§ align="center">Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. ROWSON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill will make it obligatory on the part of employers to give to every employed person an annual holiday of eight consecutive days with pay. It may be asked whether it is necessary to bring a Bill of this character before the House, and I give an emphatic reply that it is absolutely necessary, and I hope later to give reasons to justify that statement. If the question whether every employed person should receive an annual holiday with pay could be put to the vote of the citizens of this country, I submit that there is no matter on which there would be greater unanimity. I am also convinced that all the support would not come from the working-class, for there are many enlightened employers who believe in the principle of an annual holiday with pay. Some of them are giving it, but others are in such circumstances, owing to competition, that it is impossible for them to grant it on their own. Sir William Firth, one of the head men in the iron trade, stated a week or two ago at a dinner in London that, in his view, it was quite time that in Britain every worker was granted an annual holiday with pay.
The present conditions are somewhat deplorable in certain trades and industries. I will concede that there are millions of people getting holidays with pay by agreement and negotiation. I understand that the number is well over 3,000,000. Many of us on these benches are entitled to some of the credit for holidays with pay being granted, especially in the co-operative societies and in municipal and national services. We grant that that has been done, but it still leaves practically 75 per cent. of the working people without an annual holiday with pay. The present position cannot be justified by anybody who receives holidays with pay all the year round like we do as Members of Parliament. I am one of those who thoroughly appreciate holidays with pay, because I 726 was nearly 40 years of age before I ever had one. One of the things which makes me enthusiastic about a Measure of this kind is that I see every year, particularly in the summer time, in the districts where cotton and coal are the main industries, the deplorable situation in which many of our people find themselves owing to their having to play a whole week and at the end of the week to have no remuneration.
In thousands of cases, especially in homes where there are three or four little children, it is not a question of providing for a holiday at the seaside, because even if holidays with pay were granted, they are in such straitened circumstances that they could not get away to the seaside for a stay. We know that the approach of the holiday period, particularly in Lancashire, is a period of dread and anxiety for many men and women because they know that they are to miss a week's wages, and the women are worried to death scraping and scheming weeks before the holiday and several weeks after in order to make up for the loss of wages that week. I know cases where, immediately the week's holiday arrives, the people are so poor that they have to apply for Poor Law relief. There is another type of case of the working man in a slightly better position who is careful and thrifty and might have saved a few pounds, but, because there is a complete break of a week with no wages, he is often deprived of the opportunity of a holiday at the seaside or in the country. Then there is the point of view of business people, who when the holiday period approaches, say that they might as well get all that they can while the going is good, because during the holiday week there will be no trade and they will have several quiet weeks to follow.
There are many reasons from the point of view of the social consequences why a Measure like this ought to be passed. If employers, even under compulsion, were to accept it, the social consequences would be beneficial to themselves. Psychologically, it would have a great effect on the employé to know that he would get a holiday which would help him to recuperate from the strain and stress of modern industry. If he could have a complete rest from it, even if he could only walk in the 727 country and get his wages, it would have a very beneficial psychological effect on him.
I come to the economic consequences of the Bill. It is said that it would impose a terrible burden on industry, and some employers have given us an idea of the cost it would mean to them; but, as I see it, the economic consequences are so infinitesimal, measured over the year, that industrialists ought not to object to it in any way. Let me cite an instance. In the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation we have been doing what we have been called on to do on occasions, and that is negotiating with the coal owners to try to get an agreement for one week's holiday with pay each year. Of course we met with the usual expression of opinion: "We think the men are entitled to it, but we cannot afford it." We put our accountant on to work out the likely cost of paying every man, boy and woman in the Lancashire and Cheshire mining districts for a week's holiday giving them their average weekly wage. It is a terrible cost when you work it out. It comes to the enormous sum of 2¾4 d. per ton of coal per annum. Every man, boy and woman in the Lancashire and Cheshire mining districts could get a week's holiday with pay at that small cost. I know that some people will say that it would be a terrible additional charge for the industry to bear with the competition it has to face, but I submit that, taken over the year, it is such a small fraction that it ought not to stand in the way of the grant of a holiday.
I have cited the mining industry, but I submit that the cost in other industries would be considerably less than that per individual commodity, because I do not think there is any other industry in which the cost of labour enters into the cost of the commodity to the extent it does in the mining industry. If we could get this holiday at the cost I have mentioned in the mining industry, we could get it at an even less cost in the cotton, engineering, shipbuilding and other industries. But even if the cost were the same we are justified in asking the House to pass this measure.
I have seen on the Order Paper the Amendment suggesting voluntary negotiations and voluntary agreements instead of this Bill. I have already referred to our experience in that respect in the 728 mining industry. I should like to point out that at the outside, probably, there are 3,500,000 people in this country in receipt of holidays with pay—clerical staffs, those in the public services, and so forth.
§ Mr. ROWSON
I include them in the public services. Probably the details of agreements will be given by other speakers. The point I want to make is that although there is probably that number enjoying holidays with pay there are somewhere about 14,000,000 to 15,000,000 insured persons in employment. In the trade unions we have somewhere in excess of 4,000,000 organised workers, so that there are at least 9,000,000 to 10,000,000, people with no organisation to speak for them or to bring about these negotiations, and the House ought to feel as much concern for these people as for those who are organised.
On the question whether we ought to go in for voluntary negotiations, I wish to come back to the effort we made in Lancashire and Cheshire to get this concession for the miners there. As I said, we got the usual sympathetic reply, but we were also told "This could not be granted by the Lancashire coalowners alone, it would have to be given also in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, South Wales, Durham, Scotland and the rest of the coalfields, and we refer you to the national federation to bring this about nationally." No one knows better than the representative of the Ministry of Labour who is present this morning that it is utterly impossible for the Miners' Federation even to enter into negotiations on this matter on a national scale. In the recent dispute over wages the Mineowners' Association of Great Britain would not enter into negotiations nationally, the question was referred back to the districts, and if, on the advice of the coalowners of Lancashire, Mr. Edwards applied to the secretary of the Mineowners' Association he would meet with a rebuff straight away. He would be told that the coalowners of Great Britain have no right even to discuss our claim nationally, and that it must be referred back to the districts. And yet we shall have hon. Members opposite telling us that we must enter into voluntary negotiations and try to get this by volun- 729 tary agreement. I hope that we shall get some support from the other side and that it will not all be opposition.
Another point I wish to mention is that in this country the greatest strength of the trade union movement lies in the mining, engineering, transport, shipbuilding, iron and steel and cotton industries—they are probably the backbone of the trade union movement here—and yet the workers in scarcely any of those industries are receiving holidays with pay. I would emphasise, too, that we hear, especially from the Conservatives, that mining, agriculture, shipbuilding, engineering, cotton, iron and steel are the basic industries on which England's greatness has been built up, and some will go so far as to say that it is on these industries that England's present greatness stands. Yet these are the industries in which it is impossible to get voluntary agreements such as are suggested from the benches opposite, and by the Government, for holidays with pay. I know the attitude of the Government al, Geneva when this question of holidays with pay was discussed, but I submit that when it comes to the reply given at the International Labour Conference by the British Government it was a reply couched in terms which would make a Briton ashamed rather than proud of his Government.
We are told that legislation ought not to be introduced, but many countries have introduced legislation on this matter. Before I deal with this aspect, I would preface my observations with a s[...]atement which was made by the Minister of Labour a few weeks back, in a reply which he gave in this House, and which was:The replies of the Governments to the International Labour Office questionnaire showed that 35 were in favour of a convention, five, including His Majesty's Government, were in favour of a recommendation, and two were opposed to any form of international regulations dealing with holidays with pay. The reply of His Majesty's Government was as follows:'His Majesty's Government are of opinion that holidays with pay should be provided wherever circumstances permit. They feel, however, that apart from other difficulties attendant upon an attempt to deal with this matter by means of international regulations the consideration which has so far been given to the problem has not taken into account the great problem presented by the large proportion of workpeople who during the 730 year work for different employers or who are not continuously employed. It does not appear, therefore, that it would be possible to adopt international regulations in the form of a draft convention. His Majesty's Government, however, would be prepared to support the adoption of a recommendation which would have the object of encouraging all practicable steps to be taken to extend the provision of holidays with pay and of stimulating further consideration of this subject'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1936; col. 1697, Vol. 315.]That sums up the attitude of the Government this morning, and of the Amendment which has been put forward. I understand that 28 countries have shown a desire for a convention, in favour of a recommendation of the International Labour Office, stating the regulations that should be put into operation.
His Majesty's Government represent a country which has led the world in the development of social services, but they are now behind more than 30 countries. We find their name in a list, and I will be frank and say that I am ashamed to find their name in the column in which it stands. If they had expressed the opinions and desires of the majority of the population of this country, even among Conservatives, their attitude would have been quite different. A great many countries have legislation in operation on this matter. Last year there was a note on page 81 in the Grey Book, in which the people at the International Labour Office made this statement:Indeed, no less than 14 States have adopted schemes applying to both manual workers and salaried employés, in commercial and industrial undertakings; five others have legislation for either manual workers or salaried employés alone; and still others have passed special Acts applying to various classes of workers. In addition, very great numbers of workers enjoy annual holidays with pay in virtue of collective agreements or as a matter of custom.Having regard to the international situation, it ought not to be argued, even from Conservative benches, that legislation is out of the question. His Majesty's Government have had a lead from many other countries, and even since the statement was printed which I have read, there has been legislation in France, Belgium, the Irish Free State, and other countries. Apart from those countries, the three dictatorships in Europe, Italy, Germany and Russia all have conventions for holidays with pay. 731 I do not wish to create the impression that I want either one method or other of government from those countries to be applied here; none of us wish to bring that about, but we ought to show the peoples of the world that this great Democracy, which has led so long in social legislation, can concede anything that can be conceded by countries like those.
The Bill does not go anything like as far as some of the conditions which prevail in other countries. If we were to give details of the Russian decree on holidays with pay, it would be agreed that it is an example to the world. Having regard to the agitation that has gone on through the years, we ought to make this concession to our people. If no legislation is passed, millions of people in this country will never get holidays with pay. You will always have the gradgrinds preventing even enlightened and kind-hearted employers from doing what they would like to do, because of economic circumstances.
Let me deal with the details of the Bill. It contains 10 Clauses, which are fairly straightforward and self-explanatory. Clause 1 says that a person shall have a holiday of eight consecutive days after 12 months' service. It mentions persons under contract of service and apprenticeship, and so forth, and makes provision for their being granted a holiday. Clause 2 lays down that persons having holidays in accordance with this Measure shall be entitled to wages as if they were working. The latter portion of the Clause states that if a person who is on holiday takes up employment in some other industry and works, the money which is thus earned shall be deducted from the amount of the pay for holidays. Clause 3 is really a punitive Clause, laying down conditions as to penalties for contraventions of the Act. Clause 4 gives power to make regulations by Order in Council, for we have to realise the possibility that, if the Bill becomes law, it may be necessary to pass regulations for carrying it out.
Clause 5 may be said to be designed to prevent contracting out, while Clause 6 makes provision for calculating wages. We know that there may be people working part of the year on piece work, part of the year for time wages, and so forth, 732 or there may be people working on piece ages all through the year, and it will be in their case a question of the hours worked. We think the Clause is necessary. Provision is also made that, if the two sides who have to consider the matter do not come to satisfactory conclusions, in England the county court registrar shall decide the issue, and in Scotland the sheriff clerk. Clause 7 simply provides that the holiday shall be in addition to any customary holiday, and Clause 8 makes provision for cases where the employment terminates say in the middle of a year, and really makes the worker entitled to the proportionate share of his holiday according to the time he has worked. The other two Clauses are self-explanatory, and I do not think I need go into them.
In conclusion, I want to say that I thought there would not be much opposition in the House to the Bill, and was quite surprised when I saw on the Order Paper this morning an Amendment which everyone must agree is a shelving or blocking Amendment. I would like to say, to those who may oppose the Bill, that every argument that can be used against it this morning about the burden on industry has been used against every Measure that we have brought before the House. I would like to say to the Conservatives that some of us remember the agitation for the first Workmen's Compensation Act. It took many years to get the House of Commons in a frame of mind to pass that Act, but, despite all the talk from employers and those who opposed it, I would remind the Conservatives of the present day that it was a Conservative Government that passed the first Workmen's Compensation Act with all its burdens. I would ask the Conservatives to take that point of view this morning. We could cite other examples. For instance, the burden of taxation has always been quoted when we have gone in for some social improvement. Many Members of this party hat to agitate for a quarter of a century for the Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Pensions Act, but we have to admit that, despite all its burdens, when public opinion was ready for that Measure to be passed a Conservative Government passed it. To my mind we have now got to the stage when there has been sufficient agitation in this country for 733 annual holidays with pay, and there is a sufficient volume of opinion throughout the country in support of it, for the Government to be able safely to pass it. This morning affords another occasion when they could stretch a point and go beyond the old consideration that was put forward by Conservatives, and follow the example of others who have preceded them. In my view, the Government will have the country behind them if they will pass this Bill. I beg to move it, and I ask the Government to give time for its further stages and its passage into law.
§ 1[...].42 a.m.
§ Mr. RILEY
I beg to second the Motion.
I want briefly to call attention to three aspects which the Bill involves—first, the desirability of passing the Bill; secondly, the objections raised against it; and, thirdly, what has already been done. I would remind hon. Members that this is the third occasion on which a Bill of this character has come before the House. The first was in April, 1925, when I had the pleasure of introducing such a Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule, and it was accepted by the House on that occasion without a Division. In 1929, Mr. Winter-ton, who then sat in this House for the Loughborough Division, introduced a similar Bill as a private Member under the luck of the Ballot, and on that occasion, after a full day's discussion, the Bill was carried in this House by 184 votes to 63. I hope that, on the old adage that the third time does the trick, we shall not only get the Second Reading, but that the Bill will go to a Committee and, with the support of the Government, will become an Act of Parliament. I am certain that if that were done the Bill would be one of the most popular of the Measures passed by the present Parliament.
As to the desirability of the Bill I feel sure there are no two opinions in the House. I entirely associate myself with my hon. Friend who has moved the Bill in saying that there is an overwhelming body of opinion in favour of this long-delayed social reform becoming a reality. No one for a single moment disputes the desirability, both on physical grounds and on grounds of social amenity, that every worker should have the opportunity without great inconvenience of getting away at least once a year from 734 the scene of his daily toil to a change of environment and a change of scene. No one can contest that for a single moment; it is a desirable advantage and amenity with which everyone must agree.
It is all the more desirable, and its claim is all the stronger, because of the fact that there are so many sections of the community who enjoy this privilege every year in a very ample form. Reference has already been made to the position of Members of this House. In a few weeks we shall be adjourning from our strenuous labours here for a five or six weeks' holiday with pay, and that is only one of the holidays in the course of the Parliamentary year. Later on, next year, we shall have a long vacation, and we know the advantages of having a holiday with security and with pay as Members of this House. The same applies, as my hon. Friend has said, to the 2,000,000 or so of Civil, municipal, and semi-public servants and clerical staffs all over the country, and in their case the holiday with pay is very often not simply one week, but often extends to five or six weeks in the year. Personally I have been amazed to see the contentment with which the 11,000,000 or 12,000,000 manual workers of this country year after year see special classes of the community such as Members of Parliament and school teachers with five or six weeks' holiday paid for by those manual workers as ratepayers, while they themselves, with limited wages, have no chance of a holiday at all.
From every point of view this reform is desirable. I can speak with some practical experience as a workman and an employer. I am a member of the printing trade, in which industry we have enjoyed since 1918 an almost complete agreement covering the whole of Great Britain for a fortnight's holiday with pay for every man, woman, boy and girl in the industry. We know what it means. We have 100 employés at my place, and on the Friday before the annual holiday in Yorkshire, at the end of July, the employés come out of the works with double wages, the wage for the week they have worked and the wage for the holiday week. The men go away with £7 to £8 in their pockets, so that they can take their wives and children to the seaside.
What about the objections? Take first the question of cost. I know from my 735 experience as an employer what that means. In our case it means £3 per employé per annum. The printing trade has fairly high wages. If you take the cost to the average industry spreading over men, women, boys and girls and the average wage of an adult person the cost would be £2 5s., compared with the burden which now rests on every employer of ls. 10d. a week or £4 15s. per year for each adult employé in respect of unemployment, health insurance, etc. Seeing that this reform would amount on the average to only about £2 5s. per employé per year, there is no substantial objection to it on the ground of cost. Another objection raised is that if Parliament passes this legislation we shall handicap our exporting industries and our great industrial concerns with an impossible burden which will injure them in competing in the foreign market. What are the facts? My hon. Friend has referred to a number of countries which have already passed legislation providing holidays with pay for manual workers. I make this statement, and I challenge the Minister to dispute it, that for all practical purposes, from China to Peru, there is not a single civilised country which has not passed legislation dealing with holidays with pay for various classes of workers. Even China, Peru and Chili and almost every South American Republic, not to mention the great European countries, have passed legislation. Can he tell us of a single country in Europe which has not in some form now in operation an enactment representing the conscience of the nation conceding to the manual workers the right to annual holidays with pay?
In many European countries this system has been going on for nearly 30 years. Sweden was the first country to start the system in 1912. Denmark and Norway followed. Even Austria, now a dictator country, started with legislation for holidays with pay for every class of manual worker, and it is still in operation. Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, France, Belgium and the Irish Free State all have decided to put into operation holidays with pay for manual workers. In South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, while there is no general law there, the acts of conciliation and arbitration in regard to wages enable the workers in every in- 736 dustry to apply for an award, and in those awards the provision is made over and over again for holidays year after year with full wages.
It is very unsatisfactory to reflect on the part which the British Government have played in not helping this social reform to be realised and in retarding its establishment not only in this country but in other countries. At the present time not only have the countries to which I have referred put into operation this reform, but the International Labour Office have since been making inquiries as to whether there could be a general convention, to which every country would subscribe, assimilating the conditions in every country on this subject so that there would be no unfair competition. Last June they decided in a conference of governments, employers and workmen, by 58 votes to 34, in favour of a general convention including holidays with pay for every class of worker in every country, except agricultural workers and seamen, and they are reserved for a special convention to be brought up at a later date. What is the attitude of the British Government to that convention? They delayed as much as they could coming to a decision, and finally they abstained from voting. I hope that the House will remove that black stain from our country in regard to this great stride forward in social betterment, and give the Bill a unanimous Second Reading.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ Mr. GRIMSTON
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House, while welcoming the continuous development of the practice of granting holidays with pay and favouring the extension of this practice by voluntary agreement, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which interferes with the free negotiation of the terms of employment between employers and employed and pays no regard to the great variety of circumstances in the many different industries and occupations which would be affected.I wish to make it clear at the outset of my remarks beyond any question of doubt that there is no difference between us and hon. Members opposite on the principle which underlies this Bill. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I would ask them to listen to the case 737 that I shall make, and I shall make very pertinent observations concerning the manner in which this Bill was treated by the Socialist Government in 1929. I will come to that later. I listened with interest to the speeches of the proposer and seconder of the Motion. They put their case most cogently, and, as I have said, as to the question of holidays with pay, they are merely knocking at an open door as far as we are concerned. I want to meet one or two observations which the Proposer made at the outset of his speech. He admitted the impossibility of some employers giving pay for holidays, and then asked that this House should legislate for what trade unions are unable to get by legislation. It is a most astonishing thing to ask this House to pass legislation which he knew could not be fulfilled by certain employers.
I thank the hon. Member for his correction I thought quite honestly that he said "could not". The next thing he said was that this country should follow the lead of other countries in this matter. There is very little doubt that if we were prepared to go down to the wage rates and down to the level of the social services in the countries in which this legislation has been passed, we could give more than eight days' holiday. That is my answer to that suggestion. I thank him for his generous remarks as to what has been done by the party to which I have the honour to belong in the matter of the Workmen's Compensation Acts and Widows' and Orphans' and Old Age Pensions. He concluded his remarks by asking the Government to give time for this Bill, and I shall have something more to say upon that matter at a later stage of my remarks.
It may be necessary for me to deploy my argument a little wide in making out a case against the passing of this Bill, but I hope that I may receive the indulgence of the House, and I shall be as brief as possible. The core of the Amendment is in the words:declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which interferes with the free negotiation of the terms of employment between employers and employed.738 I should like to make it clear that the Amendment does not refer to any conditions with regard to safety or health in mines or factories, which it is certainly the right and the duty of the State to prescribe. The Amendment refers only to the remuneration or pecuniary reward of labour. The Bill really cuts right across the principles which divide us and the party opposite. We may be right or we may be wrong, but, on this side, we honestly believe in the greatest measure of liberty being left to individuals and associations of individuals, consistent with the general well-being of their fellowmen. It is also part of our creed that, human nature being what it is—and you are not going to alter human nature by Act of Parliament —if you allow the motive of private gain, which operates in some form or other among 99,000 of every 100,000 people on this earth —if you allow that fundamental human characteristic to operate, you will get more wealth produced, and therefore more will be distributed. Hon Members opposite may not agree, but we believe that quite sincerely. Their slogan—and it is one which I have oftern heard—is that production should be for use and not for profit. A slogan is something simpler than the truth, and I believe—and perhaps I shall get some hon. Members to agree with me—that if any people think that they are going to make a profit out of producing something which is not for use, they should be certified. In any case, they will certainly get no money of mine in an enterprise of that sort.
Believing in private enterprise on the one side, as we do, we must concede the right of employés on the other side to organise themselves as powerfully as they can for collective bargaining in their various industries, but if they have the right to do that and the right to withheld their labour, I cannot see why the settlement of wages should not be left to negotiation between the parties, as long as the scales are not tilted by State or other action against one side or the other, and I do not believe that they are in the present circumstances. This Bill is really an infringement of the liberty of the trades unions and the employers' organisations to negotiate between themselves. [Interruption.] It certainly is, and I am going to make that clear by illustrating my point by a hypothetical case. Suppose the Bill is 739 passed, every industry and every employer in the country will have to give a paid holiday. It may be that a certain firm will come to the appropriate trade union and say, "We have to meet this extra charge and we cannot do it unless we either reduce wages or increase hours, or have a combination of both." The trade union will say, no doubt, "We want proof of this", and it may well be that that particular firm will be able to produce figures to show the trade union that that really is the case, and that if this condition is to be imposed, they will either have to reduce wages, or dismiss a few men, or make the saving necessary to pay for the holidays in some manner. It might be possible in such a case that the trades union, knowing the conditions of its own workpeople and so on, might say, "Things being as they are, we would rather have the present conditions and not paid holidays." But if this Bill existed they could not do that.
The discretion of the trade unions in this matter would be absolutely fettered by this House, and I am not one who will agree that that is a good thing. Trade unions know their own business a good deal better than I do, and I cannot speak for them, but I can certainly say from the employers' point of view, that I should be surprised if they willingly agreed to such a restriction of their discretion. The case that I have stated is one that might very easily arise. I do not want to enter into the question of whether or not industry as a whole can bear this burden. That is a question which ought to be thrashed out between the trade unions and the employers.
§ Mr. GRIMSTON
I am glad that I received a cheer for that remark from the hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite. It seems to me that the Bill to a certain extent is a slur upon the efficiency of the trades unions to carry on their own legitimate business. That, after all, is consistent with the theoretical Socialist view. You cannot argue that the Socialist State will give the workers and everybody all they want and say, at the same time, that in such a State you are to have trade unionism. If I understand trade unionism aright it is an organisation to protect the interests of the workers. Under a 740 Socialist State we are told they will not need protection, and for that reason your theoretical Socialist and your trade unionist very often differ.
I want to address my remarks to another part of the Amendment in which we favour the extension of the practice of voluntary agreement with regard to paid holidays and to say something about what has been done in that direction. I believe that if the firms that granted holiday with pay advertised the fact more widely, they would get a great accretion of good will. If I had to choose between doing business with a firm that gave paid holidays and one that did not, I would do it with the firm that gave them. The hon. Member mentioned that there were between three and four million workers of various kind who are now enjoying holidays with pay. The process is on the increase all the time because between July, 1932, and April, 1936, the number of general agreements providing for paid holidays increased by at least six and the number of district agreements by at least 20. That may not be very fast, but it shows that the trend is upwards, and we all applaud that and desire to see it continued. Anyone who wants to see the details can find them published in the Ministry of Labour Gazette.
§ Mr. GRIMSTON
The hon. Member is quite right. I was going to quote them in that way, but the hon. Member quoted the total. There are 1.500,000 manual workers, and the others are clerks and salaried people of different kinds.
Now I want to refer to what happened to the Bill under the Socialist Government in 1929. The Annual Holiday Bill was introduced on 15th November of that year. This was in the early stages of the Socialist Government, practically at the commencement of a Session, so there was plenty of time in front of them. It was not just before the collapse in 1931. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and he spoke. He said: 741Personally I hope that the House will not refuse to accept the principle of this Bill.Here may I interpolate that this Amendment does not oppose the principle of the Bill.There is a point which is a formal point, made by the hon. Member and underlined by the hon. Member for Sunderland. It is a point that arises on Clause 5 of the Bill where holidays are mixed up with wages, hours, conditions and general agreements. The point was that there may be a danger of impinging upon those conditions, and, it may be, their violation. But, while all that is quite true, if the House agrees to the principle of the Bill and gives it a Second Reading, as I have said, there can be no time given, unfortunately, for its passage in view of the heavy programme before the House and in view of the fact that the whole matter would need full inquiry and consultation with the unions and other interests concerned." —[OFFICIAL REPORT,15th November, 1929; col. 2486, Vol. 231.]On 6th December the Bill was withdrawn. On 19th June, six months later, Mr. Winterton asked Miss Bondfield, the Minister of Labour,Whether returns are now available relating to the promised inquiry as to the effect of an Annual Holiday Bill, and whether she will circulate replies from the organisations that have been consulted.Miss BONDFIELD: During the Second Reading Debate on my hon. Friend's Bill certain important questions were raised. These have since been the subject of examination and informal discussion with industrial representatives, from which it is clear that further consultation with the Trades Union Congress General Council and the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations is necessary in order to bring any proposals for compulsion into proper relation with the voluntary agreements already in existence and to take into account the various circumstances which need to be considered. I propose to enter into such consultation immediately." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1930; col. 594, Vol. 240.]I have endeavoured to find out what happened subsequently, and it is interesting to note that the whole matter just petered out. I do not know the reason for that, hut I suppose that all the technique of political and governmental procedure was brought to bear to put the Bill into the lethal chamber. Anyway, it succeeded, and when I remember what took place at this year's Edinburgh's Conference of the Labour party, I am not at all sure that the trade unions did not say, to use an unparliamentary expression, "Keep off the grass, and leave us to do our own business." Anyway, 742 the fate of the Bill is shrouded in mystery, but there was every opportunity—time and everything else—for the Socialist Government of that day to give facilities for its passage had they wished.
I am somewhat surprised that the Bill is sponsored by one section of the Socialist party, because I should describe it as a charter for the redundancy of trade unions. It surprises me that it should find support in certain quarters opposite, though I can understand it in others. I wish strongly to reiterate that we desire to see the continuous and rapid advance of the system of holidays with pay but, wherever we look, we see liberties being filched in one direction or another.[Interruption.] Hon. Members may laugh, but it is perfectly true, and they know it as well as I do. I think that where this House of Commons can preserve liberties between man and man it should do so. I believe quite sincerely that these matters are best thrashed out by free negotiation between the parties who understand the different conditions in different industries better than we do. I believe it would be a mistake at this time to pass a Bill of this nature. It would throw all the present agreements into the melting-pot, and create considerable chaos in industry, and I am not sure that eventually the effect of the Bill would be good for the workers as a whole. I say that quite honestly. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?") If the hon. Member has listened to my speech he will know. For these reasons I do not believe that it is good for industry that the Bill should be given a Second Reading.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Sir JONAH WALKER-SMITH
I beg to second the Amendment.
The speech of my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment aroused the risible faculties of some of our Socialist friends. I am going to state most emphatically that I am in sympathy with the general objects of this Bill. I second the Amendment because I am perfectly well satisfied that the Bill will by no means achieve the objects desired. On the contrary I think it will retard very considerably the progress towards that end. I am not going to make any mention whatever of the burdens upon industry. If there are those who expect that the Bill is going to be opposed upon the ground that it is putting insuperable 743 burdens on industry, they are doomed to disappointment. I do not believe that arguments of that kind could be or would be used. The arguments against the Bill are of a totally different character.
I do not blame the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill for taking the opportunity of making an excellent speech in support of a principle which is in no way in question. He was in that respect pushing an open door. I noticed that he did not delay the House very long with observations upon the text of the Bill itself. With the permission of the House I will make a few observations upon the text of the Bill and thereafter a very few general observations upon the principles of this question of holidays with pay. I am in difficulties with this Bill in the very first Clause and the very first line of it:Every employed person who has been in the same employment for twelve months or longer … shall be entitledto a week's holiday with pay. I do not think that the Bill provides for that in the least. We have to turn to the interpretation Clause, Clause 9, Sub-section (2), to get a definition of "the same employment." There we find these words:A person shall be deemed to be in the same employment if he continues in the employment … of the same employer … or in the same business carried by persons in succession.That would exclude the millions who are not able to show that they are in continuous employment with any employer for a period of 12 months. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading expressed great concern for the very large numbers of those who at the present time are not in a sufficiently satisfactory position economically and otherwise to organise themselves into unions. I would submit that in that enormous number no appreciable percentage would be found of those who would come within this definition or within the purview of the Bill. I do not mean to go through those most unfortunate industries which are so situated economically that they are unable to organise themselves, but I will refer to one which has organised itself with extraordinary efficiency. That is the building industry, which embraces a million operatives. There is an industry that is extremely well organised. The leaders of the trade unions in the building 744 industry must be gifted with a rather better sense of negotiation and conciliation than the trade union leaders in other industries who are not able to meet employers to discuss any matter of mutual interest affecting the industry concerned.
In the building industry operatives are generally engaged at the site. A man goes on to the site and he is engaged at so much per hour for as many hours or days or weeks as the job may suit him or he may suit the employer, and then with one hour's notice on either side he goes, to find some other work elsewhere. It seems to me that the whole of those who are in that extremely well-organised industry are to be excluded from the scope of this Bill. And what is going to happen to those millions who are not so well organised will readily be understood. The Bill in that respect is a complete sham. In Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 there is an indication of the attitude of mind of those who drafted the Bill. As soon as any little difficulty presents itself there is recourse to such a phrase as this:The expression 'year' means a term of 12 months calculated in the prescribed manner.No manner could be easy to prescribe. That is to be dealt with at some future date. The promoters of the Bill skip over difficulties of that kind with a rather greater readiness than one would wish to see in a Measure of this importance which would have such far-reaching effects. The same sort of slipshod method, if I may use that word, is to be found if one turns to Clause 6. When we realise that there are enormous numbers of workers who are engaged on a piece-work basis, or part piece-work and part time-work, we appreciate that the calculation of wages would present several difficulties. The draftsmen of the Bill propose to get over the difficulty in a very similar way, by the comfortable method of deferring the difficulty. Clause 6 provides that:Where an employed person is paid by the piece or partly by time and partly by the piece, the amount of his wages … shall be calculated in the prescribed manner.No manner is prescribed. The irritation that the Bill would create in this and other respects one can imagine. The registrar of the county court would be kept busy, because all these disputes would have to be referred to him.
745 Let me revert to Clause 2. I agree entirely with the principle underlying this Clause. The principle was no doubt that it should be a deterrent to an operative sacrificing his holiday by going to work for some other employer during the week when he should be enjoying his well-earned rest. I am entirely in favour of including deterrents against operatives disregarding the objects of the Bill, but I think they will be extremely difficult to administer. You would have to follow all these men around to see how they were enjoying their holiday, whether they were taking a busman's holiday. Even if an unfortunate person were run to earth and revealed as such a glutton for work that he obtained work in the week when he should be having his holiday, it is singularly immoral that those earnings should be credited to his original employer. I think that this Clause is inconsistent with Clause 8. In my opinion Ole meaning of Clause 8 is rather different from the explanation as given by the Mover of the Bill, but I accept his explanation as to its meaning. In my view it is extremely difficult to understand what it does mean, and I think I can detect a considerable inconsistency between the provisions of Clause 2 and those of Clause 8. In Clause 3 there is what I feel will be an irritant and a constant source of trouble. It relates to the penalties for non-compliance with the Bill when it becomes an Act. It is very unfortunate to create irritants and causes of friction which can be avoided. Under this Clause a number of cases may arise which may be submitted to the courts, and if they are not submitted to the courts the disgruntled individual may threaten litigation. You thus have all the elements of irritation and friction which, from my experience, it is extremely desirable to avoid. The Clause says:If any employer evades or attempts to evade any of the provisions of this Act by the dismissal or suspension of, or by any threat to dismiss or suspend any employed person, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.Any Bill which requires an irritant Clause of this kind should be regarded with great suspicion and regret by those who are anxious to maintain peace in industry generally. Clause 4 provides that His Majesty in Council may make regula- 746 tions for carrying the Bill into effect. It is regrettable that very few Bills, whether Government Bills or private Bills, are regarded as complete unless there is a Clause of this kind. In this case it is His Majesty in Council who will make regulations for carrying the Bill into effect. I do not know why it should be His Majesty in Council, I should have thought it could have been a Minister of the Crown, but, in any case, it is a further indication of the slipshod way in which the Bill has been drawn, and shows the intention of the promoters to leave the real administration to be carried out in Government Departments by means of elaborate regulations, which in practice this House has little or no opportunity of debating. If a Bill needs a provision of this kind, in my opinion it is undesirable. Clause 7 is also most unsatisfactory, very ambiguous in its terms and is likely to raise difficulties. The particular words which seem to me to be ambiguous areThe holiday to which an employed person is entitled under the provisions of this Act … is in addition to any holidays on a weekday to which … the employed person would have been entitled by law or custom in the subsequent provisions of this section referred to as a customary holiday.It is difficult to know what is intended by "customary holiday". The hon. Member who seconded the Motion said that in the printing industry there was a scheme whereby operative printers have their holidays with pay plus some additional amount in their hands. Those are the customary holidays in the printing trade. Is this to be over and above the customary holidays which exist in literally millions of cases where operatives are paid by the week, as in clerical and commercial offices? If it is, I think it is unfair to those in other industries who by organisation and without the necessity of a Bill of this kind have been able to provide most satisfactory arrangements. It may be that a customary holiday is merely a nationally or locally recognised holiday, such as bank holidays, the Lancashire wakes or the Newcastle race week. But the Clause is quite ambiguous, as indeed is the whole Bill. It has not been thought out. Those who are responsible for it evidently appreciated the fact that it is impossible to deal with a vast and comprehensive subject of this kind within the limits of a short Bill, and utterly despaired, as well they might, of 747 doing so, and have presented the House with this slipshod document hoping that, instead of the Bill being considered, its principle only would be debated. The principle of the Bill is in no way in question or doubt.
I submit that the Bill is certainly lacking in clarity, it is contradictory in principle and evasive in its terms, and the results I am sure would be most unfortunate if it ever reached the Statute Book. I do not think there is the slightest fear that it will get on the Statute Book, but if it did it would be most unfortunate for those concerned with the organisation of industry. The principle of the Bill is, I think, generally accepted, but there are other methods by which its objects could be obtained much more easily and much more effectively. I submit that there is no necessity for further enactments of this kind. Already there is sufficient statutory power to enable schemes of this kind to be brought into operation when they have been adjusted by the representatives of the employers and operatives in the various industries. They were brought into effect very satisfactorily as supplemental schemes under the Unemployment Insurance Act. In making that submission, I do so not as a Matter of theory but as a matter of practical experience. If it would not bore the House, I would like to explain that, as a result of co-operation between employers and operatives in the building industry, there is in course of being solved a problem which presented far more difficulties and intricacies than the question of holidays with pay.
It is no other than that of providing payment for what is generally known as wet time, which is really payment for the time which the operative loses, through no fault of his own, because of inclement weather. It can be well understood that with tens of thousands of employers, with work of different kinds and descriptions and climatical conditions that vary in different parts of the country, the whole thing has presented very grave difficulties. When it was first mooted that there should be payment for time which is voluntarily lost, it seemed as though the employers and the operatives were poles apart. Gradually, by negotiation and conference, by honest attempts to recognise one another's point of view, 748 by reconciling what appeared at one time to be entirely conflicting interests, it has been possible to prepare a scheme whereby there shall be payment for the time that is lost on account of inclement weather. If such a scheme can be made effective, so that there is payment to men who lose time on account of an involuntary holiday, precisely the same thing could be applied to those who take a voluntary holiday.
I would like to explain that this scheme, so far as it provides for payment to those who take involuntary holidays, was made possible by three main reasons. First, it is, of course, a supplemental scheme under the main Unemployment Insurance Act, but it was not made possible until certain disabilities under that Act were removed by the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1934. That is the first reason the scheme was made practicable and effective. The second reason is that it has found acceptance at the Ministry of Labour, and those engaged in the industry, employers and workers, have received, and are continuing to receive, much sympathy—and what is much more valuable, a very great deal of help—from the Minister of Labour in the preparation and completion of the scheme.
I would like to say that when this scheme was first mooted and submitted to the Minister of Labour, it was during the Socialist administration in 1930. When we met Miss Bondfield, she was equally sympathetic, and I am sure she would have helped us to the full extent of her power, except that there were statutory disabilities that were not removed until 1934. If it is desired to know what were the statutory disabilities when I have finished all that I intend to say I would be glad to refer to them if hon. Members should so wish, but I do not want to occupy any more of the time of the House than is necessary for me to explain my attitude towards this Bill. The third reason which enabled a scheme of this character to be brought into effect was the very sincere and hearty co-operation and good will that exist between employers and operatives in the building industry.
It is for those reasons that I am satisfied that any measure such as the one now before the House would tend to undermine the good-will and the spirit 749 of co-operation that exist between employers and operatives in the industry. It is most desirable that matters of this kind should be dealt with in the industry by the organised representatives of the two sides of the industry. Those representatives of the industry and trade unions have no legal entity. The agreements they make between themselves are honoured because they desire to honour them and because they are arrangements entered into voluntarily. There is no recourse to a court of law; there is no question of arbitration; and there is no reference to a Government Department. That is the very great advantage of the present method of dealing with industrial questions relating to wages, hours of work anal the conditions of work.
The difficulties are dealt with as they present themselves to the individual industry. Employers and operatives are compelled to find agreement. It happens that it is very often somewhat of a slow process, but, realising perfectly well that it is to their mutual interest that their industry should prosper and be successful, and realising, as they so frequently do, that they are in the same boat and must row together if they would make progress, they arrive at agreements with remarkable facility; and those agreements, while they have no legal obligation and are in no way legally enforceable, are honoured absolutely and entirely in the letter and the spirit. I am anxious that there should be no blow struck against those methods which exist at the present time and which are so helpful to all who desire peace and progress in industry. I am sure that if there were a blow struck at this arrangement between employers' and operatives' organisations, all would live to regret it. If there were a third party to which an appeal could be made, these two parties would not longer sit down in earnest confidence to reconcile their conflicting views, and with the determination to solve their problems. Instead, they would appeal to a third party, whoever it might be, and the result would be most unsatisfactory.
I hope this particular question will receive consideration by employers and operatives in all industries. If it does, I am reasonably certain that in process of time ways and means will be found of preparing schemes which will be suit 750 able for each particular industry concerned. The conditions that will be required will vary greatly. There will not be one scheme common to all, for that would never apply and would never be workable. If it is left to the industries concerned, they will each prepare a scheme which will suit their own particular requirements admirably. It is true that they will not all come at the same time. Employers and operatives in each industry will need to have regard to the economic conditions and other conditions of their industry. In some cases the schemes will come at an early date, and in some industries which are less organised and less satisfactory economically, they will be somewhat delayed. The great advantage, however, will be that they will be real agreements which everybody concerned in the industry will be glad to honour as agreements, and glad to carry out. In that way you will get really satisfactory schemes, but by the methods proposed by the Bill you will get merely shadows which will never materialise.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
I rise to say that those of us who sit on this bench desire warmly to support the Second Reading of the Bill and hope that it will pass into law. I should like to make certain observations with regard to the interesting speech of the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) in opposition to the Bill. He called in a number of allies to his aid, and he brought in the sacred name of liberty. I cannot help thinking that to deny a man the liberty to have a holiday with pay is something that one would not like to do at all.
§ Mr. GRIMSTON
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent me, but I never said anything that would convey the meaning ascribed to my words by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. MANDER
If the hon. Member says he did not intend that, of course, I accept his statement. He made reference to the fact that we were knocking at an open door. It may be open, but it is only a very little way open, and it is not widely enough open to allow anybody to get through. He referred to the question of Socialism and said that that was involved in this Bill, but whether we live under a capitalist or under a 751 Socialist system, this Bill is equally important. It has nothing to do with the particular economic system under which we may be living. Then he came along as champion of the trade unions of this country, and I am sure the trade unionists were deeply moved, but, with all due deference to my hon. Friend, I prefer to leave the defence of the trade unions to the trade union leaders. I think they speak with a little more authority on that subject.
Then the hon. Member made reference to the doings of the late Labour Government, of which I was a supporter, but that Government, unfortunately, did a number of regrettable things, of which this was one. His Majesty's present Government, however, have always endeavoured to believe that they are infinitely superior in every way to that Government, and I am hoping, therefore, that we might hear later on from the Minister who will reply that they are prepared certainly to go as far as the Labour Government and, as a superior Government, a good deal farther. That is the least that we can expect from them. If I might refer to the terms of the Amendment, it says:… while welcoming the continuous development of the practice of granting holidays with pay.…There is a development, but it is a very slow one, and that is the point. It is very much too slow, and if you are to refuse the Bill on those grounds, and leave it simply to negotiation, you will deprive millions of people of holidays with pay for many years to come. There is the phrase:…a Bill which interferes with the free negotiation of the terms of employment between employers and employed …If the whole of the workers of this country were in strong trade unions there would be something in that argument, but unfortunately large numbers are not so organised and have no power of negotiating freely with their employers to get these things, and that is the complete answer to a good deal of what the hon. Member said just now to the effect that we are all living in a world where you have employers on the one side and trade unions on the other. We have to think of people who are in circumstances where they cannot get free holidays with pay through those means, and that is why 752 hon. Members above the gangway here, among many others, I have no doubt, are asking for this Bill. The Amendment says:… and pays no regard to the great variety of circumstances in the many different industries and occupations which would be affected.But I say that the arguments of the hon. Member pay no regard to the fact that there is no variety in the demand by the workers of this country to have holidays with pay. They all equally desire it, in whatever occupation they may be employed, and they are all equally entitled to it.
This matter applies both to the international and the home spheres, and reference has been made to both. I would say a word or two about the international aspect of it. This is a matter that has been before the International Labour Office on a number of occasions. It was on the agenda in 1927, 1931, 1933, and 1934, but, owing to the fact that there were other matters of a more urgent nature to be dealt with, it was not discussed. Then, for the first time, in 1935 it was taken up seriously and discussed, and, as we have heard, in 1936 a Convention was drafted and agreed upon giving six days' holiday with pay after one year. I might mention, incidentally, that it was calculated that in 1926 there were 19,000,000 workers in Europe—that is, 40 per cent, of them all—receiving holidays with pay, either by collective agreement or by law. When the Convention was discussed in 1936, 32 Governments replied to the questionnaire, and 28 of them were in favour of it. The two who were against it were Great Britain and Bulgaria, and I think it is deplorable that this great country, which has led the world in so many spheres, is, in all these matters, as I see it, lagging behind and seems to be placing a brake upon the desire of other countries to go forward in the sphere of international social services. Reference has been made to the fact that steady progress has been made in Europe in introducing holidays with pay, but I am afraid that we are lagging behind.
To turn to this country, it is the invariable practice here that after private employers or individuals have for a certain length of time tried a thing in 753 their own experience successfully, and enlightened employers have adopted certain practices, a period comes when the State steps in and makes universal what has been the practice of the best, and I venture to say that that stage has been more than reached with regard to the question of holidays with pay. If there ever will be a period when it will be appropriate to bring in a Measure of this kind, I should say it is now. If it had been brought in in 1931, the employers would have had a very good case for saying, "We cannot afford it; there is great unemployment, and we are doing very badly." But I understand that there is supposed to be a boom on at the present time, that business is doing well, and that unemployment is going down, so that this is the time, if you are ever to find a suitable time, to bring in a Measure of this kind with the minimum of economic interference from the employers' point of view. But whether that is so or not, I feel that sooner or later employers will have to adapt themselves to a Measure of this kind. The workers demand it, and I believe that, looked at from the narrowest point of view, it is in the interests of the employers that they should satisfy their workers by willingly expressing their agreement to the introduction of a universal scheme of this sort.
There has been a number of agreements made by voluntary arrangements, and reference has been made to the work of the trade unions. I would like to refer to what is being done by the joint industrial councils. They do not cover any of the great industries, but they have done a lot of admirable work among some of the smaller industries, and I would refer to the agreement that is in existence in a particular joint industrial council, namely, that of the paint, varnish and colour industry, that covers the whole country and has certain employés in my own constituency. The agreement in that case is that there should be an annual holiday between 1st May and 1st October, Saturday morning and the following week if employed for the full 12 months preceding; if employed for nine months preceding date of holiday, five days; and if employed for six months preceding date of holiday three days. That is an example of what is growing up as a result of negotiation, but it covers only a small part of the field. As regards the effect of this question on my own constituents, 754 of course they all want holidays with pay, but unfortunately the number who receive this advantage from private employers is not large. There may be some employers who apply it but most employers, large and small, have not felt themselves able, so far, to introduce a scheme of this kind. On the other hand, public bodies in Wolverhampton and certain public utility undertakings give annual holidays with pay and thus set an admirable example. Some of my constituents, I am afraid, do not receive a very high rate of remuneration, and they are not able to make savings out of their wages for the purpose of taking holidays without pay.
There is another point. It is not fair to the employer who grants holidays with pay that he should be undercut, as it were, or penalised by other employers who are able to save money as a result of not giving holidays with pay. It would be a levelling-up of the conditions and would be fair to the best employers, if a universal scheme of this kind were put into operation. But I base the claim for this reform as we must all do, mainly on the question of the desirability of an annual holiday for everybody. One of the things that we most look forward to in the year is the annual holiday, the opportunity of going away from the daily grind, either to the seaside with the children, or the mountains or the country. It is something which everybody desires and something which every citizen ought to have.
Why should the worker be placed in a different position from anybody else? Who ever heard of a director who receives remuneration for his services going away for his holiday without pay? It is inconceivable. Who ever heard of a manager going away for his holiday without pay? Very properly they are paid, but it is just an accident of industrial history that the worker is not included in the same category as them in this respect. I think the worker is just as important as the director or the manager. His good will and co-operation are just as much needed in the conduct of any business, and he ought to be treated in this matter in the same way as anybody else who is associated with the concern in which he works. I believe that if this Measure is passed, although employers may grumble a little to begin with, all concerned will gladly fall into line, be 755 cause all will be put on equal terms. The people of the country want this reform. Democracy makes it possible to put it into effect. Conditions are favourable at the moment, and I hope, therefore, that the Measure will pass into law.
§ 12.59 p.m.
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Rowson) on introducing this Bill. Had I myself had his good fortune in the Ballot, I intended to introduce a similar Measure. I listened with great attention to the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, and I hardly like to think how long it will be before everyone will get what is their right, a week's holiday with pay, if the Amendment is passed. We should all like to see this system adopted in a voluntary way. We shall like all social reforms to come about in that manner, but unfortunately they do not, and that is one of the reasons why we are in this House and why we have to pass certain legislation. It is true that a similar Bill was introduced by hon. Members opposite in 1929. My only regret is that they did not push the matter on that occasion, so that this proposal would be the law to-day. The Government of the day said on that occasion that there was not time for the Measure. I do not feel that that is a very good excuse. A Government always has time to introduce and pass any right Measure. I know that it is a convenient excuse, but it is not often a very convincing one. We have frequent instances to show that a Government can always find time for legislation when they want to do so. In fact we are promised an important Measure next week which we are to be asked to pass through all its stages in the course of one day.
One of the criticisms levelled against the proposal contained in this Measure is that industry cannot afford it, and that it would interfere with industry. I agree with the hon. Member for Farnworth that that argument is as old as the hills and has been used in this House about every piece of factory or social legislation that has ever been proposed. Had it been listened to in the past, instead of having the very highest standard of social legislation in the world, we in this country would probably have the lowest. Fortunately, there are always enough 756 progressive people in this House, of all parties, to see that things move steadily in the right direction. That, to my mind is the great strength of our democratic and Parliamentary system. I think that this Measure would pay for itself many times over from the employers' point of view, by better work and better health. In 1929, unemployment was rising and conditions were very black, not only in this country but everywhere and that would not have been perhaps a suitable time to put such a Measure as this into operation. To-day, except for the sad case of the Special Areas, industry is prospering and therefore this is a good opportunity for legislation on these lines.
Another criticism which has often been made in the past and has been made again to-day, is that we need to study the question further and to know more about it, before bringing such a system into full national operation. That argument was, I think, used from these benches in 1929. That is nearly seven years ago, however, and there must have been a certain amount of time available since then for reflection on the matter. Reference has been made to the International Labour Office and the very thorough investigation which they conducted internationally and the report which was published upon it. I am sorry that the Government did not see fit to co-operate in more detail with those who carried out that investigation. Had they done so, I feel that we should now have more exact information on the subject, but they merely dismissed the questionnaire with a rather pious statement which might mean anything or nothing, and which began by saying that the Government were willing that holidays should be given with pay "where circumstances permitted". How do they know where the circumstances permit, if they have not made a thorough investigation?
According to the Board of Trade Journal there are at present 1,500,000 manual workers who come under some form of district or general agreement with regard to holidays with pay. Are the Government prepared to say that these are the only cases in which circumstances permit of this reform? If they cannot see their way to support this Bill and let it go to Committee, I hope they will take the initiative themselves and call a conference of all the employers in the 757 country and try to "get a move on" in this matter. We know by the monthly returns that there are over 11,000,000 people engaged in insurable occupations in this country. How many of them have never had a consecutive week's holiday? Some hon. Members would be surprised to know how many people, even in London, have never been away or seen the sea, and have never had more than one day off in their lives.
Just as it is the legitimate expectation of every man and woman to have proper work and wages, so it is to-day their right or legitimate expectation to have a few consecutive days off once a year when they can do what they like, getting up and going to bed when they please and calling their souls their own. Not only all workers need this but the wives and mothers also who have no eight-hour day but have to work from morning to night, seven days a week for 52 weeks in the year. It does not need much imagination for hon. Members to realise what a holiday would mean to these women, and what general happiness it would bring to the home and the family. Hon. Members have referred to the holidays of Members of this House. I must say, and I am sure that other Members have noticed it, that there is much improvement in the good looks and health of hon. Members as a consequence of Parliamentary holidays.
I am anxious that this Bill should pass because, as the last hon. Member who spoke said, the present practice is unfair. Nearly all people who draw what are known as salaries get holidays with pay automatically, while the great bulk of wage earners do not get them. I would like to ask the Minister why it is that wages so often mean no holidays with pay and that salaries invariably carry not only one, but often two weeks with pay. Apart from the fact that a general improvement in health and physique results from holidays, everyone has a right to a certain amount of leisure. It is because I am convinced that it is only by legislation that we can have real justice and fairness in this matter that I heartily support the Bill. I hope the Government will see their way to accept it because by so doing they will be taking the first definite step in their campaign for the better physical condition of the people.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I rise to ask the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill with as near an approach to unanimity as possible. The Mover of the Amendment gave us an imaginary interview between trade union officials and employers, and tried to demonstrate how, if we went his way about it, we might be able to ease this problem by securing agreement. We heard such reasoning as the hon. Member used 50 years ago. Really, the employers have greater artifices at the present time than he assumes they have and the experience of trade union officials leads them to believe that no reliance can be placed upon such expressions of good will. The hon. Member also asked whether we would come down to the general level of conditions of other countries. I would reply by asking, "Would you go up to the standard of wages in the Scandinavian countries or the United States? Would you go up to their conditions under the National Recovery Act and the codes which have brought about not only holidays with pay, but reduced hours as low as 36 per week?" The hon. Member also spoke of the difficulty that he assumed would arise in cases where workmen, while following one industry throughout the year, might have more than one employer. He said that the spirit of good will existed, and I would like him to use his ability to bring about an arrangement in the building industries. There should be no difficulty in getting consent to a common pool arrangement whereby a man, whoever might have been his employers over the period which would qualify him for a holiday, would be able to receive from the pool pay for the week's holiday to which he was entitled.
The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment suggested that the Bill would cause grave injustice to the efforts of the trade unions. Then he went into a long dissertation about negotiations relating to payment for wet time lost, and suggested that that was a good substitute for an annual holiday with pay. For the hon. Gentleman to speak of leisure through wet weather as though it were a substitute for a holiday shows that he knows very little about the circumstances of home life on a wet day, especially if it happens to be washing day. I am privileged to be the representative of the British trade union movement at Geneva. 759 I am a member of the governing body of the International Labour Office. I have met the workers' representatives from the other 58 nations associated with the Labour Office. At the unanimous request of the British trade union and Labour movement I have from time to time urged upon Governments and employers through the machinery of the International Labour Office the urgency for a convention giving holidays with pay that could be universally ratified.
§ Sir ISIDORE SALMON
Would the hon. Member kindly say whether the other nations agree that there should be holidays with pay?
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I have the Blue Book showing the detailed inquiries, and it is fair to say that in June, 1936, the convention was passed by 99 votes to 15. The majority votes represented from 28 to 30 of the countries represented. It was opposed only by the employers' section.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
The general conditions that call for a holiday with pay were the consequence of the same basic handicaps in every country. In fact, 28 countries already have laws relating to it. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to draw me off from my reasoning into some side lane that would obscure the real issue, I am not disposed to satisfy him.
The strain, both mental and physical, of the increased and intensified pace of modern industry, affecting both manual and non-manual workers, makes it absolutely imperative that they should have an annual holiday free from such anxieties and stress. Unless they get that rest there will be more than one week's labour lost through the resultant sickness among them, and with the weakening of their constitutions the contribution of the human element in industry will be so much the less. Among the employers' representatives who spoke at Geneva in 1936, while the Convention was under discussion, was the representative of British employers. I want nothing that I say to be regarded as personal to himself, because he is an estimable gentleman, but, like me, he was in a sense called upon to carry out the directions of those he was representing. He said that a 760 week's holiday with pay would increase wage costs in Great Britain by two per cent., and that that extra charge was an impossible one in view of the handicap it would be to our industry in meeting competition in foreign markets. I take the view that it would be a very fine investment and a very low charge to lay upon industry.
There is one other aspect of the question which I should like hon. Members to consider. Any hon. Member who inquires into the industries in his constituency or the country generally will be confronted by this outstanding fact, that it is in the heavy and dangerous industries that there are no holidays with pay, not even by collective agreement. The week's holiday with pay is mostly found in the lighter industries, the public services, and industries of a highly technical character. This subject was discussed at Washington in 1919 and, as we have been told, this has been discussed at various times since, but whatever progress has been made by collective agreement has been in the main in the lighter industries, the social services, or in the more highly technical branches of industry, and it is in the heavier and more dangerous occupations that we find the antagonism of the employers is greatest. It is no use saying to a trade union official, "You ought to hold over this claim until circumstances will warrant the kind-hearted employer making it as a concession." The kindhearted employer is a very rare bird indeed. Usually we find that we can get no more from an employer than that which the strength of our organisation will permit us to demand, and we now say to the Government and to Parliament that it is time the law stepped in to deal with the cases in which we have been unable to succeed by negotiation.
I have a list of 22 countries which have laws dealing with holidays for workers, both manual and non-manual, and in addition there are another 10 or 12 countries with laws covering separate industries. In June of the present year France passed her latest law on the subject, which is now in operation, and we must not forget that in many of the other countries the holidays range from one week to five weeks according to length of service, so it must not be assumed that the requirements of the law 761 in the other countries are as modest as the terms of this Bill. Again, in the United States of America, under their National Recovery Act, there are arrangements for holidays with pay.
I know that many of my colleagues wish to take part in the debate and I do not wish to occupy an undue share of the time, but I must say that to those who have represented the workers at Geneva the opposition, the vacillations, or the pretences of the British Government representatives have been a painful spectacle. I do not criticise our representative in a personal sense, because he is under instructions to put forward the policy of the Government. I will venture to say that on two occasions I could not help feeling that the diplomacy and influence of the British Government were used in an endeavour to get many of the smaller nations to throw in their weight with our country to defeat the International Convention. This Bill, which asks simply for a compulsory week's holiday with pay, is not a Bill asking for the moon or seeking to create Utopia, but demands just that measure of social justice which the workers of this country are entitled to claim. If the demand were for two weeks' holiday it would not be too much, because those engaged in the heavy and dangerous industries, in which rationalisation has been introduced, are kept at high tension mentally and physically during the whole time. That is admitted, in industries where, at the moment, the hours of labour are more than 48 per week, and work goes on all the time. On grounds not only of humanity, but of social justice, this demand should be satisfied.
We are told, even by employers, that this would mean an extra cost of 2 per cent. upon wages. I wonder what those employers would say if the trade unions were strong enough to insist upon a 15 per cent. increase in wages for every manual and non-manual worker, so that, out of the 15 per cent., a week's annual leisure could be provided. This House would then talk of national strikes, and about defying constitutional law. If we hesitate much longer I wonder whether a demand will not come, representing impatience and anxiety, that some pressure should be brought to bear in order to institute by Act of Parliament some proper provision in this respect. With regard to the Bill, I urge that it be given a Second 762 Reading, and that hon. Members who might be anxious about it, should agree to it in principle and do their best to remove its defects at a later stage. Let them say that they agree in principle, and that the door is open. Let the door be opened fully, and let the sun flood a little light into the passageway, for a week's leisure, unaccompanied with anxiety at the end of the week about the family income.
§ 1.28 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander WRIGHT
I beg to support the Amendment. It is fair to say that I am attacking the Bill as an employer who is already giving 12 days' holiday pay per year. I consider that this is a had Bill. It strikes me very much as the first thought of someone who has not given great study to the subject. It would be a retrograde step, in that there is already a large number of employers giving 12 days' to 15 days' holiday with pay. It would only be reasonable that, under compulsion, they should reduce the number of days' holiday which they are now giving, so as to come in line with the Bill and give only eight days. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, I think that might happen. I oppose the Bill also because I do not think that economic reforms, however much we may desire them, can be achieved merely by the passing of a Bill.
It is a false argument, which has been put forward once or twice to-day, to say that because industry has already absorbed great burdens it can absorb burdens indefinitely. It may be able to do so, but it is entirely fallacious, as an argument. We might accept it as an implied compliment to the present capitalist system. If we could achieve economic reforms merely by passing a Bill, the process would be extraordinarily easy. Unfortunately we find ourselves faced with definite economic facts which nobody has endeavoured to face in this Debate so far. These definite economic facts cannot be disregarded, whatever system of government you may happen to be operating.
§ Wing-Commander WRIGHT
I am coming to them. It is most important that we should find a satisfactory way of dealing with these necessary reforms—I 763 still regard this as a necessary reform. I have said that I would go further than the proposals of the Bill. It is not sufficient to deal merely with the annual holiday in the summer. It has always been a matter of great worry to me that at holiday periods the very people who, we must agree, need a holiday more than any other—I am referring to those who are most lowly paid—and who would receive most benefit in health and leisure, very often look forward to holidays with feelings almost of horror. They know that during holiday periods the family income will cease. Although we may agree with that, I think we shall not get the results we desire by the passing of the Bill.
I have looked at the matter from the standpoint of giving 12 days—or, if you prefer to call it so, a fortnight—and a spread-over, which may be regarded as a week, for the standard holidays of the year. On doing so, I could not get away from the fact that it is adding 4 per cent. to the annual national wages bill. I have studied this matter; it has been necessary to do so in order to put it into force in my own factory. If you add 4 per cent to the national wages bill, and if about 85 per cent. of the price of the average article is made up of wages, you add something like 3½ per cent. to the cost of every article produced. There are two ways of dealing with that situation. One is to increase prices. If your articles suffer from foreign competition, to increase prices may be serious to you. You may lose the business, and that will result in loss of employment. It may be that the article is produced solely in this country. In that case, if you increase the cost of the article, you inversely reduce the spending power of your people.
The other alternative is to try to find the 3½ per cent, out of profits. I have no doubt that there are industries which can do so, but there are others to which that course will be serious. In any case, this method would be bound to reflect itself in the dividends paid by the various concerns. As a great many of those dividends go to quite small investors some of whom are actually among the most genuine poor in the country. If you reduce those dividends, not only do you throw hardship on a very deserving portion of the public, but you reduce their 764 spending power, and, in turn, that reflects itself in the employment available in this country.
It is no use trying just by passing a Bill to get away from these very difficult and definite economic facts. We have to face them, and they can be faced quite easily. To produce this extra 3½ per cent. on the selling price you just want 1¼ per cent. extra output in production, and I am convinced, as I have said before when speaking on a similar subject, that that extra 1¼ per cent. of output could be got quite easily. It may not apply in all trades—I am talking, naturally, of productive trades—but I think anyone who knows my constituency and the other Birmingham constituencies, anyone who knows what I mean when I refer to "pudding week," will know that it is not beyond the capability of the average producer to pull out that extra 1¼ per cent. If we can pull out that extra 1¼ per cent., we shall find the whole of this extra money that will be required quite easily and without damaging anyone at all. We shall not be robbing Peter to pay Paul, but we shall be actually increasing the spending power of the country by that two weeks' extra pay, or 4 per cent. on our wages bill. That, I think, is the object which we should have in mind, and to which we should definitely work.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Could the hon. and gallant Member say what percentage of the cost of production is represented by local rates and national taxes?
§ Wing-Commander WRIGHT
I am afraid I cannot give that figure, but I do not see that it has anything to do with my argument. As I was saying, I feel that the way to find this extra money is by increasing our spending power; that we can increase our spending power by increasing our production; and that we do not need a, very big increase to meet the whole of this burden. That increase in production will in turn increase our spending power, and it will pass on further prosperity and further employment. I am certain that it is on these lines that we have to work.
§ Mr. GIBBINS
Assuming that this increase of 1¼ per cent. were obtained, the matter would still be left to the option of the employer, and, if he would not give the holiday, it would still be 765 necessary to come to Parliament for power, as it is in cases where they are getting all the production they want.
§ Mr. A. JENKINS
Is it not a fact that there has been a, very substantial increase of production in recent years, and none of it has been supplied to pensions or any other form of benefit?
§ Wing-Commander WRIGHT
If I may reply to the second question first, it is true, of course, that there has been a very great increase of production in recent years, but it is also true that that increase of production has been necessary in order to save many trades from what was a very desperate position. As regards the other question, I was just coming to that point. As far as I am concerned, I do not mind a bit whether it is got by negotiation or by Act of Parliament, if an Act of Parliament can be produced which will operate fairly from both sides. In my opinion this Bill is an entirely one-sided Measure which will not achieve its object, and, if it is brought in in this way, many people may actually do even a little less work. The whole point is that, unless we can produce the work, we cannot find the money to pay for these reforms. It is just a plain economic fact, and we have to face it.
§ 1.40 p.m.
May I, first of all, offer my congratulations to the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill, and thank him for the moderate way in which he presented his case to the House? I have listened with very great interest to all the speeches that have been made today, which have been illustrative both of the advantages and of the disadvantages of the present Bill, and I have no intention of taking up the time of the House by putting forward any more points on either side for discussion to-day. One fact, however, obviously emerges from the general Debate, and that is that on the principle of giving an annual holiday with pay there is no disagreement. It remains, therefore, for anyone like myself to make up my mind whether by giving support to the Bill I shall be furthering the cause on which the House is agreed, or whether by supporting the Amendment I shall also be helping to achieve that object, and I want to make 766 one or two general observations on these lines.
It is true, I think, that there are many weaknesses in the Bill. It is also true that many of those weaknesses could undoubtedly be remedied in the Committee stage of the Bill. There is, too, a great deal to be said for the terms of the Amendment. But on balance I have come to the conclusion that by an affirmative vote in support of the Bill one would be giving a more general indication to the Government that there is a very strong feeling in the country, and obviously a very strong feeling in the House, that something quite definitely should be undertaken by the Government to put into operation this principle in which we all believe. Of course, we have not yet heard the statement from the Front Bench, but I assume I am right in believing that in all probability the Government spokesman will support the Amendment; and, if I may venture to say so, I am just a little tired of reasoned Amendments brought forward to Bills which many of us believe demand the support of all right-minded, thinking people in the country.
It seems to me that, even though the terms of the Amendment are very moderately drawn, and even though the majority of us on this side of the House take no very grave exception to the terms of the Amendment, that, if the Amendment is carried to-day, the Government may feel that they could shelve the consideration of the principle and shelve the responsibility of bringing forward a Bill which would indeed carry out, without the obvious weaknesses of the present Bill, the intention which we all have in mind. I hope that when the Government spokesman addresses the House he will at any rate, even if he fords himself, as he may in a position of responsibility, under the necessity of opposing the Bill, give an undertaking that forthwith a conference will be called together of employers in the country, and that the Government will say that it is their desire that some steps should be taken by the employers to try to implement the principle contained in the Bill. There are very many progressive employers in the country; there are very many employers who, I think, would be only too willing to explore all 767 channels if they believed that they would have the backing of the Government behind them. I have no wish to interfere with the voluntary system, as it is called, but it seems to me that the Government occasionally lose opportunities of bringing pressure to bear on employers when they might reasonably do so.
Everyone who has spoken in support of the principle has pointed out that we are pushing at an open door. That door can be further opened by the employers themselves. There are very many employers who would welcome this opportunity and would work hand-in-hand with the Government. If we accepted the Amendment and rejected the Bill, we should be putting a weapon into the hands of those employers who, perhaps, do not think that the moment has arrived, or those who may not at present feel that they desire to undertake any further negotiation. Even though the Government spokesman may support the Amendment, he would be doing a service to the country and to a very large body of people who do not quite get the consideration which is their just due from many people in the country if he were to give an expression of opinion in favour of the immediate consideration of the adoption of this principle.
I think all of us are impressed with the desirability of strengthening democracy. We feel that in these days democratic forms of Government are being attacked, and it is up to those leaders of thought, those who are placed in positions of responsibility, and those countries, like Great Britain, which can give a lead, to consider the interests of democracy as a whole. There are no better supporters of the democratic system in this country than that large body of people who have, probably for a very large number of years, worked faithfully, honestly and truly in their employment. They have been of service to their employers, the community and to industry. We want every man and woman to have the advantage of living under a democratic system. It is no good running democracy for one class or one body. The class of people who are covered in this Bill are those who have received less material as distinct from, shall I say, 768 spiritual advantage from our present system of government, perhaps, than any other people in the country.
I may be criticised for supporting the Bill, but that is why, above all other reasons, I am going to cast my vote for it. If those who believe in democracy and those who, like the great employers of labour, are in a position to give a lead will do so, I believe Great Britain will continue to be a democratic country which every other nation in the world envies. I hope that whoever speaks for the Government will not only give consideration to the proposals that have been put forward, but will come out with some real suggestion which will let the world know that we are going to divide the benefits of our prosperity among all classes of the community.
§ 1.49 p.m.
§ Mr. ROLAND ROBINSON
I, too, feel that the House should be grateful to the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Rowson) for having used private Members' time to bring forward a Bill which will appeal to the hearts and minds of Members of all parties. To me, and I believe to most of us on this side of the House, the question of an annual holiday with pay is not a party question at all. Indeed the idea is not a new one, because there are some 1,500,000 workers and more who are already receiving an annual holiday with pay. I hope, too, that Members on our side will not be frightened away or diverted from voting for the Bill because the proposition comes from the other side. The idea is not Socialism. To me it is enlightened and sensible capitalism, and I am very glad to feel that hon. Members opposite should support such an ideal. It is, perhaps, interesting, when one thinks where the proposal comes from, to realise that, so far as this country is concerned, the lead has come from the "Daily Express", which was never accused of being a Socialist newspaper. The trouble is that there are still some 9,000,000 workers and more who are not receiving this annual holiday with pay and to me it is a shame, when we think that 14 other countries are giving it to their workers by compulsion, that England should be lagging behind. When was it said before that in social reform England has lagged behind any other country? We have always taken pride that in practically every great social reform the lead 769 has come from Great Britain. I want it to maintain the lead in this important matter.
I believe that the question of an annual holiday is part of the problem of the distribution of labour. After all, unemployment is simply disorganised labour. The Government ought to seize the opportunity to take some immediate action to deal with it. Eight days' holiday as a reward for 12 months' loyal service to the nation and to industry is not a very big reward and I believe, as industry becomes increasingly organised, that period of eight days might easily be extended. It is clear that the principle behind the Bill is a very sound one. We have heard remarks about the cost to industry. It is very strange that the question of cost should have been raised by people on this side of the House, who have always put themselves forward as believers in tariffs. British industry is now working behind the protection of a tariff. We have all said on the platforms of the country that, if we could protect our industry, we could give better conditions. But I do not believe that it is really going to be a burden on industry if this holiday is given. I believe that what they say is a burden will eventually prove to be a profit. Where the holiday has been given, employers have always said they have reaped great benefit from it by reason of the increased efficiency of the workers and a corresponding increase in output. The workers must be in much better health and there is correspondingly less work lost through illness and industrial accident. This matter of illness and industrial accident constitutes a great expense not only to industry but to the nation as well. I believe it could be done away with to a considerable extent if this holiday with pay were granted.
We ought also to consider the benefit of a change for the people who are working in industry. As industry develops, the work of the man operating in a factory is one of increasing monotony. Gone largely are the old days of craftsmanship when one man took a piece of work and, by means of a fine art, turned it into something. Now in industry a man often has a small job of putting one particular screw or bolt into a hole. He suffers very largely from monotony, and it is in the interests of industry to change 770 his environment completely every year, so that he can come back to his work very much refreshed. Not only that, as industry is carried on now, we have millions of workers all over England compelled to live in towns where the air is polluted by the waste products of their industry. I would not like to live in many of the industrial towns of England where for days and even weeks on end the workers scarcely ever see the sun because there are always heavy clouds of smoke and dirt banging over those towns. It is our duty to see that the workers have an opportunity of getting away from those conditions in order to see something of the sunshine and to enjoy the fresh air which we ourselves are able to enjoy. The proposition is one which should appeal very greatly to the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave a lead, which was taken up all over the country, on the need for physical fitness, and what better way to achieve physical fitness among the workers in industry than to take them right away for a week's holiday somewhere in the open air every year. I hope that when the Minister give his views upon this problem, he will consider it also from the point of view of physical fitness.
The principle of a holiday with pay throughout industry has always been admitted in connection with the clerical side, and I can see no reason why we should differentiate between those who do clerical work and those who do manual work. What is good for the one is good for the other, and industry must now take a broader view and realise the value of the intangible improvements in the quality of industrial personnel. It is not sufficient that a holiday should be given without pay. Certainly, if there is no pay, the holiday is often dreaded by the working man because it simply amounts to a period of compulsory unemployment which may do far more harm than good. The absence of the wage will create hardship and put him into a position where he cannot have many of the necessaries of life, and indeed creates a great deal of mental disturbance. It is not very long ago that one of the leaders of the shipwrights referred to the question of holidays without pay as "holidays with hardships". Certainly, the hardship is apparent not only to the worker himself, but there is a very real loss to the 771 traders of England. There is a loss during holiday week because the man cannot afford to pay for the things which he needs, and there may be a loss, too, because the worker wants a holiday, and throughout the whole of the year has to pinch and scrape to save something from his wages week by week, and that must prevent him from buying many of the things he would like, and mean a resultant loss to tradesmen in the town where he lives. Saving for holidays means a general lowering of his standard of living throughout the year and destroys the general value of the indices of living, because they do not make the necessary allowance for holiday savings.
The question should also be considered from the point of view of the holiday resorts. The holiday resorts of England constitute one of our greatest industries and give a volume of employment and a turnover in money which enables it to take its place by the side of any industry in this country. It is an industry which is seasonal and in which those engaged in it obtain work during only a small portion of the year. We do not come to the House as other industries have done crying out for assistance for a subsidy or for special consideration in one way or another. We try to stand upon our own feet, and we receive no help from the Government at all save the comparatively small grant which is made to the Travel Association. Seeing that so little has been asked from the Government from this quarter, they should consider the benefit to health resorts of England which would be given if the workers in industry had an annual holiday with pay. That extra money would make all the difference. More people would take holidays, and the people as a whole would have more money to spend. We in the seaside resorts of England have seen many times how this works out. There are frequent complaints that the workers have not sufficient money to spend. Certainly those who run the hotels, restaurants and boarding-houses constantly complain because people come with so little money. They may come only for the day and bring their own food with them in the form of a sandwich because they have not sufficient money to enable them to go into a restaurant, hotel, boarding-house or cafe 772 and pay for the meals on which they ought to live while on holiday. I appeal to the Government to consider this matter.
There is one defect in the Bill from the point of view of the holiday resorts. If we legislate for a compulsory holiday, we should also consider the incidence of the holiday and provide in the Bill some scheme for a spread-over of holidays generally. It would ease a great deal of the congestion in the holiday resorts and would help the seasonal workers by spreading the holiday season over a much greater period. If the Bill is passed, as I hope it will be, in the Committee stage there should be some Amendment to spread the holidays evenly over a period of, say, four months. The absence of congestion and of holidays coming all at once would have the effect of making the holiday for the workers very much cheaper. The time has come when we must plan our holidays very much as we must plan our work and have a Ministry of Labour to deal with it. Why not plan holidays in the same way and have a Ministry of Holidays to look after that side of the life of the people?
There is another defect in the Bill in that it does not make it illegal for people enjoying a paid holiday to undertake other employment. The whole value of the holiday with pay to industry is entirely in the improvement of the health and mentality of the workers, and I do not believe that Clause 2 of the Bill meets the point when it really provides for the deduction from the worker of the amount of pay he may earn during his holiday. If the Bill is given a Second Reading, I hope to be able to move an Amendment covering that point in the Committee. If it is to be compulsory for the employer to give and to pay for the holiday, it is only fair that it should be compulsory for the worker to take the holiday. I appeal for support of this Bill because I believe that the improvement in the conditions of the workers in industry is to be the next great social reform. I am sorry indeed to see that a few hon. Members on our side of the House should have put down a reasoned Amendment for the rejection of the Bill. They say that they are in favour of a holiday with pay. If they are in favour of it, let them vote for it. The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill said that as far as they were concerned there 773 was an open door. They may call their Motion for rejection an open door. It may be an open door, but to me it is a trap door, and if hon. Members walk into the Lobby in support of it, the cause of the annual holiday with pay will be lost for some years to come. I believe that their arguments are wrong. They object to interference with industry, but at the same time they will support marketing boards, tariffs and trade agreements. They object in their reasoned Amendment to anythingwhich interferes with the free negotiation of the terms of employment between employers and employed.At the same time they believe in workmen's compensation, unemployment insurance, and minimum scales of pay, which are tacitly approved of by successive Governments. To me their reasons do not hold water. As far as the first part of their Amendment is concerned it is merely a pious expression of opinion, and I hope that hon. Members will not be led into inactivity behind it. I would conclude by saying that if you are in favour of an annual holiday, with pay, act on it at once, and realise in a very famous phrase that:Something must be done.
§ 2.7 p.m.
§ Sir I. SALMON
This Bill naturally awakens sympathy with its object, and I should like the House to consider it from a realist point of view. As far as I am personally concerned, it has very little effect. I am looking at the matter from the national point of view. This country depends very largely upon its export trade, and it is a very unfortunate proposition that we should rush a Bill through this House without having any inquiry as to the effect which it would have upon industry, which depends upon the export trade.
§ Sir I. SALMON
If the hon. Member will allow me I will try to put the points as they occur to me. We have heard from the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) that at Geneva they were in favour of holidays, with pay. That statement is a half truth. What we have to bear in mind is the basic figure when we are dealing with a question of this kind. If they are paying 25, 35, or 50 per cent. 774 lower wages in foreign countries compared with this country, the effect of a holiday with pay on their export trade is not as detrimental as it would be in this country where we pay much higher rates of wages. Hon. Members make speeches of a sentimental kind and say that this would be a very fine thing.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The hon. Member talks about sentiment. Is that the sort of sentiment that we have to tolerate here? I will not sit here and listen to it.
§ Sir I. SALMON
It is no use simply talking from the sentimental point of view. No one is more desirous than I am, if it be possible, to give the holidays that are suggested, but we have to face certain facts, and they are stubborn things, which require to be looked into. We have to ask ourselves whether this is an economic proposition in regard to our meeting foreign competition. When hon. Members talk about the operations of the Milk Board, insurance, and such things they forget that the effect there is on the home market, where you have a sheltered market, but when you are in competition with the world you must have regard to what the costs of your product are if you are to compete.
§ Sir I. SALMON
We heard much about conventions when we were discussing the hours of work. There were so many ifs and buts and provisos made by our foreign friends in these conventions that you can easily get through the convention itself. If we are to have a convention on this subject and this country signed it, we should honour that convention in the letter and the spirit, and we should be burdened with certain responsibilities which foreign countries would not be experiencing. Every hon. Member may be desirous of meeting the claims of the Bill, in principle, but there are many grave faults in it. Hon. Members opposite may say that those faults might be altered in Committee. The main point is that you would put a new burden on industry. Hon. Members 775 opposite say; "What does it matter putting two per cent. on the wages bill?" It is not a mere question of two per cent. Every day in this House we are putting new burdens on industry, and it is the cumulative effect upon industry which has to be considered when our industry finds itself up against difficulties in trying to meet foreign competition.
We are in the fortunate position at the present time of having a large number of persons employed, but if we are handicapped in getting orders from abroad we shall reduce employment, and instead of having a larger number employed we shall be increasing the unemployed. This thing is not quite so easy as some hon. Members seem to think. Take the question of housing. That is a very important factor in dealing with the real value of wages as far as the worker is concerned. So is the furnishing of the house. All these things have to be considered when you are talking about increasing the cost of production. Someone has to pay for it, and it is generally the consumer. If you add burdens continuously on industry, which may be small in themselves but cumulatively very serious, you increase our difficulty, and that would be a mistake for us to commit, because we sentimentally, and rightly so, agree with the principle of holidays. I do not agree with the hon. Member opposite who said that employers have no regard for the employés.
§ Sir I. SALMON
It was the hon. Member for West Nottingham who made the statement. Employers in this country are as anxious as anyone to see that the employés have proper treatment, although there are black sheep among employers just as there are in the Labour party. It is very important that we should not try to create a spirit of antagonism between employers on the one hand and the employed on the other. The Government would be well advised, before accepting such a Bill as this, to have a thorough investigation made into its proposals.
§ Mr. KELLY
Does the hon. Member suggest that there has been no investigation into this matter? Is he aware that in most industries in the country the position has been investigated and that in those industries where the system has operated for two or three years it has been found profitable and not a cost against industry.
§ Sir I. SALMON
If the investigation had been of such a character as the hon-Member suggests I have not the slightest doubt that the Government would have brought in a Bill to implement it. It is only fair to the House that we should not hear merely party statements. It is very important that a subject of this kind should be considered in all its aspects. If I am asked as an individual whether I think it desirable that everyone should have a holiday, I say unquestionably that that is so. But what I am trying to bring forward is the point that we have to be realists and consider the problem as a larger issue. We have to try to consolidate and maintain the export trade and realise that we are up against certain conditions with which we have to compete in different parts of the world. Therefore, there is a limit to what we can afford to do in the way of amenities. When wages were originally fixed by the trade unions I have not the slightest doubt that the men of those days had vision and foresight and took into account the fact that in fixing the amount per hour the employé would pay for his own holiday. That is not a thing they would have forgotten. Therefore, the matter is not quite as one-sided as has been alleged. We should do well to pause and not pass a Bill of this sort until proper investigations have been made. If upon investigation it is found that industry can bear this heavy burden, that is a matter for further consideration by the House.
§ 2.19 p.m.
§ Mr. BARR
The hon. Member for Harrow (Sir I Salmon) has told us that we must consider the real and practical proposition and act as realists. It is in that capacity that I would like to investigate this subject for a few minutes. The value and importance of holidays have been recognised from the earliest times. I was refreshing my mind to-day by looking up the Deuteronomic Law in ancient Israel, where they gave three 777 weeks' holidays in a year and called them "the feast of weeks." I would point out that this holiday was to be enjoyed by every kind of man and every section of the community:Thy son and thy daughter, thy manservant and all thy maidservants …Just as in the last report of the International Labour Office we have a special resolution for domestic servants:and the Levite that is within thy gates.That was perhaps superfluous, for the Levite generally sees to his holidays; but in many cases he has to pay the man who takes his place on the holiday. So I am an eager supporter of holidays with pay in all sections of the community. The "stranger," the alien was to get justice, too, in the matter of holidaysand the fatherless, the widow that are among you.A good deal has been said about the action of the Labour Government in 1929 in regard to this matter. I am not going to put in any excuse for them, although the situation was a very complicated one. But I would remind the House that that Labour Government did show its genuine interest in this matter, and it gave holidays with pay for all Government employés, either established or non-established, who came under the class of industrial workers. It has been said that that action cost about £800,000 a year, but that is the merest bagatelle in the finance of this country. Reference has been made to the widespread support of this proposal in other countries. When this document was issued by the International Labour Office in February last there were 28 countries which adhered to this principle. They desired the Convention Many of them had legislation of their own. A good number of countries have been added since then. It is very interesting to know when some of them adopted a law of this kind. Austria adopted it on 20th July, 1919, while the distress of the War was still heavy upon that country. For domestic servants they put in a special resolution—one week for a year's uninterrupted service, two weeks for two years' service, and three weeks for five years' service. When it came to a vote on the Draft Convention and Recommendations the former was adopted by 99 to 15 and the Recommendations by 98 to 15. What was the 778 action of our Government in that regard? This was their statement:The Government are of opinion that holidays with pay should be provided wherever circumstances permit.That is what one might call benevolent inaction. To the recommendation they gave more cordial support. But the effect of their action and of this Amendment to-day is simply delay. They did not vote for the Convention. They stood alongside Bulgaria on one occasion, and on another occasion Japan was with them in inaction or opposition. The effect of the Amendment is simply delay, in order to get an inconvenient question out of the way and shelved. I am not speaking in a party sense, because I have seen all kinds of Governments acting in this way. When a great question like this comes up the Government should find ways and means of carrying it into action. We would say of their inaction in this and other matters:To-morrow, and to-morrow, and tomorrow,Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,To the last syllable of recorded time;And all our yesterdays have lighted foolsThe way to dusty death.We have to-day a number of favoured industries which already have holidays with pay, but those without holidays need them far more than those who have them. The hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) spoke about people who seldom saw the sun. There are some people in Britain who have never seen the sea. We want them to get out and enjoy the brightness of the sun and the glory of the sea. Holidays to many in present circumstances only bring loss of pay, and some measure of calamity. The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Sir J. Walker-Smith) spoke rather lightly of men who got holidays with pay and then went away in another man's bus and got double pay, but I did not detect in his speech those feelings of humanity which should actuate us in this matter. The Mover of the Amendment spoke a good deal of liberty, and compared the present system with the proposed Socialist system. I should like to see liberty of work and liberty for leisure, and the independence which is associated with the proposal of the Bill. The Scottish author, John Grahame, speaking of the seventh day rest said that 779 the working classes sell their time, their labour, and the rich are the buyers. Six days of the week, he said, were disposed of already, and if the seventh was in the market, it would find purchasers too. The abolition of the day of rest would thus, he added, be equivalent to giving the rich the services of the poor for life. If you allow them a little part which they call their own you are indeed asserting their freedom and independence.
The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness said that millions would be excluded from the Bill because they could not get a year's continuous work. We are too well aware of that. The point is that we are looking forward to a system of continuous employment and holidays with pay as part of the better system towards which we are moving. An hon. Member opposite argued as to the value of free negotiations, but the course of history in this country generally has been that employers and employed have led the way in a number of cases; and then the necessity came to universalise by law what had been done by negotiation in order to equalise as between the good employer and the bad, and also to equalise as between higher and lower wages. We cannot wait until all emplayers and unions are enlightened. There must be some form of uniformity, and that is why it is necessary to have Bill like this. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment spoke about human nature. I wonder why we look so much at the lower aspects of human nature, and not more on the higher, and to what human nature might grandly and nobly become. The writer of "Progress and Poverty" says that the present land system sends wolves prowling through society. I want a system which will draw out the better and higher motives in human nature.
Several hon. Members have strongly emphasised the contention of the burden this would put on industry. An old divine once said that some burdens are "as wings are to a bird or sails to a ship." This, in my view, is the kind of burden which will help industry forward, not drive it back. There has been a reference to dividends and how they would be affected. It is almost exactly 100 years since a coalowner in this House argued against inspection of the mines of Northumberland, Cumber- 780 land, Cumberland, and Durham, because he said the industry could not bear the burden. When a Bill was brought in in 1842 that women and children should no longer be allowed to work in the mines the same argument was used by the then Lord Londonderry in another place against a clause in it for the inspection of mines; he said that the industry could not bear the burden. It is the argument which has been used against every kind of progress. When the Navigation Laws were abolished in 1849, it was predicted that the commerce of the nation would go; that our shipping would be driven from the seas, and our shores invaded by some foreign Power. When it was proposed to take children out of the mines and factories it was declared that industry would be ruined if children worked less than 12 hours therein; and the abolition of the half-timer was opposed on similar grounds—that it would foreshadow loss of trade and eventual ruin.
Let me give one other illustration. On the Ten Hours' Bill Lord Macaulay referred to this very argument and used a remarkable illustration. There were those who said that if the Bill were passed it would mean that the country could not stand against foreign competition. In reply, Lord Macaulay said that if the arguments used by hon. Members opposite were sound it implied that if, during the last 100 years, this country had worked longer hours and seven days a week instead of six this country would have been a richer country, that wages would have been higher, and that we would have been a more free and a more civilised nation. He maintained that if we had so done this country would have been poorer, wages would have been lower, and that some other country would now be producing the cotton and woollen stuffs and cutlery for the rest of the world.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead)
The hon. Member who has just sat down—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
It is a dirty trick to call on the Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I do not care; that is plain.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
The hon. Member who has just sat down placed his arguments on a high Biblical plane, and in doing that, I do not say he was 781 taking an unfair, but certainly a definite advantage over myself who oppose the Bill. I was indeed glad when the remainder of his arguments descended to a more mundane plane, where we are on more equal terms. The Debate on this Bill has been well sustained. The hon. Member who moved the Motion—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
On a point of Order. This Debate is not being conducted according to the Rules of the House. Some hon. Members have sat through the Debate, representing thousands of workers, and wanting to speak for them. There is no other authority in this country than the authority by which I am sent here —the workers of this country.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
My point of Order is this. The hon. Member who has risen is a new addition to the Government; I do not know his name. In all my experience the Rule of the House has been that the representative of the Government does not rise until 3 o'clock. My point of Order is this: Why should you call upon him now? I am now calling your authority to book. When the hon. Member rises to speak, our front Opposition bench will have to reply, and hon. Members on the back benches will be cut out. That is against all the Rules of the House. We are being denied our inalienable right to express our point of view.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On that point of Order. Is it not a fact that the Debate will go on until 4 o'clock unless some hon. Member moves the Closure? Therefore, other hon. Members will have the right to speak, even if the two giants from the Front Benches do happen to speak.
§ Mr. TINKER
On a question of procedure. Has it not been recognised every Friday that the two Front Bench speakers should not rise until 3 o'clock?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must preface my remarks by saying that it is solely within the discretion of Mr. Speaker to decide who shall catch his eye. So far as the ordinary practice of the House is concerned, on Friday, which is a private Members' day, it is the common practice for the House to wish to find out as soon as possible what attitude the Government take towards a Bill. In that case it is a very common practice for the Minister to speak fairly early, and there is plenty of time afterwards for other hon. Members. Of course, if hon. Members do not behave themselves, they are liable not to be called at all.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not want to deal severely with the hon. Member, but I shall have to tell him to leave the House if he does not behave himself.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
I would like sincerely to thank the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) for reminding me of my own unimportance, and I 'am sure that is a reminder which is good not only for me but for other hon. Members. I would also like to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) for being kind enough to refer to me as a giant. I take the opportunity of assuring the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs that this is not in any sense a winding-up speech. This is not a Government Measure, but a Private Member's Bill, upon which I think it would probably be for the convenience of the House if the Government spokesman made some remarks. In fact, when I was considering at what hour I should rise, I looked back to a Debate on the same subject some six years ago, and happened to notice that the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Government Front Bench got up at very much the same hour as I do to-day.
The hon. Member who moved the Motion admitted that there was a great 783 measure of unanimity on the principle of the Bill, and he said quite clearly that support for the principle of the Bill did not curve from the workers alone. He admitted that a measure of considerable importance, the Workmen's Compensation Act, has been passed by the Conservative party. Therefore I, for my part, will willingly reinforce the instance given by the last speaker when he referred to the fact that the last Socialist Government was instrumental in making a considerable addition to the number of Government employés who have holidays with pay. When this matter was debated on a Bill in 1929, to which reference has been made, it is true that there was a complete measure of unanimity on the principle of holidays with pay. Reference has already been made to the history of that particular Measure. There was a Second Reading, it made a little further progress, there was a subsequent Parliamentary Question, and nothing more was heard of the subject during the tenure of office of that Government. I think their attitude towards it —I am not really casting it in their teeth — can be expressed by adapting a well-known quotation. Theydid not kill but did not strive officiously to keep alive.If there was unanimous sympathy for the principle in 1929, it is safe to say that there is no less sympathy to-day, but if we compare 1929 with the present day, we find that it is not merely a question of sympathy. We find, in point of fact, that in the interval progress has been made. Hon. Members opposite may —I do not say they do—think that that progress has been comparatively meagre but I think the real point is that it shows that our system of voluntary collective negotiations on this and other industrial matters is not something which remains absolutely static. We find that, without legislation—when indeed legislation has, so to speak, made a start in the House and got no further—that system of voluntary agreement still operates, and has in the course of the last six years been responsible for, at all events, an appreciable measure of progress. I mention that because I think it extremely important that we should consider this problem not by itself but in the proper setting.
§ Mr. JENKINS
We have had no legislation on this matter, and it has been left to negotiation, and, as I understand it, the position to-day is exactly the same as it was some years ago.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
The figures have been quoted already, and that is why I did not give then again. I will give the figures for the period between July, 1932, and April, 1936.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
These are the figures that I have with me. Between July, 1932, and April, 1936, which forms a substantial part of the period referred to, the number of general agreements providing for a paid holiday increased by at least six, and the number of district agreements increased by at least 20.
§ Lieut-Colonel MUIRHEAD
I have given the global figures, but I have not got with me the figure of the actual number of persons covered.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
I cannot think that six more general agreements and 20 more district agreements have been negotiated without any effect on the number. In any case, the figures I have quoted as to the number of additional agreements made in four years, indicate that the system of voluntary negotiation is such that it does not need legislation to stir it into action. It is necessary to mention that fact because, as I say, it is not merely a question of considering this subject by itself but of considering it in the setting of our system of industrial negotiation. We are not discussing to-day a Private Member's Motion. We 785 are discussing a Bill and hon. Members are going to vote, not on whether it is generally desirable that a certain thing should be done, but whether it is to be done in a particular form and by a particular means—in other words, whether it is to be done by legislation.
Few speakers to-day have gone into the details of the Bill. Even for a Second Reading Debate, the details of the Measure have been comparatively neglected. I do not wish to go into them very fully, but I would mention the question of cost on which there has been some discussion. I do not base any argument on the ground of cost, but I think it is a legitimate point for people to make. Very often, when suggestions of this nature are put forward, the first reaction is to say that they will be a burden on industry.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
Hon. Members opposite take the view perhaps because they think it is justified in the light of past history, but equally of course because they think they can score a point or two in that respect, that the question of the burden on industry can be entirely neglected, not only in regard to this Measure but in regard to any similar Measures. But it is clear that cumulatively, these things in the end may have an effect which is not apparent when an individual Measure is under discussion. Leaving that aside, I do not want, as I say, to go deeply into the details of the Bill. What I want to base my argument on—because I think it is a point which hon. Members on both sides should consider—is whether it is desirable to approach this problem by way of legislation.
Naturally, the cases of France and of other countries have been mentioned. In France we see a great democracy which has recently made a spectacular plunge into the realm of legislation on this subject, and it is only natural that that should attract great attention. Hon. Members opposite are admittedly advocates of State action, but it seems to me that they are inclined to attach more importance to the fact that something is going to be dealt with by legislation, than to the actual circumstances of the case or the results which may be 786 achieved. The act of legislation seems to them to be something good in itself. When the Mover or the Seconder of the Motion said that we were behind 28 other countries, he obviously argued that we were behind them because they were legislating and we were not. I wish to apply myself to the actual conditions of our industry, and not to try to assign any particular merit to processes of legislation.
Take the countries which have indulged or are indulging in this legislation. If we consider the whole of the working conditions in those countries and in our own country, I do not think it is a question of our country being behind them but rather one of them being behind us. One has to consider together not only the working conditions, wages and hours, but, what is more, the whole structure of social services which we have built up so carefully in this country and so far in advance of other countries. If you take many of the European countries which have been held up as grand examples to this country because they are proceeding by legislation, it is safe to say, that none of the following countries which have the holiday by legislation have wages as big as ours.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
This is the list of countries I was about to mention—France, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium and Spain. The hon. Member mentioned Scandinavia. It is true that Scandinavia has a better showing than those countries.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Is it not the case that M. Blum has just passed this in France? And you say that France has not got it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
The hon. Member has not caught my point. I was arguing that a large number of countries in Europe—I think somebody said all, and generally speaking I will accept that —had passed legislation allowing holidays with pay. My contention was that you cannot consider this one thing by itself. You have to consider working conditions, wages and hours all together. It is only right that the House should realise that 787 several very important European countries which have legislation of this kind have definitely worse wage rates than we have in this country.
So, when I find hon. Members opposite who are lauding these countries for proceeding by means of legislation, I say to myself that I do not consider that that is a particular triumph for those countries or for legislation. I think it shows that in those countries there is a paucity of the alternative which has served us so very well in this country, that is, the alternative of proceeding by means of voluntary, collective negotiation and voluntary collective agreement. It is just because those countries, I believe, are so wanting in that particular alternative that they have had to have recourse to legislation, but it does not follow that legislation is therefore a preferable way of proceeding, and in point of fact, if we look at conditions as they are, I think we shall find at the present time that, taking conditions as a whole, the system of voluntary, collective agreements, supplemented, it is true, in certain instances by legislation, has brought the working classes of this country to a higher standard than the working classes of most European countries. Actually, at the moment, as I have quoted, during the past few years under this system good progress has been and is being made.
Now I come back to that point on which we are all in agreement individually. There is a general unanimity of sympathy with this principle: It is clear that when many of us are particularly keen on a subject, it does not matter whether we are right-wing Tories or left-wing Socialists—it is only a part of human nature—we want to proceed towards the accomplishment of that particular ideal by every legitimate means. We want to get it done by legislation. We may be against legislation for the most part, but we would like legislation on our particular pet point. We may on the whole be jealous guardians of the public purse, but we think that on our particular pet point a little loosening of the purse strings would not do any harm, and although we may cry down Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini, we all know very well, in our heart of hearts, that we all have a little bit of the dictator in us and would like to be, just for a 788 moment, in the position of a dictator in order to put through our particular scheme. We know that those feelings are inherent in every one of us when our own particular pet subjects come up, and that applies equally to hon. Members on this side as to hon. Members opposite.
My point is this, that although we may feel like legislating on our pet subject, we have to consider what the cumulative effect of a large number of people legislating on their pet subjects would be. One cannot simply consider it as an individual matter. Let me give an instance. If you take Clause 3 (l, b)in the Bill, it says:If any employer … evades or attempts to evade any of the provisions of this Act by the dismissal or suspension of, or by any threat to dismiss or suspend, any employed person, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.There you are. That may seem reasonable, and undoubtedly it does to the supporters of the Bill opposite, but I would ask certain hon. Members on this side of the House who may be inclined to support the Bill to realise that legislation like this, legislation embodying a provision like that, does mean a very wide extension of all those legislative restrictions and penalties to which I believe we as a people are heartily opposed in this country. That is what I mean by the cumulative effect of legislating on these particular points.
§ Mr. JENKINS
What is the difference between this proposal in the Bill and the provisions in the National Health Insurance Acts, under which employers may be prosecuted if they do not pay their Insurance Fund contributions?
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
The hon. Member's interjection merely reinforces the point which I have been making, that you have to consider these things cumulatively and not individually. They are difficulties which are bound to arise, and I see a vista of difficulties arising out of a provision like this, which is embodied in a particular Measure for which according to their speeches, certain hon. Members on this side of the House are prepared to vote to-day.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
It may be a Committee point, but at all events it is in the Bill to which the supporters of 789 it propose to give a Second Reading today, and I have a perfect right, in support of my general argument to allude to it. The real point is this, that though people may want to legislate on particular points, if you carry legislation on points like this a great deal farther—and there are many other points which hon. Members have in mind—what you get cumulatively is a great blow at the system of voluntary, collective negotiation and agreement, which is not one merely of theoretical perfection, but is one to which we owe a very great deal of progress and achievement in the industrial life of this country and I would not be right, on a Measure like this, if I did not issue what I believe to be a real warning of a real danger. That brings one to the crucial point of the Debate. Are we really prepared to make a break in the system of collective, voluntary negotiation on this particular point?
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
It is quite true that in this country the State always has been and is and, I hope, always will be prepared to advance by legislation where it is apparent that voluntary methods are definitely and culpably lagging behind what is often referred to as the public conscience. The mover of the Bill very generously referred to the Workmen's Compensation Act, which was passed by a Conservative Government. That was a thing on which it was certainly considered desirable to proceed by legislative methods. We have to ask ourselves on this particular point whether the urgency is really so great and the failure of the voluntary method really so complete that we must proceed by legislation, and thereby undoubtedly deal a blow at that system of voluntary collective negotiation. I am perfectly certain, in spite of the speeches of supporters of the Bill on this side, that on that big broad issue hon. Members on this side do not wish to do any damage to that system.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman keeps repeating that. Will he allow me to say that I am the British workers' representative at Geneva and that it was at the unanimous request of the whole trade union movement of this country that I pursued the line of action for holidays with pay by law?
§ Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD
I know the hon. Gentleman's record and status at Geneva and elsewhere. They are very honourable. I know quite well also that their political affiliations will take hon. Members on that side into the same Division Lobby to-day. With all that, however, I cannot help feeling that in the hearts of a good many of them there will be secret misgivings—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"!]—their hearts are murmuring at the moment—secret misgivings at what an extension of this method of proceeding by legislation will ultimately mean to the collective system in which the trade union movement plays so great a part. The real question to-day is not whether we should pass a Bill on a particular subject for which we have sympathy, but whether we are going to have constant and easy recourse to a system of legislation in contra-distinction to, and, I believe, in detriment of, that system of collective negotiations and agreement to which we have owed, to which we owe and to which we will owe a great deal of the industrial success of this country.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
This is the third occasion on which I have listened to a Debate on a Measure of this kind, and I had hoped that the Government would be able to-day to carry us a little further than the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary is likely to do. It is gratifying to us on these Benches to find that the two lady Members who have spoken in the Debate are in favour of the Bill, because they know better than we do that if this Bill becomes law, as I think it will in the lifetime of most of us, it is the womenfolk who will benefit most. Let me say without offending the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he is about the most pathetic figure I have ever seen at that Box. When I was a youth we used to hold penny readings and a prize was usually given to the boy who talked the longest and said nothing. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has won that prize handsomely to-day.
§ Mr. DAVIES
If I were in competition with the hon. and gallant Gentleman today he would win. The hon. and gallant 791 member will pardon me for saying further, that the person who ought to be in his place to-day is the Minister of Labour himself. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has done his best but, quite frankly, we are disappointed with the arguments he has put forward. He says that we ought to continue the effort to secure holidays with pay on a voluntary basis, by negotiations between trade unions and employers. At the rate of progress we have made during the last quarter of a century in that way it would take two centuries to secure holidays with pay for the majority of the working people of this country, and nobody knows that better than he does.
We have 17,000,000 people in this country working for wages and only 4,000,000 or thereabouts, are in trade unions. Not all those in unions enjoy holidays with pay; as a matter of fact, there probably is a greater proportion of those who are not in trade unions getting holidays with pay than is the case vice versa—that is, following custom and practice, and I am speaking now of domestics, shop assistants, civil servants, and clerks in particular. The hon. and gallant Member said industrial conditions prevailing in foreign countries are not as good as ours here, and so, forsooth, they ought to pay wages during holidays in order to balance those conditions. I have been abroad several times, and have attended conferences in America, France, Germany and elsewhere, and I can say sincerely, and I hope without undue political bias, that I have always been proud to claim that the industrial legislation and the social services of this country were, on the whole, the best in the world. But I am satisfied that during the last five or six years other countries have stolen a march on us. The United States of America has its National Recovery Act providing holidays with pay; there is similar legislation on this issue passed by the French Government since it came into power and the Scandinavian countries have done so, too; but if all the countries in the world were treating their working class better than our Government are treating ours we could not move this present administration to do anything. When the historian comes to write the history of this National Government he will be able to say one thing: 792 that if it has neglected anybody, it is the wage earning classes of the community.
The Mover of the Amendment said that we have to face human nature. I should like to ask what he meant by that observation. Why does he not say that when we are giving millions to beet sugar producers and shipowners? Do we alter human nature by doing that? It seems to me that we alter their status if not their nature. The hon. and gallant Member said further that we cannot keep adding to legislation of this kind which has accumulated on the Statute Book. If that argument holds good we ought to shut up Parliament and leave things alone. The fact is that the Government have decided, definitely and deliberately, that the working people of this country shall not legally have holidays with pay, and the electors ought to know it. The National Government, made up of Tories, Liberals and so-called National Labour men, have obviously set their face against passing a law to provide annual holidays with pay. That is understandable that is their attitude of mind.
Let me now turn to what was said by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. I have no hesitation in believing that the Amendment was inspired; it was probably drafted also by those who inspired it. I will go no further than that about it. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment was emphatic in saying that there was no difference in principle between the Bill and the Amendment, but I can assure him that if the Bill be carried it will make a vast difference from carrying the Amendment. Let me tell him about the open door, too. There are only two doors in these Division Lobbies, and both doors will open when the Division takes place. Our door will be as open to him as the door of the Government Lobby, and I hope that we shall find him within ours to-day. The Mover of the Amendment said also that employers would not be able to meet the cost of this demand. I have a little authority—
§ Mr. GRIMSTON
I did not say that all the employers would have increased cost. I gave a hypothetical instance of one employer who might incur increased cost.
§ Mr. DAVIES
It would be grossly unfair, if one employer met the cost out of his own pocket and of his own volition, 793 that he should be placed at a disadvantage because other employers did not do so.
§ Mr. DAVIES
That argument as to whether they can afford it has been exploded over and over again. I sat on these benches in 1922 and I and my predecessor both spoke in favour of establishing widows' pensions. In those days, every Member of the Tory party, I should imagine, employed exactly the same words as were used by the Mover of the Amendmetn to-day. As a matter of fact, the words employed against this proposal are almost universally uttered when similar proposals are brought forward: they have become almost like grand opera in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Hon. Members from those benches have always said that the nation could not afford the expense. I ought to say that one Tory Member in those days certainly voted for the Motion: that was the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). Perhaps she did so thinking that she might want a widow's pension herself one day. I have seen several proposals of this sort come into being. Widows' pensions are accepted to-day with thanks. Consequently the hon. Gentleman really cannot use that argument.
Another argument has been used. The hon. Member for Harrow (Sir I. Salmon) was very eloquent. He is sometimes very eloquent on issues in which wages and conditions of employment are concerned. His argument was: "How can we compete in foreign markets if this further addition is made to the cost of production?" "Look at the wages paid in foreign countries, and compare them with ours." Let him come with me to Lancashire, and I will show him wages that are as paltry and petty as are to be found in almost any country in the world. There are men in Lancashire with wives and children to support, who are employed for a full week in a textile mill, for 18s. 3d. per week. You cannot very well beat that, even in Japan. I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether, supposing that that argument about foreign competition were disposed of, he would be willing to grant holidays with pay under the law 794 in all those industries where foreign competition does not prevail—mining, agriculture—[An HON. MEMBER: "Tea"]—yes, I should imagine that there is hardly any foreign competition in serving tea and biscuits; but we are not allowed to be personal in these debates. Let me pass to the Seconder of the Amendment, who said that the Bill was a bad Bill. I confess right away that this Bill is not perfect. Indeed, I have never seen a Private Member's Bill that was perfect—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nor a Government Bill"1—nor even a Government Bill.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The hon. Gentleman can be sure of one thing, and that is that, if he supports the Second Reading of this Bill, and if the Government provide time for it, we will in Committee upstairs put the Bill into such a form, so far as form is concerned, that he would probably be able to vote for it. I say to him therefore once again that on that score he can vote for the Bill which is before the House to-day. The hon. and gallant Member for Erdington (Wing-Commander Wright) propounded a theory which was new to me. He said that there would be an increase in the wages bill of about 4 per cent. if annual holidays with pay were given throughout, and then he said that it would add about 3½ per cent. to the cost of the article. I should have thought that that idea, too, had been exploded long ago. The introduction of machinery and the efforts of the scientist to improve production and increase it per hour[...] and per man have been such that that sort of argument about percentage is of no avail at all. The other day the President of the Board of Trade, in answer to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), stated that, in the production of iron ore from the soil in North Lincolnshire, one man today can produce as much as three men could 20 years ago; and the process is going on. Consequently, to say that there is this percentage increase in the cost of the commodity will not carry much weight.
What annoys me, if the House does not mind my saying so, is this: I worked for three years as a farm labourer, then for 10 years as a coal-miner; and then I became a co-operative employé; and the 795 strange thing is that when I was a farm labourer and a collier I never had a day's holiday with pay at all. If I wanted a week's holiday as a collier I lost my wages, and that is the case now. But when I became a co-operative employé, handling the goods, selling the commodities, writing, typing and dictating letters about them, I got holidays with pay. The producer in almost every case is at a disadvantage as against the person who manipulates the commodity. That is the distinction. I have analysed the industries I have mentioned. There are no holidays with pay for the agricultural labourer, unless he is employed on a yearly contract, and certainly there are no holidays with pay for the collier unless he is on the staff in the office or is a fireman. Indeed, there is this anomaly, that there are large shops here in London employing 4,000 and 5,000 shop assistants who are entitled in common law to wages during sickness, and holidays with pay. In the centre of the same building there is a factory and, because the people inside the factory are producers, they do not get holidays with pay at all.
You have this anomaly, too, that you can have an employer with a warehouse and an office in Manchester, and those employed in the warehouse and office get holidays on pay, and wages during sickness, but if the same employer owns a mill in Chorley or Bolton he does not pay wages during sickness or holidays to those employed there. These anomalies are very annoying to the workpeople. It seems to me that, if the Bill does not get any further than to-day's voting stage, the time must arrive when this problem of giving a fair deal to the producer will have to be dealt with by Parliament. I cannot understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman except on the supposition that he has been instructed to say what he has said. Does he mean to say that he has not been told by the Government to tell us what he has told us to-day? Can he say anything else? If he can stand up and say he supports the Bill against the Government, let him do so and I will sit down.
We are not attacking the hon. and gallant Gentleman personally. This Government has many friends in the country, but it is no friend of the working class. 796 Its legislation and its gifts to other sections of the community prove that. Come what may to this Measure to-day—it is the third time that it has been before Parliament—the day will come very soon when Parliament will be compelled to provide for the miner, the textile operative, the engineer, the labourer and the agricultural worker what practice and custom have given to the professions And other classes by way of holidays with pay for many decades past.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Mr. LYONS
I have listened to the whole of this Debate on a subject of what I consider is of prime importance, and I am satisfied that no case has been made out for opposing the Second Reading of this Bill. I disagree with what the hon. Gentleman has just said, that this Government has no friends among the working classes. I think that is wholly inaccurate. This is a discussion on a Bill to legislate for holidays with pay and we are not discussing the great national benefits of this Government. I think there is no argument that has been adduced by opponents of the Bill that can attract us into the Lobby against it. It has been said that industry cannot stand the strain of the Bill. I hope that an allegation like that will influence no one. It is impossible to think that a Bill like this, seeking to legislate for a principle which the whole House seems to accept, is something that industry cannot support. It is an untenable proposition. It is also said that the time is not ripe for this excellent Measure. Why not? I think the time is very ripe, and this is the one day on which we should show what we think of this matter, on the principle of which we all agree, by saying that we will not lose another minute before sending it upstairs for consideration. One hon. Friend of mine said this might be a very good thing, but it would be brought about by voluntary arrangement. Why should we make no effort at all to legislate for that which we all want and which, we believe, will be brought about sooner or later by agreement? I do not think that that is a proposition that we, as a democratic assembly, can consider for a moment. I dissent from that very much indeed. Even if you think that a thing will come along by ordinary 797 negotiation, I will not [...]accept the suggestion that you should wait and not ask Parliament to legislate for it. You might wait for a Measure of this kind for a generation and still find not done that which many of us think ought to be done in this Bill.
Will it be a burden upon industry? Will industry be able to succeed? One of the conditions of a successful industry is that there should be incorporated in the industrial community a set of happy and contented workpeople, working under decent safeguarded conditions and thoroughly satisfied with their health and lot, co-operating in an attempt to bring about this result. If that be the test the proposal in this Bill can become one of the greatest assets to the workers in industry. A White Paper was issued last night by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour containing a precis of the conversations which have taken place between him and his predecessor upon important industrial matters. I yield to none in a desire to bring about any kind of legislation that may make practical a five-day week in industry. I have never disguised the fact from myself that it is a great attempt at industrial progress. These are very difficult matters to which the Minister of Labour and the former Minister have devoted a great deal of attention, and now on the very first day after the White Paper has been published and we have seen the great efforts that the Minister of Labour is making to bring about further industrial reform we are asked to curb something which marks a real attempt to bring social progress into the industrial life of the country.
A good deal has been said about the door being open, and the principle being one which we can accept. I am sorry that such expressions were used in relation to a Bill of this nature. I do not agree with a great deal of what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) but I accept him on this very point. The real test is that the Lobby door will be open, and I hope that every hon. Member here on this side of the House—and we yield to none in our allegiance to the Government—will go into the Lobby to-day in support of a Bill which is in no way out of sympathy with what we have so often expressed as being our desire, namely, to help to improve the conditions 798 of industry generally and the social services of which we are so rightly proud in this country. I can imagine that when the Workmen's Compensation Act, the Factory Act and the Employers' Liability Act and various Measures of that nature were first discussed in this House the same kind of arguments, and nebulous, vague theories were put forward in the hope of staving off a Measure which somebody did not like. It has not been suggested in the House to-day that there is anybody who does not like this Measure. I have not heard any hon. Member get up and say:" I do not want to see brought into existence that at which this Bill aims," and I would say to my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that I fail to see that any case has been set up by the Ministry of Labour which will induce me to vote against this Bill.
I complain a little at the attitude taken up by some hon. Members on the opposite side, who try to use this Bill for the purpose of propaganda. As one who desires to contribute something, however small, to the team work of industrial progress, I maintain that it is no use blaming the present Government for not bringing forward this Bill as a Government Measure. I do not know why there has not been a Bill of this nature brought forward by some Government as a Government Measure. I fail to see why it should be left to an individual member to bring in a Bill of such far reaching importance, on the principle of which apparently there is complete unanimity. In passing, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Rowson)—with whom I am in fundamental disagreement nearly every day of the week—not merely on his luck in the Ballot, but on the excellent way he has devoted that luck to giving the House an opportunity of discussing this great Measure. I put it as high as that.
I want to know—and we might have heard it from the Opposition sy this Bill was emasculated and strangled in the lifetime of the Labour Government, after it had been introduced. I want to be quite plain about this matter. Because the Bill was introduced during the tenure of the Labour Government, and shelved, that is no reason why I should vote against it to-day. I think 799 the Labour Government was fundamentally futile. This is something that they might have gone forward with, by general acclamation. I notice from the OFFICIAL REPORT that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, speaking on this Bill said:Like a great many Members of this House and all Members on this side, the Government accept the general principle of the Bill.That was on 15th November, 1929. It was as much moonshine then as it is now to speak about approving the principle of the Bill and then emasculating it. Proceeding, the hon. Member said:We are conscious of the fact that you cannot deal with this matter in such simple terms as the Bill itself proposes. That is not to say the Government are not in hearty sympathy with the principle. They have demonstrated that they are, by the fact that since the inception of the present Government a definite week's holiday has been given to all Government employés. because it considers that the State ought to be a model employer.Later, the hon. Member said:Having said that, I have to say with regret that I have to make it quite clear that, while the Government support the principle of the Bill and give it their full approval, and have expressed their sympathy and their approval in actual concrete terms with respect to their own employés, in view of the heavy programme of the Government—the whole House and everyone knows what that is—there can be no real guarantee given that time will be found for the further stages of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1929; cols. 2483–85, Vol. 231.]The Bill passed its Second Reading and was sent to a Committee; later it was withdrawn and abandoned. If it is so easy, as hon. Members suggest, to bring this Measure within the scope of legislation—and I accept no reason that it is not—why was it suddenly abandoned by the Labour party when they were in office in 1929 Is there some background? Is there some mysterious reason—if so, we are entitled to know it—why after the Bill passes a Second Reading it cannot be put into operation? Are the great number of people who are going to be benefited by such a Measure to be made the cats-paw of propaganda on one side or the other?
I do not want to score a point on this matter, and I think the hon. Member will agree that I never try to score on those lines. The point that I submit to him now is this, will he agree that, having regard to the circumstances and developments that have taken place internationally since 1929, there is much greater reason for the Bill being passed now than in those days?
With the first part of the hon. Member's statement I entirely agree. Tie was particular to make no improper point in introducing the Bill. As to the second part of his statement, I would only say that I think this Bill was overdue in 1929 and that it is overdue to-day. I have made no secret about it. The position to-day is very much better than it was in 1929. If there is some fundamental reason why this Bill cannot be put on the Statute Book, some reason which the Socialist party had to accept in 1929 when they abandoned the Bill, we ought to be told about it. I can see no such fundamental reason and none has been explained today. There has been no case made at all against the Bill by any hon. Member. On the contrary the Bill has had an unanswerable case made for it. I know that in my own constituency there is a lot of well-tended labour and there are some very good employers. There are aftercare and holiday centres, subscription services and every kind of assistance to help those who work for their living. But there may be elsewhere many cases in which there is no such consideration.
It must be recognised that no one should be denied the right to a holiday with payment once a year. It is true that this Bill does not go quite far enough. I have never accepted the view that there should be any sacrifice of wages on Bank holidays. A national holiday is a day of national rejoicing and should not be a day of wage curtailment. I would extend the principles and scope of this Bill. But let us take what we can and use this as the first instalment of what is to be a big contribution to industrial legislation. We have gone a long way. Some hon. Member has said "The Conservative party gave the country workmen's compensation." It is not for us to score to-day by saying what party it was that gave us measures of social progress. I want to see this Bill 801 go through. I think it can be widened and amended a good deal in Committee. No hon. Member introducing a private Member's Bill has available the drafting skill that the Government can command. My criticism of every Government for years is that year after year it has failed to bring in a Bill of this nature and left it to a private Member to do so. I hope this Bill will pass the House. If it does pass, with the aid of hon. Gentlemen of all parties, I hope all parties will see that it is not sent upstairs to be slaughtered or withdrawn. We want it to go forward. We can co-operate in Committee to such an extent as to make it a really workable Measure. At any rate we have this in our mind, that after what has been a really substantial and full day's Debate there has not been a case made by any hon. Member to justify hesitation in giving a vote for the Bill to-day.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I want to thank the two lady Members who have spoken for their contribution to a question to which I have devoted a considerable part of my life. This is a matter about which I really feel very keen. For years I was a victim, and if anyone had asked me at any time which reform or palliative I would select that a Labour or any other Government should put through, it is a Bill giving holidays with pay. The best thing I can do in the short time at my disposal is to give the House some idea of what actually happens in working class life. Take the engineers on the Clyde, who have a week or a fortnight's holiday in the summertime. The Glasgow Fair holidays come on in the middle of July. The workers get their pay and what is called their lying time, which may be a week or three days and they come out with £1 extra. During the year from September right up to July—it was the case of my own wife—they start to save, but the terrible tragedy of it is that with nothing but an engineer's wage upon which to depend and five hardy little boys dependent on me, anything might happen during the year and that little saving had to be broken into time and time again. Naturally the workers are anxious to get work in the holidays in order that the wife and family may get away to Rothesay or some other watering place down the Clyde.
802 But what happens when they come back? When a man starts work that lying time has to be made good, so that he has no pay for three weeks, and the result is, misery. It is a nightmare to the mothers as well as the fathers. Think what it was to me. My ambition was to get down to the seaside so that my little boys should enjoy a few days there. If holidays with pay were granted all this anxiety would be removed. But that is not the end as far as the workers on the Clyde are concerned. When they come back on the 1st August the first thing that faces them is three months' rent which has to be paid. These are the conditions, and hon. Members can understand now why we feel so keenly about the idea of holidays with pay. I hope the House will pass this Measure not as a pious expression of opinion, as something which does not matter. There are some Tories who think they are being nice and kind. I do not want any kindness from them. I want our people to be strong enough to stand up and make it known that Labour in the House of Commons is going to fight this matter.
We stand here as men fighting for our rights, for they are our rights. The workers outside are beginning to realise that they are their rights. They are beginning to realise that it is they who are doing all the work. The engineers are doing all the work, but there are no holidays with pay for them. The miners have no holidays with pay. The further you are away from work, the better off you are. The Tories know that. The people who do the hard work, the laborious, dangerous work of this country—the people who fight for the country—the watchdogs of civilisation —these are the men who are denied holidays with pay. Whether I am supported or not, I stand here, on behalf of the workers, doing what they sent me here to do, and I will do it Mr. Speaker, irrespective of you or anybody else.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Sir IRVING ALBERY
I have sat through the Debate, and I hope the House will not mind my saying a few words. I have always believed that the workers ought to have a holiday with pay, and I must admit that when I read the Bill, I was a little worried, because I saw that it was a Bill for which I must vote and I thought that when I got to the House of Commons I would 803 hear that it was an impossible Bill and one which could not be worked. I have not heard that said. I have not heard anything said about the present Bill, which in any way convinced me that it cannot be worked. Therefore, I have decided I shall have to vote for it. On the other hand, I am a little disappointed with the Bill. It shows very little imagination, and only touches the fringe of the whole subject. If it gets a Second Reading, I hope it will be withdrawn on an undertaking by the Government that they will do something very much better.
It has always seemed to me that the question of holidays should be largely linked up with that of unemployment insurance. There should be a worker's contribution, an employer's contribution and quite a large contribution from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. That would really mean that there would be some fluidity of labour. When times were bad it would be possible to put a larger number of people on holiday benefit, instead of putting them on to the unemployment benefit, and if times were better, the holidays could be shortened and a number of people could be taken off holiday benefit and put back into employment. That is the way in which I envisage something being done in the future with regard to holidays. The holidays might range from one week to four weeks with pay. When that was worked out it need not cost the Exchequer anything at all, and the industrialists very little. I would like to see the whole question dealt with in a much bigger way than is proposed in this Bill, but until that happens I feel I have no other alternative than to support that which is offered to us at the present moment.
§ 3.54 p.m.
Much impressed as I always am by the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons)—particularly because he is one of my constituents—I must admit that on this occasion I cannot help feeling that he has not taken as much care as he might in examining the Bill on which we have to vote this afternoon. I think he put 804 his finger on the most important point when he asked why it was that this Bill was strangled when the present Opposition was in power. A similar Bill was brought forward then and received a Second Reading but got no further. I think the hon. Member could have answered his own question. The reason why the Bill was strangled was because the Government of that time were advised, no doubt rightly, that it was impossible satisfactorily to operate it. Nearly every Member of the House is in favour of an annual holiday. I have not heard one speech to-day against the principle of an annual holiday. But that does not mean to say that such a desirable reform can easily be made by legislation. There are many desirable things that ought to be done in this and other countries but it is not always possible to do them by Acts of Parliament.
I have no axe to grind in this matter. In my own business, I am glad to say, my employes have Saturdays off and three weeks' holiday in the year. Therefore, I have nothing to gain if this Bill is not passed. Indeed I have something to lose because it would be much better for me if everybody else were obliged to give three weeks' holiday every year to their employés. [An HON. MEMBER: —Does that apply to all the employés?] To all, except boys under 18 and they get a fortnight. But if I am in favour of giving people holidays, that does not mean to say that I think you can do it by passing an Act of Parliament. What you want to do is to move public opinion so that all employers will be brought up to the standard of the best. Let us remember that there is a difference between passing a Motion in this House and passing a Bill. I should vote for a Private Member's Motion which approved of the principle of an annual holiday with pay, but this afternoon we are asked to vote for a Bill, many Clauses of which would, I think, be unworkable. In my constituency there is a great business which I think is known well to every hon. Member here—that of Messrs. Boots. In that business it has been decided, within the last few months, to give a Saturday holiday to all employes. But because Messrs. Boots in Nottingham are able to do that it does not follow—
§ Mr. ASSHETON
It does not follow that everybody in the country can do the same thing. I look forward to the day when it will be possible to have the Saturday holiday in a great many trades, but, as I said, I do not believe that it is possible to introduce such a reform by Act of Parliament. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] There are some businesses in which it would be impossible to have
§ a Saturday holiday. Things have to to be done on Saturday and even on Sunday—
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 150; Noes, 58.807
|Division No. 19.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.]|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Harvey, Sir G.||Ridley, G.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hayday, A.||Ritson, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V (H'Isbr.)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Robinson J R. (Blackpool)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hollins, A.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Barr, J.||Holmes, J. S.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Batey, J||Howitt. Dr. A. B.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Shinwell, E.|
|Bellenger, F.||Jagger, J.||Short. A.|
|Benson, G.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Silkin, L.|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Bowater Col. Slr T. Vansittart||John, W.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Cape, T.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Chater, D.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Stephen, C.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Craddock, Sir R. H.||Lawson, J. J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Daggar, G.||Lee, F.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dalton, H.||Leslie, J. R.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Loftus, P. C.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lunn, W.||Thorne, W.|
|Day, H.||Lyons, A. M.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dobble, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, J. C.||McGhee, H. G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacLaren, A.||Walker, J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on Tees)||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Maitland, A.||Watson, W. Mc L.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mathers, G.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Fremantie, Sir F. E.||Messer, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Montague, F.||Whiteley, W.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, E. J.(Ogmore)|
|Gibbins, J.||Muff, G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Goldie, N. B.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Paling, W.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffiths, J. (Lianelly)||Parker, J.||Woods, G. S.(Finsbury)|
|Groves, T. E.||Parkinson, J. A.||Young, Sir R.(Newton)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Peat, C. U.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Pethick-Lawrence, F.W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hardie, G. D.||Potts, J.||Mr. Rowson and Mr. Riley.|
|Pritt, D. N.|
|Assheton, R.||Blair, Sir R.||Channon, H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Bossom, A. C.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cross, R. H.|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Castlereagh, Viscount||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Duckworth,W. R. (Moss Side)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Flides, Sir H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'st'r)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Ganzonl, Sir J.||Munro, P.||Touche, G. C.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.||Ward, Lieut.-Col.Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Penny, Sir G.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Petherick, M.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Samuel, Sir A, M. (Farnham)||Mr. Grimston and Sir Isidore|
|Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Savery, Servington||Salmon.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.