Orders of the Day — Employment, Bathgate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st October 1966.

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Photo of Mr Alexander Eadie Mr Alexander Eadie , Midlothian 12:00 am, 31st October 1966

I do not have the opportunity to develop on such a constructive theme as my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). I only have time to state, more or less, in probably a very destructive way, the problems that affect my constituency. But whilst my hon. Friend was talking about plans, and so on, particularly concerning overseas matters, I recollect that in 1964—I do not say this in any conceit or arrogance—I submitted a plan to the proposed new Ministry of Overseas Development. I understand that it was fairly favourably received.

It appears to me that this is perhaps a time when we should seek to examine it because no doubt we could do something. It could go some part of the way to alleviate the problem that we have as a consequence of the redundancies at B.M.C., at Bathgate. My main interest in this debate is that in my constituency I have about 100 people who will be redundant. Also, about 150 of my constituents are on short time. I have already interviewed some of them, and it was significant to me, as a miner before I came to the House, that some were former miners. They had left the coalmining industry, probably in the main because of the crisis of confidence created by the Government and the National Coal Board.

There is bitterness amongst some of my constituents who met me, because they made it clear that they had been hunted out of one industry. They thought that they had found refuge in another and now, as a consequence of redundancies, they find themselves unemployed. This is a very human problem, because some of them are in an age range that makes future employment difficult. They made it clear to me that although they had been hunted out of the mining industry they are not prepared to be hunted back into it as a consequence of Government policies.

For those in the late fifties finding employment is a special problem. It is a traumatic experience to meet men who know that their future employment prospects are very slim. It is a traumatic experience to hear a man say that probably this means a substantial period of unemployment for him.

I am talking about the West Calder area, which has suffered as a result of the entire closure of the shale mining industry. It suffered because of the contraction of the mining industry, and the people there have found employment prospects very difficult for some considerable time. I hold "surgeries" in the area and they are the only ones in my big constituency where people ask me, "Can you help me get a job?". This happened before the B.M.C. redundancies. One does not have to be a prophet to predict that when I hold "surgeries" in the future more people will ask if I can help them find employment. No human being, whether he is in his fifties or is younger, should be placed in the humiliating position of having to tot around and look for work.

My final point concerns the West Calder Employment Exchange, which is functionally inadequate for the staff to work in. If my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary examines it she cannot be very proud of it. It is not a question of the additional "signings" rebelling at their signing-on conditions; it is the staff who should be rebelling.

Although I believe in full employment and am in favour of the abolition of the employment exchange, we have the problem with us now and we are entitled to see that both the staff and the people who must go to this employment exchange at least have buildings, and so on, that are adequate for the job.

I wanted to take up another point in relation to how the Ministry is calculating on the basis of the 5-day week, but I know that time is getting on. I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian for allowing me to take part in the debate. I only hope that our words will not be in vain and there will be action to alleviate some of the problems I have described.