§ Order for Second Reading read.
Mr. ERNEST WINTERTON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I count myself singularly fortunate in being able to commend to the House a Bill which I believe will receive the sympathetic consideration of Members in every quarter of the House. I am doubly fortunate in the fact that this is the first occasion on which I have ad dressed the House, and I can, therefore, count upon special consideration in my endeavour to explain the principles of the Bill. It is of a fairly simple character, and its terms are not unknown to those who sat in the last Parliament, inasmuch as the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. B. Riley) obtained a First Reading for the principle of the Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule in April, 1925. That Bill proposed that every employed person should have an annual holiday of not less than six clear consecutive days. In this Measure, the term suggested) is eight clear consecutive days, it being thought by the promoters that the extension to eight days will allow those who are privileged to obtain this benefit to take advantage of the week-end travelling facilities that the railway organisations are so anxious to promote. The payment of wages relates to the whole of the period at which, owing to the compulsory annual holiday, the employed person is not on duty, and there is the provision that, should any attempt be made to evade it, either by the dismissal or suspension of work man immediately prior to the time of the holiday falling due, there will be a penalty on conviction and a fine which may be as much as £20.
I believe that, if the Bill becomes law, there will be found to be very few employers so mean and despicable as to endeavour to deprive a workman of his deserved annual holiday by an evasion of that kind. There is also a provision to prevent any contracting out by any arrangement made between the employer and the workman, and in the case of pay- 2422 ment at piecework rates there is a pro vision that that should be arranged by regulation. This eight days' annual holiday is not in any way to interfere with the existing right of any member of the public to customary Bank or other holidays, and it is made clear in the first Clause that the eight days are additional to any existing rights enjoyed under the present law. An employed person is defined as anyone who is employed under contract of service or apprenticeship, and that definition will mean that, of the approximately 12,000,000 employed per sons in the country, there will be 9,000,000 who will be entitled to a holiday on pay in addition to the 3,000,000 who already enjoy that privilege by the fact that they are salaried persons, or that they have, through arrangements made between their employers and the trade unions, secured agreements which give them at least one week's holiday on pay.
The "Labour Gazette" for last August shows that in 30 of the important occupations of the country the principle of an annual holiday on pay has already been established by mutual arrangement, and one of the most popular announcements made by the present Government shortly after taking office was that by the Financial Secretary that he had arranged that all Government employés, either established or unestablished, who come under the class of industrial workers, should receive in future an annual holiday with pay—a commendable example which ought to be followed throughout the whole of the industries of the country. Indeed, there are so many already enjoying this privilege that one can under stand some feeling of envy on the part of those who so far have not enjoyed it. I can imagine that salaried persons who receive their annual holiday as a matter of course may well say to themselves, when they contemplate that advantage, in the words of a well-known hymn,Not more than others I deserve,But Thou hast given me more.And my plea this morning is for a very deserving class of persons who are quite as much entitled to an annual holiday on pay as any other class in the community. There seems to be some mystic difference between a salary and a wage. I have examined dictionaries in vain to discover what that real difference is, except that, if one is a salaried servant, one 2423 gets one's salary during the holiday period as a matter of course, but too often, if one is a wage-earner, one faces the prospect of a holiday with loss of pay, although, of course, the holiday means more, and not less expense, for those who endeavour to enjoy it.
I see from a notice on the Paper that certain members are concerned about the burden on industry argument, and, while certainly, in a maiden speech, I am very loth indeed to enter on that highly controversial field, perhaps the House will be patient with me while I submit one or two considerations on that point. To begin with, an annual holiday means, surely, improved health, and my hon. Friend on my left and others in the same profession on other benches will, I think, agree with me that increased health means increased efficiency, and increased efficiency means increased output and in creased production. Therefore, on that ground, I submit that the burden on industry will not be as great as some may be inclined to imagine. Plutarch once said that:Rest is the sweet sauce of labour.We want the ordinary average working man and woman at present deprived of that rest to receive this "sweet sauce" which is now enjoyed by others in the professions and in the more favoured industries. Then again, these are the days of the rationalisation of industry, and I submit that the question of whether an annual holiday becomes a burden on industry if payment is made for that holiday depends largely on the success of the employers in the organisation and re organisation of their business.
I had the privilege long before I came into this House of haunting the Lobby. I used to fetch out Members in order to try to persuade them to vote for the police having one day's rest in seven. In that campaign, I was continually met with the suggestion that the burden upon the ratepayers, through giving the police one day's holiday in seven, would be entirely intolerable and that it would prevent many Watch Committees from considering the matter with favour. As a matter of fact, when the Watch Committees and the Chief Constables got down to the real problem, they found that by reorganisation it was possible in many small forces to give the holiday 2424 without any increased rate at all. In many of the principal police forces of this country it was possible by careful reorganisation of duties to give this ad vantage with very little increased cost and very few increases of the actual police. I submit that the captains of industry should certainly be capable of meeting this additional burden, if it be a burden, somewhat and to some extent on the lines which I have suggested. Even if it should mean that more people will be brought into employment to fill the gaps of those who are taking their annual holiday, is that a reason which is going to be turned down in this House in these days when all sides are encouraging the Lord Privy Seal to find more work for the people? I suggest that here is one means, at least, of alleviating to some extent the burden of unemployment.
When we talk about the burdens on industry, surely we ought to consider the possibility of the burdens which would be taken off industry as a result of an annual holiday with pay. I have been favoured with the opinions of the town clerks of some of the seaside boroughs in this country. I have here, for example, a letter emanating from the Town Clerk of Blackpool, and I venture to quote to the House one or two phrases from this letter:If your Bill becomes law, I would say that the chief benefits will be:It is also said that if this holiday be spread over the whole of the spring, summer and autumn months, it would be an excellent thing for seaside resorts, and I venture to say and to submit to the House that the sooner we rationalise our holidays by some such scheme as this, the more comfort there will be for the people who go to the seaside and the better it will be for the railway com- 2425 panies. I want to see the day come when visitors to the seaside in August will not be offered the bathroom as the only sleeping accommodation, and I want to see the method devised by which the whole of the working-classes will be able to enjoy their holidays spread over the whole of the holiday season. The same argument applies, of course, in a lesser degree to the railway service. There you would have under the provisions of a Bill of this character an opportunity for the railway service to be running continuously to our holiday resorts during the whole of the period, and the working-class would be able to obey the injunction which has been staring them in the face all this last summer, "Take your holiday now." I am in favour of them taking their holiday at a time when they will receive the warmest welcome from seaside landladies and when the advantage to the community is beyond all dispute.
- (1) the re-creation of health and. strength to those who are enabled to take a holiday;
- (2) the provision of additional employment at seaside and holiday resorts, amongst musicians, entertainment attendants, maids, waiters and hotel and restaurant staffs, shop assistants, tramcar and 'bus workpeople, gas and electricity employees. One feels that if all these 'seasonal' employees can earn a little more money during the summer time, they spend it in winter in clothing, etc., manufactured in inland manufacturing centres.
- (3) the provision of additional employment for railwaymen, road transport people and other additional workers—garage work men, etc."
As far as I have been able to examine the records of this honourable House, there is only one Member who ever became a saint. I refer to Sir John Lubbock, who by his Bill introduced in 1871 obtained for the people of this country four or five bank holidays. He is known, I understand, not because he wrote a very charming book on "Ants and Bees," but he will be remembered in history as the man who gave us our bank holidays. He has entered into the calendar of saints as "Saint Lubbock." My Bill this morning is an invitation to every Member of this House to enter the calendar of saints. As far as I have been able to observe in my small acquaintance of the House, it is the only opportunity that some Members will have of ever getting there. Be that as it may, I want to suggest that this is a Bill which will be exceedingly popular with a very large number of our people, and that we should hesitate before we, in any way, put any obstacles in the way of the adoption of so excellent a principle as this.
May I say one word about the Order Paper which shows that a number of Members of this House are proposing delay. There was at one time in the House, I understand, a fourth party. There is now a fifth party which I should like if I may say so without offence, to describe as the "dilly-dally" party. They do not deny, in the suggested 2426 Amendment, the virtue of the principle, but they are apparently concerned in postponing its operation. I am the more surprised to see amongst the names of those who desire to oppose the Bill the name of the hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft (Sir G. Rentoul). Lowestoft is a seaside resort, and I am wondering what the hon. Member's constituents will say to him when they discover that he has opposed a Measure which certainly would bring a great deal of advantage to the constituency which he represents. I had the pleasure of hearing the hon. Member the other day pleading for the fishermen of Lowestoft. I am pleading for them also, and for their wives and for other people in seaside resorts who, owing to our stupid system of taking holidays, have a great struggle to make ends meet, owing to the restricted holiday season. My astonishment becomes greater when I discover that the hon. Member for Lowestoft is Vice-Chairman of the United Caterers' Co. Of all the industries which are going to benefit under a Bill of this kind the catering industry will stand first. I discovered that that company are very greatly interested in confectionery, flour and chocolates. Everybody knows that the time to eat buns is holiday time. I am surprised that the hon. Member has been betrayed into putting his name to an Amendment of this character.
I should be loth to raise any kind of class argument in a Bill which I am submitting for the first time to this House, but I am bound to say that I sympathise greatly with those less fortunate of our fellows who, deserving a holiday quite as much if not more than those who so easily obtain it, see those who enjoy salaries going to the mountains, the country or the seaside, and themselves having to stay at home because of the sparseness of their economic resources. I am here to plead for the men and the women, some of whom have written to me, who have been working for the same firm for years, and have not yet had a real annual holiday. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] If hon. Members wish it, I can show them the letters. I have received a resolution from shopmen and railway servants who do not get an annual holiday, with pay, and I have also received a letter from a vicar, who complains that he has never had a holiday, with pay, for the last ten 2427 years, and is most anxious to discover whether he comes within the terms of this Measure.
In view of its very general popularity and the demand there is for a Bill of this character, I suggest to the hon. Members who have put down the Amendment, to withdraw it and allow us to have a Second Reading of the Bill. If they do that, they will earn not only the gratitude of the men and women who are in work, but the gratitude of hundreds of thousands of wives, to most of whom the annual holiday means no rest under present conditions. The holiday for them means either that their children are in the streets, and that they have to maintain the family during that week of holiday, without housekeeping money, or if, by means of contriving and self-sacrifice, they are able to take a holiday, it means increased expense in preparing for the holiday, in clothing, boots and the rest of it, and at the end of the holiday there is more increased expense as the result of the visit to the seaside or elsewhere. Because this is a Bill to bring a measure of real happiness, real rest, real recreation and real sunlight into millions of homes in this country, I commend it to hon. Members. I hope my language will not be considered extravagant when I say that if in this Session of Parliament we show a desire not only to give this Bill a Second Reading but a determination on the part of hon. Members in all quarters of the House to put it on the Statute Book, we shall earn the thanks of those who benefit, especially from the children, to whom this Bill will mean so much that they, in due course, will rise up and call us blessed.
§ Mr. JAMES HUDSON
I beg to second the Motion. Doing so, it falls to my lot, as a special privilege, to offer to the hon. Member, as is our usual custom, our congratulations upon the delivery of an extraordinarily effective maiden speech. From the point of view of the lucidity with which he has explained the provisions of the Bill, his general animadversions upon it, and the eloquence of his conclusions, to judge from the interest displayed by all sections of the House, we all desire to extend to him our congratulations and our hopes that we shall be able to hear 2428 him again upon an early occasion. The Bill deals with great bodies of men and women who, in this modern world of buying and selling, have only, in a general way, one thing to sell, and that is their labour power. It ought to have been more readily understood than it has been by those who buy that commodity that it should be at its maximum efficiency when it is bought, but the practice of a century of industrial life in this country has proved that although employers ought early to have realised that the workers should be efficient in their capacity to work, it has needed at least a century of struggle and collective bargaining and, on the top of that, action by the State in order to bring about decent economic conditions by which we can have some guarantee that the labour that is given by the labourers shall be as effective and efficient as possible.
From early years, throughout the nineteenth century, the State discovered the necessity—I would bring this point especially to the attention of hon. Members who have put down the Amendment—that we cannot leave it to the long-established customs of employers and employed to set the conditions in their own industries. We cannot leave it to them, and not only were we compelled to take action as a State in the interests of the workers, but even in the interests of the employers. We have been compelled to restrict hours in industry for the health of the workers and for the efficiency of the workers. In the process of time we have organised legislative measures by which we have laid down minimum conditions, as a State, regarding the wages of the workers. We have introduced a minimum wage Act for miners and agricultural labourers. We have introduced, through the Trade Board legislation, arrangements by which the will of the State can be imposed upon employers, who cannot be left, as hon. Members suggest in their Amendment, to work out voluntary arrangements by which proper conditions can be attached to the workers.
With these general considerations in mind we are proposing in this Bill that a practice which has already travelled same way in the field of collective agreement should become the universal practice established by law. The hon. Gentle- 2429 man who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill spoke about the great benefits which its provisions would bring into the home of the average worker to day. The man of means, if he was offered a holiday and no arrangement was made by which his pay should continue during the holiday, would not find the practice as welcome as he does at the present moment, and for a poor man to get a holiday and have nothing to spend on it then the offer becomes not a help but something of a punishment. I saw a letter yesterday from a North London mother who wrote complaining that her two daughters, who work in one of the large London shops, were being compelled to take a fort night's holiday. Hon, Members will observe the words she uses "compelled to take a fortnight's holiday." She pointed out that their wages were so low that the house could not be maintained if these wages ceased to come in for a fortnight, and she showed that this holiday, which ought to have been a blessing, was little better than a plague and a curse.
For a large number of workers in this country the offer of a holiday without pay is of very little advantage on account of their low wages, in many cases it is no advantage at all, and the main provision which we stress in this Bill is that while we require holidays for all workers we require an arrangement, which is duly provided for in the Bill, by which the payment of wages may continue. I was reading the other day an excellent lecture delivered in Manchester by a gentleman usually associated with the Liberal party—Mr. J. M. Keynes. He was dealing with the problem of wages and the standard of comfort of the workers and he rather suggested that the workers in this country paid far too much attention to raising what are called mere money rates rather than raising the general standard of comfort. I do not think he sufficiently developed the differentiation he wanted to make, but I certainly say to the Liberal party that at any rate in the proposal we are putting before the House to-day we ought to have their support and the support of Mr. Keynes, because we are attempting to raise the standard of comfort and life without attempting to touch general wage levels. I am not saying anything 2430 about wage levels, but I plead with hon. Members who take the view of Mr. Keynes that at any rate in this proposal we ought to have their support.
The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill referred to the fact that a considerable body of evidence already exists; and may I remind hon. Members opposite that much evidence has already been collected for us in the "Ministry of Labour Gazette" in August of this year. The first point I want to emphasise in connection with that evidence is this: that while the great majority of wage earners in many of the largest industries are not paid for their holidays the article, which give statistics on this matter, state that at most there is only about 1,500,000 workers at the present time covered by general and district agreements by which holiday pay can be guaranteed to them. It is true that they refer to a large number of others, salaried workers, who get payment for their holidays, but I draw attention to what is the central fact in this matter in order to emphasise the need for more speedy action if that which is regarded as a right for 1,500,000 people may be accorded to the rest of the workers of this country. The "Ministry of Labour Gazette" points out in the evidence it adduces that in those areas where a general agreement has been made between the workers and the employers the usual payment for holidays is made over a period from three to as much as 12 days.
It may be worth the attention of the House if I give some of the principal industries in which this practice has already been adopted. The heavy chemical manufacturers have arranged for their workers, by agreement, for holidays with pay where 12 months has been worked prior to the holidays. Fine chemical manufacturers arrange one week with pay for those who have worked only six months prior to the holiday. Boot and shoe manufacturers have arrangements which I agree are mixed up with a scheme of contributory payments out of which a holiday fund is built. Traffic grades on the railways have one week after 12 months work, and tramway organisations have adopted an eight days' holiday and in many cases, in addition to the eight days, provision is 2431 made for payment on the four or five public holidays also. Gas undertakings have arranged for a varying period from three to six days after twelve months work. The printing and bookbinding trade give one week's holiday. The cocoa, chocolate, sugar, confectionery and fruit preserving trade also provide for this holiday. The flour milling trade adopts the practice of one week after six months work. These are cases where general national agreements have been made between the unions and the employers to cover the workers in the industries. In addition there are large numbers of district agreements that have already been made. Some of them are particularly interesting. For instance there is the case of the coal mining deputies, who have an arrangement by which they get a holiday varying from six to 14 days, after 12 months of work. Why particularly the deputies? Why not for the miners? In a competing country like Poland the practice has been applied not only to the deputies but to the whole of the workers in the industry. To take one or two other examples, district agreements have also been made for the London omnibus workers, who get eight days' holiday with pay after 12 months of continuous work. Local authorities' non-trading sections, particularly in Lancashire and Cheshire, grant nine days' holiday after 12 months of continuous work. I might go on quoting from this valuable list to show how far already the practice has been tried and how difficulties have been over come in the experience already gained.
I cannot conclude this part of the examination of the case without drawing attention very specially to the remark able influence of the co-operative societies in this matter. For example, butchers who work for co-operative societies are accorded six to ten days holiday after 12 months of continuous work. All the co-operative employés, whether in retail or wholesale societies, are accorded this principle in varying degrees. Take the London Co-operative Society as an example. It grants six days with pay after 12 months of continuous work, and the holiday in creases in the next year to nine days with pay, and after 36 months of work the holiday is 12 days with pay. As usual the co-operative movement is in the van in this excellent step.
2432 A very valuable side of this review in the "Labour Gazette" is the record of decisions that have been made by the public and pseudo-public authorities that have been set up. For example, the Trade Boards in more than one case have recommended this principle. In the brush and broom industries and the dress making trades, to take only two examples, joint industrial councils have adopted the principle. The cooperage industry is another case in point. National conciliation boards have found it necessary to apply the principle also in the saw milling industry, especially that part of the industry on the north-east coast. With these facts before us I would draw the attention of hon. Gentlemen who have put down Amendments to the Motion for the Second Beading of the Bill to the fact that the progress made and the experience won do not justify any further delay.
Let me draw attention also to one very remarkable example of the settlement of this holiday question that has come to my notice only this week, in connection with the garment making industries. This instance struck me as particularly valuable, because I have often heard hon. Gentlemen opposite advance the argument, especially when we have been discussing these trades, that it was impossible to make much improvement in a trade like the garment making trade until some sort of exclusion was enforced against competing goods from abroad. In spite of the fact that those in the trade have not got what it has been suggested they ought to have, the trade during the last month has been able to accord a remarkable agreement for part of the workers in the industry, by which, at any rate in the Wholesale Clothing and Mantle and Costume Manufacturers' Federation, male workers of 22 and over are to receive £2 for a week's holiday, those of 18 to 22 are to reecive £1, female workers above 18 are to receive £1 for a week's holiday, and those from 16 to 18 to receive 10s. I am told that in the next week or two the other section of the industry, the Shirt and Collar Manufacturers' Federation, is likely to adopt a similar proposal for the whole of the rest of the workers. I submit that when the garment making trade are able to adopt this principle for their people who, as Tom Hood told us, worked in the greatest poverty in his day, we have reached a time when for all 2433 workers we should lay down the principle that the garment workers have adopted.
What is the practice in other countries? I have had the advantage of seeing a report that was prepared by the Inter national Federation of Trade Unions and presented to their annual meeting at Prague in the early part of this year. From that report I have been able to get the following interesting facts: That in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Russia and Brazil at the present time general legislation has been adopted by which this principle can be applied to all the wage workers in those countries. In addition, special legislation, adopting the principle for particular groups, has been adopted by Denmark for domestic employés by Italy for salaried employés, by Spain for seamen, by Switzerland for domestic workers, by Jugo-Slavia for workers in State monopolies, and by Chili and Salvador for salaried employés. So that one can see that already considerable progress has been made in the world amongst those who are our competitors.
It might be complained that in the list I have quoted some of the biggest of the nations are not included. I agree, but even amongst those, for example France, the nation is on the verge of accepting the principle. In France as far back as 1925 the Minister of Labour brought into the Chamber a Bill which provided that eight days with pay should be given to all who had worked for a year, 15 days with pay for all who had worked two years, and that there should be increases in proportion in other classes of workers. The provision is made, moreover, that in those industries which are scheduled as unhealthy and dangerous under the arrangements made by the Labour decrees the eight days shall become 12, and the 15 days for those who worked far two years shall be raised to 22 days.
It is true that that Bill has not yet passed, but a Committee has been appointed and will make a report. The fact that the Minister of Labour in France made himself responsible for putting forward this proposal is in evidence of the continuing progress that this principle is making abroad. Then there are the provisions made in Austria. Hon. Members often forget that the nation in Europe which has made the most remark able advance along these lines is not, as 2434 some hon. Members suppose, Russia, but Austria. The presence in Austria of a strong Socialist movement has made it possible to bring about changes, both in municipal and State affairs, that include very remarkable provisions on the lines that this Bill adopts. For example, as far back as 1919, when the Austrians were going through much harder conditions than any we have been through, and when competition from abroad was, at least, as serious for them as it has ever been for us, a Bill was brought in, and has remained in force ever since, by which workers get one week of holiday with pay after one year's service and two weeks holiday with pay after 5 years service.
§ Mr. HUDSON
That was passed and is the law by an enactment of 30th July, 1919. There are provisions by which wages are paid to time workers during the week's holiday at the rates which they have been getting in the week pre ceding the holiday and by which piece workers get their pay during the holiday on the basis of the average wages received during the previous 12 months. The Austrians have also dealt with salaried workers, and there is an enactment, passed in 1921, by which salaried workers get from two weeks to four weeks of holiday after varying periods of service have been given ranging from six months to ten years. What is true of Austria is true also of several other nations, particularly Czechoslovakia, which is held to be a serious competitor with us in many industries. That country has a series of effective measures to cover this proposal. I draw the special attention of the House to the case of Poland, which, in spite of poverty and difficulties, and in spite of the fact that it is held to be a competitor with us and other nations, has found it possible to afford all wage earners an eight day holiday with pay, rising to a 14 day holiday with pay.
I submit that, in the facts which I have given, there is an adequate case, based upon full experience, for the adoption of this principle now, and not, as hon. Members who have put down Amendments would suggest, after long delay and after awaiting the results of special inquiries. A case has been made 2435 for the adoption of this principle at once. I take it that practically every Member of this House during the Election professed his desire to see an improvement in the condition of the workers and with the facts which I have mentioned in mind, I cannot see how such Members can resist the proposal in the Bill. I claim that it is the duty of the House, without further delay, to give this Bill a Second Reading so that it may be examined in detail. I admit that there may be room for amending it and improving it but there should be an opportunity for giving it a detailed examination in Committee, where representatives of the Government can attend and give us, not only those facts with which I have dealt, but many other facts which are obtain able. We ought to have, this year, an opportunity of placing on the Statute Book a Measure which will meet I am certain with the hearty approval of the great mass of our people.
§ Captain AUSTIN HUDSON
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 declines to proceed with a Bill which materially affects every phase of industry, agriculture, and commerce, which interferes with the long-established custom of employers and employed to settle conditions in their own industries, and which is consequently of so far-reaching a character that this House should not entertain it unless it is presented by a Government which is in a position, after full consultation with all interests concerned, to give the House authoritative information on the cost and effects of the proposal and the measure of agreement thereon throughout the industries affected.As the first Opposition speaker in this Debate, I wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Winterton) on a very able maiden speech. It was particularly pleasant to me because I am in agreement with a great deal of what he said. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. Hudson) presented his case extremely well, as was only to be expected from one bearing the same illustrious name as myself. We who oppose this Bill are not doing so because the Bill is bad in principle, but because in our opinion it is quite unworkable. We hold that if you try, by means of this Bill, to bring about an annual holiday you will so upset industry as to do more harm than good. It is all very well for 2436 the hon. Member for Huddersfield to show that many industries have them selves instituted an annual holiday, but that argument can be used in two ways. The hon. Member says that it proves that the time has come for the Government to take action to establish an annual holiday in those other industries which have not been so fortunate. On the other hand, if by mutual agreement within certain industries, they have been able to establish an annual holiday, would it not be much better for the other industries to go on the same lines and achieve the annual holiday by agreement thereby avoiding the disorganisation which is bound to arise from Government action of the kind suggested?
Another reason for our opposition is that the effect of this Bill will be felt right up and down the country and some industries will be very seriously affected indeed. But this Bill is brought in as a Private Member's Bill and was only printed and circulated three days ago. Yet we are asked to-day to give a Second Reading, in these circumstances, to a Bill which vitally affects private interests. It is also bound to affect in a certain degree individual Members of this House, but I should like to make it quite clear that, as far as I am concerned, it makes not the slightest difference to me in my private capacity whether the Bill is passed or not. I am a director of a family business, in which we give every employé a fortnight's holiday with pay, and to the majority three weeks holiday. We do so because we can afford it, and because the industry is able to work such an arrangement without being thrown completely out of joint. Other industries, not so fortunately placed, may not be in a position to do that.
The intention of the hon. Members who have brought forward the Bill is admirable but I think the results are problematical, if not actually dangerous. It seems to me, in regard to legislation brought forward by Socialists, that the Socialist path is strewn with good intentions. They always seem to trip up on the hard facts when it comes to carrying out those intentions and making Bills of this kind into Acts of Parliament. I am certain that we are moving towards a universal holiday—a holiday for all workers in this country—and I do not believe a single Member 2437 of the House is against that idea but on the other hand I do not believe that this Bill is going to bring that idea to fruition. The Bill has caused serious alarm to industrialists who employ enormous masses of people. Last night I was speaking to some employers of labour and they told me that, if passed in its present form, the Bill is going to affect very seriously their industries in various ways. The very last thing we want to do at the present time when unemployment is going up every week, is to disorganise industry or to make another of those gestures which are so terribly unsettling to industry and which may cause even more unemployment than we have at present.
My Amendment is put forward on three main grounds. The first is the ground of interference with industry. We do not know what the burdens on industry will be, but I think they will be very serious in the case of some of the big industries. A big employer of labour told me two days ago that if this Bill went through as it was, it would cost them £28,000 a year, and I believe, to give some idea, that the annual holiday which has been granted to State employés by the present Government is costing something like £800,000 a year. That does not matter, perhaps, because the taxpayers pay it, but if the same kind of thing is going to happen in private industries, it shakes confidence and causes more unemployment. I had some rather interesting facts given me by a coal owner as to the effects of such a Bill as this on the mining industry. The mining industry have worked out that this Bill would cost them £2,250,000 a year extra, and that that would come to a cost of 2s. 2d. per ton. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, 2¼ d., surely."] Yes, I mean 2¼ d. Naturally this will be passed on to other industries, and it will be felt by the railways and by the heavy industries. The Government are in consultation with the mining industry to try and get an agreement, and I would ask if this is the time to put an additional burden on that industry, a burden which to a certain extent is unknown and which will upset the whole of the wage arrangements which are at present being come to. I do not know if the Lord Privy Seal has given any opinion on the subject, but it seems to me that when he is buying his steel 2438 sleepers in this country, this additional burden will have to be put on and they will cost more. When we have a private Member's Bill brought before us at three days' notice which has such a vast effect on an industry like the coal mining industry, I think we should think very seriously before we pass it into law.
Another reason against the Bill, because of its interference with industry is, that in such cases as that of the mining industry, the whole of the present wages will have to be reconsidered, and they will all have to be put back into the melting pot, because no industry can stand these enormous burdens without very serious consideration as to what they mean. Again, the ordinary machinery for settling disputes goes into the melting pot, and the railway people are vitally interested in this question. I was talking to some body on the railways, and they told me that should this Bill as it is become law, it will completely upset the whole of their conciliation machinery. I believe there is a certain number of people on the rail ways at present who get a six days' holiday with pay. That would have to become an eight days' holiday, and not only that, but this agreement for the six days' holiday was come to between the trade unions and the railway companies, considering wages and everything else, and the whole of that agreement would have to be scrapped if this Bill became law. To show the sort of thing that would happen, there is another grade on the railways, called shopmen, who put in a claim for a holiday. Their claim went forward in the ordinary way, through the channels of conciliation up to an industrial court, and after carefully hearing the claim the court turned it down. If this House should pass this Bill, not having heard any of the evidence put before the industrial court, the whole of that particular machinery again would break down. I would here again emphasise the point that this vast upset ting of industry is to be done by a private Member's Bill brought in on a Friday morning and printed only three days ago.
The second point we make is that a Bill of this magnitude ought to be brought in as a Government Bill, the Government taking full responsibility, having had full consultation with all the 2439 industries affected, and being able to say what the exact effects will be. That is the reason why I have put down an alternative Motion that the Bill should be committed to a Select Committee. That is not a wrecking Amendment, as the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading said. The reason for it is that as this Bill was printed such a short while ago, the people affected have had no chance to put forward their case. If this Bill has the blessing of the Government and is given a Second Reading to-day, and my Motion to send it to a Select Committee is accepted, it will allow the industries concerned, both the employés and the employers, to be represented by counsel, or to come themselves, or to send in documents and put them before a Select Committee upstairs, so that the whole of the implications of this Bill can be thoroughly examined. It has been done before, and that is the sole reason for putting down that Motion. Person ally, I hope the Government will not sup port the Bill, but will promise to look into the question and bring in a Bill of their own later on, but if they do not do that, perhaps they will agree to my suggestion to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.
The third point in our reasoned Amendment is that the fullest possible information should be obtained before anything is done in this direction, and I do not mean, as the seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading said, information as regards foreign countries, because the conditions in foreign countries are entirely different. Very often their wages are completely different, their standard of living is different, and their hours of work are different, but we want to know exactly how this would be brought into effect and exactly what the effect on the different industries would be. We want to know also what the various trade customs are. There are various trade customs as regards holidays, particularly in the North and in the Midlands, which are very seriously bound up with this question of an annual holiday. Lastly, we want, after a conference with every body concerned, to decide which is the best way to bring an annual holiday of eight days or six days, whichever it may be, to the workers of this country, because everybody in this House is 2440 agreed that it would be the best thing possible if it could be done; but, on the other hand, we on this side are very doubtful if this Bill is the way to do it.
To illustrate one or two of the difficulties, I want to say a word or two on the Bill itself. The first thing that struck me on reading the Memorandum to the Bill was the last sentence but one, which states that there is also a pro vision in respect to contracting out. I have read through the Bill, but I have failed to find any such provision, and perhaps some later speaker on the other side will be able to say where it is. I believe the same thing was in the Bill which was originally given a First Reading and printed, in the name of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. B. Riley), because it is necessary that there should be some such provision, and I cannot find it at present. I may of course be wrong, but I do not think that there is. The second point is in regard to the first Clause, which says that an employé, in order to get a holiday, must have been in the same employment for 12 months; and it says that the expression "year" means a term of 12 months calculated in the prescribed manner. That is a very difficult thing to carry out, because there are a large number of industries where people work short time, and all these people would be cut off from the provisions of this Bill. In fact, the very industries which want an annual holiday, where a man is not in good employment, but is stood off every now and then, would be ruled out owing to Clause 1. The second Clause also would seem impossible to carry out. It lays down that wages shall be paid:unless on any holiday had by him, under those provisions he has been otherwise employed for payment direct or indirect.Who is to know whether he has been employed on payment direct or indirect? Is the employer to run after all his employés to see whether they are employed directly or indirectly? The provision in the next Clause in regard to dismissal is admirable, because, as the hon. Gentle man who moved the Second Reading said, we do not want any employer to dismiss a man merely in order to prevent him getting a holiday. Nothing is said, how ever, about dismissal for misconduct; it might happen that a man was dismissed for misconduct, and something would have to be put in to provide that, if 2441 it is genuinely proved that a man was dismissed because he was not a good worker, he will lose his rights under the Bill. If a man had been employed nearly 12 months, most employers in dismissing him would give him pay including the extra week. Clause 4 contains some thing of which this House thoroughly disapproves.
His Majesty in Council may make regulations.We know what that means. It means that the Minister and his Department may make regulations, and I do not believe that if this Bill goes to Committee, the Committee will allow it to stay in. We have in every Bill this power of the Minister and his Department to do almost everything. It is thoroughly objected to, not only by this House, but by the country, and therefore I think that some better way of carrying out the provisions of the Bill will have to be arrived at before the Bill, if it ever does pass, be comes law. Clause 5 is a most important provision, because it says thatany agreement, written or oral, express or implied, made either before or after the commencement of this Act.… shall be void.That means that every agreement between employers and employed has to be scrapped, and a new one drawn up. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] I think that that is so; however, this will have to be looked into, and we ought to consider carefully whether in a Bill of this kind we are prepared to enact that. The most important clause is Clause 7. We ought to get from the Government or somebody else what exactly is meant by this. No body seems to know just what a customary holiday is. If it merely means the Bank Holidays, no one would have any objection. I understand, however, that in the North and the Midlands they have holidays of sometimes a week and even a fortnight. These are customary holidays, and by this Clause they are to have another week on top of it, making three weeks in all on full pay.
I am merely pointing out some of the difficulties of these Clauses to show how foolish it will be to pass a Bill of this kind to-day without further consideration and consultation with the powers that be. This Bill is a good example of what I might call muddled legislation presented in a hurry and not properly thought out. It is an attempt to govern with the heart 2442 and not with the head. It is all very well to bring in a Bill like this and say that one cannot vote against it because every body wants everybody else to have a holiday. If, however, in giving that holiday we are going to cause chaos and more unemployment, we had better delay a little before passing legislation which would put an enormous burden on industry at a time when it is least able to bear it. I do not know what action the Government will take, but it is up to them to call a conference to consider this Bill or, if possible, to draft one themselves. Important legislation of this kind ought not to be brought in on a private Member's Bill, which has been printed only three days, and on which no proper opinion by the powers concerned can possibly be forthcoming. No one objects to the principle of the Bill. If it is passed, the people will get their holiday, but it would be at the cost of the complete disorganisation of industry. I there fore hope that the Government will ask their followers to withdraw the Bill, call a conference, and try to get a better Bill at the earliest possible moment, at the same time having full consultation with all industries and trades before asking the House to pass legislation of so grave a character.
I did not quite catch the hon. Gentleman's figures in regard to the mining industries; I make the figures which he gave only about 2d. a ton.
§ Mr. D. G. SOMERVILLE
I beg to second the Amendment.
In doing so, I wish to congratulate the mover of the Second Beading for the very able speech which he made, and I only hope that in what I have to say I shall be successful in putting forward my case as plainly and sensibly as he has done. The natural instinct of everybody reading this Bill is to have sympathy with the main object, which in the first paragraph of the Memorandum is stated to be:—
to enable all persons who have been in the same employment for a period of twelve months to have an annual holiday of not less than eight clear consecutive days.Everbody in this House, and everybody who has to work will be entirely in sympathy with that. I suggest, however, that the meaning of this paragraph is 2443 not to enable everyone to have eight days holiday, but actually to compel the employer to give the employé eight days holiday at full pay at the employer's own expense. It is well known, of course, that a very large number of people have arrangements with their employers to have a holiday each year of varying length at full pay, but unless one care fully considers the matter, it is difficult to realise that the people who get the holiday are getting it at the expense of a reduced rate of pay throughout the whole year.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
The employer in engaging them takes into consideration the fact that he is giving them a week or a fortnight's holiday and is losing the production of those workers, and, there fore, he averages the rate of wages he is going to pay them to allow for that week or fortnight's non-production. Therefore, strictly speaking, this Bill does not give increased benefits to the workers, but is a Bill which will actually reduce the emoluments of the workers. In the long run, the question of the rates of pay given by an employer is not settled by the employer himself. The employer pays the highest rate of wages the industry can afford to give. [Interruption.] I know that will raise objections from the other side of the House, but this is the position: If he does not pay the highest rate of wages which the industry can afford, he will make exceptionally high profits, and if he makes these high profits he will attract additional capital and other people into the industry, and in that case the wages of the skilled workers will be forced up, because those skilled and trained workers will be greatly in demand. Immediately the pay of those skilled workers goes above the level which the industry can afford to pay the industry goes down, no further capital will come into that field of industry, the weak firms who started and were not well organised go out and the rates of pay go down.
I go further than that. I say that federations of employers and trades unions really have, in the long run, very little actual influence on the rates of wages paid. They cannot alter the natural law of supply and demand. There are, I agree, one or two excep- 2444 tional cases, as, for example, where a trade union is able to insist on very high rates of wages from a firm who are not up-to-date and who, being forced to pay these high wages, modernise their works or factory and possibly become able to pay. Again, trade unions can force up wages, and the employers who pay those wages can cover the additional cost by raising the price of the goods they sell. What happens? They automatically reduce the purchasing value of the wages of workpeople in other industries. On the other hand, some strong body of employers can, in exceptional circumstances, force down the wages of their employés. What happens? Others get the benefit of buying the goods cheaper, but the unfortunate workman is left in exactly the same position, if he is not worse off. But the cases I have mentioned are, to my mind, quite exceptional, and I feel it is true to say that no organisations of employers or employés and no power of Parliament can, in the long run, affect the rate of wages paid and to which workmen are entitled in the open market.
I hope the House will follow the line of argument I have taken up, with a view to discussing the Amendment which has been put forward. I feel very strongly that if this Bill reaches the Statute Book the result will be that the employer is going to increase the rate of wages by 2 per cent.—temporarily. My method of arriving at that percentage is that there are, on the average, 300 working days in the year and that eight days' holiday are suggested under this Bill, and that represents 2 per cent. What is going to be the ultimate result? That 2 per cent. will not be given by the employer in time, as the natural result of the law of supply and demand, and the inevitable result will be that the wages of the workers will be reduced 2 per cent. to cover the cost of the holidays for which they are going to receive pay.
What is the position in this country respecting holidays? I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite can deny that the great majority, I should say 99 per cent., of the people of this country have holidays. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Go to the North of England and the great manufacturing districts in the Midlands! Every summer we read in the papers of the "wakes" in the North of England and of the huge sums from their savings 2445 throughout the year which are distributed to the workers. I have often seen sums of £70,000, £80,000 or £90,000 mentioned. Blackpool is a city which owes its entire prosperity to the enormous sums spent on holidays by workers in the various trades in the North of England. Under this Bill you will take away from all these people the incentive to save for their holidays. You may say they will have an equivalent in that they are going to be paid for their holidays, but is that the same thing? Do you not think that something for which you have saved up, a pleasure to which you are looking for ward, is very much more worth while and much more interesting than the know ledge that you are going to draw just your week's salary or wages from your employers?
Clerical workers, members of the "black-coated brigade," as they are called, when they interview a prospective employer, specify what wages and allowances and what holidays they want. The holidays for which they are going to be paid form a part of the conditions of their employment. The employer realises that and makes his terms accordingly, and he pays what he considers is a fair wage, which includes payment for the holidays. The seconder of the Bill has referred to what happens abroad and mentioned a number of countries where the law as it is laid down in this Bill is already in force. Those countries are Austria, Fin land, Poland, Latvia, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet State of Russia. I do not think anybody can suggest that those are very important countries, certainly not large industrial countries in any way comparable with Great Britain. I agree that you find in other countries, as mentioned by the hon. Gentleman opposite, holidays for workmen which are paid for by the employers. Those countries are as follows: Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Rumania, Denmark and Switzerland; but I want to point out to the hon. Gentleman that in practically all of those countries the holidays which are arranged have been arranged by collective agreement between employés and employers, which is a very different thing from having those agreements put into force by law.
§ Mr. J. HUDSON
I should like, if I may, to correct the hon. Gentleman on 2446 one point. In the first class of countries which he read out there is no reference to collective agreements by employers; in those countries there are laws which cover all cases, even though these agreements do not exist.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I think that that is exactly what I said. I said that Austria, Finland, Poland, Latvia, Czechoslovakia and Soviet Russia had passed laws in conformity with the proposals in this Bill for payment for holidays, but that the second group of countries which I mentioned had agreements in many cases under which workmen were paid while on holiday, but that that was the result of collective agreement between employés and employers, which I think is a very different matter. Probably 40 per cent.—I do not think I am exaggerating—of the workers in Europe to-day are under agreement of some sort or other to be paid while they are having their holidays, but, apart from that, I suggest that the majority of those agreements are agreements made between the two groups, the employers and the employed.
In several countries, again, those who are left to carry on while the other workers are on their holidays have to carry out the work, or a portion of the work, of those who are on holiday, and that to my own knowledge has led to a very considerable amount of overtime; and we know that the trade unions will immediately and very rightly object to considerable overtime. It has to be realised that, in works employing any thing from 50 to 1,000 men, there is no surplus of workmen to take over the jobs which in the ordinary way are carried on by those men who are going on holiday. Nearly all manufacturing processes must be carried on continuously, and, there fore, those that are left have to take over the jobs and carry on the work of those that are on holiday. Again, employers in many of the countries to which I have referred have the right of engaging alter native staffs to take the place of those that are on holiday. Here again the trade unions object, because there is always the danger that, if an employer takes on a man to do another man's job, even temporarily, he may find that the new employé is more efficient, and, when the other man comes back, he suggests to 2447 him that he can get better service from the man whom he employed temporarily.
Moreover, under this Bill the man is to be paid his average wages during the time that he is on holiday. What are his average wages? Do they include bonus? Do they include overtime? Do they include allowances? There is also the question of piecework. How are you going to arrive at what is the average wage, and how are you going to have it laid down by Statute so that there is going to be no argument? I am aware that under the Bill it can be referred; but are there not enough troubles and difficulties to-day in carrying on industry without inquiring into every question of the rate of pay to which a man is entitled if he takes his holiday? Frankly, I consider that this Bill is very badly drafted. It is the product of a few days' work. The problems concerned in it have not really been considered. No important points have been settled; they have been dodged, and all these points are left open for discussion and, I am afraid, possibly for recrimination.
Personally, I attach very little importance to what is being done in other countries in connection with this question of holidays. What we are all interested in in this House is the position of affairs in this country. Take the heavy industries. I am not discussing agriculture, because that is a subject about which I know very little, but as regards the other great industries, such as coal-mining, engineering, shipbuilding and iron and steel works, what is the position there to-day as compared with other countries? One of the hon. Members who introduced the Second Reading of this Bill said that in Poland—a competitor of ours—and one other country, I forget which, they were able to give these holidays. But what are the wages paid in those other countries as com pared with the wages paid in this country? Take Belgium. In the steelworking areas there, and that is a very large and important industry in Belgium, the wages paid are exactly 50 per cent. of the wages paid in our iron and steel industries in this country. There is no comparison between the conditions there and here. Their ideas of overtime are totally different from ours; the rates of wages are less; and in one of our 2448 great works in the North, employing say 1,000 men, if an average wage of £2 10s. a week be assumed for the sake of argument one week's holiday given to the men employed in that works is going to represent, even at £2 10s. a week, a sum of £25,000, which is going to a first charge on that industry. There are not many businesses in this country in the heavy industries which are making pro fits to-day and which will still make pro fits if the sum of £25,000 is going to be charged against them; and it is not a very large works in this country where 1,000 men are employed.
§ Mr. GORDON MACDONALD
On a point of Order. The figure of £25,000 mentioned by the hon. Member is not quite correct.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
That is one example of what might happen in one large engineering or steel works in this country. What is the position of the coal trade? The proposal which we understand that at any rate the mining operatives are putting forward is that there should be a reduction in the number of working hours in the industry. We do not yet know, on this side of the House at any rate, what the reduction is going to be, whether it is going to be half an hour or an hour; but what is abundantly proved is that any reduction of hours is not to be accompanied by any reduction in wages, and I think it is also sufficiently patent to anybody who has looked into the question that, if the number of hours is reduced but the total amount of wages is not reduced correspondingly, the cost of production of the coal is going to be increased.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
The hon. Member suggested earlier in his speech that any increase in wages for holidays or anything else simply comes out of the fixed wages at the disposal of the employer. How does he square that with his present statement?
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I do not quite follow. In the beginning of my argument I suggested that this Bill was to compel employers to give eight days' holiday to the worker, and that the result would be to increase by two per cent. the wages paid for the work that would, 2449 in turn, depreciate the productivity of the industry by increasing its cost. Just now I suggested that the result was the same whether you gave a holiday at paid rates or reduced the number of working days. Nobody is more anxious than I am that holidays should be available at paid rates to every worker in this country, but the only way that can be done is by increasing very greatly the efficiency of all branches of industry, and if everybody as a result of the increased efficiency is able to earn more money, he may be prepared to sacrifice some of his earnings in order to have a holiday.
Another very great objectionable point of this Bill is that it means State interference with the liberty of the subject. Practically every agreement which has settled troubles in industry has been come to by the collective agreement of workers and employers. The last resort in any trouble is to appeal to the Government. The sensible way to settle a difference of opinion is to get round a table and discuss the difficulties frankly to see if some mutual compromise can be reached, giving each party something of what it wants. That is the proper way to solve a question like this. The promoters of this Bill foresee a great deal of trouble in carrying it out. They foresee continual evasions, and they lay down restrictions as to what a worker is to do or not to do while he is on his eight days' holiday. He is not to carry out any other work. But how is the employer, or anybody, to know whether he is going to work during his holiday? I am afraid that you are going to introduce a whole sale system of spying throughout the country. In Clause 2 that proposal is suggested.
Sub-section 1 (b) of Clause 3 deals with the employer who attempts to evade the provisions of the Bill by dismissal or suspension. What happens in the cotton industry and many other industries, including engineering, in the North? Slack times come along, orders are scarce, and firms have two different methods of dealing with it. They either work short time, a few hours so many days per week, or alternatively they work for a week, and the next week they shut down altogether. Under this Bill, is not the man suspended from his employment, his engagement terminated? How do the systems in these cases compare with the conditions laid down, of a continuous 12 2450 months' employment. It seems to me, again, that you will have to bring in a special Measure to deal with such cases. What is legal in one industry will be illegal in another. Even by Orders-in-Council that is going to be a difficult thing to do.
The Lord Chief Justice has just published a book in which he draws attention to the increasing power of the bureaucracy in passing regulations by means of Acts of Parliament which the various departments can carry out. This book has drawn a great deal of public attention and excited a great deal of interest, and it has so interested the present Government that they have appointed a commission to investigate the whole question. In reading this Bill, I realise that it is to be carried out by regulations made by Order-in-Council. I am aware that an Order-in-Council may be placed on the Table, and that, by means of a prayer, Members may debate it, but that only happens after Eleven o'clock at night, and I do not think, in so enormously important a question as this, we want to defer any discussion of detail to that hour.
A matter which so vitally affects industry and the welfare and happiness of huge masses of people in this country cannot be dealt with by a Private Member's Bill. The expenditure, as I hope I have shown, would be immense. I do not suggest that it would be misspent, but the fact remains that it is going to increase the cost of production or reduce the rate of wages paid to the working people of this country. In a question so large and important, I feel sure, the sense of the House is, that the Government of the day should deal with it, with full regard to the feelings of the country. If, having investigated the matter, they feel that the country does want a Bill of this description, they should bring it forward formally as a Government Measure.
Great Britain to-day is experiencing one of the most difficult times it has ever known. We are facing enormous com petition all over the world, and our only hope of being able to hold our position is to reduce the cost of the production of our goods. Our only chance of being able to compete under present conditions is to insist on efficiency in every trade throughout the country. I do not suggest for a moment that you are going to 2451 increase the efficiency of the worker by denying him any holidays. On the contrary, employers have found in the past that by working too many hours you decrease efficiency, and employers and employed have wisely come to the conclusion that only a certain number of hours per day can be worked efficiently. But remember that the converse is also true, and, if insufficient hours are worked, the cost of production must go up, and the volume of your sales must go down. The thing that most interests this country is to increase the production of every works, factory, or coal mine; otherwise, the industry of the country cannot be kept up, and the people of the country cannot be fed. I suggest that by the introduction of any ill-considered and ill-thought-out Bill of this description you are further imperilling the position of the workers of this country, and you are going to increase the misery which is to-day afflicting the soul of the Lord Privy Seal when he realises his growing helplessness to increase the volume of production in this country, and thus lead to more employment.
I am not going into any controversial questions, beyond the, I hope, logical argument which I have put forward respecting this Amendment, but I do feel very strongly that this is a matter which requires a great deal more consideration than can be given to it on a private Member's Bill, and I object to the Measure on account of employment, on account of the employer, on account of the employé, on account of the amicable relations between capital and labour, and, in addition, on account of those people who object to constant State interference and the constant limiting of the individual liberty of the people of this country.
§ Major NATHAN
There is nothing in the speeches from hon. Members who have spoken on this Amendment to re move the impression given by a reading of the Amendment, that its intention is not merely delay, but also hostility to the principle embodied in the Bill; and, indeed, their speeches have evidenced what I do not think it would be an exaggeration to call a hard-faced determination to oppose it tooth and nail. I sup port the principle of the Bill. I do not bind myself to the details, and it seems 2452 to me that in its application to some industries, as for instance to agriculture, it will require profound modification; but to the principle I subscribe, and I do so because, speaking for myself, it seems to me to be in the line of the true Liberal tradition, and that the proposals embodied in this Bill fall into their proper place among the proposals for the amelioration of the condition of the worker set out with some particularity in the Liberal Yellow Book.
I support this Bill because it will not depreciate the wealth of the nation, but will add to it. One frequently sees elaborate calculations of the number of days of work lost by a strike or a lock-out, and of the loss of wealth resulting from a strike or lock-out, but it is absurd to apply that kind of test to holidays. Holidays do not dissipate strength: they re-create strength. There is not a right hon. or hon. Member of this House who does not return after a Recess raging with zeal for work. Our lives—even our working lives—are exciting, full of interest, subject to no very exacting discipline, subject to no extremes of heat and cold, and, on the whole, fairly healthy and interesting; but think of the life of the worker in thousands of centres—dull, disciplined, subject to great extremes of heat and cold, monotonous, and over him all the time the haunting shadow of unemployment. If we need holidays, how much more do our constituents need them? We feel that holidays add to our productive capacity; how much more would they add to the productive capacity of the nation if they were extended to the manual workers?
It is reactionary nonsense to say that industry cannot afford them. That has been said of every effort to better the conditions of the worker since Adam delved and Eve span. The argument was brought for ward even in opposition to the Bill to prevent children working 12 hours a day in the cotton mills. The manufacturers pretended then, as they pretend now, that the profit was made in the last half-hour, and that the abolition of that last half-hour would spell ruin to the industry and to those who got their livelihood from it. We have lived to see child labour abolished altogether, and yet the mill-owners have managed somehow or other to keep out of the Bankruptcy Court.
2453 This Bill now before the House is in line with the whole trend of modern humanitarian thought. We have secured to every child in this country the gift of education, and we propose very shortly to raise the school-leaving age. It is for us to see that the children have opportunities for enjoying the fruits of that great gift, and one of the main objects of education is to teach the right use of leisure. It is the priceless boon of leisure which work and education can give. As we extend education we ought, as far as is humanly possible, to extend also their leisure, and so enable them to profit by it. But what is the position to-day? The beauties of England are a shut room to hundreds of thousands of the workers of this country. A rare bank holiday trip to the local Blackpool is all that they see of their native country. In agricultural districts many of the agricultural workers have never been beyond the nearest market town, perhaps half-a-dozen miles away. It is not so much that they have not the money; it is that they have not the time.
During the last 20 years the whole idea of an annual holiday has been growing in men's minds. The humblest office boy has an annual holiday nowadays, and even domestic servants—[HON MEMBERS: Why "even"?] If hon. Members will allow me to finish my sentence, they will see why I say "even"; I say it deliberately. And even domestic servants, although they have in the past been more oppressed than any other class of society, and who to-day have no real means of organising themselves to better their conditions—even they are entitled to, and in most cases receive, a fort night's holiday. The wide-growing idea of the need for a holiday stops short of the manual worker. Industry ought to be able to bear it not less easily, but more easily. Even in our time modern inventions have revolutionised industry, and have added many times to the sum total of the national wealth, but the hours of toil have not been proportionately decreased and the wages have not been proportionately increased. The story of new invention nowadays merely depresses the worker. He knows that it may mean loss of employment rather than easier toil. Our task is to reconcile the invention of machinery with human happiness. We have to see that the great new 2454 powers which invention has brought about are used to lever up and not to press down industrial conditions. Mr. Bernard Shaw has told us that he looks forward to the time when labour-saving appliances will have enabled us to maintain a respectable standard of living on a basis of four hours work a day. That sounds a long way off, but it is not an idle chimera. Modern inventions ought to he lessening men's toil, but they are not. Let us make a beginning with this Bill.
Let us see that another milestone is passed on the road away from human greed and bad economics. I hope the Government will not shelve this Bill, as the Bill of 1925 was shelved. It is so easy to give it a blessing on a Friday afternoon and forget about it till some other reformer as keen as the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Winterton) wins a place in the ballot. There are great temptations to do so with this Bill. There is no party advantage to be gained from it. Men of all parties will be found to support it. Let us use this opportunity to get rid of the sneer that when all parties agree on a Measure it means that nothing will be done about it. Let us show on this occasion that the collective will of the House can be reflected on the Statute Book, and let us carry a reform which is long overdue into law at last.
§ Mr. MORT
In rising to address the House for the first time, I feel, I suppose in common with most new Members, a sudden nervousness, but I am certainly encouraged by the indulgence that is so readily given to all of us who address for the first time what appears to us a very august Assembly. I am very pleased that the subject is one that is very near and dear to me. Perhaps hon. Members will forgive a slight reference to myself which may possibly give a reason for the enthusiastic way in which I support this Measure. Before I entered the House, I had spent 28 years in industry, and the last occasion when a Recess occurred in this place was the first occasion in my life when I had the very pleasant experience of taking a holiday and getting paid for it. That experience has strengthened my desire to see that all the workers, who I believe contribute as useful—sometimes I am inclined to think more valuable—service 2455 on many occasions than we do should share this benefit. Previously when I took a holiday I had practically to reduce my standard of life for weeks or months beforehand, and the week I took at the seaside did not give me the real benefit that is should have done because I had had to adopt a very uneconomic way of providing the few pounds I could spend.
If there is one thing that hon. Members view with pleasure, I am sure it is the desire of the workers to attain a higher standard of life. I worked in a steel works when the practice was to divide the 24 hours into two and to work 12 hours a day. I was then in a position to observe that the standard of life of the general workers left a lot to be desired, because there was really no inducement for them to develop any other side of their nature than that of being mere wealth producers. The introduction of the eight-hour day revolutionised their whole outlook, and I could give plenty of illustrations to demonstrate the value of introducing that great reform into the steel trade. When we sought to do so, we were met with precisely the same arguments that have been used by hon. Members opposite to-day. The trade would never stand it. But it has not spelt ruin for the trade. The experience of 15 or 20 years has been that it has produced a better man in industry, not only physically, mentally and intellectually, but morally, because now the workers have more time to develop the finer things in life—reading and recreation. The steel traders would not revert to the old system. In this case the same arguments can be brought forward and the same results must follow. You can not run a business without placing aside a certain amount of money to make up for wear and tear and depreciation of plant. When you talk about plant you only refer to machinery. In a case that has been referred to, the figure of £20,000 that was given is very misleading unless we know the turnover for the 12 months. It sounds a lot but if it only represents two per cent. of the turnover, the firm must be doing very well.
An industry should not only make very substantial provision for the replacement of machinery but it should make substantial provision also for the replace- 2456 ment, the resuscitation if you like, of the human element. We have listened to a very doleful story of what is going to happen to industry if we are in the mood to pass this Bill and the Government are in the mood to accept it. Surely there is nothing new in what has been said to-day. For many years I have sat on conciliation boards, and we have never known yet that an industry has been in a position to give anything to anybody. Right down through the ages, when measures which are now commonplace and elementary were first proposed, the cry always was that industry could not stand it.
It has been mentioned by an hon. Gentleman opposite that the great bur den upon industry would be 2 per cent. I am not minimising the difficulties that industry is facing to-day. I am not suggesting that the industrialists should come to us with open arms and say absolutely that this thing can be done, but I am suggesting that the House should give such a clear and definite declaration that the businesses of these particular gentle men must be organised in such a way that will provide for this necessary reform. That is what we want to do. If necessary, this eight days' holiday should be taken into account in the fixing, if you like, of the price of the articles that they desire to sell. What is going to be the result? The hon. Gentleman opposite talked of wages and the law of supply and demand. He also referred to the black-coated fraternity. I want to refer to the black-coated fraternity this morning. As a man with an experience of over 28 years, I should like to know why there should be the distinctive feature that because a man or a boy worked in an office and wore a white collar, he was from the very time he commenced work entitled to his holidays with pay. I worked for 28 years and never received a holiday with pay, and naturally the idea came to my mind as to the. contribution I was making to the general make-up of the economic and industrial life of the country. Who are the people who are left out? They are the great masses of steel workers, cotton operatives, colliers, engineers, farm workers, those battalions of men, and women too, who make the economic and industrial life of this country possible.
We find that we as Members of this House are of the class who has this 2457 privilege. Our efforts here are strenuous, and, as has been suggested by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan), when we take our holidays, we come back refreshed for our work, and our work in consequence is performed more efficiently. I do not know whether that would apply absolutely to all-night sittings, but, generally, I think we perform our task in a more efficient manner when we have recreation. I want this House to welcome this Measure. I am not ignorant of the difficulties. The difficulties are there, but we who enjoy this great privilege in company with millions of others are better citizens in consequence of it, and we should extend the privilege we enjoy and give the benefit to that other great section of the community. I hope that this will be done. I speak this morning on behalf of millions of workers. Fresh from that experience myself, I can realise what it means. I have some letters which I only received this morning from my old workmates hoping that we shall pass this Measure so that this benefit may be conferred upon this great mass of workers.
Sir NAIRNE SANDEMAN
I am certain that every hon. Member will join with me in congratulating the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eccles (Mr. Mort) upon an extraordinarily fine, first effort. He talked about being nervous, but he certainly did not show it. I believe that there are a good many of the old hands who feel a good deal more nervous—and I do not mind saying that I am one of those myself—than he certainly appeared to feel. I hope that we shall hear more of his speeches in the future. Personally, I go a good deal further than some of my hon. Friends in not liking this Bill. I like the idea of the Bill. I think that to give a holiday and to pay for the holiday is the right thing to do, but what most people want is work. They cannot get work. What is the good of talking of holidays to people who are working half-time? It is no good at all. It is making the whole thing foolish. I read this Bill through and said to myself: "What will my people who have no wages say about holidays?" A great many are drawing the dole, and what are they going to do and feel about it? I feel it is my duty to point out that until we have done 2458 something to bring the figure of unemployment down—it may not be to the normal level; I hope the normal level is a great deal less than 1,300,000—say, a million less than it is to-day, it is not the time to spend money on holidays. I have gone into this question carefully.
When I received the Bill, I naturally looked at the names of those who were presenting it. I got hold of their election addresses. Nearly every one of these people had a cure for unemployment. Let them bring in Bills to cure unemployment and then they will earn the gratitude of the whole country far more than by proposing that people should be paid for holidays. How can the people who have no work take a holiday? They probably need a holiday far more than people who are working. I looked through the list, and I found they were most of them Members who, I suppose, had had their holidays while drawing their salary. When the agreement of service in respect of those persons who receive holidays with pay was made, you may be perfectly certain that the holiday was reckoned in the salary that was fixed. Hon. Members know perfectly well that when you fix the salaries of clerks you fix them on the understanding that they receive pay during holidays.
I notice that there has not been a single word said as to what the total cost of this Measure is likely to be. I have gone into the matter to the best of my ability to try and find out what the cost is likely to be, and as far as I can see it will cost about £40,000,000. Fancy a Bill brought in by a private Member going through the House of Commons which means a charge upon trade and industry of £40,000,000. It is perfectly absurd. I wish there were someone on the Treasury Bench from the Treasury who would let us have their view upon the question. I think it is simply a question of idealists—and we have all got our ideal feelings as to what we would like to do—allowing their feelings to run riot.
An HON. MEMBER
May I ask on what basis the hon. Gentleman makes the calculation that it will require £40,000,000 to carry out the provisions of this Bill?
Sir N. SANDEMAN
I have taken some trouble about this matter. "The National Income of 1924," which is by Sir Josiah Stamp and Arthur L. Bowley, makes out that the national in come from wages is £1,600,000,000. If you take 2½ per cent. of that, because that is what this Measure really amounts to, the cost would be £40,000,000. This is a very serious thing.
Has the hon. Gentleman taken into account the number of people who have holidays now 2
Sir N. SANDEMAN
Take 10 per cent. off—it cannot be more than 10 per cent.—and it would still leave £36,000,000, which is a pretty big sum of money in respect of which to come here on a Friday and ask the House blindly to pass a Bill. Who is going to pay? By bringing in a Bill of this character the Socialist party are proposing a reduction of 2½ per cent. in the wages of the workpeople. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It will come to that, whether you like it or not. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. Hudson) to quote figures about those who are already getting holiday with pay, but they are in sheltered employment.
Sir N. SANDEMAN
Or semi-sheltered. They are not the big exporting firms, with the exception of boots and shoes.
Sir N. SANDEMAN
Is not that rather a monopoly? That is what I should call more or less a sheltered industry. What about the co-operative societies? They are not giving it in all their places. I notice that a co-operative Member of this House has put his name down in support of the Bill. Why does he not see that the whole of the co-operative societies are doing that which he seeks to do by this Bill?
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
Can the hon. Baronet say what percentage of cooperative societies do not give holidays with pay?
Sir N. SANDEMAN
I cannot say at the moment, but I know that they do not all give it. Why do not hon. Members 2460 clean up their own house, before bringing forward a Bill of this kind? There is a saying:Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.The Socialist party by proposing a Measure like this have not thought what they were doing. The have not reckoned what the effect would be upon the whole country.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Mr. Montague)
Sir N. SANDEMAN
Probably you might get increased efficiency, and I am all for that, but you would get far more increased efficiency in the country as a whole by developing trade, and not hindering it. It is the question of unemployment. We have one and a quarter millions of people out of work and drawing the dole, and we have many people who, perhaps, are working only two, three or four days a week, and after all the promises that have been made by the Government we can see nothing as yet to clear up their conditions. Notwithstanding, hon. Members come here to-day and ask the House to take the risk of making things worse for everyone unemployed by embarking upon an expenditure of at least £30,000,000 on a venture like this. What would it mean?
Sir N. SANDEMAN
If you will get the one and a quarter millions of unemployed into employment you will get increased purchasing power, with a vengeance, and in that event I will readily back a Bill for a holiday with a week's pay, with the greatest pleasure. Not one of the basic trades upon which we have to rely for our exports, which pay for our imports, is paying. Take the coal trade. We have been told that the proposal in the Bill would cost 2.2d., at the very least. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes; I can supply the figures to prove that estimate.
Is the hon. Baronet aware that all the salaried staff in the mining industry are now getting holidays with pay?
Sir N. SANDEMAN
I know that perfectly well. The figures from which I am quoting were supplied to me by some one who really knows, and he under stated the figure. He said that it was a conservative figure of what the cost was going to be.
Sir N. SANDEMAN
That was a mistake. We can all make mistakes. What would happen in the iron and steel trade? The proposal would cost 7½d. per ton to the iron and steel trade. I was speaking to an iron and steel manufacturer the other day and he said that he would be only too thankful if he could get 7½d. a ton profit on his iron and steel. He can not get it. What is happening in the textile trades? There is not one of them paying. You may have isolated instances where someone who is making a speciality may be making money, but if you take the huge export trades in cotton, wool and jute you will find that they are not paying. Look at the trouble they are having. What about the talk of reducing wages there? Are we to put another burden upon these trades. Do hon. Members opposite want to put them out? The banks are carrying most of these trades now, and I do not think that the banks are over keen on standing an extra strain. It is said that there are 1,500,000 people who are getting this benefit, and that the people who do not get it will be worse than the widows and orphans who are looking for increased pensions. Those who got it by agreement will come along and say—it is only human nature—"These other fellows are getting for nothing that, which we have had to get by agreement. We want more." They may say that they want double pay during the holidays. If we could afford it, well and good, but we cannot afford it.
Reference has been made to the coal situation, and figures have been given in regard to that trade. The coal miner is not getting what is asked for in the Bill. I understand from some of my hon. Friends that there is a certain amount of absenteeism in the coal mines. If that is increased by an extra week's holiday, it will put up the cost of production. Then we are told that the hours in the coal mines are to be reduced. That will 2462 also put up the cost of production. The cost of production will also be put up by the thirty or forty million pounds that would be charged on industry as the result of this Bill, and that would come back both on employers and employed. That would start a vicious circle. What about the continuous processes? How are we to get round that? In connection with blast furnaces, for instance, it would be very difficult.
Sir N. SANDEMAN
I think not. I believe that it is difficult at the present time to keep the blast furnaces going. Trade has improved a little, and I hope the conditions will continue to improve. The blast furnaces have to be kept going, once they have started, because they can not afford to shut down a blast furnace; it is an expensive thing. Where are they to get their labour for the continuous process, when a certain squad will be on holiday? I understand that you can not bring casual labour from outside into running a blast furnace, because it is work of a very technical character. What would be the position of the 1¼ million unemployed if this Bill came into operation? They would have sore hearts in seeing those who were employed going away on holiday and getting paid for it. There is no holiday in prospect for them. There is nothing in this Bill that touches them in the least. What about France, Germany, and the United States, who are our principal competitors? They are not doing what is asked in this Bill. There has been some talk of France pro posing to adopt the method, but I am afraid it will be a case over again of what has happened in conection with the Eight Hours' Convention, and that every one will put a different reading on what is meant by it. It must also be remembered—and it is a good point—that in countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia the rate of wages is much lower than in this country, and, therefore, it is a much smaller tax on the industry to pay a week's wages than in this country where, I am glad to say, the standard is better. The House may not agree with me, but I 2463 am against this principle of giving holidays with pay while I have friends of mine walking about the streets of Cheetham and Oldham out of a job.
§ Mr. GRAY
I do not propose to take up more than a few minutes of the time of the House but I think we should give a little consideration to a large class of workers who have not been mentioned so far this afternoon. I am. in full sympathy with the object of this Bill and I am perfectly convinced, speaking generally, that a clear week's holiday ought to be enjoyed by every worker in the industry. The great majority of the highly organised industries secure it at the present time. In most of the towns of Lancashire they have what is called Wakes Week, and the workers secure a consecutive week's holiday. I do not think the House need trouble itself very much about the question of cost because, as far as the weekly wage earner is concerned, it is almost the universal practice to give a week's holiday with pay, sometimes it extends to a fortnight, although there are cases where the week's pay is not granted. But there is a different problem in the case of the piece worker because his pay is calculated directly on the amount of work produced, and everyone who is paid on piece rates are not paid for their holidays because the rate of wage is calculated on the amount of production per hour of labour. In some industries where there are piece workers and weekly wage earners the usual rule is for the weekly wage worker to get his holiday with pay; and the piece worker gets his holiday but gets no pay. That is the general rule. The provisions of this Bill will compel the piece worker to receive a wage, and the House may rest content with this, that if the industry can stand that extra week's work on the piece rate, they will get it. It will only be a slight increase in wages of 2 to 2½ per cent. If the industry cannot afford to pay it then the piece rate will tend to be reduced by something like 2 or 2½ per cent.
The problem I want the House to consider is whether a too rigid enforcement of this rule may not create considerable difficulties for the agricultural industry. There you are faced with the difficulty of dealing with an industry which has to do its work under conditions that cannot 2464 always be controlled. In dealing with factory conditions it is purely a question of organisation in providing a week's holiday; and let me say that if you are thinking of the unemployed then an actual reduction by one week of the people who are now working ought to make some openings for those who are not working. I confess that we may have to give more consideration to the problem of agriculture. I am not put ting this forward in opposition to the Bill, but in this particular industry, which is faced with grave difficulties at the present time, it might be found impracticable to work this particular Measure. The usual practice in agriculture is for the worker to have an odd day here and there, and when you are dealing with the small agricultural farmer who has to milk his cows morning and evening it may not be always easy for him to reduce his staff for a complete week by one worker. The agricultural community has a right to be considered in that respect, and we may have to make some exceptions in this Bill, or at any rate not make it too rigid in its operation and say that the eight days must necessarily be eight consecutive days.
I should be quite ready to support a proposal that at least eight days in addition to the statutory Bank Holidays should be granted because I think any industry by organisation could carry that, and there is a great deal to be borne in mind in the actual increase in efficiency of the worker. I had occasion to investigate this problem very carefully in regard to the question of overtime. It was not a question of pay, but of out put, and we were working under conditions in which we could not get the labour and were behind with our production. We stated to work overtime. The first week we made a bigger output, the second week a slightly bigger out put, in the third week it was the same, but in the fourth it was a lower output, with the same number of workers working longer hours. After some practical experience of industry my conviction is that overtime in the main is unremunerative and does not increase your general output. It is only worth doing in exceptional circumstances and for short periods. If we take that point of view we may say that a reorganisation of industry ought to make it quite possible 2465 for a week's holiday to be granted to every worker during the year, and they ought to have it. But I want to suggest that when you are dealing with agriculture it may be necessary to make some provision for those cases where it is not always possible to release workers for a specific week for the whole period of eight days. We on these Benches, how ever, are in general agreement with the principle of this Measure.
§ Mr. MATHERS
It is gratifying to find that there is a whole-hearted sup port for the principle of this Bill in every part of the House. On Second Reading we deal solely with the question of the principle of a Bill, and matters of detail are to some extent, though not entirely, beside the point. When the Mover of the Amendment uses words to the effect that the provisions of the Bill are unworkable I want to say to him that words like "unworkable" and "impossible" should not be in our vocabulary. Some of us to-morrow are to have an experience of something which only a few years ago was absolutely impossible. The airship R. 101 is a triumph of man over material factors. In this Bill we are trying to triumph over the human factor; over the human unwillingness to see all men placed on a reason ably equal footing. It should not be said that anything that we put into this Bill is, in the final analysis, unworkable. I have been a worker on the railway. Surely that is an industry in which the arrangement of holidays is difficult? But the railway companies have been able to overcome those difficulties by organisation, until only a tiny fraction of their workers are without holidays with pay. The industry has been put on to a fine basis so far as holidays with pay are concerned.
I see that the Mover of the Amendment is in his place. He referred to contracting out. By referring to Clause 5 he will clearly see that contracting out is not to be permitted. The hon. and gallant Member suggested that we would create great difficulties by allowing the Minister to frame the regulations for giving effect to the Bill. One is entitled to ask, if not the Minister who is entitled or likely to frame the regulations? The Seconder of the Amendment raised a number of points and to a great extent answered them himself. I need not, therefore refer 2466 to them at great length. But one point that he made was a very striking one. I understood him to say that one of the joys of having a holiday is the realisation that to get that holiday you have done a great deal of striving and struggling, and, when you are spending the money, that it has cost a great deal to get it together. Even with this Bill in full operation I do not think the hon. Member need have any fear about that particular joy being denied to the workers whom we have in mind. As a worker who has had holidays with pay during the greater part of the time of his service on the railway, I can say that what I conceive to be a greater joy than that referred to by the hon. Member, is the joy after having had a good holiday, of coming back to perfectly congenial work and finding my pay envelope waiting for me. That is one of the joys, a contrasting joy, that this Bill will bring into operation.
There is general agreement with regard to the principle of this Bill. It is agreed that it is better for health that men and women should have proper recreation. It is agreed, I would add, that men and women do want an opportunity of travelling a little. Travel has been made easy nowadays, and there should be opportunities of taking advantage of the facilities. Yet in this respect one might almost say that Members of the party opposite have something to lose by the extension of travel facilities, because in spite of the fact that they do contain within their party and do support those who have developed the internal combustion engine, it is arguable that their party has, to a very considerable extent, lost ground in this country because of the opportunity for the exchange of ideas that has developed by the use of the internal combustion engine. What I mean is that people get about, get to understand each other's point of view and get a bigger and wider outlook than they would have if tied to one place. Advantage has come to the party of progress and disadvantage to the party of reaction. So that in so far as hon. Members opposite are speaking from a reactionary point of view, in not giving these opportunities of travel, they may be quite wise in their day and generation.
There is a particular point that I wish to make. It has been said in respect of 2467 one great service, the co-operative movement, that until that movement has its own doorstep clean, we should not be seeking to impose conditions on other people. I want to bring that argument nearer home, and to say that this House should be very careful about imposing obligations upon people outside whilst its own doorstep, as it were, is not quite clean. This House should not impose upon outside employers, by legislation, obligations which through its executive it has not applied administratively. I am now referring to the fact that in the employment of the Office of Works—I have in mind the City of Edinburgh—there are many employés, full-time workers, who are not getting the weekly holiday with pay that was announced quite early in the life-time of the present Government. There are certain workers who have this advantage. The electricians and heating engineers and the labourers who work with them are directly employed by the Office of Works and come within the ambit of the new conditions; but there are joiners, masons, plumbers, painters and certain other workers who are employed full-time through contractors. It will be agreed that I am making a sound point if I say that certain of these workers have been doing nothing but work for the Office of Works for over 20 years.
The plea which I am making is that this House should see that the responsible Minister brings these men into the arrangement and makes it possible for them to enjoy a week's holiday with pay every year. To show how closely these men are associated with the department, I may say that the addresses, not of the contractors, but of the men themselves, are kept in the Office of Works. These men are sent for to deal with any emergency which arises, and, I understand, that orders are given direct to them, although they are contractors' men. In the past they have been placed in a position of equality with those who are directly employed by the State. When the War broke out State employés and contractors' men were placed in the same position as regards their emoluments while they were in the Army. I hope that the Second Reading of the Bill will be interpreted by the Government, and particularly by the Minister responsible for the Department to which I refer, as 2468 an indication of the desire of this House that the anomaly now existing, with regard to these workers in Edinburgh, should be speedily removed. The point was made by the Mover of the Amendment that the cost to the Government of carrying out this proposal would be £800,000, but I hope that it may be possible to confer this benefit on the men for whom I am particularly speaking, without incurring any additional cost at all. I cannot imagine that the contractors would be doing this work, and would be employing these men and responsible for these men, for less than would enable them to give each of these men a week's pay in each year.
Having ventilated this particular matter may I express the hope that at a later stage of the Bill's progress we may be in a position to deal with detailed points which arise. For instance, there' are certain protective provisions which I should like to see in the Bill. I would have it definitely provided that those who are at the present time in a better position than the position in which this Bill seeks to place all employés, should not have that better position impaired in the slightest degree if these provisions are carried into law. This is merely a case of trying to ensure that bad employers will not enjoy any advantage over good employers in respect of conditions of this kind. We do not want to place a premium on the activities of bad employers, and we are only demanding what ought to be the right of all workers. Returning to the point about the unworkability of the Measure, I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Mover of the Amendment would hardly be satisfied if told that it was impossible for him to have a holiday. I think he would say, "I need a holiday," and would claim it as a right, and that, if he were so circumstanced, he would say to his employer, "You must reorganise your business in order that this inalienable right of mine may be given to me." I hope sincerely that the Bill will be given a Second Reading.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ Sir GERVAIS RENTOUL
The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill—and whom I also wish to congratulate upon his maiden 2.0 p.m. speech—made a somewhat pointed reference to the fact that my name was attached to the 2469 Amendment, and therefore I am glad to have the opportunity of saying some thing with regard to this Bill. A few nights ago, in the Parliamentary summary which was broadcast on the wireless, so much prominence was given to this Bill, for some reason which I am quite unable to follow, that many people in the country must have imagined that it was a first-class Measure—[HON. MEMBERS: "So it is."]—that it was being brought forward with all the strength and authority of the Government behind it, instead of being, as I venture to think, a somewhat typical example of an attempt at hasty, ill-considered and sentimental legislation which has little or no chance, of passing this House in its present form. It is, perhaps, a little significant that both the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading, are or were engaged in the scholastic profession, because we all recognise that schoolmasters look on the question of holidays with a particular eye of sympathy.
What is it that the Bill proposes to do? It is to lay it down compulsorily, by Act of Parliament, that every employer in the country is to give a holiday of eight days to every employé, at the employer's own expense, regardless of whether his business is running at a profit or a loss, regardless of whether he is earning good profits, or on the verge of bankruptcy. All considerations of that kind are to be put on one side. Such a proposal is not only impracticable in the conditions which prevail in this country to-day. It is altogether fantastic. At all events, such a proposal, if it is to be brought before the House, should only be brought forward by the Government of the day, for the simple reason that the Government of the day alone is in a position to give the House the necessary information and the necessary details. Without that information and without those details—particularly details of cost, and details as to the exact way in which the proposal will affect particular industries—it is unfair to ask Members of this House on any side, to express an opinion on a matter which may affect industry in so vital a fashion.
This Bill, if carried into law, will impose an enormous additional burden on industry. It may be right to impose 2470 that burden, but I fail to see how any body can deny that the Bill does so, and not only does it impose an enormous burden, but it imposes an unequal burden, because it is a proposal which will affect some industries very much more than others. Obviously, it would be most drastic with regard to those industries in which wages account for the greatest percentage of working costs. There are industries in which wages represent 80 per cent. or more of the charges, and there are other industries in which wages represent only some 40 or 50 per cent., or even less. Obviously, there fore, a proposal of this kind which was to be applied to all industries in the country must press unequally on different industries. I trust that no hon. Member who supports this Bill will misrepresent those of us who are opposing it as though we were opposed to holidays.
I think the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading gave his own case away when he said, no doubt quite truly—I accept his figures—that in some 30 industries already there is this holiday by mutual arrangement. That is all to the good. It proves clearly that many employers give a reasonable holiday on pay to their workers, and they do it, not out of philanthropy, but because they have discovered, I think quite rightly, that it is good business, that everyone ought to have a reasonable holiday in the course of the year. Therefore, we would, all of us, desire to see this principle of holidays extended as far as possible, but that very fact that was quoted by the hon. Member shows clearly the enormous progress that has been made in this direction in recent years, and that progress is, of course, continuing to-day. But my point is that it is impossible to do this compulsorily by Act of Parliament. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading said that whether it is possible depends on the success of the business. Exactly; that is the point. Whenever the position of the business is such as to enable this privilege to be granted, I am strongly in favour of it being done.
What I did say was that whether it is possible to give this holiday with pay on economic terms depends upon the success of the captains of industry in reorganising their business to do that, which is not quite the same thing as the hon. Member suggested.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
I apologise if I misrepresented the hon. Member's argument in any way. I did not desire to do that, but I understand his suggestion now is that any business, through a pro cess of rationalisation or whatever you like to call it, can be so reorganised that it is quite possible to grant this holiday to all the workers in it without necessarily driving the industry on to the rocks. That opens up a very big question, about which there might be a good deal of difference of opinion if one were to discuss certain industries in the country to-day.
It is rather surprising that so little reference has been made in the course of this discussion to the most vital industry in this country and that is agriculture. Undoubtedly this Measure will press very hardly on agriculture, and we all recognise that agriculture in this country to day is not in a position to bear any additional burden whatsoever. As far as I can see, if this proposal were carried it must mean a reduction in the wages of the agricultural workers, for this reason. We have established a system of agricultural wages boards, to which many of us attach great importance. The principle of those boards is to regulate wages at the highest level which, in the opinion of the boards, the industry is in a position to pay. If you are going to impose an additional burden on agriculture, it must necessarily be taken into account by the agricultural wages boards when they are next called upon to fix the wages of the agricultural worker, and it would, there fore, almost necessarily have the result that the wages would be fixed at a lower level because of the increased charges which were being placed on agriculture by this Bill.
Then there are other difficulties. There is the question of rural housing. We know that there is a very great shortage of houses, and if agricultural workers have to be given eight days' consecutive holiday, and they go away, what is to happen to the workers who take their place? Are their families to be compelled to take in the substitute worker, if one is engaged to take the place of the man who is away on holiday? There are many other practical difficulties of that kind, which I do not want to take up time by going into in too much detail, but how is agriculture so to reorganise 2472 itself or rationalise itself that it can quite well support this additional burden? Certainly the Government do not know, because, as we all recognise, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture is in utter despair at the fact that he is quite unable to discover an agricultural policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members oposite dissent from that statement, but I personally find it hard to conceive why the Minister of Agriculture should refuse to produce his agricultural policy if he has got one and if that is not the explanation—not even in the form of a White Paper, as an hon. Friend reminds me.
The Hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Winterton) also emphasised the great advantage that seaside resorts would obtain from the proposals in this Bill, and he rightly suggested that that was a consideration that should appeal very strongly to myself. I am quite aware that he did circularise most of the town clerks of seaside resorts throughout the country in connection with this Bill, but I venture to think—I have not been told—that he did not receive any commendation from the Town Clerk of Lowestoft, because he happens to be a very intelligent and far-sighted official. Certainly, if the hon. Member had included a compulsory provision in his Bill, among the many other compulsory provisions, that would insist that those who were given this holiday had to spend some portion of it at Lowestoft, I should have felt far more sympathetic towards his Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] My feelings might have run away with me under those circumstances. My objections to the Bill are not only objections on the broad grounds of principle, but they are also objections to the details contained in the Bill itself, and in the course of our discussion to-day we have heard very little reference to the actual Bill.
Take Clause 3, Sub-section (1, b), which lays it down that any employer whoevades or attempts to evade any of the provisions of this Act by the dismissal or suspension of, or by any threat to dismiss or suspend, any employed person … shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20.What does that mean? That may very well mean that an employé who is dismissed at any time during the year prior to the annual holiday can drag his 2473 employer into the police court and endeavour to obtain a summary conviction against him under this Clause.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
I am surprised at that suggestion coming from the hon. Member. As it is under the present law, the employer rune the risk of being sued for damages in a civil court for wrongful dismissal. The employé who may have a spite against his employer because he is dismissed can, under the provisions of this Bill, drag him summarily into a police court, and put him to the unpleasantness of appearing before a magistrate, possibly without any grounds whatever and without the employer having any redress. Reference has been made to Clause 5, which will have the effect of rendering a large number of existing agreements null and void, but hon. Members opposite are more familiar than I can pretend to be with the very valuable agreements that are already in existence in many of the great industries, which have been brought about by negotiations with the parties concerned. I want to say a word about Clause 4, because, although it might be suggested that it is a matter of detail, it is in reality a question of a fundamental and vital principle, and it is high time that some protest by all sides of this House was made against a provision of this kind. This Clause lays it down that His Majesty in Council, which of course means the Government department in practice, may make regulations for carrying the Act into effect, and the Clause ends up by saying:Such regulations shall have effect as though enacted in this Act.That is to say, they are given all the force of law. I intend, as far as I can, to oppose the insertion of any sentence of that kind in any proposal which is brought before this House, and I believe that there are many other hon. Members who feel equally strongly on this matter, because apparent in it is a very great danger to democratic Government in this country. A provision of that kind has the effect of putting the department concerned above the law. It is suggested that it is impossible for any court even to consider the question whether the action taken by the department is or is not ultra vires, and, as the whole Bill is 2474 largely dependent upon that provision, it is proper that special attention should be called to it.
May I point out how this works out? Clause 6 rightly foreshadows that disputes may arise, if this Bill become law, on the question of wages and how wages are to be calculated, and the Bill says that they are to be calculatedin the prescribed manner.When I turn to Clause 8, Sub-section (1, c) I find that the expression "prescribed" meansprescribed by regulations under this Act,and these regulations are to have effect as if enacted in the Act. Therefore, that might mean in practice that the department concerned could lay down by an Order exactly how wages are to be prescribed, and, by doing that, they would be giving the Order the absolute force of law under circumstances which would make it impossible for either party to challenge it in the courts. It is true that the Bill goes on to say that there shall be provision for an appeal to the registrar of the county court, but what would happen, suppose any aggrieved party attempted to appeal under that provision? We should have the repetition, no doubt, of the scene that took place in the High Court of Justice a few days ago, when an exactly similar position to that which appears in Clause 4 was under discussion. The question there was an Order made under the Housing Act, 1925. I agree that all parties when in power are inclined to be equally guilty in this respect, and I object to phraseology of this kind being inserted in an Act of Parliament, no matter from what party it comes. In that Housing Act, exactly the same words appear—shall have effect as if enacted in this Act.And the learned Attorney-General argued that the Court could not decide, and had not the power to decide, whether that was a good Order or not. When that proposal somewhat startled the Court of Appeal—the Lord Chief Justice and his colleagues—the Lord Chief Justice said:Does this Act include that other pleasant provision that when a Minister makes an Order it shall be conclusive evidence that all the requirements of the Statute have been complied with?2475 The learned Attorney-General replied:No … but in my submission this Clause is even wider, because it makes the Order equivalent to a Statute.The Lord Chief Justice then said:Is your argument this, that any Order of the Minister, however far it may depart from the Act, has effect as though enacted in the Act if it purports to be made under the Act.The Attorney-General replied:That is so, my Lord. Of course, it does not sound nice in that form.The Lord Chief Justice, further on in the argument, said:They might have said, 'After the passing of this Act a Minister may do what he likes'.His colleagues, Mr. Justice Swift and Mr. Justice Talbot, were almost equally strong in their comments. I mention that to show the kind of thing that might happen under this Bill, and the enormous powers which it is proposed to give the Minister. It is important for this reason, that it shows conclusively from another aspect, that this is not a matter that ought to he dealt with by a Private Member's Bill. If it is proposed to bring forward a Bill of this kind, it ought to be done by the Government, when we have all the information before us and we can challenge much more strongly any attempts at bureaucratic legislation of this kind. I oppose this Bill, and sup port the Amendment, because I believe that it will be an unwarrantable interference with the principle of collective bargaining. Particularly, does that apply to the railways? The hon. Member for South Leeds (Mr. Charleton) has personal experience of that industry, and he must be well acquainted with the way in which this system of agreements has been built up in the course of years in the railway industry. This Bill would cut across the whole principle of collective bargaining, if only for the reason that it would allot to one party in the industry a benefit at the cost of the other party, and I suggest that it strikes at the whole root of the principle. It cuts across national agreements, some of which in the railway and other industries have only quite recently been entered into, and these, under the provisions of this Bill, would be rendered null and void. It certainly could not be applied to agricultural workers for some of the reasons upon which I have already dilated.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
Oh no. I beg respectfully to differ. The Clause says:The Provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding any agreement, written or oral, expressed or implied, made either before or after, the commencement of this Act, to the contrary, and every such agreement shall be void.That means, that any existing agreement which runs counter to the provisions of this Bill with regard to giving eight clear consecutive days holiday will be null and void. My point is, that already in many industries there are agreements in force, which have been negotiated by voluntary arrangement and after hard bargaining and dispute, which are working satisfactorily and to the advantage of all parties, which certainly would run directly counter to the provisions of this Bill. Those agreements would become null and void under Clause 5, and all the immense labour which has been devoted to the building of them up would be thrown away.
I say this ought to be a Government measure, because before we can express an opinion we ought to have fuller details of the exact cost it will entail upon industry. Last but not least, I oppose the Bill because, in my judgment, it is a very bad example indeed of that new bureaucracy which we now refer to as the new despotism. To my mind, the whole Bill is vitiated by the inclusion of clauses and suggestions of that kind. For all these reasons I trust the House will reject this Bill and not give it a Second Reading.
§ Dr. MARION PHILLIPS
In listening to the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Sir G. Rentoul), we have been listening almost entirely to points which can be raised on the Committee stage of this Bill. They are not directed to the principle of an annual holiday with payment, but are points of detail as to the way in which that principle shall be carried out. Hon. Members who have opposed this Bill have opposed it very largely on the ground 2477 that it is something new, and have then gone on to say that it will disturb collective arrangements which are already in operation and which are successful. I suggest that the ordinary procedure largely followed in this country in industrial legislation is that, first, some agreement is come to between employers and employed, and that later that agreement is extended by law to all employers in all industries. That is the ordinary precedent, which is being followed in this Bill.
As to the suggestion that this is a new principle, I would recall to hon. Members that it has been widely and often discussed, and I would specially remind them of the work of the Reconstruction Committee, appointed in a fit of audacity by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), which afterwards became the Reconstruction Ministry. That Committee appointed a Sub-Committee to deal with the problem of the demobilisation of civil war workers, and one of the proposals discussed was to give a holiday with pay to all who had been engaged in munition work. Unfortunately, the Committee could not come to an agreement on that proposal. One section of the Committee thought it would be practicable and right to do so, but they were in a minority. Among them were five Members, including my self, who now sit on the Benches on this side of the House. The other Members of the Committee considered that it was impracticable to give a holiday with pay to munition workers alone, but so struck were all of them with the principle that all workers should have a holiday with pay that, though it was actually outside their terms of reference, they did refer to it, and put that point before the Minister as one on which legislation might take place. I have in my hand the Report of the majority, who included such distinguished people as Mr. H. P. Butler, now Deputy-Director of the Inter national Labour Office, and such well-known employers as Mr. Marchbanks, Mr. Jardine and Mr. Lister. Above their signatures occurs this paragraph:Although it may not be possible to prove it by statistics, we have no doubt that much of the present industrial unrest is due to the mental and physical strain which is being placed not only on munition workers, but, to a greater or lesser extent, on every class of the community owing to the conditions of the war. We think, therefore, that 2478 the whole question of holidays might well be considered by the Government as a general measure for the improvement of industrial conditions.This Bill is a general Measure for a holiday with pay as part of the normal industrial conditions—the suggestion which was made by this Committee in April, 1918. The quotation I have read is not from the minority Report, but from the Report of the majority, who are very largely employers and high officials in Government service.
There is one other aspect of this question on which little stress has been laid in the debate to-day, and that is the aspect which it presents to a large class of the community who have a very important job of business management. I refer to the vast army of women who manage the homes of the workers. To the housewife there is always something calamitous in the approach of holidays, because for a very large number of people that means the automatic stopping of wages. An hon. Member opposite gave us a lecture on economics, I hope not economics as taught in the University of London, because as a Member of that university I should be sorry to think that he had learned quite such old fashioned and worn out doctrines in that university during recent years. I listened to him with some surprise when he spoke of the universal workers' holiday in the North of England.
I represent a constituency in the north-east of England, and I will under take to say that it is a minority of workers in that city that get a holiday, with or without pay. The sort of holiday that my constituents in Sunderland get is an involuntary holiday, with either Poor Law relief, unemployment benefit, or nothing at all. I believe that nothing would come as a more blessed gift to the people in many of our industrial areas, and especially the women, than the fact that they would have a right, after 12 months' work, to a holiday with money with which to pay their way during that holiday. It is quite true that it might have the effect that workers would not try to deny themselves so many pleasures during the year in order to save up for a few days' holiday when it came. It might have that effect, but I think it is doubtful, because I think that, if you give people the certainty of a holiday 2479 with a little money coming in during that week, they will be all the more eager to make a good thing of it and have something there to make the time thoroughly enjoyable. I do think, how ever, that a very large number of the families of the workers have no margin on which they can safely and reasonably afford to save.
If some of us who have been accustomed all our lives to a regular summer holiday, without having to go without wages during that period, would remember how often we came back from our holiday having very badly overspent, and in what difficulties many of us would be if we did not happen to have credit somewhere, we shall realise what a poor thing it is for the great mass of workers to get their holiday and be compelled to run into debt even to supply themselves with their ordinary everyday needs during that time. Even putting out of the question altogether the possibility of going somewhere for enjoyment and recreation, they are in debt at the end of their holiday, because they have no chance of making anything during that time. I am referring here to workers who are allowed to take a little time off but are not allowed to have anything during that period in the way of wages. I do beg this House to think of that mood of generosity which swept over the country at the time when those Reconstruction Committees of which I was speaking were sitting—to get back to the spirit of that period and to say that, since this principle is a good principle, as I think that everybody has admitted who has spoken to-day, we should give a Second Reading to the Bill, and then, when the Bill is in the Committee stage, deal with the difficulties with the intention and the desire to overcome them.
§ Sir JAMES REYNOLDS
I have been asked by many of my friends, "When are you going to make a speech?" and I have replied to them, "Not until I have got to make a speech." I find that in this House there are so many people who know so much about most of the subjects that come before it that it is superfluous for a man who has had so little Parliamentary experience as myself to intervene at all; but this is an occasion on which I feel, as representing a great commercial constituency such as Liverpool, 2480 that I have got to speak. While, like most Members on this side of the House, I am in sympathy with the principle of the Measure that has been proposed, I am very much indeed against its being carried into law in the slap-dash method which now seems possible. I can see another blow struck at the trade of this country through the maladministration of such a Measure as this. In the town of Liverpool, whose basic trade is shipping, if the members of shipping firms were to receive notice that this Measure had been passed and that they had to conform to it, I think there would be consternation in the port. There are good reasons for that, for, while everybody who values service must realise that they must give a good measure of reward for that service, they do not necessarily feel that they can afford to do such things as give a week's pay for no work done to every man in the service of some of these great organisations.
While it is quite simple and easy in small concerns or in merchants' concerns such as represent a great deal of the activities of Liverpool—while there would be no difficulty, and is no difficulty, in that, and I am perfectly certain that in 80 per cent. of the cases it exists already, as it always has in the business of which I previously had control—when you come to talk of applying it to shipping, difficulties immediately arise which could not possibly be got over on the basis of such a Bill as this. You have, for instance, a ship that comes into Liverpool, turns round in six days and sets out again. What are all the seamen in that ship going to do? They are going to get their eight days' holiday, they are going to miss their ship when she goes out, and they will be out of employment. Are they bound to get a job on the next voyage? Not at all. It would be fraught with danger to the seamen of Liverpool if this Measure were brought into force.
Then take the cotton trade of Lancashire, with which I have been intimately connected all my life. In the case of a mill employing from 3,000 to 4,000 men, where labour represents some 80 per cent. of the expenses, if you have to add 2 per cent. to those expenses by giving wages, say for a week, without any output, such a thought addressed to Lancashire at the moment would really be the last straw. The Lancashire industry is in a struggling condition to-day.
2481 I am not a man who wishes to belittle the greatness of the trade of this country, but I know something about the cotton trade. It is in the greatest possible difficulties, and, if this additional charge were put upon it, it would damage it considerably. Already, in the cotton trade of Lancashire, a most admirable spirit exists between the mill-owners and the workers. We all know about the Oldham Wakes, and the various holidays that people in the different Lancashire districts take at seaside resorts. Blackpool, as has been mentioned, does very well out of those holidays; but it would be a really dreadful comparison to think of the well-being of the Blackpool land ladies as against the well-being of the trade of Lancashire.
The men in the mills of Lancashire contribute something each week through out the year for their holidays. They accumulate large sums, and have most excellent holidays, to my certain knowledge; but to get something for nothing by law seems to me to be a very unusual procedure. I can understand people get ting something for nothing by good will or by trickery, but not by law—not a week's pay for no work rendered. That, I think, is going far beyond any idea of what is fair as between employers and employed. I am absolutely in favour of such a thing being made obligatory in the case of the servants of people who are quite able to give these holidays without any undue inroad into the pocket of the employer. I should think that any man who denied his servant a week's holiday would be a very ruthless character, and not fit to deal with human beings. That spirit of good will between employer and employed is very much greater than might be supposed on the opposite side of the House. It runs right through the country, and everyone who can do a good turn to those who work for him does do them a good turn. But to have a thing like this forced upon the trade of the country seems to me to be bringing in slap-dash legislation that is going to do a maximum amount of harm and will raise an outcry throughout the whole business community of this country. We all know the struggle we are having, and to have something like this thrust upon us by a Labour Government will add to the cry that they are irresponsible and do not know the real merits of ques- 2482 tions, but desire only to get something for the working-class. I appreciate the motives which have led to this Bill being brought forward. The principle is right, and, if it were enunciated that the House accepted the principle that every wage-earner should have a week's holiday with wages if possible, not going beyond that, it would be a good pronouncement and would do a great deal of good. But when we find such minatory Clauses as Clause 3, saying that every employer is threatened by law unless he does this and that, will that help good-will? It will destroy good-will and embitter relations between employer and employed.
I am wondering what is the attitude of the Government. We have been discussing it for hours, and we do not know whether they are in favour of such a Bill being rushed through the House, or whether they agree with the Amendment of those who desire to have it looked into, to collect information, and have schemes brought forward by the great employers. To carry a Measure of this sort, slap-dash, on a private Member's Motion seems to be to go beyond any thing that the Government can allow; I cannot conceive it possible. Everyone who understands the industry of this country is justified in voting for the Amendment to prevent the impinging on industry of such a Measure as this. I did not want to appear before my constituents as a dummy Member, so I had to speak.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Lawson)
I have the very greatest pleasure in congratulating the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir J. Reynolds), who has just made what I understand to be his first speech in this House. He has spoken with some success, at any rate in so far as he has brought me to my feet; to that extent, it is a successful maiden speech. I may also say that I think the hon. Gentleman has spoken with an assurance and a clarity which, although one may not agree with what he has said, ensures that he is going to make some considerable and valuable contributions towards discussion in this House. It rather struck me, however, as he went on, that he was not quite as used to the ways of the House as some of his colleagues who sit beside 2483 him, because he attempted rather to oppose in principle than to deal with the Amendment.
Generally speaking, this Debate to-day has been rather a revelation to me, because it has been expressed almost on every hand that, not only was there no opposition to the principle of the Bill, but that it was granted in advance that the great mass of the workers who are outside existing agreements are entitled to a holiday, a definite break during the year. That may seem to be a common place, but it is net so very long ago that the great mass of the industrial workers hardly gave themselves that right. I remember, if I may be personal, that in my young manhood, with a friend of mine, I worked for 10 years in the mines without a single holiday. I re member we then got a holiday, and the two of us went away. We were almost too superior for the village, because we could get a break in the ordinary workaday life. It is just those people who do the heavy industrial work of the country who need the break in the year.
Someone—I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney (Captain A. Hudson) who moved the Amendment—said that it would cost £2,250,000 to the coalmining industry. I never place much value on figures of that kind; I hear them so often in debates in this House. What is certain is that the worker is all the better for a rest, an abler worker, and a more cap able citizen. So, like a great many Members of this House and all Members on this side, the Government accept the general principle of this Bill. But we are conscious of the fact that you can not deal with this matter in such simple terms as the Bill itself proposes. That is not to say that the Government are not in hearty sympathy with the principle. They have demonstrated that they are by the fact that since the inception of the present Government a definite week's holiday has been given to all Government employés, because it considers that the State ought to be a model employer.
The hon. Member who introduced this Bill did so in what was not only a very able speech but what hon. Members will recognise as a model Second Beading speech, in so far as it was a clear exposition of his own Bill, and it is within the 2484 experience of most Members that some times the exposition on the Second Reading of a Bill does not tell you what the Bill is about. In that very eloquent speech, he drew attention to the article in the Ministry of Labour Gazette of August last. That, in, itself, is a proof that the Government pay considerable attention to the growth of this movement for holidays with pay, and the reading of that article with the information that it contained would teach one, if it were necessary, that ordinary industrial experience has to be considered in this respect. There are 30 different industries which have already made voluntary schemes, and the strange thing about it is the fact, to which I think the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. Hudson), drew attention, that many of those who need the holidays most are left outside these agreements. In those agreements, there is very great variety of conditions. There are differences, for instance, in the qualifying period; the period differs according to the circumstances of the particular industry. There are differences, not only in the time and length of the holiday, but in respect of many other conditions. In some cases, as a matter of fact, if the worker does not finish his 12 months with the employer, he receives a sort of surrender value for the loss which he has incurred thereby. In some cases, I think the methods of the calculation of wages are actually mixed up with the conditions upon which the holiday is given. Then there are agreements concerning time; and, generally speaking, in the light of all these facts the Government have felt it necessary to say that they think there is some need for consulting these interests before anything on a big scale is done.
I come from an industry which, as I have said, needs perhaps more than any other industry a break in the year. I cannot imagine any that needs it more. I must say that I rather suspect that there are those in this House who know so little of industrial conditions that they really are in opposition to, and not in agreement with, the principle, but I cannot undertand anyone who knows any thing about modern industrial conditions not giving assent to the view that it is good business, economically as well 2485 as morally, for a nation to lay itself out to realise this ideal of a break with pay.
The hon. Member for East Willesden (Mr. D. G. Somerville) who gave us, if I may say so with due respect, a rather dismal exposition of a dismal science, conveyed the impression that one of the things which would take place if there were holidays with pay is that the workers would lose an opportunity of saving. I suppose it is the duty of a Minister from this Box almost to eulogise thrift. I am not going to belittle those qualities which make for carefulness and which make for some of the attributes which are desirable in citizens; but thrift can become a very great vice. I have seen it in my own experience so expressed in some lives that one has wondered whether thrift in those cases was not almost worse than extravagance. In one's experience of industrial life one has seen some very lamentable instances of that kind of thing. But if this House, and if Parliament generally, ever makes up its mind to give holidays with pay and that be comes a realised fact, I venture to say that the workers will be more careful, and will prepare more definitely for that period than they do at the present time. It is something to look forward to; it is something definite; it gives a pull in life; and, as the hon. Member for Sunderland (Dr. Marion Phillips) said, it affects not only the man but his wife and his family, because they would not then have to look forward to the time when he and she took their holidays as the loss of a week's or a fortnight's wages, but they would be quite sure that they would not have to deny themselves after the holiday was over.
Having said that, I have to say with regret that I have to make it quite clear that, while the Government support the principle of the Bill and give it their full approval, and have expressed their sympathy and their approval in actual concrete terms with respect to their own employés, in view of the heavy programme of the Government—the whole House and every one knows what that is—there can be no real guarantee given that time can be found for the further stages of the Bill if it is given a second reading by the House. But it should also be made quite clear that the Government 2486 are giving careful attention to this matter, and, although we cannot give the time necessary for the passage of the Bill, the Government desire in every way possible to assist all those interests which are concerned in this matter in the spread of this desirable practice.
That is all that I have to say upon this matter. Personally, I hope that the House will not refuse to accept the principle of this Bill. There is a point, which is a Committee point, made by an hon. Member and underlined by the hon. Member for Sunderland. It is a point which arises on Clause 5 of the Bill, where holidays are mixed up with wages, hours, conditions, and general agreements. The point was that there may be a danger of impinging upon those conditions and, it may be, of their violation. But, while all that is quite true, if the House agrees to the principle of the Bill and gives it a Second Beading, as I have said there can be no time given, unfortunately, for its passage, in view of the heavy programme before the House and in view of the fact that the whole matter would need full inquiry and consultation with the unions and other interests concerned.
§ Sir PHILIP CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am sure the House will have heard the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary with interest. I think it will be agreed in all quarters that that carefully considered and reasonable and responsible statement is a most complete justification for my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment and a complete endorsement of what in all quarters of the House would be agreed to be an admirable speech. I should like also to join in the tributes to the real ability of the speech with which the Bill was introduced. I am sure the whole House equally appreciated the very closely reasoned but very sympathetic speech by the hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney (Captain A. Hudson) who brought remarkable know ledge to the matter and great sympathy, for he is an employer who gives three weeks' holiday on full pay, and a marshalling of relevant facts which is a real asset to any Debate in the House. If, in place of introducing a Bill, the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Winterton) had on a Wednesday tabled a Motion in the terms that the House welcomed the progress 2487 that had been made in the granting of holidays on full pay and called upon the Government to supply information and use its best endeavours to find out how far such agreement could be carried further, and the cost and so on, I, and I think I speak for all who sit behind me, would have welcomed such a Motion and I believe it would have gone through the House without division. If, supplied with full authoritative information as to the cost, the method and the measure of agreement in industry, and how far any legislation would cut across existing agreements in our great industries, the Government had produced a Bill dealing with the matter, certainly I should have said that Bill ought to receive very careful consideration.
I entirely agree with the Minister that it would be quite impossible to expect this House to pass legislation of this kind without the fullest and the most authoritative information. A Private Bill cannot be as well drafted as one prepared by a skilled draftsman. This Bill is quite as well drafted as some that I have tried to draft in the old days, but it is obvious that it contains many defects, even if the principle is right. As far as I can make out, if a man was out of work for a week he could very likely be deprived of all the benefits of the Bill. The promoter himself has admitted that it is very obscure as to what industrial agreements would be abrogated by the Bill, but it is common ground that a great many would. No one speaking on behalf of the Bill has been able to give any measure of cost. A figure has been given based on calculations, as I understand it, of Sir Josiah Stamp that the cost of a week's holiday in industry would be something in the neighbourhood of £40,000,000 a year—a pretty substantial sum. A figure, to which the hon. Gentleman said he did not pay much regard, of £2,250,000 was given for the mining industry, a sum equal to 2¼ d. a ton on coal. I do not know whether that figure is right or wrong, but the hon. Gentleman says he is suspicious of it.
We are entitled to ask him what is the right figure, because, if we are to proceed with a Measure of this kind, we must be fortified with complete knowledge, and the hon. Gentleman has very rightly and properly admitted that. It is not merely 2488 the aggregate cost. It is the varying cost. There are a great many industries in which it is perfectly easy to give a holiday with full pay—industries where the wage cost may be as low as 20 per cent. or even lower of the total cost. Take some great emporium, where the business largely comprises the purchase of goods and their re-sale, and where the actual wage cost is relatively small. It is quite a simple matter to give an extra week's pay in such a case. But you get every possible gradation in this matter. Some industries are sheltered and others are exposed to the keenest competition. There are numerous variations in the incidence of wage costs in industry. If you take the coal-mining figures—and I quote them from memory—I should not be far out if I said that the actual wage cost was something like 70 per cent., or rather over 70 per cent., of the total cost per ton of coal. Probably that is, if anything, a conservative figure. We have only to study a proposition like that for it to be evident to the House how impossible it is to deal with this matter under one comprehensive proposition of this kind.
I am not sure that it would always be the best thing in every industry even if the principle of some holiday with pay—to which I give my whole-hearted assent as far as it can be practised—were adopted. I very much doubt whether it would be wise to lay down in an Act of Parliament that it should always take the form of one week's holiday at one particular time of the year. It might very well be that you might have some industries where they were working a short working week in order to try and get a clear Saturday, and perhaps had made an arrangement so that a number of their employés could get off on Saturdays on full pay. It might be a very satisfactory thing industrially and socially to the people engaged in those industries, particularly where you have industries in towns which are within a bicycle reach of rather beautiful country, to have arrangements by which you have a Saturday holiday, so that a number of people are able to go bicycling for a couple of days week after week, rather than allowing them to have a week's holiday on full pay.
I throw this out as a possible suggestion. It is a practice which some of my friends in industry are carrying out at 2489 the present time. It might well be that arrangements might be made which were industrially sounder and socially much more advantageous than some cut and dried rule. I think it would be better if you could get by general agreement in industry—it has gone 'a good way—a still greater acceptance of the proposition that so far as an industry can it should contribute towards giving its workers holiday on full pay. I remember one firm, presided over by a man who is no longer in this House, but whom we all respected enormously when he was, who, when they found that they had had a good year and were able to declare an increased dividend, said, "Very well, we have given an increased dividend, but we can also give a return to the workers as well." While they declared a bonus, they gave the workers a week's holiday with full pay at the same time. That kind of thing is constantly going forward. How much better it would be—and I doubt whether legislation really is possible with the infinite variety of conditions which you have to meet—that these great reforms should go forward by common agreement and by a recognition in practice as well as in theory of the duty which we owe to one another rather than scheduled in Acts of Parliament, and, still worse, in Orders-in-Council.
I make this practical suggestion to the hon. Gentleman. To-day the hon. Gentleman has tentatively invited the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill, or not to oppose it, because he says, and with truth I think, that in all quarters of the House we have approved the principle so far as the principle goes. I accept that. He also said that a Bill framed like this could not go through, and that the Government could not find time for it, because it would require much detailed consultation and consideration. Upon that, I think everyone will be in agreement. I would ask the House to treat this occasion as if the hon. Member had brought forward a Motion, instead of moving the Second Reading of a Bill and that we should ask the Government to see how far the principle could be carried out. I would suggest that the Government might make inquiries because, whatever happens to this Bill, if we were all agreed upon it in principle, we should require full in formation, and it would require re-drafting. In order that we might have the 2490 fuller information, would the Government, in the first place, try to ascertain—I do not think it would be very difficult for the Government to do it—what would be the cost to industry of giving a holiday on full pay for one week? An aggregate figure would not be very useful. We should require the cost in each of the principal industries, not excluding agriculture.
Could the Government also ascertain how far a Measure of this kind would cut across agreements that already exist in industry? It has been stated, and I do not think it has been denied, that this would cut across the agreements with the railway companies. Plainly, before any action can be taken—I do not think it would be beyond the skill of the Ministry of Labour to collect the in formation—we should want to know what are the agreements subsisting in industry, how far they take holidays into account, and what agreements would be abrogated by a Measure of this kind. Further, will the Government—I gather it is present to the mind of the Parliamentary Secretary—get the views of employers and employed in the principal industries as to how far the definite project of a week's holiday on full pay is practicable, how far it would be acceptable, how far it is impracticable in particular industries, and for what reason, what alternatives there are which, in their opinion, are likely to be found and what, if they are able to do some thing in the way of holidays with full pay, would be the most convenient form to adopt. Lastly, the Government might ascertain what would be the best method of carrying it into operation. I am sure that in a great Measure directing the whole industry of the country how it is to conduct its operations, we are not going to instruct even the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department with authority to do that by Order in Council. We should want to see the Schedule in the Bill and to know precisely where we stood. I have expressed, I think, not only the feelings of my own party, but the general feeling in the House that we should treat this matter as if it were a Motion on a Wednesday rather than a practical Bill coming forward to-day. I believe we are all in favour of the principle of the measure but the reasons given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry 2491 of Labour why it is impossible for the Government to support the Bill make it impossible also for us to support it as a Bill which was going forward into immediate and concrete legislation. I hope the House will be ready to adopt that attitude and that the Minister of Labour will put in hand inquiries on the general lines I have indicated.
§ Mr. DUKES
I rise to take part in this debate with some hesitation. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have stated that they are in agreement with the principle of the Bill. That is about the worst thing that can befall any Measure in this House. It in variably foreshadows its defeat. The arguments to which I have listened since eleven o'clock this morning are the arguments to which I have been accustomed across the conference table when we have met the employers of labour, and they are similar to those arguments we have heard for years in industries where we have been able to establish a week or fortnight's holiday with pay. There are one or two aspects of this matter to which I should like to refer, and I will try to avoid covering the ground of principle. Every one agrees that a workman should receive a week's holiday with pay. Everybody thinks he merits it but, like all beneficial legislation, it foreshadows the ruin of British industry. I do not know any piece of labour legislation about what that has not been said. I commend this point to the observation of the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir J. Reynolds) who said he had an interest in cotton, that even the efforts to abolish half-time labour in that industry were said to foreshadow loss of trade and the eventual ruin of the industry.
There is an aspect of this problem which I should like to commend to the attention of hon. Members opposite. Many of the holiday agreements in this country operate and work to the disadvantage of the good employer. There are several industries where holidays with pay are provided on the basis of district agreements, and we have in the heavy leather trades of this country, holidays with pay in what is know as the Liverpool Warrington district; holidays with pay, partly on a contributory basis in the London area, and no 2492 holidays at all in the Yorkshire area. The employers have expressed their willingness to agree to a national agreement if employers in other parts of the country can be brought into line, but we have this anomaly that in one of the important industries of the country the employer on Mersey-side is penalised as against the Yorkshire employer because he and the representatives of the working people have for years been able to establish amicable and peaceful relations between the respective sides. That is an anomaly which I fear will only be remedied by legislative enactment.
From a trade union point of view there are one or two criticisms that I want to offer, because I realise, from the statement made from the Government front bench, that while the Government approve of the principle, there is no immediate prospect of the Bill being proceeded with, and in all probability the more information that we can get the greater are the prospects of dealing with the matter in the not far distant future. As I read the Bill, Clause 5 will cancel existing agreements relating to holiday arrangements. That may be very dangerous from the point of view of many existing agreements, under which provision is made, not for six or eight, but 14 days' holiday. I am certain that there will have to be some amendment of that Clause before we could give it our whole hearted support.
Reference has been made to the difficulty of computation in the case of piece workers. Really there is no difficulty. In all industries where to-day holidays with pay are being enjoyed the piece worker not only has a piece rate but has also a day work rate. The piece worker in the industry to which I have already referred receives his holiday payment on the basis of his day work rate. Even where that arrangement did not exist there would be very little difficulty in arriving at the average earnings for the year of any particular operative, on precisely the same lines as those followed when considering workmen's compensation. We experience no difficulty in arriving at what is the average earning of the workman concerned.
Another difficulty that I see is this: There is no provision made in the Bill—and so far no hon. Member has made reference to the problem—as to what you 2493 are to do with the "ins" and "outs" of industry. There is a very high percentage of the workpeople who change their employment within the course of 12 months. The usual arrangement in industries like heavy chemicals and so on is that a man is entitled to one-twelfth for every month of employment that he has completed. Payment is not received at the time when the man may be dismissed from his employment, but is held over until what is normally regarded as the holiday period. The suggestion I make is that some sort of stamp arrangement would have to be made whereby the change from one employer to another would mean the transfer of the man's entitlement to holiday payment for the period served with the first employer. That might meet the difficulty. But I am certain that no general provision would be acceptable unless it made some sort of arrangement whereby the very high percentage—the figure I have in mind I am not proclaiming as accurate, but it is a figure arrived at from some experience in dealing with the Unemployment Insurance Acts—probably 20 per cent. of the work people who change their employment within the course of a year, would be dealt with. Obviously when we are dealing with a Measure of this character some regard must be paid to that side of the problem.
I was interested in the point of view put forward by one hon. Member who asked what we were going to do about the unemployed. He seemed to have the idea fixed in his mind that the 1,250,000 unemployed workpeople are the same 1,250,000 all the time and that they re main unemployed from one year's end to another. We know that such is not the case. The fact is that very few of the unemployed are totally unemployed for the period of a year. In that respect I think we ought to find very little difficulty. I think the experience in industries where holidays with pay have been arranged is such as should commend itself to hon. Members on all sides of the House. There are very few of these holiday schemes which do not pro vide that the holidays are paid for only on condition that good time keeping is observed or make some provision of that kind. There are certain other disciplinary conditions attached to the holiday which both the employers' and the 2494 workers' representatives agree to have been very beneficial to the industries. My figures are that there are some 67 industries and occupations in which to-day the workpeople enjoy the advantage of a week or more of holiday with pay. At the moment I am not prepared to go into an argument as to industries and occupations but I have been a party to drawing up a number of these arrangements and in the 30 odd industries concerned I know of no case in which such schemes have not had a beneficial effect on the discipline of the workers and on the output. These schemes have been beneficial to those industries in the most comprehensive sense.
The assumption that certain industries go on working from the 1st January to 31st December every year without a break reveals a certain amount of misunderstanding in the minds of some hon. Members. The general practice in all industries is to shut down at some period of the year for very obvious reasons. Maintenance, repair, boiler-cleaning, and all the renovations associated with an industry, have to be carried out at some period during which the whole plant must be closed down. There is also stocktaking to be done and it is at such periods that, by mutual arrangement between the employers' and the workers' representatives, the work people take their holidays. But even in the case of continuous processes we have had no difficulty in making arrangements for holidays to be taken while the plant is working and for the plant to be maintained and kept running with out employment of additional operatives. That is to say, we have been able to enter into such arrangements with the employers that the continuity of a process plant has been assured, without putting the employer to the expense of bringing in new employés. I have said very little in regard to the principle of the Bill, but I thought it necessary that someone with a little practical experience in the handling of these problems should offer some observations on those aspects with which I have dealt and I trust the House will give the Measure a Second Reading.
§ Captain PEAKE
I should not have ventured to trouble the House at so late an hour for the first time if this had not been a subject on which I feel rather 2495 strongly. This Bill embodies two principles. The first principle is that every employer should be compelled to grant every employé a holiday of eight clear days in the year. That is a principle to which, I am sure, everybody, in every quarter of the House, will subscribe. I do not know whether there are industries where employers are so harsh and so hard-hearted as to deny the right of the employés to take a week's holiday in the year. The only thing that surprises me about this part of the proposal is that the supporters of the Bill should have put forward such a small holiday. Speaking as a member of the Bar, I am dumbfounded that a longer holiday has not been proposed.
The second principle put forward is a principle which I consider thoroughly vicious and thoroughly bad. It is that the employer should be compelled to pay for this holiday. In recent years there has been a great deal of legislation imposing burdens upon employers in pro portion to the number of men whom they employ. In health insurance, unemployment insurance, and other matters a burden is placed upon the employer who employs the greatest number of men. I do not think it is realised that an amount of capital invested in the heavy industries gives a much greater amount of employment than the same amount of capital invested in luxury and other trades, such as are carried on in the City of London.
I have analysed for the coal trade the burden which this proposal would place upon it. The figures are easily obtained from the quarterly statement of the Mines Department. The earnings per shift of the miner we know to be just over 9s. to-day. The employers would have to find eight shifts' wages without getting any coal produced; that is to say, they would have to find £3 12s. 0d. per man in respect of the annual holiday. On a basis of 950,000 miners, they would have to find £3,500,000 a year to finance this proposal, and that, as hon. Members know, is 3½ d. a ton or thereabouts. I do not think it is realised that that burden would exceed the direct benefit which the coal trade obtains under the derating proposals. Moreover, it would be doubling the present cost of social 2496 insurances upon the coal industry. These burdens or taxes per employé do not matter in the least to the insurance company, the stockbroker, somebody who employs a few clerks, the brewer, or the artificial industry where the amount of capital and profit is very large in proportion to the number of men employed, but when you come to our heavy industries, it is a very heavy and a very vicious burden and one which, to my mind, ought not to be placed upon them.
A great many hon. Members opposite believe—and I am inclined to agree with them—that these burdens ought to be transferred to the general body of the taxpayers, and then millionaires, on both sides of the House, would be contributing towards these social services. A proposal of this kind would retard the chance of recovery of the big basic industries, and I do not think that we shall see such recovery until a further step is taken to remove the legislative burdens which are being placed upon industries.
§ Mr. H. W. WALLACE
I venture, for the first time, to address the House, and I feel sure that I shall receive the indulgence that has already been extended to many Members. I have been advised by old Members that I cannot do better than be brief, and I intend to be very brief this afternoon. There are one or two questions to which I wish to direct myself. Needless to say, I support the principle of the Bill, but I am of opinion that it needs very careful examination before it is placed on the Statute Book. In my work in an office of a trade union, I come into contact with many agreements, and I should not like to think what would happen to those agreements on the strength of Clause 5. I am absolutely opposed to the sentiments of the Amendment. There is one sentence in it which is sufficient to make me pause:which interferes with the long-established custom of employers and employed to settle conditions in their own industries.We do not have enough Government interference. The very success of the Labour party is based on the fact that we are converting public opinion to the view that the Government must interfere more to prevent greedy, avaricious employers from degrading the standard 2497 of life of our people. Testimony has been given by hon. Members that there are good employers who are ready to do the best that they can, but who all the time are prevented because there are greedy employers who want to get as much from their workmen as they can. I am told by those who know that it is good to give a horse a rest, and good to give a machine a rest; surely then, it is good to give a man a rest. The Insurance Acts, Workmen's Compensation Acts, and the Factory Acts all mean interference, and so this com plaint about interference leaves me quite cold. What are the facts about "the long-established custom of employers and employed to settle conditions in their own industries"? This very Measure is proposed because there are millions of workers who cannot get their employers to settle; the workers have not the power. The existence of the Trade Boards Act is sufficient evidence that the State has had to protect the workers from the avaricious employer.
It has been suggested that there would be difficulty in making practical arrangements for this holiday, and the attention of the House has been directed to what has been called continuous processes. The Post Office is an institution whose doors are never closed, and in which the workers are working the whole 24 hours round. We never suggest that for one or two weeks in the year the Post Office should be closed in order to give the workers a holiday. That holiday can be spread over the best months of the year. It has been said that this Bill would add to the charges on industry. I think that it would. It has been suggested from the benches opposite that if this Bill became law unemployment would be in creased. There are in the Post Office 100,000 workers who enjoy a holiday. Cancel that holiday, and I think the number of unemployed would be in creased. Give 100,000 people a holiday who at present do not get a holiday, and I venture to say that you are bound to draw more people into industry. The Lord Privy Seal, in explaining his schemes to the House, has always said that he wants to find employment of such a character that it will leave the country more efficiently organised, and every time he has used those words he has been supported by hon. Members opposite.
2498 There could be no better method than bringing into industry people, to-day unemployed, who might profitably be used in that industry in giving the workers the rest which they require.
In any examination which the Government may make into this question, I hope that they will take industry by industry and reveal to us whether we do not get a high rate of sickness and absenteeism in those industries where there are no holidays. I have read what is known as the Liberal Yellow Book. It gives a figure showing the millions of days which are lost by sickness. I put it to the House that an annual holiday would help us to reduce absences caused by sickness. It may be that the evidence which could be secured from the Civil Service will show that a holiday pays for itself.
I have heard talk about rationalisation from all sides of the House. I believe our industry will have to be reorganised, but, if that reorganisation is to be carried through, we shall need the good will of labour. It is of no use for hon. Members to ask us to reorganise the direction or control of industy, reorganise the management, and reorganise the technique, if at the same time they want the workers to live in the conditions which obtained 50 or 60 years ago. They will have to rationalise the conditions of the workers as well, and I believe that, if a holiday could be given to all workers, it would produce good will and increased efficiency, and that we should find after a period that the country and its industries could well afford this improvement.
§ Mr. MANDER
Although I am myself a new Member, I hope I may be permitted to congratulate the last two speakers very warmly on the excellent maiden speeches that they have delivered, and to say that they have maintained the rather high standard which has been set by so many maiden speeches since this Parliament assembled. I desire to give support to this Measure, and am quite unimpressed by the various arguments put forward from the Conservative Benches, and from the two Front Benches. There seems to be a conspiracy between the two Front Benches to do nothing in this matter. I hope the House will not be influenced by that, but will go forward and pass this Measure.
2499 I support the Bill because it seems to me that its principle is absolutely sound. The directors have their holidays on full pay, the managers have their holidays on full pay, and the clerical staff likewise have their holidays on full pay. Why should not the worker have his holiday in the same way, and so raise his human status while giving him the holiday to which he is entitled? I think that this Bill makes a movement towards that more human conception of industry to which we are becoming accustomed in this country. In the old days the position of the worker was very difficult, and in many ways it is unchanged to-day. A man may spend the whole of his life in some particular factory, working year after year without any knowledge of what is going on, without any consultation, without any right or say as to the way in which the business is being conducted. He is subject merely to the payment of a weekly wage; he has no further rights, and is liable to be thrown out of work at a moment's notice. I say that under those conditions a man is a wage slave, and I believe that this is one of the methods by which we can introduce a new era of partnership and co-operation in industry and so bring in better things for both sides. I believe that this is just adding one more to the many social services in the way of insurance, and so on, that we now feel to be essential.
There is just one criticism to which I would like to refer. There seems to be an anxiety to find reasons why the Bill could not possibly be carried out, although it has been described as such an excellent Measure. In the criticism in question, reference was made to the coal mines, and the question was asked: Why add another week to the absenteeism which already exists? I think that, if the hon. Member who said that had studied the Report of the Samuel Commission, he would have realised that the Samuel Commission recommended that when it was possible there should be a holiday with pay in the mining industry, in order to do away with the absenteeism, in order so to organise the absences of men from work that they might take the form of a regular annual holiday. Reference has been made to the work done by various joint industrial councils, and I would like 2500 in that connection to refer to one particular industry. These councils have done much admirable work, crippled and limited though I think they are by being on a purely voluntary basis and not having those statutory and compulsory powers for which so many of them are asking, and which I believe it would be in the national interest to give to them.
There is one industry, with which many of my constituents as well as my self are associated, in which some interesting and valuable work has been done in connection with holidays. I refer to the work of the Joint Industrial Council of the National Paint, Colour and Varnish Industry. In October, 1920, after discussion by both sides together in their council, they arrived at a scheme for giving a fort night's holiday with full pay. That has been in operation throughout the whole country ever since, and there has been no difficulty whatsoever in carrying it out. Of the trade of that industry, 25 per cent. is export trade. We have heard a good many criticisms and suggestions to the effect that it would not be possible to work this scheme out, that there are so many difficulties that cannot be overcome; but the agreement to which I have referred affords a working example of how it can be done. Piece-work is dealt with; there are 14 Clauses dealing with every specific point that can possibly come up; and in that great industry, since 1920, a scheme, covering the whole industry, giving a fortnight's holiday with full pay, has been carried out without the slightest difficulty and with full satisfaction to employers and employed. I hope the ex ample may be followed in other industries.
There are some who say: "Why not leave things to develop by voluntary action between employers and employed? Why hurry and force things in this way?" I dissent from that view. If we are going to wait until everybody has become sufficiently educated and enlightened and persuaded to do what others find it possible to do, we shall delay perhaps for generations benefits to which the people are entitled at the present time. It is time that the State stepped in and took definite steps to make a holiday of this kind the law of the land. It is said that businesses are not successful enough to 2501 carry out a scheme of this sort. What does success in industry mean? It is not merely the making of money. No firm can claim to be successful unless all those associated with it, its workpeople, are happy, contented, working under healthy conditions, and thoroughly satisfied with the state of affairs in the industry. I can see that in Committee it may be necessary to make changes, perhaps to fix a date and say that in industries where there are special difficulties there shall be three days' holiday until a certain date, and that later the whole scheme shall come into operation, in order to give time in certain special cases for the firm to make the necessary arrangements.
I support the Bill very warmly as a real contribution to the new order in industry, and I hope that, as a result of it in future, when the holiday season comes round, and the worker goes out with his family to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air and sea breezes, he will feel that he is able to do so on full pay, just as the directors of his company are able to do.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
We have listened to many speeches from the other side of the House and below the Gangway. Personally, I have been able to see very little difference between them, and much less have I been able to find any reason to support the Bill before the House to-day. There are two principles in the Bill. One meets with the universal approval of the House; the other, we on this side of the House, must meet with unalterable opposition.
§ tion be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER with-held his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
The first principle is to give the maximum benefits of life to all people in this country what ever their walk in life. To that we subscribe absolutely.
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
The second is that this House, as a legislative body, is to have the right to lay down what conditions or wages or privileges should be allowed in industry.
§ Mr. THURTLE
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I for one shall never cease to oppose that second principle. Hon. Members draw attention to how lovely it is to see the workers at Brighton, Blackpool, and Margate. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Dr. Marion Phillips) said that it was a blessed gift from Heaven. But why should it be at the expense of the employers?
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 184; Noes, 63.2503
|Division No. 37.]||AYES.||[3.59 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Caine, Derwent Hall-||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Cameron, A. G.||Gibbins, Joseph|
|Angell, Norman||Cape, Thomas||Gillett, George M.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Glassey, A. E.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Charleton, H. C.||Gosling, Harry|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Chater, Daniel||Gossling, A. G.|
|Batey, Joseph||Church, Major A. G.||Gould, F.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Cluse, W. S.||Gray, Milner|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)|
|Benson, G.||Daggar, George||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Dallas, George||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Day, Harry||Groves, Thomas E.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Dukes, C.||Hall. Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Ede, James Chuter||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)|
|Bromley, J.||Edmunds, J. E.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)|
|Brothers, M.||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Hardie, George D.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Marley, J.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Haycock, A. W.||Mathers, George||Shield, George William|
|Hayday, Arthur||Matters, L. W.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Hayes, John Henry||Middleton, G.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Henderson, Arthur, junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Millar, J. D.||Shinwell, E.|
|Henderson, W.W. (Middx., Enfield)||Milner, J.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Horrabin, J. F.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Mort, D. L.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Isaacs, George||Muggeridge, H, T.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Naylor, T. E.||Sorensen, R.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Noel Baker, P. J.||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)||Oldfield, J. R.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Strauss, G. R.|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Sullivan, J.|
|Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)||Thorne, W. (West Ham Plaistow)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Palin, John Henry||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Kennedy, Thomas||Paling, Wilfrid||Tillett, Ben|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Lathan, G.||Perry, S. F.||Vaughan, D. J.|
|Law, Albert (Bolton)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Viant, S. P.|
|Lawrence, Susan||Phillips, Dr. Marion||Wallace, H. W.|
|Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Lawson, John James||Pole, Major D. G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Leach, W.||Potts, John S.||West, F. R.|
|Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||White, H. G.|
|Lindley, Fred W.||Rathbone, Eleanor||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Lloyd, C. Ellis||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Lowth, Thomas||Ritson, J.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Romerll, H. G.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Rowson, Guy||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|McElwee, A.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|McEntee, V. L.||Sanders, W. S.||Wise, E. F.|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Sandham, E.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|McShane, John James||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Scott, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mansfield, W.||Scurr, John||Mr. Winterton and Mr. James Hudson.|
|March, S.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Markham, S. F.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Hammersley, S. S.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Savery, S. S.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Berry, Sir George||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Marjoribanks, E. C.||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)|
|Bracken, B.||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Butler, R. A.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir. Herbert||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||O'Neill, Sir H.||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Womersley, W. J.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Purbrick, R.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Sir Gervais Rentoul and Captain Austin Hudson.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.