§ 38. Mr. G. M. Thomson
asked the Postmaster-General which local post offices in Scotland have approached the local education authority to obtain the release of children from school to assist in Christmas postal work.
§ Mr. Mawby
Ten head postmasters in Scotland have found it necessary to obtain the agreement of the local education authority and to approach schools about the release of children from school to assist in Christmas postal work. These are: Ardrossan, Dunbar, Edinburgh, Fort William, Galashiels, Glasgow, Hawick, Inverness, Oban, Paisley.
§ Mr. Thomson
Is the Assistant Postmaster-General really saying that in a place like Glasgow—and, perhaps, in Ardrossan and other places—there are not people unemployed who would like to have this kind of employment? Is not this quite wrong on grounds both of educational principle and of giving employment to those who need it most?
§ Mr. Mawby
First, we have to satisfy the authorities that no alternative suitable labour is available; then, we have to get the permission of the parents and, obviously, of the children themselves. 1244 While I regret that we should have to keep children, even in this case, where they are over 16 years of age, away from school, it is one of those things that we do only when no suitable alternative labour is available.
Are the opportunities for other areas to share in this work? I am sure that my children would like to play a part.
§ Miss Herbison
Since, in answer to a supplementary question, the Minister has stated that there was no real consultation with the Ministry of Labour, how can he tell the House that the Post Office had to satisfy itself that there was no suitable labour before it went to the schools and asked for young people to deliver the mail? Surely, those two statements are completely contradictory. If the family of the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) wish to take part in this work, I am sure that nobody would stop them, but is the Minister aware that whether it is potatoes or the Post Office, we very often find that it is the children from the junior secondary schools who do these jobs?
§ Mr. Mawby
Let me make this quite clear. I said in answer to the hon. Gentleman's Question that we are in consultation with the Ministry of Labour, and this will normally happen at the level required. Then he pressed me on the point, and I did say that, so far as I knew, we did not consult the Minister at his level on this particular matter at this particular point in time. That does not mean to say that 1245 we do not satisfy ourselves through the local employment authorities that in fact labour is not available.