Mobile Women Workers

Oral Answers to Questions — National War Effort – in the House of Commons on 8th October 1942.

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Major Lloyd:

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that factories of prime importance to the war effort in Scotland are urgently in need of many more women workers and whether, as these important vacancies cannot be filled by immobile women, older men or part-time workers, he will relax the present regulations with regard to mobile women labour in Scotland and so enable these Scottish factories to fulfil their urgent commitments?

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the increasing number of factories coming into production in Scotland, any steps are being taken to prevent a further compulsory transfer of Scottish girls to English factories?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

There are now considerable areas in Scotland from which mobile women are not being withdrawn. As regards other areas, the position is kept under constant review, but there is no reason at present to suppose that there is not an adequate supply of immobile women, older men and part-time workers to meet the most important local demands, though it may occasionally take some little while to find enough immobile women to satisfy a sudden large demand for labour.

Major Lloyd:

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is marked indignation in certain parts of Scotland, and that there are many big business men who will disagree with his statement that they can obtain immobile women? Why should these mobile women be sent to England when there are many factories of vital importance in Scotland which require them for war purposes? Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter in a more sympathetic light?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

From the point of view of the war effort, I have never regarded Scotland as being a separate country. It is part of Great Britain, and I have to treat it, not on a national basis, but on the basis of the requirements of the war effort. I have already indicated that Glasgow and the West of Scotland are getting redder every day from the point of view of my Department, that is, in the labour supply sense, and therefore the problem will be minimised.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been quite a number of cases of compulsory transfer of girls from Scotland when other work has been available, very often in their own districts? Will he put a stop to that?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

There is no difference in the treatment of Scottish, Welsh, English—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or Yorkshire "]—or Yorkshire girls. What I have to decide is whether a girl is a mobile worker, and, if she is, I have to remove her to the place where the demand is the greatest; utilizing the immobile woman in the locality, because she cannot move from her home. I will not be a party to different treatment for Scotland from Wales or anywhere else.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will arrange that women who would otherwise be liable to be directed to munition work away from home under the National Service Acts shall not be directed to take up such employment outside daily travelling distance of their homes if they are the sole remaining active member of a household whose other members are aged or infirm?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

Such women may apply for postponement of liability to be called up under the National Service Acts in accordance with the statutory provisions relating to exceptional hardship and such applications, if not admitted by the Department, are referred for decision to a hardship committee.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that many of the hardship committees take an extremely unsympathetic view of these cases, and will he give instructions that more regard should be had for the care of aged and infirm persons in their own homes?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I do not accept the implications in my hon. and gallant Friend's question. The number of complaints I have had about hardship committees is infinitesimal. They have done a great job of work.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

asked the Minister of Labour whether with a view to preventing women who are not in good health being directed to munition work away from home, he will consider the advisability of arranging that all mobile women should undergo a medical examination before being sent away from their own district?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

It is always open to a woman to bring medical evidence to show that she is not fit to undertake employment which is proposed for her and if necessary arrangements are made for a medical examination. As at present advised I do not consider that a routine or compulsory medical examination is desirable.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that there is no check to prevent persons of doubtful mental stability being sent away and that they do not understand that they have any right to bring evidence before the local branch of the Ministry of Labour?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

Their attention is called to their rights. I have given careful instructions on that matter. There is opposition to introducing a compulsory medical examination for women on a universal scale, and I have to have regard to that opinion in the country.

Miss Ward:

Where does the opposition come from?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

There has been a good deal of resentment on the part of both the girls and the parents.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is satisfied with the arrangements which are made to provide suitable accommodation and hospitality for Scottish girls who are transferred to English factories.

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I have the arrangements constantly under review, and I am satisfied that they are working well.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there have been cases in which these girls have arrived at English provincial stations without food, and if I bring cases will he look into them?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I will, certainly, but the welfare arrangements have been investigated by this House, by Churches and by a number of other people. I will go further and invite my hon. Friend to visit the area and see the arrangements made.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

asked the Minister of Labour whether an opportunity will be given to Scottish girls who have been transferred to England to return to Scotland as and when work becomes available for them?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

If it should become necessary to transfer women into any area from which mobile women are now being withdrawn, arrangements will be made that, as far as may be practicable, preference is given to women who have been transferred from their homes in that area.