HC Deb 12 December 1935 vol 307 cc1192-9

6.37 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 35 to 38.

This is that portion of the Schedule which deals with the Employment of Young Persons and Children Act, 1920. Under that Act it was arranged that it should be possible for young people of 16 years of age and over to be employed in various industries between the hours of six in the morning and ten in the evening. It was laid down there that there should be a joint application on the part of the employers and those working in those places, and that some kind of vote should be taken. I do not want now to say all that I would like to say about the method of those votes, how they were taken and the absence of secrecy when such votes were being taken in the various establishments, but that Act laid it down that the provisions should operate for five years, from 1920 to 1925. We are now in 1935, and each year since then we have had this Measure brought up to be continued, so that these young people might be compelled to work at those unearthly hours in the morning and at night. I hope this House is going to pay a greater regard to the young people in this country than to allow employers to exploit them and to place them at a disadvantage by working them under the conditions operating where the two-shift system is adopted.

There have been some 2,000 orders made since the Act came into operation, and in fact some 400 orders have been agreed to by the Home Office since the 30th June of last year. We have the spectacle in this country that while we have a great many adult men out of employment, we are working our young people under conditions such as those I have mentioned. I remember one case in particular of a firm near Birkenhead operating the two-shift system, which compelled young girls of 16 to 18 to be crossing Liverpool at four in the morning, in order that they might reach their work at six, and those who were on the second turn, which terminated at 10 p.m., having to cross Liverpool at midnight and even later in order to reach their homes.

That is one side of it, but there is an even worse side, and that is that this prevents these young people from taking advantage of the educational facilities which we are providing in all parts of the country. They are denied the opportunity, first of all, because they are unfitted by reason of this continuous effort for the eight hours or even a little less than that when they are working. On the morning turn they are certainly not fit to take advantage of these educational facilities which are given in the evening, because they are compelled to be out at four or five in the morning in order to reach their work at six, and those on the second turn have no opportunity at all, because they are forced to work during the hours when the classes are held. It was worse than that, I admit, when the Act was introduced, because this country thought so little of its young people that it actually permitted that those below 16 might be compelled to work during the conditions of the two-shift system. I am confining myself this evening largely to the interests of the young people, but the same observations apply to the women.

I expect it will be urged by the Home Office that if this Amendment is carried, it will put out of operation all those permits which they have given for the working of the two shifts. If there are employers who cannot find a method of conducting their manufacture or production without exploiting young people in this way, when we have such a great reserve army of labour unemployed at this time, it is time that they considered whether those engaged in managerial functions in their establishments ought to be continued in them. I ask the House, for the sake of those young people and for the sake of that education to which even the other side of the House renders lip service, in asking for an educated democracy, to agree with us that this two-shift system shall not operate after the 31st December of this year, and that we shall not give the opportunity to the Home Office to permit this Act to continue in operation for a further 12 months. I hope the House will on this occasion do the right thing by the young people of this country.

6.45 p.m.


My hon. Friend has tried to do what I have been trying to do for seven or eight years. We believe in continuity of policy in this matter, and consequently we propose to take this Amendment to a Division. That may probably wake up the Government to their responsibilities—and they take some waking up. We have objected to this temporary Act of Parliament on the grounds that my hon. Friend has put so well, but things have changed since our last opposition to this proposal. Early this year a Departmental Committee was set up to inquire whether these temporary provisions should be made permanent. There were representatives of all parties on that Committee. The Committee reported in due course and the Government have decided to bring in a Bill, the Second Reading of which is to be taken next Tuesday, to make permanent the provisions of this Act instead of continuing them in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I propose, therefore, to keep my powder and shot for a better occasion when we shall oppose the proposed Bill as we have always opposed the temporary provisions. We shall take this Amendment to a Division, and, within a fortnight of the coming of the Government, we hope to defeat them.

6.47 p.m.


Hon. Members are aware that hon. Gentlemen opposite have for many years objected to this Act in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, but I think it is true to say that we are debating this subject this year in somewhat different circumstances from those in which it has been discussed in past years. This Act has been renewed year after year in the Expiring Laws Bill, but that was not considered by the Government to be altogether satisfactory. Last year, therefore, the Home Secretary appointed a Departmental Committee to consider the whole question whether the two-shift system should continue, and, if it should, whether it should be modified in certain ways or not. It was a strong Committee and went into a great many of the subjects mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.


I gave evidence there.


After the Committee had considered all the material, including the evidence of the hon. Gentleman, it came to the conclusion that the system should continue with certain modifications. As the Prime Minister announced to-day, a Bill will be introduced next Tuesday for that purpose. Therefore, I think hon. Members will probably agree that the best opportunity for a complete and general discussion on the system of two shifts will come on that Bill next week. It might be asked why, if that be the case, it is necessary to include this Act in the Expiring Laws Bill now. The reason is that the proposed Bill, even if the Government were more successful with it than the hon. Gentleman opposite hopes cannot be passed into law before Christmas. To avoid the dislocation which must occur if that be the case, we ask the Committee to include this Act in the Bill again. I would point out that if by any chance the Amendment were accepted, the whole of the orders under the Act under which many factories are working, and under which some 40,000 women and young persons are in employment at the present time, would become illegal on the 31st of this month. I think that the Committee will agree that even if they wish to stop this system working, it would not be the right way to do it,

after it has been in operation for many years, by a fortnight's notice.


I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the Committee into believing that if we carried the Amendment 40,000 women and young persons would be out of employment. They would go on to normal employment without working a two-shift system.


I think it would be true to say that if this system of employment became illegal on 31st December, as it would if the Amendment were carried, it would mean tremendous dislocation in all these factories, and would mean that thousands of these people would be thrown out of work. In many factories it is undoubtedly the case that their employment depends upon the fact that employers are able to utilise the machinery much more continuously than if they were only on day work, and they would not be able to continue if this system were not allowed.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 203; Noes, 99.

Division No. 11.] AYES. [6.51 p.m.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Clarke, F. E. Ganzonl, Sir J.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Clarry, R. G. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)
Albery, I. J. Clydesdale, Marquess of Gledhill, G.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd) Cobb, Sir C. S. Gluckstein, L. H.
Apsley, Lord Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir G. P. Goodman, Col. A. W.
Aske, Sir R. W. Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J. Graham Captain A. C. (Wirral)
Assheton, R. Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.
Atholl, Duchess of Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Gridley, Sir A. B.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Grimston, R. V.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Courtauld, Major J. S. Guest, Hon. I (Brecon and Radnor)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)
Baxter, A. Beverley Crossley, A. C. Guinness, T. L. E. B.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Crowder, J. F. E. Gunston, Capt. D. W.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Cruddas, Col. B. Guy, J. C. M.
Beit, Sir A. L. Culverwell, C. T. Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.
Birchall, Sir J. D. Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil) Hamilton, Sir G. C.
Blair, Sir R. Denman, Hon. R. D. Hanbury, Sir C.
Blindell, J. Denville, A. Harvey, G.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Boyce, H. Leslie Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-
Bracken, B. Dugdale, Major T. L. Hepworth, J.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Duncan, J. A. L. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Eales, J. F. Holmes, J. S.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Eastwood, J. F. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Eckersley, P. T. Hopkinson, A.
Bull, B. B. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Horsbrugh, Florence
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Ellis, Sir G. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)
Burton, Col. H. W. Emmott, C. E. G. C. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.
Butler, R. A. Emrys-Evans, P. V. James, Wing-Commander A. W.
Cartland, J. R. H. Entwistle, C. F. Joel, D. J. B.
Cary, R. A. Errington, E. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)
Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.) Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Law, sir A. J. (High Peak)
Chair, S. S. de Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Fleming, E. L. Leckie, J. A.
Channon, H. Fraser, Capt. Sir I. Leech, Dr. J. W.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Freemantle, Sir F. E. Levy, T.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Furness, S. N. Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.
Chorlton, A. E. L. Fyfe, D. P. M. Lloyd, G. W.
Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Plugge, L. F. Spens, W. P.
Loder, Captain Hon. J. de V. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Loftus, P. C. Ramsbotham, H. Storey, S.
Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Rankin, R. Stourton, Hon. J. J.
MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Rayner, Major R. H. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
McKie, J. H. Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J. Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Macquisten, F. A. Renter, J. R. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Sutcliffe, H.
Margesson, Capt Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Ropner, Colonel L. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M. Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry) Train, J.
Maxwell, S. A. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Rowlands, G. Wakefield, W. W.
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Russell, A. West (Tynemouth) Walker-Smith, Sir J.
Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R. Salmon, Sir I. Wallace, Captain Euan
Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.) Salt, E. W. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. Sandys, E. D. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester) Savery, Servington Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Scott, Lord William Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Nall, Sir J. Seely, Sir H. M. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. Selley, H. R. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Orr-Ewing, I. L. Shakespeare, G. H. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Owen, Major G. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Wise, A. R.
Palmer, G. E. H. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Patrick, C. M. Smith, L. W. (Hallam) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Peake, O. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E. Smithers, Sir W.
Perkins, W. R. D. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Peters, Dr. S. J. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward
Pilkington, R. Spender-Clay Lt.-CI. Rt. Hn. H. H. and Commander Southby.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Price, M. P.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Quibell, J. D.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Ritson, J.
Benson, G. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Bevan, A. Jones, J. J. (Silvertown) Rowson, G.
Broad, F. A. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Salter, Dr. A.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Kelly, W. T. Sanders, W. S.
Buchanan, G. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Sexton, T. M.
Burke, W. A. Kirby, B. V. Shinwell, E.
Chater, D. Kirkwood, D. Silverman, S. S.
Cluse, W. S. Lathan, G. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Lawson, J. J. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Daggar, G. Leach, W. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Dalton, H. Lee, F. Sorensen, R. W.
Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd) Leonard, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Leslie, J. R. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Logan, D. G. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Day, H. McEntee, V. La T. Thorne, W.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) McGhee, H. G. Thurtle, E.
Ede, J. C. Maclean, N. Tinker, J. J.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. MacNeill, Weir, L. Viant, S. P.
Frankel, D. Markiew, E. Walkden, A. G.
Gardner, B. W. Marshall, F. Walker, J.
Garro-Jones, G. M. Maxton, J. Watkins, F. C.
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Messer, F. Watson, W. McL.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Montague, F. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Grenfell, D. R. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Whiteley, W.
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Naylor, T. E. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Oliver, G. H. Withers, Sir J. J.
Hardie, G. D. Paling, W. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Parker, H. J. H. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Holland, A. Parkinson, J. A.
Hopkin, D. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Jagger, J. Potts, J. Mr. Groves and Mr. Mathers.

Question put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this Schedule be the Schedule to the Bill."

7.0 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir ARNOLD WILSON

May I very briefly express the hope that it is the last occasion on which we shall see a Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1904, a part thereof? We have made several attempts to get a fresh comprehensive Act. It is a fact that to-day, I gather, many of our international treaties and the charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation depend on an Act which can only be continued from year to year. Now that the Ullswater Committee is nearing its conclusions there are strong grounds for making a really comprehensive Act which will cover the whole ground and keep out of the Expiring Laws Continuance Act a Bill which is of such tremendous importance not only to this country but to the whole world. It is rather undignified that such a vast amount of industry and international agreement as depend on this Act should be subject to termination at a few months notice.

7.2 p.m.


I can only say in reply to my hon. Friend that I am very glad to have had the advantage of listening to his views on this point. As the House knows, a Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Ullswater has been considering this question since last April. They are still sitting to-day, but I understand that before the end of the year we shall have their report, and we shall then be better able to judge.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.