HC Deb 30 July 1936 vol 315 cc1767-853

3.59 p.m.


I desire to offer-some observations on the administration of the first office of State, namely, the Home Department. Although the work of the Home Office covers a great deal of ground, from controlling aliens to governing the Isle of Man, I propose this afternoon to confine my remarks to four subjects which I hope may interest Members of the House. Some of these topics arise out of the very admirable report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops. I pause to pay a tribute to the very excellent work done by the factory inspectorate. I shall raise one or two questions relating to workmen's compensation an dshall make special reference to the administration of the many Shops Acts now on the Statute Book. I hope to conclude by reference to that new problem that has arisen, a very thorny one and a very difficult one but indeed a very important one, namely, the air raid precautions that are being launched upon the country.

I begin the few remarks I have to make by dealing with the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops. I shall not be far wrong if I say that this is the most human document issued by any Government Department. It tells us what happens to our people when they are actually at work, and gives a picture of nearly 5,000,000 men, women and young persons engaged in the daily task of the manufacture of a variety of commodities. It is a Blue Book with very black patches; the black patches bear witness to the very callous behaviour of some employers to those whom they employ. This last report in my opinion provides the very worst picture of industrial conditions in factories and workshops which has come to light for the last decade. It discloses a great deal of information that is both startling and ugly. Were it not for the honesty and veracity of our factory inspectorate I should say that the incidents quoted were impossible in the twentieth century within these islands. I hope that I shall not bore the House if I quote some of the illustrations given in the report. I never thought that I would live to see the day when these things could happen in this country, side by side with all the clamour for international conventions regulating the hours of employment. Indeed some of the illustrations would almost make me believe that the report relates to India, Japan or China, and not to this country. That is not too strong a statement to make. Let me quote one or two paragraphs. This is what the inspectors themselves say on page 66: Many of the complaints received about long hours are found on investigation to relate to the hours worked by men. They quote a case of a 13-hour day in a flour mill, 13 hours a day in rubber works, 80 hours a week on a day shift in silk works, and a 72-hour week on night work in a silk works. These are remarkable statements and I hope that the workers themselves will take heed of what these gentlemen say further on: Trades in which the workers are well organised, however, work 47 or 48 hours a week. In the same factory, according to this report—hon. Members behind me can vouch for this—you get trade unionists working for not more than 48 hours and non-unionists in another part of the same factory working 55½ hours a week. If there ever was a statement in favour of trade unionism it is provided in this report. Another very remarkable thing is said, and I think for the first time. On page 65 we read: In the Midlands these long hours are generally worked by the least physically fit portion of the industrial population. The best workers go to the best employers and the weakest drift to the factories with the longest hours and the least good conditions. Of course, that is very natural, but it is very pathetic to read a statement of that kind. Let me dwell for a moment or two on what is happening just under our own doorsteps. In addition to these long hours there are the cases of juvenile employment—boys employed for 15 hours on several week-days and after the legal limits on Saturdays. The case is mentioned of women and young persons being employed in a textile mill for periods up to 71 hours, whereas the legal limits are 55½ hours a week. There were, we are told, 1,181 charges in the prosecutions regarding hours, meal times, Sunday work and night work, and convictions were obtained in 1,080 cases.

I have been in this House for a fairly long time and have seen many Acts of Parliament passed, and I have come to the conclusion that two things are essential if the provisions of an Act of Parliament are to be implemented. There must be a standard of honour among employers and employed that will rise to the occasion and see that the law is implemented. One thing is even more important than that. The law as passed by Parliament is of no avail whatever unless there is some organisation in the industry to see that its provisions are insisted upon. I have come to the conclusion, therefore, that although we can do a great deal in helping to improve the conditions of employment in factories and workshops, in the end some of the bad conditions that prevail can be removed only by the workpeople having the sense to organise in trade unions.

Let me quote one or two further paragraphs from the report. On page 7 we are told that the high accident risk among workers under 18 as compared with adults is deplorable. Accidents to young persons in 1931 reached a total of 25,042, or 22 per cent. in excess of the accidents to older people. Then we are told: Severe accidents due to the absence of safeguards required by law are … never more regrettable than when the victims are young workers, who may be thus needlessly handicapped at the outset of their career by permanent injuries. On pages 26 and 27 it is stated that the need for tightening up the Sections of the Factory Acts dealing with machinery and fencing and the introduction of safety measures is urgent. In view of what I have quoted from the report of his own factory inspectors, I would ask the Home Secretary whether he is satisfied that these conditions cannot be improved upon.

I now come to a point that matters a great deal in this connection. We shall be told to-day that the number of factory inspectors is up to standard, that so many have been appointed recently to bring the number up to standard. I question the standard. If there are so many more workpeople employed in this country, say half a million more than in 1930, the standard that prevailed in 1930 is not good enough for to-day. I have received from most authoritative quarters complaints that with the best will in the world the number of factory inspectors we have at present is not sufficient to cope with the number of complaints received.

Let me now turn to something on the other side of the picture. We can draw consolation from the fact that a large proportion of employers do their best to modernise their factories and provide some decencies for their workpeople. What is obvious, of course, is that a great deal goes on in factory life, behind the veil as it were, that no factory inspector would ever see. Unless I am greatly mistaken it is not too much to say that the few adverse reports we get in this annual document might easily become a common practice if we had no factory inspection. I venture to say something else: If this country were without a single factory inspector, all the laws that we have passed here would have no effect upon the conditions in factories and workshops, for I am sure that the standard of honour in this connection has unfortunately declined. During the 15 years that I have been reading these factory inspectors' reports the standard of honour of employers towards the law has in my view declined considerably. I think that ought to be said.

Let me now say a few words about accidents in factories and workshops. After all, they are the kernel of the whole problem; they bring into relief the picture of what is actually happening to these millions of employed people. The fatal accidents in 1935 were 843, as against 785 in 1934, an increase of 58. The non-fatal accidents increased from 136,073 in 1934 to 148,853 in 1935, a jump of 12,780. That is a very serious state of affairs. The figures disclose an appalling situation, especially in view of the claim that safety organisation is developing on all hands. Let me repeat that in another form. It is one of the anomalies in this report that the claim is made that safety organisation is developing while at the same time the accident rate is apparently amounting up every year. Factory employment in this country, therefore, is gradually becoming as dangerous as coal mining, and we are entitled to ask whether anything is to be attempted other than what has already been laid down by the Home Office in order to reduce the accident rate. I am not so sure that we have not reached a stage in connection with industry when speeding-up processes are such that human beings attending some of the new machinery recently installed are totally incapable of following the speed of the machines. Then we have something else to remember. When the hours of labour are reduced in any of these industries the workpeople are exepected to produce even more in the shorter than in the longer week. All that speeding-up must have its effects upon the accident rate. Without using too strong words, this report indicates that something akin to industrial murder is proceeding in this country. This should be stopped by some means to be provided by the Home Office, and one of them is to appoint a greater number of factory inspectors.

I suppose that there are as many factories to the square mile in Lancashire as there are in any other part of the country-I have asked the workpeople to tell me what things would make for improvement in factory administration in that county. They tell me that they want the inclusion in the rights and duties of factory inspectors of the enforcement of the provisions of the Wages Act in the cotton weaving industry. The Under-Secretary will know what they mean by that. Then they want the inclusion in factory legislation of some means whereby employers will be prevented from reducing the wages of the operatives by coercing them into making weekly contributions for shares in the firm. We have the Truck Acts in this country which prevent employers of labour from fining their employés for doing certain things, but in Lancashire, I am told, employers are actually influencing their employés to contribute from their wages towards shares in the firm by which they are employed. I suggest that the Home Office should look into this new aspect of employment in Lancashire. The operatives complain too that, under the two-shift system, the machinery never stops. That fact makes it difficult for the workpeople to have proper meal times or rest during the period of their employment. I suggest that the Home Office might inquire into the way in which the two-shift system is being operated in the textile mills of Lancashire.

I turn now to the problem of workmen's compensation and its administration. There are about 7,000,000 workpeople covered by insurance premiums for workmen's compensation risks, in the annual statistical report. The last available statistical report was for 1934, and tells us that payments were made in respect of 2,229 fatal accidents and 401,459 non-fatal accidents, and that the total compensation paid amounts to about £5,750,000. One thing that has always annoyed me about workmen's compensation is the comparatively small proportion of the premium income that finds its way ultimately into the pockets of the injured workpeople. I have been trying to calculate how much of it actually goes to the people who are injured, but it is very difficult to find out. We are told in the report that 63.76 per cent. of the premium income was paid away in workmen's compensation. We are then told the very interesting fact that that figure includes legal and medical expenses incurred in the settlement of claims. Until we know how much is spent on legal and medical expenses we shall never find out the nett amount of the premium income actually received by the injured workpeople.

I am inclined to make a rough calculation. I should be astonished if, out of every £1 paid by employers in premium income to cover workmen's compensation risks, more than 10s. finds its way into the pockets of the disabled. If that be true, it is worth while comparing the percentage of administrative costs in other spheres of insurance. Under the National Health Insurance scheme, 79 per cent. of the contribution goes to the sick and disabled. When you take the administrative costs of our State pension scheme, they amount to only 5 per cent.; in unemployment insurance they amount to less than 7 per cent., and for unemployment assistance about 10 per cent. of the payments made. There was never a better case than this comparisan, for removing workmen's compensation entirely from the sphere of profit making. I hope that the day is not far distant when this very important work reported upon by the Home Office will be taken out of the hands of private companies and put under a national board, with whom profit will not be the deciding factor.

When the workman fails to secure compensation, he probably falls back upon the funds of his approved society, and in that connection there are no medical or legal expenses. There is only the 8s. 6d. per annum for the panel doctor. I have never been able to understand how it comes about that insured persons can get 79 per cent. of the premium income under National Health Insurance and less than 50 per cent. from workmen's compensation, except that one is governed by the State and the other by private enterprise. People who have had to deal with workmen's compensation usually feel as annoyed as I do that so much of the premium income goes in administrative, medical and legal expenses.

I want to ask a detailed question of the Under-Secretary. I have for some time taken interest in the conditions of textile operatives who are employed in card rooms. About 150 of these textile employés suffer from bronchial trouble, and the Home Office have endeavoured to obtain from the employers a promise that they will establish a voluntary compensation scheme to deal with the position. I understand that a committee is to be set up very shortly to inquire into this question of dust in card rooms. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be able to say something on that subject. It is not sufficient in this case merely to arrange to pay compensation. Compensation should, of course, be paid, but I am authoritatively informed that some of the machinery in card rooms, especially in Oldham, has not been renewed for 20 years. The Home Office should urge its inspectors to see that the causes of complaint in this connection are removed, as well as make provision for workmen's compensation from those who are suffering from bronchial trouble. I would quote a few words from one of the textile unions in Lancashire. They say: We have no fault to find with the inspectorate. The trouble is that there are only two inspectors to cover the whole of this area, and it is impossible for them to give prompt attention to complaints of this or any other character.


May I ask the hon. Gentleman what district that is?


I think it is the Oldham area in this case. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the point I made a few moments ago. We welcome what has been done to bring up the number of inspectors to what is called the standard, but, as stated, the standard is too low for the purposes we have in view.

I turn to silicosis and asbestosis, although hon. Friends of mine will probably deal with these matters more effectively than I can. During 1935, 126 cases were reported, as against 107 in 1934. I am pleased to know that there is an improvement in this connection among those employed in grinding mills. I think that relates to Sheffield. The situation in the pottery industry is, however, as bad as ever. I regret to note from the report that there is also no substantial improvement in the case of ulceration among pitch, tar and oil workers; they suffer from some form of cancer.

In a few words I will say what I think of the progress made in engineering science. I do not know how hon. Members look at the present situation in industry, but I think some of the figures, although they have nothing to do with the Home Office, are worth while referring to, as an illustration of what is happening in this country. I have a table of the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents, collated from several reports available from Government Departments. Let me give them, to show where we stand. The fatal accidents among factory workers in 1935 numbered 843; on the railways 391; among road users 6,502; and in coal mining, for 1934, 1,073. The total in those four categories is, therefore, 8,809. When I come to non-fatal accidents, I am inclined to say that if accidents are to occur in this country at this rate, we shall soon be a nation of cripples. The non-fatal accidents in factories number 149,696; on railways 23,220; on roads 221,726, and in coal mines 132,889, a total in one year in those four categories of 527,531. I am astonished at the complacence of our people among it all. This is indeed a slaughter of the innocents.

I now come to a different problem, to which I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to pay close attention. He knows better than I do that the administration of the Shops Acts is in a very unsatisfactory condition. Happily, there are more persons in this Parliament connected with the distributive trades than have ever been before, and they will be able to speak with even greater authority than mine as to what is happening. The Home Office is not actually responsible for the detailed administration of the Shops Acts; it transfers its duties under the law to the local authorities. The general complaint we make is that after that transfer, a number of local authorities take hardly any notice at all of their duties. I am told authoritatively that in Heywood, Lancashire, they have never yet appointed a shops inspector. There is probably a greater body of law dealing with shop assistants than there is in respect of either coal mines, agricultural workers or factory workers. In spite of that great body of law, there is a considerable town which has never yet appointed a person to see that the provisions of that law are implemented. I will mention another case, that of a town with 40,000 inhabitants where the shops inspector is over 70 years of age. There is no mines inspector over 70 years of age, and I feel sure that there is no sanitary inspector over 70 years of age either. It seems to me, therefore, that local authorities in some parts of the country are deliberately winking at the provisions of the Shops Acts, and I will tell the House why. A goodly number of shopkeepers in some towns are on the local authorities themselves.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who has done a great deal in connection with the law relating to shops, will see whether he cannot collect information as to what local authorities have already done in this connection. I would like to put that to him very strongly, because he knows that it is not sufficient in this connection, however sufficient it may be in others, merely to send out a circular telling the local authorities what they ought to do, without finding out in due course whether they have responded to the circular. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to find out how far the local authorities have carried out the provisions of the Shops Acts, and especially the one I am about to mention. A very few years ago we passed an Act of Parliament to limit the hours of labour of young persons in shops, but, unless the local authorities can be induced to do their duty, a large part of the provisions of that Act too will be a dead letter. For the sake of the young persons employed in shops, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to carry the case a little further, and try to induce those authorities who may have failed, to do their duty.

There is a classic example, which the Under-Secretary will remember, in connection with the closing of barbers' shops in London on Sundays. In the London County Council area, 100 barbers kept their shops open on Sundays against the provisions of the law. If that can happen in London, what can happen in the provinces where the administration is not as efficient as it is in the Metropolitan area? Those of us who are connected with shop life in this country are annoyed beyond measure by the distinction that there is between inspection, on the one hand in coal mines and factories, and on the other hand in shops. If the inspection in coal mines was carried out as ineffectively as it is in the case of shops, there would be a general strike to-morrow morning. Of course, these 2¼ million shop assistants are unorganised; about 55 per cent. of them are women and girls; and I am sure that some day Parliament will decide that the inspection of shops shall not be left to local authorities, but that shops shall be inspected from headquarters exactly as factories and workshops are inspected now. Until that day comes, I am afraid we shall not get as far as we want.

Turning to the last point that I want to raise, I had the horror, some five or six weeks ago, of seeing the first rehearsal that I have ever witnessed of air raid precautions, in a town on the Continent of Europe with about 150,000 inhabitants. As a result, I wished fervently that that would remain a rehearsal for ever. I have never seen such a thing in my life, and I have been pretty near to a colliery explosion. We are told in the Press that the Home Office is pursuing this problem of providing precautions against possible air raids in this country. I remember, when I handled this problem on the Floor of the House on the last occasion taunting the right hon. Gentleman, and perhaps he will forgive me if I repeat the taunt. He appealed to us to make every house and every building in this country bomb-proof, and I told him that it would be well if we made them all rain-proof first. They are not all rain-proof in some parts of Lancashire yet.

We are told that the Home Office is arranging now for the manufacture of respirators and gas masks at about 2s. apiece, and that millions of them are going to be manufactured and made available to the public at that price. Can we be told the exact position up to date with regard to these air raid precautions? I am sure I am right in saying that, whatever else the people of this country may have thought about, they are sad beyond measure at the possibility of having to wear gas masks. I am not a philosopher; I do not understand the trend of events in international affairs as some hon. Gentlemen do; but it seems to me that, if we are to come to that, we might as well all commit suicide. In any case, I am assured by some authorities that we shall commit suicide by wearing gas masks. Without being too serious about the matter, I have often wondered, in my simple way, if all of us, men, women and children, have to wear gas masks, what is going to become of the people in the hospitals; what is going to become of the babies; what is going to become of the beasts of the field. When I saw this air raid precautions rehearsal on the banks of the Danube recently, even the horses had gas masks. Central Europe has reached a stage where there is so much fear that they are actually conducting rehearsals of air raid precautions.

I have now touched upon many subjects which are of extreme importance to the people of this land, but the last one that I have mentioned is, I think, the most pathetic of all. It seems to me, when we are discussing these precautions by way of wearing gas masks and rubber suitings, that we might as well tell the people the open and frank truth that the whole miserable business is nothing but a camouflage and that the causes of war are the things that matter in the end.

4.43 p.m.


I am sure the whole House will feel very grateful to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) for introducing this afternoon the many subjects of importance relating to the Home Office to which he has called our attention. I wish to refer to only one of them, namely, the long hours which still exist in the employment of young persons. I would echo the praise that my hon. Friend offered to the Home Office for the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. It is a most instructive and helpful document, and it is interesting as being, I suppose, a criticism of ourselves by a great Department of State, because it is we who are responsible for the conditions that are reviewed in the report. I welcome that position, and am delighted at the frankness with which the picture is painted. It gives us invaluable material for showing what ought to be done.

My hon. Friend has referred to the examples of long hours given on page 66. I will not repeat the examples he has given, but should like to add those which relate to young persons alone. In one case the figure was 71 hours in a week. In another case, two boys had been employed from 8 a.m. to 9.30 or 10 p.m. regularly twice a week, and on two occasions until 11 or 11.30 p.m. There is also a case in which boys between 14 and 18 years of age had, over a long period, been employed from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Monday to Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, with an occasional early evening. These are shocking examples, but, of course, they the only examples of occasional illegalities. The report gives an even more disquieting picture—the picture of the long hours that are legally worked. It points out that the improved conditions of industry have meant longer hours in a great many districts, where firms have taken advantage of the law to reintroduce long hours which had been in abeyance during the period of less industrial prosperity. I would quote a couple of sentences from page 42, where the Senior Medical Inspector observes that: The employment of young persons up to the limit of hours allowed by law cannot be regarded as desirable in the light of present knowledge. Again, he says: It would appear desirable, therefore, that the hours of employment of young persons should be substantially less than those permitted by the existing legislation. It is worth recollecting that the 55½-hour week for young persons in textile factories dates from over 100 years ago. I think that in fact the Act was passed in 1833, and these hours are still being worked in the present year, 1936. That is a condition of affairs which, I feel sure, the House will agree is something of a national disgrace. I should like to quote one more opinion of a senior medical officer whose observation I read the other day. He was deploring this tendency to work up to the legal limits, and he said: Nothing, to my mind, could be a more short-sighted policy. Mental concentration, if the work is to be performed properly, can hardly be expected to persist over the whole period at present allowed by law. He goes on to say that such hours of work can scarcely be regarded as beneficial to the development of the health of the young persons or to the maintenance of output. It is not only that the young person's health is injured, but it is even bad industrial organisation. If young persons are made to work these preposterous hours, they cannot be expected to maintain a decent output with modern machinery at the modern rate of factory operation. That is the picture that we have as regards work in factories. What are we to suppose is happening in the unregulated trades, about which we have had no information in recent years? There is a report of some years ago showing that hours up to 70 and 80 were being worked, and we know that there is a Departmental committee in the Home Office considering what ought to be done in this matter—[An HON. MEMBER: "For some of them!"]—for some of them. If the position is as bad as it is in the regulated trades, I hope the Home Secretary will realise how urgent is the need for dealing also with the unregulated trades. Under the Shops Act we are in an intermediate stage in regard to young persons. The present legal hours of 52 drop at the end of this year to 48. I should be grateful if we could be told what is the experience of the Home Office of the operation of that Act. I have no specific cases to offer of the non-observance of the Act, though I have Vague reports of its not being operated properly, I do not know whether we can be given information as to the number of breaches that have been detected and the number of prosecutions. We have those facts in relation to factories. Have there been fewer prosecutions than in the case of factories, and, if so, does it mean that there are fewer offences or that the Act is not being properly administered, as we strongly suspect? We should like any information that the Home Secretary can give us.

We have great grounds of complaint against successive Governments for never tackling the problem of adolescent work sufficiently seriously. The modern view of adolescent work is that it must be educative and must give a reasonable chance for physical and mental development. Physical development is, perhaps, a rather more recent aspect of the modern demand. Last year was Jubilee year, and there was a great call upon the nation to look after its youth and to give it a proper chance of development. In this Session we have had indications that the principle that young persons should have chances of education, recreation and physical development has been accepted. It has been accepted in the case of those children who are to be given exemption from school. Regard is to be had, in considering whether employment is beneficial, as to whether there is a reasonable chance of further education, recreation and so on. But directly we try to give specific effect to that principle and say it is obviously impossible that a boy or girl shall have a reasonable chance of education or recreation if his working hours exceed 40 or 44 or whatever it may be, we are told that it cannot be done, that it is not the business of the Board of Education but of the Home Office. We are put off year after year. I think there is one effective reason for this slowness and I wish the Government would get over it. It is that the problem is not within the sphere of one Department alone but of at least three if not more. The Home Office deals with only one side of it, the preventive side—"hours shall not exceed so-and-so." If the problem is to be treated properly it must be dealt with not in a negative but in a positive way, by organising the entry of the child into industry. Industry that provides permanent jobs is often not ready for children at the age at which we turn them out of school. They have to go into the occupation of messenger boys for a couple of years before industry is ready for them, and as messenger boys they are too frequently trained merely for unskilled work or even unemployment.

I suppose it will be the business of the Board of Trade or the Ministry of Labour to attempt that initial encouragement of the organising of the entry into industry so as to secure an orderly flow of youth from the schools into permanent work. The Ministry of Labour, no doubt, with their juvenile advisory committees will help, but it is not only they; it is the Board of Education also. The board dealt with the subject 20 years ago when they provided a scheme of part-time adolescent education. That has never come into operation yet. What you clearly need is a concerted effort of at least these three Departments, and perhaps the Board of Trade as well, to secure that industry, which is more and more having to organise itself under the influence of the Import Duties Advisory Committee and other influences, should arrange that its supply of labour is obtained from the schools in a methodical way. It should be put on some regular basis industry by industry. If these three Departments will get together and tackle the subject on a large scale, I believe there will be hope for those of us on all sides of the House who for so many years have been pressing for action. It is one of the major social problems. We cannot afford the loss both of efficiency and quality involved in these long hours. I ask the Government to grapple with the problem, instead of tinkering with it, and to bring to an end this grave waste of our most precious asset, the youth of the nation.

4.55 p.m.


I want to tender my meed of praise to the inspectorate for the manner in which, under very grave difficulties, they carry out their work. In our judgment their number is far too small. I think there are about 250, and there are about 5,250,000 people. I am not very good at mental arithmetic, but it looks to me like one inspector to 22,500 people. In well-organised and efficient trade unions we usually find that it requires about one full-time official to see that the employers of about 2,000 people adequately carry out at all points their contracts and legal obligations. Our duties in the trade unions are, perhaps, heavier than those that fall exclusively to the inspectors, but something in the nature of a doubling of the inspectorate would be very good business. I think the number of prosecutions is an indication of the scale on which evasion goes on. It is, I suppose, some 35 years since any considered attempt was made to improve factory legislation. We have heard to-day with pleasure that the Factory Bill, which has been expected under successive Governments, is likely to be introduced next Session. That fact alone gives additional importance to our consideration of the report to-day. It at least points to an opportunity arising for some things being done which the report makes it very clear must be done. Take the question of the number and seriousness of hoist accidents. The report makes it perfectly definite that, if the modern lifts and adequate safety appliances which are available and in use were made compulsory, lift accidents would be almost abolished. The Factory Bill, when it comes, might have some very definite standard of safety appliance below which no lift that is allowed to be used should fall.

There is another standard which it might be difficult to introduce, but which, I think, ought to be introduced, and that is some definite standard of lighting where artificial lighting has to be used at all. The report makes it abundantly clear that workers suffer extensively from old-fashioned, inadequate lighting, turned on too late and turned off too soon, and with the experiments that have taken place and the improvements that have been made in the lighting of large buildings I hope it will be possible to adopt some standard that can be insisted upon in the same way that standards of hygiene, ventilation and so on are insisted upon now.

I should like the Home Secretary, when he brings in his new Factory Bill, to take a leaf out of the book of the Ministry of Transport. We have at least established the position that the careless motor driver who even accidentally, if carelessly, maims his fellow-man shall be sent to gaol, and, what is perhaps more important, shall be prevented for a period, and sometimes for ever, from damaging his fellow-man by his carelessness in the future. When one compares the kind of punishment meted out for what are, after all, accidental occurrences for motoring offences with the penalties that are meted out to employers who deliberately place their employés in jeopardy of life and limb, and whose employés very frequently, as this report shows, lose life or limb, it calls for a very definite consideration of the question of penalties. There were, according to this report, some 2,500 prosecutions for all kinds of offences in respect of which convictions were entered and the employers were mulcted in some £6,500 in fines and some £750, or thereabouts, in costs. I seriously suggest that at least the option which magistrates have in the case of the "drunk and disorderly" of inflicting upon him either imprisonment or a fine might very well be included in the new Factory Bill for some of the offences for which employers are proceeded against as shown in this report.

There is another point in this report which is shown very clearly and which ought to give the Home Secretary courage in dealing with such matters as the limitation of hours and the provision of proper welfare conditions. If the report brings out anything, it is that employers who have incurred very considerable costs in modernising their work, improving conditions and shortening hours of labour have proved that it pays them from the purely economical point of view, and that better and increasing output invariably follows better conditions of employment and shorter hours of labour. I agree that that cannot be carried to the reductio ad absurdum so that the man who did not work at all would produce more than the man who worked seven days a week. But it has been clearly demonstrated that the 48-hour week generally produces a much higher production than the 55 or the 52½-hour week. It has been proved by some of the very large employers that a 44-hour week brings an increased production after a very short period compared with what was possible in a 48-hour week. I submit that in view of the evidence in this report and that which is available from the best employers, the Home Secretary might take his courage in both hands and go a very long way in his new Factory Bill in raising welfare standards and so on.

I do not know whether it is realised how really important is that other section of the community to which my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) referred. There are about 5,200,000 persons who come under the Factory Acts. There are at least 2,250,000 people employed in the distributive and allied trades who do not come under factory legislation, and who suffer in the matter of hours to an extent which is even undreamt of when you consider the figures that are quoted in this report. The question was asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) as to what had been the result of the new Act applying to young persons. It became operative only from 1st January this year, and therefore there has not been very much time in which to note its effect, but I prophesy that unless something different can be done in the way of enforcements from anything which has ever been done up to now in the unregulated trades, the factory provisions in the new Bill will have very little beneficial effect upon those who are employed in the distributive and allied trades.

I have had the experience which my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton mentioned. I have spent days going from office to office under municipal administration before I could find who was the shops' inspector, and when I have run him to earth I have found that he is usually a police officer who is also the inspector of weights and measures, and perhaps the inspector of half a dozen things, knowing nothing whatever about any of them. That is not always the case, but there are a considerable number of cases in which it has been necessary to seek the assistance of the shops inspector. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton, that there is a real necessity for taking out of the hands of local authorities and placing under national control the enforcement of legislation for the protection of people engaged in non-regulated occupations. If we were dependent upon a local inspectorate for the textile industry, the mining industry and for factory workers in general, we should not be in a position to say truthfully the kind things which we are saying about the administration of the Factories Acts under the Home Office. Whatever criticisms anybody may make of the Home Office either under its present heads or previous heads, nobody who knows anything about it will hesitate to declare that the biggest thing that could have been done for the improvement of the conditions of distributive workers would have been to transfer the enforcement from the local authorities to the Home Office. I hope that something can be done in the direction of using that enforcement in the case of a body of people, of whom at least 90 per cent. are absolutely unprotected by any kind of trade union organisation in order to protect them more adequately than is the case at present.

I have alluded to the fact that Factory Acts have been promised and expected for some years. The late Mr. Arthur Henderson had a Bill which was to become an Act of Parliament, but which never did. When that Bill was expected to become an Act, the inspectorate issued instructions which provided for women working on Sundays in certain factories. There is no provision in the Factory Acts for women working in factories on Sundays, but ever since that Bill was before this House, the inspectors have been interpreting the Factory Acts as though the provision which appeared in that Bill was the law of the land. It is clearly established in law that a dairy is a factory, but this Bill provided that women should work there on Sundays. The inspectorate allows them to work there on Sundays. I agree that in return they make bargains with the employers about hours of labour and conditions of employment, which again they are not empowered to do under the Factory Acts. But it shows that the instincts of the inspectorate are all right, and that where they give this modern need—and I agree that it is a modern need—without legal sanction, they at least protect the people to the best of their ability. I shall look forward with very great interest to seeing the new Bill. Its broad lines, I presume, may be decided already, but I would urge that where it can be strengthened in regard to the matters which I have indicated, it should be strengthened.

5.11 p.m.


I should like to call the attention of the House to a matter connected with the Home Office. On 3rd July the Secretary of State gave an undertaking that the Commissioner of Police would be empowered to take finger-prints of juvenile offenders between 14 and 17 years of age in respect of certain crimes. It is with regard to that, and that only, that I intend to detain the House this afternoon. I read that statement with the greatest repulsion. I regret extremely that the Home Office should have changed its policy of using humane methods and of taking the juvenile offender away from links with adult crime. I regret greatly that the Home Secretary should have agreed to this practice, and in condemning it I am speaking for the National Association of Probation Officers and for other persons interested in juvenile delinquency. It is a distinctly backward step. We have been advancing steadily in the matter of juvenile delinquency along sound and satisfactory paths; we have founded special courts into which we are trying now to put competent magistrates, and we have an established system of probation officers who are the guides, philosophers and friends of juvenile delinquents, and who have indeed created a revolution in the history of juvenile delinquency. We have Borstal Institutions where boys and girls are taught trades which help them when they go back into the world. We have separated in every way that we can the juvenile delinquent from adult crime; we have treated him not as a criminal upon whom the State is to take revenge, but as a citizen to be saved.

That having been the line of conduct with regard to juvenile delinquents for some considerable time, here we now have this backward step of empowering chief constables to take finger prints of juvenile delinquents. That is the wrong way to handle juveniles. In the case of the older boys, the more audacious type of youth will become a hero. His friends will regard him as a hero. The more sensitive boy will feel that it is an indignity imposed upon him. He will lose his self-respect and be less likely to be restored to the paths of good conduct. The position was very well expressed by the Lord Chief Justice in a speech which he made last year in Gray's Inn which expressed the views of those of us who wish to promote the wise treatment of juvenile offenders. He said: The boy or girl below the age of 21 is in English law a minor, and the minor has no rights which can be personally pleaded in any court against another citizen. Is it not, therefore, a matter of noblesse oblige that as the State disregards him as a suitor, the State should exercise a special care over his interests when he is the object of a criminal charge? Especially, perhaps, must this be so, in a country in which fair play is a criterion of justice, in cases where the young offender has been denied or bereft of the ordinary influence of a good home. If he stands at the bar, homeless and untutored, ill-nourished and ill-taught, an English lad with a heritage of poverty and neglect, the State must needs assume an attitude that is not grandmotherly, but at least paternal. How does this new policy of taking the finger prints of young offenders fit in with the wise words of the Lord Chief Justice? I hope that we shall not be stampeded into an unwise step like that, in regard to which, with great respect, I say that the Home Secretary is mistaken, because of the idea that juvenile delinquency is increasing. There is substantially less juvenile delinquency now than there was before the War. In the year 1934 nearly 50 percent of the offences with which juveniles were charged were of a most paltry character. Yet it is on the strength of those paltry offences that we are told that juveniles in this country are developing a criminal spirit and increasing in numbers. In 1934 nearly 50 per cent. of the offences with which juveniles were charged related to riding bicycles, playing games in the street, causing obstruction or behaving in a disorderly way in the street, picking flowers, entering places in a boyish spirt of adventure. To suggest that juvenile delinquency is increasing to such an extent that strong and drastic measures must be introduced to deal with it strikes one as absurd. The chief cause of the vast bulk of juvenile delinquency—of course, there are many causes—is unemployment. The figures of juvenile crime and unemployment go up and down together; as employment increases juvenile delinquency declines. It was only to express my deep regret that this step should have been taken by the Home Secretary and to express the hope that he will reconsider it that I have ventured to trouble the House this afternoon.

5.20 p.m.


So many speakers have emphasised the need for paying special regard to the position of juveniles that I hope the Home Secretary will pay particular attention to the rather regrettable totals which appears on page 7 of the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories in regard to the excess of accidents among young persons compared with accidents among adults. I hope that in framing the Bill which is to come forward he will pay particular attention to the words of the report on page 23, where reference is made to the practice which has been carried out in one or two factories of taking juvenile entrants into the factory on a tour of inspection of the factory and pointing out to them the dangers that may arise in one way or another. I cannot see how that system could very easily be made compulsory and universal, but I hope that the possibility of so making it will secure the careful thought of the Home Secretary and the officials of his Department before the Bill is brought before us.

I do most heartily support the appeal that has been made for a fuller and larger inspectorate. The way that long hours beyond the legal maximum are worked is not only unfair to the particular workmen concerned but to those who are unemployed, because it means that when certain men work excessive hours somebody who is out of work is being deprived of a chance of being put into work. I share the alarm that has been expressed by hon. Members above the Gangway at some of the things that are taking place under the Workmen's Compensation Act. Neither I nor my hon. and right hon. Friends who sit on this bench were able to support a Bill on this matter which was brought forward by hon. Members above the Gangway earlier this Session, but we do not want it to be thought that we do not share their feelings over the undue proportion of contributions paid by insurers compared with the amounts paid out for injury compensation. We feel that workmen's compensation is, or ought to be, a monopoly service. Everybody concerned insures, just as everybody writes and receives letters. There is no room for the agents of different insurance companies to be competing against each other, earning commissions but rendering no substantial service to the community. We hope that this matter will receive the careful attention of the Government.

There is one point to which I should like to refer in regard to contributory negligence as a defence for an employer who is charged with a breach of statutory duty, as a result of which an accident has occurred. I came across one case in which a boy was working on a machine which had an inadequate guard in front of the cutting edge. The machine was worked by two operators, one of whom was a woman. The boy had to feed the material into the cutting edge. The woman who was working the machine is said to have called "Look out" as she started the machine, and the boy heard and paid no attention. As a result, some of his fingers were cut off. In that case I think the jury disagreed as to whether the boy had been guilty of contributory negligence in ignoring the cry "Look out," and that that was a defence for the employer who was charged with a breach of statutory duty. I believe that in the case of juveniles there is much to be said for considering whether contributory negligence should be any longer a defence in cases where a breach of statutory duty has occurred and an accident has been brought about.

I should like to refer to the question of air raids, which was raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), before I raise a separate point of my own. I would ask the Government to take the people into their confidence on the subject of air raids. We hear statements about the effects of air raids and some of them are contradictory. We know that there are three possible methods of defence, (1) counter attack; (2) to bring down the aeroplanes before they arrive—both those are outside the control of the Home Secretary; and (3), to minimise the damage when damage is done. The public are entitled to know what chances there are of minimising the damage. Some people, authoritative experts, have made statements which would incline us to believe that if a mere 20 bombers were to appear over London they could, with a large number of light bombs, fill two square miles of London with such a concentration of poison gases that no one without a respirator would have a chance of surviving. We are told that from St. Paul's to the Natural History Museum and somewhere else in the south of London everybody would be wiped out unless they had gas masks. Other people of equal authority assure us that gas is a peculiar thing, and that there would need to be a very high concentration of gas before any effect could be made upon human life. They say that the gas bombs would explode in the air, that the gases would hang about and would not spread much, and that even if a large fleet of bombers came over the bombs which they could carry, which are very heavy, would be limited and would not contain much gas, and that even if 200 bombers came over life would not become impossible.

Between those two extremes many people are living in a nightmare of uncertainty. The Government must know, or they must have a pretty shrewd idea, where the truth lies, and the people are entitled to be told. No damage would be done by disclosing the truth. Other Governments must know just the same thing. It would do good if some Government would openly declare what the damage and effect of a first-class air raid would be. We want to know—assuming an air raid can produce over wide urban areas concentrations of gas which would be fatal to those without gas masks—whether the gas masks that are being produced are really going to safeguard the public not only against some of the gases but against all the gases which are likely to be rained down on the civil population in time of war. If the gas masks are ineffective, then it is a piece of deception to have them manufactured. If they are really effective, is it too much to ask that at the next Hendon air display the Government should erect a little village, with the aid of the gentlemen at Elstree who know how to run up villages quickly, and that they should have such a village bombed with gas bombs. Let those gas bombs be prepared by some wholly independent scientist. I do not suggest that Ministers should be in the village at the time of the bombardment, but will they wear these gas masks and walk in immediately the bombardment is over, or get someone to do it on their behalf? Are these gas masks proof against gases which act not merely upon the lungs but upon the clothing and skin of people? Those are points on which the Government ought to let the people of the country into their confidence. If they can give us reassuring information, so much the better; if they cannot then let us know the worst. Nothing could be worse than the nightmare of uncertainty as to the effect of gases under which we are suffering at the present time.

May I now turn to a point which has not been raised in debate but which is covered by the Home Secretary's Department? The right hon. Gentleman will have received in the last few days the report of the unofficial Committee on Civil Liberties as to certain disturbances which occurred in Thurloe Square on 22nd March. I put down a question for to-day, which accidentally was not marked as a starred, in which I asked whether an official inquiry would be held. I understand that the answer which will be sent to me is that owing to the fact that the report has only been received very recently, no statement could be made to-day. I do not complain of that answer in any way. I appreciate the fact that a report of very considerable size has been submitted to the Home Secretary and that it would be wholly unreasonable to expect him to have formed a conclusion upon that report so soon, especially towards the end of the Session, but I ask the Home Secretary when he considers this matter to be very slow to refuse a public inquiry. If he has any doubt whatever whether a public inquiry would be proper, I ask him to give the benefit of the doubt to the holding of an inquiry. Earlier in the year the Government were faced with a very distressing situation in which an inquiry and report were called for, and although, I suppose, there is no hon. Member who would not have wished that the report had been other than it was, the result of the inquiry was undoubtedly to strengthen the prestige of the Government and, more important, to strengthen the prestige of democratic government.

In this matter of police activities in Thurloe Square there is a widespread feeling of uneasiness among ordinary men and women that something is wrong, and it covers not only this particular instance but other instances of the exercise of the powers of the police. It is true that a feeling of uneasiness may have been created by the Press and inaccurate reports of what occurred, but here the right hon. Gentleman has a report of four men and one lady, whose bona fides, impartiality and qualifications cannot for a moment be doubted, and they have come to a conclusion wholly different from the statement which must have been supplied to the Home Secretary on which he made his statement in the House on 25th March last. If the conclusions of this commission are correct, then in the public interest there ought to be a report so that the proper people may be dealt with. If the conclusions of this commission are incorrect, then equally there ought to be a public inquiry, because it is not good enough that the Home Secretary should satisfy himself that nothing improper has been done. The important thing is that public confidence in the police should be restored and satisfied by a proper inquiry that nothing wrong has occurred. When the report can be considered I hope the Home Secretary will decide, if he possibly can, that a public inquiry into these matters shall be held.

5.34 p.m.


For the few moments that I propose to speak I want to confine my remarks to the question of the long hours worked by juveniles and to the overtime worked in some industries. The report of the Chief Inspector, although informative and transcendently honest, not seeking to hide anything, is none the less very perturbing. It is perturbing to read of the extremely long hours which are being permitted by the Government to be worked in so widespread a fashion throughout the country. One of the disturbing characteristics of the report is that it does not record casual cases or even a small number of cases in the way of exceptions in certain areas but conveys a picture that these long hours are widespread and relate not to a few thousands of persons but to tens of thousands of persons in various trades. Another disturbing feature is that these long hours are not, as it were, for a temporary period, a transitory period of heavy work, but that they are tending to become stabilised, and carry us back to pre-war days before public opinion in the country had awakened to the necessity for shortening the hours of labour. For instance, on page 64 the report, dealing with chocolate and electrical engineering factories, says: In the polishing, plating and light metal trades a 55 hour week is usual. … There is a great demand for inexpensive electrical fittings and fancy goods, and the trade has become a practically continuous one, men working day and night shifts on the moulding presses, being supplemented by women who work a 12 hour day on polishing and finishing. One firm with 200 workers has been employing protected persons, including girls of 14 or 15, for the last three years from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. according to pressure. That is the aspect to which I want to call the attention of the Government. It is not the case of working these long hours for a month or two. It is continuous. That is not only deplorable but it is entirely out of consonance with the general opinion of the country. From the point of view of the physical well-being of the workers, the amenities of life, from the point of view of diminishing unemployment, it is most desirable that the hours of labour be reduced. That has been the trend, the accepted trend, not only in this country but countries abroad, and yet we have the fact that for three years there are industries which have been working young persons 12 hours a day, 60 hours a week. This is a matter with which the Government must deal, and I want to get to-day a definite statement from the Home Secretary as to what the Government are going to do in the matter. Are they going to acquiesce in a continuance of these long hours, or are they going to take definite steps to deal with it? We have to consider the fact that not only are these long hours becoming, in certain industries, the accepted normal conditions, but we have to consider their effect upon the workers. This is what the report says: A distressing fact about these long hours in the Midlands is that they are generally worked by the least physically fit portion of the industrial population. … In a large town in the Eastern Counties the full legal period was worked for months at a time in large works engaged in electrical engineering garment making and the silk industry. Definite complaints of fatigue were made by workers in all these factories. There we have evidence of the detrimental effect of long hours on the workers, apart altogether from the unnecessary violation of public opinion that long hours in themselves ought not to be accepted as a permanent system. One often hears from employers when attention is called to abnormally long hours, that they are necessary because of the exigencies of the particular industry, that they are required for a rush period and that it is not practicable to enlarge the factory buildings and take on more men. I want to answer that argument from the report itself. It says: The necessity for such hours appear to be doubtful, and the persons responsible for them seem to ignore the results of modern research and even the experience of the largest and most prosperous firms in the same area. … An interesting contrast is afforded by two large clothing firms. One has been consistently rushed during the whole year, but has refused to increase hours beyond 48 and generally works 45. The other has worked the full legal period most of the year, and all permissible overtime. There you have two firms, one of which gets along perfectly well working the normal hours. There is also the point as to the economic value of long hours. The report again is very definite on this matter. It says: Interesting results of a reduction in hours for men are reported from a hosiery factory. The system of employment has been changed from two eleven-hour shifts to three of eight hours. The extra men required for this, about 60, have been drawn from other hosiery areas. As a result of the re-arrangement, there has been an approximate increase of 25 per cent. in production. The earnings of individual men have dropped by about 20 per cent. (although a slight adjustment of rates was made in their favour), but as their earnings are still good the changeover is said to be popular. There is evidence of economies resulting from reductions in hours of work, there is a saving of the physical wear and tear of the individual, and there is advantage to all concerned. In view of those facts, I think the Home Secretary and the Government should make up their minds to deal with the question of excessive hours of labour. I do not see how anybody can in decency tolerate those long hours, particularly for young people. I suggest that the time has come when the Home Secretary and the Government should deal with this matter in a definite and legislative way.


Do I understand that the hon. Member is recommending that the Government should legislate for shorter hours even if it means decreased wages?


I am prepared to leave that to the working class to look after. I see no reason why shorter hours should involve lower wages. I can speak personally on this matter, because I was engaged in an industry in which we were working before the War the usual 54 hours a week. Since 1918 we have been working 48 hours a week, and in some factories 46 hours a week, but we are now paid double the wages that were paid before the War. Proportionately the wages are far higher than they were at the time when the working week was six or seven hours longer.


I am not arguing the point. The hon. Member gave an example showing, unfortunately—I am not supporting it in any way—that the result of the decrease in hours was a reduction in wages. I wanted to know whether he is in favour of a reduction in hours even if it means a reduction in wages.


The example I gave was under a three-shifts system. As a matter of fact, as is pointed out in the report, the wages were not decreased proportionately to the decrease in hours. There was a decrease of 33 per cent. in the working day, but the decrease in wages was 20 per cent. The important thing is that 60 more people were employed. I would like to conclude by referring to the question of legislation, and I would urge—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)

I would remind the hon. Member that the subject of legislation is not really in order, but as the Home Secretary announced his intention of bringing in a Factories Bill, it is in order to consider what should be put into it. The hon. Member must not, however, discuss legislation itself.


I am obliged to you for your Ruling. I wish to ask the Under-Secretary to do two things in any contemplated legislation. I would ask him, in the first place, to do something definite to restrict the present possibilities of extended overtime, and secondly, to consider the question of including in future legislation provisions for shorter working hours for all classes of workers, particularly young people. I would remind the Home Secretary that in the sister country of Ireland, an Act of Parliament came into operation in February of this year under which no young person under 18 years of age can be employed for more than 40 hours a week. Yet in this report, there are examples where, in great areas in the Midlands, young persons are working 56 and 60 hours a week.


They come from Ireland to do it.


It is not only recently that they have come; they were there 40 years ago; and they would be very glad to have a shorter working day with decent wages. Moreover, I hope the Home Secretary will realise that in this matter we are in this country falling behind other countries. We used to be in the van of progress, but at the present time at least eight or nine European countries have established by law the 40 hours working week for all classes of workers. We are standing still. I would urge the Home Secretary, in the Bill which he contemplates, to deal definitely with this matter, to make this excessive overtime impossible and to limit the hours of work for young persons.

5.51 p.m.


I wish to bring to the attention of the Home Secretary the position of the workers in the cinema industry, which is becoming a very important industry in this country. In the United States, the cinema industry is the fifth largest industry in the country, and we who are working for the benefit of that industry in this country believe that it will in future play a very important part in providing employment for all classes of workers in many trades. I am taking this opportunity of asking the Home Secretary whether, in his proposed Bill, he will make adequate provision for the employés in that industry to receive compensation when they are injured through no fault of their own. At the moment I do not know whether film studios come within the provisions of the Factories Act. There are portions of the studios in which every sort of trade is carried on. Then there is the studio proper, where the pictures are made. On the floor of a large studio there may be found every day hundreds of men and women who are employed as film extras. They are paid one guinea a day.

The position is that if these film extras are injured on the floor of the studio, they have no way of obtaining either workmen's compensation—because they do not come under the Workmen's Compensation Acts—or compensation under the Employers' Liability Acts, unless they can prove negligence on the part of their employers. During the past few years many accidents have taken place. In one film artiste, dressed as an Ancient Briton and wearing Hessian shoes, her costume being made of inflammable stuff, was standing on grass which caught fire; the Hessian shoes were ignited and in a few minutes her dress was on fire. She and four other people were injured. The hospital expenses amounted to £148, but when she applied for hospital expenses and compensation, she was told to refer to the insurance companies.

I would like here to say a few words regarding the insurance companies. If a highly-paid artiste, receiving, say, from £6,000 to £20,000 for six weeks' work, is injured, he or she is covered, because the film companies are insured against any possibility of that artiste not working. If such artistes have a sore throat and cannot work, the insurance has to be paid; if they strain their voice or sprain their ankles, the insurance company pays. It is to the material interest of the companies that those contingencies should be insured against; but in the case of poorly-paid artistes or casual workers, it is not to the interest of the studio proprietors to insure against loss or accident, because they are shielded by the lack of legislation at the present time. Not long ago one of those artistes arrived at the studio one morning and was told to get on a horse; the horse bounded away, the artiste fell off and was killed. There was no compensation. If a spanner falls from one of the galleries and hits an artiste on the head, and he is injured and becomes unemployed, there is no compensation. Sometimes the blinding lights of the studio affect the eyes of these people, and they are laid off for days—again there is no compensation.

In view of the rapidly-growing importance of this industry, I ask the Home Secretary whether he cannot see his way to bring film artistes within the scope of the Bill? I am asking him because—strange as it may seem—I happen to be the President of the trade union concerned, the Film Artistes' Association, and it is their claim that I am bringing to the attention of the Home Secretary. There are thousands of these people at work, and in coming years we hope that there will be thousands more at work. Therefore, I hope that when he is framing regulations concerning workers in other industries, the right hon. Gentleman will include the film artistes. I would also like to call his attention to another section of this industry, and that is the girls who are employed in the cinemas. In many cases they are overworked and badly paid; they work tremendously long hours in order to give pleasure to the patrons of cinemas; they are working hours that are not decent and under conditions that in my opinion, are slave conditions. I ask the Home Secretary whether he will bring these girls within the scope of the Bill which will shortly, I hope, be brought before the House.

6.0 p.m.


Appreciating as I do the opportunity of participating in this important Debate, I wish to associate myself with the speeches which we have just heard, and in particular with that of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) in which he properly raised the point that instructions have evidently been given for the taking of the fingerprints of juvenile delinquents. That is a most important question, and I would like to know from the Minister what justification, if any, exists for such a course. I ask him whether he is not prepared to admit that, in the treatment of juvenile delinquents, it is important to have regard to the psychological point of view. I have no hesitation in saying that the hon. Member for Lichfield was justified in his statement that boys whose finger-prints have been taken become more or less "little tin gods" afterwards among their fellows. As a member of the legal profession I was asked some years ago to defend certain juveniles in connection with a series of burglaries. I asked one of those boys with whom I was particularly impressed where he had gleaned all the information on these matters which he seemed to possess. He told me that a short time previously he had been sent to a Borstal institution where he had mixed with hardened criminals and while there had learned how to make a skeleton key, how to slip the catch of a window, and how to blow a safe. I trust that as a result of the complaint made by the hon. Member for Lichfield, appropriate steps will immediately be taken in this matter.

My chief purpose to-day, however, is to bring to the attention of the Minister certain complaints which I have to make regarding the application of the Workmen's Compensation Acts. The hon. Member who opened the Debate very properly called the attention of the House and the Minister to page 7 of the Command Paper on this subject where we find the following passage: It appears from the returns furnished to the Board of Trade that the income of the companies from premiums for the year 1934 in connection with employers liability insurance in Great Britain and Northern Ireland and after making the necessary adjustment in respect of unexpired risks, was £4,807,645. Of this sum, £3,065,348 or 63.76 per cent. was expended in payment of compensation, including legal and medical expenses incurred in connection with the settlement of claims. Is it fair or proper that we should be faced with a blunt statement to the effect that the expenditure on compensation was so much, but that that sum included costs in respect of legal and medical expenses? It is of moment that we should have some specific information from the Minister, if he is able to furnish it, as to the amount of these legal and medical expenses. I have endeavoured, as best I could, to analyse for myself the position as regards expenses. On page 28 of the report I find that the number of applications for arbitration in 1934 was 5,948, the number of memoranda reported 23,561 and the number of appeals to the Court of Session in Scotland and the Appeal Court in England 73. As the result of a more-or-less rough calculation, I arrived at an approximate figure of £700,000 in respect of medical and legal expenses. Is there the slightest justification for that expenditure or, to put it in another way, is there any method whereby that expenditure could be avoided? Hon. Members opposite must admit that there is ground for the submission which hon. Members on this side make, that, if ever you had an irrefutable argument in favour of the Government taking over completely the operation of workmen's compensation, there you have it.

I pass from that subject to deal with the question of medical referees. In this connection I refer hon. Members to page 15 of the Command Paper from which we find that the duties of medical referees include the duty of giving a certificate as to the condition of the workman, his fitness for employment, and as to whether or to what extent his incapacity is due to the accident. That should make the duties and responsibilities of the medical referee abundantly clear and restrict the scope of his investigations to exclusively medical facts, but what do we find? We find that practice has run roughshod over the Act of Parliament as regards the scope of the medical referee's duties. At present, to a large extent, the duties of arbitrator or judge in the first instance have automatically devolved upon the medical referee. For many years it has been well-recognised in workmen's compensation law, when one is dealing with the matter of treatment in a compensation case where the question of reasonability on the part of the workman arises acutely, that that is a question of fact for determination by the judge. What do we find now? I have here a case which illustrates my argument and I hope the Under-Secretary will reply on this point. I have here a medical report by a medical referee dated 16th April, 1936, as follows: The condition of the said — is as follows. He still complains of pain and stiffness in his hack. He is wearing a brace and still is just as stiff as at the time of the last examination. I have had his spine X-rayed. I do not consider that he is fit for light work yet. I consider that he has prolonged his disability by the continued use of the brace. This is the point to which I take exception: Incapacity is due in the first place to the accident, and in the second place to lack of using his, back sufficiently, while persisting in wearing the brace. I would put this case in the ratio of 65 per cent. accident, and 35 per cent. lack of use. Here is a case in which the medical referee has been permitted by the law to deal with the question of treatment, a question which at all times has been recognised as being within the jurisdiction of the judge. In this case the man was acting upon the advice of his own medical adviser who told him definitely that in no circumstances was he to dispense with the use of the spinal brace. Yet when this poor man goes before the medical referee, the advice of his own doctor is jettisoned and the result is that the man's compensation has been assessed on the basis that his incapacity is due, 65 per cent. to accident, and 35 per cent. to lack of use. I understand from replies given by the Minister to various questions put by me that inquiries are proceeding with regard to medical referees and that as a result of those inquiries, on cause shown, appropriate steps may be taken.

I wish to make it clear that from my own personal experience I am completely opposed to applications to one medical referee only under any Act of Parliament. I am not vindictive in this matter and I am not casting aspersions of any kind on medical referees—but perhaps innocently and unwittingly, though unfortunately—medical referees who are employed repeatedly by insurance companies and employers obtain the employer's complex and the employer's point of view, with the result that when a case comes before them in which there is any doubt, the poor workman does not get the benefit of the doubt. I have fortified myself with particulars of another case as justification for my contention that it is improper, not only from the point of view of the workman but from the point of view of the employer, that a case should be definitely decided upon the opinion of one medical man. I have here a judgment dated 3rd July, 1966. The medical referee in that case is a man in the City of Edinburgh who repeatedly examines workmen on behalf of employers and on behalf of insurance companies. This is his finding: The condition of the said John White is as follows: His general condition is good. He has sustained crushing to his back and his condition is such that he is unfit for his former employment but he is fit for light work. Against that finding there was produced a certificate of 18th June by the man's own medical adviser, who is himself a medical referee for Linlithgowshire and who certified that the man was completely disabled for any type of employment. In these cases we are not "havering." We are putting definite facts before the Minister for his consideration. I trust the Minister will pay heed to these facts and act accordingly.

I wish to refer to one more matter, and it concerns the question of miners' nystagmus. I see from the Command Paper that the number of cases certified in 1934 was 1,815. What is this disease? Medical men have differences of opinion with regard to how it is caused, but all ophthalmic specialists are agreed that if you do at any time contract the disease, although at some time in future you may recover and be permitted to resume ordinary work, you still retain in your physical make-up the susceptibility to another attack. These facts brook no contradiction. I advised the Under-Secretary of State last evening that I intended to raise this matter. Section 43 (1) of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925, states: If it is proved that the workman has at the time of entering the employment wilfully and falsely represented himself in writing as not having previously suffered from the disease, compensation shall not be payable. That is legal phraseology, but in actual practice it works out like this: A man is certified as suffering from miners' nystagmus, and he gets on to compensation. Ultimately the time arrives when he is certified as fit for his ordinary work, and a curious feature of all these certifications is that this is the phrase that is used: I hereby certify that he is apparently healthy and fit for his ordinary work. The man does not get compensation after that, but what happens? I trust that action will follow as a result of what I am now stating. Under the Section which I have quoted the workman goes to his old employer, who says, "There are two alternatives. First, have you ever had the disease? The man replies, "No, I have never had it." That is a lie, of course. A white paper is put before the man under this Section, and he has to sign it, and then, if he again contracts another attack of the disease, he is not entitled to receive compensation, because he has wilfully and falsely represented that at no time in the past has he suffered from the disease. His other alternative is to tell the truth, the truth being that he has suffered from the disease, and the result of that is, as every one of us knows in practice, that the man is thrown completely upon the labour market and branded for the future as a man who has previously suffered from this industrial disease, and that no employment follows. I am satisfied that the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State will agree with me that these are circumstances which should not be permitted to exist, and I trust that, as a result of my having brought this very important matter to the attention of the Department, fruitful results will follow.

6.19 p.m.


There are very many on this side of the House who cordially sympathise and agree with what has just fallen from the lips of the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells). Many of us have had experience of the work of medical referees, often with admiration, but sometimes with critical feelings, and I think we are nearly all agreed that a change must come, but, as we know, the matter is now under investigation by a Home Office committee, and I do not think I need say more than that. Nor are many of us satisfied with the working of workmen's compensation, but that also is under close examination in certain of its aspects by a Home Office committee, and I do not propose to go into it further, except to say that if it is to be in future a proper subject for private profit and enterprise, which I do not admit, it requires a very close overhaul to be brought into touch with modern conditions.

I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire in his suggestion that finger prints are psychologically an error. That question is as broad as it is long, and I am inclined to think that the Home Office decision to take the finger prints of these young criminals is, on balance, a good decision. I do not pretend to have the hon. Member's expert and intimate knowledge, gained from his professional experience, but I have had some experience, as a result of which I approve and support the practice, and I hope the Home Secretary will not give way. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) spoke at considerable length on the subject of long hours for juveniles. The real remedy is to some extent in the hands of the trade unions throughout the country. The proper remedy for long hours is double shifts or sometimes three shifts, and wherever there is opposition to the double-shift system, it makes overtime correspondingly more probable. Whenever there is a demand for unreasonably high wages for a night shift, it makes again for overtime on the two shifts. Let us accept double-shift working as being the necessary concomitant of prosperity and three-shift working as being the necessary consequence of pressure, and I think we shall, find that there will be less overtime worked. None of us wants overtime, but the only answer to it—because one cannot always or often enlarge a building, unless one is assured of a long-term demand—is two or three shifts.

I was delighted to hear of the new Factory Bill, and I hope that the suggestion that the cinematograph industry in some of its aspects will be included in it will receive careful consideration. As Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Board of Trade on the cinematograph industry, I am fully aware of its great importance and of the growing number of persons who are professionally and industrially occupied in it. It is not an industry which can be left unregulated, and I cannot imagine that there would be any material opposition to inclusion from the industry itself. Indeed, it might help to stabilise conditions in the industry for it to be assimilated as closely as possible to other industries in relation to compensation and the like.

Accidents are increasing, particularly in the early years of life, and I suggest that what we really want is a steady course of Home Office education, propaganda, and advertisement covering every branch of education, in order to make the younger, junior population of the country in every walk of life aware of the danger of accidents and of how to avoid them. When I was in Germany a few years ago, visiting a whole series of elementary and technical schools, I was surprised and delighted at the variety of posters, suited to every age and dealing with accidents of all sorts, which were to be found in almost every corridor and every classroom. In one of the technical schools I found an admirable series of well-designed posters explaining the precise nature of a whole series of industrial accidents and how to avoid them, and it was made a point of honour with the undergraduates in the universities on the technical side that they should be thoroughly aware of the nature of accidents that might occur to men employed under them and how to stop them.

It was not an expensive business. The posters were admirably designed, and the lectures were equally clear. They dealt, not only with accidents in factories, but also with accidents in the streets and on the highways. The Minister of Transport has had the intelligence to get facilities for demonstrations in schools in regard to traffic accidents, and I submit that, particularly in urban areas, the Home Office should have the same facilities for teaching those who are about to enter into industry, in the last six months or year of their course, how to avoid accidents and take care. It would go a long way. There are other factors, such as lighting and the like, which are to some extent under the control of the Factory Acts, but the Home Office, with its vast responsibilities, which are far wider than most people are aware, should be able to follow the Ministry of Transport, the Board of Education, and the B.B.C. in this matter in the way of securing greater facilities for driving the lessons, which the Chief Inspector of Factories indicates quite clearly in his reports, home to the population mainly concerned.

I should like to see the rural areas in the last six or 12 months lectured and postered and given the opportunity to see a tractor at work and where the danger lies, and to see a thresher at work and where the danger lies. Every year there are 40 or 50 men maimed for life, generally young men, by getting an arm or a leg caught in a thresher. It is invariably due to carelessness, but it is no reply to say that it was carelessness on their part unless we have done our best, in the schools and elsewhere, to make them aware of the danger and to see that the thresher or other machine carries a notice, advertisement, or warning so as to make these people, so far as possible, more careful.

I turn now to another aspect of the propaganda department which I should like to see the Home Office possess. They have a really fine system of approved schools, which are doing splendid work. There is no department of education in this country, I believe, which is doing better or which has more reason to be proud, and yet, if I go to the Library in the House of Commons and ask for the last report on Home Office schools, or what is the latest development in that connection, I shall be told by the Librarian, with a puzzled air, that he thinks there was a report in 1926 or 1927 but that there has been nothing since. The last report was an admirable document. It was the sort of thing that any magistrate could put into the hands of any parent and say, "This is the place where your child is going, and this is the sort of education we seek to give your child. Do not be afraid, and do not resent having to pay 10s. a week for the child when he goes there, because he will be getting an education worth four times as much as that."

There is no attempt being made at present by an overworked Home Office to produce booklets of that sort, and yet I believe not only that they would be welcomed, but that the Department might even make money by selling them. The Home Office is one great Department of the State which does not issue an annual report. It issues 60 or 70 reports instead, covering many branches of its numerous activities. I suggest that the Home Office might voluntarily, without a formal Resolution of Parliament, give us an annual report showing what it is doing and thus get some of the credit which so easily accrues to the Ministry of Health and other Ministries and to the British Broadcasting Corporation when their reports are published and a grateful Press gives them three or four columns. We have an admirable report from the Chief Inspector of Factories and an equally informing report on how many aliens we have or have not admitted, and things of that sort, but what really matter for the people of this country are reports on such things as our approved schools. We know nothing of them, and there is no statutory obligation on the Home Office in the matter, so that they do nothing.

I mentioned last year the question of lift accidents, and I venture to mention it again in the hope that when the Factory Bill takes shape there will be some provisions in it to include hotels and the like, in which there is a considerable number of employés, genuinely and completely within the scope of the Factory Acts. In the last 10 years the number of persons employed in this occupation has increased by about 50 per cent. It is now one of the great industries of the country, and labour conditions in hotels are often far worse than would be tolerated in any factory. Lift accidents are increasing. They are often allowed to be worked by mere children and the accidents to these children are distressingly large. At Question Time to-day I drew the attention of the Home Office to two cases which are now the subject of inquiry. The Home Office has no power, I understand, to make a formal inquiry.

Lifts, as a general rule, are not within the scope of the Factory Acts, and the Home Office or the county council have no status or power to make special regulations. It is left to the coroners who are, as the Home Secretary knows, and as was proved by the recent committee, an exceedingly intelligent body of men concerned mainly to find out the cause of death, but entirely unfitted to deal with the question whether an accident could have been avoided by better mechanical appliances. I have seen a sufficient number of these distressing cases, with which I am personally familiar, to feel that we should have an inquiry into every lift accident by an expert. Whenever a passenger is killed on the railway there is a public inquiry, and one of the consequences is that accidents on railways are very rare. We should save money and life if we had an ad hoc inquiry into each case. I am sure that the insurance companies are doing their best, and I do not doubt that the lift companies, who have made great strides in recent years, are doing their best, too, I feel sure, however, that an ad hoc report for a year or two on every accident would soon enable us to make provision which will save a loss of life which, while it has never been accurately known, must run to 200 or 300 deaths a year.

There was a reference by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. R. Acland) to the failure of the Home Office to carry on propaganda about gas and to show how efficient it was in handling gas. I cannot possibly support the suggestion that Hendon should be turned into a miniature mausoleum on which gas bombs could be rained. I know enough about the subject to ask hon. Members to believe that the Departments of the Government are not lacking in energy, skill or devotion to duty in this matter, and that the amount of research into practical businesslike methods of prevention which are now being elaborated would do credit to any country and are a credit to this. I have no reason whatever to think that the Air Raid Precaution Department of the Home Office is not fully alive to every aspect of the question. If the public will buy and read the Home Office pamphlets, which I fear is most improbable, and attend the Home Office course of lectures, which are arranged, to the best of my knowledge, in every county and in almost every village, which is even more improbable—though all my household have attended these lectures—they would get a course of instruction which not only would be exceedingly useful in an emergency, but would greatly reassure them. The system is good; what we want to do is to get people to attend. I am by no means sure that some local authorities have not done an ill-service to their constituents by discouraging them attending the really admirable course of lectures which have been devised by a department of the Home Office which, although new, is second to none in the Home Office in efficiency.

6.36 p.m.


I would call the attention of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) to the figures in regard to juvenile crime. I asked in the House not long ago for the figures of juvenile criminals between 14 and 16. In 1933 they were 4,000, and in 1934 6,000. The figures for 1935 were not available, but they were estimated to reach the alarming total of 8,000, or an increase of 100 per cent. on 1933. I also asked how-many of these juvenile criminals were remaining at school. The answer was that practically none were at school. That, in my opinion, is an argument for continuation schools for boys and girls instead of turning them loose on the streets. The proper remedy for juvenile crime is further and continued education. We have in this report the hours worked by juveniles when they reach adolescence, that age of life when they are unfolding and when their characters are being formed, the age which is the most important period of their lives. When we look at that report and find that they work a monstrous number of hours, can we wonder that the future of these adolescents is very precarious?

I was a schoolmaster, and as this is the day before the holidays I do not propose to go into a long argument on the question of which I want to speak mostly, that of silicosis. If I had my class of boys here—perhaps I have—I should tell them that this disease belongs to the pneumonokoniosis class and that it has three forms—anthracosis, silicosis and siderosis. I see that some hon. Members are looking rather aghast, so I will not pursue that explanation much further. The disease is caused by the inhalation of dust particles. These small fragments of dust set up by irritation what is called a sclerosis, or hardening. This hardening of the lungs causes very weak breathing and a tremendous cough. When the stethoscope is applied to the chest a crackling is heard of the dried up lungs formed by the silicosis. The irritation not only sets up silicosis, but it predisposes to tuberculosis. I have that information on the advice of a friend in the North of England who is a specialist in tuberculosis and the head of a large sanatorium. During the week-end he was kind enough to lend me some pictures. Hon. Members visit the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery to enjoy the pictures there. My friend lent me a book, entitled "Radiography of the Chest," by Walter Overend, M.A., M.D. of Oxford, who is a famous radiologist. On the title page of the book Walter Overend put a quotation from Hamlet: You go not, till I set you up a glass Where you may see the inmost part of you. Such is the advance of science and knowledge that man can now see the inmost part of himself. I spent part of my weekend, not in the Tate Gallery or in the National Gallery, but in the gruesome gallery of plates in this book showing what the chests of sufferers from Silicosis are like. The Home Office, which is always alert, I hope, to recommendations from both sides of the House as to the prevention of this great disease, will take notice that the experts recommend five different points in prevention. They are: gratings with air drafts, which will blow away the dust so that it will not enter the lung of the worker; wet methods by spraying, which is used largely in America; screens interposed between the worker and the rock; respirators; and washing of hands before meals are taken.

That general preamble leads me to a specific case which I want to mention. It is that of a man working in a sandstone quarry for the Durham County Water Board. I have had some communications with the right hon. Gentleman on the matter. I pay my tribute to that board for taking up the case of this workman and trying to get him some compensation. The board insured the man with Lloyd's, who covered the workman in respect of silicosis. The employers were compelled to transfer their insurance to the Sandstone Industry Compensation Fund. This man had to be examined by the Silicosis Medical Board and he was allowed to enter the sandstone quarry, which he did in June, 1932. All the dues were paid by the employers. The man ceased work in February, 1935, suffering from silicosis accompanied by tuberculosis. He was examined again by the board and certified, but no compensation was payable to him out of the Silicosis Compensation Fund because the board said in their medical report that he had not been long enough working at the sandstone quarry to have contracted the disease. There is some doubt as to the length of time taken for silicosis to contract. It is well known that it is latent for a time and does not show itself. I will quote an acknowledged authority in the medical world, Sir William Osier, who is Regius Professor of Medicine in Oxford University, Professor of John Hopkins University, Baltimore, and of McGill University, Montreal. On page 651 of "The Principles and Practice of Medicine," he says: Severe exposure to silica dust may cripple the worker in from two to eight years. The man of whom I am speaking worked for two years and eight months at the sandstone quarry, and it was possible for him to have contracted silicosis. He would have been covered if the employers had been allowed to carry on their insurance at Lloyd's, and he would now have been receiving some compensation. That man now is hardly walking about, and he has only 7s. 6d. a week health insurance. He is one of those sturdy, independent type of dalesmen, one of the old yeomen of the country, who will not bend and ask for public assistance because he believes that he has been unjustifiably robbed. Many years are required for the formation of fossils. In the district where I live you find those fossils in the carboniferous limestone quarries. There are walking about in my own dale men who have been working at the quarries who are really living examples of the first stages of the fossilization of human beings, their lungs hardened like concrete. They live thus for a few miserable years, and finally pass out.

Can nothing be done, not only for this man I have mentioned, but for others who may be suffering? There are gaps in our compensation law, and with that specific case in mind I want the Home Office to try to get those gaps closed. I appeal not only for that man but for thousands more who are suffering, and will suffer in the future. If those gaps are not closed they will go under without compensation, martyrs who might have had the last few years of their life cheered if compensation had been forthcoming. Having made my little contribution to this Debate I shall go on my holiday feeling that I have done something, even if I have urged the claims of only one man. I earnestly ask the Home Office to take the matter into consideration and consolidate all the Workmen's Compensation Acts, so that in future men will not be allowed to suffer without recompense.

6.46 p.m.


A number of questions have been put to the Home Office during this Debate and we are hoping for an answer, and I do not wish to endorse the view of the hon. Member who made an observation to the effect that it was as though we were in a gas attack and had masks on to see how they worked, because that would imply that if they were ineffective we should suffer the loss of both the Home Secretary and his assistant. I wish to bring forward several matters which I should like the Home Office to rectify so far as it is in their power to do so. After all, the Home Office have to carry on what may be termed ambulance work. We cannot alter the existing legislation at this juncture, but the matters I wish to bring to the attention of the Home Office can be dealt with within their present powers. An hon. Friend sitting below me has already raised the question of medical referees, and I want the Home Office to take note of the feeling there is in regard to the present position. There is much dissatisfaction over the fact that there is only one medical referee to decide a man's case. The man is never satisfied if the case goes against him, but if there were three medical referees to consider his case then, even if their decision were adverse, he would not feel that he had been the victim, possibly, of the prejudice of one man.

A medical referee may be in rather ill-humour when the man attends before him. That may not make any difference to his judgment, but if the man is treated discourteously during his examination he comes away with the impression that it is because the referee was so much out of humour that he lost his case. We have put it to the man afterwards that the referee is chosen by the State, just like a judge to deal with cases on their merits, and that we believe he has dealt with the case on its merits, but the man will retort, "Well, this is what he said to me, and I did not just understand him, and I was not sure in the reply I gave him, and I felt after that that the case would go against me." Something that has happened has created in the mind of the man the impression that the referee has turned against him because of that conversation. If there were three medical referees, even though the result might be the same the man would not feel that it was the prejudice of a particular referee which had decided his case. I know that a Committee is sitting on the subject. Probably the members have not yet come to their findings, and if they read what we say in this Debate on behalf of the people affected it may influence them to advise the Home Secretary that three medical referees in a case would be better than one.

Next I wish to deal with the certifying surgeons. I put a question on the subject to-day, and the Home Secretary told me that the matter was being dealt with. The present position is rather serious, because a certifying surgeon may have been engaged by the employers. I have known of cases where certifying surgeons are engaged by an employer in the same neighbourhood as that in which they are acting as certifying surgeons and it is very difficult to get men to believe that a doctor acting for the employers can be fair with them when they go before him to get a certifying surgeon's note. The Home Secretary asked for cases. I cannot give him cases off-hand, but I would remind him of one case brought to the notice-of the Home Office in which a certifying surgeon was in the employ of a colliery firm. There was a lot of trouble in regard to him, but the Home Office did get him removed, and I want to give them credit for their action. They felt he could not fill that position with fairness to the men and to the employer and he was removed and another certifying surgeon appointed in his place. But there are still places in Lancashire where the position is as I have described it.

Then there is the question of workmen having to submit themselves to examination by employers' doctors. Under the Act a man must submit himself from time to time to his employer's doctor for medical examination, and in Lancashire only last Saturday we had reported to us several complaints regarding those examinations. As we understand it a medical man ought to make his examination by looking at the man and passing his opinion, but in these cases he submitted the men to this kind of treatment: If they were suffering from eye trouble he put drops in their eyes, and the men said they suffered intensely afterwards. I had three reports from men in which they said that when they got out of the surgery into the street they were half blind until the effects of the drops had passed off. We had this matter before us and the question arose of whether we should advise the men not to present themselves for medical examination, but we were faced with the difficulty that if they did not their compensation would be stopped until such time as they did submit to examination.

The question which arises in my mind is whether the medical man of the employer is entitled to subject our men to treatment of that kind. He has a right to examine them, but his action in putting drops in their eyes roused great suspicion in their minds and they felt very much dissatisfied with their treatment. I want the Home Office, if they cannot reply to the point to-night, to examine it, because I can assure them that we shall advise our men not to subject themselves to this treatment. We shall say that they should present themselves for examination but should resist any attempt to apply anything to them, whatever the consequences may be. However, I would prefer that the Home Office should deal with the matter before anything drastic occurs. Then there is the question of the number of examinations to which a man has to submit. I have been looking through the Acts of Parliament, but I cannot find anything in them on that particular point, and I think it must be in a Regulation that the Home Office have laid it down that a man must present himself, if asked, at various periods. I should like the Home Office to let us know what those periods are, and also to state on the forms which the employers send out the number of times that a man is called upon to submit himself for examination, so that they may know whether they are being called upon too often or not.

Then there is the case of the man who has suffered from an industrial disease and is trying to get another job. In applying to a new employer he has to state definitely whether he has had an industrial disease or not. If he signs the book to say that he has had an industrial disease, then it means no work for him; and if he makes a false declaration, and afterwards contracts a disease, then he gets no compensation. I put it to hon. Members that a man faced with such alternatives is in a grievous position. He is keenly desirous of getting work and he has to decide whether he will strictly obey the law, which will mean that he debars himself from getting the job, or do the other thing and chance it, knowing very well that should he contract disease later he cannot get compensation. It is a difficult problem, but I have been wondering whether the Home Office could not agree that after a certain time—say after 12 months have passed since the man suffered from an industrial disease—he should not be required to sign. After all, it is not the fault of the man that he contracted the disease, and it ought not to be the means of debarring him from the employment which he has usually followed. It is a serious matter, and I ask that it shall receive the earnest attention of the Home Office.

My last point concerns the schedule of industrial diseases. The Home Office have power to schedule further industrial diseases if they are satisfied that it ought to be done. I have in mind a pit in Lancashire which is deep and hot, and the men are working in water, which is also heated. They are contracting a peculiar form of disease: it breaks out all over the body. We have had these men examined but are told that it is impossible to get compensation for them because the complaint is not scheduled as an industrial disease. It is difficult to convince the Home Secretary that it ought to be scheduled. I have been wondering whether the Home Office could not do something in the matter through their research department. Once or twice I have visited the exhibition in Horse-ferry Road—a wonderful place, a tribute to the Home Office—where they examine the causes of accidents and show the safety appliances which have been introduced to try to prevent them. They also have exhibits showing the effects of diseases; I have in mind particularly one dealing with anthrax. They are horrid sights, but they are instructive. I suggest that when we draw the attention of the Home Office to a particular disease they should send representatives from their research department to examine the causes of that disease, and see whether it cannot be scheduled, and also give it the same advertisement in the Horseferry Road exhibition as other diseases get.

As I have said the Home Office does a great deal of ambulance work, almost Red Cross work, in connection with the casualties that arise under our industrial system. It is a great work and I hope they will regard the comments of hon. Members on this side as intended to help in the work they have in hand. We are in touch almost weekly with the mining community. I make it my business to find out at every opportunity what is happening in that world in which I was brought up, and I get information from the men as to what is happening. It is that information which we give to the Home Office across the Floor of this House, in the hope that it may assist them in their efforts to bring about a better state of affairs.

7.0 p.m.


I want to call attention to the fact that when we pass this Bill we shall be voting no less than £11,812,000 for police expenses. That is a large sum, and it is increasing at a rate of about £500,000 a year. It is £435,000 more than it was a year ago, and £1,183,000 more than two years ago. This sum will continue to increase because the police forces have to be increased as population grows and development spreads in town and country, and as more duties are put on the police. There is another reason, and it is, that as the men pass on to their pensions they now come on to a higher scale which came into force 14 or 15 years ago, and it is mainly the old pensioners who had the lower rates previously prevailing who are dying off. This sum however, is not the total cost, as the rates contribute largely to the cost of the police forces.

The total net expenditure for the year ended 31st March, 1935, on the police forces in England and Wales was roughly £20,750,000, and of that £12,800,000 was the share of the county and borough forces. So large and growing a sum calls for a search for any possible legitimate economy that may be made, particularly if one can show that there is an economy which would not only help the efficiency of the force but also would be for the good of the men in it and for the general public. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will take into consideration the report of the Select Committee issued two or three years ago on the amalgamation of separate small borough forces with the appropriate adjacent county force. There are 60 county forces and 121 borough forces, and of these borough forces one has an authorised establishment of 10; six have establishments between 11 and 20; nine between 21 and 30; nine between 31 and 40; and seven between 41 and 50. I have left out of account the six county forces which have an establishment of less than 50.

If these forces were amalgamated with the adjacent county force there would be obvious economies resulting from better co-ordination of beats, elimination of time wasted by men getting to their beats, elimination of unnecessary returns on paper, and elimination of redundant buildings. There would thus be a saving in the numbers of men and on buildings. I have said that it would be for the good of the force and of the public. If in a small force a man makes a slip by excessive zeal or some little indiscretion he has small chance of living it down in that same borough, whereas if he could be moved to the other end of the county the whole matter might soon be forgotten. Promotion must also be cruelly slow in a force of 10 to 30 men, and the bright, able man who wants to rise has little chance of reaching the higher grades.

In support of my arguments that it would be for the good of the public I would like to quote one sentence from the report of Major-General Sir Llewellyn W. Atcherley, His Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, on page 950 of Volume 10 of the reports from Commissioners, Inspectors and others for 1934–35. He was dealing with the small borough forces and commenting on the uncertainty and discouragement that arose because they did not know what was likely to happen as a result of the report of the Select Committee. Dealing with the impression that these forces might be professionally inefficient, he said: This is by no means always the case. I have in mind at least one instance where I consider the state of proficiency is above the average. Nevertheless it would, I am sure, be to the public and their own advantage that the members of those forces should have a wider field of work and control. That is my case and it is a case which, as Chairman of a Standing Joint Committee, I have perpetually in mind. A year ago I asked my right hon. Friend if he would pursue the path of trying to secure these amalgamation voluntarily, but time has passed since the report was published, and I am afraid that nothing will be done voluntarily, although I am all in favour of that course. I hope therefore that my right hon. Friend will, in the lifetime of this Parliament—if he cannot do it next Session—find time to introduce a Bill which will effect these amalgamations and economies.

7.9 p.m.


I want to refer to the treatment of child offenders. In my view it is a serious mistake to pursue the practice of taking children's finger prints. Those who have experience of petty sessions and of the child mind will realise that the danger springs from two sources. There is the child who will feel that he has done something capable of being interpreted as an exploit which will gain him some measure of importance among those with whom he mixes. Such children will be proud of their finger prints being in the possession of the police, and the moral effect of that will be bad. But it is not so serious as the effect on those who are sensitive and know that the police have in their possession for all time their identification. There are sensitive children who will be injured by that knowledge, and I hope that the Home Office will reconsider this question.

If the voluntary magistrates had been consulted there would have been a volume of opinion against this practice, especially since the introduction of the children's courts. That was a very fine thing indeed. Prior to the introduction of these courts the children came into the atmosphere of a criminal court, and it was a horrible thing for the child. A case was dealt with as though it was just as important as the more serious charges to which the child later might have listened. Atmosphere is an important thing. The children's courts do a great deal, sitting in an ordinary room without evidence of criminal procedure, towards helping the child who has made a mistake, and their introduction was a great improvement in the administration of justice. We might develop them.

Is it not possible for us to have matrimonial courts? I sit on a bench where possibly 75 per cent. of the cases are matrimonial cases. The difficulty is to switch one's mind from one type of case to another. We are dealing with burglars and pickpockets, and then with trouble between husband and wife. What is wanted is a court of a special character. Matrimonial cases are not criminal, yet you deal with them in the ordinary court rooms, with the policemen there and the dock and the witnesses, just as though married people who cannot agree have to be regarded as people who have broken the law. Sometimes some of them have broken the law, but there is a better way of dealing with them, and the experiment of Mr. Mullins shows how much can be done.


I am afraid that would need legislation.


I must apologise. I was not aware that it could not be done under the powers existing in the Home Office.


The hon. Gentleman's suggestion appears to me to be largely a question of organisation and arrangements made by the magistrates themselves. The Home Office does not direct how judges should behave, whether they are justices of the peace in the country or magistrates in London. Within limits, arrangements of that kind are within the competence of courts of summary jurisdiction and a great many experiments are being made. It is not for the Home Secretary to direct, although he may do a good deal to encourage it. We must draw a careful distinction between executive work and the functions of judicial office.


I am grateful to the Home Secretary for what he has said. Many of us who sit on petty sessional benches do not know the full extent of our powers, but follow along the lines of those who have been preceding us. I have often had to switch my mind over from a street betting case to a matrimonial dispute, and I have felt that somehow or other the whole procedure was out of tune and that a better arrangement might be made. The evidence that is submitted upon a matrimonial matter ought not to be given in the local court.

It has been very good that we have turned our attention to the child offender, but my sympathy goes also to the child victim. I refer to the child who is a victim under the Criminal Law Amendment Act. I had the experience of hearing the case of a girl who had been treated in this way. She was compelled to give in the court every detail of the whole sordid business, and the evidence had to be extracted from the girl, who was sobbing her heart out. Her feelings were being lacerated and yet it was necessary that every detail should be given. I am in doubt whether I am infringing the Rules of the House regarding matters requiring legislation. I hope something can be done whereby the evidence in such cases may be submitted to a matron and accepted in the court, not necessarily from the girl's own lips, and in circumstances that do not give rise to the pain that is now inflicted. If we deal with the child offender, we should in justice turn our attention to the child who is a victim. I hope that this point will receive attention. While we are attempting to administer justice, and to follow the path of duty, we sometimes feel that, in doing it, we are inflicting pain for which we are not responsible.

7.18 p.m.


I desire to confine my remarks to the administration of the Shops Act, which has been very lax in many towns. In some towns, they appear to think that inspection can be carried out by any individual, as a sideline to other jobs. I have with me a list of the duties that have to be carried out by an inspector under the Shops Acts, and when I submit the list I think hon. Members will agree that it is a full-time, and not a part-time, job. Inspectors have to see that assistants are given a weekly half-holiday; that shops are closing in accordance with the general closing order and the local closing order, which means, in certain cases, half-past 9 on some days, and 10 o'clock on Saturdays; that notices are properly displayed; that the statutory intervals for rest days are carried out; that seats are provided for women assistants; that the regulated hours of employment of those under 18 years of age are observed; that records are kept as to time worked, meal intervals, rest periods, and time off, for those under 18; that the regulations are complied with in respect of young persons, which now cover all in distribution inside and outside the shops, wholesale as well as retail, including garages and filling stations, restaurants, hotels, licensed premises and theatres; that the restrictions of night employment and early mornings are observed—that is, for restaurants, theatres and deliverers of bread, milk and newspapers—covering from five o'clock in the morning until almost midnight in some cases; that suitable and sufficient lighting, washing facilities and meal accommodation are provided, and that there are proper temperature and adequate sanitary conveniences. In the case of hairdressing and barbers' shops, they have to see that the shops are closed on Sundays. I think hon. Members will agree that that is a full-time job.

The fact that there is no limitation of the hours of assistants except of those under 18, makes it essential that closing orders should be strictly observed. It must be borne in mind that after a shop has closed there is a great deal of work to be done by the assistants. There is the making up of orders for the following day; cleaning up or washing down, especially in fish shops; butter blocks and bacon slabs have to be cleaned, and windows taken out and dressed for the following day. Where closing orders are strictly applied there is a great benefit to the assistants, who are free to get away shortly after the shop has been closed. Before a closing order can be obtained anywhere, two-thirds of the traders have to agree, but magistrates seem to forget that fact, and when traders are prosecuted for infringing the Act and taking advantage of their fellow traders, the fines are often ridiculous. There was a classic example in London, where a stipendiary fined an offender the absurd sum of one penny and allowed others to get off with an admonition. To administer the law in that manner is to ridicule it.

Hon. Members may imagine the effect of such decisions upon law-abiding traders. I have here the statement made by the prosecuting solicitor in a case at Southport. He said: Reports of previous proceedings under the Act have been published, and yet these offences continue. They are committed with full knowledge of the offence, and in spite of the warnings of published proceedings and, in the case of tobacconists, in spite of the fact that the local authority have granted them an extenion from 8 until 9.30 p.m. on week-days, and until 10 p.m. on Saturdays. The persistence with which these offences occur drives one to the conclusion that they find it profitable to continue trading and pay the fine, and there is no reason, and no right, why they should expect leniency from the bench. It is obvious that unless the fine acts as a deterrent, the benefit of the Act will be lost. The offenders in that case were fined a paltry half-crown. What is half-a-crown? A shopkeeper can easily make that up in an evening. The result is that he simply carries on.

Apart from the question of closing time, there are many cases in which assistants have been deprived of their weekly half-holiday, and many of such cases are merely admonished. In Dundee, Woolworth's assistants were refused a weekly half-holiday, and the firm were brought before the bench and merely admonished—a great firm like Wool-worth's. Others suffered paltry fines of half-a-crown or five shillings. In one town, 296 cases were reported and only 14 prosecutions took place.

When the Select Committee were dealing with the question of shop hours, sanitation, ventilation and heating, they felt that they had to make a reference to the question of inspection, although that subject did not come within their terms of reference. They said: Although the subject of early closing: does not come within their Order of Reference, Your Committee feel obliged to insist strongly on the need for strict enforcement of the Acts relating to it in the interests of shop assistants. Stricter enforcement is especially needed in respect of the statutory meal times and half-holiday regulations. As the Home Secretary well knows, local closing orders are restricted to an hour not later than seven o'clock, but in scores of towns traders close at six or six-thirty by voluntary agreement. That arrangement has become very popular since the War. Unfortunately, it requires only one or two cantankerous individuals to break away, and the whole voluntary movement collapses. I know that it cannot be done in any other way except by legislation, but it would greatly assist local authorities and traders if the Home Office would issue a memorandum setting out the Shops Acts in their entirety and bringing them up to date. Where local authorities fail in their duties, I suggest that the Home Office should have power to intervene as in the case of factories and workshops.

7.26 p.m.


Having had over 20 years' experience in a representative capacity in one of the largest factories in this country, I should like to draw upon that background of experience with a view to ventilating some of the grievances arising out of factory legislation and what is dealt with in this report, but there is not sufficient time to do so. I will, therefore, confine my observations to two aspects of the matter. Before doing so, I would place on record certain facts, made necessary by remarks which have been made by an hon. Member below the Gangway. Outside one-sixth of the world's surface, in no country in the world has factory legislation been developed to the extent that it is developed in this country, or where it is possible for the workpeople's representatives to have the opportunity of negotiating on behalf of the fellows inside the factory on questions such as we are discussing this afternoon. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson)—I am sorry that he is not at this moment in his place—referred to the fact that he had visited Germany two years ago, and that he was struck with the large posters appealing to the workpeople to have regard to safety first. The hon. Gentleman must be hopelessly out of touch with the internal management of factories in this country, because what he was referring to has been done for years, in the conduct of factories in this country. In large factories, over most of the large machines there have for many years been striking posters, pointing out to the least observant operator of the machines the dangers which they were risking when operating those machines.

So far as safety first is concerned, voluntary organisations have been pioneered by the National Safety First Association, in collaboration with the trade union movement. Under the guidance of the Home Office no better work could have been done to point out to operators employed in factories the dangers which they are running when working machines. Therefore, when the hon. Gentleman is talking about Germany and holding up to us that picture as an example of what this country should do, it is only an indication that he is many years behind the times. One observation on the contrast between the two countries is that there must be scores of aeroplane accidents now, in the country to which he referred, which are not brought into the light of day.

The area which I represent is suffering more as a result of silicosis than any other part of the country. Dr. Arledge, Senior Physician of North Staffordshire Infirmary, gave evidence in 1863, and he said, speaking of the people of that day: Of all diseases, they are especially prone to chest disease, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma and potters' asthma and potters' consumption. Having regard to the improvements which have been brought about in other sections of industry, there does not seem to have been the same proportionate improvement in the pottery industry in this direction. I would draw the attention of the Home Secretary to page 56 of the Report and to the very serious state of affairs which prevails in our district. In a table there, hon. Members will find, by making a calculation, that there were 323 deaths arising from silicosis or from tuberculosis following upon silicosis, in the pottery industry, or nearly as many in that one industry as in all other sections of industry.

The Report goes on to state: Certain progressive members of the pottery industry have co-operated in seeking a safe substitute for powdered flint for placing china biscuit ware. Why should this not be applied to all firms manufacturing pottery? I hope that when the Minister replies he will deal with this point. It is important because the Workmen's Compensation Act provides for compensation to be paid subject to prescribed conditions, and silicosis is not covered by the ordinary provisions of the Act but by special regulations and special schemes. There is difficulty in proving the effects of silica dust upon the lungs. With the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) I have visited the Industrial Museum in Horse-ferry Road on two occasions, when I have been in London on other work, and the exhibits there are an indication of the serious effect which this dust has upon the lungs of the individuals concerned. I only wish that more people in the country, and particularly those employed directly in industry or responsible for the running of industry, could have the opportunity of seeing the effect of these processes on the operatives.

It takes years to develop tuberculosis. First of all, it leads to physical deterioration. In the streets of the Potteries I have met man after man on whose face could be seen signs of the physical deterioration which results from the slow process that goes on inside the human frame, and sooner or later gets the better of it. It is most difficult, however, to prove to the medical board that an individual is suffering in this way. In the first place, he or she is very loth to mention it to the firm at all, for fear of the effect upon his or her employment, while, if the individual dies as a result of tuberculosis arising from silicosis, it is difficult for the dependants to prove that death has arisen from that cause, and it is difficult, therefore, to get a certificate to that effect. It means a long legal battle to prove that the individual has died from that cause, and, if he or she is not a member of a trade union, the dependants are involved in very serious costs which they cannot face, with the result that they are unable to obtain a certificate. Then there are all sorts of legal traps and quibbling, and the result is a broken-hearted man or woman.

What do I suggest? I do not believe in being critical unless one is prepared to back up one's criticism with constructive suggestions. The first suggestion that I would make—and it has been made also by big industrial organisations—is that silicosis should be scheduled as an industrial disease under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The Home Secretary informed us this afternoon that a new Factories Bill was to be introduced in the near future, and I hope it will include provisions for safeguarding the health of the people to whom I am particularly referring. We know that processes and devices have been adopted to deal with dust in many sections of industry, and, surely, if that is possible in other sections of industry, it ought to be possible in the pottery industry; and it ought to be possible, also, to find a substitute for the material which is mainly responsible for bringing about this disease, as has already been done, according to the report, by two progressive companies. We find that, while in 1871 the death rate from typhoid was 371 per million, in 1933 it had been reduced to 5 per million; and, similarly, that while in 1871, the death rate from tuberculosis was 2,327 per million, in 1933 it had been reduced to 639 per million. What has been done in the case of typhoid and tuberculosis can equally well be done with silicosis, if the "ambulance work" of which my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh spoke is carried out to the extent that it has been in other industries. Indeed, we can cut out most industrial diseases in our time if we are determined to do so.

With regard to factory inspection, I hope that the Home Office will consider taking steps to enable the inspectors to get right inside the factories before the administrators and those in charge of the managerial side know that they are coming. What happens in many cases is that, as soon as the factory inspector reaches the gate, a telephone gets busy, and within a very short time people are running round seeing that every guard is right, that everything is in its place and nothing is wrong. The inspector then walks through, and everything in the garden is lovely. I think that, if the inspectors could come unawares and go into any part of the factory at any time of the day, the employés in the factories would feel more confident that the inspectors were looking after their interests better than they have been able to do in the past.

On pages 76 and 77 of the report we find a number of references to measures which have been taken as a result of experience gained from visits to the Industrial Museum. In one case it is stated that: The lighting has been so arranged as to avoid glare and double shadows. I think the time has arrived when the lighting of factories should be improved. On page 77 it is stated that: During the year some exhibits were loaned temporarily to local exhibitions, and a demonstration was given at Keighley of the exhaust ventilation attached to the stone dressing plant. I would ask the Home Secretary, why only Keighley; why not Manchester, Glasgow, and many other parts of the country? I happen to have had the privilege, having come to London, of being able to go through the museum, but how many managers of factories and people acting in a representative capacity in industry have had the same opportunity? I trust that the Home Office will consider holding similar exhibitions and demonstrations to that at Keighley, but on a larger scale, in most industrial parts of the country. I am convinced that it would have a very good effect, particularly in the pottery industry. I think that the exhibits dealing with the pottery industry, and showing the effect of silicosis on the human frame and on the lungs particularly, ought to be transferred occasionally from Horseferry Road to Stoke-on-Trent itself, so that the people there could have an opportunity of seeing these effects for themselves.

I admit that the large employers have a modern outlook, and realise that "safety first" is a business proposition, that the interests of employers and workpeople are identical so far as that principle is concerned, and they carry it out as far as possible; but the same is not the case with the smaller employers. I hope that the Home Office will take steps to see that what has been done in the large factories is done in the small factories also. If an analysis could be made of accidents throughout the country, I should be prepared to prophesy that the larger proportion of them would be found to have occurred in the small factories, where the employers have not such a modern outlook and do not so fully recognise the necessity for "safety first" steps. If this matter cannot be dealt with through the Home Office, I would suggest that they should recommend to employers that either the shop stewards or others acting in a representative capacity should be given an opportunity of visiting the Industrial Museum in Horseferry Road, and of seeing the exhibits for themselves. In addition, I would suggest that trades councils, trade union representatives and others should be given opportunities of visiting the Museum, and that they should be recommended to describe their visits to the Museum in articles in their local papers, in the trade union journals, and in the factory journals, so that their fellow-workers also may benefit from their experience. These are just a few suggestions arising from my own experience, and I hope that, so far as the pottery industry is concerned, the Home Office during the next 12 months will give attention to these matters, in view of their seriousness from the point of view of that industry.

7.44 p.m.


I want to raise one or two points, on which I hope it will be possible for the Minister who replies to the Debate to give me answers. With regard to industrial diseases, I want to refer to the asbestos industry, in which many people have suffered in the past and are suffering at the present time from the disease which comes to them as a result of working with the materials and in the atmosphere of that industry. Recently, an Order has been issued covering a part of the industry, that is to say, the workers engaged in a particular process; but other people engaged in the same establishment are not included in that Order. These people have to come in contact with the material in; its raw state, in its semi-manufactured state, and in its manufactured state, but, although they suffer from the disease, they are excluded from the operation of the Workmen's Compensation Acts. I hope the Home Office will consider the extension of that Order—it does not require legislation—and humanity almost demands that it should be made retrospective. Huge fortunes have been made out of the labour of these people who are suffering what is but a living death. The asbestos combine is one of the wealthiest in the country, and there is no question as to its ability to pay compensation. I have tried to move it on its better side in the hope that it would deal with these people in the right way, but that is not enough. I ask the Home Office to go into it much more closely and see if it cannot be extended so that these people will not have both to suffer from the disease and bring their families down to the dire poverty in which one finds so many of them.

With regard to young people and their hours of labour, I wish the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health had been present. They are very much concerned because, with the knowledge that I have been compelled to acquire of many industries, I cannot find one where there is the necessity for working these young people the hours that so many of them are engaged. What one thinks of employers who are responsible for it cannot be stated in this House, because it would require language which is not permitted. But the employment of these young people for the hours that we find in this report is a discredit to the industries and to the country. I should like to know whether, when the Home Office comes across these cases, the Minister of Labour is informed, because, if not, the position is that one Government Department is inspecting with a view to action being taken, while another Department is placing young people, through the Employment Exchanges, in these occupations.

When the Employment Exchanges were first set up, before the War, we refused to place young people in employments in which wages and conditions were not satisfactory. I hope some action is being taken to prevent the Minister placing young persons in the employment of those who have so little regard for the young life of the country that, for the purpose of making a little extra profit, they work them unnecessarily long hours. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) suggested the double shift as a remedy, but that is no remedy at all. Those who work these long hours would not adopt the two-shift system. They are quite prepared to make a little more profit by running their machinery a little longer and sweating the young people. If they desired to have their machinery running for reasonable hours they could use adult labour, and, if these is such a demand as is suggested, that should be done instead of sacrificing our young people.


An hon. Member above the Gangway gave a specific case where the adoption of the three-shift system had resulted in a great reduction of overtime and long hours of labour.


It is bound to. I should like to know how you can work overtime with a three-shift system, because you occupy all the hours of the day and the week. The people mentioned here are not prepared to work the three eight hours and even then you have not the right to work young people throughout the night. The hon. Gentleman also referred to young people employed in unregulated occupations and hoped that the Commission that is now sitting was going to deal with lift-boys in hotels. I am afraid he is going to have a great disappointment. I and others have been striving to have these people brought under the terms of reference to that Commission, but hotels and other occupations are left out and these young people are to continue the long hours that they have been working for some time.

Another point that I wish to mention is in regard to taking the finger prints of young people. Those of us who have to sit in the courts come across cases where a person has been found guilty and his record is produced, and it is found that at some time some county magistrate has sent him to prison for having taken an apple in his young days. Many of these were merely cases of adventure and, with a little guidance, they need never have been brought into our courts. I hope that the practice of taking their finger prints is going to cease. It is only placing upon them the imprint of the criminal law. I should like to ask why magistrates in some parts of the country are sending so many young people to colonies for the mentally deficient. Hundreds of young people in these colonies and mental hospitals could be released if they had homes to go to and they could be provided with separate rooms to sleep in, with someone in the family to keep an eye on them. Why are we sending them to these colonies? It may get them out of the hands of the magistrate quickly, but it is the wrong way to deal with them. I hope that action will be taken to prevent the long hours that young people are working, and that something will be done so that those who fall by the way as the result of industrial disease or accidents in industry will receive adequate compensation, and I hope that young people are not going to be branded as criminals or sent to colonies for mental defectives or mental hospitals.

7.56 p.m.


We have covered a great deal of ground in this Debate and the Under-Secretary will be facing a very heavy task if he attempts to reply to all the points that have been raised. There has been great unity of opinion and very good feeling. The Debate has been rather in the nature of an appeal to the Home Office to be more progressive, to display greater activity and to seek at some future time to amend the law in relation to many matters that have been discussed. We are gratified that the Home Secretary has been able to sit through the best part of the Debate. It might reasonably be thought that it is his duty to be here, but we are conscious of the heavy duties that fall upon him and we are gratified that he has been present. We are satisfied that the Under-Secretary will discharge his duties with his usual skill, and I am happy to think that the right hon. Gentleman is allowing him to do so much work. I can say, as one who has occupied a similar position, that it will be very useful to him.

One thing particularly has emerged that the position as it stands to-day justifies the urgent need of introducing the new Factory Bill. It has had a very chequered career. The Labour Governments of 1924 and 1929 both looked forward to bringing it in, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not permit either the Cabinet or the Chief Whip to put any obstacle in the way of the introduction of that great reform. Great disservice has been done not merely to the working classes but to the civil servants who are charged with the responsibility of administering the law and seeking to maintain a cleanly, wholesome and safe factory life.

Reference has been made in the course of the Debate to air raids, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will make a clear and concise statement to remove much of the uncertainty that exists in the minds of the great masses of the people, and which, I think, is shared to some extent by local authorities, regarding the future. I am not one who takes an antagonistic view of the proposals of the Home Office with regard to making adequate provision for the civil population in case of such a disaster overtaking the populace. I was a member of the Sheffield City Council during the War, and I remember how the Zeppelins came over and killed some of my fellow citizens and destroyed property. I noted the attitude of the public when incidents of that kind occurred, and I certainly should not like to be in the position of a public representative who had failed to adopt means whereby some protection could be afforded to the public at large. In saying that, I do not associate myself with the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government or with their warlike intentions. It is a practical proposition. It may well be that some of these proposals will not do all that is suggested, and it would be unfortunate if the public at large thought the mere provision of gas masks would terminate all the disabilities and evils that might well fall upon them.

A question was asked to-day by my hon. Friend the Member for Whitechapel (Mr. J. Hall) which indicated that many Jews in the East End of London and in his Division were being attacked offensively. He said that some people had had their hats forced over their eyes, and that old men had had their beards pulled, conditions which do not reflect a great deal of credit upon our fellow countrymen. I would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman and upon the Home Office that there is a widespread feeling that everything is not being done that might reasonably be done in connection with that matter. The right hon. Gentleman has given an assurance of his full sympathy and desire to maintain law and order, and that he is seeking to co-operate with the Commissioner of Police to ensure that that shall be done. I hope that he will not be lacking in spirit as far as that matter is concerned.

There are a few other matters to which I should like to make reference in connection with workmen's compensation. I agree, largely as a result of my practical experience of the feelings generated in connection with medical referees, that it is unfortunate that the sole decision should rest with the medical referee. I should like to see some reform made in that connection. I am not satisfied, and previous speakers themselves have indicated that they are not satisfied, that the statistical report of the Home Office on workmen's compensation gives a complete and thorough statement of all the facts. We ought to be able to say that the employers of this country pay a total sum by way of premium, and there should be set out all the facts in relation to the expenses of the operation of workmen's compensation. We should then be in a position to balance the account and to say that out of the total sum paid in premiums, so much reached the disabled workers. The right hon. Gentleman might well approach the insurance companies with a view to seeing whether some further information could not be collected and a more up-to-date and complete statement given of all the facts relative to the payments of workmen's compensation, including the premiums, to enable us to form a fair and reasonable estimate of the position.

I should like to see an effort made to re-habilitate injured workpeople. This point was made in a previous Debate by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) as far back as March. The matter is vitally important. A considerable number of serious accidents take place which are due entirely to the absence of safeguards required by law. There is a case of a boy of 16 who lost three fingers, of a boy of 16 who lost his right arm, of a boy of 15 who lost four fingers and of a boy of 16 who lost a leg. There are other cases, but I have merely selected these by way of example. Such cases can be multiplied among adult industrial workers. They get workmen's compensation, and if they are entitled to a lump sum settlement, they are paid the money. After that, nothing happens to them; no care is shown for them and no interest is taken in them. No training is given, and usually, if they receive a lump sum, they purchase a shop, and after a few months probably find themselves in poverty street, drifting towards the public assistance committee.

Something ought to be done in the way of re-habilitating these injured people, so that they could follow some occupation despite their disability. Ought not the insurance companies to be approached on the matter? I believe that they make a tremendous amount out of workmen's compensation, and they ought to be approached with the object of setting up a training school, with, if necessary, the co-operation of the State. At any rate, we should look to them to do something to initiate a scheme whereby injured workpeople could be trained to follow some useful and profitable occupation rather than that they should be allowed to become derelicts of society. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Hitchin for having emphasised this matter in the previous Debate, because it is one which I have stressed continually upon the public platform throughout my life. I do not propose to make reference to nystagmus beyond emphasising what has been said by my hon. Friends behind me and expressing the hope that the Committee which is now sitting will rapidly complete its work and give a report which will enable the right hon. Gentleman to deal with this very serious question, particularly from the standpoint of men who are certified fit but who obviously cannot obtain employment because of the declaration that they have to sign, reference to which has been made to-night.

I pass to a question of equal importance, namely, that of silicosis. It is a tragic and deplorable complaint which is ravaging many of the workpeople in a large number of industries. At the Home Office there is a magnificent medical department which is progressive and enlightened, and willing to co-operate with employers and workpeople and with the Trades Union Congress in seeking a solution of this and other complaints of a similar character. Let me inform the House—as I am sure that all hon. Members do not know this—that Dr. Middleton of the Home Office delivered two lectures before the Royal College of Physicians on the 27th February and the 3rd March on the subject of silicosis. They were admirable lectures, both of which were printed in "The Lancet," Will the right hon. Gentleman seriously consider allowing Dr. Middleton or the Home Office to publish these two papers? It may well be that the data and statistics man be brought up-to-date, seeing that the papers were delivered in February and early March, but they contained all the evidence and the facts, medical and otherwise, in connection with this disease.


I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman knows—but I mention this because I should like other hon. Members to know it—that there is a most interesting document issued by the Stationery Office, having been prepared in the Home Office, on silicosis and asbestosis, which contains the story of the thing carried right up to date. It is a 4d. document, which I have found a most valuable source of information. I have no doubt that Dr. Middleton helped to draw it up.


I read these papers with admiration, and it was only yesterday that I discussed the nature of this disease with the pathologists at the Royal Free Hospital. There is one aspect of this complaint which is worthy of attention. "The Lancet" on the 14th March, contained a very interesting leading article on these papers, and extracted some very useful figures, evidently from the papers of Dr. Middleton. During the five-year period, 1930–34 inclusive, the number of deaths included in the group was 4,038. In 1,521 of these silicosis was mentioned on the certificate as the cause of death. The deaths were divided among 29 industries. The figures remained fairly constant for each year aver the five-year period, except for coal miners, who showed a steady increase from 41 in 1930, to 85 in 1934. They headed the list with a total of 326 deaths for the five years. The next important groups numerically were those engaged in the manufacture of pottery, 270; sandstone masons, 255; metal grinders, 142; sandstone quarriers and dressers, 117; and gold miners, who had returned home from South Africa suffering from the disease, 104. This disease is gradually increasing in its intensity and in its ravages among the coal-mining community. Later in the report it is pointed out that between June, 1931 and 1935, the Silicosis Board at the Home Office issued 987 certificates on account of silicosis in coal mines. These included 237 suspensions, 581 certificates for disablement, and 169 for death. During the five-years period 50 deaths were certified as due to asbestosis. There are other figures of equal importance, but I will leave them for the moment.

Between 1929 and 1931 I was chairman of an advisory committee set up to consider the introduction of this silicosis scheme. The scheme has been working five or six years and I think the Home Office might reasonably consider whether it would be possible to revise the scheme and to accede to the request of my hon. Friend that this disease should be brought within the schedule of industrial diseases. I gather from the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Hollins) that the medical side of the scheme is operating successfully. He said so in his speech some time ago with regard to the pottery industry. I should like to see the medical side of the scheme developed. I will not say that it is perfect, but I should prefer to see it developed in preference to the medical referee side, because under that scheme you get more than one medical opinion on these matters.

I should like the Under-Secretary to make a statement indicating that the Home Office is not only cognisant of the increase in accidents but that it is contemplating taking action to deal with the situation. I hope a statement will be made also in connection with the hours of young workers. We enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman), and interesting speeches have been made from all quarters of the House. There has been unanimity as regards the hours of labour. I hope that this matter will not be left in the air by the Home Office but that the Under-Secretary will make a definite statement indicating that the Home Office is not only cognisant of the seriousness of this problem but that they intend to take reasonable steps to remove this blot upon our industrial life.

There are a number of other matters to which I should like to refer. One point is in relation to factory inspectors. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) intimated that we are not satisfied with the number of inspectors. I understand that the number is in the neighbourhood of 254, but having regard to the nature of the report which we are now considering we are entitled to ask that the inspectorate should be increased.


Two hundred and sixty-five have been authorised.


I am given to understand that the number now stands at 265. I do not think that that is sufficient, and I hope that my right hon. Friend, bearing in mind the nature of the report, will be willing to increase the number. I should like also to emphasise a point made by the hon. Member for Stoke. He stated that the inspectors gave notice when they were going to call at a factory. The word went round to everybody to get their machines ready and to see that all the guards were in proper position, and consequently no discoveries were made. The inspectors might well make sudden calls at the factories without the knowledge of the owners, and thus discover possibly more violations and evasions of the law than are recorded in the report.

I desire to express a word of appreciation of the safety measures that are already being taken in connection with factories. Safety committees are capable of doing good work. In some places safety officers have been appointed, although I do not think that is sufficient. I prefer the safety committees. An effort ought to be made to secure the sympathetic co-operation of the employers and to set up area committees, which are mentioned in the report. That would be a most useful measure, particularly when the meetings of the committees were attended by a factory inspector, who could assist them in coming to reasonable decisions.

In connection with young people I believe there is a provision in the shipyard regulations under which a young person of 16 years of age is not allowed to work upon the deck of a ship, unless it is plated, or on a stage above the ground, for the first six months. For the succeeding six months he is allowed so to work in the care of competent workmen. Some such provision might be reasonably extended to our factory life in general. The report indicates a variety of subjects which call for attention and in many cases are receiving the attention of the Home Office. I should like to see, and I expressed this view in March, a larger measure of co-operation between the medical profession and the Home Office than exists to-day. If the medical man realises that a complaint needs inquiry he should report it to the factory inspector or the Home Office, and then inquiries could be made as to the nature of the complaint. As a result of co-operation between the medical man and the Home Office we could set up a better machine capable of dealing with these various matters. I believe that in the interests of our industrial population and of the community in general we shall have to face a real and substantial reduction in hours. Shorter hours will be the means of reducing accidents considerably, quite apart from providing increased employment. I have not been able to cover all the matters I should like to have covered but sufficient for the day. I am sure the Under-Secretary of State will be able to give the House that satisfaction which we know he is quite competent to give.

8.26 p.m.


I will do my best to reply to the various questions which have been raised during the Debate, which has ranged over a large number of subjects. The choice I have to make is to strike the happy medium in replying to some of the points which have been raised and not weary the House with unnecessary detail. Let me inform the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Whiteley) that we have the question of lighting in factories in mind and will consider the points he has raised, and also consider the report of the Council for Civil Liberties. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) complained that the Home Office was hiding its light under a bushel and wanted an exposition of what is undoubtedly good constructive social work done by the Department. My right hon. Friend will consider what can be done on those lines. I am not able to deal in detail with the interesting and rather complicated mass of information given by the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Major Mills), but we will consider it in due course and communicate with him.

Let me address myself to the main problems which have been raised by hon. Members opposite, arising mainly out of the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. The question of accidents naturally leaps to one's mind first. We all deplore the increase in industrial accidents of 9 per cent. over the previous year, but I must point out that the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) was in danger of drawing a misleading deduction from the gross figure. He did not consider the accident rate for last year as compared with the year before, and that reveals a somewhat different state of affairs. In fact, when you make allowance for the increased number of people at work, the actual accident rate is a little lower than it was the year before. In 1934 the number of accidents per 100,000 persons employed was 2,665, and in 1935 it was 2,604. There is very little difference, but the rate is slightly less, and it brings me to the point that the increase in the gross total of accidents last year was due mainly to the great revival in industry and the much larger number of people employed in factories. In fact, it may be right to say that many of the disquieting features in the report this year are the reverse side of the medal of the great industrial revival.

It is rather satisfactory that the accident rate should actually be a little smaller having regard to the fact that the industrial revival resulted in longer hours being worked and more overtime. But in spite of these factors, which are not taken into consideration in the accident rate, the figure did not rise, and we must regard that as a definitely hopeful feature. Therefore, I was sorry to hear the hon. Member for Westhoughton refer to this matter in such terms as "industrial murder" and "becoming a race of industrial cripples." At the same time it is rather interesting to reflect that if you take 1934 and compare it with the year 1924, when practically the same number of people were employed, and in addition the hon. Member himself was Under-Secretary at the Home Office, you find that there has been a 20 per cent. reduction in the accident rate in 1934 as compared with 1924. Therefore, if industrial murder is going on to-day we are much less guilty than the hon. Gentleman was in 1924.

Although I have mentioned some encouraging features, which we must bear in mind when we consider this increase, which we all deplore, I agree that there is no case for complacency. The Home Office on the industrial side has always engaged actively in the work of trying to reduce industrial accidents. Let me mention some of the directions in which we are working. There is the fencing of machinery. Our inspectors are active in seeing that the provisions of the law are complied with. If they are not complied with, then in proper cases prosecution follows. In addition, they are constantly engaged in advising employers with regard to improvements they can make in protective devices. But it would be unwise to concentrate our attention too much on this aspect, as only one-third of the total number of accidents is in connection with machinery while two-thirds, the great bulk of the accidents, are due to other causes. I have talked this matter over with men who know most about it and I am told—and I can well believe it—that all those who have made a careful study of this matter emphasise the importance of the human factor in accident prevention. The real task is to achieve co-operation between employers and employed in the maintenance of careful methods of work. The Home Office is trying to achieve this by normal methods, and one of the most important is the trade conference. Week after week and month after month the Home Office holds conferences with employers' associations and trade unions, and our own technical experts go into the question as it affects particular industries with a view to getting improved methods introduced from the accident prevention point of view. That is one of the most important methods, because the knowledge is directed to the quarter where it is important that it should be.

The safety committees, of course, are very important, and in our opinion they undoubtedly do very good work; but in order to do good work they must be really keen, and we are most anxious that all safety committees should be kept in a proper state of activity. Unless that is the case, they are not of very much utility. Another thing which is being done, and of which some hon. Members may not be aware, is the publication of the three-monthly series of "Industrial Accidents" by the Home Office. The price is 6d., and the publication is a list of all the technically-interesting accidents that have occurred during the period. It is published for the benefit of employers, trade unions, employers' associations—indeed, all the technicians concerned with the prevention of accidents. It has a fairly wide circulation, the examples given in it are quoted in the trade papers, and many employers follow it carefully and take precautions based upon the observations in it. The circulation is at present 4,000 copies, and although we have no doubt that those copies go to the people who really need them, we should very much like to see the circulation increased; and we should be very grateful for any assistance in increasing the circulation of this excellent but little-known technical publication of the Home Office.

I would like now to say a few words about the Home Office Industrial Museum. I said a good deal about the museum on a previous occasion, and I am glad that some hon. Members opposite have visited it; the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) mentioned that they had been there. Undoubtedly, the museum does a great deal of good work, and the more widely it is known the better. There is unquestionably a number of employers and trade unionists in this country who would benefit from a visit to the museum, and, of course, it is open to the public. We should be very glad if, at a suitable time after the Recess and after the extension of the museum has been opened, hon. Members cared to make a special visit to the museum, when the factory inspectors will be present to give information. I think it would be useful both for employers and trade unionists in the House to see the museum in that way, and to have explanations by the technical people who would be available.


Before the Under-Secretary leaves this question, I would point out that in the report it is stated that a special exhibition was held at Keighley. Could a similar exhibition be held in other big industrial centres?


I will certainly consider that. I would like now to turn to the question of juvenile accidents. Here I am not able to give the reassuring information which I think to a certain extent satisfied hon. Members opposite with regard to the accident rate for adults. The excess of the rate of juvenile accidents over the rate of adult accidents has been giving concern, and the chief inspector drew attention to this matter in his report last year. That reference in the report has had the good result that certain action has been taken by employers and others, but I would certainly wish to answer the very legitimate question which has been put as to what we are doing about this matter at the present time. Some time ago we had at the Home Office a meeting, over which I presided, with the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations, and the result was that a special committee was set up, with the chief inspector of factories in the chair, to devise a memorandum which could be circulated by the National Federation to employers. That is a method we have adopted at the Home Office with regard to certain other suggestions for accident prevention—not specifically with regard to juveniles—which has been successful, and only this morning I heard that the committee had completed its labours and drawn up a memorandum, which I have with me, containing suggestions which are to be circulated to practically all the factories and workshops in the country.

That memorandum, I think, is on a practical basis. It points out the factors of lack of industrial experience and natural exuberance of spirit in young persons. It works on the lines of the education of the young worker in the risks attaching to his work, the careful supervision and training of the young worker during the initial period of employment and suitable selection of work on which juveniles are engaged. It goes into a number of details, such as taking new entrants round the works where they are to be employed and pointing out the principal dangers, giving suitable talks to young entrants into industry, giving special instructions to departmental managers and asking them to see that there is special vigilance with regard to young workers, enforcing strict supervision so as to prevent "skylarking" by young people, placing new entrants under the direct supervision of a competent official for an initial period of training, giving attention to the processes on which new entrants are employed and, where necessary, transferring to safer occupations juveniles who have a special tendency towards accident proneness.


Does the Confederation suggest a reduction of hours?


I was about to deal with the question of long hours.


I thought the Confederation might suggest that.


Will this cover Scotland or will there be a Scottish equivalent?


I cannot say off-hand, but I am certain that either it will cover Scotland or there will be a Scottish equivalent. Turning now to the question of hours of employment, I would like to say at once that at the Home Office we greatly deplore the excessive hours worked particularly by women and young persons; but I must point out that it is true to say that in the great majority of cases the hours do not exceed 47 or 48 a week. We must not take the factory inspector's report out of proportion, but must remember that his duty is to draw attention to difficulties, black spots, prosecutions, and anything that needs to be remedied. Hon. Members who have spoken to-day have paid a just tribute to the honesty, the complete impartiality and the frankness with which the factory inspectors discharge their duty. Therefore, we must not make the mistake of thinking that because certain things feature in the report, they necessarily apply to the great majority of industries and workers.

The cases of overwork fall into two classes. In the first place, there are the hours which are worked outside the legal limits; that is to say, the illegally long hours. The factory inspectors, of course, are alert to detect those cases and where proper to prosecute the employers. The examples given in the report are the bad cases in which prosecutions took place, and they are regarded by the Home Office in the most serious light. Substantial penalties were imposed ranging up to £150 in the case of one hosiery factory which had previously been prosecuted for a similar offence. With regard to the long hours worked in some parts of the country which are not definitely illegal, I would only make this observation, that it is proposed to deal with the matter of hours in the Factory Bill which is to be brought in next Session. I cannot go into details at this stage, but it is clear that there would be a very substantial reduction of the present legal maximum.

I ought to say a few words about the points raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton and the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) regarding the administration of the Shops Acts. I need hardly say that the Home Office is in entire sympathy with the desire of hon. Members that the Shops Acts should be adequately enforced, but, as they are aware, the responsibility for that enforcement rests upon the local authorities. That has been the accepted principle from the beginning of shops legislation. Perhaps I should explain the practice of the Home Office in regard to these matters. When we receive a complaint of any failure to administer the Acts the question is taken up directly with the local authority concerned. This results, either in an explanation of the alleged failure of the authority to carry out its duties under the Shops Acts, or in an assurance that arrangements will be made to improve the methods of enforcement.

In some cases, the result of representations by the Home Office has been a decision by the local authority to appoint additional inspectors. It is true also, as the hon. Gentleman said, that we issued a circular in connection with the Act of 1934 calling upon local authorities to take the necessary steps to secure adequate enforcement, not only of that Act, but of all Shops Acts. It was suggested that the authorities, if they had not already done so, should review the arrangements made for the enforcement of the Shops Acts and the duties conferred upon them under those Statutes, and we have no reason to think that local authorities have disregarded those remarks. I conclude on that subject by saying that if the hon. Gentleman brings to our attention any cases of bad enforcement of the Acts by local authorities we shall be glad to go into them, in accordance with the procedure I have mentioned.

I turn now to the question of workmen's compensation, also raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton and by other speakers. The hon. Member made a number of elaborate calculations which led him to the conclusion that only 10s. out of every £1 paid by the employer reached the workman in the form of compensation. I should say, first, that the question of whether or not the premiums for example in regard to workmen's compensation are too high is no doubt important, but the costliness or otherwise of the insurance in that respect, does not affect the right of the workman to get the compensation which is laid down by law. He gets it in any case, whether the expenses legal, medical or whatever they may be, are high or low. But I would like to make some observations on the hon. Gentleman's calculations. I do not think they are quite accurate, and I know, from having studied these figures myself, how complicated this question is. I do not think it is quite correct to say that only 7,000,000 people are covered by insurance premiums for workmen's compensation risks. That figure of 7,000,000 is the number employed in those industries in respect of which returns are made by the Home Office.


That is exactly what I said.


I apologise to the hon. Gentleman if I misunderstood him. There are, however, many more, possibly 15,000,000 or 16,000,000, under the Act, including domestic servants and others, who are probably all covered by employers' liability and workmen's compensation policies. The compensation paid in the industries covered by the Home Office returns was £5,750,000, and to that must be added the compensation paid in other employments. I may also point out that in 1934 less than 22 per cent. of the compensation paid in the industries covered by the Home Office returns was paid by insurance companies, the rest being paid by mutual indemnity associations and under self-insurance schemes like those of the railway companies. Although it may be the case that the costs of insurance were high, the costs in the case of the mutual indemnity associations and the self-insurers were very much lower and I am informed, even in regard to the insurance companies, that the legal and medical expenses are estimated at 4¼ per cent., which was not, I think, the figure given by the hon. Gentleman. That relates to the Accident Offices Association which covers the greater part of the insurance companies which make returns to the Home Office. If the hon. Gentleman refers to page 7 of the Home Office statistics he will find that in 1933–34 the insurance companies made less than 1 per cent. profit on this business. Therefore, I feel that the conclusions to which he was led as a result of his calculations are not borne out by the figures—


Does the hon. Gentleman mean to say that the legal and medical expenses of insurance companies, covering workmen's compensation risks, amount to no more than 4¼ per cent.?


I mean exactly what I said, that in the case of the Accident Officers' Association, which covers a large part—I did not say all—of the insurance companies doing workmen's compensation business, the estimate was 4¼ per cent. I turn to another aspect of workmen's compensation referred to particularly by the hon. Member for Leigh and also by the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells), who raised the question of examinations of men by employers' doctors, also the question of medical referees and the difficulty of persons who have suffered from industrial diseases getting employment again owing to the fact that they have had industrial diseases. He also raised a point as to the schedule of industrial diseases, and I propose to refer to the last point first. If the hon. Gentleman will give us information in regard to any particular disease which he thinks ought to be scheduled we shall be glad to go into the question carefully. I think he suggested that some of the experts of the Home Office Industrial Museum might consider the matter. As a matter of fact, there is a recognised procedure which, I think, on the whole, the hon. Member would agree is the best to follow. An advisory committee under the chairmanship of Sir Humphry Rolleston, a distinguished doctor, was appointed to advise on any proposals of this kind and I am sure that that committee would give very fair decisions. I may say that almost all the other points which the hon. Gentleman raised are at this moment under the consideration of the committee presided over by Judge Stewart.


In reference to the question of examinations by employers' doctors, how far do the powers go? I related instances in which doctors put drops in men's eyes which the men thought were detrimental to them. The men took strong objection to that kind of treatment.


I do not think I could give the hon. Member an answer on that detailed point, but I will certainly look into it, and I quite appreciate the feelings—and indeed they are generally appreciated—entertained in regard to the question of one man being the arbiter in these matters. I also appreciate the position with regard to cases of miners' nystagmus and the position of the man who has to declare to a new employer whether or not he has had the disease. These are matters which are now being very sympathetically considered by this strong Committee to which I have referred, and I would suggest both to the hon. Gentleman and to the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire that they should consider giving evidence before that Committee, because I am sure the Committee would be very glad indeed to have their firsthand experience in regard to this matter, and I think that would be the most practical thing they could do to help.

I will now say a few words about the points raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent with regard to silicosis. Everybody in this House will agree that it is one of the most terrible industrial diseases, but, although terrible, it is the fact that some progress is being made in regard to it. There was a time when the disease was not recognised as an industrial disease, but now it is the subject of a whole system of schemes. The statistics cannot be taken as an indication of there being no improvement in the position as regards exposure to dust. Many cases would reveal conditions that existed in industry prior to the disease being recognised, and improvements have been made as a result of regulations made under the powers possessed by my right hon. Friend. Therefore we ought not to be too depressed by the figures at the moment, because they are probably due in a large degree to conditions which are no longer existing.

Medical examination of new entrants and periodic medical examination of workers employed in the more dangerous occupations are required under the Order, and these examinations have the great importance that they reveal where conditions are still giving rise to the disease and enable the necessary precautions to be taken. Experiments are also being made by some manufacturers. The hon. Member asked why it was only the progressive manufacturers, but I think the answer is that somebody has to make these investigations to start with, and it is naturally the progressive people who do it. These experiments at any rate are going on, to see whether the use of flint, which is one of the chief causes of silicosis, cannot be eliminated, but unfortunately what is holding the matter up is that, although there is a good deal of technical progress in the use of alumina, so far as the industry is concerned, the doctors are not yet convinced that alumina it not itself productive of serious disease. Therefore we can hardly take the risk of making recommendations on this matter until that technical question has been cleared up.

There is one other important matter on which I ought perhaps to say a word, and that is the question of finger-prints in regard to juveniles. I think it is very important that our consideration of it should be based on a clear and accurate statement of the position. There are points of complication in it, and in particular with regard to the exact practice of different courts. My right hon. Friend asks me to say that he will cause a special investigation to be made and will then consider the position in the light of the statements that have been made by hon. Members to-day.

The hon. Members for Westhoughton, Doncaster (Mr. Short), and Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) asked with regard to the present position of air raid precautions. The hon. Member for Westhoughton said it was a wretched business. I agree that it is a wretched business that we should have to be considering a matter of this kind. I think we all agree on that, but at the same time we must face realities. An air raid must be a dreadful thing in any case, but one is tempted to wonder what it would be like if no precautions whatever were taken. Therefore, even if there is only the smallest risk of such a disaster ever taking place, it seems to me that a Government must take precautions, and, if I might remind hon. Members of one crucial point in regard to this matter, it is that the precautions, by their very nature, cannot be improvised at the time of the emergency. If they are to exist for an emergency, they must be prepared beforehand. Therefore, I take the view—and I am sure the House will agree—that in these circumstances no Government of this country could take the responsibility of not making any preparations as a form of insurance against this risk, which we all hope may never occur.

I think it would be helpful if I considered this matter quite frankly and practically and went into a little more detail in regard to it. For example, what are the dangers that we should have to face and what are the forms of attack that have to be considered? The one that comes to the mind first is that of high explosives, but I do not propose to go into great detail on that question, because there is perhaps a greater knowledge in this House of the general nature and type of the precautions which have to be taken against that particular weapon than in regard to certain others. The second one which we have to consider is incendiary bombs, a most important problem, and I should like to refer to it specially at the conclusion of my remarks, because I have to make an announcement on behalf of my right hon. Friend in regard to his decision about the report of the Riverdale Committee on, fire brigades' organisation.

That brings me to the third form of attack, which is poison gas. This is the weapon which, perhaps, by reason of the novelty and mystery that surround it, attracts the greatest degree of public interest and excites the most apprehension. It is quite true that the effect of a gas attack upon an unprepared and ignorant population would be terrible, but I would like to say this, that there is no doubt that this subject loses some of its extreme terror when the problem' is faced and understood. There is undoubtedly a number of wild exaggerations about it which do no sort of good to anyone, and I think the hon. Member for Barnstaple was right when he said that the two extremes of alarmism on the one hand and complacency and false security on the other ought to be avoided. I propose to try to avoid them in what I am saying now.

There are two particular aspects of the question to consider. On the one hand there are non-persistent gases, and on the other there are persistent gases. Non-persistent gases are those which are blown away and are naturally dispersed in a short time by wind or currents of air in the streets. Persistent gases are those which, because of the fact that they are liquid which vaporise slowly into gas, can contaminate a certain area and will go on having a lethal effect for several days after they have fallen, unless steps are taken to remove their effect. They will disappear at different rates according to the condition of the weather. What are the main features of the organisation which is needed to deal with the problems that I have mentioned? We must have a warning system and a control of public lighting. They are self-evident and familiar. We also need the provision of a service for gas detection, that is, a trained service which is capable of finding out when gas is about and what gas it is. Then there is the repair and maintenance of roads, decontamination of material from persistent gas, the treatment of casualties, and so on.

In the circular issued by the Home Office last year we sought the co-operation of the local authorities in the provision of these services. We sought that co-operation because the local authorities have better knowledge of local needs and because they are in possession in normal times of services which, with a slight adaptation, will be capable of meeting the needs of an emergency. I am glad to be able to say that the co-operation of the local authorities as a whole has been very satisfactory. Of course, the state of preparation of their schemes varies, but, on the whole, progress is very good, and we hope that the local authorities which are still engaged on the preparation of schemes will proceed with them without delay. Officials of the Air Raid Precautions Department visited every principal local authority during the year. Schemes are sent to the Department and examined very carefully by technical experts, and, if necessary, suggestions are made. Apart from the preparation of these schemes, there is one factor which I am sure that the House will appreciate is of vital importance, and that is, that the individuals in the various authorities who might be called upon to undertake special duties in an emergency should have a knowledge of the problems which they will have to face.

That is the reason why the Home Office Office established the anti-gas school at Falfield. It was opened in April and 150 instructors have passed through already. I am glad to say that they all took first-class certificates. The demand for accommodation by local authorities is very large, and it has been decided to double the accommodation of the anti-gas school at Falfield and to erect a further anti-gas school of a similar capacity in the north of England. Already all the instructors for the Metropolitan Police have been trained and the instruction of the Force is in full swing. The instructors who are turned out have as their duty the further instruction of their colleagues in the local authorities' services from which they come in various parts of the country. Our estimate is that one instructor can train a class of 20 men in 12 periods of two hours' training, and by a simple process of arithmetic the House will realise that in a relatively short space of time the number of men trained upon this snowball basis will rise into hundreds of thousands.

In connection with that training the Home Office have ordered 40 mobile anti-gas chambers. The idea is that each class which is trained by an instructor shall have a practical demonstration of respirators in the anti-gas chamber. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. R. Acland) referred to the ignorance in these matters and to the wild ideas that are current in regard to them. The best cure for anybody in that position is actually to use a respirator in one or other of the types of poison gas. One hon. Gentleman suggested that my right hon. Friend and I should be exposed to the rigours of a poison gas concentration at Hendon, while another hon. Gentleman wished us to continue with our progressive work at the Home Office. As a matter of fact, I have done it already at the anti-gas school. It is important that we should all have experience of what these new problems mean, and I have already offered to arrange a demonstration for hon. Members at the anti-gas school. I would repeat that offer, because it is important that hon. Members who are particularly interested in this matter should, after the Recess, come down to the Home Office Anti-Gas School at Falfield and see the anti-gas training that is going on. There is nothing like such a visit to put the matter in a proper perspective.

One point occurred to me as the result of going into an anti-gas chamber full of a lethal dose of a poison gas. It is that there is one encouraging feature of gas. So far as I know, the protection against other weapons never achieves 100 per cent. efficiency. Nobody would suggest that anybody should submit himself, even behind an armoured shield or inside an armoured car, to machine-gun fire or go inside an old hulk that is being used for target practice at sea. It is not unreasonable to suggest, however, that respirators in a concentration of poison gas afford a protection which is 100 per cent. efficient.


Is that against all the gases which are known to the Government?


All gases known to the Government which are likely to be used in war.


If you can get the respirator on in time.


May I say a word about the respirator? These problems affecting the civilian population are new problems and raise difficult questions. The respirator in the old days was a complicated affair and a costly and formidable piece of apparatus. Hon. Gentlemen who are familiar with the work that goes on in factories know that the simplification of design in articles in modern industry so as to make them capable of mass production is a process which is going on all the time. It became important to apply the best minds to the design of respirators directly this question came to the front. In actual fact, the experts of the Chemical Defence Research Department have been working on this probelm assiduously for a considerable time, and, as I announced some time ago, they have achieved a simplified type of respirator which, without in the least degree sacrificing efficiency, has made it possible to produce respirators by mass production. Immediately the design was approved the Government made arrangements for buying factories. A factory has been bought and the arrangements for production are being undertaken as speedily as possible. I think I am entitled to say that, according to our information, no other country is in the process of making such comprehensive provision as this country for protecting the civil population against this danger.

I will conclude by referring to the work of the Riverdale Committee on Fire Brigade Services and my right hon. Friend's conclusions in regard to them. He has given close attention to the very important report of that committee, which was presided over by Lord Riverdale, whom I wish to take this opportunity of thanking, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, for the very thorough investigation they made and the clear and precise recommendations they submitted. The committee, in their report, contrast two aspects of the problem of fire protection, on the one hand the need for the further development of fire brigade services, largely on the basis of greater co-operation between the fire brigades, for the purpose of meeting more effectively normal peace-time requirements, and on the other hand the need for providing as soon as possible additional resources in men and appliances to meet special war risks.

The committee particularly emphasised the importance of this matter in view of the new risks which will have to be faced as the result of the development of aircraft and the serious danger, in the event of war, of numerous outbreaks of fire and of widespread conflagrations if they are not promptly checked. This, as the committee point out, is a problem which has no parallel in peace time and calls for special measures over and above those which would suffice for peace time purposes. The development of the general fire brigade organisation necessarily must take time, and legislation will be required if the committee's recommendations are to be carried into full effect. I cannot now go into any details on the measures the Government may decide to take in that respect; but certain of the emergency measures are not dependent upon legislation, for example, the provision of light appliances to supplement the main fire appliances, the formation of a reserve of personnel and appliances, and the preparation of schemes for co-operative work such as were developed by the Home Office during the War.

Those emergency measures should be pressed on without delay, and I am happy to be able to inform the House, with the concurrence of my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Scotland, that immediate steps will be taken to work out suitable schemes with fire brigade authorities in Great Britain on the basis that substantial assistance will be afforded by the Exchequer towards the provision of the necessary appliances and reserves.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.