asked the Minister of Labour how many Orders under the Factory Acts have been issued allowing young persons to be employed up to 52 hours per week; the date of issue in each case; the several industries they cover; the approximate number of young persons affected; and whether any steps are taken to record any deleterious effects on the mental and physical standards of those young persons?
I have made two Orders, dated 23rd December and 5th February last, under which working hours up to 52, or in the former case 53, can be authorised for young persons under 16 as well as for older persons. They apply to the pottery and cotton spinning industries respectively. The Orders cannot, however, be used at any particular factory unless permission to do so has been obtained from the District Factory Inspector, and I have no figures as to the present numbers of such permissions, though I shall be receiving returns shortly. The permissions do not relate to any specified numbers of young persons. The working of the Orders is being closely watched.
Is the right hon. Gentleman keeping watch on the complaints that are made from time to time, like the one the other day from Huddersfield about young persons working such long hours that they were deteriorating mentally and physically?
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that such an Order is necessary for the furtherance of the war effort? If it is found to be harmful to the health of these young people, will he take steps to withdraw it?
As I explained in reply to a previous Question, the difficulty arises when emergencies are suddenly forced upon the Ministry. It is extremely difficult to work the differences of hours between 16 and under 16, and sooner or later in subsequent legislation it will have to be straightened out.
I was satisfied that war requirements of various kinds necessitated longer hours of work in cotton spinning mills, and representatives of both sides had agreed to increase them up to 52, on the basis that the new scheme of hours would apply irrespective of age. In view of the extent to which this industry is organised with assistants under 16, I decided that I could not exclude them from the Order permitting the longer hours for others working with them.