§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Rhys Davies)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The purpose of this Bill is to lessen the risk of contracting lead-poisoning among painters, and its provisions have been drafted so as to enable the Government to ratify the International Convention arrived at on this subject Of all the documents that have been laid before this House, since I have been a Member, I do not know of any Measure which was intended to effect a more humane purpose than this Bill. Its provisions are intended to obviate a great, deal of human suffering and to save a considerable number of human lives each year among those persons engaged in painting. The Government is very anxious to insure the carrying out of the international agreement arrived at in Geneva, where all the States affiliated to the International Labour Office agreed to this Measure. So far as we are concerned we would regard it as a grave breach of honour and as a betrayal of those who attended the Conference if this House did not give a Second Reading to this Bill, I have just returned from Geneva, where a Conference on other subjects is now proceeding, and am, therefore, keenly interested.
I have studied this problem, which is rather simple, sufficiently to understand how a man doing painting inside a building contracts lead-poisoning, and I would like to be allowed, as a layman, to indicate how lead-poisoning is contracted. It is contracted by the painter inhaling the dust resulting from the rubbing clown of old paint with sandpaper. It is, of course, very much more dangerous to the painter when that is done indoors, where there is no free play of ventilation, than outside where the air can carry away the dust.
This question has been before the Factory Department of the Home Office for many years. One thing which the House must remember above all is that, whatever other interests may say and do 2498 against this Bill, the people moat intimately connected with this business, the master painters and the men who suffer and die from lead poisoning, are unanimously in favour of this Bill. The people engaged in the production of white lead are of course opposed to the Bill; but those who are most entitled to a say on a subject of this kind are surely the men who suffer in consequence of lead poisoning.
To show the effects of white lead poisoning I will give come figures. From 1910 to the end of 1923 there were about 1,500 cases of lead poisoning of which over 300 were fatal. Those were the cases which came under the notice of the Factory Department in respect of house painters alone. That, I think, is rather a heavy toll on the comparatively small community of men who are engaged in these operations. I understand that yesterday this House was enraged because dumb animals had suffered unduly in the Rodeo Exhibition at Wembley. I agree with that attitude towards those who abuse animals; but it is a strange thing that men can be easily roused to great indignation when they see animals ill-treated in that way, but they remain very often quiet when human life is suffering, and will oppose any Motion that is brought forward in order to prevent such human suffering. I have seen men and women moved very deeply indeed when a. colliery explosion occurs and 20 or 30 colliers are killed, but they are moved by those things only because death is instantaneous. But the same individuals are cold when lead poison enters the human frame because death is long drawn out. It is so unlike the case of a colliery explosion or a shipwreck. I trust therefore that those who have shown such keen sympathy in connection with what has transpired at Wembley may indicate a little of that same feeling to-day and vote for this Bill.
I have figures later than those which I have already given, and it may be interesting to show exactly what has happened during the last two or three years in connection with this matter. In 1921 there were 42 cases of lead poisoning and 15 deaths. In 1922 56 cases and 17 deaths; and in 1923 there were 70 cases and 24 deaths; and the figures that have come into my hands already for this year indicate that lead poisoning is, at any rate, 2499 not declining among these people. I do not know whether every Member of this House will agree with what I may term the very pathetic case set out in a memorandum issued by the house painters themselves. I am deeply moved by that document, and I trust that hon. Members will remember that you cannot measure to the full human suffering that results from lead poisoning. We have been told in quite a callous fashion that we are attempting too drastic a remedy for what is after all a very small factor in the situation, and we are informed that what ought to be done is to let the trade proceed as it has done hitherto, but regulate it, if you like, and pay for the consequences, which means paying for suffering and death by money compensation to the men's widows and orphans. Money in my view can never he a substitute for human life. I trust that we will remember that important fact when we are dealing with this Measure.
I want to deal with another criticism. We are told that it is wrong to prohibit the use of white lead in paint when we know full well that so ninny persons will be put out of employment by the adoption of the provisions of Clause I of the Bill. I am not without appreciation of the consequences of any Measure that will deprive men of work. But I will put this point: The trade will have, at any rate, over three years—until November, 1927—to adjust itself. Let me deal now with other arguments. One or two persons have argued sarcastically that in order to avoid accidents in mines we ought to close down the pits. That is to say, they seem to think logically that to prevent accidents we must stop the industry. But there is this difference, If the same simple remedy for preventing death that we now propose would prevent accidents in coal mines, any Government would adopt the same process that we are now suggesting. As a matter of fact, paint of a good quality can now be secured free from white lead, and it is already being used on a large scale in this country. On that point I shall have something to say later as to what the Office of Works is doing.
I have said something about unemployment. I hope that hon. Members who follow me in support of the Bill, and who know more about that matter than I do, 2500 will be able to dispose of the argument about unemployment. Since I have been a Member of this House, I have been a little curious to find out how it is that almost the only occasion when employers and workpeople combine and appear to be in perfect harmony, is when the Government of the day proposes to do something for the welfare of some sections of the community. We saw that the other day in an aggravated form. In connection with the McKenna duties we had the employers combining with the men, and I have a suspicion—I want to be quite frank about it—that the agitation from the men engaged in the production of white lead is engineered from a quarter other than their own.
I am very much concerned about the ratification of the Geneva Convention. As already stated, I returned from Geneva yesterday, and I was delighted to find from my chat with representatives of several other countries, men and women of nationalities that I had never met before, that they have a good opinion of the institutions of this country. They regard ours as being in the first rank of all countries which deal with matters of this kind. I can assure the House that, if it should happen that this House declines to give a Second reading to this Bill, it will be a. very severe blow, not only to the work of the International Labour Office but to the prestige of this House in the estimation of other peoples. I want to dwell for a moment or two on the attitude of opponents of the Bill. They say, "We agree entirely with regulation. What we object to is Clause 1, which prohibits the use of white lead in paint for interior purposes." Let me say at once that Clause 1 is the heart of the Bill. A proposal to allow the Bill to go through minus Clause 1 is not worth much consideration. You cannot successfully regulate the use of paint containing white lead in the way that regulation has been made effective in connection with white lead production The people engaged in the production of white lead are employed in a single factory, and they can he supervised and inspected and the whole of their operations can come under the eyes of the authorities. In connection with house painting you seldom get more than two or three painters together and they often move from place to place. The regula- 2501 tion of their work is therefore absolutely impossible. You would be compelled to employ almost as many inspectors as painters if you desired to regulate their work.
Strange to say, there has been opposition raised against this Bill by the very people who voted for the Convention at Geneva. I must confess that I fail to understand that. If a representative of this or any other country goes to the International Conference at Geneva, and is asked to give his vote for or against a Convention, that representative ought to make up his mind before he votes whether he is prepared to pursue his point to the end. I dislike people who go to Geneva, and, having had the whole problem before them to study for days on end, vote in favour of a Convention—a Convention which is a compromise between conflicting elements—and when they come back to this country they run away from the Convention as fast as they can. That attitude of mind, as I said, I fail to comprehend. I trust that the House will show its abhorrence of that attitude by voting in favour of this Bill. We have opposition, of course, not only from our own lead producers, but from Australia. Yet the Australian representative, who has been rather vociferous in his opposition to the Bill, was at Geneva and voted in favour of the Convention. I shall be interested to know to-day what has happened to change the minds of those people who voted in favour of the Convention. But that is by he way.
A new idea had cropped up since this Bill was suggested. It is that some inventor, some genius, has found out that if you can manufacture a waterproof sandpaper which will do wet rubbing-down, all will be well. The Home Office experts have examined this proposal and are satisfied that it does not meet the case. In fact the house painters, the Operative Painters' Society, sent out a questionnaire to their 590 branches in May last asking for information as to the number of firms using the wet rubbing-down process. The information received by the Society was to the effect that only 43 firms had adopted the system in 27 towns. If the opponents of the Bill are so keenly interested in the welfare of the painters who are liable to this disease, they ought to have adopted the new process very much more widely than appears in the result of this inquiry.
2502 We will be asked to-day what have other countries done, and that is a very proper question. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary the other day gave an answer to that question and I will give the essence of his reply. Czechoslovakia, Esthonia, and Sweden have formally ratified the Convention. Ratification has been authorised, though not formally registered, by Austria, Greece, Italy, and Poland. The use of white lead in painting operations carried out by painters whether on the exterior or interior of buildings is absolutely prohibited in France by a decree dated 20th July, 1909.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Yes, so I understand. I know that it is very important to find out what other countries are doing in these matters but I am very unwilling indeed that this House in social and industrial legislation should always wait to see what other countries are doing first. I have taken just a little interest in the social and industrial legislation of European countries, and so far as my study goes, I have come to the conclusion that putting all things together this country stands today foremost among all the nations of the world in. social and industrial legislation, and 11 am very proud of our good name. I want to go a step further to-day by passing this Bill. I am very unwilling that this House should at any time give heed to the plaint of commercialism when life is at stake. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I hope if hon. Members agree with me in that principle, they will support the Bill. I am satisfied that the contest, if there is going to be one to-day, will turn on that single issue. Arguments will be adduced that unemployment will occur, that our remedy is too drastic for the disease and so forth, but so far as the Government are concerned we are very anxious to pass the Bill on these two counts, first that human life is at stake and secondly, that we desire to ratify this Convention.
I ought to say before I conclude that this Convention was arrived at, not under a Labour Government but when right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were in office, and surely, since they gave their sanction to the Convention then they will support it now though another party brings it forward. As I mentioned 2503 a moment or two ago I desire to refer to the action of H.M.'s Office of Works. On 13th May, 1924, H.M.'s Office of Works informed the Home Secretary that they were already acting as though the prohibition of white lead for internal work as foreshadowed by Clause 1 of the Bill was already in operation. If a great Government department can do that, surely the master painters in the country can also do it. To sum up, the fundamental provisions of this Bill are that as from 19th November, 1927, it shall not be lawful to use lead paint on any part of the interior of a building; it will prohibit the employment of all women and young persons in painting buildings with lead paint, and it will regulate the use of lead paint where it is not totally prohibited. I trust to the honour and good sense, to the traditions of this House and the precedents of its regard for the suffering of humanity to pass this Bill to-day.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsthis House, whilst of opinion that it is premature to commit Great Britain to the ratification of the International Labour Organisation Convention of the 19th clay of November, 1921, and to the prohibition of the use of lead paint in internal painting, would welcome the immediate introduction of a Bill for the better regulation of the use of such paint.It may seem a little anomalous that a. lawyer should come forward as the spokesman for white lead.
§ Mr. HARNEY
That is more metaphorical and less permanent. I am a Member for a constitutency which is largely interested in this subject, and I was for some, years a senator in Australia which is largely affected by this issue. Let me at the outset clear away some of the clouds obscuring this issue which were wafted on to it by the Under-Secretary to day. The greater part of the hon. Gentleman's speech was directed to showing that the results of working in this industry were most deleterious, and he put it as though the opponents of the Bill were a cruel class who were really advocates for disease and murder. He went so far as to contrast the sympathy which we. show to dumb animals with the sympathy 2504 which we show to men. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] My hon. Friends on the left say "Hear, hear" Let them understand that I, for one, and those in whose interests I speak, would be just as slow as any hon. Member there or the Under-Secretary himself to advocate anything tending towards cruelty or inhumanity. I say quite frankly, that if, after I have endeavoured to put the facts before the House, it is of opinion that this industry cannot be carried on without the appalling toll of death and disease which has been referred to, then the industry should be stopped not in part but totally. Our position is that it is possible to carry on this industry, which is now entirely unregulated, by a proper system of regulation, which will reduce the deleterious consequences to a lower margin than they are in most industries to-day. If the House is of opinion that that can be done, hon. Members can put aside altogether, as something irrelevant to the argument, the fact that in an unregulated industry today there is a certain amount of disease and of death.
It is well that the House should understand that possibly a good deal of the information upon this subject has reached those who honestly put forward the view that the Under-Secretary has advanced from a tainted source. The manufacture of white lead has always been a. distinctively British industry. There is a so-called substitute, about which I shall have a word to say, zinc white, which is an equally distinctive French and Belgian industry. By reason of something in the materials themselves, and also in the turpentine or oil with which they are mixed, there is no doubt that either kind of paint has some ill-effects. There is equally no doubt that these ill-effects are infinitely greater in the case of white lead, and in the trade war that is waged between the Continental interests and the interests of this country use has unsparingly, and naturally, been made of the humanitarian argument, and accordingly, even when the Geneva Conference came to study this question, its mind was affected by a shower of leaflets and pamphlets and by the exhibition of cinema pictures that really made the effects of this white lead painting appear appalling. The House knows very well what can be done by propaganda—[An HON. MEMBERS: "On both sides."]—on both sides, and I am sure my hon. Friends of the Opposi- 2505 tion will not take offence if I say that we had a fine illustration of that in the case of the McKenna Duties.
Since, therefore, we are agreed on both sides and among all men that the moment anyone wants to advance an interest, the moment rhetoric and advocacy get into the field, the moment the effect of propaganda upon an uninformed community is understood, we reckon that very little attention can be paid to the information that emerges from that propaganda. Let me, therefore, as a corrective, knowing myself absolutely nothing of the subject—what I am doing is trying, to the best of my ability, to put before the House facts which I have endeavoured to master—put to the House some extracts that are authentic as to the real effects of this white lead. In the Registrar-General's Report for 1918, dealing with the occupied group of painters, plumbers, and glaziers, there was a mean death-rate of 12.31 per thousand. For the group of occupied male industrialists, which includes about 8,000,000, there was a mean annual death-sate of 13.85 per thousand; that is, the mean death-rate for the industrial group that did not include painters was 2 per thousand higher than the mean death-rate for the group that mainly included painters. For lead poisoning the mean death-rate for the painters' group was 0.23 per thousand, and Mr. John Schooling, the well-known statistician, has stated thatLead poisoning among painters is much smaller than the special death risks that attach to various other occupations, and is relatively trivial.As to lead sickness, we have the report of the Norman Committee, a Committee appointed by this House in 1921, which gave its Report in 1923, dealing with the whole subject. It was a Committee which sat under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Norman, a well-known Member of the House at that time. They estimated an attack-rate of 4.5 per thousand in 1914, and gave the figures from which the calculation had been made, and on the same basis the attack-rate was 1.95 per thousand for 1921 and per thousand for 1923. In face of these dry statistics, it is a little bit hyperbolic, to use a big word, to indulge in the style of speech that we have had from the Under-Secretary. It is not questioned that sickness and some deaths arise in the painting industry, and it is not 2506 questioned that they arise in the coal mining industry, but there must be a measure in these things. We cannot, as the Under-Secretary very truly said, altogether stop an industry because some risks are attendant upon it. I suppose there are few industries that are entirely immune from these risks. We must take a proportion between the advantages that society gains, on the one hand, and the loss to human life, on the other hand, and I, for one, would go even a step further than the Under-Secretary. No matter how advantageous an industry was to the community, if there really was a serious risk to life that could not be removed, I would vote in favour of denying to society the benefit of the industry rather than being a party to depriving human beings of their life.
The next matter upon which the Under-Secretary laid stress was the question of compromise, the international agreement. As a lawyer, I realise the binding force of any properly arrived at compromise, but it is well that the House should know the real circumstances under which this compromise was arrrived at This question was put upon the agenda for the Geneva Conference. It came up in the ordinary way before the whole body, a body composed of representatives, there to deal with a variety of subjects, from all over the world, and the first thing done, in this as in all other cases, was to appoint from among those present a sub-Committee of persons with scientific and expert knowledge. They were appointed, and this question was referred to them for report. Those scientific men, who knew what they were doing, sat for three weeks, and what was the report they made? The Under-Secretary will not question the accuracy of what I am saying. The body of experts, who thoroughly understood the subject, after three weeks' investigation, having regard to the allegations of injury to life which flooded Geneva at that time, having regard to the possibility of substitutes, came to the conclusion that all that was required was a system of regulation, and recommended that, and that only.
§ Mr. HARNEY
For internal painting. Curiously, when that report came forward, one would have thought for mere formal endorsement by the general uninformed body, a French delegate, 2507 acting quite naturally in the interests of France and not of this country, moved that, notwithstanding the report, there should be total prohibition, as they had succeeded in getting in their own country years before. That was put to the meeting. There was the usual lobbying. Not one in five knew anything about the subject. The experts had given their opinion against prohibition, and the Resolution in favour of total prohibition was carried by a majority of one. A majority of one, having regard to the constitution of this International Conference, is not effective; there must be a two-thirds majority or no decision is come to. It was the last day of the Conference. One of the British delegates, in order to prevent the whole thing being a fiasco, asked for a short adjournment. It was granted. During the adjournment, they were told, by persons who spoke without full knowledge of the subject, that it was wiser if they could come to some mid-way arrangement, and agree that regulations should have application to everything except internal painting, and they were urged to agree to it because they were told—no statistics had been ascertained at the time—that internal painting would only absorb about 10 per cent. of the people.
§ Mr. HARNEY
Quite. The next thing they were told was that if they would now agree to the compromise, and have the thing settled by giving up this trifling 10 per cent. of internal painting, the French agitation would entirely cease, and there would be an end of this—to use an unpleasant phrase—"swopping of lies." The next thing they were told was that they might safely agree to it, because there had not been found, and could not be found, any safely effective method of using paint for internal purposes. Having been told that, but being conscious of no verification of the facts, the British delegates went back to the Conference, and said, "We will agree to this compromise, subject to the qualification that if all the material put before us as facts proves not to be facts, there is nothing binding upon us." I am speaking with knowledge when I say this, because I have here a statement made by Sir Montague Barlow in May, 2508 1923. He was then dealing with the matter before the House. Here are his exact words: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 the vote was given solely on the basis of the compromise being a satisfactory one acceptable to all.… As I mentioned might be the case, difficulties have in fact arisen.…In these circumstances, and in view of my declaration at Geneva, the British Government clearly have freedom of action in the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1923; cols. 9420 and 2421, Vol. 163.]What were the circumstances against which he so prophetically guarded himself when he was agreeing to a qualified compromise? We are told that the painting industry is only giving up, for peace sake, 10 per cent. of its work. As the hon. Gentleman just now said—I do not know whether he is for or against the view I am submitting, but he probably knows what he is talking about—10 per cent. was a more estimate in reference to a matter never statistically dealt with. It was inquired into, and it was found that the lowest estimate was 40 per cent., and, in the view of some, it was higher than 40 per cent. The next thing was this: If you give up, for peace sake, this 10 per cent, then the French and Belgians, for peace sake also, will give up the accusation they have been making against the loss of life in the industry. What happened? So far from the French agreeing to that, within a very short time afterwards the Secretary of the Bureau, who ought to have been impartial, was a speaker on a platform in Paris or somewhere else—at a meeting called by the advocates of white zinc which they were pushing as against white lead. He got up and said, "What we have succeeded in carrying by the compromise in Geneva is really to be the stepping-stone for the total prohibition we are working for." Was that carrying out the terms of the compromise? Take the next point. It was said that no effective substitute could be found. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary rather belittles this matter of the waterproof sandpaper. I will read statements made by experts whose authority cannot be controverted in the matter, stating that it is an absolutely safe method that has been discovered since the Conference, and there is not 2509 the faintest doubt that had the knowledge that is now present to the industry been then known, and put before that general Conference, the result would have been very different, and I daresay the reason why the scientific men came to the conclusion that the Regulation was quite sufficient was that probably they had an inkling of what was coming.
The next point made by my hon. Friend was that there was no method possible, or, at all events in existence, for preventing the great danger of white lead. He said—and I quite agree with him, because we are both speaking from ascertained knowledge—that the danger of this white., lead painting arises from the dust. White lead is made in this way: The lead is put through some treatment, and turned into powder. There cannot be the slightest doubt that the danger arising from this dust flying about is, of course, infinitely greater in the factory where it is made, than what it could be in any form of painting, and many of the heartrending cases that are now put before us are really nothing but re-echoes of the period when the disease occurred in factories before regulations took place there. Regulations were introduced into the factories over 20 years ago. They may be divided into two. One process for removing the dust, and the other for cleanliness. I agree that those regulations cannot be aplied to house painting. The effect of these regulations was such that to-day the Under-Secretary, making the strongest case he could, did not-venture to say that there was the slightest need for prohibition in the case of the factories. By his silence on that point he has admitted that the regulations in factories have completely eliminated the risk. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Then, if the risk is still there I want to know why are not the provisions of this, Bill applied to factories?
§ Mr. HARNEY
Why was it not introduced at the Geneva Conference, and introduced for the purpose of applying to the factories? [An HON. MEMBER: "We want to do away with the factories."] Therefore the hon. Gentleman says to-day, though the danger is greater in the factories, still the necessity for the factories are such that we ought to put up with the danger. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
When this Bill is carried and this is my point it will mean in effect a considerable elimination of white lead factories.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I understand hon. Members above the Gangway now to say that they really want to kill the factories, and desire to do it by this Bill. I do not think that is a method of which the House will approve. If the Government really think that the white load factories should be killed, then the honest way is to bring in a Bill killing the white lead factories, and doing it straightforwardly and openly. This is a method that I am sure no straightforward business man would approve. Hon. Members say we will leave the factories out of the Bill, but wanting to kill them, we will pass the Bill and thereby kill the factories. This is the first time that I have heard or read there was any complaint directed against the factories themselves. I always understood it to be, and the Under Secretary so put it: "We do not complain of poisoning in the factories because there a method of removing the dust is feasible, but we do complain of poisoning in house painting because there a method of removing the dust has not been discovered." That is how I understood the hon. Gentleman. That is totally inconsistent with what is now being said by the hon. Member who interrupted me.
The method of painting with white lead paint involves the removal of the old coat by rubbing down. The old method of rubbing down was with dry sandpaper, and therefore the dust flew about. It was soon discovered that if you could lay the dust there was an end of the evil, and a method was adopted of rubbing over with wet sandpaper. It was found, however, that the wet sandpaper was not quite satisfactory as it softened, and became pulp from the wetting, and that was the position of things when the matter was first dealt with in this country by the Hatch Committee. The Committee, with the knowledge it then had—and this should be a warning to the House of the danger of rushing too quickly at these things, where presumably, knowledge is every day growing—came to the conclusion: first, that there was an efficient substitute for white lead, and second that there was no 2511 possible method of wet rubbing down that was effective. Accordingly they recommended prohibition. Then the War came along. During the War, owing to the shortness of white lead, substitutes had to be used. The Public Works Department found that these substitutes were so inferior, so wanting in durability, and had so many other defects that they thought it advisable that the findings of the Hatch Committee should be reconsidered at a later stage. It was then that Sir Henry Norman's Committee was appointed—in 1921. Though that Committee was appointed in 7921, it did not give its report, or indeed hear evidence until some years later, so that really the Geneva Convention came out before it had reported. Let me read to the. House, if I may, what occurred then. The Norman Report says this, in reference to dry rubbing down—The difficulty of dealing adequately with dry rubbing down processes was one of the main reasons why the house painting committeethat is the Hatch Committee—considered that a satisfactory code of regulations for house painting was impossible. Recently howeverthat is after the Geneva Conference—water-proof sand-paper had been introduced, and several reports had been made which confirmed its efficiency, and they provide convincing evidence that that method can be successfully adopted. As a consequence and since the above evidence was given, it is now generally accepted by the trade that dry rubbing down is no longer necessary; that this work can be done by a new process.I commend this to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary; that in June, 1923, the Home Office published a leaflet—he can look at it—in which it says:So long as paint ready mixed with oil is used and in n1 cleanly way painting operations involving no dry sand-papering ought to be harmless and not give rise to any poisoning, you may be quite certain about
§ Mr. R. DAVIES
Is it not a fact that the very Committee that made the declarations referred to recommended the adoption of the Draft Convention?
§ Mr. HARNEY
I think that is irrelevant to the point I am trying to make. But I am going to deal with the point he puts before I finish. The point. I was making 2512 is this, that the Home Office after the Norman Report published a leaflet in which they told everybody whom it might concern:That now painting was quite harmless, and they might be quite certain about it.Now as to the difficulty about dry rubbing down. The Under-Secretary put it to me whether the Norman Report, while giving the findings that I have read, did not reach the conclusion that they should adopt the Geneva Convention. They did. Why? Because when you read the actual findings, I may shortly put it—my hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—they were: No. 1, this is a new process of rubbing-down which eliminates the danger. The second is that experience during the war has proved up to the hilt that there is no efficient substitute. Having found these things, it goes on to say that having regard to the Geneva Conference, they saw no reason to make any different recommendation. They find there is no need whatsoever for prohibition because the danger can he entirely removed, but they say that they are not going to run counter to the Geneva Convention. With reference to there being an efficient substitute I suppose the whole House has heard of Sir Thomas Oliver, who is an international expert on this subject. A few days ago he wrote a letter to the "Times" in which he says:Hitherto I have refrained from writing to the Press,' but as my name has on several occasions appeared in the daily newspapers in connection with the use of white lead in paints, perhaps the time has come when I ought to take my position in regard to the subject.At first, let me say that as I hold no brief for Governments, employers, or the working classes concerned, I give my opinion simply as a medical man who lies not, only had considerable experience of lead poisoning in various industries, but who has done something to minimise the risks to health of persons employed in trades in which lead is used.It is now several years since I entered upon a crusade against industrial lead poisoning.When I first drew attention to the dangers incidental to health in the manufacture of white lead there were annually occurring in Newcastle and on Tyneside, one of the principal centres of the lead industry in this country, scores of cases of plumbism and of these a few were fatal. In. the wards of the Royal Victoria Infirmary there were almost always one or two cases of plumbism. Until the last few months when labourers began to break up some of the old iron warships, there was hardly a case of lead poisoning in this district. There has not been a death from occupational lead poisoning for years. By 2513 the observance of regulations plumbism has practically disappeared from the North of England.Our experience of plumbism amongst house painters in the north of England is that it is practically unknown. Admitting, however, that painters do suffer from lead poisoning, it must be also admitted that Under new methods of operating upon painted surfaces the possibilities of lead poisoning can in these days be almost said to disappear. Lead dust given off during the dry rubbing down of a painted surface is recognised as one of the main causes of painters becoming ill through inhalation of the dust, but since the introduction of the wet method of rubbing down, no dust is raised, and therefore this as a cause of plumbism ceases.I know nothing whatsoever about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I quite admit that I like to be frank, and on this matter I am merely the mouthpiece of those who do know something about it. I am at the moment the mouthpiece of Sir Thomas Oliver, and before I read this extract I turned to hon. Members who are supporting this Bill, and by verbal assent or by nod, they agreed that he was an international expert on this subject.
It is said that the views of the industry are entirely opposed to this view. May I say that, as regards the makers of white lead, they are against prohibition. The master painters at the Geneva Conference, through their spokesmen, declared themselves also against prohibition. The master builders are against it. As for the operatives, there are 70,000 of them, or about 80,000 out of 150,000 outside trade unions, and as far as they are concerned they like the white lead process better because it is much easier to work. Those 70,000 workmen within the union have never been asked to give a vote upon this subject, and all the leaflets and circulars which have gone out as if they represented the united voice of the unions of painters' operatives are merely the voice of their executive, and it is to me a strange thing that if the executive felt sure that what it said would be endorsed by the general body of its members it did not take a vote on the subject, and it has not yet done so.
There is another point I wish to raise. Economically, one has to think very seriously upon this matter. As much as 20 per cent. of the lead output of the world comes from our Dominions, and a great deal of it from Australia. As much as 90 per cent. of the output of lead is used in the form of white lead. If you take 40 per cent. off it will be seen that 2514 you are going a long way to do what hon. Members do not want to do, and what the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department says he does not want to do, namely, to kill the whole white lead industry in this country. If you were to do so, or even if you were to seriously cut down the output by prohibiting the use of white lead for the interior of buildings, you would throw thousands of people out of employment, and compel the community to use what is admittedly a wholly inferior article. Sir Frank Baines said, when he examined this subject, that he found that buildings upon which this substitute had been used had to be painted over again, and the only part that remained standing was the original white lead. I ask, is it justifiable to-day to say that there should be this prohibition, which is not, to come into force for three years, in an industry the whole history of which proves progression in invention and in methods of eliminating danger. By the terms of the Convention, if it is once ratified it cannot be renounced for 10 years, and we tie our hands if we pass this Bill, notwithstanding the knowledge we may subsequently obtain and whatever injury it may do to the industries of this country and however unnecessary it may prove to be for 10 years. When one reflects, one sees that, if at the time of the state of knowledge in 1914, when the Hatch Report came out, the same matter had been brought before the House, we should then have tied our hands for 10 years, though the Norman Report came out five or six years afterwards and said that the Hatch Report, in the light of subsequent discoveries, was absolutely unnecessary.
§ Mr. E. GRENFELL
I beg to second the Amendment.
I have the same disability that the two former speakers have in not being connected particularly with this trade. I also have a disability as compared with the last speaker that I am not a lawyer. He has fully covered the ground, but I would like to add something to what he has said, from the economic point of view, and also because in the past. I have had several connections with one or two industries in which there has been sickness and suffering. I recall that in my earliest days my father used to impress upon me the difficulties of curing the trouble in the Potteries from lead poisoning, and he 2515 himself was Member for Stoke for upwards of 10 years. It was never then anticipated that the cure for it was to close that factory or all those factories, and I believe the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department does not propose to do that now, though someone behind him suggested that this is only the first step. I also have, perhaps, a more intimate acquaintance with the early seventies, when I received, as a present, a delightful book, which I think is known to everyone here present, from an uncle of mine. That book was The Water Babies, and I believe, after reading Lord Shaftesbury's life, that that simple little book gave the finishing touch to stopping the atrocities of little boys sweeping chimneys which all Lord Shaftesbury's efforts had failed to do. It is such a clever book that, though children enjoy it, no grown up person has ever been clever enough really to understand it, and that I believe adds to its charm. This is by the way.
At the same time, I should like to say, if the Home Secretary is proposing to pass this Bill in order to pay a debt honour which we owe to the International Labour Bureau and the League of Nations, he is doing—not intentionally—more harm to the League of Nations than anything that could done in this House. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department has just been to Geneva, and he says there is no name that stands so high there as the name of Great Britain, and I hope it will long remain so. We have already confirmed many Conventions, and are not being followed by other nations to a large extent in that course. We have given proof of our good feeling and of our intention to fulfil all our obligations, but there is a limit to doing that. It is all very well to say we should take the lead in this matter. We have already taken the lead in several other cases, and no-one has followed us. If we wish to take the lead in this question and if we wish to abolish lead paint, let us frankly say that we are doing it on our own, and do not let us have any more references to the League of Nations in this matter. I say that advisedly, because, if you are going on signing conventions and agreeing to Conventions at Geneva, and coming back here and saying that you have done so, and that the House must back you up, or other- 2516 wise there will be a breach of faith, well then, I think, we shall never again attend the Labour Bureau at Geneva. When you can say that 75 per cent, of the nations that meet there and that have agreed to anything will themselves not only pass legislation but make it effective, then you will have a right to drag this country into Conventions and to insist upon them being carried out, hut not till then.
For what purpose was the League of Nations Labour Bureau established? It was set up under the Treaty of Versailles, and the object was the improving and rendering uniform of the conditions of labour throughout the world, and thereby removing an unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world was imperilled. Are the conditions of labour going to be rendered uniform by this nation keeping on passing legislation agreed to at Geneva and in which none of our great competitors are ready to follow us? The thing is handicapping us at every turn. If we are to lead in the world, let us lead on our own, and not confuse the issue by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department taunting us with a breach of faith.
Let me say why, in addition, the League of Nations Labour Bureau is at stake. The last speaker referred to the way in which, when the Geneva Conference was to be held, inquiries were made throughout the world with reference to this lead poisoning. Before the Conference was called, it was agreed to send out this set of questions to all the countries dealing with the matter. These questions were sent out, I think, in the early part of 1921. We know the eminent director, M. Thomas. Many of us have met him, many of us know his personal charm, and many of us have a high opinion of him. But. I think in this case either he or his subordinates have committed some very grave Inches. He is responsible not only to France but to every country in the world as the paid servant representing labour. He is a highly paid official, I think except one the most highly paid official in Geneva. He is our servant as much as anybody else's. On the Estimates we find the sum of £40,000 as our contribution to the Labour organisation in Geneva, and we have a right—every country has a right—to strict impartiality on the part of our servant. M. Thomas occupies in 2517 Geneva the same position to a certain degree as a judge of the High Court. He may have opinions of his own, every man of any importance would have opinions of his own, but the moment a judge of the High Court is speaking as a judge we believe and hope that his prejudices are set aside, at any rate for the moment. Whatever opinions he may have at home, he must conceal when he is in public.
M. Thomas is an eminent Frenchman who occupied the position of a world-public servant at the time this questionnaire was sent out. The drawing up of this document, it is said, was done hastily. It is a curious fact that when it is carefully examined the document is found to contain 13 verbatim extracts from the propaganda on the zinc industry. I believe the original document was printed in 1912, and this trade propaganda had been taken bodily by M. Thomas, or by one of his subordinates, and no trouble had been taken to hide the fact, for the extracts were reproduced verbatim. They were put into the list of questions sent out for consideration. There is another curious thing showing bias on the question at stake. Before the Conference it was asked whether there was an efficient substitute for lead paints and yet in this questionnaire M. Thomas sets forth thatWhereas there has been found a complete substitute for lead paint …What do you think of that? Is that the way to deal with a question which is sub, judice: to take it for granted, in sending out a document of this kind, that such a substitute has been found, and to embody in the document 13 points copied out of the propaganda? When M. Thomas was asked about this he said the document had been drawn up in haste and he had not had time to revise it. I think this wonderful organisation to which we all wish well, ought to be so managed that the Director, either from want of management or some other cause, should not take sides and show bias in his mind on behalf of the nation of which is a member. If that is to be done then I hope that next Thursday, or on some other Thursday we shall be able, on some vote, to move a reduction of M. Thomas' salary. Personally I do not believe that these mistakes occur otherwise than through carelessness, but we have a right to demand more care in the case of a high official like M. Thomas.
2518 The last speaker has referred to the position at Geneva at the time of the last Conference. The Under-Secretary for Home Affairs, who has just returned, said he found it very quiet, but if he had been here in October, 1921, he would have found the city more comparable, on a small scale, with Piccadilly Circus or the Broadway, New York. The whole place was humming with propaganda effort. There were large posters on the walls in the streets, delegates and visitors in the hotels found on their tables at breakfast letters from Belgium and France, and many in English, in support of this movement. This was all distributed by way of propaganda. In addition to that, when they went to the cinema they found each evening a special short film showing the sufferings of people from lead poisoning. The ground was very well covered indeed. Hut when we come to the way in which the matter was put through at the final Convention, we find that, although the experts had unanimously agreed to recommend no prohibition after sittings extending over three weeks, yet in three hours, on the suggestion of a French member, the main Conference, which did not consist of experts, voted for prohibition. Surely unless ordinary meetings of the Convention pay some attention to the advice of their experts, they are not in the least justified in deciding questions in this way.
In view of the appointment of the Norman Committee, it was obviously not proper for our Minister and the other British members to take an active part in the Conference. The Norman Committee was appointed to consider the very point which was settled by the Hatch Committee as to whether there were equally efficient lead substitutes, and whether there were any means of preventing dust. The Committee had been appointed by the Government here, and it was therefore impossible for Sir Montague Barlow, or his colleagues, to do otherwise than remain silent at Geneva. That, I think, should dispose of any accusation of bad faith on their part. As the House has already been informed, our Minister on that occasion distinctly reserved judgment. The only point throughout this Debate to which I would take exception is this. The Under Secretary of State for the Home Department twice used the word "suspicion" with 2519 regard to some of the pamphlets sent out. I do not, know what justification he had for making that suggestion. We have had so many pamphlets sent out that our minds are no doubt confused and our wastepaper baskets are pretty full. If we are going to have suspicion, and if the present Government has any suspicious feeling on the matter, I can only say I wish the late Government had also been suspicious. It would have been well if Sir Montagu Barlow had had an idea that something was being "put over" him at Geneva, and if there had been any suggestion that there was an intention to go back on the previous decision I can only say I wish Sir Montague Barlow had been less simple and unsuspicious. I am very glad that the present Conference is going to take more care. It is not fair to accuse the late Government of making an agreement which gentlemen on the Front Government Bench now ought to implement. The sooner they dismiss that from their minds the better, but that is one of the strongest arguments they have used in this House, namely, the necessity for carrying out this agreement.
There is one thing further that I should like to mention, and that is with regard to the meeting that was called in the Sorbonne in Paris. There was no reason why anyone here should have known that that meeting had been called, nor why it bad been called, and it was only some time afterwards that it was found out—and I have proof of it here—that the meeting was called by the Zinc Producers' Association of France and Belgium. I think there can be no excuse, when that meeting was called, for its having M. Thomas on the platform. If our representative—and lie is our representative—is to go on public platforms when a meeting is called by one section of a trade, he is not maintaining the position of impartiality which he should occupy. I would add that at the meeting it was distinctly and prominently put forward that the meeting was called under the aegis of the International Red Cross. After that meeting another similar one was to he called, I think in. Brussels, and the Chairman of the International Red Cross states that he absolutely refused to have its name mentioned in connection with the second meeting. I have 2520 taken steps to verify this, and I have a letter from the Chairman of the Red Cross saying that they had to withdraw at once when they found that these meetings were really being called by a rival group of traders. I hardly think that that was quite consistent with the impartial position of M. Thomas. If we had to say anything to M. Thomas, I think it would be that, while he continues there, he should adhere to his instructions and his duty. If one had to give a word of advice to M. Thomas, I think it might be given in the words of Talleyrand:Surtout point de zèle,which I might, perhaps, translate freely to hon. Members below the Gangway opposite as, "Just mind your own business and wait and see," while if I had to translate it for the Scottish Members above the Gangway I should say also. "Mind your business, ca'canny, and do not do another fellow's job." I admit that this does not matter very much to Scots, because it is a curious fact, I am told, that there is no real lead poisoning among Scottish painters,. and that this is due to their being of a superior class, and to the fact that their habits are much more cleanly. I do not know if that is true. I must, incidentally, say—and I see that, an lion. Member opposite is preparing to give me more facts and corrections—that I am also told that in certain conditions of acute lead poisoning it is impossible to divide it from alcoholic poisoning. HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I think that that will be found in certain medical reports.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
No; I have been dealing with it very seriously, and I am not sneering at all. With regard to waterproof sand-paper, which, I believe, the League of Nations would now permit, I can hardly understand how Mr. Gibson, the secretary of the Operative Painters' Society, to whom reference has been made, can have sent out the memorandum which, I understand, appeared a short time ago, because, in 1922, before the Norman Committee. Mr. Gibson stated that he was not aware that there was such a commodity on the market as waterproof glasspaper; and now, in February, 1923, he writes:I have personally made a test, and find that the paper is absolutely waterproof. The 2521 fine grades are excellent, and produce a polished surface.Yet he has now issued a pamphlet on behalf of the painters supporting prohibition, because waterproof paper is unobtainable. Those three statements do not seem to agree. Further, some of the other people who took a line before this lead poisoning prohibition seem also to have contradicted themselves. Mr. James Butterworth, who, I think, is known to many people, stated at Geneva in 1921 in the Conference:—I am authorized by the English, Irish and Scottish Federation of Master Painters to say that they are intensely desirous that paint poisoning shall be prevented. They believe that this can be done while retaining the use of white lead both in interior and exterior painting. They believe the desired results to be obtained if dry rubbing down of paint surface could be forbidden. Finally, in the interest of the public, they appeal to the operatives, to the Government, and to the public generally to co-operate with them in the prevention, not of the use of lead, but of white lead poisoning, which is an entirely different thing.I think that in that we all agree entirely with Mr. Butterworth. Further, the National Union of General Workers and the National Amalgamated Union of Labour on the 30th May issued a pamphlet against prohibition; at the same time, they seem to me only to do so on the score of the Geneva Conference.
Leaving the Geneva Conference aid the question of waterproof sandpaper—which I believe has been proved to be efficient, though there is a doubt as to whether at present it can be obtained in sufficient quantities—I now come to the economic question. The House will he aware that a large proportion of the whole world's output of white lead comes into this question, and I would point out that if the use of lead is diminished it will at the same time increase the cost of zinc. In many cases they are produced in the same mine, and if lead is put out of use the cost of zinc will be increased. I think, further, that the Home Secretary will probably admit that the cost of painting will increase. The Office of Works, until quite lately, have recommended the use of lead paint, and they have recommended the use of waterproof sandpaper. If they are prepared to reconsider, or have reconsidered, this question, and are going to recommend the use of zinc paint for interiors, that, again, will increase the cost 2522 of painting enormously. I should very much like to know whether in the large building scheme which the Government propose to undertake in the future they are also going to recommend zinc paint. I take it from what I have heard of those houses that there is going to be a good deal of paint in them, and I believe if it is going to be zinc paint there will be a considerable lot of re-painting to be done in a short time. In view of that I am quite prepared to forego the point that this is going to make for much unemployment because if lever y factory in the country were to close and all the workers in every lead factory were put out of employment and zinc paint was to be used instead of lead paint throughout the country there will be work for perhaps double the number of painters there are to-day. Lead paint would last fifteen or twenty years and zinc paint three or four, and I believe the number of painters required would overbalance the number of lead workers turned out of work by many tens of thousands. To that extent I admit there will be no more unemployment.
I believe this prohibition would increase the cost of painting; it would certainly increase the cost of zinc; it would diminish the white lead industry, and it would throw the white lead workers out of employment. Why not leave the whole question open till 1927—anyway, it is not going to come into effect till 1927—and let us reconsider it? I must admit that even by that date it will not be possible to prove that waterproof glasspaper is effective. That, I believe, we must all admit, because while even the regulations in the factories have improved the figures, I think this disease, which is undoubtedly and admittedly a very serious one, does not often break out for many years, and if you bring in regulations to-day, or if you bring in prohibition, I believe still that the cases reported will increase, because more attention will be paid to the subject, and I believe if the Bill passes as it is to-day your statistics of disease will show an increase, not because it is getting worse, but because the Government is taking more pains. I would, therefore, ask the House to consider the Amendment very seriously. We are all quite ready, if it can be proved after a proper trial that this new invention and your regulations are not 2523 sufficient to co-operate with the Home Secretary most heartily in passing absolute prohibition outside as well as in.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
Unlike the two hon. Members who have preceded me I rise to give my warmest possible support to the Bill. I hope, if the opinion to which I give expression, conflict with the views of the Front Opposition bench, that I may he forgiven. Ever since I sat on the Hatch Committee for three years, to discuss this question, I have taken the greatest interest in it, and I have watched with warmest sympathy the agitation for removing the danger to the house-painting industry of the very gravest character which has ruined and is ruining now many hundreds of lives. This is a moderate Bill, It merely seeks to confirm the findings of the Geneva Convention and to prohibit the use of white lead in internal painting while permitting it, subject to stricter regulations, in external painting. It was an agreement unanimously come to, supported not only by the operatives but by the employers in the house-painting industry. It was supported and voted for by Sir Montague Barlow, the British representative, and under these circumstances I feel that we are under a moral obligation to pass legislation to put the' Convention into effect, except for good cause shown. If there is good cause shown why we should hesitate, let us hesitate, but I submit there really is no good cause. There is no. new process, and -no new means has been found out for safeguarding the lives of the workers against industrial disease. I know it is claimed that there is an effective substitute, hut hon. Members may argue as long as they like. They cannot deny that the Geneva Convention deliberately denounced the use of white lead, and it was turned down also by the Hatch Committee and the Norman Committee. I will read the paragraph in the Norman Committee:As regards white lead, sulphate of lead and 'paint bases which contain these lead compounds, these needs are adequately met by the agreement reached at the Geneva Conference and subsequently embodied in the Convention adopted there. 'We accordingly recommend that legislation should be passed to give effect to the principles therein contained, having regard to the accurate definition of internal and external painting.2524 A good deal has been said as to the efficacy of the rubbing down process, and also of the effect of waterproof sandpaper. I have a communication from the Painters' and Decorators' Industrial Joint Council of Great Britain, on which both workers and employers are represented, and they say they warmly support this Bill because they believe that all parties represented at Geneva are under a moral obligation to carry out the 'agreement there. The Council entirely dissent from the plea lately advanced by some of those who helped to draft the Convention that certain improvements in technical processes or differences of opinion on the relative proportion of internal and external painting are a justification for the rejection of Clause 1 of the Bill.
§ Mr. HARNEY
Do not the master painters also say they adhere to the view they held before, which was that the regulation was sufficient?
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
have read the recommendation of the Painters and Decorators Joint Council and, much to their honour, the master painters in the house painting industry are loyally adhering to the agreement. Then it is said this introduction of wet sandpaper is such a new process that neither the Norman Committee for the Geneva Convention had it before them. That is emphatically not true. The Geneva Convention had the question of waterproof sandpaper before them when they came to their decision. The Norman Committee had wet sandpaper before them when they came to their decision. They went so far as to go down to a Salvation Army shelter and to see the process being tried. They rejected it for internal decoration because of the difficulty of carrying out the regulations.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I have here an extract from the Report of the Norman Committee—Recently, however waterproof sandpaper has been introduced, and several reports have been made which confirm its efficiency.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
As far as internal painting is concerned they have rejected the use of waterproof sandpaper. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then why did they recommend that the Convention should be carried out by legislation? They rejected it because of the difficulty of carrying out the regulations. 2525 There is a good deal to be said for waterproof sandpaper, but it is a more lengthy and a more cumbersome process. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Only an hour ago I was speaking to a representative of the operative painters and he told me it was a more lengthy process, and the proof of that is that only 47 out of the many thousands of firms in this country have adopted waterproof sandpaper.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
The hon. Member had his own time for putting his own point of view, and he might allow me my time. To prevent the risk of lead poisoning from rubbing down is not the only precaution that is necessary. So long as you have painters whose hands are covered with lead paint, or whose clothes are saturated with lead paint, or whose hands are dirty when they are eating their meals, you will have lead poisoning. If in the many thousands of private houses where painting is going on we could ensure that hot water, basins, soap and nail brushes were provided, we might have the regulations, but lion. Members know perfectly well that that sort of thing is quite out of the question.
It is for these reasons that both the-Norman Committee and the Geneva Convention went out for the prohibition of the use of white lead in internal painting. We have been told that there would be a lose of 40 per cent. in the output of white paint, and that 1,500 men would lose their employment through the passing of this Bill. Dr. Legge, the expert of the Home Office, stated that not more than 10 per cent. of the output of the white paint factories would be affected. I can-net help feeling that the statement about 40 per cent. being affected is a piece of pure propaganda of the kind with which this House is familiar. I prefer the testimony of the Home Office expert to any propaganda of that sort. I doubt very much whether there is any real fear of unemployment.
It is comparatively easy for the white lead corroders to convert their premises. [HON. MEMBER'S: "No!"] It is to a very large extent being done by these firms. Some firms in the North of England are converting their works, so that what the workers lose on the swings they will gain 2526 on the roundabouts. The only real effect will be that the workers in the white lead factories will be the gainers. I doubt very much whether they will lose their employment, On the other hand, they will be employed in a healthy process rather than in a very dangerous one.
It is said that a great deal of propaganda has been issued by the zinc manufacturers and others in favour of the prohibition of white lead paint. One hon. Member sought to minimise the deadly character of the effects of white lead. I have here a communication from the National Society of Painters which gives facts as to the deaths from lead-poisoning. My hon. Friend will hardly call this propaganda, when I tell him that during the years 1920–23, 216 deaths occurred amongst members of that society, directly from lead-poisoning, and indirectly the attributable cases were 674. I hope that the operatives in the lead industry will join up with their fellows, put aside the bogey fears of unemployment, and in an honourable manner assist their fellow-workmen to get relief from this most deadly industrial disease. The master painters gave their word at Geneva, and they are adhering to their word, and I think the lead corroders have been equally loyal. I hope that this propaganda will have very little effect.
I would appeal to my hon. Friends on this side of the House to support a Measure which I cannot help feeling is strictly in accordance with Conservative traditions. We have very fine traditions with regard to legislation for the benefit and the health of the workers, and for improving their conditions in the factories and workshops. I hardly ever take up a speech by the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) without noticing that he is appealing to his party to be loyal to the Disraelian traditions. I feel very strongly that to reject this moderate, sensible and useful Measure would be a slap in the face to our Leader, and disloyal to the honourable traditions of the Conservative party. Disraeli said that the claims of labour are as important as the claims of property, and that if any difference is made, the claims of the living man were to be first considered.
§ Mr. RAYNES
As the only operative painter in this House, and, I believe, the only man here who has had practical 2527 knowledge of the handling of paint, I am able to approach this question from a point of view different from other hon. Members. I sincerely hope that what I have to say will have some effect on the issue which we are considering. I will deal first with some of the objections that have been raised against this Bill. It is said that already we have a continuing reduction in the number of cases of lead poisoning. I believe that that statement is true of almost every industrial disease, and I am glad to realise that we are dealing with the effects of bad conditions in our various industries, but I submit that, wherever it is possible to get down to a root cause, we ought to get dawn to the root cause and eradicate it. We are asked to-day to get to the root cause of an industrial disease and abolish it.
It is said that there is no adequate substitute for white lead in painting. That is an old notion which dies hard, There is, and has been for years, an adequate substitution for white lead in painting, and every decorator operative or master painter will tell you that the finest surface for interior decoration painting is not on a white lead basis. To give the most lasting effect to light colours in interior work you should avoid the use of white lead as a basis. I represent a constituency in which There are the works of the. Midland section of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. In those works they have abolished the use of white lead for painting entirely, for I believe, 15 years, not merely for interior work but for exterior work on their railway wagons, and I cannot imagine any article of use which gets more wear and more weather than a railway wagon. We have a statement which was made before the Norman Committee that this paint was made almost entirely of zinc oxide and boiled linseed oil. It is perfectly satisfactory on railway wagons and lasts for four or even five years before repainting is required.
A few weeks ago I was in the locomotive works of the same railway company and I put this question to the general superintendent, Sir Henry Fowler, and he said "We have not used for many years any lead in connection with our locomotive painting in these works and we are satisfied that we are doing 2528 better than we did when we used lead." A great deal has been said in debate about the use of waterproof sand-paper. To the practical man the use of wet sandpaper appears to be a thing almost impossible of application. Painting is not done in large workshops where men are concentrated together in large numbers. The great bulk of the men employed in our trade are on small jobs, on which there are from one to half-a-dozen men on the job, and it is practically impossible to make any kind of regulation or restriction with regard to the operation of white lead painting which would be operative in an industry of that kind.
In regard to the waterproof or wet sand-paper process, I would ask the House to consider what is the object in view when sand-papering is undertaken. The object of the sand-papering operation is to get a smooth service on the work in order that the finishing coat may be smooth and glossy. That being so, the dry sand-papering process brings away a lot of dust and roughness from the surface of the work, and any remaining on the work is easily got away when it is dry with a light dusting brush. With the wet sand-papering process the stuff that otherwise comes away in light dust naturally adheres to the work itself. Therefore, in addition to the sandpapering, there must a washing down with water in order to get away all those fine particles which otherwise would adhere to the work and spoil it. The washing down process means time, and if a man is sent up, as often happens, to put a coat of paint in a room as a day's work, his first operation is the wet sandpapering and the washing down process. For six months in the. year, owing to our peculiar climate, that washing down process would so wet- the work that it would not be possible to apply paint during the same day. Therefore, it is making the work more costly, and making it impossible to carry out operations with anything like the facility which we have now with the dry process.
I can say some things about the effects of lead poisoning. This right hand of mine for 10 years, and for six months in each of those 10 years, was useless to me for the purpose of writing owing to lead poisoning. For 10 years it was impossible to hold my hand in that position 2529 (indicated) without intense pain extending along the arm to the shoulder. In the year 1916 the exigencies of the War took me away from the industry. The Great War, which cost so many of our men their lives, certainly saved my limb, and possibly my life. The use of the limb is gradually coming back again, but as soon as next winter comes the fingers of the right hand will become practically useless. I mention this to illustrate the lasting effect of lead poisoning.
The evils of lead poisoning are often got into the system of the painter long before the painter reaches adult age, in the early years of apprenticeship when a man is naturally careless and has not the knowledge which comes with the experience of after years. I remember the first pair of trousers that. I wore at work at thirteen years of age. They stood beside the bed at night—stood quite alone of their own volition. I had to climb on the bed to get into them, so saturated were they with lead paint. It is said that with proper cleanliness and regulation painters need not get this terrible disease. If precautions and regulations could be properly applied in every case I agree with the argument. But they are impossible of application. Lead does not enter the system only through the lungs by the sandpaper process; it enters the system through the pores and through the nails of the fingers; and unless there is a complete washing process with hot water, scrubbing brush and soap every time of leaving work, there is the danger of lead entering the system through the pores and through the nails. With all your regulations you will not make it possible for the proper cleansing process to be carried out.
The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) based his whole argument on the statement that it was possible to use white lead without serious danger by proper regulation. He also said that a body of scientific men had come to the conclusion that all that is required is a system of regulation. The body of operative painters and the body of master painters, the whole of the trade operating in the industry, are of the opinion that no system of regulation sufficient for the exigencies can be devised. It is also said that the processes in lead corroding factories are more dangerous to the operatives than the painting operations themselves. I do not 2530 agree. In the lead corroding factory proper precautions can be taken to safeguard the health of the operatives to a very large extent. In the lead corroding factory, where lead is ground to a fine dust, there is nothing in the dust but lead itself. Lead is a heavy metal, and the dust does not fly to anything like the extent that it does in the painting operations, because when you are applying paint you are not applying lead only, but lead that has been mixed with oil and turpentine and driers, and it becomes a very much lighter material, which is easily carried in the air. The dust is far more dangerous to the operative painter than to the worker in the lead corroding factory.
The lead which enters the system through the lungs or through the pores of the skin gradually impregnates the whole circulation system. Its effects are mainly felt in the nervous system, paralysing nerve force and muscular power. It results in wrist drop, in impairment, and often loss of sight; in many cases in permanent colic and constipation, with the intensest agony; but these effects upon the painter himself, bad as they are, are not the worst side of the story. Dr. Hastings, speaking at a League of Nations Conference, said that he had never yet seen a painter over a certain age who did not show signs of lead poisoning. Sir Thomas Oliver has been quoted to-day. He has said:Of 131 house painters examined in a district in Northern France, 90 supplied information concerning their families. Between them these 90 painters had 467 children. Of these 107 had been stillborn and 93 died under two years of age. Among painters the stillbirths form 229 per cent. of the births.
§ Mr. RAYNES
Further on in the same work Sir Thomas says:In his studies upon hereditary degeneration and idiocy Bournville places house painting in the unenviable first rank of the occupations followed by parents of mentally weak children.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
Does the hon. Gentleman know—[Cries of "Order!"]—that Sir Thomas Oliver has recently said: "Our experience of plumbism—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]—among house painters in the North of England is that it is practically unknown," and that was in May, 1924?
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Mr. Entwistle)
If the hon. Member gives way, the hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to interject without interruption.
§ Mr. RAYNES
We take Sir Thomas Oliver as an authority on this question. He has said many things, some of which have been heard to-day. I have read the quotation to give information as to Sir Thomas Oliver's opinion on the subject.
§ Mr. RAYNES
I have not the date. I do not think it is of great importance. The quotation shows the result of white lead poisoning in the offspring of the men who use it.
I do not wish to interrupt. The reason why some of us are anxious to have the date is that. France has passed a decree for the prohibition of white lead. If these effects continue it is very important to know whether the statement quoted was made before or after the prohibition.
§ Mr. RAYNES
This evidence would have been taken during the agitation for the prohibition of white lead in France, and what took place in Northern France at that time may be taken as having occurred to a greater or less degree in any country which uses white lead in paint. In reply to the question of the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise) I can now give him the date. It was in 1914. We have heard in this House many uncomplimentary references to the use of sob-stuff by 'Members. At the risk of being accused of using sob-stuff on this Occasion, I shall read the report of a medical man which has been forwarded to me by the Secretary of the Operative Painters Association. The report is dated 5th June of this year. It states:The patient stated that on 19th September, 1922, he had severe abdominal pains which had been caused by lead poisoning. He was treated at home for some time and also in hospital, but ho became gradually worse. He is at present unable to move his legs or to walk. The muscles of his legs are very much wasted, particularly on the front of the legs, which always follows on the condition known as dropped foot.' He has complete loss of sensation in both legs and cannot feel heat nor cold in his extremities. His fore-arms are also wasted and he is unable to grip with his hands. His hands tremble and he has definite signs of palsy. He states he suffers from severe headaches and occasionally loses 2532 himself and he has had seizures recently. His sight is poor and gives definite symptoms of ophthalmic atrophy. In my opinion he will he completely disabled for life.That is signed by the medical officer. It was suggested by an hon. Member below the Gangway on the opposite side of the House that it was possible that what. had been taken as symptoms of lead poisoning were really the results of alcoholic excess. I have referred to my own case and neither I nor my parents ever used alcohol in any form whatever. I urge the House to look upon this question in the light of the possible benefits in the saving of life among an important class of our industrial population. The. Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord II. Cavendish-Bentinck) said the effect of prohibition would not be to throw men out of employment. I have gone carefully into that point and I believe the Noble Lord to be quite correct. There is plenty of demand for lead in other forms and there is every possibility of transferring men from one department of the trade into another, and by that process all the labour could be absorbed. The great point for the House to consider is whether we can lessen by legislation the effect of this insidious disease on the lives of the men concerned, and of their wives and children. We believe most sincerely that nothing can be clone short of total prohibition of the use of white lead on interior works. By that prohibition we shall be doing for this trade what is demanded by the whole of the trade, and it will not make the operation more costly. The cost of white lead in 1913, when last I bought it in large quantities, was 19s. 6d. per cwt. The cost to-day is 59s. 6d., and a good substitute can be got on the market at probably less cost than the lead itself There are no reasons why the use of white lead for interior work should not be entirely prohibited. That will not be putting a hardship on anyone in the community. On the other hand, by this Bill hon. Members will be giving new hope of health and life to the men employed in the industry.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Will the hon. Member tell me for my own information, Is he in favour of prohibiting the use of lead altogether? Did I understand him in his most interesting speech to advocate its prohibition in external as well as interior painting?
§ Mr. RAYNES
My desire to-day is to carry the Bill as it stands and to prohibit the use of lead in interior work, except with the provisions laid down in the Bill. I believe, personally, that we could do without lead for either interior or exterior painting.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
May I be allowed, with great respect, to congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down on what I understand to be his maiden speech—though from the careful marshalling of his facts and figures one would scarcely have gathered that he was addressing the House for the first time.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
In any event the hon. Member has displayed the great knowledge which he possesses of his industry and his contribution to the Debate I am sure is welcomed by everybody in the House. The Under-Secretary for Home Affairs began his speech by advocating continuity in policy as between this Government and its predecessor—a rather interesting line to take in this particular Week, though I wish the Government had thought of it a little sooner. It has been made perfectly plain by the quotations of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) that the opinion of Sir Montague Barlow, who represented the previous Government at the Conference, was that he had not committed the British Government to complete agreement with the Convention. Tie said quite plainly on nth May, 1923:In these circumstances and in view of my declaration at Geneva the British Government clearly have freedom of action in the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1923; col. 2421, Vol. 163.]We have heard what I think is a fair account of what took place at the Conference from the hon. and learned Member for South Shields. There were differences of opinion and it is quite clear that the decision was arrived at at the last moment when the luggage was packed and the delegates were about to catch their trains and I do not think it unfair to suggest that possibly some of the difficulties had not been very well thought out. I wish to say a word about the general obscurity which hangs over the operations of these Labour Conferences at Geneva. I do not suppose hon. Members 2534 have the slightest idea as to who represents us at these Conferences, what the programme is for this year's meeting if a meeting is fixed for this year or what recommendations the Government are making to their representatives. This is no criticism of the present Government but is a criticism of the system. I suggest to the Home Secretary that it would be a great convenience to this House and the public if we had in some simple form a programme of these Conferences setting out plainly what they were going to discuss and a list of those who represent this country and the Dominions. I make that suggestion, because I think we suffer a great deal from the obscurity which hangs aver the Geneva Conference. We never know, until the thing is all over, what they are doing and for what they have gone there. It may be owing to my inability to find it in any publication, but I am sure other hon. Members will agree with me in thinking that it is not very easy to find out what is going on.
The Under-Secretary went on to give a good many reasons which he thought would be urged against the Bill, and he said that some people would say that money compensation to those who suffered was a proper way of dealing with this question. I have never heard anybody suggest that, and I think we all agree that no money compensation is in any way adequate to balance the suffering, not only of the man himself who gets the disease, but his relations who suffer with him, and, as far as human suffering goes, I. think we may take it that every Member of this House is anxious to do anything that is possible, within reason, to diminish it. If in this matter it was merely a case of voting for profits for this industry or for the safety of the people working in the industry, I should have no hesitation whatever in voting on the side of safety, but that is not the question before us this afternoon. The Under-Secretary also said he was proud to think that this country was in advance of other countries, and led the way in all matters of safety in industry. I am very glad that he thinks that is the case, and I hope it is. If it is, I shall be equally proud with him, and I hope we shall go on leading the way. But may I point out that we should still be leading the way if we passed regulations, which would come into effect at once, to improve the position in the industry at home, even if we did not 2535 ratify this Convention. He said that arguments might be used against the Bill on the ground that it would diminish employment, and I think it was another hon. Member who said that there would be disputes as to the rate of mortality or of sickness in this particular trade. I do not think those arguments really affect the issue between the Amendment and the Bill. They certainly do not affect my mind at all in deciding which way I shall vote. The real question, to my mind, on which we have to vote is: Are we going to ratify this Convention two years before we are obliged to do so, two years before it is necessary to do so and stultify altogether any new prevention or preventive discoveries which may be made between now and 1927?
The hon. Gentleman said the heart of the Bill was in Clause 1, and he very much minimised the importance of the regulations, while several other speakers have suggested that the regulations are likely to be of little use. I cannot follow that argument at all. I cannot believe that men who realise that they are in real danger of serious illness or death are going to make the regulations inoperative in order to prove that prohibition is necessary. It is impossible to believe that, and the regulations, like all other regulations, must, of course, depend to some extent upon the amount of inspection. It has been said that unless you have some hundreds of inspectors the regulations will be of no use, hut I do not believe that argument, and, further, how is the prohibition itself going to be carried out, if that spirit still prevails, without these large numbers of inspectors? You will want them just as much to carry out prohibition as to carry out regulations. How are you going to satisfy yourselves, when you are allowed to use lead paint outside a building but not inside, that the man outside does not hand his pot through the window to the man inside, unless you employ a host of inspectors? I have often heard it argued, but I do not believe, that these regulations will be inoperative. I believe that the people engaged in this trade want to follow it in the safest possible way, and that they will observe the regulations and let it be known when the regulations are being broken. Therefore, I think it is a bad argument to say that these regulations are not of very much con- 2536 sequence. To my mind, they are by far the most important part of this Bill, and they are the only way in which we can lead the way against the other countries. The Convention does not come into effect till 1927, but the regulations come into effect at once, and if the hon. Gentleman means that if he cannot get Clause 1, he will drop the regulations, I think he will be doing something which will be disastrous to the industry and setting back any hope we have of better health and safety in the industry.
The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Raynes) made a very interesting point about the extra cost of wet rubbing down. He said that in the winter, at any rate, after wet rubbing down you have to leave your work till the next day before you can go on with the next coat of paint, and his knowledge is such, of course, that I should not dream of contradicting him. I believe he is right, and, therefore, supposing the regulations were passed and no lead paint might be used except with the wet rubbing down process, if it turned out to be more expensive, is it not obvious that the people would take to using paint without lead? In that way, if it turns out to be more expensive, you will be doing something to reduce the amount of lead paint used and to increase the amount of other paint used. This question of wet rubbing down is a very great change, which has not had the opportunity of being tested in the industry, and what has been said, I think, by the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. Grenfell), that we cannot tell for many years absolutely what the effect of the wet rubbing down will be, is quite true, because diseases connected with lead poisoning are very slow to develop and very often do not appear for years after the process has begun.
Therefore, it certainly is fair to say that it will take a long time before this wet rubbing-down process is sufficiently tested, but it will not take very long to see whether the Regulations proposed in the Bill are properly observed. That we can tell in a year or two, long before it is necessary to ratify the Convention. In view of what has been said by Sir Thomas Oliver—and his letter impressed me enormously: in fact, until I had read his letter, I had grave doubts in my mind 2537 whether it was worth while to wait a little or not—but, having read his letter, I cannot come to any other conclusion than that we ought to wait a little before taking the final step. He is an authority nobody can help respecting, and he said perfectly plainly that these Regulations will do the thing, and that it is premature to ratify the Convention until we have seen the Regulations at work. His letter has certainly convinced me that we ought to take a little more time over this, but the sooner we pass the Bill embodying the Regulations the better. If I had still been occupying the place the hon. Gentleman opposite occupies so well, what I should have proposed to the House would have been a Bill, which I should have brought in early in the Session, to enable us to make these Regulations at the earliest possible moment. Then, as there is plenty of time, we could have waited for a year or two to see the effect, or whether there was, as there might perfectly well be, some new invention which entirely safeguarded the health of those engaged in the industry. There would then have been plenty of time to bring in a Bill to ratify the Convention.
What the hon. Gentleman never told the House when he was explaining the Bill, as I think he ought, was that the provisions of Clause 1 will not be operative until 1927. If we agree with the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney), we are not in any way committing ourselves not to ratify the Convention in plenty of time for it to come into force. We are merely taking what I think is a far safer position, not binding ourselves to conditions which cannot be changed for 10 years, until we are absolutely certain that that is the only way to do it. Not a single person will suffer in consequence of passing the Regulations part of the Bill, and postponing the Convention portion for two years. Many speakers in the course of this Debate have spoken as if the effect of passing Clause 1 would be immediate, and that the moment you have done that you have done something wonderful for the health of the people engaged in the industry. That is not so. In passing Clause 1, you say that in 1927 you will come into the Convention, and you will have prohibition of the use of white lead for interior painting. So that you have plenty of time, and everybody in this House, I am quite certain, would be willing 2538 to ratify the Convention if during that time no new invention had been discovered which would make the process of lead painting safe, or if in that time it was proved that. wet rubbing down was no[...] such a safeguard as some people now imagine.
Therefore, for my part, I feel bound to support the Amendment, not in any way committing myself not to vote for ratification between now and the time when it is necessary to do so, but in the hope that during that time something will be discovered to make this process safer, and to make safe the use of that lead which does, undoubtedly, still hold the field as the most useful paint in places exposed to weather. Holding these views, I do hope the House will press the Government to go on with the part of the Bill which contains the making of the Regulations, and to hold their hand not to commit themselves to the ratification until a little further time has elapsed. No harm can possibly come to anybody by taking that course. It is perfectly easy to ratify any time between now and 1927, if we find it desirable to do so. The only effect of ratifying at this moment is to tie our hands, and this might afterwards prove to he very disastrous to those engaged in the painting trade of this country. I hope nobody will say that those who advocate that view are indifferent to the dangers and the suffering which lead poisoning causes, because, whether they vote for the Amendment or not, they will be in exactly the same position as to the time when prohibition can take effect, as they still keep a perfectly open mind as to whether the Convention should be ratified before 1927. That is the course we recommend, and which we hope the Government will adopt.
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I wish to join in the congratulations to the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Raynes) for his very moving and exceedingly practical speech. It was the practical speech of one who knows the great dangers of the question before the House. I think it is a matter of congratulation that the House is now discussing this subject entirely on its own merits. Last year when it was brought before us it was in conjunction with many other Conventions with regard to the League of Nations, and therefore lied not perhaps the amount of time 2539 given to it that it necessarily deserved. To-day we are discussing it entirely alone, and on its own merits, and I wish to say that I shall give my strong support to the Second Reading of the Bill. I do so because, first of all, I want to honour the agreement, the vote and the bargain at Geneva. The conflict is not absolutely a new one. It started as far back as 1780, when the French chemist Courtois, at Dijon, tried to replace the use of white lead there by an oxide of zinc. The controversy is not, this morning, a question of how far white lead is injurious—everyone is agreed upon that—but as to the best method of dealing with and counteracting the poison in its working. On the one side we have the workers, who say they wish for prohibition, while on the other side we have the representatives of big financial interests who suggest a system of regulation in the industry. It is the battle between human interests and financial interests.
The case for the human interests rests entirely upon direct evidence, such evidence as we have heard from several hon. Members this morning. White lead is known to be one of the most—perhaps the most—dangerous compound with which the workers can be brought into contact. Its effects and symptoms may be felt by a susceptible constitution within a few days of commencing work; in the case of a stronger person it may take a few years. At any rate, all workers in white lead are potential cases, and may possibly be affected by the disease. It is a. slow poison in many cases. I have statistics here which show that in 1912 there were g17 cases Of lead poisoning and 37 deaths; in 1913 the figures were 248 and 31 respectively; and in 1914 207 and 35. Perhaps, too—and the medical experts will put me right if I am wrong—we ought to take into consideration the fact that lead poisoning is not a notifiable disease, and, therefore, we do not get the fullest figures.
The case for the financial interests rests upon rather less firm foundations. The opponents of prohibition suggest that these statistics do not justify so drastic an upheaval as even partial prohibition, but they protect themselves by suggesting that regulation is necessary. Here T would say that both at the Geneva Conference and in the Norman Commit- 2540 tee evidence was given on both sides by experts, yet the decision of both bodies was practically unanimous. The trouble is in regard to scattered painters. It is quite impossible to adopt a scheme of inspection that can look after the isolated painters. It is not practicable Again our opponents declare that there is no efficient substitute, but zinc has proved itself satisfactory, and the Bill before us does make certain exceptions, where necessary. We must remember, too, that all the time there is research work going on and experiments are being undertaken to try to find a good substitute for lead. The bogey which never fails to terrify the people is the question of unemployment. Our opponents declare that a change from lead to zinc or other substitutes would cause unemployment. That is a great mistake. In the first place, the prohibition is only partial, and in the second the workers in the production of lead would be absorbed into the production of zinc.
There is only one point in the present Bill which I should like to call in question, and that is the proposal in Clause 2 which refers to the question of women in industry. Clause 2 prohibits the employment of women and young persons. I rather object to that coupling together, and I would like the present, or any other Government that comes into power, to see that there is a distinct Clause for women in Bills of this kind—and for young persons—because adult women workers have a. certain amount of discrimination, and they ought, therefore, to have a certain amount of self-determination in this matter. May I point out in welcoming the Bill as a whole that its provisions were agreed to at Geneva, and that 90 people—experts—voted for these regulations, only one abstaining? One does not sufficiently emphasize that these were all experts on the subject. They were representative of 50 countries, and the case was overwhelming. Other countries are con-considering the matter and moving forward, and we do not want England to be behindhand. Above all, we want to support anything done by the International Labour Conference to bring about legislation for other countries which differ so much from us both mentally, morally, socially, and industrially. We want in this way to try to bring them all together, because they have a different tempera- 2541 ment, a different outlook. I believe that the present legislation will help other countries, perhaps less enlightened in humane causes, to raise their standard. We in Great Britain want a good record, too, for our country.
§ Dr. S. HASTINGS
It seems to me that the question before us to-day depends very much upon this consideration—to what extent are the lead compounds used in painting deleterious to the workers in the industry. I shall not detain the House more than for a few moments, but shall view the case very largely from the medical aspect of the facts that I have been able to make out. Those who have spoken so far have given us the statistics of cases of lead poisoning generally, and these of course involve a greater number of people than those concerned in house painting. I have been to some trouble, however, to find out exact figures in relation to house painting. For the last three years that I have been able to obtain the figures, 1920, 1921, 1022, apparently there were but 48 deaths recorded of house painters from lead poisoning. These figures may seem small, but they really do not at all represent the facts, because whilst lead poisoning causes relatively few deaths in house painters, it produces a vast amount of chronic ill-health, in some cases directly from the effect of lead poisoning, and in other cases because the lead absorbed causes increased susceptibility to other diseases.
There has been in Berlin for many years a house-painters' society with many thousands of members. They have kept very careful statistics of the illnesses of their members during the years 1900-9. From these reports it appears that during these years an average of one in 12 of their members, each year, was laid up directly through lead poisoning. But we can take more recent figures which have been able to unearth. 'Writing in one of the medical papers, a short time ago, Dr. Harris, of New York, gave the result of a careful investigation made in 1918 into the life history and health of over 400 painters in New York. He gives as his opinion that no less than 40 per cent. of these people at the time of examination were suffering from definite ill-health, directly the result of lead 2542 poisoning. He points out what everybody knows, that chronic absorption of lead produces degenerative changes in the the heart, blood vessels and kidneys, and affects the nervous system, and that although the symptoms of these diseases coma on very slowly and often for a long time pass unnoticed, they are nevertheless very real. He stated that in New York generally, there were very few painters still at their trade after the age of 50. But the most serious aspect is not chronic lead poisoning, but the fact that the absorption of lead increases the susceptibility to other diseases. I have taken the figures for the years 1901–02, and during those years the proportion of deaths from Bright's disease amongst painters was twice as great as in the population generally, and the proportion of deaths from consumption was also very considerably increased.
But the point I especially desire to bring before the notice of the House is the effect of the absorption of lead, not upon the individual concerned, but upon his children. It is, of course, very well known that lead poisoning in women has a very baneful effect upon their offspring. But very often also when the mother is perfectly healthy, if the father is a painter the children are liable to suffer. In 1906 it was shown that about 22 per cent. of the children of house painters in the City of Lille died before birth, while amongst the people in that town generally, and also in the case of the painters before they started work in their bade the death-rate of the babies before birth was something like 7 or 8 per cent. Again, to quote Dr. Harris of New York, whose statistics I have already dealt with: he found that 20 per cent. of the children or the 400 painters into whose cases he carefully went, died before birth. That seems to me a very heavy proportion, and it is clear that if these figures are typical, more than double the percentage of the children of painters die before birth than is the case with the children of the population generally.
The next question which arises is what happens to the children who survive? A great many of them suffer and die from convulsions, and authorities inform us that epilepsy and imbecility are more common in the children of workers in lead than in those of other individuals. I apologise to the House for going into 2543 these lurid details, but I feel they are truly relevant to this subject. If these facts are true it seems to me we have to consider very carefully how house painters can be freed from the very serious consequences that are apt to follow from working at their trade. The answer to this is that it can only be achieved if the paint they use is completely freed from lead compounds. A. great deal has been said to-day about the advantages of wet rubbing down. I admit there are many advantages. I admit that dust is one—indeed it is the chief—danger to house painters. I mean the dust from dried paint. But no one has so far proved to me that wet rubbing down entirely removes all danger. Indeed, I submit that there are certain dangers Which are actually increased by wet rubbing down. When moisture is used in rubbing down, the fine particles of lead paint are more liable to get. rubbed under the nails and into the pores of the skin, and they are more difficult to wash off unless plenty of hot water and soap are used. We all know the conditions under which house painting is carried on, and they are very varied. It is not always easy for those employed in the. industry to observe all those precautions which are so necessary for their health. Besides, like other people, they are liable to be careless of their health and of the precautions they should take to safeguard it.
Although the Bill does not, to my mind, provide all that I should like, at any rate it goes part of the way. It has already been shown that the chief danger to painters is from particles of dust containing lead. This may arise from scraping or rubbing down, or from dried paint on overalls, or it may arise from actual fumes containing lead compounds emitted when the paint is burnt off. These things are much less liable to affect the individual when the work takes place in the open, where there is nearly always a current of air, rather than when the work is carried out in an enclosed space. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Bridgeman) suggested that if we adopted regulations now we could deal with the Convention at any time during the next two years. That is true, but neither he nor I may be in the House in two years' time, and we may also have 2544 a Government in two years' time much less inclined to deal with this problem than I hope the House and the Government are to-day. Therefore I ask everyone here, not only in the interests of those concerned in this industry, but even more in the interests of their unborn children, to support this Bill.
§ Mr. CLAYTON
I cannot help thinking that in this Bill the reason why it has been confined to indoor painting was due to the original idea that paint, while being applied, gave off a volatile]cad compound, and that people living in a room which had been painted with lead paint were liable to be poisoned by the volatile lead given off by the paint. A few years ago investigation was made as to whether really lead was volatile from lead painting. Very careful tests were made and it has been proved that lead is not volatile. There is no lead given off during the painting. There is no lead given off front the lead painted surfaces. This confines us, therefore, to lead given off in the form of dust in dry rubbing down or lead absorbed into the system under the nails and through the skin generally. Dry rubbing down, no doubt, gives off lead in the form of line powder which is very rapidly taken into the system when breathing and causes lead poisoning, but from what I hear and gather this can he very largely eliminated by the use of waterproof sand paper. Lead poisoning as we all know, is cumulative poisoning, and I cannot help feeling that the external painting which is permitted in this Bill and which carries it, of course, the rubbing down of those surfaces on the exterior of buildings will, unless wet rubbing down is insisted upon by regulation, be liable to cause lead poisoning among painters painting the exterior of buildings. I do not think that this prohibition for interior painting is really going to safeguard us at all. I would much rather that the regulations were made very stringent to protect painters from the effect of this fine dust and that we should delay ratifying the Convention until we have really proved whether this wet rubbing down is as efficient as we are led to believe. Those of us who know the horrible effects of lead poisoning are anxious to safeguard the painters, and any men who are using paint, but myself I feel that it, is possible to do everything that is required by regu- 2545 lation without this prohibition and the stopping of the use of lead paint for interior painting.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
The right. hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary (Mr. Bridge-man) took up an attitude which I think was both wise and prudent. He is not lacking in sympathy for those who suffer from this disease, but he is not satisfied that the disease cannot be reduced to a minimum by regulations. He pointed out, quite conclusively, that no harm could come from the postponement of the prohibitory part of this particular Bill, because it is not coming into effect for at least two years, and during those two years there may be some improvement, or at least there may be some convincing evidence that the improvements that are now before us may be effective in reducing the disease to a minimum. That is my attitude towards this Bill, and I commend it to the House. There is no reason why this Bill should not pass its Second Reading this afternoon, because its title is so wide that you can do anything with it in Committee. You can retain the prohibitory Clause, or you can delete it, or you can modify and postpone it. The title of the Bill isA Bill to make better provision for the protection against lead poisoning of persons employed in painting buildings.It is not a prohibitory Bill; it is a Bill for the protection of persons engaged in this industry, and, if you find it sufficient to protect by regulation, you have Clause 3 which deals with regulations.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
You might have to modify it in that way, but it is capable of being modified within its title. Its title would not throw out an Amendment to Clause 1 to the effect that no painting of the interior of a house should be allowed unless the rubbing down was done with waterproof sand paper. That, surely, would be an Amendment that would be competent to move, and it would be within the power of the Committee either to accept or reject it. I say that., because I find that all those who have made speeches—and I think I have heard every one—were either in favour of prohibition or of regulation. Those who are in favour of prohibition can support this Bill, and those who are in favour of regulations only can 2546 support it since they will have an opportunity in Committee of making that change.
The existence of the disease is admitted. The severity of the disease is admitted, and we need not discuss it. The collateral evils of the disease admitted. We are all unanimous about it. We are also unanimous that the disease should be controlled in some way by legislation. The time is ripe and over ripe for legislation. We are all agreed upon this. The question then arises how far should we go in the direction of prohibition of this industry. I think it is a fact that in the past no industry producing diseases has been abolished or suppressed because it produced those diseases. Regulations have always been found to deal with them. Research has shown us methods by which the disease could be eliminated or reduced consistent with the existence. of the industry. File-making still goes on. We make files, and we all have files, yet there was a time when file-making was one of the most fatal of all industries. We had phossy jaw. We still manufacture matches, but we have eliminated phossy jaw.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
May I ask the hon. Member whether matches are now made with white phosphorous in this country?
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
No, there are modifications, because efficient substitutes have been found to that extent, but the industry still goes on. Anthracosis has been abolished by modification in methods, and coal mining still goes on. Take -X -ray disease and the number of men W ho have died of cancer due to X-ray. I had during the War associated with me in the X-ray department of my hospital a man who had been 23 years in constant contact -with the X-ray apparatus, but care and regulations were sufficient to eliminate the danger of disease in his case, and those who have contracted that disease have done so by not observing those regulations. I think it can therefore be said that no industry in the past has had to be abolished because of the disease which it engendered. Research, regulation, and preventive methods have been sufficient to allow the industry to exist, and yet to eliminate the disease or reduce it to a minimum. I think it is possible in this industry to do the same thing. I am therefore in favour of passing this Bill, 2547 and then, in Committee, making such modifications as will interfere to the minimum extent with the industry. It is true that the Norman Committee had before it waterproof sand paper, and they showed in their Report that they were very hopeful that that might be an effective method of reducing the disease to a minimum and still allowing internal painting to go on. This is what they say:Recently, however, waterproof sandpaper has been introduced. Certain reports which have been made confirm its efficiency and have provided convincing evidence that the damp method can be successfully adopted.The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Raynes) in his excellent speech, full of practical points, stated that while this might be effective in preventing the disease, it was largely impracticable, because you had to wash down the particles adhering to the surface which was painted or rubbed down, and that would entail greater time and greater cost, and perhaps in winter weather make it impossible to paint immediately after the rubbing down process had taken place because of the moisture and the impossibility of getting the surface sufficiently dry to go on with the painting if that were so you would find under these circumstances, if it were too costly to rub down by this wet process, the painter would probaby take one of those substitutes which have been shown over and over again not to be efficient substitutes. If the substitute were absolutely and altogether efficient, I do not see why we should not prohibit the use of lead paint. But the evidence is not so. We are told by quite a number of authorities that zinc oxide paint is not an efficient substitute. The report of Sir Frank Baines, Director of His Majesty's Office of Works, an official authority whose evidence will surely appeal to the Government, states that, having been requested by the Treasury to cut down the estimates, he had had representations from all the officers in charge of the very large maintenance services of the Department that they could not materially alter their standard in view of the serious depreciation and lack of durability of zinc base paint. If these zinc base paints are not efficient substitutes then enforcing their use must interfere with the industry, and I am prepared to interfere with the industry if 2548 there be no other remedy. If there were an efficient substitute the trade would spontaneously use it. Who would think of using lead paint which causes poisoning and ignoring zinc paint which does not cause it? Take two kinds of paint absolutely equivalents in the matter of cost, durability and efficiency. One causes disease while another does not. Who would think of using the paint which causes disease? That is an incredible assumption. The fact is that the trade has come to the conclusion that they cannot find an efficient substitute. Here is a similar opinion expressed by the workers themselves in the report of the National Union of General Workers and the National Amalgamated Union of Labourers. What do they say? This is a unanimous expression of their views, and two things are significant: that they are workers and that they are stating what is true. This is what they say:It is a matter which directly affects the workers in white lead factories (the great majority of whom are members of the National Union of General Workers and the National Amalgamated Union of Labourers). They are against the proposed prohibition because it must mean a largely diminished production of white lead paint and consequent unemployment.One hon. Member has stated that the lead manufactories will be destroyed, as there will be no white lead made. What do these people say about it? They say theyconsider this proposed prohibition to be unnecessaryAnd why?because the same danger of lead poisoning, has been removed in other industries by regulations.If regulation can eliminate disease or reduce it to a minimum that should be sufficient. If we interfere with the industry beyond the need of the workers we are doing wrong. I have no lack of sympathy with the workers, more especially as I have seen a very large number of these cases of disease. It is a very pathetic and, in a large number of instances, a hopeless disease. It is established very often long before the doctor or patient knows it. It is a dreadful disease; they die from it. Can you save them, and at the same time save the industry? If you cannot save them both, then let the industry go. I am prepared to take that stand. I hope this Bill will go through. The late Home 2549 Secretary seemed to think it necessary to carry the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I hope the House will let the Bill go through and deal with this matter in Committee. We can reserve complete control over Clause 1, and, therefore, I suggest we should carry the regulatory part of the Measure and perhaps modify the remainder.
Lieut.-Colonel LAMBERT WARD
It may be suggested when I announced that I am going to support the Amendment that I am opposed to all remedial legislation in regard to industrial processes, and that I am in favouring of dishonouring agreements arrived at by International Convention. But what are the facts with regard to these International Conferences, a considerable number of which have been held during the last few years? From twenty to forty nations send representatives to meet at a certain place to discuss certain questions, and they expend a good deal of time and money before arriving at a decision. They then go back to their respective countries and lay their decision before their Governments. In four cases out of five the Governments take no action whatsoever in the matter, while three-fourths of those who do take action make no attempt to enforce any legislation which they may introduce. It is not so many years ago that an international agreement was arrived at with regard to the employment of young persons in the glass industry. That proved vital to this country, because after a short time it was found that other countries which had been parties to the agreement were not keeping it, with the result that this country was hard put to it to compete not only in the markets of the world but in our own home markets. A deputation headed, I think, by the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) came up to the Board of Trade to lay these facts before the Government. That is interesting, because I think I am right in saying that, of the two countries which were not keeping the agreement with regard to the employment of these young persons, one was Belgium and the other Czechslovakia, which was one of the three countries that ratified this particular White Lead Convention.
What are the facts with regard to white lead paint as opposed to white zinc paint? I think there is not the least doubt that for certain external work, and 2550 probably also for internal work, paint made with zinc white is nothing like as durable as the white lead paint which has been used hitherto. Many people are of the opinion that it practically comes to this, that work done with paint made with zinc white substitute has to be done every three years, whereas work none with white lead paint can safely be left to be done every five years, and it is possible that that fact may account to some extent for the unanimity with which the master painters and the representatives of the operative painters agreed to this Convention, because it is only human nature to suppose that they would be in favour of any regulation which would ensure a job of work being done every three years instead of every five years as hitherto.
The Under-Secretary for the Home Department told us that the principal cause of the lead poisoning which is prevalent among painters was clue to the dry rubbing-down of old paint, and I see no reason for disbelieving that. But if that be a fact, and I believe it is, this particular Bill will have no effect whatever. Old lead paint will go on being rubbed down by the dry process for the next, six, eight, or possibly 10 years. Old houses will be clone up, and the old lead paint will be rubbed down by the dry sandpaper process, and the result of that will be that this lead poisoning among painters will go on. It will be eight, 10 or even 12 years before this Bill has any beneficial effect whatsoever. In my opinion that is not good enough; that is not effective. We want, if possible, to stop, or at any rate to reduce very materially, the amount of lead poisoning amongst painters at once, and in my humble opinion that can only be done by means of regulations which can be put into force at once without waste of time.
The Under-Secretary dwelt on the difficulty of enforcing those regulations. He said it would almost mean an inspector to watch every painter. But the regulations which we put forward would he simple to enforce compared with the regulations which are suggested in this Bill. It is stated in the Bill that, although lead paint may not be used for the internal painting of a house, it can still be used for the outside. That will mean that in the majority of cases when an old house is being painted, and invariably when a new 2551 house is being painted, there will be two kinds of paint on the premises at the same time, the lead paint for the outside, and the zinc paint for the inside; and it will be a very difficult matter to see that the correct paint is used for the correct purpose. That will require at least as many inspectors as would be required to enforce more reasonable regulations. Let me take an extreme case, the case of a man painting a window frame. He is to be compelled to have two pots of paint beside him, one for the outside and one for the inside, with a penalty of £5 hanging over his head should he inadvertently dip his brush into the wrong pot. That would require, not one inspector per painter, but two, one inside the window and one outside, to see that the regulations were not broken.
If these foreign nations with whom we enter into these Conventions do not ratify the Conventions, it seems to me that we should do better to wash them out altogether and introduce our own regulations suitable for the conditions in this country, which those in this Bill certainly are not. This Bill and the regulations contained in it show obvious signs of the haste with which the decision was come to. We can do better in this country by drawing up regulations which are simple. I know how easy it is to indulge in purely destructive criticism the difficulty comes in when you want to put anything definitely constructive before the House. I intend to try to do so, and what I suggest is this: First of all, we should introduce and enforce a regulation to compel the use of waterproof sandpaper and to compel the use of wet rubbing down. Let us try that for three or four years to see whether it is effective. If it is not effective, let us take the stronger step of prohibiting the rubbing down of lead paint altogether.
Scientific opinion at present is rather divided as to what actually causes lead poisoning, but I think scientific opinion is gradually crystallising to the view that to produce a condition of lead poisoning the lead must actually be taken in through the mouth or through the nose. I think it is satisfactorily proved that the fumes from lead paint do not cause lead poisoning, and also—although in saying this I differ from an eminent medical authority on the other side of the House—I believe that the fumes caused by the burning off of lead paint 2552 do not necessarily cause lead poisoning at all. It is also comparatively difficult to cause lead poisoning through absorption through the skin, although that is possible. If, however, 99 cases out of every 100 can be presented, as I believe they can, by preventing the lead substances being conveyed into the system through the mouth or nose, we shall have taken a very great step in the direction of eliminating this lead poisoning altogether. What we w ant are regulations which are suitable for this country, regulations which are comparatively easy to enforce, which are reasonable, and which are regulations which the workers themselves will assist the Department in keeping.
§ Mr. L. JONES
I do not rise so much to continue the general discussion on this Bill, having no great personal knowledge which would enable me to contribute to it, but rather to explain to the House a difficulty in which I am placed, and to ask the Government whether they cannot get us out of it. I think I may say that we all wish to vote for this Bill when it is recommended to us on humanitarian grounds, because the suffering of the painters, which is an undoubted fact, appeals to every one of us; and from my earliest days in public Life I have been familiar with the difficulty of the lead used in pottery manufacture, and have been a follower of Sir Thomas Oliver, Dr. Thorpe and the others who have interested themselves in trying to prevent the dangers and difficulties that confront the workers in those industries. I am sure the whole House will join with the Government in wishing to do anything to contribute towards making the lives of those who work with these dangerous materials safer and healthier. But the case as presented to the House to-day seems to me to offer some difficulty. I listened with profound interest to the touching and eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Raynes), who spoke with knowledge of the suffering that exists, but I could not but feel that his speech was really a plea for prohibition of the use of lead altogether, and that, taking it to its logical conclusion, it was not interior painting alone which we should prohibit, but that we should also prohibit and make an end of lead paint for external use. 2553 The question before the House in substance is this: Can we by regulation do what will be effected by the prohibition of the use of lead under this Bill? The Hatch Committee came to the conclusion that we could not tin it by regulation and that we must prohibit the use of lead. The Norman Committee took an opposite view and practically found that we could by careful regulation prevent most of the evil. Sir Thomas Oliver's letter to the "Times" a few days ago was most impressive considering the source from which it came, and he confidently asserts that it is possible by regulation to overcome these dangers and difficulties. His letter describes the condition of things in Hungary:When I visited Hungary a few years ago and undertook to assist its Government in framing regulations for tae home potteries, lead poisoning was extremely prevalent. In one large village there had been for years 60 to 75 cases of lead poisoning annually. Many of them ended fatally. A few years afterwards, I was informed, on the day previous to my visit, by the Secretary for Labour that he had gone the round of the village and had failed to find' one child suffering from this malady. If, as the result of the adoption of regulations, the number of cases of plumbism in one village can be reduced from 65 to 3 in less than four years and all its child life spared, there is much to be said for giving regulations a trial.That is from a man whose sympathy with this course cannot be doubted, and whose knowledge is universally recognised. In regard to this Bill, the experts at Geneva appear to have reported in favour of regulations, and it was only the general sitting at Geneva that reversed the decision of the experts. This House is really helpless in such a case. We have not got the knowledge to decide questions of this kind. We must be guided really by authority on one side or the other, and in such circumstances we are scarcely the best body to decide.
I suggest to the Government that before asking us to put this Bill through they should give us a little more time and allow the matter to go before a Select Committee. Nothing really would be lost by so doing. No time would be lost. On the contrary, time might even be gained. The prohibition Clause, the only Clause that is in doubt, does not come into operation till 1927. We have three years before it is necessary for that to be ratified. If the Bill goes to a Select Committee it can consider in the meanwhile 2554 what the regulations shall be. The point made by the hon. Member opposite was important, that for the next 10 or 12 years we shall be dealing with the rubbing off of old paint which is there, and you must have regulations to deal with that, which is the real danger that confronts the painters now. We therefore want regulations which will come into force at once, and this might be the outcome of the Select Committee, that if recommendations or modifications of the Bill which would make it effective at once so far as the regulation of existing painting goes, and the possibility of prohibition in 1927 with no delay whatsoever as the result of our action to-day if in the course of the next two or three years it becomes recognised that the regulations are ineffective, I suggest that that is the simplest and best way out of our difficulty. If the Government will not consent to that I do not conceal from them that I shall vote for the Bill. The dangers are so great that I am not going to be responsible for not casting my vote in favour of the Bill, but there are others who do not take my view of that and the Bill is in great danger of being lost altogether if some such course as I have suggested is not adopted. [interruption.] Of course that would be possibly to the political advantage or disadvantage, I do not know which, but on all these matters I am not out for political advantage. I am entirely out from the point of view of endeavouring to make the workers' lives safer and healthier. From that point of view, knowing the history of the question and the difficulty of passing the Bill if some such course is not taken, I would plead with the Government to send the Bill to a Select Committee. It would involve no great delay. They could easily report before the end of the year and the resulting Bill could be passed. Nothing would be lost as regards prohibition and a good deal would be gained in other directions.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The right lion. Gentleman has made a very interesting and suggestive speech and I find myself in a great measure of agreement with him. The Under-Secretary began his speech by suggesting that unless the Second Reading is here and now accepted, including Clause 1, about which all the Debate has taken place, we should be committing what he calls a great 2555 breach of honour, because we should not be fulfilling the obligation which we had entered into. I hope the Home Secretary will explain that that, strictly speaking, is not an accurate presentation of the facts, and it is important that they should be accurately presented lest any misconception should arise in the future, because it is, to my mind, a monstrous and a very dangerous doctrine to suggest that in any way this Parliament has abdicated its sovereignty or delegated its powers or abandoned its complete freedom of action by what takes place at the International Labour Conference at Genera. I say that with deliberation, and I have some right to say it because the House changes very quickly. I do not think there are more than two or three, if so many, who were, like myself, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) at the Peace Delegation in Paris. When I speak about the Treaty I am speaking of that which I know. I say frankly that any such suggestion as that would be completely abhorrent to those who designed these Clauses when they were put into the Treaty, and would, if it were to be seriously suggested that they ought to be accepted by the House, end by imperilling the whole of that part of the- Treaty. The fact is clear: it is stated in Article 4 or 5 of the Treaty and succeeding Clauses that the obligation of the Convention is to do what was clone in May of last year, to bring within a year, if possible, and within IS months at the outside, the draft convention or recommendations of the International Labour Organisation Conference before the competent authority in the country for the enactment of legislation or for action. That was done last year, in May, 1923. A formal Motion was passed in this House, and the House approved the action of the Government in regard to the International Labour Convention. Having done that, so far from there being any question of honour, this country, or any other country acting in the same way, has exactly fulfilled the obligations of the Treaty. That is made perfectly clear in the same Articles, because it says:If the draft convention fails to obtain the consent of the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies, no further obligation shall rest upon the Member.2556 It is important and very desirable in the interests of the International Labour Organisation itself that it should be made perfectly clear that there can be no suggestion that actions taken by the International Labour Conference are necessarily and automatically and without discussion to be ratified by this House, and for it to be regarded, as the Under-Secretary said, as a breach of honour if the House fails to do so.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Bridgman). I see not only no reasons for haste in this matter, but strong reasons against haste. There were 42 signatories to the Convention. Some 42 States were represented at Geneva, and of these so far, the hon. Secretary told us, three have ratified and four have ratification under consideration. It is a little premature to say that we should rush in in order to fulfil the requirements of the Convention, and bind our hands entirely for 10 years. Not only is it the case that out of 42 States only three have so far ratified, but not one of our own Dominions has yet ratified. India has rejected the Convention.
I should like to know in the event of this Bill becoming law as it stands, with Clause 1 in it, what is to be the position as regards the application of it to the Crown Colonies. Under the Treaty, making allowance for Colonial conditions, this country is bound to apply any. Convention which it ratifies to those possessions which do not possess full self-governing powers. I should like to know whether in the event of this Bill passing, it is intended to apply it to the Crown Colonies and, if so, whether any correspondence has taken place with the Crown Colonies on the subject. The reason I ask that is, that I have read practically the bulk of the evidence which has been given before the Hatch Committee and the Norman Committee, particularly as regards substitutes, and I have observed that on one point the evidence appears to be completely conclusive, and that is, that whatever may be said as to the advantage of substitutes, in those climates, at all events, under conditions where there is both humidity and heat it is recognised that white lead paint and lead paint alone 2557 apparently possess the necessary resisting qualities. If that be so, and as most of our Crown Colonies are within the tropical zone, and both humidity and heat are distinguishing features, it would appear that wherever else this Bill ought to be applied it ought not to be applied in the case of the Crown Colonies.
So far as the question of the menace to health is concerned, and so far as our desire goes to do everything in our power to mitigate and remove, if possible, that menace, there is no shadow of difference between Members in any part of the House, but there are certain considerations which must be taken into account. In the first place, what is the extent of the menace? In the second place, is the remedy suggested in Clause 1 the only valid remedy for the removal of that menace? With regard to the menace, the findings of every Departmental Committee, both the Hatch Committee and the Norman Committee, and all the evidence that I have been able to gather, go to confirm the fact that reliable statistics are conspicuous by their absence. Some statistics have been quoted to-day. I know a little about statistics, because it is impossible to have gone through 20 years of active fiscal controversy without knowing something of the use of statistics by one party and the other, and I am bound to say that I always take statistics with a little caution. It seems to me that the statistician on both sides proves too much.
Some of the statistics given by the supporters of lead are very remarkable and striking, and some of the statistics given by supporters of zinc al-e even more remarkable. One gentleman deserves to go down to history in the shape of permanent immortality, because he calculated that the cases of lead poisoning in France amounted to the appalling total of 15,695 in a single year. Everybody was shocked and surprised at that statement, and when the statistics were investigated it was discovered that he had arrived at the total of 15,695 by taking the number of cases of lead poisoning in French hospitals in one day, namely, 43, and multiplied it by 365. Therefore, I always take statistics an this subject with a certain degree of caution.
Sir Thomas Oliver, more than anyone else in this country in this age or any 2558 other, has made the subject of lead poisoning completely his own. He is the man on whose advice for years the Home Office relied in regard to this subject, and upon his advice to-day the whole Continent of Europe relies for advice on the subject. He points out that at Geneva one circumstance which prevented full discussion was the absence of reliable statistics of the amount of lead poisoning among house painters. He also said that the statistics as to the amount of lead poisoning amongst painters and house decorators are not reliable.
The first point I make as regards the extent of the menace is that there is at the present time a great uncertainty. As regards the means of its removal I grant at once that, assuming you can make the distinction that is made in the Bill between outside and inside painting and between industrial and other forms of painting—and that is a big assumption—and assuming that by some system of inspection and control you can insure that that distinction when made is adhered to, then prohibition for interior painting will undoubtedly be operative, but it does not necessarily follow that that is the only remedy or even the most effective remedy. Let me illustrate what I mean. We have had figures to-day of the amount of mortality among house painters. Alarming and terrible as those figures are, if you take the figures of the mortality in the streets of London every day from accidents due to motor traffic the statistics of mortality among painters do not begin to compare with the many times more numerous accidents to the population of London which take place every day in the streets, and yet nobody would suggest the prohibition of motor traffic in the streets of London.
The point is that it does not follow that prohibition is the only remedy. It is open to argument—and it is precisely here that I come to the same position as the right hon. Gentleman—and discussions, and it deserves to be open to examination, whether other remedies can be as completely effective as prohibition, because, effective as prohibition is, it will undoubtedly have other repercussions as well in regard, not only to this industry, but to other industries in the country. It has been said by the Under-Secretary in advance that no system of regulations can be effective, 2559 and no system of regulations can be carried out without an enormous number of inspectors. I doubt these propositions very much, because they fly completely in the face of the findings of the Norman Committee, who expressed the opinion that regulations could be carried out to a very large extent by voluntary action within the trade itself, and they fly in the face of the evidence, again, of Sir Thomas Oliver in this matter, who in the letter, from a passage of which the right hon. Gentleman has just read, pointed out that regulations could not only be effective, but could be, in his opinion, absolutely effective for the purposes for which they are desired. I have said that prohibition might have repercussions on other aspects of the industry. I may say one word from a personal point of view with regard to that, because I wonder whether hon. Members generally have realised the effect which this Bill, if carried in its present form, would have upon lead mines generally in this country to-day. I have a soft corner in my heart for these mines for two reasons. The first is that, naturally, I have a conservative mind, and the lead mines in this country are a very old thing indeed. When Harold fell at Hastings the lead mining industry in this country was already older by centuries than this Parliament is to-day.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
Tin and lead both. The other reason is that some years ago in this House it fell to me unhappily to have to administer a very rude blow to that lead mining myself. I had to stand at that box on the question of Australian zinc concentrates and tell the lead mining industry in this country that I was unable to do anything to assist the lead miners. I was very sorry to have to do it. I thought then, and I still think, that it was very unsound economics to do it, but, having done it, I feel that there is some obligation on me to make quite certain that we do not deal this industry a knock-out blow—this would be a knockout iblow—to the British lead mining industry, unless we are certain that there would be no other way of securing a remedy.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL - THOMSON
Important as the industry is in Australia, I suppose that it also would be placed under very great difficulty. Since zinc is mined in Australia, as it is here, along with lead, if you knock out the market for a proportion of the lead, you put up the price of mining zinc. Therefore, undoubtedly you put up the price of your substitute by the very action that you are taking.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
Is the hon. Baronet not aware that whether the mines export or not we have to pay for the concentrates just the same?
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I do not wish to he drawn again into the question of zinc concentrates. My hon. Friend has forgotten that since the days of that controversy he and I have changed places, and any questions on that subject should now be addressed to the President of the Board of Trade. In all seriousness, I think there should be prolonged consideration of the question by this House before we adopt, two years earlier than it is necessary to do so, a policy which would have the effect, for good or for evil, of delivering a knock-out blow to this very old British industry. I now come to the suggestion made by a right hon. Gentleman opposite, with which I find myself in a considerable measure of agreement. That is that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. I am very anxious that the provisions of this Bill, other than the provisions of Clause 1, should become law at the earliest possible moment. I foresee that if the Bill were referred to a Select Committee, that Committee would be obliged, in regard to Clause 1, to take a great deal of evidence and to spend a great deal of time in examining very carefully the case for and against prohibition If such a Committee be set up, it could very usefully examine the practical use which is being made of substitutes.
If hon. Gentlemen will refer to the Report of the Norman Committee, they will find on pages 62. 63 and 64 of the Appendix a long list of various authorities in this country which are at present experimenting with substitutes for lead paint. I think it would be the duty of the Select Committee to examine the representatives of those various authorities as to their experience of substitutes, and as to how far they are as practicable 2561 and effective and cheap as lead paint. That will all take some time. I want to see the regulating part of the Bill, the women and young persons Clause, to which the hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) took exception, passed into law. I would like to see that part passed into law at once. If the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, I am afraid that that part of it will necessarily be hung up with Clause 1. I will therefore snake a suggestion.
If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to accept the suggestion and refer the matter to a Select Committee, why not give the Select Committee power to make two separate reports? Why should they not make a report dealing with the questions of regulation and the employment of women and young persons? Far be it from me to say in advance what a Select Committee may or may not do, but I imagine they would require little or no further evidence in order to justify them in reporting favourably upon that part of the Bill. Let them report accordingly to the House which can thereupon proceed with legislation dealing with those matters, and so far as my hon. Friends and I are concerned there will be no desire on our part to protract the proceedings on a Bill of that sort. While the House proceeds with legislation on regulation and on the employment of women and young persons, the Select Committee will have two years in which to examine thoroughly the question of prohibition. They can report separately upon it to this House, and this House can thereupon take that question into consideration. If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to accept the suggestion as to a Select Committee with the modification which I propose, I would appeal to the Mover and Seconder to withdraw the Amendment.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Arthur Henderson)
I have tried to follow the Debate as closely as possible, and after all I have heard, I am not convinced that the case submitted by the Under-Secretary on behalf of the Department has been shaken. I think the Mover of the Amendment made only one strong point and even that is a point which can be easily disposed of. He attached importance to the fact that the prohibition proposed applied only to internal painting, and he en- 2562 deavoured to score off the supporters of prohibition because they had not applied prohibition to the manufacturer of lead. The hon. and learned Gentleman confessed he did not know much about the subject, but I credit him with this knowledge—he knows there is a vast difference between what can be done in a factory and what can be done where two or three workmen are engaged in rubbing off old dried paint. With regard to the factory, several processes can be put into operation. I believe water is used to prevent dust getting into circulation, and if dust does get into circulation, vacuum appliances can be utilised and various other processes put into operation to withdraw the bad air and remove the deleterious effect. That cannot be done in the case of a few men in a small room, where there is probably little or no ventilation, using sandpaper to remove old paint. Therefore, the point on which the Mover put such emphasis failed to carry conviction to me.
The Seconder took up a great deal of time, I regret to say, on a matter which I thought might have been left to another occasion when notice had been given of it. He made an attack upon the Director of the International Labour Office, who is not here to defend himself, and who has no officials to whom any notice was given of what was not only a strong criticism, but seemed to me a personal attack. I venture to say that if the position were closely examined, it would be found that he was doing nothing more than trying to give effect to decisions that had been reached, not by him, hut by the Conferences, whose decisions he is bound honourably to administer. I thought there was one suggestion in the statement made that would be repudiated by all the right hon. Members opposite, and those below the Gangway on this side, who had had any association with the Director during his visits to this country, when he gave such valuable assistance during the War.
The hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir W. Mitchell-Thomson) put to me a point in regard to the Crown Colonies. I think that, once the Convention has been ratified, the home Government has power to say whether, just as it is or with any changes, it would be applied in the Crown Colonies, but, of course, we have not gone into that aspect of the case, and will not do so until we secure the ratification. My 2563 hon. Friend also made a point in regard to the Under-Secretary's statement about a breach of honour. I do not think the Under-Secretary quite put it in the way that my hon. Friend opposite did. I think that what he was trying to show was that all the parties that went to Geneva and entered into an agreement would be expected loyally to give effect to that agreement, and if they failed to do so, it would be, so far as they were concerned, a departure from the agreement. Whether or not that can be described as a breach of faith or a breach of honour, at any rate it is a departure from the agreement. Perhaps the Under-Secretary, if he will permit me to say so, being a Welshman, used the most graphic language for his description of such a departure.
Now I come to the Bill itself. A good deal has been said to-day about undue haste in trying to give effect to the Convention. I have been in this House some 21 years next month, and I think I have heard Debates and questions put nearly the whole of that time dealing with this scourge of white lead. That being the case, I wonder where the argument about undue haste goes. That I cannot possibly accept. I rejoiced when we had the International Office Report, when we had the Washington and the Geneva Conferences, and I hoped we were then going to have machinery to put into operation the policy of some of the Departments at home that tended, at any rate, to increase the standard of the conditions of working-class life. If we wait all the time till we have to have a great world war before we first of all get this machinery set up, if then we begin to have our conferences periodically, and not very close together, and if then we allow year after year to go by—because this began at Washington, and then we waited till the Geneva Conference—and if we have to continue to wait longer, it seems to me that we are going to convey to the workers, who attach great importance to this new machinery in connection with the League of Nations and with international standards, a sense of great disappointment, and to break their confidence altogether in this new form of meeting their views.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
Another thing I want to say is this, that in asking for the ratification of this agreement, I am only asking this House to confirm what has been the policy, not of the politicians, but of the Department charged with looking after the human interests of a vast number of working people. This Bill does not represent a new policy so far as the Home Office is concerned. I want to make that unmistakably clear. The Government may have changed, a new Government may have come in, but I can assure the House that this desire to get to grips with the scourge of lead poisoning has been the policy of the Home Office for a considerable period. Moreover, let me remind the House that in recent years, altogether apart from the international aspect of the case, two Committees have been appointed by this House, or, at any rate, by the Department, to make investigations. We Lad the Hatch Committee, and we had a more recent Committee referred to repeatedly to-day as the Norman Committee. I listened with some surprise to the quotations that were made from the Norman Committee's Report. I may remind the House that that Committee reported as recently as February of last year. Those quotations tried to support the process of the wet rubbing down as against the dry process, but none of the speakers who quoted from the Report, so far as I recollect—that is, those speaking against the Bill—reminded the House that, whatever the Committee said about the dry process and the wet process, they did recommend the ratification of the Geneva Convention.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I repeat that hon. Members, while quoting what was said in the Report in favour of the dry or the wet process, did not make it unmistakably clear that the Committee recommended ratification.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
If I recollect aright, I think the hon. and learned Gentleman did make the statement, after the Under-Secretary raised the point. In view of what I have said, in view of th.2 case made out by the Under-Secretary, we in the Government feel that we are under an obligation to do all we can to secure 2565 the ratification of the agreement. It has been suggested that we might allow the Bill to be sent to a Select. Committee. We have to recognise in these things that we are in a minority, but, in spite of that fact, things can sometimes be put in such a way as to make the very suggestion impossible of acceptance. The hon. Member for South Croydon associated himself with the right hon. Gentlemen, but he went on to make qualifications. He went on to attach conditions. He was not content to leave the matter at the simple straightforward way of going to a Select Committee and allowing the Select Committee to deal with the matter. He began to talk about dividing the Bill into two.
We realise that by going to a Division to-day it may mean defeat. It may mean sudden death. I am riot sure, however, that I would not rather prefer sudden death, in view of the subject of the Bill, to the method of lead poisoning in Committee—the quicker method of disposal to the slower process! He went on to suggest that they could take a long time to deal with the only part of the Bill that is really seriously worth having. I do not suggest that the regulations should be dropped by the Government—not at all. If hon. Members have looked over the Factory Bill that has been in circulation now for a couple of weeks, I think they will see that, so far as regulations are concerned, it almost entirely meets the case of the remainder of the Bill once you take away Clause 1. No, I think I can suggest a much better way. The right hon. Gentleman, my predecessor, ventured to put forward the suggestion that we might give the Bill a Second Reading—so I understood him; that he would vote for the Second Reading.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
All I said was that I hoped that if the Bill embodied the regulations, it would pass at once, and that we could defer the other portions of the Bill to another time; that it would make no difference to anybody whether we ratified now or afterwards.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
But we would have to give the Bill a Second Reading to carry out the first suggestion that the, right hon. Gentleman now makes. We cannot go forward with the regulations unless we give the Bill 'a Second Reading. Then I was going to follow up by saying that if we give the Bill a Second Reading, when we get into Committee there would be a 2566 big fight as to whether Clause 1 stand or be deleted. That is a very fair proposition. If the House is prepared to give a Second Reading I am prepared to do the fighting in Committee. I want to go further. As I have already said, in view of the Factory Bill, I do not attach great importance to the regulations provided I get my Factory Bill, which I know every section of the House is ready to see carried through. If Clause 1 is deleted from the Bill by a majority of the Committee so far as I am concerned I will still proceed with the remainder of the Bill. That is as far as I am prepared to go. I think that is a very fair offer to give us the Second Reading, and then let us have a fight in Committee on Clause 1. If in Committee we can make out a case for Clause 1, then I think we are entitled to retain it. I hope, therefore, with this explanation my right hon. Friend opposite will be satisfied, and I trust the House will be prepared to give the Bill a Second Reading, and allow it to go to Committee, where we can make the best of it.
§ Mr. McENTEE
Almost everything I desired to say has been said already by other hon. Members. On this question do not claim to be an expert, although for a considerable number of years I have been associated with those who have worked in this trade, and I have closely observed the effect of lead poisoning. I do not think even if the wet rubbing-down process were adopted it would seriously lessen the number of lead poisoning cases. My own view on this point has been formed after a very close observation of the men at work, and it is that after adopting the wet rubbing-down process the poisonous matter sticks to the hands, and you have to have some very hot water and exceedingly strong soap to remove it. Under ordinary conditions I have seen painters at work, and I have noticed the effect of this mass of stuff on their hands and their clothes, and it would be impossible to remove the danger of this by the process which is suggested.
It appears to me that behind the movement to prevent the passing of this Bill there is some exceedingly powerful organisation, and it appears also to possess the power of influencing the Press. It seems to be quite impossible for those experts who are supporting this Measure 2567 to get their opinions properly placed before the public. I have heard many references to the letter written to the "Times" by Sir Thomas Oliver. I have read that letter, and I have also read a letter which was written in reply to it and which the "Times" refused to publish. That letter was written by a man who can claim to be a real expert in regard to this trade at the present time. It was not published in the "Times" and that may have been merely accidental. It was a letter written by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. O. Nicholson) and it appeared in the "Financial Times." The writer of the letter which was refused publication in the "Times" wrote a reply to the hon. Member for Westminster, and that letter was refused publication by the "Financial Times." Although the editor of that paper had given a guarantee that the letter would be inserted some influence was strong enough to prevent him as it had been strong enough to prevent the editor of the "Times" from publishing the evidence on the other side. I heard the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) who moved the rejection of the Bill make a quotation from the letter of Sir Thomas Oliver that there has not been any death from occupational lead poisoning for years. He did not tell us that that obviously must have referred to one town and one town only, because, according to the figures published by the Factories Department, there have been a great number of deaths right up to the present time. There is only one other matter to which I want to refer with regard to Sir Thomas Oliver. There is one quotation to which I would like Members to listen so that those who have not done so may at any rate make up their minds:Admittedly, the number of cases of lead poisoning in the Potteries during 1918 was low, as according to the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops, during 1918 to 1920 there were 19 cases with 7 deaths, but in 1921 the number rose to 35 cases with 11 deaths, and in 1922 to 42 cases with 17 deaths, this being far more serious than anthrax, which during 1922 was responsible for 45 cases and only 5 deaths. Indeed—this is exceedingly important—for 1922 lead poisoning in the Potteries heads the list of industrial diseases.I want to submit that if that be true, and no one will dispute it, then it is 2568 obvious that the only way to prevent it is by abolishing the use of lead in paint. Unfortunately, we cannot do that at the present time, but the least we ought to do is to accept the Resolution of the International Conference. It took 14 sittings of the experts before they came to a decision, and then they came to their decision by 19 in favour of the Convention, none against, and one present and not voting. I hope, therefore, that the House will give this Bill a Second Reading, so that it may be considered properly in Committee and amended in some way that will make it even more beneficial.
§ Major BURNIE
The Debate we have had this afternoon shows what an imperfect instrument this House is. Of all the speakers we have listened to to-day, only one hon. Member has, I should think, known the difference between white lead and zinc lead. Words are banded from one side of the House. to the other, and that is all it practically amounts to. But I am sure that every man and woman in this House is anxious to stop, or at any rate minimise, lead poisoning. The only thing we differ upon is as to character of the regulations to be framed, in order to bring about that desirable end. The issue is covered by an international Convention, and we are asked by the Government to receive that Convention and to ratify it as if it were not to be disputed in any way. Let me give one instance of the difficulty attending this question. In Liverpool there used to be a large trade in Paris green, one of the most poisonous substances known. We used to make it there and ship it to Canada. Canada now makes it herself If people were told that the making of this colour produced loathsome sores on the bodies of the men engaged in the industry they would want to stop its manufacture, not only here, but also in Canada. But the people of Canada use Paris Green for the purpose of killing the Colorado beetle. It is a very different situation that obtains in Canada from that which obtains here. In places like Liverpool, where the atmosphere is full of saline matters and moisture, zinc white is of no use. White lead is the only paint that will stand there. It holds the binding material, viz., linseed oil, longer than zinc, and is of a laminated and 2569 flaky character, has more body, and is not so easily rubbed off as the zinc. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Raynes) spoke to-day of the use of white lead in Derby.
§ Major BURNIE
I am sure the hon Member will admit that the climate in Liverpool is entirely different to that it Derby.
§ Mr. RAYNES
The particular case to which I called attention was that of the railway factory, and the paint is used not at Derby alone, but all over the Kingdom.
§ Major BURNIE
I am quite willing to admit that. For very many years, as we have been reminded this afternoon, we have been trying to find substitutes for white lead paint. Of late years the progress has been very much faster than it was before the War, and paints of that kind, as the hon. Member for Derby will know, are being used more and more for interior work. It is true that this Bill seeks to prohibit the use of lead paint for the interior painting of houses only, but if you question any painter, apart from those experts who seem to have been discovered in Brussels by various Conventions and people who have spoken here to-day—if you were to ask any painter who is painting your house at home whether, when he gets a discoloured and damp surface on the interior, he has not to apply a coat of white Jead, he will tell yon that in order to make the surface right zinc has not the body and will not do the work satisfactorily. I am as anxious as anyone in this House to do away with lead poisoning. I do not think that Clause 1 of this, Bill is a satisfactory Clause, but with the rest of the Bill I am heartily in agreement, and I think it could be strengthened up and made better. There is a difficulty in prohibiting interior white lead painting in houses which everyone who has had to do with the erection of houses will understand. For instance, the work that is made in the joiner's shop is primed in the shop. The sash frames and doors are all primed 2570 in the shop before ever they go near the building. How are you to see that one side of the sashes is primed with zinc and the other is primed with lead—because the outside of the sash will need to be primed with lead, Even if we presume that the priming of both sides with zinc is allowed, when the sashes are put into the house the outsides will need to be painted with white lead, and then, the next time, when the lead is rubbed down, the zinc below it will also be rubbed off. These are technical details which I can see quite clearly, though I may not be able to put them before the House as clearly as I should like, I would appeal to the Home Secretary to drop Clause 1. It is unfair, to my mind, to ask me to vote on the whole of a Bill of which Clause 1 is utterly unacceptable to me, while I should dearly like to have the remainder.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
May I ask the Home Secretary, before we proceed to a Division, and for the information of the House, if I understood him aright in this: I understood him to say that in the event of a Second Reading being given to this Bill, he would accept the decision on Clause 1 after in Committee debate, and, if it so happened that Clause 1 was defeated, he would still proceed with the remainder of the Bill. If that be ao—and that is what I understood him to say— I should for my part have no objection to allowing the Bill to have a Second Reading.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I gladly respond. That is exactly what I said, and I do not think it is necessary to say any more.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.