HC Deb 19 April 1956 vol 551 cc93-4W
13. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the letter which he has sent to the Member for West Ham, North, whether he will now publish revised figures on unemployment and short-time in the furniture trade.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The following is a copy of my letter to the hon. Member about short-time working in the industry.I promised to write to you when I knew the results of the inquiries that I was having made into the reasons for the difference between the figures of short-time working in the furniture industry which I gave in the debate on employment on 20th March and those collected by the National Union of Furniture Trade Operatives. There are, I think, a number of reasons which go to account for the difference between the Union's figure of 12,146 on short time and the figure of under 7,000 which I gave and which, as I explained in the debate, was based on information received from my Local Offices.

  1. (a)While every effort was made to make the latter information as complete as possible, not all cases of short-time working at some of the smaller firms in the industry may have come to the notice of the Local Offices.
  2. (b)The Local Office information related only to workers who were losing one or more days a week. On the other hand, I understand that the Union's figures include workers who lost any time at all, however small, during the week ended 17th March. They may also include workers who worked less overtime or who suffered some loss of earnings on account of a reduction in production, although they worked their normal number of hours.
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  4. (c) Members of the Union work in other industries besides furniture, such as radio manufacture, car upholstery and ship repairing, and it is possible that some of these may have been included in the Union's figures.
The most comprehensive and reliable figures of short-time working are those which my Department collect every quarter from all firms in the manufacturing industries which employ more than ten workpeople. These figures include all workers who work less than their normal weekly hours. We now have the returns relating to the furniture industry for the week ended 25th February. These show that 7,300 workers lost some time during this week out of 103,000 workers employed by the firms making the return. It is true that there was some increase in short-time working in the first half of March, but if allowance is made for this and for short-time which may have been worked at firms employing less than eleven workers, the total number of workers in the furniture industry who were affected by short-time in the middle of March was probably something like 10,000. This represents 8 per cent. of the numbers employed in the industry. I am sorry that the figures which I gave in the debate should have understated the position, but I was anxious to give the House as much information as possible and the estimate was the best that could be made at the time. The Union's statement says that 2,059 of its members have been discharged. I am unable to comment on this figure as no information is given as to the period to which it is supposed to relate. The copy of the N.U.F.T.O Survey which you sent to me is enclosed.