Control of Engagement Order

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd November 1947.

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Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North 12:00 am, 3rd November 1947

No married women will come under this order, unless they go to the exchange and ask for a job. If a married woman goes to an exchange and says, "I want to go to work," we will say, "All right, take one of these jobs." If a person comes forward like that who has been out of the field of industry, efforts will be made to meet her requirements and to fit her up as soon as possible.

As to the estimated number of people employed in manufacturing industry, in the metal and engineering trades the numbers have gone up by more than half a million, or 24.4 per cent., over 1939. The numbers employed in the textile industries have gone down by 167,000 or 20.9 per cent. As regards non-manufacturing industries, coal mining is down by 17,000, but transport, shipping, building and civil engineering, and entertainment and sport are all well above their pre-war figures. Agriculture and fishing have substantially more workers than before the war, but still more are required to replace prisoners of war and to meet the needs of the new agricultural programme.

There have been changes in the past year. In the 14 months up to August I think it is—we cannot bring them right up to date—out of a net increase of 1,300,000 in the total number in employment—this is the calculation for which some hon. Members were asking me—representing mainly men who have returned on demobilisation, no fewer than 174,000 were in building and civil engineering, 160,000 in the distributive trades, 191,000 in other consumer services and 45,000 in entertainment and sports which show the largest percentage increase over the year. Coalmining shows a net increase of only 20,000, and agriculture and fishing only 17,000. The increase in textile figures was proportionately greater than in some other industries but it leaves these vital industries very much below their prewar figure. I will give the House in a moment some figures on that aspect of the subject.

I am sure that everybody, even the mover and seconder of the Motion, will agree that the Government, as much as anyone else, dislike the making of this order. It is not made just out of caprice, but after a survey of the situation. We feel that it is necessary in view of the economic crisis with which the country is faced and that we must re-deploy our labour force to see that it is used on necessary things. We had a very much more rigid control during the war. Experience has taught us that we cannot wait upon the play of economic forces. I know there are some people with the kind of mind which believes that the play of economic forces can put this thing right; in other words, let high wages in one industry, induce people to go into that industry, and unemployment force people out of other industries. Even though economic forces could redress the balance, we think that would be too slow a motion, and that we must get our vital, undermanned industries manned as soon as possible.