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Working Hours

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th July 1959.

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Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington 12:00 am, 27th July 1959

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in readiness for redundancy in industry consequent on the introduction of automation and atomic energy, he will consider legislation providing for a progressive reduction in working hours.

Photo of Mr Iain Macleod Mr Iain Macleod , Enfield West

I do not accept the implications in the first part of the Question. The answer to the second part of the Question is, "No, Sir."

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

The right hon. Gentleman will surely not dispute the contention that, in future years, as a result of the introduction of atomic energy and automation, there might be considerable redundancy, and, if we are to mitigate the harsh results of redundancy, is it not better to proceed in a progressive and co-ordinated fashion for a reduction of hours rather than by piecemeal negotiation?

Photo of Mr Iain Macleod Mr Iain Macleod , Enfield West

With respect, I would dispute that contention. All forms of technological change lead to different jobs or to better jobs, but not to fewer jobs. The matter referred to in the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's Question is something for industry-by-industry negotiation in this country.

Photo of Mr David Jones Mr David Jones , Hartlepools, The

If the Minister has not any information as yet, will he read the reappraisal report of the British Transport Commission, where it indicates that, as a result of modern developments, very many fewer people will be required to do the same work? Does that not warrant a reduction in hours?

Photo of Mr Iain Macleod Mr Iain Macleod , Enfield West

Of course, we are having many studies, by the D.S.I.R., by my National Joint Advisory Council, and by other authorities. Naturally, I do not say that precisely the same level of employment will apply in each industry or factory. One must look at the overall position. I am confident that we have nothing to fear from the coming of technological change, and it will not mean widespread redundancy over the country.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

Is the Minister aware of the situation, for example, in the tin-plate industry where in a very short time there has been tremendous technical change, and one of the problems thrown up—a very important one—concerns men of fifty years of age who lose their old skill and who very often find it difficult to adjust themselves to new methods? Is this not a special problem which ought to receive attention?

Photo of Mr Iain Macleod Mr Iain Macleod , Enfield West

Yes, I quite agree; and this is one of the matters studied by the D.S.I.R. and by the National Joint Advisory Council.