HC Deb 19 November 1940 vol 365 cc1867-9W
Miss Ward

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is now in a position to make his promised statement on training?

Major Milner

asked the Minister of Labour whether he intends to take steps, in appropriate cases, to compel employers to train workpeople in productive processes?

Mr. E. Bevin

Very considerable progress has been made in training for the munition programme since I reported on the position to the House on the 8th August. It has always been recognised that by far the greater part of training must be done by employers themselves. This has been made clear on many occasions to the engineering industry and I have received the full support of the Engineering Employers' Federation. There has, on the whole, been a very gratifying response but much more has got to be clone in order to produce the trained labour required for the programme at which the Government are aiming. In general, I prefer to rely on the willing co-operation of employers in this matter but the Government will not hesitate to use compulsory methods if in any particular case this should prove to be necessary.

I have appointed Labour Supply Committees in all large industrial areas and a large number of Inspectors of Munitions Labour Supply, and one of their chief duties is to ensure that all firms carry out the training which is appropriate both by way of upgrading existing workers in the industry and by the introduction at lower levels of men and women new to the industry. My own Department is doing its utmost to assist in the training programme. The number of Government Training Centres has been increased in the last few months by the opening of 10 new centres and the extension of four existing centres. Nine more centres will open very shortly. The centres are working, so far as possible, on a shift system and the number of men in training is now three times as great as it was last May. By arrangement with the President of the Board of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland courses in engineering are also being developed in Technical Colleges where the numbers in training have been more than doubled since the beginning of September. In addition, arrangements are made for training on behalf of my Department by firms which for various reasons cannot be engaged on munition production but have suitable plant and instructors available.

I have, within the last week, initiated a new scheme for training which has been drawn up in agreement with the Engineering Employers' Federation and the Amalgamated Engineering Union. This pro vides for the training of men and women, in the main newly recruited to the engineering industry, by employers who in addition to undertaking training for their own purposes, are also prepared to train on production, in excess of their own needs for transfer to employment elsewhere for the national use. I hope with the co-operation of employers and workers to develop on a large scale this new scheme which will be called "auxiliary training." I should like to take this opportunity of emphasising the need for the employment and training of women. The demands of the Armed Forces for men are already becoming so great that it is manifest that women must be emplcyed in all forms of production in ever increasing numbers. Apart from the Government Training Centres, the training facilities to which I have referred are now open to women as well as to men, and I am quite prepared to arrange for the admission of women to Government Training Centres also when, as must happen in the near future, trained women are required for many occupations in the enlarged munition programme. I am taking steps immediately to bring to the notice of all engineering employers the need for considering at once the introduction of women into their factories in much larger numbers than hitherto and for the employment of women in all occupations where they can, after a course of training, replace men without loss of efficiency.