HC Deb 30 April 1919 vol 115 cc171-3W

asked the Minister of Labour (1) who is responsible for the administration of the Ministry of Labour Employment Office, 28, Broadway, Westminster; if he is aware that applicants to that Department receive the invariable reply from the attendants to their requests for dispatch that if they will fill up and leave a form their application will be considered in fire or six weeks; whether he will direct that some official other than attendants possessing requisite qualifications should customarily receive applicants; if he will state the constitution of the Committee sitting from time to time to consider applications; how frequently such Committee sits; and whether continuous sittings in the City will be arranged to meet the needs of commercial houses for prompt attention;

(2) Whether he has considered the handicap under which commercial houses labour in the City as compared with foreign houses domiciled abroad in competing for international trade, who are hindered for the space of five or six weeks by existing Regulations of the Ministry of Labour of bringing heads of Departments and others to this country; whether the visé of British Consuls abroad, possessing abundant information as to an intending traveller's credentials, may be substituted for that of a Committee of the Ministry of Labour sitting at infrequent intervals; and whether he will take steps, in conjunction with the Foreign Office, to remove the block placed on passports issued to persons abroad seeking to travel to this country of requiring that the visé of the Ministry of Labour should be obtained as a condition precedent to such passport becoming available for use, and the expediency of accelerating steps judged to be requisite?


I will answer these two questions together, on the assumption that the first, like the last, relates to applications for permission to introduce alien employés into the United Kingdom,, which is the only matter with which the Ministry of Labour deals in relation to the subject of the hon. Member's question.

The Controller-General of Civil Demobilisation and Resettlement, who is responsible to me for the work of the Employment Department in Broadway, informs me that arrangements have recently been made for competent officers to interview all applicants, and that, whatever may have been said to applicants by attendants, the interval between the receipt of an application and a decision has not as a rule been so long as five or six week. For the reasons indicated below some delay is inevitable; but I hope that in future it will not exceed three weeks at the most.

The Committee which deals with applications consists of representatives of the War Office, Board of Trade, Ministry of Reconstruction and Ministry of Labour. It now sits twice a week. Continuous sittings of the Committee in the City would be impracticable, and would not prevent delay because it seldom, if ever, happens that a Committee can allow an application without preliminary inquiry; e.g., they must satisfy themselves that the particular aliens asked for are not individuals whom it would be undesirable to admit into the country, and that their introduction would not displace British labour.

The hon. Member will realise that this latter factor is of special importance at a time like the present, when unemployment at home is so acute. The fact that British Consuls abroad do not, and cannot, possess the detailed information required for a decision on this aspect of an alien's admission into the United Kingdom is for the present a conclusive reason against altering the existing machinery in the manner which the hon. Member suggests.