§ (1) The Minister of Munitions shall have power by Order to give directions as to the employment and remuneration of semi-skilled and unskilled men employed in any Controlled Establishment on munition work being work of a class which, prior to the War, was customarily undertaken by skilled labour; or as to the time rates for the manufacture of complete shell and fuses and cartridge cases in any Controlled Establishment in which such manufacture was not customary prior to the War, and any direction so given shall be binding on the owner of the Establishment, and any contractor or sub-contractor employing labour therein, and the workers to whom the directions relate; and any contravention thereof or noncompliance therewith shall be punishable in like manner as if the Order in which the direction is contained was an award made in settlement of a difference under Part I. of the principal Act.
§ (2) Where any difference reported to the Board of Trade under Part I. of the principal Act relates to a matter on which the Minister of Munitions has given or is empowered to give a direction under this Section, the Board may, in lieu of referring the matter for settlement in accordance with Part I. of the principal Act, apply to the Minister of Munitions to give a direction under this Section.
§ Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ Mr. KING
I take this opportunity of calling attention to two Amendments that have occurred to me. I believe if I had had a little longer I could have suggested more. Both, I think, are points of substance. In respect to the power that the Minister of Munitions here takes upon himself to give directions, I do not like the words "Employment and Remuneration." Something definite ought to be said as to the conditions of employment. I should like to take the words which come, I think, in Clause 6 of the Bill—"Rates of Wages, Hours of Labour, and Conditions of Employment." If they are introduced they will make it quite clear that the powers taken with regard to women workers will be exactly the same and on all fours with the powers 823 now taken in regard to the dilution of labour. In the second part of the Clause I think we ought to have a reference to Section 5 of the Act in order that where labour is diluted by women or girl workers the same conditions shall apply as in the other part of the Act. I propose, therefore, when the Clause has been read the second time, to move Amendments in these directions. If the Minister of Munitions has followed me, I hope he will realise that these Amendments are not obstructive, and not merely drafting Amendments, but do deal definitely with points of clearness and policy which require to be met.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Before we agree to this I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us a little more exactly what is the precise effect of this new Clause. In a question that was put down to-day I recalled to the mind of the Minister of Munitions that he had asked only a few weeks ago for 80,000 skilled and 250,000 unskilled men for the purpose of garrisoning the munitions factories. One would like to know whether the effect of this new Clause will do away largely with the necessity of getting these men directly from the Labour Exchanges, or from any other of the sources to which he has alluded. I take it that the scheme of dilution will so adjust unskilled labour that he will have to provide for other parts of the munitions work skilled men who are at present employed on more difficult work. Will the effect of this Clause tend to diminish the present necessity for these additional 330,000 men, or is this over and above anything the right hon. Gentleman has yet counted upon? If he would, in a sentence or two, explain the real effect of the Clause, some of us would be very much obliged.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The Clause relates solely to the dilution of labour in any controlled establishment or munitions works. As my right hon. Friend knows well, there are many establishments engaged upon munitions work that are not controlled establishments. In these skilled workmen are being asked, just as skilled workmen are being asked in the controlled establishments, to surrender their status and allow various alterations. This Clause, while it gives directions so far as the skilled workmen in the controlled establishments are concerned, will not give directions to the skilled workmen who are making concessions and 824 agreeing to the relaxation of rules in establishments which are not controlled under the Munitions Act. I do not suggest that this is a matter that can be properly dealt with in this Clause, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this Clause is the proper occasion to ventilate the grievances of these men. I know for a fact that this matter is very keenly felt by a large number of workmen in different parts of the country. For example, there are workmen employed in the engineering establishments of the railway companies. These men are at present largely engaged in munitions work, and they are uncontrolled establishments. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend intends to change this, but at present a process of the dilution of labour is going on. Will my right, hon. Friend take into consideration the position of the men who are making concessions there, and see that they obtain as adequate protection for the future as the skilled men in controlled establishments? The Committee, I think, will agree that this is a point that deserves consideration, for these men are as patriotic as their brethren in the controlled establishments, and they ought to receive the same consideration from the Minister of Munitions.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
This only applies to establishments where we are asking the workmen to suspend their trade union regulations. It does not go beyond that. My hon. Friend says there are other establishments which are not controlled, but in those establishments the process of dilution is not operative under an Act of Parliament. Take railway establishments. If it is done, it is done voluntarily until those establishments are controlled. This is simply a proposal that there shall be dilution in certain works where certain conditions apply. Wherever those conditions apply then this Clause will be operative. Beyond that it is not operative.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I, of course, accept my right hon. Friend's explanation. I was quite aware this only applied to controlled establishments, and it was because of that that I thought it was inadequate. What I suggest to my right hon. Friend 825 is this: that while dilution is being carried out, by a bargain, in controlled establishments, nevertheless it is going on in other establishments. It is going on, for example, in the works of the Great Western Railway Company at Swindon. If a "workman objects to it there, and seeks by the ordinary trade union methods to safeguard his position, he, equally with a man in a controlled establishment, would be guilty of an offence under the Act. He is prevented from defending himself even although he is not in a controlled establishment. I think if he is prevented from maintaining his old pre-war conditions the Minister should give the same Clause in these establishments. Under Clause 1 of the Bill as it stands the right hon. Gentleman has the power to declare Government factories, etc., controlled establishments. Could he not, by a slight extension of Clause 1; deal with establishments such as the engineering works of railways, the men in which may be partly engaged on munition work and partly on railway work. There is a provision in the original Act which provides for control in so far as the establishment is engaged on munitions. If the right hon. Gentleman would give an undertaking—I think ho could get the machinery under the Act—to extend the benefit of control to those workmen, I think it would do a great deal to meet their wishes, and to remove an apprehension which they justly feel.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
When we were discussing this matter in Committee I moved an Amendment which dealt with this question of semi-skilled and unskilled labour, and I am very glad that the Minister of Munitions is now going to take this power. One thing I hope is that he will have more than the power, and that he will enforce the power, because, if he likes, this may be a real thing, or remain very largely a dead letter. I think there is a moral duty, a real obligation on the Minister of Munitions to deal with this matter, for the reason that these unskilled and semi-skilled men are no longer free, as they used to be, to go from establishments where wages are bad to establishments where they can got better wages. If they are legally debarred from doing that it is an absolute obligation on the Minister of Munitions to see that they get good wages where they are.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I am very sorry to make a second speech, but my first was not 826 answered, and I must put my point again. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the effect of this Clause will do away with the specific need of his present intention to secure 80,000 skilled men and 250,000 unskilled men for the national factories? Will this dilution of labour, by transferring unskilled men to work which is skilled, by consent of these unions, provide the amount of labour wanted, or is this altogether outside of that provision? I should like to know that, as it might alter my attitude towards the Clause.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It depends entirely upon whether the bargain is carried out. The 80,000 men come out of the ranks of skilled labour in other works. They say, "If you insert a Clause of this kind we will do our best to carry out the arrangement," but they are the same men wanted as before, and not additional men. It is simply because the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and other societies say that, if a Clause of this kind is inserted guaranteeing fair' payment to unskilled men, they will do their best to carry out the process of dilution with unskilled men.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I do not think my right hon. Friend quite appreciates my question This is a proposal by which ho hopes to get a great many more men, by a process of dilution. The other men he mentioned were for the distinct purpose of national factories, as he told us in a speech. He said he still required 80,000 skilled men and 250,000 unskilled men over and above what he had got. Docs this Clause at all affect the provision of those men?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think I understood the question of my hon. Friend; I am sorry he does not understand my answer. This is simply a means of getting those skilled men; they are not additional to anything I stated before tried to persuade them to assent to a dilution in regard to work which can just as well be performed by unskilled men. I hope it will be easier to get them if this Clause is carried, because there will be a guarantee with regard to payment.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN
I am very pleased that the Minister of Munitions has introduced this Amendment on this particular point. When the Bill was before the House last I did my best, at any rate, to impress as strongly as I could the desirability of embodying the wages rates fixed 827 by the Labour Supply Committee in this Bill. I am very sorry that I did not succeed in inducing the Minister in charge of the Bill to apprehend the seriousness of the point that was being made with regard to this matter. The difficulty is this: the Labour Supply Committee has issued certain recommendations with regard to the wages of women, and that, I understand, comes under the original Bill. The same Committee issued a further recommendation with regard to the wages of unskilled workmen, and that is not in the Bill. That is where the whole of the trouble has arisen. It is obvious that there was bound to be trouble on this point. I could not quite see how any escape was to be made from it, for, after all, one has to remember the circumstances under which men are working to-day. I am sometimes inclined to think that, owing to the enormous amount of work the Minister of Munitions has to do, it is difficult for him, the same as it is for most men, to keep in touch with the positions that are created in connection with the production of munitions. It might be just as well, therefore, to point out now that the men working under the Munitions Acts are not allowed to strike at all, and, consequently, it is obvious to anybody, after five minutes' consideration, that where the rates of payment in any munition work create difficulty, it is going to be an exceedingly difficult thing indeed to put the matter right. If the men are not allowed to strike, there are other methods which they can employ, and these will be employed. Everybody who has been in a workshop knows that there are a thousand-and-one ways which can be brought into operation in order to bring to naught any Bill passed through this House, and it is just as well to realise this fact. If the men are not given a fair and straight opportunity of voicing their complaints and of bringing those complaints to fruition, it is obvious that ill-feeling is going to be created. It seems to me that the way to meet all these difficulties, or at any rate most of them, is the method which I have pointed out several times. Questions of difference have to be brought before a certain committee on production. I know cases that have been hanging for several months— some of them for over six months. It is true that the men can come out on strike after the difference has drifted along for six weeks, but they do not want to strike, 828 and the workmen are just as desirous as the Minister of Munitions to go on producing munitions, and they do not want to strike. All they want is to have their differences settled. The difficulty is that where these questions of difference arise the Committee which considers them is so overloaded with work that these questions hang over for months and months, and this is the cause of a good deal of the friction which undoubtedly exists. I am convinced that the mere fact of putting this Clause in the Bill will avoid a great number of the differences which would have had to come before the Committee on production. I believe that the Engineers' Union have been largely animated by the desire to avoid these difficulties in insisting upon this particular condition being embodied in the Bill.
I think the Amalgamated Society of Engineers are perfectly right in the view they take, and I believe the result of their action and of this Amendment will be to save an enormous amount of friction which otherwise would have been created. I would go further, and say that if we expect the workers of this country to do their best under the Munitions Act, surely it is infinitely better that we should seek, as far as we can, to co-operate rather than fight. It seems to me that under the Munitions Act in the past it has been rather a question of increasing the number of differences rather than increasing the number of agreements, and there does not seem to me to have been that speeding up put into the operation of meeting and smoothing these differences quickly. I wish that any language of mine might reach the ear of the Minister of Munitions in order to get him to attend to this business of speeding up the treatment of these differences. I am confident that that is where the whole difficulty lies, and after we have put this Amendment into the Bill there will still be a very large number of differences to be dealt with by the Committee on Production. As long as these difficulties accumulate and are held over, so long you are bound to have unrest and difficulty and suspicion in the minds of the workmen. I hope that whatever may be said here to-day the Minister of Munitions will give his attention to this point which I have hammered at time after time until I am sick of it. In my own union there are as many as forty cases waiting to go before the Committee on Production. I know how difficult it is to keep telling the men to remain peace- 829 fully at their work, and that their case is being attended to. They reply to me, "Yes, you are sitting in an office in the House of Commons, and you are not in a workshop where you have to grin and bear these difficulties every day."
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of MUNITIONS (Dr. Addison)
They are dealt with by the Amendment on the Paper.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
I am glad to hear it. By speeding up dealing with these differences, 99 per cent. of them will disappear in a very short time.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I join with my hon. Friend (Mr. Duncan) in the general welcome extended to this Clause, but I do not want to repeat any of the arguments that have been adduced in its favour. I wish to ascertain whether the Minister of Munitions has received any assurance that this new Clause will satisfy those who have made representations to him. I think there is a good deal in what has been said by my hon. Friend (Mr. Duncan) as to the overworked state of several representative State Departments in the Board of Trade, and in the Department presided over by Sir George Askwith, because of the enormous number of cases that have to be remitted to them. If any amendment of the Munitions Act can effect the settlement of these questions in the workshop, or as between representatives of the employers and employed, instead of having to be remitted to already overworked officials, I am sure the production of munitions will be very greatly facilitated and improved. It is a fact well within the experience of many of us that the difficulties which this Clause seeks to remove in the case of controlled establishments also exists extensively in the case of establishments that are not controlled. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman definitely whether he can answer the question that this Clause goes as far as meeting the eases put to him repeatedly by many of us, and specifically within recent date by the representatives of the engineers' organisation. If this Clause does not really meet that ease, then I think this will be only one of many amending Clauses that will have to follow to remove difficulties hereafter that might as well be removed now. There are hundreds of non-controlled establishments where precisely the same grievances exist relating to skilled and unskilled 830 labour, and surely this is an opportune moment to remove those difficulties.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I would like now to answer one or two of the questions put to me. Most of the difficulties which have been raised are met by the Amendment on the Order Paper dealing with the speeding up of the settlement of disputes at works where there are bonâ-fide differences. With regard to what has been said about railway shops, that is a matter which is not under the control of my Department, and it comes under the control of the Board of Trade. This Clause has been inserted to speed up settlements, and I agree with what has been said that there is no greater source of irritation than the keeping alive of grievances of that kind and putting off their settlement. I feel sure that if the Clause on the Order Paper is inserted it will have the effect, to a certain extent, of remedying grievances of that kind. Of course, it is very difficult to secure the smooth working out of all these difficulties of arbitration, but we do our very best in regard to these matters. My only reason for not extending this power to establishments which are not controlled is that as Minister of Munitions I have absolutely nothing to do with them. This is purely a power given to me as Minister of Munitions to deal with establishments under the control of the Ministry, and once I go outside that I shall be invading the function of the President of the Board of Trade and interfering with machinery which has been set up in times of peace and which on the whole has been working rather well. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers suggested that we should take powers like these, and we have adopted their very words in the Clause. We have carried out their suggestion literally by adopting the words of their circular.
§ Mr. HODGE
When this Bill was before the House on a previous occasion I pointed out that in many of the large railway workshops they would seek to take advantage of this dilution scheme without complying with the wages conditions and other regulations, and we put it to the hon. Gentleman who was deputising for the Minister of Munitions that power ought to be taken for the purpose of placing those shops under the control of the Minister of Munitions. I dare say the right hon. Gentleman is aware that that is one of the points which the representative of the Amalgamated Society of Engi- 831 neers has strongly put before him. I believe there was an Amendment of my own down for the purpose of making it mandatory on the right hon. Gentleman to take over these establishments, and I believe it would do very much to allay irritation if we could have an intimation from the right hon. Gentleman that he intends in those large railway workshops to make them controlled establishments.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
As I have already explained, the Amendment adopts their very words. With regard to the control of large railway establishments, it is very gratifying to me to be asked to have more labour under my control. I have visited many of those establishments and had frank talks with the workmen, and they confine most of their objections to the scheme of dilution, and that is what they were most concerned about. My recollection is that they did not worry me very much about anything in the Munitions Act. We had a good many conversations, and they were practically confined to the question of dilution and the conditions under which it should be applied. What they were most worried about was the change in their trade union regulations. It is that of course which affects them most. They are afraid of the permanent effect. There is a good deal to be said for putting railway establishments under control, and there is a good deal to be said against it. I would rather like to hear what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has to say upon the subject. At the present time the railway establishments are under the President of the Board of Trade, and it is not for me to argue that they would be better under my control.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Some of them are, but after all their shell work is a very small proportion of the whole of their engineering work. Most of the work which they are doing is either making or repairing locomotives. I should be very surprised if 20 per cent. of their work was shell work. I am not sure that 10 per cent. is shell work. When only 10 per cent. of their work is shell work, they object to be treated as if they were shell factories. I am afraid if they were put under control 832 with all the conditions of a controlled establishment, they would find it a reason for not turning out shells, and I want their assistance very badly, more especially for turning out big shells. I can assure my hon. Friend that whatever there is to be said for making them controlled establishments there is a good deal to be said against it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I do not think the matter is quite disposed of by the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward. There are, at present, apart from this Amending Bill, three different classes of establishments in this country. There are controlled establishments, uncontrolled establishments, and Government establishments. The Minister of Munitions can bring the ordinary establishment which is not controlled under his control if he likes under the original Act, and under this Bill he can bring all Government establishments under his control. It is true that there is a difficulty about controlling railway companies under the original Act, but in view of the desirability of relieving the situation in these railway works it might be worth his while to take powers under Clause 1 of the present Bill to make a railway establishment a controlled establishment, with such conditions and restrictions as may be thought necessary both by his own Department and by the Board of Trade. I think that would meet the situation. It would not bind the right hon. Gentleman to take them over as controlled establishments. He would only have power under Clause 1 to do it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Yes, subject to the objections which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned in his speech.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I assure my hon. Friend that there is full power now to declare them controlled establishments, but it is an important and serious question of policy in the interests of railway administration.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I quite agree that the right hon. Gentleman has the power, but if he were to do it under the original Act it would be subject to all the conditions as to profits which appear in that Act, and I can understand his not desiring to deal with the railway companies in the same way in which he deals with ordinary companies.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Yes, and consequently the principle of dividing profits could not apply. I understand that is the objection to dealing with the railway establishments under the original Act; but under Clause 1 of this Bill the right hon. Gentleman is taking power to make Government establishments controlled establishments, subject to such modifications and exceptions as are necessary to adapt the provisions to such establishments, and if he brought the railway companies within the Clause he would be enabled to put in the exceptions and modifications which would meet the special conditions of those companies. I merely ask him to consider whether, in order to meet this special case, he would not insert the words "or any railway company"?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That really is beyond the purpose of this Committee. The hon. Gentleman will perhaps bring forward his Amendment on Report.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause read a second time.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "employment and remuneration," and to insert instead thereof the words "rate of wages, hours of labour, or conditions of employment."
These words are to be found in Clause 5 of the Bill, and I propose this Amendment in order to bring this new Clause into line with that Clause. I have commended this Amendment to the Solicitor-General, and I hope that he will see his way to accept it.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir G. Cave)
The effect of the Bill as drawn is the same as the words proposed by the hon. Member, but his words are used in another Clause, and I agree that it is very desirable to have the same words in the two Clauses.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Words proposed there inserted.
§ Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.
§ Bill reported, with an Amendment.
§ Bill, as amended, in Committee and on recommittal, considered.