Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum not exceeding £191,055, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for Expenditure in respect of Labour and Health Buildings, Great Britain."—[NOTE: £95,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ Mr. VIANT
Before the House passes this Vote, I think we are entitled to a little information from the Minister. The expenditure in respect of alterations to old and the provision of new Employment Exchanges is by no means inconsiderable. I understand that considerable alterations are to be effected, and in some instances, I believe, new exchanges are to be erected. In round figures, something like £300,000 is involved in new works, alterations, additions and purchases. For some time past there has been a considerable amount of unrest among those who have from time to time been compelled to use the exchanges. The discontent and unrest have been of such 1041 proportions and so manifest that even organisations like the Trades Union Congress have on several occasions been compelled to give consideration to the subject.
At its annual congress about three years ago, the General Council of the Trade Union Congress was asked to approach the Minister of Labour and endeavour to persuade him to see that his Department provided more adequate accommodation at the labour exchanges, including conveniences for the use of those who were compelled to attend those exchanges; and, for the purpose of giving some adequate data to the Department, the General Council of the Trade Union Congress requested the various trades council throughout the country to get for them a census of the accommodation that was lacking or available in the exchanges throughout the country. The census was taken, and it revealed that one-third of the replies received indicated that arrangements were satisfactory, the majority replying that the accommodation was inadequate. Twenty per cent. reported adequate accommodation within 100 yards of the exchange; 15 per cent. reported that the nearest accommodation was from 400 to 500 yards distant, and in some instances it was as much as 2,000 yards distant. In some cases the only accommodation available either for men or for women was in a railway station or a public house. Fifteen requests have been made to local authorities to provide or improve accommodation but these local authorities replied to the effect that such responsibility was in no sense theirs but that of the Department responsible for the exchanges.
That occurred in the constituency that I represent. The Exchange failed to give the necessary accommodation and this continued for four to five years until eventually the local authority was compelled to embark upon the expense of erecting accommodation for both men and women within close proximity. That meant that that local authority had to put that convenience on a spot that was by no means the best, considering the locality as a whole. The local authority felt that the Government at least should have been prepared to meet this expense. After a considerable amount of correspondence they felt that it was impossible to convince the Department, or the Government, that the responsibility should rest 1042 upon their shoulders. We feel on this side that, when these circumstances exist, the accommodation should at least provided when these alterations are taking place or when a new building is being erected. Theatres, cinemas and such like buildings are compelled by Act of Parliament to provide these conveniences. If we were an authority other than Parliament ourselves, we should undoubtedly be proceeding to compel Employment Exchanges to provide similar accommodation but, owing to it being a Government Department, we find ourselves confronted with the position that all we can do this evening is to make an appeal to the Minister in the hope of persuading him to insist on such conveniences in the plans of these buildings. As recently as March last the Ministry of Labour appeared to be content with accommodation at Newcastle 100 yards from the Exchange. The users of the Southampton Exchange had to walk at least half a mile. At Acton expenditure is to be embarked upon amounting to £7,000. I should like to know if any accommodation is being provided there. At Harrow an expenditure of £5,500 is to be embarked on. In Stepney there is to be an expenditure of £30,700. In the West End of London—the West End Exchange, I presume—there is to be an expenditure of £33,500 this year and there is an anticipated expenditure of £67,000.
Now that I have cited these instances perhaps the first Commissioner of Works will give us some idea of the amount of work that is to be embarked on, and whether it has become or is likely to become the policy of the Department to see that this accommodation is provided where such large expenditure is embarked on. We feel that the time has arrived when we should have a definite policy in this connection. We can no longer expect local authorities, who are already overburdened with local expenditure, to provide the needs of the Employment Exchanges. There is work in the programme at 88 different centres and the Vote is in anticipation of building 47 additional centres. This is a large programme, and we feel that before the programme is embarked on to too great an extent the House ought to know what the policy of the Department is, because the ordinary amenities of life are surely among the things which should commend themselves to the Department.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I want to raise a question or two regarding the provision of exchanges, more particularly in the district I know best in the West of Scotland. I remember that when I was serving on the local authority in Glasgow after some time we came to the conclusion that the authority which provided libraries was not the best to provide lavatories, and I would much prefer that lavatories should be under the control of the local authority but adjacent to the Employment Exchange. That is my own personal view, but I would not be dogmatic about it. My own view was that the City of Glasgow, which ran a large number of lavatories and trained attendants for that kind of work, would fit them out much better and would provide better accommodation than possibly the Department would do. Accommodation should be provided near at hand and the Minister of Labour should make some contribution to the local authority for so doing.
One of the things about which I am concerned is the provision in Employment Exchanges of some kind of first-aid equipment. I have had cases brought to my notice where women have suddenly been taken ill, and at a large number of Employment Exchanges there is little or no equipment to deal with such cases, unless it is voluntarily provided by the manager himself. The First Commissioner of Works should go into the question of providing proper equipment at exchanges for this purpose. I am glad to note that the First Commissioner of Works is building new exchanges at a number of places. This matter raises another problem. In one or two cases where exchanges are being built, tenants have been dispossessed of their houses.
In the city of Glasgow in the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pollok (Sir J. Gilmour) the First Commissioner of Works is proceeding to build a new Employment Exchange and poor people are being warned that they must leave their houses. The local authority say that, as they are not being cleared out because of a slum clearance scheme, there is no responsibility placed upon them to provide alternative accommodation, and, on the other hand, the responsible Government Department say that they have 1044 no control and that they must go to the local authority. While I am anxious that new buildings should be provided, I hope that when the First Commissioner of Works is dispossessing poor people of their houses, he will work in conjunction with the Scottish Office in Scotland and with the appropriate office in England, with the object of seeing that dispossessed tenants are provided with houses before being compelled to leave their present abodes.
One of the exchanges in my division is an old wooden building. I saw one in Newcastle recently, and I have seen such buildings in London. They have served their day and generation, and they have not always been a very good investment for the Ministry of Labour. They quickly depreciated, and the building in my division is in an unsatisfactory condition as far as the paintwork is concerned, and I believe that if any private owner allowed his property to get into such a condition, the local authority would have something to say about the matter. The Minister ought to adopt the policy of building an exchange that can be well equipped for this particular purpose. All over the country I have been shocked with the Employment Exchanges. Recently, I was in the court of referees at Bath. The room where the cases of the unemployed were tried was fairly comfortable, well lighted and warm, but the poor people who were waiting for their cases to be heard were shivering in a little passage outside. That seems to be a common thing all over the country. It is true that in the new exchange in the centre of Glasgow some attempt has been made to solve the problem. Of course, we all recognise that the applicant must of necessity wait, but he ought to be given conditions under which he can wait in something like decent comfort. He ought not to be asked to sit or stand in a miserable passage or in a badly-lit room, with no heating accommodation, while a decent room is provided for those who are to try the case. There ought to be proper waiting rooms for those who have to wait for their cases to be heard.
I would urge the Minister to press forward with his building programme. The unemployment figures may go up or down, but we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that a very large number of people will still utilise these buildings, and with 1045 the coming into operation of the Agricultural Workers' Act the problem will be aggravated. What preparation is the First Commissioner of Works making for the provision of exchanges in places where up to now an exchange has not been necessary but where an exchange will be necessary in consequence of the insurance of the agricultural workers? Formerly, the number of people affected would not justify the provision of an exchange, but the numbers in future will justify the building and equipping of a new exchange. What arrangements are being made to overcome this new difficulty? We have been told that the hon. Member who raised the last subject from the Opposition Benches performed a public service, and I think that the hon. Member who has raised this subject has performed no less a public service.
§ 11.3 p.m.
§ Mr. KELLY
I protest against this Vote coming on at 11 o'clock, when there is so much that requires explanation. It is not fair to the House, nor is it a good way of conducting business. These Votes for the exchanges are numerous and call for explanation, particularly in regard to the large amounts that are being spent this year and why so much is being left over for a future time. Take the case of Hackney—I am choosing it haphazard—where £12,000 was spent up to March, 1936, leaving a further £8,000 to be asked for at a later period. Is it that the work represented in the £8,000 cannot be engaged upon at the present time, or is it that the Government are waiting for another year before undertaking further work which might well be done at Hackney? I should like to know whether in the erection of the buildings at Hackney special provision is being made for the juvenile side and the placing of young people into employment? If so, is that business being conducted in the same building as the work in regard to the adults who are unemployed? I should like to know whether the amount spent upon Rugby will complete the work on that particular exchange? It is strange that a sum of £200 should be left for another year as against an expenditure of £4,000 up to the end of March, 1936.
What does the £101,000 for the London West End Exchange represent? Is it to deal with the areas making trade, and where is it situate? What provision is 1046 being made for young people who will have to attend here so that they will not be left standing in the street? We ought to have an explanation why so much work is being left to later years. There are Manchester, York and Yeovil, to mention a few. I cannot understand why more work is not being undertaken for completion at an earlier date. There does not appear to be any indication where the buildings for the Unemployment Assistance Board are situate, and I hope that we shall have some explanation of the £261,000, and where the buildings are to be erected. There is a sum of £376,000 for buildings in connection with the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Does that money come from the fund or is it paid direct by the Treasury and not counted as a debt against the Unemployment insurance Fund?
May we have some explanation of the work being undertaken for the Board of Control. What are the buildings at Moss-side upon which a sum of £3,000 is being spent? I was under the impression that the Board of Control does not itself undertake expenditure in connection with places for mental defectives in districts like Moss-side. Then, what are the £400,000 proposed works at Moss-side? For what purpose is this money being asked? Again, in regard to Rampton for which the board is responsible, what is the reason for the enormous amount of work being undertaken at Rampton? Is it because some of the young people are to be removed from other institutions? I trust we shall have an explanation of these matters and that in future the Committee will be given more time to consider these questions.
§ 11.10 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
I think most hon. Members who visit Employment Exchanges will appreciate that perhaps the worst type of public building we have in this country is the average Employment Exchange. I assume the reason for that is that Governments in the past thought that unemployment was a temporary problem, and that a wooden shack, a corrugated-iron building or any old structure would do. I am sure that everybody now realises that unemployment is not a temporary problem, and it is therefore imperative that the First Commissioner of Works should realise that as many scores of thousands of men have to stand in in- 1047 clement weather awaiting the convenience of the manager, there ought to be provided for them buildings as suitable as are normally provided for other persons who have to attend at public buildings.
I do not know whether I can hold the First Commissioner of Works responsible, but what I am going to say, has a significant bearing on what he has to do. Therefore, through him I put it to the Minister of Labour that this may be attributable to a policy, which has been adopted for many years, of making the manager of the exchange shoulder the responsibility of finding a building and engaging his own clerks. That course is very prevalent in many parts of the country, particularly where unemployment has not been very severe.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
If I may challenge your Ruling, I would say that these places will have to have suitable buildings for Employment Exchanges in substitution for the buildings that are obtained by managers.
The hon. Member must realise that this is a matter primarily for the Minister of Labour. He must challenge the Minister of Labour on it and if the Minister accepts his view, then no doubt the First Commissioner of Works will have buildings of that type.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
May I put it to the First Commissioner of Works that he ought to have an examination of some of the buildings, such as that at Bridgend, the town in which I live, in order to ascertain whether they are suitable? Unemployment is not decreasing, and I therefore hope the First Commissioner of Works will ascertain whether or not such buildings are convenient for the purpose for which they are used. I would like also to reinforce the question which was put by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). Geographically about one-third of my constituency is agricultural in character, and under the new Act a large number of agricultural labourers will come under the unemployment insurance scheme. It will be necessary to provide Employment Exchanges for them at convenient places. I should like the First 1048 Commissioner to tell us—if not to-night, some other time—whether this matter is being considered and whether we can have an assurance that. agricultural workers will have convenient buildings, where they can interview managers.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ The FIRST COMMISSIONER of WORKS (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)
I think I ought to explain the nature of this Vote. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams) endeavoured to raise questions which might be raised on the general Vote for the Office of Works, or for my salary, or on the Ministry of Labour Vote, but which are difficult to deal with, within the strict limits of the Vote now under discussion. In this connection may I also reply to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) as to the circumstances in which this Vote is always taken? It is the invariable custom, the moment Mr. Speaker is moved out of the Chair on the Civil Estimates to take one or more of the building Votes as they are called, which are usually only a fraction of the total Office of Works Vote, in order that progress may be made with actual work during the financial year, instead of having it held up for purely technical reasons until the main Estimate is voted by the House, which is usually done under the Guillotine in July. That is why one or two Votes are put down, and it is usual to endeavour to meet the wishes of the Opposition in the selection of the Votes to be put down in order that they may raise questions in which they are interested. But it has never been the custom to raise questions general policy on these Votes. That he s usually been done on the main Office of Works Vote which includes my salary and the salaries in the Department.
I shall endeavour to deal seriatim with the questions which have been raised, and I begin with the hon Member for Willesden (Mr. Viant), who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench. I was interested to hear him use the Front Bench "we" in the phrase "we on this side," because he adopted a line of policy to-night in regard to Employment Exchange buildings which is at variance with the attitude consistently adopted by Miss Bond-field and the hon. Member for Chesterle-Street (Mr. Lawson) when they were at the Ministry of Labour under the late Labour Government. I would point out 1049 to the hon. Member that in this matter I am merely an agent for the carrying out of the work according to what the Ministry of Labour decides. They say where they want an exchange and what they want in the exchange and it is my job to carry out the work. It is not for me to lay down policy. As the hon. Member will see, practically the whole of the Ministry of Labour work under this Vote is covered by Appropriations-in-Aid. Practically the whole cost falls either on the Unemployment Insurance Fund, of which the Minister of Labour is the guardian, or on the Unemployment Assistance Board. Therefore, I am free to spend money only in so far as it complies with the policy of the Ministry of Labour. It is most important to make it clear where the Labour party have always stood hitherto on this point.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
Do I understand that Labour Exchanges are now being built out of the Insurance Fund?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
If the hon. Member will look at the Vote, Class 7, item 3, he will see. There has been no change in this for many years; it is part of the Statute, part of the cost of administration of all benefit payments and the like. This is entirely a, building Vote. It is part of the administrative costs of the fund. That is what I have always understood. I have no money to spend as I like, except as the Minister of Labour directs me, any more than when I build post offices or buildings for other Government Departments, the cost of which is recoverable by Appropriations-in-Aid. That is the position as I have always understood it. It is very curious, looking back on this very question that has been raised to-night from the Front Opposition Bench, namely, these conveniences, that invariably in the past it has been the Ministry of Labour which has made the reply. I see that Mr. Egan, in February, 1930, asked the then Labour Minister regarding conveniences in con- 1050 nection with the Birkenhead Exchange. Miss Bondfield's reply was:Experiments in the past have proved that the expense of providing such accommodation and of maintaining it in a sanitary condition would be prohibitive. There is no necessity for it at exchanges if proper public facilities are available, and this is a matter for the local authority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 27th February, 1930; col. 2386, Vol. 235.]Again, in July of the same year, in reply to the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East (Mr. Muff), on the question of lavatory accommodation at the Hull Employment Exchange, Miss Bondfield replied:It is not the practice to provide lavatory accommodation for applicants at Employment Exchanges. … In the case of the Hull Exchange, I am informed that there is adequate accommodation provided within 50 or 60 yards of the premises."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1930; col. 2373, Vol. 241.]In reply to Mr. Allpass, who asked for adequate and suitable conveniences for both sexes at the Bristol Employment Exchange, the answer was:For reasons which have been given in this House, it is not the policy of my Department or of the Ministry of Labour to provide conveniences for applicants attending Employment Exchanges. The plans for the Bristol Exchange have been discussed with the local employment committee and arrangements have been made to meet cases of emergency."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1930; col. 429, Vol. 245.]This reference to emergency provisions brings me to a letter addressed by Miss Bondfield to Dr. Marion Phillips, M.P., as secretary of the Standing Joint Committee of Industrial Women's Organisations dealing with the resolution that was submitted to the Labour Government on this question by that body at a national conference of Labour women. Miss Bondfield's secretary replied:In the circumstances the Minister feels that it is not unreasonable to expect applicants to rely upon the use of public conveniences provided by the local authority."—whose duty it is to provide them under the Public Health Acts.Having regard to the centralised position of exchanges generally, in populated districts, the absence of public conveniences within a reasonable distance of the exchange suggests that the provision of public conveniences is inadequate. In such a case, the question is one for the local authority. As regards sudden illness on the part of women applicants, it is the 1051 practice of exchange officers to permit the use of the official rest rooms and lavatories, but such rooms could not be made available for all applicants without very large additional expenditure. The Minister is not satisfied that she is justified in incurring the responsibility and expenditure which would be involved in the provision, maintenance and supervision of public conveniences at Employment Exchanges.That was the policy and practice of the Labour Government, and for the Opposition to raise this question on this occasion when that was their practice when in office is, I think, really rather hard.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
Did the Ministry of Labour at any time make any contribution to a local authority because a convenience was largely for the use of those attending an exchange?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The duty of the local authorities under the Public Health Acts is to provide adequate conveniences at places where the public require them. It is not the duty of the Ministry of Labour, or my duty as their agent, to provide them for the public in Employment Exchanges. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is right. It is impossible to have overlapping provisions in respect of public conveniences, one lot being supervised by the local sanitary inspectors with their trained staff, and another lot supervised by my Department with a new team of inspectors going up and down the country inspecting and managing them. I have described what has been the consistent policy of the Labour Government when in office. I take the view, as a matter of fact, that that was too rigid a policy. I have discussed this matter with the present Minister of Labour, and we are prepared to carry out a new survey. The fact that a public convenience provided by the local authority is within easy reach is a consideration which has to be borne in mind in selecting a site for an exchange.
I think that a further attempt must be made to bring home to local authorities their responsibility under the Public Health Acts in regard to the provision of such conveniences. To provide them in Employment Exchanges would involve many complications, especially in the new type of exchanges with their considerable waiting halls, and the new types of 1052 shelter which we are erecting. I should be sorry to see it become the general practice to provide conveniences inside exchanges for all and sundry to use. There would be an inevitable tendency for them to become public conveniences used by the ordinary general public, and that would be most undesirable. Accordingly, what we have determined, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, is that provided overlapping with the local authorities is avoided (and with this end in view, there shall be a new survey of the position) the problem is to be surveyed exchange by exchange, and that is now being done. I think I have said enough to show that I am sympathetic. I regret that the hon. Member for Ogmore said that the Employment Exchanges ire very bad. I am rather proud of a good many of my new exchanges. I think they are rather good buildings.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
But this Vote is for new buildings, and I think that some of them are not only a great improvement on those which have been erected or which have been used in the past, but are a positive addition to some of our towns. As regards what are called the amenities of the new exchanges, we realise that in spite of all the efforts of the exchange officials to arrange for people to attend at regular times there are apt to be queues in certain places, and I am endeavouring to get weather shelters erected. We have one or two specimen types in the new exchanges, both internal passages and external shelters along the walls, and there is also a new type of waiting room. We have to guard against these becoming places to which people who have no business at the exchanges resort, but we realise that the exchanges have to be made worthy of the functions they perform.
The hon. Member for Gorbals asked whether first-aid equipment is provided and the answer is "Yes." First-aid boxes and appliances are being supplied to all exchanges, new and old. Some of the new exchanges are pretty elaborate buildings. The reason why part of the money was voted last year, part is to be voted this year and part will be voted next year, is that they are elaborate buildings and take some time to design 1053 and to build. The selection of the site is one of the most important things. It is clone by the Ministry of Labour in conjunction with my Department, and I think we are getting very suitable sites. Occasionally we replace old huts on the same site by new buildings. At Manchester the new headquarters exchange will be erected, at the cost of many thousands of pounds, on the site of the existing hutments. It is inevitable that in such a case it will take some time to build, because you have to build it in bits; as you build you can pull down more of the hutments, and you go on in that way. I passed the design of the building only the other week and it will be a great asset to that part of Manchester. The hon. Member for Gorbals also asked about the new exchange in Glasgow. It is true that we have been offered a site in Pollokshaw road. I understand that we have been offered that site free of restriction.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Last Thursday, when I went down to the Division—I do not make any reflection on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pollock (Sir J. Gilmour) who used to be a distinguished Member of the Cabinet—a number of people were there is a state of distress because they had been put out of their houses. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into this matter.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I will certainly inquire into it. I was informed that we had been offered that site free from restriction. It would certainly be most convenient from the point of view of serving people resorting to the employment exchange in that area. We could make a good job of that site. I hope that the difficulties will not be insuperable and that we shall get that site and be able to proceed with the work there.
Two hon. Members asked about agricultural areas. I realise that new provision will have to be made and it is extremely difficult for us, with our present information, to know exactly where the incidence of agricultural unemployment is likely to be. Naturally there are places where we have a definite demand, as in East Anglia, and we have in contemplation there the creation of the provision elsewhere, for instance, at Bridgend, although I have not understood that there was much agricultural 1054 unemployment in the Vale of Glamorgan—
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
I should think there is a great deal there now. I am anxious to know whether preparations are being made to meet the requirements of the area.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
We had in contemplation the necessity of providing considerably increased accommodation for this purpose. I will make inquiries as to whether it is anticipated that there will be a large number of new people resorting to the Employment Exchange, and find out whether that is one of the places to which we ought to give attention.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries whether the present exchange is really convenient for the number of people who have to attend
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The hon. Member for Rochdale asked me a large number of conundrums. I have answered one or two of them already. There has been a considerable amount of censure about the Hackney case and the Dalston Lane exchange which should be completed by 1st January next year, and completely equipped during the early part of the next financial year. This is inevitable; a system of annual finance always complicates any explanation. The hon. Member asked me particularly about the large London West End exchange. That will be just off Oxford Street, behind Bourne and Hollingsworth's, and not far from the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. Admittedly it will serve the needs of a large number of insured persons, particularly women and juveniles. It is an expensive site; the site alone cost over £30,000. It will necessitate special construction, in view of people resorting there. It is a matter into which I am going personally.
The item for the Unemployment Assistance Board is for expenditure incurred by my Department in providing premises and equipment for the Board, and all these expenses are recoverable from the 1055 Unemployment Assistance Fund. On the passing of the Unemployment Assistance Act my Department had to provide premises for the Board's headquarter staff and for the district and area offices throughout the country, and we have provided one headquarter office, 28 district offices, 16 sub-district offices, 244 area offices and 48 out-stations, all rented. As the Act is a, new one, most of these premises are temporary accommodation, and we shall no doubt replace them with permanent buildings in due course.
With regard to the buildings under the Board of Control, by far the largest matter is the Moss Side institution, near Liverpool. It was formerly a military hospital, and later a Ministry of Pensions hospital. In 1933 it was occupied as a State institution for the care and treatment of mental defectives of dangerous or violent propensities, when the accommodation at Rampton became exhausted. Rampton is full, with over 1,000 inmates, and the Board of Control did not consider it desirable to make Rampton larger, so that Moss Side is to be developed towards an ultimate maximum of 1,000 inmates. Undoubtedly these institutions are bound to be expensive, because they deal with a very difficult class of patients who require very special treatment, necessitating the employment of a, very large staff; some of the inmates are dangerous both to themselves and to other inmates. The situation of Rampton is remote, and accommodation reasonably near the institution is difficult to obtain, and therefore we have to provide staff housing; a considerable amount of the expenditure under this Vote is for staff housing as well as for the institution itself. These cases are among the most difficult types of cases for which the State has to provide, and, although the amount is admittedly large, I think it is probably the only way of dealing with this most difficult class of cases.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Mr. KELLY
A very serious point was raised by the Minister when he told us that the money that he is receiving with regard to Ministry of Labour buildings comes from contributions under the Unemployment Insurance Act. This astonished all of us who have been engaged in this work since its institution, and it will astonish the country. The 1056 Exchanges Act is dated 1909, before the introduction of unemployment insurance, and provision was made that this should come under the Board of Trade Vote, and later under the Ministry of Labour Vote. Now we find, if the statement is true—I feel that there must be some mistake—that the money for the erection of Employment Exchanges is being taken out of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. I should like to vote against this Motion for that reason only.
§ 11.47 p.m.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I am sorry that I did not make myself clear. To take the concrete example of the new Manchester Exchange, in so far as it houses Government offices, that is not recoverable from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, but, in se far as it provides for an essential part of the administrative expenses that fall either on the Unemployment Insurance Fund or the Unemployment Assistance Board, it is recoverable. That is why the gross amount is larger than the Appropriation-in-Aid. The Appropriation-in-Aid which figures in these Estimates is the recoverable part in respect of the administration expenses of the fund and of the Public Assistance Board, which have always been understood to fall upon those funds. The Government itself is one of the tripartite contributors to those two funds. In fact it is the sole contributor to the second fund.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Under the Act the cost of administering unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance are paid for out of those two funds. Why does the hon. Member say the so-called contributions of the employers and the State? Why not be fair and say it is a tripartite contribution to those funds? Why distinguish between them in any way? The administrative costs are borne on that fund and appear in this Vote as an Appropriation-in-Aid.
§ Mr. ALBERY
I should like to know whether consideration is given to the question whether unused sites could be available when new buildings have to be erected. Is his Department responsible 1057 for surveying the whole position of the Departments that have sites on hand?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The primary consideration in regard to Ministry of Labour buildings is the convenience of the people who are likely to go to them. The next consideration is to avoid building the Exchange on a main street or in the middle of a shopping centre. For instance, the West End Exchange is not in Oxford Street, but just off it. In the selection of sites both the Ministry of Labour, for whom I am acting as agent, and my own Department have a say, the Ministry of Labour in regard to the suitability of the site for their requirements and my Department on questions of cost of site, the possibility of getting a site and whether the site is of such a shape that we can erect a workmanlike building for the purpose.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
In so far as it is a pure Employment Exchange it is debited, but not in so far as it is also offices for other Government Departments.
§ Mr. ALBERY
There are certain ideal sites in the possession of different Departments. What I want to know is this: Before Any other site is acquired for Government buildings, does the right hon Gentleman's Department inquire about those sites?
§ Mr. ALBERY
I should have said: "Before any new site was acquired for Employment Exchange purposes." I presume the procedure would be the same in either case?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
If there were such a vacant site in a convenient centre we should take it, but we must consider whether it would be convenient before we take any old vacant site instead of a site which is really needed for administrative purposes.
§ Mr. ALBERY
What I wanted to know was the precise responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman's Department in regard to sites. There must be some Department which has some regard to what 1058 sites are available among Government Departments, otherwise there is no co-ordination.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Perhaps my hon. Friend can give me a case or an example of a vacant site in the possession of any Government Department.
§ Mr. ALBERY
There are examples which occur to one, but I will not press the right hon. Gentleman further.
§ Mr. ELLIS SMITH
Can the Minister inform us what is the position at the Longton Employment Exchange now? An old factory is being used. Is it considered that suitable accommodation will be provided for all who desire to sign on by a building to cost the amount decided on by the Minister?
§ Question put, and agreed to.