Joint Works Committees.

Oral Answers to Questions — National War Effort. – in the House of Commons on 4th June 1942.

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Photo of Sir Patrick Hannon Sir Patrick Hannon , Birmingham Moseley

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will make a statement on the progress which has been so far accomplished in the organisation of elected works committees in munition factories; and whether the experience gained so far indicates that these committees are functioning satisfactorily and in friendly relationship with the managements?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I am advised that good progress has been made in the establishment of joint committees following upon the recent agreements concluded between the Ministry of Supply and the Unions concerned, and between the Engineering and Allied Employers' National Federation and the Unions. I am advised also that these committees are already performing a useful service and are contributing to the development of a closer relationship between management and workers.

Photo of Sir Patrick Hannon Sir Patrick Hannon , Birmingham Moseley

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the operation of these committees will tend to increase production in munitions factories?

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will consider granting powers to local education committees to inquire of young persons when registering at 16 years of age whether they are employed for long hours in violation of the Factory Acts, so that such information may be conveyed to the factory inspectorate?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

Arrangements have already been made for local education committees to send particulars to factory inspectors of cases coming to their notice in the course of the follow-up of registration where boys or girls under 18 are working for hours which are excessive and proving too tiring. It would not be possible for the education committees to investigate the question whether the hours are in violation of the Factory Acts.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

May I take it, therefore, that the procedure is that where a boy or girl volunteers this evidence to the education committee information is sent to the factory inspectorate, but that where there is no volunteering of the evidence nothing is done?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

No, it works two ways. It is the duty of the inspector himself to inspect, but with the magnitude of operations at the present time the inspectorate may not be able to cover everything. I therefore took the precaution of asking my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education to supplement the work of the factory inspectorate. Where his officers come across any cases, in addition to the factory inspectorate's own discoveries, they send information along so that we can follow it up.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that the weakness of the position is that no complaint is sent to the factory inspectorate at all unless the evidence is volunteered, and is it not a little unfair that some education committees are put in a position in which they cannot do it?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I have tried to explain that I regard the work of the local education committees as being helpful and supplementary, but I cannot pass over to them my duty or responsibility for inspection. That would be quite improper.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lindsay Mr Kenneth Lindsay , Kilmarnock

While agreeing with my right hon. Friend that education committees have supplied this information, is he not aware that some 20 education authorities have now found fairly large numbers of boys between 16 and 18 working excessively long hours, and will he keep a very close watch on this?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I am keeping a close watch on it. I have reduced hours in all sorts of directions where my attention has been called to cases, and I have the matter constantly under review.