§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
May I, at the outset, be permitted to say a word which is hardly in order in connection with this Bill, but which, I think, has some connection with the matter, and which relates to what, if I might say so, is almost a trespass on the privileges of this House? A circular has been sent out by a licensed trade association in the North of England, in which the inference appears to be drawn that I am prepared to come to a deal in order to allow my Bill to be withdrawn and another Bill to take its place. I do not know who are the gentlemen who wrote that letter, but I should say that they have no knowledge either of the Labour movement or of myself personally. I am interested in this Bill regarding a 48-hour week, and no other object, no matter how good or how laudable it might be, will be allowed to interfere, either with the movement of which I am a member or myself, in the furtherance of this desired object.
May I also say that I believe there are men in my own Party who are in many ways more fitted to move this Bill than I am? In certain respects, so far as its international aspect is concerned, I should say that there are many who, because of their knowledge of foreign countries and of industrial conditions abroad, would be more fitted than myself for the task of moving this Bill; but with regard to the question of industrial conditions at home, and the hours of labour of the large masses of the people, I think that, from my immediate experience among those folk, I have at least a fair degree of capacity to speak on that side of the subject.
With regard to the general question of hours of labour, it might be as well if at the outset I slightly sketch to the Members of this House the history of this Bill. It is appropriate for two reasons 472 that I, on behalf of the Labour movement, should be moving this Bill. In the first place, this happens to be the first day of May, and on the first day of May it is the historic duty of the Labour movement and of the working-class people, not only in this country but in almost every country in the world, no matter what their colour may be, no matter what their religious creed may be, no matter what functions they perform in the life of the people, to meet on the first day of May and proclaim their solidarity and hold omit the hand of friendship, band to proclaim, also, the need for universal improvement in the lives of the people of the various countries. That has been a historic mission on the first day of May, and it is appropriate that on the first day of May a piece of legislation that was originally designed to have an international effect should be moved in this House on that day.
Secondly, it is somewhat appropriate that I, being the Member for Gorbals, should move this Bill, because it was my predecessor, Mr. George N. Barnes, who was largely the designer and the pioneer of this particular Measure. It was he who was selected by the Coalition Government of 1918-22 as their delegate to the Washington Conference, and it is important that the House should remember that not only did he go there prepared himself to support and vote for the 48 Hours Bill, but that, in a speech which lie made in this House in 1921, he laid it down, further, that not only did he do that as a supporter of the Bill himself, but that he was instructed by the then Government to vote for this convention. After the War, there was a great feeling in this country, as, indeed in most countries, that, seeing that the War had come on, seeing that there had been a fellowship of the trenches and of employer and employed, there ought to be in every country some universal recognition of the working-class effort during the period of that War. Therefore, we had, immediately after the War, all kinds of schemes, Whitley Councils and others, designed to improve to some extent the conditions of the people. One of the outcomes was the Washington Conference itself, and at that Conference one of the pledges and promises made to the people by the Coalition Government at that time—to the men who had been in the Army, to the men who were returning 473 to industrial occupations in particular—was that the convention regarding a 48-hour week would be carried into effect.
I want to say, with regard to the pledge itself, that it would appear to me somewhat peculiar that, while in regard to meeting our War debts, in regard to meeting interest on our liabilities, in regard to meeting the American financiers —in every way regarding the financial side of liability—this country, and, indeed, the House of Commons, whenever it is suggested that there should be the slightest variation from that, becomes indignant that there should even be a thought of departing from our original intention of carrying out our word, yet, when it comes to carrying out our word to the industrial population in regard to our promises to them, then we can find every reason, every excuse, for not doing our duty in regard to them. I want to say to this House that, if it is important to carry out our pledges, if they be pledges, our promises, if they be promises, in regard to War debt and to international obligations in connection with finance and other matters, it is equally, nay, more, important that we should carry out our promises and pledges to the industrial workers in this and every other country.
Therefore, the Labour party to-day do not make any apology for bringing forward this Measure. We think it is long overdue, and we bring forward our proposal for legislative enactment. It is true that the Bill contains many exceptions. We do not seek to apply this provision to sailors; we do not seek to apply it to farm workers; we make exemptions here and we make exemptions there. We also make provision for the working of overtime. The Bill might be criticised for not going far enough, but what I am concerned about in this House is not merely to get the Bill to go further, but to try to get the principle of regulating hours of labour agreed to by Members of this House. What is going to be argued, I believe—and I think it is the only case against the Bill that can be argued—is not that 48 hours is too little to work, not that 48 hours is even far too much for the ordinary manual worker. It is not going to be the case against our Bill that we are making a revolutionary demand. Indeed, I could almost imagine the opponents of this Bill one and all agree- 474 ing with the principle and the laudable object of this Bill. But everyone is going to object because they say that some country abroad has never ratified or carried this principle into effect. That indeed is going to be their case. On the same reasoning we ought to recast our whole war debt because every other European nation has refused to meet its liabilities and therefore we ought to refuse I to meet our liabilities if we are logical in the sense of finance. But it is said, no matter what other countries may do, we must be honourable. When we come along and say, no matter what other countries may do or not do in regard to hours of labour, la us be honourable, then they find an excuse for us not being honourable in regard to that. My own view it that if this country would agree to take a forward step others would follow.
In regard to this it is not quite true that other countries have done nothing at all. Austria was not only defeated in the War but was almost humiliated. She had a comparatively starving population. Not only did they ratify the Treaty but they agreed to put a tax of 33⅓rd per cent, on all goods imported from other countries which had not ratified the Washington Convention. Other countries have agreed to the principle that if this country carries out its word they are prepared to come along and to forward this legislation. It might be argued that they ought to do it first and then we would follow. But is the principle of 48 hours so much that we cannot risk it? In 1919 there was a con ference in this country, not of representatives of wild men from the Clyde, but of comparatively mild people, representing the trade union leaders and employers. It was held largely under the auspices of the then Government. A Committee was elected to go into the question of improving the conditions of the working people. Not one single Clyde member ever got looking at the Committee, much less being a member. Yet this responsible body, this, comparatively speaking, mild body went into the question of hours of labour, and what recommendations did they make? Apart from what foreign countries were doing, apart from the Washington Convention, without laying down what Germany or France or Italy should do, it came to the unanimous finding, 475 employers and employed, that the Government ought immediately to pass an Act limiting the hours of labour to 48. They even went further than this Bill proposes to do. They went so far as to suggest that measures should be taken to include seamen in the Bill.
What are the objections to a 48-hour week in this country? In the engineering, shipbuilding, cotton, woollen, iron and steel industries, wages are relatively worse to-day than they were in 1914. I do not believe the manual worker needs less capacity or less intelligence for his job than the average business man. My own trade has not suffered in the same degree as mining or shipbuilding, but our wages to-day are, roughly speaking, 50 per cent. above pre-war figures while the cost of living is between 70 and 80 points above pre-war. That is to say, the working man, even in the best 'trades, is to-clay 20 to 25 points worse off than he was before the war. In shipbuilding and mining the figures are worse, and you can go through one industry after another where, relatively speaking, the conditions have become worse. In most of these industries, immediately following on the war, by voluntary agreement, we entered into a 40 or 47 or in one case, that of the building industry a 44-hour week. Therefore I am anxious to preserve the 48-hour week in industry generally. The engineering employers are intent on driving the working folk back to a 50-hour week. In my belief that is simply a prelude to driving them back to the 54-hour week that;they formerly had. No one in the House can defend the 54, 55 or 56-hour week from the point of view of decency or of good health.
I remember when I worked during, before and since the War, though not much since the War, a 54-hour week. More and more time is occupied now by the worker in travelling to and from his work. In the old days when I worked in a shipyard it was not uncommon to have an hour's journey to work and back. I woke at about a quarter to five in the morning I dressed, and got to my work and started at a quarter-past six. I worked then till 9, and from 9 till a quarter to 10 I sat on a hard board with two slices of bread and an egg and a piece of ham and drank some tea. We were lucky in those days—much luckier than folk are now. That was our 476 meal. At dinner time the same thing again, only for dinner you got a little butter on your bread. At 5.30 you stopped work, and you arrived home again at 6.30. Therefore, from quarter to five in the morning until 6.30 at night you were either preparing for work or getting yourself fit for work or actually working or returning home. Actually, you had to put in not nine and three-quarters hours work but, without exaggeration, 13½ hours. When you arrived home you had to have at least eight hours sleep to make up for a day of that kind. Therefore, you had 13½ hours either at work or going to and coming from work, and eight hours sleep, representing twenty-one hours out of the twenty-four and leaving practically no time for social enjoyment, recreation or culture.
Those were our old hours. They were absolutely indefensible. I have seen men at work and I have seen boys serving their time standing at. the bench unable to keep their eyes open in order to perform their daily toil. I would ask the opponents of the Bill to remember these facts when they are talking as to the economic position. Have they ever worked in a shipyard and seen what goes on? Have they been there at six o'clock in the morning? We hear a great deal of the trials and troubles of commerce. How would hon. members like to be in a shipyard at six in the morning on a bitter frosty day, with the cold eating into your very bones, and with no nourishment, having left the house before you could even get a decent meal, and work from six in the morning, before you had broken your fast, until 9 o'clock. I have seen men in the shipyards who could not eat their breakfasts because their stomachs were empty, and they were not able to digest their food when they received it. That was not an uncommon thing, and yet we hear of engineering employers and some members of this House who would drive us back to those old days, if they dared.
This is a mild Bill. I can imagine criticism of this Bill which I could not defend, namely, that forty-eight hours are too many hours to work to-day. Take the statistics of the Clyde for April of this year. Yesterday the Glasgow newspapers published the output in the Clyde shipyards. There was a record month, a month only equalled once before in the history of shipbuilding on the Clyde. At 477 Harland and Wolff's on the Clyde you can go to the foundry, and there a moulder will turn out at least twice the work of which he was capable in 1914. Go to Harland and Wolff's shipyard, and, to use the phraseology of the men, a cargo ship to-day, with modern science and invention, is only equal to a barge in 1914 so far as employment is concerned, because the work can be turned out so rapidly. Standard ships are now the order of the day. We maintain that all that capacity of invention and all that knowledge ought not to be used merely in the interests of profit-making, but that science which is of any use at all ought to be used to lighten the load of the people who carry on in industry. That science should be used for improving the position of the workers, and not in driving them back in wages and in hours to conditions worse than before.
The workpeople ask for this mild Bill. It is a Bill which leaves out too many people. I would have liked to have seen included the women who have to toil in restaurants 60 and 70 hours a week. These women are as much to me as any other section of the community. I would ask the opponents of the Bill how they would like their daughters to work under conditions such as our female workers have to face. Talk about revolution! If hon. Members opposite had to work for such wages and under such conditions it would not he simply talk of revolution, but we should have the talk translated into positive action. Our people have been suffering too long, and as a means of improvement we come forward with this mild Bill, a Bill which Mr. G. N. Barnes, one of the ablest and, in many respects, one of the kindest of men, drafted at Washington. He drafted it because, to use the phraseology of a speech which he made in this House, be wanted, and he thought the Government wanted, to make some contribution to the improved conditions of the people. In a letter to the "Times" a few weeks ago Mr. Barnes denounced all Governments for betrayal of the working people.
I ask the Government to pass this Measure. We listened to a speech by the Prime Minister on the Trade Union Levy Bill, in which he said that he would not be the first to attack the rights of the organised worker. Surely, when he sees, as I see, 478 attacks not only on our rights of organisation but attacks in regard to our conditions he will be the first to join with us in safeguarding our conditions against those attacks. This Bill has been made purposely mild because we know the composition of this House. This House now will only give assent to something of the mildest kind. We have to make it mild because we are told by hon. Members opposite that only by mutual understanding can we move forward. We seek for that mutual understanding in this Bill. It was thought out and drafted by an international conference, and it is mild because of that. Therefore, I come to this House not to ask for sympathy but to demand elementary justice in the passing of this Bill.
I could argue for decent justice not for a 48-hour week, but for a 40-hour week for the people of this country. Their conditions make that so. I hope the Government or the spokesmen of the Government to-day will say that the Government will not only view the conditions of the masses with sympathy, but that they will translate that sympathy into practical expression by giving a Second Reading to this Bill, mild, meagre, overdue, but, at any rate, a tangible step in the shape of industrial legislation for the masses of this country, for the good workpeople who form the backbone of our population and, thereby, to carry out the promises given to those good people equally with the carrying out of the promises to the rich.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I beg to second the Motion.
I do so with the hope that it is possible for us from these benches to get to the hide-bound conscience of the Tory party. I think that, after the able speech which has been delivered by my colleague, they will have great difficulty, in view of the sentiments which have been expressed by the Minister of Labour, the Prime Minister himself, the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) the day before yesterday, and even by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in squaring their statement—I do not mind about their conscience—with their action if they vote against this Bill. Generally speaking, I have no time for this Bill for a 48-hours working week, the reason being that at the beginning of 1919 I lay a month in gaol as one of the leaders of the 40-hours 479 strike in the West of Scotland. We believed at that time, and still believe, that had the whole of the Trade Union movement followed our lead there would have been less trouble, so far as the working classes are concerned, in this country to-day.
As my colleague has just said, the reduction of hours is the one remnant of the concessions which were given to the working classes during the war. That was during the time of peril of the capitalists of this country. That was our opportunity, and this is the only thing which we have been able to retain. We wrung from them that concession. It was not gladly given to us by the Coalition Government, by the Tories or by the Liberals. It was because of the rebels, because of the discontent that was abroad among the working classes. And that spirit is abroad to-day. It demands concession. It demands a freer life, and is determined to preserve the jewel of liberty in the framework of freedom. That spirit was never more alive in this country than it is at the moment, although you may have the employers of labour, particularly in the engineering and shipbuilding industries, out to increase the hours of labour, as they have distinctly stated, and they are backed by the Tory Government.
In the engineering industry application has been made for an increase of £1 in wages. That agitation has been going on for a year, because our people are not able to make ends meet. If anything should ever happen, if a revolution or any other drastic action should be taken in this country, those on the other side of the House cannot blame us, because we have gone out of our way, time and again, to warn them. Our people are not going to sit calmly by and suffer the injustice from which they are suffering. Speaking for myself, I am going to do all that I can to stir them up to see that apathy does not set in. As a result of those negotiations, which the employers have turned down, they have the brass face, unprecedented in the annals of negotiations, to put forward the suggestion, which Sir Alan Smith, the representative of the Employers' Federation, supports, as a solution of all the ills which afflict the engineering and shipbuilding industry, of increased hours of labour at a time when we have tens of thousands of 480 shipyard workers and engineers unemployed.
Then they tell us they have got the brains. That is the product of this outstanding personality Sir Alan Smith, to increase the hours of labour by three per week; and he holds out as an inducement to the working people that they should work for three hours overtime at the day rate. Would you believe it, 0 you Tories, that in this day and generation the employers come forward and offer these terms to what is one of the key industries, to an industry on which this great Empire is built'? The engineering industry is an industry on which this great civilisation is built. Nothing can be carried out to-day without engineering. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agriculture."] Not even agriculture. The employers come forward with that proposal at this juncture when the wives and mothers of those engineers and those shipbuilders, and of the working classes in general, all over what is supposed to be the greatest country in the world, are suffering from the hellish conditions which prevail in the centre of what we boast about as being the greatest Empire upon which the sun has ever shone.
The employers come forward and as a solution, as a palliative of these conditions, they suggest an increase of three hours in the working week. As an inducement to the men to fall into that arrangement they offer them the hand some advance of a farthing per hour. What happened during the War? What said the right hon. Gentleman, the member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)? He said, "Never again, Kirkwood. If you give us your ability as an engineer to finish the War, never will the conditions that prevailed before the War exist after the War, because we are going to make this a land fit for heroes to live in." Here is the land We come here now and appeal to you again for a very small concession, with nothing revolutionary about it. How is the Premier going to have his wish carried out in appealing to the Almighty, "O Lord, give us peace in our time." What he had better be doing is to appeal to you, the supporters behind him. You are the lords of creation at the moment. You have the power in your own hands. You do not require to appeal to the Lord God or to anyone else. You are the people wham the Lord will hold responsible. Mark my words. 481 We have had it stated that the shipbuilding and engineering trade, the mining industry, the agricultural industry are all going by the board and are not able to maintain themselves. The President of the Board of Trade—I wish he was present—made a statement just before the Easter Recess about the hours of labour and said that every industry would have to work out its own salvation. Every industry is not going to work out its own salvation. We shall stand together. We are going to band ourselves together. At the moment we are appealing to you because you are in power. You are the power behind the Throne. We appeal to you and we are trying to reason with you. But we are busily banding ourselves together in order that, if necessary, when the day comes, we shall lee capable of fighting you and displacing you, the reason being that we are perfectly satisfied that the output of this country is not on the decline, that we are producing more wealth than ever we produced. Someone will ask what is the proof of that? Let me quote the "Economist," an anti-Labour paper. In its monthly supplement of 21st April it shows that:Unemployment was a fraction loss in March than in February. Our production of iron and steel is rising and the consumption of iron and steel in the industries of the country during 1924 was from 8 to 10 per cent. better than in 1923. Our exports in March were £9,000,000 better than in March, 1924. According to the motor trade we produced 67,000 motor cars in 1923 at a value of £24,000,000. In 1924 the figures have risen to 107,000 motor cars at a value of £36,500,000. In the same period the production of commercial vehicles rose from 22,348 to 31,350. The export of machinery for the first three months of 1925 amounted to 128,517 tons, as against 103,839 tons in the corresponding months of 1924— an increase of nearly 25 per cent.Yet it must be remembered that unemployment is on the up-grade. The quotation goes on:Electrical engineering continues to expand, makers of electrical fittings in particular having recently experienced difficulty— Listen, O ye of little faith——in coping with the volume of orders. The motor trade remains very active, especially on the light car side, and similar conditions prevail in the cycle trade.If these are the facts, there is nothing to hinder the House from granting us this small concession. We are prepared to come here and to reason with those who 482 have control of the means whereby our people live. "Come, let us reason together." We are here doing our very best to show you how necessary it is to pass this Bill, so as to prohibit any increase in the hours of labour. Yon know that it is on the board to increase the hours of labour. How can we get round the difficulty? I know that the Government is faced with a tremendous difficulty. We know that from experience. I reasoned with our team when they were in power, privately and publicly, and I know the difficulties which they had to surmount. Therefore, I am going to give the Tory Government the benefit of my experience. I am going to try once again to assist them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer last night said they were always prepared to receive helpful criticism. I am now going to give them helpful criticism and suggestions. I do not believe it is possible for a Labour Government, never mind a Tory Government in present cirumstances, to give the working class in this country a comfortabe living, and that is what I am after. I am supporting the, 48-hours proposal in order to try and get for my folk some sort of comfortable living. But it cannot be done while at the same time we are paying; £1,000,000 per day on War debt. No power on earth given among men can perform the miracle of doing so, while we are paying the robbers who are robbing the people of this country of £1,000,000 a day on War debt. My solution is that we should at once repudiate that War debt. There is no other way out.
To establish a system of 48 hours a week or eight hours a day would, believe me, be a great concession to our people. They appreciate the short hours very much. I remember when I first fell out with Lord Invernairn. He was then Mr. Beardmore. He has since been Sir William Beardmore, and has gone through all the stages up to that of being a lord. As a young man of 20 years of age, and a fully fledged engineer, I had to rise at four o'clock every morning and get the train from Parkhead Station for Clydebank at a quarter to five, and I was not back home again until half-past seven. Those were the conditions in the old days, and I hope this House is going to back the proposal of this Bill on the present occasion. Before 483 I conclude I wish to quote from no less a personage than Lord Leverhulme. I am great on lords. Lord Leverhulme in his preface to the book of Professor Spooner on "Wealth from Waste" actually says that, properly organised, our labour could now—now's the day and now's the hour "—12 N.
provide us with all the necessaries of life, by toil of only one hour per day from each of us—from your team as well as ours. Why is it not done? Because of the present chaos, disorganisation and overlapping in industry, the production of useless commodities, and the horde of middlemen and parasites of one kind and another who fatten on the toil of the workers like slugs upon a cabbage. These causes have hitherto kept us toiling for a bare pittance for long and laborious hours, week in and week out, year in and year out, without any cessation until death. The organised workers are determined they will have this system no longer, The Washington Convention as the minimum standard of civilisation, must be accepted and we demand its ratification by this House.
§ Mr. CLARRY
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsin the opinion of this House, it will be injurious to industry and increase unemployment to give effect at the present time to the provisions of the draft Washington convention in this Country, and further this House is of opinion that these provisions can only be effectively introduced by simultaneous legislative action in all the countries whose representatives were signatories to the draft convention.We have listened to some very interesting reminiscences of the early work of the Mover and Seconder of the Motion, and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) must be congratulated on having got up a quarter of an hour earlier than the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). They have also made a very passionate appeal in which, strangely enough, I find scarcely any reference whatever to the Bill which we are supposed to be discussing. What they have done is to make an admirable gesture with a sublime disregard of the industrial facts of the moment. In the present deplorable 484 state of trade it is not practicable to do the things which they suggest. There can only be two reasons at this stage and in the present condition of industry, for proposing such a Bill as this. One is that it is political propaganda, and the other that the hon. Members concerned must have had more experience in the theory of work than in the industrial competition which has to be met to-day.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is just as well that the hon. Member should recognise at the beginning of the Debate that he must not interrupt hon. Members who are speaking on the other side. If he wants a decision on the Bill, the other side of the case must be heard first.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I regret having interrupted the bon. Member, but I resented his remark about "the theory of work." It was no theory of work in my case, but very hard work. The hon. Member would not perhaps talk about the theory of work if he had had some of the practical work which I have had.
§ Mr. CLARRY
My reference was obviously meant to convey that at the present time, personally speaking—and personal references seem to be the order of the day—we, as Members of Parliament working 14 hours a day, would be very glad of legislation which would limit us to eight hours. But we know that is impossible in the present circumstances. In the same way, any Bill to restrict hours of employment, in the present state of industry, is impossible. I would like now to deal with the Bill, which seems to have been neglected by the Mover and Seconder, and it is shown to be impracticable by its own drafting. Not only are there seven specified exceptions to the Bill, which include agriculture and seafaring, our two greatest industries, but there are such exceptions as non-manual workers and work of a commercial character; where there is any agreement or custom, or where a matter is arranged with alternating shifts there are exceptions, as long as the maximum does not exceed 48 hours per week; where there is a continuous process there may be ex- 485 emptions, providing the maximum does not exceed 56 hours a week, and there are exemptions where there are exceptional circumstances, where it is not reasonably practicable, where hours of agreement have been arranged with the employers, if the hours do not exceed 48 hours a week, where the work is urgent through accident, and so on. Part of the Bill and the whole of the Bill may be suspended in the case of national safety being endangered owing to war. [An HON. Member "What is wrong with that? "] I thoroughly agree with it, and I think the House would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs on his altered attitude in supporting the Bill.
§ Mr. CLARRY
Also the Bill may be suspended in part or as a whole where the national safety is in danger from any emergency or apprehended emergency. There is no overtime allowed, but exceptions may be made, of a permanent character, where there is preparatory or complementary work, and of a temporary character in exceptional cases of pressure of work to be dealt with. All this mass of controversial decisions has to be made by an umpire, and if there is any grievance against the umpire's decision, it is passed on to a Judge of the High Court. The Mover and Seconder of the Bill evidently appreciate the enormous amount of work that is going to be entailed by providing that the adjudication on these points should commence from the passing of the Bill, although the Bill, if passed to-day, would not come into operation until next year. I rather fancy that with the thousands of border-line cases and decisions that would have to be taken in large industrial centres, it would take years and not eight months, even if it were possible to get it into form in that time, but they have recognised that fact, and that clears up that point. Reference has been made to promises after the Peace Treaty. The hon. Member for Gorbals very rightly said that the promises that were made in 1919 and at the end of 1918, at the close of the War, were made under certain conditions of stress. Exuberant 486 politicians wanted to show their joy by making more or less rash promises in several directions.
Time has shown that these promises were incapable of fulfilment, and they have gone more or less by default. What about the promise of searching Germany's pockets? Are the hon. Members opposite still anxious to deal with that promise? Are they also as anxious as they were to bring the Kaiser to justice? If so, I have never heard it expressed by the party opposite. As a matter of fact, hon. Members opposite have a dual personality. They come to this House and say "Be reasonable, and pass this Bill," but outside this House they lose no opportunity of agitating and of running down all employers. I want to know whether they would be satisfied with this Eight Hours Bill if it were passed, or do they still dream of Socialism? Why have they brought it forward if it does not satisfy them? On the 9th April last, when there was a debate, in this House, the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) said that inferior conditions on the Continent were used as an argument in this country for depreciating the conditions here. T deny that absolutely. All that we want to do is to have fair play and an opportunity of living without restrictions.
If hon. Members opposite are so anxious about improving the conditions of the workers, why do they not point to the superior conditions in the United States of America, and adopt like means of attaining them? What are those like means? The United States of America are not members of the League of Nations Labour Convention; they send representatives, but they take no active part. Trade union leaders in America are more concerned with trade union matters; they take no part in politics. They have no seat in Congress, and yet it is the richest country in the world. There are no sweated hours, and there are the highest wages paid to any workers. They are the biggest producers, and they have the highest standard of living in the world. This is not mere coincidence, and there must be some connection between these, facts. I want to point to a possible solution. America has no legislative interference with the workers.
§ Mr. CLARRY
No legislation such as this. which is legislative interference with hours of working. Further, there is no agitation going on, no striking agitation, and, if I may use the phrase, no Socialist rubbish talked up and down the country, and there is no poison of suspicion being put into the minds of the workers continuously. They are allowed to work willingly if they want to, and they are not restricted, and that makes a very great difference. This Bill is not an Eight Hours Day Work Bill. You cannot expect men to work the full time allotted to them if they are not happy or comfortable at their work, and if they continually have a grievance, but they will still have grievances while we have vexatious trade union conditions of industry, as at the present time. The workers are beginning to recognise this. I notice it up and down the country repeatedly. They are beginning to feel that if they were left a freer hand than they are to-day, they would be doing better, and there would be less unemployment. I would suggest to trade union leaders, not only in this House but outside, that if they devoted the same amount of time as they now do to agitation, to studying industrial problems and endeavouring to create a good feeling of co-operation between employer and employed, they would soon get their eight hours' day, and less, they would soon reduce the number of unemployed, and they would soon have much better conditions in this country. Carlyle very rightly said:Give me a man who sings at his work.The British worker would rather be happy than unhappy, and it is only by leaving him alone, and by co-operation between employer and employè, that we can solve our industrial problems, and not by legislation such as we have before the House this morning. The Bill in the Preamble says that "it is expedient," and then it goes on to say, in Clause 12, Sub-section (2)Any restrictions imposed by this Act shall he in addition to and not in derogation of any other restrictions.Restrictions on what? Restrictions on hours of employment, restrictions on the employer, restrictions on output, restrictions on our capacity to compete successfully in the world's markets, restrictions which, if they were carried out to their logical conclusion, would ultimately in 488 crease the number of unemployed, and put us as an industrial nation out of business altogether. "Restrictions" is an accurate term to use in this Bill, but why is it expedient? I would like to refer to an advertisement of a speech by a chairman of a large colliery in South Wales this week. The chairman was presiding at a meeting, and he said this was the first time in 30 years they had to pass a final dividend. He was giving not only his reasons, but some explanation of it. He said that for 20 years—and he was a mining expert himself —they had used every endeavour to bring their plant right up-to-date in every way, but, in spite of all that, they had lost a very important contract for South America, on purely a question of Price. That contract had been lost to us, and taken from us by Germany. The German collier working below ground before the War worked eight and a half hours. At the cessation of hostilities, that was reduced for a short period to eight, then seven and a half, and, in April, 1919. it was reduced to seven hours. In consultation and cooperation between men and employès in March last year, they reverted to the eight hours. From January to the present time, since they have reverted to the eight hours, their output has increased enormously, and it is due to that that they have been able to cut the price and take the markets from our own people at home.
However laudable, and however desirable ultimately it may be to have legislation to reduce hours, which I do not admit, because it must be an arrangement between men and employers themselves in every industry, and in every case, here is a case, in which Germany is supposed to be co-operating with us, reverts to eight hours, and throws our men out of work in consequence. That, surely, is a matter which ought to have the careful attention of hon. Members opposite. The seven-hour working day in the coal fields at the present time is an absolute impossibility, if we are going to carry on. The industrial conditions are also very grave in this country. All parties in this House lose no opportunity here or outside in stressing the appalling state of affairs. We have a million and a quarter unemployed. I do not want to be pessimistic, but there seems little hope of getting the figure down with con- 489 ditions as they exist to-day. We are the highest taxed people in the world. We are doing all we can, and yet, I think, hon. Members will agree with me that our national safety is being endangered. We cannot go on like this. We cannot go on living on capital. We cannot go on exceeding ordinary finance in the ordinary way, because we are not like other nations, as hon. Gentlemen opposite well know. We depend for our living on our industrial work and capacity to export. We are not self-supporting like the Continental nations to which reference has been made. Therefore, we are in a very different position. The conditions in the country are highly serious. This Bill provides, in Clause 10,If in the opinion of the Minister, the national safety is or is liable to be endangered owing to war or any other emergency or apprehended emergency, the Minister, may by Order suspend the operation of this Act.I think we have got to that position to-day, and if this Bill became an Act, there would be ample evidence for the Minister to come to this House and say that conditions were so bad in this country that the national safety was being endangered, and that there was just cause to suspend the operation of the Act. That being so, I do not see why we should trouble to-day to pass a Bill that would be established under conditions that were appertaining. For that reason, and for other reasons, I beg to move the Amendment.
§ Sir WILFRID SUGDEN
I beg to second the Amendment.
As a very democratic Conservative, I desire to place on record my regret that it has been found necessary for hon. Gentlemen, who have taken a very active part in the industrial life of their own country, to put motives into the minds of those of us who consider that we represent the well-being of the working classes of this country equally as efficiently as they do. [Interruption.] I am sure the hon. Gentleman who interrupted me will not think me discourteous if I do not reply to suggestions, however helpful they may be. I would personally prefer to place before the House the case as it appears to me, rather than in a fashion which might be suitable to them, but does not appeal to myself. Therefore, I will state my own case. I would have preferred to have dealt with the Bill in the 490 form of the Amendment put down in the names of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) and myself, but, under the rules of the House, that was not possible, and so I have accepted the Amendment that has been moved. The first feature that I should like to stress would be an explanation of the Bill. We have had two speeches from hon. Members on the Labour Benches, but they did not explain or detail one single line or one single Clause. Whilst I am just a plain business man, and not a lawyer, I should have preferred to have had some explanation from working men, as I know my hon. Friends to be, in respect of the Bill. Be that as it may, the first position that I want to take up in respect to the Bill is that it is diametrically opposed Clause by Clause to the well-being of the working classes themselves.
The reason for that is this: Whilst the hours of labour may have a distinct bearing on the well-being of the home you cannot put the life of the nation into water-tight compartments, especially when we consider its wonderful kaleidoscopic make-up and its grand and noble cosmopolitanism. You cannot, I say, deal with the life of the nation simply from the standpoint of the hours of labour. You must, and you ought, to consider the international aspect, and have in view rest and recreation, and their joint bearing with the hours of labour, as between one country and another. All these issues have a distinct bearing on the well-being of the working classes of this country. I am a disciple of that school of thought which says, given that kindly thought and comradeship which can obtain, I prefer it, as being the very antithesis to that which has been presented to us in the two speeches we have heard this morning.
What were some of the contributions of the hon. gentleman who spoke from the Labour Benches I "We intend to fight and to displace you." "We are come with mild proposals, but what we really want is something quite different to what we are presenting." I want to say to hon. Members that if that is to be the spirit of the leadership of organised labour then, indeed, this great and magnificent country is never going to carry the responsibility of civilisation which it is destined to do, and which it is capable of doing. In these matters we, as the Conservative Party, 491 give place to no section of the community in respect to our ideals. If we were permitted to utilise the scientific acumen—and here I agree with hon. Friends who have spoken—it is a great and noble thing to be an engineer. I speak as one. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, if we were permitted to have co-operation and collaboration with the leaders of the trade unions and to apply that scientific acumen which we have we could work on less hours than eight per day. On the other hand, if we have that frame of mind presented by those phrases, "We intend to fight and to displace you "—well, all I can say is that that is not our position.
What is the position we have to face? Take first the shipbuilding industry. On 24th March, a question was put in the House in respect to the shipbuilding yards of this country in comparison with Germany. The reply given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour was that in Great Britain in the principal shipbuilding centres, skilled shipwrights were paid 55s. 7d. per week, ship joiners 57s. 9d. About men of a semi-skilled type there is no information, while men of an unskilled type were paid 38s. 5d In Germany, on the other hand, the payment was:for skilled men 30s. 10d., for semiskilled 29s., and for unskilled 25s. 3d. Whereas, theoretically, Germany is working 47 hours per week in the engineering and shipbuilding yards, in reality they are working from 54 to 60 hours per week. Hon. Gentlemen must understand distinctly that there are going to be no efficient opportunities for work for people unless we can get competitive production strong enough to face the competition of other countries. I want to say, and I say it very distinctly, that this wage which is being paid to shipwrights of 55s. 7d. is not a proper wage, considering the standard of comfort and the cost of living to-day It is not a fair wage—to be quite frank about it!
But I would rather have welcomed from hon. Members on the Labour Benches in their discussion of hours and conditions some consideration of the position of the sheltered industries. I should have liked to have heard something of certain employes—for whom there is no short time, where there is no unemployment—whether those employés be of the civil service type or municipal employés. I want here to 492 pay my meed of praise to both those sections. Our Civil Service is the finest in the world; it is above contamination and above cavil. I want also to say of the municipal employés that their work is of the best. But as we are considering the question of the hours of labour we must consider whether these proposals are going to have the effect of lessening employment in this country and lessening the standard of comfort and living in this country. That is why my Amendment is in the following terms:
That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, whatever its merits on other grounds may be, can only at the present time have the effect of increasing unemployment or lowering the standard of life.One can say something in respect also to other countries besides Germany. I had the pleasure of listening to a speech a month ago in a committee room upstairs which dealt with these various considerations. The speaker pointed out that in shipbuilding, although, theoretically, the Dutch yards are working 47 hours a week, in reality they are working at Rotterdam 55½ hours. Not only, too, are the German wages low, but the Dutch wages themselves are only 40s. a week. Even on piece-work rates both in Germany and in Holland there is less payment and longer hours than obtain in this country.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
With great respect, I do not intend to give way. I listened with very great care when hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches were presenting their case.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There can be no point of Order if the hon. Gentleman who is speaking does not give way.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The point of Order I wished to raise was this: when an hon. 493 Member quotes an authority, should he not mention the name of that authority? I do not want to be vexatious.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
I am quite willing to give the authority. The address was given before the Commercial Committee of the House of Commons by Lieut.-Colonel James Lithgow, president of the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations, and ex-president of the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation. That is the shipbuilding industry; and in the steel and the iron industry exactly similar conditions obtain. That is the position, not only with regard to hours of labour, but also with respect to local rating and the national taxes. In this connection some of us do not feel that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's action in reducing the Income Tax by 6d. will be sufficient to provide that loosening of capital and to give those financial opportunities for employers of labour to take the long view and the larger risk which they are being compelled to take. In the iron and steel trade we are faced with the fact that other countries have a higher capacity of production at a lower price.
I would like to draw the attention of hon. Members to an investigation which has been carried on into production and conclusions which I think they will accept as fair and equitable. A committee of investigation was set up by the Engineering National Employers' Federation, the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation and the unions' negotiating committee. The members of the unions who took part in that investigation were Messrs. Brownlie, Coates, Davison, Rowan and Wentworth, whom I think hon. Gentlemen will feel to be above suspicion. What were their conclusions? The tenor of this Bill seems to suggest that it has been the usual procedure in the engineering and the shipbuilding trade to require a larger number of working hours than are provided for in this Bill; but these are the facts which were found by this collective committee. In the shipbuilding industry in 1913 time workers were working 48-42 hours per week on the average.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
I will give the whole of the figures if my hon. Friend will permit me to carry on my argument, as we 494 on this side invariably allow hon.members of his party to put their arguments.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
In the shipbuilding industry in 1913 the average hours worked per week in the large shipbuilding firms were 48.42 hours; in 1919 they averaged 43.83 hours per week. So there is no question there of working more than 48 hours. In 1913 piece workers worked 42.49 hours, and in 1919 40.98 hours. The figures for all workers are: in 1913, 45.90 hours; and in 1919, 42.50 hours. The percentage of total overtime to total normal day-shift hours was 4.07 in 1913; and 2.88 in 1919. Works idle due to authorised holidays: in 1913, 16.75 days; and in 1919, 18.24. Works idle due to unauthorised holidays: 3.35 days in 1913, and 6.29 in 1919.
These are the figures in regard to English engineering presented by the same Committee in a report accepted toto.Time workers: 1913, 49.6 hours; 1919, 44.8. Therefore in engineering there was none of the difficulty in respect of the 48 hours' week that is stressed in this Bill. Piece workers: 1913, 48.9 hours; 1919, 44.3. All workers: 1913, 49.5 hours; 1919, 44.7. Authorised holidays: 1913, 15.5; 1919, 17.5. Unauthorised holidays: 1913, 7; 1919, 2.7.
The point I want to make is this, that while on the face of it it seems essential to have this Bill for some industries, this Committee has shown that over a certain section of industry fewer hours are already being worked, and that therefore this is unnecessary. On the broad issue I want to say this with no uncertainty: We have to operate in competition with other nations who are purporting to accept this proposal as to hours but in reality are not doing so. They are sweating their labour; and so long as our friends here, instead of dealing with the international position of a poorer type of trade unionism abroad than obtains here, permit Russian representatives to dilute, aye and to spoil, the cleanliness of our great trade unions, they are doing an ill service to those whom they so worthily represent. I want, to pay my tribute to them. As a rule the representatives of the trade unions of this country represent the class to which they belong effi- 495 ciently and well, though I join issue with them when it comes to questions of policy in regard to economics and politics.
In a closing word, I would present to them the thoughts of one of their own people who has carefully and efficiently presided over the Fatigue Research Board, the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham). This is what he said in the "Times" of 24th March—and I am in perfect accord with him:The true remedy is to try to preserve and increase the output in such a way as to maintain the improved working conditions, whether in hours, remuneration or whatever the case may be.''In regard to the application of scientific methods to industry, there occurs to my mind an example of a great engineering company who went to very heavy expense to produce an article which would compete with a foreign article, and as a result they were able to produce it, but the leaders of the trade unions in that industry were not able, in their judgment, to permit the firm to use the machinery that had been perfected to compete with the foreigner, and the trade was lost. We, as employers, are prepared not only to accept the eight hours' day, but even less, if we can have the co-operation and the helpful comradeship which should obtain; but this is a speech which was delivered at a Conference of the Minority Movement of the National Transport Workers, London Area, on the 15th of March:In fact ' said the delegate who made the suggestion. I am prepared to come out on strike for a four hours' day and to sit down and starve until I get it.'
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
Mr. George Hardy, the national organiser of the minority movement, said the demand for a six-hour day was impracticable at present. I say that so long as that spirit obtains, so long as that movement is helped and supported, there cannot be any real progress, and each and all of us should try and face the dark days before us, and adopt methods whereby employers and employed will be able to face competition and work out the problems before us, the problem of hours, proper remuneration and competition, and the problem of securing a decent livelihood. Let us pull and operate together and try and make 496 our country, as it was in the past, the greatest industrial nation in the world, and then we shall be in the future the most highly-trained and the greatest nation of workers the world has ever known.
Although I differ from he views put forward by the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment, I agree that they are perfectly sincere in their desire for social reform. For a great many years I have been an ardent supporter of these labour movements, and I intend to support the Second Reading of this Measure. Although I am afraid that what I am going to say will have very little weight with the Labour Minister, I am not without hope that the right hon. Gentleman will perhaps support the Second Reading of this Bill, reserving to himself the right to move Amendments which he may think are necessary. At all events, if he cannot do that, I hope he will announce that the Government are prepared to bring in a Bill which will conform to the industrial necessities of this country, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will avail himself of the undoubted elasticity of the Washington Convention. There is an impression abroad that the Washington Convention is a rigid instrument from which it is not possible to deviate in any degree. I am inclined to think that the Labour Minister holds that view, because in a speech he delivered on the Motion for the Easter Adjournment he said:The terms of the Convention are unfortunately in this respect very precise and rigid, particularly in regard to the limits of daily working hours and the duration and arrangements of overtime. It hardly appeals to have contemplated the necessity of providing a continuity of operation in certain industries such as railways." — [OFFICTAL REPORT, 9th April, 1925, col. 2516. Vol. 182.]With all due respect I join issue with the Labour Minister, and if he will turn to Article 6 of the Convention, Clause 3, he will find that there is ample power given to the Minister to make exceptions for such industries as the railways which have agreements of their own, and therefore the railway difficulty is no difficulty at all. But whether that be so or not, it is quite open to the Government to bring in its own Bill, and put its own interpretation upon the ratification of the Convention so long as the Bill does not differ 497 in any vital respect from the Convention. Plenty of elasticity is allowed and there are ample facilities for any divergence. Consequently, there is no difficulty at all in the railway agreement, and if the Government like to exempt the railways that will be accepted as a valid ratification of the Convention.
I am strongly opposed to the expression of opinion contained in this Amendment which states that the ratification of this agreement will be injurious to industry and will increase unemployment. I may be very ignorant on these matters, but as far as I understand this Convention I look upon it as an attempt to safeguard the employers of labour who are working on the 8 hours principle from the unfair competition of those who work longer hours both at home and abroad. Let me, first, take the home industries. As hon. Members well know, a majority of the industrial undertakings of this country have adopted the 8 hours principle, but a minority of factories and workshops in which women and young persons are chiefly employed are not working on the 8 hours a day principle, but are working 9 hours and even 10 hours a day.
I will give a few examples which have been supplied to me. Here is the case of a girl employed in a leather factory, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and given home work in addition on which she worked until 12 midnight. In another case a girl of 15 is employed in a confectionery factory from 8 a.m. to 6-30 p.m. with only one hour off for meal-times in the middle of the day and 12 hours a day twice a week. In another case a girl is employed at a card-hoard box factory for 53 hours per week. Not long ago, when I was in Birmingham, I was told that some firms there are reverting to 54 hours a week and sometimes even 60 hours a week for women. May I quote to the House from a speech made by a gentleman who I am sure is well known to the. Minister of Labour, Professor Tillyard who, speaking at Birmingham on 24th March, said:
You may think that whatever may be the law. no women workers do actually work a 60 hours week nowadays—but in one of the large factories in Birmingham they have been actually doing so, in one department, through the past winter, and have been kept at work till four every Saturday afternoon.Matters are complicated by the rules that unemployed people who refuse suitable 498 work have had their insurance stopped, so that if they refuse the work offered in the factory, even though they may be really unable to work such hours, they are penalised by the stopping of their unemployment pay. I think I have given ample proof that there are certain factories working longer than 48 hours per week. As I look upon this Bill, it would put a stop to what, I think, is a great abuse and is a disgrace to our industrial system. It would level up the conditions of the bad factory to the conditions of the good; in other words, it would confer a benefit upon the general body of industry by eliminating sweated and long hours in this country. I do not see really any reason why we should wait for Germany or any other country to ratify the Convention. Here is an admitted evil, we have women and children being worked scandalously long hours in this country, and I put it to the Minister of Labour: Is it not his duty and has he not the courage to put an end to this lamentable abuse without waiting to see what Germany or any other country does? This is a domestic question and ought to be dealt. with by a domestic measure.
I have heard it said that the opposition to this Bill arises from a lingering hope that it may be possible to persuade the working people of this country to work longer hours. I find great difficulty in believing that any section of this House or of employers does cherish any such fallacious delusion. If the desire to get the working people of this country to work longer hours does find expression in this House and in opposition to this Bill, then I cannot imagine anything which will tend more to destroy all hope of industrial peace in ills country. I sometimes find myself in disagreement with my leaders, but I am in hearty agreement with the speeches of the Prime Minister, and I firmly believe that he is sincere when he wishes for industrial peace, and it is for this reason I support this Bill. I cannot imagine anything which will tend more to destroy all hope of industrial peace and to ruin the popularity of this Government than if the impression gets abroad that any section of the Conservative party in this House are opposing this Bill in the hope of getting the working people of this country to lengthen their hours of labour.
I support the ratification of this Convention, not only as a means of elimina- 499 ting long hours in the factories of this country and of safeguarding the good employer from the competition of the bad, but also in the confident hope that if we do ratify the Convention we shall be safeguarding the employers of this country from the competition of long hours worked abroad. It is, I think, an established fact that if we ratify the Convention Germany is prepared to ratify it, France is prepared to ratify it, and Belgium is prepared to ratify it. Austria and Italy have already gone so far as to register provisional ratification to the International Labour Headquarters. If long hours worked abroad are a menace, we have the remedy in our hands, and the Minister of Labour and the Government generally will be bearing a very great responsibility if they have not the courage to take the obvious remedy. If we ratify this Convention, the other European countries will follow our example.
We hear a great deal about long hours worked in Germany. I cannot help feeling that there is a great deal 1 P.M. of exaggeration on this point. Lately two inquiries have been held in Germany as to the hours of labour worked there. One was in May and the other in November of last year. The inquiry covered 51,000 odd establishments, and it embraced 2,500,000 workers. In May 60 per cent. of these workers were working a 48-hoar week or less, whereas in November the number working a 48-hour week had increased to 71 per cent. There had been an increase of 10 per cent. in less than six months. It is now estimated by the International Labour Office that at least 80 per cent. of the German workers are working a 48-hour week. I cannot therefore see that the task of persuading Germany to follow our example is an insuperable one, considering that 80 per cent, of the German workers are now working a 48-hour week.
It is generally assumed that this country is very much in front of other countries in regard to the hours worked by our people. That is not borne out by the facts. For instance, Belgium has an eight hours' day, Czechslovakia has an eight hours' day, France has an eight hours' day. Italy has an eight hours' day; Czechslovakia, Bulgaria, Greece and Rumania have ratified the Convention, and, as I said before, Italy and Austria 500 have registered provisional ratification to the International Labour Office. Moreover, the Labour Ministers of France, Germany, Belgium and Italy only a few months ago announced that, as far as they were concerned, they were prepared to ratify the Convention if we would only do our part. It is sometimes asserted that although there may be an Eight Hour Bill on the Statute Book in these countries those hours are not observed. I doubt very much whether there is any justification for this accusation. It is an accusation which, I think, is very insulting to these foreign countries, and it is not based upon facts. If there may be any truth in the accusation, I ask the Minister of Labour when he rises to say so, but I question very much indeed whether he will give any credit to what, I think, is a great insult to these. foreign countries and which is obviously untrue.
I do not myself share in this prejudice which apparently exists in this House and outside it against the International Labour Movement. I am entirely at a loss why there should be this very strong propaganda, which undoubtedly there is, against the International Labour Movement. In reality, it is the only effective instrument which we have for safeguarding the hours of labour in this country against the unfair competition of foreign countries. If the hours of labour have been shortened in India, as they have been, it is entirely clue to the activities of the International Labour Movement. If Japan has passed a Factory Bill, as it did not long ago, it is entirely due to the International Labour Office; and, if the scandalous conditions existing in China are ever to be remedied, it must be entirely through the activities of the International Labour Movement. We cannot expect these countries to improve their conditions if we refuse to do our part. If we lead the way, they may follow; but if we take shelter behind fictitious arguments against ratification, we cannot really expect any progress. I hope the Minister of Labour will accede to the Second Reading of this Bill. I cannot imagine anything more calculated to destroy the prestige of this country abroad, and to handicap the industries of this country, than a refusal, through cowardice on the part of our Government, to do what is obviously right.
I had not intended to take any part in this Debate, but, as one of the delegates to the Washington Convention, or rather, as one who acted in the, perhaps, more exalted, but not more useful capacity of adviser to my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Labour, I was going to leave the matter entirely in his hands. I could not, however, pass a contribution made to the Debate by the hon. Member for the Hartlepools (Sir W. Sugden), which, to my mind, was a gross misrepresentation of the true facts of the case. I told the hon. Member that I was going to take up one or two minutes to reply to him, and that I hoped he would stay, but, after using his long-distance oratorical stiletto, he suddenly discovered that he had a train to catch. I told him, however, that in any circumstances I should reply to the charge made against the union which I have the honour to represent. The hon. Member knows, as well as anyone in the trade union movement, because he is an employer of labour and in contact with trade unions, that to make the statement he did, that the Minority Movement is authorised, is a travesty of the true facts of the case.
The Minority Movement, which he quoted as authorised, is composed of irresponsible men, many of them elected by themselves and no one else, representing nothing but their own opinion, and absolutely repudiated by every responsible trade union organisation in the country. The record of the organisation I have the honour to represent stands to its credit, and Members of this House and people outside the House know that for 30 years I personally, and my colleagues, have set our faces against any movement of this character. Yet we have this statement from the hon. Member, who knows all this, and who is only fortified by, as he tells us, a quotation from of newspaper. If the hon. Member took notice of everything that is said in newspapers about himself he would have a busy time. All I want to say is that there, is not the slightest, justification for the statement he made, and it is playing the game very low down indeed when an hon. Member like himself, with the practical knowledge that he has of the trade union movement, stoops to use such a weapon as that which he used to-day. In the name of the organisation I represent, in the name of the whole trade union move 502 ment, I venture to say, I challenge the hon. Gentleman to give any facts as to the truth of his statement. As I have said, the minority movement is composed of men who have no official responsibility, and to say that anything they say, as quoted here to-day, is authorised by the organised trade union movement, is to make a most dishonest and outrageous statement of the facts of the case.
§ Mr. BENNETT
I rise to support the Amendment, which was so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry) opposing the Second Reading of this Bill. I listened with the greatest interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) in moving the Second Reading, but I listened to it with some disappointment, because I was hoping that he would give me something to talk about. After listening carefully to what he said, I could not find that he really referred to this Bill at all. I am very glad, however, that he resisted the temptation, which many hon. Members opposite do not resist, of suggesting that when Members on this side of the House oppose legislation of this kind, they are influenced by class interests, and are not really out for the welfare of the working population. I can assure the hon. Member that, as far as I am concerned, I entirely agree with the idealistic principles that underlie this Bill. To that regard he is forcing an open door so far as I am concerned. I may tell him that I, too, in the course of my life, have had the unpleasant experience of being an under-dog, and I have very vivid and painful recollections of it. I have not forgotten those experiences, and have tried to do all I could for the men working for me. I remember that some years ago, when I took charge of a large mining and smelting business, I found that the men worked 12-hour shifts. That I considered a scandal, and I changed it to eight hours.
The history of the Washington Conference has already been given in this House. I think that what our representatives at that Conference were trying for, and a very worthy object it was, was the translation into action of the gratitude that all sections of this country felt for the sacrifices that had been made during the War by our soldiers and sailors. They wanted, 503 if they possibly could, to make the lives of these men in peace-time better. Since then, unfortunately, the world has changed a good deal, and these altruistic motives do not seem to prevail to the extent they did. They still prevail, perhaps, more in this country than anywhere else, but, unfortunately, we must look at legislation of the kind this Bill proposes from the practical point of view. It is absolutely necessary for us to consider it, not only from a national, but from an international point of view, because the prosperity of our working-classes depends so much on international trade. We are not a self-contained country.
I should first like to say a few words on the international aspect of the question. I do not remember exactly the number of countries that were represented at the Washington Conference, but I think it was something like forty-nine, and it is very pertinent to inquire what has been the action of those countries in regard to this matter. I want to quote to the House a reply that was given in June, 1924. Hon. Members opposite will accept these facts because they were given by the Minister of Labour in the late Labour Government. In reply to a question asking how many of these countries had ratified, the right hon. Gentleman stated thatOf the countries represented at the Washington Conference, four, namely, Czechslovakia, India, Greece and Rumania, have ratified the Hours Convention. Bulgaria, although not represented at the Conference, has also ratified the Convention.Then he gave a list of countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, that had recommended ratification of the Convention to their respective legislatures. The point I want to emphasise, however, in the right hon. Gentleman's reply, is this: He went on to say:In the case of the Netherlands, ratification, while approved by the Legislature, has been reserved to the Crown, the intention being that ratification would be proceeded with when it was certain that a certain number of States, the competition of which the Netherlands had to fear in the sphere of industry, would ratify the Convention. Belgium, Finland and Switzerland while possessing eight-hour-day laws of varying scope, have indicated that they are not yet prepared to ratify. I understand that the attitude of Belgium is that the 504 Hours Convention should not be ratified before it has also been ratified by the Great Powers which are competitors of Belgium in the world market." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1924; cols. 464-5, Vol. 175.]That is exactly the position I take up, that before this country should be asked to ratify, our great competitors in international trade should do so. I know hon. Members opposite will not agree to that, but I have a reason for saying it. We have, after all, set an example in international questions of this sort. The hon. Member for Gorbals mentioned what we have done in regard to paying our debts. We were the first country after the War to start paying our debts, in spite of the fact that by so doing we added a great deal to the burden on industry. What other countries have followed our example? Why should this country always be the one to set the example in counsels of perfection? I notice that foreign countries are eager that we should now set the example of ratifying the decisions of the Washington Conference. Is that eagerness entirely altruistic, or is it not perhaps that at the back of their minds they feel that it is going to help their trade and to harm ours After all, that is something we have to consider in the interest of our own working classes.
I want to show what this country has done as regards hours of labour. Let us compare the hours in this country with those in competing countries. I am taking these figures from the "Labour Gazette" for October, 1923, and they have not changed much since. In the building trades they are 44 hours. In engineering and shipbuilding they are 47 hours They were varied in 1914 from 53 to 54, but now they are 47. In cotton 48 hours, wool textile 48, other textile 48, printing 48, furniture 44 to 47, and baking 48. Let us compare those with the hours worked in other countries. Take Germany. Engineering 51 to 57. I quote those figures because my hon. Friend the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. CavendishBentinck) gave others which do not seem to me to correspond These were the official figures stated in the House last year. Shipbuilding 54. In Holland 48 4/5ths in engineering, and 48 to 55½ in shipbuilding. Those are facts you cannot dispute, and they are most important. From the point of view of inter 505 national competition we cannot afford this class of legislation at present. As I have said, I am in favour of the principle underlying the Bill, but before we ask our working classes to risk further loss of employment we surely ought to wait until our great competitors have at any rate got as far as we are already.
With regard to the building trade hours they are more than 44, and in any case they are relative, not to a weekly wage but to hourly rates. How does that effect the economic proposition?
If the hon. Member is referring to hours in this country I must stick to the official figures. I am quoting from something official, and I must rest on that.
I accept that, but that is not my point so much as that the rates of wages are hourly rates and not weekly. If it is a question of 44 hours a week they only get paid for 44 hours, and not for 48.
I am not discussing the question of wages. if the working classes would work longer hours, they would get, higher wages. That is not the basis of this Bill at all. The basis of the Bill is by legislation to prevent men working snore than eight hours a day, or 48 a week.
Turning to the national point of view I should like to ask in what way the Bill would benefit the people of this country. I have been very anxious to hear, but have not heard, the answer to the argument that we always advance from this side of the House in opposing the Bill. Is it not a fact that if it were passed it would cut right across agreements which have been made between employers and employed? Would it not cut right across the agreement with the railway men? The men do not object to that agreement. I do not remember hearing of any agitation by them to change their hours of work. There have been questions with regard to wages, but with regard to hours of work I have never seen any indication that the men are not perfectly satisfied. If you pass this Bill you cut across that agreement. I could mention another trade where, if the Bill were passed, it would be impossible to continue. I am referring now to the crucible steel industry, and I am speaking with absolute 506 knowledge of the facts. I was talking to one of the greatest experts. in that class of business, an employer, and he assured me, and gave me reasons proving that, If the Bill passed, that industry would cease to exist.
I want us to be accurate as to our statements. I should like a brief outline if the hon. Member will give it me. My memory tells me that I saw the crucible steel manufacturers and pointed out to them that their special points would be dealt with in the Bill.
They might be dealt with possibly, but my point is that they are not dealt with in the Bill, and that is all I have to discuss. If the right hon. Gentleman is really interested in the matter I will send him full particulars to prove what I have stated, that it is impossible, if this Bill is passed, to carry on the crucible steel manufacture by the coke process. The Bill, if passed, will certainly not improve the condition of the working classes. In fact, it will make it very considerably worse. After all what is the basis of the welfare, of the working class? It is how we can reduce the cost of production. That is what we are suffering from to-day. It is a fact and you cannot get away from it. Why is there such unemployment? It is because in our great basic industries we cannot compete with the prices of foreign countries. So it comes down to this. If we want to reduce the number of the unemployed we have to reduce costs, and any legislation which is inflexible and prevents employers and employed from coming together and discovering what is the best means of reducing the cost of production is bad, and that is exactly what this Bill tends to do. Far from passing this sort of legislation, I suggest that hon. Members opposite, who have great power in the trade. unions, should try to get those unions to relax some of their inflexible rules as regards hours of work. I am all in favour of men working the least possible time, but after all you have to face facts. If men cannot get employment except by increasing the hours of 507 labour, I believe it is better to increase the hours of labour than to have those men on the dole. I hope hon. Members on this side, at any rate, who really have the welfare of the working classes in mind, will oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. It is not the time for it. I hope the time may come, but it is not yet.
§ Mr. FORREST
I have listened with very great interest to the majority of the speeches which have been made to-day, and agree in some measure with the speeches which have been made from both sides of the House. I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed by the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck). We must be practical and deal with this question on practical methods and lines. I do not think there is any substantial opposition to the principle involved in this Bill. If it were possible for this House to inaugurate an international 48-hour week as a maximum working week, it would be passed unanimously and accepted without question. Last night, in the lull after the storm, the Minister in charge of the Empire Exhibition Bill thanked the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) for offering him a golden bridge by means of which difficulties which had arisen would be got over. A few weeks ago, I had the honour to introduce, under the Ten Minutes' Rule, a Bill which had for its object the same principles which are embodied in this Bill; that is, to bring into operation a maximum 48-hour working week. I respectfully suggest that in that Bill there was elasticity which is not found in this Bill. Where I object to this Bill is that its rigid, cast-iron regulations are such that it is not a practical proposition to-day.
In the Bill with which I and hon. Members on the other side of the House were associated we had the condition of contracting in instead of contracting out. That makes all the difference between my Bill being a practical Bill and this Bill being an impractical Bill. I have no doubt that the Minister of Labour is in complete sympathy with the desire to reduce the hours of labour in industries where they are high and to legalise them in industries where they are already in operation by voluntary agreement. My principal interest in this Bill is in regard 508 to the textile industry. In that industry there is a very excellent Conciliation Board, and good feeling. It is one of the very few industries that went through the War and through the boom and the decline after the War, without a single day's stoppage. It is to the credit of the employers and the trade union leaders that that was effected without any stoppage. In that industry they have now by agreement a recognised 48 hours' week but, unfortunately, a voluntary basis does not provide for those who desire to evade that provision, and who desire to take undue advantage of their competitors, whether they be employers or workmen.
A voluntary system does not provide the legal remedy which a legalised 48 hours' week does provide. Therefore, I suggest to the Minister of Labour that if he could see his way sympathetically to consider the Bill which I had the honour to introduce it would very largely meet the desires of hon. Members above the Gangway on this side of the House, and I believe it would very largely meet the objections which are conscientiously held by some hon. Members opposite. It is an impracticable thing to bring a revolutionary change of this character into operation at once in connection with the whole of the industries of this country. My Bill provided that where 75 per cent. of those engaged in any industry were desirous of changing over to the 48 hours' week, the whole machinery was made available through the Ministry of Labour by which that could be done. The Bill also left the matter open for revision in after years when circumstances might have so changed as to make it desirable, having regard to a decline or a boom in trade, to make the conditions less onerous.
In that Bill, with its elasticity, there is a great weapon which could be used for the permanent benefit of the workers It could be used by stages. Every improvement which the workers have received has come by stages. Whilst the ideal contained in the present Bill is one that commends itself to every hon. Member, as a practical proposition it is not possible to-day. In the proposals within my Bill we have the machinery by which we could begin the first stage of a recognised 48-hours week, and we could gradually build up on that until we come to the ideal position of a national and inter 509 national 48 hours' working week, which I believe is what every Member of this House sincerely desires.
§ Captain LODER
I believe that I am voicing the opinion of a large number of Members of the House when I say that although I cannot see my way to support this Bill, I am very largely in sympathy with the Convention which the Bill is trying to implement. Although I feel that no good purpose would be served by passing this Bill, I would like hon. Members opposite to be quite clear that my opposition has nothing to do with any desire to facilitate an increase in the hours which are worked in this country. I should like the Government not to take the rejection of this Bill as an instruction, if I may put it that way, to proceed no further with this important international matter. Almost everybody will accept the underlying conception of the Convention, which I take to be that international industrial competition makes it necessary to safeguard the social status of people employed in industry, and that this is a social action which is necessary to counterbalance economic pressure. Just as we know that bad money is said to drive out good money, so we can also accept the fact that lower standards of labour tend to depress the condition of those who are working on a higher scale. In the international sphere there is no question that the competitive advantage is with those countries where the standards of labour are low. We in this country make up for this very largely by the quality of the goods we produce. The complaints that we hear to-day about unfair foreign competition seem to me to show that all who are engaged in industry, employers and employed alike, recognise the danger to this country of lower standards of labour abroad.
I welcome the Convention in itself in so far as I see in it international action to level up these lower standards to higher standards standards which are higher in no other country than our own, whatever there may be still left to be desired in the conditions here. In so far as this Bill intends to bind this country to the Convention, without regard to what other countries are doing, I cannot say that I can support it. The really important thing to my mind is not so much that we 510 should ratify the Convention, which after all, so far as I have been able to find out, does not do a very great deal to improve the conditions which have been agreed upon in different industries between employers and employed, but that we should get other countries to act upon the Convention.
I do not think we shall do that by just ratifying it by ourselves, without taking other action. But I should like to ask the Government whether it would not be possible to put negotiations on foot with foreign countries in order that we should be able to get simultaneous ratification of the Convention, or some similar instrument, because I believe that, by doing so, we shall be doing something which would really be in the interest of our own industries and would be safeguarding our own industries. Finally, I should like to suggest to hon. Members opposite that they should use their influence in the international labour councils of the world, about which they boast so often, to induce other countries to raise their standard of conditions. If their influence is really as great as they say it is they ought to be able to do something in this respect. I did not wish to detain the House, but I felt that, when one has so much sympathy with the underlying principle of a Measure that one wants to support it, one may perhaps be forgiven for giving his reasons.
In the course of to-day's debate no one who has opposed the Bill has faced the question which is before this country and other countries. The arguments advanced against the Bill have been mere negation. The type of mind which, in the face of our knowledge of the power of increased production, asks for an increase in hours of labour is something which I cannot grasp on the practical side of life. The other side, which has been left out of the discussion by those of the employers who have spoken, is the well-known and acknowledged fact that there is a period of energy in the worker at which you get the maximum product. Reference has been made to America, but those who made that reference were careful not to tell the truth about America in that respect. It is well known to those who take a real interest in employés, and who have a large number, that where you can by steady employment have the means of 511 building up this current not only is the energy of the working man brought to its maximum, but you also get a much better product from the hands of that workman. The fatigued mind is not the mind that thinks or causes the man to work deftly with the hand.
Now we hear that it necessary to increase the hours of labour in our country in order to compete with the foreigner. This again seems to be something which has not been thought out. The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry) in opposing this Bill only told the half of what could be told in his reference to coal in this and other countries. For instance, he stopped at that, part of the statement which seemed to suit his argument. To have told us all would have been to destroy it. He spoke about a certain friend of his, engaged in coal mining, who lost a contract in certain conditions, and he blamed it all on the short hours of the miners in this country. Why had he not the honesty to tell the truth? Why did he not point out with regard to those countries to which he referred that in Belgium the output per man is 9 hundredweight, in France 11 hundredweight, in Germany 17½ hundredweight, and in Britain 17¾ hundredweight? And yet the point was made by the hon. Member that if we could only increase the hours of the miners, to increase the quantity of coal which we cannot sell now, things would be improved. I hope that those who take part later in the Debate will, when they are advancing arguments, give us the full story and let us be quite definite about it.
Science has been referred to. If science had been applied to industry in this country there would be no question of lessening hours. May I give some illustrations. Apart from one or two blast furnaces, all our blast furnaces in operation are fed with raw material by a man with a shovel and barrow, exactly as was done 80 years ago when the first blast furnace was started. My charge against the whole of the industrial captains, as they love to be called, is that they are incapable of applying known science to industry. They talk about the competition of foreign countries. You cannot compete unless you spend that which comes from a trade to keep that trade up to date. If it is the plea that the eight-hours day cannot be given because we are 512 becoming poorer as an industrial nation, and that, as the Tories opposite claim, the reduction of hours will mean rain, I may quote the figures which I received yesterday in reply to a question. They show that in 1913-14 the actual amount of money coming under the review of the Income Tax authorities was £951,040,487, and that in 1923-24 the amount was £2,300,000,000.
If a decrease in hours carried with it a corresponding decrease in the life of our industry it would be shown in these figures. These figures give the actual relative values as between 1913-14 and 1924-25, not only on the money side but on the value of goods. No one, therefore, need think that he can find in them any argument about inflation or deflation of money. The figures show an increase of about 150 per cent., whereas the wages paid show an increase of under 60 per cent. over that period. That is a demonstration that none of the increasing surplus has been applied, as it ought to have been applied, to the development of industry. Let us come back to the coal-mining industry for an illustration. We have the best coal seams in the world. Apathy and 'inefficiency are responsible for one-half of the complaints about costs to-day. Our land system allows the man who owns the lands to say whether the nation's wealth is to be tapped. What has happened? Here, there and everywhere shafts have been sunk in the wrong places. It is because of the inefficiency of the captains of industry that. there are people who ask the worker to increase his hours and to accept reduced wages. Where a new mine is opened to the depth of an existing mine, the question arises, Who is to pay the cost of pumping the water?
When the hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill was speaking on mining he forgot to make one statement that ought to be made whenever this question is discussed. The chief reason for the present high price of coal is that unscientific and stupid methods are adopted by the captains of industry. Some individual works out our very thick seams of coal and runs off with the profits, when a portion of those profits ought to be applied to the working of the thin seams so as to secure something like a uniform charge. The working man is asked to reduce his wages in order to make up for 513 the swag which has been stolen by the other fellow. That is my charge. A man has to be a. physically fit man if he is to work five or six days a week for eight hours a day. There are not as many to-day as there were formerly in that good physical condition. I can remember that in my boyhood I got up at 2.45 in the morning, walked five miles to my work and walked five miles back at night. That was not good. I would not put such a task upon anyone, certainly not on a boy. Those of less physical strength went under. Three of my companions died before they were 17 years of age. That was because of nothing else but physical incapacity to bear the strain put upon them as growing lads. If you read the report that was made some years ago on the Clyde shipbuilding and engineering trade you will find that the employers were in absolute agreement about the eight hours day. Why? They said, "This is a good thing for us, because, as we are all under the eight-hours system, we shall not have to face the competition of firms that work an extra half-hour or hour per day." If we desire to reduce the hours of labour, not only to eight, but to much less, we can do so. In this country we have advantages that no other country possesses. Our minerals lie close together, our cost of transit to the seaboard is small compared with the cost in a country like America, and we have everything here that would make for the most compact, scientific and organised production in the world.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I know quite well that at present we bring in four out of every five loaves that we eat. But there need be no exception in the case of food, if we scientifically grew what we could grow on the land. The hon. Member may shrug his shoulders if he likes, but I have grown it. No opposition to this Bill has come from practical experience. The Mover of the rejection of the Bill began quite well. I thought that we were going to get some information when he said that we had other things to consider, the competition side, and so forth. That may be, hut I have shown by the tonnages which I have given that the case was not exactly as the hon. Member presented it. Hon. Members who opposed this Bill will fail outside the House on this ground 514 that any nation such as ours, which every year increases its power of production, cannot reasonably make a claim for longer hours or still greater production.
§ Dr. A. V. DAVIES
May I claim the indulgence of this House on rising to address it for the first time, and also because I find myself in the rather awkward position of supporting a Bill brought in by a party with which I have no sympathy. The Mover and the Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading painted a picture which was probably very true, but it did not suffer from lack of paint. It rather appealed to our sympathies because of the description of the very hard time that they suffered during their early days, when they had to rise so very early in order to start the day's work. I could not help feeling rather amused, because it was my privilege to work for over 20 years in an industrial constituency as a medical man, and there I had an intimate knowledge of the lives of the people both from the health and the factory point of view. I recognise that things were perhaps not quite so black as they were painted by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading. Scores of times when carrying on my own work I have met the people going into the mills at a quarter to six o'clock in the morning. They did not seem particularly unhappy; they went to their work quite cheerfully and were quite contented. It may be said, of course, that they did not know any better.
The War came and conditions were altered and as a medical man I was particularly struck with one result of the changed conditions such as shorter hours of labour and of the training which so many of our men received in the Army. it was the tremendous improvement in the health of the people and the improved physique of the men who had been in the Army. The recognition by the work-people of the benefits which they obtained during this period has determined them never to go hack to the old system under which they started work at six o'clock in the morning. Knowing them as intimately as I do and having the highest respect for them, I feel that to-day I must support them in their desire to see the hours of labour limited to 48 per week. It. has already been shown that in many of our industries to-day, the working 515 hours are 48 or even less per week, so that the change does not mean anything of very great importance. It may be asked "Why legislate for it?" I suggest that the fact. of legislating will give additional confidence and make the people feel that the Government is really at one with them in this desire for improvement and social reform.
I do not hold with the peculiar economic theories of hon. Members above the Gangway and I am certain the bulk of the working people of the country disagree with those theories also. They recognise that industry must pay its way to pay its wages. It has not an unlimited supply of money and if the money is not in the industry it cannot be got out of it. The people of Lancashire at any rate have sufficient common sense to recognise that. those who put forward theories contrary to that principle are not talking wisdom. I recognise that the danger of competition from abroad is serious, and that the overhead costs of production represent one of the principal causes of the present unemployment; yet I still suggest that this Bill should be given a Second Reading for various reasons. The first is the Washington Convention. This country has a name for carrying out its obligations and even its promises, and we should give a lead to the rest of the world by showing that what we have promised we intend to perform. Another thing is that if we were to take this 2.0 P.M. step it would give the International Labour Organisation a chance of proving its value. Some of us have grave doubts as to the possibility of achieving that. solidarity of international labour about which we hear so much. Some of us go so far as to say that it is an impossibility. Here we have an opportunity of proving the case one way or the other and of showing whether our ratification of the Forty-eight Hours Convention will have sufficient influence over the workers in other parts of the world to make other countries ratify that agreement also. One argument which has not. been touched upon to any large extent is that shorter hours do not necessarily mean less production. I have been looking up a recent Report of His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Factories with particular reference to reduction of hours, and I have extracted certain figures which may interest the House. 516 A firm of textile machinists in 1918 reduced the hours of labour from 53 to 48. The result was that in the moulders' department the same number of boxes per blow have been made; the machinists, who are on piece work, have with a few exceptions earned the same wages, and the time workers are doing as much work as they did previously, while the time-keeping markedly improved. In 1917, 14 to 17 per cent. of the men were late for work and 17 to 25 per cent. of the women. After the reduction of hours this percentage was reduced in the case of the men to between 1 and 1¼ per cent., and in the case of the women to between 1 and 1½ percent. A Bristol engineering works in 1913 reduced the hours from 54 to 50. This was confirmed after six months' trial. There was very little time lost and the output was increased. A Gloucester engineering firm reduced the hours from 59 to 53. Under the old system, 10 per cent. of the workers lost a morning quarter—2½ hours every week and under the new system this loss was reduced to 0.5 per cent. In 1917, a firm of agricultural and garden tools manufacturers reduced the number of hours from 53 hours to 47 hours 40 minutes (one break) and the system has worked satisfactorily. In the cotton trade, in which I am more particularly interested, we find that in the coarse doubling the reduced hours system was a success because the frequency of "doffing," as they call it, brought in the personal element, while in the fine doubling it was not quite so successful. To make a long story short this report shows that the more the personal element comes into the method of production the better the improvement which follows on the reduction of hours. Where it is largely a matter of machinery and the human element enters very little, the change is not so marked.
It is quite possible that the industry of this country has not yet fully recognised the fact that a reduction of hours very often does not mean reduced production, but in some cases may bring about increased production. My principal reason for supporting this Bill is that. I do so in response to the attitude adopted by the Prime Minister in his appeal to labour. The history of the troubles between employers and workpeople for the last 80 years has not been a happy one, and the work 517 people, reasonably or unreasonably, have got the idea that employers have not at heart the welfare of the workers, but are more likely to look after their own interests. I am convinced this is a wrong view. However iniquitous employers may have been in the past, they have learned their lesson; they are much more sympathetic and more anxious to help the working people. My reason for supporting this is that it is, if you like to call it so, a gesture again, to show that the employers of this country have not only to go half way, to hold out their hand to industry, and to say: "Let us be friends "; but that they must go more than half way to show that they are really in earnest. I think, and venture to hope, that if this Measure were passed, Labour would then say: "We really can believe that the employers of this country are determined to work with us, and to do the best they can for us;" and we should thus help to bring about that happy and desirable state of affairs in industry which the Prime Minister and we all have so much at heart,
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. A. V. Davies) on his contribution to this discussion, and to say how much I think we all on this side sympathise with the views that he expressed. The difficulty is that this does not appear to me, at all events, to be the time when we should be again in the field dealing with hours of labour. The Mover and Seconder of the Bill said that this was the only thing that the working classes got out of the War. I do not think anybody should have got anything out of the War. Nobody ever does get anything out of war. The next worse thing to losing a war is winning a war, and it is just like litigation. You may feel cheerful when you win a case in the courts, but you soon lose your cheerfulness when, a little later, you get. a bill for extra judicial costs. War, of course, is the wickedest of all human crimes, and the results appear to be like what happens in the case of a street fight, where a man takes off his waistcoat, hands it to somebody in the crowd, and, when he has finished the other fellow off, looks round for his coat but cannot find the man to whom he gave it. That is like what happens in war. One half of the nation sacrifice everything in order to go and fight, and the other half stay at home and 518 take the jobs of those who have gone. How anybody can expect to get anything out of war, except total loss, I do not understand.
I regret that the right hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) led us all astray in this respect after the War. I was one of those who hoped that there might be changes for the better because of the War, whereas I ought to have realised that we were bound to be a great deal poorer after the War, and that, instead of having an easier time, we were going to have a tougher time, till we all pulled together and got the country re-established. Of course, there was a tremendous boom succeeding the Armistice, and we all thought that everything that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said was therefore being borne out by the facts. But the slump came. It came in about March, 1920, and one thing that happened was that in the transport. system of this country an arrangement was made by the railway companies that hit the miners very hard. The arrangement was for a universal eight hours' day, and it did not matter whether a man was working at one of the busiest centres in the country, or at a station on a moor with two trains a day, and spending most of his time in his garden. The result was that the miners said to themselves: "If these fellows on the railways, who have an open air, clean job, work for only eight hours, six or seven hours is plenty for us."
You can hardly blame them, because of the difference in the occupations. I know what a miner's life is. I have often been down in the pits, and a very uncomfortable job it is, too, especially when you begin not to be quite so active as you were in your youth. Well, the miners agitated, and got the Sankey Commission. We all know what an economic pantomime that was. They got a big lump of money, called the "Sankey money" right away, and then they got the seven hours' day. But what happened? Italy found that she had to pay so much for the coal she imported from us that she began to develop her own resources; Italy went in for white coal, as it is called, and France, of course, got her coal from Germany, with the result that we lost our markets on the Continent. Here I would like to join issue with the hon. Member for Spring 519 burn (Mr. Hardie), who spoke in a disparaging manner about the management of the mines of this country. I maintain that, not only have we the best seams, but that they are the best mined, and that all the other countries follow our methods and watch them very carefully. It will not do for the hon. Member to come here and say that our mines are not well managed, in spite of the calamities which have happened from time to time and which are, I will not say inevitable, but which, we hope, science will ultimately defeat.
If we have these floodings, it is only because we were the pioneers of mines. We began mining long ago, and long before other countries began, and that is why these ancient mines and workings exist. It makes them much more difficult to operate. It is like some places on the railway system, where towns used to petition Parliament on no account to allow a railway to go near them, and they have now, in consequence, very inadequate railway facilities. There are mines in Scotland that were mines before the battle of Bannockburn, and they have these old places left, and that is why we have some of these calamities happening. We are not in a position fully to guard against these calamities, but it is absolutely wrong for the hon. Member for Springburn say that our mining industry is not conducted with a great deal of skill and science. As I say, the miner got his seven hours' day, and it is the only industry in this country where an able-bodied man is not allowed to work as long as he likes. In any other industry the man with a free will can work as long as he likes, but the miner must not be more than seven hours underground, and, taking into account the time which it takes to go to his working place, that often means that he has 5: i to 6 hours' work per day. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not seven hours underground, but seven hours, with the winding time—seven hours 40 minutes."] That is practically the same thing. I am informed, by a man who knows, that his actual hours are six—his hours at the face. Is that right? [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I do not think it is any more than six hours, and that means a difference in output of from 16 to 18 per cent. The miner is a piece worker, and it is to his interest to work hard. If he gave a little more time, he 520 could turn out more coal, and we should get it 2s. to 2s. 6d. a ton less than at present and still give him a better wage.
It is the sheltered industries going on at the rate they are going that are making it so difficult for competing industries. Eventually those in the sheltered industries will be in the position of the Irishman, who got his pay raised to such a degree that he could never get it. They have to realise that they have to foster and assist competitive industries, which have to compete in the markets of the world, and that if the competitive in-. dustries go down, the sheltered industries will lose their shelter. If we could get 2s. 6d. a ton off coal, the miner would be much better off, and the whole industrial situation would be very largely solved. I am no advocate of long hours of labour. I do not believe in them. If you want a man to work too long you lose his productivity, but there is a point of equilibrium. It is no use saying that the War is over; it never will be over. Life itself is a battle. The idea of sitting down at our ease never happens. Man is never at his ease and contented. He is always wanting something he cannot get. As a Scottish town clerk said, "A competence is about 50 per cent. more than you have got."
I object to this Bill, largely because it seems, in the first place, unnecessary, and it is largely impinging upon a man's freedom. If we could get more liberty, it would be the best thing possible. There are far too many resrietions. [An HON. MEMBER: "In the whisky trade."] Yes, there are far too many restrictions in the whisky trade, and that is what makes hon. Members' constituents very dissatisfied. I am pleased to see the promoters of this Bill have recognised one thing. The Bill says:
" This Act shall not apply to members of the employer's family,'' That is the principle I tried to bring in when I suggested a Shop Hours Bill, and yet all the Labour party opposed it. With all the improvements that have been made in mining by the introduction of coal-cutting machines and the installation of electric motors, and so forth, we ought to have had a far larger output. The output was going up. We might even have got to the American output which is colossal. I admit they have great seams, but we have seams in Staffordshire 40 feet 521 deep. If we had retained our supremacy in coal, there would never have been this industrial trouble. The whole prosperity of this community is very largely built up on the back of the miners. We started after the Napoleonic Wars to develop our mining. It was handy for our steel and iron works and it enabled us to go ahead with our manufactures. I agree with the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Smillle) that for many years we did not acknowledge our debt of gratitude to the miner.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
What I say is, give the men the right. [An HON. MEMBER: "That means compelling them! "} No; give them leave to do so if they wish. Many of them want to do it. Road transport has been developed and long-distance steamers have taken to oil. Notwithstanding that, I say that if the miners' leaders, the men and the employers, would come to an arrangement to get the larger output, and the extra period of time, and see that the miners get their share of the additional profit that would be made, and get the price of coal down, the whole industries of this country would respond to it right away. The whole industrial problem would be met to a most extraordinary extent, and I think that is a. real solution to our industrial trouble. It is not to be found by passing Measures of this kind, which are only restrictions on the liberties of people. After all, our British workmen are very upstanding, independent men, and they are well able to look after themselves and should not be subjected to interference of this kind. I admit that if we could get the thing more or less universal, it might be useful to get it in force in other countries to keep down undue competition, and I suggest to hon. Members, that if they would use their eloquence and the power of reasoning which they have shown in this Debate upon some of their friends in the international solidarity of labour, it would he of some assistance; but do not let us tie our hands, and allow poverty to be brought upon our own people by those who refuse to abide by such restrictions.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
It is customary in this House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for the speaker who follows in the opposing party 522 to congratulate the hon. Member who has just made his maiden speech on the other side. I believe, therefore, it is my duty to congratulate the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies) on the very lucid speech which he has made in support of the Bill. I am sure the House will take notice of the extra-medical evidence in favour of shorter hours of labour. I may also take the opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member as having been somewhat fortunate in his maiden speech in that he had a somewhat different experience to that which I had when I made mine. I was interrupted from the Front Government Bench. I was interrupted from the Front Opposition Bench. I was twice called to order by Mr. Speaker.
Before I go on to speak of the question of hours, I want to reply to certain observations of the hon. Member for the Hartlepools (Sir W. Sugden), who, I am sorry to say, is not here at the moment. He made a statement in regard to shipbuilding costs which, if it can be proved to be true, is a very important one. He said in the shipbuilding and ship-repairing yards that both upon time-work and piece-work our Continental neighbours worked cheaper than ourselves. I would say to him if he were in the House that he has taken a responsibility in making that statement here that no responsible shipbuilder has ever taken, or given to a responsible conference of workmen's representatives. If he cares to take the authority which he quoted here, and cares to discuss the question of costs in this country, in Germany, and in Holland, I shall be prepared and delighted to go down into his constituency and discuss this matter in public. So far as costs are concerned, and the reduction of costs in engineering and shipbuilding, which were dealt with in an able manner by an hon. Gentleman opposite, I want to say that it is my convinced opinion, so far as reduction of hours and costs is concerned, that there are far more items to be considered than the on-costs and overhead charges, and than have been dealt with in the report of the Federation of British Industries, or in directors' speeches, and these axe very important in relation to the question of reduction.
The authority of Sir James Lithgow was given by the hon. Member for the Hartlepools on the question of hours, and 523 on piece-rates and time-charges. I say to the hon. Member, and would say if he were here, that Sir James Lithgow would be far better occupied in explaining why his price on a certain contract was £43,000 per ship higher, not than the German, but than the lowest British tender, or about £4 6s. per ton higher than his British confreres! As I have said in this House more than once what is wanted in British industry to-day is to get together, to compare costs, and to see where this leakage is. I want to assure representatives of the employers who are Members here, that they would be surprised at some of the details placed before them. On the other hand, they should be frank with us. I was at a conference in London five weeks ago on the question of hours and other matters concerned with shipbuilding and engineering. The same authority that has been quoted this afternoon, Sir James Lithgow —for whom I have a strong personal like —made an announcement on behalf of the shipbuilding employers, that to me at least was a most important one, and important also so far as industry is concerned. He said in effect—I do not remember his exact words—" Let us sit down together and so far as foreign competition is concerned, unite in demanding lower continental hours."
That is the first time that an employer of labour has even given us an intimation that his side was prepared to unite with us to bring about what we look upon as fair conditions on the continent of Europe. It was an important statement. I could sincerely wish that his colleague, sitting beside him at that conference, the Vice-President of the Federation—who has made several attempts to get into this House—had been here this afternoon, so that he might back up the appeal that has been so ably made by the hon. Member for Royton—he belongs to a different party to myself—in the hope that we will get the Second Reading of this Bill, the Third Reading, and eventually see the Bill on the Statute Book. That is what I am appealing for. We believe that if this Bill is lost the endeavour to get equivalent conditions on the Continent is going to fail. As the Mover and Seconder of the Bill pointed out, if this country, our own great country, will ratify the Washington Convention, Germany, France and Belgium will automatically follow. I 524 could have wished that those shipbuilders who four weeks last Friday supported an appeal such as is now being put forward had been here to support it. I hope indeed that even yet we will get a fair measure of support from the opposite benches in support of the Bill that has been so ably moved by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan).
In his speech the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry) chided my two hon. Friends upon their lack of detail and their wealth of sentiment. I want to put it to hon. Members opposite that it is desirable to see how we stand in regard to hours in the shipbuilding, engineering and allied industries—in the 47 great industries that are the backbone of the country. Is it something abnormal and unprecedented we are asking, that so far as these industries are concerned the terms of the Washington Convention should be applied? It is not. We have a 47-hour week in shipbuilding. We have had it since November, 1918. I had the honour of moving the reduction to 47 hours per week in a building not far from here, where we stood out for a 44-hour week. I believe if we had stuck out a little longer we should have got it What does the 47-hour week mean to-the shipbuilding industry? Practically nothing. I said to the then Chairman of the Shipbuilding Federation, "You make a great point of what you have done by giving a 47-hour week all the year round, but what does it mean in your own yard?" I had been head of my department in his yard, arid I said to him, "In your yard they work 53 hours a week for eight months of the year, for two months 46¼ hours and for the other two months 41½ hours. For the year, that is an average of 47¼ hours. Yet you have talked for over an hour and a half this afternoon about what you have given us by a 47-hour week." That was the situation in November, 1918. Years before that, in the district in which this House is situated, we had a 43-hour week in the ship-repairing industry and we have got it yet; and in South Wales we had a 45-hour week in the same industry for many years before that.
I come back to the question whether shortened hours really mean longer hours. My hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepools gave us figures which I had heard not once but a dozen times. The figures 525 he read out with regard to hours were at least eight years old. He said that in 1913 the average hours worked in the shipbuilding industry were 42 per week. I do not quarrel with that figure, because for years I was responsible as head of my department for keeping the figures of workmen's hours in a shipyard—at least, I was responsible for seeing that others kept them. His figure of 42 hours per week is very nearly correct as regards the yard I was in. The figure of 41½ hours was the average for our big establishment, where we had 540 men and boys. Our normal working week was 41½ hours, that is to say, if we got 41½ hours on the average from those 540 men and boys, we reckoned we were all right. That figure took into consideration the effect of wet weather, want of material, want of mates, and other things. I do not quarrel with his figure, but I have to join issue with him with regard to the hours now. When we got the. 47-hour week I took care to inquire how it was working out in the yard that I had left. I found there was not a fall of an hour and three-quarters in the week, as the figures given by the hon. Member seemed to indicate, but that there really was an increase of one and a quarter hours. For a considerable time at least after the hours had changed the average was maintained at 42¾hours, as compared with 41½ hours, and I have no reason to doubt it is maintained up to this day.
I want to give the House the reason. The hon. Member for Royton has also pointed it out. All hours of starting work have been mentioned—a quarter past three, twenty minutes past four, a quarter to five. At one period of my working life the time at which I rose was twenty past three, and I got home at half-past six—half-past six in the evening. I was not lucky enough to get home at half-past six in the morning. As doctors have pointed out, the body is at its lowest in the early hours of the morning. At three o'clock in the morning the body is at, its lowest temperature, and men cannot be at their best at three, four or five o'clock. When the old hours were in operation a great deal of time was lost in the first quarter of the day. Any hon. Member who knows anything about works knows that. In a shipyard, under the old régime, if you had 25 per cent. of the men actually working in the first 526 quarter, you had a very good turn-out; you looked for three times that number, or 75 per cent. of the total, being present in the later hours of the day. The alteration in the hours made a complete difference. Although men are permitted to start after the lunch hour—or the dinner hour, as the workmen call it—they very seldom do so; and it comes to this, that a man now knows that if he does not get there at half-past seven in the morning the day is lost. Losing a quarter is one thing, losing a whole day is quite another thing, and the result is that, under the shortened hours we have better time-keeping, and, what is more to the point, we have had quite different work, because even the men who have to get up at the earliest can sleep till six o'clock, and do not have to rise at four or half-past four, or even earlier hours.
Then I come to the, question of the reduction of the numbers of unemployed and the question of cost. Where could there be a greater overhead charge, a greater running cost, than a million and a quarter unemployed men? Who bears the cost? Does not every charge that, we have to make here percolate eventually down to industry? Every man knows that. Where could we have a more ruinous charge upon industry than in the hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands—over a million—men walking the streets. Could there he a worse economic suggestion than the extension of the hours for bringing about a better state of things? Do three men working eight hours a day work more efficiently and produce more than two men working 12 hours? Of course they do. The first thing to do is to get every man employed who can be employed, and then the question of working longer hours and of working overtime ought to enter in.
I want to add my appeal to that which the hon. Member for Royton made to his colleagues of the Conservative party to give us a Second Reading of this Bill and to have it placed upon the Statute Book, in order to give a lead to the other three important countries, our nearest neighbours, France, Belgium and Germany, in adopting the terms of the Washington Convention. I would bring the House back to the bold words of my colleague behind me when he spoke about the honour of our European neighbours and the question of debt. I for 527 one am pleased that we are honouring our debt. I think it will be a bad job for our country when we dishonour its debts. But I say that if we have an obligation to our neighbours on the Continent of Europe, we also have an obligation to our people at home, both in industry and outside industry. We are under an obligation to fulfil our words. Hopes were held out to the workers of this country by the Prime Minister that we should have a better England and a better Britain. I put it that this may be the first stage upon that road by adopting a Measure which will bring into operation the terms of the Washington Convention. That may be the first step in the direction of lifting all our fellow workmen on the Continent a higher level and bring about better conditions for the workers in our own country.
The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steek-Maitland)
The Debate to-day has ranged over a very wide field. It has dealt with the provisions of the Bill; and it has dealt even more with the Washington Convention; and with the state of industry generally. This Bill raises a matter of great interest both to the party opposite and to the party on this side of the House, and I am glad to see that within the last five minutes a Member of the Liberal party has come into the House, and I hope he will make his contribution on this question.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I made an honourable exception in the case of the hon. Member. To get back to the question of the Bill and the Washington Convention, I will try to distinguish between the Bill itself and the objects of the Convention. My attitude is almost precisely the same as that expressed so briefly and admirably by the hon. and gallant Member for East Leicester (Captain Loder). I say frankly with regard to the Bill that I think it is impossible, and I am going to give my reasons why. When I say it is impossible, I hope hon. Members on both sides of the House will believe that I am trying to look at the question from the point of view of the best interests of 528 British industry as a whole, and of all parties to British industry, and I will give my reasons.
I will state one or two objections to the Bill which I think have been heard before. Its provisions affect immediately a large number of arrangements in British industry to which no exception could be taken in themselves. You get a number of industries which have a whole holiday on Saturday, whose weekly hours are 48 and under, and they are confined to five days or less of the week, so that their employers may have a whole holiday on Saturday. That is not a thing anyone would wish to stop. As an illustration, take the furniture trade and the dyeing trade. Those arrangements are rendered completely impossible by this Bill. If hon. Members opposite will read Clause 2 of the Bill, Sub-sections (1) and (2), they will find that kind of arrangement in British industry is completely ruled out. In the next place, there must always be in certain industries what is called commercial overtime. Everyone familiar with certain trades knows what I mean by this. Whether it is the Bank of England that desires to get notices printed in a hurry with regard to conversion of the National Debt, or a trade union which requires ballot notices printed quickly. In both those instances, commercial overtime is necessary in the printing trade. But that is made completely impossible by this Bill.
I wonder also whether those who have introduced this Bill have obtained the consent of the Unions connected with the railways. I understand that the whole of the present system, which is agreed to by the railway unions and by the railway companies, and which they do not want to have upset, is rendered quite impossible under this Bill. Is anyone going to say to me, ".Will you pass this Bill and force the railway unions and companies to alter their present arrangements in order to come under it?" Think what the choice is. If you say "Employ more men and come under this Bill," you will necessarily increase railway rates, which are already one of the serious troubles of industry, and you will increase the cost of living in this country. If you are not going to increase railway rates you are going to decrease railway earnings by an average of Ms. per week. 529 I have given some of the main difficulties which to my mind make this Bill unacceptable. There are many other minor objections, but I will give just an example of the instances to which I refer. The Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has introduced this Bill, but though the voice is the voice of Jacob, the hands are really the hands of Esau. But whether the hon. Member is the father or the foster-father of this Bill, if he will look at Clause 4, he will see, in the first Sub-section and those which follow, that it is laid down that notices have to he put up in detail as to the hours and regulations. This might quite well suit some factories but it would not be suitable to all the various industries which come under the Bill. Take, for example, those who have to work in quarries. In such instances you cannot have fixed hours, because in some quarries the hours change according to the sun. To take another instance, men who work in docks and harbours must regulate their hours of work by the tides. I have always admired the ample figure of the right hon. Gentleman, but King Canute tried to change the tides in vain, and only the prophet Joshua could make the sun stand still, and even the hon. Member cannot combine both those roles at once. That is a type of objection that would make this Measure unacceptable.
I have the same amount of regard for what is sought to be obtained by the Washington Convention as the hon. and gallant Member for East Leicester. The admirable maiden speech of the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. A. V. Davies) devoted some attention to this point. I do not, however, think that this Bill is the right way to carry out the Washington Convention. In fact, I think it is the wrong way, and I will give my reasons as briefly and succinctly as I can. If you want to make a success of a Convention, there are three things that are necessary. In the first place, you have to ratify it and pass corresponding legislation: its interpretation is equally necessary; and also its enforcement. Ratification, interpretation and enforcement are all necessary. It is not enough to say, "Ratify a Convention and your object is achieved." By ratification alone the object of the Convention is not likely to be achieved. It has to be inter 530 preted, and it has to be observed in the different countries in a like way. There must be a similarity of interpretation and of enforcement in the different countries. I lay stress upon this point, because I think, if I do so, it may clear up what has been the cause of some international misunderstanding. The Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham(Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck), while I was away having a litle food—I have a note of his speech—said that it had been suggested that foreign countries did not carry out this Convention, and asked me if I could. give any proof of it. It is not a, question of its not being honestly carried out. I make no accusation of that sort. The point is that you may have different canons of interpretation, perfectly honestly held, and it is because there are these different kinds of interpretation that in some foreign countries it is thought, and wrongly thought, that we are unduly hesitant, and sticky, so to speak, in not ratifying, and that in our own country it is thought, and again wrongly, that the carrying out is not honestly done in other countries. It is clue to this misunderstanding.
There is a difference in the interpretation in this country and in other countries. It is not only a difference in degree, but it is an absolute difference in principle. Here in England and in Scotland, when we have a law such as this, we are bound to carry it out and to interpret it strictly. It has never been the English and Scottish practice to have an elastic interpretation of the law, and I am quite certain that hon. Members opposite would be the very last to wish to have a laxer and looser or varying interpretation of, say, the Factory Acts. It is the last thing that they would wish, and it is the last thing that anyone who has a real desire to see good conditions in industry would wish. Therefore, we have a strict interpretation of the Statutes. If after a few years, they do not meet changed conditions, we bring in a new Bill. But, abroad there is an entirely different interpretation. It is based on a different mentality. Let me state what it is. I quote from M. Barthélemy, who is a leading professor on this subject:—Il est bien des lois, qui se bornent à poser les principes, renvoyant pour les détails à un règlement d'administration publique531 which is to say, that there are many laws which are confined to laying down principles, and for details you have to go to the administrative regulations. He goes on in another passage to 3.0 P.M. give the reasons why. I have got it here, and, if I may be allowed to do so I will translate it straight away. [An HON. MEMBER:" It is more usual."] Well, I did translate the former. He says that it lightens the trouble of the legislative chamber if only fundamental principles are inscribed in the law, and he goes on to say that the Administration has such practical experience that it can apply these general principles more easily, and further that regulations are more easily changed, and more easily modified, than the law itself. As circumstances go and as experience advises, you can change the mode of application of principles without applying for a new Act of Parliament. That means that you get a completely different method. Do not let anyone think that I am criticising. There are advantages in a method of that kind, which we do not possess. We have to come back for amending Acts. But the two methods are entirely different, and under the same Convention they may lead to entirely different results. This is why I am asking the attention of hon. Members opposite as well as hon. Members on this side of the House.
Let me take, as an instance, the French eight-hour law. I have here a copy of the French Eight Hour Day Act of 1919. It is, as you can see, short; it only lays down some principles, and you can get it on little more than half-a-sheet of notepaper. This Act in the first Clause lays down principles, and it remains for later regulations to determine how they shall he applied to the different industries. Let me ask hon. Members to consider how this interpretation proceeds. To start with, you have, under the Convention, the power of allowing overtime for extraordinary pressure of work in exceptional cases. I expect the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Preston is familiar with that Article of the Convention. But here, under this type of interpretation, you may settle beforehand for a year the amount of overtime that is likely to be allowed for exceptional work, and it can then he distributed by the manager of a factory as an addition to the regular hours 532 of work over the whole year. That, as a matter of fact, is described in a letter of 4th December last year by M. Justin Godart, the French Labour Minister.
Take another case. A factory may be shut down for a week, and the hours. that are thus lost may be taken and distributed over the next 60 days of that factory's working in addition to the ordinary hours. If you have a public holiday, such as Easter Monday or Good Friday as we have just had, the hours that are thus lost may again be distributed as an addition to the ordinary working hours. I shall be happy to give to the right hon. Gentleman opposite my authority for saying this. I have here a copy of n Information Sociale for October. As it says, the result is that you may get up to one or two hours a day in addition to the eight hours. Such an addition would be quite impossible under the British interpretation of a similar Act. Let me give one more illustration. Take the railways. In France, what is counted is not work which is at the disposal of the employer, but what is called effective work. If a person is on duty but is not working effectively, those hours are not counted for the purposes of the eight-hour day, and consequently you may get 10 hours or more as the regular time of duty, or it may even amount to 12 or 13. hours.
When I give this instance, I hope that no one here or outside will think I set out for one moment to be a critic of what any other country may do, or of its system. As I have said, there are advantages in both methods. But when it comes to international agreement, when industry is competitive, what we must have is uniformity of result. It may be said that that might, perhaps, be obtained by an appeal to the Permanent Court of International Justice. I know those sections of the Treaty well, and I have them here, but I submit that it is perfectly impossible effectively to take that course. I would ask hon. Members on both sides, in considering this, to put what I may call politics out of their minds, and to regard only the probable effect from the point of view of real benefit to industry. Suppose that we had different interpretations, and that different countries proceeded to carry out —each honestly by its own method—the same convention, but in different ways We should have to wait until a number 533 of instances had occurred, people would have to investigate and to ask, "Are these infringements occurring in other countries?" They would then have to bring them in detail to the Permanent Court of International Justice. I put it to anyone who really thinks about it that in the first place that would not be an effective method, and, secondly, if ever there were a method which would lead to international ill-feeling, it would be to allow such differences to occur and then to make constant complaints about them in detail, when it was known all the time that what naturally led to these differences was the fact that we were proceeding on different principles. I ask everyone to consider the question in view of these actual facts.
The hon. Member who seconded the Bill referred to the development recently in the engineering trade, and that is one of the first factors to which I desire to refer. He referred to the recent proposal to increase working hours in that trade to 50. May I give him the situation frankly as I see it? Before the War we had a competition in armaments, which I think was lamentable, and which every sensible man in any country deplored. The moment one country started in the race, others had to follow, and then there was no end to it before the crash. You may have a competition in hours of industry too, and the result may be almost equally lamentable. As a matter of fact, the first step has been taken in other countries. It is no use blinking the actual facts. Let hon. Members opposite ask their own representatives who have been across to Germany. They will know perfectly well that in the metal trades what I am saying is correct, namely, that the hours are far above 48—they are in the neighbourhood of 56 or similar figures. I do not want to see that race continued, for I know if we are bound to follow, others may go on still further. Then we get a race, as I have said, like the competition in armaments. I notice, however, in Sections (d) and (e) of the letter dealing with hours in the engineering trade, to which the hon. Member referred, it also stated that:If foreign competitor nations effectively decrease their working hours, so as to bring them into reasonable relation to the working week in this country, the arrangement now proposed could be reviewed. Meantime it is suggested that a joint submission by the Federation and the unions should be made 534 to the Government, pressing upon them the necessity of taking such steps as may be possible, under the Peace Treaty or otherwise, to secure an arrangement whereby the working hours of competitor nations on the Continent should be dealt with as indicated.I say quite frankly that I have no wish to see hours increased, or a competition in hours ensue, and, therefore, if a great industry like the engineering industry should, on both sides, wish us to see if we can explore a better avenue for carrying into effect the Washington Convention, I say at once, on behalf of the Government, that we are willing to try.
Take the position of British industry at this moment. I said a few weeks ago with regard to some of the great trades that we have our backs to the wall. If you go into the actual facts in the heavy trades you will agree that it is absolutely true. The hon. Member for East Newcastle (Mr. Conolly) was absolutely right in saying it was a question of costs generally. I cannot be a party to anything which will lay additional burdens on British industry in its present condition as compared with the foreign industry that competes with it. If anyone will consider the position in the iron and steel or engineering or shipbuilding trades; if they will listen to the account—not that I give of it—but which was given of it at the International Labour meeting at Cologne in March, that will be sufficient evidence. We are ready to go forward by other means, but let me make quite clear the conditions which have to be observed. First of all, any agreement must be so drawn that, with regard to any industry, honest differences of interpretation may be avoided, and that uniformity of interpretation is obtained. Secondly, it is also most necessary that we have simultaneous action. It has been stated, I think, by my Noble Friend the Member for South Nottingham, and also by hon. Members opposite, that if we were to pass this Bill we should at once ensure ratification by France, Germany and Belgium. They have not a shadow of justification for that statement. I have made inquiries as recently as yesterday. In France, a Bill was submitted on 535 31st July last year to ratify this Convention. It was remitted to the Labour Committee and to the Foreign Affairs Committee. No Report has yet been received from those Committees, and no one can state what is likely to be the result.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
Did not the Labour Ministers in France, Germany and Belgium all say a few months ago that they were willing to recommend ratification if we would proceed ourselves?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am perfectly willing, if necessary, to have further consultation with the representatives of other Governments to see what can be done, but there is no justification for supposing that ratification in France is necessarily going to follow ratification here. In Germany no indication has been obtained either, as to what are the prospects of ratification at this moment. You cannot go forward in the present state of industry "on spec." I ask everyone, putting politics aside, to look at this simply from the point of view of prudence and with the wish to progress. In the first place with British industry in its present state in those big trades no one could take the risk of putting an extra burden on them for two, three, four or five years in the hope that their great competitors might follow. The more the facts come out, the better these industries know that in some cases they are standing right on the edge of a chasm, or precipice, and you cannot push them towards it by putting extra costs on them, in the hope that the chasm may be filled up before they are pushed over. In the next place, action has to be simultaneous. Lastly, it is a necessary condition that there shall be a sufficient prospect, not only of uniform interpretation but—which I trust we may get—of effective observance afterwards, which those who are responsible for both sides in industry, in any of the big industries, know to be absolutely necessary. Anyone who thinks it over will realise that that is necessary, and they will see that to carry this Bill to-day does not really meet the situation.
We have to go forward, and I am willing to have a consultation with the 536 representatives of foreign Governments, if that is necessary in order to get forward.
That is the way to distinguish between getting the objects of the Convention, and what seems such a facile way of just passing the Bill before us to-day. A Bill of this kind is more likely to land us in difficulties. The way of progress is not so easy or so obvious. But I am willing to try to go forward, and if we move cautiously in the way I suggest, we safeguard the position of British industrialists much more securely and we have a much better hope of bringing conditions in foreign countries which are beneath the present level up to ours.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
May I offer my congratulations to the Minister of Labour on his very line knowledge of sacred and secular histories, and on an extremely facile tongue as far as the French language is concerned. I am sorry that his history finishes with King Canute. I am going to bring him to the history of some of his own colleagues, who made definite promises. I am going to call his attention to the fact that honour is supposed to be an English quality, and that if promises are made, those to whom they are made have a right to expect their performance. if the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me until I deal with one or two of the questions that were raised by other speakers, I will proceed to indicate what I mean by promises, and I will prove the assertions that I have made. The principal assertion I make is that, definitely, Mr. Bonar Law promised the House that a Bill would be introduced on the lines of the Washington Convention, and that every party in the House is implicated in the promise that was made.
We were told at the outset of the discussion that this was a political Bill; that it was introduced for political purposes. The Bill is a reprint of the Bill which I introduced when I was sitting on the Benches opposite, and it is now introduced by the same party that introduced it from the Benches opposite, and is the Washington Convention as arranged by Government draftsmen. The Washington Convention was promised to us by a Government which was not a Labour Government, and which had in its Cabinet a number of Members belonging to the party 537 to which the hon. Member belongs. If he can make any political capital out of that, I give it to him. We were told we ought to use our influence with other workers on the Continent before coming here and asking for this Measure. I have said without hesitation, and with knowledge of what I am saying, that the relative position of the Continental worker, as compared with ours now, is infinitely better from our point of view and from theirs than it was in 1913-14, that the difference in extra hours worked on the Continent is infinitely less now than it was before the War broke out.
I assert definitely that the wages of the Continental worker are much higher to-day relatively to ours. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then not only am I wrong, but the whole of the International Labour Office is wrong. I was secretary myself of a very large international association, and it was my business to collect particulars of wages, hours and conditions of labour from different countries. In connection with that work I had to deal with the international secretaries of other organisations, and I am speaking from very definite personal knowledge of conditions, and I can only put my actual personal knowledge as against the contradictions of hon. Members. What we have done in connection with other international bodies ought to be well known to every student of social affairs, and if any hon. Member is still in doubt as to what we are doing let me remind him that every industry and international organisation is working to the best of its ability to level up the standards of living and not level them down, whereas I am afraid that the tendency of arguments from the benches opposite has been to level them down.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I do not know if the right hon. Member is referring to me, but I hope that he will not think that that was my object.
§ Mr. SHAW
No; I think that, after complimenting the right hon. Member on his knowledge of history and his exquisite facility and taste, I said that before I came to him I would deal with some of the other arguments used, and then come to some of the arguments which he adduced. I am afraid time will not permit me to make more than one or two references to other points from these speeches. It was assumed by one hon. 538 Member that if this Bill were carried, it would crush out the crucible steel industry. There is ample power under the Bill to safeguard any industry that has to be worked on lines that are extraordinary, and quite out of comparison with other industries. There is no necessity, therefore, under this Bill, that any industry which has conditions of a special character should be crushed out of existence. Adequate powers exist to deal with cases of that kind.
Now I must turn to the modern history of which I spoke. I assert that every party in the House is equally responsible for the promises which were given to the workers in connection with this Convention. The Treaty of Peace itself lays down definitely that the peace of the world cannot be secured unless the workers of the world have better conditions than they had before the War. The high contracting parties to the Treaty agreed to attempt to carry out certain things. One of them was the adoption of the eight hours' day, or the 48 hours' week, as the standard to be aimed at where it was not already introduced. It was on the Treaty of Peace, in which the workers were given a solemn promise that these things would be done, that the Conference took place at Washington. If we can carry out our word to the people who lent the nation money why not carry it out to the workers? The one class in the community to whom the promises made have been fulfilled, is the class consisting of those who have lent money. They have been repaid threefold. The Government has more than kept its promise to the lenders of money, but not to the workers or the soldiers or the sailors. That is the position of affairs.
It is a question of honour. When we talk about an Englishman's word being his bond, what do we mean? Is this declaration in the Treaty of Peace an Englishman's word or is it not? I use the word "English" because it is often used on the Continent when the term ought to be "British." When the Conference took place at Washington, the Government representatives actually accepted this Convention, and, as a matter of fact, it was modified in many ways in order to meet their wishes. The workers' representatives—I was there as Chairman of the Committee that arranged this—could have carried an infinitely stronger Convention; but they 539 deferred to the wishes of the British Government representatives, because they were told that if we forced the pace to that extent we might force Britain not to ratify the Convention. Nobody expected in Washington, certainly not the Labour representatives, that there would be any question about this word being kept, that there would ever be a question of men's words being regarded merely as scraps of paper. Then there were the employers' representatives. They consented to the Convention, and when they came home the employers raised no objection to their having done so. Now the employers turn round, and, apparently, they want to break their word to the workers and to scrap the Convention.
If you want peace in industry, if you want peace in the country, can you have peace with a body of people who do not believe your word? I regret to say that there are hundreds of thousands of workers who will not accept the word of the Government or the word of the employer, and a thing like this is calculated to add fuel to that flame. I could understand the argument "We have made this promise; we made it not knowing what it meant; we ask to be relieved from it." That argument I could understand. But the gross turning away, the forgetting of the promises that were made, are things that I simply cannot understand, and certainly would not attempt to emulate. We are told often about the shortcomings of other countries. What are those shortcomings? Before the War, in most trades, the French were working six, seven, eight and even ten hours a week more than we were. What is the position to-day? Before we went to Washington, France had an eight-hours day by law, and if you ask what does the Englishman or Scotsman or Welshman want a Bill for when he has the eight hours, he tells you that he is not certain of it unless he has it by law. The event of the past few weeks have proved that his suspicions were correct. He has absolutely no security except in the law for the hours that he has to work. That is the reason why the workers of this, country want the eight-hours day by law It is perfectly true that this Bill, founded as it is on the Washington Convention, 540 is not a general eight-hours' day Bill. It leaves out of account men like sailors, agricultural workers and commercial workers. They should be in it, in my opinion and in the opinion of my party. We are bringing before the House what you promised to give us, and we are asking you to implement your promise. We shall try to get what we think is right when we are strong enough to do so, and in the meantime we say, "Carty out your promise and give us your bond as you gave us your word."
I wish to traverse the Minister's statement with regard to France, which I think left in the minds of some hon. Members the impression that, whilst France might ratify the Convention, her methods were not ours, and the application would not be the same. Let me inform the House that M. Godart said quite explicitly, during the negotiations at Berne, that the present French eight hours' law must not be taken as the measure of France's ratification; that if France ratified, she would not be ratifying her present law, but would be ratifying the Convention in good faith, and that if we wanted afterwards to criticise her method of handling the Convention, there was a Court to which we could turn. That should be stated in justice to M. Godart. It has been twice or thrice repeated that, whatever the French eight hours' law may be now, the French know what the Convention is, and that Convention they are prepared to carry out. There is a difference of interpretation I will admit, but it is not insurmountable. If the Minister of Labour supported this Bill he could easily arrange with the other countries on an understood interpretation of certain Clauses. Think of what the Convention is and think of the difficulties of arranging an international instrument of any kind. Why we know that even as far as our own Acts of Parliament are concerned—with probably the most highly-skilled legal profession in the world—there are often difficulties of interpretation. Think of a Convention which has been built up in three languages, translated by an American lawyer into American English, and which finally has to be translated into legal English here. Obviously there will be differences of opinion as to certain interpretations. I had begun myself to deal directly with the Ministers of the three other countries 541 most closely concerned in order to come to a common understanding not only as to what the Convention meant but as to when it should be ratified. The present Government have, however, dropped all negotiations and allowed matters to slide.
I have dealt with some length with France. Lest there should be an idea that no other country has done anything with regard to hours, let me mention some countries which have done so and, again, I ask the House to remember that no country in Europe except ourselves was working under 60hours when the War broke out. We get a country like Bulgaria. Surely in comparison with our development one would expect from such a country a demand for hours much longer than ours. Bulgaria has expressed her willingness to ratify the Convention provided there is anything like general ratification. Czechslovakia has ratified it and is carrying out the Convention which we say is impossible. What a humiliating thing for this nation which prides itself on being the first in the world and which was the first in the world prior to the War, to say that it is impossible to carry out this Convention when a little nation like Czechslovakia can do it. Then you get Greece, and there are special conditions contained in the Convention itself applying to Greece, but Greece is trying to carry out the obligations she undertook. Rumania is in the same position, ready to move when other nations move, and we are the most obstinate nation in Europe. We ought to be at the head. We, whose interest it is to get something like an international arrangement, are the one country that has neither done anything nor promised to do anything. Think of the advantage that accrued to India. I know that the hours in India from our point of view are still long, but they are enormously less than they were before this International Labour Office began to function. Then there is Austria, a country with enormous difficulties. Those who knew the old Austria and who know the new one, know that now you literally have a huge city without any hinterland. There is very little of Austria left except Vienna and the Viennese suburbs, but in Austria not only have they an eight-hours day. but they are ready to ratify as soon as the principal nations of Europe are ready 542 and ours is the one nation that is specially mentioned as being an important one.
We hear a great deal about Germany. The Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) called attention to the fact that the German workers are rapidly getting back to the eight hours' day. Think of what took place there. There was an absolute collapse, and the funds of the unions became swallowed up. The employers took advantage of this helpless ness and forced these increased hours, but the unions are now getting stronger and are, by their own efforts, rapidly approaching the 48 hours' week again. That is the condition in Germany, and anybody who knows Germany, and who makes a statement of six months ago as if it applied to the Germany of to-day, is making a statement that is quite misleading. The German unions are on the march everywhere and in every trade towards shorter hours. Let me point out that, after Washington, while we did nothing at all, the German Government introduced by decree—it was in a state of flux at the time—a 48-hours law. This thing swept over Europe, and there scarcely a country, from the East to the West, that, after Washington, did not immediately introduce before its Parliament methods of dealing with the hours of labour.
I do not know of any single country of any size, with the exception of our own, that did not bring before its Parliament some method of dealing with the hours of labour, and I am going to assert now that we were principally responsible for this Convention and that not only is our word given to the workers in this country, but that we have a debt of honour to other countries too. Britain was principally responsible for this part of the Treaty of Peace. British representatives were principally responsible for the form of this Washington Convention. Every other country believed that we were going to do what we said we would do. There never was any doubt in Washington in the minds of the representatives of other countries that Britain would do what she promised to do, and I say that our record in this matter is a very bad record, that it does not shed any creditable light on us, and that, unless we can find a better way of keeping our word than the way we have adopted 543 here, we had better get rid of the idea that outside our own country an Englishman's word is taken as his bond. I am very sorry to say it. I am as proud of my native land as any man can be. I am as proud of our honour as any man can be, and I have seen, in my own experience, particularly since the War, a gradual diminution of the English record in the eyes of Continental nations. I hope we shall quickly get back to the position we were in before the War, when, if we were disliked on the Continent, we were, at any rate, respected. We might be disliked, but, at the same time, we were keenly respected. I am afraid we are losing a lot of that respect.
Let me, if I may, go further afield. Take the Union of South Africa. This Convention has been placed before both Houses in the Union of South Africa. In the Argentine and other countries with whom we have some commercial relationships, there are no serious difficulties, because the present condition of affairs is practically equal to the Convention, and Parliament is dealing with the matter. In Australia, the Government has informed the Chamber of Representatives that the Washington Convention will be brought before the competent authorities. We have no reason to assume that we alone are dealing with it. Nations which used to be considered very much below us are dealing with it, and dealing with it much more expeditiously than we have done. Even Bolivia has an eight hours' day by law, and we in Great Britain cannot even do what Bolivia has done. What a comment it is upon the, cleverness and astuteness of my right hon. Friend that Bolivia should have been able to do what would give him so much difficulty, that he faces the matter with fear and trembling! In Brazil, there is not only a 48 hours' week for industrial workers, but there is a 36 hours' week for commercial workers by law. Yet fine old Britain is still where it was. "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall he, world without end."
That is the position in which we are. Canada has her special difficulties. There is a constitutional question in Canada, which is, I think, rather more difficult than we have got to face, and the Canadian Government is investigating the question as to whether the 544 responsibility for a Convention of this kind rests on the Government as a whole, or on the Provincial Governments separately. But the whole matter is being gone into in Canada, and in British Colombia there is an eight hours' law. These international arrangements, to be seen in true perspective, must be seen not only so far as Europe is concerned but so far as the extreme East and the extreme West are concerned. Unless we have an international organisation, how are we going to assure anything like a march forward of the great Eastern nations? This International Labour Organisation has been directly responsible for a tremendous move forward, not only in India but in China and Japan as well. In China, the hours have been reduced by anything up to 25 a week, as a direct result of the international arrangement, and I suggest, if we want to study our own interests, we had better keep international faith, and keep our word, because this is a case where keeping our word is actually a financial advantage to us. Cuba, in her industries, works eight hours a day; and so far as her State and municipal workers are concerned there is an eight-hour day by law. In Denmark the eight-hour day exists, generally speaking.
§ Mr. SHAW
Russia will be dealt with when Russian questions come before the House. [An HON. MEMBER:" What about trade union restrictions? "I suppose that hon. Members are infinitely shocked with us for asking Parliament to keep its word. Denmark is introducing an Eight Hours Bill, and hopes shortly to ratify the Convention. In Spain, before the military dictatorship, a Bill was introduced into the House there, but wherever you get militarism, whether in Russia or in Spain, God help you! [An HON. MEMBER: "Or Italy."] AS a matter of fact Italy, under Mussolini, does better than our Government because it is ready to ratify.
§ Mr. SHAW
In Esthonia. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh !" and Interruption.] If this is to be a ragging match, well! Esthonia is willing to ratify the Conveytion. Finland has an Eight Hours law. Hungary is going to submit the Convention to its constituent authorities. Italy is clearing away the constitutional obstacles in order to submit the Convention. Latvia is in a line with the others. Norway has secured 48 hours for its railway workers. Holland has 47 hours. If we kept our word, there would not be any danger about the Dutch or German conditions at the present time. It is our failure to ratify that is responsible for these things. Then in Sweden the Government are taking steps to put their house in order. In Switzerland there is an 8-hour day, and a referendum of the people has lately decided to stick to it. America, as I said, has, as to 51½ per cent. of the industrial workers, a working week of 48 hours. What are we going to do? [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Japan ! "] Japan has kept her word, given at Washington. in the letter and in the spirit. Japan has kept her word, and we have failed. So much from Japan. I ask now hon. Members just to listen to this reply by the late Mr. Bonar Law. I ask them if there could be anything given more definite than this. The right hon. Gentleman was asked whether legislation would be introduced to deal with the Conventions at the Washington Labour Conference, and he said:I would refer my lion. Friend to the answer which I gave to my right bon. Friend the Member for the Gorbals division of Glasgow on 17th May. The principles of the draft convention limiting the hours of work in industrial undertakings will be embodied in the Hours of Employment Bill which will be introduced shortly."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th July, 1920; col. 1010 Vol. 131.]That is our case, that we have had the most definite promises in the Treaty of Peace, at Washington, and even in Parliament itself, that the promises made to the workers will be implemented, and that the word of Governments will be kept. I ask only that that undertaking should be kept. I am not blind to the fact that this Convention will entail difficulties. I knew, when I was Minister, 546 that I should have to face difficulties. Difficulties are there, after all, to be surmounted. If I may use a couple of words of French to my right hon. Friend, I would say to him: "Courage, encore courage, toujours courage." [HON. MEMBERS: "Translate! "] Plainly translated, it is "Face your difficulties; get on with it." I claim that the acceptance of this Convention would be good for the country. It would restore our credit, not only in our own country, but abroad. it would let people see that, even though there were difficulties, our word was really our bond. Is there any hon. Member in the House who wants to go back to more than 48 hours a week?
§ Mr. SHAW
But is there any hon. Member who will get up and advocate it? If it be the case that we are all agreed in principle, as has been repeated by Members over and over again, from the Minister downwards, what is holding us back? Difficulties of detail? Obviously, whatever is proposed, there will be difficulties of detail. I could have understood the position of the Government if they had said "We will let this Bill have a Second Reading, but we warn you frankly that in Committee we must attempt to make changes in detail." I could have understood that; but we get nothing of the kind. Six years we have waited for this promise to be carried out, and to-day is the first time when any responsible Minister of the Crown has volunteered even to explain what the difficulties were.
Eight hours a day is long enough for anybody to work. Eight hours a day is as long as anybody can work efficiently, and it is quite untrue to say that there is great danger from countries working long hours for low wages. As a rule the danger comes not from countries working long hours and for low wages; the danger of competition comes from those countries where short hours are worked, where science is applied, the most modern methods are adopted, and where efficiency is at its highest. From the point of view of the health of the workers, from the point of view of the industrial standing of the nation, from the point of view of carrying out our obligations, and from the point of view of regaining the respect we have lost in the world, I think 547 this Convention ought to be accepted. There is to-day a special reason why Labour should be anxious to see this Convention adopted. For over 35 years the first of May has been the day on which Labour in every civilised country has demonstrated in favour of the eight hours' day, and for 35 years that demand has been made on every 1st of May. I am going to ask the House in view of all the circumstances, in view of the solemn promises given, in view of the fact that you cannot hope to have industrial peace unless the people have confidence in you, I am going to ask the House to give a Second Reading to this Measure in order to keep the word of the House, and give some hope not only to our own workers, but to the workers of the rest of the world.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
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.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I want to call attention to what appears to me to be a discrepancy in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. It seems, from a publication issued by the International Labour Office, and dated March, 1925, which I have in my hand, an authority which the right hon. Gentleman will not
§ dispute, it was quite definitely stated that Japan had neither ratified the Convention nor had that country introduced legislation. Whether it has done so since March, 1925, I am not able to say.
§ Sir WARDEN CHILCOTT
I have just come from that part of the world, and I am in a position to say that the statement which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) is most misleading, because the Japanese are working three shifts a day, and the majority of the Japanese women are working two out of those three shifts, that is 16 hours a day.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
May I point out that the masons working in March on the International Labour Office in Switzerland were working 50 hours a week.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 128; Noes,223.551
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gibbins, Joseph||March, S.|
|Alexander, A. V.(Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Gillett, George M.||Maxton, James|
|Ammon, Charles George||Gosling, Harry||Montague, Frederick|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, North)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Greenall, T.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Barker, G.(Monmouth, Abertillery)||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Barnes, A.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Owen, Major G.|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Palin, John Henry|
|Beckett, John(Gateshead)||Groves, T.||Paling. W.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Grundy, T. W.||Pethick-Lawrence, F.W.|
|Bentinck Lord Henry Cavendish-||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hall, F.(York, W. R., Normanton)||Potts, John S.|
|Broad F. A.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Bromfield, William||Hardle, George D.||Riley, Ben|
|Bromley J.||Harris, Percy A.||Ritson, J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. B., Eiland)|
|Clowes, S.||Hayes, John Henry||Rose, Frank H.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Compton, Joseph||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Connolly, M.||Hilton, Cecil||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sexton, James|
|Cove, W. G.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Kelly, W. T.||Smille, Robert|
|Dennison, R.||Kennedy, T.||Smith. H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Duncan, C.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Dunnico, H.||Lansbury, George||Snell, Harry|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lawson, John James.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Phillp|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Lee, F.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Lindley, F. W.||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Forrest, W||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Mackinder, W.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Sutton, J. E.||Warne, G. H.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Taylor, R. A.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney||Willson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)||Weir, L. M.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Thurtle, E.||Welsh, J. C.||Wright, W.|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Westwood, J.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Whiteley, W.|
|Varley, Frank B.||Wignall, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Viant, S. P.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.||Mr. Buchanan and Mr. B. Smith.|
|Walsh Rt. Hon. Stephen||Williams, David (Swansea. E.)|
|Albery, Irving James||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Malone, Major P. P.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Fraser, Captain Ian||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool. W. Derby)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E||Margesson, Capt. D.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Gates, Percy||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Meller, R. J.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Atkinson C||Gee, Captain R.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Mitchell, Sir w. Lane (Streatham)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Balniel, Lord||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Goff, Sir Park||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Gower, Sir Robert||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w,E.)||Nicholson, William G. (Peterfield)|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Gretton, Colonel John||Oakley, T.|
|Batterton, Henry B.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Blades. Sir George Rowland||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Perring, William George|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Harrison, G. J. C.||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Peto, G (Somerset, Frome)|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||phillpson, Mabel|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Haslam, Henry C.||Plicher, G.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hawke, John Anthony||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Price, Major C. W. M|
|Campbell, E. T.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Reid, Capt. A. S. C (Warrington)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Reid, D. D (County Down)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hennlker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Rice Sir Frederick|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Richardson, Sir P W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur||Richard Roberts, E. H. G (Flint)|
|Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Holland, Sir Arthur||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hopkins J. W. W||Ropner, Major L.|
|Christie J. A||Horlick Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Russel, Alexander West- (Tynemouth)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Clayton G. c.||Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.)||Samuel, A. M (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'and, Whiteh'n)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cockerill Brigadier-General G. K.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hurd, Percy A.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Cope, Major William||Hurst, Gerald B.||Shaw, Lt. Col. A. D. Mcl.(Renfrew. W)|
|Courtauld, Major J.S.||Hutchison, G. A. Clark(Midl'n & P'bl's)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.C. (Antrim)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Simms, Dr. John M.(Co. Down)|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Jackson, Sir H.(Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Craik Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Jacob A. E.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Smith, R.W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Galnsbro)||King Captain Henry Douglas||Smithers, Waldron|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovll)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F.(Will'sden, E.)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lamb. J. Q||Stanley, Lord (Fyide)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lister, Cunilffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Drewe, C.||Loder, J. de V.||Storry Deans, R.|
|Eden, captain Anthony||Looker. Herbert William||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Eillot, Captain Walter E.||Lougher, L.||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Elveden, Viscount||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||Lumley, L. R.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Evans, Captain A.(Cardiff, South)||MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Everard, W. Llndsay||Macdonald, Capt. P.D. (I. of W.)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Falls, Sir Charles F.||Maclntyre, Ian||Waddington, R.|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||McLean, Major A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Macmillan, Captain H.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Fielden, E. B.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Warrender, sir Victor|
|Fleming, D. P.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Ford, P. J.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. steel||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wells, S. R.|
|Wheler, Major Granville C. H.||Wise, Sir Fredric||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)||Wolmer, Viscount||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)>||Wood, E.(Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Winby, Colonel L. P.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.||Mr. Clarry and Mr. A. J. Bennett.|
|Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being after Four of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.