HC Deb 21 February 1952 vol 496 cc419-20
38. Mr. Malcolm MacPherson

asked the Minister of Labour what are the main types of labour in which shortages have developed in the defence production programme; and in what numbers.

Sir W. Monckton

The main types of workers at present in short supply for the defence programme are skilled men in the principal engineering occupations. The number of unfilled vacancies in these occupations rose from about 21,500 in October, 1950, to 35,000 in December, 1951. Most of these vacancies are on defence or other essential production. In a few areas there is also an acute shortage of unskilled workers, particularly for certain Royal Ordnance factories.

Mr. MacPherson

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say to what extent he expects to be able to fill these vacancies? Since the majority are for skilled men does he expect to be able to absorb skilled men who are now redundant and intend to train more men for skilled jobs?

Sir W. Monckton

I hope certainly to be able to absorb more skilled men than are available and I have every intention of doing everything I can to encourage the training to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Maurice Edelman

Is it not the case that the civilian programme has been cut much faster than defence orders have been given? Do not these figures refer to theoretical vacancies whereas there is real unemployment?

Sir W. Monckton

Undoubtedly as these cuts have emerged they have created difficulties in some places, and I am constantly watching both the industries which are engaged on the defence programme and others to try to see that all available workers are properly employed in the national interest.

Mr. Edelman

But the unemployment is there; the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot deny that.