HC Deb 06 March 1933 vol 275 cc815-7
78. Mr. THORNE

asked the Minister of Labour the terms of the resolution passed at the Geneva Conference in January in connection with a 40-hour working week, and the number of delegates voting for and against the resolution?


A copy of the report of the Tripartite Technical Conference has been placed in the Library. An extract from this report, dealing with the three principal resolutions (out of a total of 20) and giving the results of the voting, is being circulated in the OFFCIAL REPORT.


Can my hon. and learned Friend say whether the populations of the countries are also included in this return?


I do not think that that information is in the Department, but, if my hon. Friend will study the extract in the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will see that there is a great deal of information contained in it.

The following is the Extract:


Extract from report of the Preparatory Conference (10–25th January, 1933).


The general discussion showed that the main questions with which the conference was faced were covered by the following points:

  1. 1. Is the reduction of hours of work capable of decreasing unemployment?
  2. 2. Is such a reduction necessarily contingent upon international agreement being reached?
  3. 3. Are there any special conditions which must be considered as indispensable to ensure that that reduction in hours of work would be effective, and in particular is it necessary that the standard of life of the workers should be maintained?

These conditions were set forth in two draft resolutions submitted to the conference, one by the workers' group, the other by the Government delegates of France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Chile, Germany and Italy. The draft resolution submitted by the workers' group was as follows:

' The conference considers

That discussion on the project of a 40-hour week Convention should proceed on the basis that weekly wages and monthly salaries will not be reduced by reason of the reduction of hours resulting from the adoption and application of such Convention.'

The draft resolution submitted by the seven Government delegates referred to above read:

The conference after reviewing the various arguments advanced for and against a reduction of working hours, considers that it is one of the measures which would contribute to reducing unemployment.

The conference therefore decides to examine its detailed aspects, taking the questions raised in Part II of the conclusion of the report of the office as the basis of its examination, in order to reach an arrangement of an international character the methods of giving effect to which would be determined with a view to rendering possible the maintenance of the standard of life of the wage-earners.'

The workers' resolution was put to the vote first and was rejected by 32 votes (12 Government delegates and 20 employers' delegates) against 21 votes (two Government delegates and 19 workers' delegates) and 17 abstentions.

The workers' group then made the following statement:

' We shall vote in favour of the resolution submitted by the Government delegates because it contains the principle which was at the basis of the workers' resolution.

If, as we hope, that resolution is adopted, we are convinced that the work of the International Labour Office which will complete the work of the present conference will be carried out along the lines indicated not only in the workers' resolution but also in that submitted by the Government delegates.'

In order to confirm and strengthen that statement the British workers' delegate made the following statement:

' The British workers would have preferred the clearer language of the Workers' Resolution, but as two Governments, in response to the direct questions put to them yesterday, have said that there is no vital difference of intention or principle, but only of phraseology, between the Workers' Resolution and that of the Governments, on that understanding— while keeping ourselves free to decide what our action shall be in June when we see the actual terms in which the draft international measure is presented—we have decided to vote for the Governments' Resolution.'

The employers' group stated that its attitude had been determined with regard to the terms of the resolution itself and not with regard to the interpretations put upon it by certain members of the conference.

The Italian employers' representative, whilst calling attention to the technical difficulties of such a regulation, nevertheless considered that the social and political aspects of the question called for its further serious examination and on those grounds made a statement to explain his vote.

The resolution submitted by the seven Government delegates was adopted by 41 votes (21 Government delegates, 19 workers' delegates and one employers' delegate), against 22 votes (three Government delegates, 19 employers) and seven abstentions."