§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. MABANE
May I ask for your Ruling, Sir, as there is a conflict between the Title of the Bill and its contents. The Title of the Bill isto limit by law the hours of employment of the working population to a maximum of six hours per day,and I think it may be fairly argued that what is set out in the Bill the Bill ought to do. It seems to me certain that, so long as the Bill does something less than the Title, it is in order. If it did something less than limit the hours of employment, there could be no objection. But I think this phrase must be considered as a whole. It is the phraseto limit by law the hours of employment of the working population.My objection is that the contents of the Bill cannot be held to be included in that phrase. I find in Erskine May, in the 13th Edition, on page 383:In preparing Bills, care must be taken … that the prefatory paragraph prefixed to a Bill which defines the object thereof, known as the title of that Bill, corresponds with the order of leave.On the next page it goes on to say:if it should appear that these rules have not been observed, the House will order the Bill to be withdrawn.My point is that the Bill does something entirely different from the contents. Clause 1 says:Subject to the provisions of this Act the hours of employment of all workers who are insured under the National Health Insurance Acts, 1924 to 1932, are hereby fixed at a maximum of six hours per day.That is tantamount to an assertion that only those who are insured under the National Health Insurance Act are entitled to be classed as the working population. I find no mention in the Bill of other members of the working population outside the Insurance Acts. It seems to me that in so far as, by implication, it defines in a manner which cannot be reasonably admitted the phrase "the working population," either it goes beyond 1934 the Title or, alternatively, it is so different from the Title that it is, in effect, a different Bill. I submit that, far from being a Bill to limit by law the hours of employment of the working population, it is, in effect, a Bill to create by law a privileged, leisured class and, to be in order, it should be so defined in the Title. Would it he in order for me to introduce a Bill under this Title as it stands here to limit the hours of employment of the working population and to make the provisions of Clause 1 refer only, say, to members of golf clubs or members of the Communist party or Members of Parliament? It would be quite out of order to introduce any such Bill as it could not be considered as coming within that Title. There is no difference in principle between such a Bill and this, and, therefore, I ask if you will give a Ruling that, the Bill is out of order and cannot be discussed.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I should not like to give any Ruling on a Bill that the hon. Member might introduce until I have seen it. With regard to the point that he has raised, it may be true that Clause 1 defines certain workers and does not include the whole of the working population. At the same time, it certainly does include some of the working population and, therefore, it is certainly not outside the Title of the Bill. Were the definition of workers outside the Title of the Bill I should say it was out of order, but, as it is included among others in the Title, the Bill seems to me to be in order.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The objection that has been raised is in the direct traditional Liberal line. It is a tradition of the Liberal party, so far as I understand the history of the limitation of working hours, that they have universally opposed such limitation.
§ Mr. MABANE
My objection was not that the hours of labour were limited, but that the hours of labour for myself and many other people were not limited.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
This very modest Bill is the last of an attenuated line of proposals which have been made in this House for the limitation of the working- 1935 day. I understand that the first proposal to limit the hours of labour to ten was made in this House round about 1802. The Bill was not passed until 1850, and it was the Bill that was referred to by Karl Marx as the modest Magna Charta of the British working-class. I will not go over the number of attempts that were made in the early part of the nineteenth century to limit the working hours of children. The history is a gloomy one, and many of us have in our minds the continual attempts that there were to limit the rigours of employment by limiting the hours during which children could be compelled to work. We have advanced a little since then although the struggle has been a fairly long one and has compelled some strenuous fighting on the part of the working-class generally.
If any reason for limitation of hours, apart from the humanitarian point of view, were necessary, it might easily be found in the present position with which we are confronted. The country has never had to face such a problem as it faces at present. Some 'figures were given yesterday in answer to a question with regard to unemployment. We have round about 3,000,000 of unemployed, and there was an increase in October of 52,800. These figures continue eloquently the tragic story of the situation with which we are confronted. Various expedients have been tried. The Government at present is pursuing the expedient of tariffs for dealing with unemployment. Tariffs from the time of their original inception have always been put forward as one of the capitalist solutions from the Conservative point of view of the problem of unemployment. As far as one can tell, there is not much prospect that tariffs can possibly hope to succeed. There is not much to be learned about tariffs. All the talk that we have had about the application of a scientific tariff leaves one cold. There is not anything to learn with regard to the application of tariffs. America and Germany have tried scientific tariffs. Every nation which tries tariffs, of course, tries them upon a scientific basis. They follow their own conceptions of a scientific method of applying these proposals. As far as one can tell from the position of the world at the present moment, in every country where tariffs have been tried 1936 the story is precisely the same as the story to be told here, where, up to the present year, we have persistently attempted to carry on under a Free Trade system.
Some hope was entertained a short time ago that the abandonment of the Gold Standard might be of some assistance, and for a short period hope seemed to be flattered by the fact that there was a slight improvement, but the pound has consistently dropped. I suppose that it is as low as one can fear it can possibly get. Any hope of improvement has disappeared as far as that is concerned. I understand that, roughly, about 37 nations have gone off the Gold Standard, and that those which remain on have taken internal steps to meet the situation by trying to level out the balance or the advantage which might accrue to the non-gold countries as against those which remain on the Gold Standard. The problem continues to grow, therefore, in complexity and in magnitude.
One realises that the attitude of this House towards the problem of unemployment is changing. Up to now it has been regarded in its acute phases as of a temporary character. I have been in this House for 10 years, and every Government which has had to deal with the problem of unemployment has always flattered itself that we were just about turning the corner. There was always that mythical corner which we were just going to round if only we would possess our souls in patience. The corner has always been deferred, has always been put further off. From time to time warning voices have been raised against the optimistic idea that we had reached the height as far as unemployment was concerned. I also very well remember when the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Labour was Parliamentary Secretary to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) round about, I believe, 1925. I am not saying this in any carping spirit at all, but simply to illustrate the trend of thought and to show the distance that we really were from economic actualities. About 1925 it was assumed that the normal amount of unemployment would be round about six per cent. At that time the unemployment figures were round about 1,150,000. It was assumed that we should rapidly 1937 reduce unemployment, and that the Unemployment Fund would therefore become solvent and we should go merrily on our way. The corner was almost reached; we were just about to turn it. I suggested from this side of the House that it was just likely that instead of us, with 1,150,000 unemployed, being on the crest of the wave of unemployment, it might well be that we were in the trough and that we should move forward, not to six per cent. of unemployment but to 10 or 12 per cent. of unemployment, and that if that were to be the case, all the figures upon which the proposals were based were bound to be fallacious.
That point of view was stressed many times by my friend the late John Wheatley both. from this side of the House and that side when the same kind of theories were put forward from the Labour benches there, both in 1924 and in 1929. I am not blaming any man for taking that point of view. The man who accepts the capitalist philosophy with regard to unemployment and industry generally is bound to accept that point of view, otherwise, he has to admit that the whole thing is false and cannot be made to work. At any rate, it is now recognised that we have passed away from the epidemic phase of unemployment and have reached the endemic stage and that we have arrived at the permanent factor, that we must have a tremendous amount of permanent unemployment and that provision must be made for it. I will quote from the speech embodying that point of view which was delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in the course of the debate on the Address which has just concluded. I hope that the House will excuse me for the length of the quotation, but I think that it ought to be recorded once more, because it states the facts with tremendous force. The right hon. Gentleman had been dealing with the question of the municipalities going in for expansion, and he said:Moreover, in the study of who the unemployed are, and what are the prospects of the unemployed in this country, even if normal trade were restored, we are faced with this fact and nobody can deny it. We are faced with the fact that a large number could be reabsorbed into industry. If the coal trade improved, through hydrogenation or by any other expedient, more miners 1938 would be employed. If iron and steel revived more iron and steel workers would be employed but as my hon. and learned Friend who seconded the Resolution pointed out, we are going to have, in the future, a larger production by the use of scientific methods than we have ever had before and a very substantially lessened body of working men and women engaged in production.That is getting down to brass tacks. It states the actual facts of the situation.
He went on to say,—What is to be done about the remainder? There is die problem, and this Government is the first Government to face the actual problem that when trade has become as brisk as anybody can naturally expect trade now to become for this country we shall still have a residuum. We shall still have a population which, were they not human beings, one would describe—merely for the sake of making quite clear what their position was—as scrap. Are we going to allow, is this nation going to allow, great bodies of men and women, perhaps even amounting to a couple of million, to be, to all intents and purposes, in our society, superfluous scrap? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1932; col. 33, Vol. 272.]There have been many speeches made on the question of unemployment from the Government Front Bench, but none quite so shameful as the one which I have just quoted. It is a frank admission by the Prime Minister, expressing' what one must believe to be the mind of the Party of which he is the leader and the mind of the Government of which he is the head, that the permanent position in this country is one in which we must expect to have 2,000,000 unemployed persons. In a speech that he delivered at Retford, on the 25th November, he dealt with the same idea. Speaking of the number that would remain superfluous, he said:The scientific treatment of the unemployment problem depended upon that separation of the unemployed into those two classes as a first step.Those who could be reabsorbed, and those whose reabsorbment was an utter impossibility. They must be separated as a first step.Then trade had to be increased, markets got back and production increased so that more and more could be consumed. We as a Government are facing the real problems of unemployment, not the flashy ones. We have enlisted from the people a body of men who have experience in the things in which we are interested and whenever they are asked for service it is freely and fully at our disposal. What I want to emphasise is that this problem is a business problem.1939 I suggest that that is precisely what it is not. It is by precisely following it as a business proposition that has got us where we are. It is the development of business that has brought us to the position in which we stand at the present time with a permanent lake, a reservoir of unemployed to whom the Prime Minister refers as scrap. I do not want to delay the House with a long disquisition about the development of mechanical science or scientific development generally. We all know of the marvellous developments that have taken place, particularly in. the last two decades, with regard to the development of mechanical science. Science is delving continually deeper and deeper. It throws its net wider and wider. It would have been possible or excusable if a few years ago men had said that we had reached the limit, but he would be a particularly courageous person to-day who would dare attempt to limit the extent to which science and mechanical invention will ultimately develop so far as the production of commodities is concerned.
We are going forward with ever-increasing speed in all walks of life. Forms of industry, forms of human activity which a few years ago might have seemed immune from the operation of mechanical science are now being swept into the net. The competition between nation and nation, between group and group is ever compelling the continual improvement of process and method, not only with regard to the mere mechanics of production but also with regard to the movements of the individual himself, all coming under the head of what is called rationalisation. I have here a document published by the International Labour Office on the "Social Aspects of Rationalisation." It is impossible for me to attempt to visualise in the course of any time that I might take, to deal with that volume, but it is completely staggering in its revelation, what is being done in the development of the mechanical and human material for wealth production. No one can study that volume and remain unmoved before the problems which there confront us.
It would appear that we have evolved or produced a method that is something like a Frankenstein monster that has 1940 become the master of the men who have created it. The President of the British Association, at their recent meeting at York, said that he had spent his life in invention and the improvement of scientific method, but he had come to the conclusion that man had gone too far. He had created a power which he had not the reason or the power to control, and he trembled to think of what the future might possibly be. Those are very grave words coming from a man of his standing, and it behoves every one of us, whether we call ourselves Socialists or whatever our title may be, to realise that here is a problem for every one of us, and modern civilisation must, at its peril, produce a method of dealing with it or perish as other civilisations have perished.
May I give a few concrete illustrations of the development of the mechanical side of production. There has been produced a new tabulating machine capable of doing the work of 100 skilled actuaries. It is not a question of the invasion of the realm of the manual worker, but it is a question now of the invasion of the realm of that particular class who always held themselves as being above the mechanical side of production or of labour. It is coming now into the ranks of the black-coated worker, the so-called lower middle-class worker, who works with brain instead of with hands. Then there is the teleprinter. There is also an automatic mechanism which is producing 73,000 electric light bulbs every 24 hours, and each machine installed displaces 2,000 hand workers. Imagine it. One machine displacing 2,000 hand workers. Mr. Chase, a very eminent writer on economics in America, a man of undoubted integrity and capacity, in a book that he has recently published tells of a concrete mixing machine which is at work on a sewer project at St. Louis in the United States. On this scheme there are 33 machine operators, who are aided by 37 labourers, a total of 70 men, and they are doing the work, aided by the machinery, of 7,000 pick and shovel men. That is a very remarkable development of the power of the machine.
Here is an illustration from Czechoslovakia. The Bata Works in 1923, according to the figures at my disposal, employed 1,800 workers and had a daily output of 8,000 pairs of boots. In 1930 1941 the figures are 17,000 workers and a daily output of 120,000 pairs of boots. In seven years the output per worker has increased from 4½ pairs of boots per day to seven pairs per day. I quote the case of boots because the handling of the leather and the manufacture of boots is probably one of the most difficult processes, as far as mechanical operations are concerned. There are difficulties connected with the raw material of boot-making, the delicacy of the machine that is necessary for selecting and grooming the leather, which goes into the making of an average pair of boots. In this case, the output per man has about doubled in seven years. I understand that Messrs. Bata have come to this country; and their advent seems to be hailed with a good deal of satisfaction. Why he is coming here I cannot make out. He cannot teach our people anything about the making of boots, because we make the best hoots in the world. He may teach us something about making belts, but that has nothing to do with making boots, and the problem which we are discussing will be further accentuated by this development.
Coming to this country the Macmillan Report shows that from 1907 to 1924 over industry as a whole the output per head actually rose by 14 per cent. In some industries it went down a little, due to considerations which the Report discusses, but over industry as a whole the increase was 14 per cent. The output from 1924 to 1929, after the deficiences in the industries which showed a slight relaxation during the previous period had been recouped by rationalisation methods, increased by 11.1 per cent.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
It is the aggregate increase. I refrain from giving ale increase per head; it is the aggregate which tells the story. There you have an increase in output from 1907 to 1929 of 25 per cent., which is at any rate quite sufficient to illustrate my argument. Sir Eric Geddes, Chairman of the Dunlop Company, at the annual meeting of 1930 told the shareholders thatThe output per worker employed at all our factories at home and abroad is now two and a half times what it was five years ago. Production requiring the services of live men then requires only two now, three becoming superfluous.1942 The authorities of the Cunard line when they announced a change over from coal to oil were able to reduce the number of stokers in their service from 951 to 263. But there are other effects beside the reduction in the number of stokers. There are fewer miners employed, fewer coal trimmers wanted, fewer transport workers employed on the railways and in various other forms of transport. This process does not stop in the particular industry where it is immediately applied; it has an effect over the whole field. Mr. Fenton, Secretary of the Glass and Allied Trade Unions, says that between 1920 and 1928 70 per cent. of the highly skilled trade unionists in his union lost their work owing to the introduction of mechanical methods. That is relatively a small body of men, but the displacement of 70 per cent. is obviously a serious matter. The process has not stopped; it is still going on. I will not weary the House with any more quotations.
Obviously, the proposal to limit the hours of labour—and the figures and arguments I have given indicate that something of the sort is not only possible but absolutely necessary—may be considered revolutionary. I have no doubt it is, and I have not the slightest doubt that there will be many difficulties in its application. No one denies it. I shall be told that the whole thing is an impossibility. My answer is that the present situation is an impossibility; it is a tragic impossibility; it is a situation which cannot be allowed to remain; something has to be done about it. I do not believe that the establishment of a shorter working day would mean the tremendous economic loss which many persons suppose. I have here Lloyds Monthly Banking Magazine in which Professor Henry Clay points out that in 1931 there were in all insured industries 9,491,000 persons. Probably they are all working an average of two hours per day too many, assuming that the average is eight hours per day, that is after allowing for short-time workers and those who work overtime. If the hours were reduced 2,000,000 workers could be absorbed at once, and the absorption of 2,000,000 unemployed into the wage-earning ranks would mean a saving of £95,000,000 a year.
I am not assuming in this Bill for one moment, nor am I advocating, that wages must be reduced. I do not admit 1943 that wages must be reduced; they must be retained so that the purchasing capacity of the community will be established on a wider basis. But if 2,000,000 were taken off the Unemployment Fund I estimate that there would be a saving roughly of £95,000,000 per year, that is assuming that the average weekly payment to the unemployed is about 18s. per week. There would be a further saving on local funds because the allowances to the unemployed have to be supplemented by local authorities; and there would be a tremendous saving in our health services. Then the home market would be enlarged and the home market is the most important market. The home market is the market which we in this country must develop. A nation's standard of living must be commensurate with its internal wealth production. There is no method whereby the people here can establish a standard of living other than the annual wealth which they create themselves. It is an internal question and in my opinion we have to develop the home market here to an extent that has not yet been fully considered, because the importance of the home market has been largely lost sight of in recent years.
I do not believe that we are dependent upon conditions in other countries. I do not believe that, economically—though it may be regarded as so from a purely capitalistic point of view—the conditions of our people are dependent on the conditions of the people in Czechoslovakia or Australia or India or anywhere else. The standard of our people can, to a large extent, be what we ourselves choose to make it. Of course we shall not make it much better until the middle classes rid themselves of what at present seems to be their ineradicable belief that it is not a good thing to pay working men too much wages. They believe that it puts the working class in a false position; that the working class should be kept on a relatively low standard; that you must not feed them too highly, because high feeding creates a high spirit and people resent interference with an established standard. The Prime Minister has said that one way of dealing with the problem which confronts us is by an extended trade and that we have to recapture our markets and get 1944 back the trade we have lost. Mr. Reginald McKenna in an address to the American Bankers Association said:Year by year England produces more than she can either consume herself or exchange for the products of other nations.He went on to argue that a country in such a position could not obtain a market for its surplus unless by giving the purchaser a long credit. In this way, he addedthe factories and workshops are kept in employment, but it is a condition of their prosperity that a part of their output should be disposed of in this way".If that means anything it means that the wealth of our people created here is not for their consumption but must be parted with as a condition of their remaining in employment. I do not believe that theory. I think it is false economy. We find the same idea expressed by President Hoover with regard to the United States. He also puts the facts with great clarity when he says:We have an equipment and a skill in production that yields us a surplus of commodities for export beyond any compensation we can usefully take by way of imported commodities. There is only one remedy, and that is by the systematic permanent investment of our surplus in productive works abroad. We thus reduce the return we must receive to a return of interest and profits.But what is true of ourselves and of the United States is also true of other industrial nations. They are all cursed with surpluses. They must all find outlets for their surpluses somewhere, either as Mr. McKenna says, by means of longterm credits, or, as President Hoover says, by permanent investments on which they only take the interest—and not too much of that. Otherwise tariffs must be put up higher still. That is what has happened. Mr. Ford has made tremendous profits in the development of his trade. He has traded abroad and has made huge profits abroad. But those profits must not go back to America. They remain here in Europe and the consequence is that he is building factories now to absorb those profits, which America dare not take. Then, having erected factories here, he assists the same process in this country. Could madness go further? He were are ourselves with 3,000,000 unemployed and the Prime Minister says that we must seek an outlet for our products and find markets to 1945 absorb our unemployed. Good‡ But Mr. Hoover says the same thing. The Chancellor of Germany says, "We are in a had way; we have 6,000,000 unemployed; we must find markets." They say that there is only one way of setting the unemployed to work—as I have heard many times from those Benches opposite—and that is by recapturing the markets that they have lost. Italy is in the same position and Mussolini uses the same argument. Japan is in the same position; France is in the same position; other countries are all in the same position. They are all seeking markets. There are 30,000,000 unemployed in the industrial countries. The leaders of those countries are seeking markets to absorb 30,000,000 unemployed.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I do not wish to be drawn into a discussion upon Russia, but, in fact, there is less trouble there than anywhere else in regard to this question. As I say, we are all looking for markets, and let me put this point to the House. It is estimated that it would require an increase of export trade equal to £350,000,000 a year to absorb 1,000,000 of our unemployed. To absorb 2,000,000 we would have to find an additional market equal to £700,000,000 a year. If America's unemployed 'are to be absorbed by means of the export market which she is seeking, how many millions of pounds worth of export trade must she get before she can absorb her 12,000,000 If Italy is to absorb her unemployed in the same way how much additional export trade will she require? So with the others. They would have to find export markets somewhere, somehow, equal to thousands of millions of pounds per annum. One has only to think of it for five minutes to understand that the whole idea. is grotesque. The markets do not exist and there is no reasonable expectation of them as far as capitalistic development is concerned. There are the American boot and shoe factories equipped to turn out 900,000,000 1946 pairs of boots per annum. At the present time they can absorb only 300,000,000 pairs, two and a half pairs per capitum. Suppose that the consumption in America goes up to five pairs per head per annum. That still leaves them with 'a production surplus equal to 300,000,000 pairs a year.
Take motor-car production. This book tells me that the United States is equipped to turn out 8,000,000, cars per annum. Their markets now are equal only to the absorption of 4,000,000 cars, because they have reached saturation point, and now, instead of meeting a demand for new cars, they are faced with a demand merely for replacements. So the story goes on. I suggest that so far from solving or tending to solve the unemployment problem, these figures tend to show that there is no sane way out, except by a stringent limitation of the hours of labour and so spreading the advantage of the whole community. Why should a large body of persons in this country, the 3,000,000 of unemployed, representing nine or ten million people, be condemned to poverty and misery, want and despair, because, forsooth, they can produce more than the present system can be expected to absorb? It is not a business proposition. What is wanted is sanity in dealing with this question.
There is one other point in connection with the development that ought to take place by imitation of the hours of labour. We want to raise the whole standard of living, not only on the physical side, but on every other side, so far as intellectual development, artistic development and appreciation of the good things of life are concerned. Surely that is what mechanics and science should mean. If they do not mean that what do they mean? There is a theory that in the past refinement and progress and culture had to rest upon a slave population. I believe it is true that the glory that was Greece did rest upon a slave population. I believe that slavery was the basis of Greek refinement and culture. It may be argued that the price paid for it was worth what we got in return. One will not argue that. At any rate we do know that the world owes much to the development of the Greek civilisation of the years preceding the birth of Christ. We know that it is true to say that both in the Roman period and in the Renaissance to a large extent the development of 1947 human activities and progress and culture did rest upon the existence of serfdom, and the fact that large numbers of persons toiled in order that a few might be free to develop. It may be true that there could be no development from an intellectual point of view unless slavery existed, but I submit that from the time of James Watt the necessity for slavery, so far as flesh and blood are concerned, began to disappear, and that by our time it has disappeared wholly. There is no need for it to-day.
If slavery is necessary for the development of culture and refinement and the intellectual gifts, then the slave to-day, we can say, is a slave of steel and iron operating by steam and electricity. The inventors and the scientists have pointed the way. Because we have these marvellous things I stand here putting forward the Socialist view that the time has come when the poverty of man should cease, because machinery has enriched him beyond the point contemplated by mankind even half a century ago. This view of mine may not be accepted here and now, but I am quite confident that the time must come, and is coming appreciably nearer, when this proposal will be accepted. I thank the House for the attention given to me in what, I am afraid, has been a long drawn-out exposition of my case. I am glad to have had the honour of bringing this matter forward. I believe it to be one of the things that must do something to solve the problem of unemployment, and that it will tend to the enrichment of the race in all the years to come.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I beg to second the Motion.
I am sure all of us are gratified that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Wall head) has been able to present this Bill to us to-day with clarity and vigour. Those of us who know the very heavy physical disabilities he has to fight against in doing his work in this House, appreciate his effort to-day all the more. I shall endeavour to limit what I have to say within a brief compass. I want to hear what is to be said against this Bill. I would like to know what the arguments are. We are just a little short-handed at the moment, 1948 owing to the illness of my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) and the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is presiding at a meeting of his trade union, but I hope that he will arrive later and have an opportunity of taking part in the Debate. I was interested to hear that the "Daily Herald," the official organ of the hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, states that there is a Tory plot to count the House out so that this Bill will not he allowed to go to a Division. I have heard that story repeated since I arrived in the House. I hope that the Conservative party will not deem it necessary to take that cowardly course on this Measure. They have a majority of something like 400 Members in this House, and it would seem unnecessary to defeat this Bill by a subterfuge. The Bill is introduced by a party consisting of four Members. But if that course should be taken by the Conservative party it will suit us perfectly well. The electorate will note the attitude of the great party to the question of the limitation of working hours, and we would note for our own future guidance in political and party tactics the unsporting nature of such an action. Numerical strength, as the more experienced Members of this House know, is not the last word in Parliamentary procedure.
I would like to say a few words also to my hon. Friends of the Liberal party. They go even farther than the idea of counting the Bill out. They endeavour to get it ruled out of order and to prevent any discussion at all taking place.
§ Mr. MABANE
It was an entirely independent move of my own, and I do not think my hon. Friends would accept any responsibility for it.
§ Mr. MAXTON
In this House we do not allow the party to dissociate itself from the acts of the individual, whenever we have an opportunity of roping them in. Each party has to take responsibility for the mistakes of its weaker brethren. I can assure the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) that we took the opportunity of finding out Mr. Speaker's views on the question of this Bill before we submitted it to the House, so that we were even a little earlier than he was in the matter.
1949 Having dealt with the Conservative and Liberal parties, I want now to say a word or two to the Labour party. I notice that they say in their official organ that this Bill is badly drafted. I hope one of their drafting experts will have an opportunity, in the course of the Debate, of pointing out where, because I think that in small compass we have achieved very definitely our aim and object. This allegation about badly drafted Bills is not one that can lie specially against any one party, and it seems just a little bit out of place, when the House has been engaged for the major proportion of its working hours in the last fortnight in dealing with the bad drafting of a redrafted Bill on London passenger traffic, drafted by the right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway here when they were in office, with the assistance of the officials of the House who are specially employed for that purpose, and redrafted by the present Government. I hope, therefore, they will all be very humble in their attitude towards the drafting of Bills, having regard to our recent experience—[An HON.MEMBER: "Get on with it‡ "]—I hope also hon. Members will be very modest about advising other hon. Members how they should carry out their speeches in the House of 'Commons.
This Bill has been produced for the specific purpose of securing some relief from burdensome, toilsome labour to the working class population who are presently employed, and at the same time with the hope that it will bring into employment that big mass of the population who are not allowed to participate in labour at all. The hon. Member for Huddersfield objects to the fact that not all the working population is included. Well, we take the major proportion of the population. Under the National Health Insurance Act those who are insured for health purposes are the overwhelming mass of the working population. They include large numbers who are not included under unemployment insurance, and they include practically everyone whose earning capacity is under £250 a year. That covers the large mass of the population, and we do not feel that there is any responsibility placed on our shoulders to provide safeguards against the over-working of those who are on the higher salary level.
1950 We admit that to do this, in the chaos and anarchy of ordinary Capitalist industry, would require a vast amount of consequential reorganisation. We believe that that reorganisation is going to become necessary. Other Members in this' House also believe that the reorganisation of industry is going to become necessary. There has been a Motion on the Order Paper for some weeks now, in the names of the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan), I think, and several other hon. Members, urging the large-scale reorganisation of the industrial life of the nation, and it seems to me, if there is any intelligent general plan behind the entire programme of the Government, that it means that the Government are going to have a larger say in the carrying on of our industrial life than has been the established practice in this country up till now.
But what is to be the purpose of that reorganisation? Why all the tariff business? Why proposals for the better coordination, planning, and mechanisation of our industrial life? Is it for the purpose of achieving greater profit for those who own industry or higher rents for those who own land? Is it to be the ordinary motive that has actuated capitalism during the whole of its existence, or is it for the sake of securing that all the people inside our borders shall have an opportunity of leading a decent and a rational life If it is for that latter purpose, which is the true end of government, then we say at the start that the common man, the ordinary citizen, should feel that his citizenship has some meaning, that the progress in science, in knowledge, and in man's power over his natural environment, which my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr has outlined, ought to send its dividends right into his daily life. He ought to be getting his dividends to-day in greater means, greater supplies of material things, and greater opportunities for recreation, for culture, for entertainment, and for sport; and if he is going to get his dividends, it is absolutely essential that he should be liberated from a large proportion of toil which to-day is obviously unnecessary.
It is a simple mathematical proposition. If the work of the nation can be 1951 done by 3,000,000 less than the total available working class population, and if these 3,000,000 are brought into employment, then the hours of labour that are necessary with the 3,000,000 added represent something like a sixth or a quarter less than when the 3,000,000 are out of action. I know that in actual application it is not a simple mathematical proposition. I know that in a capitalistic system of society, it is very far from being a mathematical proposition, but if it can be stated mathematically, then my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. Emmott) will agree that it is basically true, mathematics being the one science which does not lie. [HON MEMBERS: "Oh ‡"] I am not talking about mathematicians. I am talking about mathematics, and if it is mathematically true, then it is merely a question of organisation, planning and readjustment, and when my hon. Friend was speaking, the hon. Member for Springburn, in support of the jest about Russia and Durham gaol—
§ Mr. MAXTON
—in support of the argument, said "At what cost did Russia abolish unemployment?" The hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) suggested that unemployment was abolished in Russia because Russian conditions were the same as in Durham gaol. Certainly they are similar. Durham gaol is organised and planned; Russian industrial life is organised and planned. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not very successfully."] I wonder if any hon. Members have ever worked in a public works in this country Do they imagine that an industrial worker employed in our industry is free? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes".] I walked out of a prison in Scotland into a shipyard in Scotland. So far as working conditions were concerned, I was freer in gaol.
§ Mr. MAXTON
That may be the view of an uninformed outsider. I can assure the hon. Member that I not only could, but did, and got an improvement in conditions as a result.
§ Major PROCTER
When you are in gaol you cannot sack a boss, nor can you in Russia, but under the capitalistic system you can sack the boss at any time.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I know that some say warders can order you about, but is there no one in public works to order you about? Do my hon. Friends realise that the warder in gaol is an angel of light compared with the ordinary foreman of a public works? But it, is always regarded as bad form to attack Government officials who are not in a position to defend themselves. I can assure hon. Members that no one in the public service would dare to talk to a prisoner in a prison in the way foremen and managers in public works talk to men who are as much in prison because they dare not sack their boss. They have a wife and children depending on the money coming in at the end of the week.
§ Mr. MAXTON
If the hon. and gallant Member will inform himself about Russia and apply his own knowledge of practical affairs as well, he will realise that the Russian workers are perpetually changing from one industry to another. One of the problems of the Russian Government is to get them to stay in one spot, and the hon. and gallant Member knows that wherever there is a demand for labour over the supply, the worker is free, because the various employers or the various heads of departments are competing to get labour away from the others, and only in those conditions is the worker free. When the workers are competing for a limited number of jobs, then the employer is in the overpowering position, and the worker is in a subordinate position.
I have been betrayed into making a more extended speech than I intended. I very much desire that the House shall debate this subject seriously and earnestly. If you tell us that this is an idea which cannot be applied in a capitalistic system of society, we will be quite content to accept that from you. If you mark that down as another of our indictments against the capitalistic system of society, our view is that the workers are going to get nothing more 1953 out of the capitalistic system of society. You refuse what we ask, and tell us it cannot be done. We say that we thought so, which compels us to throw all the more energy into our task of abolishing your capitalistic system and replacing it by our socialistic system.
§ 12.23 p.m.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now", and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months".
We have listened to very eloquent and interesting speeches from the Proposer and Seconder. The Seconder associated with his remarks that element of humour with which he always lightens the tragedy of life. He has had advantages over some of us, because, s he has explained, he has been in gaol. I have not yet had that advantage. [An HON. MEMBER: "You will‡ "] I am just a few months older than the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), but he has been more progressive than I have. I want to comment on what he does not appear to know very much about—the conditions of industrial employment. I have had a very much more varied experience than he has in working in subordinate manual positions at sea, on land, underground, and above the ground, but I have never met the foreman of the type he visualises. The foremen belong to the manual working classes of this country. They are recruited from the more qualified of those in the subordinate positions, and I do not see why that class of able, responsible men should be denounced in the terms in which they have been denounced to-day. I have worked under many foremen in various kinds of jobs and that has not been my experience. There have been times when they have spoken to me in simple, plain language. I have not the slightest doubt that I deserved it, but that does not indicate that in general there is any brutality.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I have taken part in the construction of a sewage system which takes the sewage out to sea, and do not let hon. Members think that they 1954 have a monopoly of experience of manual labour. The two speeches to which we have listened were thoroughly reactionary. The result of the Bill would be to degrade the standard of living in this country. I know that that is not the intention of the authors because they are much too kind-hearted, but it would inevitably lead to an increase of unemployment. It is my purpose to demonstrate the truth of that. The Mover of the Second Reading said that rationalisation was a Frankenstein monster. He gave examples of great increases in efficiency of production and apparently denounced them. He discussed the need of export markets and said that it was absurd that we should dispose of our surplus. We do not dispose of a surplus in return for nothing. If we develop a new industry on particular lines so that its output is greater than the normal consumption of our markets, we do it because of the necessity of importing certain things which we cannot produce for ourselves. Every country has an export market, not because it is desirable to ship boots to pay for boots, but because it is necessary to ship boots to pay for rubber, cotton and things like that.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to misrepresent me. I did not argue that there was no need for an export trade. I quoted Mr. McKenna and Mr. Hoover. One of them said that you can only export on long credits, and the other said that you can only export as a means of permanent investment in a country outside your own.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
These distinguished men may have said that, but they may be wrong. Many distinguished people are wrong from time to time. I think that it is unsound economics on the part of-both of them, but I am not going to argue that here, because it would take me outside the scope of the Bill. I am merely commenting on the fact that in order to balance our production we have to get rid of the surplus, and we have to build up certain industries, because that is the only way in which we can finance the import of things which we cannot produce within our own territory. I have had some opportunity of studying the question of hours of labour, because for two years I was joint secretary of a committee set 1955 up by the employers and the trade unions in the engineering and shipbuilding industry to study this problem. It is true that was 10 years ago, but we had many interesting studies both in this country and abroad of the various facts. I profoundly dissent from the point raised by the seconder that this Bill is necessary in order to reduce the toilsome burdens of employment. I do not want either him or myself to be limited to six hours a day. I do not think that it is good for either of us morally or socially. The cruel hours of days gone by were bad from every point of view; they were bad from the point of view of efficiency of production. I think that to-day we have hours of labour which in general are about right. It would not be good for the people of this country to be limited to six hours a day.
I well remember the words of a great trade union leader friend of mine, who told me he had been addressing one of his important branches at a time when they were suggesting a reduction of hours which was greater than he thought desirable on economic grounds. He said that he was opposed to it, too, on social grounds, and that he told the men: "Your wives would be sick to death of you if you were limited to those hours of labour." Does anyone think that it is morally good to work only six hours a day? I say deliberately that people ought to work more than six hours a day if they are to retain their self-respect and decent outlook on life. [Interruption.] Apparently, some hon. Members opposite refer to the women folk who have not a definite wage-earning occupation. I only wish that those members who profess to represent labour would seriously suggest that their own unpaid wives should work six hours a day only. No one would dream for a moment that the domestic life of this country, the unpaid slave labour of the wife of the working-class home, could be worked on a basis of six hours a day.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
There are only 20 of them, and there are some 10,000,000 of the others, but actually I should say that the wife of the ordinary Cabinet Minister 1956 works very strenuous days. I am not concerned with the object of relieving burdensome toil. That is not the serious argument behind the Bill. The hon. Gentleman who proposed the Second Reading did not devote a single moment to the question of whether people were working too long for reasons of health, leisure, culture or anything else. That was not the burden of his speech. It was that this was a Measure to solve the unemployment problem.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Well, to reduce unemployment. We must look at it on that basis. Broadly speaking, it is proposed that hours of labour should be reduced by 25 per cent. The hon. Member did not tell us whether he thought that the hourly rates of pay should be altered or whether piece rates should be altered. As he did not say anything about it, I presume that he is not proposing any alteration in hourly wage rates or in piece rates. In these circumstances, those who are working on hourly wages will have their incomes reduced 25 per cent. That is the first obvious result of the Bill.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Mr. Speaker ruled that it was not possible to deal with wages in an hours of labour Bill, and apparently it would not be in order for the hon. Gentleman to deal with it.
§ Mr. THORNE
May I ask you, Sir, whether it is true that you ruled that wages could not be inserted in a Bill of this kind.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The point was raised at the beginning of the discussion as to whether the Bill was in order because it dealt only with a portion of the working population. I said then that the Bill was in order because the working population which was defined in the Bill was included in the mass of the working population, and therefore was included in the Title, but that, as the Title is entirely confined to hours of employment, it is obvious that the question of wages would be outside it.
§ Mr. THORNE
Do I understand from your Ruling that if I wanted to draft a Bill dealing with hours of labour, I should not be entitled to insert in the Bill provisions that the same rate of wages should he paid?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member wishes to introduce a Bill of that kind, he must. insert the question of wages in the Title.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I appreciate the difficulties of hon. Members that they cannot make reference to wages in this Bill, but they must take the question into account in considering the reactions of the Bill. Naturally, if the Bill becomes law, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) pointed out, certain consequential legislation would be necessary before the 1st May, which is an appropriate day to bring such a Bill into operation. Let us return to the argument about remuneration. There are two possibilities. One is that you leave the wages alone, and the other is that you bring about such an adjustment that you seek to maintain earnings unaltered. We have to consider the immediate possibilities arising out of the consideration of these two extreme cases.
First of all, let us take the ease where we do nothing about wages and hourly rates remain unaffected, then every person who was on an hourly basis would have his income reduced by a quarter, or approximately a quarter. In my opinion those on piece work would suffer a rather greater reduction. Further, I think the efficiency of workers on hourly rates would be less under a six-hour day, because of the losses at stopping and starting work. Anybody who has examined conditions in a factory knows that there is always a certain amount of loss at the end of the day and at the beginning of the day, and any gain secured by a reduction in the fatigue element under the shorter day would not counterbalance the other effect. Therefore, men on piece work would suffer a rather greater loss of income. Quite obviously hon. Members opposite would not tolerate a 25 per cent. or more reduction in income of the people for whose benefit this Bill is proposed.
Let us take another consideration if we are going to reduce hours from eight to six. We will make that assumption; it makes arithmetic easy; and we have to be very careful about mathematics in replying to the hon. Member for Bridgeton. On another occasion I will show him that 3 plus 4 may be equal to 5; and that is how mathematics can lie. If we drop 1958 the hours from eight to six, by how much must we increase the rate of pay? It must be increased by 33⅓ per cent., and not by 25 per cent—a 33⅓ per cent. increase in pay, not in earnings. Then we should have to consider the reaction on the price of our products. It is manifest that an increase of 33⅓ per cent. in pay to everybody who comes within the range of unemployment insurance is, other things being equal, going to have an enormous effect on prices. The effect on prices has nothing to do with the monetary factor, this is going to be a real increase as distinct from apparent increases or changes under inflation or deflation. It is a real increase relatively to what is happening in every other part of the world. Obviously, every business in this country would be ruined. I do not think anyone suggests that under existing circumstances people could make that addition to prices and sell their goods. Every business would be ruined, people would lose their employment, and then we should come here and make speeches about the chaos of the Merthyr Bill instead of the chaos of capitalism. I am rather surprised that neither the proposer nor the seconder devoted any thought to that side of the problem.
What is the case for the Bill? The case for the Bill is that we are becoming too intelligent, too scientific and too efficient, that we are producing too many goods. As a matter of fact, we are producing far too few goods. The production of goods in this world is far too small. Take the tragedy of the constituency represented by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead). Ninety per cent. of his constituents are pathetically short of goods at this moment, and the same is true, though not quite to the same extent, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bridgeton. Why should we reduce the output of goods when every person is clamouring for goods for which he cannot afford to pay? What do we pay for goods? Money. That facilitates the transaction, it is true, but we pay for goods and services by other goods and services, and if only we argue this thing in terms of barter and forget the monetary instrument, it must be manifest that what we want is not diminished output but increased output. The hon. Member for Merthyr spoke about the late Mr. Bata, who was going to build 1959 a great boot factory in Essex. Let anyone walk out of this House for a mile, and 99 per cent. of the people he will pass would be only too glad to buy a new pair of boots if they had the wherewithal with which to pay for them.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Under the capitalist system, which you abuse, low as is the standard of life it is infinitely higher than it was 50 years ago, and still higher than it was 100 years ago.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
That is what I rejoice in. If I am seeking a job I want a job with a firm which is making fat profits, so that I can have a dig into them. We do not want to be employed under a, system of universal poverty. Take those countries where the standard of living is much lower than ours.
§ Mr. ANUERIN BEVAN
I cannot see the relevancy of the hon. Member's statement about exchanging goods for goods. Why is it that the unemployed have no goods to exchange for other goods? Ought he not to complete his argument.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
We are all perfectly familiar with the fact that for the moment the normal machinery of the interchange of commodities is working very inefficiently, but it would be quite out of Order for me to indulge in a long disquisition on the operation of the Gold Standard and the reaction of international debts.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I may be hopping about like a grasshopper, but I did not ask this House to ignore currency considerations. I asked this House, in examining one particular argument, to remember that when you buy and when you sell you are, in fact, carrying through a barter. All goods or services are exchanged for goods or services, and if hon. Members will think in that sense they will see the nature of the transaction very much better than if they think 1960 in the monetary sense. But that is not to enter into a discussion of monetary problems. Surely the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) is a much more lucid thinker than he has shown himself in his interruption. We have at the moment the paradox of apparent over production at a time when most people in the world are very short of goods. The hon. Member for Merthyr talked about the potentialities of the United States to produce motor cars, but it is a potentiality which is not being used at this moment, for the reason that the great mass of the people who normally want to buy new motor cars cannot afford them.
If the hon. Member had denounced the capitalist system, not for its efficiency of production, but because for the moment the efficiency of the system for the interchange of commodities was bad, I should probably have been on his side; but what he wants in a world which is crying out for commodities is to reduce the number of commodities. I want to increase the number of commodities. There is an amazingly long list of things which I want to buy when, somehow or another, I can persuade somebody to accept something which I can give them in return. I want to raise the standard of living of the people of this country, which means providing them with more goods and services. That is all we mean by "raising the standard of living." The monetary system is only a means of exchange and a storage of wealth—only that and nothing more, but the mechanism of the system is for the time being having a disturbing effect on the course of things.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The hon. Member must not assume that if I had developed my argument at greater length I would not have argued that the world could not do with a greater number of corn-modifies. I recognise the difficulties of the present moment; but a curious thing about the position is that, if I understand aright all the arguments from the other side which we have heard of late, we must attempt to raise the price level. The call is to make things dearer—although at the present time we cannot buy even the things which are cheap.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Raising of the price level of all commodities and raising the price of one individual commodity are 1961 quite different things. If at a particular time stocks of goods are lying in the hands of the primary producers instead of in the warehouses of the people who are going to perform the subsequent operations we have the state of affairs which now prevails; but the moment it is seen that the general price level is starting to move up every manufacturer says "Prices are going to rise, and as a wise person I must accumulate stocks of materials before prices go higher." We have a psychological effect which is entirely different from the effect of raising the price Of an individual commodity in a world where the price level is otherwise stable. Therefore, we have to separate quite clearly those two things.
The main burden behind the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr was that at the moment we are producing too efficiently. He is seeking to reduce our efficiency of production. He wants to make every workman in this country 25 per cent. less efficient than at the present moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No‡"] He said that there are 9,000,000 people producing a certain quantity of goods and that that quantity of goods ought to be produced by 12,000,000 people. That would clearly reduce the efficiency of production. The work that those at present in employment would not do is to be done by those who are now doing nothing. That is his case. It is the old case against machinery and improved methods of production. It is the case of those who wrecked the mills 100 years ago. It is exactly the same case, and it comes very curiously from the Labour party, which, at this moment, almost entirely represent the machine-producing -industry. The hon. Member for Merthyr's constituency is one in which those who are employed are engaged in producing directly or indirectly the instruments of production. They, are coal diggers or iron and steel workers. There would be. no employment for them if we were to abolish this Frankenstein of machinery to which he made reference. Every coal miner in this country is engaged in helping to produce machines. The largest industry in the world is the industry of producing the instruments of production, and yet we are being told that we do not want the instruments of production. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO‡"1 Then I do not know what the logic of their argument is.
1962 The real trouble is that every Socialist is a reactionary old Tory. He accepts what is, but he says that you must not have any more of it. The machinery that is in existence is all right. They accept the machinery that existed up to 10 years ago, but they criticise the machinery that has been invented in the last 10 years. They say, "Efficiency is too high. Let's destroy the machine ‡"
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne) is approaching the position of being the Father of the House of Commons, and therefore he ought to be able to endure criticism better than the rest of us who may be less tolerant.
§ Mr. THORNE
I was referring to what the hon. Member said in regard to efficiency of production. In addition to efficient machinery, there should be a reduction of hours at the same time; that is what we have suggested.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
When a machine does something that was previously done by human beings, that, in the long run, is creating unemployment; that is their doctrine. Let us examine it. Let us take newspapers. Let us abolish all the machinery on which newspapers are printed. Would it increase or diminish employment? Obviously, it would diminish the employment enormously, because newspapers would be written out by hand and very few people could afford to buy them. Let us take the machinery of transport. We are told that that machinery displaces great masses of people, so therefore let us abolish the machinery of transport. Let us break up all our locomotives on the railways. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense ‡"] It is nonsense, because hon. Members accept the machinery to which they are accustomed. That is the reactionary doctrine of which I complain.
I want the world to make progress. I want to raise the standard of living of our people. I want to see people living in decent and well-furnished houses. I want them to have a high standard of living, but I can only get it if I can persuade my fellow citizens to be more efficient and to produce more wealth in 1963 the same time. The efficiency of production is far too low, and we need to raise the standard. I believe that this Bill would inevitably degrade the standard of living, and for that reason I have moved the Amendment.
§ Mr. WISE
I beg to second the Amendment.
When I was listening to the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead) introducing this Bill, I was not sure whether the Bill was an economic or a moral Measure. It did not seem to be an economic Measure, because the hon. Member ignored any possible economic consequences of bringing in the Bill. I heard, either in the form of an interjection or of a remark of an hon. Member, that it was definitely wrong that people should be asked to work more than six hours a day, and that in fact it was not only wrong, but that they would commit a major sin if they wanted to do so for themselves. Let us deal with the subject, first of all, from the ethical point of view, and consider whether six hours a day is a better time to work. If six are better than eight, and if shorter hours stimulate the moral fibre and increase the mental stamina, why should hon. Members stop at six? Why not reduce the hours to four or even to two? By reducing work to two hours a day we should, according to that argument, produce a race of mental supermen. They might not have much wealth, but they would at least have culture and high morals, which I believe is one of the arguments for reducing the hours of work.
If the object of the Bill is economic, let us consider whether this Bill to reduce the working hours to six—I want specially to stress the six and not to over emphasize the 25 per cent. reduction from eight to six—is going to be of any value or whether it is going to assist in employing any more people. Let us assume that the hon. Member for Merthyr was correct, as am sure he was, when he put the average hours worked in this country at eight per day. That is, roughly speaking, one shift of eight hours. You may reduce that shift to six as he proposes arid, if you wish to employ more people, to bring in your extra labour for one quarter of a shift at the end of a day, 1964 or you may work two shifts of six hours, and thus employ double shifts. I presume that you would work two shifts of six hours. You would have a working day throughout the country of an average of 12 hours, and therefore we should be producing, unless you were going to have standstill agreements for 'every factory, 50 per cent. more goods than we are producing now.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
The hon. Gentleman's argument is that we shall in those circumstances be producing a lot more, while the argument of the Mover of the Amendment was that we should be producing a lot less. Where does the hon. Gentleman stand?
§ Mr. WISE
I think that possibly we are working on different sides of the same problem. I am suggesting that to carry out the intention of this Bill it is necessary to raise the average hours of work per day to 12 instead of keeping them to eight. In other words, you would be employing more people and you would be producing more goods, although at a higher price. As we are finding some difficulty in exchanging our goods with other countries at their present prices, it would be of little use to produce more goods if we could not produce them to exchange for the commodities that we desire. Strangely enough, whatever the organisation of society in this country, we find it extraordinarily difficult to persuade other nations to take British goods if their price happens to be wrong. Therefore, we must still keep our minds on the necessity for reasonably cheap production. It can be attained in many ways. It can be attained by machinery; it can be attained by efficiency of organisation; but it cannot be attained by reducing the hours of work to the particular figure of six hours a day.
As anybody who has had experience of a factory knows, that is a number of hours which it is almost impossible to work efficiently. An eight-hour day is certainly satisfactory, and better than a 10-hour day. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or than 12."] I entirely agree with the hon. Member. But he must recollect that, while there is a gain in efficiency up to a point by reducing hours—while you do in fact, by reducing the hours if they are 12 a day, gain in the efficiency of the work—you cannot carry on that process indefinitely, as the hon. Gentleman 1965 will see for himself. If increased efficiency were purely a question of reduction of hours, you would get a very high degree of efficiency if you only worked 10 minutes a day, and that is not the case. There is definitely an economic working day in which the maximum production is attained, first by working sufficiently short hours to get efficiency of labour, and, secondly, by working sufficiently long hours to avoid the wastage entailed by stopping and starting the machinery; and that economic working day is the eight-hour day.
I cannot think that any endeavour to tamper with it is going to be of any use to our working population. I cannot see that it is going to employ more men; I cannot see that it is going to have any other effect than to depress wages. If this country were a Socialistic country, with a Socialistic control over its currency system—which Heaven forbid—we could, possibly, reduce the hours of work and keep wages where they are. We could do that by inflation. In other words, we could reduce the real value of our money while maintaining its paper value. But I cannot see that that would in any way benefit the working classes. Indeed, I should say that ultimately it would lead to their reaching a state of complete destitution, because the amenities of life, which hon. Gentlemen opposite are so keen to maintain and so enthusiastic about increasing, are enormously dependent now on goods obtained from other co entries than this.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite make a mistake in considering England as one economic unit which could, by any plan of economy, "live on its own fat". It does not matter how the country may be organised, or who does the organisation. Whether it were done by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) or by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Max ton), they would both, probably, organise it in much the same way, though with different people to administer it. However it might be organised, no system can be produced which would enable England to control its own production and fix its own prices without depriving the working classes of almost all the things which make up the amenities of life, as opposed to the bare necessities. We buy from abroad practically all our food and the bulk of our raw 1966 materials, and all these things will go unless sufficient goods are made in this country to send abroad in exchange for them, and unless those goods are such that other countries are prepared to accept them in exchange. It follows, therefore, that they must be produced at a reasonable selling price. Any effort to reduce the hours of labour now, whatever effect it might have on wages, could do nothing whatever but put up the price of the goods that we export.
§ 1.1 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
It is hardly necessary for many Members on this side of the House to speak for any length of time in order to make this case quite clear, because the Mover and Seconder of the Bill, in speeches of exemplary clarity, made the position perfectly clear at the outset, though it is true that it has been somewhat obscured by the last two speeches, and particularly by the speech of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). He started with a disquisition on the value of long hours of work—
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
No; the hon. Member must be fair to me. I said that the hours proposed in the Bill were too short; I have not suggested a lengthening of hours.
§ Mr. BEVAN
The hon. Member said that the existing hours of labour were reasonable, and in many industries in this country the hours of labour vary from eight to nine, 10 and even more; so that, even if the hon. Member did not definitely commit himself to the proposition that the hours of labour should be longer, he said that the existing hours were satisfactory. If a, 10-hour day is not sufficiently long, what does he regard as a long working day?
§ Mr. BEVAN
That is not the point. The point under consideration is that we are informed by the hon. Member for South Croydon that the existing working day is reasonably long, and that, if it were made shorter, terrible moral consequences would follow. He does not appear to understand that a man is not necessarily idle because he is no longer engaged in forced labour. If he is re- 1967 leased from involuntary labour, that does not necessarily imply idleness. As my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead) pointed out, decreasing the hours of labour gives opportunity for more cultural occupation, and so it is absurd to argue that, because a man's hours of labour have been reduced, be necessarily spends his time in the fruitless, idle manner that obviously the hon. Member for South Croydon does.
The proposition that the House is asked to consider is a very simple one. It is that in the course of the last 150 years there has occurred an enormous increase in the productivity of labour. Mankind knows of only three ways in which to absorb that increase—by raising the standard of consumption, by lessening the hours of labour, or by increasing the ostentatious spending of the rich. With the abolition of slave labour, the ostentatious spending of the rich would be limited. There would not be as much unemployment as there is in modern society if we were living under a system of economy in which certain people could spend ostentatiously. The Pharaohs of Egypt had no unemployment problem. If they had additional slaves, they built Pyramids. And if, in modern society, instead of a system of wage labour, we had a system of slavery, there would not be 3,000,000 people out of work. The powerful and wealthy slave-owners would use the idle slaves to build elaborate tombs. They did try to do something of that sort; they tried to absorb the productivity of labour in public works; but, because capitalism is a system of society which now produces an ever-contracting amount of consumable goods, we could not afford to continue building those public works. So that the third way of public spending, either by the State or by the slave owner, is barred from modern society by the very nature of the wage relationship itself, and we are limited to only two other ways of absorbing the increased productivity of human labour—either by way of reducing the hours of labour or by raising the standards of consumption.
My hon. Friend below the Gangway would have no objection to raising the standard of consumption if that way were open to us at the moment, but it is not, and we are compelled to approach the 1968 matter from the other angle of lowering the hours of labour or of lessening the productivity of each unit: If he says there will not be the same quantum of wealth produced as if everyone was in work, we answer him by saying that everyone is not in work, and he is, therefore, making a comparison with a situation that does not exist. If every one was engaged in productive employment the situation would be right, and this Bill would not be needed. It is because there are 3,000,000 people who are not usefully employed that my hon. Friend comes forward and says: "Let us distribute that labour among all the working population, because society is unable to use it in any other way."
We knew before the debate commenced that the real argument that we should be up against was the one advanced by the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment, that it will be frightfully difficult for us to maintain our position in the world if we increase the cost of production by reducing hours of labour. That Ts the one formidable objection. If his proposition amounts to this, that capitalist society cannot introduce an intelligent principle into its structure, we are agreed. We are perfectly prepared to accept the position that, when the House of Commons starts this sort of legislation, certain consequential economic things must follow from it. We cannot attempt to superimpose upon the structure of British industry complications with respect to hours of labour unless we bring about consequential economic reorganisation. That is absolutely true. We have never contended that it is possible to graft an intelligible principle on to the chaotic structure of Capitalism. It is our fundamental indictment of Capitalism that the House of Commons dare not become intelligent without destroying society. The motive of private interprise is profit. The argument that has been advanced is that welfare follows as a consequence of people being allowed to pursue private profit. The argument of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil is that welfare must itself be made the principle of economic industry. If you make welfare the purpose, then you must organise the economic life of the nation in accordance with the principles you lay down. Therefore, if you are going to plan the hours of labour, you will have to plan the production of goods.
1969 I can never understand why, when people refer to Russia, they cannot see this aspect of the situation. Why can Russia organise her hours of labour and still sell goods successfully against the rest of the world? I could produce text book after text book, banker after banker, financier after financier, trader after trader, objecting in the roundest terms against this new economic weapon, and against this new nation which is trading on a basis to which the world is not accustomed. Here is a country selling goods, by means of a foreign trade monopoly, below the cost of production. Below what cost of production'? A nation which attempts to keep itself in the world division of labour by selling its goods at the social cost of production or the industrial cost of production? Is it not apparent, that if we really wanted still to maintain ourselves in the world division of labour and reduce our hours of labour, all that it would be necessary to do would be to sell those goods in sufficient quantities in the rest of the world as to enable us to buy goods from the rest of the world?
§ Captain STRICKLAND
Do we understand that the hon. Member is arguing in favour of the same rates as are paid to the workers in Russia?
§ Mr. BEVAN
I am arguing that the rates of wages in England should bear a relationship to the productive capacity of the British people and should be an element in it, and that we should make up our minds, as a legislative assembly, in what proportions we are going to take our increased productivity in lesser hours of labour or in increased standards of consumption.
§ Captain STRICKLAND
So the hon. Member would like to see adopted here the hours worked in Russia at the rates of pay that are paid in Russia?
§ Mr. BEVAN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is not doing himself justice. I said the hours of labour and the standard of living should bear a relationship to our productive capacity. Does he suggest that the productive capacity of Great Britain is lower, or is only equal to that of Russia? The standard of living in Russia bears relationship to the pro- 1970 ductivity of Russian labour. It is not always remembered that, because she has lagged behind in industrialisation, she has not the industrial apparatus that we possess, but at least she has this merit, that she has added to her industrial apparatus at a time when ours is obsolescent, and she is increasing the number of her artisans at a time when we are allowing ours to become derelict and demoralised. From the point of view, therefore, of the total use of productive resources, Russia stands at the head of the nations of the world.
§ Captain STRICKLAND
So that, if the necessity arose, the hon. Member would be in favour of reverting to the Russian type in this country.
§ Mr. BEVAN
We have never had the system at all. You cannot revert to something that you have never had. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman asks me whether I am in favour of adopting in this country the methods of planned economy that exist in Russia, the answer is most certainly "Yes." We are putting it in the strongest possible terms that you cannot have trade and industry intelligently organised to-day on the private initiative of profit-making persons. That is our proposition. It is hardly necessary to labour the point because I have never heard a strong case so weakly answered as we have heard it to-day. The position is self-evident. We are told Sat we have in this country 3,000,000 people who cannot find employment.
The hon. Member for South Croydon, who has left the House knowing very well that he has made a very bad speech, one of the worst speeches that ever he has delivered, said that we want more goods. What he does not realise is that we want more goods of a different kind. The reason why the division of labour has been upset in modern society is because the production of consumable goods has fallen behind the means of production. Some interesting figures are contained in the last economic survey of the League of Nations. America before the crisis appeared to have solved the problem. People said that if ever there was to be a crisis there all the leaders of industry, the professors and politicians would be called together and they would take steps 1971 which would raise the wages of the working classes and find a market for American goods. They said that they would have a never-ending prosperity. In those boom years the production of American industry increased by 20 to 30 per cent., but the standard of living was raised by only 8 per cent. How was the gap made up 7 The fact That consumable goods were not being produced in the same proportion as means of production caused less and less demand upon industries producing the means of production. The result was that the money in the hands of the investing classes grew in proportion, and the only thing left in which they could invest money was stocks and shares. Productive industry having failed to absorb the increased wealth of America, that wealth was lost in gambles in Wall Street.
That is the situation that has arisen there, and it is bound to arise everywhere unless the standards of living of the population are raised. It does not matter whether a collier's wife in South Wales is able to buy additional clothing or whether a rich man is able to buy an additional Rolls Royce. From the point of view of public wealth and production the one is a market as well as the other, but millionaires we are told cannot buy Rolls Royces now, so that the ostentatious spending of the rich has stopped. When a man leaves money to his son now he leaves it in the hands of trustees, and those trustees will persist in investing it in safe stock. But that safe stock can remain safe only if the wheels of industry are kept turning by allowing people to consume the wealth they produce. Therefore, we end up where we began, by saying that this is a proposition which is incontestable. The proposal in the Bill is politically impracticable only because the economic initiative still rests in the hands of people who think like troglodytes, because industry is still organised in the most unintelligent manner and because welfare is the last consideration in the organisation of economic activities. If we are told that this reasonable, wise and enlightened proposition is impracticable under Capitalism, it is simply a further indictment against the stupid anarchic system under which we are compelled to live.
§ 1.20 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
I think everybody will sympathise with the object of the Bill. I did think before the Debate started that every hon. Member would desire to see in the course of time a revision of hours as far as possible, but I learn from the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment that he desires a stabilised eight hours day and does not envisage in the future any state of affairs in which shorter hours may be worked in this country or in the world. I think that is a lamentable point of view and an extraordinary outlook, and shows that the hon. Member is wholly out of touch with the whole trend of things in the world at the present time. I do not think that any serious-minded person, taking account of what has been happening in the world in the last few years and looking into the future, can fail to realise that the state of the world will have to be so organised that shorter hours will have to be worked in the time to come. I imagine that in 50, 100 or more years the hours worked by the ordinary manual worker will be perhaps 30 or perhaps 20, and that the rest of the time will be devoted to other forms of work. The bon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) suggested that if you do not work with your hands in a factory you cannot do any other kind of work. The whole argument for increased leisure and reduced working hours is to enable the workers to devote their time, their energies, their thoughts and their abilities to work of a more creative and finer kind for themselves and the world as a whole.
The hon. Member who proposed the Second Reading in such an admirable and interesting speech gave some examples of the sort of thing that has been happening in the last two years. I should like to give two illustrations. In Czechoslovakia 10 years ago in the glass industry there were 3,000 workers employed. At the present time there are 400 workers employed, producing a far greater output than the 3,000 workers. In the bottle industry in 1905 there were 10,000 workers employed, and in 1924 there were only 2,800 employed, but they were producing more than twice as many goods as the 10,000 workers. Looking at these facts, T do not think anyone can doubt that the hours of labour have to come down, and 1973 they are inevitably bound to come down. The whole question is whether we ought not to be thinking, planning and studying what is the most effective way of dealing with the problem which is facing us now and is bound to come pressing more closely upon us as the years go by. There is an economic standard in the world which is out of joint at the present time, but assuming that the nations co-operate and do all that they can and the time of prosperity returns, there will still be large numbers of people out of work in the world. We have found ever since the War that even in the most prosperous days that there were something like 1,000,000 people out of work here. That is a permanent problem and not one caused by or one that is going to disappear when the present world depression passes by.
The only criticism that can be made of the Bill is that it is going a little too fast. We have not got the eight hours here yet. The Washington Convention has not been ratified. In passing, I would take the opportunity of saying once again how much I regret that the Minister of Labour and the Government have not come to any decision as to the ratification of that Convention. I hope that before long they will be able to say whether they intend to ratify, to revise or to take some action on that matter, which is long overdue. By the way the Bill is drafted it seems to me that if the Second Reading were carried it would be possible to put in other hours than the six hours. Obviously, we could move to omit "six" and to put in "four," "five," "seven" or "eight." That being so, there is something to be said for allowing the Bill to pass its Second Reading and to consider whether the fixing of some other hours should be agreed to. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Mover of the Bill hardly anticipates that six is likely to be adopted. It is a stimulus and an urge to get on doing something. For that reason, there is no cause for rejecting the Bill, because in Committee you can make it into a perfectly workable measure, so it seems to me.
It has been said, and, no doubt, it is true, that you cannot have a very large reduction of hours in this country or in other countries in general unless you work on international lines. In this connec- 1974 tion, it is very important to bear in mind that, in spite of the resistance of the British Government—and I am very sorry to have to say that—there is to be a meeting of the Preparatory Conference of the International Labour Office in January to study the question of the limitation of hours on the initiative of the Italian Government, who think that something ought to be done. The Report of the Committee will be considered at the May meeting of the International Labour Office. I hope that the Government will abandon their policy of obstruction and play an active and constructive part in those two conferences bearing on the problem which is being debated to-day. I hope that they will be more helpful than they have been up to the present time.
Although it is necessary to proceed by international action if you are to reduce hours, and particularly if you are to reduce hours and at the same time maintain the same level of pay, I say that, in a certain area in this country of some width, there is no reason why, quite apart from any international questions, we should not have reduced hours of work to something like 40 without any reduction to pay at all. I speak with some knowledge when I say that at the present time in certain industries in this country there is working a system of 40 hours without any reduction of pay and that other factories of considerable size and important industries have under consideration the question of making a reduction of hours without reduction of pay. That can only be done in these circumstances.
Many firms are obliged by the strenuous competition of these times to go in for the most modern and up-to-date system of management they can possibly find owing to the processes of mechanisation and rationalisation. It means systematic planning of the work so that there is no waste of time or effort. It requires a much higher standard of management that has ever been expected in the past, and it means that in circumstances of that kind, where rationalisation has taken place, and wholly dependent upon the carrying out of rationalisation, the employers in those industries are able to say to their workers, through their trade unions: "We can give increased earnings to a smaller number of workers, or we can give increased leisure to the workers with a minimum of reduction of 1975 staff." I urge that employers in the country should consider the matter from this point of view. We want constructive leadership on the part of employers with whom leadership rests in these matters. We do not want leadership by the type of employer who always says that the only thing to do is to reduce wages and to lengthen hours.
That is a most reactionary attitude, and it does not pay. It is entirely out of touch with the trend of the times. I really rose to make the particular point that we are not held up in a certain area by the necessity for working on international lines, but that there is a well-defined area in industry at the present times where rationalisation is taking place where you can have reduced hours without any reduction of wages. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wall-head) who introduced this Measure has rendered a public service in enabling a Debate of this kind to take place to-day, and he will not perhaps be very disappointed if it does not pass through all its stages into law, but will feel satisfied that he has focussed the attention of Parliament and of the country upon a problem which will come upon us with ever-increasing urgency as each year goes by.
§ 1.31 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I am delighted to have the opportunity of supporting a Bill in favour of a six-hour day. I support it because I believe that it is one of the steps towards making this capitalist system of ours unworkable. I have been sent here, not for the purpose of patching up Capitalism, but to destroy Capitalism. I do not believe that it is possible under Capitalism to give the working-class of this country a six-hour day. I am in favour of a six-hour day because I want to abolish capitalism. What is my experience of the powers of production? I live just outside Glasgow where there is a great steel works owned by the firm of the name of the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department. The Colville firm own the Clyde Bridge Steel works. Up to 1920 they were satisfied with an output of between 400 and 500 tons of ship plates per week. As a result of engineering and scientific methods of 1976 handling the situation, they are not satisfied now unless they get between 400 and 500 tons per shift; as much per shift as they produced in a week in 1920. They work eleven shifts a week, and therefore it amounts to eleven times the power of production since 1920. On the other side of the River Clyde near to my home is the Clyde Iron works where they manufacture pig iron, i.e., the first process in the making of the iron from the ore. To-day the blast furnace there is producing as much pig iron in one week as the blast furnace of 40 years ago produced in a year. It has also to be remembered that the blast furnace of to-day does not employ half the number of men which the blast furnace of 40 years ago employed.
If you come to my particular industry, that of shipbuilding and engineering, what do you find has happened? The employers themselves recognise the great alteration that has taken place in the power of production. The inventive genius of man has installed electrical equipment in the shipyards which has made them so efficient that half the shipyards are not now required. It bas not only shut down shipyards, it has destroyed them. It has closed two of the most efficient shipyards in my own constituency. Messrs. Beardmore. and Harland and Wolff. One hon. Member has referred to the baking industry. The system is different in Scotland to that in England. In Glasgow we have eliminated bakers entirely. The first agitation in which I took part some 36 years ago, when I was a member of the Glasgow Trades Council, was to provide a place of call for bakers. We had just started the building of great baking factories which has since been extended, and the bakers had to come and stand outside the work gates from two o'clock in the morning. The foreman came out and took on the number he required. The rest of the men stood there in all weathers. The foreman came out again at three o'clock and took on another batch; at four o'clock and took on another batch. These poor working men had to stand outside from two o'clock in the morning until five or six without any compensation. Those who were not engaged had to go home. Mere was no unemployment insurance in those days. The agitation was to provide a place for them, and we got a house in the centre of Great 1977 George Street, now called Duke Street. The situation to-day is that when you see a bag of flour emptied into a trough that is the last you see of it until it goes into the van as a 4-lb. loaf, not only baked but wrapped up in paper, and the human hand has never been put upon it. These are the facts which the people of this country will have to face, and which this House, irrespective of political opinions, will have to face.
The Bill, I understand, is along the same lines as the proposal to increase the allowances to the unemployed. It is a means of getting our folk the right to a higher standard of life than they can get on 15s. 3d. per week. We Socialists are not concerned about getting work. I entirely disagree with the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) who said that it was a bad thing for people to have to work these shorter hours. It is a bad thing for folk who have nothing to do, who have no outlook on life. We are the heirs of a glorious inheritance and we should enable the working classes to enjoy this glorious inheritance by educating them to do something else besides work. When you have worked for 40 years in a workshop and the day comes when there is no work to do you are of all men the most miserable. The reason is that the working classes have been taught to do nothing else but work. Go to Cambridge or Oxford. You will see no finer specimens of humanity in the world. Are they being taught to work? Is it their idea to go down the pit or work in the shipyards. Hon. Members talk about what they do in Russia. What is the condition of some of our workshops to-day? You are not allowed to go to the lavatory unless you intimate the fact to the man on the job. Slavery, that is what it is. I impeached Lord Weir in this House as to conditions in the engineering shops under his control. And hon. Members talk about the terrible conditions which exist in Russia I My class are not content to go on living under such conditions.
This Bill is moved with the idea of spreading the toil. We who represent the working classes are prepared to pay our contribution and render our quota to all that is necessary to give everyone a comfortable living, but we protest against working eight and 10 and 12 hours per day, or any number of hours, 1978 in order that other individuals may walk about without having to do any work at all. We see them bringing their dames to this House, in all their silks and satins. Talk about the women of the working classes ‡ Their women never work, and have no intention of working. Our womenfolk work, the brand of work is on them, just as it is on us. You can see my class when they walk across the Floor of this House alongside the two Whips representing the Tory party. The brand of work is on them. We are living in a machine age when it is no longer necessary for all these hours of labour to be worked. Therefore I have the greatest pleasure in supporting this Bill. It is one of the steps that I have always wanted the Labour party to take. These are the lines that we have to take. It is no use our trying to make the capitalist system work. All manner of Governments have tried it, but it cannot be done. Give the working classes a comfortable life. We are after a comfortable life, and 'this Bill is aiming in that direction.
§ 1.46 p.m.
§ Mr. DORAN
I would like to say a word or two in reply to the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). I have listened to his stentorian voice proclaiming that his particular class is the one that is being victimised to-day. How long has the hon. Member been the official spokesman for democracy in this country?
§ Mr. DORAN
I would remind the hon. Member that he cannot claim a monopoly of knowledge of the industrial classes. I too had the great pleasure, if I may use such a term, of starting as a half-timer in a Lancashire cotton factory at eight years of age. I have gone through just as hard a mill as the hon. Member, if not a trifle harder one. Although he may claim to be the spokesman for his class when he says that his class is downtrodden, that it is victimised and tyrannised over, my reply is that one of the greatest tributes ever paid to the system is the fact that we have had a Labour Government mainly composed of that particular class which went through the same mill as the hon. Member. The very fact that to-day we have working men as leading men in this Government proves the indisputable truth that the 1979 working class is given a better sporting chance in this country than in any other country in the world.
I fully appreciate the idea of the six-hours day. I am perfectly willing to support the Bill if hon. Members opposite can demonstrate to me how they are going to carry it out. It is a very easy thing to promise English democracy all the fruits of a garden of Eden, but it is a totally different thing to get hold of the garden itself. I know full well that when one stands up in this House one is criticised by Members of the Socialist party. I can congratulate hon. Members opposite on their audacity in asking for only a six-hours day. In some parts of the world they will be told by Members of their own party that they are greater exploiters than the capitalist classes themselves. The six-hours day is no new idea. Years ago in Australia the Australian Labour party advocated the six-hours working day. Viscount Snowden not long ago declared that if we were to apply a 50s. minimum wage to the cotton industry of Lancashire every mill in Lancashire would close down in 48 hours. That was after the Labour party had spent nearly 10 years advocating a minimum wage.
If hon. Members opposite were content to demonstrate to the world how this thing could be done, I believe that everybody in the working classes would look upon them as the economic saviours of the universe, and erect a statue to them bigger than that in Whitehall to-day. The point is that when we go to the statements made by various Socialist leaders we find not only that capitalism is doomed, but that Socialism is the only panacea that will cure all the ills of society. In other words it is elysium. All the workers of the world have to do, we are told, is to destroy all the machinery which it has taken a thousand years to create, the result of the finest brains and enterprise and ingenuity on the part of mankind. Destroy all, they say, and that is in order that they may chase the will-o'-the-wisp called Socialism. In Australia the Labour party stands for a six hours policy. When Laurence Grouland wrote his famous book, he said:Under a well-organised scheme of social democracy, when all the means of production, distribution and exchange are democratically controlled in the interests of the 1980 entire community, a faux-hours working day will be quite ample for the workers of the world.But he was out of date. He was a sweater. When Mr. Hyndman debated with Labouchere at the Queen's Hall in London, Mr. Hyndman declared that under a well-organised system two hours per day would be quite sufficient. But even he was wrong. He is out of date too. So it was left to Mr. J. L. Nobbs, of New York, the leader of the American Socialist party, to go one better. He came forward with the very "nobby" idea that under a well-organised scheme of social democracy one hour per day would be quite ample in order to satisfy the mental and physical requirements of the world. I am going to give the Opposition a chance. I look forward to the day when a great voice on the other side of the House will proclaim to the world that "under a well-organised scheme of social democracy, when all the means of production, distribution and exchange are democratically controlled in the interests of the entire community, anybody who dares to mention the word work' at all shall be strung up to the nearest lamppost."
Hon. Members talk about the means of production. What are the means of production? Their idea is that it is the machinery. Their idea is that if they socialise the railways and the land, and if they take over all the factories, they have socialised the means of production. But they are talking only about the instruments of production. The great means of production is the man himself, and when hon. Members have socialised him, as has been done in Russia, they will have dealt the death-blow to all thrift, enterprise, ingenuity and talent in every individual component in the nation. If you set the pace by the slowest, the day comes when the able man curses the fact that the Creator has given him brains. He sees that the lowest units in the community will share in the plums of production, while he is left biting his lips in anger, knowing that he will get no reward higher than that given to the lowest in the community. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) said that we on this side did not dare to think intelligently because we were afraid of destroying the capitalist system. What he meant to imply was that, if we dared 1981 to think intelligently, we were bound to become Socialists, and that fearing any contamination of that kind we did not think at all. According to that view, we must only be glorified lap-dogs for the people who are responsible for the situation.
I can only say to hon. Members opposite: "You have a rare opinion of yourselves. I must congratulate you on the fact that you do not hate yourselves at all." But may I put this case to them. Coming along to Westminster this morning, I saw a poster stating that the "Daily Herald" had a circulation of 1,616,000. I do not dispute the figures. I believe they are correct, but if the party opposite are such wonderful people, if they are the potential creators of a new Paradise, if the sun of the world's future is shining from their eyes and nobody else's, I would like to put this simple case to them. Five years ago, the "Daily Herald" was run by the leaders of that party and its circulation was 285,000. Knowing that it was heading rapidly towards premature burial in Somerset House, in desperation they approached Odham's Press and placed it in the hands of the capitalists. To-day their own newspaper which voices their own wonderful opinions has been made a business proposition with a vast circulation, and reaches the homes of the workers, thanks to the brain of a capitalist director.
I am out for every reform that can be secured in this country, and I realise what the worker has to suffer. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs referred to the use of machinery and said that some years ago he was concerned in a great agitation upon that question. Well, 30 years ago I, too, was in an agitation. It was when the drivers of the old four-wheeled growlers and hansom cabs objected to the introduction of taxi-cabs on the streets of London. They had a great meeting in Hyde Park, and our wonderful leaders of labour went there and spoke in stentorian tones against the introduction of what they called machinery and promised to stop the introduction of the taxi-cab into London. At that time there were 1,100 four-wheeled growlers and hansoms registered in the whole of Greater London. Admittedly, when the taxi-cab came along the four-wheeled growler had to go, and there are something like 87,000 taxi-cabs registered in Greater London to-day. Would any of my hon. Friends go out now 1982 into the street and say: "We shall abolish taxi-cabs in order to get back the four-wheeled growler"?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I do not want the hon. member to misrepresent the party to which I belong, never mind myself. As far as I am concerned, I have always welcomed the machine, and in my speech I said that I wanted to eliminate work altogether. The party to which I belong has never advocated doing away with machinery. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) came to the Clyde to get the engineers to accept the dilution of labour, I accepted dilution of labour, and advocated it, because I did not care, even at that time, whether the shells were manufactured by skilled, semiskilled, or unskilled labour, as long as the recognised standard rate was paid for the article produced. That has been the Socialist position all the time and is the position to-day. We welcome machinery. We want to liberate our folk from toil and moil, to give them a chance and to educate them to know what pleasure is and to live intelligent lives instead of being slaves.
§ Mr. DORAN
I agree with a lot of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member. I only referred to the attitude taken up by the majority of Labour's leaders at the time of which I was speaking, and I was not personal at all. I know the hon. Member has a, keen sympathy for the worker. But to return to the point with which I was dealing, I would remind hon. Members that Edward Bellamy in his work "Looking Backwards" says that the day will come when the machine will be the servant of the community and when work will be looked upon as a pleasant and easy exercise for the faculties. In other words he visualises the day when eggs will cook themselves for the breakfast and place themselves on the table without help from the human machine. That sounds very good but I say that it is a dream. It is of course a, lovely dream and I hate to wake up from it, myself, to face the grim realities of the world. I agree that a seven-hour or six-hour day would be quite possible, but how are you going to reach it? Only by utilising all the aids of science and invention, and getting the 1983 best brains to direct the mental and physical labours of the community. That is not to be done by theorists.
The thing has been done before. It is not impossible. Henry Ford had a six-hour day in his works in Detroit for many years. I believe that the Ingersoll Watch Co. have had a six-hour day for many years and that their production is the highest in the world, and their wages the highest, in normal times. But the principle upon which it has been worked has been first to have directive ability of the highest class; secondly, Co eliminate waste in production in every sense of the term, and thirdly to have cordial cooperation between capital and labour. And the basis of those industries has been that the reward shall be in proportion to the service rendered. They realise that capital has its 'duties as well as labour and that labour has its rights as well as capital. In that way it has been possible to build up scientific industry on good lines. To-day hon. Members opposite are going the reverse way about it. They have trade union restrictions. They make every attempt to wreck the capitalist machine. Instead of taking advantage of machinery, instead of extending the sphere of industrial activity by the use of machinery, they are doing their very utmost against it.
I have noticed that the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has been nodding approval of the many speeches made by hon. Members opposite. Evidently the right hon. Gentleman agrees with this six-hour principle. In the last Labour Government he had this question to deal with. Why on earth did not this Bill come before the House then, and why did not the right hon. Gentleman at that time put it into operation, without waiting to blame the National Government in the matter? Let the Labour party drop their silly antagonism to the capitalist system as such until it is demonstrated by them that they have something better to take its place. I know they will tell me that Socialism will take its place, but let us have a look at what Mrs. Sidney Webb says about it. She says that under Socialism any man who wants permission to work how and when he likes had better migrate to Robinson Crusoe's island, and that the notion that the various com- 1984 plicated industrial affairs of a complicated nation can be run with strict discipline and absolute obedience to orders is the dream of anarchism and not Socialism.
You have that system obtaining in Russia to-day. They have conscripted the whole of the labour there, and there is no such thing as an expression of public opinion there. They are told distinctly what they have to do and how much they shall get for it, and to-day it is the open boast of hon. Members opposite that there is no such thing as unemployment in Russia. There is not. They are not allowed to be unemployed. Are hon. Members opposite willing to go throughout this country and tell our 3,000,000 unemployed that they shall be drilled and dragooned and conscripted in order that we may publish the statement that we have no unemployed in England? No ‡
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I think the question of employment in Russia is very remote from this Bill.
§ Mr. DORAN
I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have gone through the Bill, which has been very ably put forward by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. [HON. MEMBERS: "Merthyr Tydvil ‡"] I mean Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Wallhead). I always get mixed up with these Welsh towns, because they are nearly all alike to me. The Bill has been very ably presented by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, but I would like to ask him this: In these days of universal competition, does he expect that the working people of this country would be paid the same rate of wages for six as they would be for eight or ten hours? If he says, "Yes," then 1 wonder how, in view of the cost of production, we are going to do anything with our export trade at all or compete with any civilised nation in the world. If he says he does not expect that, then will hon. Members opposite go to the 23,000,000 other employés who are in work and say that, in order to put the 3,000,000 back into a job, they must sacrifice one-third of their wages? You have one of two things to do—you have no other way—and so I say, perfectly frankly, that we would all like to see six hours if it were possible, or four hours if it were possible, or even less if it were possible, but it is not a, bit of use any hon. Member coming to this House and trying to get a Bill 1985 through that is going to wreck the whole of British industry and to plunge this country into chaos and revolution.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I am quite certain that this Debate to-day will command far more attention in the country than apparently it has done in this House. This question of some reduction in the hours of labour is receiving serious consideration, not only by workmen but by the leading employers, by people not only in this country, but in practically all the civilised countries in the world. It will be within the knowledge and recollection of hon. Members that as far back as the Washington Conference, following upon the War, an international convention was arrived at which declared very explicitly that a 48 hours week was a very desirable thing and that it should be operated generally, and there was at that time a general feeling among all the employing classes of Europe and America that a 48 hours week was desirable and should be some recognition of the services given by the working classes during the War. Since that time a period of 10 years has elapsed, and the productivity of the machine has increased out of all bounds; and if the Washington Convention agreed 10 years ago that eight hours a day was reasonable and proper, surely it is not unreasonable at this time, taking into consideration what has elapsed during these 10 years, to say that six hours would be a reasonable and proper number of hours for people to work. Capital may just as well understand that public opinion itself will not permit employers for ever to monopolise all the benefits of invention, but will insist on these benefits being shared by their employés.
In the course of this Debate it has been assumed, quite wrongly, that Members on this side object to inventions and machines. Nothing of the kind, but we suggest that the people employed on the machine and the people displaced by the machine should have some share in the benefits which the machine brings to the community generally. Consequently, it seems quite reasonable to suggest that we should have some reduction in the hours of labour. Not only does this question of the machine operate in the way of displacing labour, but the machine itself leads to a tremendous lot of bitter- 1986 ness in industry, in the hearts of the people who are employed, simply because the employer, not content with having the machine, so speeds up the machine that it takes considerably more out of the man engaged upon the machine than even the longer hours of the days gone by. This question of the speeding-up of machinery is one of the points that makes men extremely bitter. They realise that they are being treated not as human beings at all, but simply as cogs in the system of machinery. They feel that their lives as human beings are being left out of consideration altogether. I have heard references in the course of this Debate to what hon. Members call the slavery of the workers in industry. I am going to suggest from my own experience that discipline in British industry is so severe that in many instances it does amount to virtual slavery during the time that the people are at their work.
There is far too much of this slavery. I can talk about my own industry. We have automatic machines in the baking industry. I have heard during this Debate that machines are helpful to the workmen, because they make the work lighter. That is not the case in many instances. It not only makes the work monotonous and wearisome, but it makes it considerably harder owing to the eternal vigilance that is required, and the fact that the man has no time even to turn his head because if he does so he misses the particular process upon which he is engaged. Further—and this is important —owing to the introduction of so many machines there is a tremendous demand or young labour, for boys and girls, with the result that it is not a question to-day of being too old at 40: if anything, it is a question of being too old at 18. They make them in the factory, on the machine, at 14, and keep them until they are 18, when they are too old, and they are turned out and a new supply is obtained from the schools each year. Consequently, it does appear to me that we have a right to protest against the tyranny of the machine. Either society as a whole must control the machine, or the machine will control society.
We have a perfect right—it is not a very revolutionary thing—to talk about a six-hour day. It is not so long since people in this country looked upon 14 1987 hours a day as quite a natural day's work. There is a reduction in the hours of labour from 14 to a nominal eight, but it would be a tremendous mistake to imagine that the average number of hours of work in this country is only eight per day or 48 per week. Millions of men, women and children are compelled to work 60, 70 and even more hours a week. One of the scandals of this question of hours is the fact that young people between 14 and 16, 17 or 18 are kept at work up to 72 hours a week by an Act of Parliament which is still upon the Statute Book. Everybody must realise that in a time when there are 3,000,000 unemployed, it does seem most unreasonable that some of those who are employed should be worked these unreasonable hours, and that others are looking for a job and cannot find it, because of the long hours worked by some sections of the people.
It may be that this Bill may not get any further than this stage, but I am sure that this question of the hours of labour must be considered by the present Government. When we discuss this question at Geneva, I think that the Government, in the interest of themselves and their country, must realise that some international agreement on the question of the hours of labour is absolutely necessary. I have had the honour of representing, in an advisory capacity, the Government at Geneva on two occasions, and I am satisfied that, so far as the principal countries in Europe are concerned, they are willing and ready, and would welcome, an international agreement on the question of the hours of labour, and they expect, almost as a matter of right, that our country should take the lead in this matter. I am positive that something will have to be done. We must divide the available work among all by touching the working day so as to give reasonable employment to as many people as we possibly can.
It is admitted that as long as the present system lasts it cannot find employment for everybody. It is admitted that there must always be a surplus of, possibly, 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 people who cannot find work. If that is the position, surely, apart altogether from what is or is not Socialism—which need not necessarily enter into this question—we ought all to 1988 get together in an honest and a sincere attempt to divide the work among as many people as possible. I believe that if we look at it from that point of view, we shall have the support of many of the leading employers in this country and most of the other countries on the continent of Europe. Already we have got employers who are prepared to realise that a reduction in the hours of labour to 40 per week is necessary, and they are not talking about reducing wages as a consequence. I am positive that it is extremely difficult for hon. Members who represent industrial constituencies—I represent one—to go to their constituencies and say that there shall be no reduction in the hours of labour, and that we have got to stop where we are. I am sure that when they got to their constituencies they would qualify that statement very considerably. They would realise that there should be some reduction in the hours of labour. If we set our minds to work, I am sure we could get down to a six-hour day, but it seems that there is still a feeling that the more hours you work people, the more you get out of them. It is a tremendous mistake. You can reduce the hours of labour, and you can do it quite simply and easily, provided you have the will and the determination to do it.
§ 2.24 p.m.
§ Mr. PICKERING
I, for one, welcome the introduction of this Measure, rather because I think that a reduction in the working hours will play a very important part in any method for reducing the unemployment problem. But I do not know that I altogether appreciate the spirit in which this Bill has been brought in, because the seconder, I think, made pretty clear that he regarded this proposal for a six-hour working day as in itself so revolutionary that it must upset the present system and so bring in Socialism. I am not interested in this proposal to shorten the working hours from the point of view of its effect on Socialism or Capitalism. We are faced with a serious problem in unemployment, and we should come far nearer to solving it if we approached it on its merits with out regard to its effect on Socialism or Capitalism. The proposal for a six-hour day has been too much isolated from other matters which are responsible for a good deal of unemployment. We can- 1989 not pass this Bill, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said, without certain consequential measures which would have to fill up the gaps. Many other matters beside the actual working of a six-hour day are involved, such as monetary policy.
The Mover sought to isolate this country from the rest of the world and said that it would be possible to operate the Bill without regard to other countries. His reason was pretty obvious. He knew that the argument would be raised that, if we adopted a six-hour day, we should be unfairly placed when competing with other countries. He therefore sought to wipe out the whole question of international trade altogether. As a Liberal, I regard that attitude as most heretical. The Minister of Agriculture stated some time ago that other countries were trying more and more to become self-sufficient. It is obvious that they are going against nature in so doing, for countries cannot possibly be self-sufficient. The British Empire cannot be self-sufficient. They are bound to have' international trade. Even Russia is having to build up her new economic system by means of international trade. In spite of this consideration, I am glad that this Bill has been introduced, because we have to face the fact, having due regard to monetary policy and international trade, that the productive capacity of the world has increased infinitely.
If we are not going to make a mockery of man's inventiveness, we have to accept the position that the wonderful genius which man has brought to bear to increase our productive capacity must result in shorter hours. It is difficult to estimate how much the increase is, but it is possible, if our potential resources could be made actual, that our present-day production would be trebled and even made tenfold. Actually, however, productive capacity has increased 25 per cent. in the last generation. Unemployment has increased by about the same proportion, so that it is obvious that our productive capacity is being kept back. There is no limit to what man's inventive genius may do and we should welcome it, but it is being held back, because it is no good producing if people cannot buy that which is produced. That is due to the lack of effective consumers. An effective consumer is one who is earning 1990 or receiving from the industrial machine that which will help him to benefit from the results of the industrial machine. Because there are not enough of these, our potential productive capacity is not becoming actual. The only way in which we can make it actual is by reducing working-hours and making more consumers. That involves other problems, but we have to face the fact that among the proposals to cure unemployment must be a considerable reduction of working-hours, in certain industries at least. There cannot he a rigid six-hour day all round, for it would not work. We want to cure unemployment. We do not want to stand before some fetish of a six-hour day in every industry, but to bring people into employment and made effective consumers.
One of the objections to unemployment apart from the economic objection, is that it is a bad thing to have no work to do. A nation of slaves is a bad thing, and the leisure time of slaves must be ill-spent; but we have our educational system which is turning out better educated citizens. Therefore, with the reduction of hours, we should have better men and women who would be able to employ their leisure. In employing their leisure, they would bring in new industries to satisfy their leisure. I do not think that this Bill as it stands will serve any useful purpose if it is passed, but the ventilation of this matter should help us in our attempts to find a solution for unemployment.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pickering) is apparently in favour of a reduction of hours, but is afraid of legislation to give effect to his wishes. I am sorry that he has not had the courage to make up his mind whether he will support the Bill.
§ Mr. PICKERING
I am not opposed to legislation, but it must not be on the rigid lines of a six-hour day in all industries.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I am not yet sure whether the hon. Member will vote for the Bill. We shall have to wait, and we shall watch with interest to see on which side he comes down. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Wall-head) in a very excellent speech set out the objects of this Bill. He referred to 1991 wages, and it is on the assumption that it is not intended that working for shorter hours will reduce wages that we support the Bill. We do not defend lower wages on this side of the House for, while we support shorter hours, we believe that a higher wage is an equally necessary factor in the reconstruction of our industrial life. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) in seconding the Bill, complained of the official journal of the Labour party, and said that criticism had been made of the drafting of the Bill. He said, too, that he did not want advice, and that he would not require to be told how to speak in this House by Members of the Labour party. The hon. Member must not assume omniscience and omnipotence because he has for the moment chosen to take an independent line of his own. What we do say is that he did not introduce for the first time this Session the question of a six-hour day. His old colleague the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean), in a speech on the Address, made two or three references to the subject. He said that one of the main means, one of the most direct means, of coping with unemployment would be the general introduction of a shorter working day, and he claimed the advantage of legislation to bring about a six-hour day in all industries.
It is difficult to know what the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), who moved the Amendment, stands for in this matter. He said this Bill was an attempt to degrade labour conditions for the workers of this country, and claimed that the shorter working day would lower moral standards as well as industrial standards. He must have a very low opinion of his fellow countrymen and women if he thinks they cannot use an additional hour or two of leisure per day with advantage to themselves. He disappointed me, because I know that in the course of a very varied life he has acquired a good deal of knowledge of industrial practice in this country, and I think he failed to give the House the benefit of the knowledge he has gained by contact with industry and by hard work in industry. He said that shorter hours would not be good, that a six-hour day was not good. He admitted that the long hours of days gone by were bad, but apparently he believes that a happy 1992 dispensation has placed him on earth at a time when everything is all right. There was no hint in his speech that anything was wrong with industrial conditions to-day. Not one word did he mention about unemployment in this country. The hours of labour are all right, everything is all right in our industrial life; and he had not a word to say about the 3,000,000 people who are unemployed.
He carefully omitted to note the relation between this question of shorter hours and the general problem of unemployment. The hon. Member for Merthyr gave ample scope for criticism and for the expression of differences of view on that point. He was at great pains to show that this Measure was in the main intended to combat the growing evil of unemployment, an evil which he attributed to various very definite and constant causes in industry. I propose to follow partly on the same lines but before I do so I would like to make an acknowledgment of our debt to those who have gone before. The hon. Member for Merthyr 'referred to the initiatory steps taken in legislation on this subject, and we can all recall the efforts of the social reformers of the first half of the last century, who agitated and stirred up public opinion over the evils of the long hours and bad working conditions which then prevailed.
We also owe a great debt—and I make it plain for the first time to-day—to the great civilising agency built up by the working people themselves in the great trade union movement—the most potent civilising influence in this country and in the world to-day. It has been an expression of a determination to secure a higher and cleaner life for the working people of this country through their own organisations, and I invite hon. Members to pay closer attention to the working of the trade union movement at close quarters, and note what not only the workers owe to it but what the whole community and the whole of civilisation owes to it. For the last 100 years the trade union movement has been working to lift up the standard of life, to shorten working hours, to improve health conditions and to improve the social habits of our people; and side by side with it has been the equally democratic co-operative movement, which by precept and example has led the way in the shorten- 1993 ing of hours. The shortest hours worked in this country are enjoyed by the employés of the co-operative movement in the distributive trades.
In addition to what we owe to the trade union and the co-operative movements we lift our hats to the memory of great men like the late Lord Shaftesbury and others; members in all parts of the House are ready to pay tribute to all those who, deploring the industrial conditions of earlier days, sacrificed much to bring about an improvement in the lot of the workers. Their work has also proved to be sound economics, because in addition to producing more effective workers it created more fitting citizens for the State. It has been said from early days that it is not possible to achieve adequate production if hours are unduly shortened, and that view is still put forward, but really it is an argument which will not stand. The workers suffer to-day not through lack of production but through a glut of all kinds of commodities. Wherever we turn we find too much of everything that man makes by the labour of his hands and brain. An hon. Member has said that though the proposals we submit may be ideal, at the same time they will bring about a disturbance of present conditions. Certainly they will. Every reform has meant a disturbance of the existing conditions; the proposals are the more commendable because bad conditions are disturbed. We know that there will be difficulty in the application of these proposals, but, nevertheless, we say there is no argument against them.
We look around and see a surplus of production and a glut in all the world's markets; we see the sacreligious acts of associations of producers, and even of Governments, who have destroyed by fire and water goods which have been produced in answer to labour and to prayer. Labour and prayer have been too handsomely rewarded. They have thought it necessary to destroy stores of cotton, coffee, and beet not because there is really too much production, but because we have not been able to supply complementary and supplementary methods for their better distribution. The limit of production has been reached for the moment because we have not paid sufficient attention to the problem of distribution, but when distribution aid con- 1994 sumption have caught up with production we can go on to still greater and greater production and greater consumption, with enjoyment all round. This problem of unemployment is at the moment a problem of the adjustment of hours, pending a solution of other factors in the problem. For the moment the most direct way of dealing with the problem is by lessening the hours of work of those engaged in industry.
We see a condition of things in which there are 30,000,000 unemployed people in the industrialised countries of the world to-day. There is no unemployment in agriculture or among the rural population; the unemployment exists where man has taken to machinery. Thirty millions of people unemployed is an immense total, and an immense surplus productive capacity which is of no use. Three times the number of people employed at the present time in industrial Britain, are unemployed in the world. At least three times the productive capacity of this great, highly-organised, industrial country remains unused in the world to-day, because sufficient attention has not been paid to the regulation of the hours of employment and of distribution. We have three million unemployed in our own country. When one looks at the percentage of unemployment out of the aggregate population of 45,000,000 in Britain and the United Kingdom, it can be seen that there is a very much higher percentage of unemployment in this country, in proportion to population, than in any other part of the world, where there are 30,000,000 unemployed spread over a population of nearly 2,000,000,000. In this country we have the maximum density of unemployment. That is a fact that causes us to think.
§ Mr. ALBERY
The hon. Member who speaks about 30,000,000 out of work in a total population of 2,000,000,000 should remember that there are at least 100,000,000 of that population for whom there are no figures.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I said that there was no unemployment in Russia. I use the figures to show that there is a problem that requires attention from us. I am not the only one who says that kind of thing; there are persons of much more business experience than I who have made representations to this Government. 1995 Lord Leverhulme made a declaration, which was quoted by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), I shall read it again:We can get into a working day of six hours all the work we are capable of when that work is monotonous, merely tending machinery, and general work in a factory. To get the work condensed into six hours would enable us to produce not only everything we require, but to produce it without fatigue.There is ample evidence that business people are getting very much disturbed. A letter was published in the "Times" newspaper the other day, and it was also quoted in this House. It was by Sir Harold Bowden, who spoke of the wonderful development of machinery. The average citizen of this country does not yet realise that unless we do something different from what we have been doing, and the Government of the day do not appreciate the deadly danger and menace of machinery, unless provision is made for the apportionment of machine-made products, we shall get into grave difficulties. Figures show, according to Mr. Owen D. Young, that for the whole of industrial America the aggregate production from January, 1920, when the figures stood at an index of 100, has gradually increased year by year until in 1930 it stood at 152. That is, the aggregate production in all industries has gone up by more than 50 per cent. in the course of 10 years, because of the introduction of machinery 'and of improved methods. We have the universal introduction of machinery.
May I take five minutes of the time of the House in order to present the position as I see it? In these wonderful machines, a spate of new mechanical ideas has come upon the world. Let us try to visualise what is taking place. I am not accountable for the ideas that come to me, and which are more or less imperfectly expressed from time to time. but while I stand here speaking of the effect of machinery upon our industrial and political life, a thousand minds and more are absorbed with the problem of still further mechanical discovery. These ideas come from no one knows where. Those mechanically-minded people are seeing graphs of all kinds and mechanical designs almost in the abstract. Their minds are absorbed witch mechanical ideas in engineering, and so on, and those ideas 1996 take form, first of all, on the blue prints in the draughtsman's office. They materialise in machines of steel, iron, copper and bronze in our factories. Those discoveries are not made by a single individual mind, but are being improved day after day.
We are only at the beginning of mechanical development, and already it has gone so far that our people are suffering intense hardship and our political life is becoming confused and embarrassed in every way, for the reason that our sociological advance has not kept pace with our mechanical discoveries. The minds of politicians have been absent from their duties while the mechanic and engineer were preparing for greater machine production. That is the problem that I see—machines everywhere. Machines in the mines—I could give figures—machines in steel works—and again I could give figures. In an American steel works—I see a steel manufacturer on one of the Benches; he will know that I am speaking the truth—there are 10,000 people employed. For every individual who entered the works, whether he was the furnace man, the mill man, the clerk, or the time-keeper, 90 horse-power of machinery is mobilised. The mechanician will know that one horse-power is equal to seven manpower. The labour of those men is being multiplied at least 140 times with the assistance of those machines. We have not given sufficient attention to the question in this House. Even a mechanically-minded man who is qualified to be an engineer, speaking in this House this afternoon, gave no idea that he apprehended the consequences of this one-sided application of machinery to the problems of life.
This legislation, which commenced back in 1802 as we have been reminded by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, assumed a more tangible form in 1847, and was carried one step farther, in regard to the mining industry, in 1919, when the present Lord Chancellor, as the result of an inquiry, recommended the reduction of working hours in mines from eight to seven, and, after two years, the seven to be reduced to six each day. That was embodied in the Award of an independent impartial Commission as far back as 1919. It is no use hon. Members charging the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil 1997 with being a revolutionary. He is behind his time—I admit that he is not often late, but in this, matter of the mining industry he is behind the present Lord Chancellor, who is a Member of the present Cabinet. We must give attention to this matter. It is only by legislation of this character that we can provide work for people who are now denied the chance of work. Those who, in the early days, fashioned legislation in order to humanise and improve our conditions had not the facilities that we have for bringing forward Bills. The question of unemployment tops all other arguments.
I know it will be said, and I expect the Minister to say, that we cannot do this by ourselves, that Government regulation by ourselves is impossible because we are in competition with other countries; but I think that during the last 12 months the Government have been working on entirely wrong lines. believe in Government regulation and planning. We have reached a stage—there was a very enlightened article in the "Times" the other day which touched upon the point—when we must regulate and plan our industrial life, but we cannot plan within compartments, we cannot plan for ourselves alone; our plans must fit in with those of other nations. The planning must be international and world-wide. It is not sufficient to plan, as the Government are planning, for a limitation and modification of markets, for determining the direction and character of our trade. It is no use planning with regard to markets and distribution unless, as part of the planning system, we make up our minds what we are going to do with the human factor in industry. The planning is entirely onesided, incomplete and ineffective unless it reaches back to the factory where the men are at work, and has regard to their conditions.
I am glad to find that this problem has received the attention of the International Labour Office. The Minister knows about that, and, while he may not be as optimistic as I am, I think events are moving. It is not merely the words of men that are determining what will happen in this matter, but powerful events are shaping the forces in the world to-day. Big things will have to take place in the world within the next two or three years, or certainly within 1998 the next five years; otherwise our plight will be much worse than it is. The regulation of working conditions, the regulation of trade, the exchange of commodities and the balancing of world production—all these things must be done by super-national, international planning. I am glad to find that already the International Labour Office has given an account of some of the discussions on this matter. In the issue of "Industrial and Labour Information" of the 17th October, 1932, Mr. J. E. Lawrence, the Superintendent of the India Tyre and Rubber Company of the United States gave an extensive account of the establishment—not in theory, but in practice —of a six-hour day in the plant under his care, and he concludes his report with these words:We have not attempted to outline the sociological advantages incident to shortened working periods and the employment of men who otherwise would have no outlet. All of these have been pointed out in other articles. Our experience bears out all of these advantages, and the plan in general seems entirely sound and workable.That is the declaration of the superintendent of a firm that has operated six-hour shifts, four shifts per day, for a considerable time. In the next month's issue I find an encouraging account of a report specially made to the Governing Body of the International Labour Office, dealing with the question of the reduction of hours of work. The French Government delegate urged that the question of shorter working time should not be regarded as referring to the present crisis only, but from a more general point of view, and that it should be laid before the Conference at its next session; while the German Government delegate, supporting that contention, said:The severity of the unemployment crisis calls for immediate action.The representative of the Government of Canada also gave his support. Perhaps the Minister will tell us how far the Government of this country are going to support that proposal, which is likely to become, with a little encouragement, a practical international arrangement, for the shortening of working hours in the interests of all producing countries.
The work has been taken in hand by the International Labour Office, and I expect great things from it, but the International Labour Office will not succeed 1999 in its efforts until all its constituent members play their part. We have a special responsibility in the matter. We are the oldest, and still the greatest, industrial country, and we have a great wealth of experience which we owe it to other people to share with them, and I think we should take the lead in the future. I cannot believe that this country is down and out. That will not happen. There may be considerable modifications in our methods of doing our work; there may be a large measure of Socialism; but hon. Members need not be afraid. I do not think that the capitalist system as it is can function very much longer. In my opinion, it can only function when intelligent Governments play their part in grafting on to it elements of Socialism. These will receive sustenance from the stock of capitalism, which, perhaps, is rooted in the earth, but the graft will become in turn the main branch and the main fruit-producing part of the tree.
It is only by preparation and planning that we can avoid a breakdown of the Captalist system, and an intelligent Capitalist Government should not stand in the way of this Bill or of the proposals of the International Labour Office to give effect to this proposal all round. I believe that we shall see great things in this country yet. Those who went before us and who saw visions made the name of England an integral part of the language of the world's story of social reform. We can make our contribution still. The name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) will loom very large in the history of reconstruction and reorganisation. We all have a contribution to make, hon. Members on the other side of the House equally with ourselves.
We have been asked to-day to make this modest contribution towards the real reconstruction of the world's industrial life. I shall not be disappointed if hon. Members opposite refuse, but I shall be very disappointed if in their heart of hearts they have not some doubts as to whether they are right in opposing the Measure to-day. Mr. H. G. Wells, a great Englishman with a wonderful brain, referred, in a recent wireless talk, to the need for a Ministry of Foresight. We have not seen any such Ministry yet. I have been ten years in this House, and have 2000 seen here very little foresight. There has been many back sights and a great deal of recrimination, but there has been very little sign of foresight in this House. Let me urge this point upon the Minister and upon the Lord President of the Council, who has himself seen visions and dreamed dreams—not the kind of dreams from which one wakes in confusion, but the kind that gives a vision of what might be seen when One is fully awake and in possession of all one's strength and energy. Those who have seen visions and dreamed dreams will be false to those visions unless they play their part in giving tangible effect to what they have seen.
There is the possibility of much happier days. When I look towards the future, I see Englishmen—including all races in these islands; I speak as a Welshman, but I am an Englishman in this matter—I see Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans and so on doing their work in factories where there is ample ventilation, where there is ample light, where there is freedom from dust, in good health and enjoyment. I saw some time ago a statement, by someone whose name I forget for the moment, in praise of work itself. Work is a wonderful thing. There is no greater joy in life than to find congenial work. There is no greater satisfaction than in looking back on work well performed. I would ask the House to join with us in giving every Britisher the most direct chance of employment. This is a way—not the complete way, but a part of the remedy for unemployment. If eight hours a day is good, six hours cannot be bad. If you cannot find them eight hours' work, try to find them six hours. Give our people a chance of employment, and let us take our place in the wider world movement which will enable us to start on new ground with a greater measure of equality between nations, to work in mutual effort, sharing the responsibility for the reconstruction of this new world which will be all ours, in which mutual services will be exchanged between all the peoples of the earth. Let us invite all others to cooperate with us through the International Labour Office in reducing the hours of employment to six at the earliest possible date.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Henry Betterton)
I intervene at this stage of the Debate, not with any desire at all to give the impression that I want to wind it up, because it has been most instructive and interesting. It has shown that we have a complete justification for our procedure under which two days a week are allotted to private Members. I am sure no one who has been here would willingly have lost any part of it. The optimism and confidence in the future of the country that the hon. Member has just expressed will be re-echoed in the whole House and, I believe, in the whole country. It is just that spirit that is going to carry us through our present difficulties. Though we may disagree—and of course in many material respects we do disagree—as to the method of approach, when those on that side and we on this are imbued with that spirit, I am certain that we are going to get round our difficulties. I do not think I have ever heard a more interesting analysis of the effect of mechanisation upon employment than we had from the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading. It was most carefully thought out and prepared, and we may account ourselves fortunate in having heard that close analysis.
One thought occurred to me while he was speaking, and it occurred to me while the hon. Member who has just sat down was speaking. Of course, it is true that as science comes to the aid of invention, and as machines are produced as the result of the combination of science and invention, men are displaced. You create a machine that does the work of 10, 20 or perhaps a 100 men and to that extent, therefore, you may have examples of a machine which takes 3, 4 or 10 men to work it and which is doing the work of a hundred, and it may be of hundreds. But surely we must remember that, while that has had a tremendous effect on our present situation, it is not the whole story. Science has come to the aid of invention also for the purpose of procuring employment, and it has had the result of putting a great many thousands of men into work. Take any invention of importance that any one of us can remember. Take motor cars. Most of us remember the invention of motor cars. I do not know how many 2002 hundreds of thousands of men the motor car industry employs throughout the world. Take wireless, take any invention of modern times, and you will find that they enable vast numbers of men to be employed who would not have been employed had those inventions not taken place. Therefore, that side of it must always be remembered when you consider how far mechanisation and invention have displaced labour.
I do not deliberately wish to take up very much of the time of the House because I am sure that there are several hon. Members who still want to speak, but I feel bound to point out that hardly one of the speeches, interesting as they have been without exception, has had the smallest reference to the proposal before the House. What we shall have to vote upon in 50 minutes time is not some abstract theory of ethics. We have not to give our vote upon some theory o economics which we may hold. We have not even to give our vote as to whether we think, in one manner or another, it is desirable that there should be some statutory limitation of hours. The cold, cruel fact is that we have to vote upon this Bill. We have to make up our minds whether in fact we think the Bill is likely to help us or to hinder the very object which we all have in view. I am bound to say that I think that the Bill is impracticable and that anybody who votes for it—hon. Gentlemen opposite or anyone else—must be taken to have considered the implication of what would happen if the Bill passed into law. If the Bill became law to-morrow, or within the next few weeks, the inevitable effect of it would be that it would tear up every collective trade union agreement at present in existence.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
The hon. Gentleman says "hear, hear," but does he really think that it would be to the advantage of British industry that these agreements which I, at any rate, regard as most valuable instruments for industrial peace, that it would be a good thing that one and all of them, should be torn up and that we should find ourselves without, any collective agreements. There is not, as far as I know, one of those agreements—and I think I shall be 2003 confirmed in what I say by hon. Members on the other side—which would fall within the scope of the Bill. I am not sure as to figures, but I think I am right in saying that something between 8,000,000 and 10,000,000 workers in this country are at present working under collective agreements.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Who made the agreements? The right hon. Gentleman says that between 8,000,000 and 10,000,000 workers are working under these agreements. He must know that nothing like 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 working people are covered by the trade unions. Therefore, what kind of agreements has he in mind?
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I will tell the hon. Gentleman exactly. I have in mind such agreements as the railway agreement which covers 600,000 or 700,000 people, the agreement which was made the other day in Lancashire—the cotton agreement—and, of course, the engineering agreements made with the engineering unions. But whatever the figure may be—and I do not pledge myself to the precise number —the result would be that if this Bill were passed those agreements would cease to operate because they would be incompatible with the Bill. It is not for me, and I would not presume, to advise the responsible and experienced leaders of trade unions, and they must not think that I am doing so, but before they vote for this Bill I would ask them to consider whether in future it would be a good thing that these agreements should be inoperative. The immediate effect would not be merely to disorganise industry, but I have very grave doubts whether the effect would not be to go some way towards disintegrating the whole trade union movement. However, that is a matter for their consideration rather than mine.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Does not the right hon. Friend realise that those agreements and conditions were the best that the trade union leaders could get at that time. In many cases the men they represented did not want to accept those terms, but they were the best they could get in order to avoid industrial warfare.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I fully appreciate that point and I expected that the hon. 2004 Member would think it, if he did not say it. The answer is, that the result would be that all the agreements would be torn up the moment this Bill became law. I have always regarded those agreements as important and valuable instruments for industrial peace, and I should greatly regret if I found myself confronted with a situation to-morrow where there was not a single collective industrial agreement in existence. The next point I want to make is this, and it was referred to by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) that there would be an automatic reduction of wages for all those on hourly rates. The Bill says that if you are paid by the hour you can only work six hours, therefore obviously, there would be instituted at once an automatic reduction in earnings which would also apply to those on piece-work; it would affect all those who are not on day or weekly rates.
I do not believe that at a time when this country is struggling to maintain its export trade and when, therefore, the question of cost in every industry is of the utmost importance, you can dissociate the question of wages and the question of hours. To put it another way, if the result of this Bill would be to put up the cost of production, then we should find in the loss of our foreign markets that the results would not be increased employment but increased unemployment. There is one further point which has not been referred to, and that is in regard to Clause 2. That Clause says:all acts permitting hours of employment in excess of the maximum set out in this Act are hereby repealed so far as they refer to hours of employment.I cannot think that the hon. Member responsible for the Bill has realised what that Clause means. What are the Acts which would be repealed? All parts of the Factory Acts would be repealed which deal with hours of employment, and also the Acts limiting the hours of employment of children and women and night workers. If the Bill became law every one of these Acts would be repealed and there would be no protection for any woman or child or girl such as is the case now. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) raised this question yesterday afternoon on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I am not criticising or commenting upon his speech 2005 but he said that the Employment of Women and Young Persons and Children Act, 1920, ought to be repealed because it goes too far, that the permission which that Act gives for the employment of women and children went too far. He doubted whether the Act should be continued. If this Bill became law that would go and there would be no protection at all for women, or children
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Surely, when the right hon. Gentleman deals with the effect of this Bill, if it is passed, on the Factory Laws he must remember that all the hours of labour mentioned in factory legislation are maximum hours. It does not say that there shall be a minimum, but it refers to the fact that there shall not be more than a certain number of hours. Surely that is not affected by this Bill.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
The Acts which would be repealed if the Bill became law are those Acts permitting hours of employment in excess of the maximum number of hours set out in this Bill.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Clause 2 says:All Acts permitting hours of employment, in excess of the maximum set out in this Act are hereby, repealed so far as they refer to hours of employment.The intention is not to repeal the whole of these Acts but only those sections which refer to hours.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
According to the advice I have received—I have raised the point—I am told that the effect of the passing of this Bill would be that the provisions of the Factory Acts which affect the night-work of women and juveniles would be repealed. I do not want to emphasise this point as a fundamental objection to the Bill, I only point it out as one of the effects which would at once arise if the Bill is passed into law. For these reasons I cannot advise the House to accept the Bill. As it is at present it would do far more harm than good and, indeed, it would have the very reverse effect to that desired by the hon. Member who has moved it. At the same time may I say that no one has welcomed this discussion more than I because I think this is one of the most profitable Friday afternoons we have spent for a long time.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Every one will agree that this Bill is some contribution, on its merits, to our present day problems of employment and unemployment. Let me say one word about the speech made by the spokesman of the Labour-party. I have no wish to cross swords with the main part of his speech, although I disagree with it in some respects. We have separated from the Labour party, and we made the separation deliberately. Hitherto we have been accused of constantly making attacks on them. I do not grumble about attacks on me. We took up the matter to-day only so far as the attack came this time from their official organ, as to the drafting of the Bill.
§ Mr. D. GRENFELL
The hon. Member was not in the House, but his colleague was there and pointed to these benches several times.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
That official organ came out with a criticism of the drafting of the Bill. One would have thought that that organ would at least have said how good it was. Neither the official organ nor those to whom it professes to speak can claim much credit in the drafting of Bills. I remember that when the Labour Government was in office a Bill was introduced by a Mr. McShane, who was Member for Walsall. That Bill got a Second Reading and then was withdrawn. His own party rejected it because of its bad draftsmanship. But it has been drafted by the official Labour movement. Yet the Labour party criticise a small group of us who are responsible for this Bill. I defend the Bill on its merits and on its draftsmanship. We think it is good. There are people who think that a Bill must be elaborate and long. There are people who, when they come to some simple economic problem think it necessary to use long words and phrases about "great constructive plans," and so forth. The ordinary man says that two and two make four. Someone comes along and states that 2.5 added to 1.5 makes 4, and there are people who declare that he must be very intelligent. This is a simply 2007 drafted Bill. It contains no such phrases as "deep constructive thinking." The only criticism I have heard has been levelled by the Minister. He states that Clause 2 would repeal other Acts. The Clause says:All Acts permitting hours of labour in excess of the maximum stated in this Act are hereby repealed so far as they refer to hours of employment.In other words, the repeal is limited to other Acts in so far as they refer to hours of labour. The Clause is simple and means that any portion of the Factory Acts which allows a greater number of hours than six per day will be repealed. No persons other than skilled Government draftsmen, who are usually noted for drafting Bills which no one understands and on which people have to spend large sums in the Law Courts finding out their meaning, could read into these words other than what I have stated. If this Bill is to be interpreted not by skilled draftsmen, who seem to exist for the purpose of keeping the law courts busy—indeed I often wonder if they are paid commission, and, if they were not civil servants, one would almost doubt their integrity—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh ‡"]
The hon. Member must not blame the draftsmen. After all, the Bills are the responsibility of both Houses of Parliament. If there are any obscurities both Houses are responsible for them.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It is no good saying that the Bills are the responsibility of the two Houses. The hon. and gallant Member and I have been here sufficiently long to know that Bills are usually the responsibility of two or three men in the Government, who are responsible to two et' three officials. He knows that while he and I might point out wherein certain things were wrong, and even go into the Lobby in support of our views, the great mob just do what they are told and follow on. Therefore I say that these Bills are not his responsibility or my responsibility. The responsibility for a Bill is usually confined to about two men and the real responsibility goes back to other people outside.
The criticism which I have mentioned is the only criticism that has been made on the Bill. On the question of collective 2008 agreements may I say that I happen to be chairman of a comparatively small union, which has about 11,000 members, but which can claim to have some technique and skill in dealing with these matters and to know something about agreements. I have been presiding at their meetings for the last two or three days and what are we faced with? This word "agreement", used in the sense in which the Minister has used it, conveys a wrong impression. An agreement presupposes two free persons, of something like equal strength, mutually agreeing on a certain proposition. If one person holds a pistol to the head of another it cannot be said that there has been agreement. In fact the laws says that an agreement made under duress is no agreement at all. What are the agreements which have been quoted? There is the miners' agreement. There is not a miner here who, if his union had the strength and power, which he would like it to have, would not reject that agreement entirely. The great mass of miners only accepted it because it was forced upon them and they had not the economic power to withstand it.
What kind of an agreement is the cotton agreement? It was not accepted by the men. The men simply went back. They did not repudiate their leaders, either for making or not making an agreement. They were just driven back at the point of the pistol. They had no alternative. The engineering agreement on managerial functions was forced upon the men. Every union which has taken a free vote has turned down that agreement, but, because of their financial position, and their strength in present circumstances, they must accept it, not because it is art agreement in the real sense of the word but for this reason. On one side, every man who speaks for the employers is well-fed, well-clad, well-housed and, if the issue has to be fought out, he and his wife and family will not lost the necessaries of life. The other man, if he fights, must do so, not merely at his own expense, but at the expense of comparatively helpless children.
In consequence, when the right hon. Gentleman talks about agreements, in nearly 99 out of every 100 cases they are in no sense of the word "agreements" at all. We take the view—and I think this will be agreed to by the majority of the Labour Members, if not by all— 2009 that agreements are made by force of the economic strength of the industrial unions of the men. Reduce the hours of labour, we say, and the moment you do that you absorb your men and your unions become strong. Your agreements will then be remodelled and redrafted according to the strength of the unions. Therefore, far from the unions losing, the moment this Bill became operative they would gain, and the agreements would be real agreements in every sense of the word.
With regard to wages, one of the questions which caused us great anxiety when we drafted this Bill was that we were faced with two or three considerations. People drafting Bills are always faced with considerations. If we had put in our Bill, as indeed we had originally in the Bill, a Clause insisting that no wage reductions should be enforced, we should have been met with the argument, put by a cute set of people, that the wages were too low now, and that if we put in a Clause maintaining present wages, we were in favour of maintaining the present low rates of wages. Consequently, we decided to introduce a Bill on hours of labour. Any Government that might adopt this Bill must bear in mind that, when they are dealing with hours, they cannot leave wages alone, and whatever action is taken must be taken by a power that can deal with the wage problem as well as with the hours question. Even if we put in a guarantee of the present rate of wages, would any Government claiming to be a working class Government leave the present wages unaltered? We deliberately rejected a wages clause and took the action that we thought best, because otherwise we should have been open to the argument, not a serious but a superficial argument, that we were maintaining the present rates of wages. In any case, we believe that any Government of a working class movement that would take up this Bill would immediately, alongside of it, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), deal with the question of purchasing power as well.
It is true that the industrial power of the worker, in so far as it is strong, can regulate wages. I have discussed this question with the employers, not my own people, but because I spoke for an executive whose views, rather than my own, I 2010 had to convey. Some of my own executive were prepared, so anxious were they to get the men back to work, to face a reduction in wages. I could not quite accept their view, but they took the view that if they got reduced hours of labour, their union would gain strength, and then they could force the wages back. They took that view seriously.
In. any case, I do not disguise, and no one on this side would disguise, the fact that a large number of workmen fear this Bill, or similar Bills, because they think it might affect their earning capacity. Let me say to those people that the 3,000,000 outside have no earning capacity, and if workmen, let alone employers, are going to be indifferent to the human needs of those 3,000,000, then those workmen, even if they are in unions, can have no cause for complaint if the 3,000,000 unemployed become indifferent to them. Every workman who has got a decent wage to-day in industry has to thank not only his union and employer, but the great body of the unemployed who refuse to work at low wages, and I say that therefore the unemployed men have a claim, not merely on employers but on the trade unions and an unanswerable claim, because of their keeping up wages, that the trade union movement, the industrial movement, should make their cause a similar cause to their own.
I dismiss the objection raised to this Bill by one or two hon. Members that if you give men six hours' labour, the great increase in their leisure would in some way demoralise them. The 10 per cent. cut in the standard of living of the unemployed was a serious thing to them. Far from their being demoralised, however, in the great mass of cases even with unemployment, their characters, their morale, their capacity will compare with any other section of the community. I have in my own constituency men who have been out of work for years, men with families who have never worked, and they have children who have never worked since they left school. I would defend them anywhere. Man for man they will compare with any for intelligence, cleanliness and character. It is wonderful how they have maintained their morale, cleanliness and honesty. For my part, I do not accept the suggestion that leisure increases demoralisation.
2011 Let any hon. Member who represents a middle-class division come and address a meeting, say, in my Division, be it a political or a non-political meeting. He will be questioned as he is not questioned in any middle-class division in this country. He will be asked about India, and challenged about questions affecting foreign policy, disarmament and religion. Men now understand religious views and the principles guiding them in a way they never understood them when I was a boy, and I say that, far from leisure demoralising them, leisure is very often uplifting and humanising.
The one thing that I dislike about unemployment is that where it brings leisure to the man, leisure is not given to the woman, because unemployment means a longer day for the wife. One thing today that must strike everybody is that when such women become married, they show the marks of age long before they ought. It is not in any derogatory sense that I say there is a great difference between the women who come here, good and clean women, who, even at middle age, look young, whereas the wives of the poor at a younger age have all the marks of a terrible existence. In such conditions you have long hours. Leisure to the men is often uplifting and humanising, I am sorry that' the women have not the same leisure too. One of the things that worried us when drafting this Bill, which caused us more anxiety than the anxiety about the question of wages or of agreements, was how we could get for the working women some legislative proposals equally as constructive, but we believed that once we could get this Measure through, a future working class Government would apply itself to that very human problem.
Another argument with which we are faced is that Great Britain cannot live alone. The great case against us is that Britain must only move in a collective way with other nations. It is an argument which we have to meet in disarmament, and it is the obstacle that Socialists have to face in the path of progress. The argument now is that in all these things international action must be taken. If that be true, this Bill, or even a 48-hour week, is dead. You only want one reactionary Government to sabotage the whole international move- 2012 ment. If we are to accept international action as the only action in these matters, it means that this House of Commons might as well not sit so far as changing the conditions and the poverty of the people is concerned, for every time that action is suggested, the answer is that the solution must be found in international action. The only thing the House of Commons can do, apparently, is to lower wages because then we can compete with the foreigner. We do not need international consent for that. The House of Commons can lengthen hours; we do not need international consent for that. The House of Commons can make tariffs for no international consent is needed for that. The House of Commons can do everything that makes the working class conditions worse. When it comes to a question of improving conditions, we are met by the international action answer, and the House of Commons, as an expression of the desire of the people, has no place or function.
I could well argue a case along the line that sometimes even under a capitalist order far too much attention is paid to foreign trade. An examination of statistics proves that the great mass of our trade is not foreign at all, so that if we want to shorten hours we have a great field even without foreign trade. A large mass of our trade is not dependent on foreign competition at all, and we could improve hours and wages in those industries without reference to foreign trade. We have to-day to face the fact that there are 3,000,000 men and women who have no work to do. They are kept in semi-starvation. They receive funds, but those funds are a charge on the labour power of the people. The money paid to the unemployed, like the interest on war loan, comes from the common pool available to the nation as a whole.
On this question of hours of labour, while hours appear to have been shortened, modern conditions have really lengthened them. In the hours of the ordinary working man and woman one must include the time spent in travelling to work. Take the case of a miner in Scotland. In the old days the mine was easily reached from home, but with the shutting down of many mines men now have to travel miles on end in Scotland to get work. In the cities, in the same way, men have to travel miles to get to 2013 their jobs and in reality their hours have gone up and not down. The importance of our foreign trade has been mentioned, but I say there is no case for keeping a large section of the population almost in starvation. If the nation must suffer this period of depression there is no excuse for keeping the same people—because it is mostly the same people—constantly idle and in poverty. We say, let all share the poverty alike.
This Bill makes an attempt to share the hours of labour. Of course it will mean an extra charge on somebody, but we would point out that at present the charge falls on only one section of the people, and they are the unemployed. The burden ought to be shared more equally than it is under a process which puts it all on the backs of the most pitiful section of the community. There is a limited amount of work to do, and this is an attempt to share it out. Who can
§ defend men having to work 50 and 60 hours a week at such a time? That is not an uncommon state of affairs. In city restaurants in Glasgow and elsewhere women are working 70 hours a week. Some people are working too long, and others are doing too little. Who can defend that state of things? We say that the same unfortunate victims should not have to keep on suffering, but that the distribution of the burden should be more equal. If you refuse our request and say that under your capitalistic system you must have 3,000,000 unemployed, that you cannot eliminate them under the present state of affairs, then in my view your system must give way to one that will succeed in doing so.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 40; Noes, 137.2015
|Division No. 23.]||AYES.||[13.55 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Groves, Thomas E.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Banfield, John William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Maxton, James|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Milner. Major James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins. Sir William||Price, Gabriel|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||John, William||Thorne, William James|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, David||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Edwards, Charles||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Lunn, William|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Wallhead and Mr. Buchanan.|
|Albery, Irving James||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hurd, Sir Percy|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Denville, Alfred||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Dickle, John P.||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Donner, P. W.||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Doran, Edward||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Duggan, Hubert John||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Borodale. Viscount||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Levy, Thomas|
|Boulton, W. W.||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Burnett, John George||Fuller, Captain A. G.||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Goff, Sir Park||Maitland, Adam|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Gower, Sir Robert||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Graves, Marjorie||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Clayton. Dr. George C.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hartington, Marquess of||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Cooke, Douglas||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Hornby, Frank||Munro, Patrick|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Horobin, Ian M.||Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Patrick, Colin M.||Rosbotham, S. T.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Peake, Captain Osbert||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Penny, Sir George||Runge, Norah Cecil||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Petherick, M.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Salmon, Major Isidore||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Potter, John||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Procter, Major Henry Adam||Savery, Samuel Servington||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Slater, John||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Ray, Sir William||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E)|
|Rea, Walter Russell||Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)|
|Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Soper, Richard||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Reid, David D. (County Down)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Mr. Wise and Mr. Herbert Williams|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Strauss, Edward A.|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.2016
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Three Minutes after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 12th December.