HC Deb 11 November 1926 vol 199 cc1370-97

I beg to move, in page 38, line 27, to leave out from the word "shall" to the word "be" in line 28.

This is an Amendment to which we on the Labour benches attach very considerable importance. This is a Schedule which makes provision for compensation to both the officers and servants of existing undertakings in certain eventualities. By leaving out the words in the case of an officer employed on an annual salary, we ensure to both officers and servants compensation upon the same principle. I think everybody will agree that capital interests have been well protected, and we should all agree that in the case of the officers of existing undertakings losing their posts because of their positions being abolished that they should be fairly treated. At present those who may be displaced do not receive the same treatment. It is very difficult to understand why that should be the case, because in earlier legislation of a somewhat analagous kind, although there are obvious differences, the same principle has been applied both to officers and servants, where for some reason or other their posts were abolished. Even so long ago as 1902 in the Metropolis Water Act, which established the Metropolitan Water Board, under which the existing Boards were abolished, the workers, servants or officers displaced were compensated on the same principle, and that principle has been followed in subsequent legislation in which it has been laid down that if an existing officer or servant has his office abolished he shall be entitled to compensation. The Act lays down that Subject to the provisions of this Section the provisions contained in Section 120 of the Local Government Act, 1888, relating to compensation to existing officers shall apply to any claim for compensation by an existing officer or an existing servant with the substitution of references to the Water Board and the Water Fund for references to the county council. That meant that such compensation as they received was founded upon the same principle, and in the Port of London Act of 1908 those identical words are used to ensure that existing officers and servants are subject to compensation according to the provisions laid down in the Local Government Act, 1888.

Here were two Acts of Parliament, passed before the War, both of which recognised the principle of a common basis for compensation; and, since the War, under the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919, superseded officers or servants were to be given compensation in accordance with the principles laid down in the Acts of 1902 and 1908; while in the case of the Railways Act, 1921, which brought the amalgamation and grouping of railways into being, the Third Schedule relates entirely to the provision that is to be made for existing officers and servants. There, again, virtually the same words which were used in the three previous Acts to which I have referred are used once more. Under the railway amalgamation scheme the principle of compensation is the same for the higher officers of the railway companies and for the wage-earners. That principle, also, has been adopted in more than one private Act. I will mention only one. In the case of the Act which brought into existence the amalgamated Five Towns, now the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent, the same principle was applied. We have had, during the past 20 years or more, definite legislation bringing into existence a large composite body like the Metropolitan Water Board, where old servants might be displaced the Port of London Act, which brought into existence, out of the welter of authorities, a new authority; the Ministry of Transport Act, and the Railways Act—all visualising the possibility of posts being abolished, and making provision for compensation on the lines laid down in the Local Government Act, 1888.

It may be said, and, no doubt, it will be said, that the circumstances are not quite parallel; but I suggest to the Government that a principle of compensation which can be applied to the Metropolitan Water Board, to the Port of London Authority, to such undertakings as were dealt with in the Ministry of Transport Act, and to the railways, clearly is a principle that can be applied to workers who may suffer the loss of their jobs under the present Electricity Bill. I cannot understand why, after more than 20 years of quite successful legislation on these lines, well established precedents have not been followed in the Electricity Bill. On many occasions during the earlier stages of the Bill, and during the Report stage, the argument that has been used from the Government Bench for a particular form of words has been that it was in accordance with the words used in some previous legislation. I am not myself a traditionalist; I am not necessarily a lover of tradition; but a well-established precedent in four of the most important Acts of Parliament of the 20th century establishing new authorities, seems to me to have provided a sufficient basis of experience to enable us to apply it in the Electricity Bill. I know that there are certain real difficulties, and I am prepared to accept those difficulties. It may be that the mere omission of the words suggested in the Amendment will not precisely meet the point but I think that on all sides of the House there will be general agreement that a common form of justice and a common standard of justice ought to be applied to officers and servants alike, and that is what we are asking. I should hope that the Government will find it in their heart to accept the principle of compensation laid down in those Acts of Parliament, where the difficulties were quite as great as those which are likely to arise under the present Bill. I hope that, in drawing to the end of the Report stage of this important Measure, the Government will see that we are not claiming anything that is outrageous or extravagant, and that they will find it possible to accept the principle of the Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment.

In doing so, I feel rather more hopeful than we did upstairs in Committee. I am convinced that at that time, when this proposed Amendment was submitted, the Government had not really looked all round this question. They were rather hurried, and as a result a decision was given from their side which they have had ample time to review; and because of that, and because of the inherent justice of our claim, I feel fairly confident that to-night they are going to meet us, and to apply to one section of those who will be concerned with the application of this electricity scheme what they are guaranteeing to other sections under the Bill. It was objected in Committee that there was no reason why the Government should hold themselves responsible for introducing a precedent in the electricity industry. They implied that to do as we requested in our Amendment would be to introduce something that had not been in existence before and was particularly concerned with the electricity industry. That may be so, but it does not do away with the responsibility which the Government themselves will have in regard to development in the industry. That responsibility rests upon their shoulders, and we suggest that they should not leave the matter in this unsatisfactory position.

Claims were put forward on behalf of those who were concerned with capital in the suggested development, and were met by the Government to a very large extent—not quite as fully as those who submitted them desired, but none the less in a very generous spirit indeed. When we came to the question of another section of those concerned, namely, the managerial staffs, the administrative staffs and the professional and technical men who, by virtue of these amalgamations, might be displaced, the Government were equally or even more ready to meet that position than they had been to meet that of other sections. We say that, strong as the claim of these administrative sections may be, an equally strong claim can be put forward on behalf of the operative sections of the electrical industry, and it is because we desire an exercise of the simple element of equity all round that we submit this Amendment. I am sure that the implication in the Bill by the Government that this House should discriminate as between one section of the staff and another, is one which, fully understood by the House, would not be accepted by it.

It was suggested in Committee that, after all, others do not get it, that what we are asking is something that does not apply to other operative sections, who, in cases of amalgamation, do nut enjoy equal treatment with the administrative staffs. But the Government will remember that in more than one Bill they have imposed upon private corporations that which we are now asking them to apply in a Government Department such as is being created by this Bill. To bring out the inconsistency of the Government, the principle that they are endeavouring to apply was pretty well enunciated by the chairman of one of the largest groups of railways in 1909, when the question of the amalgamation of railways was under discussion. He then said that if by virtue of amalgamation he was able to displace certain of the railway staffs, he was entitled, in just the same way as any other private enterprise, to discard them without recognising any claim in the shape of compensation. That was the principle that he endeavoured to suggest was quite reasonable then. It is applied in many private concerns to-day.

But what was the Government's answer to that when the Railways Act of 1921 was introduced? They were responsible then for the amalgamation of railways but when it came to a question of compensation for the interests who might be displaced both administratives and operatives were treated in exactly the same way and a compensation Clause was introduced far superior to that which the Government are now suggesting should apply to the operative section of the electricity industry who might be displaced by the passing of this Bill. We suggest that they should take a leaf out of their book in 1921 and apply it to the Electricity Bill. It is suggested that perhaps they cannot afford it and that it is rather a large number, but it is conceivable that it may not be as big as perhaps they are assuming. They are spending money on 15 additional selected new stations and it is quite possible that arrangements may be made to absorb many of those who might be displaced by giving effect to this Bill who to-day are employed by the different undertakings. Surely there could be no more appropriate day than to-day for demonstrating in our legislation the principle that we have been giving voice to on the occasion of the Armistice. At that time there was no question of distinction as between administrative and operative. Every man stood on equal terms. They have been equal in our hearts to-day and they should be equal in the legislation we are now passing so that there should be no continuance of a discrimination which is surely unjust. I think we really have just ground for being hopeful on this occasion and I feel, after the full opportunity for reviewing this question since the matter was discussed upstairs, that they have decided to change their mind and be generous, and I am confident there will be no occasion to regret it.

Colonel ASHLEY

I am sure the hon. Members who support this Amendment must appreciate that it is very much easier for a Minister to say "yes" to a demand such as this than to say "no." It is quite an easy path to follow to dispose of public funds in a generous way, and to allow your heart to get the better of your head. I quite understand the position of hon. Members opposite, and probably if I were sitting on those benches I should move that Amendment, because after all they can always say a hard-hearted Government has refused a reasonable demand. But I ask them to consider the position I have to face. By the Acts of 1919 and 1922 the provisions for compensation are as in the Bill, and therefore as far as my department is concerned I am strictly following precedent.


The right hon. Gentleman is concerned with the Ministry of Transport. He will find the principle of the earlier Act is contained there.

Colonel ASHLEY

I will take the hon. Gentleman's statement as accurate, as lie has looked it up and I have not. I am instancing the two Acts of 1919 and 1922. But have hon. Members opposite quite realised what their Amendment means? It means that they place all weekly wage earners on the same basis as established servants who are pensioned on the basis of having a yearly salary. They are aware, of course, that the vast majority of civil servants who are not established have not their compensation, if compensation is necessary, granted on the scale of established servants. So what they are asking is that all employés in the electricity service, weekly wage earners, shall be put in a far better position than the vast majority of unestablished civil servants in Departments of the Government. There may be justice in what hon. Members have put forward, but passing their Amendment might make the position of civil servants on a weekly basis appear inferior and would lead at once to a demand for similar concessions all down the line which would involve enormous sums of money. For that reason alone we cannot accept it. It must not be imagined that a weekly wage earner under this Schedule, if he loses his employment, is going to be badly treated. After all there is an impartial and able arbitrator who will assess, to the best of his ability, the damage that can legitimately be claimed by the wage earner if he loses his employment. I am informed that the compensation granted lately by an arbitrator has not been un-generous.


It has not been generous.

Colonel ASHLEY

That is a matter of opinion. It is more than it used to be. That is the proper way, I submit, to arrive at the compensation for the weekly wage earners. For the two reasons I have given the Government cannot accept the Amendment.


I am surprised to hear the Minister's reply. I should quite understand his method of dealing with the question if he said they found themselves in a position where they could not afford to pay any compensation to anyone. He finds he has no difficulty when it comes to a question of compensating officials who have been fairly well paid during the time they have held office in an electricity undertaking. In fact, there has been no difference of opinion, so far as his side of the House is concerned, with regard to finding compensation for those people, but when it comes to the weekly wage earner, those who are the lowest paid in the industry, the Government says, "We cannot afford and we are not prepared to pay compensation to you for the loss of your employment." Once again, we have an illustration that those who are the lowest paid must be the worst treated whenever any changes take place. I was surprised to hear the Minister say that the large majority of civil servants are unestablished. I am wondering where he obtained his figures, and whether he is dealing with the clerical occupations or with the industrial occupations as far as the Government employés are concerned. I hope he will tell us who has furnished him with these figures, that the vast majority of Government servants in the Civil Service are not entitled to pensions, and are not entitled to compensation for loss of employment.

Colonel ASHLEY

I was referring to unestablished servants.


If they were established they would be entitled to compensation, so that my term will apply equally as well whether it is a question of being established or a hired servant of the Government. I cannot understand the position taken up. We know that as far as established employés of the Government are concerned, they are entitled to compensation as well as to pensions for service. With regard to hired people, they are entitled to a certain sum of money as gratuity in the event of losing their employment. No one has ever suggested that that method of dealing with Government employés in the form of gratuity has been satisfactory. The Government has never been a good employer at any time. I am not permitted to-night to go into that matter, but certainly the Government has never been a good employer to those who have engaged in its service. At any rate, in the form of the remuneration and the conditions which it hands out to them.

We were told that the people who lose their situations would be entitled to appear before a referee or umpire, who would decide the point. We were reminded that, under the Acts of 1919 and 1922, compensation could be paid. I wish the Minister had gone further with that explanation and had reminded the House of the enormous difficulty which the weekly wage earners experience in order to obtain any compensation under that particular Act. Not only have they to go before an umpire, but we have been compelled to expend a considerable sum of money by having resort to the Law Courts in order to prove that we were servants and had lost our positions by reason of these particular Acts. Surely the Government do not desire to continue that method of dealing with the lower-paid people who are displaced by reason of the action taken in this Bill. I hope the Government will realise the unfairness and the injustice of what it is doing to the lower-paid workers who will be displaced. I hope that the appeal made will have some strength, and that the Government will still consider this matter from the point of view of equity.

If it is good to find compensation for those who are the best paid in the industry, if it is good to find compensation for those who have invested their money in the undertakings that are to be closed, if the Government are to make an allowance to those who are represented by hon. Members opposite, who have taken up so much of the discussion to-day and during the Committee stage, if they can find compensation for their friends, surely they ought to be able to find compensation for the weekly wage earners who may be displaced. Those who have been taking up a great deal of the time of the House and have used their voices on behalf of the capital invested in electricity undertakings are very quiet, in fact they are dumb, whenever we are dealing with questions affecting the lower-paid worker. In the Committee not one of them raised his voice to say a word with regard to this particular point although they have taken up days in dealing with other matters affecting their friends who have capital invested in the undertaking. I hope that, even now, the position of those people who may lose their situations in the joining up which will take place under this Bill will be considered, that the justice of their claim will appeal to the Government and that we shall be able to do something for the lower-paid workers.


The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) and his friends need not be under any misapprehension on the point that he has raised. If I thought that any number of weekly wage earners were going to be displaced and put into the unfortunate position of being unemployed as a result of the operations of this Bill, I should agree with him that some adequate provision should be made for them. The Schedule we are now discussing relates to a very limited number of salaried officials who may possibly be displaced. I do not think it can be shown that a very large number of salaried officials will be displaced, and I do not think it can be shown that any weekly wage earners will be displaced, and for this very simple reason, that if all that is claimed for the Bill does take place, not fewer but many more workers will be required. If the Bill does not succeed, it will not lead to a diminution of the number employed—it simply will not affect the number. If we are to graft on to this Bill a provision in the terms suggested by the hon. Member and his friends, putting a premium upon the possibility of anyone contriving to lose his situation in the changes which are proposed to take place, we may be setting up the possibility of a great deal of trouble in the operation of the Act.


May I remind the hon. Member that each case would have to be considered by a referee, such as was mentioned by the Minister, and the referee would be able to take into account the point as to whether the person had thrown himself out of a situation.


Exactly. The mention of a referee reminds me that those who are not salaried officials and would come under this provision are insured persons under Act of Parliament, or, at any rate, many of them are. The hon. Member is asking that these people should be covered in two directions; that they should be specially provided for in the Bill, along with the salaried officials who are not insured, and that they should also be insured and get whatever benefit they can get out of that provision. I do not believe for a moment that any number of people in either category will be displaced, but if it can be shown that they will be displaced, then some provision should be made to cover their case.


If what has been said by the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) can be taken as correct, and in large measure I accept it, it shatters completely the argument of the Minister of Transport. The argument of the Minister of Transport was that it was impossible to meet the immense cost that would be involved in the expense of this Amendment. Whichever be the fact, our view is that it is a matter of fairness and common equity of treatment of the different and separate classes who may be displaced as a result of the operations of this law. All we ask is that the weekly wage-earner who has, generally speaking, no opportunity whatever of building up reserves, who cannot, like the salaried man, prepare for the gaps in his life, shall be treated justly and equitably. Our view is that, if there is to be any preference shown in the matter of compensation for displacement, it ought to be shown in favour of that indispensable type of weekly wage-earner whose wages afford him no opportunity of saving. I denounce the opposition of the Minister of Transport as supporting class legislation, and I suggest that the hon. Member should carry his Amendment to a Division.


I am amazed at the attitude adopted by the Minister of Transport. The Mover of the Amendment showed that there were ample precedents to justify its adoption, but even if there were not, surely, in modern times, a Government that was fully alive to its responsibilities would be glad to create a precedent. In theory every citizen in the land is equal in the eyes of the law, but the attitude of the Government on this matter sets that theory aside and it is a position which cannot be defended any longer. So far as the workers engaged in electricity are concerned, they are going to be thrown on the scrap-heap, with the added possibility that they might go before a referee on the question of compensation. The position taken up by an hon. Member opposite with regard to unemployment insurance shows that his knowledge cannot be very great on that point, otherwise he would not have said what he did. Are we to understand that what is commonly called "the dole" is ample compensation for a man whose work has been taken from him, while at the same time good compensation is given to other classes. I know cases in which amalgamation promoters create difficulties, and there have been cases in connection with railways in which a manager has been given six years' salary in order to get rid of him because of his inefficiency. There is a very great danger on this point having regard to the attitude of the Minister of Transport. He suggests that workmen can make an adequate claim and that they would get justice; that compensation has been generous in the past. Surely it is obvious that if a company is likely to be out of business its managers may take up the attitude of earmarking a number of their employés as being inefficient, and their chance of getting compensation would be very remote. I think the Government should face the issue. This Bill, if it is carried, will be the subject of many grandiloquent paragraphs in their next election addresses, showing how they have made a great step forward. If they want to take a good step forward then the least they can do is to accept the Amendment.

9.0 P.M.


A reference has been made during the Debate to a Section in the Port of London Act, and I should like to say just one word on what has been done. I speak with an experience of the Port of London for many years. I am surprised to hear that there has been any complaint with regard to the working of that particular Section, for I can fairly say that it has been of great advantage to the Port Authority. In a great organisation like the Port of London Authority, and also in the authority which is to be set up by this Bill, if it is to be successful, a fairly free hand must be given to those who have to superintend the organisation, to move about and displace members of the great staff they have to deal with. It is a difficult thing for a man who is trying to act conscientiously to do something he wishes to do, when at the same time he knows that if he displaces a man it would mean that the employé is thrown on the scrap heap. The Section in the Port of London Authority Act, under which there has been no complaints so far as I know at all, enables those in charge to do the very best they can for the organisation without thinking they are doing any harm to the workmen who have to he displaced in the building up of the organisation. Seeing how this has worked, and remembering that it was the action of this House that enabled it to be done, I cannot understand why the Minister of Transport says that if he was on this side of the House he would be in favour of the Amendment, but because he is on the other side of the House he is not. He says that if he was on this side he would then have the advantage of saving that it was a hard-hearted Government.

The Government are hard-hearted. The working of this particular Section for the past 17 years has shown that there are no difficulties in the way; it has been very successful, and if there is a change in the view of the Government, then the Government is hard-hearted, and what is more, unfair. The Port of London Section has been repeated in other Acts of Parliament, and with equal success. A reference was made by the Minister of Transport to the Civil Service. I do not know why, because the Civil Service is not a good model. Here you are dealing with very much the same kind of people, the same kind of workmen, you have in the Port of London Authority. I want to support the Amendment, and if the Minister of Transport has any doubts about what I am saying, he has only to refer to his Parliamentary Secretary who had an opportunity of studying the Port of London Authority for a little while. It is an excellent body from many points of view, a good organisation, and an organisation which has been built up largely because it has had the power, instead of having to put round men into square holes, in effect throwing them on the scrap-heap, to give them good compensation if they were not in a position to provide them with suitable employment.


In supporting the Amendment I want to express my disappointment at the reply of the Minister of Transport. I had hoped, after our experience in Committee, and after the time which has passed since then, that our appeals on that occasion would have received the same treatment as the appeals that were made by those who are interested in the company undertakings represented on the other side. Compensation has been given for capital; it has been given all along the line. I had hoped that the Minister, if unwilling to grant this concession, would at least have been able to give us a logical reason for not granting it. His only reply is to shelter himself and the Department behind something that has happened in some other Department. We have quoted ample precedents to show that the principle which we advocate has been adopted generally in recent legislation. The hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) in supporting the Minister, referred to the remote possibility of the manual workers losing their employment. If the, contingency is so remote, what reason is there for the Minister refusing to give us the concession? I think it was rather unfair for the hon. Member for Hulme to refer to a concession of this kind as tending to cause the operatives in the industry to run the risk of losing their employment in order to get compensation. That kind of psychology might be found in some places, but my experience convinces me that it does not obtain generally amongst the working classes. It was unfair to make a charge of that kind against working men. But, even if the risk were possible, it is no reason why the concession should not be made.

We are merely asking that ordinary common justice shall be done to the workmen as it is being done to the salaried class. It appears to me that all the appeals on the other side for a cessation of class hatred are not sincere, because here hon. Members are passing legislation which will tend to increase class hatred. The action of the Government convinces me that the working people generally can expect nothing in the form of justice from this House until they have a representation here sufficiently strong to force justice from the other side. This is not good legislation. It is not likely to conduce to peace and order. I hope that even at this late hour the Minister will be prepared to reconsider his decision. It is admitted by the hon. and gallant Member for Hulme that the contingency is very remote, that the demands are likely to be very small, and in view of those facts, if not from the point of view of justice, I suggest that we might have this concession made now.


We have had a very delightful example of what might be called the gentle art of political advertisement. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think quite properly, have taken the opportunity of giving a clearly defined specification of their views on the rights of the wage earners. Of course they are not to be blamed for taking that opportunity; but if this Bill is to realise all that is anticipated for it, where does the question arise of displacing anyone?


Through reorganisation.


My hon. Friend the former Minister of Transport says "through reorganisation," but he must agree that the rapid expansion of the industry would be such as to absorb almost everyone who would be displaced in any other branch of enterprise. In this Amendment you have a very important principle involved. If carried out in the schemes of nationalisation to which hon. Members opposite are so strongly attached, it would impose an intolerable burden on the future finances of this country. If hon. Gentlemen opposite were resposible for our public finance would they accept an Amendment of the kind? We had examples of suggestions of the kind when they were in office, and they took very good care on every occasion to safeguard the interests of the Treasury. It would be a violation of a very old-established principle in our public finance if the Minister agreed to the Amendment. At all events, the real answer to the argument is that if the electrical industry under this Bill realises all its possibilities, it will be able to absorb from day to day almost everyone who is displaced in other branches of industry. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will be satisfied with the very generous concession made by the Government and not press the Amendment


I would like to press the Minister or his assistant to give an answer to the case made by my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment. Why is it that the Government should deal differently with workmen under the Bill? Why should they give them treatment different from that which is given to workmen under the Port of London Authority, the Metropolitan Water Board, the railway authorities and others? No answer has so far been given. In a great, new, reorganised industry the temptation will be to take the youngest men and to displace the older men. I speak in the presence of Conservatives who are Poor Law guardians. They know that there is no more pathetic spectacle than the man who has worked for 20 or 30 years in one job and then, because of reorganisation, is squeezed out. It is no good the hon. Member for the Moseley Division (Mr. Hannon) using the argument that there will be so much work that everybody will be retained. Every man who has had anything to do with the reorganisation of businesses knows that there are always in such cases men pushed out, and others brought in. In order to safeguard the workman who is efficient even though middle-aged we ought to make provision for him so that the employer will think twice before getting rid of him because of the compensation which will become payable.

We on this side are often charged with stirring up class hatred. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite understand that the workmen will see quite clearly here that a deep class distinction is being made between one set of people and another. It has been apparent all through these Debates, and people do read the Debates which take place here. The OFFICIAL REPORT goes to the public libraries and workmen and their wives will be able to read for themselves that for three solid days this House has discussed the necessity for safeguarding the rights of money and of property, and that now, when we make this simple request that the workmen who may be displaced after 20, 30 or 40 years' service should he safeguarded, we are told it cannot he done because of the expense. We can afford money to compensate people for old machinery, and to compensate people whose money is involved, and the House ought to have a better feeling when it comes to a matter of flesh and blood. We know that these men will he pushed out, not for ally fault of their own, but because the nation demands a better and more efficient supply of electricity. If this concession is not made, the Government will be giving the workmen of the country the very very clearest instance of how class antagonism works. They will show that they have not learned anything at all from the years that are past. They will show that they still hold the idea that a Cabinet Minister or Lord Chancellor or a person of that kind who is squeezed out of a job for one reason or another may be compensated, but that the workman, on whom we all depend, cannot be compensated.

I speak from experience in two fields. I can speak with regard to the men and women who will be driven on to the Poor Law, and also from the point of view of a member of a borough council, which, under the London Government Act, had to deal with a whole shoal of officials who were displaced. We were not permitted in those days, 20 or 25 years ago, to deal with a displaced workman, but we were compelled to deal with town clerks, vestry clerks and scores of different officials of that kind. There is left on my mind, and on the minds of thousands of others, the feeling that Parliament should long ago have got away from the idea that only those who are well paid and who are able to make provision for themselves should have further provision made for them. At this time of day the Government should, at least, see that common justice is done. I do not suppose it is much use appealing to the Minister. He treated the matter casually and almost contemptuously.

Colonel ASHLEY indicated dissent.


I say what I think, The right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to meet a single argument put forward from this side. Before the Division is taken someone from the Government Front Bench ought to answer the case which has been put forward; otherwise you will allow it to go out once more that you think so little of the workmen that, even though they may be driven out of their positions through no fault of their own, this country cannot afford to save them from the Poor Law. I think that would be a disgrace to the House of Commons.


The Government have produced a great national scheme, and one might reasonably expect them to be magnanimous in regard to the interests of labour. We can quite understand the attitude of the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon) judging from the line of action with which he has been identified with those on the other side who are antagonistic to the scheme. In regard to references which he has made, think they were intended to bring out an idea which has been expressed to me by one of my own constituents who holds the same political views as hon. Members opposite. That constituent is antagonistic to this Measure, and thinks it is all nonsense to contemplate the cheapness anticipated by the Government. Nevertheless the majority of the Rouse on both sides support the scheme, and we have now reached the stage of considering, what should be recognised as a reasonable and strong claim upon the scheme. To emphasise the old time conception that only those who hold salaried positions are to be recognised in this matter and to set aside the general worker—to whom such ready tributes are paid on other occasions—will be to mark unmistakably that class conflict which hon. Members opposite so often tell us ought to be obliterated. That is a very important, point in the present condition of our country. By refusing this request you make it plain in your own Bill that the man who has only an ordinary wage is to be treated with scant courtesy, and that is not creditable to those who were long since described by one of their own great leaders as the party of gentlemen.

Even the arguments from the other side suggest that this scheme is not likely to affect many workers, but is not that clear evidence to show that there is no occasion to reject an Amendment which simply asks that the same treatment be applied to all cases? Those who have been identified with municipal undertakings were gratified by the statement of the ex-Minister of Transport that in some of the leading London authorities the old procedure is being altered for the better. In the provinces we have become familiarised with representatives such as those on the other side of the House deliberately voting down the wages of the ordinary workers by 25 per cent, and, on the other hand, repeatedly voting support of the same salaries for those who hold more important positions. That is deepening the antagonism of those so unfortunately inclined to extreme measures. You are just simply making more and more determined those antagonistic to constitutional operation. Here we are making a. reasonable appeal. Attempts are made to obviate the trouble so as not to come to grips with the actual question. No one having knowledge of this discussion can fail to see the clear mark of distinction and contrast, between those who are determined to stand by selfish class interests as against those who are doing honourable business for the country, engaged in a great industry which the Government has taken up on a national scale to advance the interests of the country. How does it come about that they occupy such a miserably pathetic position. It is a deplorable, state of affairs and we hope there will be full support for the Amendment.

Colonel ASHLEY

The last part of the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) illustrates the burden of the complaints of many Members opposite. He says, if I quote him correctly, that the Government are casting aside people as of no consequence. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) gave the House to understand that men were being cast out of their employment without compensation, only fit to take refuge in the Poor Law, and that he as a guardian would have to look after them. May I bring the House back to an appreciation of the position. The real position is that there are two classes dealt with under this Bill. The first class approximates to the established civil servant class, who have a scale of compensation laid down for them. The other class are those who are unestablished wage-earners and have to go to an arbitrator. No one will say the arbitrators are not able and impartial men. The arbitrators take all the circumstances into consideration, the age, what the wages are, what the employment is, whether the man is likely to get any other employment and then compensate him for the loss of his employment. I apologise to the House for having intervened, but I had really to bring sonic stream of facts to bear on the statement.


Is not the scale poor?


I want to submit two points. This matter was very fully discussed in the Committee upstairs. It has been said that there is no analogy between the illustration given by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and that of civil servants. The Minister says there is a tribunal to which a non-established member of the Civil Service, namely, the workman, can apply. What about the position of the established workmen who have been working for the company or municipality for 25 or 30 years, and who, because of this scheme and the Government's Bill, are going to be put on the scrap heap? Are they not going to be regarded as established within the meaning of the Civil Service? I say it is grossly unfair. An official may have been in the service of a private company or municipality for five years and a workman in the service for 25 years. In the case of the official he is going to get compensated for the loss of his job, and the workman, because he is regarded under the Bill as non-established, is to get no compensation.

Colonel ASHLEY

No, no, no!


That is the statement of the Minister. It is the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary in the Committee. Upstairs it was said that the giving of compensation to the discharged workmen was tantamount to an advance in wages. If that be so, is it not equally an advance of salary to the official Where is the equity? Talk about class legislation! I am sure there never was anything more obviously class legislation than this. We have had observations made to-night by the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon), who, after making them, ran away. He stated that the workpeople who will be discharged by reason of the economies, of the abolition of the overlapping under the new scheme, will be absorbed. I say that is not a fair proposition. There is no equity in this Schedule as between the workman and what is known as the official. It only emphasises once again that the Government benches in this Bill are carrying out class legislation, giving preferential treatment to one section of the community against the other. Where is the compensation for the official to come from? It can only come from one or two places, namely, from the consumers, from the producers, or from a subsidy that may be given by the Government. In each of those cases the taxpayer has to pay for that compensation. You will have the anomaly of the workpeople, who are taxpayers as well as consumers, having to pay for compensation for the officials. If this Government can pursue this and face the issues which will certainly be exposed to the public in pressing it to a Division, then they will go clown to history as doubly-dyed die-hard Tories, as they have always been described.


The hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon), who has just gone out, seemed to feel ashamed. All day he has been fighting for the protection of London companies and their financial interests. It has been the same all through in this Debate, even in Committee. The moment you come to the human element then you find yourself up against a heartless machine. Here we are now nearing the end of what is called a great scheme. Arguments have been made repeatedly about the great advantages to the nation, but can a nation achieve an advantage in one hand while it creates misery for disabled workmen with the other? You cannot take any other view of the national scheme but a true conspectus of the whole. What is the use of the Government saying they are capable of dealing with a national scheme when they leave out that which would give a complete circle to the operations of the Bill? It is all very well to say you have got the poor-house for anyone displaced, but that is the most emphatic type of class legislation. If we had been asking for something more for those for whom we are pleading, we could have understood the opposition coming from the other side, but we are not asking for more. We are asking for equal treatment.

It does not follow, because the man who is called the ordinary working man has been born into those circumstances that deny him the education that makes the higher paid official possible, he should not have equal treatment. It was only the accident of birth that gave the higher official his chance of education that made him an official. It was the accident of poverty, to which the other was born, that established him as an ordinary working man. The Government all claim to be Christian gentlemen, but no matter how often they make that claim, we on this side do not heed the statement. We cannot judge by words, we judge by actions, and when you get in a situation like this, after all that some of us have suffered during the passage of this Bill, and after all the vested interests have been met, after the hon. Member for Moseley has fought all the time for his British Federation of Industries—[An HON. MEMBER: "The forty thieves!"] The forty thieves were decent men in comparison—when it comes to the working man, then is the time for everyone on the other side to have a kick, and a drop kick at that.

What is the use of talking about a sense of justice? We have been dealing with this Bill longer than the Government expected, because they have spent most of the time in trying to adjust the various claims, not of the human element, but of vested interests. That is what has delayed the Measure. That is why the Attorney-General to-night has taken his whip and lashed some of his own Mem- bers into a sense of logic, and he did it well, but why should be not now make a complete job of it and get a sense of justice running through it? Reference has been made to the displaced man having 20 or more years' service. There is nothing more heart-breaking, and that is becoming the permanent problem of unemployment in this country. Whether the Government can see it or not, if they do not make provision in this Bill for those whom they are displacing, they will have to meet the same expenditure in another Department in keeping these men from dying of starvation. Why should this continue? If every reorganisation of industry means the displacement of men, why should not the Bill dealing with that displacement carry in it everything that the Bill encounters? Why cannot we have complete legislation? Why cannot we have something logical running right through, even to the lowest and the highest of all the human element concerned in the operation of the scheme?

I am surprised indeed that the Attorney-General has not seen fit to add a little grace to all that has happened. If I cannot appeal to him on any other ground, I am surprised he cannot add that which would take away this bad taste that is going to be left. Let him not forget that every working man is watching what is taking place here, and that this decision will have more interest to the working man than every other decision that has been taken on this Bill. The present circumstances through which the country is passing are deepening the bitterness of the working people, and instead of trying to do something to improve matters, the Government come along in this Bill with another pin prick and say: "We want to stamp upon you the fact that you are something inferior." That is a most unfortunate situation to be attached to any big scheme such as this claims to be. We have been told that this is one of the greatest attempts, so far as the Government are concerned, at the development of British industry. But what is the use of talking about the development of British industry if, at the same time, you are creating misery to the human element? No matter how efficient you may make things, if by that efficiency you are going to increase misery and suffering to others, you are not approaching anything outside what is called the benefit of material gains to a few. Material gains to a few may mean a few more motor-cars, a few more diamonds, and some other things like that—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

The hon. Member is going a long way from the Amendment. The question before the House is whether, in the case of workpeople, the matter should be left to the discretion of the referee, or whether the referee should be bound to apply Civil Service terms. That is the point we are discussing.


I am pleading for the equal treatment of the men, and I was pointing out that, if they are treated as the Bill proposes, they will not be able to buy these things of which I am talking, and the less people are able to buy, the worse are conditions for trade. After what has taken place, we had hoped that this demand would have been met, and am I not justified in asking the Government to use the same consideration as they did in other cases to-day, where they gave a promise to carry forward and see what could be done, if not here, then in another place? Is there no chance at all of getting the worker brought in with a sense of justice? Are we to go out and say: "Here is a supposedly great scheme, but at the bottom of it we leave a sediment of misery for a certain few"?


I had no intention of rising to speak on this Amendment, but to-night, as has happened on one or two previous occasions, I have been stung to rise by the very plainly exhibited hilarity and impatience on the part of hon. Members opposite. I must say that during the last few days this House has listened with very great patience to very long arguments put forward from the Government side of the House in the interests of invested capital, although the exponents have not had the courage, which I hope will come from this side to-night, to force their opinions to a Division of the House. They have at least been listened to with respect, and they have put pretty cogently all the arguments they possibly could on behalf of vested interests. But when we come to consider what has been termed the human element, that is, the workman, who has no other protection, in many cases, than what may be given to him by legislative enactment, they have, I regret to say—and I rise more to point that out than with the hope of moving the Government to do justice in this case—exhibited such impatience, laughter and joviality, implying that it does not matter about these working people, that we are stung to protest.

I would point out that in the Railways Act, 1921—I am quoting from memory—the Section there providing for compensation makes no discrimination whatever between officers or officials and the ordinary workmen. Whether it was that the railway financial interest were not as vigilant, or the strength of the railway workmen had something to do with it, I cannot say, but if the House wants some precedent for at least attempting to do the fair thing, we have it in that Railway Act of quite a recent date. I would ask if it is quite fair to refer cases of ordinary weekly wage-earners to a referee, who

will not, by the widest stretch of imagination, be quite of their class, or in strong sympathy with them as weekly wage-earners? Why should not all the cases of permanent officials also be referred to a referee? Why this distinction? It is a class distinction. When we give the slightest semblance of creating class distinction, we are met with howls, and often abuse, and yet it is held in this clam, cold manner that there must be a distinction between those on salaries and those on wages. I want to add these few words, not only as a protest against the unfairness, but also against the tone in which appeals on behalf of the working people are received in this House.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 177; Noes, 94.

Division No. 455.] AYES. [9.50 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Edmondson, Major A. J. Loder, J. de V.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Elliot, Major Walter E. Looker, Herbert William
Albery, Irving James Ellis, R. G. Lougher, L.
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.Derby) Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) Lynn, Sir Robert J.
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Everard, W. Lindsay Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Fairfax, Captain J. G. Macmillan, Captain H.
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J.(Kent, Dover) Fielden, E. B. Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Finburgh, S. McNeill Rt. Hon. Ronald John
Balniel, Lord Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Makins, Brigadier-General E.
Banks, Reginald Mitchell Foxcroft Captain C. T. Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Margesson, Captain D.
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Galbraith, J. F. W. Marriott, Sir J. A. R.
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Gates, Percy Meyer, Sir Frank
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.
Bethel, A. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Betterton, Henry B. Glyn, Major R. G. C. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Goff, Sir Park Murchison, C. K.
Blundell, F. N. Grace, John Neville, R. J.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Grant, Sir J. A. Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Greene, W. P. Crawford Nuttall, Ellis
Briscoe, Richard George Gunston, Captain D. W. Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Buckingham, Sir H. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Perring, Sir William George
Burman, J. B. Harrison, G. J. C. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Burton, Colonel H. W. Hartington, Marquess of Pliditch, Sir Philip
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Power, Sir John Cecil
Campbell, E. T. Hawke, John Anthony Preston, William
Cassels, J. D. Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Price, Major C. W. M
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth.S.) Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Radford, E. A.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Rawson, Sir Cooper
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Rees, Sir Beddoe
Christie, J. A. Herbert, S. (York, N. R Scar. & Wh'by) Reid, D. D. (County Down)
Clayton, G. C. Hilton, Cecil Remer, J. R.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St.Marylebone) Rentoul, G. S.
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hopkins, J. W. W. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Cooper, A. Duff Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N. Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Cope, Major William Hurst, Gerald B. Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Cunliffe, Sir Herbert Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Rye, F. G.
Dalziel, Sir Davison Kindersley, Major G. M. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) King, Captain Henry Douglas Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Sandeman, A. Stewart
Davies, Dr. Vernon Knox, Sir Alfred Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Sandon, Lord
Dawson, Sir Philip Little, Dr. E. Graham Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Dixey, A. C. Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)
Drewe, C. Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th) Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)
Shaw, Capt. Walter (Wilts, Westb'y) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Sheffield, Sir Berkeley Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Fredrick H. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down) Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell- Wise, Sir Fredric
Slaney, Major P. Kenyon Titchfield, Major the Marquess of Withers, John James
Spender-Clay, Colonel H. Waddington, R. Womersley, W. J.
Sprot, Sir Alexander Wallace, Captain D. E. Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)
Stanley, Lord (Fylde) Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull) Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland) Warner, Brigadier-General W. W. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Steel, Major Samuel Strang Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle) Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Storry-Deans, R. Watts, Dr. T.
Streatfeild, Captain S. R. Wells, S. R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H. Captain Viscount Curzon and Captain Bowyer.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Purcell, A. A.
Adamson. W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Attlee, Clement Richard Groves, T. Ritson, J.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Grundy, T. W. Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)
Baker, Walter Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.) Saklatvala, Shapurji
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Barnes, A. Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Scrymgeour, E.
Barr, J. Hardie, George D. Scurr, John
Batey, Joseph Harris, Percy A. Sexton, James
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Bondfield, Margaret Hayday, Arthur Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Bromfield, William Hayes, John Henry Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Bromley, J. Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Smillie, Robert
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Hirst, G. H. Stamford, T. W.
Buchanan, G. John, William (Rhondda, West) Stephen, Campbell
Cape, Thomas Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Sutton, J. E.
Charleton, H. C. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown) Tinker, John Joseph
Clowes, S. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Townend, A. E.
Cluse, W. S. Kelly, W. T. Varley, Frank B.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Kirkwood, D. Viant, S. P.
Compton, Joseph Lansbury, George Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Crawfurd, H. E. Lawrence, Susan Watson, W, M. (Dunfermline)
Dalton, Hugh Lee, F. Welsh, J. C.
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Lowth, T. Westwood, J.
Day, Colonel Harry MacLaren, Andrew Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Dennison, R. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Whiteley, W.
Duncan, C. March, S. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Dunnico, H. Maxton, James Wright, W.
Fenby, T. D. Montague, Frederick
Gardner, J. P. Murnin H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Gosling, Harry Naylor, T. E. Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles Edwards.
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Oliver, George Harold
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Potts, John S.
Colonel ASHLEY

I beg to move, in page 38, line 35, to leave out the words that he suffers such loss or diminution as is mentioned in this Schedule, and to insert instead thereof the words when the loss or relinquishment of employment occurs. This is purely a drafting Amendment. It is necessary to make this alteration because, in line 26, the words used are where loss or relinquishment of employment is involved.


I would like to ask whether this Amendment rules out a claim for compensation on the ground that a man has suffered an alteration of duty and has been given a position of less importance than that which he enjoyed before the amalgamation took place?


This Amendment does not alter the position in any respect. It is purely a drafting Amendment. If the hon. Member will look at the Schedule, he will see the words such service shall be reckoned as service under the authorised undertakers in whose employment he was. These have to be read in conjunction with the words suffers such loss or diminution as is mentioned in the Schedule. What we want to put in is when the loss or relinquishment of employment occurs. It merely makes more clear what is the date at which it occurs. This Amendment does not put anybody in or take anybody out.


Is it quite clear from what the Attorney-General has said that if a man is given a position of less responsibility he can be compensated? Could the right hon. Gentleman give me a direct answer?


This proviso relates only to the loss or relinquishment of employment.

Amendment agreed to.