HC Deb 01 April 1925 vol 182 cc1281-5
67. Colonel WOODCOCK

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the British Government's share of the International Labour Organisation at Geneva is this year assessed at £30,000; what are the arrangements under which this country is called upon for this amount; and, in view of the small benefits accrued to this country by this expenditure, will he take steps to have it reduced in future years?

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir A. Steel-Maitland)

As the answer is somewhat long, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that £30,000 is a very considerable increase on previous years; and will he make every effort to stop this amount increasing and to limit the expenditure in future?


I may say that we are taking all the natural steps to achieve economy in these circumstances as in others. My only reason for circulat ing the answer is that it extends to four pages of manuscript, which I think the House would not wish me to read.


Does the Minister agree that "small benefits have accrued to this country" in this respect? Is it not of enormous advantage to a country like ours that other countries should make arrangements with us to raise the social standing of the people?


Is the United States in this organisation?

Following is the answer to the Question an the Paper:

1. The international Labour Organisation was established by Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles, 1919, which provided that the permanent organisation should consist of:—

  1. (a) A General Conference of representatives of the members and
  2. (b) An International Labour Office controlled by the Governing Body.

2. In pursuance of Article 392 of the Treaty, the International Labour Office is established at Geneva, the seat of the League of Nations, as part of the organisation of the League.

The object of the organisation is set out in the preamble to Part XIII of the Treaty, namely:— Whereas the League of Nations has for its object the establishment of universal peace, and such a peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice; And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled; and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required; as, for example, by the regulation of the hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week, the regulation of the labour supply, the prevention of unemployment, the provision of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for old age and injury, protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, recognition of the principle of freedom of association, the organisation of vocational and technical education and other measures; Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries.

3. The principal functions of the International Labour Office are the collection and distribution of information of international interest on the conditions of industrial life and labour; the examination of industrial subjects, with a view to the conclusion of international conventions for the improvement of the conditions of labour; and the publication in French and English of a periodical paper dealing with the problems of industry and employment of international interest.

4. The Treaty provides that the General Conference of representatives of members hall be held from time to time as occasion may require and at least once in every year. There has been one Conference each year since 1919.

5. The Conference is composed of four representatives of each of the States which are members. Two of these representatives are Government delegates and the other two represent, respectively, the employers and the workpeople of the country, chosen in agreement with the principal industrial organisations where such exist. The Treaty further provides that each delegate, may be accompanied by advisers, who shall not exceed two in number, for each item on the agenda of the meeting.

6. The Governing Body consists of 24 persons, 12 representing the Governments, six elected by the delegates to the Conference representing employers, and six elected by the delegates to the Conference representing workers. One of the Government members on the Governing Body must always be a representative of Great Britain, and at the present time a representative of British employers and a representative of British workers also sit on the Governing Body, having been elected by the employers' and workers' delegates respectively, at the 1922 Conference.

7. A draft of the Budget of the International Labour Organisation is first prepared by the Director of the Office and is then examined by the Finance Committee of the Governing Body, who submit it to the Governing Body for approval. The next stage is an examination by the Financial Supervisory Commission of the League of Nations, which body as well as the Assembly of the League may amend it. When finally approved, it is included by the Annual Assembly of the League (together with the Budgets of the Secretariat and the Permanent Court of International Justice) in a single precept which is levied upon each of the States which are members of the League in proportion to their liability to contribute. The sums specified in the precept are due and payable by the respective States as an obligation under the Treaty of Versailles.

8. Under Article 6 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the expenses of the League (including the I.L.O.) are to be borne by the States which are members in the proportions decided by the Assembly. In 1925 the proportion to be borne by Great Britain is 9.41 per cent.

9. The British Government representative on the Governing Body of the Inter national Labour Office has, under successive Governments, steadily pressed for economies in the expenditure of the International Labour Office. It is undoubted that this pressure has been effective in restricting expenditure without detriment to the proper discharge of the functions of the Office under the Peace Treaty.

10. It is intended that close observation shall be kept on the activities of the International Labour Organisation and that every opportunity should be taken to secure economies. In this connection it has to be remembered that the British Government have only one vote out of 24 on the Governing Body and cannot, therefore, compel reductions contrary to the views of the majority.

68. Colonel WOODCOCK

asked the Minister of Labour when and under what conditions the sum of £4,000 was promised as a British gift to take the form of embellishment, or furnishing of a prominent part of the building of the new International Labour Office at Geneva; and whether the Government intend to ratify this promise?


At the 14th sitting of the International Labour Conference (on the 1st July, 1924) the hon. Member for West Houghton, British Government Delegate, formally announced that the Government intended to recommend to Parliament the approval of the expenditure of a sum not exceeding £4,000 as a gift to the new building for the International Labour Office. The precise form which the gift should take has not been definitely determined, but it is proposed that it shall be utilised for the decoration and furnishing of the room in which the governing body of the International Labour Office will hold its meetings. The answer to the second part of my hon. and gallant Friend's question is in the affirmative.


Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the policy of his predecessor in making a gift of £4,000 for a building in a foreign country when the money could be used more profitably for the unemployed of this country?