HC Deb 13 June 1950 vol 476 cc8-10
14. Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that a number of building operatives want to work longer hours in order to earn more; and whether, in view of the need to speed the building programme, he will initiate negotiations to ease the ban on such overtime during the summer months.

15. Brigadier Medlicott

asked the Minister of Labour if his attention has been drawn to the wish of a number of building workers to work longer hours; and if he will consider ways and means of allowing such extra efforts to be made provided the general standards of labour in the building industry are not depressed thereby.

16. Sir Waldron Smithers

asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the housing shortage, what steps he is taking to ensure that building operatives who volunteer to work additional time are allowed to do so.

Mr. Isaacs

I assume the hon. Members are referring to a case of certain workers employed by a firm of builders in Essex where the question of the overtime hours to be worked has been the subject of dispute. This matter has, however, been settled by an award of the National Arbitration Tribunal and I have no authority to intervene.

As regards the general question of working hours in the building industry, this is a matter for the two sides to determine and is dealt with in a series of voluntary agreements, in which provision is made for overtime. The overriding consideration must be that of output and, as the House will be aware, the industry is studying the problem of increasing productivity.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

In view of the fact that overtime is being worked both upon the 1951 Exhibition and in Parliament Square on Saturdays and Sundays, could we ask the Minister to encourage this tribunal to reconsider the question of overtime in building houses for the people?

Mr. Isaacs

Surely that is quite another question. I have to assume that the question which the hon. Gentleman and others have raised is related to a certain matter, and so far as I am aware no objection is being raised to the working of overtime where the regular conditions relating to overtime are being observed.

Mr. Gibson

Is it not a fact that in the industry there is an inclusive agreement dealing with overtime and is it not also true that the unions and the employers are very ready to grant the necessary overtime and are doing so all over the country?

Mr. Isaacs

This matter was examined by the industry's own tribunal. The facts in the particular case under notice were that there were other circumstances relating to working hours which are in dispute.

Sir W. Smithers

Has the Minister read the case of Mr. Norman Johnston in Mr. Frank Owen's article in the "Daily Express"? It relates to a man who left the union because he was not allowed to work overtime. Will the Minister stop these selfish practices, not only because of the shortage of houses but because the policy of control by the Socialist Government involves so many human tragedies?

Mr. Isaacs

I am not sure that I would accept as absolutely correct the story in the "Daily Express."

Mr. Stanley Prescott

When the right hon. Gentleman says that the specific case has been settled, does he mean settled to enable the men to work longer hours?

Mr. Isaacs

Yes, and settled to enable the firm itself to obey the rules relating to working conditions.

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