HC Deb 16 July 1909 vol 7 cc2441-61

(1) Trade Boards shall, subject to the provisions of this section, fix minimum rates of wages for timework for their trades (in this Act referred to as minimum time-rates), and may also, if they think fit, fix general minimum rates of wages for piecework for their trades (in this Act referred to as general minimum piece-rates), and those rates of wages (whether time or piece-rates) may be fixed so as to apply universally to the trade, or so as to apply to any special process in the work of the trade or to any special class of workers in the trade, or to any special area.

If a Trade Board report to the Board of Trade that it is impracticable in any case to fix a minimum time-rate in accordance with this section the Board of Trade may so far as respects that case relieve the Trade Board of their duty.

(2) Before finally fixing any minimum time-rate or general minimum piece-rate, the Trade Board shall give public notice of the rate which they propose to fix and consider any objections to the rate which may be lodged with them. within three months.

(3) The Trade Board shall give public notice of any minimum time-rate or general minimum piece-rate finally fixed by them.

(4) A Trade Board may, if they think it expedient, cancel or vary any minimum time-rate or general minimum piece-rate fixed under this Act, and shall reconsider any such minimum rate if the Board of Trade direct them to do so, whether an application is made for the purpose or not:

Provided that the provisions of this section as to public notice shall apply where it is proposed to cancel or vary the minimum rate fixed under the foregoing provisions in the same manner as they apply where it is proposed to fix a minimum rate.

(5) A Trade Board shall on the application of any employer fix a special minimum piece-rate to apply as respects the persons employed by him in cases to which a minimum time-rate but no general minimum piece-rate is applicable, and may as they think fit cancel or vary any such rate either on the application of the employer or after notice to the employer.


moved; in section (2), to leave out the word "finally"["Before finally fixing"].


I agree.

Question, "That the word 'finally' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.

Sir SAMUEL EVANS (for Mr. Churchill)

moved, in section (2), after the words "shall give," to leave out the word "public." The Board of Trade are empowered by Clause 19 to make regulations as to the notice which may be required under this Act with a view, so far as practicable, of bringing the matter, of which notice has been given, before the persons affected. It is not necessary, for instance, that the rates fixed should be made public in the sense of causing them to appear in a newspaper. The word "public" here is simply and purely restrictive, and if it were not omitted, as I now propose, the Board of Trade would never possess the power to require that notice should be given to the parties affected. In a particular case there may be apprehensions among the employers that too many details and too much information are required if the notice is public. As long as the persons in the trade get notice, and the Board of Trade will take care of that, it will be sufficient that the Department be allowed that discretion. It will not prevent their giving public notice if they think proper to do so.

Question, "That the word 'public' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.


moved, after the word "months," at the end of section (2), to insert the words "including any objections based on the competition of similar goods of foreign manufacture." I cannot conceive what objection can be urged by the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to this Amendment, unless it is said, as was said upstairs, that it is unnecessary; at any rate, he cannot contend that it will alter what is the avowed intention of the Bill, and even, if it be unnecessary, it cannot be urged that it is mischievous or liable to lead to anything which is in conflict with the avowed spirit of this measure. Any attempt that may be made to improve the rate of wages in the trades affected by this Bill is bound to depend for its success in a very large measure upon the character of the foreign competition in those specific trades. Of the four trades scheduled in this measure, three are open to serious competition. They are the tailoring trades, the lace-making trades, and the cardboard-making trades. I have already on a previous occasion produced to the House information of an official character in respect of this point, information the accuracy of which has not been challenged. It is indeed a matter of common knowledge that the trades affected by this Bill are trades in which competition abroad is capable of very considerable extension in Belgium and France. And there is this danger to guard against, that in the event of the rates of wages in these trades being raised in England we shall put it in the power of men who are now suspected of paying sweating wages to go abroad to Antwerp, Calais, or Hamburg and get done at a lower rate of wages work for which they are already insufficiently paying. If the Trade Board, having knowledge of such conditions as those I have indicated, refuse to consider objections based on foreign competition, they would be able, under the Bill as it now stands, to justify their refusal. We have been assured that the power to consider this question is already conferred upon the authorities by the Bill, and, if that is so, why not state it specifically in the measure itself. If hereafter there should be an appeal to the courts, the courts, as we know from experience, will not be influenced by the pious opinions expressed in this House during Debate, but they will be influenced, and, indeed, they will be controlled, by the wording of the Bill itself. It is for that reason I urge the acceptance of these words. I think the position I have ventured to take up in the matter is somewhat strengthened by the action pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade when the Bill was under consideration upstairs. It was pointed out that the passing of this measure in its original form would cause some hardship to certain Irish industries, and that in certain trades in Ireland the rates of wages there, for a variety of reasons, which I need not now enter into, are lower than the rates ruling in the same trades in England. In consequence of those representations, and in consequence of the opposition to the Bill in its original form, the President of the Board of Trade made a concession to the Irish demand by granting to them a separate Trade Board. The Irish insisted on protection against England in certain industries, and they are to get it. The Irish insisted on protection from the danger in respect of which I ask that England should be protected against the foreigner. The Irish naturally do not want to be handicapped by the English rate of wages, and I submit that they are right. I would ask why, then, should Englishmen be handicapped by the foreign rate of wages? I beg to move.


I desire to second 'the Amendment. The object of this Bill, as I understand, is that goods in certain trades shall not be produced at underpaid or sweated wages, and that we should afford reasonable protection to those good employers in these trades at the present time by preventing them being handicapped by unfair competition. It is idle to suppose even in those trades of which we complain that there are not some very good employers of labour who, in spite of the unfair competition which they have been open to, have invariably done their best to pay a decent rate of wages to their employés. Mr. Sydney Webb, on giving evidence, pointed out that the essence of meeting this difficulty was to see that fair treatment was given to those good employers of labour. He said:— The employer who has to sell his goods in competition with all other employers, if he does not keep his expenses of production down to the lowest limits that Can be attained, must be undersold. It is obvious that these goods are not alone produced in this country, and if we are to secure the good employer from unfair competition we cannot limit this rule or the action to be taken by the Board to decide as to the minimum wage to goods alone produced in this country, but it should extend to goods produced elsewhere where the wages may be low, and the labour sweated. It is useless and unjust for us to attempt to establish and enforce a standard of wages here in this country in those trades unless we are at the same time going to provide ourselves with the weapon to see that those trades are not destroyed by unfair competition of goods sent into this country by foreign manufacturers, and produced at an even lower rate of wages than is paid here, and certainly under conditions that are infinitely worse. It is obvious that unless we take some steps of this kind the manufacturer in this country will be handicapped and also British labour may lose this employment. What is desired, as I presume, is not to destroy trade, but to try if it is possible to increase the rate of pay in these trades and to raise the standard and level of these particular trades.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill (Mr. Tennant), of whose sympathy in reference to the matter I have no doubt whatever, will he explain to me what is the position of, say, the British seamstress in this country who under the Bill is going to be prevented from carrying on her particular livelihood, under doubtless very hopeless conditions of labour, if at the same time you are going to allow the foreign seamstress to still carry on that industry and still produce the same class of goods under perhaps infinitely more cruel conditions, and which will come into this country and be put on the market and undersell the home-made goods. Leaving the Bill as it is is absolutely a penalty to employment of labour in this country, and it is an encouragement to sweating abroad and for those goods produced by sweated labour to be landed into this country. My hon. Friend (Mr. Marks) has suggested that in the consideration of this minimum wage the Board ought to take into consideration the identical conditions which we know to be prevailing abroad, so that when we are effecting a standard wage we shall do so so that it shall be effective, and not be the means of displacing labour in this country by encouraging labour abroad to do the very thing we are endeavouring to stop in this country. It will be argued by hon. Gentlemen who are supporting this Bill, or outside, that they are prevented from giving effect to the wishes of my hon. Friends on the grounds of Free Trade. I do not believe any excuse of that kind would be tolerated outside, and I am perfectly convinced of this, if you are going to adhere to the tenets of Free Trade, at all events do not let your faith be connected with the particular class that are affected by this particular trade—a class who are amongst the poorest in the country, who pass most wretched lives, and people who, above all, require sympathy, and not to have their condition made more difficult than it is at the present time. I have great pleasure in seconding.


The Member for Worcester (Mr. Goulding) has made an eloquent appeal to us to have regard to those persons who are employed in trades which are liable to foreign competition. I may say that it is not in support of the Amendment, which is to deal merely with the period of objections. The words which the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Marks) has moved would be restrictive. As the clause stands at present, the Board may hear all objections. To mention any particular class of objections would be a restrictive Amendment, and would suggest that all other objections must be of the same kind. The speech of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Goulding) would really be an argument against the inclusion in the Bill of any trade subject to foreign competition.


The Amendment cannot be an exclusive Amendment, because it starts with the word "including."


I dealt with that point when I stated that, as the Bill stands, the Board may hear all objections. I regret the intrusion of a subject which is a matter of acute controversy, and I am disinclined to enter upon an argument on the economic difficulty. On the second reading, I endeavoured to put forward an economic argument, and I had hoped that, this being practically an agreed Bill, there would have been exercised that self-restraint which I recommend to the House by avoiding acutely controversial topics such as the fiscal question.


As it has been said several times that this is an agreed Bill, I wish to say that I know of no such agreement. At the same time, I do not wish to prolong the Debate. I am against the Amendment because, notwithstanding the word "including," I believe it is a restrictive Amendment. It would give power to employers of labour to bring forward the plea that, because low wages were paid abroad, therefore, they should be allowed to pay low wages here; and I am against that. I am not going into the fiscal question, but I am rather sorry that the proposal that, once wages were raised, we, in our purchasing capacity, should favour those who were paying high wages, was ruled out of order. I do not know whether I shall be committing myself to a protective policy by so doing, but I should be disposed to favour an Amendment which sought to provide that the Government, in its purchasing capacity, should favour those people who are compelled by legislation to pay high wages. But this Amendment is not that. It seeks to keep wages down, and for that reason I am against it.


I am going to exercise the self-restraint recommended by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Tennant), for nothing is farther from my desire than to enter into the general merits of the fiscal question; but the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong in saying that this Amendment has no bearing on the question we are discussing, except as part of the general fiscal controversy. It is very different from that. The hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) has expressed views with which I entirely agree. If by legislation you deal with a particular trade in a particular way which upsets all the rules which govern trade, it is not departing from Free Trade to consider what effect the legislation will have in that direction, and make suitable arrangements to meet it. That is all we want to do under this Amendment. We quite admit that you cannot take the lowest level of wages paid in any part of the world, and say that be- cause that level exists therefore you cannot get the wages raised. It is admitted by everybody that when a change of this kind is made for a time some people may suffer. In your efforts to improve the general condition you may for a time take away trade from people who greatly need it; and all we ask by this Amendment is that the Board, when it èndeavours to raise the level in these sweated industries, should take into account not the general rates of wages paid for the same class of goods in other countries, but that the goods made at those rates of wages are coming into the country, and that, unless you deal with the question, instead of improving the, condition of the people whom you wish to help you will simply take away the little they have now. Surely that is a point which, in the interests of the people you want to help, ought to be considered. When before the recent Committee it was pointed out that, under existing conditions, a great deal of goods were being sent abroad for work to be done upon them which used to be done in this country, the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir T. Whittaker) said:— These considerations, of course, will come before the Wages Boards. It will be part of their duty to deal with all considerations of that kind. All that this Amendment asks is that the intention of the Chairman of the Committee should be carried out on the face of the Bill. I admit that the Committee in their Report did not go so far as their Chairman. The paragraph dealing with this subject says:— Even if it-were found that some branches of industry now carried on had to be abandoned, the benefit which would result would be great…They would turn their energy into other channels which are far more suitable. That is what we should all like to see. But into what particular channel are you going to turn the industry of the poor seamstress and other people of that kind, whose only method it is of keeping themselves out of the workhouse? The idea that you can turn work from one channel into another at a moment's notice is entirely wrong. It may be done in time, but for the moment, whatever the economic effect in the long run may be, it will involve a great amount of misery upon some of the people affected. All that we ask the House now is to bear this in mind, that when they are making this change—which I strongly wish to see —reference ought to be had, both by workmen and employers—for the boards are to consist of both parties—to what is un- questionably a vital factor in the case; that is, whether or not by the enactment you will drive a particular trade away.


I trust my hon. Friend will press his Amendment. The hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill told us that the Amendment was beyond the scope of the Bill. I should like to ask in what respect is it beyond the scope of the Bill?


Outside the scope.


Outside the scope! I do not know that that makes it different. What I said was the sense of the observation. If anything that can be suggested as likely to be within the scope of this whole question, it is certainly the conditions under which these trades are carried on. At the present time these trades find a considerable amount of employment for a large number of persons. We are all at one on the point that the conditions under which the work is done and the rates of wages are not satisfactory. But to say that the consideration embodied in the Amendment is beyond or outside the scope of the Bill is, I think, really to show—to put it mildly—a want of appreciation of the conditions under which these industries are carried on. It shows an extraordinary ignorance of the conditions under which these trades are carried on—conditions that will have to come under the purview of these Trade Boards when set up. It is observations like that which makes hopeless some of us who know something about commerce and industry. We feel that it is a desperate thing to try and maintain the trade of this country under such conditions. These things must be considered unless these industries are to be destroyed. The hon. Member for Paddington (Mr. Money) is not here. He has said that he would rather see these industries destroyed than continued. He would be perfectly consistent in supporting the contention of the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. He would be perfectly consistent in opposing the Amendment, because the one great contention of my hon. Friend is that under the existing conditions we cannot do what we would like, and that if the country would change its fiscal policy then we would be able to deal with the minimum rate of wages or anything else of that kind. Then it would become within the range of practical politics, and the operations of the Board could be made practical and useful, and the condition of the people improved.

Under the present system this is impossible, as the market is left open for everybody to run over just as they please. I am sure that instead of the Amendment being outside the scope of the Bill, it is well within it, and those in charge of the Bill, when it is placed upon the Statute Book, will be the first to acknowledge that it is well within the scope of their operations. I am certain of this—that the Trade Boards will not be in existence for any length of time without those who are working them, and taking the most efficient steps for their usefulness, seeing that the question of foreign competition, and the conditions under which foreign labour is employed, comes within the scope of their operations.

At the present moment in the North of England there are commodities produced in their early stages, then sent to Germany to go through some process, and then sent back to this country to be prepared for the market. That is the sort of thing we do not want to see continued. We want these Trade Boards to consider this question of foreign competition, without due consideration of which it will be perfectly impossible for them to usefully operate. We deplore as much as anybody in the House the revealed condition of things, but we say that to ignore the conditions of foreign labour in connection with a Bill of this sort is not merely to shut outside the Bill matters which are of importance, but to shut out from the consideration of these boards one of the most essential, one of the most vital, things upon which they ought to concentrate their powers.


I rise to oppose this Amendment, because I believe it is an attempt to introduce the fiscal issue by the back door.


Not at all.


Well, that is a matter of opinion. I want to say, and I think I can say it with every degree of confidence for my colleagues and myself—that if we believed there was a real industrial reform contained in this Amendment we would be prepared to accept it like a shot. We do not approach this question from a party standpoint. We never have done. We have discussed it entirely outside of what are generally understood as orthodox party politics. If we thought the condition of the industrial classes which we represent—and, by the way, which we belong to—would be improved by such an Amendment as this, then, so far as I am concerned, irrespective of party convenience, I would support it.

What do we find? If one goes to Germany you find that the employers of labour are deploring British competition, and are endeavouring to reduce the wages of their employés because of the British goods dumped upon their markets. That is no fairy story; it is borne out by the German newspapers. If one goes to America you find there a considerable amount of complaint from many employers because of British goods taking the place of the genuine American-made article. That in itself goes to prove that the introduction of an Amendment of this character in the Bill does not at all touch working-class conditions either in Germany, America, or Great Britain. It is purely a middle-class and capitalist juggle, which means nothing to the workers as a whole. One would imagine that in protected countries, if Protection was a blessing and a boon to the working men, their representatives would be prepared to support that form of trading. What are the facts? There are some 43 representatives of the German working men in the Reichstag, and they voice the opinions of the industrial element to a considerable extent, and also the views and opinions of portion of the agricultural population. What is their attitude towards Protection in Germany?——


The hon. Member is getting a great many hundreds of miles away from this Amendment, which simply deals with the question whether the Board of Trade is or is not, when making an Order, to consider objections with regard to the rate of wages in foreign countries. The hon. Member must confine himself to that.


I will endeavour to confine myself to that to the best of my ability, though I may find it difficult. My objection is mostly to this—that so far as the rate of wages in other countries goes there are a great many other considerations behind the question of cheap articles coming into our markets, because goods made by cheap labour is a matter that ought, and does, concern us. We do not desire to form any policy in this country that would lead to legislation that would destroy international harmony among the working classes. We have international relationships between the workers of the various countries, protected and Free Trade, and in these circumstances we have the most stern objection to introduce anything that would restrict the international exchange of goods between this and other countries. We believe such exchange is natural and inevitable, and it is our business to see that wages are raised. Wages will be increased as the volume of trade increases, and therefore I say there is no solution to be found in the Amendment before the House.


The hon. Member who has just sat down opposed the Amendment on the ground that it would interfere with the harmony between nations. That may be——


Between the workers of the nations.


Surely harmony between the various workers would be included in the expression harmony between various nations. I was going to point out that this Amendment is designed to produce true harmony, which will prevent this kind of legislation aiding or abetting the development of sweating in foreign countries. I believe it is quite wrong for anyone to suggest that there is anyone in this House who would do anything by this Bill that would lower wages or benefit the employers at the cost of the happiness of the employed. On the contrary, this Bill is intended to abolish evils which we all know are substantial evils. I had considerable sympathy with the Secretary to the Board of Trade while he was speaking, because he had a bad case, and he tried to make the best of it. It is idle to tell the people of this country that you must not protect them against sweating, because to do so would be outside the scope of the Bill, and would raise the terrible trouble of the fiscal question.


I never said that: I said the seamstress controversy was outside the scope of the Amendment.


The hon. Member did really say that this Amendment was beyond the scope of the Bill.


I am sure I did not. If it was, Mr. Speaker would have ruled it out.


Well, then, if it is not outside the scope of the Bill, it is inside it. So that the hon. Member is on the horns of a dilemma, and, the Amendment being inside the scope of the Bill, I wish to ask the Solicitor-General, if he is not prepared to accept my hon. Friend's Amendment, would he suggest to the House the necessary form of the words which would ensure that the Trade Boards, when they come to consider the rates of wages shall take into full consideration the rate of wages paid in similar works abroad? The reason I am keen he should suggest such words is that in the speech of the Secretary to the Board of Trade on the second reading he laid great emphasis on the fact that Germany, France, and other nations were engaged in considering the question of sweated industries that a conference or convention had been held at Geneva, and that he had high hopes before long we should see great advances in this branch of industries in other countries. If we, by direction and express words in this Bill, ensure that the authorities in this country will investigate most closely the conditions of foreign competition in respect of any trade, we shall be in a far better position to attract the attention of foreign countries to the manner in which sweated industries in this country affect the welfare of our people at home. That really is the intention of this Amendment, and is, I believe, the intention of every Member of the House of Commons. It is idle for us to try and whittle this Bill down. What we ought to try and do is to ensure that every factor, in dealing with the miseries of those poor people, should be brought before the authorities created by Parliament, and see whether the workers cannot be guaranteed healthy and proper conditions of work. As one who has had some contact with this subject for some years, I know that on the part of employer and employed there is an earnest desire that this legislation should be made absolutely effective and that the evil of foreign competition should not be the element to destroy the happiness of the unfortunate sweated working classes of this country.


I do not know whether we can do anything in this Debate, but it is evidently not impossible to choose words as a contribution towards trying to narrow this discussion. I should like to point out that the trade which is the subject of foreign export trade—[An HON. MEMBER: "Foreign competition."] No; foreign trade—foreign competition is in the foreign trade. We are dealing with an export trade to Latin America in competition with Germany and other countries. It has constantly been found that the prices on which the foreign trade is being done are the known prices, and there is a secret concealed margin below that which is the sweating margin. I think an immense deal can be done by the machinery of this Bill to raise wages without affecting prices.

Mr. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)

I wish to say a word or two from the point of view of the workers, probably of a very different class to those which have been in the minds of hon. Members who have spoken. We have in Ireland a considerable number of small industries, and, as the Bill stands, for the most part those industries do not come within the schedule. Power is given to extend the Bill to many other trades, and one can never tell which of the trades to which I have alluded might be affected. We are now dealing with the question of extension.




But the same procedure will follow. Therefore, I am bound to have regard to the evidence which has been given in regard to these trades in Ireland before the Select Committee. We were fortunate enough to be able to secure one witness from Ireland, Mr. Walker, who is the chief inspector of industries under the Congested Districts Board, and he is a man who has a greater knowledge of these industries than any other man living. The whole gist of his evidence went to show that some of those industries are carried on at great expense in the face of fierce competition, and while he expressed himself favourable to anything which would tend to raise the level of wages, at the same time he expressed the gravest apprehension as to what might happen, under the extension of Wages Boards to those trades. He pointed out that in those very trades those Irish home industries had to meet competition not only from Germany, but from South Africa and the Canary Islands. He gave instance after instance of certain articles produced by home workers in Ireland, and within a year or six months similar articles were produced in Germany or the Canary Islands almost indistinguishable from the Irish article, at a price enormously lower than it cost the people of Ireland to produce it. I understand from the Under-Secretary that it would be competent to consider questions of that kind even as the Bill stands. I would, however, prefer that it should be stated plainly on the face of the Bill that the point I have raised can be dealt with. That course would show plainly beyond any question or doubt that this matter, which is of the most vital importance to our home industries, would come within the scope of this Bill, and would be properly and fully considered.


I wish to draw the attention of the House to a case which came before the Select Committee with reference to Japan. At a place in Ireland an attempt was made to get up a fresh lace trade, and they were immediately met with competition from Japan. The person who gave this evidence brought before the Committee two or three samples of lace, and Members of the Committee were scarcely able to distinguish which was of Irish manufacture and which was of Japanese. It seems to me a very serious thing that we cannot do in this Bill what the measure professes to remedy. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean mentioned the case of Germany, and an hon. Member below the Gangway also referred to that country. I do not agree with them that the trades mentioned in the Bill are not dealt with by those countries. They are engaged in those trades, but they have duties which protect them against competition from imports coming from this country. We know that these goods are imported into this country from abroad, and they undersell our goods here. It is clear that this is a case which the hon. Member in charge of the Bill ought to provide against. We do not stick to this form of words, and all we want is an assurance that there will be some consideration given to this point. Unless we have an undertaking of that kind, I am afraid we must go to a Division, because we feel that the whole success of this Bill depends upon the fact that foreigners will be able to get round it, and attack these trades, with the result that the effect of this Bill will be absolutely nugatory as long as the foreigner is not subjected to some kind of imposition.


Surely the question before the House is an extremely simple and narrow one. Subject to correction by the Chairman, I submit that the only question before us is, Do the words of the clause as they stand cover the consideration of the question of the conditions prevailing in foreign markets? If they do, the Amendment will necessarily be redundant, quite apart from whether it is restrictive. The clause distinctly says the Trade Board may consider any objection which may be lodged with them, and "may" includes every objection. When the hon. Member who moved the Amendment (Mr. H. H. Marks) says they shall consider any objections based on the competition of similar goods of foreign manufacture, he means that they shall specially consider conditions abroad. If the hon. Member is entitled to put the particular matter specifically in the clause, I should like to say, "including especially the conditions prevailing in regard to prison labour and various other matters." The clause, however, covers the whole thing, and the hon. Member for Thanet should not be entitled more than any other person to put in any particular topic in which he is interested. I am not more indifferent than he is to the particular gravity of this consideration, and if I did not think a Trade Board would be entitled to consider the conditions under which goods are produced abroad I should vote for the insertion of the words; but inasmuch as the clause does, and that no words could be wider than "any objection," I do think we are not making such good use of the time of the Committee as we could. The only question we have to consider is whether the Trade Boards are precluded from considering the question raised by the Amendment. They are clearly not, and therefore I suggest we vote for the clause and get on to something else.

Mr. R. DUNCAN (Lanark, Govan)

The question is whether or not there shall be an instruction to the Trade Boards to consider foreign competition, and I think it was quite unfairly suggested by hon. Members below the Gangway that we are not honestly desirous of raising the conditions of labour in our own country. We are ashamed of some of the conditions. There are men, women, and children working at wages at which they cannot be expected to live. The question is whether or not there is such foreign competition in the particular trade under consideration as will produce unemployment by throwing people out of work, and whether we shall instruct the Trade Boards to consider this point. I think we should have a direct instruction that foreign competition shall be considered.

Mr. ABEL SMITH (Hertford, E.)

I do not like to give a silent vote on this Amendment. It deals really with a very small point, and I think the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill (Mr. H. J. Ten- nant) was not very wise in refusing to accept it, because he said it would be open to a Trade Board to bear an objection based on the conditions under which goods are produced abroad. If that is so, I think it would have been wise on the part of those who are anxious to see this Bill pass if they had accepted the words proposed. I do not think it can be reasonably argued that the conditions under which goods are produced abroad is not an important factor for the Trade Boards to consider in fixing the minimum rate of wages. If this Bill is not to do more harm than good, it is obvious that is a matter which must be taken into consideration. I confess I find myself in rather an unusual position to-day with regard to this matter. I am a little suspicious of finding myself on the same side as my hon. Friend (Mr. H. H. Marks), and, if I thought any important principle was involved in this Amendment, I do not think I should take any part in the Division; but, having listened very carefully to what has been said, I am convinced that no very important principle is involved. Therefore, I think it should be put in the Bill in the clearest way that it is open to the Trade Boards to take into consideration the condition under which goods arc produced abroad. It is impossible unless they do to arrive at a satisfactory decision in matters brought before them, and to avoid, in some cases at any rate, coming to a decision which might do more harm than good to those in whose interest this Bill is devised. I therefore propose to support the Amendment.


I quite recognise that there is no answer to the logic of the speech made by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), but at the same time I am not quite certain that, in construing Acts of Parliament, any more than in the Department, pure logic prevails. The question is whether this clause shall be permissive or mandatory. That is practically what it comes to. Power is given under the clause as it stands to the Trade Boards to consider any objection, and the question is whether we shall specify plainly that there are certain objections that shall be considered, and that the Irish Trade Boards shall be bound to consider. before deciding to include in the schedule such trades as shirt and lace-making, the rate of wages paid for similar kind of work in China or Japan. I think it should be made more emphatic. We recognise in Ireland that under this scheme consider- able power, and possibly a dangerous power, is being given to an English authority, the Board of Trade, which would be accessible to English manufacturers, who, we know, have not been specially enthusiastic for the development of industries in Ireland. For that reason, I should like to see it made plain, aye or no, and I shall vote for the Amendment.


Does anybody think for a single moment that an employer under these circumstances would fail to give evidence as regards foreign competition? I cannot conceive an employer so foolish and stupid, and it seems to me it would do harm rather than good to put in these redundant words. I imagine that the Board of Trade, when considering whether they will schedule a trade or not, will consider everything which affects the wages. An employer can pay for making a certain class of goods. I think the hon. Member who has just spoken (Mr. Gwynn) was straining a point when he asked us to put in absolutely unnecessary words because of some objection Irish Members may have to make. I was hoping the hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. H. H. Marks) would withdraw his Amendment. He wants to keep out certain classes of sweated goods which are in competition with goods manufactured in our own country. I support him in that. I should like to see it made possible for us to keep out all goods known to be sweated when in competition with our own manufactures, but this is a question of inserting a redundant Amendment, which, in my opinion, will not serve the purpose aimed at by the hon. Member.


This is a very small point, and I hope the House will come to a decision on it at once. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gwynn) wants, it to be made mandatory for the Trade Boards to consider the conditions of labour in similar trades abroad. But, as a matter of fact, they will be bound to do that.


Perhaps I should have used the word "explicit." It is not so now.


The hon. Member wants to call particular attention to this point, and I can assure my hon. Friend that in my humble judgment he would not be well advised in voting for the Amendment, as it will not effect the object he has in view.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The House divided: Ayes, 36; Noes, 151.

Division No: 309.] AYES. [2.10 p.m.
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Fell, Arthur Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)
Anstruther-Gray, Major Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, W.) Oddy, John James
Ashley, W. W. Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham) Renwick, George
Balcarres, Lord Gretton, John Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gwynn, Stephen Lucius Starkey, John R.
Bull, Sir William James Hay, Hon. Claude George Stone, Sir Benjamin
Carlile, E. Hildred Hills, J. W. Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Jowett, F. W. Valentia, Viscount
Craik, Sir Henry Kavanagh, Walter M. Winterton, Earl
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott- Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Doughty, Sir George Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. H. H. Marks and Mr. Goulding.
Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan) Magnus, Sir Philip
Ainsworth, John Stirling Furness, Sir Christopher Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)
Alden, Percy Ginnell, L. Norman, Sir Henry
Ashton, Thomas Gair Glen-Coats, Sir T. (Renfrew, W.) Nugent, Sir Walter Richard
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Glover, Thomas Nuttall, Harry
Astbury, John Meir Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Gooch, George Peabody (Bath) O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)
Barnard, E. B. Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Barnes, G. N. Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) O'Dowd, John
Barran, Rowland Hirst Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)
Beale, W. P. Hardy, George A. (Suffolk) Parker, James (Halifax)
Bennett, E. N. Hart-Davies, T. Phillips, John (Longford, S.)
Berridge, T. H. D. Haworth, Arthur A. Pirie, Duncan V.
Bertram, Julius Hayden, John Patrick Pointer, J.
Bignold, Sir Arthur Hazel, Dr. A. E. W. Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Bottomley, Horatio Hedges, A. Paget Reddy, M.
Boulton, A. C. F. Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.) Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)
Bowerman, C. W. Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Richardson, A.
Brace, William Hodge, John Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Brocklehurst, W. B. Hogan, Michael Rogers, F. E. Newman
Brooke, Stopford Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Rose, Sir Charles Day
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Hudson, Walter Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)
Chance, Frederick William Hyde, Clarendon G. Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Seddon, J.
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Jones, Leif (Appleby) Sheehy, David
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Joyce, Michael Soares, Ernest J.
Cleland, J. W. Kekewich, Sir George Stanger, H. Y.
Clough, William Kennedy, Vincent Paul Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N.W.)
Clynes, J. R. Kilbride, Denis Steadman, W. C.
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Lamont, Norman Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Lardner, James Carrige Rushe Strachey, Sir Edward
Cooper, G. J. Layland-Barrett, Sir Francis Straus, B. S. (Mile End)
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Levy, Sir Maurice Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Lewis, John Herbert Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)
Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David Tomkinson, James
Crean, Eugene Lundon, T. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Crosfield, A. H. Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Verney, F. W.
Crossley, William J. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Villiers, Ernest Amherst
Cullinan, J. Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Walsh, Stephen
Curran, Peter Francis MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.) Waring, Walter
Delany, William Maddison, Frederick Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.) Mallet, Charles E. Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.) Marnham, F. J. Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry) Watt, Henry A.
Donelan, Captain A. Massie, J. Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Menzies, Sir Walter White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)
Esslemont, George Birnie Montague, Hon. E. S. Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Evans, Sir Samuel T. Mooney, J. J. Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
Everett, R. Lacey Murphy, John (Kerry, East) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Flynn, James Christopher Myer, Horatio Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Nannetti, Joseph P. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Captain Norton.
Fuller, John Michael F. Napier, T. B.

moved in section (3) to leave out "public"["The Trade Board shall give public notice"].

Amendment agreed to.


moved in section (3) to leave out "finally"["of any minimum time-rate or general minimum piece-rate finally fixed by them"].

Amendment agreed to.


moved in section (4) to leave out "public"["Provided that the provisions of this section as to public notice"].

Amendment agreed to.


moved to insert, at the end of section (4),"and provided that when any minimum time-rate or general minimum piece-rate has been made obligatory in the manner provided by this Act, it shall not be varied or cancelled during six months from the date of the obligatory Order, or during such further time as the Board of Trade in the obligatory Order may appoint."

I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that I am not satisfied that this provision is properly safeguarded in the Bill. The tailoring trade is one in which contracts are entered into for a very long time, or at all events for a good period ahead, and I think it would be a highly unsatisfactory thing if an alteration were made unless due notice was given. I am sure that this will appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, and I trust that he will see his way to accept this Amendment.


Following as well as I could, the speech of the hon. Member, I think this Amendment is entirely unnecessary, because, according to the machinery of the Bill, if there is to be a variation of the minimum rate, the effect of the provisions of the Bill will be that there must be a new rate, and before there can be a new rate a period of six months must elapse. So far as the variation of the minimum rate is concerned this is entirely unnecessary. In regard to cancellation, it is deemed best by those who are interested in the Bill, I think on both sides of the House, that the Board of Trade should have power to cancel without any limitation of time. A bad mistake may possibly be made, and in these circumstances, under the Amendment, there could be no cancellation for at least six months, or very possibly for a period longer than six months, because such a prolonged period would be fixed by the Board of Trade. Then the only other point in the Amendment, I think, is that the Board of Trade might go outside the six months in fixing the time during which any variation should be made. That was a matter which it was considered better to leave to the discretion of the Board. Therefore I hope the hon. Member will see that his Amendment is unnecessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.