HC Deb 09 February 1933 vol 274 cc334-6

asked the Minister of Labour the result of the discussions at the Geneva Conference on the possibilities of a 40-hour week; what has been the attitude of the British Government on the subject; and whether we are party to the decision which has been reached?


I have prepared for the information of the hon. Member and of the House a very full and detailed reply to this question, which I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


May I ask whether in this important matter the right hon. Gentleman is keeping in close touch with the various industrial organisations in the country, like the Federation of British Industries?


I keep in close touch with all those concerned in this question, as well as the organisation to which the hon. Member has referred.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Federation of British Industries take up the same attitude as the Government?

Following is the reply:

The Tripartite Preparatory Technical Conference on the Reduction of Hours of Work, which had been called together by the International Labour Organisation, was held in Geneva from 10th to 25th January and adopted a report, a copy of which I am placing in the Library of the House. The report contains a summary of the arguments in favour of the reduction of hours of work put forward by the Workers' Group, and of the objections put forward by the Employers' representatives. It also contains a summary of the opinions, which were not unanimous, expressed by the various Government Delegates. As to the attitude of the British Government on the subject, the report contains the following:— The British Government Delegate stated that his Government considered that the question of the compulsory limitation of hours of work to 40 a week had not yet been sufficiently examined to warrant a definite conclusion being reached, and that therefore his Government were opposed to proceeding at the present time with the project of a draft Convention. He pressed for a comprehensive inquiry into the whole question before any definite action is taken.

The report was discussed by the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation on 1st and 2nd February. The Governing Body decided that the report should be communicated to Governments with a request for their observations by 15th April, the representative of the British Government voting in favour of this decision. The Governing Body further decided that in reporting on the subject to the International Labour Conference next June the Office should present not only the discussions of the Tripartite Preparatory Technical Conference and the observations received on its report from Governments, but also drafts for definite texts for the Conference to take as a basis of discussion. The representative of the British Government voted against this decision in accordance with the attitude of the Government as expressed in the paragraph of the report which I have quoted.

45. Mr. LAWSON

asked the Prime Minister when the House will have an opportunity of considering the matter of the policy of the Government with regard to the reduction of hours at the recent International Conference?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)

As the hon. Member is aware, opportunities will occur during the normal course of business when this matter could be raised.


Is the Prime Minister aware that this matter has become very pressing in view of the rapid increase of unemployment? As the Government opposed a reduction of hours at Geneva and as they oppose public works in this country, what is their policy for dealing with unemployment? May I press for an answer to that question?