HC Deb 24 February 1955 vol 537 cc1419-24
1. Mr. Oliver

asked the Minister of Labour the date on which the men suffering a disability employed at Remploy Limited, Alfreton, received an increase in wages by reason of the increase in the cost of living, or, alternatively, for any other reason.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

Under an agreement between Remploy Limited, and the trade unions concerned, signed on 17th December, 1953, severely disabled workers employed at all Remploy factories, including the Alfreton factory, received an increase in wages as from 1st September, 1953.

Mr. Oliver

Does not the Parliamentary Secretary realise that rates fixed in 1953 are wholly inadequate in February, 1955; and, having regard to the relationship of the Ministry to this employment, will some steps be taken to see that an adequate increase is given?

Mr. Watkinson

I can tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that negotiations are going on now between Remploy Ltd. and the trade unions concerned. Therefore, I do not think I ought to comment on them.

Mr. Oliver

Is it not a fact that these negotiations have been going on for approximately six months, and that no conclusion has been reached, because it is necessary to contact the Ministry?

Mr. Watkinson

No, Sir;I do not think they have been going on as long as that.

3. Mr. Lawson

asked the Minister of Labour the number of disabled persons employed by Remploy in each of the past three years; and what effect the proposed dismissal of 70 key workers is likely to have upon Remploy's capacity to maintain its existing disabled person employment level.

Mr. Watkinson

The reply to the first part of the Question is that the average numbers of severely disabled workers employed by Remploy for the years ended March, 1952, March, 1953, March, 1954, and from April to December, 1954, were 5,830, 6,002, 6,314 and 6,537 respectively.

As to the second part of the Question, I do not accept the hon. Member's suggestion that 70 key workers have been dismissed. I can, however, assure him that recent reductions of staff are designed to enhance the capacity to employ disabled persons.

Mr. Lawson

In what way will these reductions, even if there were not 70, enhance the employment capacity of Remploy?

Mr. Watkinson

As has been announced by the Chairman of Remploy, some fit men were used on general training and supervising duties which it is now hoped can be undertaken by the disabled men themselves.

8. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will reconsider the present policy of Remploy in refusing to re-engage severely disabled persons who, because of their disability, have had to leave Remploy for a temporary period.

Mr. Watkinson

I understand that the present policy of Remploy is not to terminate the services of a severely disabled person until he has been away sick for six months. He is then informed that when he is fit for work again he will be given favourable consideration for re-employment.

Mr. Chetwynd

Will the Minister consider the case of men who leave Remploy to seek work in non-sheltered employment, cannot maintain their activities, wish to go back to Remploy, and are refused?

Mr. Watkinson

That is a good point, and I know the case which the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I will do what I can in that particular case. Once a man leaves Remploy and goes to full employment, he is to some extent out of the field. [Hon. Members: "Why?"] If he comes back, we shall always try to do our best.

Mr. T. Brown

On whose advice has the hon. Gentleman changed his policy of keeping people in the employ of Remploy, in view of the promise that was given in the early stages of the development of the Remploy factories?

Mr. Watkinson

There has been no change at all in the policy of Remploy. Men who go off sick will always be reengaged if that is at all possible.

11. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will consult with other Government Departments to ensure that wherever possible continuous orders are placed with Remploy Limited.

Mr. Watkinson

All Government contracting Departments are required to give Remploy, and other organisations employing severely disabled persons, some preference in the allocation of orders. There is frequent consultation between my officers and those of Government Departments concerned, who are fully conscious of the range of goods manufactured by Remploy and endeavour to place as many orders as possible with it.

Mr. Willey

Will the Parliamentary Secretary see whether more cannot be done in this direction? One of the heavy overheads of Remploy is the sales organisation. If it could cut down that organisation and rely more upon Government contracts, it would obviously assist Remploy.

12. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Labour what machinery is provided for joint consultation by Remploy Limited.

Mr. Watkinson

I understand that in each Remploy factory there is a joint consultative committee consisting of representatives of managerial, supervisory, and production grades, which meet monthly.

Mr. Willey

Again, will the Parliamentary Secretary look at this matter? If he can improve this consultative machinery it will assist Remploy in the job which it is trying to do.

Mr. Watkinson

I shall look at it, but the difficulty is that this matter lies entirely within the managerial responsibility of Remploy.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Will the Parliamentary Secretary look at the question of setting up consultative machinery on a national basis, so that those employed in the Remploy factories may have an opportunity of consulting their fellow-workers elsewhere, and perhaps concerting an agreed policy in a better atmosphere?

Mr. Watkinson

I will examine that suggestion.

20. Mr. Collins

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that difficulty in meeting delivery dates is a major obstacle to the expansion of business in some departments of Remploy Limited; and what consideration was given to this factor in his Department's recent decision not to expand the number of trainees.

Mr. Watkinson

Difficulties in meeting delivery dates occur principally in jobs specially ordered rather than in repetitive work on long runs of steady production. In the former class of work Remploy is inevitably at a disadvantage as compared with ordinary firms, because of the longer time it takes to teach severely disabled workers a new job. These inherent difficulties are fully recognised in planning Remploy's work and labour force.

Mr. Collins

I appreciate that the Minister fully understands the difficulties of Remploy, but is it not a fact that on the special orders to which he refers Remploy can very often do long runs, and if it is unable to continue recruitment and training, and has to sell commercially, it is very likely to be handicapped? Will he regard this as a major point about which hon. Members in all parts of the House are concerned?

Mr. Watkinson

I certainly will.

24. Mr. P. Williams

asked the Minister of Labour the value of government and of local authority contracts with Remploy in 1954 as compared with 1950.

Mr. Watkinson

The value of orders received by Remploy Ltd., from Government Departments in 1950–51 was £522,864, and from local authorities £23,749. The figures for 1953–54 were £817,343 for Government contracts and approximately £45,000 for local authorities.

Mr. Williams

Can my right hon. Friend not do more to encourage local authorities to give more help to the severely disabled?

Mr. Watkinson

I think the figures show that perhaps local authorities might do more. I will do what I can, and I hope hon. Members will do anything they can in their own constituencies.

26. Mr. Burke

asked the Minister of Labour what changes are suggested with regard to the Burnley Remploy factory; how far the policy of economising will lead to the factory not being used to its full capacity; and how many of the disabled persons now employed there are to be discharged.

Mr. Watkinson

No change is intended with regard to the Burnley Remploy factory, except that the numbers may possibly decrease slightly in the next few months owing to non-replacement of wastage; no severely disabled persons now employed there will be discharged on grounds of redundancy.

Mr. Burke

Does the Minister realise how much that reply will be appreciated in Burnley?

Mr. I. O. Thomas

Will the Minister please define the term which has frequently been used, and which he has again used in his reply—the term "severely disabled"? What does it mean?

Mr. Watkinson

Certainly. We classify disabled persons in two classes. We classify the more lightly disabled under Section 1, and the severely disabled, who are not fit for normal employment in ordinary industry, we classify under Section 2. Both are employed by Remploy, but Remploy primarily exists to employ the severely disabled.

28. Mr. Foot

asked the Minister of Labour how his Department's present plans for dealing with the Remploy Scheme will affect numbers employed at the Remploy factory in Plymouth.

Mr. Watkinson

It is expected that the numbers at the Remploy factory in Plymouth may decrease slightly owing to non-replacement of wastage.

Mr. Foot

Does the Minister realise that there is great pressure on the employment exchange at Plymouth to get an increase and that this is a very severe problem there? Cannot he make some better plans?

Mr. Watkinson

I will keep the matter under review. I hope that the present phase in Remploy generally is only a temporary phase.

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