§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. MURRELL
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I wish to crave the indulgence of the House, this being the first time I have had the pleasure of addressing it, and also the first time, of course, that I have introduced a Bill. I should much have preferred to leave it to someone with larger experience of the procedure of the House, but I hope any failure on my part to state my case properly will not be prejudicial to the success of the measure passing into law. In order that I may present my case properly, I want to remind the House of the condition of industry previous to the War. Indeed, one might say one wants to go back to the pre-Trade Boards Bill position, when a great deal of bitter strife and industrial warfare was taking place. That was the result of the time when it was illegal for workers to combine for the purpose of improving their position and unfortunately, though with some exceptions, masters took advantage of the position to beat down wages and made the conditions of the workers so appalling that it drove a very large number of them down on to the starvation line. So appalling were the conditions in such trades as the chain-making industry, box-making, lace-making and tailoring, that this House was called upon to pass the Trade Boards Act, which fixed wages in these four industries and made the wage rate fixed compulsory upon the whole industry. This was passed in 1909, but it did not remove a good deal of the bitterness and resentment which filled the hearts of the workers, neither did it cure the attitude of the employer who regarded his business as his own business and did not want any interference by outside people. During 1913 there were a good many strikes and there was much industrial unrest, due to the fact that the workers and the masters were divided into two great camps fighting one another for the spoils of the industry, and they very nearly brought the industrial machinery of the country into great disorder.
Roughly, the industries of the country can be divided into three parts. There 760 are the unorganised industries, such as those I have described, which have been subject to the operations of the Trade Boards, there are the partially organised industries where local settlement of wages and conditions takes place, where there have not been very many national bodies represented, and there are the completely organised industries, nationally organised, where they are able to discipline their members on both sides. For the first section, the unorganised industries, the Trade Boards Acts have done a tremendous amount of good. There is no doubt about that. I know from my own personal experience of an industry to which the Act was applied that it has done a tremendous amount of good. A Commission was set up in 1917 for the purpose of discovering some way in which the less completely organised industries could be dealt with in the matter of wages and conditions. It was under your Chairmanship, Sir—and I think the industrial community must ever be grateful to you for the lead you gave in this question—that the Commission was appointed and worked to inquire into the needs of the industries which came under this second category. The result of that was the establishment of the Whitley Councils, bearing a name which is honoured in this House by all parties.
I should like to read the recommendations of the Whitley Report, because they embody the reason why these Joint Industrial Councils should be established, and it will help me to Kure that my Bill is going to be of great advantage to industry. The Report, recommended that National Councils should be set up. The means they recommended were the establishment of Joint Standing Industrial Councils. The Joint Councils thus would bring employers and workers together. As Standing Councils they would ensure regular meetings for the discussion of matters of common interest, and as Industrial Councils they would throw into relief questions that concerned each industry as a whole. fostering a common feeling for the industry, and would help both sides to realise the social importance of the industry as distinct from that of private interests. These meetings would be 'held to discuss matters of common interest and produce an atmosphere in which disputes, when they arose, should be settled by an appeal to 761 reason. The subjects out of which disputes arose would come up for discussion before feeling had been excited, and mutual misunderstanding and unnecessary suspicion would be reduced to a minimum. That is what they thought would happen when Joint Industrial Councils were suggested. I want to show presently how far that anticipation has been fulfilled, in particular in one or two of the Councils in which l am particularly interested.
The composition of these Joint Councils was to be exclusively of representatives of organisations on the workers' side and the masters' side, and they should be representative of the organisations of the industry, the largest number of workers and the largest number of employers, because if they were not able to provide this representation these industries were subject to the conditions of the Trade Boards Act. They were not sufficiently organised to be able to go into the. Joint Industrial Council movement. The idea was that in addition to the National Council, which was composed of representatives of the masters and the men, the machinery of the Council should be decentralised, so that in different areas there should be Joint Committees working under the National Council where disputes, or the re-arrangement of conditions, should be decided first of all in the localities, subject to the approval of the national body. The method of decentralisation has been of very great value because there have been hundreds of small troubles which have been settled in the localities by these joint bodies which, if they did not exist, would probably have resulted in great national strikes. I have belonged to a joint industrial council for the last four years in the. printing industry, and perhaps the House will be interested if I read a few of the objects which have been subscribed to by both masters and workers on the council. They cannot leave the council except by giving six months' notice. These objects are endorsed by the vote of both sides.
To promote good relationship between employer and employed; to secure cooperation and the recognition of mutual interests; to encourage direct contact between employers and workers; to devise ways and means of settling any differences that may arise; to resist the action of those who would injure the fair standard of 762 prices and wages by disposing of their goods or labour at less than the standard mutually agreed upon: to establish means for ensuring to the work people the greatest possible security of earnings and employment without undue restriction upon change of occupation or employer and to endeavour to minimise unemployment and casual labour.We deal with apprenticeship and health conditions in the factory and other things which come within the scope of the ordinary working conditions of factory life. It is fair for the House to ask whether there has been any success in these joint industrial councils. Speaking from my own personal knowledge, there have been many cases in which these councils have been able to bring about mutual agreement by putting all the cards on the table and by disclosing the position frankly and fairly between masters and men. In many cases where in former times there would have been cause for great industrial upheaval, matters have been settled amicably by the joint industrial councils. The joint industrial council has created a new spirit in industry on both sides. There was a time in my own industry when we looked upon our competitors as our enemies. We did not look upon our fellow master-printers as people with whom it was possible to become friends, but the joint industrial council has driven masters and men into their associations and unions, and we have found when we have come together that. we are not such bad fellows. We are able to work amicably together in our masters' associations and in the men's associations. The new spirit which has been created in industry by the joint industrial councils will do a. great deal to take off the edge of industrial difficulties.
The trades boards, which are applied to less organised industries than the joint industrial councils, have also resulted in a better state of feeling between the two sides in the industries in which the trades boards have been established. An extract from the Cave report on the Trades Boards, page 49, says:
The working of the Trade Board machinery by bringing the two sides together to discuss wages questions round a table has, in most cases, enabled each side to understand something of the other's point of view, and so has contributed to the growth of more satisfactory relations between the two sides, and has tended to prevent the occurrence of industrial disputes.763 If that has been possible under the trades boards, where the two sides have not been voluntarily brought together and where there is an independent chairman who has very often to settle the differences between the two sides, how much more may be expected where the two sides are free to decide and settle a dispute between themselves, both sides agreeing to observe any agreement which may be come to.
Joint industrial councils have been set up in the administrative departments of the Civil Service, and in Government Industrial Departments, and in 73 industries in the country. The joint industrial councils control, in so far as control can he exercised by voluntary measures, over 3,000,000 workers. At last, capital has made up its mind that it has to take labour into partnership. No longer can a master say that he does not want to use the intelligence and the helpfulness which we find in our factories, and he is prepared to accept the help which can be found in our industries and to give a chance to the man who works in the factory to express his views and offer his suggestions for a more economical Production of the work he is doing. On the other hand, labour must drop the class war and the social revolutionary ideas which have made it difficult for both sides to work together. [An HON. MEMBER: "Never!"] I have been in company with men who have spoken like that, men who, after having attended a joint industrial council have told me that they had made a mistake. I knew one man who came to our industrial council to wreck it, but he went out of the council a firm believer in the principles underlying the joint industrial council. That must have been the experience of many men who are members of joint industrial councils. What really matters is that there must be a change of attitude on both sides. It is by trust and determination to co-operate and to deal justly with each other that we shall get industry in this country put upon a firm and wide basis.
Unfortunately, we have no machinery for bringing the two sides together. The principle underlying the joint industrial councils was that they should be voluntary. That means that unless some public-spirited and high-minded person on the workers' side or on the masters' side 764 takes the trouble to place the advantages of a joint industrial council before the parties, no steps are taken to bring the two sides together. At the moment, it is supposed to be the duty of the Minister of Labour to do all he can to help in the matter, and he does so, but it is not his duty to call the two sides together and to lay before them the advantages of a joint industrial council. He cannot form a joint industrial council. It must be formed by both sides.
This Bill provides that it shad be the duty of the Minister of Labour to call the two sides together and to point out to them the advantages of forming a joint industrial council. It is then left to both sides to decide whether they shall or shall not form a council. That provision would remove the suspicion which very often occurs and which prevents both sides from being called together. When the employás say that they want a joint industrial council, the employers say, "what is the motive behind it?" When the employers want a council, the workers say, "what are they getting at?" If a perfectly neutral person calls the two sides together and says, "We find that in other industries a great deal of good has been done by these mutual conferences round a table, and I suggest that a council should be formed in your industry," it would go a long way to create the right atmosphere that would make these councils possible. The first and second clauses of the Bill provide for that.
If the conference decides that they want a joint industrial council then the rules and the constitution are to be submitted to the. Minister of Labour, and he must approve of them before the Council becomes properly embodied. He must be sure that the council is representative of the industry in which the council is being formed. It must be formed of representatives of both sides. In connection with the working of joint industrial councils we have found that after a lot of discussion and perhaps a lung time spent over coming to a decision. and a decision can only be got when there is agreement on both sides—it has been found that we have no power to make the man who is disloyal either to his union or to his masters' association, agree to observe the conditions which have been come to in the joint industrial council. This has had a bad effect in many instances on the work we have been able to do. There 765 was an association of joint industrial councils formed in January, 1920, and there were representatives of both sides, from 28 industrial councils and 14 industrial committees. The first resolution passed at the conference held on the 15th January, 1920, was:
This Conference is strongly of opinion that legislation should at once be commenced by the Government to give the necessary power to die Ministry of Labour when desired to make binding upon the whole industry any wages awards, agreements, or arrangements as to working hours and conditions arrived at by industrial councils.A Bill with that object was promoted in the House of Lords by Lord Islington in December, 1919, but it got no further than a Second Reading. This position was foreshadowed by the Whitley Report which says in paragraph 51—
It appears to us that it may be desirable at some later stage for the State to give the sanction of law to agreements made by the councils, hot the initiative in this direction should conic from the councils themselves.It is coming from the councils themselves. This Bill is drafted by the Association of Joint Industrial Councils. I am simply introducing it on their behalf. It arises out of the very conditions suggested in this paragraph and the need of this power has been felt by the industrial councils. The lack of this power has caused many of these councils to be disbanded, because they felt that there was no use in going on when they could not use any discipline over their Members. and had no power to bind them. Several of them are in suspension, and some of them will soon break up if something is not done in the direction suggested by this Bill. For instance, I have a report which has been sent to me by the National Joint Industrial Council for the granite and stone industry. It refers to the difficulties which exist in certain districts, and points out they have come to certain working agreement which they cannot enforce. Then it says that in order to be able to compete in such conditions some of the quarry owners have seceded from the Joint Industrial Council to save, their industries and some of the workmen have seceded from their trade unions to retain their employment.
It has been contended by public bodies that legislation has not imposed on them the recognition of joint industrial councils, but we submit that they were 766 set up at the instigation of the Government, and it is held out in the Whitley Report that when employers and employás are organised in an industry it should be made binding on both parties to observe the decisions arrived at. They say that unless they get this power, the joint industrial councils will not be able to continue their work. The Bill proposes in Clause 3 to give legislative effect to such decisions of joint industrial councils as they may appeal to the Minister of Labour to be allowed to exercise. It does not apply to every decision but only to decisions in respect of which they appeal. It is purely permissive. If a council does not want to use the power, it need not use it. If there is only one council that wants to use the power you ought to give it that power if it is going to help it in its work. The fact that they have the power will make it unnecessary for many councils to use it. When a decision is arrived at by a joint industrial council there must he a majority of both sides, before an application can be made to the Minister of Labour. I am told that there must be a safe-guarding of minorities. That is provided for in Sub-section (2) of Clause 3, which gives time for an appeal and an inquiry by the Minister of Labour, and the final decision about making an order rests with the Minister of Labour. If representations are made to him that injustice has been done to certain sections of the industry it is for him to consider the matter and decide whether he will make the Order. Then it lies before both Houses of Parliament for 14 days, and if either House presents an Address against the draft Order no further proceedings can be taken there under. So there is ample provision for the protection of minorities. If there is anything objectionable which it is thought should not be made compulsory, those who object have ample opportunity of being heard.
Then we are told that possibly a joint industrial council may represent only a minority in the industry. That is impossible because no joint industrial council would be recognised by the Minister of Labour unless it were representative of the industry in which it had been formed. But if there be any real danger of that kind I see no reason why a clause should not be added in Committee which would have the effect of 767 preventing at any rate a minority of an industry legislating for a majority. Then we are told that there is a possibility of a joint industrial council becoming so powerful as to make conditions for themselves which would be harmful to the general public. That is provided for in Clause 4, by the establishment of a central industrial council representative of the joint industrial councils. This central council would consist of consumers of the products of each individual council and the entire council would be investigating the orders in individual cases.
The central council is set up for the purpose of considering any appeals which may be made against orders by the Ministry of Labour, to give general assistance and advice to the joint industrial councils of which it is composed, and to see that no conflicting decisions are arrived at by joint industrial councils, and also when a request is made by both sides to act as a Board of Arbitration. Under the Bill statutory powers are to be given to decisions of this Council. There may be some objection to that, but I think that can be met in Committee by the insertion of a clause to make the procedure of the Central Industrial Council the same as that of the ordinary industrial council in the event of their wanting to have an order made of one of their decisions. Many hon. Members of the Labour Party find it difficult to support the Bill because of a decision which was taken at the Trade Union Congress at Plymouth last year. I am strongly of opinion that that decision was taken under a misapprehension, and that those who addressed the Congress did not realise the needs of joint industrial councils before they called for this adverse vote to be taken.
The Trade Union Congress in 1922 set up a special Committee to consider the draft Bill, which had then been before the public for about two years. The Subcommittee appointed to go into the matter reported entirely in favour of the principle. I have the recommendation here. They recommended that what we ask for be granted, but when it went to the General Council they were so divided that they decided to put it before the Congress without any recommendation at all. What happened was this: The principal speaker and the one 768 who had the greatest amount of influence on the vote was the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. He represents the Miners' Federation and they have no joint council in the Miners' Federation. He asserted that if this Bill were passed it would mean compulsory arbitration. There is not the slightest sign of compulsory arbitration in the Bill. You cannot possibly twist any of the conditions in the Bill into conditions that would make for compulsory arbitration, because the Bill is based solely upon joint voluntary action. The statement made by the Secretary for War before the Congress was, therefore not justified by the conditions in the Bill. The Vote taken at Plymouth has nothing to do with the Bill at all, because those who voted gave their votes against compulsory arbitration. Hon. Members are not voting against compulsory arbitration to-day because we do not ask for it. Members who feel themselves tied by the decision of the Trade Union Congress should reconsider their decision.
Further opposition to the Bill came from the hon. Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor). I was sorry, for he happened to be a member on our own joint industrial council and I am not sure that now he would not make the speech that he made at the Congress. He said at. Plymouth:
There will be no further inducements for non-unionists to join the union, if they get all the benefits of trade unionism by the legal enforcement of these agreements. That is sufficient reason of itself for Congress to reject the recommendations of the Sub-Committee.Knowing this gentleman as I do, I am sure that that statement was not made with due thought. Moreover, all the evidence is against him. When trade boards were formed they had not the effect of driving people out of the trade unions, but rather brought people into the unions.—[Hot. MEMBERS: "No!"]—I have the evidence here. The Cave Report, paragraph 47, says:
Finally, we think that it is established that the operation of the system has led to a strengthening in organisation on both sides.I took the trouble to inquire at 32, Eccleston Square as to the. effect on trade unions of the trade boards, and I was told:—It is certainly correct to say that the membership of the Women's Trade Union 769 League and the National Federation of Women Workers was largely increased by the introduction of trade boards.That is the best evidence I can get. was further told that:—
workers in many cases could not afford to join the unions before the boards were set up. On the whole trade boards undoubtedly increased membership of trade unions. Organisation of the workers as provided by the unions is necessary for the running of the hoards.Let me deal with the question of penalties. At Plymouth one gentleman, Mr. Robinson, of the Distributive and Allied Workers, said he had no faith in the provision that the Minister a Labour should exercise the power of taking action against those who broke the law in the matter, that he had put many cases in connection with trade boards before the Minister of Labour and that nothing was done. Since 1923 we have eliminated the responsibility of the Minister of Labour to exercise penalties and have placed it upon the joint council concerned. There is a Clause in the Bill making that provision. There was another misleading argument used at the Trade Union Congress. Mr. I. T. Brownlie, of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, said:
The question is, shall voluntary agreements entered into by trade unions and employers' associations he legalised by an authority competent to legalise such agreements?He was not in favour of that. But that is not the question at all. The question is, shall agreements entered into by joint industrial councils be legalized? That is a different matter altogether. There are many trade unions in joint councils. After all that was said at Plymouth the vote was taken by a show of hands, and the Chairman declared that the resolution rejecting the principle was carried. That decision has tied the hands of the workers' side on all the joint councils since. In our own council I brought the matter up, and I found at once that the workers' side was not willing to vote on it because of the decision at the Trade Union Congress at Plymouth. It was not because they did not want the power, but simply because they were not willing to vote against the decision at Plymouth. The curious thing is that at the same Congress, in dealing with disputes between cooperative societies and the trade unions they actually proposed a Joint Concilia- 770 tion and Arbitration Council, and this is one of the provisions:
In the event of failure to secure agreement the National Council shall offer to make an award, provided the parties are willing to accept such award as binding.It is most illogical to turn down this Bill and, in the case referred to, to pass a resolution of that character. The Government has in many cases given the powers for which we are asking. The trade board enforces its decision against a man who does not want to agree to it. Next Monday we are to discuss Agricultural Wages Boards and a provision that decisions shall be compulsory. We ask for only the same power for these Joint Industrial Councils. In the proposed housing scheme there is to be a provision that the fixed rate of wages agreed upon in Joint Committees shall be compulsory and binding upon everyone who employs labour or accepts work under the housing scheme. Even supposing that, nationalisation of all the means of production, distribution and exchange takes, place, it will be necessary to have some means of settling wages. There will have to be some joint council. Someone will be in charge; you cannot all be in charge; there will be someone controlling. Who is going to fix the rate as between the body that controls and the workers? There must be some joint settlement and that must be binding on everyone who works. We are asking only for a principle which is actually embodied in the doctrines of Socialism.
What support have I for this Bill? The Trade Union Congress vote has tied the hands of a large number of workers, but in spite of that we have 19 actively functioning Councils which have passed resolutions in favour of the Bill. Two voted against it. Forty-nine Joint Councils and Reconstruction Committees are actively working. There are 25 Councils at present whose decisions are influenced by the vote taken at the Trade Union Congress at Plymouth. We wait for unanimity and we do not try to force-the issue, but we have this measure of support from the Joint. Industrial. Councils. Further there is a desire on all hands that there should be larger disc cussions of the difficulties which all industries are feeling at the present time and if only people who spend time in talking about the League of Nations settling international difficulties, would spend 771 more time in trying to solve the difficulties of our industrial system and to make peace at home as well as peace abroad, we should get on very much better than we are doing at the present time. The principle of collective bargaining cannot be maintained unless there is some force behind the arrangements which are arrived at. I have an extract from the book "Trade Unionism" written by Mr. W. A. Appleton.
§ Mr. MURRELL
This extract reads as follows:Given a desire on both sides for fair dealing, plus effective machinery, and there is no solvable industrial problem beyond the capacity of these joint boards of employers and employás.If only one council wants the power and feels it can do its work more efficiently by having the power, then I think this House ought not to prevent such a council from having that power, and I hope this Bill will receive a Second Reading.
§ Mr. ISAACS
I beg to second the Motion.
Like the hon. Member who has just spoken, I am exercising the privilege of addressing the House for the first time, and I am glad to do so in the calm of to-day following the storm of yesterday. It is usual for those who address the House immediately after a maiden speech to compliment the maker of that speech on his effort. I do not know whether that opportunity should, in the circumstances, be taken advantage of by me, but I will put it in this way, that I only hope to do as well as the hon. Member for Westop-super-Mare (Mr. Murrell) has done. This Bill is an attempt to encourage industries to promote industrial councils. I, too, have had some years' experience of an industrial council in the same industry as that of the hon. Member who has just spoken. I am on the opposite side of that industry and I am in a different political camp from the hon. Member, but I find when we meet to deal with industrial matters, although apparently opposed to each other, we can see eye to eye very often, and we have been able to act for the benefit of the industry. I wish to see the industrial councils having more power, and I wish to see, more of them in the country. I do not want any compulsion. I have been, and always shall be, totally opposed to 772 any kind of compulsory arbitration. No good can be got out of it, and whatever may be the award it is suspect by one side or the other, but if you can shut people into a room for long enough, provided they have some kind of intention of agreeing, they usually will agree. We witness what is very much the same thing in this House. There is an inclination very often to remain sitting until a late hour unless the Eleven o'clock Rule is suspended, and then we get away earlier than usual.
There can be no industrial council under the Bill unless there is a, genuine desire on both sides. The Mover has dealt very largely with the various Clauses of the Bill which relieves me from the necessity of saying much about them. The Bill does not compel the Minister of Labour to set up councils, but merely places upon him the responsibility and obligation of ascertaining where an industrial council is desired by an industry. There was a great deal of truth in what was said by the Mover, that if one side of an industry approaches the other side for a joint industrial council there is suspicion. I am associated with two industries which are closely related. One has a joint industrial council. In the other, which is concerned with the manufacture of printers' ink and rollers we have a very good relationship between employers and employed. The industry is organised almost to the highest pitch possible, yet each time the workers' side ask for a joint industrial council they fail to get one, and the other side are not even willing to discuss it—so there must be some good in the system from the workers' point of view, if the employers are afraid of it. Clause 2 leaves the power to modify or revoke the rules and constitution of an industrial council, in the hands of the council itself. If the Minister succeeds in inducing an industry to establish a council and approves the rules, it is entirely in the hands of the council to revoke or modify those rules if they so desire, so that there is an absence of compulsion.
The most important point in this Clause, to my mind, is the provision that the Government shall recognise the Council officially in matters affecting the industry. If the Printing Trade Joint Industrial Council were officially recognised by the Government as the voice of the printing industry, we should be closer to the penny post to-day than we are. Again, 773 the functions of a council are only such as are specified in the constitution of the council itself. There is a great deal of fear that this Bill might lay clown functions which a council did not wish to adopt, but it is entirely permissive in that respect. The council may adopt all the functions in the Schedule or some of them, or others which are not in the Schedule. I could indicate some functions exercised by the council to which I belong which have proved exceedingly useful, and in regard to which we are strengthening as thou days go by rather than weakening. In regard to the powers of the councils there are several things to be considered. There is the interest of the industry, the interest of the work-people and the interest of the public. There must be a safeguard against an industry getting together its workmen and employers in a combination to exploit the public. There is adequate protection as regards that in the provision that the Minister may vary an Order, and further, that an Order must be laid on the Table in both Houses of Parliament, so that, if necessary, steps may be taken to prevent it being enforced. The public interest is adequately safeguarded, and when we realise that the workers and employers themselves are members of the public, I think we can leave it to their commonsense and their desire to do the right thing not to attempt to exploit the public.
The industry is protected by the establishment, of the central board. If the industry disagrees with the Order of the Minister they may appeal against his decision and try to secure a further hearing of their case. It is an interesting fact that, as a rule, employers who join penalise themselves but I have, not found any trade union which has penalised itself by joining. If employers agree with unions in a council for certain conditions of employment and put those conditions into operation, and if employers who are not in the council take advantage of the opportunity to evade those responsibilities, then it does damage to the industry and to the people employed in it. That is emphasised by the fact that when there was trouble in the Transport Workers Council it was because the employers found it was impossible to hind firms not belonging to their federation. As a result, decisions arrived at between employers and employed in the Industrial 774 Council were defeated by the unassociated firms declining to adopt them. Here you have an example of an industry attempting to do better and people not organised defeating its objects.
I would like to draw upon my own personal experience in connection with a Joint Industrial Council in an endeavour to show what has been done in these directions. I took part in the early days in the formation of the Printers' Industrial Joint Council, and I have had the privilege of being a member of it ever since and have been in regular attendance at its meetings. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill read an extract from its constitution. I remember how many weary months it took us to frame that constitution, and how jealous we are, now that we have got it, that it shall not be amended without very careful exploration and examination. We had to fight each other very bitterly, but quite friendly—the same as I notice fights are in this House—before we were able to agree, and time after time the attempt to float the Council was nearly wrecked. If the printing industry had been able to go a little quicker than it did, it would have had the privilege of having the first Joint Industrial Council, because we were discussing what, was known as betterment in the printing industry long before Mr. Speaker's Committee began to get to work at all. We are disappointed that, because of our jealousy on both sides, we did not get Council No. 1, but, on the other hand, we are glad that we gave such exhaustive consideration to the proposals before us before we hammered out the constitution, because we believe that it is one that is going to be worthy of all that we desired of it.
Our Industrial Council covers the entire industry, that is, all the printing industry, including the provincial newspapers, but not the London newspapers. The London newspapers have not yet come into our Council, perhaps, because they fear that the Joint Council might want to exercise some control over the things they say. We do not desire that as much as it is necessary. This Joint Industrial Council works through Committees, and these Committees have been set up to deal with several affairs. I will quote only one or two to show the value of the work they are doing, and the very great necessity there is for having a Council which is able to enforce 775 its decisions on every section of the industry. We have established, among others, Conciliation, Apprenticeship, and Health Committees. The Conciliation Committee is a most peculiar Committee. We are totally opposed to compulsory arbitration, and in connection with a Trade Board with which I am associated a year or two back we got together, outside the Trade Board machinery. This is a most important point, that in this industry, the paper bag industry, the Paper Bag Trade Board enabled the employers and workmen to get together, with the result that we had meetings outside the control of the Paper Bag Trade Board, and were able to establish conditions that, we could never have dreamed of before, and we went back into the Trade Board, laid those conditions on the table, and got them recognised as the conditions for the Trade Board.
I suggested, at a private meeting of employers and workmen, our Industrial Council conciliation procedure, but the gentleman who was there representing one of the other side—he was a lawyer—said it was a most illogical thing and that it could not possibly act. Well, it has acted, because it is illogical. The Committee consists of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council for the time being, a workman and an employer, and the contesting parties to the Committee, who are bound, under our Joint Industrial Council constitution, to take their case to the Conciliation Committee before they embark upon any aggressive action by either side. The status quo must be maintained until the Conciliation Committee has heard the case, but the Conciliation Committee having heard the case, you need not accept their decision unless you like, and you can do as you like afterwards. The parties nominate the Committee. The trade union nominate three from their side and the employers nominate three from their side, and we get into conference. We do not observe any legal formalities of any kind, we interrupt each other as much as we want, and no decision has ever been come to by the Conciliation Committee—they merely express an opinion. They express what is the opinion of that Committee, and I think I am right in saying that in only one case has that opinion been turned 776 down by both sides and a settlement not been reached. Time and time again we go in and argue matters out, and in the interests of the industry we are able to find some recommendation to both sides which they are at liberty to accept or reject. They are not even asked, when they come, whether they are prepared to accept the findings or not. We simply take our chance and hope we shall find some way out, and usually we do, and I hold the opinion that if we can find the way out by argument before strike notices are tendered and before the men come out, it is ever so much better than trying to do it afterwards. I am not by any means an old man, but I have had 15 years' experience as general secretary of a trade union. It has been my business to handle men on strike and to negotiate settlements, but I would rather try to do all I could to get a settlement long before a strike became possible than afterwards, yet I say, while I am totally opposed to compulsory arbitration, I would never be a party to agreeing to give up the power to strike, which we must retain. Rather, I would put the power to strike in a safer and put the key in somebody else's keeping, so that it will be such a jolly lot of trouble finding the key that you prefer to go the other way about.
So much for our Conciliation Committee. Then there is our Apprenticeship Committee. I am not sufficiently acquainted with other industries to know what they do, but in the printing industry there has been established in London a very useful technical trade school, quite close to this House, which is now controlled by the London County Council. Many of the printing firms and the trade unions together have reached an agreement that the apprentices must go to the technical school and that they must go in the employers' time. The employer is compelled, under arrangements made through the auspices of the Council, which we hope will be finally endorsed by the Council, but the arrangement is actually in operation without waiting for that endorsement, and the best employers in the printing industry send their lads to this school in their time. We say that it is for the benefit of these lads the benefit of the industry, and certainly for the benefit of the community, because it is clearly in the interests of the community that the growing craftsmen of the future should have the best possible knowledge of their 777 industry that can be obtained for them. Where any employer refuses his boy's time to go to that school, and the lad is anxious to go, he goes in the evening, and pays the fees himself, but it is not fair to a growing lad that he should have to go to the technical school after his day's work is done. It is not fair to the community, and it is not fair to the industry, that one employer, because of his callousness to that lad, should be able to get an extra day's work out of him every week, as compared with the decent employer. We should be glad, therefore, if we could compel the acceptance of these conditions throughout the industry.
In regard to wages, the Printing Trades Joint industrial Council never touches wages. Up to now we have always decided that wages are such highly technical matters that they must be dealt with by the various trades forming part of the Council. The printing industry covers eight separate and distinct trades, in each of which are very many ramifications, and we have decided, as I say, not to touch wages, but, on the other hand, I can quite readily see the possibility of even the separate Unions forming a Council, asking the Council to agree to the enforcement of their wages legally. Under the conditions that now exist we have National wage agreements. My own union has one, in common with others, and we find, that in the large areas, where men are well organised, we can get our wage rate paid, but that in the smaller areas, where there a-re only 10 or 12 men in the industry in a partieular town or village, the rates are low and they are not paid, low as they are, but the employers there are actually competing with the workpeople and the employers in the nearest town by getting the work from other towns at lower rates. Further, in our industry we have what is known as an hours and holiday agreement. We have an agreement which regulates the working hours at 48 per week, and in that agreement we have a. provision that all workpeople in our industry, boys and girls, men and women, in all departments, shall lie paid for every Bank Holiday, and, in addition to that, they are to be paid for all statutory holidays. That is why we would like to see an announcement in this country that an extra holiday will be given by Statute. [An HON. MEMBER: "May Day."] Yes, let us have a May Day by Statute, and 778 let our fellows be paid for it. That has been a valuable concession, but there is something far more valuable than that. I believe we are the only industry that has got, as a condition of employment in the industry, one week's holiday a year with pay. [An EON. MEMBER: "It is not the only one."] I am glad to know it is more general than I thought. There are employers in this country who are not paying their workpeople for their holiday. The trade is so jealous of this boon that it insists on the men taking a week away from work, whether they go to the seaside or not. There are men who would be glad to have a week's pay instead of the holiday, but the union places so much value on the holiday that it insists on the week being taken. We have many firms not doing this, and when we have a difficulty with a firm who will not recognise this, the first thing we usually do is to go to the employers' association and say to them, "There is a firm in this little place who are not recognising the conditions," and such is the spirit that has grown up under the industrial council that, in nine cases out of ten, the employers' side goes to that firm and induces them to recognise the conditions. Of course, it is in the interests of the employers, but we do not mind that so much, if it is in our interests at the same time, and we are able to safeguard our position and get improvement for those people.
There is another important thing, and that is our Health Committee. We study conditions of health in the printing industry. We are very glad to know the Home Secretary is considering some Amendment of the Factory Laws, and they need it. I can take you into printing offices where no attempt is made to better disgraceful conditions. I know a press room in London where a man stands up to feed a printing machine, which is always running, so it is called "Charley's Aunt." To feed this machine he has to put his chin on his breast, because his head cannot otherwise clear the ceiling. We want to change such conditions, and I want to pay a tribute to the employers in my industry for the eagerness and willingness they have shown to change conditions. After all, we must give the devil his due sometimes. [An HON. MEMBER: "The printer's devil"] Yes, I have been one of them. We want to speak of the good in employers, just as we speak of the bad in them. In our Health Committee we have 779 done great work. With the assistance of the Home Office, we have been able to tackle the question of lead poisoning, which is serious in our industry, and able to recommend a special kind of apparatus to be used to prevent lead poisoning. We want legislation to insist upon employers making use of these things, so that one firm shall not be allowed to poison their men while another firm keeps them healthy.
There is a very happy custom in this country of exchanging Xmas and New Year greeting cards. The bronze dusting on these cards is a source of danger to those in the industry, but the industry has consulted together, and has tried a new system which will produce the gold colour just as well as the bronze dusting. The old idea that a pint of milk would cure the evil has proved fallacious, especially when you do not get the milk. We shall want legislation to insist on the new system being adopted, and bronzing abolished altogether. Then we have dealt with the question of ventilation. The industry has issued a leaflet to employers dealing with ventilation and general questions of health, cleansing and sanitation, which cannot be enforced in our industry unless we get some power behind it. Finally, we have dealt with the terrible disease of consumption. The printing industry suffers worse from tuberculosis than any industry, in this country and in the world. The death-rate from consumption is higher in the printing industry than any other industry. We are trying to find out the cause, and if we find that certain standards of ventilation and so forth are necessary, then, in the interest of the industry, we have a right to come to Parliament to enforce any necessary order.
I have ventured to draw upon my experience of the work of a joint industrial council. I have been engaged in the printing industry since I was 12 years of age. I have been an official of a union for 15 years, and a member of the joint industrial council since its formation, and I say to all hon. Members of the House that I would rather lose anything in the industry than the joint industrial council. When we come to grips with our employers on important questions, the thing that brings us together, and 780 compels us to reach a settlement, is the fear of breaking up the joint industrial council. The very fear that it may go has made us reach a settlement time after time when a settlement seemed impossible. We do not want to go back to the old, old times of separate negotiations in every town, and separately meeting the employers, one union after another, and one being played off against another. We want to meet together and discuss these matters in the industry as a whole, and if this Bill gets a Second reading, and the necessary Amendments in Committee that will make it acceptable to this House, we honestly believe it will open a new era of prosperity in the industry. We want better conditions and better wages for the men, but, above all, we want to know that the employers appreciate the men's point of view, and treat each other as human beings.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now" and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
I would like to congratulate the Mover and Seconder of the Bill on the excellent speeches they have made. I am afraid I must add that it seems to me a great waste of intellectual effort that such good speeches should be made in support of so indifferent a Bill as this one. I rise as a Socialist, to move the rejection of this Bill. I preach Socialism in my constituency, and I see no reason why I should not advocate it in this House. As I see this Bill, I am bound to say that, fundamentally, it is the very antithesis of what I consider to be Socialism. The basis of this Bill is that you should split industry into two sections, employed and employers. That, I know, is in accordance with present-day facts. There are two such divisions in industry, but this Bill makes a very large assumption that that division has got to continue. It assumes that you are going to continue to have employers and employed, and it seeks by means of the clauses and provisions in this Bill to perpetuate that division of the two classes. The Labour movement, as I understand it, is fundamentally opposed to that kind of division. We want to see it obliterated as early as possible, and we are not prepared to assist in a Measure of this sort which seeks to perpetuate that division. I see that the right hon. Gentle- 781 man the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), speaking a few days ago at the National Liberal Club, said:—The need to-day was liberty, which was never more in danger. Liberty was becoming old-fashioned and Liberalism was its only friend. The business of the Liberal Party was to make it more fashionable.I am bound to say, looking at this Bill, I cannot discover any real liberty embodied in it. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] No, this Bill is not designed to free the workers of industry from the bonds which bind them to capital. It is not designed for that purpose at all. It is designed to wrap round those bonds a certain amount of cotton wool in order that those concerned shall not notice them so much. That is not my conception of liberty. I believe I am right in saying that this is one of the products of the Forward school of the Liberal Party. Surely this is not what followed the deep searchings of heart and the great consultations that have taken place at the Liberal summer school?
§ Mr THURTLE
If this is really all the Liberal Party can bring forth after labouring so heavily, there is not very much hope in store for that Party. There is one very significant feature about all these schemes of industrial reconstruction which are brought forward from time to time by hon. Friends below the Gangway and by hon. Gentlemen opposite. [An HON. MEMBER: "And what about yourselves?"] I think we get down to the root of the matter when we bring forward our schemes of industrial reconstruction. In the schemes put forward by Liberals or Conservatives you always find that, whatever else the scheme does, there is in it one right which remains sacred and untouched—that is the right of the employer—the right of capital to live upon the employed. Whatever may be the arrangement proposed, whatever the particular amelioration suggested, that particular right is regarded as sacrosanct. It is never touched. This particular Measure is a very good illustration of that.
You will find, indeed, if you examine the Measure, there is hardly a reference at all to the question of profits. That is the root of the problera—what you are 782 going to do with all the fruits of industry and as to how you are going to divide the profits that accrue after the usual charges? There is the charge for management, for debenture, preference, and ordinary interest and the charge for labour. What are you going to do with the surplus? This particular Bill avoids that issue. There is a pious sentence in paragraph (iii) of the schedule:having regard to the need for securing to the workpeople a share in the increased prosperity of the industry.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!] If hon. Friends below the Gangway are able to cheer that, they must be very much in need of something to cheer. We know by experience what this increased participation in the profits of industry reallymeans. It means those very moderate profit-sharing schemes by which the workman gets a half, it may be even a quarter per cent of the gross profits of a particular Company; and things of that sort. No real large and adequate share is proposed to be given by this Bill to the workers out of the profits of industry. I am reminded by this Bill of an old saying or aphorism which I have used before and doubtless so have hon. Friends here on many occasions; that is the saying that the capitalist is prepared to do anything to win over the worker except to get off his back. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I hear pained expressions from hon. Members. The truth sometimes does hurt. I find the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, making a speech a short time ago and he said this:—The Tory Party and the Liberal Party are both wrong in their diagnosis of the real need of the country. It is not a better distribution of wealth it requires so much as a. greater creation of wealth.
§ Mr. THURTLE
On that particular point I am glad to join issue with hon. Members. The philosophy behind this Bill—that what you want in industry to-day is not a just distribution but a greater production—is absolutely false. I note that in paragraph (i) of the Schedule it speaks of—the better utilisation of the practical knowledge and experience of the workpeople.There is nothing wrong with that sentiment. The workpeople have great prac- 783 tical knowledge. They have great experience. They can contribute very materially to increased production. I think I can say for the workpeople that they are prepared to make their contribution to increased production, but they desire to make it upon terms. If you say to the workmen: "We want you to give us of your experience and your practical knowledge in order to pile up profits, and in return we will only give you a very paltry share of those increased profits," you are not going to get co-operation from the workmen on that basis. The workmen are prepared to say this: "If, as a result of our experience and practical knowledge, we are able to increase the output, and if in consequence you are prepared to give us the full fruits of that increase, then upon that basis we are willing to co-operate with you." Nothing is said about that in this Bill. I believe it is true that there is great anxiety on the part of the Liberal party to win back the workers of this country, and that is very natural. If the Liberal party is going to survive, it is as plain as a pikestaff that they will have to win back vast numbers of industrial workers who have left them.
§ Mr. THURTLE
Yes, but I take the writing on the wall at Kelsingrove. The number of industrial supporters of the Liberal Party has seriously decreased since the last election, and it is plain that unless you get back the industrial workers the Liberal Party has no future before it, and it is likely to come to a very early and certainly inglorious extinction. I now come to the fundamental part of this Bill. I would like to say, in passing, that the Liberals have not yet learned the thoughts which are passing in the minds of working people at the present time, and if you take this Bill as the final fruit of Liberal political philosophy then that philosophy will never suit the working classes. A very large number of workers regard the present industrial system as inherently unjust and unfair. They object to having their labour exploited in order to provide profits and dividends for employers. This is no figment of my imagination or a street corner platitude. Talk to the organised workers in the big industries and the smaller industries, as I 784 have done in the East End of London, and what do they say? They say, "Why should we slave ourselves to death in order to pile up profits for our employers." If you talk to the workers in London, Manchester or Glasgow you will find that idea is very deeply rooted in their minds. I am prepared to admit that that is an idea which has been cultivated and fostered by the Labour Party. We object to an industrial system which permits such a large proportion of the products of the workers to go to those who perform functions not at all proportionate to the large rewards they obtain. As time goes on and the workers find out the injustice of this system they will not be satisfied with any expedient such as that which is proposed in this Bill. They will demand a reorganisation of society in the way the Labour Party propose to reorganise it. As a matter of fact, those who think they can bring back the frame of mind of the workers to that of 20 or 30 years ago are living in a fool's paradise. The worker to-day has lost his belief in the morality of the present system, and, what is as important, he has lost his belief in the intellectual superiority of his employer. He believes that he has in his own ranks people with sufficient intellect and business ability to run an industry, and he therefore does not think his employer should receive the extraordinary reward that he gets at the present time.
I know hon. Members are very much concerned with the position of industry to-day, and they honestly want to inprove the condition of the workers. I invite those hon. Members to really get to grips with the problem, and I ask them to consider 'what I have just said about the root injustice of the system which enables people who do not perform any useful function to get a great slice out of the product of labour. If hon. Members below the Gangway will convince themselves on that point, then they will not bring forward Measures of this sort, 785 because industry requires to be re-organised root and branch, and if they are convinced of this they ought to join the only party which is prepared to carry out that reorganisation.
I want to deal with one or two details of the Bill. In the first place, I would say that this Bill, even as it stands, is largely unnecessary. Take the Schedule, and the first six or seven items which are dealt with. I take it these items are considered to be the main purpose of this Bill. I would like to point out that you have already existing machinery adequate for dealing with these matters. You have in your trade union and trade union executives machinery quite sufficient for securing for the workpeople a greater share and responsibility for the determination and observance of the conditions under which their work is carried on. That machinery can deal with such matters as the fixing of pay and re-adjusting wages and disputes arising between employers and workers, and so on. You can go all down the list, and you will find that there is existing to-day in the trade unions and their executives machinery for grappling with all these points. I submit, even on that ground, that the Bill is unnecessary. It is proposed to give legal powers to the decisions arrived at by these industrial councils. I would invite those hon. Friends of mine who are likely to be tempted into supporting this Bill to consider very carefully this aspect of the Measure. It is proposed, providing a majority of a council agree to a particular proposal, that that proposal shall be submitted to the responsible Minister, and shall be laid upon the Table of the two Houses for 14 clays, and that, at the end of that time, it shall have legal force. I would point out that it provides for merely a bare majority.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I have evidently misread the Bill in that particular. It is a bare majority of each House which is provided for in the Bill. Then, having got this and got your legal sanction, you are going to penalise in a very drastic fashion those who break away from the agreement. You are going to fine the workman who dissents from this agreement, and expresses his dissent in the 786 ordinary way, £50. Then you may go on and imprison him without the option of a fine. I hope that my hon. Friends who are trade unionists will be very careful indeed before they support a proposal of that kind. I would like also to point out this fact. This proposal to lay the agreement upon the Table of both Houses of Parliament, which has been put forward as a safeguard for the workers, is, in fact, no safeguard at all. If there be not a majority in this House on the side of the employers, as there may very well not be at the time, there always will be a majority in the other place on the side of the employers, and, if by some extraordinary chance a particular agreement be arrived at by an industrial council conceding a very considerable amount to the workers, as opposed to the employers, will there be anything easier than for some good friend of that particular industry in another place to get an Address passed against any further proceedings being taken in the matter? It will always be possible in the other place, whatever may happen here, to get a majority to protect any interests of the employers which may be affected by an industrial council.
I will not take up any more time of the House, but I have said what I felt ought to be said from these benches. If I know anything about the Labour party, it is a Socialist party. It believes in the principles of Socialism, and the scheme of society foreshadowed in these particular proposals is fundamentally opposed to the Socialists' conception of society. Therefore, I think it is very necessary that that point of view should be put forward from these benches. I say that there is no case for this particular Measure. Because it presupposes the continued existence of employers and employed, because it does not go dawn to the root of the problem of how profits should be distributed, because there is already existing machinery in the trade union movement for dealing with most of the things with which the Bill proposes to deal, and because in this proposal to give legal sanction to these decisions of industrial councils, backed up by the very heavy penalties foreshadowed in the Bill, there is a very great danger to the workers of this country, and there are no adequate compensating advantages. Therefore, I have much pleasure in moving 787 that this Bill be read a Second time upon this day six months.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I beg to Second the Amendment.
I do so as a Socialist and as a representative of the engineers and the shipbuilding industry of this country. We members of the working-class, we in the workshops, know from practical experience what the Whitley Councils have meant, with all due respect to you, Mr. Speaker. I am one of those members of the working-class who really believe that you, Sir, were actuated with the very best motives, but that you really did not understand; and I, as a representative of the engineers who were made to suffer in no uncertain fashion because of the Whitley Councils and the industrial councils put into operation by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), say on behalf of my class to you in the presence of the British Empire, because it is to the British Empire I am speaking, that it is as true to-day as it was 2,000 years ago:Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.But there is a change, and the change is this. The men from the engineering shops, the skilled workers, have sent their representatives here, and their point of view now will be submitted to this House. We believe that the Whitley councils, the industrial councils, and the trade boards are all with a view to legalising wage slavery. The worker is to be a slave. The workers refuse any longer to be slaves, and we are here to let you understand that your day has gone. There may be individuals who will rise even on these benches and try to placate these people and try to be nice to hon. Members on the benches opposite, but that will never be said of me. I am here as the representative of my class, who have been butchered and who have been bled white by the ruling class of this country —by the financial magnates of this country—and the object of this Bill is to perpetuate that system and to legalise white slavery in this country. It is bad enough that the workers should be slaves, but to deny them their right to assert their freedom immediately they have the intelligence to assert it is a libel on the Labour party. I do not think it right that anyone on these benches 788 should be prepared to move or second or support anything that emanates from the Liberal party. The question is put to me by my friends below the Gangway, "What about last night?" I had nothing to do with last night. If I had been at that Box instead of the Prime Minister, I would have arrayed the Liberals against the Labour party. I would not support the Liberal party any more than I would support the Tory party. I say to them, "A plague on both your houses; you are the enemies of the working classes." In the same way as I spoke to Mr. Speaker when I was stating what seemed harsh—and really I would say nothing harsh to him—but I was forced to express what I believe to be the truth—I would say to hon. Members below the GangwayFather forgive them, they know not what they do.We in the engineering industry, when our country was up against it, had an appeal made to us. I told the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and I told Winston Churchill that it did not matter what happened to them during the War, as others would rise to fill their places. What did matter was the production of ammunition, and if the workers did not produce it there would be no ammunition. The workers were in fact the most valuable asset of the country at that time, and that was recognised by those in authority. Certain propositions were put before us and we were asked to consider them. We weighed them in all their bearings. My own particular trade, the engineering trade, against all the advice that I gave, surrendered all their trade rights, forgetting that they were ours to defend and not to surrender. We asked for a guarantee that the engineers' trade rights would be restored to them, and that guarantee was given on the Floor of the House of Commons by Mr. George N. Barnes. He guaranteed to us on behalf of the ruling classes of this country that that should be so. But how does my case stand at the moment. It is worse off than it was in 1913. We used to be designated as the aristocrats of Labour. We had a strike in Southampton a little while ago and the whole power of the Trade Union movement, backed by the employers, was used to send the men back to their work at a time when they were striking against a wage of £2 7s, 6d. How would hon. 789 Members like to vork for £2 7s. 6d. a week? I would not do it.
That brings me to the Joint Industrial Council. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs came to Glasgow on this Joint Industrial Council business. He came to see me, because I refused to go to see him. I think it would have been better for the trade unions and for the Labour movement generally if at that time the trade unions and the Labour leaders had taken up the same attitude. The right hon. Gentleman came to Glasgow and discussed this matter with me. At that time he was at the zenith of his fame. He was the great man. He submitted to the shop stewards at Beardmore's all that is embodied in this Bill. On behalf of the Clyde workers I asked for a guarantee that, if we gave our rights away, in return our standard of life would not be reduced to that of the workers in the textile industry in England. He gave me that guarantee. He gave me all the guarantees that we could ask, all that are embodied in the Bill of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Murrell). But when we went to inquire to put those clauses into operation, what happened? I was arrested; I was thrown into gaol; I was deported. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The reason was that we held them to that agreement. The employers will never be held to any agreement, the reason being [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Trade Boards?") Trade Boards do nothing of the kind. The less you say about Trade Boards the better.
This is a very serious matter to me. I have tried to tell the House, in my own peculiar fashion, what it cost me in trying to put into operation the recommendations that are embodied in this Bill, and at a very peculiar time in the history of this country. Because of my peculiar make-up, and that is to guard the interests of the working class, because I believe honestly within my innermost being that the working class has been duped and side-tracked time and time again, I am watching, with all the suspicion that I have inherited from my race, what is going on at the moment in this House among those who are in authority. I am guarding my class very carefully, and my class expects of me that I will keep myself unsullied and do my very 790 best. I may not be a brilliant individual; I may not be a clever individual, nor an astute individual. We have all those recommendations and qualifications galore in this House, and we bad them before the Labour party came into power; but nevertheless I hope that the House will reject this Bill. I hope at any rate that every Member of the Labour party, for the sake of the great movement that we represent, will turn this Bill down. There is not one of the big trade unions but would turn this Bill down. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Take the Miners' Federation; take the textile industry; take the shipbuilding and engineering industry of this country. They will all turn this Bill down, because we know from practical experience what it is to face the employers. I know what it is to face the employers, not as a trade union leader, not with my wage guaranteed to me when I was fighting my employer, but fighting him as a workman whom he had the power at any time to throw on the street. I know perfectly well, from that experience, the brotherly love that does exist betwixt the employers of labour and the working people. I am astonished that you on the Liberal Benches, at this time of day, after all that we Socialists have written, after all the speeches that we have delivered—and which I am sure you must have read—that still a number of you on the Liberal Benches, who are out—with industry, believe that there is the possibility of the employer and the worker coming together.
You would think that the employers ran industry on patriotic lines, that they were running their business for the benefit of the great British Empire, that they were out to put all their brains and all their ability into the industry of which they were in control, for the benefit of my kind. I want to inform you, one and ail, that such is not the case. My own employer, who is now Lord Invernairn, time and time again said to me, "You would think this was a philanthropic institution. Do not you understand that I am in this business to make money?" They are all in their business to make money. There was another big employer of labour, who was awfully patriotic—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) knew him well—who was very patriotic 791 during the War, whom I had to fight on this very Whitley Council business. He is now Lord Weir, a great patriotic Scotsman who turned out Scotsmen and brought in Chinese. [Interruption.] Do you think I would say that if it were not true? Why, would you do that?
I think it is all bearing on the Bill and on these industrial councils. It is all bearing on the conditions in the workshop from the workers' point of view. As I said in my first attempt to address this House, I did not know anything about the rules of procedure, and if I cannot address it as well as a chartered accountant or a lawyer or an employer of labour or a trade union leader, that is not my fault. I address this House to the best of my ability, coming, as I do, from the workshop. I was trained to work but, unfortunately for a great many people, I have the right and the will and the power to think and to express my thoughts, and that is the difference betwixt me and a great many other people in this House.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The House must have listened with quite unusual pleasure to two very remarkable maiden speeches, those of the Mover and the Seconder of the Bill, speeches which were very highly informed, very powerful and very lucid, and I am bound to say—this is what I feel about it—they were speeches which make the older hands here dip their pennants in admiration at the force and vigour with which they presented their case. We are greatly obliged to our new recruits for their contribution. I listened, and I am sure the whole House did, with no less pleasure to the speeches of the mover and seconder of the rejection. They put their views with pluck, with courage, and with honesty. I differ from pretty well every word they said, but that is neither here nor there, so far as they are concerned. We know exactly where they stand, and that is a great advantage. Of a great many people we do not know where they stand. I personally, and I should think the whole House, is obliged to them for making quite unequivocal exactly what their position is. I do not pretend to be speaking to the British 792 Empire. [Interruption.] Probably we are both speaking to the British Empire. I do not know whether my day is nearly done or not. I am quoting the phrase of one whom I may without offence quote as the only original Dumbarton Die-hard. I will indulge myself in one comment only on the reference of the hon. Member for Shoreditch to the Liberal action and their purpose and their future in regard to their industrial policy. He said, "Liberals do not yet understand the things that are passing through the working-people's minds." I doubt very much whether the Socialist does, and if he has any doubts upon that point I strongly recommend him to consult the seconder of this Bill, who sits on the same bench as he does four places away from him.
You, Sir, presided over a Sub-Committee of the Reconstruction Committee, which was commissioned to go into the relationship between employers and employed, and in 1917 you gave us your first report, signed, by the way, amongst others, by the present Lord Privy Seal, signed also, the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) will note with pleasure or otherwise, by the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Smillie) and also by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence.) That is something towards a good solution, I should have thought, in the mind of my hon. Friend. In that report there is the germ of a. very great idea. Your report and your colleague's report, Sir, said this:In the interests of the community it. is vital that after the war the co-operation of all classes, established during the war, should continue, and more especially with regard to the relations between employers and employed. For securing improvement in the Latter it is essential that any proposals put forward should offer to work-people the means of attaining improved conditions of employment and a higher standard of comfort generally and involve the enlistment of their active and continuous cooperation in the promotion of industry, and to that end the establishment for each industry of an organisation representative of employers and workpeople, to have as its object the regular consideration of matters affecting the progress and well-being of the trade from the point of view of those engaged in it, so far as this is consistent with the general interests of the community, appears to us necessary.That I have always held to be the germ of a great idea. The report went on to give practical point to this great recommendation by setting out the sort of 793 thing which these organisations when established might turn their attention to. Hon. Members will find that in the Schedule to this Bill. Successive Governments and successive Ministers of Labour have done all they could to give practical effect to this great recommendation and, as we have now heard, there are about 70 joint industrial councils in existence with associated organisations of district committees and they cover, as we have also heard, about three and a half million people. I always rejoice—the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs will not understand it, but I do—in the fact that I had the pleasure to be the first President of the first Government Joint Industrial Council, that at the Admiralty.
Whitleyism—I trust I shall not unduly embarrass you, Sir, by the colloquialism—came into existence, as the speech of my hon. Friend shows, at a time of unparalleled difficulty—falling prices, world markets collapsed—and inevitably you had to make readjustments in the economic conditions of labour of a very disagreeable and very difficult character. If my hon. Friend thinks I do not use the word "disagreeable" quite honestly when I refer to wage reductions, he is wrong. I do. Had the policy prevailed which was the old policy, of simply sticking up a notice saying that on and after a particular date there would be a wage cut, as determined by the management, you would have had dislocation of a very grave and serious character. What did you get as the result of these newly fledged organisations in the early days of their career? It was a very difficult time. They encountered heavy weather the moment they left port. You got full and frank discussion and disclosure, you got an exchange of views on either side and in the end in many cases, as I well know, you got an accommodation as the result of their efforts where apparently strife seemed inevitable. It was a very severe strain that these difficult times put upon this organisation. That it survived at all is a tribute to the intrinsic spirit which prevailed. As Minister of Labour during a good deal of the time of considerable difficulty, I cannot easily over-state the contribution that these bodies made to the cause of industrial peace. As negotiating and conciliating bodies, the records of the Ministry of Labour would show what a 794 great and what a timely part they played. More than mere conciliation and negotiation, I gratefully remember the endeavour they made to absorb the ex-service men in a great many cases into civil life. I gratefully remember their efforts on behalf of welfare and safety. I remember their consideration and discussion of the methods of unemployment insurance. I remember their discussion of the question of apprentices and their training. I remember their discussion on matters affecting organisation, statistics, research and so on.
Whitleyism is not universal, and the decisions of the joint industrial councils are not legally enforceable. Whitleyism has its opponents. Two of them have, quite frankly, appeared before us to-day. Not only from the workmen's point of view has it its opponents. Not every employer is altogether enlightened on the problem of the true basis of the relationship which ought to subsist between capital and labour. There are some who still appear to think that even to-day employers, after 54 years of compulsory education, can keep the workman in blinkers and say to him, "here is your wage. Take that, and you have no concern with anything else." That is not the way to encourage any man to put his whole heart into any concern. There are some extreme Socialists, of whom we have heard two to-day, who sneer at the thing. It is a sort of rose water for the plague. It is not their point of view, and it is a good thing that they should tell us here what is their point of view, because we are face to face with them. As a rule, that sort of statement is made at the street corner. It is a great advantage to have the statement made here so that we can meet it face to face. It is not their view that there can ever be any real identity of interest between employer and employed. That is the case that was put by the mover of the rejection of the Bill. It is his view, and certainly the view of the seconder of the rejection, that it must always be pull devil pull baker between employer and employed.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Whatever may be the truth about this conception, I believe that the Mover as well as the Seconder of the rejection, whether they achieve 795 their end or not, are undoubtedly to-day contributing very seriously to industrial inefficiency. If you told me as a workman that my employer was always trying to do me down, what sort of enthusiastic service do you expect me to give? My best hope for the progress and prosperity of British industry lies in the further development of, and the giving of every encouragement to, the round table habit between employer and employed. Therefore, I fundamentally oppose the views expressed so clearly and with so much courage by the Mover and Seconder of the rejection of the Bill. I agree entirely with the Mover of the Bill in saying that Whitleyism in industry is the antithesis of Socialism. That is a profound truth. One or other of these ideas will prevail. Whitleyism is the reply to Socialism.
§ Mr. G. OLIVER
I was going to support the Bill, but if the right hon. Gentleman can prove what he has just said, I shall vote against it.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It may be that my hon. Friend is wrong. I believe, with the Mover and Seconder of the Second Reading, that Whitleyism in the antithesis of Socialism in industry. I say that Whitleyism is the reply to Socialism in industry. I hope the Mover of the Second Reading will forgive me if I have lost him one vote. We had better have a clear issue. There is far too much voting in error on issues of this sort. Let us be perfectly clear about it. Whitleyism is the antithesis and the reply to Socialism, and it will prevail, because of the solid good sense of the British working classes. The promoters of the Bill are similarly minded.
Let me examine what they seek to do. They seek to universalise the policy of the Whitley Councils. Their method of approach is this. They say that it shall be the duty of the Minister of Labour to promote and establish a joint industrial council in respect of every industry for which, in his opinion, the establishment of such a council is practicable and expedient. Of course, he must remember 796 that there are organisations in existence for industries anterior to the Whitley Councils. I am sure that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs and you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if you were not occupying the Chair, would tell us more about the objection of the engineers, which is not so much against the principle of the. Whitley Council as that they want a different sort of consultative body. Certainly there are quite a number of cases where this sort of round table discussion has a very much older origin than the Whitley Council. The author of the Bill must take care not to put any east-iron system upon any particular industry. The Bill seeks to make the decision of the joint industrial councils legally enforceable. That is the Bill's big proposal. Frankly, that is a proposal which any Committee examining the Bill would have to go into with the greatest care and circumspection. The things which may be enforced are set forth in the schedule. Take the first:The better utilisation of the practical knowledge and experience of the work-people.Most admirable! Even the Mover of the rejection of the Bill agreed that that was an admirable proposition, but it would be difficult to take that into court and to sue in respect of default. Take paragraph 8:Industrial research and the full utilisation of its results.You could not take that into court. Therefore, I am sure that the mover and seconder of the Bill will agree that these points will have to be very carefully examined, and that if compulsion is applied, the things to which it is to be applied must be set out more specifically and with more precise detail.
In the third and last place, the Bill seeks to set up a central industrial board. I have nothing to say about that except approval, but, like Agag, the Board will have to walk very delicately. Industries are extremely touchy about any direction from outside, and when it comes to direction and interference from other industries, "touchiness" is not quite an adequate expression. Therefore, we shall need to look with very great care as to what shall be the functions of this central board. I support the principle of the Bill and I hope and believe it will get a Second Reading. The promoters will agree with me that so far-reaching is the 797 great change it makes in practice that they would, I am sure, agree that in its application it would need to be very scrupulously and carefully examined by a Committee of the House to which I hope it will be sent.
§ Sir CHARLES WILSON
I desire to support this Bill, and I greatly admire the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. I have had, among other experiences, the experience of fighting a strike against thousands of men, and although they were winning all along the line, they did not win. I do not advance that because I am proud of the fact that I was on the winning side, for I never was, but I had to fight because when I offered arbitration it was contemptuously rejected; but it did occur to me when listening to one or two speeches by hon. Members opposite that they do not want the existing conditions of affairs to be improved because if the people of this country were once put into a satisfactory and contented state Socialism would get its death blow. If that is the gospel propounded by hon. Members opposite, I am very sorry for them.
I am in favour of compulsory arbitration. So far as I am concerned, this Bill does not go far enough. It is in exactly the same position as the Whitley Council and the Advisory Council. The Whitley Councils have done good work. Up to a certain point they are good, but there as no power to enforce their awards, and either side can break away. The moment that happens everything is destroyed. In my experience of the Advisory Councils I have seen awards varying from ls. 1d. to is. 5d. for labour that is comparable, with the result that two sets of men, working in the same street at the same class of work, have had a difference of 3d. an hour in the wages awarded, and the situation was such that I had to cut across the awards and fix one rate for wages that were comparable. I was in negotiation with the Deputy Leader of the House before I came into this House with a view to setting up machinery similar to this. It is no use for hon. Members to say that this proposal will be turned down by trade unions. Several unions are favourable to it. They have had the good sense to act upon it. Take, for instance, the leather industry. They have got rid of their strike 798 Strikes, from my point of view, are a crime against the State. The political strike has lost its significance. Can anybody tell me of any strike that has really benefited anybody apart from the political strike? Everybody suffers, but the workers suffer most every time. Yet this is the one thing which some of my hon. Friends opposite say they would wish to retain. It would be a good thing if everybody would consent to give up strikes, and when I say strikes I refer to lock-outs as well. The strike is a species of civil war. It is fatal to everybody. I deny that a strike can increase production. There is always a certain amount of wreckage following. Apparently several hon. Members desire to destroy the present social system. Nobody knows what they can put in its place. The existing state of affairs, regardless of what may be said about capital and capitalists, has stood the test of time for a long period and in my opinion is likely to stand that test.
I do not like the term "wage slaves" or talk of men toiling to death. I happen to hold a different view. If we do not work we shall die. That is what is not understood to-day by the mass of workers. It is time that it was restated in this House. It is a good thing for us that there is work to do. I believe firmly that there cannot be good wages or conditions without plenty of good work. Every time that industry in this country lifts its head some foolish person or body organises a strike or lockout and the industry gets a blow from which it takes a long time to recover. It looks as though some of our people are in the position of the ivy clinging to a tree. It is content to cling to it for a long time. Then it encircles it and it strangles the tree and destroys it. That is exactly the position of some of the hon. Members opposite, two or three of whom have spoken. In the course of my wanderings round the country, with a view to keeping fit, I take an instrument with which I destroy every growth of ivy which attacks a tree in the way in which strikes attack an industry. In nine cases out of ten disputes could be settled without a strike if both sides were content to go to arbitration.
In the particular strike in which I was concerned arbitration was refused, and the men got nothing and had to go back 799 on the old terms. Though I said that I was content to let bygones be bygones yet when I stood for the same constituency 10 years afterwards they said "we will get our own back, "and they did to a certain extent. I said, "I offered arbitration, I did not want to fight, but if you took the same attitude again you would have to fight me again. I am a man of peace." I am greatly concerned with the idea of profit sharing. Some of our friends do not want it because it would bring about contentment which they do not want to bring about. I was sorry that they did not say to the Liberal Party last night what they said to-day. They do not realise that the sword of Damocles is hanging over their head, and that when it falls they will have to go, and it does not follow that they will come back in the same numbers.
I have spoken to some of the workers including some of the poorest and they are not in favour of continuing these strikes. I would make strikes and lockouts high treason. They are a crime against the State. Every time that there is a dispute a long period has to elapse before industry gets back to where it was before. Some of our friends who are endeavouring to upset the existing state of affairs and create a mass of mere wreckage do not realise how long it would be before things could be restored. A man came to one of my meetings and said "Let us have a revolution. Let us fight it out and let the best man come to the top.' I said "If the best man is not at the top at the present time is that not some evidence that he is not the. best man?" I asked "Are you trained to the use of arms" he said "No." I said "Well, I am, and I could easily knock over a half dozen like you before breakfast and not know I had done it."
You make a mistake in thinking that you will be certain to come out on top, but if you did succeed in reducing everything to wreckage the same problems which now exist would remain and you would have to start everything with the same handicap as you have to-day. Therefore it is better to improve things as we see them to-day. I support the Mover of this Bill and admire the very moderate speech in which he introduced it. I was hoping to be able to introduce a Bill on similar lines myself, but unlike 800 hon. Members opposite I do not care from what quarter the good deed comes. I shall exercise my right to support it. It does not go so far as I would like to go, but it goes a long way. Some of these unions that have had the good sense to come to an agreement, as between masters and men, are getting on with the work of the nation. They are doing what they can to influence production. They are having a fair opportunity to do it. Let me say with regard to others that they are not.
An hon. Member opposite spoke about the engineering trade, one of our greatest trades. Are the engineers not suffering, and have they not suffered since the last great strike? They are. That great strike has put them where they do not like to be. They are governed by supply and demand. The exigencies of the trade have forced their wages clown to a point which I do not like. But they cannot alter it. That is the sort of thing that an appeal to Caesar brings about. That being, the case, is there not an opportunity to-day, and in future, for all parties to attempt to put this matter right? One of the greatest disappointments I had was when the present Prime Minister said he would not bring in any legislation to deal with this matter, I suppose, because he could not be sure of the support of his followers. The idea was advanced that the right to strike could not be abandoned. That is the weapon by which the worker slowly murders himself. The logic of it I fail to see. Owing to. Whitleyism, the wages of large bodies of men are being improved to-day. I have reports made to me as Chairman of a Committee that has to deal with disputes and wages conditions and hours of labour. It is satisfactory when it is reported that there is an increase of so much an hour. in one trade or another.
The subject, of course, is one on which one could occupy no end of time. I have had this experience for many years, and I hold that it is a mistake for anyone to tie himself too tightly to any foolish notion inside this House or out of it. We want to give the workers a fair chance. I am in the fortunate position of having men working for me, and I work for other men, and hard logic has compelled me to say without hesitation that I want to live and that I want others to live. But the idea we have heard from the Labour Benches to-day will mean that large num- 801 bers will be prevented for ever from living properly. The principle at the back of Whitleyism, imperfect as it is, is bound to prevail against the mere negation put forward by several speakers on the other side. The varying award to which I have referred was so serious that we could not work under it. There is, therefore, a necessity not merely for industrial councils but for co-operation as between the industrial councils themselves. It is ridiculous for two firms operating side by side to have a great variation in wages. It invariably leads to dissatisfaction. That is what we found. One set of men said, "Why on earth should we do this work for so much when others are getting 3d. an hour more? "I intervened and put a flat rate across the lot.
Why should not all our disputes be put to arbitration? I do not care what the court is. Our British Judges are the finest in the world. They are absolutely unpurchasable. If their decisions are not accepted they can be tested by further authorities right up to the legal section of the House of Lords. It has been my experience that when that has been done all parties are satisfied. If the Judges cannot deal with the matter, give them an assessor on either side, until such time as all parties have become accustomed to the settlement of disputes in this way. But to say that each time there is a dispute one section shall put a knife at the throat of the other is to ensure one result only and that an evil result. The principle of this Bill, if rightly given an opportunity, will do more to settle the great problem of unemployment than anything else, and I have pleasure in supporting the Bill.
§ Mr. DUKES
We have listened to a very interesting discussion and the range of it has been very wide. Let me. get bark to the position in which the right bon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) left this matter, as contrasted with the position in which it was left by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). In the reading of this Bill I see no reason to get to what might he described as theories of economic finality. This is no more an answer to Socialism than it is the antithesis of it. The right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell was equally at error with the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs. As evidence of that, may I 802 remind the right hon. Gentleman that Whitleyism has been more successful in corporate bodies which if they tend to anything at all tend in the direction of Socialism rather of individualism. So that evidently both theories are very wide of the mark. The virtue of this Bill is not that it widens the margin between employer and workman. It is really time that some of those who support this Bill changed their vocabulary. The day for master and man has gone. I put that as a serious proposition to the House. We must get away from the slave psychology of past ages. Let us drop the very terms that carry with them that implication. The virtue of this Bill is that it creates machinery that we lack.
I have had as much experience as most men in this House of strikes. I have known years at a time when I have not been out of them, and not because I wanted them. I say, advisedly, to hon. Members who usually sit opposite, that the last thing a trade union official wants is the responsibility of a strike. How they are brought about and why they are brought about are a totally different story. The real virtue of this Bill is that it encourages the setting up of machinery which will enable both sides to get a better understanding of the case in dispute. I hope that I have not misread or misunderstood the trend of the argument. Many appear to think that the only opposition to Whitleyism comes from the workman. My experience is that the greatest opponents are amongst the employers. There is a very serious attempt to-day, by some of the largest employers of labour in the country, to wreck the machinery of Whitleyism, and in a phrase actually Punt across the table to us they have said, "We have the whip hand to-day." Therefore there is equal need for labour to preach to capital as for capital to preach to labour regarding the necessity of what is contained in the Bill. Let ns get back to the point of common sense, where we can avoid unnecessary friction and be enabled to go from one step to another in the direction of the ultimate working out of all these particular difficulties.
I have, had some little experience of industrial councils and I am also a member of four or five national negotiating committees, and of the two forms of machinery I prefer Whitleyism. 803 It is easier to conduct negotiations and it encourages the development of machinery such as district councils and works committees. If we are not prepared to accept joint responsibility in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, I very much question whether we are taking a short cut towards total responsibility. I do not believe that industry, in which we all have an interest, will be helped by evading responsibility, or by assuming that you require no machinery until a dispute actually occurs. Then, when a. dispute occurs you try by clumsy methods to get into touch with the employers, and the employers try to get into touch with the representatives of the workmen—all of which leads to irritation and often creates an atmosphere in which a favourable settlement is impossible. I have never yet been in a dispute in which the circumstances of the moment have not been almost, if not entirely, the determining factor in the ultimate settlement. Theory goes by the board and we have to go on the facts of the situation and on what is possible. The difficulty which we find to-day in using this form of machinery is reticence on the part of the employers and their unwillingness to table the facts. I commend that to the other side.
§ Mr. DUKES
I hope you are making converts. I will continue preaching until I have made some converts. Reference has been made to the leather industry, in which a few days ago we had, for the first time, an agreement on the part of the employers that they would henceforward supply the data and the facts and figures which alone permit people to understand whether a settlement is possible or not. The conference table has an attraction for us all, but invariably when we meet the procedure is on these lines. The resentatives of the workmen state their case, ethical and economic. The employers thank them courteously, leave the room, and then come back and say, "We have considered your case, but we are sorry we cannot concede anything." The workers' representatives then ask for evidence which will enable them to go back to the workers and explain the reasons why the demand has been refused, why it is not possible of accomplishment. 804 The employers shrug their shoulders and say, "We are not in a position to supply the evidence that you require; we have given your case sympathetic consideration, and we regret that circumstances do not permit us to go any further." In such circumstances as I describe, the workers' representatives have to go back to thousands of workpeople and say there can be no change in the circumstances, and when some inquisitive person asks why, they can only say, "The employers have told us so." That to-day is the extent of Whitleyism.
I view the councils critically because I support them, and I want to give reasons why many workpeople are losing faith in this machinery which, if used to the fullest advantage, would allay much of the existing misunderstanding. One of the largest industries in this country—probably the greatest monopoly industry in the country—which is governed by a Whitley joint industrial council, actually denied the right of that council to discuss and formulate juvenile rates and working conditions. I note the look of consternation on the faces of some hon. Members, but this is the place in which matters of that sort should be explained, so that both sides will understand that it is not merely a question of men who want to strike on every occasion any more than it is exclusively a question of employers who want a lock-out every time the market gives them the chance, of cheap labour. It is a question of the ebb and flow of trade and of what appears to be an unwritten law put into operation first by one side and then by the other that machinery which the one side believes to be giving the other side an advantage should be weakened, and prevented from operating in the interest of the industry generally, because the circumstances of the market happen to give one side or the other what has been called the whip hand.
I doubt very much whether the leaders of our great unions any more than the employers want compulsory arbitration. We re-sent the word "compulsion." We are the last people in the world to be compelled to agree to anything, but there is a very large measure of agreement in the direction of operating the proposals contained in this Bill which will compel the worst class of employer to put into operation those working conditions and rates of wages which have come into 805 being as a result of agreement among the best organised units. Only the other day in the Lobby I was requested by the representative of a very strongly organised craft union to get in touch with a firm in my locality to see whether they could be compelled to put into operation terms and conditions agreed on by the Whitley Council for that particular industry. That is the usual experience. As a rule the bigger firms agree to this form of machinery, but the smaller firms on the fringe, located perhaps in districts where the general rate of wages is below the industrial rate, invariably make an attempt, breaking away from national negotiating machinery, to establish purely local rates upon what they regard as the district rate of wages which, in a word, is the competitive rate in the particular locality in which their work happens to be situated. You find this: A small firm, employing, perhaps, 100 workpeople, situated a few miles away from the centre of that bigger industry, of which it is a very small unit, declines to become a party to machinery of this kind, refuses to put into operation the terms agreed to, and every time we meet the employers in negotiation it is not really the point of view as expressed across the conference table which ultimately settles what we are going to agree to, but it is the influence of the smaller and relatively insignificant firms on the fringe, who cannot be compelled to be-come parties to our negotiations, and these people play an altogether disproportionate part in the settlement of the rates and conditions of these larger industries.
I suggest that there is rot a representative of labour here who has not had that difficulty to meet. As a matter of fact, the majority of our tithe, when operating as trade union officials, is taken up in making these people toe the line and pay in accordance with the terms and conditions that we secure through this very machinery, so that my main reason for supporting this Bill is that I believe it will lead to transforming those joint bodies, which are to-day described as national negotiating committees, into Whitley Councils, which will have power to recommend that an order should be made applicable to other people, employers and workmen alike, who, for a hundred and one reasons, we have never been able to compel or to 806 persuade to take their share in settling the points of common grievance within the industry. I can conceive of nothing harmful in this Bill, which suggests that, following agreement, an order may be applied for by a majority of either side, by the majority opinion within the industry, and that such an order shall be laid on the Table of this House for 14 days, so that anyone who may object may raise his voice in objection. Personally, I would like to be here and privileged to hear that voice raised in objection. The order would be that of a majority of both sides, each representative of the overwhelming majority of the industry, which ought at any rate to be able legally to determine the minimum, and which has nothing at all to do with the maximum. Anybody who has any experience of Whitley Joint Industrial Councils knows that between the minimum and the maximum there is a huge variation, tempered and modified by all sorts of district and local circumstances, and I would say, particularly to some of the bigger industries, who have not looked very favourably at Whitleyism, that a comparison between the rates and working conditions obtained by the two methods would be helpful in changing that attitude. I am not talking about the sheltered industries, but about those trades which are essentially competitive in character, and in which this machinery has enabled us to make rates and working conditions which it would be exceedingly difficult to have obtained without it. As to organisation, I know there is a type of mind which if it knew that 12 months from to-'lay the individual would obtain automatically whatever was agreed to by the industry, would, by the removal of the fear that his wages might be lowered, be tempted to leave his organisation, and that is really the argument against Whitleyism, but it is not borne out by experience. There are industries in which we approximate. to 100 per cent. organisation on both sides, and I have yet to discover that the effect of Whitleyism has in any shape or form weakened the fibre of trade unionism. If the constant meeting with employers, if the constant dispute across a conference table, does in some very mysterious and peculiar way tend to mould the mind of either one side or the other, I can only say that it is 807 either the result of the circumstances, which previously they did not understand, or otherwise there is a weakness in the understanding of their own case.
I believe that to-day I am a more aggressive trade unionist than I was even in the days of strikes, because the ultimate of a strike is to go back to just the same position. There seems to be an understanding that, if you refuse to look the facts in the face, instead of getting right down to the fundamental difficulties in dispute at the moment, and if you deliver a propaganda speech and very largely leave the difficulties where they were when you started, you are, because of that, a more efficient representative of the working man. To me, there could be nothing more humorous or Gilbertian. You do not settle disputes by propaganda speeches. You do not settle disputes finally either by strike or lock-out. What you do is that you bend the mind in the direction of peace by those facts, but you do not settle it. I am a little bit aware of the difficulties of Parliamentary time. but I would suggest to the Minister of Labour, who, I am glad to see, has just come in, that we have spent a lot of time, and are likely to spend a lot of time, in this House discussing matters which will have far less effect on the industries of the country than would this Bill. If this Bill were given effect to, it would, in my opinion, go very far in the direction, I will not say of stabilising wages. because I do not see the possibility of that economically, nor, indeed, do I see the desirability of it—.I never have seen it—and I have no more love for that theory than I have for the fodder basis theory, the following of a barometer that somebody says represents the cost of living. The thing we have ultimately to get at is what is to be the relative share out of any pool of our combined efforts. I suppose, to the end of time, we shall dispute as to what the partition is to be, and I see nothing contrary to the general ideals of my Socialist friends, any more than I agree that Whitleyism is the answer to Socialism. I see no connection between those relative theories and the business principle that we should establish machinery, which would tend to remove unnecessary friction, and enable employers and workmen alike not to have to waste their time trying to compel other 808 employers and workmen, who will not face the facts of the situation, to conform to general agreement.
If we could bring into operation a Measure to accomplish that, we could then start to devote our time, which now is being very largely wasted, to making a serious attempt to understand how the industries of this country can be run—1 do not mean merely with a view to giving the people who operate them a larger share, because I do not believe the industries of this country are run on anything like the system that will afford them their maximum output; there is as much "ea' canny" on one side as there is on the other, and I have no desire to preach to either side—but all that I am anxious about is to see if there is a common desire between employers and workmen to create that machinery which will afford opportunities of understanding that difficulty. There is nothing I have seen so far that will give the machinery as is to be found in the provisions of this Bill, and it is for that reason that I give to this Bill my whole-hearted support. Speaking, as I have said, from some little experience of the working of this machinery, having had some little experience of working in a trade union before this came into being, and of industries where this kind of thing is non-effective. I say to all sides of the House, looking at it purely from the standpoint of national well-being, we could do nothing better than afford a Second Reading to this Bill, and make a fervent request to the Government to make an attempt to afford the necessary time to pass this Bill through Committee, so that we may give it the speediest opportunity of operating on behalf of the imiustries of our country.
§ Mr. G. WARD
I find that my excuse for intervening in this Debate has almost been completely removed, the ground having been so well covered by those who have spoken for the Bill. I want to speak in support of it. I must confess I was astonished to hear the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle), who moved the rejection of the Bill, make the statement that the methods of obtaining peace in industry by negotiation, conference and agreement were repugnant to Socialists. He began his speech by quoting from a speech made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon 809 Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), but may I quote also from the speech delivered at Brighton by the Prime Minister He said:They were threatened with strikes, lockouts, and disputes. How foolish it all was! Surely those things could be arbitrated That was the only way of overcoming differences.May I express the hope, therefore, that this Bill has the approval of the Prime Minister? I find also that the most aggressive Socialist organ is not in agreement with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Shoreditch. May I quote from the "New Statesman"?—Neither workers nor employers can afford to neglect the causes of friction which arise directly from the imperfections of their own organisation. It is shortsighted policy for either side to rejoice over, or seek to profit by, the division of forces on the other, for the majority of disputes arise from faulty organisation, are sheer waste, and result in no gain to anybody. Even if there is no one remedy for the chaos which still exists in many industries, it is to the interest of both parties to do all they possibly can to set their house in order.I will not follow that argument further. My reason for rising to intervene in this Debate is to draw upon the experience of the industry with which I am associated as an employer. A statement was made by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) that none of the great trade unions of the country wanted this Bill. The industry with which I am associated is the boot industry, which has regulated its working conditions for rearly thirty years by the Industrial Council principles, although, of course, the organisations have not been known by that name, and for that period it has been successful in safeguarding the industry from serious industrial disputes. War time conditions, of course, afforded us the opportunity of strengthening and consolidating our organisations. Nearly the whole of the industry came under the control of the Central Industrial Council, but when competition and adversity came with depression, we found that our organisation was threatened with disintegration, because of the lack of the provision which this Bill proposes to give. We found that in places where the industry was carried on—places often remote from the main centres of the industry—the conditions favoured lower rates of wages being paid, and it only required em- 810 ployers to secede from their organisation in order to exploit that position. This industry has, in spite of that difficulty, been successful, as successful perhaps as any industry, in maintaining reasonably good conditions.
The House was informed in the Debate last night that £700,000,000 per year had been lost in wages to the workers of the country by reason of reductions. The boot industry is not responsible for any portion of that stupendous sum. I believe it is true to say that the same rate of wages is being paid to-day in the industry as was paid in 1919–20. More than that, the industry has tried to impose compulsory powers for itself in order to enforce the agreements which have been mutually arrived at. A year or two ago the Employers' Federation subsidised the trade unions in order, by means of a strike, to compel the observance of agreements which had been arrived at. That is almost without precedent in the history of industry. We have been able to do that by reason of the good feeling on both sides, and by the Industrial Council methods that that good feeling has produced.
I stand here to-day supporting this Bill —and I ask hon. Members to support it—with the authority of the unions of two staple industries in the constituency which I represent. Two years ago a Resolution was passed at a conference at which both employers and employed were represented. I will read it:This National Conference urges upon His Majesty's Government the desirability of giving to national agreements, voluntarily entered into and approved by the Joint industrial Councils, the same validity as awards under the Trade Board Acts, 1909–10, with the object of ensuring the observance of fair conditions of labour by all "engaged in the industry.That is what the workers are asking for. That is what the employers are asking for. The position at present is that every time a union presses for any improvement of existing conditions they are met with the retort: "How can you expect us to concede anything further until you have compelled the observance of agreements already made?" It is because we want to secure that, that we are anxious that this Bill should become law. A statement was made above the Gangway that the Bill was to be opposed because it emanated from 811 the Liberal Benches. We began our sitting to-day with a prayer to the effect that we might be enabled to put aside "all interests, prejudices and partial affections"; I hope that in this matter the Labour party will do that, and help to carry this Second Reading.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY OF LABOUR (Miss Bondfield)
Discussion of this important subject, I am quite sure, will be of very great value. There are only one or two points on this question, in connection with what I may describe as the Departmental view, which I should like to put forward. It is held very strongly by the Ministry that the present evidence goes to show that opinion is not yet ripe for the imposition of compulsory powers. A return in the Ministry shows that in 1922 only 16 out of 70 Joint Industrial Councils had paid to the joint organisation, and that up to the following September only 10 had paid, and that up to August, 1923, only 16 had notified their willingness to seek compulsory powers. It is not that the powers may not be desimble, but that the evidence goes to show that opinion is very far from being ripe in connection with many of the bodies for whom these powers are being sought. There are one or two other points which I think it is important to mention, although they may be really regarded as Committee points, and not points of principle. The Bill deals with the obligations of the Minister, and seems to suggest that the Minister must call a con ference. I am not certain that that would not be a wasteful way of proceeding. The whole of the evidence which has been built up in the Ministry as to the stage industry has reached—
"Where it appears to him to be practicable."
"(2) The Minister shall, when requested by an association of employers or an association a workers in any industry—"
§ Miss BONDFIELD
My point is this. I think it would be an advantage if in every case the Minister made some pre liminary inquiry before calling a conference. I think that would be a wise proceeding, and a proceeding which would be more likely eventually to bring about successful intervention. I think, too, it is rather important to point out the fact that under the. Clause it would probably be revealed that certain Joint Industrial Councils that. now exist would be regarded as not being of a sufficiently representative character to initiate action. I am only suggesting that that point might he easily advanced, because I think one must admit that out of 70 Joint Industrial Councils that are now operating there are a number of them which are so weak as not to be regarded as representing the whole trade. These are points which as I say are Committee points, and I am putting them forward not as an objection, but as points to which attention should be drawn.
The point in respect of Central Authorities is purely an administrative point. It appears to be a rather impracticable proposition on the present basis. Yogis might get a gathering of 120 representatives, and it would be very improbable that you would get the agreement necessary to proceed. It would make a big unwieldly body. It might be from the administrative point of view very necessary to consider a point of that kind. In regard to future development I would commend a Clause in the original Report which appears to me to be the essence of the whole difficulty at the present time. The Whitley Committee say:That an essential condition of securing a permanent improvement in the relations between employers and employed is that there should be adequate organisation on the part of both employers and workpeople. The proposals outlined for joint co-operation throughout the several industries depend for their ultimate success upon there being such organisation on both sides; and such organisation is necessary also to provide means whereby the arrangements and agreements made in the industry may he effectively carried out.Again, that is extremely important from an administrative point of view. If the 813 Ministry has to deal with the extension of compulsory powers to employers and workers there should be some guarantee that these bodies are really representative. I would like to emphasise the necessity of taking up this matter with a little more vigour in the councils which already exist—I mean the organisation of all the groups of workers and employers in their respective organisations instead of attempting to use the Industrial Council machinery to deal with conditions in what s practically an unorganised trade. I may say here that the Government propose to leave this Bill to the free vote of he House. I have pointed out these administrative points because I think it is important that the attention of the House should be called to them.
I will now give my own personal opinion on these matters. I have always desired to see machinery set up for extending compulsory powers where agreement has been arrived at. I have attended many discussions on these questions inside the trade union movement, as a member of the General Council, and various congresses where these questions have been discussed, and I have always been impressed by the different standpoints of those for and against. I have suggested on more than one occasion that there seems to be a confusion in classification which is the root of the difficulty. I am an ardent supporter of the Trade Boards machinery for unorganised trades, and I profoundly believe that it is through that machinery that those trades can become organised entities in industrial work.
I think mistakes have been made in attempting to apply joint industrial Council machinery instead of trade boards for certain unorganised trades. It is, therefore, very important to remember this form of classification. What do I mean by that? I mean that where you get an industry in which there are voluntary associations on both sides, machinery has been built up to such a point that one national group is clearly recognised as the authoritative voice for the whole industry such as the Miners' Federation. It would be absurd in such a case to talk about trade boards to deal with a case of that kind, because those engaged in that trade have been brought to that point in which they are satisfied both on the employers' and the workers' side with the machinery they have got 814 and we do not want to interfere with them
But there are enormous categories of industries in which the conditions obtaining in mining can never obtain. Take, for example, the clothing trade. Amalgamations of business go on, but nevertheless you find for every set of businesses that amalgamate another set of businesses are created. You have constantly got the little man, not confined to Lancashire or any particular area or tied to the geographical area in which the raw material is obtained. In those miscellaneous trades you get thousands of little, employers; you can never hope to get a satisfactory form of voluntary agreement amongst them that will reach all these little men, and therefore you have to have the trade board to lay down a legal minimum. There are other cases for which a joint industrial council appears to be the most appropriate machine, but it is merely a question of adapting your machinery to the circumstances and conditions which prevail in a particular industry.
If hon. Members on the Liberal Benches feel that there is a deep-rooted suspicion against proposals of this kind from those benches, it should be remembered that we are not many years away from a sad and tragic experience—I refer to the. Joint Industrial Conference where we had an overwhelming opinion of trade unions and employers united in an effort to get a series of national minima arranged for the general welfare of industries, and which would have given us a sort of basis; and an organisation which would be regarded by the House of Commons as the industrial parliament of this country. What happened? The Government to whom those representations were submitted killed them by inaction. They not merely killed what was a very important series of resolutions and decisions which would have been of immense value during the period through which we are passing, but they wrecked, for a very long time probably, confidence that politicians really meant what they said, and we have to struggle against that.
I do not think that is a reason for not attempting to restore confidence, but we have to face the situation created by the failure of that great attempt to get industrial bases fixed on all these 815 questions. It is not to be wondered at that vigorous speeches can be made on this subject in this House. While I do personally believe that some of the joint industrial councils are in such a weak condition that they do not recommend a scheme of industrial councils for the workers, I too, like the last speaker, represent a constituency in which the staple trade has worked a joint industrial council with enormous benefit to the trade, and there is not a single member of that great industry who would not welcome the extension of greater powers to their industrial council.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
The discussion in which we are engaged on this interesting proposal forms an admirable contrast to the spirit in which the difficult question of unemployment was discussed yesterday. Speaking for myself, and I have no doubt for many others in the House, I venture to think that we can spend our time perhaps more profitably in discussing progressive proposals of this kind than in the recriminations which too often enter into the Debates, and of which last night was an example. If the hon. Lady who has just spoken will allow me to say so, I like the last part of her speech more than the first part. My own personal opinion is that the Government might do very much worse than give facilities for the full discussion, and if possible for the passing into law, of the main broad proposals contained in this Bill. I was a little discouraged to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour indicate that there were departmental—I suppose that means Ministerial —objections or criticisms of this Bill which will probably prevent the Government from giving it much encouragement. The position which we are in pit the present moment is admittedly a transition period. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) addressed some observations to you, Mr. Speaker to which some of us wish it would have been possible for you, within the traditions and rules of this House, to reply. When he indicated that you were not familiar with the business in the part you played in these transactions, he was passing a vote of condemnation which applies to very many of his leaders at the present time. At any rate, the Whitley Councils have come, and, I hope, they have come to stay, 816 and to prosper and to grow. It is quite obvious, however, that many hon. Members have recognised that they are not able to accomplish all that many who engage in them would desire, and all that possibly, you, Sir, hoped. This Bill seems to me to be an example of the traditional British way in which we solve our problems by developing, it may be slowly but along sound lines an idea which has occurred to pioneers, and has been gradually adopted by larger and larger circles of opinion. The idea in the Bill, as in the Whitley Councils, is that, without entering upon controversial fields connected with compulsory arbitration, where there is substantial agreement between the parties in industry, that agreement shall not be sterilised by the obstinate refusal of a minority to become bound by the decisions of the great majority engaged in the industry.
We all of us have our theories. I wish there had been a larger House to hear what the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Dukes) said as to the practice, in which all of us are too prone to engage, of attempting to fit every proposal in with some catchword which we have adopted, rejecting or accepting it according as we think it fits within the four corners of that idea. Whether or not my party is as much prone to that practice as the Liberal party or the Socialist party I do not know, but, at any rate, I join with the hon. Member in agreeing that this is an illustration of proposals which we ought to consider upon their merits, and not in accordance with any preconceived idea as to whether they are Socialist, Liberal, or Conservative. Although we on this side are supposed to represent individualism, and hon. Members above the Gangway opposite are supposed to represent socialism, my feeling is that this Bill provides for the development of an idea which fits in neither with individualism nor with Socialism and may for that reason be all the better for the very purpose for which the Bill is intended, namely, the purpose of bringing together those parties engaged in industry who have been too often separated in the past. Just because the Bill has no political flavour or colour about it, I am all the more enthusiastic about it, and all the more hopeful that it may find opportenities of coming into operation.
817 Perhaps in the past all of us have been too much inclined to generalise on the relations of employers and employed. One hon. Member opposite was prepared to give the Devil his due, and admit that all employers were not bad. Too often, it is suggested by generalisation that all employers are bad, and that they all desire to grind the faces of the poor. Too often, perhaps, it is suggested that all workers are quarrelsome and too prone to strike. If we recognise that there are large numbers of employers who have a genuine interest not merely in the prosperity of their own industry but in the welfare of the workers who are engaged in it, as well as in the encouragement and promotion of employment, and if, on the other hand, we recognise that the great bulk of the workers have no feelings of envy or jealousy when they see the industry in which they are engaged prospering we shall, I think, recognise that there is room for some proposal that will encourage both sides to come together and see what is best for the industry in which they are mutually interested.
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs scouted the idea of employers and workmen ever coming together in this country again. I should despair of this country if I believed that was so. Then we must abandon ourselves to a state of things in which this country and Empire will steadily go down to ultimate destruction. Surely, it is the duty of those who believe that the hon. Member is wrong to see whether there is not some way in which we can not only prevent that downhill course, but move uphill to the attainment of the goal which may seem distant, but which we believe is attainable. The activities which this Bill contemplate, I think, are of a much wider range than perhaps some hon. Members have for the moment considered. It is not concerned merely with the regulation of wages; it is concerned with the conditions under which workmen shall carry out their duties; it is concerned with the settlement of those disputes which arise when one side has the information and the other has no information. I believe that the experience of the pottery industry in which the fullest information is given by one side to the other in order that both may arrive at a just and reasonable decision is an illustration of 818 what may be done by good will and frankness in other industries.
I did not agree with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour when she suggested that the mining industry was perfectly satisfied with the machinery which is at its disposal. I can only say that the results are lamentable from the machinery with which she says they are satisfied. I have always thought that the great goal at which we ought to aim is the disclosure by each side to the other of the information which is vital to any understanding of the conditions in which the industry is to be carried on. If the House will forgive a personal reference, the first time I ever opened my lips in this House was to advocate, in connection with the mining industry, the disclosure by the employers of figures and information upon which the people could understand the extent to which profits were being made, and the extent to which those profits might be reduced by giving higher wages.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I think the Bill undoubtedly includes such a provision, in this sense, that it provides for possibilities under which that information may be encouraged if the employers are in agreement with the workers. I quite agree that the Bill only goes so far. It brings the horse to the water, but it cannot make him drink. But the Bill, at any rate, makes it possible for the establishment of conditions under which that information will be more likely to be given than it is at the present time. I remember on that occasion when I said a few halting words that I received no particular encouragement from anybody. I think I was looked upon as somebody, not unnaturally perhaps as I was a new Member, whose observations were of no account. I have on many occasions in my own constituency and in this House tried to encourage the growth of the idea that there is nothing strange in the proposal that employers should inform their workmen of the conditions of their industry, and the more we cultivate that idea the nearer we shall 'be to that goal of which I have spoken. The criticisms against the Bill have been so slight that it is really hardly necessary to refer to them. Some Members on that side, the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. 819 Thurtle), for instance, have referred in disparaging tones to the proposal that there should be a penalty to enforce compliance with the provisions of the Bill. I well remember the passing into law of the Act of Parliament which was intended at any rate to restore the pre-War trade union practices. Hon. Members or their predecessors pressed for that Bill, and it contained a Clause by which a continuing offence may be punished by a penalty, I think, of for every day on which the offence continues.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
The hon. Member for Gorbals says that it is purely ineffective. I should like to ask him: Has he ever applied to the Ministry of Labour for facilities for putting into execution the penalties or powers under that Act? If he has not, then it hardly lies with the hon. Member to say that the Act is ineffective
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I may not know mucn, but the hon. Member and his colleagues have approved a Bill which include a compulsory provision subject to money penalties. I see no reason for quarrelling with that provision being included in this Bill The other criticism by the hon. Member for Shoreditch against the Bill was really the only one of importance he made against it. It was with regard to the Bill coming into force at the instance of a bare majority in the industry. The value of the criticism may be seen from the fact that it was based upon a complete misreading of the Bill. When we find the objections are so slight, I am led to hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will assist to bring the Bill into operation at the earliest moment and in spreading the principles which lie at the base of the Bill in their constituencies.
It seems to me that we enjoy almost every advantage in this country except one and that is, peace in industry. The evil results of the industrial revolution, so far as workers are concerned, have outlived many of the advantages which the workers may have secured. Still this country enjoys rich natural resources; it is thickly populated with a people that 820 have energy and resource beyond any race in the world. We have also been inestimably blessed by Providence with a freedom which no other country enjoys. But yet we lack the peace and concord for which this House prays every day. If we can encourage the spirit which underlies this Bill, we shall at least take one step—it may be a short step, but still it is one step—nearer the attainment of that peace and concord among all classes, without which the industrial life of this country is doomed to perish.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
In the few moments I shall occupy the time of the House I want to say it is my intention to vote for this Bill and give it clue consideration in Committee. There has been a good deal of what I may term commonplace talk regarding the Measure before the House. I thick we are all agreed that conciliation is better than strife and that settlement by mutual understanding and agreement round a table is better than any settlement arrived at after a strike or lockout. I have been long enough in the world, without giving anything away, to admit that I was elected an official of a trade union in May, 1890, so that I had a pretty long experience of that work before conciliation boards or arbitration boards or industrial councils were thought of. In the old days the only arguments used was the argument of force, with, at times, the useful services of the police and the military. I have been through it all and I can assure hon. Members that my latter days are far more peaceful than were the earlier ones. My experience is this, that I have seen more gained by conciliation than has ever been obtained by the brutal arbitrament of the strike or lockout.
We all know that in spite of malice and bad feeling, a great deal of which is created by a lack of knowledge and an absence of closer contact, that the methods adopted under the existing industrial conditions are an improvement on the old methods. I know employers who years ago would get almost into a panic and send for police protection when I was about, who are now to-day my best and dearest. friends. That has been brought about through our meeting in the right spirit to discuss questions which affect us all. There is nothing new in the Bill that has been produced to-day. Ever since the establishment of Industrial Councils which bear the name of Mr. 821 Speaker, and ever since those industrial councils came into being—I have been a member of about a dozen and Chairman of not a few—a good deal of my time has been taken up with the work on them and I am prepared to say that with all their faults and failings they are doing good and useful work to-day. All through the history of my connection with them there has always been but one trouble—that of compulsion, of compelling employers to fall into line with the arrangements made by the industrial council. I go so far as to say that the fault does not always rest with the employers. I have known very many times when the trade unions have refused to accept the finding of the industrial council. If the tendency of feeling is towards a rise of wages then the employers are against it, but if it is on the downward grade the men are against it. There is the difficulty. I take my mind back to an incident which occurred two or three years ago in the brick and tile industry in which the whole council agreed on a rise of 5s a week to all people employed in the industry; but one firm refused to pay although it was receiving the same rate for its material from the Government as the other firms, and was not paying anything extra to its workpeople. It would not pay until a strike was threatened. That is the sort of thing which has caused trouble in the past and will continue to cause trouble, I fear, in the future. The provision as to penalties is the only new thing we have to deal with in the Bill, and I am afraid it is the one thing that will cause trouble as the Bill goes through the Committee stage.
§ Mr. MURRELL
The question of the amount of the penalty is a matter that can be dealt with in Committee. We do not attach any importance to the amount, but only desire that there shall be some penalty, and if hon. Members will accept that from me, it is our desire that we should meet the wishes of the House with regard to the amount or incidence of the penalty.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
I am not going to press the point, but without a penalty, and an effective penalty, the Bill is not worth the paper on which it is printed. If you take the penalty away, you might just as well leave things as they are because, if there is no penalty upon 822 defaulters, what is the purpose of the Bill at all? Something like four years ago I was one of a large deputation that was trying to get the Government of that day to accept this very principle. We sat in the Ministry of Labour with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), who was at the head of the Ministry, and great efforts were made to get the Government to accept some form of penalty. We did not mind what form it took, so long as they would take some powers to compel everyone to fall into line. After we had discussed it for a few hours, the Government came to the same conclusion as the Parliamentry Secretary to the Ministry of Labour has come to to day, namely, that the time was not ripe for it, and the difficulties were too great, and so it remained in abeyance. Apart from these matters, I am strongly in favour of strengthening the system of industrial councils. They have accomplished great good, and they will accomplish greater good still. If in the Committee stage some scheme can be devised by which the Government can have power to make a decision that has been arrived at compulsory on all those to whom it applies, no one will welcome that provision more than I and the union with which I am concerned. Therefore, I intend to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, so that we can discuss it in the Committee, and I hope the House will agree to give us that chance of dissecting and analysing and improving it, if possible, and making it a real factor to strengthen and make good the industrial councils in the future more than in the past.
§ 3.0. P.M.
§ Mr. VIVIAN
My only excuse for rising to support this Measure, in view of what appears to be an almost unanimous feeling of the House that the Bill should go through, is my interest in this subject for quite a number of years. I have had this interesting experience in connection with these problems, that. I have seen the problem from both ends. As some of my hon. Friends above the Gangway know, my early experience was in the workshop as a trade unionist and as an official in the largest branch of my union in London. I have not passed out of that stage, but I have included experience on the other side as well—the experience of being responsible for the employment of a fairly large number of men, in pre-War 823 days upwards of 1,000, and at the present moment between 600 and 700. I see the problem, therefore, from both sides. I have not left my trade union, of which have been a member now for some 34 years, but I have also the other ad led experience. I join in thanking the trade unionists who have spoken in support of this Measure for the support they are giving to it, and I hope they will proceed to try and make it a workmanlike Measure before it is finished with. I agree that the difficulties as to the penalty clause are considerable, but they are not insurmountable. It is, also, not easy to get over the problem of dealing with the small employer. I should be sorry to see even organisations of employers and employed crystallised to such an extent as to make the arrival of newcomers, individualities with initiative, difficult in any private enterprise. I believe that, in the main, our industries are fed, in intelligence and knowledge, from the bottom, from the small man who rises by struggling, step by step, as it were, up the ladder; and I think it would be disastrous—and I am sure my hon. Friend agrees with me—if, in any way, this Bill prevented the arrival of those newcomers. The old guilds attempted that kind of thing, and failed disastrously. I recall, for example, the case of the hammermen of Glasgow. As some of my friends know who are students of industrial history, they tried to prevent the great inventor, James Watt, from even practising his trade in the district, which ultimately brought about the great invention we now enjoy; and it was only by the charity and philanthropy of the University of Glasgow that he was able to take a small shop in the University and ply his trade. The organisation would have prevented him from developing his genius. I want to provide, in all these attempts at crystallisation, for the liberty of those individuals who arrive and give the world the benefit of their genius, and I hope that that will be thought of in any steps that we take.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) has left the House, but I should like to say a word or two with regard to his speech. I am sure that no one doubts his sincerity, and I make no criticism on that ground, but it does astonish me that hon. Members with 824 professions such as he makes concerning pacifism in the world at large, should really represent militarism in industry. If the great principle of the League of Nations, which I think my hon. Friend supports, stands for anything at all, it stands for the attempt to create, in this very imperfect world, machinery through which, gradually, halt ingly, and with difficulty to begin with, we shall be able to express in human affairs the great principle of law as against the principle of force, and it is only in so far as we learn to work out that great principle in the realm of international affairs that we shall be able to get international peace. My thoughts in industry run along the same lines. I feel that with every generation it is shown in international affairs how more and more interdependent the nations are becoming. As a result of that, war brings about, with every development of time, worse and worse evils to humanity. The old isolated fights between nations are practically impossible now. Your wars now are practically world wars, and so inter-dependent are the nations, that a war in one part of the world, on account of that inter-dependence, brings disaster and distress all over the world, or in many parts of the world. It is the same with industry. As we develop, industry becomes more and more interdependent. A hundred a hundred and fifty, two hundred years ago, the question of a strike or industrial dispute was of relatively small importance. The whole community did not suffer. As you advance, this interdependence becomes more marked, and any dispute, such as in the transport trade, such as in the mining industry, or in the building industry, or in any of these great industries, is not a local matter. It is not a mere trade matter. It is not a matter for that industry alone, but vast masses of people, people in their millions, innocent men, women and children, suffer. That is becoming more marked as the generations go by, and it is up to us, as in international affairs, to find out how in industry we can bring about machinery which will guide industry along the path of reason, of law, and of consultation, as distinguished from force.
I appreciate that in industry, as well as in international affairs, you cannot rush the development of that idea. You must 825 take sentiment, feeling and opinion with you, and any attempt to force it internationally would be disastrous beyond that which the public opinion of the world is ripe for. It is the same in industry. Any attempt to force it beyond the point at which employers and workmen have arrived in their thinking out of the problem would be disastrous. But at least we can give it every encouragement so as to press it forward. The vital thing is the attitude of mind. As Emerson said, "It is not so much where you are that matters, as where you are going," and that, I think, is the fundamental difference between the hon. Member for Shore-ditch, who spoke with such sincerity, and some others who have spoken. The direction in which they are going is different. I should like to ask him, how does he, under his Socialistic scheme, propose to grapple with this problem that we are attempting to grapple with. After all, the real conflict is not so much between employer and employed—though that is becoming more manifest every day—as between a particular industry and the whole of the other industries as represented by what we call the consumer, or the public. The hon. Member, when he gets his Socialist State will have to face that problem. He will find that the fundamental conflict is between the consuming and the producing instincts, aced they are, in a measure, antagonistic. [An HON. MEMBER:" The same body."] Yes, but with a different instinct. Your bricklayer, when laying bricks, has not the same attitude of mind towards the bricks as the workman who is struggling to buy a house with his savings through a building society. They are two fundamentally different attitudes of mind. If the hon. Member for Shoreditch had a Socialistic State to-morrow, that conflict would be there, and one of the first things he would attempt to do would be to bring about councils on the lines of this Bill, with a view of getting over the difficulty. You do not get rid of the difficulty by ignoring the fundamental difficulty between the consumer and the producer.
I hope the Bill will go forward and I hope we shall make it a workable Measure, but in regard to this direction in which you are going it is a vital matter in these clays to help the public to think out a solution of this problem. The hon. Member for Shoreditch is working for a 826 dead end. There is no solution of this problem along the lines of Socialism. Hon. Members who are the heads of great trade unions know very well that this is mere abstract theory. Day by day they have the practical problem and they would have it for a century or a couple of centuries hence. He will not live to see it, but his successors may live to see a Socialistic State. I hope I shall not be here. I say that quite sincerely. I should migrate to the other side as rapidly as I could. We need not argue on that plane at all because even my hon. Friend would say it is not likely to arise in any perfect sense during our lifetime. That being so we have, day by day, week by week, for many years ahead the problem of dealing with this great question of industrial development, industrial dispute and industrial peace, and above all with the increase of production. That is the problem that lies in front of us. Be under no delusions. It is production that matters. Terms of money do not count. Seriously, I wish we could get some of our friends who are addressing Labour gatherings to emphasise the difference between real wages and money wages. After all, the whole you can get in real wages or income is only the sum total of the national production. When we get our wages what we have is a medium through which we can take a share of the things and services that are produced. If the volume of those things and services is small there is nothing that labour or the employers can do to increase real wages. They can only go on increasing the size of the tickets of invitation to the feast. I want to increase the quantity on the table. That is the important thing.
My interest in trade unionism became less enthusiastic when I saw that the trade unions were developing along the lines of militarism rather than along the lines of coming into the industry to take their share of the responsibility for working it. My hon. Friends may be interested to know that when I saw that that was the drift of trade unionism, I said," I will get into business myself and see what I can do constructively." I have never lost my belief in organisation; I firmly believe in it, but I say that the trade unions have taken the wrong path and that they will have to change their path. In the last 34 years since I have known the move- 827 ment, it has developed along the lines of being a fighting organisation. You cannot build up a prosperous industry in any country on the mere terms of militarism and in terms of war. Production is a question of co-operation, both of brain and hand right the way through. The terms of war should not apply.
I look forward to the time when the trade union organisations will become what I hoped they would become. At one time I preached, and I urged it in my own trade union branches, that they should try to develop a form of constitutionalism in industry. I know the risks of the workmen laying down the sword and taking up the trowel alone in their relations to the employers. I am not unmindful of the risks they run, but, looking ahead, and having regard to the overwhelming interests of the community as a whole as distinct from the separate interests of industries, I say that our great trade union organisations now are strong enough to run that risk. I hope they will take the field boldly now, not for war in industry, but that they should be prepared to join with the employers in a talk across the conference table as to the way in which industry can be made more efficient. In that way the workmen will serve the community best as well as themselves, and get a real and equitable share of the product of their labour.
I am not unmindful of the position of the worker. In my time I have lived in a very little room, with very little housing accommodation, and with little resources of my own. I agree that the workmen should demand their share of the product. In many great branches of industry the product is not being equitably distributed or divided. I admit that, to the full, but it is not by decreasing the product that you will solve the problem. That is not even intelligent class warfare. It would not be intelligent class warfare to-day if the building trade operatives were not to throw themselves with a will into giving us the maximum volume of houses at a minimum amount of waste of energy, because there are masses of their fellow-countrymen who are living in slums and waiting for healthy cottages.
Let them join with their employers, and at the same time demand to the full their share of the product, but say, quite 828 frankly, "We are going to help as equals. Drop the word master." We do not admit any masters in this problem. It is a question of partnership, each side having their respective functions. Let us not be under any, delusion. It is not every person who can be a manager. That idea in the organisation of industry is the merest moonshine. From time to time we are waiting for managing men. They are not easy to get and they are very valuable when you get them. Only one man in 10,000, very often, is the man you want, and you should use his ability and not deny its existence or treat it with contempt. You should make it as far as possible your servant in helping forward the interests of the community.
As far as the future of industry is concerned, its prosperity in the long run depends upon how far your employers' organisations and your workmen's organisations regard themselves, not as absolute monarchs within their respective spheres, but how far they can use their organisations powerful, wealthy and capable of great good, not as absolute monarchs, but as trustees in the interest of the community as a whole. That spirit of trusteeship, co-partnership and regard for the community as a whole, as distinguished from any separate interests, will alone take this country over the next 20 or 30 years, with its enormous burden of debt and huge responsibilities in regard to social reform. It is because this Bill, very imperfect as it is—and I hope that it will be improved in Committee—stands for development on (hose lines of constructive, industrial reform that I give it my support to-day, and I hope that the House will give it its unanimous support.
§ Mr. HANNON
if I may respectfully do so, I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Vivian) on a very admirable speech. If the spirit to which he gave expression permeated industrial life in this country, we should have a very different state of things from that which we find to-day. I agree entirely with him—and he was right in telling the House of his long experience of co-partnership movement—that all this waste of time, effort and production in the industrial life of the country ought on the plea of common sense alone to be stopped at the earliest possible moment. Anybody who reads the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," and observes from week 829 to week the reports of the hundreds and thousands of pounds that are lost over little pettifogging disputes that are unworthy of the consideration of sensible people, will have present to his mind what a disastrous condition of affairs it is that we have no machinery for ensuring peace in industrial matters. I think, Sir, that when your Committee was sitting on this subject, you had present to your mind the possibility of a Bill of this kind, as the following observations appear in your report:It appears, then, that it may be desirable at some later stage for the State to give the sanction of law to agreements made by industrial councils, but the initiative in this direction should come from the councils themselves.That is what this Bill proposes to do, and all that has been said in criticism of the failure of industrial councils in the course of this Debate only emphasises the importance of securing for the industrial councils the powers sought under this Bill. The hon. Member for Shore-ditch (Mr. Thurtle), in his speech moving the rejection of this Bill, said that this Bill was condemned by the Trade Union Congress. I suggest that the system of introducing what is known as Whitleyism did not get a fair chance when the question was discussed before the Trade Union Congress. I am informed that when the question arose, there was very little time given to its discussion, and that the protagonists for the rejection of the Resolution in favour of this Measure were trade union officials, and, human nature being what it is, trade union officials will look upon this Bill as a possible means of lessening their own power in dealing with labour disputes.
Another criticism was that this Bill did not touch the question of profits and that the employers of this country were exploiting working men. That is the continuous cry of hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. HANNON
Certainly I do. It has been alleged that this Bill does not touch profits, and that the whole object is to strengthen the employers in relation to their workpeople and to enable them to make more profit, however that may be done. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Boroughs (Mr. Kirkwood) is not present, because he is an engineer. Quite recently a very important investiga- 830 tion took place at the instance of employers and employed in the great engineering industry. A report was issued the other day which was a result of the deliberate consultation of both sides. I commend a careful consideration of that report to some hon. Members opposite. Let me state what the report discloses. The total net profit of the whole of the engineering enterprises in Great Britain in 1923 was only 23 per cent. What a lot of profit there to divide!
§ Mr. HANNON
During the first four months of this year the total net profit was 3 per cent. Why do hon. Members, every time they speak in this House about industrial questions, criticise employers because they feel that employers are absorbing a great mass of profit? Look at the great engineering firms and imagine them trying to carry the burden of the industry on their shoulders on a margin of net profit of a third of 1 per cent. There are hundreds of large firms which, during the crisis of the last three or four winters, have tried to carry their workpeople and have obtained contracts far below a remunerative price. To my personal knowledge many contracts have been taken which were a dead loss to the firms, but they accepted the contracts in order to carry their workmen over a difficult time. I have among my friends, one in particular, who has given serious thought for a long time to the question of the appropriation of profits.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member would be travelling wide of the Bill if he went at length into the question of the division of profits.
§ Mr. HANNON
I refer to the subject only because the hon. Member opposite, in moving the rejection of the Bill, emphasised his objection to it on the ground that it took no account of profit. The reason why I am dealing with profits at all is that I want to reply to the hon. Member's argument by showing how the profits in industry are divided. I hope you will permit me to round off my point by giving the figures with regard to this particular inquiry. In this particular 831 industry, the pottery industry, examination was made of the appropriation of turnover over five years. Capital got 3 per cent., labour got 84.5 per cent., and the State got 12.5 per cent. I welcome this Bill, and I am confident that the great employing community also will welcome it. If there is anything necessary in the public life of this country to-day it is industrial peace. Every man who has been examining this question since your Committee reported upon it, will welcome the Debate this afternoon and the excellent spirit which has animated it. With the exception of a few little tin whistle bleats from the opposite side no one seems to have made any serious reflection on the Bill. At the same time, when the Bill goes into Committee I hope the proposal to introduce the compulsory principle will be carefully examined. It is a serious departure in the industrial policy of this country and I hope consideration will be given as to how it may be made operate without interfering with the safety or liberty of any single person who may be affected. I do not wish the small man, no matter bow small or how troublesome he may be, to be unfairly dealt with. Care should be taken that his interests are adequately protected. I feel sure the employing community will be glad to see the Measure receive a Second Reading, and I join in the suggestion that the Government should give time for a full discussion of the Bill in Committee and, if possible, facilitate its passage into law during the present Session.
§ Mr. F. GOULD
I am glad to make a brief contribution to this Debate in support of the Second Reading of the Bill. It has been my privilege and pleasure for many years outside the House to support the principle of the Bill, and I am now prepared to go into the Division Lobby if necessary to support its Second Reading. The Bill has been called an employers' Bill; it has been called the Liberal party's Bill, and it has been charged against it that it is not a Socialist Bill. I deny that it is an employers' Bill; whether it be a Liberal party or Conservative party Bill, if it makes a contribution towards industrial peace, I will support it, and if it is not a Socialist Measure ultimately, but is one which recognises industrial problems relating to the life of to-day, I consider it on its 832 merits, and in so far as it has direct relationship to the problems of industrial life, it demands our serious consideration. Because of these facts and of the experience which some of us have had, we approach it in a sympathetic and serious frame of mind. Before I came to this House I was a boot operative in a bootmaking centre.
References have been made to that industry, and I think I have the right to support this Measure on behalf of the 80,000 workpeople concerned in that industry. The toilers in both the heavy goods and light goods sections in the boot industry ask with unanimity for the provisions embodied in this Bill, and they are not the only industry asking for it. The representative of the Government who spoke gave a cue to the various divisions which exist on this question, and when we begin to classify the industrial life of our country we find that there must, of necessity, be different points of view. I represent an area which is partially industrial and partially agricultural, an area which on Monday will be discussing the rural agricultural problem just as to-day the boot operatives and the industrial part of the community will be discussing this Measure. I think it will be readily seen that what is good for the big trade unions cannot be good for the unorganised workers of the countryside, and may not be equally good for those industrial organisations whose membership is scattered over wide areas.
I will give two instances which seem to be conclusive in support of the Bill. Take the boot operatives' organisation. We have boards of arbitration meeting in the various districts and centres throughout Great Britain. They arrive, by mutual bargaining, at what they believe to be a fair apportionment of the wage level, according to the ability of the industry to bear it, after meeting with the employers in those various boards of arbitration. We have a central organisation that. co-ordinates the work of the whole country, and by the executive of the federated manufacturers and the executive of the Boot Operatives' Union, they meet at various periods to discuss, and to unify, to co-ordinate and put into an agreement, after a ballot of the whole membership, what are called the terms of the agreement. This is what happens: You take a district like the Bristol and 833 Kingswood district, in the heavy nail goods, and you find, particularly at slump periods, when trade is depressed, the federated manufacturers and workers trying to hold the district to the terms of the settlement. You find, on the fringe, a small manufacturer, an unscrupulous manufacturer, taking industrial depression as his weapon, forcing down unorganised workers to a level below the arrangement entered into by the agreement, and immediately you have unfair competition at the cost. of the wage level in the industry.
Immediately that process comes into play, you have an unfair economic level entering into the market, and the employer, sending out his representatives, finds there is a boot on the market at perhaps Is., or 8d., or 6d. per pair below the level at which he is able to compete, trying, as he is, to maintain the wage level according to the agreement. What is our power? We meet round that board, we find that the employer in that firm is outside the federation and that the workers in the firm are outside the trade union, and all that we can do is to try and bring moral suasion to bear on the firm and on the workers, but, when you have industrial depression, it is utterly useless to appeal to the men, who are able to make, by the lower rate of wage, a few dozen or a few thousand pairs of boots because they have entered the market on a lower basis. The best employer is beaten down, the whole of the trade is undermined, and the wage level is undermined by first one firm and then another, until the whole position has been honeycombed and undermined. I am glad to say that the boot operatives' organisation has largely maintained its unemployment benefits, its sickness benefits and its funeral benefits, simply because we have not resorted to the strike weapon, but by arbitration and by conference have arrived at the agreement now in operation.
There is in the agreement a holiday scheme, a provision which I believe the whole of the country ought to recognise, but that holiday scheme is being prejudiced and undermined by certain firms that will not federate, and it means this, that we have, within a 50 yards compass, men paying into that holiday scheme and employers paying into it, at the various periods of the holidays as 834 they come along, and one set of workers taking £2 for the holiday week and another set of workers not getting a contribution at all. The whole holiday scheme is thus endangered, because we have no power to make it legal and binding. I shall very happily and readily go into the Division Lobby in favour of this Bill, believing that, in so far as the organisation is voluntary, it is in the districts where the problems are known, that the central power will coordinate only after a majority of both sides have made their decisions, and that there is no permanent penalty that cannot be regulated if you wish to review it, say, in three or six months' time, and I believe that the whole country will, through this vote to-day, take a step towards eliminating industrial friction and bringing a certain amount of confidence between workers and employers where hitherto a great gulf has existed.
It is because of suspicion, because of lack of confidence, and because of the gulf that has been created by part-bargaining and unscrupulous employers, and often weak workpeople, that we find the great tragedy we have in our industrial life to-day. It will be a step towards industrial peace, and if it be a step in the direction of bringing unity, harmony and some amount of confidence, it will be a real step towards finding out the ability of the industry to pay, and not only that, but the weaknesses of badly-organised businesses, and so eliminate unscrupulous people from industry. I would fight a long day to eliminate those people, because very often the unscrupulous bring down the honourable men and weaken the whole industry, because the man who is anxious to maintain, in the interests of, good industry, good wages, and good conditions, is often pulled under, because of an unscrupulous section in that particular industry that often sweats labour, and cuts out the best conditions that make industrial life at all harmonious and happy to the industrial toilers. For that reason, while I hope to watch very carefully the penal Clause in Committee, I shall gladly support the Second Reading to-day, in the belief that the Bill will add one more step on the road to industrial peace.
§ Sir J. MARRIOTT
I desire to say a few words in support of the Second Reading of this Bill. If I had had any lingering doubts before this Debate began 835 as to the value and importance of this Bill, those doubts would have been removed, partly by such an admirable speech as that to which we have, just listened by the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. F. Gould), but not less by such a speech as that of the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle). I believe speeches such as his will have gone a very long way to convince the majority of all parties in this House that this is a Bill which ought to be cordially sup-ported. The hon. Member for Shore-ditch, in his opposition to the Bill, made an assumption which is neither justified by facts, nor ought to be admitted on this or any other side of the House, namely, that he, and those for whom he speaks, are alone in their monopoly of regard for the interests of the manual workers, or that they are more returned to this House by the votes of manual workers than are the rest of us. He made a very strong attack upon the Bill because it made, as he maintained, no adequate provision for the distribution of the profits of industry. I agree that that is not the primary purpose of the Bill, but that point has been dealt with—and very ably dealt with—by my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon) and I do not propose to pursue it. I would merely acid my testimony to that of the hon. Member for Moseley, that the profits of industry are likely to be promoted for the benefit of all parties by the passing of this Bill.
On the face of it, I should have had some suspicion about this Bill, because when I first read it, I frankly confess that it seemed to me to embody a principle of compulsion to which, on general grounds, I should be strongly opposed, but I think it is the part of statesmanship to consider these questions on their merits, and that is what I propose to do in regard to this Bill. I think that the provisions of this Bill, the specific Clauses of tins Bill, will have to be very carefully scrutinised when we get to the Committee stage. I do hope, however, that the House will give a benevolent, and, I should like to think, a unanimous, Second Reading to it. I have always been, from the time of the initiation of the councils which bear your name, Mr. Speaker, a very strong believer in the principle of these Joint Industrial Councils. I believe they have contributed to the solution of the problems of modern 836 industry one of the most helpful and benevolent developments.
This Bill, as I understand it, is merely intended to carry one stage further the principle of Joint Industrial Councils. As has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley, it was anticipated in the Report of the original Whitley Committee that it might be desirable at some date, or stage, for the State to give the sanction of law to agreements made by the councils, but the Report added, I think, a very important proviso—that the initiative in this direction should come from the councils themselves. That is precisely, as I understand it, what is proposed by this Bill. In every case, I think, if this Bill is closely examined, it will be perceived that the compulsory principle is not very strongly represented.
Nor is this a Bill for compulsory arbitration. In sonic quarters it has been represented as making some contribution, and as marking a progressive step towards, the principle of compulsory arbitration. As I read the Bill I do not think it does anything of the kind. I remember very well that the original Report of the Whitley Committee, whose intentions this Bill is carrying out, pronounced very definitely against the principle of compulsory arbitration. I quite admit that it is conceivable that that principle might work in small and nonhighly-industrialised communities, but I am convinced that the principle of compulsory arbitration will never be applied to a highly industrialised State. This is not a Bill for compulsory arbitration. It does not even seek, as I read it, to impose powers on industrial councils. It is really of a voluntary and optional character The powers asked for by this Bill are to be granted only to those who desire the powers, and who apply for them through their industrial councils.
There are just t we caveats which I should like to enter in regard to the details of this Bill; for these are points which must be very fully and carefully considered when we get to the Committee stage. The first is the point very strongly made by the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Vivian) and made very eloquently. I at any rate should he very suspicious of this Bill if I thought it was going to do anything to eliminate the small producer. We do not want the small manufacturer 837 eliminated so long as he is conducting his business in an honest and honourable way. We are not only anxious to prevent the elimination of the small manufacturer and producer, but we want to do everything we can either by this Bill or otherwise to encourage the small person corning into industry.
The other caveat I referred to is in regard to the position of the consumer. I think we were told by the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill that we should find adequate provision for the protection of the consumer in Clause 4 of the Bill. To the best of ray ability I have read that Clause, but I am not quite certain where that protection is to be found for the consumer under that Clause, and from that point of view I think this Bill will have to be very carefully scrutinised in Committee. I believe no hon. Members of this House would like to do anything through or by the machinery of this Bill to give more power to rings in industry. We shall have to watch very carefully the specific Clauses of the Bill from the point of view of the consumer.
I shall go into the Lobby, if necessary, in support of the Second Reading of this Bill, because I believe any faults which it may possess in its details may very well be removed at a later stage. I believe this Bill will make a contribution, and an important contribution, to the promotion of industrial peace in this country, and surely there can be no party in this House, and no individual Member of this House, who does not in these days so critical for the future of industry desire to make every contribution he can towards the promotion of industrial peace.
§ Mr. DODDS
I wish to say a few words in support of the Second Reading of this Bill. With regard to the point raised by the last speaker about the protection of the consumer, I would point out that Clause 4 deals with the Central Industrial Board, and that Board is composed of consumers as well as the representatives of the industries concerned. That Clause may need a certain amount of definition to make it a little more clear that the interests of the consumer are not to be neglected, but on on the broader issues I am delighted to support the Bill, because it gives for the first time statu- 838 tory recognition to the Industrial Council associated with your name, Mr. Speaker. Here we have the industrial councils dealt with in a Bill, it may seem to be in an incidental manner, but in a manner which is vital to the industries of this country. I support this Measure because I believe it will stimulate the Ministry of Labour into sympathetic action. I do not suggest that that Ministry has been lacking in sympathy, but it will give to the Ministry certain functions and opportunities of initiating and inaugurating councils which it has not felt it has possessed in the past.
In the third place I believe this Bill is necessary because it gives a much needed encouragement to the councils which have been pursuing their work during the past few years. Some councils have felt discouraged because they have taken their work to a certain point, and then by the operation of a minority the conclusions they have reached after much negotiation have been rendered ineffective. I welcome this Bill as containing a moderate element of compulsion, and just as much as is necessary. I welcome the introduction of this Measure and I hope it will be passed into law. Fortunately, we have not many points of opposition to deal with this afternoon. I should just like to point out to the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) that he was entirely wide of the mark when he said that this was a party Measure emanating from the Liberal summer schools. May I remind him that a Bill of this nature was drafted before the Liberals ever held any summer schools, and, had it not been for the luck of the ballot, it is just as likely that it might have been introduced by Members on the benches above the Gangway? Moreover, the support that this Bill has received from all quarters of the House this afternoon shows that it is not regarded, except in the minds of one or two, as in any sense a party Measure, but as one dealing with the interests of trade from points of view other than those purely of party politicians. We have had some reference to a resolution passed at Plymouth. Incidentally, one may remark that Plymouth seems to be attaining an unenviable notoriety as a place where unfortunate resolutions are passed. On this occasion, however. it would appear that the opposition at Ply- 839 mouth came from parties who were really not interested in industrial councils.
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) made his usual impassioned speech, but his industry is one of those which has not a Whitley Council, and, of course, not having a Whitley Council, his industry could not be affected for good or for evil by any of the provisions of this Bill. He referred to his class. Exception has been taken, and rightly taken, to the use of the phrase "masters and men," but I venture to submit that a more unfortunate phrase is that of "my class," particularly at the present time when there is certainly a trend towards elimination of these class distinctions in industry. We have had that- very admirably indicated this after coon in the speeches made by those associated with the employing class. That tendency is to be encouraged and can best be encouraged by the extension of what we now know as the Whitley system.
The last speaker and other speakers referred to the trade boards. I should like to point out that this Bill, after all, is a logical extension of the trade board system. The trade boards, if I understood them aright, were set up for trades which were not sufficiently organised to go in for their own schemes, but it is clearly indicated in the Second Whitley Report that it was thought that the trade boards would so organise trades that they would be able to take up the more voluntary system of the Whitley Councils and in time get on to a better system than is possible for them in their un organised state. This is simply a compliment to the Whitley system of self government, and the Bill will be of vital interest and use to the trade boards. If those trades come under the system of industrial councils, they will find compulsion of a much more moderate nature, and they will be able to work for the harmony and peace of which we have had instances in so many trades and industries which have been brought before us this afternoon.
May I, in conclusion, say how much n a new Member appreciates the way in which a matter of this kind has been discussed on the Floor of the House. It shows that there is a movement in the right direction, and one can find encour- 840 agement from a Debate such as we have had this afternoon that the system of mutual co-operation is one of the good things which, in some measure, we did obtain as the result of the War. There has arisen a new spirit, and if we can, by an overwhelming majority, if not unanimously, this afternoon give an impetus to this movement, we shall be doing something which will be responded to throughout the length and breadth of the land.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Amid the chorus of praise with which this Bill has been received, I rise to utter one or two criticisms. As I listened to the speeches in support of hon. Gentlemen opposite I thought that they themselves, in the 12 months they had been in power, might have done more towards encouraging the operations of the - machinery already in existence. The last speaker has referred to trade boards and asserted that this Bill is an extension of that principle do not think it is. I remember that, in the grocery trade 12 months ago, before the previous Government had ceased to exist, both employers and employed agreed to wage conditions, but the enthusiasts for this Bill, who speak so much of peace and concord, for 12 months refused to put into operation the recommendations of the employers and employed in that particular industry. You have to-day in Society a class struggle going on. You cannot avoid it. I worked for years as a carpenter at the bench, and I was constantly looking to sell the only thing I possessed. which was the power to labour and to produce a certain commodity. The employer, on the other hand, fought my labour, and there was always a constant struggle going on between us both. You may bring in a Bill to set up industrial courts, but what will happen? Men will still become dissatisfied with their conditions, and we shall have an official body stepping in to work as between the trade unions and the employers, as was the case during the War, when we, not being satisfied with our conditions, an official body came in which fought both the employers and the trade union officials, and we were compelled to accept things which we did not approve. The result of this Bill will only he to set up another new board, which will have as its duty the function of fighting both sides.
§ Mr. MURRELL rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It is most unfortunate that we have only had two speeches in criticism of the Bill. I thought hon. Members on this side were in favour of peace. Next week hon. Members below
§ Mr. EDMUND HARVEY rose in, his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 236; Noes, 16.843
|Division No. 87.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Falconer, J.||McCrae, Sir George|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Franklin, L. B.||McEntee, V. L|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Macfadyen, E.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Gates, Percy||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. (Glas.C.)||Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Allen. R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Maden, H.|
|Alstead, R.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Mansel, Sir Courtenay|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopoid C. M. S.||Gillett, George M.||March, S.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Gosling, Harry||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Gould, James C. (Cardiff, Central)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Baker, Walter||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Middleton, G.|
|Banton, G.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Millar, J. D.|
|Barnes, A.||Grundy, T. W.||Mitchell, R.M. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Batey, Joseph||Guest, Capt.Hn.F.E.(Gloucstr.,Stroud)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Moles, Thomas|
|Berry, Sir George||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mond, H.|
|Birchall, Major j. Dearman||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Montague, Frederick|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Morris, R. H.|
|Black, J. W.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Hardie, George D.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, North)|
|Bonwick, A.||Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Morse, W. E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Harris, Percy A.||Mosley, Oswald|
|Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Harvey,C.M.B.(Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Moulton, Major Fletcher|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Nixon, H.|
|Brunner, Sir J.||Haycock, A. W.||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Buckle, J.||Hayes, John Henry||Oliver, George Harold|
|Cape, Thomas||Healy, Cahir||Paling, W.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hemmerde, E. G.||Palmer, E. T.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Perry, S. F.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Henderson, W. W.(Middlesex, Enfield)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford. Watford)||Phillipson, Mabel|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hobhouse, A. L.||Pilkington, R. R.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Potts, John S.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hoffman, P. C.||Raffan, P. W.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hogge, James Myles||Raffety, F. W.|
|Collins, Patrick (Walsall)||Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford|
|Cope. Major William||Howard, Hn. D.(Cumberland,Northn.)||Rawllnson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Cove, W. G.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Rea, W. Russell|
|Crittall, V. G.||Jewson, Dorothea||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Robertson, T. A.|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Keens, T.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Dickson, T.||Kenyon, Barnet||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Dodds, S. R.||Laverack, F. J.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Law, A.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Leach, W.||Savery, S. S.|
|Dukes, C.||Lessing, E.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Duncan, C.||L infield, F. C.||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||Livingstone, A. M.||Sherwood, George Henry|
|Dunnlco, H.||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Short, Alfred (Wednesday)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Loverseed, J. F.||Simon, E. D.(Manchester, Withington)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Lowth, T.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Elliot, W. E.||Lumley, L. R.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Lunn, William||Smillie, Robert|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||M'Connell, Thomas E.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Tinker, John Joseph||Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B.(Kennington)|
|Snell, Harry||Varley, Frank B.||Williams, Maj. A.S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)||Viant, S. P.||Wilson, Sir Charles H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Spero, Dr. G. E.||Vivian, H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel Georgs|
|Stamford, T. W.||Wallhead, Richard C.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Stanley, Lord||Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)||Wise, Sir Frederic|
|Stewart, Maj. R. S.(Stockton-on-Tees)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Stranger, Innes Harold||Warrender, Sir Victor||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Sturrock, J. Leng||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)||Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.|
|Sutcllffe, T.||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.||Wright, W.|
|Sutherland, Rt. Han. Sir William||Weir, L. M.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Tattersall, J. L.||Wells, S. R.||Yerburgh, Major Rabert D. T.|
|Terrington, Lady||Welsh, J. C.|
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Wignall, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Williams, Or. J. H. (Lianelly)||Mr. Murrell and Mr. Isaacs.|
|Thornton, Maxwell, R.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Buchanan, G.||Marley, James||Stephen, Campbell|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Maxton, James||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Groves, T.||Naylor, T. E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hudson, J. H.||Nichol, Robert||Windsor, Walter|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Kennedy, T.||Spence, R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Thurtle and Mr. Kirkwood.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.