HL Deb 18 November 1947 vol 152 cc786-8

6.58 p.m.

LORD BARNBY had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government, what progress is being made with the absorption into employment of our late Allies the Polish nationals at present in this country. The noble Lord said: My Lords, recently this question of the employment of Poles was raised in your Lordships' House; and in reply to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and myself, the noble, Viscount, Lord Hall, gave a reply which I felt obliged to challenge. Since then I have had a courteous communication from Lord Hall. I fully realize that for me to challenge the correctness of the reply which was given was an unusual line to take. In order to clarify the position perhaps your Lordships will permit me to read a brief quotation from Hansard of Tuesday, November 4, The range of employment offered is so wide that no Pole has been impeded by any cause from taking up employment. I am grateful for the noble Lord's courtesy in the qualification of this paragraph by the addition of the words "without the offer of alternative employment," which does of course in a considerable degree change the sense of the sentence which was used by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, in his reply.

This question is motivated partly by considerations of sentiment, but more particularly from anxieties about loss of production. It had been the intention of other noble Lords to take part in this discussion this afternoon, notably the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, but, thanks to the initiative of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, an opportunity has been offered for a discussion with himself and the Ministry of Labour officials in which to explain the anxiety there is as to the manner in which the Polish Resettlement Act, passed by Parliament, is being implemented, and the belief that the measure needs some revision. It was thought that this could be effected by two particular suggestions. One was that there should be instituted a link on various levels between the Polish Resettlement Corps units and the Ministry of Labour channels. The other was that the time appears to have arrived for new consultations between the Government and the trade unions in an effort to reach agreement on matters of alleged difficulty. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, has been good enough to agree that he not only will look into the matter, but will use his offices to try to secure discussion in the proper manner which may result in correction of some of these difficulties. It seems much more convenient that this matter should be dealt with in this way, but, failing the results which there are naturally good grounds now to expect, it would be more effectively dealt with by debate on a proper Motion in this House at a later date. I therefore would change the character of the question which I put, in the hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, will be able to give me some confirmation of the impressions which I have given.


My Lords, I rise to confirm what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby. I have discussed with him various matters concerning the resettlement of Poles in this country, and I have heard from him that there are certain matters of detail and one or two of principle. The noble Lord has readily agreed to a suggestion which was made, that these matters can be adjusted probably better as the result of a conference between himself, myself and any other noble Lords interested in this matter with representatives of the Ministry of Labour. I repeat that suggestion which has been made.

I would like to take this opportunity of stating that the resettlement of the Poles is certainly proceeding at a fairly rapid rate. Your Lordships will be interested to know that, of the 101,000 Poles who belonged to the Polish Resettlement Corps, nearly 50,000 have already been placed in employment, 10,000 have left this country (some to go to Poland), and there are now left some 40,000 to be resettled. Those Poles have been resettled at the rate of 1,000 per week. There is approved employment awaiting them, and it is rather interesting to note that very much of the prejudice which did exist at one time amongst trade unions, and, indeed, employers' representatives, has now given way and in a very large number of industries—including the mining industry, which, after all, is a most suitable industry for quite a number of Poles, and the agricultural industry—there is little difficulty about getting them placed when they become available. I certainly am prepared to do what I possibly can to smooth out any of the difficulties which the noble Lord and his colleagues have in mind.


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, mentioned my name, I should like to say that I welcome very heartily the statement which the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, has just made. There are undoubtedly difficulties to be faced still, but they would be much more easily ironed out by a conference round a table than across the floor of your Lordships' House.