HC Deb 08 November 1976 vol 919 cc24-5
15. Mr. Costain

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he is able to give the percentage of companies in the United Kingdom manufacturing industry that operate more than one shift per day.

Mr. Les Huckfield

No, Sir. This information is not available.

Mr. Costain

Can the Minister explain why I can get that information from the House of Commons Library? Will he take advantage of the information in the Library to ascertain that very few firms are now doing shift work? How can he say that British industry is under-capitalised if capital investment is not properly used? Will he look at the Employment Protection Act and see how this is affecting the situation?

Mr. Huckfield

The hon. Member can get the overall statistics of the numbers of workers who work shifts; that information has always been available. If, however, he is talking about specific firms and is asking my Department to undertake detailed research into the number of firms, I hope that his hon. Friends will note the increase for which he is calling in public spending.

Mr. Tom King

The Minister's answer is even more remarkable in view of a recent parliamentary answer to me which indicated that there are now 1,200 statisticians in the Department of Industry costing the taxpayer about £7 million a year. Is that large number justified if information such as that for which my hon. Friend has asked is not available? What are all these people doing?

Mr. Huckfield

If they had been put to the good use to which they are now put when the Conservatives were in office, we would not be faced with our present industrial difficulties. I only hope that if the hon. Gentleman proposes an increase in research into industrial activities of this kind he will persuade his hon. Friends that there should be an increase in public expenditure.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is my hon. Friend aware that, unlike Opposition Members, very many workers who have to spend years working night shifts in industry regard it as very harmful to health and to social and family life?

Mr. Huckfield

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Many Conservatives have never had experience of shift work and do not know what it is all about. Shift work is a matter for negotiation in each place of employment between the management and unions concerned.

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