§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I have rather a difficult task to perform to-day in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, because I feel that so many people are waiting for the Government to ratify the Washington Convention, and that in my own Division and else-where many thousands of people who know me in the textile industry are waiting to get legal sanction to what is already an agreement between the employers and the workpeople. I do not wish to weary the House by detailing the Clauses of the Bill. It has been before the House so very often that I think it is sufficient for me to say that its central feature is that it provides a 48-hours week for all persons employed in industrial undertakings, and the other Clauses are merely or mainly to provide for machinery. I want to say at the outset that I regret that this Bill does not include all workers. I would have preferred that all workers should be governed by Parliament, so far as hours of labour are concerned, but this party desire, in the first place, to see that the word and bond of Great Britain are kept, seeing that this country did at Washington give its word and agree to the Convention for the 48-hours week. I hope that at a future time, when this House has passed this Bill, it will take cognisance of the fact that there will still be several hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people outside the scope of the measure. I believe that Parliament is the best place to look to for protection, and I look to the House at some future date to protect all the workers in the country, so that, as far as we are concerned, this is the first step in order to safeguard the honour of the country in which we live.
I believe it is safe to say that the failure of this country to ratify or pass a Bill for the ratification of the Washington Convention has undoubtedly held back other countries from doing the 2302 same. It is generally admitted that this country takes a leading part, as I think it ought, in the important measures and laws of the world, and I really believe that the failure of this country to ratify the Washington Convention, which was passed in 1919, has had a very important effect in deterring other countries from introducing such a law, and, in the case of those countries which have introduced it and got it passed, in deterring them from making it a working agreement. The main reason which has been put forward by various Ministers in this country for not passing such a Bill is the difficulty of including railway and transport workers in a 48-hours week. From this side of the House that difficulty has been met, because there is a Clause inserted which will make arrangements that the present work of railwaymen and the present usefulness of the railways shall not be impaired if this Bill is passed.
I notice that there is an Amendment on the Paper with regard to tariffs, but surely this has no connection, or at least ought not to have any connection, with tariffs. I am trying very hard not to be controversial, but this Amendment does really raise a most controversial matter. The Bill ought not to have been attempted to be amended on those lines, and I suggest— and this is my only word on this matter— that while I have been a Member of this House for 2½ years, and while I have been a student of politics for 20 years, I have never yet known a tariff proposal put forward which ever attempted or even suggested the safeguarding of the wages of the people of this country. I seriously suggest, therefore, that there is no connection whatever between hours of labour in this country and tariff reform. Hon. Members opposite are very apt to accuse us of introducing King Charles' head into all discussions, but they, at all events, ought to leave a controversial matter like traffic out of such an important question as this of the 48-hours week, affecting millions of wage earners in this country.
I said just now that this proposal was first ratified at Washington in 1919, and since then nine new States have ratified the Convention. At the time when the Convention was ratified and since, both Coalition and Conservative Governments here have made repeated promises that they would introduce legislation carrying it into effect, but they have not done so. 2303 I have been reading the case up, and I find that for the Coalition Government, in the publication which they issued called "The Future," Dr. Macnamara, who was then Minister of Labour, said in 1920 that the Government fully intended to carry through the necessary legislation; and he repeated that in this House on the 1st December, 1920. He further stated, on 23rd December in the same year, that they were continuing negotiations with a view to introducing a Bill to ratify the Convention, and on 17th February of 1921 he said he hoped to make a statement at an early date. On 27th May of the same year Mr. George N. Barnes submitted a resolution in favour of ratification, the matter was discussed, and the then Minister of Labour then commenced to hedge. They were not in favour of introducing a 48-hours Bill, and an Amendment was moved that the time was not opportune. The Debate was adjourned, and then we found that the Government were not quite as serious with regard to this matter as they stated they were when it was first introduced in the House. Then Dr. Macnamara introduced the plea that it would be difficult to deal with railwaymen, but, as I have already said, that position has been met in this Bill. There is a Clause which safeguards the working of the railways and the railwaymen's hours, so that at all events the main objection— and this has been the main objection ever since the first introduction of the Bill— has been met.
The next step was when the Labour Government took office. My right hon. Friend, who was then Minister of Labour, introduced a Bill, and stated that it was the only honourable thing this country could do, seeing that the agreement to ratify the Convention had been made as far back as the year 1919. The first time a Government Measure was introduced on the subject was when the Bill was introduced by the Minister of Labour in the Labour Government, in July, 1924. Unfortunately, the Labour Government fell before they could get the Second Reading, and since then, of course, the present Minister of Labour has not found that Bill in the archives of his office. The Prime Minister, in the last King's Speech, made a statement which gave us great hope, and I say that as one who has been 2304 a textile factory worker since I was 10 years old. He said that the Minister of Labour was inviting representatives of various manufacturing countries to meet him. Those representatives met. There was an agreement signed on the 19th March asking all countries to ratify the Convention of a 48-hours week for all industrial undertakings.
I submit that that short recital of history may, perhaps, assist some hon. Members opposite to make up their minds that this is not a new matter. This is a matter of great importance to millions of workers. It has always been one of the things to which we have been looking forward, when the employer by law would not be allowed to work people as long as he possibly wanted to work them. I would remind the House, that shortly after the War there was a very big industrial conference in London, at which various matters affecting industry were discussed, and at that Conference an agreement was reached, and signed by 30 employers. One of the signatories was Sir Allan Smith, whom nobody could accuse of being partial or biased to the trade union movement. This is what was said in the report which Sir Allan Smith signed:With regard to hours, the Committee are unanimous in recommending the principle of a legal maximum of normal hours per week for all employed persons. The number of hours they recommend is 48, but they recognise this number may be reduced by agreement, and that there are exceptional cases in which it may be necessary that it should be increased.That resolution was submitted to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who was then Prime Minister, and he stated, in 1919, that he fully accepted, in principle, their recommendations as to the minimum rates of wages, and that a Bill to give effect to these recommendations was then being drafted. The Coalition Government, according to their Prime Minister, stated in 1919 that a Bill was being drafted, and would be introduced at an early date. That is to say, seven years ago, the Prime Minister of that time promised to introduce a Bill to make legal the 48-hours week, and now it is 1926, and the first time that the Bill was introduced by a Government was in 1924 by the Labour Government in order, as the Minister then said, honourably to fulfil their obligations. Is it not strange that 2305 in this great industrial country, without legal protection for the hours of workers, 90 per cent. of the organised workers are working a 48-hours week or less. [An HON. MEMBER: ''Then why do you want the Bill?"] An hon. Member asks, why I want the Bill? I may retort by saying. Why should the Second Reading of the Bill be deferred six months? Why should it be conditional upon the safeguarding of industry? My reply to the question, why we want the Bill, is that we want legal sanction to what is, at present, merely an agreement between employers and workpeople which, to be quite frank, I fear the employers will break at the first available opportunity. I say that frankly, and I want to give the legal stamp to what is an agreement between the employers and 90 per cent. of the work-people. We claim that this will not materially reduce output. My experience, and the experience of men better able to judge than myself, bears out that contention. I will content myself by reading a couple of extracts from the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories, who, I think, ought to be accepted as an unbiased judge. In the 1921 Report he wrote:Since the 48-hours week has thus established itself—It will be noted that he says it has established itself— not that it is established by the Governments—— it is satisfactory to find that where reduction of hours is continued over a considerable period, output tends in the majority of cases to attain the old level, and that the beneficial effect of increased leisure on the workers is making itself apparent. Earlier reports have called attention to the marked reduction in lost time which results from shorter hours of labour.''In another report he says:In a cotton doubling factory, a reduction of 6½ hours in the working week resulted in improvement in the workers health, and the almost entire disappearance of bad time-keeping, while the output was quite up to the old standard.That is the experience of a factory inspector, and my negotiations with employers, which go back to a long while before the War, have taught me that the great bogey which the employers fear is that there will be immediately a diminution in output, and, consequently, an increase in the cost of production. My own experience tells me that that is entirely wrong. I do not want to intrude 2306 personal experiences upon this House, but I went to work in the factory when I was 10, and worked 26 hours a week as a half-timer. I was up at half-past five in the morning to get to my work, and we on this side regret that in such a comparatively recent time there was no real legislation to protect what we call mere babies. When I look on my children at 10 years old, and see the insignificance of their bodies, their size and their unfitness to go out to the factory, I wonder what Governments have been doing to be so careless with the future generation. Later, as a man, I worked at night in a combing factory sixty hours a week, in a atmosphere of from 60 to 80 degrees, and all the time I used to wonder, is there no protection for us? Will the Government never give us decent hours and are we always to get up in the middle of the night to go to work?
My wife and I have worked 111 hours between us in the same factory, 55½ each, per week for 37s. I would ask hon. Members opposite, when they say that they understand the lives and conditions of the workers, whether they really understand what that means? Do they understand what it means to be at work at 6 o'clock in the morning, to be expected to be there until a quarter past five at night, waiting, waiting, waiting; no enterprise needed, no knowledge needed, no intelligence needed, merely the mechanical minding of a machine? From 6 o'clock we wait for breakfast time at 8 o'clock for a break, and then we wait till half past 12 for another break, and then following 1.15 we are looking forward to another break at a quarter past five, when we go home. In our case, when we got home we found two children sitting on the doorstep waiting for their father and mother. I say it is not reasonable, and, above all, it is not good Government. It is exceedingly bad Government to forget that the people, the toiling millions of this country, who look to the House of Commons to protect their interest, may fail to find that protection. I suggest that this Bill will protect their interests, assuming it is accepted.
Earlier I said that I was not going to-bore the House. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Go ahead !"] Nor do I want the House to feel that I am making this a contentious matter. I say it unhesitatingly, that of all the Bills a private Member could intro- 2307 duce into the House of Commons, this Bill would always be my choice. My own Division in the textile industry will give an indication as to how the workers feel on the matter of a shorter working day. In 1919, I remember, when we were negotiating with the employers for a shorter working week, we were rather stronger then than in previous years, and we got the employers to agree to a 48-hour week. The question then arose as to how that 48 hours should be worked— should it be worked on the principle of a shorter working day, or worked on the principle of a shorter week, with play on the Saturdays. I attended a conference at which an ex-Member of this House, Alderman Ben Turner, was in the chair. That conference represented a quarter of a million of workers. I had the honour of moving a Resolution to the effect that, instead of there being a shorter working week and play on Saturday, it should be a shorter working day, so that instead of getting up at half-past five, or it might be 5 o'clock sometimes, we should not be required to get to work before 7 o'clock in the morning. Thousands of men, women, and little children—certainly children older than when I went out—were getting up in the black and gloom and cold of that early time in the morning, and I thought we should have a shorter working day, and commence work, as I have said, at seven. I am glad to say that that resolution was carried absolutely unanimously. I merely quote it in order to show hon. Members that the working people do appreciate a shorter working day.
Sometimes when I have to get to this House early, I have to catch an early train, or omnibus, or tram, and I look at the very old people I have known for so many years, 40, 50, 60, and in the case of one old man of 70, still working in a wool-combing factory, and I feel sad that it should he so. When I see these old people in the train or tram, I feel ashamed to think that people of that age have not got the protection that the House of Commons ought to give to them. I said I was not going to take up much time because I want this Bill debated. I could very easily speak at least as long again as I have done, but I want hon. Members on the other side of the House to express 2308 their adherence or their opposition to the Bill. I do, however, ask sincerely and honestly—for I do not care who gets the credit for it, for what I want to see is the millions of people in this country receive that protection that only the House of Commons can give them—that we should carefully debate this matter. A conference has been held, and Great Britain has expressed her appreciation of the result. Great Britain's representatives have said that they are in favour of a 48-hours week. I ask the Government to adopt this Bill. I ask them to make it their own. There is everything in it necessary for carrying it into operation. Members on this side of the House would not object if the Government took the responsibility and the credit for passing it. It is for these reasons that I account it not only a pleasure, but indeed a privilege to have the opportunity of moving the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. SHORT
I beg to Second the Motion.
The Second Reading has been moved clearly, vigorously, and forcibly in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder). The provisions of this Bill, as he has well said, arise out of the draft Convention adopted at Washington in November, 1919. The ratification of that Convention by the British Government is long overdue. The failure to ratify reflects no credit upon the Governments concerned, the Coalition Government and the Tory Government. The non-ratification has encouraged and inspired other States to pursue a similar policy, and to seek to justify their conduct, because of the negative policy pursued by the Government of the day. I have listened to all the Debates since 1919. I have certainly heard no sound reason or argument advanced to justify the policy of the Government. Its negative policy has awakened a great deal of resentment in labour circles, and has undoubtedly given colour to the belief, which is fast becoming a permanent opinion amongst organised labour, that concern with regard to financial and vested interests has overwhelmed and destroyed any real intention—on the part of Tory Governments, at any rate—to honour the obligations that were entered into as far back as 1919.
2309 The only thing that has emerged from our previous discussions in the facility and the versatility of the Minister of Labour in providing arguments and pretexts to justify the policy of the Government. We have with us the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. I will not say that the mantle of the Minister of Labour has fallen upon him. I hope not, because that right hon. Gentleman has pursued a very reactionary policy in this and other matters up till now. At any rate the mantle of authority has fallen upon the hon. Gentleman, and he has always proved very amiable and courteous, and is created with great respect by the House. I look forward to the Parliamentary Secretary to try to redress the defects of his Government, to lift his Department out of the morass of re-action in which it now wallows. I look to him to come forward this morning, and to say, "Well, Mr. Speaker, of course this Bill so far as the fundamental principle is concerned is one we accept in its entirety. The drafting is not just what we should like, and we are advised by our Parliamentary advisers that some modifications and changes are necessary: Nevertheless we accept the Bill." I trust that this Tory Government, which has such a poor miserable record behind it, will accept this Bill. If the hon. Gentleman opposite pursue such a policy, he will gain esteem for himself, and his name will go down to fame in the history of our country.
I would like to refer to the provisions of the Bill. My hon. Friend has indicated that the main principle is that eight hours in any one day, or 48 hours in any one week, shall not be exceeded, but, having regard to our complicated and comprehensive industries, the diversity and variety of our occupations, and the world-wide character of our export trade, it would be folly, of course, to lay down a cast-iron rule from which there could be no reasonable departure, and we provide for these modifications, which are necessary to meet the needs of industry arising naturally and those that arise from emergencies and even from accidents or unhappy incidents which sometimes may occur. We have introduced a flexibility equalled only by the flexibility of our Constitution; we have introduced a Measure of elasticity which will assist in the smooth working of the 2310 principle and help industry along the even tenor of its way. In addition, we enable the Minister of Labour to issue rules and regulations governing overtime and also fixing a rate of pay, but we are not unmindful of the numerous agreements that have been entered into voluntarily between employers' organisations and organised labour, and if those agreements are more favourable than the provisions of this Bill we do not intend that they should be in any way interfered with. To facilitate the working of the Bill, we ask employers to post in prominent places bills showing the hours of labour and the rates of pay; that is nothing unusual, for under the Factory Acts and similar Acts every employer has got to do that to-day, and we ask him to do nothing more than is expected by law and no more than any decent worker would expect of him.
Providing for the settlement of disputes, we suggest that questions of fact should be referred to an umpire, as under the Unemployment Insurance Act and though his decision will be final there will always be a right of appeal if new evidence be produced. Questions of law, will be referred, through the Lord Chancellor, to a High Court Judge, and the Minister of Labour can appear to defend a case and to state his opinion, if need be. Certain penalties are included in the Bill, though there are ample safeguards, and I am amazed at the kindly feeling which those who drafted the Bill have shown in the matter of penalties towards those who might possibly infringe the Regulations.
§ Mr. SHORT
If the hon. and gallant Member looks at the names on the back of the Bill perhaps he can draw his own conclusions; but if there should be any flaw in the Bill it will be observed that none of my hon. Friends who are promoting it have had any legal training, and do not claim to have had any.
§ Mr. SHORT
No, I do not think so. In addition, there are provisions for any national emergency that may arise, and the Minister of Labour is given power to 2311 suspend the operations of the Bill. While the Bill applies to private and public industrial undertakings, there are many exceptions. It does not apply to persons engaged in the Naval, Military or Air Forces, it does not concern or affect certain members of an employer's family, or those in supervisory or managerial positions, or sea workers, or inland waterways or the fishing industry or certain persons employed in coal mines—special reference is made to them in Clause 7, I think it is—or certain classes of outworkers.
This is a very mild proposal indeed. We are working for the ratification of a Convention honourably entered into. We are suspect in labour circles upon the Continent and elsewhere. We are regarded as "scallywags," because we have not honoured our obligations. We entered into a contract, and because we now think— this is the opinion of the Minister of Labour— that the completion of the contract would be to our disadvantage, we will not operate it or give it legal sanction. I repeat that this is a very mild proposition, because I well recall the late Lord Leverhulme advocating a 6-hour day, and I believe that if we used a little common sense in the organisation of our material and human resources we should be able to reduce our hours to six, and possibly at a later stage to four a day. The great argument in favour of the provisions of this Bill is that 13 great groups of trades and industries in this country are already working upon the basis of a 48-hour week or less, including mining and quarrying, metal engineering and shipbuilding, textile, chemical, brick ad pottery, clothing, transport, building, distributive, food, drink and tobacco trades, paper and printing, public utility services, leather trades, and certain miscellaneous trades. Nearly 4,000,000 organised workers have reported through the Trade Union Congress that they are working upon a 48-hour week or less, and in 1919 and 1920 these reductions, which were equivalent to, I think, six hours a week, were reported to the Minister of Labour as involving 7,000,000 workpeople.
The Minister of Labour told us in the last Debate that if this Bill were passed we should put a handicap upon trade and industry. If there be a handicap, it 2312 exists at the moment in all these great organised industries which already possess a 48-hour week or less. Though these arrangements for a 48-hour week or less have been entered into by collective agreements between organised employers and organised workers, we are told by the Committee on Industry and Trade that very often employers are found in these industries who employ their workpeople for longer hours, and that there are unorganised workers who are working longer hours. It is clear that unscrupulous employers are taking advantage of good employers, and where the worker is not organised he is a danger and a menace to the organised worker who has established a higher standard of living. I should have though that ere now the Government, and especially the present Minister of Labour, who is so anxious to conserve the interests of industry, would have come forward with open arms to support these proposals in the interests of those good employers who are handicapped by the unscrupulous conduct of employers who are not members of the Employers' Federation, and who are not covered by these agreements, but who enter into competition with employers anxious to maintain a fair and reasonable standard of hours and conditions. When we talk of fixing working hours, we also do something more, because we regulate the hours that remain for rest, recreation, education, culture and refinement, and these are all important factors. There is no doubt, and this is pointed out by the Industrial Fatigue Board,that there is a needless waste of millions of money annually which could be prevented by the application of scientific methods to the functioning of the human element in industry.There has been little or no regard paid to the human element until quite recently in industry, and there are still many employers who believe that the output is regulated by the number of hours a man works. Such stupidity or folly I should have thought could hardly have existed to-day.
There are many human factors included in the surroundings of the workers, such as temperature, brightness of the premises and a thousand and one other factors which have a direct bearing upon the physical and mental output of the workers. That was never demonstrated with greater force than was shown in a 2313 speech delivered by the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Vernon Davies), who has told us that the millenium of high wages and short hours and better workshop conditions would be of no value if we did not get culture, refinement, education and an obliteration of illiteracy. If we do not reduce our hours of labour consistent with all these growing forces of intelligence, we shall not receive full value from our economic system. I venture to express the hope that my hon. Friend opposite will adopt this Bill and be able to tell us that it meets with the warm and sympathetic approval of His Majesty's Government. I hope he will embark upon a bold policy. In the midst of all the elements of industrial conflict we see around us at the moment, I think that by adopting this Bill and giving it a Second Reading, we should at least be indicating to the working classes and organised workers that this Government desires to give some evidence that it is willing to honour its obligations.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
In moving this Amendment I think hon. Members opposite will allow me to say, and give me credit for speaking sincerely when I do say, that in so far as this Bill is founded on a genuine and proper desire to improve the conditions of working-class life, it naturally must demand as much sympathy from those sitting on this side of the House as it does from those sitting on the opposite side. Surely this is proved by the figures which show that 90 per cent. of the workers are now working under a 48-hour system, and it also shows that all classes of the community ore doing their best to improve the standard of living of the working classes. 2314 When I consider the circumstances under which we are being asked to give a Second Reading to this Bill then I am afraid that by reintroducing at this time the object seems to be to make party capital out of it. What are the circumstances under which it has now been reintroduced to the House?
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I consider that we are wasting the time of the House in considering the Second Reading of this Bill under present circumstances. Hon. Members opposite know what happened in this House on the last occasion upon which we considered this Bill. When it was under discussion the Minister of Labour alluded to the conditions laid down under the Washington Convention, and stated that all the industrial countries concerned did not interpret the Convention in the same way. What did he do? Only in March last there was held here a conference of the Labour Ministers of Great Britain, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy, who are our principal industrial competitors, and they agreed to 13 points, although there was one point about which there was a little uncertainty. In the report of the London Conference on 20th March this year the "Times" says:It is further agreed by the representatives of the Governments participating in the Conference that they will report to their respective Governments the conclusions as set out above which the Conference has been able to reach, so that those Governments who have not ratified the Convention may, taking account of the agreements reached, be in a position to proceed with their consideration of the question of the ratification of the Washington Conference.That was the effect of that conference. Their report was only published on the 20th March last. We are now at the end of April, and the Minister of Labour has for weeks been occupied with this tremendous question affecting the coal industry, not to mention the rest of his other work. Under these circumstances, how can hon. Members expect that the Government will have time to give consideration to this question, much less to introduce legislation of their own, or adopt the Measure which is now before us. The introduction of this Bill at the present moment is a pure waste of the 2315 time of the House, and I cannot help feeling that it has simply been introduced for party purposes. The whole question was thoroughly thrashed out a year ago in this House, and while the arguments expressed by hon. Members opposite have weakened, I think many of the arguments against this Measure have strengthened. First of all, we were told by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), who seconded, that while there were signs of increased production in certain of our industries unemployment was on the up grade. Since then there have been distinct signs of an industrial revival. We know now that this week the unemployment figure is down below 1,000,000.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
As far as I can remember, there were three main points made in the Debate last year. The chief point, which has been made again to-day, was the fear, as expressed by several speakers, that it was necessary to pass this Bill in order to prohibit any increase in the hours of labour. Hon. Members who have spoken have admitted that 90 per cent. are already working a 48-hour week by agreement, and yet the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder), who moved the Second Reading, said that there was an absolute necessity for it at once. If 90 per cent. are already working the 48-hour week, how can there be an immediate necessity for it?
§ 12 N.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
Does the hon. Member seriously think that the power of labour to-day is so weak that anything of that kind would be done? I have shown how little foundation there was for any such fear, and I would like to give the effect of an answer given by the Minister of Labour, so that we can be absolutely clear about it. I am not giving the exact words, but on 16th March the right hon. Gentleman said that, from a tabulation of the returns received from employers of the most important British industries, excluding agriculture, the retail distribu- 2316 tive trades, the railway service, and dock labour, some of which, of course, are excluded from this Bill, it would appear that about 90 per cent. of the workpeople in this country work a normal week of 48 hours or less, though in each of the main industrial groups a varying but small proportion of workpeople not engaged on continuous processes is returned as working a normal week of over 48 hours. That is the present condition. Then the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who introduced the Bill last year, said: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 agreeing 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 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, let us be honourable,' then they find an excuse for us not being honourable in regard to that. My own view is that if this country would agree to take a formal step others would follow."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, I925, cols. 473–4, Vol. 183.]First of all, I should like to say that there is no question of honour involved in this matter. That question was discussed ad nauseam when the Bill was before the House last year. This country has done nothing dishonourable in not ratifying the Convention. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Gorbals that if this country would take a forward step, other countries would follow. After all, I feel that this country is being constantly asked to take the lead in matters of this kind. We are constantly being asked to take the lead in sacrifices. What happens? Other countries lag behind. The question of our War debt has been alluded to. I believe that we were right in meeting our obligations, because a debt is an obligation already existing. But when you ask us to ratify a Convention, you are asking us to undertake a legal obligation which does not exist. But what has happened in the case of our War debts? Have not other countries 2317 lagged behind? Is not that our whole trouble? Whereas we have done what is right other countries have not. Therefore, I do not think that that argument is a very strong one. Above all, it seems to me that in a matter of this kind you must have simultaneous ratification on the part of all the big industrial Powers who compete with us if we are not to suffer and if we are not to expose ourselves to unfair competition, and, of course, it is essential, before ratification, that we should secure uniformity of interpretation. During the Debate last year the Minister of Labour took that point, and said: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 our's."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1925: col. 536, Vol. 183.]Then, as I say, following on that pronouncement, there was called the Conference to which I have alluded and the report of which I have already quoted. This seems to me to be the only possible way of arriving at a satisfactory means of reducing hours. You can only in this way put the arrangements on a permanent basis. If, on the other hand, we take the lead, hoping that other countries will follow, perhaps in two, three, four or six years' time, we may do much harm to our industries and those employed in them by setting up further obstacles in the way of our competitive abilities, and it may take us years to recover and many thousands may be thrown out of employment. It is because I believe, first of all, in agreement in the matter of interpretation, and, secondly, that it is essential you should have ratification by the great industrial Powers simultaneously— I think hon. Members opposite might have waited until the Government have had time to consider the result of the Conference that reported just a little more than a month ago— and because I am firmly convinced that this is the very worst time that the House could be asked to give a Second Reading to this Bill that I move the Amendment.
§ Mr. LLOYD
I beg to second the Amendment.
In doing so I should like to carry on the Debate in the spirit in which the Mover of the Bill opened the discussion. 2318 He expressed a desire that the discussion should be non-contentious. It would be quite easy, on a subject like this, to rouse feelings of the bitterest kind, and to use the opportunity, by misrepresentation, to prove that those associated with this Amendment for the postponement of the Second Reading are aiming at worsening the conditions of labour and increasing hours. Indeed, I am one of those who feel that industrial discussions are rarely successful in this House in the sense of achieving any definite constructive policy or useful work; but this is an occasion when we can, I hope, usefully discuss the future development of industrial policy on the basis of the Bill before us.
I am sure that the Members on the benches opposite, who, from life-long experience, feel deeply on this subject of hours, will not misunderstand me if I say that we on these benches feel just as enthusiastic about the improvement of the conditions of labour, and are just as determined as they are to work towards some definite constructive progress in that direction. I want to appeal to them not to be guided solely by the sentiment created by their recollections of the conditions which were in force 20, 30 or 40 years ago, but rather to cast their minds-forward to the industrial State which they and we are trying to evolve. I know that their experiences must in many cases be burnt very deeply into their memories, as the Mover of the Bill, indeed, has said; but I would ask him and his colleagues to feel that they themselves have been the means of making all that kind of experience very largely a matter of past history, and that we are to-day living in a new era of industrial development, where, while it is quite possible that there are still minor cases of excessive hours or evil conditions, the great body of opinion has by universal assent condemned those conditions, has assented to their elimination through the action of trade unions and employers working together, and is looking forward to a much higher degree of development in the future, when such considerations will simply be as I have said, a matter of past history.
The first point that I want to make in favour of the rejection of this Bill is that, regarded without sentiment as the basis of the future industrial programme of this country, it would be an absolute bar 2319 to any enlightened development of industrial relations between masters and men. It is well known that any maximum fixed by law tends to become a normal figure, and that that has proved itself over and over again when statutory obligations have been applied to all sorts of elements of trade. I would argue, from that, that if an 8-hours day or a 48-hours week is to be laid down as a maximum, it will also become a statutory and regular normal figure. I want to put it to the House that that in itself is a misconception of the true aim which ought to be adopted by all those interested in industry. Why should the aim be exactly limited to 8 hours or 48 hours? It bears no relation to individual effort, it bears no relation to individual productivity, and it is altogether a mechanical and unreal limitation which cannot successfully be woven into the extremely intricate and complicated machinery of modern industry. Let me, for instance, take two cases wide apart. Take the case of the night watchman in an industrial works, who, I believe, is specifically included in the Bill—
§ Mr. LLOYD
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's correction. I do not want to refer to specific' industries more than I can help, because I think this question is better argued on the general basis. But take any sedentary and simple watching occupation, it may be watching and occasionally adjusting a switchboard or a fire. There are thousands of simple occupations which involve practically no effort, and which might rightly be considered to be such as would justify hours substantially in excess of eight. I might ask hon. Gentlemen for a moment to cast their minds to their own homes, where nobody has suggested that their own wives should be specifically restricted to an 8-hour day. Their occupation may be irregular, it may be spasmodic, it may be that it is spread, and must be spread, over a long series of hours during the day. Take, on the other hand, the work of a smith, a man who is using every muscle in his body, and who could not possibly work for eight hours a day. I have the honour to he associated in business with one large body of men, who work entirely on piecework, and have no 2320 set hours at all, and I remember that during the War, when their product was of vital importance to the country, the question arose as to whether any extension of the productivity of that particular group of men was possible. On investigating their work on the basis of the hours worked, I found that, even in that time of stress, those men were not averaging 30 hours a week, and yet they were doing a thoroughly sound, honourable day's work, and were serving their country to the full and doing their best to support the activities of the country's Army.
I do not want to multiply instances, but I want to argue that point that the rigid application of eight hours is entirely artificial and wholly unreasonable and impossible to work into intricate business affairs. I might only instance a chemical or metallurgical process whose natural period is, let us say 4½ hours. If you have a process with such a periodicity, what is the effect? A man might do one such period under the Bill, but he could not do two, and either, therefore, he must be limited by law to one such period or a specific exception must be made. That is what is obviously the difficulty of the whole Bill. It is a mass of exceptions, and provisions for exceptions. It takes great groups and says, "We cannot hope to apply this Bill to these groups because the conditions will not fit in." It takes other groups and says, "If they can by agreement between the masters and the men achieve a different suggestion from that which the Bill expresses, the Minister may accept and endorse that suggestion." The whole Bill visualises strings of expedients which must of necessity be excluded from the words of the Bill. When the basis of the Bill is so artificial and the necessity of exceptions so obvious, it can have no real root in principle and form no real basis for future policy.
I should like to turn to the alternative question of that future policy. The country to-day, and I think particularly those who are engaged in the more serious industries, are looking for a great development of industrial negotiation and industrial organisation, and above all things, they want to get away from the underlying theory of the Bill which was expressed by the hon. Member who 2321 moved the Second Heading. He spoke of a time coming when the employer by Jaw would not be allowed to work people as long as he wanted to, visualising men in industry as slaves driven about by the brutal and callous man who employed then. Do they really want to formulate their future policy, to base their future industrial development, on such a crude and hopeless basis as that?
§ Mr. LLOYD
I have said I understand it is a matter of the hon. Member's experience in the past. But is he so hopeless of progress that he wants to build his future development of industry on that same basis? I hope we shall get away from it altogether. The future development of industry in my opinion lies in a totally different direction. The growing education of the people, the growing understanding of economic problems shows us that the mere retention of a man inside a factory for a definite period of time contributes nothing of itself to the success or profits of that industry. There must be something quite apart from that if profits and success are to be achieved. There must be an enthusiastic agreement to work together for the success of industry, and when that is achieved, the whistle or hooter that brings people into the works and lets them out again is not going to be a sign of slavery. It is going to be simply the expression of a common desire to co-ordinate their actions so that a maximum of economy may be achieved.
May I put one further point to those who are supporting the Bill? It definitely, I believe, disregards those who are engaged in management. Why should they be regarded as a different class? Why should the worker be, so to speak, degraded by the proposed legislation of his own colleagues to the class of a machine regulated by law and supervised by Ministers when those who are engaged in the supervision of his labour are left free to follow their impulses and to earn their advancement by working as hard as they like? The limitation of a man's earning power to a third of the hours of his natural life is to me an atrocious suggestion. Why should a man resign the whole of the capacity for per- 2322 sonal negotiation, and be bound simply by a rigid law in this matter? Why should he, if he is an artist or a craftsman, only exercise his art or his craft for one-third of the hours of his natural life? Why should he not retain those further negotiations between himself and his master which have achieved such enormous progress, and will achieve further progress in the future?
I would ask the hon. Member to consider what would be the effect on trade unions if the Bill became law. I support trade unions in every possible way because I believe the best trade unions have achieved much industrial progress in the past and will, if they stick to their job, help us further in the future. But I see in this Bill a very great threat to their influence and usefulness in the future. Everything is by this Bill transferred to the Minister, and, speaking as one interested in industry, I have no faith in any Government producing a Minister of Labour, or a Ministry of Labour, capable of adjusting the fine balance of industry, of looking after these intricate regulations of the houre of labour, in a way which would enable industry to survive and continue and develop and profit. The whole thing is impossible. To interfere with industry in this way would be to bring it into that state of semi-slavery and hopeless absence of enterprise and progress, which is the one thing we are to-day striving to avoid I do not think, if I may refer to the international situation, there is any encouragement whatever in the attitude of the nations around us to suggest that we can secure any useful object by passing this Bill. Our great competitors in the United States are scarcely interested in hours of labour. They have discovered that productivity is the source of wealth, and we hear of no disputes about hours of labour in that country. On the other hand, we find that payments by results are predominant and growing in popularity. I beg the House not to put in the way of the future development of industry this cruelly restraining Bill, which would take all the spring and enterprise out of industry and tie us for years to come to a miserable reliance on an inefficient Government Department in every side of our industry.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
Although I have been for many years a sincere advocate of a legislative 48-hours week, I cannot help regretting that my hon. Friends opposite have introduced this Bill in exactly the same form, with the same phrases and with equal rigidity as the Bill they introduced last year. The Bill follows exactly the recommendations of the Washington Convention. It is obvious that if you have a Convention agreed to by over 50 nations you must have elasticity of interpretation, and I regret that hon. Members opposite, when they drew up this Bill, did not do it in such a way as to accommodate it to the different practices and usages of this country. Nevertheless, I trust that the Government will give the Bill a Second Reading, in the hope that it will be knocked into shape in Committee.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hitchin (Major Kindersley), who moved the rejection of the Bill, said this was a peculiarly inopportune time to legislate on this question. I have quite a contrary feeling. I think the time is exceedingly opportune, because the Minister of Labour has secured absolute unanimity in the interpretation of the Clauses of the Convention. The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder), who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, said that undoubtedly other nations had lagged behind in this matter, because we did not give them a lead. That may be so, but I do not see any advantage in a recrimination of that character. It would be much more generous had hon. Members opposite done what I proposed to do, and that is, to congratulate the Minister of Labour and to thank him for having secured unanimity of interpretation. Last year I was exceedingly impatient at the attitude which the Minister adopted, because I did not see the force of waiting. I confess that I was wrong, and I think now that we ought to be very grateful to the Minister of Labour for having secured the complete success of the Convention which met a month ago. That being so, I think the atmosphere is so favourable that there is no time like the present. I hope the Minister will not allow the ship to lie becalmed, but that he will get up steam and try to bring the ship into port, with the approval of all sections of the community. We must be fair, and we must agree, that, having 2324 secured such unanimity amongst all the industrial nations, it has removed the difficulty respecting the immediate ratification of the 48-hours Convention.
There are very strong arguments for the immediate passing of this Bill. We have been and we are now passing through very delicate and anxious times, and if the Government could take up a Labour Bill and pass it into law, after having put it into shape, it would be a gesture which would have a very good psychological effect in these particularly dangerous times. On the other hand, I fear that if this Bill is turned down to-day a very bad impression will be created. There could be nothing more urgent in the interests and for the safety of the workers of this country than a new Factory Bill, but the House in its wisdom decided to postpone the Factory Bill to a more convenient season. I am a little bit nervous about the postponement of necessary social legislation. I have lately been in the South of Spain, where the watchword is: "Never do to-day a thing which you can postpone until to-morrow." As a friend of the Government, I am rather nervous lest the country should get the impression that there is a little too much of the mañana spirit in our legislation.
Arguments have been used to the effect that there should be no advance in this country regarding this matter unless in is a general advance. My view is that, unanimity of interpretation having been secured, I do not see why we should be so very suspicious of the good faith of ether countries. I take the same line that I took when this question was debated last year. We ought to tackle these questions on cue own account and on their own merits. There is a strong argument, on its merits, for the immediate enactment of a 48-hour week. There are 90 per cent. of the workers of this country already working under a 48-hour week, but 10 per cent. of the workers do not enjoy a 48-hours week, and it is in their interests that I would like to see this Bill passed into law at the earliest possible moment. That 10 per cent. of workers consists mostly of unorganised, ill-protected women and children who are being exploited by the present length of hours which the law allows. It is the common experience of those who have studied this question, that industries 2325 working long hours are ill-organised, out-of-the-way places, where bad wages are paid and bad conditions prevail.
I have received some figures respecting the hours worked by young persons in the London area. I find a boy working at cabinet making and saw milling 52½ hours a week. A girl in an asbestos factory working 58 hours a week. There is another case of a lad working 55 hours, another of 52 hours, and one case of a boy who is working no less than 60 hours per week. These are the hours worked in the factory and in the workshop. I cannot admit that to put an end to this state of things would be to handicap the industries of this country. I have never been able to understand the argument that to enact a 48-hours week would be to place a handicap on the industries of the country. I refuse to believe that long hours, sweated wages, bad factory conditions are any advantages. They are rather a relic of the bad old days which are dead, and which are regarded not only as dead but as damned by every successful employer in the land. Far from this being a handicap it would be a benefit. We cannot rely on long hours and bad conditions. The future of the industries of this country is bound up with reasonable hours of work, high wages, prosperous conditions, a large output at cheaper prices, and I hope the Conservative Party will adopt this as its slogan, and will ally itself with the reasonable aspirations of the people of this country rather than bolster up bad old ideas which ought to perish and die.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The Debate as far as it has gone has been one of very great interest, and I hope the hon. Member who introduced the Bill will believe me when I say that I certainly have the greatest sympathy with the point of view he expressed. He told us how he went to work at the age of 10, and the conditions under which he worked, and everyone was deeply moved. We must all rejoice that conditions have improved so enormously since that time, and I am certain that no section of the community has done more to assist in this improvement than the great trade unions of this country. It does appear to me, however, that it is an unfortunate time to introduce the Bill which is now before the House. We are asked to take a certain 2326 course in such a manner as appears to me to be premature. If before the Washington Naval Conference had been finally ratified this country, with its usual gesture of sacrifice and good-will, had decided to scrap all its battleships surplus to the quota, and then other Powers, who ultimately ratified it, decided that they would on second thoughts not do so, this country would have been left in a position of great naval inferiority. This Bill proposes to enforce the Washington Draft Convention, Industrial Labour Organisation, in this country before the hours are in force in competing countries. That in my opinion would be equally stupid, and might in some cases prove disastrous to certain British industries who are competing with other countries who are maintaining a lower standard.
Personally, I would like to see the principle of the Bill carried out throughout the world. I am sure it is desirable in the interests of civilisation that there should be some recognised limit in regard to hours of labour. This Bill cannot regulate the hours of labour in all countries of the world. It is an endeavour to force a limitation of hours upon British industries, and it appears to me to be regardless of certain consequences and certain economic facts. This Bill puts the cart before the horse, or, rather, it might possibly kill the horse, so that it can never draw the cart again. The Socialist party opposite does occasionally show some flashes of awakening economic intelligence, and only yesterday I listened to a speech from the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), which certainly for a moment or two illuminated the darkness and gloom which usually covers the benches opposite on economic subjects. He pointed out that Lancashire cannot reasonably compete against the wage level of the East and Japan, and he gave us a forcible argument on that point. He warned us of the flood of jute goods into this country, which, he said, were produced on a lower wage level in Holland. If there was not a lower wage level in Holland he was angry that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour did not confess that it was so, as he had not been able to find out why this country was being flooded with these 2327 jute goods. I thought the hon. Member made a most admirable case for the safeguarding of the jute industry in this country. Again, we were reminded that there were some 200,000,000 of low-paid natives in the British Indian Empire. The hon. Gentleman told us that the wages there in the coal trade were equivalent to 8s. a week, and incidentally he remarked that that was a great stigma on British capitalists, but he did not mention that the Indian employers them-selves only paid 3s. a week throughout the agricultural districts. That is merely by the way.
We have to recognise that this economic difference does exist, and it may be that British industry, if the hours of labour are limited as is suggested by this Bill, could not compete with low paid labour such as I have indicated in other parts of the world. To lay down this hard and fast rule appears to be very unwise until we can get the rest of the world to follow the example. Without dealing with this low paid wage at all the Opposition proposes to make the competition against British Industry still more intense. I was amazed at the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Short) when, in a moving passage of great eloquence, he told us that organised labour on the Continent regards this country as scallywags. Which countries are calling this country scallywags? It is rather a strange term to use. He and his colleagues will agree that on social and labour questions we have led the whole of organised labour on the Continent. The hon. Member has shown them the way. I was a little surprised that he did not express greater indignation with his proletariat friends on the Continent who had uttered this scandalous libel against the people of this country. When he is suggesting that the organised labour of the Continent is regarding our people as "scallywags," it is no good taking limited parts of the world. You have to consider the population of all the countries— China, Japan— and there is Russia, which I am told is always in the forefront of these labour ideals, that country shows no indication of carrying out this policy.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I was under the impression that another hon. Gentleman opposite was right when he said that the countries which had ratified were limited to nine. I was under the impression that the countries which called us "scallywags" were Austria, Italy and Latvia.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
Of course, strictly, Russia cannot ratify a Convention to which she is not a party.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
The Minister of Labour said on 20th May, 1925 "The following countries," which included Soviet Russia. The Minister of Labour himself included Soviet Russia in reply to a question as to how many countries were working the 8-hours day.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I want to be fair to the hon. Gentleman opposite. He is of opinion, I think, that there are nine countries in the world which have given either a conditional or an unconditional ratification. He will probably not be very angry with me if I say that the countries which have given unconditional ratification are not very important, whereas there are two countries out of three which have given conditional ratification and which may be described as important commercial competitors. They are Italy and Austria. Latvia is the third. The hon. Gentleman will agree that those three countries have signed conditionally that the other great Powers also ratify and bring these conditions into operation. I am delighted to hear that Soviet Russia has now enforced an 8-hour day on its population. That authoritative information coming from the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder) is of the greatest value.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
It came from the Minister of Labour last year, and not from the hon. Member for Shipley.
§ Sir H. CROFT
My recent information is that the hours worked in Russia are considerably over eight. In spite of the liaison between the Labour Members and Russia, I think that their information is not correct. Let me turn to that part of 2329 the subject which was emphasised by the hon. Member for Shipley and the hon. Member for Wednesbury, who both suggested that this is a matter on which we could go ahead without waiting for other countries. My Noble Friend the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) also said that other countries would follow our glorious example. It has already been pointed out that other countries have not followed our glorious example with regard to the payment of debt, which is a debt of honour. We always seem to have to pay and other countries frequently take advantage of our generosity. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite and my Noble Friend will forgive me if I carry their minds back to the time when Richard Cobden was alive. He made a moving and eloquent speech in this House in which he said:If only you adopt Free Trade, in five years the whole world will follow your example.We have multiplied that five years by a great many times since that date. They all in fact exploited our generosity and adopted the opposite policy.
Again, in this Bill no notice is taken of other conditions which seem to me more vital to British labour. For instance, no notice is taken of the variations of exchanges in Europe. I suppose it is not an exaggeration to say that since the Government took action with regard to the silk trade and lace trade last year the probability is that any advantages given to British manufacturers vis-à-vis France, have been wiped out by the variation in the exchange. It is probably true also to say that the advantage of importers of goods— take France and Belgium and other countries where the exchange is now falling— ought to be a greater consideration to British workers than any question of half-an-hour's or an hour's labour. The handicap is so great for the British producer that it seems to me to be much more worthy of consideration. Lastly we have two countries — one is mentioned in the Amendment I had hoped to move— and of these one may open its doors to the products of the world, while the other may practically close them. I know that there are a great many hon. Members who believe in the policy of the open door in trade. I have always objected to a door that opens 2330 only one way. In this case of shortening hours you may make just that difference in price that you cannot climb the tariff walls of those countries which do their best to exclude British goods. I submit that there is only one hope of raising the social level of the people of this country. May I say that my desire to see the social level of my countrymen raised is just as great as that of any hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I do not want to support the Bill at this moment, for the reason that I do not want to be guilty of hammering yet another nail into the coffin of British labour. Industry cannot he efficient if it is subjected to unfair competition. It is the efficient industries of the world that can pay high wages and can lessen the number of hours. That is the experience which we have had up to date. You cannot make efficient an industry which cannot spend money on renovating its plant and introducing new machinery so as to keep level with inventions from day to day, unless you give it some sort of security. If hon. Gentlemen opposite were to consider the question of giving security to British industries they would realise that it is a far greater question than any question of half-an-hour or an hour or two hours a day. I attach more importance to real wages than to the question of hours. I believe that if you can raise the real wage standard of the people, you will so increase their general prosperity that industry will become more efficient. You will then be able to circulate greater wealth, and the social standard of the people of the country will be raised.
The four countries in the world with the highest real wages are, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Each of these countries has recognised the theory, which in all humility I have tried to put forward, that high wages are the true test of prosperity, but it is no good insisting on high wages or short hours unless you give security to your industries. The four countries I have mentioned are more comparable to this country than any others in the world. They have the same traditions, the same social ideas, the same standing, but each of them has secured a higher standard of real wages by the protection of the 2331 wages fund of their workers. They realise that higher real wages, mean greater spending power in the mass of the community. They realise that it is worth trying to maintain and expand that principle. Therefore, they put it in the forefront of all their politics that they must safeguard their workers against imported goods which are dumped or which are sweated or which are produced at a lower social level than that which they maintain in their own countries. That is why every Labour Government in Australia, for instance, attaches far more importance to the question of protecting Australian labour than to the questions either of hours or social conditions. They recognise that if you only give your labour secure markets, you are then able to improve the condition of the people. Once we have security in industry as they have in the United States, then I believe we can go right ahead with mass production.
I have listened to many eloquent speeches from the benches opposite demanding greater efficiency in industry and more rapid progress towards mass production. You cannot go in for mass production if an industry is liable to be absolutely wiped out within a year by foreign competitors over whom you have no control. On the other hand, it is evident that with mass production on a secure basis you can improve labour conditions. I would remind the House that in 1921, the United States were going through a far worse period of unemployment than any which this country has suffered 6ince the War. There were 5,250,000 unemployed in the United States then. They introduced the Fordney Tariff and while I am not suggesting that the result was entirely due to that tariff the fact remains that within 14 months of the introduction of that tariff — the highest safeguarding machinery ever used in any country in the world— all that 5,250,000 were absorbed in industry. That appears to me to be a great lesson to all who care for the industrial conditions of the people of this country.
If we believe in the fiscal policy of this country, the policy of free imports and taxed exports, what right have we to complain? A complaint was made yesterday that Lascars or Arabs are employed on British ships among white men. Hon 2332 Members opposite, however, in another breath will tell us that all men in the world are equal; that there is no real distinction, and that, in fact, they would like to see Chinamen working in the industries of this country, provided, of course, it did not affect the individual too much. In all these questions of hours, of wages, of exchanges and of tariffs you have to consider that you are not dealing with a world in which conditions are equal. There are 400,000,000 people in China, 60,000,000 in Japan, 200,000,000 in India, and many millions elsewhere who are living on a much lower social level than we in this country realise. I implore the House to remember that the higher we raise our standard in this country—and we all desire to see it raised—the more we subject ourselves to the competition of people who are on a lower social level. I would like to see the whole world coming nearer our standard, but it would be folly, whilst our industries are in such a condition that a slight turn in affairs might destroy several of them, to make our production any dearer than it is at the moment. I hope hon. Members opposite may be able to convince the world, but I think it would be an act of madness to pass this Bill until the other great important countries of the world—I do not refer to the smaller countries—have ratified this Treaty themselves and put it into force.
§ Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS
We have heard in the course of this Debate from a number of hon. Members opposite, that the Conservative party has a real interest in raising the standard of life among the working classes. We gladly admit that there are certain exceptions to what we regard as the general rule in the Conservative party, and we have been much gratified to-day by the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) who has very often and very courageously expressed sympathy with the aspirations of the working classes of this country. But we are faced with the fact that while showing a spasmodic interest in the conditions of the working classes and doing something at times to improve those conditions, the Conservative party's general policy has always been directed towards making the working classes simply efficient hewers of 2333 wood and drawers of water. While they wish to improve conditions up to a point, there is a certain limit beyond which are conditions of life which the Conservative party believe are in excess of what the working classes are reason, ably entitled to enjoy.
Complaint has been made about this Bill being brought forward in view of the recent date of the conference which the Minister of Labour arranged last month. We on this side of the House have no wish to be lacking in recognition of the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman who arranged and successfully carried through that conference. We congratulate him upon it. I do not think, however, that it is a waste of time, as was suggested by one hon. Member, to discuss this Bill. I think it is always desirable and can never be a waste of time to emphasise the need for a higher standard of life among the workers of this country. It has been said that 90 per cent. of the workers in this country already have the 48-hours week, and, if that be so, surely there is no good reason why the other 10 per cent. should not have the same privilege, and why the rights of all, in that connection, should not be safeguarded by the House of Commons. And we consider it necesary to press for early action. I do not intend to discuss this subject from a political point of view. A good deal of party feeling is, naturally, aroused when these matters are regarded from that aspect and on a question of this kind, I do not think that this is desirable or necessary. I think, in connection with this and other similar subjects, that it is a very fortunate thing that practical efficiency and motives of humanity go harmoniously together. It suggests that at the heart of the universe there is really something of goodness, such as we have always been taught to believe. I wish, therefore, in regard to this matter of hours, taking the humane side for granted, to turn on it the cold light of science, which, I think, is a much more satisfactory way of approaching the problem than by any emotional or party arguments. We have a Medical Research Council, under whose auspices there works the Industrial Fatigue Research Board, and I would like, with the permission of the House, to quote some scientific results of its operations to give support to the purpose of this Bill. In the last Report of this 2334 Board, for the year 1924, there is an account of an investigation into "The significance of output in industrial efficiency," by Dr. Vernon. I would like to make one or two quotations from it. Speaking of output, he says:The writer found that when men and women engaged in making various fuse parts had their hours of work reduced from about 74 a week to 64 a week, and subsequently to 55 a week, their working speed improved considerably with each reduction of hours, but that it took three or four months before it obtained equilibrium with the shortened hours. For the first week or two after the change of hours, there was little or no response, and then the output, reckoned per working hour, began to mount up steadily till finally it reached a point at which it more than compensated for the loss of working time, and the total output each week was higher than before.That is as regards output. Then, again, in regard to the sickness rate, which is a very important consideration in industry, this investigator says:During the war I collected sickness figures at three large national shell lactones over an 18 months period, during which the hours of work were changed considerably by the adoption of various … shift systems. The time lost by sickness and other avoidable causes was carefully separated, and it was found that the sickness time fell off steadily the shorter the duration of working hours. The women when working for 62, 54, and 44 hours per week lost respectively 6.4, 4.3, and 3.1 per cent. of their time, whilst the men, working for 62 and 54 hours per week, lost respectively 5.7 and 4.0 per cent. of their time. During the last three years I have collected sickness data at several factories, and have always found it to be less than the figures quoted. For instance, at a tin canister factory where 1,000 women were employed, only 2.1 per cent. of working time was lost by sickness between September, 1922, and August, 1924, and at a large boot and shoo factory, the women in 1922–1923 lost 2.5 per cent. of their time from sickness, and the men 1.8 per cent. of it. At both those factories a 44-hours week was being worked.Then, the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Lloyd) suggested that this 48-hours week was quite an arbitrary figure, which had no relation to the normal limits of human output, and I would like to make a quotation in regard to that point. I think it also answers the arguments of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), because my argument is that, whether we have tariffs against us, or whether we have Continental competitors working under various 2335 advantages which we do not possess, whatever considerations of that kind we put forward, they are met by the fact that the maximum efficiency of workers is given when a week of not more than 48 hours is worked. Dr. Vernon says:Evidence of another kind was obtained by Mr. Bedford and myself in several industries— carton making, labelling, shoemaking — where short time was in force. The workers were usually on an eight hours' day, but when on short time they put in only 3, 3½ 4, 4½, or 5 days a week. We found that, as the number of working hours increased, the speed of production increased likewise, till it attained a maximum with a working week of about 40 hours.I think that is an important point to note, that the maximum output was obtained with a week of 40 hours. The report continues:With longer hours still it fell away, and it was 2 per cent. less per working hour when a 44-hours week was being worked and 4 per cent. less with a 48-hours week.I think these quotations show, while, of course, even the fairly considerable extent of the investigations cannot be regarded as making them absolutely authoritative, that even less than the number of hours stated in this Bill probably gives the maximum efficiency and output. Therefore, all these arguments which suggest that if this Bill were passed, the working efficiency of this country would be reduced are not backed up by scientific investigation. I think, as I have indicated already, that it is a very satisfactory thing that we can support this Bill, not only on humane grounds, not only for the reasons which the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading and others have put forward so ably, but that we have also good, solid, scientific facts to back up the plea that, while there must be some limit of hours in the downward direction, that limit is certainly not above what is fixed in this Bill. I, therefore, trust that this Bill will be read a Second time, and, better still, that the Government will intimate that they are prepared to take it over themselves.
§ Captain LODER
I fancy that there is really less difference of opinion between the great majority of Members on all sides of the House on this question than might at first eight appear to be the case to anyone who has followed this 2336 Debate. But, after all, our points of view, according to the side on which we sit, must necessarily vary on an occasion like this. Hon. Members opposite are anxious to urge, stimulate, spur, even goad the Government into accepting Measures which they bring forward, while we, on this side of the House, are more inclined to trust the judgment of the Ministers as to the time and form which any legislation to bring about this reform should take. We have heard a good deal to-day about the obligation which we are under in pursuing the object of an eight hours' day, and of course, it is quite true that all the signatories of the Treaty of Versailles undertook to put an eight hours' day, or a 48 hours' week, into operation to the greatest extent, and as soon as, they possibly could. The Washington Convention was the sequel to that undertaking, and legislation will be necessary when that Convention comes to be ratified, but I do not think it is fair to accuse the Government or to suggest that they have shown any unwillingness to fulfil their obligation.
Since we discussed this question last year, very considerable advances have been made towards the attainment of the object which, I fancy, Members on all sides of the House desire. The principle of the limitation of the hours of employment has been almost universally recognised. On the one hand, the social con science of the community insists that some modicum of leisure shall be secured to the workman, in order that he may develop his own life in his own way, at a time outside that in which he is engaged in his employment. We have travelled very far from the days when public opinion could contemplate with equanimity the prospect of men, women and children toiling from dawn to dusk on the longest summer day in ill-lighted and ill-ventilated factories. No one will deny, I think, that a proper amount of leisure, properly used, will inure to the benefit of the whole community, by increasing the capacity and intelligence of all its people. On the other hand, we have the results of economic investigations, such as those which the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels) has brought forward. It has been established, I think beyond dispute, that there is a limit beyond which length of hours 2337 does not increase industrial efficiency. Excessive fatigue produces less regularity of work, more sickness, more liability to accidents, more absenteeism, and more general carelessness and waste. That, I think, is recognised by everybody.
The problem has been to find a period which will fulfil the reasonable social expectations and aspirations of the workpeople, and, at the same time, allow the greatest possible amount of productivity. Experience seems to show that the eight-hour day and the 48-hour week is the best period to choose. The hon. Member who spoke last quoted from Dr. Vernon's observations, which he made during the War, and, of course, really the best proof that a 48-hour week or an eight-hour day is the most satisfactory is the fact that 90 per cent. of our people are working under agreements of that nature. Then, it may be asked, why has there been so much delay about making legally binding what is the general practice in this country? Why has the ratification of the international agreement, which was come to at Washington, been so long delayed? In the Debate last year, the main reasons which were brought forward were, first, I think certain practical difficulties in fitting certain existing agreements into the Convention, such as railways and the five-day week. Of course, it is quite true that, as the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Lloyd) said, there is a great variation in occupations as to what is economically the most efficient length of time to work. Rut the Washington Convention makes very wide latitude for exceptions. Really, the point is that any efficiency which may be lost by working shorter hours does not so much matter, when all other countries can he got to do the same.
The second, and most important objection was, I think, the reluctance of industry to bind itself without similar action on the part of all competing countries. The conditions in international trade to-day are strenuous. Competition is keen, and it is not difficult to understand that there should be a temptation to try to lengthen hours, so as to get ahead in the race. For instance, what happened in Germany? Between 1919 and 1922, the 48-hour week was, I believe, very strictly enforced. I believe that something like 98 per cent. of the wage earners in Germany were working 2338 48 hours or less. Then, after the stabilisation of the mark and the end of resistance on the Ruhr, more stringent conditions began in Germany, and the 48-hour week collapsed, so that in 1924 only something just over 50 per cent. of the workers in Germany were working 48 hours or less. Things are going better now, but I think what we want to realise is, that an international competition in the hours of labour is just as disastrous as international competition in armamsents. Any advantage that is to be gained by lengthening hours can only be temporary, just as any disadvantage which we may get by shortening hours is only likely to be a temporary disturbance. In the long run, I am per-sonally convinced that any such competition in the hours of labour is not only suicidal, but is fraught with the gravest social and economic risks.
It is to prevent this state of affairs that the ratification of the Washington Convention is so important, and the recognition of that importance is becoming more and more general. We all know that the employers and employés in the engineering and shipbuilding trades have urged that an international agreement on the hours of labour should be come to. Yet comparatively few countries, so far, have ratified the Convention, and these not the most important industrially. It is the uncertainty, I think, and the suspicion which was largely the cause of that uncertainty, which caused the Government to hang back last year, and it induced them, I think perfectly rightly, to call together an international conference, in order to see whether simultaneously ratification by an agreed interpretation of any points of doubt might not be reached. The importance which the Government of to-day attach to this question, I think, is shown by the fact that this conference was mentioned in the King's Speech. The Conference which has since met has had most encouraging results, and for those results I hope hon. Members opposite will not withhold their congratulations from the Government, who rightly deserve them. Agreements have been reached on difficult questions, like a definition on the hours of effective work, the acceptance of time-and-a-quarter overtime rates, about the overtime period worked for making up holidays, and the agreements come to, 2339 which practically remove the difficulties which existed last year as to railways and as to the 5-day week. All these things have cleared the ground to a very considerable extent. I think we may be justified in asking what we do. I hope that we shall hear something from the Parliamentary Secretary, and that he will be able to say to what extent this agreement fulfills the conditions laid down by the Prime Minister when he spoke on the King's Speech at the beginning of the Session in regard to the ratification of the Convention.
It is quite clear from what the Prime Minister said that he hoped the Convention would be ratified. In ordinary circumstances we might expect a declaration from the Government to-day that ratification was contemplated. I understand that the French, the Germans, and the Belgians are proceeding to legislation to this effect, but I can appreciate the special difficulties of the present moment. The coal situation is, of course, the overmastering pre-occupation which may well prevent any consideration of this large question by the Government, since the Conference came to a conclusion a month ago. They cannot be blamed if no definite announcement cannot be made to-day. Nevertheless, I sincerely hope that the day is not far distant when we shall be able definitely to adopt a report which is of such great importance in improving the social status of the wage-earners all over the world, and in helping them to stabilise the conditions of international trade.
§ Mr. BARR
In the first place I wish to refer to some of the statements made on the other side. I should like to recognise, firstly, the general support that has been given to the principle of the 8-hours day, and in response to what two or three hon. Gentlemen said, say that I certainly would not propose to withhold my need of satisfaction for what the Government have recently been able to do in this matter. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Lloyd) took exception to this Bill because there was such a mass of provisions and exceptions in it. I venture to say that if it had not had this mass of provisions and exceptions he would have been the first to criticise it on the ground— as to part of it— that it would be unworkable, and that there 2340 would be a great many occupations which could not really fit into it at all. Then the hon. Gentleman went on to speak of the United States of American as a place where there was no dispute about the hours of labour. The hon. and gallant Gentleman for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) who made his speech almost entirely on what might be called the subject of Tariff Reform added that if you had Tariff Reform— although he did not use these words perhaps— in any country, the question of hours would right itself.
I hold in my hand a pamphlet which reached me from America the other day regarding a dispute going on in a large section of the iron and steel trade where the men are still working a 12-hour shift. I should like also to refer to what fell in another connection from the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth and also from some other hon. Members on the other side who deplored the evil conditions that have obtained in the past. When the hon. Member for Bournemouth was asked why then did he not support this forward step, he replied: "Not at this moment," or words to that effect. Edmund Burke says no man is a supporter of past wrongs and evils; but to make a big advance in their own time was the great desideratum. Others have said that we ought to wait until other countries come into line before we move at all; but where would this country have been if we had never stepped out in front of other countries? Hon Members have said that this country made a march towards Free Trade, and ether countries, as was expected, had not followed. But I will remind the House that it was not only Cobden, but Sir Robert Peel that went forward, and largely the party opposite, and I for one rejoice that they took that step forward and did not wait, but set the example to other countries.
It was said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman for Bournemouth that to pass this Bill before other countries came into line would be putting the cart before the horse. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows anything about horses and carts, he will know that before you can deliver the goods into the warehouse, you have to turn the horse and cart round so that the cart may be nearest the warehouse. The forebodings about disasters and 2341 injury to trade I will come to shortly. I want to say something first on the subject of output. On 9th June, 1920, the governing body of the International Labour Office charged the office with the duty of making an inquiry into industrial production, especially as it related to the conditions of labour, and the cost of living. Professor Edgar Milhand in the "International Labour Review" in December last, and again in February, has given us the results of the inquiry in all countries where they have wholly or in part been working under an eight-hour day. I should like to refer to these. The hon. Member for Dudley spoke of enterprise, and of enthusiastic agreement and purpose on the part of the workers for the greatest economic output. Those who have read these articles will come to the conclusion that nothing has been so helpful to enterprise and enthusiastic output on the part of the employers and the employed, as has been the eight-hour day or the shortening of the hours of labour. It has led, he assures us from these inquiries, to improvements in equipment, in labour-saving and time-saving machinery, and in the organisation of industry.
It has led also to a greater intensity on the part of the workers and to a constant desire to see that the output shall not suffer in the matter. Some of the figures given are most remarkable. They show that in eight hours men have been able to overtake the whole of the output they have had in the 10 hours. In the report for France— I will give one or two cases by way of illustration— in 32 industries in which inquiry was made it was found that 22 of them in the eight hours were producing even more than they had done with 10 hours. Four industries were producing on a level with what they had done previously. An order for machine tools was executed under the old 10 hours' system in 10,819 hours, and under the new system of eight hours in 8,498 hours, an increase of 21 per cent. in output. In some industries there are reports that are even more striking. In a cycle and motor cycle factory the hourly output increase was 65 per cent. and the annual output increase 40 per cent. For some time there has been in Sweden, a provisional or conditional enactment of the working of the eight-hour day, and the Minister of Social Affairs, on 7th January last, made a statement to 2342 the Cabinet Council there as to the reasons why it had been made provisional, and as to the purpose the Government had in view for the future. It was made provisional for fear that the statutory enactment of the eight-hour day would have dangerous economic consequences, and that the cost of production would so rise as to prevent free competition in the markets of the world, and that the standard of living of the population would be seriously affected. The Minister reported that those prophecies had not been justified, and he summed up in these words:There were no special reasons to believe that the continuation of the legislation would in future increase the difficulties of industry, and the opposition of the employers had now been very much weakened. As the psychological effects of considering this continued legislation as only provisional would seem to be disadvantageous to society, since it would lessen the impulse to industry to adapt itself to the Act, and delay the development which it is the purpose of the Act to promote, the Minister was of opinion that the validity of the legislation should no longer be limited but should be made permanent.I will not go into other foreign countries, but come to an illustration from the West of Scotland, the case of the Gryffe Tannery Co., Ltd. Till 1904 they were working on a 58-hours week. Thereafter they Adopted a 52-hours week, and shortly afterwards a 48-hours week. Six years ago they adopted the 40-hours week. It-is not a trade in which one can compare output very readily, because of the different classes of products, but I have a letter from the leading director of the company in which he tells me that it led at once to more careful organisation on the part of the management and more effective concentration on the part of the workers. It led to the introduction of labour-saving machinery and to the better utilisation of water power. In regard to wages, including the bonus that is now given for the 40-hours week the ordinary workers are receiving 66s. instead of 65s. which they were receiving for the 48-hours week six years ago. He adds this:I think that during the past year our output of leather has been distinctly greater than in any previous year.From the subject of output I pass to say a word as to the health of the workers. One does not need to press that point. It has been referred to already by the hon. 2343 Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels) and by others. In referring to the improvement in the health of the workers, we include both the prevention of loss of time through absence owing to illness or breakdowns, and that buoyancy and that psychological upward effect that come from a shorter day. Then I should refer also to the effects on education. The hon. Member for Dudley spoke about the growing education of the people, but nothing so much interferes with the education of adolescents as long hours of work. The Adult Education Committee of the Ministry of Reconstruction in 1918 said:Excessive hours of labour form one of the greatest obstacles to adult education.We have similar statements in the reports of the Inspector of Factories for 1919. He said:The classes of workers upon whom shorter hours will have the most beneficial effects will be the growing boy and girl;and he said again in that same year:The leaders of some social clubs report bigger attendances in all classes, both technical and educational, and say that the members come to the classes fresher and keener than they were in previous years, and make steadier advance.I speak as one who had something to do with education in Glasgow for 11 years. There is nothing more hopeless in an evening class than to try to teach the lad who has been working, and over-working, long hours of the day. It is true that in the past there were great heroes who were able to combine excessive hours with a, wonderful advance in their education. There was David Livingstone, for instance, learning his Latin while he was plying his task. Perhaps the task suffered a little and perhaps the learning also— to be at his spinning jenny all day and then to go to an evening school. We do not wish to diminish the glory of such an achievement, but we are coming to be convinced that that is not a burden which ought to be placed upon the children of working people. We must consider this question in the light of healthy recreation. The old idea was that one could not trust working people or children if they had too long hours of leisure, if they were not kept working all the time they were awake. The Act of 1819 prohibiting children under 9 years of age working, and forbidding anyone under 2344 16 being employed for more than 12 hours a day, was violently assailed on two grounds. One, with which we are familiar, and of which we have heard distant echoes to-day, was that it would drive trade out of the country and eventually reduce not only the capitalist but the worker to beggary— I am quoting— and the second was that the children would take to bad courses if allowed any interval between work and sleep. In 1830, when Richard Oastler proposed the 10-hours day for all under 21, Samuel Townend replied in these words:The long hours were good for children, and were rendered a comfort by the regular hours of rising from and retiring to bed, and so factory children rose to be useful and efficient members of society, destitute of those vagabond propensities which too often attach to children who are left to wander at large until 12 or 14 years of age.Precisely the same feeling is abroad now in some minds, though perhaps not many, regarding the abuse of leisure if the hours of work are too few. I would like to quote a remarkable pronouncement by the French Minister of Labour on the 24th February, 1922:This question of the workers' utilisation of leisure has been attentively studied by the Ministry ever since the Act was put into operation. Although only 3½ years have elapsed since it was passed, very satisfactory results have been recorded in this respect. It had been feared that the additional hours of leisure would be spent in the public house. These fears have proved to be unfounded. There has been no recrudescence of alcoholism in labour centres, quite the contrary.In the Interim Report on hours of the Special Committee of Inquiry on Production we read:The social importance of the workers' leisure outweighs any problematical economic gain that might be derived from an increase of the hours of labour.I venture to say that the greatest service the social reformer or welfare worker can render is to have a positive constructive policy for the hours of leisure. There is only one other aspect I desire to refer to to-day. A good deal has been said in regard to alternatives to an international arrangement and of our going forward with a Measure like this on our own account. In regard to an international arrangement I believe all Members of this House agree that that is a path we should seek to tread. I think there is a mistaken mind abroad as to the 2345 position of this country in many matters regarding hours. I certainly would not trench on the subject of the great crisis which occupies our minds at the moment, but I will venture to recall to the minds of hon. Members that the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry which reported in 1925 brought out, the fact that the hours of working in mines in this country were as good hours as any on the Continent and much better than many of them, although in no case except that of Upper Silesia was the difference more than one hour per day. Altogether, they concluded, the miners' hours in this country were not a very serious handicap.
I believe that we are only now in a certain stage of advancement in regard to the shortening of hours, and we are looking to increased productive powers. We have an enormously increased production to-day through powers of invention and otherwise, and the working classes have not received the return they should have received either in wages or hours. The late Lord Leverhulme once said:If properly organised, our labour could now provide us with all the necessaries of life by toil of only one hour per day from each of us.That is a dip into the far future; but the progress of production will soon leave the discussion of an eight-hour day far behind. I think we should by international effort and by our own initiative, if need be, do something at once on the lines of this Bill. I will conclude by giving a rather long quotation what I think will strengthen my arguments. Lord Macaulay in this House, speaking in support of a 10-hours' Bill on the 22nd May, 1846, used these words:Suppose, then, that in 1546 Parliament had made a law that there should thenceforth be no distinction between the Sunday and any other day. Now, Sir, our opponents if they are consistent with themselves must hold that such a day would have immensely increased the wealth of the country and the remuneration of the working man. What an effect, if their principles be service, must have been produced by the addition of one-sixth of the time of labour. What an increase of production ! "What a rise of wages ! How utterly unable would the foreign artisan who still had his days of festivity and of repose have found himself to maintain a competition with a people whose shops were open, whose markets were crowded, whose spades, and axes, and planes,2346and hods, and anvils and looms were at work from morning till night on 365 days a year. The Sundays of 300 years make up 50 years of working days. We know what the industry of 50 years can do. We know what marvels the industry of the last 50 years has wrought. The arguments of my hon. Friend lead us to the conclusion that if during the past three centuries the Sunday had not been observed as a day of rest we should have been a far richer, a far more highly civilised people than we now are, and that the labouring class especially would have been better off than at present. But does he, does any Member of the House seriously believe that this would 'have been the case. For my own part I have not the smallest doubt that if we and our ancestors had during the last three centuries worked just as hard on the Sundays as on the weekdays we should have been at this moment a poorer people and a less civilised people than we are; that there would have been less production than there has been, that the wages of the labourer would have been lower than they are, and that some other nations would have been now making cotton stuffs and woollen stuffs and cutlery for the whole world.
Dr. VERNON DAVIES
When the Labour party first brought in this Bill, I had the honour of making my maiden speech upon it, and I spoke and voted in favour of it. I did so largely upon the view that the question was not a political but an industrial one, and having been connected with an industrial constituency for over 20 years, both as a medical practitioner and as a factory surgeon, I had an intimate knowledge of the working lives of the people, and therefore I felt that I might give the House the benefit of my experience. Having done so, I thought perhaps that the House and the Labour party in particular would have been satisfied with the gesture they then made, and would not have brought this Bill forward again this year. I regret that they have done so, because I think that the present is a most inopportune moment.
We have heard from several speakers that already 90 per cent. of the workers of the country are working eight hours a day or less, therefore, even if this Bill received its Second Reading, it would not produce very much difference in the situation. It would, perhaps, be an academic triumph, but it would go no further. For these reasons I regret that the Labour party have brought this Measure forward, more particularly bearing in mind the recent conference held by the Minister of Labour with some of the Labour representatives of foreign 2347 countries. We have been informed an agreement was come to that leads us to hope that in a very short time the ratification of a 48-hours week will be an accomplished fact. In these circumstances I think the Labour party might have left matters where they stood, and trusted to the honour and honesty of our Minister and of the Labour Ministers of foreign countries who honoured us with their presence.
It is, perhaps, an ironical situation when we think that one of the vital difficulties which we have to face at present is to try to persuade a great industry that a 48-hours week is necessary, and yet that is what the Labour party are working for, namely, eight hours a day or 48 hours a week. My reasons for supporting the Bill last year were two. First of all, there was the humanitariau point of view, and, as a Conservative, I am quite sure that I speak for the bulk of the members of that party when I say that we are as humanitarian as the most humanitarian among the Labour party. We have the welfare of the working classes at heart just as sincerely as they have, and we are second to none in our endeavour to see that the working classes of this country receive all that can help them in health education and to have a good time generally. I rather object to some remarks that have been made to-day implying that members of the Conservative party are not concerned in the welfare of the people so much as in the profits from industry. On behalf of the party, I repudiate that strongly.
We have also to bear in mind that there is an economic aspect of this question, and last year I supported the Bill from the economic point of view. It is an economic axiom that the costs of sale must exceed the costs of production and that if you do not get that you are simply going headlong into bankruptcy, and, if you go into bankruptcy, there is no work for the worker. The object of all members of the community, of all well-wishers of this country, and of the workpeople of this country, should be to see that the maximum benefits of hours and wages are assured to the workers commensurate with a fair return to the capital employed in the industry. It is not reasonable to expect that any industry 2348 should pay out the whole of its profits in wages, and have no return on its capital. I am quite sure that members of the Labour party will recognise that capital is entitled to a certain return. I am not saying now what that return should be, or what proportion of the whole it should be. All I am maintaining is that there should be Borne return.
What are the essentials to attaining this object? First of all, that there should be confidence and co-operation between masters and men or employers and employed. We recognise that unless there is this co-operation and confidence and trust in each other's honesty and faith no progress can be made. It should be the aim and object of all parties to do all in their power to bring these two huge classes together and to smooth the way for that confidence and trust. I think it also necessitates that each man, employer and employed, shall give of his best. Finally, and this is the most important, there should be the utmost efficiency in plant and management. Probably this is a sphere in which this country does not take such a high position as it ought to do or as probably it will do. We have to bear in mind that in future we shall encounter the most severe industrial competition probably that the world has ever seen. There will be a mad scramble for markets. Here I would like to press upon the House the great advantage that our Empire is going to be to us in this struggle, as was so very well shown in the Debate yesterday. I feel that in the intense competitive struggle which is ahead of this country we can depend upon the working men and women to back us up and to do their best. Just as they showed their willingness in the War to do all that they could for their country, I am certain that they will do the same in the industrial competition of the future. We have to recognise that there are various classes of employers. We have the old-fashioned employer who regards the working man or working woman as a machine to produce profits for him.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
The hon. Member is going a good way beyond the question of hours of labour.
I was trying to show that, by improved management on the 2349 part of employers, the necessity for the hours in this Bill would not be quite so marked, and that improved organisation, as a corollary, would mean reduced hours.
The old-fashioned employers will be eliminated by modern competition unless they bring their equipment, plant and management up to the state of modern efficiency, [An HON. MEMBER: "They will be eliminated, anyhow."] I hope not. I still think that there will be a use for the decent employer in the future. I will not presume to make any suggestions to the employed, but I would suggest to the employers that one of the first essentials for them is a scientific investigation into hours of labour and their bearing upon production. It does not necessarily mean that the same hours of labour are best for all industries. It is quite possible, I might say probable, that you will find that varying industries receive their maximum efficiency by varying hours of labour. The essential point is that there should be a scientific investigation into this particular question. There should also be scientific investigation into the very important question of fatigue. We have to remember three axioms. If you have no health you have no energy, if you have no energy you have no output, and if you have no output you have no profit. Therefore, the essential thing from the point of view of increased efficiency is the health of the worker.
In my speech last year I pointed out that the results of experiments which have been made show that in many industries a reduction of the hours of labour has been followed by increased production. Several further examples have been given to us to-day by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels), and other Members on both sides of the House, and it is a point that I would like to impress upon the employers in this country that a reduction of hours does not of necessity mean reduced output, but that, on the contrary, in a very large number of cases it will produce an increased output. I think I was able to show last year that, speaking gener- 2350 ally, the more the human factor came into the question the more benefit was obtained from the reduction of hours, while the more the machine became the predominant factor the less the benefit was.
I had intended to give the House the benefit of some experiments made by Dr. Vernon, one of the medical officers of the Industrial Fatigue Research Board, but the hon. Member for East Edinburgh has done so, and it will be unnecessary for me to repeat them. They showed very definitely, however, that in certain industries this reduction, after a certain time, resulted in marked benefit to output, and, of course, the one thing which concerns the employers of this country is that they shall get an efficient output for the work done. These experiments also show how one workman reacts upon another. In a 9.2 inch Shell Factory the mens' hours were reduced from 63¼ to 54 per week, whilst the womens' hours were increased from 44½ to 64. The result was that the womens' hourly output immediately increased from 10 per cent. to 42 per cent. and the "lost time of the men was reduced from 11.8 per cent. to 6 per cent. showing that the shorter hours for the men had increased their efficiency, thus ensuring a better and more constant supply of material to the women working with them.
I would ask the employers of this country to investigate very thoroughly the question of the relationship between hours of labour and output, and I would, with all humility, represent to them that this is a scientific test, which cannot be made casually by a foreman in the mill, but which needs to be gone into very thoroughly from the scientific standpoint, and with proper experience. The question of the maximum number of hours which is economically the best depends upon various circumstances, which, if the House will forgive me, I will enumerate very quickly, because I hope that some of these points may in time filter down to some of the employers of the country, and, perhaps, encourage them to investigate this matter and see if some beneficial results cannot be produced.
The economic maximum of hours depends, first of all, upon the strain involved in the work. That is common knowledge. It depends also upon the 2351 extent to which the work is governed by the pace of the machine. Different rates of working mean different rates of strain. Then we have the factory environment— temperature, ventilation and so on— the age and sex of the workers, factory organisation, such as welfare work, the food of the workers, and other factors. The important point I want to bring out here is that welfare work is an economic advantage to most businesses. There are certain employers in this country who do not see that; they think that anything they do or any money they spend for the comfort of their workers is thrown away, and that they will get no return for it; but once it can be proved to them in a scientific manner, as it can be, that this outlay on welfare work will bring them a definite return and increased production, I think there is some hope that they will take the matter up.
The question of fatigue is most important, because it is one that will have a very great effect upon the future of industry. Fatigue is simply the sum of the results of activity which shows itself in a diminished capacity for doing work. A worker suffering from fatigue may be working the same hours on the same work as one not suffering from fatigue and yet produce less. Of course, the great test for fatigue is, in the first place, diminished output, and, secondly, loss of health and increased liability to accidents; and, above all—and this is most important—nervousness and irritability on the part of the worker. Fatigue itself is primarily a nervous, a psychological effect. It is not necessarily muscular, because, by the time the stage of muscular fatigue is reached, fatigue is very far advanced. One of the first signs of fatigue in workers is that they get more short-tempered and not quite so easy to manage, and I am sure that, from this point of view alone, it is very important that employers should be on the look-out for this slight stress, and take steps to see that it is corrected, because we know that nervousness and irritability lead to unnecessary trouble, and this may lead to industrial unrest. The whole point of my argument to-day is that, from the economic aspect alone, it will pay the employers of this country to inquire seriously into the health of their workpeople, and to see that the hours they are working are economically the best. 2352 If they do that, and approach the matter in a proper, scientific way and with an open mind, I am quite convinced that, as was said by the hon. Member who has just spoken, in time to come we shall not be discussing a 48-hours Bill, but a Bill laying down even shorter hours than that.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am sorry I did not hear the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. V. Davies), but every word of the part of it that I heard seemed to be an argument for the Bill, and I am very glad to hear that he is going to vote for it.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Yes. I regret very much that the President of the Board of Education has gone out of the House, because it seems to me that the attitude of the Government, as far as I can ascertain it, and the attitude of the Mover and Seconder of the rejection of the Bill, is extremely shortsighted. The utter lack of tactical skill on the part of the Government in handling these matters astounds me. They should have accepted this Bill at once, especially at this particular juncture. It has, I know, not been brought forward with any desire on the part of the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder) to mix up the situation in any way. It was arranged many months before, and, as he reminds me, it was introduced as far back as February. If the Government had had any sense, any tact, any idea of statesmanship, they would have done all they could to show the mass of the working people of this country that they really want to help them. Instead of that, they make specious excuses why they should not accept this Bill to ratify the Convention entered into on the 28th November, 1919. The Preamble of the Bill is its greatest argument, and this talk of having to get other nations to this Conference is mere eye-wash and time-wasting, and no one knows it better than the Minister of Labour or his representative here to-day.
I want particularly to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley on the way in which he moved the Second Reading of the Bill. His speech was a really sincere speech, and, while he was delivering it, I could hear all the 2353 time the rattling of the clogs at five and six o'clock in the morning in Yorkshire and Lancashire towns, which has wakened me up many a time. It is a sound I never forget. It is an awful sound in the winter months to hear men and women going along silently, not talking or laughing, to work at that unearthly hour. They are up as early as five and six in the morning. That was brought to my mind forcibly when I heard the hon. Member speak The only read statesmanship we have heard from the opposite side of the House was from the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck). He says the Government ought to accept the Bill, and pass it and improve it as required. But they are too stupid, and that is the whole trouble. They have no idea of the way to Serve the mass of the people, who were misled into voting for them and putting them into office.
I must apologise for making another Speech to-day, but I am in the position of Horatius—I am holding the bridge. I wish to say on behalf of those of my friends whom I have been able to consult that we wholeheartedly support the Bill. I regret very much that the seafarers are left out of it. I think the eight-hour day—the three-watch system —is perfectly feasible on board ship, but I quite realise that it is necessary to keep the Bill absolutely within the four coiners of the Convention, and there is very good reason for it. Of course the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has brought in King Charles head again with his argument for tariffs, and he and some of his Friends, including the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams), who I thought had more sense, have put their names to a reasoned Amendment bringing in the tariff red herring. Of course the fact of the matter is that the policy endorsed in the Bill, if carried out, would remove the only formidable argument of the tariff-mongers. It is this sort of policy which would remove their bogey of lower wages and longer hours on the Continent, although, as the hon. Member who spoke with such professional knowledge a few months ago says, the depressed working conditions on the Continent only mean bad and scamped work, lower output and troubles of all sorts. We ought to look 2354 to America, with her high wages and com paratively short hours, rather than to the low wages and bad conditions generally of the Eastern European manufacturing centres. The real way to relieve this unfair competition, if they still think it is unfair competition, is by the policy enshrined within this Bill, and I am astonished that the hon. Member for Reading, with his great knowledge of industrial affairs, has thought fit to resist it. I should like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) to tell us in what way it differs, if at all, from the Bill drafted by his Department when his Government was in power.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
The only difference is that there is a Clause inserted to deal with the railway situation according to the agreement arrived at.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I only asked as a matter of interest. I presume, therefore, this is the Bill, with that difference, which would have been brought in by the Labour Government. I am only sorry they did not bring it in before they went out of office. It would have been a very interesting event.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman did not find a day for a Second Reading. We should have seen some interesting voting. I should like to say a few words in answer to several speeches that have been made, especially that of the seconder of the Amendment. I quite agree that there is great need to-day for hard work everywhere, and what seems to me, partly as an onlooker on industry, and partly also as an employer myself, to be the great need of to-day is for the employers to prove to the workpeople that they are not going to reduce rates if output is increased. That is the great need of to-day as I see it after studying matters since I have been in the House.
Another thing we want is to see an example set by employers in working rather longer hours themselves. They come down to the House and vote against, an eight-hours Bill, but many of them never think of working eight hours in their own office. In fact the scandal of the short hours worked to-day is largely to blame for the habit of mind, and it 2355 has spread downwards. For employers to take Wednesdays off for golf as well as the whole of Saturday is an extremely bad example in view of the situation we find ourselves in and the great mass of unemployment. The whole nation should work much harder, and an example must be set from the top. Those are the reasons why I shall certainly support the Bill, with one addition, and that is really a matter of honour. It is scandalous that this country, which welcomed the League of Nations and the Washington Convention under its auspices, and which paid such lip service to the results of this great international convention, should lag behind the other six or seven countries which have already ratified, and as an Englishman, I wish to protest that it is due to the national honour that this Convention should be ratified, and in default of a Bill from the Government itself, I consider that we should give this Bill a Second Reading. I cannot understand the attitude of hon. Members in resisting it. On behalf of those for whom I speak we are prepared to vote for the Second Reading.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
On this, as on previous occasions, I have been much honoured by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), who uses me as his own King Charles' head on many occasions, not because of my own iniquities, but presumably because we sit opposite one another. His admonition to employers is not novel. Nine months ago I myself took exception to the habit of too many employers of knocking off too early on Friday and not coming back till Monday morning. I agree that is a bad example, and it comes ill from anyone who practises it to urge that workpeople should work abnormally long hours. I think members of the Conservative party above all other parties can approach this problem with clean hands—very much cleaner than those of the party to which the last speaker belongs—because in the days of Cobden and Bright, in the days when Lord Shaftesbury was carrying through his great work, the opposition did not come from Conservative, but from Liberal Members of Parliament. The support in those days came from the Conservatives, and the Conservatives in 2356 those days were bringing about reforms, not for those who had votes but for those who had not got votes, whereas some progressive parties only start to take an interest in people when they become enfranchised.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
The hon. Member must have forgotten that Lord Shaftesbury said the Whigs were the only people from whom he could get support.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Lord Shaftesbury may have said that, but he happened to be a Conservative, and Disraeli, who did so much to carry forward the work of Lord Shaftesbury, was certainly a Conservative during the greater part of his political life, and the great resistance to all those great total reforms, particularly those of 1875, came from the Liberal party. Let us approach this matter, not from the point of view of trying to make rules about it without investigation, but from the point of view of trying to do the best economically and the best from the point of view of broad humanity. That is how I approach this problem. It is very dangerous to pass Acts of Parliament which in any way are rigid. We have heard a good many quotations to-day from the investigations of others into this problem. I am not going to quote the investigations of others, but I am going to quote my own. In the Autumn of 1920, I was invited jointly by the employers and the trade unions of the engineering and shipbuilding trades to become secretary of an investigation into hours of labour in those industries. In the course of those investigations we collected a great deal of information by means of a questionnaire. We also visited a large number of shipbuilding and engineering establishments in this country and a representative number of establishments in Belgium, Germany and Holland. We interviewed Ministers of Labour overseas, trade union officials and employers' organisations, and ultimately we presented a document which made no recommendations. It was a summary of evidence, and it was signed by those who represented the employers and the trade unions and also by the two of us who were joint secretaries.
As a result of that lengthy investigation, which went on somewhat intermittently for two years, I came to a broad conclusion. I came to the conclusion that 2357 in considering this question we have to consider a great many problems. We have to think of leisure, earnings, production, unemployment, fatigue and health. I am all in favour of people having adequate leisure, and I am all in favour of people working adequately. I do not think anybody is very happy unless they do a good, honest day's work in some capacity or another. When we examine this problem and approach it from the scientific point of view, what do we find? Let us imagine a person working one hour a day, a case which was referred to from the other side of the House. I do not believe in working only one hour a day. Even if I could by working one hour a day earn sufficient to give me twice the amount of money I require, I would not limit myself in that way. Assuming a person works one hour a day, and he then doubles the time, the production will be more than doubled.
There is always waste of effort at the beginning of work and at the end. If any hon. Member would take the trouble to visit a factory which is entirely electrically driven, and where the consumption of power can be measured at any moment by examining the instrument on the switchboard, he would make an interesting discovery. If he were present when the factory was starting up after lunch, he would find that 15 minutes and sometimes 20 minutes would elapse before the factory was on full power. In other words, there is a waste of, it may be 10, 15 or possibly 20 minutes on starting up. That is not the fault of anyone. The men come in from their mid-day meal or in the early morning and they have to do certain odd jobs before they can start their machines. It is the general experience that a period of 10, 15 and sometimes as long as 20 minutes is partially wasted whenever machinery has to be started. There is waste of time in a stoppage. If a factory stops work at 5.30 it may mean that at a quarter-past five the men are thinking of putting some of their tools away, or they are wondering whether a particular job in the machine will be finished by the time the factory stops for the day. If they find that the job finishes at 20 minutes past five and there is 10 minutes yet to go, they consider whether it is worth while to put in the machine a new job which may take a couple of hours to finish the next day. These are legitimate considerations. I am not 2358 blaming anyone. I am simply giving facts for the information of some hon. Members who are not as well acquainted with factory operations as I am.
In 1919, a great social revolution took place in this country. There was a general reduction of hours of labour, greater in amount in the short period during which it took place than has ever happened before. Broadly speaking, the hours of labour in many trades were reduced by one hour per day, and in others by a somewhat longer period. In the industry with which I am connected, the engineering industry, the predominant working week had been 53 hours, and it was reduced to 47 hours, so that there was a reduction of about one hour per day. That reduction had many beneficial effects, and certain detrimental effects, which I hope will be temporary. The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder), in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, referred to work starting at 6 o'clock in the morning. I always thought that the 6 o'clock hour start was a mistake. When I was an apprentice, I worked the same hours as those who worked at other engineering establishments. In the summer time we started at 7 o'clock, and in the winter at half-past seven. We worked on what was known as the American system of the one-break day.
The factories starting at 6 o'clock had a two-break day. They started at 6 o'clock, stopped at 8 o'clock for breakfast of half-an-hour or three-quarters of an hour, or sometimes less—it varied from factory to factory and industry to industry. Then they worked until the mid-day break for dinner, which was generally an hour. In that working day there were two breaks, and two breaks meant the factory starting up three times and slacking down three times in the course of the day, which meant three periods of waste. When you do away with the two-break day and substitute the one-break day at once you get a very considerable economy, because you eliminate one starting period and one stopping period. I emphasise this point of view because any consideration of the effect of the reduction of hours in 1919 which does not take into account the change over from the two-break day to the one-break day may give rise to misleading conclusions.
2359 The hon. Member for Royton (Dr. V. Davies), who is learned on medical matters, gave us a great deal of very-valuable information on fatigue and its influence on health. It is manifest that abnormally long hours produce these undesirable effects. If we cast our minds hack to the cruelly long hours which prevailed at one time, we shall agree that they were wrong from every point of view. I have visualised the case of a person working one hour a day and then increasing it to two, and I have maintained that you get more than double the output in two hours than in one. If we compare the 8-hour day with a 16-hour day, I am satisfied that in eight hours we should get a greater production than in the sixteen. Let us carry the argument a little further. Doubling the hours when the hours are very short, more than doubles the production; having the hours when the hours are abnormally long may cause higher production, but somewhere in between abnormally long hours and abnormally short hours there is a point at which you get maximum production. It is different in every trade and different for every individual, but you cannot run a factory or any organisation where discipline is essential if you are going to take into account the variation of every individual. You must strike some average.
I think we ought to approach this question experimentally and scientifically. I do not think we ought to approach it by Act of Parliament, because abnormal hours which require legislation are things of the past, and permanently so, I want to approach this problem scientifically. It would be exceedingly interesting in the crisis which is now prevailing if we could persuade someone to attempt really a big scale experiment of the varying hours of work to determine which will ultimately give the best results. There is the problem of fatigue which has been considerably investigated by the Industrial Fatigue Board. You have two classes to consider. You go into some factories where a great part of the production is carried through by machines which are largely automatic in character and where the function of a considerable number of the work-people is to keep an eye on the machine, see that it is fed properly with raw material, make sure that 2360 nothing goes wrong which causes the machine to stop, and see that the finished material is conveyed away. Those are functions which do not call for a high degree of skill, but for considerable patience.
It does not matter how long or how short these people work from one aspect, because the rate of production is not determined by human efforts at all, but solely by what an engineer calls "the speed of the belt," assuming the machine is of a certain efficiency. It is entirely independent of the human worker, and you, therefore, approach the problem from a different point of view to that which you take when you are considering the position of a man who has to do work which requires personal attention and judgment. The fatigue problem is an entirely different one when you are considering work which is individualistic in character and when you are considering the work of a man who is essentially a machine minder. In your highly organised factories the machine minder plays an important part, but behind the machine minder there is another group, a large proportion of people engaged in preparing the machines for their work, in designing them, and actually you get an economic lift-up as your work becomes more highly mechanicalised. You can give the work of the machine minder, I do not say it with any offence, to the lower grades of intelligence, and you can then promote the great mass of the manual workers to more individualistic and interesting work. You are thus constantly getting an economic uplift, due to all these changes, though it does mean that one section of the community has to perform the labour of machine minding which is often extremely dull. It is a curious thing in this world that there are many people who prefer to do that kind of work than the purely individualistic work, and provided that the balance is maintained aright between those people who are prepared to work the machines and those who want individualistic work, and provided that it fits into the economic system, there is no particular hardship on that. Suppose you change the hours of labour—I do not mind whether you increase or decrease them.
Suppose as a result of the change there is a decline of productivity efficiency, that there is a decrease in the amount of 2361 wealth produced per week. What is the effect? If earnings are maintained at the same level as before the change, if the net result of the change is a decrease in output per week and the earnings remain the same, the cost of production rises, there will be a greater difficulty in selling the product and as a consequence some measure of unemployment. But that will take place whether other countries are working on the same or a different number of hours. This is not a question of what other countries do. The volume of your sales will at all tines depend upon your selling price, and the lower your selling price the greater the volume of your sales, and, other things being equal, the greater the volume of employment. If the change in hours of labour results in decreased efficiency, a permanent decrease of efficiency— [An HON. MEMBER: "You are talking of robots."]— The hon. Member was not here during the early part of my speech. I pointed out that in the past you have been reducing from an abnormal number of hours to a moderate number of hours, but there will come a point at which the reduction will result in a decline in productivity efficiency. I took the two extreme cases. I considered one hour a day and 16 hours a day, and I pointed out how, in my opinion, a reduction from 16 hours to eight would lead to an increase in output and an increase from one hour to two hours would more than double the output, and that somewhere between the two there was a length of day which would lead to maximum efficiency.
As soon as we change from that maximum, up or down, you get a decline in efficiency, and if that is accompanied by the same rate of earnings you will get an increase in unemployment. If a decline in hours results in greater efficiency and lower selling costs, the greater the volume of your sales and of employment, and that is all to the advantage of the industry, lam urging this upon the House; that we should approach this problem from the scientific and experimental point of view and not from the point of view of mere legality. Do not let us be led away by conclusions drawn entirely from past experience. The bulk of the reduction in hours which has taken place has improved the health of the people and the productivity of the people, has increased their 2362 wages and helped to reduce unemployment. But when you get to eight hours a day you are getting close to the point of maximum efficiency, and with regard to future changes I am suggesting that we should carry out scientific experiments before we make any changes, that we should hesitate before we make any changes by an Act of Parliament which may paralyse the industries of this country.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The question has been asked— why legislate for eight hours? The answer from our side is that from past experience we know that there is only one way of retaining eight hours, and that is by legislation. We are not asking anything but an eight hours, or less, day. We want to provide a standard of the human energy which is well-known to those who have been workers themselves or who have looked after workers. I know from personal experience that in the case of three classes of workmen we made this discovery over a period of nine years: that for A class of worker six hours gave us the best results, that for the B class of worker seven and a-half hours gave us the best results, and that for the C class four hours gave us the best results. It may be asked why I am introducing that into this question. The answer is that the question is one of a properly-organised system in industry. But the workers are asked to go on and always to suffer for every defect to be found in our present incapacity, and to suffer on behalf of what are called the "masters" — a word the frequent use of which to-day I greatly regret. I am using the expression now in order to emphasise the fact that it is resented very much. There is only one Master, and that fact ought to be retained in the mind of every speaker in this Debate. The idea of the master and his servants has to disappear.
The hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Major Kindersley) should read the OFFICIAL REPORT coolly to-morrow and study some of his remarks in that relation. No doubt he will then see things in a different light. To introduce, as he did, things that were not true was too bad, and it was very unfair. He brought in the question of the fall in the figures of the Employment Exchanges. That is no guide to us. We are beginning to 2363 understand the actual figures. If men are swept off the register of the Employment Exchanges they go on to the register of the Boards of Guardians, and they are still unemployed. I deal always with the things that I know best, and I know these figures fairly well. Then some hon. Member asked what would happen to artists. Imagine anyone trying seriously to approach a Bill like this by introducing the question of artists. If the hon. Member understood anything about art or the artist, he would know that temperament, which guides the artist in his work, is not regulated by hours, nor can the artist work at any time on demand for the production of his article. It is so in art and in music and in other things. The introduction of such an argument shows either that the hon. Member was trying to delude the House or that he did not understand the subject.
Let me turn to the question of the regulation of hours. The regulation of hours in the Clyde area, so far as shipbuilding is concerned, brought about a very fine thing, and even the employers realised that it was a fine thing. When a specification arrived in Glasgow and the shipbuilders were asked to give their prices for the ship required, it used to be that some very good-hearted employers, who were trying to do a bit better for their workmen than other lees good-hearted men, found that unless they came down to the same hours as their more unscrupulous competitors, their quotation was too high. When the hours and wages were regulated there was not that awful competition between the two elements. Competition then rested between the efficient and inefficient in producing the article required. Prom this point of view the Bill ought to appeal to everyone who has practical knowledge of any branch of industry.
Then we come to the question of the standard of human endurance. It is not a question of how much the human body will stand. You can train a man in certain branches of work to stand for three hours, but you destroy the whole physical and nervous system of that man. The point about physical endurance is continuous endurance; that is to say if it is so many hours a day it is so many days a week and so many days a month. It is the continuity of the endurance 2364 which must be measured. One hon. Member asked why we were not fighting for an 8-hours day for our wives. That was near the subject of discussion, was it not? If the Tories opposite would just be true in this, and realise their own history, they would know that it is the condition of housing which makes it impossible for a wife to have any hours. It is all very well for the person who can afford "helps" and servants. She can go out immediately after lunch and have the afternoon and evening free, but she does that only at the expense of someone else who is suffering long hours. Why not eight hours a day for "helps?"
The whole principle underlying this problem is really based upon a thorough knowledge of the handling either of the machine or its attendant. If to-day we had been discussing a reduction of hours on the basis of production, if every improvement in machinery meant that the machine produced less instead of more, I could have understood some of the arguments used by hon. Members opposite. But the fact is that every improvement in machinery makes for an increase in production. Since we are increasing the amount of the things that we live by, is it not necessary that we should suggest a reduction of hours? You are going to face this question on that basis if you are going to solve it. Unless you can absorb the increased productivity of the machine which has been improved by divine agency working through the mind of man in order to lighten the burden of the human race, and unless you face the fact that you have to divide your numbers by the increase in the production of the things which you produce, you are going to say that every increase in production is to create a permanent army of unemployed. If you cut off the man who is a producer from the product of the machine, and if you do not give him wages to buy what that machine is producing, you are bound to make a permanent army of unemployed. No nation can escape from that fact. I hope that the Minister will see to it that from the unemployment point of view alone it is essential to have some proper regulation of hours.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I think everybody who has listened to this Debate will agree that it has been one of exceptional in- 2365 terest. Varying points of view have been expressed by different speakers from both sides of the House, and I pay my willing tribute both to the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for the moderation and the knowledge which they displayed. The House will expect that I should explain why I cannot recommend them to accept this Bill, and for reasons which I will explain in a moment, my observations will be brief. As has already been pointed out, this Bill with the exception of one provision, is the same Bill as that introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) when he was Minister of Labour, and introduced again last year by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). The exception to which I refer is the addition which will be found in the Bill before us of Sub section (5) of Clause 2, which purports to deal with and to meet railway difficulties and the railway position. This Bill sets out in its Schedule all the operative articles of the Washington Convention and it seeks, therefore, to put in the form of a Statute and give legislative sanction to the Washington Convention itself. It follows, that objections to the Convention are objections to the Bill itself.
Almost exactly a year ago we had a very interesting discussion on what, as I have said, was practically an identical Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Gorbals, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour very fully discussed then some of the serious and many objections which it appeared to him could be made against that Bill. I do not propose to take; up time by recapitulating these objections, but I will deal quite shortly with them, because they are very relevant to what I propose to say. My right hon. Friend pointed out last year that there might be differences as to the interpretation of what appeared to him to be the somewhat loose language of the Convention itself. Interpretations might differ widely in different countries, and might enable countries with a more elastic standard of interpretation, and possibly also of enforcement, to place obligations upon their nationals quite different from those which we, with our stricter interpretation, might place upon ours. One example which he gave was the possibility of divergencies of interpretation in regard to such a phrase as 2366 "hours of work." Did that mean, he asked, the hours of effective work or the hours during which the workman placed his services at the disposal of the employer? He pointed out also that certain practices prevailing in this country, although quite in accord with the spirit of the Convention, would, at the same time, be ruled out by the actual words of the Convention. He instanced as an example those industries which by agreement work 48 hours or less in a week of five days. This, under the Convention as we would construe it if it stood alone, would not be permissible. He referred also to the fact that in certain industries, such as the printing trade, there must always be what we call commercial overtime. Such overtime would be quite impossible in our strict interpretation of the Convention, and equally so in the Bill now before the House. He also referred to the railway agreement and to some minor but still important difficulties like the difficulty of fixing hard and fast hours for people such as those who work in quarries. He said, at the same time, that he was willing to have a consultation with the representatives of other countries to see whether a universal interpretation of the terms of the Convention might not be agreed upon. That, shortly, was the position as it was left last year.
After the Debate and when my right hon. Friend came to consider the matter, he arrived at the conclusion that the best way of approaching the problem was that which had been contemplated by his predecessor, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston. Accordingly, he suggested that in the first place the Ministers of Labour of the Western European countries principally concerned should meet for the purpose of seeing whether they could arrive at some agreement. As a preliminary step in July last he circulated a letter to the Ministers of France, Belgium, Italy and Germany, explaining exactly what he had in mind, and sending with it a Memorandum setting out the chief points on which a satisfactory solution seemed essential. The letter stated quite plainly that in his view the holding of a conference would only be justified if the replies of the various Governments indicated the existence of a substantial prospect of 2367 agreement on the points set out in the Memorandum. When the replies of the Governments had been received, it became clear at once that the proposed conference would be faced with a number of points of great difficulty, but on the whole my right hon. Friend considered he would still be justified in proceeding with the convocation of the conference. In these circumstances he asked the Ministers of the countries to which I have referred and also M. Albert Thomas, the director of the International Labour Office, to come to London to discuss the situation. They accepted the invitation and came to London.
A Conference was held, beginning on the 15th March. They sat for four or five days, and after very prolonged discussions of the various points of difficulty, they reached an agreement early on the morning of the 19th March, which, I think, was a Friday, on various of the more ambiguous points. Hon. Members may or may not be familiar with the points upon which agreement was reached, and which were set out in an agreed statement published in the Press on the next morning, the morning of the 20th March. I will, however—and I think it is right that the House should be reminded of them—refer to some of the more essential questions upon which this agreement was reached. Agreement was reached, for instance, upon these points:That working hours are the time during which the persons employed are at the disposal of the employer; they do not include rest periods, posted in accordance with Article VIII, during which the persons employed are not at the disposal of the employer.That a table fixing hours of work over a longer period than the week may be drawn up in a manner similar to that provided for in Article V, in order to distribute the hours of work in each week over five days, or in two weeks over 11 days, it being understood that the average working hours may in no case exceed 48 per week.That railways are covered by the Convention. In so far as Article V and Article VI (a) are not sufficient for the needs of the railways, the necessary overtime is permissible under Article VI (b).The last item on which agreement was reached, the only other one to which I will refer, related to Article XIV, which 2368 is set out in the Schedule to the Bill. It was as follows:That use can only be made of Article XIV in case of a crisis which affects the national economy to such an extent that it threatens the existence of the life of the people. An economic or commercial crisis, however, which concerns only special branches of industry cannot be regarded as endangering the national safety within the meaning of Article XIV, so that in this case the suspension of the Convention would not be justified.These are, I think, the most material of the points on which agreement was reached, but there was also this further point which was contained in the agreed statement of the conclusions, and it reads as follows:It is further agreed by the representatives of the Governments participating in the Conference that they will report to their respective Governments the conclusions as set out above, which the Conference has been able to reach, so that those Governments who have not ratified the Convention may, taking account of the agreements reached, be in a position to proceed with their consideration of the question of the ratification of the Washington Convention.That is the position at the present time. We have had, as I have said, a meeting of five, including ourselves, of the countries which were parties to the Convention. These countries have reached a provisional agreement on certain points. The results of the Conference and the agreement have now to be submitted by the representatives of each country to their Governments, in order that those Governments may be in a position to proceed with their consideration of the question of the ratification of the Washington Convention. Now the Government have before them these conclusions. Undoubtedly the difficulties are great, and the implications are of a far-reaching nature. They deserve, and they must receive, very careful consideration. The Conference finished its labours just before Easter. I need not remind the House that my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister ever since Blaster have been engaged, not merely from day to day, but almost from hour to hour, with the coal position, and it has not been possible for the Government to devote adequate time to the consideration of the matter. More than that I cannot say, except to point out, that since the Convention without the London Agreement remains as unacceptable as it ever was, one of the points to be considered is 2369 whether the London Agreement can be rendered an effective instrument equally with the Washington Convention. That is necessarily a matter of considerable difficulty, and one which may require consultation with other interested States, and, for the reasons I have given, it has not been possible for the Government to reach a decision on this subject.
I have explained the present position of this matter quite frankly, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite quite seriously to consider whether, in the present circumstances, and in the events that have happened, he might not be seriously prejudicing the very objects which he has in view if he forces a decision on this Bill to-day. If he decides to do so, of course the responsibility is his, but it is a matter which I do ask him to take into serious consideration. I have stated as shortly as I can, quite frankly, and, I hope, clearly, the present position, and I do submit my last point to the serious consideration of the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I have listened to the closing remarks of the right hon. Gentleman with profound disappointment. There is no promise either of a Bill or of acceptance of the principle of the Convention. There is no intimation in any way of a favourable consideration. We stand where we stood 12 months ago, with a request for postponement, and one wonders when postponement will come to an end. We have had seven years of postponement, and still the time is not opportune. It is impossible to make an ordinary working man believe that, after seven years of postponement, it is necessary to postpone further. I do not believe it myself. Quite frankly, I say to the House, in my opinion there is no need for postponement. The Government could state quite frankly, if they would, whether they are in favour of the principle of the 8-hours day, and having done that, they could state quite frankly what they intend to do in future. But there is no definite statement of any kind. So I must face this problem, whether I like it or not, purely from the position of our own party.
It is somewhat appropriate that the day before the 1st May should see a proposition for the, 8-hours' day before the British House of Commons. For 50 years people who have believed in the Labour 2370 movement have agitated for an 8-hours' day, and the day before May Day is peculiarly appropriate for us to bring this question forward. The hon. Gentleman has scrupulously refrained from dealing with the history of this case. Will he permit me just to remind him of it, because it shows one of the grossest betrayals of faith that has ever been perpetrated towards the working classes of this country.
Let us see what has happened since the Washington Convention. When the War was over, in order to placate the workingmen, there was inserted in the Treaty of Peace what was called a Labour Charter. That Labour Charter was as solemnly signed and as solemnly binding on men of honour as any part of the Versailles Treaty. I am sorry that public morality is so far below private morality. If that were not so, the answer of the hon. Gentleman to-day would send him to Coventry in a community of hon. Members. The Labour Charter definitely laid down that an attempt should be made to raise the standard of labour conditions throughout the world, and especially was a definite effort to be made to realise the 8-hours' day, or the 48-hours' week. It was the British Government composed of Liberals and Tories who were definitely responsible for that pledge. I understand now what Earl Derby meant when he said that if we had not done these things after the War there might have been a revolution. It is easy to understand now what those words really meant. There was a promise definitely laid down for the working people, not only of this, but of every country where the agreement was signed; and I again repeat that if the standard of public morality was as high as the standard of private morality the Government would be sent to Coventry by all hon. Members who really believe that the word of an Englishman is his bond.
Further than that, when the first Labour Conference took place at Washington—now I am speaking of what I myself know—a Commission was appointed to try to hammer out a convention on the hours of labour, and it was my good fortune to be the president of that Commission. What, therefore, I state about it will be stated from actual personal knowledge of the circumstances. Labour representatives from all the countries 2371 represented thought we were dealing with men of good faith and men of honour. If we had felt that we were not dealing with men of good faith and honour we would not have wasted our time in discussing things which, after all, would be thrown away after agreement had been reached. Over and over again in that Commission we gave way to the representatives of the British Government because we were told that, if we insisted upon certain points, we should make it impossible for the Government to ratify the Convention. We could, as Labour representatives, easily have had a much stronger Convention than the Convention that actually emerged. It would have been easy for us to get a big majority for a Convention of that kind. Over and over again we yielded to the representations of the representatives of the British Government. The Labour representatives on that Commission agreed to exceptions, and to provisions and clauses being cut out, and the final result was not at all what we wanted, but what we understood we were likely to get.
Not only the representatives of the British Government signed this Convention, but the employers' representatives signed it as well, so that we had three sides— the Government representatives, the employers' representatives, and the Labour representatives—all agreed on this Convention as it finally left the Commission. I want again to repeat, if I may, that if we on the Labour side had known that we were dealing with men whose word would not carry weight, and would not go through. we would not have wasted time discussing with them; we should have been found a better use for our time than agreeing with people who had no intention at all, apparently, of carrying out the agreement arrived at. So much with regard to the Convention itself. The British Government representatives were largely responsible for the shape the Convention finally took; it was more their work than the work of anyone else. The British representatives gave a solemn undertaking that when the Convention was signed the British Government would act in accordance with it.
What has taken place since the Convention was agreed upon? Of all countries in the world, this country was 2372 more responsible for the Treaty of Peace, and the Labour Charter in the Treaty of Peace, and the Washington Convention, than any other country. What part have we played since? This country has been more reactionary than any other in Europe. We, the country that used to be first in Labour legislation, we, still the first commercial nation in Europe, who prided ourselves on our legislation for the workers, have been more reactionary than any other country in Europe. That is the plain fact of the situation; and now in 1926 we are again postponing action without a promise either of acceptance of the principle or anything else. If words are worth anything we ought to have ratified this Convention years ago. If words are worth nothing, what is the use of Labour organisations dealing with either Governments or employers? If their promises are like pie-crusts, and as easily broken, what is the use of Labour organisations dealing with Governments or employers? Promises and agreements ought to he implemented; but this is one of the worst instances of definite promises and definite agreements not being implemented, and no effort being made to keep the word that has been given.
I said a moment ago that we were the most reactionary country in Europe in regard to this Convention. Only three weeks ago I was in Poland; even there there is a 46-hours law, and yet we are hesitating and frightened about 48 hours. After the meeting at Washington there was in Germany, if I am not mistaken, a 46-hour edicts— it may be that it was 48 hours, but I think it was 46; and in Holland certainly the working week was less than 48 hours.
§ Mr. SHAW
Oh, yes, there is no question about it. The hours in Germany from 1920 onward, until the time when the Ruhr adventure caused a dislocation of all the economic circumstances in Germany—the inflation of the mark and the Ruhr adventure—were actually less than the hours worked in this country. I say that without hesitation and without fear of contradiction.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
Now they are generally 48 hours. There is a fairly large proportion working more than 48 hours, but the movement is towards 48; and had we ratified the Convention, Germany would probably have ratified it, and the breakdown in Germany would never have taken place. The breach in the hours in Germany is as much due to our refusal to ratify this Convention as to any other cause. Unquestionably, if we had ratified the Convention in accordance with our promise there is not an industrial nation in Europe which would not have followed suit, and we, of all countries in the world, are responsible for keeping other people back in this matter. Supposing we had done all we ought to have done. Supposing the British Government had ratified the Convention at Washington. It is morally certain that in every industrial country in Europe similar steps would have been taken. The German employer would have found himself, not against the trade unions, but against the German law in trying to break down the 48-hours week, and we have been more responsible than any other country for the position of Germany in this matter.
What was the intention of this international legislation? It was to bring the countries with the lowest standard up to the countries with the highest standard. It seems to us that it has been laid down in this House that there should be no signing of any Convention by us until everybody else has signed it. Are we going to declare in this matter that there must be no improvement until the worst country has come into line? What a position for the British nation that commands the largest proportion of highly skilled workmen in the world to take up ! What a position for a nation which has always prided itself on social reform and upon its social legislation ! What a confession of absolute failure, that we must always be dragged at the tail of other nations, and have the example shown to us in these matters by people who before the War were working eight, 10 and 12 hours a week more than we were.
The relative position as compared with the period before the War is more favourable to us now than it was in 1913 and 1914. I have travelled extensively in European countries in connection with my own work, and at that time we were working 55½ hours a week, whilst in Germany, 2374 France and Belgium the hours were anything up to 70, and Saturday afternoon with them was like any other afternoon. Now we are falling back towards the rear in these matters, and in regard to labour legislation we are behind the average of many European countries. I know no country in Europe which either has no law on this question or has no promise of a law, and several countries have promised to ratify this Convention if ratification takes place on the part of this country. I do not want to repeat the promises which were made, but I do protest against my own country being relegated to a back rank in matters of this kind, and more particularly in regard to legislation affecting the hours of labour. It is idle to tell me that we do not need to worry while 90 per cent, of the workers of this country are already working 48 hours. If that argument be sound, if it be really the case that nobody wants to work more than 48 hours, then that argument comes from people who want the possibility of working more than 48 hours, and not because they want to work less. That is the whole point of the opposition.
§ Major SALMON
Can the right hon. Gentleman give any instances where the employers do not carry out their agreements?
§ Mr. SHAW
Yes, here, the Washington Convention. At the Washington meeting the organised employers of this country were represented by their deliberately elected representatives. Those representatives agreed to this Convention, and, when they returned to this country, there was no claim that they had acted outside their instructions. Yet a few years after their return to this country these employers themselves ask that the Convention should not be passed. If my hon. and gallant Friend wants an example where employers have broken their pledge, there it is. So far 2375 as labour legislation is concerned, we used to be the first; now we are waiting upon the last. If the Conservatives remain in power—and God help the country if they do—I can see some of our grandchildren standing at this box in 1945 and saying, "But you told us you wanted a postponement in 1926." There will be the same old argument, it will still be a most inauspicious moment, it will still be most inopportune, it will still be said that this has been brought forward for party purposes.
There are some men who might be influenced by arguments of that sort. It may be possible for an eloquent speaker on the platform, like the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Major Kindersley), to convince some working men that that is the case, but I do not think he ever thought that he could convince us that it would be the case. I do not think he ever thought that we were so weak in intellect that we should swallow an argument like that. After seven years, it is still a most inopportune occasion. It is still a very bad time to bring the proposition forward. There are, I think, three particular reasons why this Convention ought to be ratified. The first is that it is always advisable to keep the honour of a Parliament, just as it is to keep the honour of a private individual, and no member of any party can deny that the working-men's representatives from the different countries were deliberately led to think that when this Convention was agreed upon it would be implemented by the various Governments.
§ Mr. SHAW
The other Governments, in comparison with us, have been wonderfully honourable. Shall I give one or two instances? Belgium has a 48-hours week by law, and has agreed to ratify on condition that this country and Germany ratify it. Let it be remembered that this getting together of the Ministers is no new thing. These Ministers, with the exception of the Italian Minister, were together in 1924, and in 1924 this was undertaken. France is in the same position, and has now before her Parliament, if, indeed, it is not already through, the unconditional ratification of the 2376 Washington Convention. Czechoslovakia has ratified the Washington Convention, Poland has ratified the Washington Convention, and we, Great Britain, with our proud position in the world, are lagging behind countries like Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia and Poland. That is the condition in which we are, and frankly, as an Englishman, I am ashamed of it. When people talk to me about the honour of other countries in connection with the Washington Convention, I bow my head in shame and blush for my country.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me for interrupting him? The question of honour has been referred to so often that I should like to put to him a perfectly simple question. Will he kindly tell the House what are the obligations of the members of the Conference under the Treaty of Versailles with regard to these conventions when they are passed?
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I do not want to know about Washington; I want to know what the obligations are under the Treaty.
§ Mr. SHAW
The answer I give is that we were told in Washington that, when this Convention was agreed upon, the Government would take action, and a part of the understanding was that it should be submitted to the competent authority within 18 months. We found the Government taking the extraordinary line that the Convention was a treaty, and that it did not lie with Parliament to deal with it, but that it was a matter for His Majesty the King. The name of His Majesty the King was brought in to cover up the shortcomings of the Government. [Interruption.] Yes, the name of His Majesty the King was deliberately brought in to cover up the shortcomings 2377 of the Government. Those are the facts of the case, and, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not satisfied with the answer, it is not my fault.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will read to him what our obligations are. They are quite short. They are these:''Each of the members undertakes that he will, within 18 months of the Conference, bring the recommendation or draft Convention before the competent authority.That has been done in this country.
§ Mr. SHAW
We were told that the competent authority was His Majesty the King, and, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman cares to read the OFFICIAL REPORT— I wish he had heard those Debate before—he will see a complaint of my own, in a previous Debate, of the name of His Majesty the King being dragged in, as an excuse for the Government neglecting their responsibility.
I hope I may now be allowed to proceed with my argument. It is not only a matter of honour with regard to Versailles and with regard to Washington that we ought to take into account in ratifying this Convention; it is a matter of the merest self-interest. If it be true—and it is true—that 90 per cent. of the workers who are covered by this Convention are already working 48 hours, what do we lose by ratifying the Convention if we do not desire to increase the hours of labour? In what way do we lose anything? I hold that, unless we really do want to increase the hours of labour, nothing can be lost by our keeping our word. I do not think there can be anything lost by our doing so in any case. If we do want to increase the hours of labour, let us say so frankly; let us say that we object to the Convention, not on this or the other trivial ground, but on the broad ground that we think it might be advisable to work more hours than 48. Then everyone would know 2378 where we are. If we ratify this Convention, the odds are that France, Belgium, Italy and Germany will also ratify it. Certainly they will not all ratify if we do not.
We have nothing to lose by ratification, and we have to gain the fact that, according to all the probabilities, every industrial nation will ratify the convention as soon as we have ratified it. That would put us in a position infinitely superior to the position we were in before 1914. We should then have got to the position when other people, who used to work six, eight, 10 or 12 hours a week longer than we did, will be working the same number of hours, so that merely from the point of view of the commonest self interest it is to our advantage to show an example in the ratification of these industrial conventions. Besides which, what chance is there in other respects of bringing up the conditions in countries which might be considered lower than our own so long as this big outstanding Convention remains unratified? I have never been able to understand the position of a Government in this country which under all the circumstances has obstinately refused to ratify this Convention. Apart altogether from questions of morality, apart altogether from the question of right and wrong, or whether words have been given or not, does anyone assume that the workers are going to go back deliberately to the old system of more than 48 hours a week? I, like the mover of the Bill, was one of those unfortunate beings, who at the age of 10, had to get up shortly after five o clock to go to work, and I made up my mind then that if ever I had children they should never do that if I could prevent it, and I want to prevent everyone's children doing it. It is a monstrous thing, and the people who can look on it with approbation ought to be forced to send their children to work. If those who were in favour of more hours than 48 could be made to have their children start as those children did there would be quite a revolution in views.
The Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham talked about this Bill being as rigid as it was last year. He knows perfectly well that it is not the realisation of what we call the 8-hours day. Far from it. In this Bill the agricultural labourers are left out completely. Commercial workers are left out completely— 2379 not that we believe they ought not to have an 8-hours day, but we had to sacrifice them to get the agreement of which I have spoken, and which has never been honoured. The whole of the sailors are left out. That, I think, is the worst thing of all. They were left out not because Washington would not have given them eight hours, but at the request again of our representatives, and it was decided to hold a special conference to deal with the seamen's case, and at this special conference again it was the British representative who prevented agreement being arrived at. Every time this question of hours has come up it has always been the British Government that has been responsible for holding back. Those are the plain facts of the case, and I hope hon. Members who believe the Government is progressive will take the facts to heart and really begin to think about the subject.
But the Noble Lord is quite wrong about the rigidity. Apart altogether from these great classes of people being absolutely left out of the Convention, the Convention itself is not rigid at all. For instance, all preparatory workers, all workers who are complementary to an industry, all intermittent workers, are specially dealt with in the Bill and their cases can be met. The worker who is a timekeeper or a gatekeeper on a railway can be properly dealt with. All workers who are paid a standing wage to cover various periods of employment from day to day are specially dealt with. Continuous work workers can work up to 56 hours a week. In continuous industries the three-shift system is permitted by this Bill and workers can work 56 hours a week. In exceptional circumstances and under exceptional pressure of work, the Minister has power to deal with the circumstances. How much elasticity does the House want? If so much elastic is required I wonder whether the 48 hours will become a humbug, and we shall have an Act which presumably gives a 48-hours week, but in reality gives much more.
In our opinion, a 48-hours week is long enough for any industrial worker. The old idea that in order to make an industry successful it is necessary to work long hours, ought by this time to have been exploded. The new idea is that short hours, scientific working, high production 2380 are the things to aim for. The old idea of long hours and tremendous physical effort to get output is as dead as the Dodo. The worker ought to be studied as the machine has been studied. Industry ought to be scientifically arranged so as to give the maximum of result with the minimum of effort. Those are the lines on which we ought to work. We ought deliberately to work for shorter hours and not longer hours. Why refuse to pass this Bill? If there are points which are not clear, if there are doubts, surely they can be set right in Committee. The future of our industry does not depend upon Free Trade or Protection; there is one thing that is much more important than either Free Trade or Tariff Reform. You can have Tariff Reform or Free Trade, but if you have an old-fashioned, out-of-date, archaic system of working, the country will not succeed. If you have a system that is up to date, if you adopt the newest methods of industry, if you equip your industry with the best machinery and use the most scientific methods of working, if you adopt the things that we already know about, then, whether we have Free Trade or Tariff Reform, the country is bound to be successful. The Institute of Psychology and the Fatigue Board have already proved by their investigations that a man can turn out a great deal more with shorter hours and with much less fatigue if the industry itself is scientifically organised and methods for getting the best results with the minimum of physical and even machine effort are adopted.
If we pass this Convention and get on with the scientific side of industry, we should do the country a great deal more good than wasting time in opposing things we ought to support, and things that are good in themselves. From the point of view of common humanity, I urge that no workman ought to work more than 48 hours a week. Why do we not get some arrangement to that effect and get on with it, instead of dragging red herrings across the path? If we get on with this business, we can produce good results for the people of our country in our own time. The speech of the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. V. Davies) was a speech which did one good to hear. He belongs to a different party from that to which I belong, but when I heard his 2381 speech it struck me as the speech of a man who had a real grip of the subject and a real remedy for any condition that might be bad. His speech was, in effect, what I have tried in halting words to say in this House, that we ought to study the man as much as we have studied the machine.
We have studied the machine until the machine is almost uncanny in its perfection, with its ball-bearings, its lubrications, and its hundred and one different things. We have done everything possible as far as science could improve the machine, and we are only just beginning to realise that it is necessary to give proper study to the human being. We are only now beginning to realise that by this closer study of the human factor we shall realise greater happiness, greater cleanliness, much less fatigue and a greater chance of intellectual development, with greater production. All these benefits are likely to be enormously increased. Why not get down to earth and argue things that really matter? Why not give the worker the feeling that if 48 hours is agreed that the agreement has been made with people who are likely to keep their word? Instead of having all this argument which makes bad blood and ill feeling, why not play fairly and squarely with the workers?
We cannot think that we have been fairly dealt with on the question of the Washington Convention. Whether hon. Members opposite like it or not, we feel that the Washington Convention is one of the gravest breaches of pledges we have ever known. I am going to ask my
§ hon. Friends to divide on this question. I am not satisfied with the answer of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. We asked for bread, and he has given us a stone. He has given us no guarantee that there will be a Bill, or that a 48 hours will be provided in a Bill if it is introduced; and he has given us no guarantee that the Washington Convention will be ratified. Under all these circumstances it is impossible for us not to divide on the Bill. I recognise the friendly gesture of the Parliamentary Secretary. Whatever may be the responsibility, we are prepared to accept it. I am going to ask hon. Members opposite to remember that there are bigger things than parties, and on the grounds of common sense and decency and humanity, we have a right to ask them to vote in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Sir R. SANDERS
I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
After the appeal that has been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who has done so much for this cause, I am sure that many Members on this side of the House would be very sorry to oppose this Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour has pointed out that if it be passed now, it would at all events! have the effect of making international negotiations more difficult, and I think we ought to have an opportunity of thinking this problem over.
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 186; Noes, 119.2383
|Division No. 195.]||AYES.||[3.55 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)|
|Albery, Irving James||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Campbell, E. T.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Drewe, C.|
|Atkinson, C.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Balfour, George (Hempstead)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Fermoy, Lord|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Clarry, Reginald George||Finburgh, S.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Clayton, G. C.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.|
|Berry, Sir George||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Gates, Percy|
|Brass, Captain W.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cope, Major William||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Couper, J. B.||Grace, John|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Brooke, Brigadier General C. R. I.||Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E.)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Macmillan, Captain H.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)|
|Hanbury, C.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Skelton, A. N.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Macquisten, F. A.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Manningham Buller, Sir Mervyn||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n& Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Margesson, Captain D.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Merriman, F. B.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Murchison, C. K.||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Holt, Capt. H. P.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U.M. (Hackney, N.)||Pilcher, G.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Waddington, R.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheston||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Hurst, Gerald B||Remer, J. R.||Wells, S. R.|
|Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Remnant, Sir James||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Rentoul, G. S.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Rice, Sir Frederick||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Ropner, Major L.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Rye, F. G.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earn|
|Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Salmon, Major I.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Withers, John James|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Loder, J. de V.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Savery, S. S.|
|MacIntyre, I.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|McLean, Major A.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Mr. Lloyd and Major Kindersley.|
|Amnon, Charles George||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hayday, Arthur||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scurr, John|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sexton, James|
|Barr, J.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smillie, Robert|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Buchanan, G.||Kelly, W. T.||Spencer, G. A (Broxtowe)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kennedy, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Clowes, S.||Kirkwood, D.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lee, F.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lindley, F. W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Mackinder, W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||March, S.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Maxton, James||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Meyer, Sir Frank||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Montague, Frederick||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Warne, G. H.|
|Dennison, R.||Naylor, T. E.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Duncan, C.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Oliver, George Harold||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Palin, John Henry||Welsh, J. C.|
|Forrest, W.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Westwood, J.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Gillett, George M.||Potts, John S.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Gosling, Harry||Purcell, A. A.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Greenall, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Windsor, Walter|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Riley, Ben|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Robinson, W.C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rose, Frank H.||Mr. B. Smith and Mr. Frederick Hall.|
|Hardie, George D.||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next (3rd May).
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.2386
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Four Minutes after Four o'Clock until Monday next (3rd May).