HL Deb 30 January 1946 vol 139 cc98-100WA

asked His Majesty's Government if they are aware of the grave shortage of domestic staff existing to-day in many civil hospitals; if they are also aware that labour exchanges are refusing such hospitals "Priority" in obtaining staff, and offering them only "Preference"; that as the exchanges are usually unable to supply all the staff required even by those who are on the "Priority" list, the offer of "Preference" is entirely useless; if instructions will be given to labour exchanges that all hospitals are to be in future on the "Priority" list; and what other steps the Government propose to take to improve the present position.


I am aware of the current shortage of hospital domestic staff, and my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour and National Service is doing his best to remedy the situation. It is not the case, as the noble Lord suggests, that the employment exchanges are refusing the hospitals a priority which is accorded to other vacancies. All hospital domestic vacancies are eligible for the highest priority in the supply of labour, and of about 10,000 outstanding vacancies for women hospital domestics at the present time, roughly 5,000 have in fact been accorded this priority. Local circumstances have to be taken into account, however, and it would defeat the object of the priority scheme without leading to any additional workers being placed in the hospitals if this priority were automatically accorded to every vacancy that is notified.

The number of women placed by the exchanges in hospital domestic employment has in fact increased from an average of less than 3,000 per month in the early part of 1945 to over 3,800 per month in the last three months, and over 90,000 men and women have been placed in hospital domestic employment during the last two years. Unfortunately the labour turnover has been not far short of the gross intake during this period, but as the noble Lord will be aware, the Government has recently taken steps in conjunction with both the employers' and workers' representatives to make conditions of employment for hospital domestic workers more attractive, and proposals for revised wage rates are at the present time under consideration by the newly constituted National Joint Council. It is hoped that as the result of these measures the task of the employment exchanges in providing the hospitals with an adequate domestic staff will be greatly facilitated.

House adjourned at half past four o'clock.