HC Deb 16 March 1948 vol 448 cc1859-61
15. Mr. Randall

asked the Minister of Labour what figures he has obtained from managements of the cotton industry concerning married women who have expressed a desire to return to the industry provided their children can be accommodated during work hours, and what steps are being taken to provide extended day nursery facilities.

Mr. Isaacs

It is estimated that over 6,000 married women ex-cotton operatives would be willing to return to the industry if their children could be accommodated during working hours. Difficulties in providing extended day nursery facilities arise from shortage of premises and equipment and skilled staff. Arrangements including the provisions of huts have been made with the Ministry of Works which should materially assist local authorities and employers in overcoming these difficulties.

Mr. Randall

In view of the very large number of married women who are waiting to go into the textile industry, will my right hon. Friend do his utmost to see that accommodation is provided with urgency?

Mr. Isaacs

Yes, Sir. Where there is accommodation, we often find ourselves held up by the provision of some sanitary appliance or some piece of equipment, but we have now got the co-operation of the Ministry of Works, and whatever priority can be given will be given.

Mr. S. Shephard

Is the Minister aware that many day nurseries have been closed since the war ended owing to the action of the Ministry of Health in placing half the responsibility on the local authorities, and will he get in touch with the Ministry of Health with a view to reversing that decision and getting the Ministry of Health to take full responsibility.

Mr. Isaacs

I cannot give a definite answer to the last part of the supplementary question. As to the first part, we are in co-operation with the Ministry of Health and we are anxious to get this thing moving.

Mr. Tolley

Will my right hon. Friend remember that during the war no difficulties were allowed to stand in the way of the provision of these nurseries and that it is essential they should be brought into being again? Will he take all steps to see that the necessary equipment is provided? I think his excuse was a very weak one.

Mr. Isaacs

A special Parliamentary Secretaries' Committee is in charge of this under the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, and they have authority to drive right ahead. Whether we can make a war of it, I do not know.

Squadron-Leader Fleming

Is it not the case that up till now the Ministry of Labour have depended upon employers providing day nurseries? Will the right hon. Gentleman now impress on local authorities that it is their duty to revive the day nurseries provided during the war?

Mr. Isaacs

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman were aware of what we have been doing, he would not put his question in that way.

Dr. Barnett Stross

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the standards for the care of these children will in now way be lowered, and before he takes any definite steps, will he give a further assurance that he will always be in touch with the Ministry of Health on the matter?

Mr. Isaacs

The last thing I want to do in this House is to give assurances; but I can assure the hon. Member that the points to which he has drawn attention are under consideration.

Mrs. Manning

In view of the importance of mothers staying at home to look after the younger children, is my right hon. Friend exploring all the parts of the education system which might be used, in nursery education for children over the age of two?

Mr. Isaacs

We are getting rather a long way from creches in factories. My problem is to provide facilities for these mothers of young children who wish to go to work.