§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed [19th July] on Consideration of the Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee).
§ Which Amendment was: In page 11, line 19, to leave out the words "A licence and of every B."—[Mr. Parkinson.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
Last night, at 11 o'clock, I was addressing the House on this Amendment, and I want shortly to explain its effect, because the Committee stage of the Bill was taken upstairs, and, naturally, those Members who were not on the Committee or present last night, may be at a loss to know what the Amendment means. The Amendment asks that two kinds of licences mentioned in the Clause shall be deleted. The Clause states definitely that the fair wages clause shall apply to two classes of licences and that would mean that the licence known as "C" would not come under the same provision as the other two licences. In a comprehensive Bill dealing with transport, there are three essential things. The first is the safety of the public; the second, the question of the hours of the employés; and the third ought to be the fair wages clause applied to all who are employed. The first two have been admitted by the House. The first, of course, everyone would accept without any question, because the safety of the public ought to be the first consideration, and the House has accepted the limitation of hours. The right hon. Gentleman last night after a long discussion accepted the position, and said he would put that matter right.
With regard to the "C" licence, the fair wages clause will not apply if this Clause is carried in its present form, and I cannot understand how the best kind of men will be obtained if they are not protected by the fair wages clause. The whole of the licences cover 400,000 men. If the "C" licence is not brought in, it means that 300,000 will be outside the fair wages clause, so that only 25 per cent. will be subject to what is termed 2016 good wages, and, after ail, the fair wages clause cannot be called excessive in this matter. In the Road Traffic Act, 1930, Section 93 covers that, and I think it was understood then that this would apply to all wages and conditions applicable to anybody. The Section states:The wages paid by the holder of any road service licence to persons employed by him in connection with the operation of a public service vehicle and the conditions of their employment shall not be less favourable to them than the wages which would be payable and the conditions which would have to be observed under a contract which complied with the requirement of any resolution of the House of Commons for the time being in force applicable to contracts with Government Departments.That is all for which we are asking in reference to this Amendment, and one would have thought that if that concession was given in the Act of 1930, there could be no objection by the Minister now to include all under this Bill in that category. Last night, the Minister stated that he had given full consideration to this matter, that he had met one side, the employers, but did not think it necessary to meet the other side, and after those meetings he decided that it was almost impossible to include "C" Licences, with the result that he could give no pledge to the House that he would bring them within the category of the fair wages Clause.
Last night, rather strangely, we had from both sides of the House opposition to the Minister from persons who at other times give him full support, and one would have expected, in view of opposition of that kind, defending our point of view, the Minister would have given way. The hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) stood by the Opposition, and said that he thought the Minister's position could not be upheld, and that he ought to give way to the appeal made by the Opposition. But the most striking speech of all was from the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto), who has taken great interest in this Bill, and one is very pleased indeed at the way in which he has done it. Previously to this Bill, we never had a great opinion of the hon. Member who was always opposed to our point of view, but last night we saw another side of his character. Last night he altered my outlook by the way that he defended this Amendment. I Have reinforced my good 2017 opinion of him by reading the speech that he made last night. It is well worth reading. He said:The Minister said that he had seen the employers of various big industries, and they had put up to him a number of most ingenious objections, which seemed to make it quite impossible that they should comply with the fair wages Clause. I am aware that there would be a disinclination on the part of any body of employers to have any restrictions as to wages imposed upon them if they could possibly avoid it. That is common ground, and it is a matter of common sense. People do not like restrictions, and in saying that, I am speaking as an ex-employer myself; but I do not think these arguments are so valid as the Minister thinks."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July, 1933; col. 1956, Vol. 280.]The hon. Baronet is pointing out to the Minister that it is unfair to deal with only one side of this question. He points out that the Minister could only get the employers' point of view, which always is that they do not want any restrictions in regard to wages. An employer always says that he can deal with his employés better without any restrictions, but we say that that is not so, and hence the trade union movement which is always fighting for the fair wages clause. If the Minister had wanted to deal with this matter fairly and squarely and to come to the House prepared with all the arguments, he ought to have met both sides. If he could then have convinced the House that it was impossible to include all the licences, he would have been on sounder ground. We cannot accept the present position, and the only fair way out of the difficulty is for the Minister to say that he is prepared to consider both sides of the question and to meet both the employers' and the workmen's representatives. Now that the House of Commons has set out on a particular line of policy to control both road and rail traffic and to put it on a fair basis, the men must be protected by a fair wages clause. I hope that the Minister will not take the attitude he took last night in saying that nothing can be done, but that he will reconsider it and meet both sides.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Unfortunately I was not able to hear all the discussion yesterday, but I would like to ask the Minister, in view of the fact that there is almost a general consensus of opinion that the present position of this matter is unsatisfactory, whether it is not possible 2018 for him to meet us in some way by agreeing, not to pledge himself to give anything, but to consult us to see whether it is not possible to draft a Clause which will meet the case that has been put by so many Members of all parties.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) made an appeal to me last night, and I should have risen to respond to it but for the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). I must say that his speech has not made me more ready to meet my hon. Friends opposite, but, as I indicated during my speech last night, I was prepared at any time to meet the trade unions who are interested in this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh has chosen to repeat the attack about the unfairness of seeing only one side. I want to explain to the House again, as I did yesterday, that in Committee I made it quite plain that as the difficulties were those put up by the employers it was the employers that I intended to see, and that so far as the unions were concerned, I was accepting the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) as speaking on their behalf. I was ready at any time to meet any of the trade union leaders and to discuss it with them. As a consequence perhaps of the Debate last night, I received this morning a letter from Mr. Bevin, and I am making arrangements, which I hope will be successful, to receive a deputation next week. I am perfectly willing to hear whatever they have to say on the matter.
I want to make it quite clear that there is no suggestion whatever of my giving any pledge at all, and, in whatever action hon. Members feel that they ought to take on this Amendment, I do not want them to be influenced by what I am saying. I gave the House last night the facts as I knew them, and an those facts I asked the House to come to a certain decision. So far as I am concerned today, those facts still stand, but I am perfectly ready to hear people who say that they will be in a position to put new facts before me. I can assure the House that if at any time before the passage of the Bill I receive any facts which are new in character or put the facts which I gave last night in a different light, I shall certainly submit them to Parliament 2019 again before I ask it to give any decision upon the matter.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We should have preferred that the hon. Gentleman had been rather more sympathetic in his attitude of mind towards his meeting with the trade union leaders. On this matter we have always been in touch with those whom we consult on labour questions, and, if the hon. Gentleman will meet the unions with a perfectly open mind and re-discuss the matter with them, I will, on behalf of my hon. Friend, ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.