§ Mr. STANIER
Through a curious number of coincidences there are very few subjects open to us to debate this afternoon. I am going to address myself, if I may, to the Treasury and also to the Board of Agriculture. I wish to ask for information which I have been unable to obtain by means of questions across the floor of the House put on many occasions during the present Session. The first point I want information about is the Road Board grant. This Road Board grant has a great history. We are told the Road Board made grants and the Treasury afterwards agreed or disagreed with them. We have been led to suppose that the grants have been regulated according to the population within the area of the authorities asking for the grant. In my own county, Shropshire, I find a grant has been made of £7,500 towards a total expenditure of £10,000. The population in that county is very different indeed to the population of a county like Gloucestershire. Yet in the latter county we find that grants to a similar amount have also been made by the Road Board. When one goes into the facts and figures to find out how everything has been worked in order to get these Road Board grants, it is discovered that at the beginning there is a request made by the county authority for a grant, and after that request a sum is proposed by the Road Board. Then a bargain is entered into. The Board makes an offer. 500 After the offer there are further representations from the county authority. Then comes another offer, and finally we find we get as far as an interview with the county authorities, as a result of which the grant is made. It is not made with any regard to proportion. It is not based on facts or figures, but the whole thing appears to be done by some individual associated with the Road Board acting apparently on some instructions from the Treasury. That is the case so far as we have been able to fathom it. That is one question that I should like to have just a little information about, because at the time that the Development Bill was brought before this House we were told that under that measure everything would be settled on that score by the Road Board. We are, however, totally unable to find out how they work out their ways and means of doing it. The next point in respect to which I should like to have a little information from the Board of Agriculture is in rather a different light and different strain, and it is upon a subject which I brought seriously before this House not long ago. That is the out-of-date method of bringing reports of the Board before this House. The other day we had a very interesting statement made that the reports were going to be brought up to date, and therefore when we noticed in the Votes and Proceedings that a report like that on the Diseases of Animals Act had been laid upon the Table of the House we who follow the growth or otherwise of those diseases immediately thought that we should be able to gather some information, but that is not so at all, because when you go to the Library and ask for that report you find that it is in dummy. Therefore, it is of no value and of no use. It is merely an outside cover, and there is nothing at all in it. I ask any fair-minded man whether that is, and I am sure you, sir, will agree with me that that is not a nice way of treating those who are interested in this question in the House of Commons. When I ask for the information I am told, through the courtesy of the hon. Gentleman who represents the Department, that I can have the information if I apply. But that is not the point. I want the information, and I have the right to expect it when a report is laid upon the Table of the House. I am informed, and I have even proof, that that report could have been issued in a typewritten form if it could not have been printed, in which case I am told there would have been a great deal 501 of delay. There are very important matters going on at the Board of Agriculture. There is the question of swine fever, and that connected with the administration in reference to foot-and-mouth disease in the locality affected. Then there is the great horse-breeding scheme, but I notice that all these three things do not prevent the report on small holdings, which is to the Government the clearly beloved portion of the work of the Board of Agriculture, from being printed and circulated to this House. I am rather amused at the fact that, although they are only too pleased to show from their own facts and figures that small holdings have decreased in an alarming manner in the last few years through the sloth of the urban authorities, they cannot allow a Member to have a typewritten report in regard to the Diseases of Animals Act, which is laid upon the Table in dummy, and supposed to be in the Library of this House.
According to the way things are done now in due course of time—five or six months, or perhaps a little sooner if the Board of Agriculture thinks right—this Report will be laid before the House, and then we shall find that previously on the morning before it is available to Members of this House the whole information will have been distributed throughout the country to the newspapers of the land which have the full report in their columns even before Members of this House are able to gather that information. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell me that that is only done privately. I am aware of that, because being in the newspaper world I very often receive a report myself with the notice on the top of it that the information is not supposed to be divulged and made public, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that is not showing the due courtesy to this House which is expected, and that this information which is eagerly sought for by those who follow the history of these diseases when it is granted should not be such old information that really it will be of no avail and no use because at the time that it appears the whole thing is over, and we need hardly take the trouble of reading it. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will say to me: "Why did not you come and ask me for the information when I offered to give it to you"; but information given verbally is not of such a nature as one can gather from a report of a public department like the Board of Agriculture. I also want to 502 I say that in that report something should be said of what will be the proposals of the future as to the manner in which they are going to attack this foot-and-mouth disease, which is a far more serious thing in this country than, I am afraid, the Board of Agriculture realise or even have any idea of. In my own county we have a large number of animals at this present moment of great value for breeding purposes being held up through this order being in force, and although I do not grumble for a minute about the order being in force, I should like to ask if we can be supplied across the Floor of the House with a little information, because we are not allowed to have it in reports. The first question of detail I am going to ask the representative of the Board of Agriculture is how many veterinary surgeons confirm this disease in Surrey as being foot-and-mouth disease? I ask that because I am very sorry to say that it is very largely thought throughout this country that this disease might not have been the disease that it is said to be. I myself do not agree with that, and I think there have been one or two very conclusive points which show that it is foot-and-mouth disease, but that might be thought if only one or two authorities go down and look at a disease which is very little known to the veterinary surgeons of the country, because the cases are very isolated, and when they do occur great care is taken that nobody goes near them. I should like, therefore, to know how many veterinary surgeons do go down, and if they are absolutely certain that it was a genuine case of foot-and-mouth disease. I also am going to ask a further question, and that: is if any control experiments were ever caried out, or have ever been attempted to be carried out, or if it has ever been thought fit to direct that control experiments should be made? Though there are several diseases which attack animals, and especially the bovine class, there are several of these diseases which do not go to pigs, and in this particular case the disease has gone from the bovine to the pigs, and that is sufficient proof. In Germany, where we are told there has been such a vast number of cases during the last year, I am told that on an isolated island they have control experiments, in order to verify before an area is scheduled as an infected area. This is perhaps in itself a dangerous ground to touch on, because in order to get material for these control experiments you would have to get material most infectious and 503 highly dangerous to the animal world. But, if it can be done in Germany, cannot we have it here? I ask for this because if there happened to be a case of some other mistaken identification of disease we should be branded as having the disease in this country, and perhaps the trade at a vital time of the year would be destroyed and the breeding stock of this country would be prevented from going to other countries, when perhaps it need not have been reported in the way it has been.
Then again, after the disease has been identified, and after it has been cleared away, I should like to know whether notification is immediately sent out to all foreign countries which are interested that the country has been declared free. I am beginning to think that after some of these cases notification has not been sent out quickly enough, and therefore other countries have not taken off the restriction as quickly as they might have done if the notification had been made at the moment the country was declared free. With regard to the importation of milk into this country it is very difficult indeed for a layman to follow where the milk comes from, but I have every reason to believe that it is at the present moment coming in from countries which are infected by foot-and-mouth disease. If that is so there is very high probability that that may be one of the means of bringing contagion here. I daresay the answer will be that the milk which comes into this country is used chiefly for human consumption, but at these large depots there is very often milk which is not quite good enough for human consumption, and it is very often sold for another purpose, which may be bovine consumption. I should like to know if that is a question that is being followed up by the Board. Peat moss litter is another thing which is imported and may come from countries where foot-and-mouth disease exists very largely. I believe cases have been known of cattle which have died from foot-and-mouth disease being buried in the very soil that is now being imported into this country as peat moss litter, and when you come to think that in the towns and cities of this country, owing to the high price of straw, peat moss litter is being used for litter, I think you are absolutely bringing it in and throwing it at the very cattle in the great milk dairies near some of the large cities which supply us with milk. That is one of the greatest 504 dangers that I think is being totally overlooked by the Board of Agriculture.
The last question I shall ask is whether the Board have ever thought of going into the question of the large number of calves which are imported into this country whole and in their skins and are hung up as you see them hung up in the shops of this very city. It is a curious thing, though it is not curious when you fathom it, that in many cases these calves have a coat on them which shows that they belong to a breed coming from a country where disease is known to exist, even by the Board of Agriculture. Therefore, you would think that these calves would come in with a little bit hidden so that even a layman like myself would not be able to identify them. But the only way in which they hide as much as they can is that they cut off the head and hoofs and take out the inners. When they do that they know that every part of the animal where identification can be cleared up satisfactorily to the Inspectors of the Government has been removed, and the Government Inspectors having passed the animal, the uninitiated buy and the carcase is eaten. But the skin is distributed throughout the country and might easily be a very serious contamination if it has been near or amongst animals which perhaps may have had the disease. Although money from the Development Grant is collected and distributed, I cannot find out that it is being given to study this disease which breaks out every now and then, for no reason that we can see, except the ignorance of those who go into the subject, and the Board of Agriculture, in particular, who cannot tell us what is the cause of the disease. Therefore I want to know how it is that the Board of Agriculture cannot get a grant for some of these points to which I have referred. I remember when the Development Bill was being argued in this House I brought forward an Amendment that would have absolutely touched these very-points. The Government through their shortsightedness would not accept it, and, being an early hour in the morning, or a late hour at night, whichever way we like to look at it, the Amendment was ruled out. We were told that there was plenty of scope in the Bill for this particular line of thought. If that is so, I appeal to the Board of Agriculture to use the power they have and to gather something that will save this country from perhaps one of the greatest scourges that may fall upon it on the agricultural side, and to do-something for those who are the mainten- 505 ance and the backbone of this country in the agricultural industry. I ask that very serious thought should be given to this, because I feel it is of far greater importance to this country, and to those who live in this country, than some of the lesser questions of small holdings which at the present time occupy all the thoughts and absorb all the money which the Board of Agriculture have granted to them.
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
I wish to take this opportunity of asking the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture whether he has taken any steps with a view to making better provision for the housing of labouring men in the rural districts. Owing to the tax imposed on landed property the old landlords are selling their estates, and if none of these estates are sold amongst tenant farmers there will quickly arise a great dearth of labourers' houses. Whatever the faults of landlords may have been in the past, they did feel it to be their duly to provide on their estates the necessary housing accommodation for the men who work on them. Everybody knows that it is not an economic thing to build houses to be let at the small rent these people are able to pay. It cannot be done as a Commercial speculation. The old landlords, from old traditions or from the old sense of duty which existed amongst them, were prepared to spend money for a return of 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. They have, on the whole, done their work extremely well in providing houses for the people. New conditions are going to arise. Men are being driven out of their properties, and the new owners look upon the possession without any of those old traditions, and without having the same sense of obligation as to their duties. They look upon the possession of land as a mere investment and as a means of providing a return for the money which they embark. I look with dread—already I see signs of it—to the time when the agricultural labourer, who out of his small wages cannot afford to pay much rent, will have to pay more for his house accommodation.
Although it may not come within the purview of the office of the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture, I think he should put some pressure on the Government to look ahead and devise some scheme for dealing with what otherwise is going to be a crisis. Not only will the owners of these estates not build houses, but you cannot get speculative builders and men of means to do it because they 506 could not make it pay. Living as I do in the country I think the parish councils ought to receive more encouragement than they do at present in connection with work of this kind. I wish that the Government would, through the Board of Agriculture, take some steps to give increased powers to the parish councils which would encourage them and make them feel that they are doing good municipal work amongst us. There is one small measure introduced in this House which I would urge the Secretary to the Board to use his influence with the Government to give facilities for being passed into law. It is really not a contentious measure. I refer to the Cottage Homes Bill. It is felt very keenly about in the villages and rural districts. We who live in the country districts do feel that it is wrong that a man who has lived an honest and straightforward life until he has reached old age should have no better resort than the workhouse. We think that the people who are best able to look after him are the people among whom he has lived. By the Cottage Homes Bill it is provided that homes should be built, tentatively at first and on a small scale, into which men of that class could go. The houses should belong to the parish council, and should be built by co-operation among the landowners and the working people in the district. They should be managed by the parish council, and they should be let to men who by their character amongst the people they have lived with are considered eligible to occupy these houses, paying quite a small or nominal rent of, say, 1s. per week. I would ask in all earnestness that the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture might induce the Government to give facilities for this Bill, to which there can be very little opposition, in fact, no opposition that I can see, so that it will have a chance of passing into law. Let us make a start in improving the housing accommodation among the poor in the rural districts.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I must remind the hon. Member that it is not in order to discuss legislation, only administration.
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
Among farmers in this country there has grown up now what is known as the National Farmers' Union. It is a union composed entirely of tenant farmers. They have excluded landlords and agents, and they have formulated a number of items—about fifteen—which 507 they have determined are necessary for putting their industry on a proper footing. I should like to have said something about the question of small holdings, which is a matter upon which I feel very deeply, but as, under your ruling it is out of order I will not do so. But if the Board of Agriculture can spare a day for the consideration of the working of the Small Holdings Act I would suggest that they might with advantage to the tenant farmers consider very carefully this programme of the fifteen points, and see whether some of them that are not opposed to the views of the Government cannot be carried into operation. Take one. Why cannot the agriculturists in this country have a universal system of weights and measures for dealing in their products? Why cannot the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture devise some scheme to which there can be no opposition which would put all weights and measures upon the one footing, and do away with all the allowances that are made?
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
I hope that the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture will take these matters into consideration.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
I desire to call attention to the Development and Road Improvement Acts, and the way in which the funds constituted under those Acts are being administered and allocated. Before doing so I think it is only due to the Board of Agriculture to acknowledge, as I most frankly do, the prompt, expeditious, and effective manner in which they have dealt with the two serious outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease—last year in Yorkshire and this year in Surrey. Had it not been for the prompt action of the Board of Trade, our export trade, not merely in cattle but in sheep and pigs, would have been very seriously affected, as we hope it will not be in consequence of that activity, in a year which promised very exceptional prices to the producers of the best stock of those descriptions. There is one feature of the recent outbreak to which I feel bound to call attention. That is that the Board, through their officials, do not seem to have taken sufficient trouble at the time to ascertain the cause of the last outbreak. It has been admitted by the Parliamentary Secretary to 508 the Board in reply to questions addressed to him in this House that there have been serious outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, not merely in France, but also in many parts of Russia, and that on the premises, if I understand him aright, where the last outbreak took place, there was being consumed by the stock a large quantity of Russian oats.
I am not going to suggest that it is possible to restrict the importation of Russian oats in a general way in view of the enormous quantity of these oats which are being consumed by stock throughout this country, but I do consider that it is the duty of the Board to do what they can. Admitting the facts, as they do, that foot-and-mouth disease docs exist, and in a very aggravated condition, in Russia, and that oats coming from Russia are found on the premises, I do think it their duty to make some test with those oats to ascertain whether or not they are the source of this recent outbreak. It is public scientific knowledge that this foot-and-mouth disease is due to a bacillus which cannot be scientifically identified or separated. If that is so it is perfectly clear that the only way in which a test can be made is to give a port ion of these oats to a sound animal. I fail to understand why the Board of Agriculture have failed to make this necessary test in view of the fact that every scientific authority who is entitled to give an opinion on this subject has clearly pointed out that the only way in which a really reliable test can be made under the circumstances is by feeding suspected food to a sound animal and seeing what the effect will be.
And now turn to the administration of the Development Fund, as administered under the first part of the Development Act, and the Road Improvement Fund, which is dealt with in the second part of that, Act. With reference to the question of Road Board Grants, on the face of the Act, there appears to be nothing to indicate that these grants for the improvement of main roads, largely in the interest of motor traffic, should be made subject to a grant from the county council having the control of the roads in its area. But under the system adopted by the Road Board, as I understand, all these grants to a road authority are made subject to a proportional expenditure by that authority out of its own funds upon the road sought to be improved. In my own county—Gloucestershire—I understand that 25 per cent. is required from the local authority as compared with 75 per cent. granted 509 out of the Road Improvement Fund. The result of this system is bound to be to give an advantage to the richer counties and to those who have a short mileage of main road and a high rateable value, and to put a disadvantage upon those counties whose conditions are the converse. Another condition which has been made by the Road Board in respect of these grants is that the county council or other road authority has to give credit for the value of the partly worn surface which is covered or destroyed by the authorised improvement. That provision could not possibly have been contemplated by the Road Improvement Act, or was ever suggested in the discussion that took place in this House when that Act was passing through it. The result of these conditions is not merely to throw an unexpected burden upon the road authorities for an improvement of roads which is admittedly not for local benefit, but for the benefit of through traffic, carried on over a wide area and from populous centres, which may be entirely outside the area which they control, but it also imposes upon them the additional obligations of sacrificing what, in their opinion, is a good and sufficient road surface, and substituting for it a surface which is considered by the Road Board to be necessary, but which, under ordinary conditions, is not required to meet all the purposes of local traffic. I suggest that it is unfair to local authorities, and does not bear out the expressed purposes of the Act, as explained, in the first instance, when the measure was being considered here. If the Road Board dictates to the local authorities what the nature of an improvement shall be, surely it is for the Road Board to provide the whole cost of such improvement, and not ask the local authorities to pay them in respect of material that has to be removed from a road in order to put so-called improved material upon it. In regard to the more important part of the Development Act, with which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture is equally concerned with the right non. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, I should like to point out to this House that, whereas there are certain specified objects in Clause 1, towards which grants are evidently intended primarily to be made, not a single one of those objects, so far as I am aware, has received the benefit of a grant out of the Fund.
510 I hope the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hobhouse) and the hon. Baronet (Sir E. Strachey) will listen to me for a short time, undeserving of their consideration though my observations may be. I only ask for common politeness, which we do not always get from the Bench on which the right hon. Gentleman sits. What I want the right hon. Gentleman to note is this: He stated a few weeks ago, in connection with the Development Fund, that there was the large sum of £897,000 which has not yet been expended, and I understand that there will be an additional sum of half a million credited to this Fund, so that there will be as from the beginning of the current financial year something like £1,300,000 or £1,400,000 remaining to the credit of this account, which has been in no sense applied to the purpose for which it is intended. I think I am entitled to ask why this fund has been hung up in the way it has been, and why it is not being applied to the purposes for which it was specifically intended. May I draw the attention of the House to specific purposes for which these grants are intended by the Act to be applied? First of all, in the forefront, and very properly in the forefront, is the object of agricultural research. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary what sum, if any, has been applied for by his Department in order to promote agricultural scientific research? The second specified object is instruction in science and practical agriculture. It is perfectly true that this is educational work which is shared by two Government Departments, only one of which is represented in this House at the present time. I wish to ask representatives of the Government whether there is any scheme being put forward in order to promote out of the Development Fund scientific or practical instruction in Agriculture, and, if not, whether a grant is likely to be forthcoming for this purpose? The most important subject of all, to any mind, and I look to have the sympathy of every section of the House in regard to it, is the promotion of co-operation in respect of agriculture. What is the Board doing in this matter? Representations have to my knowledge been brought to the Board by representatives of every section of this House. The Parliamentary Secretary will correct me if I am wrong when I say that the Board advocated that a certain portion of the fund should be paid to the county councils for them to administer for this purpose.
511 There is no body corresponding to the county council in any part of the Continent, where agricultural co-operation has been so highly successful which has the administration of Government funds for the purpose, yet in every one of those countries the respective Governments are making grants for the development of agricultural co-operation with enormous success, and the result is that small holdings are being promoted to a much greater and faster extent than in this country. It is impossible to imagine a less suitable body to be made the channel for the administration of such a fund as this and for such purposes than the county council. It is common knowledge that county councils are largely composed of men who have no sympathy with the development of agricultural co-operation or industrial co-operation, and I am quite certain that, if the grants for this purpose be put into the hands of county councils, it will set back the development of agricultural co-operation and the progress of small holdings to a very large extent; whereas, on the other hand, if those grants were made, as has been repeatedly suggested in this House, through the existing Agricultural Organisation Societies in England, Ireland, and Scotland—which, by the way, are already largely representative of the Government through officials of the Board acting on their executive committees—there would be absolute and effective control of any such Fund devoted to the purpose, and there can be no doubt whatever that the promotion of agricultural co-operation would be greatly accelerated. Fourthly, there comes the object of promoting the extension of small holdings. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether a single penny has been devoted out of the Development Fund for the promotion of small holdings?
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
Possibly the Parliamentary Secretary is not aware of the fact that there is a specific provision under the Act for the allocation of a portion of the grant for this purpose, and I should like to know whether such an allocation has been made? Then comes the object of the development of forestry, to which reference already has been made in this House this afternoon; and, lastly, so far 512 as I am myself interested in the matter, the reclamation and drainage of land. As regards the reclamation and drainage of land, I would remind the hon. Baronet that at the present moment, so far from reclamation and drainage of land being encouraged, the Government are actually declining to admit expenditure upon such reclamation as a permissible deduction from the Site Value of land in order to ascertain what its taxable capacity should be for the purpose of the new Land Duty. Whatever we may understand by the Undeveloped Land Duty—as to which in my opinion a wholly false interpretation is given—at any rate no discouragement should be given to reclamation, drainage, or irrigation of land by the private individual, particularly bearing in mind that under the term "development," as used in the Act, it is one of the purposes towards which sums may be devoted out of the Development Fund.
I belong to a very large number of agricultural organisations which have shown their entire confidence in the hon. Baronet, and the Department which he represents, by declining to put forward any detailed schemes for the purpose of obtaining grants out of this Fund. They have said, and I think properly, we prefer that the Board should make application for a block grant, the Board being entitled to judge what are the different objects which relatively deserve larger or smaller grants out of this Fund. In my humble opinion the Board have, to some extent, abused the confidence which we have reposed in them for apparently nothing serious is being done in the matter. We have indefinite statements made from time to time in this House that the Board has made application to the Development Commissioners for grants for various agricultural purposes, but we have no knowledge of what the form of that application is, and we have no reason to believe that at any early date grants will be made for any of those purposes with which the Board has expressed some degree of sympathy. Let me refer in some small detail to the question of research which the Board themselves have admitted is a most important subject towards which grants might be made out of the Development Fund. May I remind the House that during the last two years there has been issued a most important pamphlet upon this subject by the British Science Guild, which I understand is presided over by the Minister for 513 War whose scientific knowledge everyone in this House respects. They have reported to the effect that there was no country in the whole of Europe towards which so small a grant is devoted by Government for the purpose of research. Even the smaller European principalities and the smaller German States devote a larger sum to agricultural research than the sum of about £1,200, which, I believe, is all that is devoted in this country to this purpose.
May I especially draw attention to two Departments which are doing, and have been doing for some time, most invaluable work not merely for the benefit of agriculture in this country, but for the benefit of agriculture throughout the civilised world, namely, Rothamsted Experimental Station, and the Agricultural Department of Cambridge University. The first is associated, as all hon. Members will know, with the name of Sir John Bennett Lawes, who devoted the greater part of a very useful life and an enormous sum of money towards the promotion of work which, in other countries, is generally carried on by government. In the latter case may I refer to the admirable work of Professor Bitten and his colleagues, who have for many years been employed upon the breeding of pedigree wheats. They have at last discovered, or apparently discovered, a wheat which can be grown in this country, which possesses all the cropping qualities of the best English wheats and all the baking qualities of the best Manitoban wheats, which is the sort of wheat which fetches a higher price than the English wheat has usually fetched in this country. It is a wheat which, in the interests of agricultural producers, and particularly small holders, we desire to see grown to a large extent in this country. So far as I am aware these researches, which have resulted in these discoveries have received a mere pittance of Government money. We say when there is this large sum of over £1,000,000 still in the Development Fund, that a substantial grant might be made for these useful purposes if only the Board of Agriculture would put sufficient pressure upon the Development Commissioners.
To instance some small matters in which we are sadly lacking in knowledge at the present time, and which has from time to time been brought before this House, there is the question of what has been called the Isle of Wight bee disease, and 514 on which I should say there is no precise scientific knowledge in the hon. Baronet's Department at the present time. It is a disease which is spreading rapidly, not only in Hampshire, but in Scotland, in Kent, in Cornwall, and in fact in nearly every county it is now to be found, with the result that we may reasonably and naturally expect a serious shortage of honey, and a serious scarcity of bees, the cultivation of which is an important industry amongst small people in many rural districts. There is an entire absence, so far as I am aware, of precise scientific knowledge on the subject. Surely this a matter towards which a grant might reasonably be made out of the Development Fund. Recently there has been brought to the notice of the Board of Agriculture the very important work of Professor Priestley, of Bristol University, with regard to the electrification of crops. I do not want to refer now in detail to those discoveries as they are only partially finished, and will involve a considerable amount of further research before they can be rendered useful to the agricultural or horticultural industries. I think the hon. Baronet will admit that so far as those experiments and research have gone there are indications that this electrification of farm crops with positive electricity may be extremely useful to market gardeners and others if, on more precise investigation, the suggestions that are made by Professor Priestley are found to be justified. At the present moment a mere pittance of £50 a year is given towards the promotion of this work. I would ask the hon. Baronet to take the earliest opportunity of making a definite application to the Development Commissioners for sums, varying in amount according to the importance of the work, for such subjects as I have mentioned. About all others, I do ask him not to advocate any grant for the purpose of agricultural co-operation being put into the hands of the county councils, many of which are not likely to sympathise with the work, but, in my opinion, are likely to set back the progress of co-operation for many years to come.
§ Sir E. STRACHEY
The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Stanier) at the beginning referred to the question of the administration of the Road Board. I should tell him that has nothing to do with the Board of Agriculture at all. The hon. Gentleman also dealt with many other subjects with his usual ability and fullness. I only regret, as regards the details, 515 that it will be impossible or very nearly impossible for me to go into details in the same way, because the hon. Gentleman was not good enough to give me notice that he meant to go into those particular details, or else I would have taken the opportunity to have made myself acquainted with them. I think, however, I shall be able to answer some of the questions he has put to me from my own personal knowledge. As regards the question of the delay in the issuing of reports, I have been in this House a great many years now, and I think when the hon. Gentleman has been as long in the House he will know that that is a complaint which is being continually made, and he will recognise that there are enormous difficulties to be overcome. I can assure him I entirely sympathise with his desire that as soon as possible and as soon as practicable that reports not only should be laid in dummy, but circulated to Members of the House. The hon. Member suggested that if we could not circulate the Report immediately after it had been laid in dummy, a typewritten copy might be placed in the Library. That seemed to be a reasonable suggestion from one point of view, and I inquired into the matter, but I am told that further difficulties would be created and probably further delay caused in the circulation of the Report. Although a few Members would have the opportunity of studying the typewritten Report, the great majority of Members would not be able to do so, from the mere fact that they could not all at the same time read one copy or even half-a-dozen copies. Hence you would really be giving a preference to a few Members over the rest, and it might be urged that it was only right that all Members should have an equal opportunity and should all receive information at exactly the same time. I will certainly inquire into the hon. Member's complaint that these Reports are given to the Press before they are officially supplied to hon. Members. Speaking personally, I very much deprecate the Press being given information before Members of this House have the Reports in their hands, and as far as I can deal with the matter I will see that in future it does not occur. The hon. Member rather complained of my offering to give him certain information. I can only say that sometimes there has been certain detailed information that I was able to give him at once, but that other information which had to be in- 516 cluded in the Report was not yet ready, and consequently the information which I could give him had to be withheld until the other information appeared in the Report as a whole.
The hon. Member referred to the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Surrey and asked how many veterinary experts had been called in. If the hon. Member had given me notice of his intention to ask for that information I could have obtained it. On the other hand, I know that that outbreak was confirmed by our own veterinary inspectors, and I am certain that if the chief veterinary inspector confirms an outbreak it is quite unnecessary to call in any one else to confirm his opinion. Probably the hon. Member has not for a long while seen an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease; otherwise he would know that those who have expert knowledge of the matter have little difficulty in recognising the symptoms. Even as regards what might be called obscure cases, men with the knowledge, experience, and qualifications of the veterinary inspectors employed by the Board of Agriculture have no difficulty in detecting the disease. There is no doubt that in this matter we are very well served indeed. The hon. Member suggested what I think would be a very dangerous proceeding, namely, that we should have, as they have in Germany, some system of controlled experiments in foot-and-mouth disease. I suppose he means that we should have an island on which we should carry on experiments with foot-and-mouth disease, rinderpest and other diseases of animals. I think that would be highly dangerous, because foot-and-mouth disease can be carried by a man going into a herd where the disease exists, or into an experimental station, unless the greatest possible care is taken, and even then something might be done which would enable the disease to be carried outside the quarantine station. I would do nothing, even for the sake of making experiments, to keep foot-and-mouth disease alive in this country a single day after it was possible to exterminate it by the use of the pole-axe. The view I have held ever since I have been in the Board of Agriculture has been that directly an outbreak occurs you should not only isolate, but slaughter at the earliest possible moment. I do not think it is a very good suggestion that we should take a leaf out of the book of Germany in this matter. We on this side are always being told by hon. Members opposite that we should copy Germany in one 517 thing or another. Germany, however, is not free from foot-and-mouth disease, as we are, or have been for a large number of years except for isolated outbreaks. At any rate, Germany's controlled experiments have not had the effect of stamping out the disease to the extent that our system has done in this country.
With regard to the notification of freedom from foot-and-mouth disease, the hon. Member seems to think that that notification is not sent out at the earliest possible moment. I think he is mistaken, but I will inquire into the matter. I quite recognise the importance of that information being given at once. The hon. Member dealt with the question of the importation of milk and of peat and moss litter from countries where foot-and-mouth disease exists. As regards milk, the hon. Member to a large extent answered himself by saying that he did not think there was much danger. In fact, the quantity of milk imported from foreign countries is so small as to be almost negligible. On the other hand, I am as anxious as the hon. Member that there should be no loophole for the introduction of the disease, and I will inquire of the experts of the Board whether they think there is any danger in this direction. As regards hay and straw, to which the hon. Member referred also, I would remind the hon. Member that under an Order of the Board of Agriculture hay and straw cannot be imported for fodder or bedding from practically any European country. As regards moss litter, I will inquire from our experts whether there is any risk from its being imported for bedding. As regards making application to the Development Commissioners for a grant towards experiments and research, I think the hon. Member is aware that we are making such an application, but I do not think it is desirable at the present moment to go into details. No one is more conscious than I am of the necessity and desirability of getting as large a grant as possible in order that full and extensive experiments and research may be made in the interests of agriculture.
§ Sir E. STRACHEY
I do not think it is desirable at the present moment to go into detail as regards the amount. I can assure the House and the hon. Gentlemen that the Board of Agriculture is fully alive to the necessity of getting the largest possible amount that we can get so as to make 518 up, as soon and as much as we can, for the neglect of the past. We want to get along as quickly as we can with research work and experimental agriculture, though until the annual grant made by the Parliament of 1906 the interests of agriculture had been ignored by Parliament. The question has been raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wilts as to the channel by which it is proposed the money shall be applied that is to be devoted to the development of agriculture co-operation. The hon. Gentleman, so far as I can gather, advocates that it only should be given through the Agricultural Organisation Society. He very strongly condemns the idea that any of it should be given through the medium of county councils. I suppose the hon. Member is not a member of a county council, and therefore he has no knowledge of their work, and how they might possibly be very usefully employed as a medium. He strongly condemns that course.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I am afraid I must interrupt the hon. Baronet. I have had the honour, for the last fifteen years, of serving upon the agricultural committee of my own county that deals with these matters, and I do not, therefore, think it is fair for him to allege or assume ignorance.
§ Sir E. STRACHEY
I was only assuming that the hon. Gentleman, not being a member of his own county council, does not presumably appreciate the very good work the county council are doing in this matter. I am rather surprised at his confirmation of that view by his observations that county councils are entirely out of sympathy with movements of this kind for the advantage of small holders.
§ Sir E. STRACHEY
I took the hon. Gentleman's words down; "there was no sympathy from county councils." But I will let that pass. I only thought it right as a very old member of a county council, knowing what good work they do in these directions, to take exception to the sweeping condemnation of county councils. Again, the hon. Gentleman asked me a series of questions in regard to whether we were making application to the Development Commissioners for the purposes of the reclamation and drainage of land, with regard to the Isle of Wight bee disease also for the electrification experiments that Bristol University had undertaken? 519 I can assure the hon. Member that the Board of Agriculture have all these matters in view. He may be perfectly certain that they will do their best to get the largest amount possible from the Development Commissioners in the interests of the various matters that come under their control, and which can be advanced by getting a grant from the Development Commissioners. There was one point that I did not quite fully deal with when I was referring to foot-and-mouth disease. Why, I was asked, had we not taken trouble to trace the outbreak of this foot-and-mouth disease. The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong in thinking that the Board of Agriculture has not taken any trouble to try and trace the origin of this disease. The Board has taken every possible means of trying to trace it. I regret to say that, notwithstanding all the labour and time spent in trying to trace where the outbreak came from, that up to the present time we have not been able to trace it. On the other hand, the hon. Member complains that we did not investigate the question as to whether the infection had been received from Russian oats supplied to the farm in question. Only a small proportion of that particular consignment of Russian oats was actually used in this particular farmstead. Some of the consignment was used on various other farms in that neighbourhood where this outbreak took place. I quite admit it only proves a negative when I say that in other places oats of a similar kind and of this same consignment were used by the farmers. We traced the matter as far as possible, and there was no other outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, although cattle fed off the same oats. I admit that is not a positive test, but, humanly speaking, I do not see that we could have done anything else. If there had been any infection in these oats, the probability is that there would have been another outbreak. I do not think the hon. Member has any right to complain that we did not do our best in the matter. I think his suggestion that in case of another outbreak, or in connection with the last, we might feed animals on the suspected oats in order to develop another case of foot-and-mouth disease, and so discover the origin, is not to the point. We do not desire to experiment to increase the number of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in this country. On the other hand, directly the outbreak makes its appearance, we 520 want to immediately slaughter the animals concerned in order to prevent the infection being spread.
Other remarks of the hon. Member should, I think, really be addressed to my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board. I can assure him that the Board of Agriculture has nothing whatever to do with the question he has raised as to the Housing Act. His complaints as to insufficiency of cottages certainly do not come into the purview of the Board of Agriculture or its administration. Then the hon. Member referred to the question of the sale of land by landlords. I think that matter has been very much exaggerated. I think it will be found that over a course of years that quite as much land on the average has been sold lately as has been sold in the past. Then the hon. Gentleman referred to the question of the National Farmers' Union. I know precisely the importance of that body and the very good work they have done for the agricultural interests. I can assure the hon. Member that I am in constant touch with the officers of the Union. They are good enough to come and consult me and my assistants in reference to the different matters in their programme. The points of their programme which the hon. Member brought before the House, I think, he will remember were questions of legislation and not of administration. I can only assure him that in approaching the Board of Agriculture in the future, the National Farmers' Union will always receive the fullest consideration and attention, as they are a body of enormous importance to the interest which they represent, and which I believe they very adequately represent.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I desire to call attention to some questions that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucestershire has raised, though from a rather different point of view. The administration of the Development Grant is a matter of very serious importance. It is a question which we are unable to discuss except by means of questions in the House, and on the Motion for the adjournment of the House. Unfortunately, there is no Minister directly representing the Development Commissioners, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury already having many duties he can hardly be expected to look fully into some of these matters. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary, when we want to criticise the administration of this grant, that we should do so on the 521 Motion for the adjournment of the House. At the present time the Development Commissioners have taken a very important step, which I think this House should state their objections to at the earliest possible moment. They have definitely decided that the funds at their disposal are not to be used to encourage industrial development. They have laid it down that their funds are to be used for agricultural development, for fisheries, but not for industrial development. That is a subject which three-fourths of the Liberal party could not possibly tolerate; it is the re-enactment of the old Agricultural Rates Act; it is taxing the community as a whole, and particularly the urban constituencies for the benefit of the agricultural districts. Hon. Gentlemen opposite plead for assistance for agriculture from the Development Grant. It seems to me hon. Gentlemen opposite almost go beyond their book when they complain they are not getting enough. Surely if they are getting all the Development Fund they might be content with that and not ask more. Our constituencies are to pay in order that their constituencies may have light railways and hunters and nice motor-car roads and all kinds of agricultural development. Our constituencies are to pay in order that the country districts may benefit. This matter was brought to a head by a test case from my own Constituency.
The town council of Stoke-on-Trent, a borough of 250,000, applied to the Development Commissioners for a small grant, I think £2,000, to assist in the scientific investigation of marls, clays, and glazes. That is a matter to which the Commissioners ought to give consideration, and if they were to deal with industrial development such a claim would receive unanimous approval. The local authority was not only prepared to contribute pound for pound, but far more than the Development Commissioners' grant. The local authority wished to inquire into these things in connection with the pottery industry, and it is of enormous importance to find out whether they could be used for refractory purposes. We import clays for refractory purposes for gas retorts and so on from foreign countries. There is no doubt there are clays in these districts admirably suited, but few people are prepared to put down the large sums of money necessary to have inquiries made. The gas engineers have recently sent out special circulars suggesting the establishment of a national laboratory for the purposes of experiments for the study of 522 refractory materials from the gas-maker's point of view. The whole of the pottery industry and the whole of the mining industry are anxious in the same way for experiments and for the development of this class of business, and from the mining point of view it is of enormous importance that we should do something to inquire into the manufacture and utilisation of these clays.
Hon. Members in all parts of the House know that the suffering caused by the use of lead in certain industries. It is a question that has interested the House of Commons now for ten or fifteen years. We have made several important investigations. Still we have an enormous number of cases of serious injury resulting. It is impossible for any private manufacturer to take up this question and to establish a laboratory and to make experiments to discover the proper form of treatment. It is eminently a case for assistance from the Development Fund in order to develop the pottery industry and other works. Here you have a demand which is absolutely unanswerable, and which is for the development not only of one particular area but of the whole country. It has the support of the Commercial Department of the Board of Trade, but when the Development Commissioners were approached they replied that their reading of the Act was that it did not cover matters of industrial development at all and that it was intended simply and solely for the development of agriculture, fisheries, and the country districts. I shall read a portion of the Act to show how utterly unfounded this view is. The first Clause says:—The Treasury may upon the recommendation of the Development Commissioners make advances to public authorities by way of grant for any of the following purposes.Then the several different purposes are set out, and the Section finishes with the following words:—And for any other purposes calculated to promote the economic development of the United Kingdom.That seems to me to be perfectly plain and straightforward.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
No; it is a long Clause, and the only part in which I am interested is these concluding words.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
No; I have not got the words, but they refused because the application was for industrial development, and because they did not think the Commissioners could undertake such matters. Here we have a very definite position taken up by the Development Commissioners with regard to a fund voted by Parliament. That Act passed by this House is to be confined, according to the Development Commissioners, to agricultural development, to fisheries and harbours, and specific things, but it is not to include the industrial development of the country. Two-thirds of the people of this country are engaged in industries which will not benefit in any way by the Development Fund. That was never intended by this House, because it is notorious that the Development Fund was welcomed by a large number of Members on these benches because it was thought it would develop the industries of the country.
I take this early opportunity of protesting against the action of the Development Commissioners. They have no right to put their own meaning upon an Act of Parliament, and I ask the Secretary to the Treasury to take the earliest possible opportunity of getting the Development Commissioners in the first place to reconsider their attitude towards the specific requirements, and in the second place to reconsider their attitude towards the Industrial Development generally. I should like the House to consider for a moment what it is that is to benefit according to the views of the Development Commissioners from the expenditure of this Development Fund. There are to be light railways, the breed of hunters is to be improved, harbours are to be made, land is to be purchased for afforestation. All this expenditure of money is to go in improving and increasing the value of agricultural land, and also for improving harbours and building light railways. Seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds of the taxpayers' money is to be spent annually for this Development Grant and is to go directly into the pockets of the landlords. My Constituents, who are not agricultural land owners, are being taxed upon their tea and sugar with their miserable wages of 24s. a week in order that the agricultural landlords of this country may get 524 more rent than they are getting at present. I say it is a perfect scandal that the Liberal Government should consent to allow the Development Commissioners to take such a course. I do not believe the Liberal Government will tolerate it and I do not believe they will allow the Development Commissioners to squander the money in the country districts while giving no assistance whatever to the industries of this country. I know the question is a very difficult one for the Secretary to the Treasury to answer. It was only yesterday that I found out the Commissioners had taken up this definite line. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to use his best endeavours to get this matter put right at the earliest possible moment. Those of us who sit on these Benches could make out as strong a case against the specific use of the Development Fund Grants in this case as was ever made out by those Ministers, who sometimes sit on the Front Bench, against the Agricultural Rating Act of 1896. Exactly the same arguments apply and will be brought against any partial usage of the Development Fund in the interests of the landlords of this country.
§ Mr. BOLAND
Earlier in the afternoon I called the attention of the Home Secretary to a question which is arousing a considerable amount of interest. I am sorry the Home Secretary is not present, but I hope that he will most certainly reconsider his decision before carrying out the draft Order he has issued under which dressmakers in London during the Coronation month are going to have their hours extended. At present the employés in these establishments can be employed only between the hours of six to six, seven to seven, or eight to eight, but under this Order that time can be extended to nine o'clock. That means from nine o'clock in the morning to nine o'clock at night. In addition, these employés are allowed upon a certain number of days in the year to work overtime to the extent of two hours a day, and this means that this will be utilised probably for two hours each day during the whole thirty days of the Coronation month. Consequently the unfortunate employés starting work at nine o'clock in the morning will not finish until eleven o'clock at night. It seems to me to be a most unreasonable suggestion that at this time of the year such an extension should be made. A large number of these employs live in the suburbs, and it is no exaggeration to say 525 that many of these girls will not find their way home until a quarter to twelve or midnight. That will go on for twenty or thirty days during the months of May or June. I think the Home Secretary will be well advised not to proceed further with this Order, because not merely has the time been extended, but there is another consideration which I would like to bring to his notice. Owing to the low wages which these girls receive, a great many of them have to avail themselves of the early morning trains, under which they are able to obtain a reduction of fares. If this Order is carried out the result will be that these girls will have to start work in the West End at nine o'clock in the morning, and if they are to avail themselves of the workmen's trains they will have to wait for one hour or one and a-half hours before their employment begins.
Seeing that over and over again the objection has been raised, not merely in the case of men, but also in the case of women, that this extension of time is bound to bring evils in its train, I sincerely hope that the Home Secretary will take steps to make inquiries, not merely from the employers, but from the girls who are going to be employed, and from those societies who look after the interests of the employés in those establishments before he goes on with this Order. It is quite true that when this Order is put upon the Table it has to lie there for forty days, and an opportunity may be taken to raise discussion upon it at eleven o'clock at night. I know it has happened in previous years that owing to the action of the Government in taking the time of the House we are often prevented from raising these questions after eleven o'clock at night. It is because this is the only opportunity of bringing to the attention of the Home Office the widespread dissatisfaction caused by the promulgation of this Order that I urge the right hon. Gentleman not to proceed further with the scheme, and let the existing hours stand. I think the Home Secretary may rest assured that, owing to the system of overtime, the employés will have, as a matter of fact, the extra two hours put upon their employment, and it would be a disastrous thing if in this year, with the extra pressure there will be put upon establishments of this kind, to give, not the good class of employers, but the worst class, an opportunity of working the girls in such a way that their health may be affected by it.
§ Mr T. E. HARVEY
I wish to emphasise what the hon. Member for South 526 Kerry (Mr. Boland) has just said. I feel convinced that the Home Office in making this draft Order, after having listened to the representations made by certain employers, will do well to take an opportunity of hearing representatives on behalf of the employés. I think it is peculiarly unfortunate when the House is about to consider an important matter like the Shops Bill, that by an administrative Act a real hardship should be caused to a very large number of the poorest workers. This proposal will affect a very large number of working girls. I find from the last factory inspector's report that there are in the West End district over 2,400 dressmaking and millinery establishments. Putting it down that on an average each establishment may employ twenty hands, it will be seen that in the West End district this Order will affect over 40,000 working girls. In addition to that the Order will apply to workshops in the East End of London and other districts. Inquiries have been made by a number of workers in girls' clubs who are able to speak on behalf of these girls who cannot speak for themselves. Those inquiries have elicited the fact that many of them have to go to such places as Tottenham and Ealing and other outlying districts, and it will be impossible for them to get to their homes before midnight. There are a large number of girls living in North and South Lambeth, and they will have to go long distances on foot to their employments because many of them are too poor to avail themselves even of workmen's fares; they will have to make an hour's journey on foot at the beginning and the end of the day. It will be exceedingly hard for these girls if the hours are prolonged as suggested. I understand it is difficult to avoid overtime being worked, but I hope the Home Office will not allow the hours on Saturdays to be prolonged without a special notice in each case. In any case I hope the proposal to alter the hours from eight to eight, seven to seven, or six to six, to nine to nine with overtime will not be allowed. That would mean a great injustice and hardship. If it is necessary to have overtime I think it should be worked at the other end of the day by allowing the girls to start work earlier rather than to stay later. I understand that a number of the very best firms have already agreed that it is not necessary as far as they are concerned to have any alteration in the existing hours. Many of them do not ask for this alteration, and 527 even if the Home Office should confirm this particular Order those employers say they will not avail themselves of it. I ask the Home Office to support the best employers, and in the interests of the employés who cannot speak for themselves, I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to confirm the Draft Order which has unfortunately been issued.
§ Mr. MALCOLM
May I associate myself with the spokesmen of the two other parties with regard to this very urgent matter? It has already been said that the Draft Order has only to lie upon the Table of the House for forty days and the Home Secretary will sign it; and, as he told me this morning, the very moment he signs it it will become operative. I associate myself with the hon. Member who has just spoken on behalf of these hard-worked and very worthy but unrepresented and quite inarticulate people in this House. I am very sorry we have not been able to see this Draft Order, but I agree with the hon. Member behind me in imagining, and we have considerable ground for imagining, that the Home Secretary was influenced not by the best model employers in the town but by very influential employers all the same. I have a certain knowledge of the Shop Girls' Clubs in the East End of London, and the House might as well know what it is these girl workers fear. I am quite sure we have in the Under-Secretary for the Home Office (Mr. Masterman) a very sympathetic listener on this case, and one who certainly would not dream of doing that which shop girl assistants may feel to be a real grievance, but they fear three things. The first thing they fear is that employers who at present open at seven or eight o'clock in the morning will take advantage of this Order and will appear to be working from nine in the morning and work on till nine at night. They will thus have fourteen hours' work, whereas they ought only to have twelve. The hon. Member opposite, I think, said there were some 2,000 of these shops in the West End employing 40,000 girls, and it will be impossible in the two months for the inspectors to find out whether they are really and truly working from seven o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock rather than as the Government suppose from nine o'clock in the morning till nine at night.
The second thing they are afraid of, they tell me, is that if this Order is in operation for two months, it will be prolonged 528 and become perpetual. They think it would be a great grievance that such an Order should become perpetual and that the hours of from six to six or seven to seven, should finally become from nine to nine. Their third grievance is that whereas it is bad enough now on the grounds of economy they have to take the workmen's train, leaving, it may be Ilford or elsewhere, at five o'clock in the morning, and, to use a vulgar expression, kick their heels out three or four hours before their shops open, it would be infinitely worse that they should have to work overtime until eleven o'clock at night when possibly their last trains might have gone. I need not enter into the moral effect of that—these girls, after their trains hare gone, being let loose on the streets. The House will appreciate it. The necessity of their taking the workmen's train is, of course, equally understood. I know that coming from the Essex part of London the difference is 8d. in a ticket for the day. They pay 2d. for a return ticket coming in from Ilford, whereas, if they waited till eight o'clock, which would be in plenty of time for them to get to work, they would have to pay 10d. That is a thing they have to consider every day, and they would like to have that hardship diminished.
I said there were only three points, but there are four. The fourth point is one they feel equally, not with employers, but with philanthropic people who look after their welfare and run Continuation Schools. These schools runs from 7.30 till 9.30 or ten at night, and they will consequently be absolutely broken up during May and June. Most of these girls, be it said to their credit and honour, do use these schools. These are four, and I think quite definite grounds of complaint which I am sure cannot have entered into the mind of the Home Secretary and still less into the mind of the Under-Secretary who is known to have such an interest in and a sympathy for this class of the community when this Order was first promulgated. It is on behalf of these struggling, very worthy, and, as I think, overworked people, that we stand here to make this sympathetic complaint and to ask the Home Secretary not to sign this Order until he has heard the representations which I know are going to be made to him and has listened to them with a sympathetic ear. He will, I am sure, feel there is a great deal to be said for the point we are now urging and for those who feel that their condition, which is already hard enough, will be very much 529 prejudiced if this Order is allowed even for temporary purposes to find its way into operation through the medium of the Home Office. I have, therefore, much pleasure in supporting the appeal of the hon. Member.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Masterman)
I am sure I have no complaint to make of either the discussion having been raised or of the very kind and generous way in which the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and others who have raised it have spoken of the Department I have the honour to represent. I think it is above all things desirable that all these suggestions sometimes made in connection with the Factory Acts should be carefully scrutinised, and, as the hon. Member for Croydon (Mr. Malcolm) has said, that not only the immediate but even possible ultimate results should be examined. I very much regretted to hear him say he had been unable to obtain a copy of the Draft Order. It was issued in order that it might be obtained and objections lodged to it. We have done our best by sending it to the Press to obtain its publication, and at any moment I shall be happy to give the hon. Gentleman a copy or as many copies as he desires.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I should think that could be done quite easily though I do not know what the policy is with regard to Draft Orders. I think some of the effects of the Order have been slightly exaggerated by hon. Members who have not really fully appreciated its very limited range. There is not the slightest doubt there will have to be a very considerable amount of extra work done during the next two months in connection with the Coronation. Nothing the Home Office could do would prevent that extra work. All concerned with the administration of the Home Office regret these sudden rushes of trade, which often inflict a good deal of hardship upon individuals, but the trade has to be done, and somehow provision has to be made for it. Application came to us for the issue of an Order, which the Factory Acts permit in times of pressure, and which has often been issued, not to increase the number of hours which dressmakers' assistants can work, but to make a variation in the number of hours. Certainly. I should have required far more investigation than that which I was able 530 to give to this matter before I should have sanctioned a Draft Order increasing the number of hours. I think that is a very serious matter, but the application was mainly in the interests of certain dressmaking firms in the West End of London, which have been in the habit up till now of not taking full advantage of that to which they are legally entitled. Their habit has been to work from 9.0 a.m. till 8.0 p.m., unlike the firms in the East End of London, where the employés take advantage of the workmen's trains, and begin at 6.0 or 7.0 a.m. It was submitted to us that this would be for the convenience of the firms. We also obtained evidence that the girls prefer the hour in the evening rather than starting at 8.0 a.m., and we also obtained an assurance from the employers that extra money would be paid for this extra time. There seems to be an idea that the carrying out of this order sanctions work up to 11.0 p.m. That is not so. Section 49 of the Factories and Workshops Act is not altered by this; Order. It provides that no overtime shall be worked after ten o'clock, and no-woman can be employed on overtime under such conditions more than three days a week, while no girl can be employed on such overtime at all. Thus the picture drawn by some hon. Members is not likely to be realised. I believe the restriction as to girls applies to the age of eighteen.
§ Mr. T. E. HARVEY
Is it not a fact that the girls of eighteen would be allowed to work up to ten o'clock?
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
That is quite possible under the present law. There are certain days on which overtime to the extent of two hours is allowed, and what actually happens is that most firms will take advantage of that two hours' overtime in the months of June or July, and we have no power to stop that. The only other point I wish to make is that a legalised system is much better than an illegalised arrangement, and where there is great pressure, as in the case of King Edward's funeral last year, all our efforts cannot prevent a large amount of evasion of the law. These considerations led us to publish a draft Order. I must confess I think the point made by the hon. Member for Croydon (Mr. Malcolm) is worth consideration. There may be a danger of these Orders being used as a precedent, but at the same time they will not be accepted as a precedent. While we are at the Home Office we shall certainly not 531 sanction the general use of such an Order as this except under exceptional circumstances. If the Order were taken advantage of by East End establishments it would at once receive attention.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Some general evasion of the law under great pressure might be possible during certain months. I quite agree that the Draft Order in that case might be ineffective, but I have been in communication with some of the organisations which are representative of the workers, and I have agreed to receive a deputation next week—from those who represent the girls affected. I have given instructions for our inspectors to make investigations as to the opinions of the girls primarily concerned. If it is really the case that they would prefer to work an extra hour in the evening instead of in the morning, then I think there may be something to be said for such an Order.