§ "(1) The Secretary of State may, subject to the provisions of this Section, make Orders authorising the employment of women and young persons of the age of sixteen years and upwards in any factory or workshop at any time between the hours of six in the morning and ten in the evening on any weekday except Saturday, and between the hours of six in the morning and two in the afternoon on Saturday, in shifts averaging for each shift not more than eight hours per day.
§ (2) An Order under this Section may be made in respect of any specified factory or workshop, or in respect of any class or group of factories or workshops, and shall be subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may consider necessary for the purpose of safeguarding the welfare and interests of the persons employed in pursuance of the Order, and shall include a condition empowering the Secretary of State to revoke the Order in the event of noncompliance with the conditions thereof, or in the event of it appearing to the Secretary of State that abuses of any description have arisen out of the employment of any persons in pursuance of the Order.844
§ (3) The Secretary of State may by Order direct that such conditions as he may consider necessary for the purpose of safeguarding the welfare and interests of the persons employed shall apply to the employment in day shifts of young persons who may lawfully be so employed under the provisions of the Factory and Workshops Acts, 1901 to 1911.
§ (4) Notwithstanding anything in this Section an Order under this Section may permit the employment in any factory or workshop in such shifts as aforesaid of young persons under the age of sixteen years who are at the commencement of this Act so, employed in that factory or workshop.
§ (5) If the conditions imposed by any Order made under this Section are not complied with the factory or workshop shall he deemed not to be kept in conformity with the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901.
§ (6) This Section shall remain in force for a period of five years from the commencement of this Act and no longer, and any Order made under this Section shall, unless previously revoked by the Secretary of State in pursuance of his powers under this Section, remain in force for a like period." —[Captain Bowyer.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Captain BOWYER
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
All Members of the House will have seen and read the Report of the Departmental Committee which was set up some time ago and, I believe, reported almost within the last few days. I think the Report was printed and issued to Members about three days ago. It is perfectly true this is a very big question, a very grave question, and one which must be looked at from two sides which seem to be quite separate, but which in the end, really can be taken as being factors in the same problem. You can either look at this problem of the two-shift system from the point of view of industry, of economics, of production, of employment and unemployment or, on the other hand, you can look at it from the point of view of the material comfort of the worker. Questions of health, questions of hours, questions of family life, all come into that side of the problem. Really these two problems interlace one with the other, and they are both deserving of the very serious consideration of the House. On the one hand it is intolerable to me to propose that the two-shift system should be given legislative sanction if I am assured that for medical reasons, for reasons of health, it is against the in- 845 terest of those who are going to be employed under it. I would have nothing to say to it, if I am convinced by medical evidence that the health or the comfort of the workers is materially jeopardised. Members of the Labour party, as well as other hon. Members, should look at this problem, not solely from the comfort of the worker, and not solely from the economic standpoint, but from the point of view of the comfort of the worker and the benefit of industry as a whole. There is a great conflict of evidence in the statements which have been circulated amongst Members of Parliament on this matter. A week or so ago the Labour party issued a document on "The Two-shift System for Women and Young Persons. What it means and why we oppose it." On the other hand we have the Report issued by the Select Committee of which my hon. and learned Friend (Major Hills) was Chairman. There is great conflict of evidence between these two documents, and I wish to emphasise the way in which the evidence conflicts. I would point out that sitting on that Committee were Members who had the full interests of the Labour party at heart. This conflict of evidence between the Labour party document and the Select Committee's Report is the more amazing in view of the fact that all the Members of the Select Committee, including those who have at heart essentially the Labour party interests, signed the Report. So far as I can see, there is no Minority Report. Therefore, we may take it that the Members of the Committee who heard the evidence came to their conclusions unanimously. The new Clause which I am proposing is, as far as it can be made, precisely that in the terms of the finding of the Select Committee. The Members of the Labour party will doubtless refer to the Labour Conference at Washington. At the beginning of their document they say:At the same time the Government included a Clause, not only totally outside the Conventions of the Washington Conference, but directly against the spirit of those Conventions.It is true that in Committee, Clause 2 had certain provisions in regard to the two-shift system, but that was taken out of the Bill by an Amendment moved, I believe, by the Labour party. Paragraph 19 of the Select Committee's Report deals with the question as to 846 whether the two-shift system is against the spirit of the Washington Convention. It says—It has been suggested that the proposal to employ women and young persons on a two-shift system is inconsistent with the spirit of the Conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference at Washington. This criticism appears to be unfounded. The Washington Conference adopted two Conventions dealing with the employment of women and young persons at night. Both of these prohibited the employment of women and young persons between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., but there is nothing in the Conventions which is inconsistent in any way with employment on a two-shift system during the day. On the contrary, it was recognised in the debates on the Convention that employment on a two-shift system during the day was admissible. On both Conventions proposals were discussed to substitute for the period of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. either the period 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. or 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., for the purpose of enabling a system of two-shift of 8 hours each, with an hour's interval in the course of a shift, to be worked during the day. These proposals were not carried, but not on the ground that the two-shift system in itself was undesirable, and there was nothing in the debates to suggest that there was any body of objection to a two-shift system between the limits laid down by the Convention.That is as plain as a pikestaff, and the statement in the Labour party document that anything has been done against the spirit of the Washington Conference is to me unintelligible. There are some very interesting words which follow in the Committee's Report.In fact the Italian labour delegate said, 'As a matter of principle I am not opposed to the system of shift working; on the contrary I see in the system of working by shifts the possibility of reducing the hours of labour without interfering with production by means of working in two shifts.'There are many ways in which the evidence given in the Labour party document, which seems to sum up the objections, as they see them, to the two-shift system, conflicts with the evidence given in the Report of the Select Committee. I will refer to one. The Labour party, as far as I can understand their objections, seem to base, their objections on several headings: bad meal-times, late work on the second shift; irregular meal hours, and discomfort and ill-health for the workers.
On page 7 of the Select Committee's Report there is the following statement:Generally speaking we received no confirmation of these fears either from the 847 workers themselves or from the factory inspectors or doctors.There may be some explanation of these inconsistencies, but I would point out that in the list of labour organisations given on the front page of the Labour party document, are the names of the Women's Trade Union League, the National Federation of Women Workers, and the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative and Commercial Employés and Allied Workers. These organisations gave evidence before the Select Committee as to the discomfort and ill-health which might be caused to the workers under the two-shift system. Therefore, it cannot be said that the Members of the Select Committee came to their conclusions without having heard evidence from organisations upon which the Labour party rely in the document which they have issued against the two-shift system. The gains of the two-shift system are (1) reduction in hours for the worker—it would certainly lead to a reduction in hours—(2) increased production, (3) increased efficiency, because it is bound to lower the cost of production, and (4) decreased unemployment. I would let these four economic advantages go by the board if I were convinced that the two-shift system was against health and militated against the comfort of those employed, but I hope to show, and the evidence of the Select Committee bears it out, that the system is not against the health or the comfort of the worker. Granted that the health and the comfort of the worker are not imperilled under this system, in fact the workers themselves prefer it.
§ Captain BOWYER
We shall have evidence about that. If you admit that the health and the comfort of the workers are not imperilled, you must look at this question as one for the welfare of industry as a whole. Although it may well be that some hon. Members in their capacity as members of trade unions have primarily to think of the wellbeing and comfort of the workers, they must remember that when they are in this House they are not only trade unionists but legislators, and they must look upon this matter from the point of view of industry as a whole. The Labour party paper summing up the whole of this controversy has two headlines, "The Output Dog "and "The Two-Shift 848 Slave." That is a misrepresentation, because it cannot be that the Members on that side of the House are less keen about the welfare of industry than the Members on this. Are Members on that side not as keen on greater output as we are? One must not confuse questions of health and comfort and questions of efficiency. If we provide for conditions of health and comfort, then let us have the two-shift system if it is for the benefit of the nation as a whole. There are many other passages in the Report to which I might refer, but I submit that the Home Secretary, under the terms of the Clause, is not only given ample opportunity to, but in the exercise of his great office he will, see to it that all the comforts and safeguards for the workers which are definitely referred to therein will be carried into effect. Take the case of canteens or that of earlier hours of work. It may be that a specific firm will not be granted the privilege of the two-shift system unless the workers who are to begin at six o'clock live near the premises. That is commonsense, and the Home Secretary would make that a first charge on his attention in dealing in his administrative capacity with the powers under the new Clause.
Against the system we have the Labour party. We are bound to conclude that that is so because of the document which is headed "The Labour Party," which I suppose has been sent to all Members. We are also bound to conclude that the 11 labour organisations whose names are printed on the first page of that document are also against it. On the other side we have first the unanimous recommendation of this Clause by the Select Committee. The Clause is taken verbatim from the Report of the Select Committee. Then we have the National Union of Societies for equal citizenship. I may refer to a letter written by the three secretaries to that body in the "Manchester Guardian "on 21st July, in which they say:We are of opinion that in the economic interests of women it is greatly to be desired that Clause 2 of the Bill (legalising the employment of women on the two-shift system between the hours of six a.m. and ten p.m.) which has been deleted in Committee should be restored in a form which allows for two shifts, even though these would consist of less than eight hours each. With the universal adoption of a shorter working day, more and more industries tried to run on the continuous shift system. To restrict the range of women's employment by debarring 849 them from working on the shift system would be to force them into already overcrowded works with consequent bad wages and poor conditions.The third body is the Women's Political and Industrial Leagues, and the fourth is the London Society of Women's Service. Then there is the Women's Employment Committee during reconstruction which is not in existence now but reported in 1919. Summing up my view I have always been out for equality between men and women. It seems to me that the Labour party, by opposing this proposal, are inconsistent with many speeches which I have heard in this Chamber and upstairs from members of the Labour party advocating equal rights for men and women. If you are going to penalise women and going always to include women with young persons you leave women as distinct from men severely handicapped in the race for life. The new Clause contains ample safeguards for the health and comfort of the workers employed on a two-shift system, and it tends towards providing against unemployment, and bringing about shorter hours of work. We are bound to support it once we are satisfied that it does not militate against the health or comfort of the worker but tends to increased efficiency, which at this hour more than ever before in the history of our country is of the utmost importance.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I beg to second the Motion. The War has revealed certain lessons which, in the interests of industry as well as of women and young persons, ought to have due consideration given to them. When this Bill was before the House on a former occasion great exception was taken to the provisions, and the Government, I think wisely, saw that there was an overwhelming opinion in this House, notwithstanding the opposition, that the position of women and young persons had assumed a new aspect altogether, which had arisen from the experience of the War and the necessities of our industrial system. So the Select Committee was set up, and on this point I must pay a tribute in passing to the hon. and learned Gentleman who presided over that Committee. He not only brought a wealth of forensic knowledge to the deliberations, but a keen analytical mind, and it is certain that these recommendations were not carried on a wave of emotionalism or sex determination, 850 but on the facts that were brought to the notice of the Committee. On that Committee there were two other persons for whom I have the highest regard. I have known them for a quarter of a century. There was Mr. Appleton, who stands not only for sound trade unionism but for sound politics as well. Mr. Appleton has been connected with the General Federation of Trade Unions, a body which has been a useful factor in the life of the trade unions of this country. There was also on the Committee Miss Julia Parley. No one will doubt her ability or her zeal for her sex and for the working classes. I remember that many years ago she undertook what was a heroic act. It was on the question of the Poor Law system of the country. Although there was no necessity to get actual first-hand information, she became a common tramp and went from workhouse to workhouse to see what was the condition of women when they came under the Poor Law system. From that date up to the present time she has been honoured as a respected leader of women, especially among the working classes. The Committee came to a conclusion which is embodied in this new Clause.
What is the genesis of the opposition to the Clause? I do not want to be personal, but I have in my hand a document from an organisation which contains many respected names. When I compare those names with the names I have just given, I do not think that either their standing or their experience merits the same appreciation. There is Mr. Sidney Webb. He is a very diligent student of economics and social conditions, but he seems to assume that by dictionary phrases and the compilation of statistics you are going to make the world happy for evermore. His knowledge of the trade union movement is nil, so far as actual work is concerned. He has been studying it from afar, and his deductions do not square with the actual experience of some of us who have been in the trade union movement on its administrative side. There are other names. Without disrespect to the hon. and noble and other ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Sidney Webb is the brains of this particular Committee. He has come to the conclusion, upon purely speculative theory, that it is a wrong principle to employ, so far as the two-shift systems are concerned.
§ Mr. SEDDON
My hon. Friend is on the Committee. It is the International Association for Labour Legislation, and on the executive are Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, Mr. C. D. Burns, Mrs. Barbara Drake, Mr. A. Greenwood, Major J. W. Hills, Miss B. L. Hutchins, Mr. John Lawson, Miss Mary MacArthur, Mrs. C. D. Rackham, the Hon. Alex Shaw, Mr. Ben C. Spoor, Miss Gertrude Tuckwell, and Mr. Sidney Webb. I am not impugning the motives of these people, but I do say that they are divorced from the realities of the situation and the lessons that the War revealed to us on this particular question. It is perfectly true that they are supported by very powerful trade unions. I have received a number of telegrams.
§ Major HILLS
The International Association for Labour Legislation is a well-known and old-established body, and there is no sort of party affiliation. It draws members from all parties, and on the committee and in the membership every school of thought is represented.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend will not think I am making any personal attack on him. In the pamphlet read by the Mover of this new Clause the Labour party frankly admit their opposition to the two-shift system. That is the party attitude.
§ Mr. LAWSON
What I object to is the assertion that the Labour party's opposition sprang from this organisation. It sprang from experience.
§ Mr. SEDDON
This body has been very active, and it is endorsing the action taken up by the Labour party.
§ Major HILLS
I must protest again. I am Deputy-Chairman of that body, and it is entirely a non-party body. The only interest that we have is to see that the Washington Convention is carried out.
§ Mr. SEDDON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has compelled me to refer to the letter which in common with other Members I have received. They go on to express exactly the sentiments of the Labour party in the document which they have published against this proposal. Does the hon. and gallant Member take exception to that?
§ Mr. SEDDON
There are certain trade unions supporting it, especially in the cotton trade. I have received more than one telegram from the large organisations in that industry. Under the new Clause proposed, that industry will not be touched, because the strength of their organisation makes it impossible for any Home Secretary to inflict on the industry something it does not want. But there are other industries, and I want to speak particularly of that, which is the staple industry of the constituency represented by the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton). I mean the glass industry. During the inquiry, from that industry there were representations made, not only by the employers, but by the workmen. The workmen's representative pointed out that, so far as women and young persons were concerned, unless the two-shift system was continued the industry would not only suffer, but would practically be destroyed. You cannot in some manufacturing processes disregard the laws of nature. In the glass industry there must be continuous working, and for that industry, which affects vitally 100,000 people, the one-shift system would be ruinous and would bring disaster upon that community.
§ Mr. SEXTON
Glass and certain other industries may be exempted under the Bill and are embodied in the Washington Convention which the Bill proposes to carry out.
§ Mr. SEDDON
If you are going to allow this Clause, place it entirely under the guidance and jurisdiction of the Home Office.
§ Mr. SEDDON
My hon. Friend says that there should not be a wholesale application of this system. He admits it is good for St. Helens because the life of the community is at stake there. An hon. Member told me yesterday that the Dunlop Tyre Company have said practically definitely that, unless this is conceded by this House, that one firm will have to displace the labour of 500 women, which may jeopardise the whole of that industry. During the War we brought in large numbers of women into industry and many new industries were made 853 possible by women's labour. You want to say now that because the War is over those women who served you are of no account, and that you are to stand by what you think is principle, and this great army of women, who were not only of service but saved the country, are to have no consideration whatever. Take the position in Glasgow. During the War, in the bakery trade many women patriotically took the place of the men who went to the War, and many of those women are the widows of men who fell in the War. The male portion of the trade union in Glasgow have said that women shall not be employed in the bakeries. It was women's work before the War, during the War, and now, and yet they say that these women shall not enter into the bakeries, because of the power of a particular trade union in Scotland. Surely, if there is any honesty in this talk of equality of sex at least you will give to the women the opportunity of earning their daily bread in the industries of the country. We have enfranchised a large number of women, and we have a large body of them who cannot hope for a decent existence unless they are permitted to enter into the industries of the country. I join with my hon. and gallant Friend in saying that no industry should be conducted so as to jeopardise the health of the women and children of this country, and that no industry should be carried on which wishes to exploit the real wealth of the country, namely, the women and children. But when we come to legislate we have got to remember the place of the women in modern industry, and if we can make regulations that will safeguard their health and protect them against wrong then we should enable them to take part in the economic struggle, and to build up industry. That I think is our moral responsibility and our obvious duty. I never in the whole of my life gave more hearty support to any proposal than I am giving to this. I say on behalf of the women, and on behalf of the young persons, whom we want to get, not into blind alleys but into regular occupations, I have the greatest possible pleasure in seconding this Clause.
I ask the House to reject this Clause for various reasons. I do not ask them to do so because I have any objection to the two-shift system as a system, but because I have an objection to the two-shift system as it is proposed 854 to be applied to women and young persons. I am prepared to argue that, so far as women and young persons are concerned, it is not a good thing for them. It is all very well to argue about equality of sex, but why if the sexes are to be equal so far as employment is concerned should women and young persons be debarred from working at night? So that there is not equality of sex so far as employment is concerned, and even those who have moved this new Clause are not prepared to argue that there is equality of sex. We all know that the two-shift system, so far as women and young persons are concerned, came into operation during the War, and when so much is being made just now about some industries being continuous processes and all the rest of it, I wish somebody would tell us whether those industries had their continuous processes before the War or not. If they were continuous before the War, why is it necessary to have those which arose during the War in order to continue those which were carried on before the War? I was rather struck in reading the Report of the Second Reading of this Bill to find that hon. Members on all sides of the House were unanimous in condemning the two-shift system except one hon. Member, who said that there was no justification for seeking the continuance of war conditions in peace time unless they could be shown to be advantageous to the people employed. This particular Clause was discussed in Committee. It was seriously discussed, and was deleted by 22 votes to 5. Why on earth, after a decision of that kind in a Grand Committee, a Departmental Committee was set up I do not understand.
I want to say one or two things about that Departmental Committee, because if there is one organisation in the country that ought to have been represented on a body that was going to inquire into the conditions of employment of women and young persons, it surely should have been the great textile industry. I have in my hands some comments which show that the Joint Committee of the Industrial Women's Organisation have some rather serious things to say with regard to the Committee. They say that their committee, which gave evidence through two of its members representing about one million organised women, were surprised to find that that evidence was treated as of less importance than that 855 of a small number of individual workers selected, not through their organisation, but by some other methods which are not described. Then I have also in my hand a description of one of those methods. I am told that Miss Symons, who gave evidence for the National Federation of Women Workers, was accompanied by one of their workers who had worked until recently on the shift system at Dunlop's. After she had given her evidence three girls were brought up by their employers to give evidence on the other side, but they were not selected by their fellow workers; they were picked out by the management.
From my experience among women workers in Lancashire—and I have in the organisation of which I happen to be secretary over ten thousand women workers, I sit on the executive committee of an amalgamation which represents over one hundred thousand women workers, and I am also connected with the larger body of textile workers containing many more still—I venture to say, take any question you like affecting the women workers of Lancashire or of the country generally, if you allow the employer or manager to be present and question some of their own women about things they want them to say, women workers will too often say what they are wanted to say by their employers. I am saying what I have had experience of, for I have had time after time to protest to employers when the very same women who have told the employer one story in his room have come into my office and have told an entirely different story. Therefore I am sorry the Departmental Committee seem to have attached so much importance to some of the evidence put before them. I am not prepared to attach as great an amount of importance to the evidence of individual workers as I am prepared to attach to that of representative women speaking on behalf of women's organisations.
What does that Departmental Committee say? They say that the continuance of the two-shift system is required during the transition period of demobilisation and resettlement, and so long as the essential industries are hampered in production by a shortage of male labour. Does the Departmental Committee, in spite of what was stated in this House, 856 mean to say it is only to be continued so long as there is a shortage of male labour? If so, then what becomes of the argument about equality of sexes Then they go on to say there has been no suggestion that it would be adopted in the great textile industry, or in some other of the, staple industries of the country. The hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Seddon) said that this new Clause would not apply to the textile industry, and what did he give as his reason? Not that it would be good for the textile industry, not that it would be good for the workers, but because their unions would keep it out.
§ 3.0 P.M.
If that is the argument to be used—that the strength of the organisations will keep the two-shift system out, it is because the workpeople through their organisations believe it would not be a good thing for the workers in the organisation. I might go on quoting from that Report, but there are some arguments I want to use altogether apart from it. I want to argue, taking the health standpoint, that to prolong the hours of labour, I do not mean of individual workers, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. is bound to be a bad thing for the workers engaged in those industries. I am going to admit there has been a great improvement in the atmosphere of many of our factories in recent years, but there are employers in this House who, I am certain, will agree that the atmosphere in many of our factories, especially in the summer time, and at about three o'clock in the afternoon, is not conducive to good health. I have worked in a factory myself, and from my own experience on a warm day I say that at three o'clock in the afternoon one begins to feel very fagged. Even from the recruiting returns, and remembering all that has been said about the C 3 population, I think it may be gathered that where you have the largest number of women workers employed in industry, there you find the worst physique among those who come forward for the Army. It is often argued that for women and young persons to commence work before 6 a.m., which frequently means leaving home soon after 5 a.m., to go to work without breakfast., and to have to work two or three hours before they get a meal, 857 is surely a condition of things that is not conducive to the good health either of the women themselves or of the children that they may bear. It has been argued in this House, before I was a Member, and it has been argued on platforms and in the Press all over the country, that for a married woman to turn out early in the morning in order to follow her employment, with a young child in her arms, which she has to carry to some neighbour's house to be nursed, is not a good thing for the country, and I am rather surprised that the hon. Member for Hanley, who some of us used to be pleased to follow, now seems to be the mouthpiece for every retrograde movement. We all know it will be a step backwards if anything is done to compel women and young persons to again start work before six a.m. In our great textile industry quite recently the work-people themselves asked for a later morning start. Our employers, because they were sensible men, agreed that it would be for the benefit of the workers, and we came to an agreement with them that the later morning start should come into operation. To ask that women and young persons, in spite of all the evidence, should be again called upon to start work at 6 o'clock in the morning is a big step backwards. There are other arguments against the two-shift system, with all that it entails. There are some members of a family going out to work at 6 o'clock in the morning, and others going out to work at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and returning home after 10 o'clock at night, and the house having to be carried on from before 6 in the morning until after 10 at night is not a good thing for home life. It is not a good thing for women and young persons, especially females, to be out on our streets after 10 o'clock at night returning from their employment. It is for these reasons that I am opposing this proposed new Clause.
Other arguments were adduced in favour of the Clause. It was argued that it would decrease unemployment, I do not know where they get their evidence. With all the unemployed on our streets to-day, surely it is not a good thing for the country that we should make more provision for the employment of women and young persons, so long as we do not find employment for all the men. I am afraid that behind a suggestion of this kind is a desire, not to find employ- 858 ment merely for women and young persons, but to find employment for a class of labour which can be employed at a cheaper rate than men, and that those who are so anxious to find employment for women and young persons do not desire to pay a living wage to men, and they do not seem to care—I am sorry to have to say it—how many men there may be unemployed, so long as they can carry on their industry with the labour of women and young persons at a cheaper rate than they could employ men. What we want in this country is a healthy manhood, an employed manhood, and if we cannot find work for all our men, for goodness sake let us try to keep our women and young persons at home a bit longer, and give them a chance. Until we get to the time when we can find employment for all our men, I hope we shall not hear anything more of the argument that we are diminishing unemployment by finding work for women and young persons.
Who are they who support this particular Clause? I find there are a few political organisations of women, but, on the other side, I find every great industrial organisation, including women in their membership, of the contrary view, and only the other Saturday, when this question was discussed at a Conference of textile workers, representing the whole of the textile industry, a resolution was passed protesting against this particular Clause being inserted in the Bill. They did more than protest. Contained in that resolution was a determination, and a decision, that they would use the power of their organisation, and strike against any attempt to introduce the early morning start again into the textile industry. I have been connected with the textile industry since I was 13 years of age, when I worked full time in the mill. I have been connected with it all my life since, and, as I said before, I represent now an organisation of women workers. We are opposed to this system in the interests of the women themselves.
When it is argued that, because women did this work during the War, they should be allowed to continue it, I would point out that young persons under 16 worked during the War. Why not allow them to continue? It is said that some of the women workers themselves desire its continuance. I know workers who worked on night shifts, and worked all 859 night during the War, who foolishly said they preferred it to working during the day, because it gave them more liberty during the day, and they could go to the pictures and enjoy themselves. Women, like men, are sometimes foolish, and it is because we know that some of our women workers, like some of our men workers, desire to do things which are not good for them, that we have our factory inspectors, and various other things in operation to prevent women and men alike from doing exactly what they desire. So that it is not a strong argument to say that, because some women workers desire this thing to be continued, it is good for the women themselves. I am prepared to say, from my experience amongst women workers, that the women workers of this country do not want the two-shift system, and therefore we ask the House to look at this matter, not from the point of view altogether of the welfare of the industry, but from the point of view of the welfare of women and young persons in the country; and if they will look at it, as I hope every Member will, from the point of view of whether they would like their own women and children to start work before 6 o'clock in the morning, or continue work, or be on the streets, after 10 o'clock at night, then I am certain they will vote against this new Clause.
§ Major GRAY
In venturing to offer to the House a few comments on this proposal, may I say I am not inspired by any organisation of workers or employers, but am speaking of the things I do know, after a lifelong acquaintance with women and young persons as described in this Clause, and with their homes and home conditions. I often listen with very considerable interest to the speeches delivered in this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Hanley (Mr. Seddon). He will forgive me if I say I never heard him less effective and less conclusive than this afternoon; but I am not surprised, because he had a bad case. The Mover of the new Clause stated that if he were satisfied that this would injuriously affect the health or comfort of women and young persons he would not proceed with it. Had he a closer knowledge of the homes of the poor and the homes of the workers, he would have needed no medical evidence to assure him that, to say the very least of it, employment at 6 o'clock in the 860 morning cannot be beneficial either to the health or comfort. Does anyone suggest that it is beneficial for a girl of 14? That is a young person. A young person is a person between the ages of 14 and 16, as defined by the Education Act, 1918.
§ Mr. INSKIP
There is no suggestion in the Clause that anybody below the age of 16 shall be so employed.
§ Major GRAY
As I understand, the definition of a young person is as I have given it. It is certainly in one Act of Parliament. But assume it to be the age of 16. I put it to the advocates of this Clause, has any one of them ever listened to the clatter of clogs on the cobbles of a Lancashire industrial town, when the feet of the little workers are wending their way to the mills, while the listener is lying comfortably in bed. Some two hours later the street lamps are put out! She is trudging along those streets in all weathers, this little Lancashire lass, thinly clad, with shawl around her head, clattering along to the mills at an age of life when for her health, and undoubtedly for her comfort—and for the future of the race—that young girl—the future mother—ought to be within the comfort of the home, and not moving towards the mill.
"Equality of the sexes" is talked about by some. Carry it, then, to its logical conclusion. If the man and the woman in this matter of labour are to be exactly equal, will the man when he has finished his eight-hours' shift go home to the wash-tub? The woman will do so. Will the man, before he goes out at two o'clock in the afternoon, see that the meals are prepared, and the house put in order? What is to be the life of a women under this system? She will he leaving home at half-past five in the morning, or at half-past one in the afternoon, returning in the one case at half-past two, and in the other case at half-past ten p.m. What is to be the home life of the worker under conditions like that—of the wife and the children, the boys and the girls—and for what purpose? To satisfy the nation's need? I do not believe it! I heard exactly the same cry that I have listened to this afternoon when, thirty years ago, we raised in this House the age for exemption from labour from nine till 10. I heard it again when we raised it from 10 to 11. I have heard it at every stage of the uplifting of the industrial life of this country. It is with keen regret that I heard it raised again to-day.
861 If the industry of this nation cannot be maintained, and prosperity cannot be realised, without exploiting boys and girls at the age of sixteen, then indeed, we have entered on the down-grade in this country. But I do not for a moment believe it. I was amazed to hear the statement made by the seconder of this Motion. The representatives of the textile industries need not trouble about this Clause. Their trade unions will never work it. They are strong. They are strong, and therefore can protect their women and children. This House will impose it upon the weak! The case has not been argued on its merits. If it be good for St. Helens, it is good for the fertile industries of Lancashire. If it be bad for one, it is equally bad for the other. Here let me remark that I am not now arguing the merits of the two-shift or the three-shift system per se. I am arguing it as it applies to women and young persons, and to them and them alone.
It is a shame that we should attempt to use the necessities of war time to make gross inroads in our Factory Acts. Impose this burden upon the women and young people of this country? I know these young people. I have practically spent all my life directly in their interests. I tell the House without an instant's hesitation that, under the circumstances we are considering, the health and character both deteriorate; their educational progress is wholly stopped, and, unfortunately, it is stopped at a stage when it has not been sufficiently well-founded to exercise a lasting influence upon life. Just at the very period when, especially the girl, is open to all temptations, when she is subject to a multitude of influences which it takes perception to discover, just at that very stage you throw these young people into the vortex of industry! I say without hesitation—I have seen it in hundreds and hundreds of cases—both health and character deteriorated. The strength of life within them is not sufficient to withstand the strain, and if we can, as assuredly we can, may we not postpone their entrance to the great struggle of life until physically and mentally they are strong enough to withstand the strain? Is there a man who, when he thinks of himself when he was young, would dare to vote for this Clause'? I went through this, and I know. No power on earth would induce me to 862 favour a Clause which would impose upon those that which I went through. There is no man in the House who has been through it or seen it at close quarters who would vote for this Clause. The theorist, the economist, the man who views the matter from afar, and takes a superficial interest in it, who has had no personal contact with those concerned or interest in the question—I can understand him going into the Division Lobby in favour of this Clause. I assert that no real friend of the workers will vote for this Clause.
We are about to start a system of day continuation classes. This House in 1918 placed upon the Statute Book one of the most beneficent Acts of this century. What effect will this system have upon the operation of that Act? "None," I am told by some hon. Members. I suppose I ought not to be dogmatic, but I know one cannot always avoid being dogmatic, because, as I heard from the opposite Benches, "every time you open your mouth out flies a dogma." I shall try to avoid being dogmatic in the ordinary sense, and I can only, therefore, put my own experience against that of my hon. Friend. He says this will have no influence upon the young persons. I am taking some active part in the setting up of the day continuation schools in this country, and that has brought me into contact with young persons, parents, and employers pretty considerably. I hear from every quarter that this will exercise an injurious influence upon the workers at the day continuation schools. I am not alone in that view. Although I said I was not getting resolutions from any association, yet I have received several resolutions, not from trade unions, not from political organisations, but from educational authorities up and down the country, begging and praying that this Clause shall not be put into operation, be cause they foresee the injury which it will inflict on the child life of this country.
May I, in conclusion, suggest that the country does not stand in dire need, now the War is over, of a Clause of this character. The case for it has not been made out, and if it once be admitted that the Clause ought to be rejected, and the health and comfort of the women and children will be affected, the opposition to this Clause ought to succeed. I hope the Government will leave us to deal with this as we think fit, without governmental 863 influence. I shall not hesitate to vote against the Government on a matter of this sort. In the interests of the young child, and particularly the girl, but in the interests of the wife and mother, to whom this Clause applies, in the interests of family life, the home, and the workers, surely we ought to strain every nerve to make the house of the worker the real home of the worker. Many of the workers live in dwellings in which they have never known what real home life is and cannot know. Do not impose a further obstacle to that bliss, and to a real knowledge of home life. In the interests of the individuals immediately concerned, in the interests of the future of our race, and those who will be the offspring of those you are now striving to drive into the factory and workshop, I beg the House to reject this Clause.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I have been deeply moved by the effective speech of the hon and gallant Member who has just sat down. I think it has had more effect on the House than any of the other speeches, because the hon. Member is speaking with such obvious sincerity. It seems to me, however, that his remarks were scarcely germane to this proposal. If this were a proposal to raise the exemption age, then it seems to me his remarks would be germane, but I cannot see how they apply to a proposal of this kind, which alters not the age or the sex of the people you may employ, but the conditions under which they must be employed. The hon. and gallant Member said if it could be shown that this was detrimental to the health of the home life of the workers, then the House should vote against it. I do not think he made out that case, but he made out a very strong case against the employment of young persons and girls about the age of sixteen. Those of us who know the physiological influences which affect girls of that age must acknowledge the force of his proposal. He asked if in the case of the women who went out at two o'clock in the afternoon to work, would the men have to prepare the meals? Surely that is an argument against the employment of women in industry altogether and not an argument against this proposal!
The question is, would she have an easier time if she works eight hours in the middle of the day or eight hours in the afternoon and evening? I submit 864 that the hon. Member's zeal and sincerity have led him rather to slur over the essential points. We are not discussing whether a new class of young women and persons should be brought into industry, but we are discussing under what conditions they can be most usefully employed. We are not discussing the question whether women or young persons should be employed in industry, and that is not the question. We are discussing what factory hours would be most suitable for them. It certainly seems to me, as one who is most anxious for shorter hours of employment, that if we negative the proposal to have two shifts we wipe out of court altogether the chance of getting a really short working day. Is it practical to suggest that eventually we shall get the hours shortened to a six-hour shift, and that for the remaining hours the factory must stand idle?
§ Captain ELLIOT
I bow to the superior knowledge of the hon. Member on this question. We cannot put restrictions on a factory which would cause it to stand idle for such a long period. Take the very case of the education of a young person to which the hon. and gallant Member (Major Grey) referred. If the shift is only to be one of eight hours, is it suggested that the necessary educational facilities will have to be given at the factory? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then if they are not to be given at the factory, they will have to be still shorter, because an eight hours day would preclude the possibility of finding accommodation for continuation classes for these young persons, whereas if you shorten the day to six hours, the education of these young persons could be continued. I am not pressing this point as representing any organisation, or as a reactionary step to pass more women and young persons into the industrial mill, because it is my object to restrict them as far as possible from the meshes of that damnable net. I cannot see that the rejection of this proposal would help the ideals hon. Members have set before us, and it is for that reason that I shall support either this Clause, or the Clause which provides that there should be two shifts of six and a half hours per day. Unless the principle be admitted that it would 865 be a good thing to keep the machinery running as long as possible, and the workers working as short as possible, it seems to me that you cannot expect any great progress in shortening the hours of industry. Then there is the problem of the hours during which the factory is to be run, and the hours during which the workpeople are to work. It seems to me that by organisation you can get rid of that stale atmosphere, and that tendency to lassitude to which the hon. Member who moved the rejection of this Clause referred as coming on about 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
It has been said that you must not run a factory too long, but I have not such a great tenderness for the factory, and I prefer to consider the ease of the person who is working in the factory. Perhaps I am a little pessimistic in this matter, but certainly those of us who have studied the problem of fatigue in industrial factories are in favour of shortening the hours as far as this can be done. We realise that you do in many cases get a greater output with a shorter day. I am with hon. Members all the way in Shortening the hours during which the individual worker is to work, but, when hon. Members take the standpoint that the essential thing is the factory, and that it is impossible to control the hours of labour unless you control the organisation, I join issue with them. I can and I do sympathise deeply with the distrust that Members of the Labour party feel for anything which would whittle away in the very slightest the safeguards which largely by their work have been introduced for the protection of the under-dogs in industry. There is a statue in this House to that, so-called great statesman, John Bright. There is no statue to a far greater man, who did a far nobler work, and who will be remembered far longer by the workers of this country, the great Lord Shaftesbury. Do hon. Members realise that, in 1844, there was a proposal brought forward in this House to limit the hours during which children were to work to 12 per day—a limitation which that great statesman, John Bright, fought tooth and nail, and defeated?
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
Was that a proposal to reduce the hours of work for children? It has been denied again and again that John Bright ever opposed the protection of children. Grown people, yes, but not children.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I looked it up in the Library, and I have a quotation here from a paper which the hon. Gentleman will no doubt respect, the "Westminster Gazette," in which it is stated:In 1844, Sir James Graham proposed to reduce the working hours of children in factories to 12 per day, and Lord Ashley (Lord Shaftesbury) moved an Amendment to reduce them to 10. Bright, who was a mill-owner, attacked Ashley and defeated the proposal, and for six years that proposal was held up.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
That is not the statement which the hon. and gallant Gentleman made. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] He made the statement that Bright opposed a proposal to reduce the hours to 12. He is now stating that a Bill was introduced to reduce them to 12, and Bright opposed an Amendment which would have reduced them to 10. There may have been perfectly good reasons for that opposition.
§ Captain ELLIOT
No doubt the hon. Gentleman's Liberal feelings have been hurt, but Bright not only resisted the Amendment; he resisted and defeated the Bill. That is sufficient reason for the disgust which hon. Members opposite feel for any proposal to whittle away these limitations which they have so painfully and laboriously placed upon the Statute Book. In spite of all that, I beg them to consider the question from the point of view of the individual worker and not from the point of view of the organisation. I would put a question to those of them who have far greater experience in industrial matters than I have myself. I simply look at it from the scientific point of view of the effect on the individual worker, and I say that one would wish to shorten the hours of the worker and not of the building in which he works, and this proposal to introduce a system which as far as I can see will shorten to a great extent the hours of the individual worker deserves the careful consideration and the support of hon. Members of this House.
§ Mr. SUGDEN
We have discussed this question this afternoon from the academicals and theoretical standpoint, as also from the standpoint of the employé. I think it is right that the House should know that the employers of this country as a whole are against the employment of women on a two-shift basis. My hon. and gallant Friend (Captain 867 Elliot) very properly suggested that the real consideration was the bearing of the inopportune hours of labour upon the human being, and not upon either the machinery or the organisation of an industry. We entirely agree with him. I would like, however, to put to him this further consideration. The suggestion of a two-shift that he makes for shortening the hours of labour is not the only alternative. The textile trades (the cotton and the woollen trades) employ more women and young persons than any other trade or industry in the country. Therefore, when my hon. Friends, speaking from the Labour Benches with great expert knowledge, tell us that the employés do not desire this change, I want to say that there is no body of employers, and more especially no body of textile employers, who take the view which my hon. and gallant Friend has just suggested. Did he do us the honour to study the industries of the country, particularly those which employ women and children, he would know that during the last six years we have little by little reduced the hours of labour, and pro rata with that reduction, have in many cases increased the production of textiles. I suggest that it is a practicable and feasible proposition, by co-ordinating the factors of expert craftsmanship and machinery, and by the splendid and amicable relationships which obtain, and we hope will continue, between employers and employed, in the near future to get a more increased production with even a shorter number of hours than those he suggests. At the moment that is not practicable or possible, but employers and employed are coming together, and I suggest that it is not necessary to have the two-shift system to get the shortening of hours necessary for the workers.
What is the bearing of the two-shift system on the home and upon the health and well-being of the people? That is the first and most vital consideration. Secondly, is it possible to enable women and young persons to have their proper part and proper protection and opportunity in industry? The third consideration is to see that there is full opportunity for the employment of these young persons and women who find it essential for the maintenance of their own self-respect and upkeep of the home to take 868 part in industry. Fourthly—and to my mind an essential one from the employers' standpoint—we want to see that we have increased production. These are the four factors which I think should be considered, but the first and the most vital consideration is that of the health of the people, and the bearing of the two-shift system on the home, the women, and the children. What is the medical evidence before the Committee which was presided over so splendidly by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Inskip)? In passing, I deplore the fact that it is impossible for Members of this House to obtain copies of the minutes of evidence then taken. I tried at the Vote Office this afternoon, but it is not possible, and I think it is only fair to hon. Members that they should be able to peruse the evidence, and come to conclusions of their own, especially when we see, I will not say the improper method of drafting of this Report, but rather the looseness and the slackness with which conclusions are arrived at. In saying that, I do not depreciate the capacity to preside over this Committee shown by my hon. and learned Friend, for under the circumstances it was impossible for him to make a better Report. Dr. Legge, who is His Majesty's Medical Inspector of Factories "said he was "surprised that digestive disturbance was not found to result"; but he stated that there was no direct evidence of any such defects.
I have carefully scrutinised the Health and Welfare of Workers Clause in this Report. Those of us who have had opportunities of taking part in and dealing with the education of the country and the county, those of us who know the defective children, those of us who have studied, since the War, the result on the young women working in munition factories, and the cripples, and the epileptic children, and the mentally incapable children since born—comparing there with those who were born of women in industry and of women who can spend their lives in the homes—I say it is a terrible responsibility which this House will accept, does it pass this Clause, making it possible for women to work under the two-shift system. The digestive consideration is a minor consideration, although important; but we have to consider all the factors in respect to health and its bearing on the future men and women. In these days some of 869 these mothers are compelled to spend their time in the mills and workshops.
Something has been said about the conditions which obtain in these mills and workshops. I want to say that the employers of this country as a whole—my hon. Friends on the Labour Benches may take exception to what I am saying—are prepared to utilise every great science and scientific application they can to make the mills and workshops fit and hygienic, but the products of the textile industries, both wool and cotton, require certain conditions to make them efficient and useful which are not helpful to the health of the people employed in those industries. And I challenge my medical friends, the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Elliot), who has a high position in the medical profession, and other members of that profession, to give to me any system which will make either a woollen mill or a cotton mill under the two-shift system clean, hygienic, and helpful to the work and the efficiency of the men and women who work in them.
We want to do all that is possible and to utilise everything that is known to science, irrespective of cost, but it is a very difficult matter. The workers in the cardroom to-day are breathing dust and material which comes from what they utilise and handle, which is against the health of the people, and, so long as cotton is necessary and wool must be utilised for clothing the people, these heroes in industry—and we as employers recognise the fact—have to work under these somewhat unhygienic conditions. I will say this for the textile employers as a whole, that there is not another industry which has that same co-operative consideration between the worker and the employer, one for the other, than that obtaining in the woollen and cotton industries. Whereas labour will fight this Clause, I want to tell them that we as employers mean to fight the Clause, and to see that the proper conditions obtain, for we feel that not even the balance-sheet is the most dominant consideration.
Although we have heard a good deal in this House about great cotton and woollen profits, there is no industry which is passing through such a terrible crisis financially as these industries. Yet, with all that, we say that we will not be parties to the two-shift system in the textile trades. Again, I 870 want to say that as an industry we have utilised all the welfare conditions which are offered by the Home Office—splendid conditions some of them are, too, and I want to pay my tribute to the Home Secretary for his help in the matter. We have done more in our industry in regard to welfare conditions than any other industry in the country. Something has been said about physique statistics in regard to recruiting, and some little time ago I asked the Secretary of State for War in a question if he would give to us the figures of the cotton, woollen, and other industrial areas of how these matters have applied, so that in respect to any further conditions of hours of labour, those considerations could be applied. For the moment he has not been able to obtain figures. I suggest that in respect to the health of the people this peculiar method of labour called the two-shift system would be against the physique and the health of the employés and of the children who are to come.
There is another consideration and factor. In our North country homes, although the women work perhaps more in factories than they do in the Southern homes, the home has a greater consideration in the life and the education and the up-bringing of the children than in other parts of the country. By education, I do not mean book-learning, but the enlargement of character. If the women of Lancashire and Yorkshire homes are to have their opportunity to enlarge, brighten and give greater vision to the children, and to give them their opportunities in the body politic, it is essential that the women should have their opportunities at home. Something may be said about cinematographs and picture halls. If this were a fitting and a proper opportunity, one would like to show that even there our Lancashire, Yorkshire and North Country women do more in their homes in the evening hours—with all the cinematograph halls in their midst, and even though they accept their position in regard to earning their bread in the mills—for their children than is done in any other part of the country. Therefore, I suggest that the domesticity of our North Country women is more pronounced than it is in the south.
§ Mr. SUGDEN
I challenge my hon. and Noble Friend to disprove my statement 871 that North Country women bake, cook, mend, darn, clothe, and train their children better in the homes than they do in the Southern counties. The real home life of the people will suffer if the women are to be taken from their homes and put into factories and workshops. My hon. and gallant Friend (Major Gray) always speaks with great authority on matters of education, and here again the employers in these Northern counties are utilising to the very uttermost any and every opportunity to let their employés go to the Universities to receive that training which the industrials of this country have so long and so greatly neglected in respect of industry. Why is it that the employés in the United States are more efficient and more capable in regard to many of their industries? It is because the employers there, more so than in this country, have seen the necessity of their employés entering the Universities, and being trained to understand the position and place of finance, and the position and place of labour, in regard to its monetary value in respect of production. The employers of this country have made up their minds that that splendid and magnificent Act, the Fisher Act of 1918, shall be utilised to the full. Can my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Bowyer), who moved this Motion, show me how it is possible that educational facilities shall be enlarged if this two-shift system be employed?
To my mind it would be improper to pass from this question without saying a word or two on the matter of trade. Production and output are vital and essential, but I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend, when he speaks about production and output and the necessity for greater production, to look around the markets of the country to-day, and tell me if he can say with full practical knowledge that it is a vital and essential factor that, by a two-shift system, we must improve our production, in order to be able to face the competition in the markets of the world.
§ Captain BOWYER
As I am challenged, may I say that we have not only to think of production, but also to think of the decrease in the cost of production, and that is vital, especially now. May I remind my hon. Friend that I said that, if it could be proved to me that this Clause 872 will militate against the health and comfort of the people to any serious extent, I will give up the whole economic proposals for it, and say that we will have no Clause at all.
§ Mr. SUGDEN
I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not think that I desired to suggest that he was considering the question of production rather than health. I do not think I said that. What I said was that he suggested that by a two-shift system we could get more production. That does not obtain in those trades of which I have special knowledge. May I remind him of what I said a moment ago, namely, that in the textile trades the hours have lessened, and yet the improvement and speeding up of machinery, and the co-operation between employer and employé, have given greater production. That is a fact. I say that with scientific organisation in industry, with better education, with the better understanding between employer and employé, both working in that spirit of camaraderie which ought to obtain in all sections of industry, with more idealism, we shall get more production, and with fewer hours of labour. What is retarding production in this country to-day? Is it the employé? I say not. Is it the employer? I say not. It is due, in some degree, to the Excess Profits Duty and taxation, and if that be so—
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SUGDEN
I stand corrected, and I thank you, Mr. Speaker. What did this Committee, when it reported on this question of production, say?We recognise that the experience of the system is limited, and the whole question has not yet passed out of the experimental stage.I, for one, as an employer, am not prepared, after we have been experimented upon by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to be experimented upon now by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. I am afraid that the dissection and anatomical surgery would be rather too difficult and too painful. Every employer of labour knows that intensive production is necessary and helpful if your country is to fulfill all her obligations and responsibilities. While, however, I deprecate any spirit of "ca-canny" on the part of either employés or employers, 873 I say that, if it is a question of getting production out of the blood and sinew of our workers, we in the textile trades are not prepared to do it; and I say that what obtains with us obtains through the whole gamut of the employing classes. I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend not to press this Motion to a division, but rather to give us opportunities of facing our difficulties in regard to financial and other matters, and of taking steps to meet competition. That spirit of camaraderie which should obtain through every stratum and every section of industry, whether employer or employed, will furnish the solution of the difficulties and uncertainties with which we are faced at the present time.
§ Mr. INSKIP
No one can doubt the sincerity of my hon. Friend who has just spoken, or the admirable sentiments which he has expressed. Whether, however, they have any very close connection with the proposal before the House I take leave to doubt. Perhaps, before I come to some of the arguments in favour of this proposal I may deal with one or two misconceptions which appear to exist as to the nature of the proposals contained in the Clause. I very much doubt if my hon. and gallant Friend beside me (Major Gray) or my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Sugden) has read the Clause as it appears on the Paper; and I doubt very much also whether my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Gray) has read the Report of the Departmental Committee, of which I had the honour to be a Member. It is not that I attach any particular importance to the Report, but I do attach importance to the evidence which was the foundation of the Report. It may be the vice of the profession to which I belong that we pay more attention to evidence than to sentiment. One of the criticisms which I should like to clear out of the way is, that this proposal will interfere with the administration of the Fisher Act of 1918. My hon. Friend opposite nods his head. Let me say to hint, and to my hon. Friend beside me, that the Fisher Act, for seven years after it comes into operation, applies only to persons up to the age of 16, while the particular proposal before the House excludes everyone except persons of the age of 16 and upwards. When the seven years have elapsed, and the continuation schools apply to persons of 16 to 18, the experimental period which is now sug- 874 gested will also come to an end, and the whole question will be reviewed in the light of the greater experience then obtained, and also of the experience of the Fisher Act as applied during the next seven years to young persons up to the age of 16. So far as the proposals before the House are concerned, they will not conflict, in any shape or form with the administration of the Education Act of 1918. I am sure that will relieve my hon. Friend opposite.
§ Mr. SUGDEN
I should like to ask my hon. and learned Friend if he has cognisance of the difficulties and the lack of opportunities in regard to adult continuation students: if he has knowledge of how the day students compare with the evening students, and of the difference the two-shift system will make to the evening students and the day continuation students?
§ Mr. INSKIP
My hon. Friend asks me to embark on a controversy upon the Education Act which I apprehend to be as much out of order as his own observations on the financial matters which he mentioned. I only state that, so far as the Education Act of 1918 and the continuation schools are concerned, they are nothing to do with the proposal before the House. I should like also to clear up a misconception which appears to prevail in the mind of all the speakers who have so strenuously, though sincerely, opposed this proposal. Whether it is an accident or not that they all happen to hail from Lancashire I cannot say, but with one accord they have declared that the textile industry is opposed to the present proposals. It may interest them to know that the Committee was informed that the textile industries had no intention or desire to work this system on the part of the employers or the workpeople. It therefore became of very little interest to the Committee to hear evidence, although it was not proffered, from the textile industry, and I think we expressed ourselves in our Report that we had no evidence that there would be any attempt to put it into force in that industry. My hon. Friend, who is so closely connected with the cotton industry, may be relieved to know that the Home Secretary will not force this system upon them. He will make no order until my hon. Friend puts in an application that it may be 875 worked in his factory, and that is the essence of the system which is proposed, that orders are to be granted by the Home Secretary upon the application of employers, who assuredly will never be able to put this system into operation unless they have the goodwill of their employés. That seems to me to be a fundamental misconception under which all my hon. Friends labour in the speeches they have made to-day, as if this was a compulsory system which is to be enacted and accepted by employers and work-people, whether they like it or not. It can only be operated by the goodwill of the workpeople and at the instance of the employers. I think the House may dismiss the textile industry from any further consideration.
A third matter I should like to clear up is that neither the House nor the Committee were the least concerned with the important and difficult questions which arise as to whether it is desirable that women and young persons of the age of sixteen and upwards should be employed in industry or not. We all have our own views, I suppose, and I suppose we should all agree that if it were possible it would be desirable to exclude women altogether, not only in their own interest but in the interest of men, who, after all, ought to bear the great burden of industry in this country. But that is not the question The question is, how are you to make the conditions most suitable for women, it being admitted that they are in industry for good or for ill; and one thing I think everyone feels is that the existing hours are too long for women, and that it is essential that we should by some means obtain their reduction. The effect of the Clause will be to reduce the existing hours, even though they be so low as 48 a week, to something like 41, or even as low as 38 hours, and surely that is not a retrograde movement but a distinct advance upon anything we have hitherto experienced. When my hon. Friends speak of the hardship which will fall upon women who are employed on the two-shift system, they must have overlooked this cardinal fact, that you will relieve the burden which at present rests upon women engaged in industry, and you can only relieve it by adopting some such expedient as the Departmental Committee has suggested shall be made the subject of experiment.
876 One asks whence comes the violent opposition to this proposal, if it is so advantageous as I suggest? A great deal of the opposition has been manufactured in advance, before the facts of the evidence were considered. Speaking for myself and other members of the Departmental Committee, I can say we went into the matter with a perfectly open mind. I knew very little about the question. That may be regarded as a qualification or a disqualification. At any rate, I was impressed by the evidence which came from both sides. We certainly went into it with an open mind, but as much cannot be said for some of the witnesses who came before us, and whose views we are told we ought to have adopted rather than the views of the workers themselves The memorandum which has been issued by Dr. Marion Phillips, with the imprint of the Labour party upon it, was prepared before the Committee met and before the evidence was heard. It is perfectly plain from her statement, as contained in this memorandum, which was drawn up before the evidence was heard, that she had less objection to the system if certain conditions were observed. She contemplates in the memorandum conditions under which it would be perfectly legitimate to apply the two-shift system. She says:If there is some special need in particular trades it would be far better to deal with them by special orders for individual cases rather than by a general provision affecting all.That is, in fact, the system which the Committee has decided to recommend; that there shall be special orders for individual cases and not a general provision affecting everybody. Let us consider what the trades are in which it is suggested this system could be introduced. Last May there were only 15,000 women working under the two-shift system. Therefore, it is not a matter of very widespread interest. I do not suggest that that is the limit to which women will be employed under the system if it is adopted in this Bill, but it is not a system which will cover the whole land. It will not be applied to the great textile and woollen trades in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Dr. Marion Phillips conceded the principle that it could be applied to two classes of industries. One was the class of industry which we call seasonal trades. She assented to the proposition that it was perfectly legitimate, subject to proper safeguards, that the two-shift 877 system should be used in seasonal trades. She also assented to the proposition, that it could be applied to those particular trades where continuous processes were necessary: "On the case being proved, putting the onus of proving it on the employer who applies." Therefore, Dr. Marion Phillips has assented to the proposition that in seasonal trades and in continuous process trades the system might be adopted under proper conditions.
Another witness who was called was Miss Symons, and she was prepared to admit the two-shift system in two cases. She would admit it in the classes of industry where premises are short and where machinery is not obtainable, in order to get over a temporary difficulty. That is what the Committee has recommended, and in respect of these particular trades, what the Home Office would, I suppose, consider and recommend. We have it admitted in those cases. In other cast where it is likely to be employed, it is absolutely essential to the life of the industry that the fullest output should be obtained from machinery and to will be impossible for the industry to continue in existence unless we have the two-shift system. The opposition to this is artificial. Its own advocates have admitted the principle in three cardinal classes of industries which largely engaged the attention of the Departmental Committee. When the principle is given up we simply have to look for proper conditions in the industry. We are to see that this is not permitted to anybody who is likely to work without the supervision of factory inspectors and that it is not continued after experience has shown that it is not in the interest of the workers. All those proposals are in substance contained in this Clause. We are only following the suggestion which the spokesmen of the Labour party, Dr. Marion Phillips and Miss Symons, put before us. Then it is said that the medical evidence is strong and that we ought to have refused to consider the proposal on that ground. But doctor after doctor with the ample experience gained during the War, quite impartial people, have declared that no harm would result.
Have they had the experience of their own daughters working 878 under the system, as some of us have had?
§ Mr. INSKIP
I very much suspect what my hon. Friend is speaking of is the three and not the two-shift system.
§ Mr. INSKIP
We did not consider it necessary to ask the doctors that, because they were speaking as doctors arid not as parents. That was the effect of their evidence. One lady expressed some doubt, not having any experience of the system at all, but they all said that no ill effects could be observed in the workers. What can this House do in the light of that? No medical evidence has been produced showing that any ill effects have resulted, and no case has been made out on medical grounds against it. The Committee on Women's Employment presided over by the hon. and gallant Member for Durham made a report which was signed by Miss Susan Lawrence and Miss Gertrude Tuckwell. Miss Lawrence was invited to give evidence, but found herself occupied on the day on which she was invited to attain. But at any rate we have that Report signed by these ladies, whose bona fides hon. Members will not question, in which they recommend that the matter should be seriously considered. Is not that what the Home Office has done by appointing six persons to hear evidence and report on the evidence? What is recommended is that there shall be an experimental period, during which the Home Office shall watch developments carefully. I think we may say, from our experience of the way in which the factory inspectors do their work, that they protect the workers and look at questions from point of view of the workers. An hon. Member has suggested that those who are friends of the workers would vote one way in this matter, and that those who thought nothing of the workers or regarded them as machines, would vote in favour of the Clause. I respectfully repudiate that idea. I have not had the honour of my hon. Friend's long connection with many great and honourable works for the working classes, but I would say that many hon. Members view this question quite impartially, and that their first consideration will be the welfare of the workers. If this House comes to the conclusion that the proposals of the Clause are desirable and ought to be 879 made the subject of an experiment, they will decide that, not in the interests of the capitalist or manufacturer, but in the highest interests of the workers themselves. We carefully considered the question of employment and the effect upon employment of the adoption of this system, and I do not think hon. Members opposite will gainsay what I say when I state that if the two-shift system were made illegal to-morrow, it would mean the immediate dismissal of a very large number of the 15,000 women at present employed, and the dismissal in a very short time of a very much larger number of men who depend for their employment upon the work of these women.
The suggestion has been made that employers should carry on in the same way as they did before the War. We were told by different employers that as trade has developed new processes have been introduced in which women's work is essential. In many cases the demand for an article has so enormously increased that production must be developed in the public interest, and only women can do certain work. Take, for instance, the cotton-covered wire industry, which is a basis of the electrical industry. Cotton-covered wire can be made only by women; no man is adroit enough for the work. The Post Office is making such heavy demands for the product that the industry is 18 months behind-hand. The women like the work, and they have no objection to beginning at six o'clock in the morning in one week and working till 10 o'clock in the evening in another week. Dismiss half the women and you will diminish the output. That will in turn involve the dismissal of a large number of men in the electrical industry, the total varying from 20,000 to 50,000. It was on those broad grounds we ventured to make our recommendations to the Home Secretary and to the House.
§ Mr. LAWSON
In the report of the evidence Mr. Stuart Russell, on behalf of the Federation of British Industries and the India Rubber Manufacturers' Association, said that they wanted longer hours by working the two-shift system. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that for some months it has been stated that the rubber manufacturers were going to reduce their output. How, under those circumstances, did the Committee attach value to a statement of the kind?
§ Mr. INSKIP
I am not the hon. Gentleman to whom to address that question which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is much more capable of answering. If output is to be reduced, and there are not sufficient orders, then a two-shift system would not be required.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt)
I am sure the House will be very grateful to my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Inskip) for the speech which he has made as to the work of the Committee. May I remind the House how it was that the Committee came to be appointed. A Committee of great weight had strongly recommended that the two-shift system was one which ought to receive further consideration. It had upon it names which must carry great weight, not only with the general community, but in the labour world as well. More than that, Home Office inspectors quite voluntarily in their reports put it forward as their view that women employed on the two-shift system during the War were very anxious for that system to continue. Under these circumstances, the proposal was put into the original Bill. In Committee these statements were strongly contested. It was urged upon the Committee that it was quite a mistake to suppose that women wanted the two shifts continued, or that anyone employed under the system was contented with it. I felt, rightly or wrongly, that that argument weighed more with the Committee than any other, and for that reason I thought it right that the whole question should be sifted, examined, and tested by evidence. That has been done. A Committee, well qualified to take evidence, has reported strongly in favour of recommending to the House the acceptance of this Clause, and in these circumstances I feel, speaking on behalf of the Government, that I must ask the House to accept this Clause. We give it all the support we can.
A great deal of the Debate this afternoon, interesting as it has been, has been very wide of the mark, and indeed almost irrelevant to the Bill. What is our proposal? There is no proposal for new or permanent legislation, but there is a proposal that certain provisions that were adopted during the War, of which we have had some years' experience, should be further continued for a limited period 881 of time, in order that they may be thoroughly investigated, and that the permanent provision eventually decided upon should be based on the best and widest experience. Our factory system is to be overhauled, with a view to further amendments of the law. We are, however, now in the experimental stage with regard to factory legislation. It has been argued as if this Bill were passed it would rest with the Department to force any industry to adopt this system. Nothing could be further from the facts. This does not impose anything on anybody. The simple proposal is that the Home Secretary, if people come to him, and say they want the system continued, shall look into the question, and if he consider proper, give permission subject to such conditions as are necessary for safeguarding the welfare and interests of the persons employed. All the Home Secretary can do is, if he think proper, to make Orders authorising the employment of women and young persons on two day shifts. Nothing is being imposed on anybody. The Committee ignored the question of the cotton industry in Lancashire, because they were distinctly told that the cotton industry did not want this system.
§ Mr. SHORTT
What was the good of asking you to give evidence? You did not want to have anything to do with it? The misconception under which my hon. Friend is labouring is that, because people in the glass industry, or biscuit or margarine industries are allowed to have this, therefore the other industries must have it. The cotton industry is not in the faintest danger from these proposals, unless it changes its mind, and asks to have the proposals extended to it.
§ Mr. LAWSON
You propose to allow those industries which had not used the system before the War to use it now.
If they want to do so, they will come and ask for it, and if it be proper an Order will be made. There are in existence already 191 Orders. 882 There are five Orders in the cotton trade, which have been in existence for some time. In the case of the glass industry, I think it is admitted by Labour Members that an exception might be made. Food is of the greatest importance—margarine and biscuits—the very things in which the cost of production must be reduced if you are going to lower the cost to the people in the country. One of the trades in which Orders have been most extensive is the food trade. The question of unemployment is one of the most urgent matters at this moment, and if we are not allowed to continue these Orders, if the power to make these Orders is to cease, then the amount of unemployment will be very, very serious. My hon. and learned Friend has quoted the case of the cotton-covered wire industry. In that particular trade nearly 1,100 women are employed, and about the same number of young persons. They will all be thrown out of work, and when one lot of people are thrown out of work and cease to produce, others are thrown out in consequence. It is a matter of the most vital importance, at a time when unemployment is going to be so rife, as I believe it will be this winter. I put that before the House for really serious consideration.
I have not gone into the question from the point of view of permanent legislation. This is temporary legislation. There is established a very good case for some further enquiry into this two-shift system with regard to certain industries. When you know that, in addition to it being a temporary continuance for another few years of a system, which has been tried for four or five years, and you see the result of it will be, at any rate, to obviate some of the unemployment, then it is a perfectly fair thing to ask the House to take that into consideration, and to give it weight when it comes to a decision. Here we have a system which was brought into existence during the War, and which has been found to work to the satisfaction of those engaged in it. The evidence as to that is overwhelming. It has not been found that it has had evil effects either upon the health or the moral welfare of those concerned. It has been very strongly opposed by certain industries, but there is nothing here that will affect them in the slightest. Why should people be denied the right to give this a trial, to go on with the further experiment, merely because some other people 883 object to it? I, therefore, ask the House to give us the Second Reading. There may be subsequently certain points that will arise. On these the Government will not take the same strong stand that they take on this Clause; but we do take a strong stand here. I ask for the Second Reading, because it is of great importance, if we desire to uphold our position as leaders of the world commercially and industrially, that we should get the Bill as a whole and ratify these conventions, and get them through as quickly as possible.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I have listened to the Debate, and it is really most difficult for me to make up my mind on this Clause. It would be, I feel, unfair to women if by voting against this you keep some of them out of employment. Yet if it really means that this is going to open the way to using women as cheap labour, it would be wrong for me to vote for it. But it seems to me that it has been made quite evident that it will not interfere with education; also that it is only experimental. I am against the two-shift system for both men and women from the point of view of the home life. If those hon. Members who talk of home life would close the public-houses at 10 o'clock, those concerned would get more home life! The Government, I think, have a good case. It is experimental, and only for five years. By that time, I hope, the young women will be 21, and have the vote. I know the difficulty of getting them into the trade unions. However, by that time they will have, I trust, got the vote, and hon. Members will have to listen to them more attentively than now. Some hon. Members seem to fear the employer, and they have a perfect right to do so where women are concerned. Women have a perfect right to fear trade unions. The Labour party appeal for the women's vote, and yet the trade unions are not fair to the women in many ways. There is one question I would like to ask the Home Secretary. Supposing we decide to erect a textile factory in Essex, and ask for the two-shift system, would the right hon. Gentleman be willing to grant it? That is important because it makes it a little difficult in the case of the textile workers in the North who fought so hard for the hours they have now.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I am afraid it is impossible to answer in regard to some mill about which I have no absolute knowledge.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I hope we have from 7 to 9. Although we want absolutely the same advantages for women as the men have, we nevertheless realise that the women have the housework to do when they get home. If I thought this proposal was going to be permanent, I should vote against it. We must listen to the opinion of this subject of women like Miss Constance Smith and others, who are just as interested in the life of the workers as any of those who represent trade unions. I hope hon. Members will not think that we who support this Clause are trying to let in the thin end of the wedge for cheap labour. While we are willing to support this Clause, we are not willing to have it used for that purpose.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I understand that the Home Secretary is asking the House to pass this Clause, in order to keep faith with the Washington Convention.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
Is it not a fact that this Clause proposes something entirely outside the Washington Convention with which we are asked to keep faith?
It is not often that I intervene in Debate, and I only do so on this occasion because I feel a very real interest in this subject. After the almost unanimous condemnation of this Clause which the Government met with on a previous occasion, I am very sorry that it has been introduced again. It has been said by several speakers that if it could be shown that anything in the Clause would be prejudicial to the health and general well-being of the community, they would not support it. I hope that after the arguments which have been put forward against this Clause so sincerely and forcibly, the right hon. Gentleman will either withdraw the Clause or take off the Government Whips, so as to give the 885 House a free vote on this subject. Remarks have been made about the composition of the Committee. I certainly have nothing detrimental to say about the composition of the Committee. One hon. Member has asked, and I also would like to ask, whether there are any on the Committee who have had any experience of the early-morning start in industry. It has been asked whether any hon. Members have been awakened in their beds by the noise of the clogs in the early morning. I would like to ask hon. Members and the right hon. Gentleman not whether they have been awakened by the noise of the clogs, but have made a noise with the clogs in the early morning themselves, because, if they had, they would have different views. It has been said that there is no need for any opposition from the cotton trade. A very good argument with regard to that has been used by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Bell). It is a remarkable thing that, although this Committee say that there was no need to consider the wish of the textile trade, for the simple reason that they knew it, they make a considerable point of the fact that they had a deputation from one firm, engaged extensively in the textile trade, who were not only in favour of this system, but who had adopted and had had to give it up. This Committee and those who favour the re-introduction of this system ought at any rate to try and be consistent.
I have no mandate either for the trade unionists or for any association of employers with regard to this question, and, if I had, I should take no notice of it; but during a great part of 35 years I wore the clogs which made the noise that awoke the hon. Member, and I claim that an ounce of experience is worth a pound of theory. Although this Committee may have judged only on the evidence, and may not have been actuated by sentiment, I respectfully say that in a case of this sort I make no apology for letting sentiment guide me. I have a mandate from the people of Stockport, to whom I told my views on this question before they elected me. It is not a question of the Government meeting the wishes of a Committee which they have appointed, but rather whether they are meeting the views of the Members of this House and of the people of the country. I do not think anyone who has had the experience that I have had of the early 886 morning start would ever wish to see us go back again to that, and I agree with the hon. Members who have spoken that any return to legislation which would allow a retrograde movement of that sort would be entirely wrong. We have been told that gentlemen like Mr. John Bright opposed legislation to curtail the hours. of labour in factories. Does any hon. Member think that either Mr. John Bright or Lord Shaftesbury, if they were here to-day, would support this Clause? If I had the eloquence of Mr. John Bright or of Lord Shaftesbury, or the two combined, I should use it entirely to try and defeat the re-introduction of such a Clause as this. We are told that we must look at it from all points of view, and that it is more important to consider the health of the workpeople than anything else. We have been told by the supporters of the Clause that they believe it is not so much a question as to the number of hours that the workpeople work in the mill, but rather that the important question is the number of hours that the machinery is put to work in the factory. I would respectfully tell those who have no experience of this that the question of the running of the machinery and the length of time that the machinery runs has a very great bearing indeed on the health of the workers in the mill. If you run the machinery for an 8-hour stretch, and immediately go on to run another 8-hour stretch, I will give an illustration from my experience of what will happen.
It has been stated by the hon. Member for the Ormskirk Division that in the summer time the atmosphere in the mill, even after the ordinary hours of labour, becomes so vitiated that it is almost impossible for anyone to work there any further with any degree of comfort. And let anyone imagine what would be the atmospheric condition of those rooms—I am speaking now particularly with regard to the spinning rooms—after a period of 16 or 17 hours' working! It would probably be a continuous run of 16 hours, because I see the hon. Members who were on this Committee seem to pay very little regard in their Report to the-question of any provision of proper meal hours. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"] I can assure the hon. Members who are so anxious to rise at five that they would not have anything like the same anxiety if they had practised it for about twenty or thirty years. 887 My practice, at any rate, in rising at five o'clock has not been in the evening, bat in the early morning. This morning I watched a procession that showed sincere sympathy with the cause of humanity, and sincere reverence for those who have been fighting in that cause. Right opposite, the office of the right hon. Gentleman there is a monument erected to the memory of those who fought and died in the interests of humanity, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman not to be a party in any sense to the re-introduction of a Clause such as this, which, in my opinion, would not be a monument to—
§ It being Five of the Clock, the Debate stood Adjourned.
§ Debate to he resumed upon Monday next (29th November).
§ The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.