HC Deb 22 July 1918 vol 108 cc1482-98

(1) The Trade Boards Act, 1909 (in this Act referred to as "the principal Act") shall apply to the trades specified in the Schedule to that Act and to any other trades to which it has been applied by a provisional Order made under Section one of that Act or by a special Order made under this Act by the Minister of Labour (in this Act referred to as "a special Order").

(2) The Minister of Labour (in this Act referred to as "the Minister") may make a special Order applying the principal Act to any specified trade to which it does not at the time apply if he is of opinion that no adequate machinery exists for the effective regulation of wages throughout the trade, and that accordingly, having regard to the rates of wages prevailing in the trade, or any part of the trade, it is expedient that the principal Act should apply to that trade.

(3) If at any time the Minister is of opinion that the conditions of employment in any trade to which the principal Act applies have been so altered as to render the application of the principal Act to the trade unnecessary, he may make a special Order withdrawing that trade from the operation of the principal Act.

(4) If the Minister is of opinion that it is desirable to alter or amend the description of any of the trades specified in the Schedule to the principal Act, he may make a special Order altering or amending the said Schedule accordingly.

(5) Any Act confirming a provisional Order made in pursuance of Section one of the principal Act may be repealed or varied by a special Order.

(6) Section one of the principal Act shall cease to have effect.


I beg to move in Subsection (l), to leave out the word "special" ["special Order made under this Act"], and to insert instead thereof the word "provisional."

It will be in the recollection of the House that the main effect of this Bill is to alter the law in two respects. First of all it enables the Minister to extend the provisions of the Act by means of a special Order instead of by means of a provisional Order, and secondly it allows the Act to be applied to any trade instead of merely to those trades in which wages are abnormally low. I venture to submit that no case whatever has been made out for abolishing procedure by provisional Order and substituting that of special Order. Procedure by provisional Order was inserted in the original Bill in Committee as the result of considerable discussion, and I venture to say that so far that procedure has been entirely successful. We know that the operation of the original Act was very considerably increased by provisional Order and that the Board of Trade promoted five provisional Orders for extending that Act. Five Orders were embodied in one Bill which duly came before a Select Committee, four of the Orders were passed and the fifth was rejected. That Committee had for its chairman a gentleman who is now a Member of the Government, and it was a very competent Committee. It was an Order which dealt with the laundry trade which was rejected. At a subsequent period the Government came forward again with the same proposal which, curiously enough, went to the same Committee and was again rejected, and from what took place I gather there can be no doubt whatever that the action of the Committee in rejecting the provisional Order was quite right. It seems to me it is rather difficult to discover a greater justification for this particular form of procedure, because it has had the effect of preventing the Government from attempting to do that which, in the opinion of a very excellent Committee of this House, was manifestly wrong, and the Government have never, either in this House or upstairs, advanced any real reason why this procedure should be done away with. All they tell us is that it takes a little time, and that certainly does not seem to be a very conclusive argument in favour of substituting one form of procedure for another. I suspect the real reason for this Government proposal is that under the special Order they will not be liable to be prevented from doing precisely what they choose. We ought to be particularly careful in this case because this Bill very largely extends the scope of the Government's activities.

Under the old Bill the provisional Order could only be made to extend to the case of trade where the wages were abnormally low, but under this Bill there is no such limit and there is nothing to prevent the trade boards system being extended to any trade in the country. In Committee upstairs we heard the representatives of the Labour party protest, not once or twice but several times, that the great organised trades unions would strongly object to having the trade boards system extended to them. We are constantly being told that the Act does not in terms contemplate the possibility of the extension of the trade boards to every class of trade. We are told it is not in the contemplation of anybody to extend this system of trade boards to other than poorly organised trades, but if we are going to have power in general terms to extend what is only intended to operate over a very narrow area, I think we ought to be careful to see that the Government are not free to extend it exactly, as they please. Our experience of the last few months proves most conclusively that the action of the Government bears no kind of resemblance to the professions under which it gets powers it asks for. New circumstances have come to light since the Committee stage of the Bill was closed, and these make it more than ever necessary we should insist on the provisional Order procedure. What is the safeguard contained in the special Order? It is this, that the special Order should be laid before both Houses of Parliament forthwith, and if an address is presented to His Majesty from either House within the next subsequent forty days on which the House has sat after the Order has been so laid, praying that the Order may be annulled, His Majesty may annul the Order and it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder or to the power of making a fresh Order. Two or three days ago some of my hon. Friends wanted to take advantage of that form of procedure, and accordingly placed the necessary notice on the Paper, but owing to the fact that the Government had taken the whole of the time of the House it was ruled that it was not permissible for them to move their Resolution. That seems to me to point to a very serious state of affairs. It means that this provision which is put into this Bill for the purpose of protecting a certain form of public interest is rendered absolutely useless if the Government put down a special Order taking the whole time of the House, and really so long as the onus lies on the Member of this House who is dissatisfied to obtain time for the discussion of the Order so long is that protection of little or no value, because it is always open to the Government—and they have had the power for the last four years to use that power, and then there is no opportunity whatever of raising a question of this character. We are told sometimes that if there is a sufficiently large number of persons who object to the Minister's Order the Government will give time, or some other way will be found to discuss it, but that is not at all satisfactory. It is not satisfactory to be told that it is only if a large number of Members wish to raise a discussion on a special Order they will be allowed to do so on sufferance, and when in the opinion of the Government there is a sufficiently large body of opinion in the House to make it dangerous to refuse the opportunity for debate. Parliament is merely a voting assembly. We are not merely here to discuss those questions which a large majority of the Members would like to take a Division upon. I submit that a small number of Members have an equal right to put their case before the House even if it is an unpopular one, and to try and persuade the majority of the House that the view they are advancing is the right one. It is certainly most improper that we should be told that a matter such as this question of a special Order cannot be debated because a majority of the House agree with the Government. Under these circumstances I submit that the only real protection we have got is to stick to procedure by provisional Order, and that the onus of finding time for discussion should rest on the Government. It would be intolerable that a provision which is intended to protect hon. Member's rights could at any moment be nullified by the action of the Government.


I am glad to second this Amendment. My hon. Friend has set forth very clearly the whole grounds upon which it is put forward. The case for the Amendment has been very much reinforced since the matter was discussed upstairs in Committee. The Government then made a great point of the safeguard which was left to any industry which might be effected by the special Order, and which was contained in the provision for laying these Orders on the Table of both Houses of Parliament. But since then we have learned that this safeguard is absolutely nugatory. It has in fact been nugatory since the War commenced, and it will not only continue to be nugatory until the end of the War, but certainly for several Parliamentary Sessions after that. The special Order can only now be discussed if the Government themselves give time, and what is the situation which is likely to arise? You will have the Ministry of Labour making a special Order regarding a particular trade, and those engaged in that trade, either employers or workmen, will in the majority of cases represent a very small portion of the community, and will only be able to state their case to a small number of hon. Members of this House. If they so state their case to a small minority in this House, and even if they succeed in persuading the Members whom they approach, there is every likelihood that the Minister responsible for the business of the House will say there is no general desire for a discussion of the matter, and consequently there will be no opportunity whatever of discussing the action of the Government, no opportunity of having the views of the industry before the House, and the whole matter will be left to the unfettered discretion of a single autocratic Minister. That seems a proposition to which this House should by no means give its assent. If it had been possible for a small minority under our regular procedure to move an Address, and state arguments on the question, I should be content to abide by the decision of the Government, but now we know that is impossible. Before the War, in regard to Orders, a small section of this House was enabled to use the machinery of an Address, and, even although a minority, they were able by the strength of the case they put before the House to induce the Government to modify their action. But now no such proceeding is possible.

I think, therefore, that unless the Government is prepared to make it possible for any section of Members at any time to move an Address in regard to these Orders, it should be our duty now to insist on the procedure of the provisional Order being adopted. The interests which are affected may be of very great importance. When we discussed the original Trade Boards Act—a much more limited measure, and when Parliament was discussing the matter under normal conditions, and was able to listen to arguments without any preoccupation—Parliament insisted that the system of provisional Orders should apply; but under present conditions it is impossible to get the House to give its serious attention to anything, and the Government is asking us to put all the interest of all these trades at the mercy and the discretion of a single Minister, without any security that his decision can ever be discussed at all. I should be very much inclined to call a count, just to indicate the small number of Members here who seem to have any appreciation of the importance of the issues which are now being discussed. If this were a mere temporary measure, which was limited in its operation to the period of the War, and was due to emergency causes, I can understand the indifference, but this is a permanent piece of legislation. It may affect any number of trades in this country, and, although it has been ruled that agriculture is outside this Bill, the Minister indicated upstairs that he could apply it to particular branches of agriculture, and be within its scope, and, consequently, even if the agricultural Members are absent now, believing there is no risk to that great industry, it may turn out, when it comes to a question of legal decision, that they have been living in a fool's paradise. For all these reasons I think the Government ought now to modify the decision they are now taking. It has been made clear to them that the security which they then magnified is utterly nugatory. Under these circumstances I hope the Minister will be able to announce that he is prepared to accept my Friend's Amendment.

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Mr. George Roberts)

My hon. Friends who have respectively moved and seconded this Amendment rested their case, as I understand it, very largely upon the exigencies of war conditions. The Government have felt it necessary during the War, and for war purposes, to take the whole time of the House. This is purely a temporary expedient, and we hope, of course, that when the War ends it will no longer operate. I respectfully suggest that is not a sufficient reason for destroying the procedure which is set forth in this Bill. My hon. Friend (Mr. Pringle) also made a reference again to the statement which is imputed to me as having been made in Committee respecting the position of agriculture under this Bill. I desire to take this opportunity of making the position clear. I had doubts, and I expressed doubts, in Committee, as to whether agriculture could be considered as coming within the Trade Boards Bill. Nevertheless, it was not for me to dispute the ruling of the Chairman, and I said if the Chairman's ruling was well-founded, then, even if the Corn Production Act was allowed to expire at the end of 1922, we could proceed to include agriculture under the trade boards scheme. I think that is quite a different thing from what my hon. Friend has represented to the House.

I base my case for this new procedure, as I stated on Second Reading, on the fact that, whereas the more dilatory procedure by provisional Order was perfectly justifiable when the experiment was first made, we have now had sufficient experience of this scheme, and it has secured general acquiesence, to warrant, in my opinion, the adoption of a more expeditious and satisfactory method of including trades within its scope. I feel that nothing has since occurred to alter that view. But, nevertheless, perhaps it is necessary, owing to the fact that some Members may be present who did not participate in the previous Debates, to go over the ground again in order to make the position as clear as possible. First of all, I submit that the Minister is hampered by time, so far as provisional Order Bills are concerned, in their introduction into this House. Under the Standing Orders of the House no Bill for the confirmation of a provisional Order may be read the first time after Whitsuntide, and the House of Lords usually directs by a Sessional Order that no such Bill brought from the Commons may be read a second time after a fixed date in June. Therefore, it confines the Minister to the introduction of Bills of this character to a very limited stage in the early part of the year. But, assuming that a provisional Order Bill were introduced within the permitted time, and went through without opposition of any kind, a period of about three months would usually elapse between the First Reading and the securing of the Royal Assent.

The procedure is, therefore, not very satisfactory or speedy, even under the most favourable circumstances. But, in the event of a Bill being opposed, there seems to be almost unlimited opportunities of obstructing its passage. If it appears that the Bill is confronted with serious opposition, then the probability is that it has to be referred to a Select Committee. The procedure of a Select Committee is also very unsatisfactory. Worst of all it is that if, on inquiry, a Select Committee feel that the measure ought to be extended, then, having regard to the practice of the House, it only allows a Select Committee to insert particular Amendments, and the Bill has to be withdrawn and the whole procedure gone over in another Session. Then, assume that the Select Committee recommend the House to pass the Bill, it can be opposed by any Member either on Report stage or Third Reading, and further time must be taken up with its discussion. Then, if a provisional Order passes through this House, a substantially similar procedure must be gone through in the House of Lords.

My opinion is that, Parliament having sanctioned the principle of the establishment of trade boards in trades in which wages are low, should leave it to the Minister of Labour to select the trades which come within this category. It does not seem unreasonable to allow the Minister, in the exercise of his discretion, to bring in trades by the simpler procedure set out in Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill. Moreover, this procedure does not abolish Parliamentary control, but enables Parliament to step in and veto the action of the Minister if in any case he has acted in an unfair or injudicious manner. The fact that the Trade Boards Act is acknowledged to have worked well constitutes, in my opinion, good reason why its application to other trades, where needed, should be made easier and more expeditious. It was admittedly an experiment, and the procedure of provisional Order, being cumbrous and dilatory, has retarded its extension. Again, the War, of course, has diverted attention for a long time from social reforms of this character. Nevertheless, the necessity for a wide extension of this principle is really urgent. Before the War half a million women in the country were paid less than 13s. a week—in many cases less. It is true that rates have risen owing to the War. Still some, not employed on war work, are being paid very low rates of wages. After the War grave dislocation is bound to ensue, and wages may slump with most undesirable social consequences, unless machinery is established to adjust matters on a just and humane basis. I feel that the state of affairs after the War may produce most lamentable results, unless machinery is in existence to take up the case of women and to adjust wages on a fair basis, and not simply on the old method of paying them just what they are able to command. These women, in the main, are unorganised. They are not in the fortunate position of many of the skilled artisans, and I feel that, as the problem will arise undoubtedly with great urgency, we must be prepared to meet it.

Supposing we find it desirable to apply the Act to twenty different trades, under the procedure recommended by my two hon. Friends, it would be necessary to bring in a large number of provisional Orders. If twenty Orders are incorporated in one Bill, the whole might be held up by a small number of objectors. There would have to be reference made to a Select Committee, and I submit it would involve considerable delay, just at a time when the machinery ought to be operating smoothly and speedily. Before notice of intention to make an Order in respect of any trade the Department intends by argument and persuasion to remove opposition. I do not think this is sufficiently understood. Some hon. Members seem to think that the Minister in haphazard fashion simply decides that the scheme should be extended to another trade or other trades. The real procedure is that a good deal of investigation is carried on, and until we are satisfied that the conditions in the industry are unfair, that the rates of wages are unduly low, no action is likely to be taken. Even when we come to the point that action is desirable, we proceed to negotiate with the various parties in the trade. The result invariably is that when we give notice of our intention to make the Order we carry with us the general acquiescence of the parties in the trade. It invariably happens that the best elements in the trade, both workpeople and employers, are anxious to have their trade brought within the scope of the scheme. We had to give forty days' notice of our intention to make the Order, and the Order, when made, must lie on the Table of the House a further forty days; but having regard to the Amendments accepted in Committee those forty days would only run during the time that Parliament is not sitting. Then the Department proceeds to form a Board. That, in itself, is sometimes a lengthy proceeding. The Board notifies the Minister of the appropriate rates, and the Minister may within a month make an Order confirming the rate or rates, or refer the matter back for reconsideration. The Minister then sends a notification of the agreement to the Trade Board, and the Trade Board gives notice to the trade of the rate or rates, together with the dates on which the Order shall become effective. I think, when we follow all these several stages, we shall see, even then, under this approved and more expeditious procedure, that the operation is still very protracted, and one which affords every facility for objection being made by those who wish to make it.

Again, I want to point out, as I did on the Second Reading, that the procedure follows very closely the provisions contained in Sections 80, 81 and 84 of the Factory and Workshops Act, 1891, which prescribe the procedure for working the Regulations the Home Secretary is empowered to make for dangerous trades under Section 79 of that Act. I feel that the new procedure assures full publicity and ample opportunity for inquiry and for the ventilation of any grievances. If a Minister has erred or acted arbitrarily, the aggrieved person may get his Member in the House of Commons to ask questions or raise the matter on the Adjournment of the House, or move to annul the Order as prescribed in the Bill. But the Minister will naturally always strive to carry the parties in the trade with him. Moreover, parliamentarily the procedure will be well hedged with safeguards and restraints. Trade boards have been approved as beneficial. They have passed beyond the experimental stage. Their application, therefore, in suitable cases should be expedited. I repeat that the urgency of after-war conditions constitutes a further reason why this new procedure should be accepted. Organised labour is behind this desire. I believe the reformist element of all parties in the House give their approval to the expediting of the procedure, and there will be great dissatisfaction, if not worse, should it be decided to retain the old procedure, with its unnecessary delays and disappointments, having regard to the experience that we have now of the operation of this form of legislation. Thus I ask the House to reject this Amendment, so that the establishment of fair wages and improved labour conditions in the low-organised industries and the ill-paid industries may be "speeded up." Many workers are looking forward with hope. Good employers wish that competitive conditions should be regulated and humanised. Altogether the Bill makes a considerable step forward, and I think the new procedure can be amply justified by the considerations I have advanced. I beg the House to support the Government, and to reject the Amendment.


We had considerable discussion on this matter in Committee upstairs. The right hon. Gentleman brought forward practically the same arguments there that he has brought forward now. There can be no question that after the War this matter is going to be a very important one. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that after the War questions of work and wages will arise which will be very important, and that it will be very necessary to see that the proper steps are taken so far as possible to arrange these matters. While I quite agree with that, I do not agree that the steps he proposes to take is the best way of carrying this matter out. This is being urged as an important question. The right hon. Gentleman, I believe, is a democrat. He believes that the voice of the people will prevail in the Commons House of the people. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman should leave these matters to the Commons House of the people, and not keep them in the hands of any individual, however excellent he may be. The proposal put forward might be expected without surprise from a reactionary person like myself—that we should have a person in whose supreme wisdom we should be content to trust the direction of the affairs of the country. I cannot, however, understand a doctrine of that sort coming from the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Labour. It does not appear to me to be a democratic-principle. It does appear to me that it is taking away the power of the Commons House of the people elected by the democracy to see that what they desire is carried into effect. That is my first objection to the change from provisional Orders to special Orders.

What is next advanced by the right hon. Gentlemen? He says that this matter is going to take a considerable time, and it is impossible, owing to the Rules of the House, to introduce the First Reading of a Provisional Order Bill after Whitsuntide. That is, he says, a Standing Order of the House, and, though I am averse from amending the Standing Orders of the House, believing that they are the outcome of the wisdom of our forefathers, written after great experience, still, it would be quite possible to alter those Standing Orders and to say that it should be possible to introduce and have the First Reading of a Bill even as late as July. After all—I have not got a calendar by me, but my right hon. Friend opposite is great on Church matters, and he will be able to tell us exactly when Whitsuntide comes—I think he will possibly agree with me that Whitsuntide takes place sometime in June.




Not June, but May?


Yes. More at the end of May than June.


I do not pose as an authority on that point. I am not at all unwilling to call it the end of May, and not June. We usually meet here at the end of January or about the beginning of February. Between that time and the termination of that part of the Session there is January, February, March, April, and May-five months. Surely in five months the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who represent the Ministry in this matter, can make up their minds as to what is the trade for which they wish to bring in a provisional Order, and before it becomes too late to proceed with a First Reading. I am afraid that arguments falls to the ground; there is no force in it. My hon. Friend opposite knows all about the procedure of the House of Commons—he used to be a Whip—and how often Members are here and when they are away. He is essentially a fair-minded man. I appeal to him how many times after twelve o'clock in the old days, or after eleven o'clock later, has he been all round the House to induce Members to stay when he was desirous to prevent a count-out? It is perfectly well-known to everyone whom I am, now addressing that an Address can only be brought in, so far as I know, after eleven o'clock unless the business has been terminated before. I do not quite follow the right hon. Gentleman when he talks about the time of the House. It does not matter whether the time of the House is in the hands of the Government or a private Member——


It does matter very much when, under the Standing Orders, all the time is taken by the Government, for no private Member can bring forward any Motion under any circumstances or at any time.


Yes; but an Address to the Crown cannot be moved except after eleven o'clock, unless the business is over, whether it is a private Member's night or a Government night. Very well, then, we know perfectly well that on private Members' nights it is very rare the business is over before eleven, and with the insane desire, if I may say so, of modern Governments to legislate, it is quite impossible that it should be over before eleven o'clock. Therefore, the fact remains that the only opportunity which the great democrat whom I see opposite desires to give to the people to control their own affairs, and over legislation by the people, for the people—and I forget what the other part of the aphorism is!—is after eleven o'clock, because he knows perfectly well the representatives of the people in attendance now would not number forty, and they would probably be counted out. That is what is termed control of the House over these matters! The fact remains, therefore, that what we are-asked to do is to put the control of wages in any trade into the hands of one-Minister. I do not know whether I have sufficient confidence in the present administration to put power into their hands. That, perhaps, really does not arise, because we are not going to put it into the hands of the present administration. We are going to put it into the hands, after this Parliament is over, of whoever may then be Minister. I say it is far too great a power to trust to any given Minister, I do not care who he is.

The procedure under the Trade Boards Act of 1909, says the right hon. Gentleman, has been so successful that it is necessary to do this. That to me is a very extraordinary argument. If the procedure under the Trade Boards Act of 1909, with its provisional Orders, has been so very successful, why vary it? As a matter of fact, the thing has been successful, because the only occasion on which there has been any objection to the procedure of the Minister under the Trade Boards Act, 1909, has been the case of the laundries. What happened to them? Their case was so good that they defeated the Government of the day. They won their case. After all—and perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I am going to say something which is rather irregular—after all, it is conceivable that the Government may be wrong. That is not, I know, the idea of the moment, but, still, it is conceivable that the Government may be wrong! If they are wrong why should they not be exposed, and why should their wrongdoing not stop? The Government were wrong in the case of the laundries, and an injustice was stopped and proceedings were stayed. That was the only time during the operation under the Act of 1909 that there was any difficulty about provisional Orders. The right hon. Gentleman says if anybody is aggrieved he can always ask a Member of the House to put a question and get an official answer, but that means nothing at all. In these days the answers are not even reported in the papers. I think it would have been much better if the right hon. Gentleman had said, "In my opinion Ministers are so efficient that they are the people who ought to decide these things; the House of Commons is only an assembly which comes down and gives us power to do certain things, and when they have given that power they do not retain any control, and they leave the whole matter to us, as they should do." If that is to be the future of the House of Parliament, why do we sit here every day—why not pass a single Bill, saying, "Ministers can do no wrong"? It would save a good deal of trouble, and we could all go home. I really do think that there is a great deal more than appears at first sight in this Amendment, and I hope my right hon. Friend, who is gifted with clear speech, and who holds very strong opinions on this subject, will give us the benefit of his views. There is something very much beyond the mere giving of the power to the Minister of Labour to fix wages. The real question at issue is the control of the House of Commons in these matters, and whether that control is to be maintained, or are we going to part with our authority and hand our power over to a Minister? I hope we shall not. I think we are going too much in that direction as it is. I do not altogether believe in autocracy, although I am not sure that it is not better than democracy, but I do not believe in a democratic autocrat, and I hope my hon. Friend will be able to carry his Amendment.


I am not satisfied with the safeguards which the right hon. Gentleman has placed before us. I happened to be a member of the Committee over which the Paymaster-General presided, which dealt with the laundries, and it was only a small matter with regard to the general application of the provisional Order to the whole trade. I regard it as a matter of the greatest possible importance that there should be an opportunity of having an investigation by a Committee of this House, or it may be even by an impartial person before whom the trades can appear and offer their evidence. I can assure the House that, in regard to the laundries, the official wit-nesses were turned inside out at the first inquiry, and this shows how utterly unreliable the official case was. I think I am right in saying that on both occasions the Committee were unanimous in the first place in rejecting the Provisional Order Bill, and, secondly, in passing it in regard to the minor portion of the Orders. It is absurd to say that any Member of this House can get satisfaction from a question put in this House unless the Department want to give satisfaction. Really the art of answering questions in this House has become not a mere art but a science, and so scientific that it is utterly impossible for us, try as we will, as I have demonstrated over and over again, to get a straightforward answer if the Department concerned does not want to give it.

With regard to the opportunity of moving the Adjournment, I do not think that is satisfactory unless it can be done on a question of great importance and moved at 8.15. I think some mid-course might very well be taken. If there is undue delay, I do not know why the Standing Order should not be altered. But why is it necessary that there should be this procedure provided you can get an inquiry at which the trade can appear with their witnesses, and then you can have a report of the inquiry embodied by whatever means you like to adopt. I think it is a very serious matter when the bulk of us are complaining of such a large increase in officials, which we submit to in consequence of the War, that we should unduly allow officials to encroach under circumstances and by a procedure of this sort, making it extremely difficult for anybody to put the block on the brake if the Order is made. I think the House should retain a power, perhaps not so prolonged as the procedure on the present occasion, to take evidence publicly. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to make some alteration with a view of providing a via media.


I wish to point out that practically everybody who has knowledge of the administration of the trade boards believes in the methods the Government propose in this Bill. There is practically a unanimous feeling on that point on the part of all those who have had experience of provisional Orders in the past. The old system led to many opportunities for obstruction, long delays, and much dissatisfaction among those who were hoping to get some protection under this legislation. The arguments brought forward to-day are largely, I think, from a dialectical point of view in order to point out where the House lands itself with regard to the provision of opportunities under special Orders, but that is largely a matter for the House itself, and when the House desires to recover back its power with regard to special Orders it will not be long before it can be managed. I would point out that when this Bill comes to be applied there will be a large number of trades probably pressing to be included, very largely brought about by war conditions from workers whose protective legislation or measures will suddenly lapse at the end of the War, and if the Members of this House are going to continue the old dilatory methods, you will be landed in chaos and confusion to a greater extent than hon. Members realise. I attach no importance to the argument that we are placing ourselves at the mercy of an arbitrary Minister.


But you objected to it under the Defence of the Realm Act.


That is a different matter. We are setting up here in industries certain self-governing boards made up of equal numbers of employers and employed who are going to investigate the conditions of labour, and the Minister of Labour is not going to deal with these matters. All he can do is to bring the two sides face to face. Those who are afraid of what is going to happen ought to show us the terrible things that have happened where this principle has been already applied. As a matter of fact nothing but unlimited good has come from the application of trade boards, and there has been no question of abuse or of Ministers trying to apply the boards to unsuitable trades. If the Minister of labour were to try to apply this principle to highly skilled labour he would meet with equal opposition from workers and employers, and it would be impossible for the Minister to apply trade boards except where there is an urgent need for them. It is no argument to say that it failed in regard to laundries, for that does not prove that it was not needed. In point of fact those of us who know the facts know there was a good deal of sweating in the laundry industry and the application of the trade boards principle, though defeated upstairs, would have been a Godsend to many underpaid women in that trade. Therefore, that is no argument, and I hope this House will endorse the line taken by the Government, which is the view taken by all who have real knowledge of the working and administration, of the trade boards.

Amendment negatived.