HC Deb 24 June 1935 vol 303 cc801-2

asked the Minister of Labour whether the action recently taken by Mr. Leggatt, of his Department at Geneva, in regard to the possible limitation of working hours was in accordance with instructions issued by himself or his predecessor; and, if so, the nature of the instructions concerned?

Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD

The British Government delegates at the International Conference at Geneva have been acting in accordance with instructions given them by His Majesty's Government on the basis of the policy of the Government on the various subjects on the agenda of the Conference. It is not possible within the limits of this reply to detail the policy of the Government in regard to hours of work, but I would refer the right hon. Member to the White Paper Cmd. 4584, which gives the reply of the Government to a questionnaire issued by the International Labour Office on the subject of the reduction of hours of work.


May we take it that it is the policy of the Government to oppose a reduction of hours even when a large number of other nations are willing to reduce them?

Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD

No, the right hon. Gentleman has no ground for making that assumption. The policy of the Government is set out in the Command Paper to which. I have alluded, and it presents the difficulties of the situation and the Government's attitude on it.


Has the Government delegate any power or discretion to negotiate, or is he strictly tied by the terms of the instructions given to him? Has he any discretion to try to bargain with other nations for a decrease in the number of hours?

Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD

Our representative there had his instructions, but in case of any altered circumstances, which sometimes do arise on these matters, naturally he, like everybody else, must exercise his discretion.


Because of the longer hours worked in certain Continental countries—hours which are injurious to our own industries—is it the policy of the Government to refrain from encouraging a reduction of hours?