Directed Women Workers (Complaints).

Oral Answers to Questions — National War Effort. – in the House of Commons on 29th January 1942.

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Photo of Mr Alexander Sloan Mr Alexander Sloan , South Ayrshire

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether he is aware that Margaret Steele and Jean Steele, 24, McLean Street, Lochside, Ayr, were sent to Birmingham on 6th January, 1941; that when they arrived in Birmingham the officials had no knowledge of their arrival; that they were ultimately sent to a certain works, of which he has been informed, where they attended for eight days, were asked to do no work, received no training, and had to wire their parents for their fare home; and whether he has any explanation to offer regarding this matter;

(2) whether he is aware that Margaret Steele and Jean Steele, of 24, McLean Street, Ayr, directed to Birmingham, were sent to lodge in a house at 27, Stock-field Road, Acocks Green, Birmingham, where there was neither light nor heat; that they could only sit in a kitchen with only one chair; that the only food provided was bread and margarine; and whether he will take steps to prevent this treatment of Scots girls?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I have have inquiry and can find no substantial ground for the allegations. So far from being unexpected, they were met on arrival, paid the travelling allowance of 10s. and given sandwiches and coffee. They were then taken to the firm's premises where they had a mid-day meal. They were found lodgings by the firm in a decent working-class home and I have satisfied myself that the allegations with regard to the accommodation and food are unfounded, though it is true that the ordinary living-room except at week- ends was the kitchen. They were offered other lodgings within two or three days but preferred to move to lodgings which they had found for themselves. In accordance with the usual practice of the firm, they were placed in a training section and were engaged there for full-time, except on one occasion when they left early at their own request. At the end of a week they again left early to collect their settling-in allowance of 24s. 6d. from the Exchange and then returned to Scotland without giving any notice to the firm. They did not apply for any part of their wages to be advanced to them. Having regard to these facts, I cannot regard these girls as having made a proper effort to play their part and I regret that having accepted the settling-in allowance they should have felt under so little obligation to stick to their job.

Photo of Mr Alexander Sloan Mr Alexander Sloan , South Ayrshire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Answer he has given is entirely incorrect, that the facts stated in my Question are substantially correct, and that these girls have a grievance? Is my right hon. Friend prepared to have the house to which the girls were sent inspected?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I have made very full inquiries, and the place has been inspected by my officers, whose reports I accept.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these girls have excellent characters and that their previous employers have given them characters of high standing, and will he have the girls interviewed by other officers in order to get the girls' side of the story as that story is as honest as the Minister's statement, and the two do not tally?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I have not reflected on the honesty or character of the girls. They are back at work in the neighbouring district now, and are quite contented. One must expect that with girls of this age, as indeed with boys of this age, these events may sometimes occur.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Is the Minister aware that all hon. Members are getting similar complaints, and that I have received a deputation of girls from the same area, with exactly the same grievance, and will he arrange for a committee of Members of the House to visit the area and make inquiries into the conditions?

Photo of Mr Alexander Sloan Mr Alexander Sloan , South Ayrshire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since the Question was put down, I have received at least 20 communications with complaints of the same character; and is he prepared to investigate the matter thoroughly and let us have his opinion?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I have one of the most effective welfare organisations that has ever been established in any State, and I am quite satisfied that, although there are bound to be complaints and irritation when one is transferring people about the country, the steps I have taken to look after these people are adequate.

Photo of Mr Alexander Sloan Mr Alexander Sloan , South Ayrshire

Owing to the totally inadequate, unsatisfactory, and evasive nature of the Reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.