§ "(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.
§ (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 be 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 968 State in pursuance of his powers under this Section, remain in force for a like period."—[Captain Bowyer.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed (26th November), "That the Clause be read a Second time."—[Captain Bowyer.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ Mr. BARTLEY DENNISS
I intend to vote against this Clause, but for many reasons I cannot give a silent vote. In the first place, the new Clause is very bad in principle, and, secondly, the constituency which I represent and which may be affected by it, through all the organisations which represent the industries that are carried on there, object to it in toto. The new Clause contains the most objectionable features. It authorises the working of the two-shift system, and leaves the decision of that question at the absolute discretion of the Home Secretary, which really means the discretion of a Government Department. When once the Order has been made, it is not revocable for five years. It is irrevocable as long as the conditions under which it is granted are fulfilled. Thirdly, the Clause is so sweeping in its terms that it includes every industry in the country where factories or workshops are in existence. It also allows an Order to be made in respect of a single factory or mill, or any group of factories or workshops. The objects of it are perfectly clear from the speeches that have been made by the Home Secretary and the Chairman of the Departmental Committee which he set up. They are limited in character to two sets of industries. One are called seasonal industries. Possibly there might be a case made out for such industries. Last Friday the Chairman of the Departmental Committee stated that the only cases where this Clause would be likely to be used, or where two shifts would be likely to be put into operation, were seasonal industries, and where it was absolutely essential for the life of the industry that the fullest output should be maintained from the machinery, and where it would be impossible for the industry to continue in existence without the two-shift system. That is an exceedingly limited object.
I object that the Clause itself is absolutely unlimited and applies to every industry where factories or workshops are in existence. It therefore applies to the 969 great textile industry, and more especially to the cotton industry, which is the staple industry of the Constituency which I represent. The Clause being unlimited, the industry may be exposed at some time to a reversion to the discarded and bad principle of working women and young girls being allowed to go to work at six o'clock in the morning on one shift and being kept at work till ten o'clock at night on the other shift. If the object be so limited as stated by the Chairman of the Departmental Committee, why do they include all industries, and especially those big industries which I have mentioned? Is it because the Government have not the time or will not take the trouble to limit the Clause to industries to which it will be applied, or is it merely that they wish to draw into their net some day or other these great industries, and to resume the objectionable practice of early working in the factories? The Departmental Committee, we were told by its Chairman last Friday, absolutely rejected the idea that the textile industry and the cotton industry would be included in practice. He said that it was not a system which would cover the whole land. It was not to be applied to Lancashire and Yorkshire. The Home Secretary also stated that the Committee ignored the question of the cotton industry in Lancashire, because they were distinctly told that the cotton industry did not want the system. As I understand it now, the Home Secretary, in the course of his speech, admitted that it had been already introduced into some factories in the cotton industry. He mentioned a doubling mill, and I understand that there are other mills in the Constituency of my hon. Friend opposite which are working the two-shift system.
The chairman of the Departmental Committee and the right hon. Gentleman himself having said that, of course it will not apply to the cotton industry in Lancashire. Why, then was the new Clause drawn so wide as to include the cotton industry as well as the woollen industry and every other industry? I had hoped and believed that the days of early working in the morning before breakfast as far as the cotton industry was concerned had come to an end. Certainly it was one of the worst systems that could be devised with regard to the comfort and health of the people. See what it means. Women who have babies and children of three or four years of age, 970 whom they cannot leave in the home, have to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning and take them round to a neighbour's house or to a place where they can be taken care of whilst they go to work themselves. The children cannot get their breakfast properly. I suppose they are given it at the place where they are left for the day. The mother gets no breakfast. She gets nothing till 8 o'clock and has to work for two hours before. Then on the alternative week when she works till 10 o'clock she has to get home and get supper at 11 o'clock at night.
I have been through two General Elections and a by-election in Oldham during the last ten or eleven years, each time in the winter, and I know what it means. The climate of Oldham is a very severe one. The town hall is more than 600 ft. above the level of the sea. Then it rises right to the Yorkshire moors to a height of 900 ft., and the moors themselves close by go to 1,000 or 1,200 ft. The air is bleak in the extreme. The Postmaster-General knows very well how severe the weather is there, for every winter without exception the whole of the telegraph poles in that district are blown down. Just recently he has been obliged to put a large number of telegraph wires underground because every winter the poles are blown down. For women to be exposed to such weather and to take their children out in such weather at 6 o'clock in the morning is a thing which this House should not permit. On the alternate weeks these women and young girls would be obliged to work till 10 o'clock at night and go home to their evening meal between 10 and 11. That is destructive altogether of the amenities of home life. It is destructive of comfort and it must be injurious to health. In the Departmental Report it is said the doctors say that sort of thing is not injurious to health. If that is their opinion it is contrary to my experience. The Clause may be useful and necessary in seasonal occupations where machinery has to be continuously running, but it should be strictly limited to that and should not be drawn so widely as to include in it those great industries which do not require it. The principle of the Clause which was in the original Bill was defeated in Committee by 22 to 5. It is an astonishing thing to me that the new Clause should be put down in the name of a private Member. It has manifestly been drawn by the Government draughtsman, and the hon. 971 and gallant Gentleman is simply made a stalking horse for the Government. Why is it? Is the Government afraid of being defeated on it, and have they only dared to risk putting it down in the name of a private Member? It looks very like it to me.
§ Captain BOWYER
I feel called on to reply to the hon. Member who says I am a stalking horse for the Government. There is not a word of truth in it. I have had two Clauses on the Order Paper for months past, and when the Committee reported the Clause was taken, of course with outside help as regards draftsmanship, from the Report of the Departmental Committee, and is now on the Order Paper in that form.
I withdraw my remarks and apologise for saying my hon and gallant Friend was the stalking horse of the Government. Certainly it looked to me as if he were. I must congratulate him on the excellent way the Clause is drawn. It looked to me like a Government production. What I cannot understand is why, when the Government put a Clause in the Bill which is defeated in Committee, they do not themselves put down a new Clause in their own name, so that they will be able to bear the consequences if they are defeated. Another reason why I object to the new Clause is because it makes the Home Secretary the absolute judge whether it shall be enforced in any particular industry. There is no reason why the Home Secretary should not decide against the opinions of the workers in the industry and against the trade unions who represent them. My hon. and gallant Friend on Friday said the Women's Trade Union League, the National Federation of Women Workers, and the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative and Commercial employés and Allied Workersgave evidence before the Select Committee as to the discomfort and ill-health which must 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.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1920; col. 847; Vol. 135.]They did hear the evidence, and it was all one way, and they flew in the face of 972 it and brought up recommendations and a report absolutely contradictory of the evidence.
The hon. Member (Mr. Bell) said what happened was this. They heard Miss Simmonds, who gave evidence for the National Federation of Women Workers, and three girls were brought by their employers to give evidence on the other side. They were not selected by their fellow workers. They were picked out by the management and the Departmental Committee decided to accept their evidence and reject the evidence of all these associations which was given to the contrary. The Home Secretary may do that at any time. Of course we cannot always have the same Home Secretary. I have many years' knowledge and experience of him and have the greatest opinion of his character and ability, but he will not be Home Secretary for ever. He is here to-day and will perhaps be gone tomorrow—not to Heaven I hope, but he may go to the Exchequer or to the Judicial Bench, which I trust he will adorn when he gets there for very many years. But wc may have a Home Secretary like some Ministers we have had in my experience who may not take the judicial, impartial view which he would be likely to take. We may have him acting exactly as this Committee acted. Although it was presided over by one of His Majesty's Counsel learned in the law, it seemed to fly in the face of all the evidence. That is why I object to the Home Secretary being absolute in the matter, granting an order which he cannot himself revoke for five years, so long as the conditions on which the order is made are complied with, and leally in fact the order is not made by him at all, but by the Departmental officials, who make the inquiry, ascertain I'll the facts and influence the mind of the Home Secretary, against whom there is no appeal. Even a judge has the check of a jury, and when he sits without a jury he has the check of the Court of Appeal over him. The Home Secretary has nothing of the kind. I read in the "Times" on Friday of a learned judge at a public dinner who objected to a great many things the Government is doing at present with regard to disregarding the authority of the Courts of law and preventing suitors from having their grievances remedied. He more particularly 973 referred to the way in which private individuals and private businesses are interfered with by departmental regulations and departmental autocracy. I feel under these circumstances that I am entitled to protest against it. I cannot understand how it would be possible to work the two-shift system in the cotton trade.
The Clause includes every factory and workshop, and all cotton mills are factories. It is no use saying it is not in the Clause. If the Home Secretary will add words to it saying that no further order shall be made in the cotton industry without the consent of the persons employed in it, of course my opposition will be withdrawn. I cannot sec how the two-shift system could be worked in the cotton trade without nearly doubling the number of operatives. Of course the operatives in the cotton trade are skilled. The women do not work alone and the mills cannot be run if the men are not there as well as the women. The women are skilled and the men are skilled. It takes years to learn their business. I should think it must give a very great advantage indeed to any particular mill owner—and the Clause contemplates that orders may be made in favour of a particular mill, which will be of great benefit to the mill owner—to have the two-shift system over the man who has not got it. He will have double the number of employés, he will produce double the quantity of yarn with the same building and the same machinery, and will be put in a very favourable position with regard to his competitors. The effect of the bad times we are having, and short time—we are threatened with a three-days week—will be very disastrous, and there will be more people unemployed. But that is not the principal reason why I object to the Clause. These women have to take their babies out of the house at 5 o'clock in the morning in the terrible climate of Oldham and the other Lancashire towns without any breakfast, and it is 8 o'clock before they get anything themselves, and the fact of their being out after 10 o'clock at night and getting their meals at work is destructive of home life, comfort and 974 health. I shall oppose the Clause whenever I have an opportunity of doing so.
§ Mr. MYERS
On Friday afternoon the Home Secretary asked that the Division should be taken on this Clause, and I have no doubt that he would have received a substantial majority in the Division Lobby. I suppose he will have a substantial majority when the vote is taken to-day. That fact makes no contribution whatever to the virtue or otherwise of the proposal before the House. Many things that were looked upon as undesirable in pre-War days have been found to be beneficial owing to the practice during the War period and in some measure they ought to be extended into the operations of peace time; but in so far as it is proposed to put this particular Clause into operation upon that basis it cannot be sustained. It may have acted satisfactorily during the War, but to put it into operation now is reactionary and retrograde from every point of view. The hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Captain Bowyer) has conceded the point that this Clause was drafted after he had seen the Report of the Departmental Committee. It is difficult to understand how any hon. Member reading the Report of that Committee can justify a Clause of this character. The Report is contradictory. The evidence is peculiarly inconclusive, and signs are not wanting that even the Committee was not sure of its own mind upon the question.
On the last page of the Committee's Report the shortage of skilled male labour was put forward as one justification why this proposal should be put into operation. We have also the intimation that applications have continually been reaching the Home Office from manufacturers who say they desire to employ women on the lines of peace-time production. Further, the Committee suggests that the two-shift system would absorb surplus women labour. None of these conditions hang together. One might be justifiable, but it has no relationship to some of the other suggestions put forward. The Committee admits that where skilled women labour has been employed on war-time operations there is no guarantee whatever that the same skilled women labour can be absorbed in other industries in the same neighbourhood, for the simple reason that industries 975 that might have taken them on are not to be found in the particular locality where they were employed on War-time work. Even if these things were admitted, from the point of view of expediency and convenience our opposition would still be directed against this Clause. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Bartley Denniss) has touched upon one or two of the main objections from the human point of view. After many years of agitation we all understood that the six o'clock morning start had been abandoned with the mutual approval and agreement of both employer and employed, and that we should never go back to that particular operation. This Clause would stand condemned from that point of view alone if there were no others to be advanced; but when it becomes a question of applying the early morning start to the two-shift system, our objections are infinitely more powerful.
Those of us who have been called upon in days gone by to go to our work at six o'clock in the morning know that one of the initial difficulties of that hour is that those who leave home in the morning under pressure of having to be there when the buzzer goes or the bell rings do so with scarcely any food, and sometimes without any food. We worked for two hours or so, and then" the breakfast time came round. Therefore, the trouble was not very great and severe; but under the two-shift system these people would only have fifteen minutes or half an hour for their meal after four hours' work had been done. Therefore, the fact that they would have to start work at six o'clock in the morning and go on for four hours necessitates their being fortified in the first instance with all the physical sustenance that they can get hold of in order to enable them to carry out their work for that long time. We all know what the shift system moans. You have to work at high pressure all the time, and that means a prompt start and working up to the last moment. If under the intensity of that work any cases occur, as they would occur, where persons had to go to their employment without food, the disadvantages to their physical fitness would be very pronounced from every point of view. There is also the general question of the undesirability of the six o'clock start in any circumstances. Assuming the shift system, to be in operation and the women going to work at six 976 o'clock and coming home at two, what is likely to happen in the working class, household when the woman gets home in the afternoon? She has to go on with her domestic duties from three o'clock until bedtime. Under these conditions we are going to bring the women workers of the country practically into the slavedom of days gone by.
I am not convinced that we should prevent unemployment by this two-shift system. I agree with the hon. Member for Oldham that it will intensify unemployment. Just as we multiply the number of hands in a particular industry, although they may get along in normal conditions, as soon as exceptional times arrive and anything in the nature of depression of trade occurs and orders drop off the proportionate number of unemployed persons must inevitably be greater, having regard to the fact that we are recruiting greater numbers of people into the industry. There is a very formidable objection to this Clause from the point of view of the health of the worker. The Clause provides for continuous working from six o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock at night. No human being ought to be called upon to work in any factory, under any conditions, where work goes on continuously for sixteen hours. There ought to be a break between the two shifts in order to give the factory a chance of sweetening and of being ventilated and made more tolerable from the sanitary point of view. Any factory which is called upon to follow the ordinary operations for sixteen hours must inevitably operate to the disadvantage of the health of the workers who are engaged in that particular trade. If the other conditions were acceptable that condition would become an objection of the first magnitude. We are told in the report of the Committee that this proposal is made necessary because there is a lack of plant and buildings. That argument is exceedingly loose. We are going to put the necessity for bricks and mortar before the defect that must arise to the human factor in industry. It has always been so. In industry in this country the bricks and mortar have always been put before the human factor. The machine has always been more valuable than the human being, and we protest that a reactionary and retrograde proposal of this character should be enacted simply 977 because the bricks and mortar are not available for carrying on the industry.
There is another evil which operates against the community. One of the principal objections in night work in factories comes from the public point of view. It satisfies the manufacturer; he gets two days' production instead of one. Instead of having two mills he uses one, double time, but he only pays the rates for one. He gets the work of two factories out of one, and he meets his obligation to the local authority and to the State in respect of one factory, and just in proportion as he extends working in the night does the owner of the factory release himself to a certain extent of the responsibilities to the community and the State. One point in the Committee s Report upon which the greatest stress is laid to justify this Clause relates to the glass trade. It brings in the glass trade somewhat voluminously, in comparison with its references to other trades. If any hon. Member knows anything about the glass trade he would not subscribe to this proposal. It has been my privilege or my misfortune—it depends from which angle it is viewed—to serve 15 years of my life inside a glass factory, both in my boyhood and as an adult. From the age of 15 to the age of 31 I was employed in the production of glass bottles, and I have sufficient confidence in the judgment of hon. Members to know that if they understood the operations in side a glass factory they would not subscribe to the conditions of this Clause being applied there, at least in one particular. There can be no justification, and I say it without qualification or reservation, for a female, young or old. working inside a glass factory. No women ought to be employed in the production of glassware. Irrespective of age, I would wipe that out. There is something to be said for the employment of youths between the ages of 16 and 18 in the glass trade and other industries of a continuous nature. Where the furnaces are continuous and have to be fed the shift system is almost essential; but for industries of this character special Regulations should be made, and we should not hang upon these trades of a continuous character general legislation applied to industries of every kind. Even if there is something to be said for the glass trade and similar undertakings, it does not prove the justification for this Clause, but rather the necessity for special legislation 978 to deal with particular industries. Regulations could very well be made to satisfy the people in those particular occupations.
If we accept every virtue that is put forward by the Departmental Committee, and agree that their conclusions are sound, how far are we entitled to move in the direction of extending the employment of women while there are so-many unemployed men? I believe in. the equality of the sexes, both economically and politically, and in the days when these things were not looked upon: with favour I stood on a box at the street corner advocating the claims of women. Making due allowance for that, we have the fact before us of so many unemployed men walking the streets unable to get employment. We have had a statement to-day that there are 3 per cent, of unemployed according to the registers of the Labour Exchanges, and before we extend a principle of this kind we might move in the direction of finding employment for the able-bodied men who want it. Whenever it is desired to do anything derogatory to labour, it is always said that there is some support of labour for it. On this occasion we are told that the proposal put forward has the support of certain phases of the Labour and industrial movement. I have in my hand a joint memorandum detailing objections to this Clause. It is under the auspices of the Women's Trade Union League, the Women's Co-operative Guild, the Railway Women's Guild, the National Federation of Women Workers, the Railway Clerks' Association, the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative and Commercial Employés, the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries, and several other organisations which include women in their membership.
§ Mr. MYERS
Yes. In addition, I have just had handed to me this telegram, which only reached us to-day:Chairman of the Labour party. Pottery Workers' Society, representing 50,000 operatives, majority women and young persons, ask you to vote against two-shift Bill, believing same to endanger child life, also destroy home life and health of pottery workers owing to shops not being cleaned,. with the result terrible accumulation of 979 dust. Also applies to other workers. The Bill is a step backwards and a lever to bring cheap labour into the market. The strong may fight. The weakest will go to the wall if the Bill passes.That emphasises the general position which we on these Benches present. The Clause will impose definite limitations upon the education of the young people of the country and will seriously interfere with the domestic home life of the community. The evidence on which the Committee had reported is contradictory. The Committee itself is uncertain as to the advantages which the proposal will bring, and, taking the Report as a whole, it does not justif5' legislation of this reactionary and retrograde character.
§ Sir WALTER DE FRECE
I claim the indulgence of the House for the few words which I have to say. I have had the opportunity during the week-end of visiting my constituency. My constituents are mostly mill workers, and I have come back fortified with their views, and also with my own feeling of opposition to this proposal strengthened. My own view was that this particular arrangement of the two-shift system was a war-time arrangement. We were told that it only applied during the War, and there is very strong feeling in the country that not only this particular Clause, but other Clauses in other Bills which are being introduced, are an attempt to perpetuate what we were told were simply war measures for a limited period. I shall oppose this Clause, first, from the humane point of view. I feel that the women who are asked to work these two shifts will be much better employed in endeavouring to cultivate the home life which is essential for the future prosperity of this country. If they have to work in two shifts the children, to whom we are looking forward in the future, will miss the mother's care which is necessary. What are to be the domestic relationships of a family where one portion of the family works the first shift and the other the second shift? They would never meet. There would be no domesticity and no control by the mother. In view of the fact that the change suggested is for a trial period of five years, may I mention that if the Clause became law, and the workpeople even desired it, it could not become 'operative in the cotton business for some years, because I am told that, even in 980 normal times, for the last twelve years there has been a shortage of over 500 skilled persons in the small constituency which I represent, and I believe that it is the case also in other towns that there has been a shortage of skilled labour. Consequently, it would be folly to support a Clause having for its object the introduction of the two-shift system when there are not sufficient skilled workers in the particular trade even for one shift in various towns. I deal with the cotton trade because I know the workers' point of view only in that trade. For reasons connected with its effect on children and education, they are further opposed to this Clause, and I imagine that the same would apply in all other trades. I believe that it will be better for the children not to have this Clause, and for that reason also I oppose it.
§ Major HILLS
I am sure that I am expressing the opinion of the whole House when I congratulate my hon. Friend who has just spoken, I believe for the first time in this House. We welcome his speech, and I am sure that he will be an ornament to our Debates. I am sure that the hon. Member and the two preceding speakers will excuse me if I do not argue the case for the two-shift system. It was argued on Friday in a Debate which was on a very high level, and it was very completely thrashed out. I think that the bulk of the opposition came from hon. Members who represent textile districts. I can reassure their minds. No Home Secretary would be so idiotic as to attempt to force upon the textile trade the two-shift system unless they asked for it. For that reason I think that all those doubts can be put at rest. I support the two-shift system for the simple reason that it would tend to reduce hours. The House must not forget that the legal hours in non-textile factories now are 60 hours a week. By this Bill we shall get a very substantial reduction. A great deal of the opposition to this Bill has centred round the early hour of starting and the late hour of finishing the two shifts. I have a great deal of sympathy with that view. I would remind the House of the position which this country has taken up with regard to night-work for women.
First of all by our law as it stands at present any work after nine o'clock at 981 night is night work. I think that that definition will be accepted. Therefore we are to a certain extent legalising night work for women. Twenty years ago we set to work to prohibit night work for women, and the International Labour Association in this country and other countries joined in a convention, which I think all the great nations adopted, to prohibit night work for women, and that has been the law in this country for something like 20 years, until the War came and all restrictions broke down, and women were allowed to work night shifts. I have heard no case which convinced me of the necessity of making the hour as late as ten at night or as early as six in the morning. I listened with great care to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Bristol (Mr. Inskip), who was chairman of the Committee. It was an impartial, able, closely reasoned speech, but I thought that the weakest part of the speech was that he did not make a good case for the early start or the late ending. I read through the report carefully twice, and that seemed to me to be the case.I would suggest that if the Government accept the Clause with shorter hours, and that hon. Members who oppose it would also accept it with shorter hours, it would to a great extent meet the position. I have listened to all the speeches, and I think that most of them turn on that point. If the Government would accept the suggestion to have the starting hour seven and the finishing hour nine, there would be 14 hours which would give two shifts of seven hours each, or at any rate two shifts of 61½ hours each.The Government are not obliged to give the whole of this every time and can give less every time.But I would refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Accrington (Major Gray), which was directed almost entirely to the hour of starting, as were also some of the other speeches, and I think that if the Government would accept a limitation of from seven in the morning until nine at night it would shorten the discussion. I would respectfully appeal to the Labour party that if they can get a concession of that sort they will have done a good stroke towards shortening the hours of labour.
§ 5.0 P.M.
Mr. A. DAVIES (Clitheroe)
I associate myself with the remarks of the last speaker in reference to the very able 982 speech which was delivered by the hon. Member for Bristol. Perhaps I may refer to some of the points that were made by the hon. and learned Member. It has been suggested that this Clause will not apply to the cotton trade of Lancashire. If we could get a declaration to that effect from the Home Secretary, I do not suppose there would be so much opposition from the Labour Benches. Let us see what the hon. and learned Member for Central Bristol stated. Referring to the hon. Member for Royton (Mr. Sugden), he said: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 worked in his factory.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1920; col. 874, Vol. 135.]That is the trouble. If an employer of labour makes application to have this Order made, it will be possible for the individual employer, irrespective of the industry with which he is associated, to have such an Order granted to him. If that is so, it is clear that this Clause has a wider scope than that which some hon. Members mention. I remember that when this question of the employment of women and young persons was discussed in June last, those who were opposed to it received the whole-hearted and capable support of the right hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. G. N. Barnes) I wish he were here to participate in the Debate this afternoon. He argued very clearly that, so far as getting uniformity of industrial conditions in the different nations of the world was concerned, it was never contemplated that the two-shift system, as adumbrated in this Bill, would be a part of any national system of industry. The hon. and learned Member for Bristol said, with respect to the employment of women and young persons:We all have our own views, I suppose, and I suppose we are all agreed 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.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1920; Col. 875, Vol. 135.]That really is the question. The object of this House ought to be, not to emulate a system that is likely to be injurious, 983 but to try to eliminate that system, and, as the hon. and learned Member said, every hon. Member in this House is anxious to see the time when the burdens of industry shall be borne by the male element of the population. What does this Bill do?It extends the facilities for employing a greater number of women and young persons. Of course, it is suggested that it is only an experiment, which is to continue for five years. But what is the assumption? If at the end of five years this Act proves to be a success it means—I am speaking economically—that it will be extended, and instead of eliminating a system which we all condemn, it will strengthen the theory that the system should be extended. Let us examine the question from the economic standpoint. It is said that the system will absorb a considerable number of our women and young persons who are out of work. It is those who work who maintain those who play, and if the women and young persons are working and the strong and able-bodied are playing, it means that, directly or indirectly, the weaker element in society will be maintaining the stronger. Therefore, this proposal is retrogressive, and I hope the Home Secretary will see his way to delete the Clause entirely. It has been stated that there are 15,000 persons engaged on this two-shift system. One of the arguments adduced by the hon. and learned Member for Bristol was that if you were to take away immediately these 15,000 persons from these night shifts it would have the effect of creating a tremendous amount of unemployment. What I suggest is that we ought to graduate our methods and step by step eliminate the employment at unearthly hours of all women and young persons.
§ Mr. HOPKINS
I have not the honour of being connected with the cotton trade or of coming from Lancashire, and I do not propose to dictate the industrial policy of the whole country. I can only say that in my own constituency of St. Pancras there are many small and varied manufactures where the two-shift system would be a very great blessing to the women workers and the community generally. The system was in operation for a time during the War and a great improvement took place in the homes of the people, because the women were able to earn a certain amount of money, which 984 went directly to the improvement of their homes and their children. If hon. Members opposite had seen, as I saw, the improvement in the children's dress, and particularly in their boots, they would not want to prevent these women from working. What these women want is, not a long day's work, for they have their home duties and their children to look after. They want to work for five or six hours a day and have the rest of the day at their own disposal. As I read the Clause, it does not mean that the hours from six to 10 o'clock are in any way compulsory. Those are the extreme limits of time during which they may be employed. There is a proposition in my constituency that women should be employed in two shifts of six hours each, and until this Bill is passed the factory will not be able to work. I earnestly hope that the Clause will be passed.
§ Mr. SEXTON
On principle, I am entirely opposed to the employment of women and young persons under any conditions and in any industry, either by day or night. To that principle I have always subscribed and I can see no reason to change my opinion now. Unfortunately, however, we have for decades, been living under economic conditions, whereby both women and young persons have been employed in industry, and it will take some time, by some method of evolution, to get out of that position. What I am concerned about in this Bill is the general application of this Clause. In some industries to-day there is no-doubt that the principle of a two-shift system for young persons has some justification from an economic point of view. The most remarkable point in his discussion is the conversion of the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Seddon) to the principle of the employment of women. I do not say it out of any disrespect to him, but I can remember the time, and that not very long ago, when he maintained a strong and vigorous opinion in the opposite direction.
§ Mr. SEDDON
In principle I am like the hon. Member, but I am speaking now for a trade union that is engaged in industry.
§ Mr. SEXTON
The Clause deals with every trade union and every organisation in the country, and that is my objection to it. I have something to do with the drawing up of this Convention. I was at 985 Washington when the Convention, as embodied in this Bill, was adopted. The cause of the adoption of that Convention was before us in what may be described as very vivid colours. We had the information that in India women and children were working down the mines all night, that mothers with babes at their breasts took their children down the mines and worked all night while the babes were lying on the ground, and that whole families were being employed below ground. We had also the example of Japan before us. There children went to work at 8 years of age. The Convention was adopted in the hope that we would get some international uniformity and so reduce the hours of labour for women and young persons throughout the country, at the same time placing no other country at a disadvantage. With characteristic humanity this country has taken the lead in that direction. St. Helens has been mentioned in the discussion. I know something about the glass works at St. Helens, for I started my industrial career in the glass works of that town at 9 years of age. I know what it is to work in such works as a half-timer. I worked in a 12 hours' shift, and the conditions then were terrible. That is not so to-day. Many scientific improvements have been introduced into the work, and hygiene is, so to speak, on the topmost rung of the ladder. There is one disadvantage in the case of the glass trade. Glass manufacture is a continuous process. We want some consideration given to those trades which are manufacturing under very grave disadvantages. I happen to have an interest in the industry of St. Helens, although I happen to be a Labour representative.
I may not be expressing the opinion of the party I represent, but I speak from knowledge of local facts. I have authentic information that in Belgium, in the glass trade, there is a ten-hours' day and a seven days' week, and work is continued throughout the twenty-four hours of the day. Belgium is a very considerable competitor with this country in the glass trade. Therefore to take away from the glass works of this country the advantages they have, in view of the fact that Belgium is our strongest competitor, would be to put a grave handicap on the trade. I wish that to-morrow all this employment of women and children could 986 be swept away entirely. I wish it was done with. I am simply pointing out the disadvantages which would accrue to a trade like the glass trade, with its nearest competitor, Belgium, if it is put at any serious disadvantage. I see that provisions are made for these particular trades. The Labour party also has an Amendment which meets the point, particularly where the application is made jointly by employers and workmen in the trade concerned. That is what has happened at St. Helens. An industrial council composed of workmen and employers in St. Helens has mutually agreed to make application for the consideration of this particular trade. While I am opposed to the wholesale application of the Clause to every industry there are cases like the one I have mentioned where it might be applied. I am looking forward to the time when even that application will be unnecessary, but in existing circumstances I think some consideration might be given to trades like those I have referred to.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
Having read very carefully what was said on Friday, and having heard nearly all the speeches to-day, I must say I am surprised that the Government do not see their way to meet what is the very strong and genuine current of opinion as to the application of this Clause to parts of the country and certain trades. The argument that this system of two shifts should be tried and applied to seasonal and continuous trades is an argument which obviously has weight, and I can well understand the Government anxiety to have an experiment of that kind, partially tried during the War, continued for a reasonable time. But there is all the difference in the world between that argument and bringing in a Clause which legally has a universal application if and when the present Home Secretary or any successor thought fit to put it in force.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt)
It not a compulsory Clause.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
The right hon. Gentleman has, quite unwittingly, I am sure, used words which in this connection are susceptible of ambiguity. This Clause enables the Home Secretary, gives permission for this system to be tried, and the application may be from persons 987 in a single factory or mill, whatever be the opinions, habits of tendencies of the bulk of that particular industry. My confidence in the Home Secretary almost spoils the edge of my argument, but then he will have successors to whom, as I do not know them, I am not prepared to give my confidence, and who may authorise this experiment to be carried out by a particular undertaking, which may be for the benefit of that particular undertaking but against the general tendencies and desires of persons in similar undertakings in the same area. The hon. Member for Bristol told us on Friday It will not be applied to Lancashire or Yorkshire. How does he know? The Home Secretary told us: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.The industry as a whole may not change its mind, and yet individual employers or an individual factory or mill may have special reasons for asking for a particular method which may be to the disadvantage of their neighbours and competitors and totally against opinion in that area. I do earnestly ask the Government, is it not possible, while supporting the Clause of my hon. Friend, to put in a proviso that it shall not apply to Lancashire and Yorkshire, to the cotton and allied industries, until not merely an individual asks for it, but the recognised federation of employers and employed agree in asking for it? That does not interfere with the experiment being tried in industries of a different character or prevent it being tried in industries less highly organised and less clearly and completely federated. The Home Secretary and the Government ask for the Second Reading of this Clause without the slightest suggestion of any such limitation, as has been requested unanimously practically for the cotton and allied industries. It is not really helping towards a solution of this problem to vote against this Clause on Second Reading, or to vote for it to get Lancashire and Yorkshire left out. In neither case is the Government getting the amount of support from the House and of general acquiescence which I venture to think they could get if they said that they would not extend it to individual applications, but would be guided by the general opinion of the great Indus- 988 tries. In the cotton trade employers and employed alike are not only organised in particular places, but are federated throughout the whole industry, and there is no industry in the country which can speak with clearer or more weighty or more general views on a matter which affects the industries. That being so, what is the danger or harm in saying that this is not to extend to the cotton industry unless asked for by the Federation of Cotton Employers and Cotton Operatives? My right hon. Friend knows quite well that it constantly happens that what may be called general opinion is allowed to override the opinion of particular persons. The other day, for instance, we were discussing how individuals who sold chocolate after 8 o'clock at night should be overriden in the interest of a particular group of employers or tradesmen who said, It is against our interests. Not a week passes but we have the doctrine of the general desire of a trade to override individual wishes expressed in this House and embodied in Acts of Parliament. Here we are to have the exact opposite, and an individual or a single mill is to have a system applied which is not applied to the whole trade, when it may be against the general opinion of the persons engaged in the industry. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make clear that this is not to apply to Lancashire and Yorkshire, to the cotton trade and allied industries. He could do it by putting in a limiting sub-Clause, and still have the opportunity of allowing the experiment to be made in many cases.
I have rarely listened in this House to a Debate of greater interest. I believe that there is a sincere desire on the part of everyone to come to some arrangement that will be satisfactory all round. If I had been asked on Friday morning, Are you prepared to vote for this Clause? I certainly would have said No, because of my own experience. The cotton industry has been often mentioned. I am largely interested in another textile industry, namely, the linen industry in the North of Ireland. As to the speech we have just heard, you cannot take one industry and put it into the Bill and say, This provision shall not apply to it. I do not think you could legislate in that way. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to 989 take into consideration the report of the Committee in so far as it relates to special industries, and, if possible, include those special industries which are at present being worked by the two-shift system, and to which it seems to me to be absolutely necessary that that system should be applied. The Committee in their Report say:We are therefore of the opinion that a ease has been made out for allowing, under conditions, the adoption of the shift system in (1) continuous industry; (2) seasonal trades; and (3) in factories in which the plant and premises are temporarily insufficient.That is the conclusion, I take it, of this Committee. Then I would like to ask, why was not that conclusion embodied in their recommendations? If that had been done, and then embodied in the Clause, we should have saved a great deal of trouble and of time.
§ Mr. SHORTT
That would include cotton, because there are already some orders made in the cotton trade.
Lieut. Colonel ALLEN
Personally, I have not the slightest objection if it is necessary under the conditions that are referred to in that conclusion. If the machinery is temporarily insufficient, I think it is quite reasonable and arguable that it should apply; if the trades are seasonal, such as the jam trade, it is only reasonable that it should apply; and if it is absolutely necessary in continuous industries, I see no reason why it should not apply, but I say that that ought to have been embodied in the recommendations of the Committee. The words of the Report are these:These Orders should, we think, be granted for individual factories, or for a class or group of factories, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may consider necessary.The group of factories should, I think, be more particularised, as they are in the findings of the Committee, and if the right hon. Gentleman would consider it from that standpoint, I think he would satisfy certainly myself and, I believe, a large number of those who have spoken in connection with this matter. There is another point to which I would like to refer, which was also mentioned in 990 the Debate on Friday. One hon. Member said: If I thought this proposal was going to be permanent, I should vote against it, and another said, when speaking in its favour, that it was only a temporary measure, but the arguments that are being used to-day to continue that system will be used five years' hence. That is unquestionable. One of the principal arguments to-day is that it would cause a great deal of unemployment. The Home Secretary stated in his speech on Friday that there are 191 Orders already. In five years' time it is quite possible to conceive that this number will have been doubled, with the result that there might be, instead of 15,000 persons employed, as there are to-day, under the two-shift system, 30,000 or 40,000, and, as the Committee say, at the end of that period Parliament would be free to review the whole question and decide whether the system should be continued for a further period or abandoned. I can conceive of Parliament coming together and debating that question in four or five years' time, and saying, We allowed this system to go on four years ago, when there were only 15,000 who might have been put out of employment, but to-day you have a greater argument why it should be continued, in that there are 40,000 people who would be put out of employment. Therefore, I think the argument that this is only a temporary matter is one which cannot be sustained.
As far as I myself am concerned, I have had a good deal of experience of seeing workers turn out at 6 o'clock in the morning, and I never want to see it again. We have gone away from those times, I hope. I have got the greatest sympathy with the speeches that have fallen from hon. Members opposite. It is true that the shorter hours are certainly some compensation for rising at that hour, but I do not think sufficient has been made of the interference with social life, with mental development, with education, with everything, in fact, that in addition to the physical welfare of the people makes for their intellectual benefit. In my opinion, the education of these women and children is indissolubly connected with their employment. I do not know how far it may interfere with the new Act that has been mentioned in the Debate with regard to continuation classes, but I do know this, that in our country, where we have not got the great advantages of 991 education that you have here, we have our technical schools, and the system that obtains there at present is that they are almost entirely evening classes. Suppose this two-shift system goes on to any of those industries over there, it is only natural to suppose that the technical schools and others will put up a big fight against the possibility of those who attend those schools being prevented attending, because of the two-shift system. We must take this into consideration and think of the intellectual benefit of these people as well as their physical benefit. I am quite satisfied that the early morning start cannot be beneficial to the health of these people, I am quite satisfied that late hours cannot be beneficial, and I am quite satisfied that continuous work in one factory cannot be beneficial.
So many arguments have been used in that matter that I do not think it necessary to proceed with them, but I do ask the Home Secretary to consider whether he cannot possibly do away with that part of the Clause which mentions the duration of the hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Surely some arrangement can be made whereby we might all agree that the hours can be shortened, and instead of 6 o'clock put 7 o'clock, and instead of 10 o'clock in the evening put 9 o'clock. It would go a long way to meet the difficulties which some of us have, and I can assure the House that these are general feelings on the part of those who have seen this 6 o'clock early rising. It is too awful to contemplate going back to those days. I have been told that one witness, a factory inspector, gave the evidence that he knew of an instance where the employer allowed the people to come in at 8 o'clock, and the employés with one accord appealed to the employer to allow them to revert to the old hour of 6 o'clock in the morning. Well, I have known that myself, but it is a long time ago. In those days, when they shortened the hours the workers were not able to earn enough money in those hours because of the wages they received. I am speaking of the industry I know, and the workers asked to go back to the 6 o'clock hour because they could not earn sufficient wages in the shorter time, but I am thankful to say that that time has passed away, and that the increase of wages that the workers have now received in that industry enables them to earn 992 Sufficient in the shorter hours, and that, I think, is as it ought to be. There is no one in that industry, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, whether employé or employer, who is prepared to go back to the 6 o'clock start, even on a two-shift system.
The medical evidence in connection with the Committee has not been unfavourable nor has it been favourable, but surely two years' examination of such a question is not sufficient for a medical man to say whether the result of a two-shift system would not tend to the deterioration of the race. We want to wait a quarter of a century before a medical man could give advice on that, and therefore I take very little cognisance of the medical evidence given to the Committee. The women themselves are not wholly satisfied, and I see the Committee had the greatest difficulty in coming to a conclusion on the subject at all, but they evidently thought that this is a matter for the displacement of a great many women who are in employment now, and this is the result of their deliberations. I would therefore appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider the possibility of shortening the hours that are mentioned in the Clause as drafted, and also the possibility of indicating more particularly the industries in which the two-shift system may obtain.
§ Mr. ROBINSON GRAHAM
I am entirely opposed to this Clause, and I regard the evidence which has been submitted to the Departmental Committee as poor evidence. If one turns to Paragraph 11 of the Report, one will observe that the best medical evidence which the Committee has been able to obtain is the evidence of Dr. Legge, who says thatthe Health of Munition Workers Committee, in the course of their investigation, obtained no direct evidence that digestive disturbance was caused by the change of habit involved in working on alternating shifts. He was not prepared to recommend the prohibition of the system.I regard that opinion, not as one of definite and satisfactory approval, but as one of cautious consent, and if that is the best medical opinion upon the health of the workers who are engaged in the two-shift system, then I suggest that it is a very small opinion upon which to base so wide a proposal as that contained in this Bill. With regard to education, in the various discussions on this Bill, the consideration of this subject was principally 993 directed to whether it would have any effect upon the education of children who are subject to the application of the new Education Act. I would rather consider the application of this system in another way. In the constituencies which we all represent there are at the present time classes for the teaching of natural science, technical subjects, Art, literature and music. There are in every constituency public meetings of special interest, musical evenings and gatherings of pleasure. These are all means of adult education, and I wish to impress upon this House the importance of recognising the fact that if this Bill is passed, it will apply not merely to women and young persons who are engaged in certain industries, but it will apply also to the men who are engaged in those industries whose work is inter-independent upon them. Men, women and adolescents, therefore, will all be deprived of these valuable opportunities of adult education, which are even now far too inadequate.
One word about the effect of this Bill. I quote no extreme instance when I refer to the fact of there being in the same household two workers who are engaged the same day on different shifts. When that happens, the housewife will be engaged upon her work from five o'clock in the morning until almost twelve o'clock at night. One of the aims of those who have been particularly concerned in the designing of modern houses has been to provide a house which would reduce the work of the housewife. I ask the House to accept my conclusion, that whatever is likely to be set up in contrivances of domestic and hygienic science for the housewives of today will be more than counter-balanced by the extra work that is imposed upon housewives who become subject indirectly to the application of this Bill. I suggest that the social life of the people in the districts in which are the industries to which this Bill will apply will be disorganised. Relatives will be engaged on different shifts; opportunities for social relationship will be considerably reduced, and opportunities for education, for the benefit of home life, and for social life, meagre as they are to-day, will be exactly halved by the application of this Bill. It has been implied in speeches which have been delivered from both sides of this House that the universal application of this Bill is a possibility. I do not 994 propose to argue the subject from such a proposition. I regard the universal application of this Bill as a physical impossibility. I do urge that we should consider what is the aim of the Department as definitely expressed by the Minister in charge of the Bill, and what appears to have been the purpose of this Special Committee. Their aim has been either to conduct or to continue an experiment in order that in certain trades there may be certain advantages, which are considered to be essentially desirable. I suggest that most of the Members of this House could agree to the application of such a principle where there was proved to be commercial necessity, and where the operatives and the employers in any particular industry had indicated their consent for its application to that industry.
The authorities that support the Government proposal were mentioned on Friday by an hon. and gallant Member opposite. I think he stated that those authorities were the National Union for Equal Citizenship, the Women's Political and Industrial League, the London Society of Women's Service, and some committee of Reconstruction, whose name I did not completely hear, and he suggested that those authorities were equal to the authorities quoted on the other side. I am quite confident that they are not, but the hon. Member and I need not differ regarding our opinion concerning the value of the authorities. What we have to pay regard to is whether the organised workers in this Coventry regard the societies which are opposed to this measure as being societies which represent organised workers' opinion, or whether they regard the societies quoted by the hon. and gallant Member as being such societies.
§ Captain BOWYER
I also pointed out in my speech, to which the hon. Member is referring, that the main body in favour of the Clause was the Departmental Committee over which my hon. and learned Friend presided. I further pointed out that three of the bodies to which the hon. Member has referred as supporting him, and which are named on the outside of the Labour party's Manifesto, actually gave evidence before the Committee, and the two Members of the Labour party who were on the Departmental Committee must have heard that evidence, and they 995 signed the Report in favour of my proposal.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
My question is, Who supports the Bill? These societies do not support the Bill. I say, therefore, that the evidence with regard to the effect of this Bill upon the health and education of the workers, upon the health of the housewives, and upon the conditions of home life and social life, 'is such that the application of this Bill cannot reasonably be urged. One word with regard to the statement in paragraph 15 on the subject of the commencement of work at six o'clock in the morning. It says:Where, on the other hand, the worker lives close to her work, few felt any strong objection to the six o'clock start.I submit that that is an irrefutable instance of the unreliability of the evidence which has been submitted to the Departmental Committee. The opinion there expressed with regard to the workers of this country on the subject of the six o'clock start is a false one. May I observe that the attitude adopted by the Minister in charge of this Bill towards what he regards as an experiment is a quite different attitude from that adopted by the Minister of Health as to what he regards as an experiment? The Minister of Health has recently prohibited guilds from accepting more than a certain number of contracts because he regards it as an experiment. You regard this as an experiment, and yet you leave it open to be adopted by any firm in any industry if only the consent of the workers in the industry can be obtained. I submit the evidence does not justify the claim for wide application. I am not opposed to new methods of production, but I do urge that they should be good new methods. I am convinced that the majority of the Members of this House who have closely considered this Debate are of opinion that this Bill should not have this wide application, and I am also of opinion that the people of this country are not favourable to the application of the Bill.
§ Mr. LYLE
I desire to address a very few words to this House from the standpoint, I wish to make perfectly clear, of an employer of labour who has studied this question somewhat thoroughly. The Debate, as has been said by the hon. and gallant Member opposite, has reached a 996 very high level in many cases, but, on reading the various speeches which were made last Friday very carefully, and listening to a great many of them to-day, I cannot help feeling that a great many of the criticisms which have been urged against this Bill have been exceedingly ill-digested, ill-considered and ill-thought out. There is one remark to which I should like to take exception right off, and that is the remark which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Royton (Mr. Sugden), that the employers as a whole were entirely against this proposal. I entirely deny that assertion, and I do not think it can be borne out by the evidence. As regards the opposition of the Labour party, at least the Labour party leaders are consistent, and then consistency lies in the fact that they consistently take a wrong view, if I may say so, of almost all the big questions of the day. On this particular point they take, I think, an entirely wrong view in their statement that they represent the workers on this subject.
There have been certain suggestions made from other hon. Members that a compromise should be made in this matter, and that certain alterations should be made in the suggested hours of starting and stopping. I would urge the Government to stand firm on this question, and to keep to the original hours that are laid down in the new Clause, because I feel it would be far better to drop the Clause altogether than to make any alteration in the hours. After all, what is the suggestion? The suggestion is that there should be an experimental period during which this Clause and this Bill are to act. The idea is that manufacturers, workers, and the Government themselves should be able to see, after a course of time, how this system has worked, whether it has had the evil effect which has been suggested, and, in short, get a fair trial. In my opinion, and speaking as an employer of labour, I do not think that if the hours were reduced you would get a fair experiment at all, because I do not believe it would pay manufacturers to introduce the two-shift system with the hours reduced, as has been suggested in certain quarters. Therefore I feel that the very object for which we are out, that is to get this experiment and to see how the thing works, we would 997 not get. I am speaking as an employer who favours this scheme. Nothing would have induced me to back this scheme if I had known from experience, or from the evidence placed before the Committee, that by so doing we should be taking action which would be detrimental to the health of the workers or to the vast majority of people of this country. I have been studying the Report—and, after all, the Report is what we have principally to go by—it is all very well for hon. Members on the Benches above the Gangway to say that the Report of this particular Committee has been pre judiced, and that prejudiced evidence was given—
§ Mr. LYLE
Oh, yes, I am not referring particularly to the hon. Member's benches. But it is useless for them to say that this evidence is valueless, for it is that which neutral people have to go on. That evidence, so far as I can see, has never gone in the direction of showing that this early starting of work and late finish will be detrimental to the health interests of the workers. Far from it; for what we propose here in effect would be a reduction of hours of labour, from roughly 48 hours to 41¼. That is by this suggested two-shift system. Hon. Members have got up in the House and talked about the terrible effect on a married woman going out at six o'clock in the morning, and inquired, What was she to do with her precious bundle?—Where would she deposit it? And so on. But that argument is one against the employment of married women at all. It does not apply particularly to this case. The married woman who has to deposit her child somewhere will be away six hours less than before, because the effect of this Clause is a reduction of hours. Therefore, she is away from her offspring actually for half a dozen hours less. Another point from the evidence before the Committee, so far as I have read it, is that all women's organisations in general, and particularly those of married women, are entirely in favour of this suggested Clause. It has been stated on more than one occasion by those who have given evidence that they would see more of their children if this was carried. As a matter of fact, I think the proportion of married women in most works is very, 998 very small. I have in my hand at the present moment letters from three women's organisations who I do not think have been mentioned before in this House. One is from the London Society of Women's Service. It is dated 29th November, and is written to an hon Member of this House. It says:I am writing to you with reference to the Women, Young Persons and Children (Employment) Bill, the further discussion of which, I see, is to be taken this afternoon, to beg you, if you can, to secure that the Bill is passed in the form which makes as little difference as possible between the Regulations for adult women workers and the Regulations for the adult men workers. Both the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship, and this Society, welcomed the Report of the Home Office Committee on this subject, and trust that its recommendations will be carried out by Parliament. We feel that protective legislation, however excellent its intention, if it is applied to adult women and not to adult men, simply means putting another handicap on women in industry. We, therefore, greatly hope this Bill will pass to-day.That is one letter. Whether it appeals to hon. Members above the Gangway or not I do not know. I do not suppose it will. One could not expect them to agree with anything except what they think good. In my opinion they do not represent the working classes of this country, and I hope to show that very clearly in a few moments. The Women's Engineering Society also writes—no doubt hon. Members of the Labour party do not like to hear anything that does not suit them. However, they have got to hear this! This, again, is a letter written to an hon. Gentleman opposite. It reads:I understand that you are in charge of the Women, Young Persons and Children (Employment) Bill with regard to the suitability of the two-shift system for women. Should women not be allowed to work on the two-shift system, it will mean a serious handicap to them in their struggle for a livelihood. Women are asking to be permitted to enter all branches of industry and any legislation which discriminates between the conditions of employment of men and women will seriously handicap women in their fight for freedom.I am not going to read to the end, because there is nothing particular in the rest of the letter. But I also have a letter written the same day by the Women's Industrial League. It is to this effect:I understand that the Debate will be continued to-day on the Women, Young Persons and Children (Employment) Bill. Therefore, on behalf of the Women's Political and 999 Industrial League, I enclose a copy of a resolution unanimously passed by the Council of the League at the last meeting, held on 18th October, 1920. The resolution is as follows:'That this Council is strongly in favour of the retention of Clause (2) in the Women, Young Persons and Children (Employment) Bill.'Those are the three letters which show that there are, at any rate, certain women's organisations besides of which we have heard which are entirely in favour of the retention of this Clause. An hon. Gentleman who was speaking on Friday made a great point of what he considered was the fact that young girls would be out after 10 o'clock at night, and would be going home at that time on the 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift. He said that it was entirely wrong that any girl should be out after 10 o'clock. I take it, if he is consistent, that when the Labour party comes into power he will induce them to introduce a Bill which will make it the law of the land that every young girl is to be inside the house at 10 o'clock at night. That will be reasonable, and a corollary to what it is proposed we should do. A young girl must not come out of a factory or go home where there are these shifts, and where there are plenty of men going home at the same time, and the streets are crowded and no chance at all of being interfered with! They will have to bring in an enactment on the same lines as here suggested preventing young girls going to the cinema.
The Labour party opposes this Clause, and one of the reasons they have given for criticising the Report of the Departmental Committee was they thought the Departmental Committee had not given sufficient attention to the evidence of the trade unionists, and that the Committee went too much in the direction of defending the Government. It was also suggested that perhaps individuals were not good representatives to give evidence. One hon. Member suggested, speaking from his own experience, that an employé gave certain evidence to him in his capacity of a trade union official, and different evidence to his employer; and that argument was advanced to suggest that the employé was frightened of his employer. All I can say as to that is that these employé s came up voluntarily and gave their evidence before the Com- 1000 mittee, and is it not as much open to me to suggest that they are just as much frightened of the tyranny of the trade unions as they are frightened of their employers? If it is going to be suggested that there is any fear going, certainly my experience of any employés I have ever dealt with is that they never feared my firm. So far as I know they do not fear their employers at all. There were any number of individual employés who came up and gave evidence. All these points were put to them about the early start and the late finish, and they practically by a great majority preferred it, saying that they got a larger number of hours by starting in the afternoon every other week from 2 till 10. On alternative weeks they had the morning off, and that gave them more time for shopping and pleasure in view of the shorter hours and better conditions.
§ Mr. LYLE
They were in many cases invited by the Committee to give evidence, but I am not discussing that particular point. But what happened at one of our particular works may interest the House. We took a ballot of our employés. We asked them for their opinion on this particular question. We felt in one particular industry in which we are interested that it would be a great advantage to the workers, and a great advantage to the country and to the output and everything else, if we could get quicker results by this system. We wanted to hear the opinion of our workers, and I think it will be agreed by anyone who looks upon the matter in an impartial light that the steps we took were very fair steps. We issued a ballot paper. We did not say, Sign this here and now and hand it in. We said to our employés, Take this home, think about it, and consult your father and mother, or the rest of the family, say how it would affect your home life, consult your trade union officials if you like, and in a couple of days put a cross against your belief in the matter. We put on the ballot paper:The directors have for some time bee considering the possibility of working the department in which you are employed for two shifts instead of one. Under the two-shift scheme you would work one week from 6 a.m. till 2 p.m., with half an hour for breakfast, being a total of 45 hours per 1001 week. The next week, work would be from 2 till 10 on all days, with half a hour for tea, except Saturday, which would be a day off on this shift, being a total of 37½ hours. This gives an average week of 41¼ hours. Before considering the matter further, the directors would like to know whether you are in favour of this scheme, and they ask you to record your feelings on this ballot paper, which you should hand to your foreman at dinner-time to-morrow.We placed what we believed the disadvantages and advantages of the two-shift system.
§ Mr. LYLE
A half an hour's interval, from six till two, and also from two till 10, which makes a working week alternatively of 37½ hours and 45 hours, or an average of 41¼. We stated the advantages and the disadvantages of the early and late start on the ballot paper, and we sent the ballot paper out, and asked them to vote upon it. Those who know us well enough know that there would never be any pressure on the workpeople. The result was an eight to one majority in favour of this two-shift system. I merely mention that to the House because really so much rubbish has keen talked about this being injurious to the workers. One hon. Member went so far as to look upon this proposal as if it were something employers wanted to do in order to go back to some prehistoric age. We have been told how some people fought against raising the age limit of the workers in factories, and this Clause has been treated as if it were a reactionary thing. I suggest that what is being asked for under this Clause is not something that will give the workers longer hours and worse conditions, but quite the contrary, for it will give a shorter day and more time off, and the workers will have more time to enjoy themselves. I think this scheme ought to be looked upon fairly and squarely, and without prejudice.
§ Mr. FORREST
I desire to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause now under consideration, another new Clause which stands in my name on the Paper in the following terms: 1002The Secretary of State shall have power at any time and from time to time by Order to exempt from the operation of the Act for such period as he shall think fit any industry or branch of any industry upon being satisfied that such industry is prejudiced by the competition of any country which is not subject to equally restrictive legislation.I think the words of my proposal would meet many of the objections raised to the Clause we are now discussing. I am only concerned with the glass industry, and I should be quite prepared to accept any Amendment excluding textile industries. It has been admitted that certain industries of necessity must be carried on continuously, and that obviously means a shift system of some kind. The glass industry has been recognised as being entitled to exceptions in all pre-War legislation. In 1895, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) was Home Secretary, he specifically stated that the glass industry had made out so strong a case that they would be exempt from the legislation which he was proposing at that time. What we are now considering is admittedly experimental legislation, and neither advocates nor opponents can, with any conviction, say that their point of view is the right one. On humanitarian grounds, I take it we are all in favour of shorter hours, against starting work too early and against a late leaving off of work.
We have not only to consider our own country, but we have, to consider the conditions prevailing in other countries as well. In the past we have had unfair and sweating competition to compete with from other countries, and I am afraid we have to recognise that the chances are we shall have that state of things over again to some extent in the future. In the glass industry the pre-War imports amounted to £3,000,000 per annum. In practically the 14 months in 1919–20 the imports in this industry amounted to £10,500,000. Even at a largely increased value, that is a very alarming figure. The glass industry was very badly hit in pre-War times, and it was almost wiped out of existence. During the War endeavours have been made to bring back to this country that trade which foreign competitors had, and it is our duty to help and protect menaced industries under the operation of this Act.
§ Mr. CLYNES
We have had an extremely useful Debate, ranging over about 2½ hours this afternoon, and I would like to begin by correcting the impression which seems to have been formed that the opposition to the Clause emerges only from the Labour Benches. Not a single hon. Member in the Debate has supported this Clause in the terms in which it appears on the Paper. Therefore it is not merely Labour or trade union opposition. One hon. Member succeeded, if in nothing else, in importing into the Debate the first little splash of class colour of what he termed the trade union tyranny, and this comes mostly from those who have not followed the various speeches which have been made on the Clause now before the House.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This Clause has not yet reached the stage at which an Amendment may be moved. When the Clause has been read a Second time, that will be the occasion on which to move any Amendment.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Something can be said for the object aimed at by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Forrest). We would all like to make the fullest possible use of the machinery, the plant, and the general apparatus used in industry with a view to increasing output, and making the best contribution we can to the industrial prosperity of the country, but I think we are inclined to express an honest difference of opinion in regard to the best way to attain that end. The Clause before us has a very big human aspect of the industrial question. Even those who are incensed against trade unions will, I think, agree that it is highly undesirable to make women and young persons, boys and girls, get up at 5 o'clock in the morning and turn out to work. I doubt whether there is a single hon. Member of this House who is prepared to say that it is in itself a desirable or even a necessary thing to make boys and girls and women work as late as 10 o'clock at night, probably getting to their homes about 11 o'clock. That is the question before us, and on the balance I suggest that the weight of evidence is against the object of this Clause. There is a very great difference of opinion be- 1004 tween certain representatives who claim to speak for the employers interested in this Clause, and, so far as I can see, there is not a single industrial organisation made up of the persons who will be affected by legislation such as this which is in favour of this Clause.
§ Mr. SEDDON
The glass workers of St. Helens overwhelmingly support this Clause as it stands. I have the authority of the president of the glass workers' organisation, who was their official delegate, and who was here on Friday in this House, in making that statement.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Of course, I accept that testimony, which I hear for the first time, but I thought what the glass workers desired was to have their case met, not in the terms of this Clause, but in a very different way.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Speaking of trades and industries in general, and this Clause covers any industry, trade, factory or workshop, I say that, taking the workers collectively, the balance of evidence clearly proves that industrial organisations generally are opposed to the Clause which is now before the House. I know there are organisations actively interested in the political and social aspects of this question who have given their blessing, not so much to this Clause, but to the general objects of the Bill without the Clause.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I do not accept the instance which the hon. Member has given as expressing the opinion of industries in general. The hon. Member and his fellow employers arranged a ballot, and asked for replies to certain questions put to them, arranged by, himself arid his fellow employers, but that is not the right way to get a real test of the opinion of the workers.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I am not finding fault with the terms of the ballot paper, but I am objecting to that particular method being adduced as the real test of what is the opinion of the workers on a matter of this kind. In short, I say that the fairest way is to bring the workers together. I do not mind employers bringing the workers together to explain matters, and it is a very useful step to bring them collectively together and tell them what is meant, but you cannot judge this question by some statement on the ballot paper, because you will only understand one side of the case, and there are many other sides which could not be stated on a ballot paper, which obviously is drawn up to secure a certain result. I suggest, then, to the Home Secretary that the balance of opinion by far is against acceptance of this Clause, and I ask his attention to the fact that only one Member during the whole course of this Debate has written to support the Clause in the terms in which it stands on the Paper. I hope before we come to a vote on the Clause we shall have from the right hon. Gentleman some opinion on the appeals which have been addressed to him from more than one quarter as to varying the words of the Clause. He has been asked to agree to working hours, not as between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., but from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. That would be a very substantial modification, but I do not think it would at all—or entirely—remove the objections which many of us entertain to the substance of this Clause in principle. I want to address one or two remarks to the House on that point.
I strongly object to legislation of this kind. I do not think it is a good thing for the trades and industries of the country to repose in the Home Office, or a section of it, power, on application, to vary or extend the working hours in different trades and occupations. If such power has to be given I would not regard the Home Office as the best Department of State for the purpose. We have now a Ministry of Labour. I dare say the Home Secretary would approve of his task being made somewhat lighter. It is heavy enough, and he has no personal interest in retaining duties of this kind in his particular Department. If we are to have a Ministry permanently established and gathering by its daily activities all the knowledge obtainable with regard to industrial conditions, a Ministry daily in 1006 touch with the personnel of employers and of trade union representatives, and still more in touch with the industries and trade interests of the country, than the Home Office can be, why is it that the Ministry of Labour is not to exercise these powers? On the general merits of the case, I think we are devising a wrong way to deal with whatever may be the demands under this head. If there be a real demand from certain industries—the glass, the chemical or the tinplate—let those trades formulate it and let it be shown that there is some measure of agreement among employers and employed for establishing the two-shift system, and let us have a Bill in due form and proper legislation in statutory terms rather than hand over the task to a State. Department. It seems to me that a State Department might at some time vary the hours of labour and establish the two-shift system in any workshop or factory in any one industry or one town, and indeed in any one single establishment or part of an establishment. Talking of piecemeal legislation, that is piecemeal chopped into still smaller pieces, and I am surprised that so far as to-day's Debate has gone, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has given no indication of what the attitude of the Government is or what is his own view on the substance of this Clause.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I am aware of that, but my point is that new aspects of the casa have been presented during the two and a half hours' Debate we have had this afternoon, and appeals have come from very representative quarters in this House to the right hon. Gentleman to say something on the question of contracting the hours and making them from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. instead of 6 a.m. till 10 p.m. We all know that 6 a.m. means 5 o'clock for the worker. I am loth to give my own personal experience, but I offer it for what it is worth. For many years I had to rise at 4.30 a.m. in order to walk a distance of three miles to a cotton factory, so as to be there not later than half-past five. A 6 o'clock start really means that the workman must be at the factory long before the actual time, for there is a lot of preparatory work to be done before the actual machinery start can be made. It may be that employers in these days are having a somewhat different experience 1007 from my own thirty odd years ago. The only point I want to put to the House as arising out of this experience is that the workers more and more must in the nature of things, because of housing conditions, rise earlier and travel further in order to get to their day's employment, so that when we are thinking of children having to start work at 6 a.m. we must think of these boys and girls and women rising at 5 o'clock, or even perhaps before, because of the long distance they have to travel. I suggest seriously to the House that this is placing in the hands of a Department of the State a power which, if it is to be exercised at all, should be expressed and used in statutory terms, and that the House itself should accept the responsibility for it and not hand it over to a State Department. If we are to experiment in legislation of this character the experiment should in the first instance be limited expressly to the seasonal trades and those which are termed continuous occupation. Something may be said for proceeding on these lines.
I gather that in reply to that argument the Home Secretary says this would not become compulsory, that it does not apply to all trades and occupations, and that probably the great textile trade of Lancashire would be left outside the operation if a Clause of this kind is carried. The answer to that argument is that it is compulsory, because as soon as a demand is made to make it compulsory and as soon as power is given in response to that demand, it will depend on the degree to which the demand may arise whether the Home Office may be able to resist it or not. Although we are faced with a very considerable prospect of great industrial embarrassment and difficulty in respect of wages, work, and prices, I submit there should be a governing principle in this matter which should guide us in all respects, and that principle is, that in regard to the conditions for women and young persons we should legislate upon lines which will really meet the age and the sex needs of women and young persons. I put it to the House, it is not fair even in the interests of trade, or even because of the demands of business or industry to do this thing, and I go further and say it is not up to the moral standard we ought to adopt in regard to the position of women, boys and girls that they should be made to get up at 1008 five in the morning or be away from home as late as eleven at night when they are engaged on a task which should commence later or terminate very much earlier. My last objection to this Clause is that it would not be fair to many of the best employers in particular trades that might be affected. The position of the best employer is that he will go very little ahead of the other employers, and would rather follow them He might not be disposed to resort to the advantages of such a Clause as this whereas the worst employer might do so and thereby compel him.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I believe I shall be able to meet that particular point. When an Order is made for one factory or one mill to adopt the two-shift system it is suggested it might force others to apply for a similar Order, but I think I shall be able to meet that when we come to the Amendments.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I welcome that intimation. It rather takes the point from what I was going to say to the House. I hope I am anticipating in the right direction when I say the right hon. Gentleman ought to give us reassurances that the authority and power of his Department will not be used in a direction virtually favouring the less humane type of employer and placing the more humane type at a disadvantage. I think the right hon. Gentleman will have to go very far indeed in his reassurances if he is to take away the substance of the objections to the Clause which have been revealed during this Debate. I draw-attention to the fact that the Clause in the terms as it stands is likely to do incalculable harm. It has been so far resisted by every speaker who has troubled the House. It is also resisted, commonly speaking, by the whole body of organised workers who have any right whatever to speak for their members and who have expressed their opinions on the matter.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
Having listened to all the Debate on Friday and to most of it to-day, I confess I find myself in a little doubt as to what is the proper thing to do under the circumstances. Undoubtedly that is the virtue of being able to listen dispassionately to both sides of a case. I have now come to the conclusion that unless my right hon. Friend is prepared to accept Amendments to this Clause I shall have no alternative 1009 but to vote against it. Everybody agrees that it would be desirable to get rid of the employment at night of women and young persons, and even of their employment in the early hours of the morning. Some, of us go so far as to grasp at the ideal that women and young persons shall be excluded from industry altogether. That is not a practicable question. Nevertheless I think we should view with great apprehension anything calculated to extend the possibilities of young persons and women being employed in the very early hours of the morning or late at night, and certainly we have to admit that there is some possibility in this Clause of that being the result. These continuous shifts must undoubtedly have a prejudicial effect upon health. Nevertheless, while aiming at ideals, we have to recognise that we live in a world of actuality. The International Labour Organisation of the League of Nations—a body designed, I believe, to elevate the general labour conditions of the world and to make it possible for industry throughout the world to be humanised—recognised that there were certain industries that would have to be exempted from their proposals. It is very easy, when the industry in which one is specifically interested is exempted, to take a broad view of the question, but there is no industry in which I am particularly concerned.
On Friday I was much impressed by the statement of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Inskip) who presided over the Committee which inquired into this matter; and, when a woman of such a splendid record in the labour world as Miss Julia Varley has attached her signature to it, I am bound to confess that there must be a great deal more in the proposal than presented itself to me at first. If we clear our minds of cant, we must see that behind a good deal of the demand for restrictions on women's labour is the desire to exclude them from industry, by making their conditions of employment so onerous as to become uneconomic. I conclude that my friend Miss Julia Varley has perceived that there was something of this character in the agitation that she had to meet. I do not want to go so far as that, although I must confess that, in the days when I was acting as a trade union official, I was a party to devising conditions which would render it almost impossible for 1010 employment to be given to women in the industry in which I was then engaged. That was our set policy, but I hope that we are not going to be actuated by such considerations in this House. My real objection to this proposal is that it gives to the Home Secretary, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes) has said, a power with which he ought not to be invested, and which, in my opinion, with all respect to him, he and his Department are not really competent to administer. I should like him to give us some indication as to whether he is prepared to accept the first Amendment on the Paper, which is obviously put down on behalf of the Labour party, and which proposes that the application of the principle of the two-shift system shall only take place on the application of the two parties in the industry. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Miles Platting that these labour questions ought to be administered by the Ministry set up to deal with labour matters. I have no longer any connection with the Ministry of Labour, but I do know that, throughout the period during which I have been in this House, we pushed the demand for the establishment of a Ministry of Labour, and we accepted it as part of the condition of entering the Coalition under the present Prime Minister. I take this opportunity of protesting against the slight cast upon a Ministry which we have desired should be established, and whose proper function it is, in my opinion, to deal with all labour legislation and administration.
Here, again, however, I do not want even the Minister of Labour to be invested with such powers as are proposed. While I was at the Ministry of Labour it was my duty, on behalf of the Government, to recommend to private employers, and ultimately to urge upon Government Departments, the application of the scheme of Joint Industrial Councils, which are generally referred to as Whitley Councils. These bodies, in my opinion, are the proper bodies to be invested with the power of making recommendations to the Government as to whether the principle should or should not be applied to a particular industry. They are equally representative of the two parties, and they are in a position to take a broad and comprehensive view of the matter; and I think that, in dealing 1011 with matters of trade and commerce, it is very unwise, to hamper them by Act of Parliament. We see from the inquiries made by the International Labour Organisation that some exceptions have to be made to the principle, and it may well prove, on investigation, that there ought to be farther exceptions. Having regard to the principle underlying this new Clause, I respectfully suggest that it should not be further extended except with the concurrence, after full deliberation, of the two parties in the industry, as represented in the Joint Industrial Councils which the Government have recommended should be set up in connection with all industries. While I do not believe that the Amendment to which I have referred would meet everyone in the House, I believe that it would go a long way towards meeting the objections that some of us entertain, and I would suggest to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that he would lose nothing by indicating his willingness to accept it, but would, I am sure, thereby bring the Bill into harmony with the policy of the Government, as previously enunciated by the Ministry of Labour.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
It is the first of the Amendments on the Paper, standing in the name of my hon. Friends the Members for Ormskirk (Mr. Bell), Preston (Mr. Shaw), and Westhoughton (Mr. Tyson Wilson). I do not suggest that the exact wording should be followed, but I desire that these matters should be dealt with by the Joint Industrial Councils, which, I think, may be accepted now as representative in the democratic sense of the various industries of the country.
§ Mr. SHORTT
Perhaps it would be convenient if I tell the House now what I had proposed to suggest in the discussion upon this first Amendment. I had proposed to suggest that the Amendment should be framed to the effect—I do not insist on the exact words—that the Secretary of State shall not have power to make an Order under this Section in respect of a factory or workshop in any industry, if a joint representatation is made to him by organisations representing the majority of the employers and the workers in the in- 1012 dustry, that Orders under this Section ought not to be made in respect of factories and workshops in that industry: that is to say, that if representations were made by the Joint Industrial Council that in any particular industry the majority of the workers and of the employers did not desire that Orders should be made, they should not be made.
§ Mr. M'GUFFIN
I should not have thought it necessary to intervene at this moment if I did not feel that this proposal represented a rather retrograde movement with respect to industrial reform. We think that this Clause militates against the success of the Bill. We could not for one moment entertain the idea of asking women and children to rise early in the morning or to work late at night. Whatever it may mean with respect to the male portion of the operatives, we feel that it is most undesirable that it should be applied to women and children. We hear a great deal about the equality of the sexes, and there is a sense in which that is true. They are entitled to claim equality of privilege. But I am not of opinion that women are equal to men in respect of physical power or endurance. Failure to take note of that fact is decidedly retrograde. We have been told that the proposal will not be so applied that it would be a serious hardship to women, but I happen to have had a varied experience as an industrialist, and I remember, when I was only 11 years of age, going out to work at 5.30 in the morning and working until 6 o'clock at night. I made up my mind that, if it were ever in my power to prevent the continuance of this injustice, it would be my duty to do so. I get the opportunity this evening, and I cannot sit silent and see this injustice done to women. Nothing that we have heard in this Debate has convinced me that it will not be physically detrimental to women to rise early in the morning and go away to work, leaving undone many of the duties that must be incumbent upon them in their homes. It will also be equally deleterious to their health for them to work late at night.
We had an assurance on Friday that this would not militate against the educational privileges of women, but how is it possible that the continuation classes which are to be provided should become operative in their case if they are com- 1013 pelled to work at these hours? I am not concerned with regard to the industrial aspect of the question, but as to how it is going to affect women's health. It has been suggested that the Clause will really mean a shortening of the hours, and I am quite prepared to concede that, but I am not prepared to accept the Clause. If we desire to shorten women's hours of employment let us get it done directly by a Bill. I have heard reports from organisations for the defence of women and children with respect to this Bill, and with respect to this Clause, and they are unanimously against the adoption of the Clause. That has been met to some extent by the statement made by the Minister in charge, of the Bill, and I think that it would perhaps meet the case; but if the cotton and woollen industries, say, are to be exempted, I would insist, as representing the linen industry, that that industry should be exempted similarly. We shall strenuously oppose the application of this Clause to the linen trade. Whatever the House may do with regard to the Minister's suggestion, I hope that it will resolutely oppose the adoption of this Clause.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
You have permitted, Mr. Speaker, for the convenience of the House, a reference to the Amendment standing in the name of three hon. Members associated with the Labour party, and it drew from my right hon. Friend in charge of the measure a very important statement. May I just ask him, for the purpose of elucidating the point, a question as to the real position as between the Amendment standing on the Paper and the Amendment to the insertion of which he would, as I understand, have no objection? As the Amendment stands on the Paper it only allows the proposal contained in the new Clause to come into operation on the application of the employer and the organisation of the workpeople concerned, which might or might not be the conciliation council popularly known as the Whitley Council. As I understand it, the proposal of my right hon. Friend puts that the other way round, and says that it shall not come into operation where opposed by the employers and the employés' representatives. My right hon. Friend says he is not bound by the words which he suggests. He would be very 1014 willing to reconsider the words if the House came substantially to the conclusion that some such exceptional power of option as this might be inserted. He is not committed to the words that he has indicated. That is the position.
Mr. T. WILSON
The indication that the Government are prepared to accept an Amendment does to some extent re move the cause of our opposition. While we do not like the Clause at all, we recognise that in many of the great industries no application will be made to put it into operation. We also recognise that a case may be made out for a change in some industries. I did not altogether like the suggestion made by the hon. Member who seconded this Clause (Mr. Seddon). He referred to the fact that in the textile industries the trade unions were strong enough to resist any attempt to impose this Clause on that in dustry—
§ Mr. SEDDON
I beg the hon. Gentle man's pardon. That was a slip, and I tried to put it right. I meant the organisations in the textile industries, which include the employers as well as the workmen.
The suggestion left on our minds was that in industries where the working classes were not strong enough, this Clause would be imposed on the workpeople, willy nilly.
That was the impression on the minds of many of us who have spent all, our lives in trade-union work. I should like the Home Office to make it quite clear that before any order is made, imposing a double shift in any factory or workshop, the industry as an industry will be consulted. I think the Amendment means that, but I am not quite certain about it. I also hope that the question of reducing the hours, which are now from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., will be considered when the Clause is in Committee, and that the Government will give serious attention to the necessity of making the starting time in the morning later and the time for finishing work in the evening earlier. There is one doubt in my mind in connection with the Clause which will be removed if it is quite clear that the industry, as an industry, will be consulted. I fear that we shall have in one big industry a factory, 1015 or group of factories, belonging to the same company, which will apply for an order to be made, whereby they can work double shifts in the factories. If that power is left in the Bill we shall have discontent, friction, and industrial trouble.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
On a point of Order. Would it be possible for the Amendment adumbrated by the Home Secretary, though it is not on the Order Paper at this moment, to be placed on the Paper and discussed in Committee?
§ Sir R. ADKINS
Supposing the Second Reading is now accepted, and the House proceeds to Committee, will it then be open to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to move an Amendment additional to those on the Order Paper?
§ Mr. T. SHAW
This Clause is a retrograde step. There is no guarantee whatever that if it goes to Committee it will be in any way modified, and it is fair to assume that as it goes through the House so it will remain. For all practical purposes, the Clause means that women and young persons in certain industries must rise at five o'clock in the morning. Those of us who have had personal experience of rising at five o'clock to go to work do not desire that women and young children in any trade should have to do that. I do not know why it should have been necessary, after the professions made by various people, even to suggest that women should rise at that untimely hour. Anyhow, here is the suggestion, am because I have a decided objection co women and young persons being brought out at that hour in the morning, I shall vote against the Clause, without even risking its going to Committee with the
|Division No. 376.]||AYES.||[7.13 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Better ton, Henry B.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Bigland, Alfred|
|Atkey, A. R.||Barlow, Sir Montague||Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Barnett, Major R. W||Borwick, Major G. O.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bellairs. Commander Carlvon W.||Boscawen Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-|
§ Possibility of its amendment there. My objection is quite simple. I am against the whole thing, root and branch. If the proposal had been of a modifying character, one could have understood it. Here it is in its bald nature. It means that they will have to rise at five o'clock in the morning. I do not agree with that, and I shall vote against the Clause.
One requires to be a medical man to understand that this Clause really represents a retrograde step. What is the use of setting up a Ministry of Health in order, as we have been told, to improve the conditions of the C3 population, if by a side wind we are going in this way to impose a serious check on the improvement of the health of the community? If the permission granted in this Clause is taken advantage of, it is bound to have a retrograde effect on the rising population. If young persons, at the age of adolescence, are turned cut to work at that early hour of the morning, it must affect all their future lives. Personally, I have had to work at all hours of the twenty-four, and I know what a difference it makes if one goes to work without breakfast, instead of leaving home a good while after breakfast. It may be argued that the young persons might go to bed early, but you cannot get boys of sixteen to go to bed at eight o'clock at night in order to rise at five o'clock in the morning. If you deprive them of the necessary amount of rest, apart from the effect on their health of getting up early in the morning, you will be burning the candle at both ends. Thus, you will be giving permission to the Home Office, which some day may be presided over by a man without a soul, to inflict a serious blow on the health of the young generation. Industry was made for man, and not man for industry. We have to consider the health and the welfare of the individual first in all these industrial problems. From that point of view I feel sure I am right in voting against this Clause, in any shape or form.
§ Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 148; Notes, 66.1017
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hohler, Gerald Fltzroy||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hood, Joseph||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Brassey, Major H. L. C.||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Pearce, Sir William|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hopkins, John W. W.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Home, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Perring, William George|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Pratt, John William|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Casey, T. W.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Purchase, H. G.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanellyf||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Davidson, J. C.C.(Hemel Hempstead)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Lloyd, George Butler||Simm, M. T.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Lonsdale, James Rolston||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||Lorden, John William||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Forrest, Walter||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Taylor, J.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr., T. J.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Gllbert, James Daniel||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward A.||Maddocks, Henry||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Gregory, Holman||Martin, Captain A. E.||Williams, Lieut.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Mitchell, William Lane||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Wise, Frederick|
|Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Mosley, Oswald||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh)||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Nail, Major Joseph||Younger, Sir George|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Neal, Arthur|
|Hoare, Lieut-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Flnchley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Parker.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Newbould, Alfred Ernest|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Grundy, T. W.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Hall, F. (York, W. R. Normanton)||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Bottomley, Horatio W.||Hartshorn, Vernon||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hayward, Major Evan||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Cairns, John||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)|
|Carson. Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Hinds, John||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Hirst, G. H.||Sexton, James|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hogge, James Myles||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwlck)||Irving, Dan||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Jephcott, A. R.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Donald, Thompson||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Tootill, Robert|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Waddington, R.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||HYl'Guffin, Samuel||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Mills, John Edmund||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Glanviile, Harold James||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness and Ross)|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Myers, Thomas||Mr. Sugden and Mr. Tom Shaw.|
§ Clause accordingly read a Second time.
Mr. T. WILSON
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word may [The Secretary of State may"], to insert the words, upon the joint application of the employer or employers and the organisation or organisations of the workpeople concerned, and."
1018 Any Order that is made ought to be made at the request of the people who are directly concerned, and it ought to be made at the request, not of the employers and the workpeople in one factory, but of the representatives of the industry. The feeling is that in new legislation of this kind everyone concerned ought to have an opportunity of saying whether he 1019 approves of it or of an Order being made. I can quite see that if it is made easy for the employers to get an Order made for the two-shift system to be applied to their factory and not to the industry we are going to have industrial trouble, and I am certain neither the Government nor anyone in the House representing either Labour or the employing classes wants that. If we wish to make headway at all we must all pull together, and with the object of making the Clause palatable and more acceptable to the people concerned I beg to move.
Lieut. - CommanderKENWORTHY
May I ask, on a point of Order, to which Clause this applies? Is it the new Clause we have just passed?
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I support the Amendment for the same reason as has been stated by my hon. Friend. It is essential that we should have the utmost clarity in this matter. I am not quite certain whether the proposed Amendment of the Home Secretary does not meet the case even better than our own. At any rate it will prevent an Order being made at the will of one side to the bargain. We desire, when the Clause had been carried, as we knew it would be, to make certain that there should really be agreement before Orders were made in any trade whatever, and that was the object of this Amendment. I should like the Home Secretary to tell us whether his Amendment does not deal with exactly the same point, and if it does I think we might reasonably withdraw this. It seemed to me that the Home Secretary's Amendment dealt with this point.
§ Mr. SHAW
It seemed to me that what the Home Secretary said was that no industry should have this Order applied to it unless there was consent on the part of the majority of the operatives and the employers in the trade. Or, if that were not the remark, perhaps this is what he said, that if there was an objection on the part of the employers or a majority of the workpeople against it—
§ Mr. SHAW
That leaves us in the position that, if one of the sides is agreed, the Home Secretary may make an Order in face of the opposition of the other. If we use the conjunction and—employers and employed—obviously it means that if one of the sides falls away the Home Secretary's promise does not stand.
§ Mr. SHAW
Then we shall have to keep to this Amendment, that the employers and employed must declare their readiness before an Order shall be issued for any particular trade. I think that is a perfectly fair thing to do. If employers and employed in any particular trade do not agree I think it would be wrong to take a retrograde step of this description in face of opposition from either of the parties concerned. It is now our keen desire to see that, so far as possible, the Clause shall not be abused, and that when it becomes an Act of Parliament it will not be interpreted on the lines of what the Home Secretary for the time being may decide. The powers will be definitely given to any Home Secretary, and we may be faced with a Home Secretary who applies the letter of the law, and, without taking into account the feelings of either workpeople or employers, may make an Order. Obviously he cannot do it very well without the consent of the employer, because it will be the employer who applies to have the concession made. It can only be the worker who is the objecting party, and it can only be the worker who can be injured, and I feel that we must, in face of what the Home Secretary has said, stick to our Amendment.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I am afraid it is quite impossible that I should ask the House to accept this Amendment as it stands. The proposal is that in any factory or workshop an application can be made to have an Order for a two-shift system. Obviously the application for permission would not be made unless both sides were agreed, because without the agreement of both sides it would be unworkable. But suppose you have a factory or group of factories where both sides agree and say, We want an Order made in these terms. You might then have an association of 1021 employers on the one hand or a trade union connected with the industry on the other who would say, Very well. You people may be agreed, but we do not like it. If both the employers' organisation and the workmen's organisation agree that an Order should not be made in an individual factory or group of factories, even though the workpeople and the employer in that factory agree, I am prepared to accept that that should stop it; but supposing the whole trade unions of the industry agree that those factories should have an Order and the employers object, or if the employers all agree in the industry and the trade union objects, I should not be prepared to accept a provision that that shall stop the making of the Orders. But, equally, I do not think it is feasible that I should agree that before making an Order in an individual factory the Department would have to consult the trade as a whole. What I am prepared to accept is this. When an Order is made on the application of a factory or group of factories, then if a representation is made by an organisation representing the majority of employers and an organisation representing a majority of the workpeople saying that in the industry as a whole the majority of both sides agree that these Orders ought not to be made, then I agree that there should be a provision put in that no Order should be made. I cannot accept more than that. If that would meet the views of my right hon. and hon. Friends opposite I should be glad. If the majority of the employers and the majority of the workers in any industry disapprove of the making of these Orders after the Order is made they can make a representation. If they make no representation the Order goes on. If they are agreed, and they make a representation against the Order, the Order would cease, and any Order that had been made under this Section would have to be cancelled. That is my proposal.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
If my right hon. Friend would read out the words that he proposes it would be for the convenience of the House. It is extremely difficult to follow the matter now. So much turns on two or three words.
§ Mr. SHORTT
My proposal is this:Provided that the Secretary of State shall not have power to make an Order under this Section in respect of a factory 1022 or workshop in any industry if a joint representation is made to him by an organisation representing the majority of the employers and workers in that industry to the effect that Orders under this Section ought not to be made in respect of factories and workshops in that industry.I was going to add words such as these:Provided also that any Order made previously to such representation shall be cancelled within a certain time after the receipt of the representation.
§ Mr. SEXTON
Supposing that one side made an application for an Order and the other side objected: would you then put the Order into operation?
§ Mr. SHORTT
No, and for this simple reason, that the Order is useless unless both sides are agreed. It is no use making an Order giving permission to work two-shifts when clearly they are not going to work two-shifts.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
The right hon. Gentleman will have to recognise that if the two-shift system is to be adopted it can only work smoothly with the concurrence of both sides, and he will have to recognise also that the Government have definitely recommended a scheme of industrial organisation to the country. When I was at the Ministry of Labour the Government instructed me to recommend to the employers and the trade unions the adoption of a scheme of Joint Industrial Councils, and I respectfully submit to my right hon. Friend and the Government that they ought to recognise those Councils as the representative bodies in the various trades.
§ Mr. SHORTT
We are dealing now with a provision by which the whole industry can regulate the whole industry. I am quite prepared to agree that an application should be made by the Whitley Council in respect of any factory or group of factories.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
Perhaps I have not followed my right hon. Friend sufficiently, If that is the intention of his Amendment, well and good.
§ Mr. SHORTT
This Amendment is dealing with the regulation of the industry by the trades unions and employers' associations in that industry. I understand my right hon. Friend is referring to an application by an individual factory. I am quite prepared in the case of an individual factory or group of factories to 1023 agree that the application should come from both sides.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
What I want to convey is that whenever my right hon. Friend has a case submitted to him where in any industry it is desired or it is desirable that the two-shift system should be adopted, the right hon. Gentleman should then approach the Joint Industrial Council in that industry, or failing the Joint Industrial Council, the Wages Board which deals with the conditions of that industry. By that method he would be able to meet nearly every case. It is certain that if you are going to give one firm the right to adopt the two-shift system all competitors must necessarily be affected, adversely or otherwise. That may have the effect of extending the principle throughout the industry beyond its actual necessity, because of the fact that a new set of competitive conditions are created. My right hon. Friend would be well advised to accept the spirit of the Amendment now proposed because unless you carry the whole trade through these representative bodies, the central council, or the district councils, or the works committees, anything you do must cause irritation and will inflame the feelings that undoubtedly exist throughout the country. The Government in recommending a scheme of Joint Industrial Councils to the country entrusted each industry with the task of conducting its own affairs. I want Parliament to interfere as little as possible, legislatively, with industry.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
The right hon. Gentleman says that I am coming nearer to his point of view. I have been fairly consistent in my advocacy of the system of joint industrial councils. I advocated something of the sort prior to their having been created. These are the bodies, recommended by the Government, that should be held responsible for the conduct of the general affairs in industry. Unless my right hon. Friend is able to carry their concurrence he will not be able to administer anything that he is pro posing to-night. For the sake of peace and efficiency in industry he ought to adopt the spirit of the proposal emanating from the other side, although he may perhaps find better words for carrying it into effect.
§ Major HILLS
I agree with a great deal of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and may I make a suggestion to the Government? It is very difficult for us to consider now the exact extent of an Amendment which we have only just heard. Would it not be better to withdraw the Amendment which has been proposed, on the understanding that an Amendment bearing on that point shall be moved in another place. As I understand the object of the Amendment, it is to enable trade to determine its own destiny. When we look back to the Factory Acts, we find a code built up for the protection of women. That code originated when women were weak industrially and had no political power. Things have changed. Women are organising and they have the vote. Ultimately they will be in the same position as the large trade unions, and they and the employers between them will fix the conditions of industry. We have to tide over till that time, and I do not want any Amendment to block the road which leads women to their industrial future. They are stronger than they were and their political power is now established by statute, and in the end we shall cease to regulate them entirely by factory laws, which have been very useful in the past. I hope my right hon. Friend will consider my suggestion very carefully, because I think it is most valuable. The House is very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Boberts), and I think that here we have a solution of a very difficult question.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I should be very glad, and I think it would be very advisable, that there should be an opportunity of my Amendment being put on the Paper. I have had an opportunity of a conversation with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Roberts), and we have quite agreed. His proposal and my proposal are the same, and I think that when my proposal is put down it will be found that what I propose is, in fact, the same that my right hon. Friend proposes. I am perfectly willing, if it is agreeable, that I should bring in an Amendment on the lines advocated by myself and my right hon. Friend in another place.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
It is important that we should have this matter perfectly clear. The proposal by the right hon. 1025 Member for Norwich is that this should only be applied where the industry asks for it.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Where agreement has been reached. It is important to get employés working together. The Home Secretary assents to the proposition that there is no use trying to force this on an industry if the two sides are not working together. Friction would ensue, which you want to avoid. What this Amendment proposes is that you should apply the system when you have agreement, and ostensibly you get agreement when it is asked for by the employers and the workpeople concerned. That is what the right hon. Member for Norwich really means. If this is to be dealt with in another place and not here we may find ourselves in some difficulty. It may come back to us, perhaps after 11 o'clock at night, when only a few of us are here, and this most important matter may have been dealt with in a way quite contrary to the intentions of a large number of Members. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Shortt) says he substantially agrees with that.
§ Mr. SHORTT
The difference is this: As I explained to my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, I am quite prepared to have a provision put in that the application in regard to an individual factory or group of factories must be a joint application by the employers and the workpeople in that factory or group of factories but not of the whole trade. Where the whole trade are agreed, through the Whitley Councils, or in any other way, they can then step in if they disapprove, and register their disapproval, and then automatically the Orders in that industry will cease, and the Orders made under this Section will be cancelled. The original application is to be made by agreement and by the workpeople and employers concerned in the particular factory or workshop.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
That makes a substantial difference in my attitude. I regret that we had not the Amendment 1026 on the Paper and that we should be left to the very nebulous position of a discussion in another place, and where if the position is not met in accordance with what the majority of this House now desires, we may be left with a discussion after 11 o'clock at night. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend can circulate a White Paper so that we may know what his proposals are before the Bill reaches another place; then we shall be on the look out when it comes back here and know their ideas and our ideas, which I hope may be in agreement, and if not we shall know what line to take.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I would join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich in urging that it is essential that, if Orders are to be granted, it must be in conjunction with both sides; but we have got to be careful. The right hon. Gentleman is in the same difficulty as I am in in finding words to come to a considered conclusion. The case presents itself of the glass trade, which has caused me to take the interest which I have taken in this particular Bill. It does not come within the purview of my own constituency, but it does in my own town, which is as near as any constituency in the country. In that industry there has been going on an amalgamation of industries. From what was said on the other side, I should have assumed that hon. Members speaking for the other sections would be opposed to the glass industry. They have themselves in conjunction with the employers established all these councils, but if it is to be left to the whole organisation they would turn down the requirements of 95 per cent, of those in the glass trade, and I want to avoid anything in the nature of complications which would make the last position worse than the first. What we want in these Orders is that protection should be given, but that no injury should be inflicted on any particular section of the industry.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I hope that I have made clear the lines on which I would ask the House to act—upon the joint application of the employer or employers and the majority of workpeople concerned. That would cover the question of agreement before the application is made in respect of particular factories, and, if my hon. Friend agreed, I would move to re-commit the Bill for the purpose of con- 1027 sidering the matter further, and I will put the proposal on the Paper to-night so that hon. Members can consider it.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
As I understand, the particular Amendment is to be put on the Paper to-night and to be decided when the Bill is taken again.
§ Mr. BARTLEY DENNISS
May I ask that if the words organisation or organisations are left out, and we leave in the words the majority of the workpeople concerned, what is meant by the workpeople concerned? Is it the workpeople concerned in the particular mill or factory? That would not meet the case. Take the case of an employer, the owner of a mill, who applied for an Order, and his workpeople backed him up, while the other people in the industry, the trade unions and the people in the other works, objected. Apparently it would have no effect unless they both agreed. The workpeople in the particular factory may be induced by the employer by higher wages, or the prospect of continuous employment, to join with the employer in making a joint application, and he will get a great, an improper, and an undue advantage over the other mill owners who cannot get the Order from the Secretary of State, because he can produce twice as much stuff from the same mill premises, paying only the rates and taxes of one mill and one set of machinery, and he will always be able to collect a sufficient number of people from a large trade to come to his mill to have extra wages. So that putting in the words the majority of workpeople concerned would not meet the case. The Labour party and Members from Lancashire have seen the point which I have made. We do not want to have an abortive discussion to-morrow. The Home Secretary has an idea that if there is joint representation of the organisation of the employer and the workman that would solve the situation. Again, that will not; because, supposing the employés back it up and the trade unions object, then there would be a strike and the industry would be plunged into chaos. I can see that in the cotton industry quite plainly. Either there would be a joint application by the employer and trade unions, or either the trade unions or the employers would ob- 1028 ject, and then the Order ought not to be made.
§ Mr. R. GRAHAM
Then in any trade you might have two systems in operation—the single-shift system in some mills and the double shift in others.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I am surprised to hear that. It does not seem to me possible. It seems to me that if an employer in any trade adopted the two-shift system, which is supposed to be more economical than the single-shift system, other employers will be obliged by competition to adopt the same system. Consequently, if in any trade a few employers who with their workers constituted a very small minority of the employers and workpeople in that trade adopt that system, then it becomes compulsory on the other employers to adopt it in competition, or upon the other employers and upon the workpeople to resist its continuance by the firm by which it has been adopted.
§ Captain ELLIOT
In such an enormously important industrial change as that which we are considering with a very small attendance, we should not come to any definite decision to-night. I particularly ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the question of an industrial council which is constituted jointly of employers and employed where the women employés have not been allowed to join a trade union, and consequently have no representation whatever on the Joint Industrial Council, and it may be that the Joint Industrial Council might take some very arbitrary action in that case. I would not have brought the matter up if such arbitrary action had not been taken some weeks ago in the case of the women bakers. I do not wish to cast any reflection on the trade unions, but in that case apparently the Joint Industrial Council has found itself unable to intervene or take any decision in the case of what may be the most grave injustice, namely, the dismissal of women who have been employed in a trade previous to the War, a dismissal in consequence of an agreement come to afterwards. That is an instance of possible injustice by a joint industrial council to women employés. I understand that the Home Secretary intends to have this discussion continued to-morrow. It would be very rash if any decision were come to on the matter just now in an empty House, when one con- 1029 sider's the tremendous Debate that took place over this very point as long ago as 1850, when the two-shift system was being mooted after Lord Shaftesbury's great Act was carried, and it convulsed the, whole country; and that we should decide on this point in a half-empty House would be one of the greatest disasters that could happen to the prestige of the House of Commons.
Mr. T. WILSON
There is some difference between the right hon. Gentleman's proposals and this Amendment. Perhaps it is not so great as some of us may think, but in matters of legislation I am in favour of direct action, and I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman's proposal is going round by X.Y.Z. to get to A.B.C. What we propose is that before the order is made the Home Secretary should be satisfied that the majority of people concerned who are interested in the industry are willing that the two-shift system should be introduced. What he proposes is, that if one or more mills, workshops, or factories apply for an order to be made to work the two-shift system he will make an order, but that if the majority of those in the industry object to that order he is going to cancel the order. I prefer before the order is made, with the object of preventing friction, that he should satisfy himself that the majority of the people concerned are willing. It is a great deal easier to make an order when the people concerned are willing to have the order made than to make it and have it cancelled afterwards. I understand that the Home Secretary is going to recommit the Bill, and on the understanding that the whole question can be raised when the Bill is recommitted, I do not press for a decision upon this now either from the House or from the right hon. Gentleman, and am prepared to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. T. WILSON
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1) to leave out the word six [at any time between the hours of six in the morning and ten in the evening"], and to insert instead thereof the word seven.
That means that women and young persons would not have to rise at five o'clock in the morning, and that they would be able to start work at seven o'clock instead of six I have lived in 1030 a manufacturing town for 34 years. When following my own trade I have had to rise at 5.30 in the morning, and it made my heart bleed to see little children going through the slush and snow and getting wet through before they reached their work. It has always seemed to me that seven o'clock is early enough for boys and girls to start work.
§ Major HILLS
I would suggest that the Amendment depends largely on the form which the promised Amendment of the Home Secretary will take. We are dealing with a restriction on women's labour that does not apply to men's labour. A man can go to work at any time that he likes during the twenty-four hours. At present women cannot work before six in the morning or after eight at night, and this Clause is proposed to extend the hours to ten. The House must not lose sight of the fact that we are removing a restriction and placing women to a certain extent in the same position as men. Suppose that the Amendment of the Home Secretary, when we see it, really gives self-determination, it should then go a long way towards leaving the hours as they are in the Clause. I do not like an hour as early as six or as late as ten o'clock, but it is for the people themselves to say when they work, and I think we should be far better advised to leave it to them than try to lay down restrictions. I would remind members of the Labour party of that which they have forgotten, namely, that the restrictions on women's labour are to protect women and not to protect men. I think they sometimes imagine that they have a right to restrict women's labour, and just because the Factory Act contains certain restrictions they object to their being withdrawn. I hope they will not insist on that attitude. I am sure that in their heatrs they stand for equality. The best way to get equality is to let people determine things for themselves. My own vote on the question of hours will be largely determined by the form of the Amendment promised by the Home Secretary.
§ Major GRAY
The argument of the last speaker indicates that it will be wise to postpone all further discussion on this Bill at this stage.
§ Major GRAY
I spoke somewhat strongly on Friday against the proposal to have young persons employed at this very early hour of the day, bearing in mind also that they have not the advantages which young people possessed some time ago, because six o'clock is really five o'clock by Greenwich time in the summer months. The institution of summer-time was designed to give long evenings, and the worst of it is that young people take advantage of the long evenings, and curtail the hours of sleep, which are so very important. Strongly as I am disposed to vote for seven o'clock, my view might be materially modified when I see the Home Secretary's promised Amendment. I do not know whether I should be in order in moving any Motion which would have the effect of postponing further discussion, but I hope the suggestion will appeal to the Home Secretary.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
The suggestion of hon. Members opposite would, I think, tend very much to a better and more informative discussion on the Amendments. The idea, I understand, is that the Home Secretary should get the rest of the Bill and leave this Clause to be started ab initio with his Amendment, which will govern the whole of the Amendments now on the Paper.
Mr. T. WILSON
I do not wish to put the House to any inconvenience. If we delay the discussion of Amendments now it may mean that we shall come to agreement more quickly later on. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Proposed Clause added to the Bill.