Mobile Women (Work Direction).

Oral Answers to Questions — National War Effort. – in the House of Commons on 23rd July 1942.

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Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will alter the instructions now issued to exchanges all over the country with regard to transferring girls for work from one district to another in order to ensure that girls are not sent away when there is useful work available in their own areas; is he aware that numbers of girls have been sent south from the Clydeside area who could have been found work nearby, and at the same time girls are sent to Clydeside from the Midlands; and whether he will take action to remedy the grievances complained of?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

Under the general plan for making the most economic use of labour, mobile women as they become available are placed in the areas where the shortage of workers is most acute. This may mean that they have to leave areas where they could get work, but where also the most important vacancies can be filled by immobile women, older men and part-time workers. In accordance with this principle young women have been transferred from Scotland to the Midlands. Apart from a very few cases of women with special qualifications, Employment Exchanges do not transfer women from the Midlands to Scotland, and I have no evidence of such transfers taking place.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Can the Minister tell the House to whom, these women can appeal when neither they nor their parents desire that they should be torn from their homes in Scotland and taken to England?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

They have the right of appeal to the appeal boards; all workers have that right, and they are told their rights when they are being transferred.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Would the Minister consider advising the boards to take into serious account cases where a young woman acts, in the evenings and at weekends, as domestic help to a widowed mother, and is necessary at home for that purpose?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I have given instructions that the boards are to exercise care, but I must remind the House that with the tremendous call-up that lies ahead to carry out the strategy of the war, about which no one is more keen than my hon. Friend who put the last Supplementary Question, these things must be made tighter.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

That means to say that I am not just as keen as my hon. Friend is about the war. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the part he is playing at the moment in taking these girls from Scotland is causing grievous discontent?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

War is bound to cause some discontent, but I do not admit the imputation of general discontent. I would like to take this opportunity of expressing my gratification at the marvellous response of the women in Scotland in coming to help in the war effort. They do not seem as desirous of staying in Scotland as the men are of keeping them there.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

There is an explanation of that— look at some of the men they are coming to in England.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the unsatisfactory position of young Scottish girls sent from Dumbarton and Clydebank to work in England; that the boards to which they are supposed to appeal have inadequate powers and do not serve the purpose and are overruled by the National Service officers; and will he take steps to strengthen the appeal boards or otherwise to secure that only in suitable cases girls are sent away from Scotland and only to suitable jobs in England?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

Young women transferred from Scotland to England are placed only in suitable vacancies on urgent war work. I have had very good reports of the welfare work done for these women by my Department. In regard to the second part of the Question, there is no statutory right of appeal against a direction given under Defence Regulation 58A (1). I have, however, arranged that women who are directed to employment in industry may appeal against the direction to a local appeal board constituted under the Essential Work Orders, unless they are within the age groups selected and are liable for call-up under the National Service Acts when they may apply for postponement. I am satisfied that the boards serve their purpose well, and it is my policy to accept their recommendations in all save the most exceptional cases.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Will the Minister take it from me that this is causing terrible discontent, and can he not do something to make the appeal boards be more sympathetic?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I cannot answer general statements of that character. If any case is brought to me of unsympathetic treatment, I will certainly look into it, but I have taken the utmost precautions to see that cases are dealt with properly.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

It is perfectly true that the Minister is ready to deal with specific cases when they are drawn to his attention—he even went to one board himself—but we want something to be done to make the boards more sympathetic.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

In view of the fact that most of the applications concern women, would the right hon. Gentleman consider circularising women members of the boards pointing out that the constitution of the boards allows all members equal power with the chairman?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

If necessary, I will look into that.