Air-Raid Precautions Work.

Oral Answers to Questions — Unemployment. – in the House of Commons on 22nd June 1939.

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Photo of Mr Walter Windsor Mr Walter Windsor , Kingston upon Hull Central

asked the Minister of Labour why circulars Nos. 28 and 29, prohibiting the employment of men over 30 years of age in erecting air-raid shelters, have been issued; and, in view of the fact that able-bodied men over the prescribed age have been refused such work at the Hull Employment Exchange, with consequent distress to themselves and their families, whether he will consider the immediate withdrawal of the ban?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The instructions relating to the recruitment of men for certain constructional work in connection with the making of trenches and the erection of shelters are intended to secure that, in accordance with representations which have been made to me constantly in this House and elsewhere, preference should be given in the performance of this work, as between applicants who are equally suitable for the work, to those who have been longest unemployed and particularly to the long-term unemployed in the younger age groups for whom a spell of regular work would be especially valuable. Subject to this preference, there is nothing in the instructions to preclude the employment of suitable men over the age of 30 years on this work. As I mentioned in my reply to the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) on 18th May, it is my desire that the instructions, which are elastic in their nature, should be applied in each area with due regard to local circumstances, and in view of the hon. Member's question I am asking the Divisional Controller to review the position at Hull.

Photo of Mr Walter Windsor Mr Walter Windsor , Kingston upon Hull Central

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that an unemployed man, aged 29, has been refused air-raid precautions work at the Hull Employment Exchange because he signs on daily and not twice a week; and will he give the reason for this ruling?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I have been unable to identify this case. A person signing the unemployed register daily would be a casual worker and would not normally fall within the category of long unemployed for whom a preference is given in filling these vacancies.

Mr. W. Joseph Stewart:

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that instructions have been issued that no unemployed man over the age of 30 is to be engaged in the erection of air-raid shelters; and, as this age limit debars all air-raid wardens from being engaged in this work, their age limit being 30, will he have this age limit removed as it is causing a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst the unemployed generally?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given earlier to the hon. Member for Central Hull (Mr. Windsor).

Mr. Stewart:

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we have made requests from this side time and again that in any work available a certain percentage of elderly unemployed men should be engaged; is not this a case in which work could be found for a percentage of them and yet we have a regulation forbidding men of over 30 years of age to be employed?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

That is a misconstruction. I have already pointed out that there is no such inhibition. What is necessary here is to meet the continuous demand that the younger long-term unemployed should have a preference in this kind of work, for which they are particularly suited.

Mr. Stewart:

Has that instruction been issued in Durham County?

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

Is there not something wrong in connection with this circular when many areas, according to the right hon. Gentleman himself, have misinterpreted it?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

If I thought that, I would give instructions to make it clear, but I do not think that is so.