asked the Minister of Labour whether in view of the reluctance of his Department to prosecute workers of 17 years of age who are reported for absenteeism and bad time-keeping, he will outline his policy with regard to disciplining persistent offenders?
I would refer my hon. Friend to the pamphlet on absenteeism recently issued by my Department. In my opinion, avoidable absence from work is most likely to be eliminated when it is treated as a domestic matter, to be settled within an establishment by mutual cooperation between management and the workers' representatives. If this course be seriously pursued, the number of cases remaining for which prosecution is the only effective deterrent will be found to be very small. Further, where an offence has been committed by a young person, the assistance of the juvenile committee is sought, in order to bring influence and persuasion to bear upon the boy or girl, and the advice of the local probation officer may also be obtained. I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that the prosecution of young people should only be undertaken as a very last resort.
In view of the fact that boys of 18, 19 and 20 are daily sacrificing their lives in the national cause, does my right hon. Friend not agree that boys of 17 are quite old enough to have a sense of responsibility in the national cause; and is he satisfied that his Department sufficiently realises the need for disciplinary action?