HC Deb 07 June 1956 vol 553 cc1258-60
25. Mr. Moss

asked the Minister of Labour what proportion of the labour force at Standard Motor Company, Coventry, has been declared redundant; the reasons for such redundancy; and what suitable alternative employment is being found for those who lose their jobs.

Mr. Iain Macleod

I understand that the redundancy represents about 20 per cent. of those now employed. The reasons have been given in a statement issued on 30th May by the Standard Motor Company. The employment exchange service is helping those who register to find suitable alternative employment and registrations at the works are proceeding. The prospects of finding employment in Coventry and immediately neighbouring areas for the redundant workers are good in the case of highly skilled engineering workers and machine operators. In the case of other workers, local employment is unlikely to absorb all the redundant men in the immediate future, but there are vacancies in many kinds of industrial and transport undertakings which could be offered to them within daily travelling distance of Coventry.

Mr. Moss

Whilst readily agreeing that the right hon. Gentleman will do his best to help men who are deprived of their livelihood, may I ask if it is not a fact that his efforts may be frustrated by lack of vacancies in the immediate neighbourhood and the immobility imposed on labour by the housing shortage? Is it not becoming increasingly apparent that the sacking of men ought to be related to a Government plan for their reemployment and, if necessary, their retraining?

Mr. Macleod

As to the first part of the supplementary question, I have answered the Question in regard to vacancies in Coventry and the immediate area. There are and will be difficulties, but on the whole the position is reasonably satisfactory, as the latest figures of employment and unemployment—published this morning—show. To reply to the second part of the supplementary question, I would say that that matter was dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last week. There are powers available to me as Minister of Labour in the whole of this field. I do not think it is possible to isolate automation or any other form of technological change from any of the other reasons which may lead to the need for mobility of labour.

Mr. G. Brown

I agree with the Minister's last remark, but will he go a little further? The Prime Minister said a day or two ago that the Government would take a number of steps to ease the transfer of these people who have to go away from Coventry for their work. Can the Minister say what steps he is taking, and what are the powers open to him to which he has referred?

Mr. Macleod

If I may say so, that is not quite an accurate paraphrase of what the Prime Minister said. If the right hon. Gentleman would like a list of the methods which are available to my Ministry in re-training and the allied fields, perhaps he will put down a Question.

Mr. Brown

I am asking the Minister for a list of steps which he is taking. The Prime Minister said, "We will take all steps to ease the process of transfer of the individual worker". Those are the exact words. I am asking the Minister to tell us what steps, if any, he is taking.

Mr. Macleod

Exactly. I appreciate that, and I am asking the right hon. Gentleman, since that is another aspect of the matter, to put that Question down.

Mr. J. Griffiths

The Minister may recall that when in West Wales we were confronted, as we still are, with the problem of redundancy arising out of technological changes—although we did not call them automation—the Government set up a Committee called the Lloyd Committee to examine the problem and, in particular, the problem of providing alternative employment for those for whom no other employment was available in the immediate neighbourhood. In particular, it considered direct action by the Government in building factories. In his review of this problem, will the Minister consider such a step as that in the area concerned?

Mr. Macleod

I said long ago that if we are confronted with what is to some extent a new situation we should not exclude any solution at all, and I am quite prepared to repeat that now. I believe that to be true. On the other hand, I do not think that the situation now is in any way comparable with that to which the right hon. Member refers. There are a great number of vacancies—still many more vacancies than people seeking employment. Although I know perfectly well that there will be hardship in individual cases, I think we ought to be able to meet the demands from labour arising out of any situation which I can foresee in the position in the Midlands or, indeed, elsewhere.