Mobile Women Workers

Oral Answers to Questions — National War Effort – in the House of Commons on 19th November 1942.

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

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will make arrangements that, so far as is practicable, Scottish girls working in England shall obtain Christmas leave at the New Year?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

Early in the year the Government issued a notice with regard to holidays in 1942, which recommended that as many workers as possible should receive two days' holiday either at Christmas or the New Year. The actual arrangements for the holidays must naturally be made by individual firms in the light of war requirements and their own particular circumstances, but I have no doubt that sympathetic consideration will be given by employers to the natural desire of Scottish workers to take their leave at the New Year season.

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

Perhaps my right hon. Friend will call the attention of industrial firms generally to the fact that the New Year has considerable emotional and spiritual significance to Scots?

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Has the Minister given any consideration to the plight of the girls who volunteered for service in England and who have to pay their own fares, and find it very difficult to do so?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I do not think that arises out of this Question.

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

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will take steps to increase the number of voluntary clubs for mobile girl workers who have been transferred to the Midlands?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

The welfare officers of my Department are continuously active in this direction in co-operation with the voluntary organisations. Fifteen clubs are either already functioning or are about to start, while seven others are under consideration. One club has an almost exclusively Scottish membership.

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

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Birmingham alone the need is not only for 15 but for 50 of these clubs? At present the vast majority of these girls have nowhere to go except back to their billets, which they are naturally reluctant to do.

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

The demands for materials, building labour and so on is so great that I cannot do, everything I would like to do, I assure the hon. Member.

Photo of Mr Oliver Locker-Lampson Mr Oliver Locker-Lampson , Birmingham Handsworth

Is Birmingham not a special centre for this need?

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

Is the Minister aware that when boys and girls belong to these clubs it is one means of preventing juvenile crime?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I think club life, especially when people are transferred, is absolutely vital, but the claims are so great. I agree that Birmingham is certainly a very special case.

Mr. McNeil:

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been called to the evidence given by a National Service officer, at Falkirk Sheriff Court, to the effect that he had issued a direction to a girl despite the recommendations of an appeal board; whether this action is in conformity with the practice of his Department; and whether he is satisfied that the powers of an appeal board adequately safeguard the interests of an applicant?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I am aware of one such case, and am writing to my hon. Friend. It is the practice of National Service officers to accept the recommendations of local appeal boards in all save the most exceptional cases, and I am satisfied that the interests of the workers are adequately safeguarded.

Mr. McNeil:

Would the Minister not agree that, as I think he infers in his Answer, this case has created a great deal of unrest throughout the industrial West of Scotland? Could he not make his interest in the matter quite plain to all people concerned?

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

In view of the fact that the Court have not the power to decide whether the girl is guilty or not, but must accept the decision of the national service officer, would my right hon. Friend see that the case is, at least, not proceeded with as a criminal case?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

The difficulty is that I have to do it both ways. At one time I accepted the appeal board's recommendation completely, and then there was complaint the other way. If I have to review now and again one way, I must be able to do it the other way.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Would it not be advisable at least that the case should not be pressed in terms of court proceedings?

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and Eastern

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in this case it was stated that there was no right on the part of the person involved to hear the result of the appeal, and that the girl was not advised what the result was?

Photo of Mr Ernest Bevin Mr Ernest Bevin , Wandsworth Central

I have already explained that in this case I have called for the papers, and I am writing to my hon. Friend.