with the Juvenile Employment Service as chairman of a local committee. I have as a result of that experience become confirmed of the very great importance of this service to young people, whom we seek to serve, and I very much agree with everything that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said. The Minister referred in his opening speech to the great importance of securing the co-operation of the industrialists, the employers, the teachers, and others engaged in the educational field. That is extremely important. What we find in our local committees—and it varies from area to area—is that though it is important to secure the co-operation of these people, it is also important to secure the good will and co-operation of the young people themselves.

We find a considerable amount of difficulty in the after-care work that we do. Having found jobs for these young people, we are not always sure that they are the most suitable jobs for the young persons. However, we put them into the jobs and give them a trial, offering them what advice and information we can. We also try to encourage them to come along periodically to the open evening we organise, so that they may tell us their experiences and their difficulties and also that we may give them advice. The Ministry of Labour tries to help local committees to do that kind of after-care service, and they send along from time to time supplies of leaflets and posters. These announce the facilities for the young people, encouraging them to come along to see the juvenile employment officer and regard him and the members of the committee as friends who are willing to help them.

The outstanding hindrance we have in the successful working of the scheme is the use of the word "juvenile," and I would appeal to the Minister, before this Bill is through to take that word out, or at any rate remove it from the literature, leaflets and posters, which are issued, and substitute a more appropriate word. I have here a poster which is issued by the Ministry of Labour to local committees with the advice to have it exhibited on the notice boards of the factories and workshops so that the young people may be invited to come along. It gives particulars about the advisory committee for juvenile employment, with the words "Juvenile Employment" in large letters. We are dealing with young people from the ages of 15 to 18. They have left school and gone into work, and they consider themselves, rightly or wrongly, to have become adults. It does not help to hang up a poster such as this in front of them and call them in bold letters "juveniles." There is nothing that will discourage and repel them more from coming forward to make use of these services.

I would suggest that the Bill be amended and that the word "juvenile" be eliminated altogether. If that cannot be done, then leave out the word from the literature issued in connection with this service. Our time today is limited. There are many Members who wish to participate in this Debate, and I should like to say a great deal more about this service, in which I am so interested and of which I have considerable experience. However, I will leave it it at that, and I hope the Minister will consider the suggestion I have made.

3.20 p.m.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

There will be general agreement with a great deal of what was said by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Dumpleton), though I must say that I am defeated in my effort to find any word to take the place of the word "juvenile" which he finds so offensive.

Mr. Dumpleton

What about "young people"?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I remember that they were once described by an eminent Prime Minister who belonged to the party opposite as those who had not yet reached the age of "adultry." I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman would accept that definition, but at least I put it forward. I join with my hon. Friends in welcoming this Bill, but I must express some grave fears as to the method which has been used in what I think has been an honest attempt to interpret in legislative form the findings and recommendations of the Ince Committee.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about advice being given to those in the rural districts and the grants and assistance which would be given to those from rural districts if they were sent to employment away from home. I wish that the Minister had looked at the picture from the other side. The Ince Committee specifically mentioned that question. I wish that the Minister, to prove his good intention in the matter, had pointed out that today there are openings in agriculture not only for those who want to live in the countryside but for skilled mechanics and for those of the highest grade of education. I think he will agree with that, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will underline the point when he replies to the Debate.

The whole key to this problem is in the selection of those who will carry out this highly important service on the committees and in the juvenile employment service as a whole. Is the field of selection which has been outlined quite wide enough? That is a question which worries me considerably. We are dealing with a most difficult problem, that of placing those who do not quite know what they may wish to do, and attempting to place those young people in industries which may at the moment not appear to be very enticing. We may well get cases of new industries, or even old industries going through a process of rejuvenation and which have so far avoided nationalisation. We may try to encourage young people to go into those industries, the future of which is not too bright at the moment, but where in a few months or years there may be opportunities for advancement and promotion. It needs very wise men and women to be able to put across that sort of picture.

My last point, which is of great importance, is that where this Bill departs from the recommendations of the Ince Committee in a most serious way is that it completely omits any form of statutory powers to compel the registration of those at school and to make compulsory an interview taking place whilst the child is still at school. I think that is a terrible gap. What are we doing? We compel parents to send their children to school in order that the child may at least have the opportunity of learning the difference, if there is any, between Pekin and London and the River Yangtse and Leeds. But we do not compel parents to allow the child to be given ideas about his possible future work and emoluments. One can learn lots of things at school, and one can forget lots of things. But one thing one about which one probably does not learn an awful lot concerns the working conditions and the type of work required if one enters a certain class of industry.

It a child is told of the possibilities in different kinds of industry and if he shows interest, he could be taken round with others from school and shown the working of those industries. That child would then start to talk to other children who are a little older and who have had experience in the industries. In that way a child would become interested. It may well be that an intelligent boy or girl may go out into the world and learn something about it, but their introduction to the subject and to the possibilities must come early in the life of the child and while he or she is still at school. It is too late to wait until after the child has left school, to start the process of encouraging him or her in regard to industrial possibilities. It is not only a question of the child, either; the question of the parents being brought into the picture is far more important. It is necessary that the parent should be given an opportunity of thinking about other industries than the ones with which they are concerned.

Much as I agree with my right hon. Friend who dealt with the parents' part in this picture, which is of vital importance, I do not think anybody who knows anything about the subject would claim that parents are always right in requiring their children to go into their own particular trade or any other. It may well be that there is a limiting scope in the field of their own vision, and that there are industries, of which they know nothing, for which their children might be eminently suitable. It would be perfectly right, proper and sound to include in this Bill what was overwhelmingly recommended by the Ince Committee, namely, that all information interviews should take place while the child was still at school, that the parents should be told and be given all the information.

Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North)

Is the hon. Gentleman advocating the application of this method to all types of schools, and that children of all schools should come under this labour committee?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Of course, I am, as the hon. Lady will see if she has read the Report. I entirely support the recommendations and conclusions of the Committee, which would include all schools, including private schools. I wish I could have been introduced to industrial conditions when I was still at school. I was not introduced to them until I went to a university, and then I had to go to another university in Glasgow before I could be properly introduced, and taught how to build ships. But do not let us forget the parents in these cases. The parents' scope must not be confined to mere knowledge of local conditions. This country is not in a position to afford the waste and unhappiness which result from the wrong placing of young people in industry. There is a tremendous opportunity given here, and I hope that, at a later stage, this particular issue will be considered by the Minister. In general, however, I shall support the passage of this Bill.

3.28 p.m.

Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)

May I say that I welcome this Bill, and, like other hon. Members, I wish there had been more time to discuss it. It seems to me a very sensible and workmanlike Measure. It deals with matters of great importance to millions of people in this country. If I understand it aright, it seeks to streamline the activities of the employment exchanges and anything that improves the efficiency of the services provided in these places deserves and should receive the general approval of the House.

In these modern times, employment exchanges play a very important part in our industrial life. They are important centres in every industrial community and they provide essential services for employed as well as unemployed, for industrialists and technicians, for industry and for the community generally. They have therefore, become key centres in our social and industrial structure. In South Wales we are very keenly interested in the work of employment exchanges; indeed, we have to be, because we have a very serious problem of unemployment, and reemployment in the industrial areas of South Wales.

In spite of many recent improvements in the general economic situation we are still a long way from solving these basic problems. There has been a considerable improvement in recent years. The basic industries have been revived. The problem there now is not surplus of labour but shortage. The Distribution of Industry Act has established quite a number of new industries which are helping to diversify our industrial structure and to give balance to our economy, as well as to provide alternative sources of employment to the people of Wales.

These improvements, however, have not solved our problems. We are now a Development Area; we used to be a distressed area. We are the worst development area in the country in regard to unemployment. We have the highest percentage of unemployment in the whole of Britain. The percentage for the country as a whole is 2 per cent., but in South Wales it is 5½ per cent. for men and 7 per cent. for women. In addition to the general problem of unemployment in South Wales there is a special problem, which is even more serious, and it is to that problem that I wish to call the attention of the Minister this afternoon.

This is a problem not paralleled in any other part of Britain. It is the problem of the disabled unemployed, and especially of disabled ex-miners. We probably have between 10,000 and 12,000 of these ex-miners in the industrial valleys of South Wales. They are suspended from the mining industry because of pneumoconiosis or silicosis. No alternative employment is available for them in the mining valleys. They are fit for certain kinds of work and they are both willing and anxious to do work, but there is no suitable employment to be found. The Government are well aware of the problem. The Minister of Labour and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us very sympathetic treatment in South Wales about three years ago in respect to this problem. The Government decided to establish 10 factories to provide employment for disabled miners, but the factories are deplorably slow in being built and their number is hopelessly inadequate to provide jobs for all the disabled people. The 10 factories now in course of construction will not provide employment for more than 2,500, or 3,000.

A very serious situation is thus created in South Wales and is causing grave concern among miners and their families. It has widespread repercussions throughout the whole community. Because there is no alternative employment, miners stay in the pit when they have this disease long after they should have been certified and withdrawn. They are afraid to go. Of course, this uncertainty cuts both ways. The fact that there is no alternative employment acts as a retarding force against recruitment for the mines. I hope that the Minister of Labour will convey these facts to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power.

I would mention two points in connection with the Bill. I agree that training is absolutely essential but we have not enough training facilities in South Wales. A large number of the disabled miners are quite young, being from 25 to 30 years of age. They have been suspended from the mines in the prime of life and they are quite prepared to be trained for some suitable job. Most of them are versatile and adaptable. Sometimes they have applied to an employment exchange, but have been kept waiting 12 months or as long as two years. Sometimes, when sent to a training centre to be trained as bricklayers or carpenters, they have been sent home and no jobs are provided for them. This is a very serious matter, to which I hope the Minister will give very close and sympathetic consideration.

Then there is the problem of transference—the removal and resettlement of unemployed men and their families from the old depressed areas to areas where there is industrial employment. This is not a new thing; in South Wales we have very grim memories of it. In the period between the two wars we lost about half a million of our people, and we do not wish to see that repeated. I agree that transference has been humanised, and I give the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary due credit for that, but it is a very delicate matter which needs very careful handling. It is certainly not a simple matter to uproot whole families and locate them somewhere else. We do not want that. Transference will not solve our problem in South Wales. We do not want to lose any more of our people. It is harmful to the national life of Wales, damaging to our national culture and in the long run disastrous to our economy, for it is the young who go and the elderly who remain. What we need is to train our people for work in Wales; to give them opportunities to work near their homes. I hope the Minister will give the matter his urgent and careful consideration.

May I as a Welshman, thank the Minister and congratulate him on his decision to give Wales its own advisory committee on juvenile employment? This is a proposal which I welcome, and I may say that all the people of Wales welcome it too. This is not simply national sentiment. Wales has its own special economic problems which have to be considered against the background of Welsh history and Welsh traditions. I am sure this committee, with its knowledge and experience of Welsh conditions, will be able to give the Minister invaluable advice in the handling and solution of these very difficult problems.

3.38 p.m.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

This Bill has had the unanimous against support of hon. Members on both sides of the House and, what perhaps is more unusual in the case of a Government Bill, it appears to have had the unanimous support of Members of the Government. It is fact that, in general, it is a good Bill and, as such, it is entitled to the support of hon. Members. May I welcome two aspects of it? In the first part of the Bill: there is a welcome codification of the somewhat complex legislation from which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour derives his powers. This is a very salutary example which other Departments might follow, putting as much as possible of all this legislation into one Bill. One of the most cheerful parts of the Bill is the number of enactments which are repealed in the second part.

As speakers on both sides of the House have shown, it is welcome to see that the juvenile employment service is to be put on a proper and more efficient basis. The immense value of that service has already been stressed so much as to make it unnecessary for me to add anything, but I am particularly glad myself that in reorganising this service the right hon. Gentleman has not yielded to the centralising tendency of Whitehall, but has retained the element of the local education authorities. Such a service demands close local contacts more, perhaps, than most services, and as the right hon. Gentleman will recollect from a recent visit he paid to an exhibition which he opened not more than ten miles from here, we best obtain, in that way, the co-operation of local people and local employers. As the right hon. Gentleman has already stated in a public speech, there have been very satisfactory results in that particular case.

I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that this scheme rejects compulsion. I am certain that both the Ministry of Labour and the right hon. Gentleman are much more happy when they reject compulsion, and I am sure that it is extraordinarily important in this service to get rid of even the appearance of attempting to compel. For that reason, I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman rejected paragraph 44 of the Ince Report, which recommended compulsory interviews for school-leavers.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

If my hon. Friend reads the Report very carefully, he will see that the interviews gives advice as against importing information.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for imparting information of which I am already aware. I need no compulsion to have an interview with him on any occasion. The point is that it was compulsory, and it is that element of compulsion which is so fatal to this Bill, and to any of the manifold and important functions of the Ministry. I am glad, however valuable these interviews may be, that the right hon. Gentlemen has rejected compulsion.

The only criticism I would make in regard to this Bill is in relation to Clause 13. It may be necessary to say a little more about this in the committee stage. In this case, the right hon. Gentleman departs in a small degree from his denial of compulsion. He takes compulsory powers to compel the proprietors of schools to give certain information about school leavers. That is a power which will have to be carefully watched and investigated, both as to the precise nature of the information the right hon. Gentleman seeks to obtain when he comes to make the regulations, and as to the persons to whom it may be imparted. The right hon. Gentleman said that the information will be confidential to the juvenile employment officer, and I was very glad to hear that, because there is no such limitation in the Bill. Clause 13 (3) is much wider. I am glad to know from the right hon. Gentleman that the regulations will contain such a limitation. It may be that when this Bill goes to Committee, it will he necessary to seek clarification, and a limitation of the powers of this Clause.

I am certain that all Members realise the dangers, even in the most benevolent system, of obtaining compulsory information about people. It is quite possible, as has been said, for schoolmasters to exaggerate the importance of misbehaviour in school, and to give a disproportionate importance to some childish episode which is much better forgotten. It would be a pity if some unfortunate person had to go through life with a school dossier, which might prejudice him and those who have to assist him in his career. For that reason, some of us look with a little doubt and anxiety on the provisions of Clause 13.

So far as the Bill as a whole is concerned, we welcome it. It is a constructive measure, and can do nothing but good if properly administered. It is a matter of congratulation that at a time when so much of the legislation being rushed through this House is of doubtful value, the right hon. Gentleman has had the strength to insist in Cabinet that this excellent child of his should be sent upon its way to the Statute Book. We shall certainly do everything to assist him to secure that desirable end.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Chamberlain (Norwood)

I shall have to cut to the bone what I wanted to say on this Bill, but before I do so I must say how regrettable it is that only an hour and a half should be left in which to debate this most important Measure. We have spent a long time in discussing the prevention and punishment of crime, and the provisions of this Bill are probably of paramount importance in preventing crime by guiding young people in the right way at a most crucial time in their lives.

The main recommendations of the Ince Report are contained in paragraph 44, and refer to three extremely important matters which are linked, but which are, nevertheless, separate: first, the vocational guidance to be given before leaving school; second, the registration of the school-leaver with the Juvenile Employment Service; third, the interview with each registered person. Of these three recommendations, the second is being implemented in Clause 13—I do not think it is being done very well, but I must leave it at that.

I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) in regretting that there is no form of compulsion about vocational guidance being given to pupils before they leave school. I speak with some knowledge of this, because I was working in the educational field for some time and have been in close touch with it ever since. There are already schemes in operation which purport to deal with these matters. Some schools co-operate with the juvenile employment officer of the Ministry, but many do not. There is no obligation upon them at all, nor will there be any if no compulsion is proposed in the Bill. There is a model scheme for education authorities which was issued by the Ministry, in which vocational guidance is stressed as being desirable. Now my right hon. Friend says, "It is not desirable or important enough to make it compulsory."

If my right hon. Friend wishes, I can call juvenile employment officers to verify, that in a large number of cases head teachers are trying unsuccessfully to give this guidance themselves. In many cases no guidance is being given, and school leavers are going into white-collar jobs and blind-alley jobs. It is, then, too late to pull them into the machinery. It is while they are at school that they need to have this guidance. The Ince Committee, a widely-based, influential and able body, also strongly recommended that the interview should be obligatory, that the interview should be while the pupil was at school and not after he had left. Although that is in the schemes accepted by education authorities, very largely it is ignored. I shall take steps later to try to get these things put into the Bill, but in the meantime I beg the Minister to think over them again.

3.49 p.m.

Mr. J. Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)

As it is our wish to facilitate the passage of this Bill, I will not detain the House more than a few minutes. The Minister of Labour mentioned the question of training and pointed out the wide ramifications of the system which it is proposed to be set up by the Bill. I hope he will not forget that a citizen's training begins in the home, and that there is a great responsibility on the parents. He will be making a great mistake if, in setting up this new scheme, he tends to take responsibility away from the home and put it into the hands of the employment exchanges. I hope that in choosing the juvenile employment officers the Minister will make quite certain that the responsibilities of the parent are not taken away.

I would caution the right hon. Gentleman about the attitude of the ordinary citizen towards his employment exchange. It is important that this attitude is not in any way engendered by the new system. The ordinary citizen has a fear today of getting into what one might call the clutches of the exchange. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am sorry if hon. Gentlemen opposite disagree, but there is that fear by people of getting into the clutches of exchanges, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make certain that henceforward the exchanges are regarded in a friendly rather than an unfriendly light.

Another point which the right hon. Gentleman made was that he wished to encourage juveniles from the country to go into the town. I hope that he will reverse that procedure and emphasise that there are jobs in the country as well as in the towns. Lastly, I hope that he will bear in mind that, although he may set up the finest system in the world, it will be no good at all if it does not work. The whole of this paraphernalia depends on the efficacy with which it is applied.

3.52 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Ness Edwards)

I hope to reply to as much of the Debate as I can in the few minutes left to me, so that we can get this Bill through its Second Reading today, and also the Financial Resolution. It has been said on all sides of the House that this is a first-class Bill and ought to be given a quick passage through the House. I am sure that everyone would like to facilitate its passage, so that all its benefits may be passed on to the young people of the country. What criticism there has been—and it has been due largely, I think, to inadequate explanation owing to lack of time—has fallen largely on the question of a two-way traffic between country and town. That is extremely important and it is intended with regard to juvenile employment that there shall be such a two-way traffic. There is another point to be kept in mind. That is that the aptitude and interests of the young person must come first in every case, even in the case where it is desired that the child should follow in the footsteps of the father. Traditions must give way to the needs and the necessities of the child. I take the view that the Ince Committee Report was correct in that regard. The interests of the child are pre-eminent; the interests of the father, secondary; and the interests of the State, third. That is the order of preference in which I would put them.

We were told about the failure to embody in the Bill certain compulsory features with regard to the service to be given by the schools. We do not want any taint of compulsion in the Bill in relation to the young people of this country. We want a free voluntary service, but we must compel the schools to give us reports. Hon. Members will have an opportunity in Committee of determining the nature of the reports and of ensuring proper safeguards. We shall invite the pupils and the parents to come to interviews in the schools, and, while the child is at school, to give him such guidance, with the help of his parents and his teacher, as is available. It is possible, in the case of those who leave school and were not interviewed at school, that they will be interviewed at the juvenile employment offices. There we shall have skilled people dealing with the matter, and we would like to have before these panels of advisers some story of the child's aptitude, accomplishments, and wishes.

Sir W. Darling

And misdemeanours.

Mr. Ness Edwards

We have all been children and guilty of misdemeanours, and I hope that the people who advise these children will have a sense of balance, for on that, the success of this scheme rests. The proper selection of the guidance officers is, in my view, the key to the success of the whole of this service. I do not wish to take up valuable time. We shall discuss these matters in detail in Committee. Substantial points have been raised including the one about the term "young person" as compared with the title of "juveniles" I think that that can be looked at further. We had had such a welcome provided for the Bill this afternoon that I think the matter can stay where it is at this stage and that we can deal with points of criticism when we get to the Committe stage.

3.56 p.m.

Mr. Attewell (Harborough)

I wish to protest most vigorously against the small amount of time given to us to discuss this matter. I desire to make one point. I wish to ask the Minister of Labour if he will look at page 2, Clause 5 and see if an alteration is not possible regarding strikes as we have known them previously. I do hope that he will give that matter his earnest attention, because it is a complete change.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.