§ There shall be transferred to the Minister of Labour the powers and duties of the Board of Trade under the enactments mentioned in the Schedule to this Act, and the Minister of Labour shall have such other powers and duties of the Board of Trade or of any other Government Department or authority, relating to labour or industry, whether conferred by Statute or otherwise, as His Majesty may by Order in Council transfer to him, or authorise him to exercise or perform concurrently with or in consultation with the Government Department or authority concerned.
§ Mr. R. MACDONALD
I beg to move, after the word "Trade" ["Board of Trade under the enactments mentioned"], to insert the words and the Home Office."
I foreshadowed this Amendment in the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill. I listened with great attention to what the Home Secretary had to say regarding the point, and I am bound to confess that on further consideration I feel more keenly about this Amendment than ever. The Government is going to establish a Ministry of Labour by the first two Clauses of this Bill. It says that it is doing so in response to a thirty years' demand from organised labour. I know and I fully admit that the Government would be perfectly justified in starting now with a mere nucleus of this Department if it does not want, or if the War circumstances do not allow it, to establish a fully equipped department. I am bound to confess that so far as I am concerned I enter most sympathetically into the conditions in which the Government 1505 find themselves, but I do put in a plea, and this is the object of my Amendment, for something in this Bill which will be a complete and satisfactory guarantee that the intention of the Government is to make this a complete Department and to put under the control of the Ministry of Labour all those tremendously important powers and responsibilities which everyone who has ever been associated with the demand for a Ministry of Labour has connected with it. I select only one Department in order to raise the question. I select the Labour section of the Home Office. If hon. Members take the Schedule to this Bill and look at the way it is being worked, they will discover that on ninety-nine occasions out of a hundred when activities take place under these various Acts they are very irritating and very unpopular. The Minister of Labour will have to face dissatisfied and determined masses of men. He will have to force them hack into employment, and so on. The whole class of responsibilities imposed by these Schedules is just the most delicate, the most difficult, and I would almost say the most impossible, part of the work of the Ministry of Labour. If that is going to be done fairly, and if the man who occupies this position is going to have a chance with his fellow workmen, he must have some powers which will enable him to benefit the condition of labour. There is a point which I am not going to deal with except just by illustration. Part I. of the Ministry of Munitions Act is all the irritating part. Part II. is the constructive and smoothing part. Part II. remains under the control of the Ministry of Munitions. Part II. contains just those salves which a Minister can give to workmen when he asks them to do something which they are not going to do. It is really unfair to ask any hon. Member of this House to go down to a place where there is trouble and to say, Your duty is to make those people do unpleasant things, and I will not give you the advantage of enabling you to do pleasant things."
Leaving the immediate difficulties out of account, I confess that my interest in this Department is a much more remote one. I want to see a really well-equipped Department which will dignify and honour the Minister who presides over it and who is responsible for its work. If hon. Members will cast their minds over the many ramifications now of labour 1506 legislation and the distribution of responsibility for that legislation over Departments, I think they will agree that the honourable part of it and the part which contains real authority rests with the Home Office. There you have the two tremendously big sections of responsibility, responsibility for factories and responsibility for mines, entailing the right to hold inquiries, make suggestions, appoint inspectors to see about accidents, hours of labour, conditions of employment—all that tremendously important set of responsibilities which I believe alone in association with the Ministry of Labour will make that Ministry worth having. That is why I move this Amendment. I do not think it is fair to ask labour to accept the Bill in its present form. The point was made on the Second Reading of the Bill that at the present moment it is impracticable to extend the work of this new Department. I am not moved by that consideration. I do not believe anybody who has been inside a Government Department will be moved by it. What happens? I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me. You can perfectly easily transfer this Department to-morrow. Not an officer is disturbed, not a letter is held over, not a decision is held in suspense. It is purely what we call in other departments of life a book-keeping transaction. I would not be satisfied if it remained there, but, taking into account the present exigencies, that is the situation which would arise if the Government were to say that the Factory Department and the Mines Department of the Home Office were to be transferred to the Ministry of Labour. They might remain precisely where they are until the War is over, or until the convenience of the Government is suited.
If the Government is not willing to go that length—and I think we are justified in asking them to do it—they certainly should agree to put into the Bill a proviso such I propose, or, if it cannot be done here, give us a pledge that it will be done in another place before the Bill is finally passed. The proviso I suggest is that the powers now exercised by the Home Office, especially under these two sets of Acts—the Factory and Workshops Acts and the Mines Regulations Acts—shall be transferred to the Ministry of Labour, and that the transference shall take place as soon as may be convenient. I am quite content that the Government 1507 should adopt any strictly legal phraseology which the right hon. Gentleman may think proper so long as the object aimed at is attained, but I venture to say that unless we get that guarantee, Labour will be justified in being profoundly disappointed with what is being done. I am of course, prepared to accept anything the right hon. Genltleman may say as a full expression of his intention, but I think he will understand that that is not quite sufficient in this case. It is not quite good enough, particularly when it is so perfectly easy by inserting a phrase or two in this Bill to give a guarantee such as we can accept.
Moreover, it is desirable from the point of view of the War itself. We were told at the time the Bill was introduced that the Ministry of Labour was going to have considerable responsibility placed upon it in connection with the mobilisation, and the many problems that must arise therefrom. I would point out that a Minister of Labour responsible for demobilisation could not accept that responsibility with the powers given him in the Schedules of this Bill. They are not good enough. They do not go far enough. Nine-tenths of the problems with which he will be called upon to deal will affect workshop conditions and hours of labour, and legislation will be necessary on matters which at the present moment are dealt with by the Board of Trade and the Home Office. Therefore, from the point of view of the Minister who has charge of demobilisation, this Bill must be extended so as to include not only Board of Trade authority but Home Office responsibility.
The final point I want to make is this: I am all the more strengthened in my desire to press this Amendment by the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman that there really is some doubt whether the Home Office responsibility will be transferred to this Department. I do not quite know how far he really meant it, but, at any rate, the right hon. Gentleman's words suggested to me that the desirability of transferring Home Office responsibility to the Labour Department must be a subject on which others will have to be consulted, and I am afraid that if those other parties decide against the proposal, and if the Government accept their decision, then the Labour Department will become the mere shadow or skeleton of a Department. 1508 I press the Government to create, by this Bill, a Labour Department which will really be satisfactory, and to put into the measure guarantees which will ensure its being a real Labour Department.
§ Mr. SHERWELL
I have pleasure in seconding the Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) indicated that there was a real danger that the proposals of the Bill, so far as they go in the direction of creating a Ministry of Labour, will be only a very limited realisation of a demand made with increasing force for at least a generation, as is always the case when any Government, whether in time of war or in peace time, indicates its intention of realising, in a legislative form, a demand which has been made for so long a time. I have not the least doubt, indeed, and there is much evidence already of the fact, that very considerable interest has been aroused in labour circles by the announcement of the intention of the Government to create a Labour Ministry. But I have serious misgivings whether, when the interest which has been aroused by the announcement comes to be concentrated on the actual proposals of this Bill, there will not be a danger of reaction and disappointment which may very largely prejudice the chances which this limited Bill might have under ordinary circumstances. I confess, so far as my own desires go, the Amendment which my hon. Friend has moved does not satisfy me. I would not for one moment pretend to the House that even if this particular Amendment were incorporated in the Bill it would make it, in my judgment, a wholly satisfactory measure. But I, in common with other Members of the House, realise at once the impracticability under existing conditions of any Government, whether this or any other, laying before the House what we may fairly describe as a full and satisfactory scheme. Still I think my hon. Friend has sufficiently indicated the practicability of amending or enlarging the scope of this particular proposal in a direction which would make it more real in its effect.
The Leader of the House, in a speech which he made earlier in this week, indicated his own growing sense of the peril confronting not merely this, but other nations in connection with the enormous wastage of young life. But there is a peril which is almost worse. Whatever 1509 may be the outcome of the present gigantic conflict, everyone knows that even a successful belligerent must emerge from the struggle with seriously weakened forces in its reserve of physical life, and any Member of this House who has been considering the reports published recently by special Committees appointed by the Minister of Munitions to investigate various stages of industrial life must have had great cause to see how much more terrible may be the consequences even of success in this present conflict if something be not done rapidly to prevent the loss and wastage among juvenile workers. There was a report published only the other day on the hours of juvenile workers in this country, and I am bound to say, having read that report with care, and being fully informed of the urgency of the present situation, any Government which allows the condition of things indicated therein to be maintained indefinitely is adding enormously to the permanent wastage which this nation may suffer as a consequence of the War. The condition of things is perfectly awful. Boys and girls of fifteen or sixteen years of age, and under, are being employed for the full adult hours of labour in our factories and workshops. I am satisfied that that condition of things is not necessary, and it will be the work of the Labour Minister to look into matters Of that character. Indeed, no branch of his work will be more important than the supervision of the administration of the Factories and Workshops Acts. I hope that the Government will extend the scope of the Bill by adopting the simple Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend. The Government is in the very fortunate position of being able easily to achieve this result. They are fortunate in having as Secretary for the Home Department a man expert in the conditions of mining life, and it would be a comparatively simple matter to transfer to the Labour Ministry the services of the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of the Home Department (Mr. Brace). In any case it is of such great importance to satisfy the workers of this country that this Labour Ministry is to be a real Department and a real reform, that we should have some record of the scope and intentions of the Government in this particular direction, that I have great pleasure in seconding the Amendment.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I do not think that either the Mover or the Seconder of this 1510 Amendment has done anything like justice to the position which the Government has taken up. They may not be satisfied with the powers which are transferred to the Minister of Labour by this Bill, but I think they ought to remember that this is the first Government which has ever proposed to form a Ministry of Labour at all, and that it is doing so within a very few days of its coming into existence. At any rate, we ought to have credit for that. Secondly, the House should remember that in this matter the Government has had the assistance of Labour itself in drafting the scheme. The Minister for Labour (Mr. Hodge), my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Brace), who has a special right to speak upon mining and other labour questions, and my right hon. Friend the Member for the Barnard Castle Division (Mr. Henderson) have all been consulted in relation to this matter, and I think the House should have some regard to their views as embodied in this measure.
Let me now pass to the Amendment. It is possible, I agree, to make a good case in theory for transferring Home Office duties under the Factory and Workshop Acts to the Ministry of Labour, but it is a different thing to say that they should be transferred now at a day's notice. These powers have been exercised for years by the Home Office. They have been exercised by an exceedingly efficient staff which has gained the confidence of labour throughout the country. Indeed, I believe that not only the miners, but other persons connected with labour have often turned to the Home Office for assistance and advice in times of difficulty. But what is proposed now is that, in the middle of this great War, you should suddenly transfer all this work to a new Department. I do not think it right or wise to do it. I have not said a word against the ultimate transfer to the Ministry of Labour, and I do not intend to say a word which may be construed as an argument against that transfer, but I do assert most emphatically it would be a mistake at this particular time, at such short notice, to sanction the immediate transfer of these duties. We are forming a Department to which will be entrusted a very difficult and very important task, and that Department has to be built up from the beginning. To transfer to it too much work is to risk 1511 overwhelming it from the very commencement. I know that those who have studied this matter—and I have had conferences with many who are personally acquainted with questions that must arise—have come to the unanimous conclusion that it would be better not to transfer these duties at this moment. Therefore, I cannot consent to the Amendment before the House.
Powers connected with labour matters will be transferred which enable the Department to render constant and daily service, and which will give them the full title to use that power with effect. But I said the other day, and I say again to-day, that before the Home Office powers are transferred we ought to consult those who are interested, especially as to the time and mode of transfer. The transfer will concern not only the miners but the employers, and they all have a view of their own. The miners have their own opinion about these matters, and we want to know what it is. We do not want to take this very important step without hearing their views and without knowing what they have to say about it. The same applies in fairness to the employers, the mine owners. We want to hear their views too, and we wish to take their views as to the mode and time of transfer, and as to whether the transfer might be made at all during the War. I am quite certain it would not be wise to press on this transfer at too short notice. This Amendment deals only with two branches of the work. We do take power under the Bill to transfer not only these branches, but other branches of work connected with labour. I hope that, as time goes on, we may see what other transfers may be made. After what I have said, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not desire to press the Amendment. It may delay and even prevent the passing of the Bill creating a Minister of Labour. If the Bill is to be passed it would be unwise and injurious to the Bill to pass such an Amendment as this.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
The right hon. Gentleman has given us a very disappointing reply. The arguments he has used are not very convincing, or, if they are convincing, they apply equally to the powers that are going to be transferred from other Departments to the Ministry of Labour. For example, he tells us that before the mines or a similar Department could be transferred to the new Ministry of Labour, those directly concerned would 1512 have to be consulted. There is a large number of workpeople under the Insurance Act. Have they been consulted in regard to the transference of the whole control of national insurance to this new Government Department? The right hon. Gentleman says that he must not disturb what has been done very well up to the present time. But that disturbance will apply equally to the transfer of matters like Employment Exchanges to the new Departments. Why should you create a disturbance in the middle of the War by transferring to the new Department matters like the Employment Exchanges and the various other Departments which you are going to transfer? You must make up your mind to have it one way or the other. You cannot have it both ways, as the right hon. Gentleman would like to have it. It may be true, quite likely it is true, that this thing will have to be done slowly. Nobody suggests that it can be done at five minutes' notice. All that is asked is that you should take power to transfer.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
You ought to take express powers in the Bill to deal with these matters as far as the Home Office is concerned.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
In one way you do, but not really or specifically. You have no real intention of dealing with the matter without having fresh legislation. Therefore, in view of the enormous importance of covering the whole field of mining legislation and factory law, which ought to be the very centre of any matter dealing with the Labour Ministry, they ought to be put specifically into the Bill, and I hope that those who have moved the Amendment will insist upon it, unless we get a more favourable answer. I hope we shall a more favourable answer from the Under-Secretary to the Home Office, but, unless that is forthcoming, I am afraid it will be necessary to press this matter to a Division and take the opinion of the House upon it.
It is quite true that in this Clause a general power is taken by the Government to transfer other powers to the new Ministry, but the House of Commons is entitled, when a 1513 new Ministry of Labour is being set up, to ask the Government to go further than merely taking vague general powers on a matter of this kind, and to invite from them an expression of opinion as to what their policy in this respect is going to be in the future. For my part, I certainly will support those who have brought forward this Amendment in order to get a wider and more general expression of policy from the Government on this matter. There is only one other question arising out of this Clause to which I would draw the attention of the House and the Government—that is, the relation of this new Ministry of Labour to Ireland. There is nothing in the Bill about that, and we have not been informed by the Government about it. It is very important, for the reason that we have had experience for many years in the past of the working of various Government Departments which especially presume to deal with labour questions, and the work-
§ ing of central Government Departments here in London in connection with Irish affairs.
I was going to suggest that broad powers should be taken in this Bill, either by way of a new Clause or some such method as that, to regulate on more satisfactory lines the relations of this new Ministry of Labour as compared with the existing relations either of the Home Office or of the Board of Trade.
§ Question put, "That the words 'and the Home Office,' be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 61; Noes, 172.1515
|Division No. 67.]||AYES.||[4.55 p.m.|
|Alden, Percy||John, Edward Thomas||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Anderson, W. C.||Jowett, Frederick William||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Joyce, Michael||O'Grady, James|
|Boland, John Pius||Kelly, Edward||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||King, Joseph||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Byrne, Alfred||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Reddy, Michael|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Lardner, James C. R.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Clynes, John R.||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Snowden, Philip|
|Cosgrave, James||Lundon, Thomas||Sutton, John E.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Tootill, Robert|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Dillon, John||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Wardie, George J.|
|Doris, William||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Field, William||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||White, J. Dunaas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Millar, James Duncan||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Ginnell, Laurence||Mooney, John J.||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Glanville, Harold James||Morrell, Philip||Wiles, Thomas|
|Goldstone, Frank||Muldoon, John||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hackett, John||Nolan, Joseph|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Nugent, J. D. (College Green)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hazleton, Richard||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Mr.Sherwell and Mr, T. Richardson,|
|Holt, Richard Durning|
|Agg-Gardner. Sir James Tynte||Brace, William||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Bridgeman, William Clive||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)|
|Archer-Shee. Lt.-Col. M.||Bryce, J. Annan||Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)|
|Archdale, Lieut. E. M.||Butcher, John George||Denison-Pender, J. C.|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Dewar, Sir J. A.|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Cator, John||Dixon, C. H.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Cautley, Henry Strother||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Duncannon, Viscount|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Essex, Sir Richard Walter|
|Barnston, Harry||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Faber, George Denison (Clapham)|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Clyde, J. Avon||Fell, Arthur|
|Bathurst, Capt. C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Foster, Philip Staveley|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Cowan, W. H.||Gardner, Ernest|
|Bird, Alfred||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Craig, Col. James (Down, E.)||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred|
|Blair, Reginald||Craik, Sir Henry||Greene, Walter Raymond|
|Bowden, Major G. R. Harland||Currie, George W.||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)|
|Gretton, John||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)|
|Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen)|
|Gulland, John William||Mackinder, Halford J.||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Haddock, George Bahr||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Hanson, Charles Augustin||Macpherson, James Ian||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Magnus, Sir Philip||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Stanley, Major Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Henry, Sir Charles||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Hendry, Denis S.||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Steel-Maltland, A. D.|
|Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Stewart, Gershom|
|Hewart, Gordon||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Morgan, George Hay||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Hinds, John||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Hope, Harry (Bute)||Needham, Christopher T.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Newdegate, F. A.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Hunt, Major Rowland||Newman, John R. P.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. H. (Antrim, Mid)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Illingworth, Albert H.||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes, Ince)|
|Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Parkes, Ebenezer||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Jessel, Colonel Herbert M.||Pearce, Sir Robert (Leek)||Wlliams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Peto, Basil Edward||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Jones, Kennedy||Philipps, Maj.-Gen. Ivor (Southampton)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Pratt, J. W.||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Prothero, Rowland Edmund||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Radford, Sir George Heynes||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Younger, Sir George|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Robinson, Sidney||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord|
|Lock wood. Rt. Hon. Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Rowlands, James||Edmund Talbot and Mr. Beck|
|M'Calmont, Col. Robert C. A.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I wish to move an Amendment somewhat different from the last, namely, after the word "Trade" ["Board of Trade or of any other Government Department"], to insert "and of the Ministry of Munitions."
I wish to draw attention to the fact that a very extraordinary situation is going to be created by this Bill, so far as the Ministry of Munitions is concerned, because if Members will turn to the Schedule they will find that one part of the Ministry's work under the Munitions of War Act is included, and is going to be transferred to the new Labour Department, and that the other part of the work is not going to be included. It will be seen that all this labour work under Part I. of the Munitions of War Act is going to be included in this new Department, but all the labour work under Part II. is to be excluded from the scope of the new Ministry. I want to point out what that means. An impression has certainly been created in labour circles that the work of the new Labour Department was going to include labour work hitherto done by the Ministry of Munitions, but, in point of fact, that is not so. Part I. of the Act has only to do with the settlement of disputes under a method of compulsory conciliation, and with efforts to extend the 1516 Act to those who in other circumstances are outside it, such as miners—that is to say, the most disagreeable part of the work under the Munitions of War Act of the Ministry of Munitions is handed over to the new Labour Department, but so far as all the other work is concerned, such as regulating labour conditions or dealing with labour conditions, or improving women's wages under the Ministry of Munitions, that is entirely and apparently very carefully excluded from the scope of the new Department. Part II. of the Act, which does not come within the purview of this Department, deals with the whole question of controlled establishments, and therefore deals with the questions of munitions volunteers and the sending of war munitions volunteers from one part of the country to another, and the conditions under which that should be done. Surely this new Labour Department should have something to say about that.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
It has no power under this Schedule, and therefore I am very glad to hear the remark of the Home Secretary, because it means that he is going to accept the Amendment, or that he ought to mean to accept it. My second point is this, that all the difficult questions dealing with the leaving certificates 1517 of workmen in these controlled establishments are not going to be taken over by the new Department. It is going to be allowed to tell people who are on strike that they ought to go back to work, but it is not to be part of its work to deal in any way with the leaving certificates or with the special arbitration tribunals that have been set up under the Ministry of Munitions. Such matters as the pledges that have been given to women workers under the legislation known as the munitions legislation, and the rates of wages of women employed on munition work, skilled and unskilled, I say are matters which from the standpoint of a Labour Ministry are vital, and if it is going to be a real thing instead of mere window dressing, the power to deal with these matters should have been handed over to the new Ministry. All the Statutory Orders governing the wages of women ought to be part of this Labour Ministry's work. The question of L2 and the question of Order 4, Form 7, dealing with the wages of a class of women in controlled establishments who are doing a new kind of work, and in respect of which a fixed wage is supposed to be granted, are questions which should be placed under the Labour Ministry. It is highly important that the work of Part II. as well as Part I. of the Munitions of War Act should be handed over to the new Labour Department. There is a stronger case for this Amendment than there was for the last, because you are actually dividing up the Department, and that seems to me a very extraordinary position to take up. I do not know, but I should think that as matters now stand all that part of the Munitions of War Act which deals with the question of the restoration of trade union rules and conditions—matters of vital importance to labour—is not going to be handed over to the new Ministry of Labour. I am quite sure that this is a matter that ought to be looked into, and I am quite certain that if we are really going to get anything in the nature of an effective and real Ministry of Labour these powers must be conferred—the powers of dealing with munitions volunteers, of governing the wages of women workers, and not only of dealing with the tasks which may be very disagreeable to the new Minister of Labour, but also powers dealing with the conditions of labour and the improvement of those conditions where necessary. If that is not done there 1518 will be a suggestion that the employers, or some outside influences, have put pressure upon the new Department, and that those matters in which there is a chance of effective improvement or reform are not going to be transferred to the new Department at all. I hope that is not going to be the case, but that the Home Secretary will meet us in this matter and will see the reasonableness of including the whole labour work under the new Department. The impression conveyed to my mind was that that was going to happen, and I believe that was the impression conveyed to the minds of many trade unionists, and now we find that all the effective part of that is ruled out, and I certainly think we ought to press very strongly, and I do press very strongly, that Part II. shall be included as well as Part I., and that is really the purpose of the Amendment.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I said a case had been made out for the last Amendment, but I cannot say the same of this. I do not think this Amendment is defensible or in any way friendly to the Bill. Part I. of the Munitions Act deals with conciliation and the settlement of trade disputes. That part we propose to transfer to the new Ministry of Labour. Part II. simply deals with the Ministry of Munitions as a war Department employing labour, and the powers given to the Ministry by Parliament are given to it not at all as a body intervening as conciliator between employer and employed.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Oh, yes! Under Part II. there are the special arbitration tribunals set up governing wages, especially of the low-paid women workers, and that is a matter of very vital consequence, and it has a bearing on the relations between capital and labour.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I think I am right in what I say. Of course, I am not saying if there are any powers in Part II. which are properly exercisable by the Labour Ministry we shall not transfer them hereafter, but the hon. Gentleman proposes to transfer at once to the Ministry of Labour the whole of the powers of the Ministry of Munitions under Part II. of the Munitions Act. It is perfectly absurd. Take, for instance, the first Section in Part II., which deals with regulating controlled establishments. That is 1519 entirely war work, and has nothing to do with the Ministry of Labour as such. You can go through Section after Section. "Work for the Minister of Munitions"—that is work for him in the manufacture of munitions. "Employment of persons who have left munition factories"—that is again a matter entirely concerned with the carrying on of the War. I should be the first to allow, if Part II. were at all on the same lines as Part I., that a good case could be made out for an Amendment of this kind, but it deals with a wholly different matter, and I do not think the hon. Member can have thought the matter out. He did not put the Amendment on the Paper. I am quite sure when he gets home and thinks his case over he will feel he could not reasonably expect us to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has not quite considered the effect of his reply. After all, some of the proceedings taken in anticipation or with a view to the creation of this Department are now common knowledge to the public Press, and we all knew that the original intention in connection with this Ministry was that the hon. Gentleman who is now one of the Patronage Secretaries to the Treasury, and was formerly one of the Secretaries to the Ministry of Munitions, intended to be and "was designated by the Government as Secretary to the Labour Ministry, and it was publicly announced that the reason of his transfer from the Ministry of Munitions to the Ministry of Labour was that he would be able thereby to take over all the labour functions at present exercised by the Ministry of Munitions to the Ministry of Labour, and the very fact that he in his former office was performing these duties would make this transfer of duties to the new office extremely smooth and easy. I think in this case the first thoughts of the Government were much better than their second thoughts, and that it is extremely unfortunate for the right hon. Gentleman, in defending the present form of the Bill, that he himself was not familiar with the first thoughts of his superiors in this matter. Had he been so familiar he would not have poured contempt, as he has done, upon the Amendment. As a matter of fact, it is not true to suggest that the Amendment was only thought of at the last moment because it has not 1520 been put on the Paper. It occurred to many Members that this was a thing which ought to have been done. Considering the conditions under which this Bill is being pushed through the House, I myself decided to put no Amendment on the Paper, because I believe that with the Bill rushed through Parliament it was better that the Ministry should have the sole responsibility for it, and that the House of Commons should simply allow the matter to go through, and if there were any difficulty in its working, the House of Commons was free from any responsibility for it. You are transferring certain duties in connection with the Munitions Act to the new Ministry, and all the duties exercised by the Board of Trade under the Munitions Act are transferred. It is as simple a matter to transfer the duties which were exercisable by the Ministry of Munitions to the new Ministry as those functions of the Board of Trade. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman still maintains the official view that the second thoughts of the new Government are the best, it is useless to divide the House, but I think it is right that we should take this opportunity of stating on this point, as on the last Amendment, that we regard this as a mistake. We believe that the new Ministry, on the threshold of its career, is being shorn of some of the most important duties that it could possibly exercise, and that consequently you are diminishing its status, and by diminishing its status thereby derogating from the position which it will occupy in the opinion of the working classes of the country.
§ Sir TUDOR WALTERS
I do not quite take the view of my colleague (Mr. Anderson). Nor am I satisfied in the least by the reply of the Home Secretary. I can see obvious difficulties in transferring the whole of the powers of Part II. to the Ministry of Labour, and it appears to me that the Home Secretary based his reply entirely upon the supposition that the whole of the powers of Part II. were to be transferred to the Ministry of Labour. I do not think that can have been the purpose of the Amendment. It appears to me that there are a number of powers in Part II. which really ought to be transferred to the new Ministry. To confine the operations of the new Ministry of Labour to Part I. is a great mistake, and when working men generally realise that the Ministry of Labour is so extremely hampered and curtailed in its 1521 powers there will be great and serious disappointment. If the Ministry of Labour is only to be called in in cases of conciliation, if it is only to deal with men when they are on strike, and may not take part in some of the other functions which can be transferred to it from Part II. of the Ministry of Munitions Act, such as local tribunals and questions of wages, you will make the Ministry of Labour extremely unpopular, and it will diminish the confidence which the working classes have in it. It is all very well to say that you want to give an instalment of power at this stage, and that you propose to enlarge the sphere of its operations later on, but it is, to say the least of it, very unfortunate that the powers you give it at the commencement are the unpopular powers, and the powers you defer for the present are the powers which would have made it more acceptable in the exercise of the larger functions. I think, therefore, though I am not prepared to support the Amendment, there is a great deal of substance in the argument my hon. Friend used, and I do not think the Home Secretary has at all considered the real point of the Amendment, a point which, I think, will be considered to be of very great importance by the working classes generally, and I suggest that he should see whether it is not possible to hand over some of the powers contained in Part I. to the Ministry of Labour. I do not for a moment suggest that the Ministry of Labour should take the place of the Ministry of Munitions an3 should run the controlled factories and employ labour, therefore I am not going to vote for the Amendment, but I suggest that the reply that the Home Secretary gave was not a sufficiently sympathetic reply to the main contention of the argument, which is that there are powers contained in Part II. of the Ministry of Munitions Act which, with great advantage to the public, could be transferred to the new Ministry of Labour, and which would give added confidence to the working classes, and would tend to make it more easy for the Minister of Labour to exercise many of the unpopular functions that this Bill proposes to entrust him with. Therefore, I hope the Home Secretary will devise some way, if not on this Amendment, at some later stage of the Bill, of adding to the powers of the new Ministry of Labour important portions 1522 of the duties contained in Part II. and exercised by the present Ministry of Munitions.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I wish to say two or three words in support of the view which has been expressed from the other side. There seems to be no agreement as to what this Amendment means, and there is, therefore, great disadvantage in dealing with it now. If the Home Secretary is prepared to go as far as the intention of my hon. Friend (Mr. Anderson), that can be done by the Amendment being withdrawn and an undertaking being given to take the necessary steps on a later stage. I cannot myself, strictly speaking, support the Amendment because I do not want to place within the province of the new Ministry of Labour the work of dealing with the controlled establishments. I go-that far with the argument of the Home Secretary. But, on the other hand, having had some personal experience of the working of certain parts of Part II. of the Munitions Act, I think it highly advisable that the Government should agree to the sense and purpose of the Amendment. One of the most troublesome sides of our work in trying to adjust these differences as they arise is due to the fact that there are so many different State Departments, so many different authorities and persons to be approached and dealt with in trying to settle these questions, and it would certainly simplify the work, both of the State and of those who have to intimately concern themselves in trade disputes, if the purpose of the Amendment were met and this section of the work transferred to the new Labour Department. I agree that the Bill generally as it is now, without Amendment, goes a very long way to meet the aspirations of Labour as they have been expressed in the past. But this further step could be easily taken by the Government without doing any violence whatever to their professions and to their intentions in respect of the new Ministry. I should like, therefore, to join in the appeal which has been made that the Home Secretary should give an undertaking that the matter will be further considered and that he will see whether the parts of Part II. which are in the mind of the Mover of the Amendment can be further dealt with, and probably some Amendment brought forward at a later stage to meet his views.
§ Sir G. CAVE
That is a very reasonable suggestion, but I think the hon. Member has not realised that the Amendment, together with the powers contained in the Schedule, covers the whole of the powers of the Ministry of Munitions under Part II. of the Munitions Act. If the Amendment is carried you will have a wholly impossible position. If there are powers which ought to be transferred to the Ministry of Labour we can easily transfer them by Order in Council within a very short time, and I can assure hon. Members, having regard to what has been said, that we will carefully go through the powers which are conferred by Part II. of the Munitions Act and see whether any of them ought fairly to be transferred by Order in Council to the Ministry of Labour. I cannot go beyond that.
§ Amendment negatived.
There are some other Amendments which have been handed in in manuscript affecting Clause 2, but I think in all cases they should have been new Clauses.
Does that refer to the Amendment I have handed in that there shall be established in Ireland a branch of the Ministry of Labour, through which the work of the Ministry in Ireland can be transacted?
On a point of Order, I should like to remind you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the Committee stage of this Bill was taken yesterday and the Report stage followed immediately to-day, so that we have had very little time to consider anything in the way of Amendments to the Bill, as it has been so much rushed by the Government. I am not complaining of that, but I am anxious that this Bill in its application to Ireland shall work as smoothly and as satisfactorily as possible. Therefore. I am desirous of setting up a branch of each of these two Ministries in Dublin, as has been done in the case of the Ministry of Munitions. For that purpose I suggest that Members ought to be allowed at the end of each of those Clauses to suggest to the Government the establishment of such branches.
I am afraid I cannot take any other course. Mr. Speaker ruled before he left the Chair that this proposition is clearly a subject for a separate Clause.