§ Sub-section (3), paragraph (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.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
I beg to move, at the end of paragraph (c), to add the words " but no-contribution shall be required from the workers in any factory or workshop, except for the purpose of providing additional or special benefits which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, could not reasonably be required to be provided by the employer alone, and unless two-thirds at least of the workers affected in that factory or workshop, on their views being ascertained in the prescribed manner, assent."
§ Mr. ANDERSON
The whole experiment to be made here is a new and most 153 promising one, and I very heartily congratulate the Home Secretary on the measure, and hope it will be a great success. I am glad that the workers are going to share in the management of these arrangements, but I want to raise a point of detail in regard to the deductions that are apparently to be made under certain conditions from the wages of the workpeople. It appears that certain things can be done, and if by a ballot two-thirds of the workpeople decide in favour of it they will partly pay for them. In many shops the workers are constantly changing so that twelve months hence you might have a large number who were not present when the ballot was taken. Is it proposed that only one ballot shall be taken, and that new people shall be subject to that ballot and have deductions made from their wages because of it? I want to have a clear understanding what things are going to be free and for what things the workpeople are going to pay. If you are going to introduce suitable lavatory arrangements on a more elaborate scale, I do not think you have any right to ask the workpeople to pay any part of the cost. It is a matter for which the employer ought to be made to pay. There are heaps of other things which in my opinion ought to fall upon the employer. I therefore want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he has in mind when he speaks of the things for which the workpeople will probably have to pay.
It would never be expected, of course, that the employer would pay for food, but even there we must guard against any arrangements by which workpeople might be compelled to pay for something they did not desire to use. If a minority are not going to make use of a thing, why should they be asked to pay because the majority have decided that some deduction from the wages should be made? The Truck Act ought not to be modified in this .manner, and it ought not to be a question of the employer making deductions from the, wages of the workpeople for these purposes. I quite agree that there may be circumstances in which the workpeople would very willingly subscribe for some common purpose, but even then some kind of workers' committee ought to be formed, and the workpeople themselves ought to arrange with regard to the deductions to me made. I therefore strongly urge that as it is to be a voluntary decision, because you are going to decide by ballot, the payment should at the same time be volun- 154 tary. That is particularly necessary in the case of lower paid women workers. There are many well-paid workpeople who would not miss some deduction from their wages for this purpose, but you have to be particularly careful when you come down to the women and some of the labourers. I therefore want a much clearer statement than I have yet received on this matter, and I should be very glad to have it from the Home Secretary. These are criticisms with regard to very important points of detail, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will think out the matter very carefully and see that the very best arrangement is made. When all is said and done, however, I desire to thank the Home Office for having taken a definite step forward. I believe the workpeople will give it their hearty support, and if it is carried out in the right spirit it will add to the dignity and self-respect of the workpeople of this country.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I wish to express my grateful acknowledgement to the hon. Member for the expressions he has used with respect to this Clause. I fully share his hope that it will enable a considerable advance to be made in the helpfulness and convenience of the conditions in a very large proportion of our workshops in the country. I notice also he says that he recognises that there might be cases in which the workpeople would be very ready to pay for some exceptional and unusual benefit which might be provided under an Order such as this. I am entirely at one with him in considering that the greater part of the matters covered by this Clause, such as arrangements for preparing or heating and taking meals, the supply of drinking water, and other things are proper items in the equipment of any well-ordered factory or workshop, and certainly ought not to be charged to the workpeople. That was always our intention in framing this Clause. We look forward to administering it in that spirit. It would only be in rare and exceptional cases that some charge would be made. In consequence of what was said in the Debate in the Committee Stage of the Bill, I have put down the Amendment which appears on the Paper. It says: "No contribution shall be required from the workers in any factory or workshop, except for the purpose of providing additional or special benefits which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, could not reasonably be required to be provided by the employer alone, 155 and unless two-thirds at least of the workers affected in that factory or workshop, on their views being ascertained in the prescribed manner, assent."
I should like to point out that those words, "In the opinion of the Secretary of State" were put in for this reason. If the Clause had read "Benefits which could not reasonably be required to be provided by the employer alone," a recalcitrant employer might act on his own opinion, whether or not it was a reasonble charge to be made, and it is very possible that the Courts might take a view which would be much less favourable to the workpeople than the view taken by the Home Office. This is much more suitably a matter for administration than for a legal decision, and it was thought desirable in this as in many other similar cases to reserve the matter for the opinion of the Government Department concerned. Of course, if the Government Department did anything unreasonable, the matter could always be ventilated in this House to which the Secretary of State is responsible. As I mentioned in Committee the kind of subject which we have in view, and which would fall within the purview of this part of the Clause, is such a matter as the provision of baths. Of course, there are cases now where under the dangerous trade regulations baths are essential, and where employers are already required to provide them without any payment being made by the workpeople, but in industries subject to ordinary conditions a bath would be an additional amenity. Parliament has already legislated in the case of mines that where baths are compulsorily provided at the pithead the employer may charge the workpeople for the use of them. I indicated the other day that possibly canteens might develop into something in the nature of clubs, and' the workpeople would be quite ready to pay their subscription to a club of that character. But generally it is impossible, and I am sure my hon. Friends who are practical men will realise it fully, to foresee at any given date what may be the future development in a matter such as this. Twenty-five or thirty years hence there may be accommodation, which may have become fairly usual in factories and workshops, of a kind which we do not now anticipate, and my view of the Clause generally is that you ought not to preclude the workpeople, where they are ready to do so, from having the benefit 156 of amenities which it would not be proper or reasonable to charge to the employer alone. You ought not to put the Home Secretary in the dilemma of having to say either, " I am very sorry, I cannot make this Order because there is no power for the workpeople to pay," or else to say," I will make this Order, although I know the employer ought not fairly to be charged with this amenity." If you allow the workpeople, in the case in which my hon. Friend admits they should pay, to pay their share, it is more likely that use will be made of this Clause than otherwise. My hon. Friend asks, "Suppose that one generation of workpeople in the factory goes and another comes, in?" It is not proposed to take a ballot at intervals. Wherever you want to establish a thing in a workshop it would naturally come about that some would leave and others would come in. That is essential, and I do not see how any scheme could be made in any other way. With respect to the method of payment, if the workpeople of a factory expressed their willingness to pay for certain amenities, it would be very inconvenient to require that the money should be collected from individuals week by week voluntarily. It is much better to enable payments to be made as deductions are made for the purposes of the Insurance Acts and so forth. There is all the difference in the world between a deduction made in pursuance of a Home Secretary's Order and one made by an employer without authority r which is in the nature of truck. As my hon. Friend is aware, in the mines week by week deductions for various matters are made with the full assent of the miners' trade union, as a simple and convenient means of collection. Instead of going to the trouble and difficulty of collecting these contributions week by week from the men individually, by their trade unions, or otherwise, the unions and the employers agree that deductions should be made at the pay office at the moment when the payment is made, and I do not think, in view of the safeguards this Clause contains, that there will be any difficulty or evil arise in the operation of this portion of it. Let me again express my appreciation of the welcome the hon. Gentleman gave to the purpose of the Clause.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
While I am in full agreement with the desire and intention of the Home Secretary to improve the accommodation in the workshops and factories, I see a great danger in the scheme 157 for administration by Order which he proposes to introduce. In practice it may very well amount to this: Under a regime possibly less generous than that represented by the right hon. Gentleman—in effect it may bring us a variation of the Truck Act depending on the good will or ill-will of some particular Home Secretary; and to that extent I see a grave danger. I am very doubtful of the policy of transferring to Order in Council matters which have been safeguarded to working people by Statute. This is varying a Statute, perhaps with the best intention, and giving an authority which will vary, according to the Home Secretary for the time being, by Order in Council something which has been established as the result of long and difficult work by the trade unions of the country. That is one thing about which I am very doubtful in this Bill, and yet in regard to which I desire to see the authority of the Home Office used for improving the accommodation of our workshops and factories. The right hon. Gentleman did not deal with the very important point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Anderson). My hon. Friend made an appeal on behalf of the underpaid workers. As I understand this Clause it will be possible, by Order in Council—assuming that two-thirds of the workers in a particular factory assent—
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
Yes, to apply compulsory deduction of wages. That deduction will extend to all the workers in the factory, and may extend to those who live sufficiently near to get the accommodation which is charged for in their own home. I want to be assured that those people, particularly those under a certain minimum wage, will not be called upon to make contributions in respect of accommodation which they may possibly get at home, and for which possibly they cannot afford to pay for the time being. I venture to make this suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman that in issuing any Order he shall specifically exempt from the application of the compulsory deduction all those in receipt of less than a stated minimum, and that in respect of the accommodation provided it shall be free accommodation in respect of all persons in receipt of wages below, say, 25s. a week, or whatever for the time being represents the minimum amount necessary to pre- 158 serve a reasonable scale of existence for the people concerned. These are the two points I venture to reinforce. The variation from the Truck Act by Order in Council, which is dependent entirely on the attitude of the Home Secretary for the time being, and, secondly, that the right hon. Gentleman shall make sure that persons in receipt of wages below the stated minimum shall receive the benefit of accommodation but shall not suffer a reduction in wages. The principle is in the Insurance Acts. Wherever the employer chooses to penalise his workers or to get cheap labour, he pays a larger portion of the premium in respect of the insured person. The principle can be applied here, and should be applied in this Act, and you should throw on the employer a larger proportion of the cost in respect of those he chooses to employ at a rate which is below a reasonable minimum. I venture to press this upon the sympathetic attention of the Home Secretary.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
I really had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not have pressed this Clause, because I gather from his answer to my hon. Friend's question in regard to people who make no use whatever of the amenities in the workshops that they will have to pay whether they make use of them or not. Is that so?
Suppose mess-rooms are provided, and it is thought necessary to deduct 2d. or 3d. a week—
If it were a club, and if the workmen did not want to make use of the club, are you going to compel them to contribute towards the upkeep of it?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I should say not in an ordinary case. One cannot foresee every case that might come along, but I should say not.
This is a point I want to get quite clear. What I am quite clear about is that a few years ago this House refused a trade union, after it had got a vote of its Members, permission to take a levy in respect of labour representation.
The hon. Member's quarrel is not "with me, but with the people who live in his Constituency. He .suggests they are doing something which is illegal, and perhaps they will deal with .him when the opportunity arises for making a statement of that kind. I want the, right hon. Gentleman, if he is going to press this to a conclusion, to make it quite clear that no workman or workwoman who makes no use of the amenities provided under this Clause, shall be compelled to pay. The right hon. Gentleman can find a precedent for that in many Acts of Parliament that have been passed during the last ten years. I beg him to drop the Clause for the time being.
The part of the Clause with regard to compelling the people to pay. I am quite certain that if in some districts any attempt is made to deduct money from the wages of the workpeople for the purposes named in the Clause, we shall have labour trouble and strikes.
Take the building industry. You may have 150 men working for one employer to-day. In a month's time he has only fifty, and perhaps in a year's time it will be 150 again. The Order is in operation and the people then have no choice. That being so, they will resent interference in matters of this kind. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to make it quite clear in the Clause that no compulsion will be applied to those workpeople who do not make use of any amenity for which the charge is made.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Brace)
I really do not understand the attitude of my hon. Friends towards this Clause, which, after all, is a real social welfare Clause. My right hon. Friend has put this Clause into the Bill, giving power to the Home Office, when an opportunity presents itself, to assist the workmen to improve their general conditions of life and the general conditions of their work. We come here and find that the Clause, to which we attach considerable importance, does not receive at the hands of the direct representatives of Labour that sympathetic consideration that we might have expected. My right hon. Friend has given an undertaking that he will carefully 160 observe the desires they have expressed and will see that due precautions shall be taken that the workmen will not be penalised. Do my hon. Friends realise that it is the workmen themselves who will determine whether they will or will not have any scheme of reform in connection with their works or their factory? There must be a two-thirds majority. If the two-thirds majority is not obtained, no scheme can be put into operation. If the two-thirds majority is obtained, it must have a binding effect upon the whole of the people in that concern.
§ Mr. BRACE
Why should my hon. Friends take that view when the whole of their life-work has been based upon the principle of collective bargaining and that the workmen are entirely helpless unless they move altogether? They must really take the mass of the people in any given factory, workshop, or industry as a unit. If they do that, they must pay the workpeople the compliment of believing that unless the scheme proposed is of real value there will be a sufficient majority to vote down any such scheme. I do not want to labour the point. We have had a most unfortunate experience, speaking from the mining standpoint. This House went to considerable trouble in making an arrangement that baths should be placed at the top of the pits so that the workpeople might clean themselves and go to their homes leaving their dirt behind them, but because certain individuals, possibly living near the pits, thought they could do without them, their votes were used to break down the scheme, which I venture to say now, as I have said many times before, would have been of enormous value to the masses of the mining population. I hope my hon. Friends will not concentrate their defence on the rights of individuals, when by the recognition of those rights you are going to destroy the opportunity of a collective body bringing in some scheme of social reform. I hope they will see that this is really a social welfare Clause and will give it their votes and support, because by doing so they will be helping the workmen themselves.
§ Mr. WING
The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill must be somewhat disappointed at the reception given to this Clause from below the Gangway. The introduction of this new principle and 161 doctrine of the minority voting down the majority is quite a new order from that quarter. It is remarkable that there was very little mercy for the minority at a time when they held certain opinions. Under this Clause there may be certain schemes which will be of great assistance, even to those who are supposed to have small wages. I assume that a cooperative movement, say, in the provision of food and canteens, may be a means whereby persons may find it more to their advantage to feed at the factory collectively than to feed individually. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stand by the Bill, especially the Clause as amended, and will go to a Division upon it.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I am afraid there is a good deal of misunderstanding about this matter. I am perfectly amazed at the speech of the Under-Secretary. The whole point is this—I do not want to enter into any controversy with him, but I would like to explain to him the position in which he finds himself and we find ourselves—supposing we get the two-thirds majority at any given moment in favour of one of these reforms, such as canteens, or baths, or anything like that, how is that two-thirds going to be made effective? Once voted, is the effect of the vote to be permanent? Obviously you cannot ask an employer to put in baths on the understanding that they are to be paid for, and then allow the employes to say a year after, or the following year, that they will cry off the obligation of the original two-thirds vote. We have, as a matter of fact, now in this country model employers who tell us they can afford to give baths, canteens, and supply hot water and so on, without any charge being imposed on the workpeople. If this Clause goes in and becomes part and parcel of the social legislation of this country, what I am afraid is going to happen is that all future advances of that character are going to be paid for by the workpeople. The American experience is particularly fertile on this question. It has been found that these things are economically valuable, that they yield a profit to the employer, and that the workshops run on these lines are far more profitable than those run on less efficient lines. Instead of that being made a charge upon industry, as we think it ought to be, the line that is taken by this Amendment, for the first time so far as general legislation is concerned—it is not the first time so far as special legislation 162 is concerned—is that all these economic improvements in the humanising of industry and in the attending to the human side of labour are going to be paid for by labour.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that we might put our lives in the hands of the existing Home Secretary, and our money too, but that is no guarantee. He comes to-day and he goes to-morrow. We have had certain changes effected during the last week which warn us on that point. It is a most dangerous thing. The intentions of the Home Office with regard to the Amendment are excellent. Nobody disputes that, but if this Clause is put in the Bill it is not this Home Office and this Home Secretary we do not trust, but the sort of new principle in social legislation which I believe is the wrong principle which is open to all sorts of abuse, and is starting a development of industrial amelioration on totally wrong lines. That is why we are inclined to oppose this Amendment.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
The Debate has very largely turned, of course, on the Amendment of the Home Secretary. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman should consider that the points which have been raised in regard to his Amendment imply opposition to the first Sub-section of the Clause. Many of us can see in that first Sub-section very large and very valuable improvements being made in our industrial system. I think probably my hon. Friend (Mr. Tyson Wilson) went rather further than he would like the House to go when he asked for the withdrawal of the Clause. But there is rather a new point in regard to making orders for payment by workpeople for the provision of any of these improvements. It really becomes a question of trust in the Home Office. I rather think that some of the expressions of my right hon. Friend suggesting future developments of a very large character of the nature of clubs have rather tended to raise fears which have been expressed. One would like to know whether there is an idea that people who are going to use these new amenities are to pay according to the use they make of them, or for instance in the other point according to the wages that they make. If they do not use these appliances is it to be a levy on the general wages which are 163 paid to them? I do not know whether some of my hon. Friends who are rather fearful recognise the effect of Sub-section (7), that—
"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." If there were a temporary majority, it might be a two-thirds majority, and if subsequently changed and the amenity ceased to be agreeable to the majority of the employés concerned, I presume one would have to take Parliamentary action in order to secure that these contributions were not levied for amenities which " were not used. All the same, I am quite sure that in more than one section of the House the use that is made of this Clause will be very carefully and rather jealously watched in regard to the imposition of what in the case of one set of employés may be a forced and not a voluntary contribution.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
We had a very full discussion of this matter on the Committee stage of the Bill, and we had a Division, and I think nearly everyone in the House who heard the Debate voted for the Amendment. Unfortunately, the Bill being called a Police Bill, this provision for the abolition of the certifying surgeons in factories, who are of such importance to the industries of this country, was sandwiched in between police pensions and the lunacy arrangements, and other Members who came in thought they were voting for police pensions, and we were outvoted. The question of the abolition of the reports of certifying surgeons on accidents in factories is one which has been repeatedly approved by Parliament, and it is only recently that the Committee sat which made a report that they thought some economy might be made by abolishing those reports as regards accidents. I did not oppose it on the ground that the certifying surgeons had any vested interests. I would not under any circumstances take up such a position. I opposed it on behalf not only of the operatives who were affected, but also of the employers. I read to the Home Secretary a petition which 164 came from my Constituency, signed by the whole of the employers and operatives in the cotton trade there, the largest in England, with some 20,000,000 spindles, some 17,000 looms, and 60,000 operatives, that this Clause should not be persisted in, and speaking of the value and the safeguard to them of the certifying surgeon's report. Inasmuch as there are only 200 inspectors in the whole Kingdom and one-third of them are abroad at the present time or working on munitions, and that there are 2,000 certifying surgeons who report upon accidents, the proposal in this Bill to abolish the reports of these 2,000 certifying surgeons and not even to increase the number of inspectors, although the Home Office say that it is absolutely necessary that the number of inspectors should be increased after the War, leaves the industries of this country and the factories of this country in great jeopardy, because in the great check upon the reports of accidents by the employers the safety of the workpeople, especially of women, depends in a large measure, when you have such representatives of Labour as the hon. Members for Ince (Mr. Walsh) and the hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Bowerman), among others, saying that the reports of the certifying surgeons are of the greatest possible use to the workpeople; when you have a Constituency like mine, the centre of an enormous industry, containing not only an enormous number of cotton mills and cotton operatives, but also the largest machine works in the world and other works, and when one sees the employers and the workpeople joining in asking that these certifying surgeons should be kept to report as a safeguard to themselves, and especially to the women, it is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman has not thought fit to leave this matter open until the end of the War. He did not meet my arguments, which were based upon the statements in the petition. What he said was that the Committee on accidents in 1911 had reported in favour of the abolition of some of the reports of the certifying, surgeons. In their Report the Committee did not propose any such sweeping change as the right hon. Gentleman has made. I objected principally, and I still object to this legislation, on the ground that it is not emergency legislation. It is a permanent alteration of the law, done in war time, an alteration which has been proposed and twice re-jected by Parliament—in 1901 and 1905— 165 and pretence that it is for the purpose of economy will not be justified by the result. The money to be saved is very small. There are 2,000 certifying surgeons and their pay is only £12,500, which means a very few £'s each. But it is not expected to save the whole of that amount, because certain of their functions are retained. The report of the Retrenchment Committee on this subject was quite futile or misconceived. They did not know what they were doing, and certainly did not understand the subject. They were told that the Committee had reported on the matter, and they said, therefore, they understood that it would be advisable to stop the reports of the certifying surgeons to save this very small sum. I must express my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for the concession which he has made in answer to our representations. It is a very considerable concession, but it is not nearly enough. However, it is something substantial, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving it.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I did not intervene on the Committee stage of this Bill with regard to Clause 8, on which I have had to differ very seriously from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. I did not wish on that occasion to add to the strength of his most impregnable argument, namely, that three university Members had spoken against this Clause. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that that was so effective an argument against any Amendment that it never seemed to occur to him, even when the university Members were joined by those Members who spoke for the employés, that for once possibly the university Members might be in the right. The right hon. Gentleman does not really meet the difficulty which I have raised. The point is perfectly broad and perfectly clear. I am not fighting for any professional emolument. It is a trifle. So far as those who have been in correspondence with me are concerned, certainly they did not include any prominent Constituents of mine. I do not know whether any of them are or are not Constituents of mine. I resist this in the interests of what I consider a very important professional matter which is necessary for the welfare of the community. Let the House remember that these certifying surgeons are the people who grant the certificates upon which 166 young persons are allowed to work in these factories. I consider that the duties which they perform are of immense value, both from the professional point of view in relation to the work which they have to carry on and in the Interests of the community and of the workers themselves. It is important that the persons who grant these certificates should be in immediate and constant touch with the incidents of the life in factories and workshops, and with the character of the accidents to which the workers are subject. That is not to be set aside by any allusion to unnecessary and duplicate reports, or reports of this or that committee, which told us that this or that thing was unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman has told us over and over again that these certifying surgeons' reports were merely duplicates of the reports sent up by the inspectors. But where do the inspectors get those reports? Except in a very small percentage of these accident cases, they do not even visit the factories. They do not see the circumstances for themselves at all. They accept the statement of the proprietor. The only check upon that statement was the check by the certifying surgeon who is in constant touch with the worker and acquainted with the work and knows the conditions of the factories. The right hon. Gentleman says, "This is perfectly useless. We have all that is necessary from the proprietor, and we very often find that the certifying surgeon adds nothing." But the report of the proprietor had been subject—he does not know how often or in what particular—to the cheek of the certifying surgeon.
The Home Secretary says that these certifying surgeons have no knowledge of the mechanical parts of the machinery. That is not what I want. They have knowledge of the workers, with whom they are brought into personal contact when they have been injured. They can learn what sort of injuries are received, what sort of accidents may occur, and I can see that it is of enormous importance, in a time like this, when you have diluted labour so largely employed in most dangerous new developments of machinery, that you should have this personal touch of certifying surgeons as an element to provide for the safety of the workers. The fact that unfortunate university Members who have among their constituents certifying surgeons interested in the welfare of the community, 167 and in the completeness of the survey which is given by their profession, happen to be accompanied in their protest by an overwhelming proportion of those who speak for factory workers at least entitles them to be listened to. You have chosen now, under the pretext of emergency legislation, to settle a long-standing dispute which the House has refused to decide in your way on more than one occasion during more than a dozen years, and now that you have got a favourable verdict from the Retrenchment Committee you bring that to bear and settle this dispute under the guise of emergency legislation. That does not give me satisfaction. Glad as I am that the right hon. Gentleman has seen his way to make a certain concession, I do not think that it will prove satisfactory either to the workers or to the certifying surgeons in the part which they take in this work, which they have performed so long, as I contend, with benefit to the community. That is now to depend only on those people in the Home Office and amongst the inspectors, who have uniformly and consistently through a long course of years tried to oust those certifying surgeons from their work. I am not ashamed of the part which University Members have taken in associating themselves with the workers. I am not ashamed, moreover, of the course which party I belong to has taken in the amelioration of factory legislation. For many years this system of certifying surgeons has formed part of factory legislation. You are now, as I regard it, restricting the securities for the workmen, and I prophesy that before very long the system you are now establishing will not work satisfactorily, and will give rise to protest, and the right hon. Gentleman will see reason to regret the step which he is now taking.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
I should like to support the Home Office in the step it has taken in this Clause. I can assure the hon. Member opposite that so far as I am concerned, at any rate, this is not a piece of emergency legislation. There was a Committee appointed by the Home Office some years ago charged with the task of investigating the Factory Acts. I happened to be a member of that Committee. We went very carefully into the whole question, and I am perfectly certain that if the hon. Member (Sir H. Craik) had gone through the documents which we 168 had to examine he would have seen what were, in the vast majority of cases, the reports of these certifying surgeons, and he would have felt bound, I think, to come to the conclusion to which the Committee came, on which all sections and interests were represented, that this particular part of the certifying surgeon's work was not a very useful one at all. What happens? Nine out of ten of those accidents are purely mechanical accidents. Just through a bad crank of a machine or some carelessness in mechanical appliances, the accident has to be reported to the factory inspector, who, if he does his duty, must inspect the machine and the mechanical cause of the accident. It is not a medical problem; it is not a problem in which a doctor's opinion is of the least value as a doctor's opinion. It is purely a matter for a trained engineer, pre-eminently for a factory inspector.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
He ought to. If the hon. Gentlemen will raise that question he will get my support. He ought to visit them, and if there are not enough to visit, they certainly ought to be reinforced in number.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The hon. Member knows that the inspector does not visit more than a very small percentage of the cases dealt with by certifying surgeons.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
It is supposed to be and he ought to, and it is his duty to visit every serious accident. That only anticipates another point I want to make. What is the value of a certifying surgeon's visit to a machine accident. It is no good at all. The mere fact that we can see that a man has visited the accident may be misleading. I should much rather face the bare fact that all these accidents are not the subject of visitation by competent men than to ask a doctor to visit the accident which has been caused by a defective machine, because I am perfectly certain that a visitation which has no relation to the cause-of the accident is worse than no visitation at all. The former misleads us into the belief that we are doing something to remove the causes of accidents, whereas if we were told by the Chief Inspector of Factories that there were thousands of accidents that have not been visited at all, then we would take steps to see that a proper visitation takes place.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Surely a surgical examination of the case must often be a very great guide as to how an accident happened, or what caused it.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
Really in nine cases out of ten no guide at all. If a finger is crushed and a doctor called in he cannot tell you why it is crushed or what guard is required to the machine to prevent further fingers being crushed, and that is the problem. I come back to my point that an examination and inspection which is not really a technical inspection is worse than no inspection or examination at all. That point of view, at any rate, weighed with me very considerably when I had to make up my mind. When the documents are examined you will find that the factory inspectors' and the certifying surgeons are very largely duplicates. That is a great mistake. We should not have two reports upon the same subject. We ought to put the responsibility upon one man. If the Home Office shows year after year in the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector, that there are so many thousands or hundreds of accidents that have not been the subject of investigation, then let the Home Office be charged with neglect from these benches, and we will remedy the matter. Do not let us go on assuming that inspection is being carried on of an efficient and satisfactory character by doctors who do not know machinery. They are excellent in dealing with results of accidents; but really no good at all in dealing with the causes. Therefore I think this is a very good improvement, and I have the greatest pleasure in supporting the Home Office in this proposal.
§ Mr. WATT
I hope the Home Secretary will not for a moment consider with approval the proposal to omit this Clause. He has told us that the Clause will save £12,500 a year, and that the reports of the certifying surgeons are, in the opinion of his Department, useless, being mere repetitions of the reports of the employers. If they are useless, surely the State ought not to continue to pay for them. The Government are constantly being urged to save money, and when they come forward with this proposal to save £12,500 the House immediately, through its University Members and others, complains of this concrete saving. I think the Home Secretary will get the approval of the majority of the House if he adheres to his Clause. There will never be a better opportunity .for saving this money, because the medical 170 profession are just now not able to fulfil the demands made upon them. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman is wise in taking the present opportunity of cutting off this £12,500.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I am sorry to be in disagreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. R. Macdonald). Allowing the spirit of his argument that it is advisable to give the work now undertaken in part at least by the certifying surgeons to the technical inspectors of the Home Office who have special knowledge, my hon. Friend apparently forgets that during this period of War something like one-third of the factory inspectors are with His Majesty's Forces. To that extent the effective overlooking of accidents in factories is diminished. Were it the fact that the Home Secretary proposed to make up the shortage of factory inspectors during the period of the War there might be something to be said, and there would perhaps be less point in the opposition which has been urged. But the fact remains-and it is a very significant and important from the point of view of the people who work in factories and workshops-that their safety is prejudiced to the extent of the diminution of inspection by one-third, and the removal of what was at least a safeguard. The certifying surgeons made ho fewer than 52,000 investigations last year. They are in and out of the factories constantly, and they get, if not a technical knowledge of workshop conditions, what may be called a working knowledge.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
And a knowledge of the human side of the problem. Even the half knowledge from the technical side is at least a safeguard for the life and limb of the workers. I have in mind, particularly, the interests of the young people. There are entering the factories an increasing number of young inexpert people; these inexpert people touch the machinery; and if the inspection is diminished by one-third and we have not the guarantee of the certifying surgeons, it seems to me that we are prejudicing the position of the workers in factories to an extent we ought not to tolerate.
There is another point. It is assumed by the hon. Member for Glasgow that we are going to save that £12,500. I was under the impression, from what the right hon. Gentleman said in the earlier stage of the Bill, that it is proposed to 171 add to the number of factory inspectors, even though one-third resume their normal work of inspection, that is to say, there is to be no ultimate saving. I hope I am right in that-that there is to be no ultimate saving of the £12,500. I sincerely hope it is to be carried through the Estimates, and if what is at the back of the right hon. Gentleman's mind is the employment of some whole-time surgeons to guarantee life and limb, a good deal of my opposition would die away. If it is now the proposal to allow that £12,500. as I believe, usefully spent in keeping a watch on the type of machinery and workshop conditions of the working -class people, to be lost, then I think it will indeed be a sad loss. If for the period of the War the certifying surgeon has gone, and the inspectors are diminished by one-third, surely there is reason why during this period we should not support a position such as this, but make a change, if there is to be a change, at the end of the War. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester has forgotten the fact that in losing the thorough inspection, which we have enjoyed, of the certifying surgeons we are losing that which at least did give us a kind of corroboration of the employers' reports. If the employer's report is not to have behind it the possibilities of the endorsement or non-endorsement of the certifying surgeons, one of the safeguards is gone. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to allow the matter to stand over until the end of the War, and then bring it up again with a view to effecting changes, if they are considered desirable, at that time.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I agree that it is to be regretted that this abolition should take place now without anything being put in its place. I think it is quite clear that there is no economy. It is no secret that a large and more expensive system is very shortly to be put in its place. I have no objection at all to that. I shall be glad to see a better and more efficient system established, even though it was more expensive. I do strongly object to this safeguard being taken away for a certain number of months or years whichever the War may last—and nothing whatever is put in its place. It has been admitted by the Home Secretary, and by the Member for Leicester, that in a certain proportion of cases these reports of the certifying surgeons are 172 useful. If that is admitted, the whole case is given away. You are taking away things which are useful in a certain proportion of cases. Nothing can be useful in all cases. They are mostly retained because it may be in 5, 10, or 20 per cent, of cases these reports are useful. The certifying surgeon is called upon expressly to report as to whether machinery is or is not guarded. We are told that he is not a mechanical engineer. That is quite true, but the inspector does not pass an examination in mechanical engineering when appointed. There is no great mystery about the-guarding of machinery. Any man of common sense who has seen machinery for a few times gets to understand its guarding, and can report whether the guard is or is not sufficient. The certifying surgeon has to report whether or not the accident was or was not due to the mismanagement of the machinery by the person who is injured, and various other circumstances. He has to report as to septic poisoning. Is an inspector of factories an authority on septic poisoning? The certifying surgeon has to report upon it. He is the only man who has the right to follow the injured man into any room of any building to which he may be removed. Why take away that right? I admit that the Ameendments put in at our suggestion by the Home Secretary will possibly enable him: to get around some of these difficulties, but they certainly do not enable him to do away with all these difficulties. For these reasons I very much regret that this change should be made prematurely, and before the Home Secretary is ready to put something better in the place of the present system.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
On this question of the certifying surgeons on the Second Reading, by leave of the House, I made two speeches, and in Committee I made two speeches, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary made two speeches, one on the Second Reading, and one on the Committee stage—six speeches from the Treasury Bench, and I am not to be tempted to make a seventh, particularly since, on this-occasion, we have had the unusual experience of hearing from other benches kind things said about the Clause, and especially the House must have been interested by the very forcible and the convincing speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. R. Macdonald). I would only say this, that I repudiate entirely 173 the idea that the Home Office is engaged in anything either out of the desire for economy or any other motive, to lessen the safeguards of the working people of this country. I repudiate that most strongly. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone) said that we were diminishing the effective overlooking of accidents, but it is because, as the hon. Member for Leicester has pointed out, this overlooking of inspection by doctors is not effective for the purpose in view, for that reason, and that reason only, that, with complete equanimity, we ask the House to terminate the present system. The proposal certainly is that after the War we shall use this money, or the greater part of it, to strengthen the inspectorate. [An HON. MEMBER: "No economy!"] Yes, there is always an economy when you cease to waste money-always! And we should refrain from spending this money saved during the War, which is not a time for increasing the officials, however desirable their increase may be. But when the War is over, it is proposed to increase the number of medical inspectors and certain other inspectors, with a view to making our inspectorate more successful even than now.
With reference to the welfare Clause, I fully appreciate the danger to which the hon. Member for Leicester referred, that we may slip into some system of charging workpeople for amenities and facilities that ought to be properly provided by good employers and by all employers free of cost. The working of the Clause will be most carefully watched from that point of view. I do not anticipate that one scheme in fifty—perhaps even a smaller proportion than that—will include any Clause requiring any contribution from the workpeople at all. But if in other days and under other auspices the Home Office were disposed to fall into the practice of requiring the workpeople to pay, in the first place they have the remedy in their own hands, because they cannot be made to pay unless two-thirds agree to pay, and, in the second place, the working classes are very vocal in these matters, and I am quite sure we should soon hear of it in Parliament and 174 elsewhere. Let me thank the House for the assistance they have given by the passage of this Bill. The Amendments made at the instance of various hon. Members have been, I think, all sensible improvements in the Clauses of the Bill, and I firmly believe the forebodings of some hon. Members will not be found in practice to be realised, but that many people throughout the country will have Parliament to thank for a number of very useful Clauses.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I have had the privilege of hearing some three or four out of the seven Government speeches in favour of the Bill, and also the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester. The House will hardly believe me, but I am still not in the least convinced that the Government have made a good case. There is to be an economy during the War, apparently a very necessary economy, but afterwards there will be no economy, and what the right hon. Gentleman has just said is that he is going to appoint more inspectors. That is not a substitute for certifying surgeons. The certifying surgeon is independent of Government control and the employer, and that is the advantage of having a certifying surgeon. I do not say "Thank you" for an increase of inspectors under Home Office control. I hope when this money comes to be spent after the War we shall have these surgeons doing this work absolutely independently of the inspectors.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 22nd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Four minutes before Eleven o'clock.