§ Order for consideration, as amended, read.
§ The MINISTER of MUNITIONS (Mr. Lloyd George)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be recommitted in respect of a new Clause—(Remuneration and Employment of Semi-skilled and Unskilled Labour.")
This new Clause was promised as a result of certain consultations which I had during the Recess both at Glasgow and afterwards with the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in London. The Prime Minister promised that a Clause of this kind should be inserted in the Bill if the Amalgamated Society of Engineers were prepared to accept it and, on the strength of it, to proceed with the scheme of dilution. The agreement was arrived at only late on Friday night; the draft had to be prepared very carefully, and it was settled only yesterday. As soon as it was settled I took every step to enable Members to get copies of it, so that there should be full opportunity for examining it before it was moved. The object is to give power to the Ministry of Munitions to enforce what is known as L3—a circular issued with regard to a minimum wage in munition works throughout the United Kingdom. The process by which it can be enforced at the present moment, in the absence of an Amendment of this kind, is rather cumbrous, and it was pressed upon us by the representatives of organised labour that it was very desirable that there should be a provision for enforcing a minimum wage.
§ Mr. KING
I think it would be much more for the convenience of the House that we should take the recommittal after the Report stage on the other portions of the Bill. We shall then have the benefit of seeing the spirit in which the Minister of Munitions is after his visit to the Clyde. I say that in no invidious or unfriendly spirit. In the course of the discussion which we are bound to have on many points on the Report stage it will be inevitable that the right hon. Gentleman should give us the point of view at which he has arrived after close association and conference with the workers. We should also have an opportunity of considering the Clause in print, with the 821 assistance of persons who are skilled in this Bill, its drafting, and its objects. I see two Amendments which I should like to put down—Amendments which I think are reasonable and would be accepted. It will be difficult, if we go immediately into Committee on the Clause, to put forward any Amendment with any chance of its being accepted. I therefore appeal confidently to the Minister of Munitions to leave the recommittal until we have taken the Report stage on the rest of the Bill.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I share the view of my hon Friend the Member for North Somerset. I appreciate, of course, the spirit in which the Prime Minister and the Minister of Munitions met the Amalgamated Society of Engineers on Friday. But those of us who delayed the taking of the Munition's Bill before the holidays feel now that our position then has been absolutely vindicated by the necessity shown of the conference with the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. Unfortunately, however, the new Clause of the right hon. Gentleman only reached the great majority of us before noon to-day. In these circumstances it is impossible to judge the effect of the words employed. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is endeavouring faithfully to carry out the pledge given to the engineers, but I make bold to say that no Member in the House is able to say what is the effect of the new Clause. Under these circumstances time should be given to the House to consider the matter, and it might well be that the suggestion made by my hon. Friend should be adopted by the Minister of Munitions.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It will be necessary, I take it, to move to insert consequential Amendments in Clause 6. I cannot move them unless the Clause is inserted in the Bill. It makes no difference whether they are inserted before or after, but it will make a great difference so far as the convenience of the Committee is concerned. It will obviate the necessity for discussing certain Amendments on the Bill. In the second place, it will allow us to amend Clause 6, which we could not do if this were not inserted. It will be for the convenience of the House that the thing suggested should be done at this stage.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly considered in Committee.822
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair]