HC Deb 20 July 1964 vol 699 cc13-4
12. Mr. Boyden

asked the Minister of Labour how many building craftsmen and how many building labourers, respectively, are now out of work in the North-East.

Mr. Godber

On 15th June, 1964, 5,812 workers whose last employment was in the construction industry were registered as wholly unemployed at employment exchanges in the North-East. Of these, 887 were skilled craftsmen, 4,712 were labourers or in other occupations, 31 were women and 182 were young persons.

Mr. Boyden

Does not the right hon. Gentleman find these figures very disturbing? Could it be that the pump-priming operation in the North-East has not been as satisfactory as the Government have held it out to be, or is there a shortage of bricks, or no retraining of labourers? What is the problem?

Mr. Godber

I am not and will not be satisfied until we get the figure lower, but it is little more than a half of what it was 12 months ago. The great bulk is among those classified as labourers, which is where the main difficulty now exists. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, we are expanding retraining facilities under the Industrial Training Act and the new boards which I am setting up in connection with that Act.

Mr. Bourne-Arton

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very heavy programme of the building industry in the North-East? Is he aware that there are already shortages in some trades in the building industry in the area?

Mr. Godber

Yes, this is abundantly true. In view of that, I have every confidence that the position will continue to improve.

Mr. Shinwell

If the figure 12 months ago was double what it is now, and it is bad enough now, who was to blame then?

Mr. Godber

I was seeking not to apportion blame but to show how much better the position is now.