Instructional Centres.

Oral Answers to Questions — Unemployment. – in the House of Commons on 2nd March 1939.

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Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Jarrow

asked the Minister of Labour the numbers of young men who have refused to attend instructional classes; and what percentage this is of the total applicants for benefit eligible for such centres?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

Of a total of 54,600 young men, applicants for unemployment assistance, between the ages of 18 and 25 who were interviewed in 1938, about 43,000 or 79 per cent. were unwilling on various grounds to apply for admission to an instructional centre. About 14,700 of this total were men with dependants and I should like to make it clear that in a large number of cases the grounds advanced by the applicants were substantial. Similar figures are not available in the case of claimants to unemployment benefit.

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Jarrow

Does the Minister think that these figures justify attendance at the centres being made compulsory?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I am not aware that there is any need for that, except in particular cases, and those who have advocated it have always made it clear that they realised that those cases were few and raised special difficulties.

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Jarrow

Are we to understand from that reply that there is no desire on the part of the Government to make these instructional centres compulsory?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The centres have always been voluntary.

Viscountess Astor:

Would it not be best to deal with this matter by getting the Fisher Act into operation in its entirety?

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Has there not been considerable propaganda in the Press on this matter?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I take no account of propaganda in the Press.

Photo of Sir Louis Smith Sir Louis Smith , Sheffield, Hallam

On a point of Order. Seeing that there are 190 Questions on the Paper, could you not use your discretion, Mr. Speaker, when many questions are put down to one Minister, and divide them over several days, according to their relative importance and urgency, instead of all the questions being taken on one day?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

My duty is confined to seeing that the questions conform to the Rules which govern the putting of questions on the Paper. I am not concerned with their merits.