HL Deb 17 July 1940 vol 116 cc991-2

3.28 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the first question standing in my name.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government how many men under sixty years of age are still registered as unemployed and whether steps can immediately be taken to employ them in the construction of our national defences under the supervision of military engineers.]


My Lords, statistics are not maintained in such a form as to show the number of men registered as unemployed who are under sixty years of age. A special analysis made on May 20, shows that what is commonly called the "hard core" has been very considerably reduced since the outbreak of war. There were then 104,909 men aged eighteen to sixty-four who had been unemployed for twelve months or more, representing a reduction of 145,506 as compared with May, 1939.

As regards the second part of the question, the responsibility for defence works rests with the military authorities, and the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and National Service is to provide the civilian labour through the employment exchanges. This is done by calling upon suitable unemployed men as far as possible, and large numbers of unemployed men have been used for this purpose. The paramount consideration is that there shall be the utmost expedition in the construction of the defence works required by the military authorities, and for this reason it is essential that the most suitable labour should be employed, but the noble Lord may rest assured that, to the fullest extent possible, use is being made and will continue to be made of the services of unemployed men for this work.