HC Deb 26 February 1958 vol 583 cc353-4
19. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Minister of Labour what plan the Government have for the absorption of displaced labour arising from cuts in defence expenditure; and whether, failing the provision of new employment, he will devise a scheme of compensation.

Mr. Iain Macleod

As to the first part of the Question, I would refer the right hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal gave to the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) on 30th January, 1958.

As I stated in the House on 24th February, the majority of the workers so far discharged as a result of changes in defence policy have succeeded in obtaining other employment, and I have no reason to suppose that this process of re-absorption will not continue.

Mr. Shinwell

Regarding the last part of my Question, has the right hon. Gentleman considered the creation of a national supplementary unemployment fund, to which contributions may be made by industry on a fairly wide scale, thus increasing the unemployment allowances, which, in turn, may prove a deterrent against further unemployment?

Mr. Macleod

That is an interesting suggestion, which, of course, goes very wide of the Question which the right hon. Gentleman asked me. In general, compensation is a matter for employers, and it seems to me difficult to regulate it in the way which the right hon. Gentleman suggested. I should have thought that it ought to be left to individual negotiations between federations of employers and the appropriate trade unions.

Mr. Shinwell

If we are to be confronted by unemployment, not necessarily on a large and widespread scale, but with pockets of serious unemployment, would it not be desirable in some way to supplement the existing unemployment allowances?

Mr. Macleod

In so far as that relates to compensation for loss of employment, the Government play their part in acting as what I would call a good employer. For example, the announcement that I made in relation to the Admiralty dismissals, which, by the way, was not new, although some people seemed to assume that it was, was the application of the existing practice. We do try to carry out a good employer policy, but there are a number of other factors. I am not myself convinced that it would be desirable to have national arrangements as the right hon. Gentleman suggests.

Mr. S. Silverman

Has the Minister's attention been called to the recent Cohen Report, which suggests that a perceptible degree of unemployment is not merely necessary but desirable? Does not he consider that acceptance of the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) would defeat the whole purpose of creating a pool of unemployment?

Mr. Macleod

My attention has certainly been drawn to the Cohen Report. but, equally certainly, I have no intention on this Question of commenting upon it.