The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:
The hon. Member will recognise that I only came into the Chair a moment ago and that I have not had an opportunity of studying his Amendment. I am afraid his Amendment is out of order, because the object of this Bill is to provide a guarantee against loss resulting from the holding of a British Empire Exhibition. Therefore the hon. Member cannot move an Amendment which deals with the employment of labour. I must rule the Amendment out of order.
May I say, on that point, that this was debated on the Second Reading, but I do not base my case on that ground. As I understand it, the position is that the taxpayer is guaranteeing this exhibition against loss, but in return for that guarantee certain obligations were entered into by the contractor. Principal among those obligations was an undertaking to employ ex-service labour. That has not been done, and I drew attention to this omission on the Second Reading. Am I therefore not entitled to argue that this House should not extend the liability into which it has entered unless specific undertakings are given that labour will be employed in the manner originally agreed to.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:
It is not for me to express an opinion on what happened when Mr. Speaker was in the Chair. I am quite certain, however, that the Amendment is not in order at this stage. I think it may be possible for the hon. Member to vote against the Third Reading, or to move the rejection of the Bill at that stage because he does not think it goes far enough. An Amendment now, however, must be within the scope and title of the Bill. It does not come within that scope, and therefore I rule it out of order.
That is a misapprehension. This Bill does nothing more than remove the doubt which has arisen in reference to the powers of the Board of Trade under the original Act, in view of two changes—one a change of date and the other a change of place. The original Act said London, whereas it is now proposed that the exhibition should take place at Wembley. Those are the sole points in the Bill, and consequently there is no guarantee of money in it at all.
I gave an undertaking on the Second Reading, when a question was asked, that I would make a short statement on the Third Reading, and, with the permission of the House, I shall be glad to do so. There were two points raised on the Second Reading by the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley). The first related to the employment of local labour, and the second to the employment of ex-service men. As I explained to him, in accordance with a reply which was given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on 6th April, local men would, from the mere fact of geography, have a certain priority. With regard to ex-service men, the reply was given, I think, to the hon. Member for East Bradford (Captain Loseby) by myself that an arrangement had been come to with the contractor that if and so far as labour was not transferred by the contractor from other contracts which were finished at the time, then he would engage labour at the Tavistock Street Employment Exchange, and, in accordance with our regular practice at Exchanges, this arrangement is subject to the usual preference for ex-service men. I informed the hon. Member for East Bradford that only a small proportion had been so engaged, and that I would make further inquiries. I have made these inquiries. I have had the opportunity personally of interviewing the manager of the Exhibition and also the representative of Messrs. McAlpine, the contractors.
The position shortly is this. The contractors are under contract to finish the Stadium by the 1st April next. The formal opening is to take place in April. They are, therefore, pressing the work on, and, in fact, are employing night shifts as well as day shifts on the work. The second point is that the work at present is largely of a preliminary character, and only some 800 men are engaged. These are largely foremen, experienced nucleus, and semi-skilled men, and they have been transferred mainly from other jobs which Messrs. McAlpine have had in hand which have just come to an end. The House will bear in mind that the exception of transferred men was expressly made in my answer to the Member for East Bradford. The contractors anticipate that, when the preliminary stages are completed, a much larger amount of labour will be engaged up to several thousands. The number of ex-service men to date is, roughly, 50 per cent. of such workers as have been engaged, even when the necessity of having nucleus men and experienced men is remembered, and the contractors anticipate that, as the number of unskilled men engaged on this work increases, the proportion of ex-service men will be steadily and substantially augmented. I thought it right, in view of the questions which were raised, to go into the matter very thoroughly, and I hope that the House will think that this is a satisfactory explanation.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the courtesy which has extended to the questions which I put to him, but may I urge on him that, as the work develops, he will get the contractor to take this matter into serious consideration. The first priority for unskilled labour resides in the man who combines the capacity of ex-service man and local man. I agree that an ex-service man should have priority over non-ex-service local labour. I would suggest that the order of priority should fall into three categories. First, ex-service local men; second, ex-service men: and third, local labour which is not ex-service. I should be grateful to the hon. Gentleman if he will urge those considerations upon the authorities responsible, and, although he might divide specifically the question of local labour from ex-service men, I would urge him that this locality is bearing the brunt of the Exhibition which has been dumped down in the neighbourhood, and so far has not got any compensating advantages, and, again, that the employment of local labour is an economy by saving the necessity for additional housing accommodation and by saving travelling expenses.