My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper. May I say how pleased we are to see Sir Peter back again.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they will take to ascertain whether homeworkers are being adequately paid or exploited.
The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EMPLOYMENT (The Earl of Gowrie)
My Lords, while fully endorsing what the noble Baroness has just said, may I answer her Question as follows: The wages inspectorate of 2 my Department will continue to examine the earnings of homeworkers in those industries where statutory minimum rates are laid down by wages councils, and the Government are considering what further research is needed into homeworking generally.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Can I anticipate that he may introduce a Bill in the not too distant future? I am sure he realises that these women—and they are mostly women—who do this work at home are not only helping production but are also safeguarding and supporting their families.
§ Lord BROCKWAY
My Lords, to what extent do the wages councils, which my noble friend Lord Shinwell and I helped Mary McArthur establish 60 years ago, cover all the homeworkers today who are now spread over a much larger area than they were when the wages councils were established?
The Earl of GOWRIE
My Lords, we would all wish to pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord in helping to set up the wages councils. My information about their current levels of activity—if that is what he wants to know—is that home- 3 working inspectors recently visited every known establishment employing homeworkers in seven wages councils' trades in Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth in South London and in Walsall in the Midlands. The results to hand show that of the 486 homeworkers whose earnings were checked, none was statutorily underpaid. Although we are somewhat sceptical whether there is widespread abuse, we are glad to have the machinery to investigate where there is abuse.