§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Montague Barlow)
I beg to move,That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government respecting the Draft Conventions and Recommendations adopted by the Third and Fourth Sessions of the International Labour Conference, hold at Geneva in 1921 and 1922, respectively.I am going to indicate shortly the nature of these Conventions and Recommendations. Part 13 of the Versailles Treaty consists of some 40 Articles dealing exclusively with questions of labour, and providing for the creation at Geneva of an International Labour Organisation. Every member of the League of Nations is a member of the organisation, and one or two nations have been permitted to co-operate in the work of the Labour organisation even prior to their being represented at the League of Nations. The International Labour Organisation consists, broadly speaking, of three pieces of constitutional machinery. There is, first of all, the International Labour Office itself, with a permanent seat at Geneva. Secondly, there is the executive committee, known as the governing body, which usually meets four times a year, and supervises the general work of the organisation. I shall have to mention the constitution of this body in a minute, but at present it consists of 24 members, 12 representing States, six representing employers, and six workers.
Thirdly, there is one (or more) conferences each year, at which each State member of the organisation is entitled to be represented by two Government delegates, one delegate representing employers, and one representing the workers—making four in all. These are entitled to the assistance of technical experts. At the annual conferences many questions of the day relating to labour come up for discussion. The Treaty makes special provision in regard to the main or formal subjects on the agenda. These formal subjects have to be selected in the first instance by the governing body. They 2416 are submitted to the various States for consideration four months before the conference, and the Governments may raise objections to the inclusion of any particular topic. Then the formal items on the agenda, and only the formal items, when discussed at the conference, if accepted, may be embodied in one of two documents, either in a Draft Convention or a Recommendation. The important Article 405 of the Peace Treaty deals with those documents and with the obligation of members in regard to them. For many purposes Draft Conventions and Recommendations are alike in character. The subjects to which they relate, in order to be adopted, must secure a two-thirds majority, and after having been so voted, both must be brought before "the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies for enactment of legislation or other action."
There is, however, this very substantial difference, that the Draft Convention requires ratification, which is not required in the case of the Recommendation. In view of this fact, I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) that his Amendment is not conceived with strict accuracy, because he speaks of ratifying the recommendations as well as the Draft Conventions. The Draft Convention is meant to be a basis for legislation, and it is, therefore, drafted in the form it is, while the Recommendations are meant to be more general in character and to serve rather as a means of affirming principles, leaving to the States concerned freedom to apply the principles in the matter best suited to their condition. By leave of the House, I will take the Conventions and Recommendations in order, and if I give some personal details, it is because I had the honour of being the senior British delegate at both these conferences. I am therefore fairly familiar with the circumstances of these Draft Conventions and Recommendations. In order to save the time of the House I do not propose to go into them in any considerable detail, but merely to give without great detail an outline of each document. But I myself or the Parliamentary Secretary will only be too glad to answer any special points raised in the discussion. 2417 First of all, the Conference of 1921. It dealt mainly with questions of agriculture. I had the able assistance throughout of Sir Daniel Ball, the very skilled and trusted chief scientific adviser of the Ministry of Agriculture. The Conference adopted seven Draft Conventions and made eight Recommendations. The text of these has been printed as Command Paper 1612 of 1922, and was laid on the Table of the House in March, 1922. Of the seven Draft Conventions and eight Recommendations, three Draft Conventions and seven Recommendations were exclusively relating to agriculture. In addition, the 1921 Conference dealt with the important subjects of white lead and a weekly rest day, together with two maritime proposals of less importance. I should like to mention that, for the convenience of Members in the Debate, I have had a tabular analysis, a copy of which I hold in my hand, printed. It is available in the Vote Office. In what I have to say I shall endeavour to follow the order suggested in that tabular analysis, and not the order in the Command Paper of March, 1922. As I have already indicated, the Draft Conventions are the more formal documents. Therefore I am taking these in order. First, I take the Draft Convention concerning the Age for Admission of Children for Employment in Agriculture. That is the first Draft Convention appearing in the tabular analysis, and it is set out at length on page 9 of the Command Paper, to which I have already referred. This Draft Convention (Article 1) prohibits the employment in agriculture of children under the age of 14 years during the hours fixed for school attendance, and, if they are employed at other times, the employment is not to be of such a character as will prejudice their attendance at school. There are certain exceptions which can be made, provided that the total annual period of school attendance is not reduced to less than eight months.
The Government are in agreement with the provisions of the Draft Convention which, in fact, represent the law of this country at present; and they would be in favour of its ultimate ratification. A difficulty of machinery, however, has arisen, in a quarter where difficulties do sometimes arise, I mean in Scotland. The granting of exemptions for school attendance to children under 14 in Scotland is in the hands of the 2418 local education authorities, whereas in England neither the central authority nor the local authorities—who are, of course, responsible for the administration of the law—have any power to grant exemptions. The Government cannot ratify the Convention until this point is cleared up. It may be said, "Why should not the Government ratify, with an express reservation as to this difficulty?" I think the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), will agree with me that it was the view of the late Government—a view in which I may say at once I agree—that ratification with reservations is, generally speaking, undesirable—
§ Sir M. BARLOW
—for this obvious reason, that if such a procedure were frequently adopted, it might very easily whittle away the value of ratifications almost to the vanishing point.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
In those circumstances, while the Government would be in favour of ultimate ratification, they cannot ratify the Draft Convention as it stands. They are referring the matter to the International Labour Organisation to consider the possibility of amending the Draft Convention so as to provide power to grant such limited exemptions as are operative in Scotland. Subject to that, they favour ratification.
I now take the second Draft Convention on the Paper, concerning the Rights of Association and Combination of Agricultural Workers. That is set out at length on page 17 of the Command Paper. This Draft Convention is intended to secure to workers engaged in agriculture the same rights of association and combination as are enjoyed by industrial workers. In many countries in Europe there does seem to be a very substantial difference between the two. In Great Britain, however, existing legislation on such matters makes no differentiation between agricultural and industrial workers. It is proposed, therefore, to ratify the Draft Convention, and this ratification will entail no new legislation. Thirdly, there is the Draft Convention concerning Workmen's Compensation in Agriculture, which is set out in full on 2419 page 20 of the Command Paper. Members of the International Labour Organisation who ratify this Draft Convention undertake to extend to all agricultural wage earners their laws and regulations which provide for the compensation of workers for personal injury, by accident arising out of, or in the course of, their employment. Those words, in view of recent discussions in this House, have a somewhat familiar ring, and there is a technical point in relation to them to which I must draw the attention of the House, although I do not think they involve any real difficulty.
The words of the Convention are "accident arising out of or in the course of their employment." On the other hand, the words of the British Workmen's Compensation Act, which since 1900 applies to agricultural wage earners, provides compensation for "injuries arising out of and in the course of their employment." The words of the Draft Convention, therefore, are somewhat wider than the words of the existing English Statute. The object of Article 1, and indeed of the whole Convention, is to place the agricultural workers, for purposes of workmen's compensation, on the same footing as the industrial workers of the country, and the undertaking in terms is to extend such workmen's compensation legislation as the State possesses to the agricultural worker, whatever that legislation may be. The British legislation does already extend to agricultural workers, and it is proposed accordingly to ratify the Draft Convention; but at the same time to accompany the ratification by an explanatory note, to the effect that the British Workmen's Compensation Legislation, at any rate at present, provides only for injuries arising out of and in the course of the employment.
Fourthly, there is a Draft Convention relating to the Use of White Lead in Painting. The subject of the use of white lead in paint proved a very contentious one at the Conference, in Geneva, in 1921, and I must, therefore, say something more about it. Various interests and points of view had to be considered. The workers pressed for an international effort along the lines of eliminating altogether what they held to be a serious peril in industrial life. On the other hand, evidence was adduced 2420 both as to the greater effectiveness of paint containing white lead and also as to the possibility of minimising, if not eliminating, the peril to the worker if proper precautions were taken. Two Draft Conventions were discussed in Committee, and two Draft Conventions were actually submitted to the full Conference. It seemed very unlikely that any agreed text would emerge, but at the very last moment, and in quite dramatic circumstances—largely owing to the suggestions and co-operation, I am glad to say, of two trusted British representatives, Dr. Legge, a Senior Inspector of the Home Office, and Mr. Poulton, the British Workmen's representative—a compromise was suggested and voted, actually within three or four hours, and on the last day of the Conference.
This compromise was voted unanimously, subject to one abstention, not only by all the State representatives, many of whom were identified with conflicting national interests, but also unanimously by employers as well as workers' delegates. It is true that there seemed, before the voting took place, some danger that the necessary two-thirds majority might not be available. It was the last day of the Conference, and a large number of the delegates had already left or were leaving. At the time of the Conference the Home Office had an important Departmental Committee sitting, and in view of this fact the British Government delegates had taken no active part in the discussions; but it clearly would have been a tragedy if, through any mechanical difficulties of machinery, a useful and fruitful piece of industrial adjustment had failed to secure the necessary two-thirds majority. Accordingly, my colleague and I voted for the terms of the Draft Convention, which was meant to embody it, but I felt at the time doubt whether, in view of the speed at which the compromise had been inevitably worked out and voted, difficulties might not arise in future. With a caution which subsequent events have certainly justified, I explained that that vote was given, and given solely, on the basis of the compromise being a satisfactory one, acceptable to all.
Shortly, the Draft Convention provides as follows: Article 1 prohibits, with certain definite exceptions, the use of white lead or sulphate of lead in the internal 2421 painting of buildings; and Article 3 prohibits, with certain exceptions, the employment of males under 18 years of age, and of all females, in any painting work of an industrial character involving the use of white lead. In order to give the employers time to adapt their processes, these two provisions are not to come into force for six years, that is, till 20th November, 1927. There are two further important provisions: The Regulations under which white lead may be used, and the conditions under which work shall be done, are defined by a series of Regulations. For instance, white lead is not to be used in painting operations, except in the form of paste, or of paint ready for use, it being generally admitted, I think, in the expert discussion, that the real danger came from the dust of white lead. Lastly, that the statistics with regard to lead poisoning amongst working painters should be kept. These two latter sets of provisions are to become operative not later than 1st January, 1924.
As I suggested might be the case, difficulties have in fact arisen on the wording of the Draft Convention. For instance, Article 3, relating to the employment of males under 18 and of females, which, in terms, relates to "work of an industrial character," that is to say, to industrial painting, whether inside or outside a building, or possibly even not in connection with a building at all—for instance, it has been suggested that the painting of perambulators would come within the definition of "work of an industrial character" was understood by many who voted in favour of the Draft Convention not to extend to work of an industrial character on such a wide basis as I have suggested, but only to painting in connection with a building, for it was only in connection with buildings that the whole discussion was taking place. I am not arguing whether this contention is right or wrong, but it is my duty to indicate to the House that there does seem to be a serious misunderstanding, either whether the Draft Convention embodies the proposals as agreed, or as to the precise meaning of the Draft Convention.
In these circumstances, and in view of my declaration at Geneva, the British Government clearly have freedom of action in the matter. It may be of 2422 interest to the House to know that the official publication of the International Labour Office, "The Bulletin," of 30th August, 1922, states that opinions have been asked from various members of the Committee concerned—the Committee which dealt with this Draft Convention—as to what they understood by Article 3, and that the majority of them take the view that the limitations of Article 3, which relates to males under 18 and to all females, was intended to be confined to painting in connection with buildings, though clearly it does not say so. This point therefore has manifestly to be cleared up. 5.0
Apart altogether from Article 3 it is necessary to point out that, since the Conference at Geneva, the strong Departmental Committee, to which I have referred, issued their Report. It is a weighty document and I have it here. It is true that the Report of that Committee, which is known as the Norman Committee, as the right hon. Baronet the Member for Blackburn (Sir H. Norman) was Chairman of it, recommended that legislation should be passed to give effect to the principle of the Geneva Convention; but the Report also seems to indicate that in view of recent discoveries some of the restrictions embodied in the Draft Convention are no longer of such vital importance they were in 1921. For instance, there is the question of wet sand paper instead of dry rubbing down. In these circumstances, the matter clearly calls for further consideration. We propose, therefore, to communicate with the authorities at Geneva, and the Home Secretary will take the matter up in conference with the interests affected.
Fifthly, there is the Draft Convention concerning the application of the Weekly Rest Day in Industrial Undertakings. This Draft Convention is intended, subject to certain exceptions, to secure to all workers in industrial undertakings 24 consecutive hours of rest in every period of seven days. If such a, provision as this stood by itself, naturally, no exception could be taken to it in this country. The English week-end is a proverb on the Continent. We have enjoyed for many generations, and as a result of custom and of almost unconscious development, the privilege of a cessation 2423 of industrial work at the week-end in a way which few, if any, of the other nations enjoy; and in a way which has been, I think it is fair to say, the desire of the workers of the rest of the world to emulate. But difficulties arise in the Clauses of thin Draft Convention due to subsequent elaborate provisions for compensatory periods of rest if any work is done on Sunday; and also for inspection. These provisions would be very difficult of application in this country. The British Government delegates pointed out this fact at Geneva and declined to support the Draft Convention if these Clauses remained in. The definition Clause, in addition, is unsatisfactory. In these circumstances it in not proposed to ratify this Convention.
On page 4 at the top we come to the Maritime Draft Conventions. These are the Draft Conventions fixing the minimum age at which young persons can be employed as trimmers and stokers; and the Draft Convention concerning the compulsory medical examination of children and young persons employed at sea. The first of these prohibits the employment of any young person under the age of 18 as a trimmer or stoker, subject to certain exceptions in the case of training ships and so on. The second makes compulsory, except in urgent cases, the medical examination of all children and young persons under 18 employed on ship-board. Such medical examination is to be repeated at least once a year. The Government are in favour of these two Draft Conventions, and a Bill will be introduced to give effect to them as soon as the state of public business permits. It must, of course, be understood that these provisions stand by themselves and must not necessarily be used as an argument for more general amendments in maritime legislation. His Majesty's Government, therefore, subject to the information given, are prepared to advise that both these Draft Conventions should be ratified.
It will thus be seen that of the seven Conventions of the 1921 Conference the British Government propose to ratify four, namely, rights of association of agricultural workers, compensation for agricultural workers, and the two maritime Draft Conventions. They propose 2424 to reject one, that on the weekly rest day, and with regard to the remaining two, namely, young persons in agriculture and white lead, they propose to have further consultation and to take up with the Labour Organisation at Geneva the question, if necessary, of their amendment.
Now for the Recommendations. The House will bear in mind, as I have already stated, that there is no requirement under Article 405 of the Peace Treaty that Recommendations should be ratified; but they are on this occasion submitted to the House in the terms of Motion and in accordance with the Peace Treaty. At the 1921 Conference there were eight such Recommendations. The first Recommendation concerned the prevention of unemployment in agriculture. This proposes that each member of the International Organisation should consider measures for providing against unemployment and examine particularly certain methods and the advisability of adopting them. The operative words of the Recommendation present no difficulty and can be accepted, but the Preamble does create a little difficulty, as it contains an indirect reference to unemployment insurance, which gives rise to a difficulty, so far as Great Britain is concerned. Agriculture is one of the industries excepted from the scope of our Unemployment Insurance Acts, and I believe I am correct in saying that there is not at present any general indication of any desire on the part of agriculture to be included within the scope of the Unemployment Insurance Act. While the Government are in favour of this Recommendation, it will not be possible for them to accept it until it is made clear, if necessary, at a subsequent Conference or otherwise, that the Recommendation does not necessarily involve Unemployment Insurance provisions being applied to agriculture. If this can be clearly established, then the Government see no objection to ultimately accepting, and it is proposed that the Government delegates shall be instructed to raise this point at a future Session of the Conference.
The second Recommendation deals with the protection before and after child-birth of women wage-earners in agriculture. This raises the whole question of the famous Washington Maternity Convention, 2425 because all the Recommendation does, in fact, is to apply the Washington Maternity Convention to women agricultural wage-earners. The Washington Maternity Convention itself and the question whether it should be ratified were fully discussed in this House in a discussion on lines similar to the present on the 1st July, 1921, and the situation had already been fully explained by the then Minister of Health, Dr. Addison, in a Debate on 22nd March, 1921. I do not wish to go into the arguments at any great length which were used on that occasion or to deal, except very briefly, with the reasons which led the then Government to decide not to ratify the Washington Maternity Convention for industry generally. Shortly, the ground of refusal was that we have already, under the Health Insurance Act and the Factory Acts, a scheme for protecting women engaged in industry, and the Washington Maternity Convention would tend to cut across and confuse our existing scheme. Of course, both the Washington Maternity Convention and the British scheme have the same good end in view, but the difference in the policy embodied in the two is shortly this.
The Washington Maternity proposals are to some extent more intensive and the existing English provisions are clearly much more extensive. For each woman affected, the Washington provision would give rather more elaborate protection. For instance, they would require six weeks off work before and after confinement; while the analagous provisions of our Factory Act is four weeks off work after confinment. On the other hand—and this is the great difference—the Washington Maternity proposals only affect women who are themselves engaged in industry. In this country there are about 440,000 married women so engaged. But the English provisions under the Health Insurance Act cover, not only women engaged in industry, but the wives of employed contributors under the Act. Further, the Maternity and Child-Welfare Act, 1918, and the schemes of local authorities under that Act, with the aid of the State grant, provide for the use of all women such services as mid-wives and doctors, ante and post-natal treatment, supply of milk and so on. In these circumstances, and for reasons similar to those which prompted the late Government to refuse to ratify 2426 the Washington Maternity Convention for industry generally, the Government do not propose to accept this Recommendation. At the same time it is desirable to point out that in the spirit of the Recommendation, agricultural women workers in this country have precisely the same protection and assistance with regard to sickness benefit, medical treatment and limitation of work after confinement as other women workers in industry.
Then we come to the Recommendation concerning night work of women in agriculture. This Recommendation requests each member of the International Labour Organisation to regulate the employment of women wage-earners in agricultural undertakings during the night, in such a way as to ensure them at least not less than nine hours, which shall, if possible, be consecutive, off work. The Government propose to accept this Recommendation, as, with a few unimportant exceptions, its provisions are already carried out in this country by existing custom. Fourthly, there are the Recommendations concerning night work of children and young persons in agriculture. This Recommendation consists of two parts; the first dealing with children, and the second with young persons. The first part deals with the employment of children under the age of 14 and recommends that steps be taken to regulate their employment during the night, in such a way as to ensure them a period of abstention of work consisting of not less than ten consecutive hours. The second part contains an analogous provision with regard to the employment of young persons between the ages of 14 and 18, but in this case the period of rest suggested is to be not less than nine consecutive hours. No difficulty arises with regard to the first part of the Recommendation as to the employment of children under 14. I am sure we shall all agree with the spirit of the Recommendation. Here, as in the case of night work for women, in agriculture the existing custom in this country accords generally with the provisions of the Recommendation. With regard to the second part—young persons from 14 to 18 and a period of nine hours' consecutive rest—the existing custom is probably not so rigid as the rule laid down in the Recommendation. On the other hand, in the view of the Government, the need for regulation in this case has not been experienced, nor do the 2427 Government propose to introduce legislation for which, in their view, there is no demand. The Government, therefore, propose to accept this Recommendation in so far as it applies to children of either sex, or to female young persons, but not so far as it applies to male young persons between 14 and 18.
Fifthly, we have the Recommendation concerning the development of technical agricultural education. This provides that each member shall endeavour to develop technical agricultural education and, in particular, to make such education available to agricultural wage earners on the same conditions as to other persons engaged in agriculture. This second provision is met by Section 3 of the Corn Production Act (Repeal) Act, 1921, which sets up a Fund for promoting agricultural development, including the establishment of scholarships and maintenance grants for the sons and daughters of agricultural workmen, and grants for the purpose, varying from £10,000 to £20,000 have been included in the Vote for the last two years. The Government, accordingly, propose to accept this Recommendation.
Sixthly, we have the recommendation concerning the living-in conditions of agricultural workers. By this members of the organisation are to take measures to regulate the living-in conditions of agricultural workers. If hon. Members will examine the White Paper they will find that this Recommendation develops the matter in great detail and suggests provisions by legislation or other Government action for separate beds for workers, for ensuring personal cleanliness, and so on, and legislation or Government action of a character for which we believe there is no demand in this country, and the Government cannot accept the Recommendation because it might lead to a considerable infringement of personal liberty.
The seventh Recommendation is one concerning social insurance in agriculture. This provides that each member shall extend its laws and regulations, establishing systems of insurance against sickness, invalidity, old age and other similar social risks to agricultural wage-earners. I would call the special attention of hon. Members to the words "other similar social risks," because a difficulty arises is to the meaning of those words. We 2428 have in this country already provision for workers in respect of sickness, invalidity, and old age, and these provisions apply with absolute equality to agricultural workers as well as to those engaged in industry. The Government, however, do not feel able to accept a vague obligation such as is indicated by the words "other similar social risks," and accordingly the British Government cannot accept this Recommendation.
The eighth Recommendation is one concerning the application of the weekly rest in commercial establishments. Here the proposal is that each Member of the organisation should take measures to provide that the whole of the staff employed in any commercial establishment should enjoy, in every period of seven days, a period of rest comprising at least 24 consecutive hours. The staffs at commercial establishments, I am glad to say, do, by custom, in fact, in this country enjoy the kind of weekly rest indicated, and in view of the fact that regulation of Sunday trading in the very limited number of cases where it is now practised for the convenience of the public would involve very considerable difficulties, the Government do not propose to accept this recommendation.
Now I come to the 1922 Conference. The output of Draft Conventions or Recommendations at this Conference is very much limited as compared with previous years. There was much useful discussion of such important topics as unemployment, but there was a general feeling that it was desirable not to proceed too fast, or to burden national authorities unduly with the consideration of a mass of Draft Conventions and Recommendations, which would require much time for discussion. The 1922 Conference adopted no Convention, and only one Recommendation, and that of a limited character, dealing with statistical and other information relating to migration. By Article I, members of the organisation are to communicate to the Labour Office all the available information concerning migration and the transit of emigrants. Under Article 2 they are also to endeavour to communicate total figures for migrants giving facts as to the sex, age, occupation, etc.
Lastly, by Article 3 Members should, if possible, conclude agreements with 2429 other Members providing for the adoption of a uniform definition of the term "emigrant," and also for the entry of uniform particulars on identity papers, and a uniform method of recording statistics. The British delegates supported Articles 1 and 2 but not Article 3. If Article 3 were adopted, it would involve considerable alterations in the existing British methods of stating particulars on the identity papers, and of collecting statistical information regarding migration. This would certainly entail heavy expenditure in altering methods which are satisfactory, and which many years practical experience have proved to be complete and effective. In these circumstances, the Government propose to indicate that while accepting Articles 1 and 2 of the Recommendation, they cannot see their way to accept Article 3, or indeed the Recommendation as a whole, unless some proposals are made for substantial alterations.
Perhaps I ought to mention, although it does not strictly come within the terms of the White Paper, that there was a further Recommendation made at this Conference for the revision of the existing regulations with regard to the constitution of the governing body, it being proposed to extend the numbers from 24 as at present to 32. His Majesty's Government are in communication with the Dominions and with India on the question of increasing the numbers of the governing body, which would certainly, if carried, confer greater opportunity for the representation of the Dominions at Geneva. That proposal, however, is not strictly within the terms of the Motion.
I have already summarised the attitude which the Government propose to adopt with regard to the seven Draft Conventions. With regard to the nine Recommendations, including the formal one as to migration, of 1922 and omitting the informal one as to the amendment of the governing body, the position may be summarised as follows:—Of the nine Recommendations, it is proposed, in effect, to accept in whole or in part five. Two of these, namely, those relating to technical education and the night work of women, wholly; and three of them, namely, unemployment, the night work of children and young persons and migration statistics, 1922, subject to some reconsideration. On the other hand, the Government do not find themselves in a 2430 position to accept the four following, namely, maternity, living-in conditions, social insurance, and weekly rest in commerce.
I should like to say two or three words about the working of the International Labour Organisation. As I have already indicated, that organisation is constituted under Part XIII of the Peace Treaty, to which Great Britain is a signatory, and we naturally accept our responsibility as laid upon this country, together with the other signatories to the Treaty. The International Labour Organisation did not spring forth as an entirely new creation. It was in some sense a successor of previous conferences on Labour regulation, such as the Berne Convention of 1906, which related to the prohibition of night work for women in industrial employment; and there was a similar Conference in 1913, which dealt with the prohibition of night work for young persons employed in industry. But these earlier discussions were of a disconnected and somewhat spasmodic character. They did, however, show that in the progress of the world's industrial development the time had arrived when some international machinery for conference on matters of industrial difficulty between representatives of States, employers, and workers was proving to be desirable, and conference which could result in legislative action when the time was ripe for it.
Personally, I have now had some considerable experience of the work of the Labour organisation as a Government delegate at three conferences, and as a representative at many meetings of the governing body; and like all who have had experience, or at any rate like most of those who have had experience of the working of the organisation, I concur in the view that it has useful functions to discharge, functions along the lines of careful collection of information and statistics, of full discussion of difficulties, coupled on occasions with effective contribution by way of definite proposals for the solution of these difficulties where the time and circumstances are ripe for it. I would here suggest that some of the difficulties that attention will have to be directed to include the question of the amendment, or power of amendment of the Draft Conventions and Recommendations, because as I have indicated in 2431 what I have said to the House, in several cases the Government find themselves in a difficulty with regard to ratification or acceptance of a draft Convention or Recommendation because of some point very often of minor importance which, if there were some machinery for amendment, would probably be set right without any difficulty.
Lastly, it will clearly depend upon the spirit of broad-minded impartiality in which not only the conferences but the whole work of the organisation may be conducted as to the success which may be achieved. It is because I believe that in the Conferences of 1921 and 1922, and the Conventions and Recommendations which resulted, this spirit of broad-minded impartiality was at work, and that on the whole successful efforts were made in a large number of cases to arrive at solutions on lines helpful and fair to all concerned, that I venture to commend this Motion to the House.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I beg to move, to leave out the words.approves the policy of His Majesty's Government respecting,and to insert instead thereof the wordsdeclares in favour of the ratification of.Those of us who seriously find fault with the substance of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman can in no way complain of its form and character, for indeed, it is one of the best examples both of clarity and of compression that we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman during his term of office, and he has left us in no doubt as to what his meaning is and as to what the decisions of the Government are. My first complaint will be that the Government has gone to the full limit in respect of time, and that the opportunities previously offered for discussing these questions have not been afforded to the House, or, at any rate, that the Government has not thought it proper in any way to hasten to invite a decision of the House upon these important Resolutions and Recommendations. But not only has the right hon. Gentleman reached a limit of time with respect to the occasion when we have to debate these matters, but he has, I think, reached a limit of novelty in other matters of Parliamentary procedure. We are thankful to him, of 2432 course, for having set in juxtaposition the different subjects of the different decisions. They are helpful, but I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that this is not sufficient.
At about a quarter past eight to-night, some 200 or more supporters of the Government may be called upon to troop into the Lobby and vote in favour of the Government Motion which is on the Order Paper, by which time the great majority of that number will know nothing whatever of what it is upon which they are voting. I think there is something in that point, and, therefore, I would press it. I am not making any complaint about a thin attendance, but what I am drawing attention to is that there is on the Order Paper, in the name of my right hon. Friend, a definite Motion asking the House to approve of the Government's policy, and that policy has only been announced within the last half-hour. Within that time, at least a dozen of the supporters of the Government have favoured the House with their attendance, out of the total of 200 or more who may be required to go into the Lobby to approve a policy of which they will know not a word. What I want to suggest is that, in addition to favouring Members with a printed paper of this kind, with its two columns, we might on some future occasion have a third column, from which Members shall know something beforehand of what the policy of the Government is on these particular Recommendations and decisions.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but, if I may say so, I shall be glad to take that suggestion into consideration.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I am very thankful for that. I think it will assist on future occasions. It is, after all, a procedure that is followed in regard to important questions of Government policy. If it had been a question of a Bill, we should know of it, sometimes, weeks before, and we have a Second, and sometimes a First Reading speech giving us an outline of the main purposes which the Government may have in mind. At any rate, so far as these particular questions are concerned, the House does suffer under the handicap of having shortly to give its decision while only having heard within, as I have said, the last half-hour, what 2433 the Government policy is upon these very important questions. The object, in the main, of these international conferences is to raise the standard of human treatment of great groups of workers, whether agricultural, industrial or persons employed in certain other occupations. There is some competition, for different reasons, towards different ends among different groups of Members in this House, but we ought all of us to hold in common a desire to see a concurrent advance and uplift amongst the masses of the wage-earners of the world as a whole, and that end cannot be attained without these international gatherings; for, however, different representatives there may be in interests, or in language, or in outlook, there are many things that men must hold in common, and they can only pursue the attainment of them by these recurring international gatherings. Further, these gatherings can help, by their decisions, to make more regular the different standards of wages or labour conditions or powers, and the general relations that exist between employers and employed in the different countries. In addition to that, they can, incidentally, help to diminish or eliminate conditions of very unfair competition as they now exist between country and country. All those things must tend to raise the economic level of life, and to improve what might be termed social civilisation. These are highly desirable ends in themselves, and they are ends which, the more they are urged, the more, I am sure, they will tend to the world's peace in the end, for often conflicts arise because of different interests and dissimilar conditions existing in different countries.
Coming to the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I am really disappointed at the announcements he has had to make, for his own summary, towards the finish of his speech, shows that, of the nine main proposals, three are adopted entirely, two only conditionally, and as regards the four others, the Government offers an explicit "No." If that is to be the attitude of the Government, it is very little encouragement indeed to Conventions at Geneva. I do not say it is waste, or that the money is not well spent. Indeed, I think it is well spent, for, as I have said, it is essential to have these gatherings to give 2434 an international lead and to cause Governments to co-operate more and more in urging uniform conditions of treatment and well-being. Surely, however, we might expect that the Government of this country would give its approval to at least all the proposals and decisions at Geneva which were not opposed by our own representatives. That, I think, is the very minimum of expectation that we could share with respect to to-day's announcements. I would, therefore, I think accurately, summarise the attitude of the Government in this manner: It is prepared to accept every one of those decisions which means no change so far as we are concerned, which alters nothing, which leaves existing conditions exactly as they are now.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but that really does not apply to the maritime Conventions.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I will treat separately certain of the particular questions as they are on the Paper, and as they have been given in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I think that, in the main, that description is fairly true, that the decisions which have been announced really mean that the Government is willing to accept any Draft Convention or any Recommendation if it already harmonises with existing conditions and makes no substantial alteration in the economic level of the workers in this country. That, I think, is niggardly. It is a discouragement to these Conventions, and it involves these gatherings necessarily in repetitions of Debate and in further labour conducted under conditions that may discourage them very greatly in the tasks they have in hand. Take, for instance, the question of compensation laws. I agree that this country years ago—not without, I would claim, a good deal of sustained pressure from organised Labour—did set an example to many other countries, and in some respects is now ahead of many other countries. But why ratify this particular Convention with the reservation which the right hon. Gentleman has announced? And, if that reservation has to be made, does it further mean that legislation is necessary in order to carry out what the Government has in mind? If legislation is essential to give effect to that reservation, 2435 then I think it clearly means that we are in for a great deal of delay so far as any increase in the improvement of the workers' condition goes. On the subject of white lead, the right hon. Gentleman definitely said that the Government would accept a decision when finally that decision was acceptable to all.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Yes, that was the phrase which I wrote down from the right hon. Gentleman's statement—that if a decision is reached which is acceptable to all, the Government will approve of it. That really is not government at all. I think that the OFFICIAL REPORT will show that my quotation is correct. I suggest that the Government on such a question should have an opinion of its own.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I am very sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but this is rather a vital point. What I did say was this: When the voting took place at Geneva, I had taken no part in the discussion, nor had my colleagues, and I said we would vote in favour of the compromise as rushed through, provided that it was agreeable to all. But that was not the phrase which I used with regard to the Government's attitude with regard to the Convention. It was a phrase which I used at Geneva with regard to the embodiment of the compromise in the Convention at all.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I suggest that that is an amplification which does not at all make the position of the Government any more definite. Indeed, it is a double qualification; it is rather an increase in the number of qualifications that we have before us. I, therefore, repeat that I think that on this matter the Government ought to have a policy. It ought to be able, indeed, to give an opinion and to give a lead, if necessary, on a question like this, which inevitably causes a conflict among the different interests. I doubt whether any advance will ever be made on this point if we have to wait for the stage where finally a decision is reached which is acceptable to all, for it is certain that a dissentient minority will continue to exist on a point of controversy so real as this. All I will say upon this aspect of the question, as I know that other hon. Members intend to deal with 2436 the point, is that this is carrying the idea of "safety first" too far. Safety for the Government first appears to be the conclusion which those who should rule in this matter have reached in relation to a very controversial question.
Next, let me touch briefly upon the question of children in agricultural pursuits. All I want to ask, in regard to this matter, is, what effective steps do the Government intend to take to overcome the difficulty which is anticipated from further consideration at Geneva? I think, also, that with respect to organisation and the right of association in rural districts, the right hon. Gentleman is consoling himself with something which is not altogether real. The right of association is not absolutely complete in this country, and least of all in the rural districts. This applies not only to the right of industrial association but very often to the right of political association, as we well know, and it is a matter upon which, without waste of time, the Government could well direct some of their attention. On the question of trimmers and stokers and recruiting for their service other countries are already ahead of us. It is only just coming up to certain other countries to announce the acceptance of this Draft Convention, as the right hon. Gentleman has done to-day. That is done with the understanding that a Bill is to be introduced should the state of public business permit. I know the right hon. Gentleman may not have full authority over the state of business in this House, but I will press him to say definitely whether we are to have a Bill this Session. If not, it is clear that we must wait until the end of 1924, long before which time the Government itself may have come to an end. So that if there is substance in this decision of the Government in respect to trimmers and stokers, surely to give effect to this announcement we should have the assurance of a short Bill, upon which there would obviously be very little disagreement, during the course of the present Session.
The right hon. Gentleman sought to convince us that both the present and past policy of the Government was fair and reasonable in respect to the maternity proposals, debated at length on a previous occasion, and, therefore, I will not go 2437 into them deeply to-day. What is the real secret of the Government's failure to adopt these Conventions either as regards the woman employed in agriculture or women in other pursuits? Money. That clearly is the reason why the very human and necessary decisions of these different gatherings have not been accepted and applied in this country. These decisions at the Conventions were intended to benefit only the women who are employed in industry, and it is saying nothing against those decisions, and nothing in favour of the law as it is, to argue that these Conventions, if applied, should apply only to those groups of women who are employed in industry. In the main, these International Labour Conventions were not assembled to deal with all the life conditions of non-wage earners or of persons who are not following some occupation. The purpose of these maternity decisions is to give the prospective mothers engaged in industry the protection which they cannot possibly get by the law as it is, and I was hopeful that we should have heard an unqualified acceptance of these decisions in regard to maternity questions. I have said I think Parliament should at least be asked to go the length of supporting in all cases those decisions at these international gatherings which our representatives have not opposed. I say that because we cannot have the full result of this beneficent and promising work from these great assemblies unless they are fully encouraged and worked, with the confidence that the decisions will not be merely respected, but will be carried into effect by the different Governments and peoples who are represented. The truth is that public money through our different State Departments is frequently used for research work, for scientific purposes—for many purposes—and we, I think rightly, ask that certain public money should be used for these helpful works of human advance and betterment, of which large masses of the population in all countries are greatly in need. If hon. Members knew the question and were free to vote, if this were a matter upon which no Whips were to direct their steps, they would, I think, take the view that this House ought to ratify, as our Amendment says, the Conventions as they were decided at Geneva, and while I cannot hope that the vast majority of those who have not heard our 2438 case will follow us into the Lobby, I am convinced that we are taking the right course and the wisest course, after having heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in challenging the decision of the Government by our Amendment.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I should like to join with the right hon. Gentleman in felicitating the Minister on the painstaking and lucid character of his speech. There was more than that in it. There was running through it all and behind it a spirit of sympathy and solicitude for the working people. In respect of all these Recommendations and Conventions he was at one end of the line, working them out as the senior British representative, and I was at the other, and I express now my sense of gratitude to him for the sympathetic and painstaking way in which he always carried out his commission. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) that it is a little hard on the House of Commons to come to these vital clauses without any indication as to what is to be the Government policy. I plead guilty. We did not give any. It was not suggested to us. But the moment the right hon. Gentleman suggested it to-day, I felt the really moderate character of the request, and I was glad to hear the Minister say he would consider adding a third column to this White Paper, the first giving the title of the Convention or Recommendation, the second a description of the Convention or Recommendation, and a new column which shall give the proposal of the Government in regard to both, so that the House of Commons may come well advised to a discussion such as we have had to-day, because it is a little sudden for hon. Members to make up their minds as to whether the policy proposed is altogether wise or not. I was very glad to hear the Minister agree with that. In listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting, I could not help thinking we ought not to lose sight of the fact that we really are right in the van of the nations of the world already.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
Instead of being in advance of the rest of the nations of the world, the Conventions agreed upon at the first Conference were ratified by half a dozen European nations, and we have always declined to do it.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I thought the hon. Member was not following what I was trying to say and interrupted me before I could say it. Before the League of Nations, before the Washington Convention, before the International Labour Organisation, it is true to say that in regard to the protection provided for industry the British people were in the van of the peoples of the world. Does anyone deny that? Therefore, in coming to these Conventions and Recommendations and deciding what we shall do in regard to them, that must not be lost sight of, and although my right hon. Friend's speech was very considerate and kindly in spirit, I think he rather lost sight of the fact that we were in the van of progress as a people in regard to our industries before this machinery was ever set up, and since it has been set up I have endeavoured to pay a tribute to the way we and the people, through our accredited representatives, have tried to utilise this machinery for the further advance of those engaged in industry. I hope those who particularly represent the labouring man will set their face against ratification with reservations. You can ratify and reserve and reserve until there is nothing left. I appeal to those who have this matter so seriously at heart that they will say, "Either you do ratify or you do not." It is no good formally going through the convention of ratification and then saying, "with exceptions here, exceptions there or exceptions somewhere else." That is no good. I recommended the Government of which I was a Member to stand out against that. Either ratify or not, because then you know where you are—it is a square deal—and the people know where they are, and I am glad to hear that policy will be continued.
On the various Recommendations and Conventions I only want to deal with two of each. The position in regard to the age of children in agriculture is that the existing Scottish law provides certain exceptions which make it impossible for us to ratify the Convention as it stands, and as I understand it, the matter has been referred to the International Labour Organisation. So far so good. But I appeal to my right hon. Friend not to leave it at that. Let us get on so that we can know where we are, and let the House of Commons have an opportunity, as soon as possible, of the matter being brought 2440 before them again. The right hon. Gentleman is the last man to leave it there. I will ask the same thing as regards the use of white lead. The Home Office is going to send them to the National Labour Organisation to have these points cleared up Let us have these two Conventions—the age of children and the use of white lead. Let us have such steps taken as will enable us to have them before us again without delay. I ask for an assurance that that may be done. In regard to the Recommendation for the protection of women before and after child-birth, it is true we have done a very great deal in that direction, though I will not say we are in the van of the world. The Washington Convention proposed something entirely different—that they should move along different lines. We have no doubt the same ultimate objective—greater protection for the woman and the child. If we had adopted the Convention at Washington, it would have meant scrapping what we were then doing and beginning all over again. There was no need to do that. We should have had to put aside the machinery then in existence, which was an example and a credit to the civilised world, although it did not go as far as it is going to go in due course, or as far as we wish it to go. We refused to ratify the Convention and said we would go on with our existing health and maternity proposals. But do not let us rest on this. They are not as universal as they ought to be. They are rather sketchy here and there and it is up to those who say, "we have good machinery, we are not going to scrap it and begin at the beginning again, we will go on with what we are doing," to be honest with that. Let us go on with what we are doing so that in the end we shall have reached at least the point the Washington Convention would have us reach if we had adopted their Convention.
Another Recommendation is the insurance of the agricultural labourer. To be frank, I am not at all easy in my mind about that. My right hon. Friend said that there was now no general desire on the part of the agricultural labourers to come under the Unemployment Insurance Act. I do not think he is well advised to say that. When we were drafting the Act of 1920 there was no unemployment 2441 in agriculture, and, therefore, neither the employers nor the employed wanted to pay contributions. That is not true to-day. The position of the agricultural labourer is a serious one. The Minister of Labour can, of his own volition, include the agricultural labourers, if he thinks fit, at any time under the Unemployment Insurance Act. Therefore, while he does not accept this Recommendation, I hope he will continue to watch very carefully the position of the agricultural labourer and, if necessary, have the courage to say, "I think the time has come when these men should be covered for unemployment insurance." I do not say they are in that position now, but certainly they are in a much more precarious and serious position than they were when we drafted the Act of 1920, and when neither side desired to come under the scheme.
The League of Nations issued a bulletin which gives the list of the Members of the League and what they have done in regard to these Conventions and Recommendations. I want my right hon. Friend to undertake to lay a White Paper showing what each member of the League of Nations has done up to date, or what they propose to do in regard to the Recommendations and the Conventions. We want to see where we are. We are in the dark, except as regards the League of Nations own publication and that is not up to date. The least that the House of Commons can ask for, when it is asked to put its written seal on certain matters, is that it should know what has been done in the past in regard to other Conventions and Recommendations. I press that upon my right hon. Friend with great earnestness.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), I congratulate the Minister of Labour on his clear and lucid statement, but I must confess that I heard that statement with a certain amount of disappointment and regret. I am disappointed with the Government's refusal to give legislative effect to the Convention in regard to the use of white lead. I cannot help feeling that this refusal is a lapse from that loyal support which is due from Great Britain to the labour movement. I was not very much impressed with the reasons that the right hon. Gentleman gave. I understand that 2442 there is a risk if this Convention were carried through and legislative effect given to it in its present form, that a woman or child might get lead poisoning from the painting of a perambulator. I cannot accept that as an excuse why we should hold up this most useful reform. There is no excuse why we should hold our hand in this matter. The question has been thoroughly threshed out by two Committees. The Convention to prevent the use of white lead has behind it the warrant of these two Committees, and also of the International Labour Conference, and it is surprising to me and most regrettable that the Government should refuse to act, after a unanimous compromise was arrived at at the Geneva Convention.
Quite apart from the question of international labour, the Convention on lead poisoning is a reform which is very long overdue. White lead is one of the most dangerous compounds, in fact the most dangerous compound, with which our workers can be brought into contact. It is dangerous to the worker who is engaged in the manufacture of paint, it is a danger to the potter, and, above all, it is a danger to the house painter. It is the most dangerous to the house painter. When trade is carried on in factories and workshops it is possible to bring in Regulations and to see that they are carried out, and it is also possible to have scientific apparatus for the collection of dust, but no such Regulations are possible in the house-painting trade, which is a scattered occupation. You may have the best Regulations in the world, but you cannot supervise them properly and see them carried out in the painting trade. White lead is dangerous even in the smallest quantities. Its effect is cumulative. It affects some constitutions quicker than others. Some people are affected in a few days, while others are not affected for a few years. As the Norman Committee said, everyone who is exposed to the risk of lead poisoning should be observed as a possible case of lead poisoning.
From a table which is given in the Norman Report, I can give figures showing the deadly character of the house painting trade. In 1912, there were 217 cases of lead poisoning and 37 deaths; in 1913, 248 cases and 31 deaths; and in 1914, 207 cases and 35 deaths. During the War lead was unobtainable for the 2443 manufacture of paint, and the consequence of the non-use of white lead in paint caused a drop in the number of cases to 52 in 1915, to 43 in 1917, and to 25 in 1918. Directly the War was over, white lead was used again in paint, and the cases began to rise. They rose from 37 in 1919 to 46 in 1920 and to 42 in 1921. Whatever Regulations we may bring in, unless white lead is prohibited from being used in paint we shall get the same deplorable figures that occurred pre-War. The Committee which was appointed in 1911 to consider the question gave a most exhaustive inquiry. I was a member of that Committee. Our inquiry lasted for three or four years, and we came, with one exception, to the unanimous conclusion that white lead should be prohibited in paint both for internal and external use. We considered that, whatever risk there might be of raising the cost of house painting, that risk could not be set in the same scale as the loss of human life. We thought, and we had every reason to think, that the risk of raising the cost of house painting would not be so great, because we were assured by our scientific witnesses that it was on the cards that an efficient substitute would be invented.
Owing to the War, attention was not given to this question. There was no scientific investigation, and our hopes were disappointed; but I am quite prepared as a Member of the Committee to accept the Recommendation of the Norman Report, which recommended and supported the Commission at Geneva that white lead should be prohibited in internal painting. I do not want to make any accusations against the Government, but I feel that it is not doing itself justice in this matter. It is lagging behind the conscience of the world. It is no doubt important that all the interests should be consulted, and that the cost of house painting should not be increased, but, after all, human life is of more importance than the price of an article and the cost of carrying on an industry. A satisfactory substitute for internal use has already been invented. If it had not been invented, why did the Norman Committee, after very careful inquiry, say that a substitute could be used in a few years' time? No great injury could be inflicted on the interests concerned, because the amount of white lead used in internal painting is only 2444 about 10 per cent. of its total use. Before my right hon. Friend assumed the high office which he now honours and enjoys, he was a member of the Social Reform Committee of the Conservative party, and as an old colleague of his in those activities I would remind him of a dictum of DisraeliThe rights of labour were as sacred as the rights of property, and that if a difference were to be established, the interests of the living wealth ought to be preferred, and that the social happiness of millions should be the first object of a statesman.In the interests of the workers and the interests of his own party, with its honourable traditions in this matter of regulation for the benefit of the workers of this country, my right hon. Friend ought to take his courage in both hands and bring in a Bill to abolish the use of white lead in internal decorations. That Bill would have the whole support of the House, and we should not then have the somewhat flimsy excuses that he has given to-day.
§ Captain BERKELEY
I wish I could be as satisfied as other hon. Members that the intentions of the Government are quite as sincere in regard to the International Labour organisation as they make out. I do not want to question the sincerity of the Minister, but it seems to me that the record of the Government with regard to this question of International Labour legislation has been a very bad one. I sometimes wonder whether it ever occurs to the Members of the Government to read again the tremendous works in which they, jointly with other Governments, embodied their Resolution in the Treaty of Peace that labour was no longer to be treated as an article of commerce, but was to be given a fair deal and that better labour conditions were to be inaugurated throughout the world. I am not led to believe that they studied that with any care when I consider the specious arguments on which the right hon. Gentleman has been compelled to rely in order to put a colour of justification upon his refusal to ratify these contentions.
Take, for instance, the first Convention with regard to the age of children in agriculture. The Minister admits that the Convention is unexceptionable, but he says that on account of the existence 2445 of some Scottish point which affects the advisers of the Ministry, and which needs to be cleared up, it is not possible to ratify this Convention because—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) agrees with him—you cannot resort to the procedure of ratifying these Conventions with reservations. In principle that is true. It would be thoroughly bad to introduce the practice of appending long reservations to the Conventions. But no such thing is necessary in these circumstances. He has himself shown, with regard to the Third Convention, dealing with workmen's compensation in agriculture, that he sees the way out, because in that case he is ratifying the Convention, and is adding an explanatory note that the legislation in force in this country is worded in a different manner from the wording of the Convention, namely,out of or in the course of their employment,the Workmen's Compensation Act reading,out of and in the course of their employment.If it is possible to add an explanatory note in the case of the Third Convention why is it not possible in the case of children in agriculture to go on that principle and have an explanatory note saying that with regard to a portion of the country, as to which there is a constitutional difficulty at the moment, we must make plain that it does not apply at present. That is not a reservation but merely an explanation. That would have been the proper course to adopt, and I urge on my hon. Friend who will reply to consider whether it would not be possible to adopt that suggestion.
The attitude of the Government with regard to the use of white lead in painting is profoundly unsatisfactory. The Minister describes the Convention as a useful and fruitful piece of industrial adjustment. He tells us that a compromise was reached after a considerable discussion in which he and other British delegates took part, and he refers to the value of the services rendered by the workers' representative in bringing about this compromise, and then, having led us to expect that he is about to adopt this piece of international legislation, he proceeds to say that, of course, difficulties have arisen and so we cannot adopt it after all. We must reserve our judgment. 2446 I was by no means convinced of the validity of the contentions which he put forward. He quoted an article which he said was understood not to refer to industrial work but only to buildings. But he, with other delegates, agreed to that article and the article specifically uses the words "industrial work." It seems to me to be a contradiction in term, when you agree in person to the wording of a document, then to say that all the time you and other people understood it to mean something which, from its wording, it could not possibly mean or have been understood to mean. What is the position of other countries with regard to white lead? Have they ratified it? And, if so, what countries have ratified it. In particular has Belgium ratified it? My hon. Friend will appreciate the importance of the reference to that country because, as he and I and many Members of this House know, the question is, most unfortunately, bound up with the rival claims of two great trades, the white lead and the white zinc trade. I do not wish to say anything on that beyond expressing the gravest concern that the conflicting interests of two great trades should be allowed, if they are allowed, to militate against the proper protection of the workers engaged in what is admittedly a most dangerous industry. I would like my hon. Friend when he replies to deal with this.
The weekly rest is not to be ratified. I understood the Minister to say that the British delegates were against it, and I would like to know if the British worker was against it, because it is not right that we should get the impression that the British delegation as a whole was opposed to the weekly rest in agriculture if, as I believe to be the case, the workers' delegate was not opposed but was in favour of it. I would like now to refer to the Maternity Convention in agriculture. I understood the Minister to say that he had justified his refusal to ratify that on the same ground as those on which the Government refused to ratify the Washington Convention, namely, that the women workers were protected under the Factory Acts. I understood him to say that women were already adequately protected in our agricultural system. I should be glad to know under what Act or Acts of Parliament British women in agriculture 2447 receive the same protection as they receive under the Factory Acts? I am unable to understand the objection to approve the Recommendation which deals with the question of social insurance in agriculture. The Minister stated that the phraseology of the operative part of the Recommendation was so vague that he did not think it right to ask the House to approve of it. The words are:The General Conference of the International Labour Organisation recommends that each member of the International Labour Organisation extend its laws and regulations establishing systems of insurance against sickness, invalidity, old age, and other similar social risks to agricultural wage earners under conditions equivalent to those prevailing in the case of workers in industrial and commercial occupations.I would very much like to know in what words the Minister imagines that that could have been couched other than those that are used, because you are not dealing with the legislation of one country. You are dealing with the legislation of 30 or even 40 countries. All the Recommendation asks is that each country, in so far as it already has passed legislation providing for what the Ministry terms social insurance, should extend the existing law to the case of agriculture. It would substitute a complete system for a more or less incomplete system. That is the sole purpose of this recommendation. It seems to me to be properly drafted and I cannot see, particularly in view of what was put forward by the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell in his plea for agricultural workers, any reason for refusing to accept that Recommendation and to introduce the necessary legislation to give effect to it.
The Minister in concluding his speech referred in terms of somewhat qualified praise to this organisation, and said that it was useful and that he approved of it as a medium for collecting information, or words to that effect. It is true that the International Labour Office has, since it was created, carried out a great deal of extremely useful work in the direction of collecting statistics and information. On this point I would like some information from the Minister in his reply. It is within my knowledge that various countries consulted the International Labour Office from time to time for information as to existing industrial 2448 and other systems in force in other countries. Full information is obtainable, and is obtained, by the organisation, and is provided. New Zealand, for instance, has made use of the organisation in that way. Also the Federation of British Industries in this country frequently made use of the organisation. I would like to know to what extent the British Government is making use of its right to obtain from the organisation information as to existing labour and industrial legislation and systems in force in other countries? I think it a great mistake for the Government to regard this great organisation merely as a kind of international post office. That is not the purpose for which it was created. It was created for the purpose of raising the whole standard of labour throughout the world to something approaching that which we enjoy in this country, and making the lot of the workers throughout the world progressively better. The right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell said that we had a very good record in this country in regard to labour. I associate myself with that. I am sure that my hon. Friends above the Gangway will agree that, on the whole, taking it all round, we are, as the right hon. Gentleman said, in the van in this matter. I want us to keep in the van and to give a lead, and we can only give a lead in this great organisation which we helped to create and which we ought more fully to support.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I suppose it is because I am one of the new Members of the House, and perhaps one of the most innocent Members of the House, that when I saw the printed Resolution to be moved by the Minister of Labour stating that this House endorsed this policy of the Government, I went round, first among my own friends and then among some of the friends of the Government, to find out what that policy was, because it struck me as extraordinary that we should be asked to endorse a policy unless that policy was available to every Member of the House, and every Member had had an ample opportunity of considering it. I learned from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) to-day that in reality there was no policy until the Minister of Labour this afternoon, in the presence of about 100 Members, enunciated it. The remainder of the Members 2449 of the House, who were not present and did not hear the Minister's speech, will, therefore, be asked to ratify a policy about which they have not had the slightest opportunity of knowing anything. We know the Government policy now. Personally I am extremely dissatisfied with it, and I am extremely disappointed with the statement of the Minister of Labour. Objections have been raised by previous speakers to all the conventions and many of the resolutions passed at the International Conference. I want to confine myself, practically, if not entirely, to one of the draft conventions that gives me very great disappointment. That is the Convention on White Lead.
I noticed that the Minister, in dealing with this matter, said that, providing it was a satisfactory Convention and acceptable to all, the Government would adopt it. I want to suggest to the Government that if a Convention is considered by a body of men representing the Government, the employers, the manufacturers and the workmen, and if there are 91 of them present, and if 90 out of the 91 decide in favour of the Convention, and the one expresses no opinion at all on it, that ought to be considered, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, as a Convention which is satisfactory and acceptable to all. Is it to be argued that, because the one member present neither accepted nor rejected the Convention, but was neutral, the matter is not satisfactory to all? Personally, I think that would be a mean way of considering a vital matter. It has been said that difficulties have arisen. What difficulties have arisen since the Conference. I have taken a great deal of trouble to find out what has been done with regard to the finding of the Commission, and I have not discovered that any difficulties have arisen. One thing I have found. That is that a body of manufacturers, who are personally interested in the profits that arise from the manufacture of white lead, have been exceedingly busy during the time since the Convention was passed, and particularly during the time since the sittings of the Committee that dealt with the matter in the early part of this year, in trying to induce the Government to receive a deputation from them, and in trying to influence Members of this House in opposition to this Convention.
Let me explain to the House who are the people interested in the matter. They 2450 are the manufacturers of white lead, obviously; the manufacturers of substitute for white lead, obviously, also; the workers in the industry; the Government of this and other countries; and the employers of the men who use the material. So far as the employers in the industry are concerned, they agree with the workers that the Convention should be made operative. The only people opposed to it are those whose financial interest is in the manufacture of white lead. You have to sacrifice one of two things. You have to sacrifice the financial interests of a few men, or to vote in favour of the sacrifice of the lives and health of very many men. I am sure it will not be placed on record by this House to-day that when the evidence is unquestioned, that when it is shown that very great numbers of men engaged in the use of white lead in the painting industry sacrifice their lives by the use of this material, and that much greater numbers sacrifice their health—I have worked in the building industry, and I have seen the effect of it on my fellow workers, and I know the horrible forms that the illnesses caused by white lead take—I cannot bring myself to believe that any body of men, whatever political views they may accept, will go into the Division Lobby in the interests of dividends rather than against the sacrifice of the lives and health of many thousands of people.
The Commission considered this matter at Geneva. It was probably the most exhaustive inquiry that has been held. The people who formed various sub-committees to deal with the different parts of the question, were highly trained men, and the questions that were referred to them were in two cases decided upon unanimously. The whole controversy was round the question of prohibition or regulation. The workers wanted prohibition of a deadly poison. The manufacturers wanted some form of regulation. It was said on behalf of the manufacturers that it was not possible to diagnose white lead poisoning. A sub-committee of medical experts was set up to inquire into the matter, and it decided unanimously that it was in every way possible accurately to diagnose lead poisoning. That settled the first point. A second sub-committee found that lead poisoning is the principal risk incurred by working painters. That, again, was questioned by the manufacturers. 2451 Sub-Committee No. 3 dealt with a number of matters relating to substitutes for white lead that might be used. There, apparently, was no possibility of arriving at a unanimous decision. Ultimately the full Commission, having heard the reports of all the sub-committees, came to a decision, by a very narrow majority, which led to the draft Convention as we have it to-day.
It has been stated by the Minister of Labour that it is a compromise. But it was a compromise accepted by the workers' side, accepted by the Government representatives present, accepted by the manufacturers present, and accepted unanimously at the Conference. Yet, the moment they come back from the Conference, because of the influences that are at work—I can only assume that it is because of that—there is a remarkable change in the attitude of the Government and of some of the people who voted in favour of the Convention at the Conference, because of the financial interests that are operating inside and outside Parliament. It appears to me that nobody, after the decision of the International Conference, could reasonably or fairly come to a decision that the Government policy in this matter is right. It is agreed that in the case of women and children, young persons under 18, the poison is bad. If it is agreed by everyone that people under 18 suffer as a consequence of white lead poisoning, and ought to be protected against it, why in the name of common sense should people, the moment they have passed the age of 18, be subject to this poisoning? If it is good to protect women from the poison, why is it not equally good to protect men?
One Government at least has definitely decided that white lead shall not be used either indoors or outdoors in future. As a matter of fact, it decided that in 1914, The French Government does not permit the use of white lead in any form in painting indoors or outdoors. The right hon. Member for Camberwell said that we had been in the van with regard to legislation of this kind. I agree. We have been in the van, but it was a considerable time ago, and nobody would argue that we are in the van now—we are in the cart, rather, which is not the same thing. Esthonia, a small nation, 2452 has agreed to ratify the Convention. The Greek Government has authorised its ratification, and it will be ratified very soon. The Chilian Government also anticipates early ratification. These little Governments can do it, and France has abolished the use of white lead for some years past. It has been stated by a right hon. Gentleman opposite that two Departmental Committee have decided in favour of its abolition. One sat in 1911 and another later. In February last another Committee was set up and came to the same conclusion. They did not agree to the abolition of white lead, but even that Committee, in spite of all the influences that were brought to bear on it, in spite of all the medical and other evidence that could be collected in favour of white lead, was forced by the circumstances to find in favour of ratification.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
Not ratification. What they recommended was that legislation should be introduced generally embodying the principles of the Convention. That is a very different thing from ratification.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I do not understand fine points in language to the same extent as the right hon. Gentleman, but if the principle be introduced in legislation, I shall be perfectly satisfied, and so will everybody else who holds my point of view. My point is that we are not ratifying it and not only that, but the Government have not given a promise that they will introduce the legislation which this Committee asked for. Some influence has been at work. I do not know what it is, but the conditions make me suspicious. Some influence has compelled or induced the Government to go back on all their pledges and on the findings of all the Committees which have reported in this matter. I can only believe, and I do believe, that these interests are the financial interests of the big manufacturers engaged in the manufacture and use of white lead. The International Labour Office has reported that there is practically no disagreement on the broad issues, and they have also reported, after making the closest inquiry, that efficient substitutes are available. I need not refer again to the Reports of the two Committees which sat in 1911 and 1913.
2453 The statistics in regard to white lead poisoning are not very reliable because lead poisoning is not a notifiable disease, but, in spite of the fact that it is not compulsorily notifiable, 2,556 cases have been notified and 372 deaths have taken place within the last 12 years. That, in itself, appears to justify the action which we ask the Government to take. Regarding its effect on painters, I may point out that the number of those suffering from lead poisoning among all wage workers in England represents 14.8, and the number of painters so suffering represents 27.43. The New South Wales Board of Trade have recently issued some figures in which they show the average expectation of life at 20 years of a painter to be 42 years, and of all other workers 45 years, so that the painter suffers very materially. Painters suffering from Bright's disease are shown to be 152 as against 55 of other workers, from lead poisoning 16 as again 04 of other workers, tuberculosis 128 as against 90.4 of other workers. All these diseases are attributable to the use of white lead, and everything goes to prove that the time has arrived for the abolition of white lead in painting by Act of Parliament. The Government are not doing what they ought to do in their treatment of this matter.
I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) say that after listening to the speech of the Minister of Labour he was satisfied with the Minister's solicitude for the workers. Frankly, I am not. Had the Minister agreed to the adoption of these Conventions; had he agreed even in regard to the one which presents a difficulty as to Scotland, that it should be adopted for England immediately and applied to Scotland later on, it might have changed one's view. The question of reservation has been raised and it is said we ought not to accept reservations, but are there not many hundreds of Acts which apply to England only and not to Scotland, and are there not also a number of Acts which apply to Scotland but not to England? Is there any reason why one other Act should not have been added endorsing, so far as England is concerned, this Convention which the Minister will not accept because of some difficulty with regard to an Act of Parliament already on the 2454 Statute Book dealing with Scotland? After the speech of the Minister, I cannot say he has shown the consideration or solicitude for the workers which we would expect. I hope even now, after the discussion which has taken place, he will give further consideration to the matter and see if he cannot do away with this deadly poison and come to a decision in favour of human life as against private property. We ask him to decide that white lead, which is murdering our people at the present time and causing them to be maimed and injured, shall be done away with. There is no doubt that substitutes are available. They were made available during the War and they can be made available during the peace. I ask the House to decide in favour of public health and individual life, rather than private profit, by ratifying this Convention.
§ Major BIRCHALL
I should like to add my congratulations to those already given to the Minister of Labour on the manner in which he dealt with this subject. The right hon. Gentleman has been sympathetic, serious and simple—three great and valuable attributes in anyone introducing to the House a subject like this. One can only feel sorry that his seriousness and sympathy have not extended to all Members of the House. It is indeed a matter of regret that the importance of this subject is not more generally recognised. After all, we are not dealing with a domestic question. It is not a question which affects our own constituencies particularly. It is an international question, and this discussion will be either welcomed or rejected throughout the civilised world. That is not putting the case too highly. We claim to give a lead in social legislation, and I believe we do. We are bad advertisers. We do not make the most of our good deeds, and perhaps that is just as well, but the fact remains for good or ill that what we do, and all that comes out of what we do, will be known throughout the world. Therefore I say it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the question at issue, and we have reason to be thankful that we have a Minister of Labour who realises the position, who has practical knowledge and practical sympathy and is prepared to give what I believe to be a good lead in these matters.
Apart from its international importance 2455 it is astounding to me that great industrial leaders should show a failure to recognise, from their own trading point of view, the importance of the International Labour Organisation. We depend for our trade on foreign markets. We are continually being undersold in foreign markets by goods produced under conditions of labour which we would not tolerate in this country. The International Labour Organisation if its draft Conventions and Recommendations are gradually carried out, will raise the standard of labour throughout the world especially among our competitors, and will thereby make the possibility of our trading, on fair and equal terms, in neutral markets a more practicable proposition. Merely from the bread and butter point of view, merely from the point of view of more trade, the question of international labour is of vital importance. That indeed is putting it on a low basis. Most of us prefer to treat it as a matter of international good will. We realise that the League of Nations and all which we still hope for from that great engine, with its policy of limitation of armaments, international justice, and political settlements of boundary and other disputes—we realise it is dependent upon the levelling up of the social conditions of the under dog in every part of the world. The limitation of armaments, political settlements and international justice will be of very little avail if, with them, we cannot achieve the betterment of the conditions under which the people of the world live.
I candidly admit I was agreeably surprised at the speech of the Minister. The British Government has always been very shy even of the League of Nations and still more shy of the International Labour Organisation, and I was a little surprised that the Minister was able to say that four out of the seven Draft Conventions would be ratified; two more were to be ratified in principle though not in detail, and only one was definitely rejected. I think that is not a bad record. The one which is definitely rejected is the one which, above all others, one would have thought at first sight the Government could accept as being already in universal application in this country. It is the fifth Convention dealing with a weekly rest day in industrial 2456 undertakings. The weekly rest day is the mark of this country beyond all others, and the mere fact that the Government is not able to ratify in all its details, a draft Convention dealing with the weekly rest day, shows that the details of these Conventions must be carefully considered. We cannot assume that the fact of a Convention not being ratified proves, in any way, that the Government is out of sympathy with the object of that Convention. We believe and carry out the principle of a weekly rest day, but there is some minute detail in that Convention which is difficult of application at the moment. The record of the Government in these matters is one not to be ashamed of, and I shall have no difficulty in supporting it.
Two Recommendations have already been referred to, on which I wish to say something further. One is in connection with white lead. That is an old controversy and I was glad to hear the Minister going as far as he did. I only hope he will stick to his point and get something done, even if he cannot go the whole length of the Recommendation. With regard to the other, I believe this country does lag behind some other countries—that is the question of pre-natal treatment. After child-birth we treat women very fairly, but before child-birth, for some reason which I could never understand, we do not deal with them as well as many other countries do. I hope the Minister will be able to do something in that respect. Nothing has been said, and I do not know if it would be in order, about the cost of the International Labour Organisation. I am not going to deal with it in detail, but I am glad to find the cost will be reduced between now and next year by £50,000, and I think the expenditure of something like £300,000 upon this office requires a deal of justification. I am inclined to think that it might still be reduced, possibly by another £50,000, and yet be able to do the good work it is doing without suffering from reduced expenditure. Whether it does that or not, so long as it continues to do this good work I shall support it, and if it can do it at reduced cost so much the better. I have every intention to support the Government. I believe they mean what they say, and that these ratifications will be followed where necessary by Bills 2457 that will be pressed through. One of my first recollections of the Parliament of 1920 was the introduction of the first Measure arising from the Washington Convention and dealing with the hours of women and children's employment. The reading of that Measure for the first time arising, as it did definitely out of the War, with a new Preamble that had never appeared in the British Parliament before, namely, the reference to the Convention at Washington, must have sent a thrill through every Member who was present. I hope on this occasion these ratifications will be followed up, if necessary, by legislation, not introduced for the purpose of window dressing, but with the intention to press it through.
§ Mr. ARTHUR GREENWOOD
I wish I could follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Birchall) in the kind words he uttered with regard to the action of the Minister of Labour. The fact that, in spite of the difficulties of which the speech was mainly composed, he has found it possible to ratify certain Conventions only throws into darker relief the fact that he has not ratified others. He has left certain very important ones, his action on which is bound to have important effects internationally. The right hon. Member for West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) said that we had been in the van of industrial legislation. That is undoubtedly true, and places a very great responsibility upon this country, to which international labour conferences look for guidance. Its action with regard to Conventions is closely scrutinised, and in a very real sense, even when we are reactionary, we still very largely lead the world. The truth of the matter is that the chief Conventions of the Washington Conference are very largely a dead letter to-day because of the action of the British Government. The British Government, having failed at the pinch to honour pledges that it had itself made, put into the hands of other countries with a little courage, who often have to fight considerable obstacles, a means of evading their own responsibilities. I suggest that that is just what is going to happen to-day because of the regrettable decision of the British Government with regard to certain of these Conventions. Our record has been described as honourable. In the field of international labour legislation our record is more dishonourable than honourable, and the 2458 action we are taking to-day in this House by the Motion submitted by the Minister of Labour means more dishonour for this country in the eyes of the world. I cannot help thinking that had the issue been of another kind, that had we given undertakings of a military kind, Members opposite would have said that we could not break our word. If it be a question of industrial legislation agreed on by the British representatives at Washington or Geneva it seems that it is not dishonourable for the British Government to get up in this House and say it is prepared to break its pledges. I submit that that is as dishonourable as conduct can be in public life. I think, if the representatives of this country, after full consideration, do put their names to conventions, the Government of this country is in honour bound to carry them out. It is no excuse to say that we are going to carry out six out of nine, or whatever it may be, some in their entirety, some partially, and some with reservations and notes. We have the right to ask that every convention to which British names are appended should be honourably carried out by the British Parliament.
It seems to me, therefore, that since the 1921 Conference there has been a weakening of the support given by the British Government to the work of the International Labour Organisation, and I suspect that that weakening is very largely due to the subterranean propaganda carried on by interested parties. Certainly, it is true as regards white lead. We have seen an insistent and persistent propaganda, primarily in the provincial Press of this country, first, against the white lead convention, developing at the present time into an attack on the whole of the International Labour Organisation. The action of the British Government to-day lends colour to the view that it has been susceptible to the influence of interested parties who would wish to destroy a good deal of the work of the International Labour Organisation. The Conventions of the Geneva Conference of 1921 ought to have been put before this House at an earlier date. They have been put before this House at the eleventh hour. In effect, whatever speedy action may be taken by the Home Office and other Departments in regard to the International Labour Organisation the conventions which are not ratified immediately 2459 are not going to be ratified at all for a very considerable time, and the whole of these questions will be raised again. The whole of the trouble will have to be gone through again, there will be the same difficulty at the end, and no doubt some future Minister of Labour will say, "There is a little difficulty here," or "There is a little difficulty there," and therefore we are not going to ratify it. I never heard a more inadequate, miserable, and paltry excuse for not ratifying a convention than that given by the right hon. Gentleman in regard to children in agriculture. Is it suggested that the people who were at Geneva were so ignorant of the position in this country that they did not know the facts, whatever the facts might be, beforehand? Or is it that eighteen months having elapsed there has not been a way found out; or is it not possible to take the line suggested by an hon. Member of adding a Note to the ratification? It looks as if there were no desire to do so. What does that mean? It means that many large agricultural countries that ought to attain to something like a decent standard with regard to the employment of young children in agriculture will not be loath to follow the British lead. In other words, the action of the British Government to-day is going to perpetuate child slavery in many agricultural countries in the world.
With regard to the question of white lead, we are told that there have been new discoveries of a very important kind. The only one referred to by the right hon. Gentleman was wet rubbing-down, which is at least a generation old. There has been no important discovery relating to white lead since the Convention of 1921, and in no important circumstance has the situation been changed. The approval given by the British representatives in 1921 should be ratified to-day. Similarly, with the weekly rest day. People on the other side of the House do not realise, perhaps, what it means to the workers on the Continent to think that they might get, through the International Labour Organisation, the English Sunday. But we are not going to ratify it here. The real importance of these Conventions so far has not been, in my judgment, the effect they would have on working-class life here. 2460 Their main importance has been the effect they would have had on working-class life in other countries, and the weekly rest day, which seems so unimportant to us because we have it, is a question of considerable importance on the Continent. It is a scandalous thing, in the view of those of us on this side of the House, that this country should not help other countries on the way by ratifying this important Convention. I am aware that there will always be difficuties with regard to the ratification of Conventions, but I suggest that there are ways out of these difficulties if the Government care sufficiently about this question. I grieve to say that, in my view, the Government does not care sufficiently. There are bigger practical difficulties in the way of actually carrying out the Conventions that the right hon. Gentlemen accepted in their entirety—the Maritime Conventions—than there are in most of the others. Yet the others have been held up, and will be held up, for quite a long time, because of difficulties which, in our view, are microscopic. For these reasons, we cannot pretend that we are satisfied with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. We believe that this country is establing a bad tradition in regard to international labour organisation, and from these benches we ask that there should be the same standard of honour applied by the British Government as regard labour questions as they would apply to questions of territorial rights or military power.
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I wish to associate myself with the words of the previous speaker in regard to the question of the importance of this subject. It is, indeed, one of the most important subjects that has come before Parliament recently, particularly because of the international aspect it bears. The Minister of Labour intends to ratify certain things, and one feels so far so good, but one wishes he had gone very much further. One regrets that the Government are not able to ratify all the Conventions and the Recommendations, because Great Britain in this respect should lead the way and not be left behind. Our conditions may be good—they are not as good as we wish they were—but at any rate it is up to us to carry on those countries whose conditions are not equal to ours, and I do agree with the 2461 right hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes) who said that it would have been an advantage to hon. Members to have had a little longer time to consider these ratifications than we have had. The four subjects that I think, perhaps, appeal to me most, and in regard to none of which do I consider the ratification satisfactory, are children in agriculture, women agricultural workers in regard to childbirth, the living-in conditions of agricultural labourers, and unemployment in connection with agricultural workers.
With regard to the children in agriculture, it is a case where we might have helped child labour throughout the world. When we have pressed for better conditions for child labour it has had a great effect, and I think the fact that Japan ratified certain sections last year was in great measure due to the work and example of countries like Great Britain. As regards the women agricultural workers at the time of childbirth, I regret very much that the Government do not see their way to ratify these Recommendations, because at that very difficult time it is a very necessary thing for the health of the woman and the health of the child that she should have every advantage. She needs to have rest, care, the opportunity of fresh air not only for her own sake, but particularly for the sake of the child who is going to become a future citizen of our country. Employed women need this protection much more than women who, perhaps, have not the necessity to be employed. Their hard life renders it necessary that they should have much more consideration. The present maternity benefit given at the time of the birth of the child is on account of the husband, not on account of the woman herself. It is given because it is payment towards the insurance benefit, so this point would only recompense the wife because she is a wage earner, and I do not think it would mean that one need scrap the present machinery. One needs this in addition. The Minister said that the factory laws at present protect women for four weeks after childbirth, but I do not quite follow what factory laws would affect an agricultural 2462 woman worker, and I should be very glad of that information.
In regard to the third point, dealing with the living-in conditions of agricultural workers, the Minister says there is no necessity, or little necessity, in our country for that. Perhaps there is not a great deal, but I can truly point out very many places where the conditions of agricultural workers, particularly seasonal labour, are desperately bad. These Recommendations are that the housing conditions of the agricultural workers should be up to a certain standard, that where climatic conditions are bad, heating should be introduced, that facilities should be given for personal cleanliness, that there should be opportunities for the separation of sexes, that there should be adequate provision for children where families are taking part in the work, that there should be separate beds for the workers, and, what is most important, that stables, cowhouses, and open sheds should not be used for the purposes of sleeping quarters.
The last point is the unemployment among agricultural workers. I regret that this important section cannot be ratified, because, as the Minister says, of the difficulties in regard to the insurance of the agricultural worker. That has to be considered, one realises, but at any rate the Recommendations given here seem to me to bear directly on our present agricultural troubles. They point out that all land should be used to the best advantage, that intensive cultivation should be used whenever possible, that facilities should be given for land settlement and for workers to be transported from places where there is no work to places where there is work. Also that facilities should be given for the development of supplementary industries, that is, to help rural industries and, possibly, in the case of my own county, as when there is a big surplus of potatoes, for the making of potatoes into alcohol, not for drinking purposes, but for industrial purposes. That seems to me one of the very good supplementary ways in which these Recommendations would help. Then it is suggested that co-operative societies should be formed for the working and purchase or renting of land. These things seem to me to bear so directly on our present agricultural troubles that it is a 2463 pity that, just for the sake of difficulty of insurance, these things cannot be ratified.
I feel that Great Britain ought to lead the other countries. Her standard is very high. The League of Nations, I hope, is going to be more successful even than it has been in the past. One feels that it has a hard task in front of it, for it has to legislate for countries that are poles apart, for countries that differ politically, socially, and industrially, countries that have a very different outlook and a very different temperament, and I feel that if only we can confer together on these labour questions and have some common ground of interest, it will be a step in the right direction. One feels that in considering the question of agriculture it is of very great importance that the Parliaments of all countries should be more attentive to what is such a vital industry all over the world.
§ Mr. JOHN MURRAY
I welcome the opportunity of saying a few words about the work in general of the International Labour Office and about the proposals in regard to it of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. The International Labour Office, in spite of the first item of its name, is really British in origin. It was due to the influence and the ingenuity in planning it of the British Delegation at the Peace Conference that the International Labour Office now exists and that this country and all the other countries of the world may obtain industrial benefits under it. We ourselves, therefore, ought to have a soft side for a body the inspiration for building which came from Britain and the immediate builders of which were British. I think we ought to sympathise with the main object of it, which is to level up the conditions of industry throughout the whole world, and we may sympathise the more with that general object in that it is conceived for the benefit of no nation so much as our own. We are exposed to possibilities of unfair competition from all over the world, simply because the conditions under which our industries are conducted are, on the whole, better than exist anywhere else, and I venture to appeal to those who, for one reason or another, may be inclined to be critical of this organisation and of its work to regard it, as I 2464 think it ought to be regarded, as really a scheme of unemployment insurance for the British people.
That being the origin and the purpose, and we ourselves being, above all, the beneficiaries, I think we ought to approach the consideration of its Recommendations with the greatest sympathy and, doing so, I find the documents put in our hands yesterday very disappointing. I regret that the Minister has not seen his way to adopt all the Conventions and Recommendations, and that in the cases where he has not seen his way to adopt, he has not seen his way to say more hopeful words about the possibility of adoption. I know very well that there are very great difficulties, and difficulties, too, of a general kind. It is well realised, for example, in the rest of the world that Britain, where the industrial conditions are at a high standard and well developed, stands to gain most by the work of the International Labour Office, and therefore there are not wanting in the world those who say that all these Conferences and Conventions are just a British stunt, which the British seek to impose for their own benefit on the rest of the world; and that belief that we are not honest in the matter, that we are seeking our own selfish advantage, has a great deal to do with opposition to the Office and with unwillingness to accept its Recommendations. It is perfectly true that the fashion is against ratification and acceptance. Very few nations ever accept anything, and ratifications have been remarkably few. There has been a great deal of criticism of our own Government, because it has refused to ratify the Hours Convention, which was passed at Washington in 1919. I doubt if many hon. Members realise that, of the 55 nations that were represented at Washington, only five have ratified, and, of those five, all of them inconsiderable nations, only two have ratified without special concessions and special conditions.
§ Mr. MURRAY
Greece has accepted the Hours Convention, Czechoslovakia, which has obtained an entire fresh outfit of industrial legislation, Rumania, Bulgaria, and India, but the way in which India has accepted it is that in factories the hours have been reduced from 72 to 60, and in mines to 54, so that 2465 India, by ratification, is still a long way short of European conditions in these matters. Therefore, I think it is a mistake to attack our own Government—
§ Mr. MURRAY
I think Japan has done the same as India. There, the hours in factories have been reduced from 72 to 60, and certain regulations have also been passed regarding the use of children in factories. Furthermore, the International Labour Office, at its Conferences, passes Conventions which have to be embodied in the legislative and administrative systems of all the countries which take part therein. These systems vary very much. The French, for example, do not legislate in the same way as we do. They often legislate a principle and leave the Government Departments to work out in detail what the law is to mean. We do not legislate in that way. There you have two extreme difficulties, and other forms of difference are found throughout the world. Further, in 1919, when the Office began its great career, the world was in a hopeful mood, there was a boom, labour was strong, and sympathy with the claims of labour was great. Things are different now. We are in the depths of a depression, the end of which no one can foresee, and proposals which seemed desirable in 1919, and even since then, are no longer so attractive. We are in a reaction, and therefore it is impossible to expect the Office to pass the same number of Conventions, and it is impossible to expect the nations to adopt them, while it is also impossible to expect this nation to improve the level of its own industrial conditions at such a difficult time. I think these general considerations ought to be before the minds of hon. Members in taking up an attitude towards the proposals of the Government.
On the actual proposals, I would like to say one or two words, and first, as to paint. I do not wish to speak with disrespect of painters, but I fancy that no one in this House has not painted a bit at some time or other, and the truth is that anybody can paint, that anybody can lay on with a brush, and one of the great difficulties of the painting trade is that so little preliminary training or qualification is necessary. One result of that, I 2466 believe, is that many men drift into painting who are unfit for more laborious pursuits, whose physique and health are certainly not up to the average, and these are the people who are exposed to the special dangers of working with paint. I appeal to the Minister not merely to take it that all the trouble is caused by the white lead, but to remember that in the humanity that handles the white lead there are special weaknesses and susceptibilities, and that they, more than most classes of the community, deserve whatever safeguarding by legislation they can get against the unhealthy effects of their calling.
Secondly, as regards agriculture, I regret very much that the Government has not seen its way to do more towards improving the conditions in that industry, for this reason, that the International Labour Office originated in an industrial inspiration. All its thoughts at the start were about cities and factories. It had little view of agriculture, and in many countries, such as Sweden, Austria and Finland the fact that the whole bias of its conventions and recommendations has been industrial and not agricultural has meant that these conventions and recommendations have not been well received. The business of the Office, so far as it touches industry, is well ahead. So far as it touches agriculture I hold it is backward, and so far as elaboration of good working conditions in this country are concerned I hold that we have not done for agriculture what we have done for the workers of the cities. Therefore, on these points I hope without any question of showing a good example to the rest of the world, the Minister will consider whether for the agriculturists and for the painters something more is not due from the Government than they have hitherto had.
Lastly, I should like to refer to one point made by a previous speaker, the Member for North-East Leeds. In a vigorous and hearty speech he supported the International Labour Office in observations with which I think the greater part of the House agree. He spoke of the work of the office and pointed out the great possibilities of it. He went on to say that he was very glad to hear of a reduction in the Estimate for next year of almost £50,000. I think the two points are quite inconsistent. The work of the office is pioneer work, and this pioneer work is probably not conducted so economically 2467 as one could wish. Pioneer work never is. At the same time, the work of the office, whether it be legislative or whether it be in the way of collecting information about industrial systems, is world-wide and world beneficial. I desire to dissociate myself entirely from those who think that on an occasion of this kind £50,000 is either here or there. I say that, for my part, that this Budget, this estimate of the League of Nations, whereby the expenses of the Labour Office are likely to be reduced, should be revised, and that this nation, one of the richest in the world, should take the lead and say that for this valuable work the money must be found.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I wish to add my voice to those who are protesting against the inadequate and barren policy foreshadowed by the Labour Minister in presenting his case this afternoon. I feel that the Government have lost a golden opportunity in not agreeing to ratify the whole of these Conventions and accepting the whole of the Recommendations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) desired in the reply from the Government information as to what other members of the League had done in connection with the various Conventions and Recommendations agreed to from time to time. I should like, if we can get, side by side with that, information as to proposals that were made in other Legislatures and afterwards withdrawn because of the action of Great Britain in refusing to put into operation or to endorse many other Conventions! The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken mentioned a few places that had agreed to ratify the Convention dealing with the hours of labour. He did not complete the list of those who were willing to do so, and who had not done so, or were hesitating, because Great Britain had withheld its ratification. As a matter of fact, in France the Hours of Labour Convention did go through one of the Chambers, but it did not reach its final stage. Even Germany accepted the Washington Eight Hours Convention, but since suspended, I believe, wholly in consequence of what has been said about foreign competition or world competition with other nations who have longer hours 2468 and a lower economic standard for their workpeople, there is danger that the eight hours will go out altogether. Why on earth this country should have hesitated to ratify I cannot for the life of me understand. Therefore I am afraid that there will be other members of the League who will wait until they learn what Great Britain is likely to do.
All this talk about being in the van, about being in the forefront, and being so much ahead of all other nations! Then to go on to say, "we cannot ratify these conventions," and in the same sentence to give as a reason, "because in the main they are already in being." If in the main they are "already in being" why cannot the Government agree to recommend their ratification? Let the Government tell this House of any one Convention since Washington that it has ratified and which has cost this Government any great amount? I do not know any. The Government refused the Maternity Convention as well as the Hours Convention—two great social reforms. It refused the Conventions that were in the main fundamental, something other than the mere conditions of labour; something other than mere hours and regulations—great social matters. I do feel some regret at the barrenness of the Government's proposals in connection with this and other matters. Then as to the question of maternity and the period of protection of the female agricultural worker before and after child-birth. I will read the Recommendation and then I will ask what the Government has to say in reply. It is as follows:That each member of the International Labour Organisation takes measures to ensure that the women wage-earners employed in agricultural undertakings have protection before and after child-birth similar to that provided by the Draft Convention adopted by the International Conference at Washington for women employed in industry and commerce, and that such measures shall include the right of a period of absence of work before and after childbirth, and a grant or benefit during the same period provided either out of public funds or by means of a system of insurance.The Government tell us no! They say there shall be no provision for the agricultural woman worker to have time off, as suggested, and this is a country so far ahead! This is a country that is in the van! This is a country that leads the way! Yet it says to its agricultural women-workers, "You shall have no 2469 provision made for you other than that already made"—which is less than the Recommendation, otherwise the Recommendation would have been accepted. The Recommendation is not accepted because it asks for some provision for these women under these circumstances, even though it be financial aid to relieve the anxiety felt by the woman at such a critical period. This great country says, "No." What was the answer on the Maternity Convention? "We have our social services; we have our different establishments for help and advice, and there are charitably-disposed people who are always attending and caring for the women of this country who are placed in such circumstances." Then, again, it is stated that we provide for all the women, not only those engaged in agriculture or in industry. Why, then, I ask, should we hesitate, if that be the case, to give the assistance asked for? Why stand on the brink and refuse what the world asks for through the International Labour Conference; and what the women of the world ask for through their labour associations; what the concentrated thought and opinion deems to be necessary through the International Conventions?
These all come to the alleged most enlightened Government of the day, and in reply to their request or appeal that Government says, "No; we will do nothing in that particular respect." So far as the week-end rest is concerned, why the Government should not accede to the Convention, I do not know. Here, again, the Government say, "We do not accept this because in effect it is already here." Why, then, do they not swell the number prepared to take international action? What right have you to declaim against the long hours and bad conditions and seven days a week work of other countries, all of which enables them, as you say, to put their goods on the world's markets cheaper than you can do, and that puts you as a competitor into an inferior economic position, and when you get the opportunity to help to bring about a change why not say: "We will be one among the rest of the nations and members of the League. If we can help to bring about a 24-hour cessation of work we will do so"? But, no, you say we will not ratify it, and by your not ratifying it 2470 you are keeping the backward countries still back; you are keeping them reactionary and helping them to defeat your own purpose, your aim and object by standing aloof from them instead of swelling the number of those who are accepting the Conventions and creating world-opinion, until finally you include the whole lot and so give greater equality of opportunity in the matter!
It does not do for the Minister to say that this matter was carried by just a small majority. This Convention actually was recommended by a vote of 73 to 22, and I believe the maximum number of votes available was 97 while two remained neutral. I thought I could imagine these two to be representatives of this country. It was said that the British Delegation did not support this Convention, that they remained neutral. That would be, I suppose, the two representatives of the British Government. The expression of opinion conveyed by 73 votes to 22 does appear to me to be one that the Government might well have accepted and agreed to ratify the Convention. Just two other points, one social insurance in agriculture. Why on earth a great State like this should refuse this I do not know, but apparently the grounds for refusal were a, few words in the section:and other similar social risks."We do not know what that means. We do not understand it. But because these other social risks are inserted we will not ratify it, and on those grounds alone." That is not good enough as an argument or as a reason, because there are other social risks. Because these terms are put there the Government shelter themselves behind these few words when they might have said we have our National Health Insurance, we have our provision for all these social reforms, such as old age pensions, and other matters, and it will cost us nothing. If the right hon. Gentleman had said, "We agree to ratify because it costs us nothing," I can imagine the great shout of approval that would have gone up from the other side of the House—"Do anything, so long as it costs nothing, or means very little effort to put it into operation!" In the course of the criticisms to which the right hon. Gentleman has had to submit—justifiable, it is true—I have not heard many hon. Members give him just a word of praise for the little bright twinkles which came 2471 out of his statement. I am going to do it in two minutes. I do not lose sight of the value of the Maritime Convention restricting the earliest age at which a youth shall be permitted to sign on as trimmers or stokers in our merchant service to 18 years.
I have often been surprised that public opinion could not have found expression long before, and have made employment at an earlier age impossible. There may be adventure and romance in the spirit and youth of this nation; there is jolly little romance in the coal bunker, and in the hardships which a young fellow of that age is called upon to face in the bilge and the stokehole of a ship. If the ratification of that Convention is going to help to internationalise—as it does, except in regard to coastwise vessels, of India and Japan—the standard for fixing the age below which no young persons shall be employed under conditions such as prevail in the stokehole and coal bunkers of a vessel, I welcome it, as one who knows the difficulties and hardships of the stokehole, the bunker, and the wretched forecastle, which many of those young fellows are called upon to face.
I also welcome the other Maritime Convention, providing for an annual medical inspection of young persons below the age of 18 employed at sea. On many of the cargo-carrying boats, these lads were never made efficient sailormen until they had their bodies bruised by the rope end, and by the severity of the service. If the Convention compels an annual medical inspection of the lads placed in such conditions, it will be another bright spot in the all too barren policy of the Government. As the Government have signed this, I thought it only right to say how keenly those associated with that life feel that gratitude is due to the International Labour Conference for having been able to get a solid 100 votes from all nations in favour of it; none being against, and none neutral. I can only imagine, therefore, that this is a Convention which will have universal acceptance throughout the world.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
With the consent of the House, I will now make some reply to the comments put forward in the course of 2472 this discussion. I think we may all agree in this, at any rate, that we have had a very interesting, useful and important Debate. Criticisms, of course, have come from various parts of the House, on many different subjects, but after listening to the Debate this afternoon I can at least say that those criticisms have this in common, that they have all obviously been inspired by a common sincerity of purpose. Believing that those criticisms have been made in that spirit, that is the spirit in which I propose to answer them. The discussion has centered principally round two Conventions and one Recommendation, and I want to deal with those three. The first subject about which I wish to say something is the Maternity Recommendation. It was quite obvious that that would be raised by many hon. Members in all parts of the House. It was raised first of all, in the speech of the right hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes), which followed that of the Minister of Labour. It was raised by the hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham), and by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. This question has been discussed two or three times—it may be more—in my hearing.
It certainly was discussed twice in the last Parliament, and it seemed to me then, as—if I may express a personal view—it seems to be now, that the proposals and principles in the Washington Convention have much to recommend them. It seemed to me then, however, as it does now, that the principles contained in that Convention are not consistent with the principles and the scheme we have adopted for many years in this country. The Minister of Labour said quite truly that the policy we have adopted in this country has been an extensive system; the policy proposed in the Washington Convention is an intensive system. What he meant was that the proposals at Washington, if carried out, would give special and particular benefits to a particular class of women. In this country we have proceeded upon the principle that the wives of employed contributors get the benefit. The Washington proposal is that women engaged in industry should get the benefit. If we applied here the Washington proposals, and nothing else, it would mean that 440,000 women alone would get any advantage, whereas, under our system, no less than 3,460,000 women would get the benefit.
2473 Let me carry this one step further. We are not approaching this problem for the first time. We have had, during the last 11 or 12 years, four different and separate Health Insurance Acts. We had the first Act in 1911; we had the Act of 1913; we had the Act of 1918; and we had another Act, in 1920. I am not going to take up time in going into the details of these particular Acts, but, speaking broadly, their cumulative effect has been, first of all, to extend the benefit, and certainly to extend the class. The view of the Minister of Labour is that those are the lines on which we should proceed, and that we should not attempt to superimpose upon this scheme, which has been worked out with such care and has now been carried out for no less than 11 or 12 years, another scheme, which is inconsistent with it. My right hon. Friend the Member for North West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) said we have not reached finality. It is not for me to say whether we have or whether we have not. If we have not reached finality, then it would be the greatest mistake not to proceed upon the lines along which we have hitherto travelled, and to scrap the long experience, extending over many years, which has been incorporated in these various Acts to which I have referred. I do not wish to say more upon this question, except to remark that here, closely allied with the health insurance, is the Maternity and Child Welfare Act of 1918, which confers certain benefits to which my right hon. Friend referred. Therefore the House will believe me when I say that we are just as anxious as hon. Members opposite to do our best in this matter. The difference between us is the difference, not of principle, but the difference of the method by which we should proceed to attain the end which we all have in view. With these observations, I will leave this question of the Maternity Recommendation.
The next great question which has been discussed this afternoon is that of white lead. I do not think the House can expect me to go beyond what my right hon. Friend said, when he opened this discussion, but may I summarise and state again what really were the conclusions of his observations on this important question? He referred, first of all, to the compromise which took place at Geneva, in 1921. He made it 2474 perfectly clear that he voted for that compromise upon the footing that it was, what we may call an agreed compromise, and that it was acceptable to those who voted for it. He then expressed a doubt as to whether difficulties might not subsequently arise as to what this compromise meant. As it turned out, his fears in that direction have been exceedingly well founded, because the doubt has arisen as to the meaning of the Convention which embodies those proposals. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Nottingham (Captain Berkeley) seemed to think that there was no question of ambiguity at all. That there was and is an ambiguity is obvious from the fact that the International Labour Office itself, in its official Bulletin of the 30th August, 1922, asked the opinion of the various members of the Committee as to what they understood by it. So it is obvious that doubts did arise, and doubts exist now, which have never been cleared up as to what that compromise meant, and as to what those people who agreed to it meant when they did agree to it. One doubt is an ambiguity as to the meaning of Article 3. Even at the International Labour Office it is known and admitted that these doubts do exist, and therefore we cannot say that that is a compromise by which we must be bound when the very people who entered into it do not agree on the matter.
§ Captain BERKELEY
That is not what I said. I said that the British delegation voted for these conditions, and they must have known what the plain meaning of the words on the paper was.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
My right hon. Friend said he voted for it upon the assumption that it was what he called an agreed compromise, and that it was agreed between all parties what it meant. He even then, however, had doubts as to whether difficulties would not afterwards arise. My right hon. Friend reminds me that the compromise was rushed through in three hours, at the end of the Conference, and he accepted it with doubt. There is one third point about which I want to speak. That arose out of the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee. I have that Report here, and the words are:We accordingly recommend that legislation should be passed to give effect to the principles therein contained.2475 It does not say that the Convention itself is to be adopted, but it does recommend that the legislation to be passed shall give effect to the principles therein contained. The Home Secretary is considering and will consider with the people who are interested in this matter the whole question. On these facts, it does seem to me that it would be both precipitate and premature to urge now that the ratification of this Convention should be made in these circumstances, particularly in view of the Report of the Committee.
There is just one other point to which I want to refer. It is a point which was taken by various speakers, including the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Nottingham (Captain Rakeley), who began by casting doubts upon the sincerity of the Government in regard to the International Labour Office. The last Government did, this Government is doing. I have every reason to believe it will do all that it can to promote this Office, and, if the hon. and gallant Member has any doubt as to the sincerity of this Government or of the last Government on that matter, I can assure him that his doubts are ill-founded. Then he went on to say, with regard to the first Convention in regard to children in agriculture, that it was a most futile point which prevented the ratification of the Convention. It is true we might have ratified that Convention with reservations, but to ratify the Convention as it stands, in view of the law as it exists, is an absolute impossibility. One hon. Gentleman on the other side seemed to think that there was no danger in ratifying the Convention with reservations, because he said, "You have Acts of Parliament that apply to England and not to Scotland," but there is all the difference in the world between ratifying with reservations a Convention that applies to the whole world and passing a law that definitely applies to one country and not to another. I think therefore my right hon. Friend is perfectly right when he sets his face against the idea of ratifying the Convention with reservations. If you begin to cut away from this Convention by a reservation here and a reservation there, you soon find the Convention is worth nothing at all.
§ Captain BERKELEY
I did not suggest that you should ratify the Convention with reservations. I pointed out that the third Convention was being ratified subject to explanation, and I suggested that the same course should be adopted with this one.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I am sorry if I have misunderstood what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said. Therefore, the argument I have addressed is not relevant to the point he raised. I will explain to the hon. and gallant Gentleman why it is quite impossible for this particular Convention to be ratified as it stands. There is an Act which is still in existence, the Education (Scotland) Act, 1901, which expressly gives to local authorities the power to grant exemption from the obligation to attend school in the case of children over 12 and under 14. I do not know if that Act is a good or a bad Act. If Members who are interested in the subject think it is a bad Act, I am sure they will have it repealed, but meantime it is on the Statute Book, and, so long as it is on the Statute Book, it is quite impossible for this Convention to be ratified.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I cannot tell whether it was known or not. I was not at the Conference. In the present form of the Convention neither this Government nor any other Government can agree to ratify it, but my right hon. Friend is to refer this matter to Geneva again with a view to having it altered and making it acceptable. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes) made the point that a long time has elapsed before the Conventions were ratified since the Conference. In the ordinary course they would have been ratified last autumn, and it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) to take steps to ratify them then, but owing to the General Election, which rather upset everything, we have, I agree, run the time rather fine. I do not think I need deal with any more points that have been raised, but I shall ask the House to adopt the Motion.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what other nations, if any, have ratified or accepted the Recommendations now before us?
§ Mr. MAXTON
I would like in the few minutes left to associate myself with the views that have been expressed on this side casting some doubt, I will not say as to the sincerity of the Government with reference to this international legislation, but upon their enthusiasm for this code of work that has been placed before the nations of Europe. The amount of time that has been allowed to elapse, the shortness of the time that has been allotted for the discussion to-day, and the haphazard way in which the Government's policy has been indicated, all seem to show that there is not the enthusiasm for this great international social experiment that is necessary if it is going to be of any practical value. I am on my feet, however, to deal more particularly with a point raised in reference to Scotland. It has been seriously put forward by the Minister of Labour that Great Britain's reason for refusing to give its support to the great scheme of endeavouring to get the children out of the agricultural industry until they attain the age of 14 is that there is an Act in Scotland which allows education authorities to allow a certain number of children, a very limited number, permission to leave school before the age of 14. The Education (Scotland) Act of 1918 is on the Statute Book, and by a Section in that
§ Act, which can be put into operation immediately, the Department names the date and the particular Section in the Act to which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Betterton) referred goes by the board. In any case, are we to believe that this is a sufficient matter, that because a few hundred children in Scotland are exempted annually in our agricultural areas on the ground of poverty, Great Britain cannot ratify an agreement which says that throughout Europe no child shall be employed in agriculture under 14 years of age? That is a flimsy and trivial excuse. It is on a part with the excuse put forward about the white lead agreement and with reference to the treatment of women in agriculture up to the stage of childbirth. Every excuse given for not ratifying seems to me to have been flimsier than the previous one. It is reducing the whole League of Nations, the whole Peace Treaty, to the farce that many of us here have always regarded it as being, if we say that we are upholding this scheme to try to bring the social life of Europe up to a higher level, while at the same time our representatives are going to the Conference at Geneva and elsewhere with their tongues in their cheeks and reducing the conference to futility.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 235; Noes, 176.2481
|Division No. 144.]||AYES.||[8.14|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Brittain, Sir Harry||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Bruford, R.||Crooke, J. S. (Deritend)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Bruton, Sir James||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Buckingham, Sir H.||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Ednam, Viscount|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Butcher, Sir John George||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)||Ellis, R. G.|
|Banks, Mitchell||Butt, Sir Alfred||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Button, H. S.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Cadogan, Major Edward||Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.|
|Becker, Harry||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Falcon, Captain Michael|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Fawkes, Major F. H.|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Chapman, Sir S.||Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.|
|Berry, Sir George||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Ford, Patrick Johnston|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Clarry, Reginald George||Forestier-Walker, L.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Clayton, G. C.||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot|
|Blundell, F. N.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fraser, Major Sir Keith|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Furness, G. J.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Brass, Captain W.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Gates, Percy|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Cope, Major William||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.|
|Gray, Harold (Cambridge)||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|Greaves-Lord, Walter||Lumley, L. R.||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hackn'y, N.)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Sandon, Lord|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Margesson, H. D. R.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Simpson-Hinchliffe, W. A.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Mercer, Colonel H.||Singleton, J. E.|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Skelton, A. N.|
|Halstead, Major D.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hamilton, Sir George C. (Aitrincham)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sparkes, H. W.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Harvey, Major S. E.||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Stanley, Lord|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Nall, Major Joseph||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth|
|Herbert, S. (Scarborough)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Hewett, Sir J. P.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Hiley, Sir Ernest||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Nield, Sir Herbert||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Paget, T. G.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Pease, William Edwin||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Houfton, John Plowright||Penny, Frederick George||Tubbs, S. W.|
|Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Perring, William George||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Hudson, Capt. A.||Preston, Sir W. R.||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Hume, G. H.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Privett, F. J.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Hurst, Lt.-Col. Gerald Berkeley||Raine, W.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)||Rankin, Captain James Stuart||Wells, S. R.|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Jarrett, G. W. S.||Remer, J. R.||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Reynolds, W. G. W.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul||Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Winterton, Earl|
|Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Wise, Frederick|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Roberts, Rt. Hon. Sir S. (Ecclesall)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Robertson-Despencer, Major (Isl'gt'n W.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.||Wood, Maj. Sir S. Hill-(High Peak)|
|Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.||Rothschild, Lionel de||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Lorden, John William||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Lorimer, H. D.||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Lort-Williams, J.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lougher, L.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Cotts, Sir William Dingwall Mitchel||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Harbord, Arthur|
|Ammon, Charles George||Darbishire, C. W.||Hardie, George D.|
|Attlee, C. R.||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Harney, E. A.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Davies, J. C. (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Harris, Percy A.|
|Barnes, A.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hartshorn, Vernon|
|Batey, Joseph||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hastings, Patrick|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)|
|Bennett, A. J. (Mansfield)||Duffy, T. Gavan||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Duncan, C.||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Dunnico, H.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)|
|Bonwick, A.||Ede, James Chuter||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Briant, Frank||Edge, Captain Sir William||Herriotts, J.|
|Broad, F. A.||Edmonds, G.||Hill, A.|
|Brotherton, J.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hillary, A. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Hinds, John|
|Buchanan, G.||Foot, Isaac||Hirst, G. H.|
|Buckle, J.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Burgess, S.||Gosling, Harry||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Hogge, James Myles|
|Butler, J. R. M. (Cambridge Univ.)||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Irving, Dan|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Greenall, T.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Cairns, John||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)|
|Cape, Thomas||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)|
|Chapple, W. A.||Groves, T.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Grundy, T. W.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Oliver, George Harold||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Paling, W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Parker, H. (Hanley)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)||Thornton, M.|
|Lansbury, George||Potts, John S.||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|Lawson, John James||Pringle, W. M. R.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Leach, W.||Rae, Sir Henry N.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Lee, F.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Warne, G. H.|
|Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley)||Richards, R.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Linfield, F. C.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Lowth, T.||Riley, Ben||Webb, Sidney|
|Lunn, William||Ritson, J.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)||Weir, L. M.|
|MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Westwood, J.|
|M'Entee, V. L.||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)||Wheatley, J.|
|McLaren, Andrew||Royce, William Stapleton||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|March, S.||Saklatvala, S.||Whiteley, W.|
|Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||Salter, Dr. A.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Scrymgeour, E.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Maxton, James||Sexton, James||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Middleton, G.||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Millar, J. D.||Shinwell, Emanuel||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Morel, E. D.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Simpson, J. Hope||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Muir, John W.||Sitch, Charles H.||Wright, W.|
|Murnin, H.||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Snell, Harry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)||Snowden, Philip||Mr. Spoor and Mr. Morgan Jones.|
|O'Grady, Captain James||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
Question put, and agreed to.
That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government respecting the Draft Conventions and Recommendations adopted by the Third and Fourth Sessions of the International Labour Conference, held at Geneva in 1921 and 1922, respectively.