HC Deb 06 March 1956 vol 549 cc1902-5
10. Mr. Edelman

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been called to the rising redundancy of motor workers in Coventry; and what action he is taking to maintain these men in employment.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Fifty workers have been discharged by a firm making accessories, sixty workers are to be discharged this week by another firm and the employment exchange is available to help them find other employment. The only other redundancy among motor car workers in Coventry of which I am aware is that projected during the summer by the Standard Motor Company. There has, however, been an increase in short-time working in the last three weeks and over 8,000 workers were affected last week, most of whom lost one day. Another 2,000 are expected to be affected this week.

Mr. Edelman

Is this not a grim and threatening picture? Is it not the case that, although the Minister speaks of vacancies, these are for relatively unskilled men, whereas the men made redundant are highly skilled engineers? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that although the Chancellor of the Exchequer pays lip-service to full employment, through his policy of deflation he is deliberately and wilfully creating unemployment in the motor industry?

Hon. Members


Mr. Macleod

It would be a pity to comment on that carefully prepared and inaccurate supplementary question.

16. Mr. V. Yates

asked the Minister of Labour how many motor car and motor accessory workers are unemployed in Birmingham; how many are working short time; what estimate has been supplied to him regarding increases in redundancy expected within the near future in the city; and what action he proposes to take.

Mr. Iain Macleod

On 13th February there were 388 workers last employed in the manufacture of motor vehicles, cycles and their accessories registered as wholly unemployed and 18 as temporarily stopped in Birmingham. Last week over 7,000 workers in these industries are reported to have worked short time, most of them losing one day, and a further 1,500 are expected to be affected this week. About 300 workers have been discharged since the beginning of February and I understand that about another 300 are due to be discharged this week. I have no information about any further redundancies. The employment exchange service is available to help these workers to find other work.

Mr. Yates

In view of the last part of the Minister's statement, may I ask whether he is aware that statements made by employers last week have given considerable alarm in the city and elsewhere—including the statement to which trade union officials referred, that the Austin motor works was thinking of discharging thousands of workers? Will he undertake to see that he is kept in close touch with these matters? If there were a crack in full employment in Birmingham, the city of a thousand trades, as would appear to be the case, there would be a very serious situation in the whole of the Midlands.

Mr. Macleod

I am in daily touch with my regional controller about this situation.

Mr. Lee

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the supplementary questions asked by my hon. Friends the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) and the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) represent the considered views of Her Majesty's Opposition—that we are most alarmed at the tendencies in the car and other industries? It seems to us fantastic that at a time when we are told that there is such a great need for labour, hundreds of thousands of working hours should be thrown away in this sort of way. Will the Minister tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we put quite a large part of this down to his policies?

Mr. Macleod

The hon. Gentleman is, of course, raising matters of economic policy which are wider than my immediate responsibility, and I can only refer him to the explanation given by the Chancellor and other leaders of the Government in the recent economic debate.

Mr. K. Thompson

Can my right hon. Friend say what facilities are available to workers on part-time and therefore engaged in industry which does not require their full-time services, at least for the moment, to find full-time employment in other industries which have lists of vacancies which they seek to fill?

Mr. Macleod

My employment exchange services are available to all people, whether they want to change their jobs or whether they are seeking a new job because they have become redundant. The information is at the local exchanges.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Does the Minister propose, in the very near future, to make a considered statement on behalf of Her Majesty's Government about what action, if any, they propose to take in view of the seriousness of the situation, which grows worse every day in this industry in the whole of the Midlands?

Mr. Macleod

As I have said, I have been in daily touch with my regional controller on all these aspects. The reasons for the Government's policy, which is directed solely to beat inflation, have been carefully explained to the House and the country.

Mr. Robson Brown

Does my right hon. Friend not consider that it is time that the motor trade employers and employees together took considered action and conferred together to overcome the problems which face them today, rather than have irresponsible statements emanating from unhelpful sections of the trade union movement, as at the moment? I refer particularly to the shop steward at Coventry.

Miss Burton

Will the Minister try to consider and understand the feelings of these men? Does he not know that they went into the motor industry to fulfil the country's export needs? Does he not further realise that in Coventry we see this as deliberate policy on the part of the Government and have no faith whatsoever in their being able to cure the situation?

Mr. Crossman

Will the Minister answer just one question? Is it his view that too many men are employed in the motor car industry who should go somewhere else; or is it his view that we have a motor car industry which will do its job? If it will do its job, will he take some measures to see that men have a full week's work?

Mr. Macleod

The general responsibility for creating the climate in which there can be, as there is, full employment in this country is a matter for the Government, of which, of course, I am a member. Within that field there is particular responsibility on myself as Minister of Labour, through employment exchanges, to make facilities available to those seeking work. It is that which is covered by my Ministry.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members have asked a lot of supplementary questions on this topic.

Mr. Edelman

On a point of order. In view of the Minister's unsatisfactory replies, both to this Question and to my Question about redundancy in Coventry, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Forward to