HC Deb 06 July 1916 vol 83 cc1741-52

(1) Where it appears to the Secretary of State that the conditions and circumstances of employment or the nature of the process carried on in any factory or workshop are such as to require special provision to be made at the factory or workshop for securing the welfare of the workers or any class of workers employed therein in relation to the matters to which this Section applies, he may by Order require the occupier to make such reasonable provision therefor as may be specified in the Order, and if the occupier fails to comply with the requirements of the Order or any of them, the factory or workshop shall be deemed not to be kept in conformity with the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901.

(2) The following shall be the matters to which this Section applies:—

Arrangements for preparing or heating, and taking, meals; the supply of drinking water; the supply of protective clothing; ambulance and first aid arrangements; the supply and use of seats in workrooms; facilities for washing; accommodation for clothing; arrangements for supervision of workers.

(3) Orders may—

  1. (a) be made for a particular factory or workshop, or for factories or work shops of any class or group or description;
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  3. (b) be made contingent in respect of particular requirements upon application being made by a specified number or proportion of the workers concerned, and may prescribe the manner in which the views of the workers are to be ascertained;
  4. (c) provide for the workers concerned being associated in the management of the arrangements, accommodation or other facilities for which provision is made, in any case where a portion of the cost is contributed by the workers.

(4) If, in the case of any Order proposed to be made for a particular factory or workshop, the occupier, or, in the case of an Order for factories or workshops of a particular class or group or description, the majority of the occupiers of factories or workshops of that class or group or description, dispute the reasonableness of the requirements in the proposed Order or any of them, the objection shall be referred for settlement to a referee selected in accordance with rules made under this Section, but the Secretary of State may so refer any objection though not made by a majority of the occupiers if he thinks desirable.

(5) Save as otherwise expressly provided in the Order, the occupier of a factory or workshop shall not make any deduction from the sum contracted to be paid by him to any workman or receive any payment from any workman in respect of any provision made in pursuance of an Order under this Section, and if he makes any such deduction or receives any such payment, he shall be guilty of an offence against the Truck Act, 1831, and shall be liable to the penalties imposed by Section nine of that Act as if the offence were an offence mentioned in that Section.

(6) The Secretary of State may make rules as to the time within which and the manner in which notice of objection to any Order may be made, and as to the selection of, and the procedure before, a referee and the cost of the proceedings before a referee (including the remuneration of the referee).

(7) Any Order made under this Section may be revoked at any time in whole or in part by the Secretary of State, without prejudice to the making of a further Order.

(8) This Section shall not apply to domestic factories or workshops.

(9) The Secretary of State may by a Special Order made in accordance with the provisions of Section one hundred and twenty-six of the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901, extend the matters to which this Section applies to matters other than those mentioned in this Section.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), paragraph (c), to leave out the words "in any case where a portion of the cost is contributed by the workers."

I must apologise to the Committee for the fact that this Amendment does not appear on the Paper, but I only discovered this afternoon the very serious matter to which I am going to direct attention. In addition to the Amendment I have mentioned, I propose in Subsection (5) subsequently to move the omission of the words, "save as otherwise expressly provided in the Order." This Clause, with which I think the whole Committee will have the utmost sympathy, gives the Secretary of State power by Order to insist on certain necessary arrangements being carried out for the benefit of the workmen. For instance, the employer, if need be, shall be compelled to supply drinking water, protective clothing, ambulance and first-aid arrangements, the supply and use of seats, facilities for washing, and other matters like that. When the Bill was read a second time and when I looked over its contents it did not strike me that it was contemplated that the cost or any part of the cost of these essential things for the welfare of the workpeople should be charged to the workpeople themselves. I feel sure I shall have the sympathy of the Committee in resisting any proposal that the cost of these arrangements, which should properly be met by the management of factories and workshops, should be charged to, or deducted from, the wages of the workpeople. The Bill as drawn does contemplate that. I do not mean to say that the Home Secretary proposes to make no Order unless the employers are allowed to deduct the cost from the workpeople, but the beginning of Sub-section (5) states, "save as otherwise expressly provided in the Order the occupier of a factory or workshop shall not make any deduction from the sum contracted to be paid by him to any workman, etc." Thus the Bill does give power to the Secretary of State in making an Order to provide in that Order that a certain sum may be deducted from the wages of the employed person b3' reason of the improvements which are to be carried out.

I think the Committee will agree that the whole of the arrangements to be carried out under this Clause are arrangements which most properly fall upon the employer. It is inconceivable that we can contemplate certain elementary things not being carried out in factories and workshops because the employers do not get the power to charge the cost or portion of the cost to their workpeople. I would respectfully represent to the Home Secretary that a provision of this kind is contrary to the spirit of all recent social legislation, and that it would go a long way towards making this Clause of the Act a nullity. The very fact that such a provision existed with Parliamentary sanction would prevent a large number of desirable arrangements being insisted upon. The workpeople would very properly object to any deductions being made from the wages, and employers, on the other hand, would object, when Parliamentary sanction had been given to the proposal, to their being compelled to carry out these arrangements unless they had power to make deductions from wages. The Amendment which I move, therefore, and which is the first of two Amendments, will simply have this effect, that it will no longer be possible under this Bill to make any deductions from the wages of the workpeople by reason of any of the welfare arrangements which are authorised by the Section. I beg to move this first Amendment, and I shall afterwards move to leave out words at the beginning of Sub-section (5), so that that Sub-section would begin: "The occupier of a factory or workshop shall not make any deduction."


I regard this Clause as by far the most important of the Bill, and it is somewhat surprising how little public attention has been directed to it. It has in it the seeds of immense possibilities in the future in making our factories and workshops more civilised places for people to work in. The purpose of the Clause is to enable the Home Secretary to make Orders, by the approved process, for securing proper arrangements for meals, the supply of drinking water, protective clothing, ambulance, and first-aid arrange- ments, among other things already provided by the best employers who really care for the welfare of their workpeople. It is not intended that any contribution should be made by the workpeople in the vast majority of these cases, and no Order would include any such provision. There may, however, be cases—for example, the provision of baths—where it would be quite proper that the workpeople should pay for the baths. Indeed, Parliament has already passed an Act relating to mines which provides for the equipment of baths for the use of miners when they leave the pits, and Parliament has enacted that the miners shall pay their proportion in respect of the cost of providing these baths.


In the Act to which the right hon. Gentleman refers the maximum amount which may be required from the workpeople is clearly stated.


We cannot do that in this case, because it is impossible to foresee the various matters to which this Clause might be applied. Similarly, the canteens provided might grow into something in the nature of workmen's clubs. It is very possible that that might be so. If the hon. Gentleman's first Amendment were accepted we should then be placed in this position: that it would be illegal to make an Order which provided for workpeople paying part of the costs of the club; and it would be unjust to place on the employer the entire cost and not to provide that the workpeople should pay part of the cost in such a case. The result would be that no Order would be made, and the hon. Gentleman's purpose would be entirely defeated, for so far from making the wording of this Clause wider, it would be restricted, and the Home Secretary would find himself unable to make Orders in many cases in which he would desire to do so because Parliament had prevented him from doing anything which would enable any sum to be taken from the workpeople. The Clause provides for ascertaining the views of the workers in all such cases, and for ascertaining their views in any such arrangement where a portion of the cost is contributed by the workers. I trust that with this explanation, and this distinct assurance that with regard to all the main matters of the Clause there is no intention of putting any of the cost on the workers, the Clause will be allowed to remain as it stands.


I do not feel at all happy at leaving this Clause as it stands. The Government are virtually asking us to give them a blank cheque in regard to Regulations which are in contravention of everything we have understood as the Truck Acts. If there is one thing in the industrial districts of this country for which the workpeople do fight, will fight, and are right in fighting for, it is against any attempt to interfere with the principles of the Truck Act. If the Government say to the House that there are certain directions in which workpeople may desire to make a contribution for arrangements which it is undesirable to ask the employer to provide, I would support them at once in doing so. I notice, however, that these arrangements, if I understand this Clause correctly, are expressly referred to in the second Sub-section, and in every one of those cases I maintain it is the duty of the employer to provide them in every case where the Home Office, or other Government Department calls upon them to do so. I have had a good deal of experience in these matters, for I have to provide proper clothing and baths for my workpeople, and it has never occurred to me to deduct anything, or to ask them to pay anything. The employer has to provide the necessary arrangements for the comfort of his workpeople. If the Government want to go outside that for clubs, and that sort of thing, then I think it should be confined to the arrangements the right hon. Gentleman had in his mind in making his remarks, in which I support him, and in which I am sure many Members would support him if only they knew to what they were contributing in giving their support. I do not at all like it, and I hope the hon. Gentleman who has moved this Amendment will persist in it. I am not prepared to give the Government a blank cheque in these cases, and I shall support the Amendment.


I am very glad to hear the strong expression of opinion contained in the speech of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Cooper). He is a Member who has taken an active interest in the welfare of his own workers, of whom he has a considerable number, and I entirely associate myself with him in saying that for the general amenities concerned in the employment of men the onus of that provision and maintenance should be a direct charge on the industry and not on the workers associated with that industry. I support the Amendment for another reason. Sub-section (c) says that Orders may—

"provide for the workers concerned being associated in the management of the arrangements, accommodation, or other facilities for which provision is made in any case where a portion of the cost is contributed by the workers."

That is to say, that in the majority of cases where there is no contribution no Order will be made to associate the workers in the supervision of their own accommodation. I regard that as a grave omission in the Bill. I would not suggest immediately that it should be mandatory on the Home Office to make an Order so that there shall be compulsory association of the workpeople in the management—I desire that but I doubt whether we have got to that stage—but I do desire to see in cases where there is that accommodation made that the representatives of the workpeople shall have a direct means of representation for stating their views to the management as to whether, say, the accommodation is ample, and whether it meets their view. It is not sufficient, in my view, to give the workers the opportunity to have their views on accommodation in factories conveyed to the employer, say, by Memorandum, or by a word to a foreman, or the like. Rather would I sec the power placed in the hands of the Home Office of making an Order which, even in cases where there is no contribution by the workers, would in the selected cases allow that in such and such an industry, although there was no contribution by the workers, they should have a say in the character of the accommodation. As I read the Amendment I do not believe it will accomplish what the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. What it will accomplish, in my view, will be to place in his hands the power to make an Order in factories where there is a contribution by the workers to the cost of this accommodation made for their s benefit. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to take to himself the powers which this Amendment gives him to make an Order not only in cases where the workers are charged for some of the cost, but to issue an Order in other cases where it appears desirable in the interests of the workers and, with his concurrence, that their views should be heard in the direct management of these amenities.


The Mover of this Amendment stated that he had only observed this danger this afternoon, and I think that if he had left it until to-morrow he would have found that there really was no danger, because it is very clear indeed in the Bill that the workers will not be asked to contribute anything under the very desirable powers that the Home Secretary is taking under this Bill. It is the most profitable thing that an employer can do to provide all this various accommodation upon the provision of which the Home Secretary is taking power to insist, and while it will tend generally to the health and happiness of the people, and will do a good deal more for the rising generation, it will be more of an advantage to the employer than to anyone else. Although I am sure this will impose a cost on employers, I am equally certain that employers as a body will welcome it. When the last speaker wishes—I am sure he does not wish, but when he suggests—that not only should an employer have to make this provision which he ought to make, but that he should also make it a serious, or shall I say a breeding, ground for trouble between himself and his workpeople, then I think employers will have the right to object to these admirable Clauses. I strongly urge the Home Secretary not to go beyond the Bill as it is. Compel the employer to make his people happy, to make them comfortable, and to give them even more than is really necessary for their health; but do not make trouble between the employer and the employed by setting up compulsory committees to interfere with him in that great and good work he will cheerfully undertake when the Home Secretary puts him into the way of making it. On that account I would ask the Home Secretary not to interfere with this. If I might give him a word of advice on the latter Clause, as there appears to be very considerable suspicion regarding it—as to whether it might be advisable to ask the men to contribute. If there is any trouble about it, as I do not think it is of much value—I suggest that he should leave it out.


The Home Secretary is treading on extremely dangerous ground when he introduces legislation which even suggests that any compulsory stoppage of wages should be made in connection with the matters referred to. Take the building trade, with which I am associated. I do not quite agree with the hon. Member opposite that employers as a body agree to provide—


They ought to.

7.0 p.m.


I have known strikes taking place for the purpose of making employers provide hot water for breakfast and dinners. That, however, by the way. I can produce working rules in connection with the building trade in which provision is made for messrooms and the provision of hot water, and also that the workmen should be allowed a shilling per week where hot water is not supplied. The right hon. Gentleman is going to reverse that order of things. He is going to take power to say that the workmen must contribute something towards the provision of hot water for himself. The right hon. Gentleman referred to canteens. It is very nice listening to these benevolent speeches made as to the employers providing canteens for the comfort and welfare of the workmen. Has the right hon. Gentleman recognised, when he is going to compel the workmen to contribute towards canteens or matters of that sort, and has he considered, that quite a number of workmen live so close to works that there is no necessity for them to contribute towards canteens? I say without hesitation he is seeking trouble if he is going to introduce legislation which will give the employers the power suggested, or by an Act of Parliament is going to make the workmen contribute towards this, that, or the other thing. I would suggest that he should withdraw this Clause for the present and bring it up on Report, amended. I am quite certain that he has not taken the opinion of organised labour in connection with this matter. So far as I am concerned, I am going to support the Amendment, if the hon. Member who moved it feels that he should carry it to a Division.


I am quite at one with hon. Members who have spoken in the desire that workpeople should not be called upon to pay for things which it is the duty of every good employer—even of every employer—to provide. My hon. Friend who has spoken last has perhaps omitted to observe that no contribution can be required from workpeople except under an Order of the Home Secretary applied to the specific matter. I am afraid my hon. Friend does not place so much trust in the Home Secretary as one would desire to see.


I put no trust in him at all!


I can assure my hon. Friend that this power will not be used improperly, and I cannot believe it will be so used by any successor of mine. When I was drafting this Clause—which I have put into the Bill not at the request of any Labour organisation, but entirely of my own volition, and because I thought it was a desirable thing—I recognised that there might be the danger that if this power were inserted employers would say when the Home Secretary proposed to make any Order of the sort, "Oh, yes, we will agree to this, but we must have a Clause requiring a contribution by the workpeople, and only on that condition will we agree." I recognised that danger, but I felt quite convinced that the danger was remote, and that the Home Office would not hesitate to oppose a proceeding on those lines. Still, my hon. Friends—several of great experience of industrial conditions—evidently do see a real danger in the Clause as now drafted, and, of course, I must necessarily take their view into account. I shall be glad to adopt the suggestion by my hon. Friend who spoke last, and reconsider this between now and Report, and bring it up amended, either to omit this provision altogether in regard to contributions—which I still think will import several dangers of an opposite kind—or else make it quite clear that this provision does not extend to the main body of the Clause, and is only to be put into operation when the workpeople themselves desire that it should be.


In the reconsideration of this Clause, I think really the whole of paragraph (c) will require to go out. It might be misinterpreted, and might be an obstacle really to what we want to see done, though I cannot conceive that any employer would abuse the provision in paragraph (c).


I am very much obliged indeed. I am sure the whole Committee deeply appreciates the spirit in which the Home Secretary has met our criticisms, and on the understanding that he has just given, I shall gladly, in a moment, ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. I wanted to say that with regard to paragraph (c) that if the Home Secretary decides to omit the last two-lines it would still be a great gain if the rest of the paragraph were left in. It is not mandatory. It gives an option to the Home Secretary concerning certain things to associate the workpeople with the employer. It is only an option. It is governed by the word "may." Therefore it would be very easy to give the Home Secretary the power to make the Order, which he would only make if it was agreeable to both parties, and to associate the employers and employed in certain welfare arrangements. I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


I should like to make one remark upon this Clause, or rather upon the Memorandum. The paragraph in the Memorandum to which I refer contains what seems to me to be a very remarkable confession. The paragraph relating to Clause 7 says—and I suppose that if the Home Secretary drafted the Clause he also drafted the Amendment:

"The Home Office is endeavouring to secure good conditions of work in the different processes and industries, and can sometimes use as a lever the relaxation of some of the provisions of the Factory Acts."

I suppose the Factory Acts are Acts of Parliament? They are obligatory upon the Home Office as much as upon employers of workpeople! What right has the Home Secretary to say that in order to get this or that from the employers he is going to relax Acts of Parliament? That apparently is the meaning of what he has been doing for some time past. That is why a Clause like this, which gives indefinite powers to the Secretary of State, excites some suspicion in my mind. The right hon. Gentleman admits that he brings it forward and that he has been relaxing Acts of Parliament, which I do not believe he has any right to relax. He is there to administer, to carry through Acts of Parliament, and not to relax them. When he comes forward and asks for large, wide, and indefinite powers of this sort I feel it is time to make some sort of protest and to say that Acts of Parliament are meant to be carried out, and that the Home Secretary is paid, and the Home Office exists, in order to carry them out. I do not like it to go forward to employers that we will relax Acts of Parliament.


The hon. Member seems to think that he has discovered a mis- demeanour on the part of the Home Office. I assure him it is not so. This paragraph in the Memorandum deals simply with war conditions. It points out that as men are being called up, women are being introduced to take their place, and the Home Office is endeavouring to secure good conditions of work, and can sometimes use as a lever the relaxation of some of the provisions of the Factory Acts. This refers to the relaxations permitted by the Acts themselves. In certain cases of emergency, as all hon. Members who know the Acts know, they allow that special Orders may be made, permitting the employment of women during certain hours, and so forth, which are not the usual conditions of employment. During the War great pressure of labour prevails in many industries. It has been found necessary to make the concession of this emergency provision, and to allow this relaxation for which the Statute provides. Frequently, as the hon. Member states, we have allowed this relaxation, and according to him, we have been doing illegally. The Government allows the relaxation of industrial conditions from war necessity. Sometimes we go to the employers and say, "If you will make such-and-such an arrangement, then we will give you the Order for which you ask." Whether that may or may not be legal procedure, the hon. Member may possibly question, though I should not admit for a moment that it was illegal. Certainly, the relaxations are legal, and are provided for in the Statute.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.