Oral Answers to Questions — Industrial Reconversion – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd March 1945.
asked the Minister of Labour how many persons formerly engaged in the building industry are now engaged in other civil employment; and whether he will forthwith arrange for their return to the building industry.
Precise statistics on this point are not available but it is estimated that approximately 90,000 of the craftsmen who were in the building industry at mid 1940 were at mid 1944 employed in other industries excluding Civil Engineering. As concerns the second part of the Question, present arrangements provide for the return to the building industry as they become available of men with previous experience in skilled building occupations born before 1910. An extension of these arrangements is under consideration.
In view of the urgent need for building operatives, will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to replace these people in their present employment and so expedite their return to the building industry?
Unfortunately man-power is so short that I have no one to replace them with.
asked the Minister of Labour if men are now being released from the Services to work in the clothing industry; and will he take any necessary steps to get men in the building industry released to meet the demand for such men on war damage repair.
There is no special scheme in operation at present for the release of men from the Forces for work in the clothing industry. As regards the second part of the Question, the Armed Forces are not in a position to release large numbers of men for civilian work. Considerable numbers of skilled building trade workers in trades in which the scarcity is most acute have, however, been released from the Army for work on bomb damage repair in London.
Is there any general scheme in regard to the building trade? Considerable numbers in the tailoring trade are released whether there is a settled scheme or not Cannot we have priority for the building trade?
We cannot prolong the war with Germany as we should do by breaking up the Army. The essential thing is to get the war over and we are therefore concentrating on maintaining the Forces. Within that limit we are doing our best.
There are several hundreds, if not thousands, of these men who have not done a stroke at their work for years.
asked the Minister of Labour how many of the Italian prisoners of war were formerly operatives in the building industry; and how many of these have been used for the purpose of building in England.
Between 7,000–8,000 Italian prisoners of war now in this country have given their previous occupation as in the building industry. Of these approximately 2,000 are engaged on building work for the Service Departments. A further 1,500 have been allocated for building work in London in connection with war damage repairs. Two hundred of these men have already been transferred and the remainder will be transferred as soon as the necessary acommodation is available.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make an effort and see that the remaining 4,500 are also used?
I cannot do that. I have to watch the position of agriculture, which is very short as well. It is a question of keeping the balance when demands are made on me.
They are doing useful work. They may not all be in agriculture but the Departments have made claims for their services and I allocate them so as to get the work done to the best of my ability.
asked the Minister of Labour the number of men called up for service in the Armed Forces from the building industry, whether engaged on new construction or on maintenance, during the calendar year 1944 and in January and February, 1945.
The total number of men recruited to the Forces from the building industry in 1944 was 14,000 including 8,000 from craftsmen occupations. Corresponding figures for January and February, 1945, are not yet available.