§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I must confess to a little emotion when one realises that one is introducing a Bill as the successor of a long line of very splendid reformers who have carried on work of this kind during the last century. One really feels that it is a very great privilege to follow in the steps of men like Robert Owen, Lord Ashley, Herbert and the rest. Factory Bills may seem very dull things, but I think that had history been written from the workers' point of view rather than, that of the winning of battles and wars, the struggle of the last century to get decent conditions for workers in the factories would have been recognised as one of the most dramatic episodes of the whole of our long career. It may be said, "Why a Factories Bill now?" I would remind the House that there has been no general Factories Bill for the last 25 years. The last general Factories Bill was carried in 1901, and there has been an enormous change in public opinion since then. Incidentally, we have had a War, and if we promised houses fit for heroes to live in, I think we might do something to provide factories fit for heroes to work in.
This Bill might be known as the "Industrial Workers' Charter," and also as a Bill for the protection of decent employers against unfair competition. During the last 25 years there has been a growth in industry that was not contemplated by the 1901 Act. There has been an alarming increase in accidents, and this increase is the more extraordinary when we consider the fact that the heavy industries, where by far the larger proportion of accidents take place, have been slack during the last few years. Taking the latest available figures—those for 1924—we find there were no less than 169,723 accidents that involved actual absence from work, an increase over 1923 of no less than 44,000. While it is true that part of that increase is due to increased requirements under the Workmen's Compensation Act, yet there were 1536 956 fatal accidents in 1924, an increase of more than 89 over 1923, There has been a steady increase in accidents since the War, and, as the Chief Inspector of Factories points out, not by any means all the accidents are reported. Not only that, but surely in the last 25 years public opinion has become more enlightened. Let us take the fifth annual report of the Industrial Fatigue Research Board. That very impartial and very influential body states in its last report:Loss of time due to sickness, most of it preventable, cost the country not less than 10 times more than that which it lost owing to strikes and labour disputes.The press of the country is filled with statements about the amount of time we are losing because of labour disputes, yet this impartial body estimates that preventable sickness loses 10 times more in a year.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I can only quote the actual words in the fifth annual report of the Industrial Fatigue Research Board:Loss of time due to sickness, most of it preventable.I have the report here if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would like to see it. The same report issued in 1925 says:The most important result of the Board's work has been to prove that the workers' well-being is not antagonistic to production.One may say this Bill is a Bill to prevent the continued waste of the human assets and human capital of this country. It has been objected that this is far too large a Measure to be regarded as a Private Member's Bill, but I would point out that it is not a Private Member's Bill, in anything but a technical sense. It was brought up by the Home Office, I believe originally. The god-parent was the present First Lord of the Admiralty, but his work was extended and considerably improved by the right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson). But this is not a Bill that anyone can regard as his own. It is the result of 36 special reports, 25 ordinary reports, 9 conferences with employers and employed, 17 Welfare and Safety reports, two draft international conventions, and innumerable departmental memoranda and research. That is the ground work that has been going 1537 on for the last 25 years. I think the very best praise is due to the Home Office that we can give them, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will agree.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
A little perhaps.
§ Miss WILKINSON
Well, temporary credit for some of the work. What does this Bill do? First of all, workplaces are brought under uniform conditions. The Bill abolishes the difference between the factory and the workshop, a definition which is very largely out of date, and has been the cause of endless trouble It also abolishes the old time difference between textile and non-textile factories. It provides a very admirable health code. It lays down specifically requirements as to cleaning of workrooms following on the reports of chief inspectors over a long series of years, and the necessity for which has long been acknowledged.
With regard to overcrowding the Bill raises the cubic space for each individual worker from 250 feet to 400 cubit feet. Modern factories are far in excess of this, and the Bill brings up-to-date the very worst. Then in regard to temperature Perhaps there is no subject about which there has been so many complaints. The Bill lays down a standard temperature, and it gives the Home Secretary power to order in the various places minima. It gives the right hon. Gentleman power in respect to lighting, and there is also a very important provision in regard to medical supervision. The Bill lays down that in any factory where the sickness is excessive and which is not scheduled as a dangerous trade, and where there is a large amount of sickness, the Home Secretary may lay down special provisions. In fact, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is given so much power in this Bill that in view of all the circumstances the Bill is likely to receive from him the very warmest welcome.
Then we come to Part II of the Bill which deals with general provisions as to safety. I think this is part of the Bill which will bring home to the hearts and consciences of hon. Members opposite, how very necessary it is that this Bill should be introduced and passed into law as speedily as possible. Industry has 1538 grown out of all knowledge of the people who were responsible for the Bill of 1901 Of fatal accidents notified last year shipbuilding was responsible for no less than 103, and building for no less than 104 There were a very large number in the engineering establishments. These are almost entirely outside the Factories Act. This Bill gives the Home Secretary power to make regulations for these. It also does a very interesting thing with regard to the building industry, because there you had an elaborate code drawn up and particularly agreed to by all concerned. Owing almost entirely to extraneous causes the Industrial Council which was responsible for this code broke down and so the scheme could not be put into operation.
This Bill makes it a legal necessity for both employer and workpeople to conform to it, and it protects both employers and workpeople from the jerry builder who may undertake work far in excess of his power to carry out, while he is economising in safety appliances at the expense of his men. There is a further elaborate code which deals with the safety Clauses for modern shops where there is transmission machinery. These establishments were unknown in 1901 and the term therefore "transmission machinery" is a new one, as a legislative term. There is a very important code provided for the competent inspection of boilers, steam receivers and electrical machinery. There is also another important Section that deals with what one might call the structural safety Clauses. It may interest hon. Members to know that accidents to hoists have increased by over 90 per cent., in 1923 over 1922. If you take the heavy industries alone, in three months in 1923 there were no less than 2,333 accidents caused by falls due to defective floors, staircases, etc., every one of these involving under the law at that time at least seven days absence from work. This is an enormous number of preventible accidents—accidents due to defective staircases, lighting, and structure generally, and the Bill lays down the code to make passages and staircases safer.
In regard to fire. It is not, perhaps, generally known that when a building has once received a certificate that it complies with the regulations in regard to fire precautions, no matter what changes may take place after that, and 1539 whether or not inflammable materials are stored in it, no further certificate is required. Under this Bill that is changed, and a new certificate will be required.
Then we come to what might be called the welfare clauses. This is almost entirely—or, rather, a large section of it—a new departure of industrial life which was, in a way, forced forward by the War, where the workers' lives were, for the first time, valuable, and the necessity for a greater output was obvious. The new code embodies welfare clauses and regulations, and extends very considerably those few already existing. It makes provision for supplies of drinking water, water for washing, first-aid requisites, etc. There is also the prohibiton of night work in bakehouses, and a weekly rest day is laid down. One might say as regards the welfare clauses that those matters which make for decency make also for the self respect of the worker. Then there is a very important clause dealing with the removal of dust or fumes. It enacts that all practical measures should be taken to protect the workers against inhalation of the dust or fumes and to prevent its accumulating in any workroom, and in particular where the nature of the process makes it practicable, exhaust appliances shall be provided and maintained. Those who realise the appalling loss of life that takes place in such centres as Sheffield, say, and the sickness and ill-health due to excessive dust will see a need for this clause. Then you have a section for women and young persons. In a way I suppose the present condition of things may be regarded as a relic of the old days, when much abler people than 1, 50, 60 to 100 years ago were pleading for factory legislation. It is perhaps not so necessary now as it was then to arouse the sympathy of hon. Members opposite, for where one then appealed to their hearts, one now appeals to their heads. Therefore, the restrictions on hours, curiously enough, are restrictions applying to women and young persons. It is rather appalling to think that there has been no general legislative improvement in hours since 1850 though, of course, there has been an enormous improvement in practice. The Bill providing for a 60 hours week was passed in 1850. In 1869 the present right hon. Member for Seaham—then Mr. Sidney Webb, and not in 1540 Parliament—said the first-fruits of the next General Election would certainly be a general eight hours day. Even Labour prophecies take a long time to come true; and after all this time we are still working for a 48 hours week for women, and young persons, and for the daily hours to be 9. One can only hope that the work of the Minister of Labour in his recent Hours of Industry Convention will lead to the general adoption of the 48 hours week all round. One also asks, and I think this is most important, for an interval for refreshments after 4½ hours work. I think it ought to be 4 hours, because in many cases people are an hour in reaching their work after breakfast, which means an hour from their last meal before they get to the factory. Many of the best employers are discovering that a brief interval for refreshments during the morning makes, in the long run, for efficiency.
Then there is an important Clause dealing with the certificates of sickness for young persons. Everybody who knows anything about industry will admit that at present the work of the certifying surgeons is largely a farce. The children come before the certifying surgeon. He asks, "What is your name?" They tell him; and then he asks another question or two, and the examination is over. That is not the procedure in every case; but in a very large number of cases that is all the medical examination these young persons get. It is a curious thing that under the present factory legislation the certifying surgeon has no power whatever to require the medical record of a child at school to be shown to him. We have an elaborate system of medical inspection of school children, and practically every child's medical record from the age of five to the age of fourteen is known. Having gone to all this expense, we then carefully keep that record from the factory certifying surgeon, though it is the one thing that could help him most. Also, there is no provision for the re-examination of a child who has been certified as not fit. Under the proposed system, the certifying surgeon's work, instead of being what it is now, largely a farce, would be an integral part of the health system of the country.
The Bill contains various other important provisions which one cannot 1541 deal with in detail. For example, there is the case of the out-workers. A very important Select Committee went into the case of the out-workers in 1908, but nothing has been done to give effect to its recommendations. Since then we have had our Trade Board system, with its very elaborate inspectorate looking into questions of wages. Although lists of outworkers have to be kept by local authorities and supplied to the inspectors of the Home Office, the inspectors of the Ministry of Labour have no power to require the production of those lists. They may be, and in many cases are, given to them as a matter of courtesy, but they have no power to require that they shall have access to them. Then there is a Clause dealing with wages, requiring particulars of piece-work to be given to all workers. Hitherto that has been done only under special orders made for, I think, 27 industries by respective Home Secretaries. Another very important proposal—though it may seem small, I think it is important—is that the weights and measures and instruments used in the determining of wages should be stamped. We have check-weighing in the coal mines, which has improved the position of the miners; but there are a very large number of trades in which the piece-workers have no means of knowing whether or not they are being cheated by unscrupulous employers. This would give to the worker the protection which the existing legislation dealing with weights and measures gives to the public as consumers. The Clause which lays it down that there shall be no deduction from wages except under very special provisions is an important part of every industrial worker's charter. Those who are concerned with women workers know in how many ingenious ways wages are nibbled at, and this provision would make that illegal.
There are, further, a large number of Clauses which merely re-enact what was made law in 1901; but I think what I have said has been sufficient to show that the new Clauses and the altered Clauses do provide a health code, a safety code and a general improvement in factory legislation on the standards set up in 1901, which themselves were not really up to date then, but were the result of compromise and compromise again. This will to some extent bring our factory legislation into 1542 conformity with modern requirements. All these things may sound rather terrifying, but I would urge upon hon. Members that there is not one thing in this Bill, from beginning to end, that the best employers, in fact, the good employers, are not doing already. One may say, "Then why this legislation?" The answer is that we have to protect good employers as well as protecting the workers. I think everybody will agree that at this time of day no small man has the right to start a business and recklessly exploit labour, using up human capital, dragging down the whole conditions of the trade, and then throwing out injured or ruined workers to be kept by the rest of the community. If a man cannot afford to give a reasonable standard of safety and health to his workers he ought not to start a business at all—the community ought not to allow him to start a business. People say, "What about unemployment?" But this does not reduce the total amount of employment available. Because we will not allow ten little sweaters to start in a trade, it does not mean that less of that trade is done; it simply means that the man who can afford to give decent wages and decent conditions gets the trade that is available, which, I think, is in the best interests of the community.
Can the Home Secretary really say this is not the time for a new Factories Bill? We hoped the Labour Government would have been able to introduce such a Bill, but factors over which they had no control made it impossible for them to do it, the short time at their disposal and the enormous amount of work that had to be done upon such a Bill before it could be submitted to Parliament. We hoped that the first year of the present Government would have seen this Factory Bill through. It did not. Here we are in the second year, and we are told now by the Home Secretary that perhaps it will be done next year. But preventable accidents are happening every day, and I want any hon. Members who vote against this Bill to-day to realise that because of their vote thousands of men and women who could be protected by the Clauses of this Bill will be injured before the next Bill is forthcoming. Their attitude reminds me very much of that of a great French statesman who, at the end of the War, was very dis- 1543 appointed because the Armistice was to be sounded at 11 o'clock. He wanted it put off till 4 o'clock, so that the guns might cease as he was mounting the tribune in Parliament. The number of lives that might be lost in that interval of five hours apparently did not concern him. In the same way, the fact that the Factory Bill may not be passed till next year or the year after may mean the loss of thousands of valuable lives and mutilation for a great many people.
I want hon. Members opposite to realise this position. I do not know whether any of them have experienced what it is like when one receives the news that there has been an accident at some works. I have known people frantically telephoning to know whether any members of their own family are concerned. I want hon. Members opposite to look at this matter not from the point of view of the employer but from the point of view of the women at home who know that their menfolk are working on dangerous buildings or in factories where accidents are continually happening. I also want them to realise that many of these accidents are preventible. Industry under modern organisation is a very dangerous thing, but I think it is incumbent upon us to do all we can to make it less dangerous and to declare that the one thing that should not be economised on is the health of the workers and the serious risks which they run. If we all do this, we should be able to leave this House with a clear conscience, and I hope the Second Reading of the Bill will be carried.
§ Mr. STAMFORD
I beg to second the Motion.
For 25 years of my working life I worked in a factory, and up to within a fortnight of the Election which sent me to this House I was employed at the bench in a factory in the North of England. Because of that experience I think I can appreciate, as perhaps some hon. Members are not able to appreciate, the value of this Bill to a very considerable section of our industrial population. There can be no question about the fact that existing factory legislation is hopelessly out of date. The Mover of the Second Reading drew attention to the fact that it is now a quarter of a century ago since the main Factory Act was passed, and she ex- 1544 pressed the view that the change in public opinion since that time had created the need for further factory legislation to be passed through this House. There has been not only a change in public opinion, but a number of other changes as well. Considerable changes have taken place in industrial processes. There has been an advance in the knowledge of the conditions of safety and health. There has been the introduction of the eight-hours day, and there has also been a considerable extension of welfare work in factories and workshops. All these things help to emphasise the need there is to-day for some Measure of this kind to be passed through the House of Commons.
We have been waiting a long time for a Bill of this sort. A year ago the Home Secretary expressed the hope that he would be able to introduce his Bill some time last year, but, like a great number of human hopes, that has not yet been realised. Why the delay should have taken place, frankly I am at a loss to understand. For a long time past everybody has been agreed as to the need for new factory legislation. The trade unions have pressed for it, the Government have promised it, and we are still waiting for the Government Bill. The long wait which has taken place has created a suspicion, at least in some quarters, that the delay is due to the pressure of opposing interests. I do not know that that is so. I do not say that it is so, but it is rather significant that, although for such a long time past there has been a general agreement which the Government have shared in regard to the need for consolidating and amending legislation of this kind, up to now the Government have not submitted any proposal to the House of Commons.
What that Bill may contain when it appears I do not profess to know but personally I prefer the present Bill, which is likely to be a better one. At any rate, we are discussing this morning the Bill which has been moved by the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) and she has described the Bill as an amending and consolidating Bill. It brings together the various regulations applying to factories and puts them in one measure, and it proposes a number of amendments to the existing law as it applies to factories and workshops. The Bill brings in a new and important section of industry. It brings in people 1545 engaged in building and constructional work, and abolishes the distinction which has existed up to now between factories and workshops and between textile and non-textile factories. The distinction was always a purely artificial one, and had no basis in reality. It was a mere accident, and so far as this Bill is concerned it proposes to remove the old distinction and bring these various types of concerns under the operation of one common law. It also deals with the question of men's workshops in which men are exclusively employed, and it proposes to establish a much higher standard of health and safety conditions for the people employed in those concerns.
As the Mover of the Second Reading stated, the new Amendments only propose to establish conditions which are already in operation over a very considerable proportion of the industrial field. What we propose to do by this Bill is to eliminate the unfair competition of the bad employer. Every good employer of labour would derive a definite advantage from the passage of a Bill which would do something to bring up the level of working conditions in factories, and make the conditions in the bad factories approximate rather more closely to the conditions operating in the better type of factories. Attention has quite naturally been drawn to the figures relating to accidents contained in the last report of the Factory Inspector, and to the fact that, comparing the year 1923 with the year 1924, there has been an increase of 89 in the number of total industrial accidents. That increase is alarming, and it provides a very powerful argument in support of the proposals of this Bill so far as they relate to the provision of more effective safety appliances. I find, on reference to the Report of the factory inspector, that last year prime mover accidents accounted for 202, and of those nine were fatal. There is a very interesting comment on this type of accident in the Factory Inspector's Report. He points out that at least 35 of these accidents would have been prevented if adequate fencing had been provided. This Bill is an attempt on our part to provide what I think everybody recognises to be a very necessary protection to those whose occupations expose them to special risks of danger and of accident.
1546 The hon. Member who moved the Bill also made some reference to the protective clauses for women and young persons, but there was one part of the Bill under that heading to which she omitted to make reference. There is a Clause in the Bill which prohibits the lifting of heavy weights by women and by young persons. This is a very necessary provision indeed, because I find, on reference to the last Report of the Factory Inspector, that one of the Superintending Inspectors in the North Midland and North Eastern division spent a considerable time inquiring and reporting on the lifting of heavy weights by women and girls in the woollen industry. She visited a number of worsted spinning firms in Bradford and Huddersfield and the heavy woollen mills of Dewsbury, Batley and Morley as well as a number of carpet factories in Huddersfield and Dewsbury. It is very satisfactory to gather from the Report that, generally speaking, the amount of lifting by women and girls has been greatly reduced in recent years.Nevertheless,the Inspector goes on to say,I found some cases of exceedingly heavy and fatiguing work in the low woollen end of the trade. In these mills the pieces sometime weigh in the grease from 180 to over 200 lbs. (the heaviest I came across was 205 lbs.), and as in some cases no men are employed in the stumping or mending departments, the women and girls have to undergo undue fatigue and strain in lifting these heavy pieces on to the tables and carrying them to the side of the room when finished.Then she says:In other departments I came across very little excessive weight lifting, except in a woollen mill in Ossett, where I found a boy of 14 years of age employed all day carrying three or four stubbing bodkins, weighing 6 to 9 lbs. (total 18 to 36 lbs.) from the scribbling department to the mule rooms. As one of these rooms was up two flights of stairs, this was very arduous work, and could easily have been obviated by a little thought and organisation.I draw special attention to those latter words. The Inspector also visited some of the brick works and sanitary pipe works in Derbyshire, and her investigations there led her to say:In the latter case excessive weights are being carried by women and young persons. These girls, often under 18 years of age, feed the pipe machines with clay and carry heavy 1547 wedges of clay about—weighing 60 lbs. and over. The district inspector has found women carrying over 70 lbs. of clay, and on a visit this year I came across a girl of 15 continuously wheeling and carrying lumps of clay weighing over 40 lbs.That is a perfectly disgraceful condition of things to exist in any department of British industry at this time of day, and I press the claims of this Bill, on the ground, among others, of the proposals it contains to regularise the lifting and carrying of heavy weights by women and young persons. I would like to say a brief word with regard to the question of the safeguards provided by the Bill in relation to industrial diseases, and on that matter I speak with some considerable amount of feeling. Three days ago I stood at the graveside of a close personal friend of my own; one of the best men I have ever known. He had been employed in an asbestos packing works. Asbestos dust is exceedingly dangerous, and it broke his health. He suffered for a considerable length of time, and a week ago he died a victim of industrial disease, one among thousands of others. To-day, with that in my mind, I plead with the House of Commons to give us this Bill, in order that additional protection may be afforded to those whose occupations expose them to special risks of injury, of disease, and of death.
There is another question which is bound up very closely with this question of industrial diseases and industrial accidents, and that is the question of the inspectorate of the Department. There can be no doubt as to the need for an immediate and a substantial increase in the number of inspectors engaged. I am not saying one word against the efficiency of the inspectors. I believe they are highly efficient and a thoroughly capable body of men and women. All praise is due to them for the exceedingly effective and efficient work which they do within the limits of their capacity, but their capacity is limited; there are not enough of them. In 1914, we had 222 factory inspectors and assistant factory inspectors. That worked out at one inspector for every 1,247 factories. It was, I believe, contemplated sometime after that to increase the number of inspectors to 237; but the Geddes economy proposals came along, and, under the operation of the Geddes economy scheme, the number was reduced to 205, 1548 at which figure, so far as I know, it stands at the present moment. That means, on the same basis of calculation, that in the year 1924, with 205 inspectors, we had one inspector for every 1,383 factories. The thing is preposterous. The inspectors, however much they may care for their work and, however willing they may be to do their work as effectively as they can, simply cannot do the work that requires to be done so long as the Inspectorate remains at a figure which permits only of one inspector to every 1,383 factories. I do not know why it is that these vacancies still remain in the inspectorate, or why it is that the Department does not take steps to fill these vacancies, which have existed for a long time past. It may be that the vacancies are continued as a measure of economy, but, if so, all I can say is that it is a very unsound method of economy. It is not economy to expose people employed in factories and workshops to excessive risks in their employment, and those risks might be considerably diminished if the staff of inspectors were adequate to the work which the inspectors are expected to perform.
The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading subjected the Bill to a close examination, and, I think, very adequately explained the purpose and intention of its various clauses. I would like to add a word of agreement with one thing that she said concerning the value of this Measure. I believe that this Measure is a real contribution to industrial efficiency, because I believe that healthy conditions have a real economic value, and that unsatisfactory conditions are a source of industrial inefficiency. From the point of view of raising the standard of the efficiency of the labour of this country, I think an extremely sound case can be put to the House why this morning it should accept and pass the Second Reading of this Bill. We offer this Bill because, as I have said, in our judgment it is a real contribution to industrial efficiency, and we offer it also because we regard it as a new charter for the factory worker. Its provisions, I believe, are essential to the health and comfort of the worker, and to his protection against the risks of industrial accident and disease. Therefore, with pleasure I second the Motion, and, in 1549 doing so, I very warmly commend the Bill to the favourable consideration of the House.
§ Captain MACMILLAN
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsthis House, while recognising the necessity for the introduction during this Session of a Bill to consolidate and amend the laws relating to factories for the purposes of circulation and discussion in consultation with the interests affected, is of opinion that a Measure of such far-reaching importance should not be introduced as a private Member's Bill.In moving this Amendment, I feel conscious of a great responsibility, partly because of the rather curious political situation which has led up to the Amendment, and partly because of the intrinsic importance of the subject itself. Before dealing with the Amendment, I would like, if I might without impertinence, to congratulate the hon. Lady who moved the Second Reading of the Bill upon her very interesting speech, and upon the very comprehensive way in which she dealt with the various subjects to which the Bill relates. Her speech has also done me a great service, because it has relieved me of the necessity of dealing with some of those arguments myself.
This Amendment falls into two separate parts, and I think it will be convenient if I may be allowed to deal first with the second part of the Amendment. I think the declaration that a Measure of this kind cannot properly be dealt with by a private Member's Bill is one which will carry with it very general consent. I readily understand that the main object of the introduction of this Bill as a private Member's Bill was more in the nature of a demonstration than with any real idea that this procedure is suitable to so complicated and far-reaching a Measure. I think we are grateful to the hon. Lady for having made use of this procedure in order to call attention to the subject, but I do not think it can be seriously contended that a Bill of this kind, containing a number of complicated Clauses, which will need the very close attention of all, and particularly of the public officials concerned, can be carried through conveniently in the Committee Stage or any other stage except when it is introduced and sponsored by the responsible 1550 Government of the day. I cannot conceive that the Committee Stage of this Bill, whether on the Floor of the House or upstairs, could be carried on except in charge of a Minister who has at his command all the resources of his Department and all the sources of information, and who is able to take real and proper control of a Bill of this public character. Therefore I think that really it may be assumed that the second part of my Amendment will carry with it a real measure of assent on the part of the House.
The first part of the Amendment sets out propositions which may or may not be as favourably received. First of all, we venture to call attention to the urgency of the matter. With everything that has fallen from the Mover and Seconder of the Second Reading I agree; they have reinforced the arguments which I might have put. The Bill is urgent because it is very long since a consolidating Measure has been introduced to deal with all these complicated Clauses. It is urgent because a great many of the present laws under which our factories are working are suited to a period which has now gone by, and are unsuited to the changes which have taken place in the organisation of industry. I and some of my friends feel that it is particularly urgent that we should have a definite declaration from the Government on this question, because we are bound to say that the history of this particular Bill has not, up to date, filled us with that confidence which we should like to feel. It is generally understood that this Bill was first framed when the present First Lord of the Admiralty was Home Secretary, in 1923, and the late Home Secretary printed and introduced a Bill in 1924. Both of those Bills, however, were the victims, not of any fault of their own, but of political circumstances which led to general elections. We hope that, in these more stabilised times, the Bill which we hope will be introduced by the present Home Secretary will not be cut off in its innocence by such an unhappy termination as befell the previous Bills.
If I might say so, I agree to some extent with the remark made by the last speaker, that the matter is particularly urgent because there has been some feeling, on the part of many Members of the House, that, apart from considerations of 1551 party, arguments were being used to postpone the introduction of that Bill which really emanated from sources wholly opposed to it. I hope and believe that the Home Secretary will be able, in the statement which I hope he will make on this Bill, to dissipate that idea, and to confirm the confidence that his supporters feel that he intends to carry on as Home Secretary, the great traditions of his party in all matters of factory welfare and factory legislation. We cannot expect to have the support of the Liberal party, who have been so long wedded to Cobdenite principles of non-interference, and I do not see how we can even have the continuing support of those Members of the Socialist party who still cling to their Liberal antecedents. They are bound up with what Disraeli called the "frigid theories of a generalising age." Possibly they have preferred to-day the solid advantages of Liverpool to the disadvantages of a further abandonment of the doctrine of laissez faire. I do, however, venture to think that the Tory party, which, from its history and from its whole tenets and faith, is, above all, the appropriate political party to deal with this form of legislation, will not be untrue to its traditions at the present time.
Apart from this question, the procedure contemplated in my Amendment is that the Bill should be introduced during this Session for the purpose of circulation and discussion. We decided to adopt that phraseology because it is one which, I think, is becoming more and more applicable to the complicated legislation of the present time. It is adopted from the procedure the Minister of Health informed us he intended to use in dealing with Poor Law reform. Legislation to-day, even if agreed in principle, is in detail so complicated and raises such difficult questions, not necessarily of principle but of detailed application of those principles, that by the system of introducing during one Session, passing the Second Reading and printing the Bill with a view to allowing a period to elapse of some six months before the next Session, during which all the interests concerned, both of employers in this ease and trade unions, and the best advice can be sought, and in a case like this, which is after all very largely a non-party and an agreed Measure, there is a real hope that by the time the Bill 1552 comes to Committee it may be to all intents and purposes an agreed Bill. I believe all Members of the House will feel the advantage of obtaining a great measure of agreement on the details of the Bill. I know the Office—this is largely a Home Office Bill—has done a great deal of work since the Bill of 1924 in smoothing over difficulties, in explaining, and possibly in making certain alterations to suit individual cases, or to suit cases where the provisions of the Bill of 1924 are not wholly applicable. Last Session the great Bill was the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, and this summer we all trust and believe that a great measure of our time will be occupied in passing into law legislation consequent upon an agreement in the coal trade. It is easy outside Parliament to say, why not pass a Measure in the interim, but those who know the procedure Parliament must necessarily adopt in large and far-reaching Measures of this kind cannot reasonably ask for more than the procedure that is contemplated in this Amendment.
With regard to the separate questions that arise, I should like to associate myself with many of the very interesting comments on the main principles of the Bill, and the subjects which are, and would necessarily be dealt with by any Bill which the hon. Lady introduced. The only questions she dealt with—and she dealt with them extremely well—were the subjects dealt with by the Bill. The only question on which I should like to say a few words is that of the regulation of working hours. It is true that the International Conference held in London at the instigation of the Minister of Labour resulted in a measure of agreement. I think this is an opportunity to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on what I believe, if it is pursued and when the necessary steps to follow it are carried on, will prove to be one of the greatest measures of social advance that have ever been brought about in civilised countries. We have all been interested in this question of the ratification of the Washington Agreement for a long time, and I believe the terms of the agreement come to in London between the representatives of the great manufacturing nations may lead to a real measure of advance. But this question of factory 1553 legislation deals only with the working hours of women and young girls. It has never been a tradition of English legislation to deal with our working hours in relation to the working hours of other countries. It was dealt with in the past, and I hope will be dealt with to-day, on its; own merits, and while we are only too anxious to obtain international agreement which will make it easier, and perhaps less dangerous or oppressive to employers, we cannot admit that legislation respecting the working hours of women and young persons is to depend on whether or not international agreement can be obtained. I do not think many of those who oppose the Bill in the press and outside realise the actual conditions that are now obtaining. They do not realise that overtime is allowed in certain trades up to 75 hours a week. If they read the reports of factory inspectors and prosecutions for exceeding the maximum permitted they would find it really astonishing that at present we should be working under conditions that date as far back as 1867. I should like to press the Home Secretary to give us a hope that, apart from what may result—and we all hope it will result—from an international agreement, this question of the working hours of women and young persons will be dealt with on its own merits.
There is undoubtedly a feeling that a Factory Bill may prove in the present state of trade dangerous to employers and employés. There is a feeling that it may throw heavy charges upon certain industries which are not justified at present. I think those objectors do not understand the working of modern industry. To carry on our work under good conditions. with proper safeguards against accidents, and everything that makes for the happiness and pleasure and good feeling of the workers, is the most economic way for the modern employer. With my own small knowledge of business I know there is nothing that produces better work and better actual economic results than welfare work in the office or the factory. We want the conditions of employment which, after all the majority of employers are now giving to be stabilised in legislative form. There are certain cases where concessions may be made, where if structural alterations are required a time limit might be given to which they would have to 1554 conform. There are some provisions of the Bill of 1924, particularly in respect to precautions against lire, which demand structural alterations. Those are matters of detail to be worked out but I think the governing principle must be that modern conditions of employment and modern conditions of economic industry depend upon a high standard of welfare and status of the worker. I understand the Home Secretary is going to make a declaration of policy which I hope will satisfy all quarters of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) is, I believe, to wind up the Debate. I hope he will be in the same relative position to the Mover of the Amendment as Balaam was on a famous occasion, that having come to curse, he will remain to bless and that he will say after he has heard the Home Secretary's declaration that he has not, at any rate on this occasion, beheld iniquity on the Front Government Bench, neither has he seen perverseness. I hope he will go on to say that the Home Secretary has been delivered out of Egypt. Whether or not he makes that general admission, I trust that hon. Members on this side of the House of my own party will have no hesitation in supporting the Amendment. I hope that they will have regard, first of all, to the exigencies of Parliamentary time and Parliamentary circumstances, which must be taken into account. We cannot expect the Government to pass any number of vast and important Measures without the proper use of Parliamentary time, but we do ask for the introduction, as an earnest of their intention, of this Bill during the present Session. We ask for the Bill to be printed and circulated for discussion among the interests concerned.
I hope that hon. Members on this side will have no hesitation in supporting this view, that they will ask for a Bill which will be wise, generous and fair-minded, which will not be calculated to lay unreasonable burdens upon industry, but will, at the same time, confer continuous and progressive benefits upon those engaged in industry. If they do that, and I feel convinced they will, they will relieve the situation, and they will know that they are carrying out the traditional faith and beliefs of the Conservative party in all matters affecting the lives, welfare 1555 and health of our people in the progressive amelioration of which conditions the Conservative party has been so long and so honourably associated.
§ Sir LESLIE SCOTT
I beg to second the Amendment.
The admirable speech to which the House has just listened from my hon. and gallant Friend, who moved the Amendment which stands in his name and in mine, leaves me little to add. That speech was based, as the House must have realised, upon a real human sympathy, upon an appreciation of the fundamental facts of modern history and a realisation that progress and efficiency in industry depends upon the reality of goodwill between employers and employed, illuminated by a sense of humour which has entertained as well as interested the House.
The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) who moved the Second Reading of the Bill made, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, a speech which commanded general assent. Coming from the Labour benches, in support of a Conservative Bill, and praising that Bill on Conservative grounds, and indicating complete acceptance of the essential Conservative principles underlying that Bill, it was a delight to all of us on this side of the House. It augurs well for the future progress of the legislation on this subject which we all confidently expect at an early date from this Government. The hon. Member said that the Bill emanated, as we all know, from the Home Secretary in the Conservative administration of 1923, but that—and this was a delightful touch of party loyalty—it was greatly improved by the Home Secretary in the Labour Government. I do not want in any way to destroy the feeling of loyalty which she has for her party, but I feel it only right to say that, as far as I know and I believe, I am right, only three Clauses were added by the Labour Government to the Conservative draft. Those three Clauses, one on the Sunday rest, another on night baking, and the third on the practice of shuttle kissing, are the only Clauses which were added by the Labour administration.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Does the hon. and learned Member know of the Clauses dealing with night baking fines and certifying factory surgeons?
§ Sir L. SCOTT
I believe I am right in saying—the Home Secretary will deal with the position later—that, broadly speaking, the Bill that we are considering to-day is the Conservative Bill of the 1923 administration. We want a Bill on these lines at the earliest date that the exigencies of Parliamentary time and Parliamentary procedure permit, and it is for that reason that we have moved the Amendment.
§ Sir L. SCOTT
It is a paradox that a Conservative Bill should be moved from the Labour benches, and opposed from the Conservative benches. Unless the reasons for that course were made clear, suspicions might easily arise, and I want, if I can, to satisfy the House that the proposal that we are making is a proposal which will give the country the best Bill on this subject at the earliest possible date that it is, practically, possible to have the Bill. I believe that we shall receive an assurance from the Home Secretary exactly on those lines. I should like to add one point on the reasons stated so clearly by my hon. and gallant Friend as to why a private Members' Bill cannot really meet the needs of the case when the subject is so complicated as this.
In order that a Bill of this kind should be made as good as it possibly can be, it is essential that it should be fully criticised when it is before this House, when it is in Committee, and during the Report stage. It is vital at all these stages that objections, criticisms, and suggestions of improvement should be discussed in detail and in the light of the knowledge of the Home Office, which alone can give the member in charge of the Bill the necessary information for dealing with all the criticisms and proposals for Amendment, good or bad. No one except the Minister standing at the box is in a position to receive that continual supply of well-informed knowledge on all the new points raised in discussion which it is essential the House should have, in order that the various proposals should be adequately and wisely dealt with. That is the fundamental reason 1557 why a private Member cannot conduct a detailed Bill of this kind, when all the important information is in the possession of the department.
That reason by itself is a conclusive reason why, if we are to get the best Bill possible, it must be a Government Bill and not a private Members' Bill. That is the primary reason why those on this side of the House, acting with me, take the view that we ought to move the rejection of this private Member's Bill. It is not because we have any want of sympathy with the object of the Bill. It is a Conservative Bill, but whether it is a Conservative Bill, or a Bill from any other party, it is a Bill which contains proposals, in great number and great detail, which command the assent of the great majority of Members on this side of the House. It is a Bill which, broadly speaking, we desire to see on the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment. I do not believe that any appreciable number of Members of this House will be found ultimately to vote against this Bill.
There is a second reason why we desire the procedure indicated in our Amendment. It is, as stated by my hon. and gallant Friend, that we want, Before the Bill comes before the House for detailed consideration, to get the greatest possible amount of light thrown upon it from out-side. It is common ground that there are certain sections of opinion in the country, some sections of manufacturing opinion, who are afraid of the Bill, who think that the present occasion, when industry is still gravely depressed, is a dangerous occasion on which to introduce legislation of this kind. They fear that proposals may be contained in the Bill which will hamper industry, which will prevent production at the lowest possible cost, and will impede the recovery of industrial prosperity. I believe that the best way to meet that type of fear is to let those who entertain it know in detail what the provisions are, because when the provisions are considered fully and particularly in the light of discussion at the Home Office in conference with the officials of the Home Office, the greater part of those fears will be dissipated. It is only if the Bill, in the shape in which the Government of the day propose it, is before the public, so that they can realise that its provisions are not merely those 1558 which perhaps some day may come up in Parliament, but provisions which the Government of the day really intend to bring forward, that the general public will realise that it has become a practical and urgent question, and will give to the Bill the detailed consideration which its elucidation really requires.
Once we get that sense of reality about the Bill, which will follow on a statement by the Home Secretary to-day that he intends—if he is able to make the statement—to introduce this Bill at the earliest possible date for consideration, and for discussion with all the interests affected, both employers and employed, in order that they in unison may thrash out the best provisions of each of the various complicated clauses of the Bill, so that the right hon. Gentleman may be in a position next year to introduce it at an early date and pass it into law early next Session, we achieve two great purposes: (1) that the Bill will be one which is put into the best possible form; (2) that there will be the least possible amount of opposition to it, with the result that its passage into law next year will be expedited. That that procedure involves any real delay is a misapprehension. The reality of the position is that the Government legislative programme for this Session is already full to overflowing with the prospect of a vast additional supply of liquid being poured into that already overflowing cup. We hope that the train of events in the mining industry may result in a demand by the Government on the time of the House in order to give effect to an agreement between the two sides in that industry. But with that in contemplation contingently and we hope probably, and with the Electricity Bill certainly, before the House, and with the possibility, shall I say, of some criticism on the Electricity Bill, I think it is plain that there will be no spare time in this Session and that any notion of time being found for the discussion of a Bill of this complexity this Session is mere imagination.
If that be the reality of the case—the hon. Lady who moved the Second Reading is a realist, I feel sure, and appreciates that position as much as any of us—do not let us waste time or try to make party capital on the one side or the other on questions of tactics. There are no tactics in it except this, and let me be perfectly 1559 candid about it. As far as I am concerned my tactics are to try to get the Bill at the earliest possible moment out of this Government. It is the only way in which we shall ever get this Bill passed. Therefore, I ask for the co-operation of Members of the Labour party, even in the Division Lobby to-day, on the ground that we want this Bill at the earliest possible date. Let us look at the facts for a moment. If after the Home Secretary's statement, and if the right hon. Gentlemen does promise to introduce a Bill at a very early date in its final considered form and to push it through early next year, the Labour party accept that promise and say, "Well, we are satisfied and we will not go into, the Division Lobby against you," then there will be a bargain struck across the floor of the House, and it will give much greater certainty of achievement than any other course of procedure to-day.
Let me say a few words on the Bill itself. Its introduction for the purpose of circulation and discussion this year obviously cannot prejudice industry, even if it were a Bill which, if passed into law, might, as a few people or possibly many people think, add to the burdens of the cost of production. Discussion will not add to the burdens of the cost of production. Therefore, we need not consider that criticism from the point of view of this year. I trust that next year two things will happen: (1) that most of the critics will have been satisfied in the discussion this year; and (2) that industry will be in a better position than it is now. Therefore, that objection goes. The other answer is the really human and economic answer. It is that the Bill is a Bill to bring the worst employer up towards the level of the best, and that that policy is a policy which must be pursued and ought to be pursued at all times. Indeed, as I see it, that policy is—and I hope that Members of the Labour party feel it, if they do not see it—the fundamental policy of Conservatism.
We stand for private initiative and private enterprise based upon private profit. Why? I am always perfectly candid, and I will give my reason, which is a simple one. The world being as it is, and human nature being what it is, and it being impossible to change human 1560 nature in its fundamental characteristics, private enterprise and private initiative are the only bases upon which human success can be achieved in the long run. I know that Members of the Labour party will give me credit for absolute candour as well as conviction. But it is vital that, if you do base industry upon private profit, those men who do not play the game by their fellows should be subject to control by the State so that they shall not do harm. That is the corollary and the essential corollary.
To my mind that is a short statement of Conservative policy—the maximum of freedom for the individual plus control by the State so that he shall not harm others. That is the reason why this long series of Factory Acts has been produced by the Conservative party. It was to prevent wrong motives or purely non-moral motives of economic profit operating to do harm, that those Acts were passed; and this is another in the long chain. Those who know the Home Secretary well, know that he is as keen as any man in this country for the betterment of human beings in their daily lives. I look with confidence to him to put before the House a Bill which will do as in the main this Bill does for those engaged in industry all the good that it is possible for a Bill to do from the human point of view. And I look to him to force that Bill through with all the power at the command of the Government and at the earliest possible date. The Home Secretary is the last in the long line of Conservative movers of factory legislation. He will not, I believe, be the least successful or the least efficient. I have no doubt in my own mind that the House will get from him a Bill which will command general assent and a Bill which, after discussion with the interests affected, will be found open to the least possible criticism.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Perhaps it will be convenient if I speak now, so that the House may know exactly the view of the Government in regard to the Bill and the Amendment which are before us. I should like, with deference, to join in the chorus of praise which has been accorded to the hon. lady the Member the East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) who moved the Second Reading of the Bill. I think I have greater cause for thankfulness to the hon. Member than any of my hon. Friends, because she has 1561 provided me with an admirable speech to deliver on the occasion of the introduction of the Bill next year. I do not know in fact that I can do better, when I come to move the Second Reading of the Bill next year than to repeat with some modification a well-known remark of one of my predecessors and say:I say ditto to Miss Pitt.I am not quite sure however whether the hon. Member is as friendly towards me as she appears to be. She reserved the positions of godfathers of this Bill to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty and the right hon. gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson), and I believe she has really cast me for the part of the wicked uncle who is going to destroy the Bill if he can. Really that is not the case. I have been couched by the words of my hon. and earned friend the Member for the Exchange Division (Sir L. Scott) because he did give me the credit, as I hope the House will, of a sincere interest in this question. I know I am looked upon in some quarters as a hard-shelled reactionary, but I am very keen upon all questions of social reform, and one of the first measures which I took in hand when I became Home Secretary was this very Bill. I digested it thoroughly; I had many interviews and deputations; I consulted both employers and trade unionists in order that I might thoroughly familiarise myself with the Bill as originally drafted, the Bill as amended toy the right hon. gentleman the Member for Burnley, and the Bill which is now in draft, prepared by myself, on behalf of the present Government.
Without saying anything harsh, I think nothing is to be gained by exaggerating the evils of the present system, and I wish the House to know that some of the statements made in regard to the increased number of accidents are not quite justified. The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough went so far as to say—I do not think she can have meant it—that if this Bill were not passed this year, thousands of lives would be lost through accidents in the factories which otherwise would be prevented by provisions of this Measure. Now the hon. Member holds such a position in the Labour party that I cannot allow that statement from her to go uncontradicted. Nothing like thousands of lives are, or 1562 can be lost, in the factories during the year. The figures for 1924 undoubtedly show a slight increase over the year 1923, but the figures of fatal accidents—which are the comparable figures because, as has been said, there is a complete change in the method of calculating non-fatal accidents owing to recent workmen's compensation legislation, and the arrangements thereunder—show that the fatal accidents last year amounted to only 956. That, I agree, was an increase on 1923 of some 80, but the fatal accidents before the War, in 1913, were 1,309. After the War, when, of course, we had all the machinery that had been established during the War—[HON. MEMBERS: "And more people"]—and more people were employed last year—in 1919 I say that had risen to 1,381, and in 1920, the year of the highest trade, it had fallen. But if hon. Members look at the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories, they will find that though there has been a slight increase during last year, fatal accidents have persistently risen and fallen in proportion to the number of men and women employed. Therefore I do not think it fair to lay too great stress upon it, and of course hon. Members opposite cannot lay stress on the non-fatal accidents because of the difference in the method of calculation. The number of fatal accidents for the whole year show that any such increase as has been suggested might result from postponing the Bill is absolutely out of the question. Then I should like the House to realise that whatever we do, whatever Factory Bills we may introduce, a large number of accidents occur which must be put down to the human factor, and these cannot possibly be obviated by any Clauses or restrictions or regulations. I refer to the same report of the Chief Inspector of Factories which was quoted from the other side of the House an hour ago, and I find on page 23 that the inspector dealing with the "safety first" movement says:While many machinery accidents can be prevented by appropriate fencing, and a certain number of casualties not connected with machinery … can be prevented by adequate lighting and other safeguards, there remains a vast number unpreventable by any known form of protection.I have thought it right to call attention to that part of the Inspector's Report because the House has had pre- 1563 vious quotations read from it, but everybody knows that while it is the duty of the State to do all that we can to prevent accidents, there are, and always must be, a vast number of non-preventable accidents which are the result of human incapacity in some directions or of human carelessness. Then I should like to explain that while I have had the privilege of being Home Secretary, and have been considering this Bill, the work of the Home Office improvements has gone very steadily forward. During the last 15 months the present Government have made new regulations for docks, for grinding industries, for weight lifting in the woollen and worsted textile industries, for the painting of vehicles, for the manufacture of electric accumulators, which, as the House knows, is one of the chief producers of lead poisoning, and important codes in the building trades and shipbuilding industry are in draft and in process of completion.
The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough told us that the difficulty in regard to the building regulations was the break up of the Joint Industrial Council. That was not quite the only cause of the trouble, but we are now going on with the regulations, and we hope to get, even before a Factory Bill is produced, a new code of regulations, both in the building trades and in the shipbuilding industry, which will be very much indeed for the benefit of the workers in those industries. So that in half a dozen industries—in more, in nine or 10 considerable industries—improvements have been made by regulations issued by the Home Office, of course, with the assent of the Secretary of State, and with the concurrence of the workers and the employers in those industries, and by so much they will have eased, I hope, the position until we can introduce a Factory Bill, because in those trades we shall have got agreement as to what is desirable in the best interests of the workers concerned. That has all been done unobtrusively, if I may say so, during the past year. There is one point that I have been trying very hard to eliminate in regard to this Bill—the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough referred to it—and that is that the Bill which she is now introducing gives more powers to the Home Secretary.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am much obliged to the hon. lady. I have been trying my utmost, in dealing with the draft of this Bill, to get rid of the very great powers imposed on the Secretary of State, but it is very difficult. If hon. Members will look at the Bill which has been introduced by the Labour party today, they will see that it throws on the shoulders of the Secretary of State a vast amount of responsibility and a vast amount of power, which is really a very serious thing to put upon the shoulders of any single member of the Cabinet. I was asked about the increase in the inspectorate. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has said in this House, and I have said too, that the inspectorate is overworked. I said yesterday in this House, in answer to a question, that the Home Office staff is overworked, and I believe it is. I believe it is one of the most overworked Departments in the State to-day. New powers, new duties, new responsibilities are being constantly thrown upon the Secretary of State and his Department. I am quite sure that, when the financial position permits, we shall have largely to increase the staff of the Home Office, and as soon as a Factory Bill is passed, we shall have very largely indeed to increase the factory inspectorate.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley, I think, felt when he was at the Home Office that it was inadvisable to remodel and increase the inspectorate until a Factory Measure had been passed, which would make it absolutely essential. I take the same view, but it is only fair to tell the House that the factory inspectors are working at tremendous pressure at the present time in order adequately to perform the duties cast upon them. I do not think really the Labour party should complain so much of the delay that is taking place in the production of a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley, who was Home Secretary, introduced his Bill in, I think. May of the year when he was in office, and there was no date given for Second Reading—it was not read a Second time—but I am not complaining of that, because the Labour Government had the same trouble as I have had, namely, how to get a quart into a pint pot in the way of legislation. They had their work to 1565 do, and it was impossible for them to get through a great Factory Bill during the period when they were in office.
As my hon. and learned Friend behind me showed, we have had a great deal of work to do since we have been in office, and this year everybody knows that if the anticipated agreement, the hoped-for agreement, takes place in the coal trade, there will be a mass of legislation which will have to be brought forward at the earliest possible moment in order to carry out a large number of the provisions of the Coal Commission's Report, and the Prime Minister has given a distinct and definite undertaking that in the event of that agreement happening we will, at the earliest possible moment, undertake whatever steps are necessary by way of legislation to give effect to all those provisions in that Report. Any hon. Member who knows the procedure of this House knows very well that that would mean the entire time of the Session being taken up, and that there would be no possibility of getting through as well a Bill of this kind, containing some 140 very long and elaborate Clauses.
What then is my position? My hon. Friends on this side have moved an Amendment asking that I should introduce this year a Factory Bill for the purposes of circulation and discussion, and they have asked me that I should give an undertaking to re-introduce the Bill early next year, which would be pressed through at the earliest possible moment next Session. I rather doubt whether I ought to say anything about the provisions of the Bill which is in draft on my table. Suggestions have been made that the Bill of the hon. Lady opposite is different from the Bill which was first drafted when my right hon. Friend the present First Lord of the Admiralty was Secretary of State, and also that the Bill that I am going to introduce may be different from both. Let me say this: Nineteen-twentieths of the First Lord's Bill was contained in the right hon. Gentleman's Bill, and nineteen-twentieths of both those Bills will be contained in my Bill. I am not going to mislead the House and to say that the whole of the provisions of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill will be contained in my Bill. I have made delarations in this House against accepting the Convention with regard to night baking. Hon. Members opposite 1566 desire to see it passed, and it was put by the right hon. Gentleman in his Bill. It is only fair to say—I do not want to mislead the House—that I do not propose to include that in my Bill, but that is not really part of the whole structure of factory reform as it is generally understood in this House.
During this year very full discussion and examination have taken place in connection with this Bill. Perhaps I may say, without binding myself, that the Bill which I hope to introduce will abolish the distinction between the textile and the non-textile factories and between factories and workshops. Those are two of the great fundamental changes which are contained in all three Bills, and which will be contained in my Bill. It will include new provisions as to cleanliness, overcrowding, temperature in factories, lighting of factories, and sanitary conveniences; it will include special medical provisions and supervision in classes or descriptions of factories where there is a special liability to sickness or disease; it will include welfare provisions in regard to drinking water, first aid, seats for workers, protective clothing, and so forth. In fact, really, it will also include many special health provisions, such as protection against dust, which, I think, was mentioned by the hon. Member who seconded the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill, protection against the lifting of weights, and provisions in regard to underground works.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Yes, and some provisions also in regard to that. I hope that hon. Members will realise that I am just giving a conspectus of the main provisions of the Bill in order that my hon. Friends on both sides of the House may see that the Bill will be a fair Bill, and a real and honest attempt to deal with the grave problems which are ripe for dealing with at the present time in regard to factories.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will remember that in an industry, in which there are nearly 1,000,000 people employed, there is no provision whatever for the taking of meals. Will he say if any provision will be made for meals?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I know what the hon. Gentleman refers to, and I have that under my careful consideration. The Bill is in draft, and now my hon. Friends ask me for a speech, and they are quite entitled to do so, as to the position that the Government takes up with regard to this Bill.
§ Sir L. SCOTT
Will my right hon. Friend deal with the question of hours for women and children on the ground that that is not affected by the Washington Convention?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
It is perfectly true that that is not affected by the Washing Convention. I meant to say a word in regard to the Convention and the recent Conference that has taken place last week. The House knows that a very important conference was held, at which the Ministers of Labour of all the great European States were present, presided over by the Minister of Labour of this country, and that certain conclusions were arrived at. Undoubtedly many misconceptions were cleared away, but the whole conclusions of that Conference are being placed by my colleague before the Cabinet, and it is impossible, and indeed it would not be right, for me to go into those matters because I am unable to do so until I know the view the Government has taken upon the decisions of that Conference. The Conference has been held, decisions have been arrived at, and the Government will in due course make known their decisions. With regard to the position of women in industry, I appreciate what has been said about the terrible hours worked by women in some industries. I hope to deal with that,- and apart altogether from the Washington Convention. It is the most difficult subject in the Bill and has given me a great deal of trouble. In some industries, the cotton trade, for instance, nearly half the workers are women and the fixing of the hours of women's labour would necessarily mean fixing the hours of the men. That is one of the difficulties which has faced me in dealing with this question of women. I am not going to shirk the question; it has got to be decided one way or another. Before we introduce the Bill the question will be decided and provisions of some kind or another will be included.
1568 1.0 P.M.
What then is the position the Government take up? My hon. Friends say, and I think I agree with them, that if I satisfy them and show that the Government really mean business in this matter, that they will ask the House, as they do by their Amendment, not to pass the Second Reading of the Bill to-day. It is quite obvious that it is merely a demonstration in force, or if the hon. Lady does not like that description, it is a demonstration that shows that the Labour party opposite are keen upon this Bill. We know they are, and their views are entitled to the very fullest consideration, and I have given them the very fullest consideration in preparing this Bill. I am, therefore, authorised by the Prime Minister and the Government to say that I will introduce the Factories Bill during this current Session of Parliament for the purposes of consideration and discussion and that then I will reintroduce the Bill with any Amendments that appeal to my colleagues in the Government and myself as the result of such consideration and discussion at the earliest possible moment in the Session of 1927, that that Bill will be one of the principal Government Measures of next year and we will do our utmost, and ask the House, to pass it into law. That is a categorical statement which I have been authorised to make in regard to this matter. The Bill itself has given me endless anxiety and trouble in order to get a Measure which will not injure either of the two great sections of the community which must work together, employers and employed, if industry is to go forward successfully in this country. We do not want to do anything that will set back those small glimmerings of hope of an improvement in our industry which we believe are coming into sight at the present moment. We believe that, if the one black cloud of the coal industry be dispelled, a brighter time is coming slowly but surely for the trade and industry of this country. I want a Bill which will be practically an agreed Bill. I do not want to throw down in the arena for public discussion and animosity at this particular moment, when we hope that things will be improved by cooperation between employer and employed, a Bill which will be a new cause of animosity between those two sides 1569 upon whose joint action alone the success of our industry must and does depend. I hope, therefore, that, when full discussions take place, it may practically be, in its essentials at all events, an agreed Measure in the early part of next Session. I conclude by saying that if I can, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Exchange Division (Sir L. Scott) said, add my name to the long list of Tory statesmen who have brought in and earned Factory Bills, and carried out the tradition of our party in that respect, it will be the proudest day in my life.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
If all the dangers arise from reiteration, I fear that I must in my first word add to what has already been said by speakers on both sides of the House in order to pay a compliment to the hon. Lady for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) for the excellent speech in which she introduced this Bill to the House. Though I have been too long in the House not to know that I am asking for what is almost impossible, I can only wish that every Member of both sides of the House, who will take part in the division this afternoon, had been present to hear her very clear and lucid statement on this important Bill. We have listened to a very important speech from the Home Secretary. He has treated the House to a very brief description of some of the points that he proposes to include in the Bill that he intends to introduce later in the Session for the purposes of circulation and discussion. In his speech he made one remark on this point to which I should like to call his attention. He said that he would introduce this Bill this Session for the purposes of discussion and he would re-introduce the Bill early next Session with any Amendments agreed upon by his colleagues in the Cabinet. He did not refer to one expression contained in the Amendment, to which I attach considerable importance. After the excellent statement of the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division (Sir L. Scott) as the Tory champion of private enterprise, I am a little alarmed at one point in the Amendment, which, I understand, the right hon. Gentleman is going to ask the House to accept, and that is that the Bill which is to be introduced has to be discussed, after it has been introduced, with those who are affected.
1570 Here I see a very positive danger. The Bill is to be introduced, then conferences have to be held between those in the different industries who are affected, and who may feel that their interests are endangered by the amendments to the law, which the right hon. Gentleman will propose. It is just possible that some of the reforms to which he has referred may be vitiated and destroyed as the result of the conferences which take place. I want to know if the Bill to be introduced shortly is going to be exposed to the danger of bargaining in this direction in order that some of its most effective provisions may be mutilated?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The Amendment is "for the purposes of circulation and discussion." It is very important that non-party Bills should be submitted for consideration and discussion. If any employers or employ½s come to me and say, "We should like to amend such and such a point," am I to decline to consider it? I can tell the right hon. Gentleman, if he does not know, that I have been invited by the trade union leaders to go to Lancashire in the Recess to sec for myself the condition of factories there, and to discuss the position with the leading workmen. I have promised to do that, and if I find there are considerations and suggestions which cause me to make the Bill, from the Labour point of view, better, I shall do it.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
The statement of the right hon. Gentleman, I think, makes my interrogation all the more applicable, especially after what he has just said about his visit to Lancashire, where, I have no doubt, they will treat him as well as they treated me. We had a very good time. Both the employers and the trade union representatives joined together, placed their services at my disposal and I was very much interested and informed as the result of the visit that I paid to Lancashire. But that makes the point I have just put all the more important. The provisions in the Bill which affect the textile industry of Lancashire were put in as the result of inquiries held arising out of that visit. Therefore, I am—and, I think, very properly—a little bit 1571 jealous that there should be any watering down of these provisions that have been very largely the subject of conference and the subject of agreement.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
That is a very nice debating point. The right hon. Gentleman need not to have asked the question, because I have already said I hoped they would treat him as well as they treated me, and, therefore, there is nothing in the point he is raising. But may I make this point with regard to the right hon. Gentleman's speech? He opened by saying "ditto" to the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough, but he cannot maintain his ditto if the Amendment that is going to be voted on to-day is accepted, and, as a result of discussions and negotiations with those who may be affected, he makes such changes in the Bill as would vitiate the complimentary statement he made with regard to the hon. lady's speech.
§ Sir L. SCOTT
May I say what I had in mind in that phrase in the Amendment? It is essential that that process may lead to information and facts being put at the disposal of the Home Secretary which otherwise might not come forward until the Bill got into Committee of the House of Commons, and so give more opportunity for consideration to he given to the information.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I venture to claim that no Bill during the 23 years I have been a member of this House has been introduced by anyone that was the subject of more negotiations, or based upon more inquiries than the Bill for which the hon. Lady has made herself responsible to-day. I rather thought the right hon. Gentleman in one reference that he made seemed to feel that his intentions were somewhat doubted—that he did not yet feel he had the confidence of all of us as far as his intentions with regard to this Bill are concerned. I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman in all kindliness, that if there be a lack of confidence in any part of this House, if there be a lack of confidence on the part of any trade union or anyone outside the House interested in Factory law reform, then, I think, I shall be able to show before I sit down that his 1572 own statements during the last two years are directly responsible for creating that position.
The speech of the Mover was so clear, that I think it is quite unnecessary for me to cover the ground that she has already traversed. I will, however, emphasise the point she made very early in her speech. I would like all Members, even those who are going to vote for this Amendment to-day, to realise that we have been now for a quarter of a century without any serious amendment of the factory laws. If that be not justification for our using all the force of which we are capable, and all the opportunities at our disposal to press this matter home, there can be no justification for any Opposition taking any course whatever. This makes the Amendment standing on the Order Paper all the more surprising, because it means further delay. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] I beg pardon; it does mean further delay, and, as I will show, there has already been created in the country a considerable amount of disappointment because of definite statements made as to when the present Government's Bill would be introduced. I will show that before I resume my seat.
May I say what it was that influenced me in trying to get to grips with this great question of factory law reform? First of all, it was brought home to me, immediately I went to the Home Office, that there was a very pressing need for codifying the various Statutes, and rendering them more intelligible, both to employers and employed. Hence there was no dispute, I think, among any of the permanent officials as to the urgent, imperative need for a Measure of consolidation. In fact, I might remind the House—because it is a point of interest—that the only objection taken by right hon. Gentlemen now occupying the Government Front Bench when they were sitting here to my Bill was that it should have been exclusively a consolidating Measure; and they actually put forward the suggestion from these benches that the Measure should be divided into two, and proceeded with by two different stages, one a consolidation Measure and the other an amending Bill. I took up the line that if the Bill had ever come to a Second Reading I should have tried to show that we could make no greater mistake than to begin 1573 consolidating, and then amending, Surely hon. and legal gentlemen opposite would not have agreed to such a course as that that we should consolidate the law as it is now and then actually proceed to amend the law after completing our consolidation! That is the reason why the matter has been dealt with as it has in this very comprehensive Bill.
The second reason why the Government of 1924 proceeded with such a comprehensive Measure was because of the need of remedying or removing the revealed defects in the existing law. All who follow these questions will not have failed to recognise, as a result of the years of war and as a result of the experiences that workmen have passed through, and also because of the promised reconstruction, that new experiences and new movements operated in a short period to a much greater extent than ever before, I believe, in our industrial history. These new movements had, I say, a great stimulus during those years, and rendered it all the more essential that factory law should be seriously amended. Therefore, the primary purpose of this Bill is to consolidate all the existing enactments dealing with industrial employment in factories and workshops.
The question of consolidation could not, as I have already suggested, stand by itself, so that the second object of the Bill is to effect such Amendments as are essential to consolidation and also the structure; to strengthen existing provisions, and to make factory law more effective and more applicable to current conditions of productive employment. I think we can claim that the Measure represents an effort to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the industrial community. I think we can claim—and those that follow industrial matters must know—that ever since the War—in fact, from before the War, since, I think, I first entered this House—there has been agitation going on in favour of an amendment of the factory law. As has been pointed out by the hon. and learned Member opposite, even some of the employers realise that their own interests are protected by some strengthening of the law. The lesson is slowly but surely being learnt that the efficiency of the worker and the productivity of our industries depend upon working conditions being made as highly humanised as they possibly can be.
1574 This Bill consists of 14 parts. These relates to the health, safety, welfare of the worker, to unemployment, piecework rates, etc. A comparison of this Bill with the great Consolidation Bill of 1878 is full of interest. In that Act, which consisted of 107 Clauses, seven only were concerned with the safety of the worker. About the same number were concerned with health provisions. The bulk of the Act was taken up with pro visions that limited the legal hours of employment. In this Bill the health, safety, and welfare provisions account for more than 70 Clauses. I think that is a most remarkable advance. This is the most drastic and the most comprehensive attempt to put into provisions in an Act of Parliament all those things which are essential to safety, health, and human welfare that has ever been attempted in this country. Then there is the hours of employment provision, to which I gather from the right hon. Gentleman there is still some doubt as to the policy which the Government is going to pursue. Therefore we shall wait and see what their Bill actually does provide. In this Bill the hours of employment are only affected by more than 20 Clauses. That is all I propose to say in regard to the Bill.
I want to come to the Amendment. After all, it seems to me a remarkable Amendment having regard to the circumstances and the history of this question. The first thing I should like to say against the Amendment is that it is a pity the promoters of this Amendment do not really understand the history of this Measure. A great deal has been said today about it being a Conservative Measure. I want most emphatically to challenge that. The preparations for this Bill were begun by Mr. McKenna. They were carried on by Mr. Shortt. When I went to the Home Office—
§ Mr. SKELTON
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me. If he is going to give a chronological account, why leave out the present First Lord of the Admiralty?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
You are already very progressive in some things, but you cannot wait until my sentence is completed!
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I hope all my colleagues will remember that. I have been long enough in this House to know that if I break the rules Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will keep me in order. The hon. Gentleman might have waited till I finished my sentence. I will begin over again. The preparations for this Bill were begun under Mr. McKenna. They were carried on under Mr. Shortt. When I went to the Home Office I found a draft Bill. I approached the First Lord. Now the hon. Gentleman wants to know a little bit of secret history! I approached the present First Lord, and he told me he had never troubled with the Bill; he had not submitted it to the Cabinet, and that he would take no responsibility for it. I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has dragged that from me.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I went to see him because I wanted to give him credit for it, as I have given it to Mr. McKenna and Mr. Shortt.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I have not given the First Lord notice, nor did I think it necessary. I have not given Mr. McKenna notice. I have not given Mr. Shortt notice. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they do not want these conversations, should not interrupt, and ask me whether or not I did something or other.
§ Mr. BLUNDELL
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he says that this information was dragged from him by my hon. Friends, what it was he intended to say when he began the words: "When I went to the Home Office"?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
What I intended to say was, "I found a draft Bill at the Home Office," and to leave it there. If hon. Members had not dragged it out of me I would not have mentioned what I have. I hope they will be a little more cautious next time. I think what has 1576 taken place to-day shows that there has been a tremendous advance in opinion on both sides of the House with regard to factory legislation. At the beginning factory legislation was merely preventive. I think this Bill, as well as the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—I will give him all credit—show that both his intention and our intention is that in the future factory legislation shall not only be preventive, but constructive. As history shows, we began by the repression of excesses, but factory legislation has now grown to be a great body of positive enactments of equal value to both employers and employed.
Those responsible for the Amendment admit the need for both consolidation and amendment of the factory laws. But I am sorry to say they only desire a Bill to be introduced, even at this late stage, for circulation and discussion. Factory reformers ought to have been bringing the greatest possible pressure to bear upon the Government not to delay but to get on with the Bill with all the expedition possible. May I call the attention of some hon. Members opposite to this fact, that in the King's Speech of 1924, which was more like an election manifesto than any King's Speech I have seen in 20 odd years, which was presented to Parliament when it was a case of life and death with the then Conservative Ministry, contained a list of Measures amongst which was a Bill to Amend and Consolidate the Factory and Workshops Act. That is not all. There are Members on the Government Benches who, at the end of that year 1924, not only included this question in their election addresses when they went to the country but claimed—I know of one case where it was actually claimed on the platform—that the Bill that I had introduced was the Conservative Bill. The Home Secretary himself is not quite free from responsibility in this matter. Replying to at least one deputation in 1925, he promised that his Bill to Amend and Consolidate the existing Factory and Workshops Act would certainly be introduced in that Session. The year 1926 has gone, 1926 is going, and nothing is now to be done till 1927. That is the position in which we are landed. This is expeditious reform by the Government opposite! After two years of delay, an Amendment is submitted to us asking and en- 1577 couraging the Government to pursue their policy of delay and vacillation on one of the greatest human questions that could receive the attention of the House of Commons.
This Amendment, which represents, I believe, the views of people who claim to be factory reformers, raises the objection to the Bill of the hon. Lady that it is a private Member's Bill, and is too important and too far-reaching for any private Member to take responsibility for it. There is a great deal of force in that contention, but I claim, as the hon. Lady clamed, that if ever there was a case for making an exception to that rule it is this Bill. I think I can say that this is a Bill for which a Government made themselves unanimously responsible—it has not been altered, I think, by a single comma—and if a Bill for which a Government have made themselves responsible and which has not been altered in the slightest degree, and which has been the subject of numerous conferences and inquiries, ought not to be an exception to the rule against private Members' undertaking heavy legislative responsibilities, then I do not understand the position. As I have shown by my enumeration of the names of those who were responsible for its drafting, we have done all we possibly could to prevent this being made a party Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary rather took that line. He hoped it would not be made a party question. I am going to show now that if there has been any attempt to make it a party question the responsibility does not rest with us on these benches. All the Committees that have inquired into any provisions that arc in this Bill have been appointed by either a Liberal Government, a Unionist Government or a Coalition Government, and we have come here and given the names of those who were prepared to share in the responsibility or to share in the credit, if it be credit. We keep as far away as possible from making it a party question. Therefore, it is difficult to understand the reluctance of the Government to proceed, as the right hon. Gentleman said they would proceed, in 1925, and their reluctance to proceed in 1926, and the fact that even now they only hold out a prospect of some sort of Bill being presented to us in the year 1927.
1578 I said a moment ago that the Home Secretary was not free from blame in making this a party question May I remind him of what he said to one deputation:He said he was opposed to what he called the Henderson Bill. He said he loathed Socialism and would bring in a Bill of his own, and not that of a Socialist predecessor.The point I make is that if that be right, why should he come here to-day and talk to us about making it a non-party question? If the right hon. Gentleman had proceeded on the lines that his predecessor and the Government preceding this Government did, there would have been no need to talk about loathing Socialism, no need to talk about bringing in a Bill different from that for which his Socialist predecessor had made himself responsible. There is no Socialism about the question at all. We can all be human, surely, whatever our economic point of view may be, and whether we are Socialist or anti-Socialist. I do not mind saying that that is the line that the Government of which I was a member, and that I myself, tried to follow, and I am very sorry that I have been compelled to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to his serious departure from that position. All of us ought to be out to protect the health and the safety of factory workers; that principle was recognised in days gone by by all political parties. It is question of human welfare, and those who champion the existing system in organised industry, as the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division did, ought to he the first to insist upon private enterprise discharging its obligations to the full. It does not matter to them whether it is this year, next year or the following year.
§ Sir L. SCOTT
Does the right hon. Gentleman think it is practical politics to attempt to pass the Bill this year?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
If the hon. and learned Member puts that question seriously to me I say "Yes." This Bill could be in Committee in a, fortnight, and we could spend the time right up to what will probably be an Autumn Session in going through the Committee stage. If we had a measure of agreement in regard to it, and a proper spirit prevailing, the Bill could be made law this year. 1579 Of course I understand that other parties who have prepared a similar Bill do not want us to get credit for this Measure.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Does the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool suggest that this is not a better Bill than the Economy Bill?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I was rather glad to hear the Home Secretary speak about strengthening the factory department. I took up the position that it was no use having an inquiry into the question of strengthening the factory department until we knew the full measure of the law that had to be administered, and I take up that position now. Therefore, I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement that he is prepared to follow on those lines, but I would like to know if he intends to set up a Committee to inquire into the system of factory administration, and the appointment of inspectors in order to satisfy himself that we have the best machinery for administering the law, whether it be contained in this Bill or the one which the Home Secretary is going to make himself responsible for. I think that is one of the advantages we lose by the delay. Accidents are still very serious, although I do not say that they are increasing. I think, however, that we want more inspectors, and I am convinced that we want another class of inspector in addition to what we have. If we had been in office we should have appointed a Committee to find some way of strengthening the administrative machinery.
I feel very strongly on this question of factory reforms and administration. I do not say this merely because I am a politician, but perhaps many hon. Members of this House do not know that for nearly 20 years I worked amongst broken chains and molten metal. There is no branch of industry that requires more protection than the workers in our iron and steel foundries. With all the advantages provided in recent years it is simply shameful that people should be exposed to the conditions under which many of our moulders have to work to-day. Having been their representative for 23 years, and having been associated with them for 43 years, I speak not only with much feeling, but with experience on this very important question. I 1580 regret that it is not going to be possible for us to deal with this question at once, and the very small attendance of Members during this Debate is a sufficient indication to me of what is going to happen. The Government Whips will be put on, the Amendment will be carried, and afterwards, when appeals are made to the Government they will say the House of Commons rejected this Measure and we shall only continue to "talkee, talkee, talkee" during 1926, and then we are told we may seriously begin business on this question in 1927. I regret that so much party feeling has been introduced into the discussion, and I sincerely wish that we had been able to come to such agreement as would have enabled us to make this a non-party Measure in order to get it through as expeditiously as possible.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
What the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down stated with regard to the First Lord of the Admiralty took me very much by surprise. At the present moment the First Lord is on his way to Gibraltar. I say nothing about the private conversation to which the right hon. gentleman opposite alluded, but I think it right to say that in regard to the Bill of my predecessor which I found at the Home Office, my staff inform me that they spent many hours in conversations and discussions about this Bill with the First Lord when he was Home Secretary, and I know myself that my right hon. friend had prepared a memorandum for his colleagues in the Cabinet. I have a distinct recollection of seeing that, and I think it is only fair that I should make that statement.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I have no means of knowing anything that took place in the private conversation which has been referred to.
May I point out to you Mr. Speaker, that the right hon. Gentleman who is going to address the House was not present when the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Second Reading of this Bill were made?
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
With regard to what has been said by the hon. Member who has interrupted me, I may say that I have been serving on a Committee this morning, and that is the reason why I was not able to be present at the beginning of this Debate. Along with some other of my colleagues we have been sitting on the Committee of Privileges, and, therefore, I am under no reproach whatever in regard to this matter. All I would suggest is that hon. Members should not imitate the behaviour of some who have spoken, and who have tried to turn a discussion on a very serious subject into a miserable party wrangle. From an inside knowledge of the Home Office I happen to be pretty intimate with this matter, because when I was head of the Home Office during the time of the War the introduction of a Bill of this sort was unfortunately impossible, but I feel sure that I am stating what was recognised every where inside the Department at that time when I say that the time for the consolidation and amendment of the Factory law has come, I entirely agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said on this point, but he is not quite accurate in stating that the law stands now as it did in 1901. In that case there would be no need for consolidation.
Since the year 1901 a number of changes have been made. The change, for example, which brought laundries under the Act; the change which dealt with the special dangers of the match trade, the white phosphorus trade; the change which improved the law in relation to cotton factories; the change which improved the law in relation to the employment of women; and the change which improved the law in relation to lead poisoning. It is not the fact that nothing has been done by Parliament since 1901, but it is the fact that, as a result of considerable minor changes, the law at present is the most complicated and inconvenient bundle, and it is also equally true that the whole standard of public opinion, instructed and sympathetic public opinion, in regard to the factory law has been improved, so that a Bill which not only consolidates but improves the law is most grievously overdue. I am not going to take any part in this wretched party wrangle as to whose is the credit or whose is not the credit. I am sure that everybody who cares about it—and I know that the right hon. Gentle- 1582 man who has just spoken cares very considerably—would regret if it should be made a party question. I know, from my own knowledge when I went to the Home Office, that it is quite true that my immediate predecessor, Mr. McKenna, had already been making very considerable efforts in this direction, and I will not otherwise refer to the matter at all.
The point, as it seems to me is this: There has, in fact, been not only a delay, partly to be explained, perhaps, by the War, but there has also been a very great change in expert knowledge and in public understanding of the reasons why the factory law needs to be improved. Let me give one example. I remember very well it occurring when I was Home Secretary. Sir George Newman, a most distinguished authority, made a special study of the subject of what is called industrial fatigue. It was one of the inquiries which arose especially in connection with the War, when very large numbers of women were employed in the munition factories, and, of course, were employed under conditions when rapid production was very much desired. There was then an opportunity that had never arisen before of making a really scientific study of the very difficult subject of industrial fatigue, namely: If you put a woman on to do a piece of work which involves constant and repeated action in a limited field, doing a particular thing with a particular machine, what are the conditions under which there begins to operate industrial fatigue, in the sense that, though she has done it so often, presently she will make a mistake and perhaps damage herself or the machine, or the factory? Is it, the case, as with many people when they start to play a game of golf, that you play worse when you begin, or is it that you fall away half way through, or is it that you are at your worst after doing it some time? That was a most important industrial problem which had never been properly tackled until the War. There is now—I know it from my own knowledge, and I am sure that my two right hon. Friends on the Front Benches will confirm it—a great deal of information about that which bears directly upon the question of what ought to be the spells of a woman's labour and the extent to which you should give liberty to shift or alter the total number of permitted hours in a factory.
1583 I merely give that as one illustration to show that there is now available for the purposes of wise legislation a great deal of material that, as a matter of fact, was not available to those who drew up the Act of 1901. That unquestionably could be illustrated by many other cases. I merely give that one illustration, because, I think, the House of Commons wants to get away from this wretched wrangle on party lines, and to realise that the urgent thing is this: What harm is going to be done if the hon. Member who moved this Bill gets a Second Reading to-day? What harm is going to he done? The hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division, the former Solicitor-General (Sir L. Scott) made in many respects a most admirable speech, and in regard to parts of it I sympathise with him, but I fail to understand from the hon. and learned Gentleman what harm can be done to the cause for which he speaks by giving this Bill a Second Reading. He was so hard put to it to find an excuse that he warned the party above the gangway in this way: "Let me point out to you that, if you will only agree to the view I am presenting, why then you will be able to get a Parliamentary bargain out of the Home Secretary that will be worth a great deal more than the Second Reading of this Bill." Will it? Is the Home Secretary up to auction on these terms? Are we to be told that, if only we behave ourselves and do not try to carry the Second Reading of this Bill to-day, we will be treated better by the Government? I do not understand the argument. If it could be said that the giving of this Bill a Second Reading was going to delay the reform of factory law by an hour, why then the argument would be overwhelming, but nobody suggests such a thing. This is not a subject, or it ought not to be a subject, for striking a Parliamentary bargain by promising us that if we are good boys to-day we shall get something that we should like next year.
The question is simply a question whether the House of Commons, on a Friday afternoon, can, at four o'clock, bring itself to carry the Second Reading of this Bill. Speaking from my own Parliamentary experience, I quite agree that the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) has produced, for a private Bill, a very big one and a very long one. I entirely agree. It is the 1584 courage which, no doubt, is part of her nature, though I think her justification in the circumstances is very easy to find. But, after all, if we are going to refuse to give a Second Reading to this Bill because it is too big for a Friday afternoon, that, I apprehend, is a matter which would properly arise supposing indeed any effort were made on the benches opposite to prevent us getting a vote at four o'clock, and, on that, someone moved the Closure and the Closure were refused. But if the House of Commons, at four o'clock, wishes to come to a decision, then, unless the Chair refuses to put the Closure, there cannot be any ground at all why there should not be a vote, unless there are too many people who do not want a vote of this sort.
It seems to me that the people who are really interested in this reform and who arc to be found in all parts of the House—I am not seeking to withhold or to bestow credit in any quarter—have had no reason given to them at all why this Bill should not have a Second Reading. If this Bill gets a Second Reading to-day, it will go, I presume, to a Standing Committee. There are very few subjects upon which the Members of a Standing Committee could more profitably use their time, if necessary for the rest of this year, than in learning in some detail the reasons for or against a great number of these Clauses. I recall my own experience perfectly well. I went to the Home Office full of all sorts of good intentions, and I found myself as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman did, faced with a mass of technical, detailed, expert knowledge which I thought I should never be able to get even a nodding acquaintance with, because the Factory Department of the Home Office is one of the very best staffed Departments in the world, and it takes one weeks and months really to get a grip of a great many of these things. I should have thought that it was all to the good that Members of the House of Commons should have a full opportunity this year of understanding as far as we can the pros and cons of a great number of difficult, controversial, technical points which ought to be dealt with by factory legislation.
What advantage is gained? How is anybody helped by postponing the moment when that process of self- 1585 education begins? I cannot see any advantage It seems to me that if, at this comparatively early period in the year, it were possible to put this Bill through the examination of a Standing Committee upstairs, then, even if it did not become law this year, at any rate the way would be prepared in a very practical fashion for the rapid and effective treatment of the Home Secretary's Bill as soon as it appears. Therefore, not being able to see any reason why the Bill should not be given a Second Reading—I am not going to suggest that there is anyone here who wants to postpone it for any reason—there being no reason why it should not be carried, I invite whoever is going to speak on the other side to tell us what is supposed to be the ground upon which this Amendment should be preferred to the Motion for Second Reading. I can see none. The hon. Lady who moved the Bill is at least entitled to this congratulation. I very much regret that I was not able to hear her speech, though, as I have pointed out to the House, that was through no fault of mine; I was doing business on the order of the House at the very moment when she made her speech. I would point out that the hon. Lady has this great satisfaction, that she has got from the Home Secretary a declaration as to the Government's intentions much more definite and precise than any such declaration that has hitherto been made.
So far so good; but that is no reason at all, as far as I can see, why we should not take advantage of the proposal before the House this afternoon, and give this Bill a Second Reading. If we do not, let it be clearly understood that those who resist the Second Reading of this Bill to-day must justify, to themselves and their own consciences, their resistance. It cannot be because we are doing any injury to the reform of factory law. The intentions of the Government are not going to be withdrawn or made any worse because of the conduct of the House of Commons this afternoon. It cannot be that it is going to put any difficulty or obstacle in anybody's way; on the contrary, it is going to enable, at any rate, the members of a Standing Committee to be in a position to deal, promptly and now, with many questions that are involved in this Bill. It appears to me, therefore, that the argu- 1586 ments for giving this Bill a Second Reading are, in the circumstances, overwhelming.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Major SALMON
I should like to say, as one who has some experience of factories, that generally a decent employer is only too pleased to see that all the amenities necessary for the workers should be provided; but, in considering this Bill, it is, I venture to think, important to bear in mind three points. First of all, it is suggested in the Bill that unlimited powers should be given to the Home Office. I think it would be a very serious thing if this House were to permit the Home Office to prescribe any Orders that they might desire to prescribe arising from the Bill as now drafted. I think it would do an enormous amount of damage to industry generally, and, if it did damage to industry, it would, obviously, do damage to the employés. It is suggested in one Clause of the Bill that the cubic contents of a factory should be 400 feet per person instead of, as now, 250 feet. This particular Clause affects more especially the smaller factories. Do the advocates of this Clause really realise how many persons it would throw out of employment? It would throw persons out of employment because in this country there must be thousands of small factories which it would not be possible to extend to meet the requirements of this Measure, and, consequently, the only alteration possible would be a decrease in the number of employés. That is multiplied many times when one goes through the Bill in detail. It will be found that no provision is made that, say, new buildings that are going to be erected should be erected of a particular size, but existing small factories are required to make provision, as regards lavatory or sanitary accommodation, of four times the amount that they do at the present moment. No regard has been paid, in considering this proposition, to the possibility of carrying out the suggestion in practice, and no provision is made in the Bill for any appeal against any of the requirements that the Home Office may prescribe in the future.
I suggest that the Home Secretary, when he is considering the Bill that he is going himself to bring before the House, should take into consideration these facts. 1587 While everyone must admit that every thing reasonably possible should be done to make the surroundings of the workers proper and decent—I quite agree with that; I think it is a thing that should be done, and up-to-date factories to-day, of course, are in a much better position to meet the requirements, and in many cases have anticipated more than the requirements that this Bill provides—we cannot legislate merely for the few, but have to consider the country as a whole. What effect will such drastic suggestions as are proposed in this Bill have upon industry? If they have a bad effect upon industry, that, obviously, will reflect again on the people who will be thrown out of work, because the only way in which a large number of factories could comply with the regulations would be by reducing their staffs, since they could not increase the size of their buildings. Then they would be placed in the position of having an uneconomic unit with which to work, and, therefore, we should see in the near future, the unemployment figures being whatever they may be—
On a point of Order. Is the, hon. and gallant Gentleman allowed to address the House when he is not inside it?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
I did not notice that the hon. and gallant Member had moved from his place.
§ Major SALMON
I was about to say that I feel that, when an important Measure such as this is proposed, it would be very interesting if those who are responsible for it could give us some idea as to how many factories would have to reduce the numbers of the staffs that they are employing, through carrying out the regulation which would prescribe that in future the number of cubic feet per person should be 400 instead of, as now, 250—and how many persons would be discharged because the buildings themselves would not permit of any enlargement. On the other hand, is this the time for huge expenditure on the part of small manufacturers for the purpose of increasing the size of their factories? Again, the Clause that deals with increased washing accommodation provides that there should be accommodation for one in ten. At the moment it is one in 25. Did the 1588 framers of that Clause realise that there are only certain practical positions where you could increase that accommodation? Again, if you are going to comply with it it will mean reducing the staff, otherwise you will be subjected to the penalties the Bill proposes. I think the suggestion of the Home Secretary is a very sound one that the Government themselves should produce a Bill and that everyone should have an opportunity of carefully considering their proposal, and if it can be shown that any of their recommendations would seriously affect, not a particular business but industry as a whole—after all we have to approach the subject not from the point of view of the individual but in a big broad spirit, and I am sure the employers are as anxious as anyone sitting opposite to see that workshops and factories should be all that can be desired. There is no doubt that the more up-to-date a factory is, the greater production is obtained from it. The cheapening of production can best be obtained by a modern factory erected in decent surroundings and built in the most up-to-date manner, but we have to face the difficulty that there are many factories, employing many thousands of people, which have been built for many years. How can they meet the requirements that are proposed?
Private industry has made enormous strides in welfare, but it is proposed by the Bill that for the future the system should be entirely altered and that it should be necessary, if you go in for welfare, that the staff themselves should manage everything in that connection. That is likely to cause an enormous amount of jealousy within the works, in addition to which it is not likely to be an incentive to those who have not yet started developing welfare schemes on any large scale. I believe it is essential for industry to give serious attention to welfare, but I do not think the methods proposed in the Clause are such as would be an inducement for employers to go in for welfare work. When dealing with the welfare section of his Bill the Home Secretary would do well to bear that in mind. As far as industry is concerned, and speaking for those I am associated with, they would welcome a reasonable Bill for the improvement of conditions generally, but we should bear in mind that we are at a time in the country's history when 1589 industry is none too prosperous. It is certainly slightly better than it was some little time ago, but if you are going to put burdens upon it at this juncture are you not likely to do a great deal more harm than good by rushing? I quite agree that it should be reviewed as soon as possible, but we must have regard to the time in which that improvement is asked to be put in hand, I hope those who really have at heart a reform of factory law will support the Amendment, because I believe it will be the best and the most practical way of getting that reform put in hand at the earliest reasonable time.
I have just heard a speech that I heard about 40 years since. An employer says, "If you make me do this you will make me shut the place up. I cannot do it." But other people in business do it. The Bill is only asking for what the best employers are doing to-day. In one factory you get heat in the morning before work starts and as soon as you get inside you feel comfortable, but go to another factory next door and you will not find warmth because the employer is not prepared to pay for a few more coals being burned. That is all it means. They can do it if they will, but they will not do it unless the law makes them, and I hope and trust the law will make them. I should be prepared to support the Amendment if the Government would accept this Bill. What are we waiting for another Bill for? This Bill is good enough for us and a lot of time has been spent on it. For nearly 12 months employers and workers in Lancashire in the cotton industry have met and met and met. A conference was held in Manchester, inspectors, surgeons and research people were invited to come from the Home Office, and we discussed the whole matter, with the Lord Mayor of Manchester in the Chair, to see if we could arrive at something, but employers and workers will never arrive at anything. It is impossible. We did not arrive at very much and there was a lot of time wasted. Employers present at that meeting in my own trade agreed with the point we were putting, that there should be a certain standard of warmth before a man should be expected to work. One employer agreed, but his colleagues said, "We cannot have that put in the 1590 Bill. We do not want anything put in the Bill that is going to be a standard we should be compelled to follow." They said the same in regard to the weaving sheds, and they said the same with regard to the 48 hours week. They do not object to the 48 hours. They have given it to us, but they want to be able to run 60 hours. We object to that.
I want to see a provision passed whereby municipalities will have power to examine buildings. We had a case in Yorkshire recently of a building falling in because too heavy machinery was installed. It ought to be the law that municipalities should be entitled to examine these places at least once a year. If you want to prevent serious accidents that is one of the best ways to do it. The question of temperature is important. I have often had to get inspectors to look at some of our workshops and factories. When they went to the mill they were wearing a big top coat, and they said "There is not much to grumble about." Certainly not, because they had gone out of a cold place into a room which was warmer than outside, and they were muffled up in a coat. The man who has to sit down to do his work, with his jacket off, feels when the room is cold. He has to depend upon the amount of work he can do for his wages, and he cannot work his best if comfortable surroundings are mot there for him.
I wish to deal with the question of heavy weight lifting. The Association for Equal Citizenship have written asking what restrictions we are going to put upon females in respect to this question of heavy weights. We have 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. of females in the textile industry, and they wish this provision to be made regarding the lifting of heavy weights. I would sooner see the Bill defeated than I would see the present position maintained, where women, girls and young persons have to carry heavy weights. It is shocking to see them carrying some of the heavy pieces. That can be prevented. It is prevented in some of the mills by simply providing a trolley which runs along and carries the pieces into the warehouse. That is as it ought to be. We are not trying to do any harm to the women; we are studying their interests. Very many of our members are 1591 affected detrimentally by the present conditions, and I say that it is a shame. I can recall one case which occurred in Chorley where a girl was expected to lift 150 lbs. weight. In so doing she strained herself, and that girl of 20 years of age will never be any use again.
What do hon. Members think of these conditions for prospective mothers? I would ask all the fathers whose daughters are concerned in this class of work whether they are prepared to tolerate this state of things any longer for their daughters. I am not prepared to tolerate it either for my daughters or my grand-children. It is for these reasons that we are seeking to prevent heavy weight lifting. Protection is also required for the men, and it is provided in some of the best mills, where they have a runaway which will take weights from 200 to 300 lbs. The best employers provide this means of transport, but others are not prepared to do so because of the expense. There are far more accidents than are ever heard of, and there are far more ruptures than ever come to light, because of heavy weight lifting.
Why cannot the movers of the Amendment say that they would accept the Bill, and put it into the hands of the Government? In that case, if the Government promised to go on with it, there would be no trouble in regard to its passage into law. I was at the meeting which has been referred to by the right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson), and I felt disgusted to think that this question should be made one as to whether a Socialist Home Secretary or somebody else should be prepared to get on with the Bill. What we want is the protection of the employés, apart altogether from the question of party. Provision is made in the Bill with respect to, fines and deductions, which mean reductions in wages. This has been a grievance for a very long time. The weaver is fined for bad work. In the first instance, the weaver receives bad work in the materials, and she cannot make good out of bad. Nevertheless, she is fined because her work is said to be bad. It may be that the weaver herself does not see the flaws which she is supposed to have made in her work, because the cloth may go away to Manchester, and a letter may be received from there complaining of the work. Then the matter comes up 1592 at the mill, and the weaver may be told that she will be fined one shilling. The system of fines and deductions is not carried on throughout the industry, because the good employers will not do it. They do not believe in it. The weavers as a class suffer more than any others as a result of having to take on the bad work of other people, and because they cannot make good out of it they are fined. I hope that we shall stand by the provision with respect to the abolition of fines and deductions very strictly.
I wish the Home Secretary would pay special attention to the question of dust in the carding rooms. I understand that some attempt is being made to settle that matter. It can be settled. It does not prevail in some of the mills, because the firms have abolished it. Of course, it costs a little money to the employers. We are told that because it is a question of expense it cannot be done. Seeing that this danger to health can be abolished, we ought to compel every employer to take steps to prevent that which is an injury to health, and also to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent injuries. A question of money ought not to stand in the way. We ought to be perfectly candid and say that these reforms must be incorporated in a new Factory Bill. It is not a question of consolidation. I hope it is going to be an amending Bill, which will be satisfactory to those who work in the mills, and also to the industry.
The delay that has taken place is very disappointing. We were told in 1925 by the Home Secretary that he was going to bring in a Bill; but we have not been able to get a satisfactory answer, because he could not tell us when he was going to bring in the Bill. He now tells us that he will bring it in in 1926. I agree with the right hon. Member for Burnley that the worst thing that the Home Secretary can do is to start a discussion of these things before he has satisfied himself about the conditions in the industry. I have pleasant memories of the discussions which took place with the right hon. Member for Burnley when he was Home Secretary. He came to Burnley, Blackburn, Preston and other centres to look at the mills and to satisfy himself before his Bill was prepared, as to the conditions under which the people 1593 have to work. Some of the conditions are intolerable. Take the case of a man who has to carry a weight of 240 lbs. on his shoulder. He has to pass over a floor which is wet from the humidity of the atmosphere, and oil is mixed with the water, until the floor is like a skating rink. A man comes along with a burden of 240 lbs. on his shoulder. How can he be expected to get along under those circumstances? There are dark passages. There ought to be a definite understanding in regard to the cleansing of the floors and the lighting of the dark passages. I do not care whether the floors are mopped or what is done, but they ought to be cleansed of the dirty slush. These things may seem somewhat foolish in the opinion of some people, but I would say to those people, "Go and work in the places yourselves, and you will find out the trouble."
I have spent all my life in the mills either working inside them or as an official, and I have met all the employers. Most of the employers, the decent employers, will do all the reasonable things for which we ask, but there are some employers who unless there is a law to compel them will not do necessary things. It is the same in other respects. We can get out a fixed price list, and there are many employers who never give any trouble, but there are others who all the time are trying to get out of the arrangement. We have some of the best employers in the textile industry that are to be found in this country, but we have some bad employers. I hope that this Bill will be carried to-day. Let it go to Committee. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). What is there to stop it from being sent to a Committee? The Government Bill will have to go to a Committee, but that will not go until 1927. We shall have lost another year. We expected the Bill in 1925. Our people are getting dissatisfied regarding the promises of this Government, and we are told not to expect anything further from them. I addressed a meeting of textile people at Manchester, and they said to me, "Do not press this Government; let us wait until we get another Labour Government in office. We shall never get anything from these so-called factory reformers." I hope that to-day this House will show 1594 that it is in earnest, and that we shall give a Second Reading to the Bill and let it go to a Committee.
§ Dr. VERNON DAVIES
I should like to add my congratulations to the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson), who so admirably introduced the Bill, and to say that I agree with a great deal of what she said. Members on both sides of the House recognise the need for this factory legislation. I regret that the hon. Member had a little dig, if one may so express it, at the certifying surgeons. I was for 20 years a certifying surgeon, and I hope the House will allow me to give this personal reminiscence. I had charge of over 30 mills, and I passed, on an average, 1,000 children every year. Therefore, I have a certain amount of experience of the working of the factories from a medical point of view. Although my experience is confined to the cotton trade, and I am not in a position, perhaps, to contradict the hon. Lady who, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, said that certified surgeons were no good in their examinations for fitness, because the doctor sat down, and as the children passed before him he said to one, "You will do," and to another, "You will not do," and that was the whole of the medical examination—while that may be true in a few cases, it is not true in the majority of cases. I would draw attention to the fact that in 1924, according to the Chief Inspector's Report, there were more than 364,000 examinations for fitness and there were rejections in over 20,000 cases. It may be taken for granted that no child would be rejected for work in a mill without having been more or less properly examined. We can, therefore, take credit for the fact that 20,000 cases were at least moderately well examined by the certified surgeons. In the dangerous industries there were 284,000 cases examined and 356 rejections. The statement that certified surgeons do not do their work or do it very badly is perhaps not true of every certified surgeon.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I do not want the hon. Member to be under any misapprehension as to what I said. I did not intend to say that certified surgeons as a whole were a bad lot. I merely pointed 1595 out that there were abuses, and one legislates only for abuses and not for the good people.
§ Dr. DAVIES
I am very glad to have obtained that admission from the hon. Lady, because it will, I am sure, cause great satisfaction among certified surgeons to find that they are not all bad. I have no personal interest in these matters now, having left the profession; so, perhaps, I may be allowed to speak in an unbiased way with a view to the good of industry. We all recognise that factory legislation is primarily in the interests of the worker. It is the worker's health that we are out to look after, and all factory legislation is provided for the good of the worker. There are three parties concerned in this legislation—the State, the employer, and the worker. The State has a definite function to perform. It has to keep in touch with industrial research and hygiene, so as to be absolutely up to date and to see that the information gained is carried to the factory and put into action. It has also to try to keep a balance between the need of industrial research and innovations, and the power of the industry to bear those changes from the economic point of view. Above all, it has to see that there is an efficient system of inspection, that is, by factory inspectors—to whom I am pleased to add my testimony as an extremely able body of men—and of course by factory surgeons.
Factory legislation being concerned principally with the health of the people and the prevention of accidents, it seems to me that one of the most important servants of the State to carry out this legislation should be the factory surgeon. He has a knowledge of medical matters, of industrial hygiene, and of accidents. I regard the medical man, the certified surgeon, as the sheet anchor and the most important man in factory legislation, because he has to decide what is best for the worker. Yet we find that the Home Office—I say it with due respect—which exercises a very great amount of control over factory legislation does so without giving the fullest attention to the medical aspect of the case. We know that the Home Office has an extremely able medical staff of eminent men who are at the head of the profession, but we wonder sometimes 1596 whether the Home Secretary pays as much attention to the recommendations of his medical staff as he should do. It has been said that some certified surgeons have been incompetent and have neglected their work. I would draw attention to the fact that the present Chief Medical Inspector, who is an eminent man, spent the greater part of his official life, until the War, in attending to industrial diseases and poisoning. It was only just before the War that he devoted his attention to examinations for fitness. Since that time the work of the examination of children has improved tremendously in quality, and has kept on improving.
Provided that the certified surgeon gets proper encouragement, proper control and proper inspections, I have no fear that the factory medical service will reach a very high standard of efficiency. But we find in this Bill that the certified surgeon is put into an absolutely new category. Instead of being made centrally from headquarters, the appointment is to be made locally. Instead of having one certified surgeon you may have six or seven surgeons doing factory work, either at the instance of the Home Secretary or the local authority. The argument has been used that it is better that the factory health service should linked up with the local medical service. I dispute that statement. We all know that at the present time the position of a medical officer of health is largely a local appointment, made with the sanction of the Home Office; but it is within the knowledge of most Members that you can get two urban district councils close together, where the appointments are practically made locally without great regard for efficiency, and that in one urban district council area you find a medical officer who is keen at his work, who runs "welfares," sees that the sanitation is good, and brings his district council up to date, whereas in the next district council area you find things just the reverse.
That is a very great objection to local appointments. On the other hand you find that for many years the certified surgeon has been regarded as a Government officer. He has been recognised as such both by the employers and the work people. He has gone to the factory with a certain amount of independence, not subject to local influence, and the mill 1597 authorities have paid much more attention to his decisions than they would have done had he been appointed locally with the possibility of being dismissed through local intrigue or influence. We have to recognise that certain suggested improvements in factory legislation do not always meet with the approval of the employers. If they thought a man was going to be too officious and too anxious to bring things up to a high standard, they might be able to bring pressure to bear and, perhaps, in extreme cases, get rid of that man I do not think that would be wise, and I believe this alteration has been put into the new Bill— namely the substitution of appointed doctors for certifying surgeons—probably because of the report of the Committee on the Medical Examination of Young persons in Factory Employment instituted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson). On that Committee there was no medical man of actual experience in factory work. When the right hon. Gentleman was asked to include such a member, he replied to the Association of Certifying Surgeons that the Committee had already been formed after careful consideration and that such a gentleman could no, be added to the Committee. Only one doctor of practical experience in this work was called before the Committee to give evidence, and so we think that the members of the Committee had not that full knowledge of the case for the certifying surgeons which the circumstances warranted, and that if medical men accustomed to factory work had been on the Committee the report would have been different.
We should remember that modern factory legislation in Continental countries is proceeding on the lines of working from the top in the factory service, and of having everything standardised. The regulations come from headquarters, the standard of efficiency comes from headquarters, and the whole system is worked on definite lines, and in that way results are obtained which are for the good of industry and for the good of the people employed in industry. In the system here suggested that idea is impossible. If you have doctors appointed by the local authority it will be found that one local authority has certain ideas different from those of other local authorities. One may be keen on education, and may desire that young people should be kept under 1598 education up to the age of 18. Another may not be so keen on education and may be anxious that young persons should go to work at the age of 14. There will be no agreement between the different districts and uniformity will be impossible. The importance of this point to the workers is very great because if we are to have an efficient factory service worked on definite lines, we should have a sufficiency of medical inspectors—there are only two at present—to go all round the country to see that the certifying surgeons are all working on the same lines and to the same standard of efficiency. In that way you would get an admirable service with such wonderful effects on the workers and on industry that it would more than repay itself. I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that the International Labour Conference at Washington passed a certain Resolution to which the British Government subscribed. It was as follows:The general conference recommends that each member of the International Labour Organisation, which has not already done so, should establish as soon as possible not only a system of efficient factory inspection, but, also, in addition thereto, a Government service which would be charged with the duties of safeguarding the health of the workers, and which would keep in touch with the International Labour Office.It is a matter of surprise to me that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley should have made the suggestion which he did make, knowing of that Resolution, which undoubtedly would receive his support. I hope the Home Secretary in the promised Bill will give careful consideration to this question of the certifying factory surgeons, and as to whether or not the present system is best. I am not merely trying to uphold the system. No doubt there are some men who do not take their work as seriously as they should, but there has always been a large number of extremely conscientious and able certifying surgeons. I think it is essential for the good of industry and the good of the worker that this factory service should be worked from above and by Government officials under the Home Office and that standardisation throughout the country should be insisted upon. Medical men then would take an interest in what they have to do, to the benefit of all concerned.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
We have listened to an extremely interesting speech from an hon. Member who knows his subject, but I think his remarks have been slightly out of perspective. The important point is, "What does the Bill contain." The doctor, however valuable he may be, can only administer what is contained in the Act of Parliament. We must start with the Bill first and then try to fit in the medical service as well as we can afterwards. I am not one of those who would depreciate the services of medical men in industry. I think we are gradually coming to the point of view that the human being in industry is well worth study. We have spent a century studying how to make a machine run as nearly as possible without friction by the use of ball bearings and lubrication, and in other ways. We are just emerging to the point of view that we ought to have studied the human machine all the time, and considered how we can get it to work sweetly and with the minimum effort producing the maximum results. We have come to consider how, with the least possible physical fatigue, we can secure the greatest mental capacity and the greatest production, and we are just beginning to see that this is a wise thing to do. If discussions of the kind we have had to-day do nothing more than to teach us to think in terms of human beings, then they will not have been wasted.
We have to-day an interesting state of affairs. We have a Bill which, it is agreed, should not be treated on a party basis, but because it happens to be a big Bill, we are asked to adjourn it indefinitely on the ground that it is too big for a private Member. Is that argument sound? Every Member in the last House knew what the proposals of the then Bill were, and I think every Member here knows the present proposals. It is no secret. The Bill is the result of years of work, and embodies provisions with which almost everybody is in agreement. Industry has been promised a Bill of this kind since 1924. Reference has been made to the statement of the present Home Secretary of his intention to introduce a Bill in 1925. Now, a statement is made which I can only interpret as meaning that this matter will not be dealt with until 1927. I think that is entirely wrong, in reference to provisions 90 per cent. of which command complete agreement in the House. What does it matter who 1600 brings in a Bill, if it is a good Bill? What does it matter, if we get good results, who it is that introduces the principle? The Labour party does not want to claim the whole of this Bill as its particular production, so to speak. My right hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) has told the House that Home Secretary after Home Secretary has been equally responsible for the drafting and production of this Bill, and here we are, in 1926, with the Bill still hanging fire, and an Amendment which means in effect that 1926 will go out before we can seriously deal with the Bill.
As to the 10 per cent. of the provisions—and 10 per cent. is an arbitrary figure, but certainly not more than 10 per cent.—that are in dispute, they are Committee points, and with a Bill of this size—and no Home Secretary can bring in a co-ordinating Bill and an amending Bill at the same time without its being a large Bill—the provisions will inevitably need months and months of careful consideration in Committee, so that if we are in 1927 before the Bill is seriously handled, it is almost inevitable that we are at the end of 1928 before the House can expect to have the Bill brought down to it. An hon. Member opposite shakes his head. It is a matter of opinion. With Clauses that are, over a hundred in number, not so contentious in character as difficult in detail—it is not the contention in the Clauses of this Bill, but the infinite detail that will require careful consideration on the part of the Committee—it will inevitably mean that months of Committee work must be spent on the Bill, so that my estimate is that, with the Bill presented in 1927, it will at least be 1928 before the House will get an opportunity really of passing the Bill into law.
§ Mr. L. THOMPSON
The Minister said that the Bill would be presented this Session, and made a special feature next Session.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Captain Hacking)
It will mean that the Bill will be printed and circulated this Session.
§ Mr. SHAW
Then we are not going to deal with the Bill till 1927. Now I think we perfectly well understand each other. The Bill will be presented for dealing with some time in 1927, and it is almost certain, with the detail in it, that it will not come to the House for final carrying into law before 1928.
§ Captain HACKING
If that be the case, the whole of the Bill will have to be started over again in 1928, because it will be a new Session. We intend to pass it through, if possible, in 1927.
§ Mr. SHAW
Let us assume, then, that the Bill is going to be carried through in 1927. It was promised in 1925, definitely promised, and more than once. It was promised in the King's Speech, and it was promised to deputations by the Home Secretary, and the Home Office, after all, has not been overworked. Not only has it not been overworked, but certainly it has, on this question, at any rate, a vast mass of material ready prepared that is common ground, so that it does not begin de novo in trying to find exactly what is necessary; and all the time people are going without protection. We have had a speech by an hon. Friend behind me giving a number of details concerning one particular trade. Would it be believed that in the cotton textile trade the only people subjected to the process of fining are the people where there is a larger proportion of women and young persons than of men, that men have shaken themselves free from the vicious practice, that most trades have shaken themselves free, but that where you have women and girls and young persons in the greatest proportion, there fining still exists? It is not necessary that fining should exist. There is a whole district where fining has been completely abolished, and with the best of results to everybody. This Bill will do something to relieve or to release the workers in that particular trade from a burden they never ought to bear.
I ask any unprejudiced observer to go into any manufacturing town in Lan- 1602 cashire—I do not care which it is, from Oldham to Colne—and they will see such a number of spectacles as will inevitably drive the fact into their minds that something is necessary in the factories in Lancashire if people are to keep the eyesight with which they are born. Again, it is scarcely possible in some towns to find a decent set of teeth among the weavers. There is scarcely a weaver over 25 years of age in most of the towns in Lancashire who is not wearing artificial teeth. Is it not time that we stopped this worrying about whether this is a private Member's Bill or a Government Bill and got to work on these problems? Are our people to become myopic, and go without teeth for ever? Are we going to hesitate and hesitate and hesitate, and put off and put off and put off, simply because somebody who ought perhaps not to have brought in a Bill has brought in a Bill, or are we going to try to do something in order to relieve the admitted wrongs with which the present law does not deal? Weight lifting has also been dealt with. If any hon. Member of this House would take the privilege of going into a weaving shed and seeing an overlooker carrying a beam on his shoulder, on slippery flags, twisting round pillars, going apparently through spaces far too little for him to go through—for an overlooker appears to have overlooked Euclid and to be able to make the lesser contain the greater—if Members would see these men carrying these enormous weights, they would understand how it is that there is so much rupture in that trade, and they would understand, without any explanation, how it is that there is so much hidden rupture. A man does not like to tell even his companions at work, and much less his employers, that he is ruptured, with the result that there are hundreds—one may even say thousands—of these men who are ruptured and who never tell either their employers or the people with whom they work.
There is no need for all this. Scientific appliances are there in any number. Go into a modern factory, and you will see what is known as a runway, where, by a push of the finger, you can carry these heavy beams to any part of the shed you like, where, by just winding a chain, you can put a heavy beam into 1603 a loom, instead of lifting it in a way that is extremely dangerous to any man at all. Then, in addition to that, there is the question of dust in card-rooms. Invention has proceeded so far that a card-room may be made as free from dust as the Chamber in which we are now assembled. In the interests of the health of the people, give them a chance. This Bill will help them. Give the workers a chance of working in a clear atmosphere. I know how much better conditions are than they were a few years ago. Years ago the adjective that would describe them would not be permitted in this House. To-day things are very much better, but there is still very much needed in the way of improvements so far as dust is concerned.
May I touch on another problem that exists in the Lancashire weaving sheds, the process of threading the weft through the shuttle by sucking it through. It is generally known as shuttle kissing, but it is, as a matter of fact, shuttle sucking. It is extremely difficult for the workers to prove that this custom spreads disease, but those of us who have worked in the sheds know that it has done so. I personally, as one of my earliest recollections, remember a man contracting one of the most loathsome diseases in the world by using the shuttles of a man who had been using the looms. This is absolutely unnecessary. There are shuttles now made which are quite equal to the shuttles which are used for mouth sucking, and years ago a committee, composed of representatives of the workers, of the employers, and of the inspectorial staff, agreed, as far as I know, and I was a member of the committee, that these shuttles did exist which could be threaded efficiently by hand and which would take away a custom, which is dangerous, and which if it were not dangerous is extremely dirty. Yet this Bill, which would help this along, must be postponed apparently because of a kind of pride or party pride that "if the Bill is to be brought in we must do it and not anybody else." We have already had a delay which is long enough in all conscience. This legislation is long overdue. Apart from parties altogether, this country must realise the fact that the nation that uses science to the utmost, makes skill take the place of muscle, takes away all unhealthy practices and replaces them by healthy practices, 1604 will be the nation that will become efficient and come out on top because no system on earth will make an inefficient nation great, but an efficient nation can triumph over all the obstacles that can be put in its way. I believe that this Bill will really help us towards efficiency, will reduce fatigue, will make workers better able to work, give them more pleasure in their work. I hope the House will not postpone it any longer, but will allow all details to be fought out in Committee instead of waiting for another 12 or 18 months.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Dr. WATTS
Although there seems to be considerable difference of opinion as to the propriety of a private Member bringing in a Bill of the magnitude of this Factories Bill, yet Members on both sides are distinctly grateful to the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) for having done so. We have had a distinct pledge as the result from the Home Secretary as to the Bill which is in course of preparation and which he intends to put before the House in the course of this Session. It has also enabled several Members to make suggestions which I hope my right hon. Friend will take into consideration in framing his Bill. Although I personally agree to a large extent with the hon. Lady in introducing this Bill yet I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Royton (Dr. V. Davies) in taking exception to the attack made on the Association of Certifying Factory Surgeons. As an ex-President of the Association of Certifying Factory Surgeons, and as one who for 25 years was a certifying surgeon in the industrial district of Manchester, I claim to have a long knowledge of the work of certifying surgeons and, although certifying surgeons have been hampered and discouraged by the Department time after time again, yet for a great number of years their work has been steadily improving. I would mention particularly those surgeons with districts of any size. There are roughly 1,800 certifying surgeons in the country, but only 250 have a district that entails the examination of more than 50 or 60 children per annum. With the work of the 1,500 or more, who have a small district, I am not acquainted, but, as to the work of the 250 members of the Association of Certifying Factory Surgeons, I can speak with confidence of 1605 the excellent work they have done. In addition to that, they have instituted many reforms and health improvements in our industrial system. We have only to look round at the work the certifying surgeon has done for the prevention of lead poison and carbon bi-sulphide poisoning and for other industrial diseases which are now practically dying out. It was most unfair for the hon. Lady to make this statement about the work of men of whose work she knows very little.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) has touched on a subject, which I have been interested in for many years, and which I think is the greatest danger to the cotton industry, the question of threading shuttles by suction. It is the greatest danger to health in the cotton industry. Questions of dust, of humidity, are of small importance in comparison with the danger of this objectionable habit. As long ago as 1902 I drew attention to this in a paper I read before the British Association at their annual meeting in Manchester. Although the result of that paper was a Departmental Committee appointed by the Home Office, nothing has been done, and I cannot see that there is anything in the present Bill which would go far to meet this difficulty. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston says, there are excellent shuttles which can be threaded by hand, but the only way to get the weaver, especially the older generation of weavers, to use this process would be to substitute, for the ordinary Lancashire loom, Norfolk or self-acting and self-threading shuttles. That would be an enormous expense to manufacturers, but I would suggest that there should be embodied in the Bill, which is in preparation, that other methods might be adopted.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
There are shuttles at work in the ordinary loom that can be threaded by hand quite easily, and there are half a dozen kinds of apparatus which will thread the shuttles.
§ Dr. WATTS
I am fully aware of the fact to which the right hon. Gentleman has called attention. I think I have seen and examined practically every device that has been brought forward to overcome this difficulty, and my solution would be that it should be statutory that the same shuttles should be restricted to the same weaver, or, failing that, before 1606 shuttles are used by another weaver, they should be treated by disinfectant, which would do away with the trouble. During the time I was preparing my paper, my mills were operating with the old Lancashire loom. In one large shed 1,000 looms were automatic. I took the trouble to have specimens of dust examined both microscopically and bacteriologically. One of the first things that happened was the loss of teeth in the Lancashire weavers, to which reference has been made. It shows the danger of contracting syphilis or tuberculosis, and I have seen very definite instances, not of syphilis, but of people who have contracted tuberculosis, and I believe by postponing this Bill you may be able in the forthcoming Measure greatly to improve Clause 55, which, to my mind, is almost useless as it stands.
One hon. Member on the benches opposite advocated more inspectors, but has the House considered the number of inspectors who at present visit the mills day by day. You have the factory inspector, the inspector who goes to examine the Health Insurance cards, another inspector to inspect the Unemployment Insurance cards, and he is followed, probably, by the local sanitary inspector, then by a Trade Disputes Board inspector, and a fire escape inspector, who is also a local officer; then an electrical inspector, and then trade union officials and, possibly, a deputation from the shop stewards. So that the employer's time is largely occupied in interviewing or satisfying the demands of these various people. I would ask the House seriously to consider that it should not multiply this body of officials any more.
What I would suggest to the House is that in the forthcoming Bill we should have a unification of the factory medical service. This has already been recognised by Belgium, Holland and Sweden, in each of which countries they have at the present moment a complete factory medical service, which is founded largely on the recommendation of the Association of Factory Surgeons in this country. The hon. Lady mentioned the enormous amount of time lost by preventable sickness. There is no doubt we have at the present moment a glorious opportunity of unifying our factory medical service, 1607 and we could in this country get together, I believe, the finest factory medical service in the world.
There is, however, one important point that I want to refer to and that is with regard to the duties that the certifying factory surgeon has to perform in connection with the Workmen's Compensation Act. In the case of a workman suffering from one of the scheduled diseases, such as lead-poisoning, it is first necessary for the person who is suffering to get a certificate from the certifying surgeon prior to any compensation claim. If the certifying surgeon is appointed by the local council, the borough county council, what is to be his position, having regard to the fact that in many cases the employer may be a member of that local body? The workman, too, may be a member of it. Up till now the certifying factory surgeon has been an independent official. The point is one to be not lost sight of. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Royton (Dr. Vernon Davies) took up the statement made by the hon. Lady the Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) because I believe that she made her statement under an entire misapprehension as to what is the certifying factory surgeon's position.
§ Mr. BRIANT
Whatever be the fate of this particular Bill, it is satisfactory to realise that nine-tenths of the Members of the House are in favour of nine-tenths of the Bill. That marks a very distinct advance, not only in the opinion of the House, but of opinion outside, for, to a large extent, we here reflect public opinion outside. The health and the comfort of the worker, obviously, are necessary in its personal aspect, but I want the House also to reflect upon the fact that questions like this carry us further than that. It is not only a question of the health of the worker; it is the question of the wealth of the State, for in the long run the State always has to pay for the worker who is enfeebled or injured by his work. There is no truer Economy Bill than a Bill of this description. It is far more an economy Bill than that introduced recently by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Economy in life and health means economy for the State. Every worker enfeebled or unable to continue his employment, in the end, 1608 comes on the State—it may be on insurance funds or by way of Poor Law relief. Altogether apart from this, from the personal aspect of maintaining the worker in health and strength, it is a question of duty. Many of these improvements are long overdue. I have not a great knowledge of the workers in the North of England, but I know intimately the lives of the working classes, the men and women in South London, though we have no great factories about.
Time after time I have seen men and women whose health has broken down when they have reached middle age owing to the insanitary conditions in which they have worked, owing perhaps to the presence of dust, which has conduced to tubercular disease; and over and over again there have been cases of rupture and hernia caused by excessive weight-lifting. I am rather anxious about that part of the Bill where the limitation of weight-lifting is confined to women and to young persons up to 18 years of age. I am not at all sure that the limit ought not to be increased to 20 years. It is my experience that an enormous number of young fellows acquire hernia through the huge weights they have to lift, certainly in pottery works, clay being very heavy. I regret there is one aspect of the Bill with which I do not agree; as I agree with nine-tenths of it, I think I may venture on this one criticism.
I would like to congratulate the hon. Lady who has introduced the Bill, but I feel sure that she did not really agree with that part of the Bill which specialises on women as distinct from men. I know her enthusiasm and her eloquence in denunciation of such discrimination when on a public platform would carry almost any audience away, and I cannot agree with her speech this afternoon. I fail to see the necessity for these discriminatory Clauses. I know there is something to be said from the point of view that women require more care than men, but nowadays women do not claim any discrimination, and there may come a point when their protection means, in reality, their exclusion from certain industries. I think women would prefer, in fact I know they would, to be allowed to come in on the same terms as men. That does not mean to say that I do not think there are limitations as to the work they could do; but I am inclined to think that in some cases the limitations already proposed for 1609 young persons and for women should be extended to persons of all ages. I refer particularly to lead workers. Anyone who has seen the awful results of lead poisoning will know that it is one of the most dreadful things that can happen to a man or a woman. Under Clause 53 of the Bill no woman or young person is to be employed in certain lead processes unless certain regulations are complied with. It says:(a) where dust or fume from a lead compound is producedthe fumes must be taken away by an efficient exhaust draughtso contrived as to operate on the dust or fume as nearly as may be at its point of origin.That regulation is intended for young persons and women, but I think men over the age of 18 are just as likely to acquire disease as boys and girls, and the regulations ought to be extended to every worker in that particular industry. We could take no greater step in the interests of the community and the State than by legislating on these lines. Something like 55 per cent. of the men who present themselves for admission to the Army are disqualified on physical grounds, and I am quite sure that many of those cases could be attributed directly to the life they led in the factory when they were young people.
I cannot conceive the Home Secretary in his heart can object to this discussion. If I were in his place I should welcome it. He will be able to tell his Government that not on one side of the House, but on both sides of the House, there is an earnest and sincere desire that this reform should be carried and carried soon. Personally I shall vote for this Bill, and I cannot see why the Government should not vote for it. Discussions will have to take place, and why should they not start now instead of our having to wait for the Home Secretary's Bill? I am not concerned about party in this matter. I am not very much concerned about party in any matter. I am not much of a party politician. Hon. Members may smile, but it is so. I am infinitely more interested in getting things done than in helping any party to triumph over another party. My whole life has been spent in party politics, but I am only in politics because of the interest I take in the individuals of the community in which I work. I urge 1610 the Government to set aside any feelings of injured pride they may have and to take up a Bill which everyone has admitted has been contributed to, if I may put it that way, by Home Secretaries belonging to all parties, and assist the passing of this useful and essential legislation. I hope the Government may see their way not to put on their Whips against the Bill, with nine-tenths of which they agree, but to assist us and the House to get on with legislation which the whole population desires.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I wish to take up a line of argument which has not been touched upon this afternoon. I think everybody will recognise that from the point of view of medical officers of health and inspectors a Bill of this kind should be passed into law as soon as possible. It is obvious that the need for improvement is very urgent, and I think we are all agreed upon that score. I wish to point out, however, that there are very serious reasons from the point of those who envisage public health as a whole why the House should not accept this Bill as it stands at present, and it requires much further consideration. The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) should recognise that I wish in no way to discourage her efforts in bringing forward this Bill because it is the same Measure which has been prepared by other Governments and other parties. I took up this line in regard to the Bill prepared by my own Government when first of all this Measure was being sketched out, and I did the same again last year. I am going to take the same course in regard to this Measure. There seems to be a certain amount of superficiality about this Measure. We all agree in regard to what has been said about the horrors that exist in some of our industries. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) has made our flesh creep on this subject—