§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir John Simon)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is for the consolidation and amendment of our factory law. I would remind the House that it is 36 years since a comprehensive Measure for amending our factory code was last enacted by Parliament. Indeed, it is 36 years since any comprehensive Factory Bill, under any Government ever reached a Second Reading; and to-day I think there are only six Members remaining in this House who were here when the principal Act of 1901 was discussed and passed—yourself Mr. Speaker; my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who had just made his first entry on the political stage; my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton), the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) and, of course, the Father of the House. Those are the six Members who were here as long ago as 1901. While, of course, some useful and important Amendments and extensions of our factory law have been made since that time, for example, in 1907 and 1916, and a very important change in 1920 and again in 1929, still the main factory code to-day remains the code of 1901. I think I shall have everyone's support in saying that it is high time a new and improved code was passed, not only consolidating, but amending and improving the existing law.
If hon. Members who take an interest in this most important matter will turn to the Fourth Schedule to the Bill, on page 126, they will see a list of Statutes which will be repealed, for which the present Bill will be substituted, and among them is the whole Act of 1901, an Act of some 160 Sections. No one will dispute that a consolidating and amending Bill is due, and overdue. When this Parliament first assembled the Prime Minister at once announced that this was one of the tasks which the Government 620 had to undertake in the course of this Parliament, and he then and there declared that we would undertake it in our second Session. In the King's Speech it was stated that it would be one of our important tasks this year. I ask for the Second Reading of this Bill in good time for it to go to a Standing Committee, where, of course, many of its Clauses will receive detailed examination, after which I trust we may be able to send it in sufficient time to another place in order to secure its passage into law in this Session.
Perhaps the House will allow me to explain by what process this complicated Bill has been prepared. In the Factory Department of the Home Office there is a vast accumulation of experience of the working of the present factory code and of recommendations made by factory inspectors for its improvement. Indeed anyone who really studies the history of our factory laws for the last hundred years, as it has been my fortune to do in recent weeks, will be very much struck by the important part that has been played by the factory inspectors themselves in suggesting and in pressing forward amendments of the law. The first factory inspectors—there were four of them altogether—were appointed in 1833, and it was those early factory inspectors almost more than any other single factor which helped to bring about the very substantial amendments which were made some 10 or 11 years later. This useful process of comment, argument, support, and indeed pressure has gone on ever since, and I feel that it is only right that we should acknowledge the important part that has been played by the chief inspector and his staff in assisting to frame factory proposals.
Last summer we drew up in the Home Office an elaborate statement of proposals on which we had been working, and we issued it as our provisional proposals both to the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations and to the Trade Union Congress General Council, in order to get the views both of organised workpeople and of organised employers on the various matters in advance of the actual drafting of the Bill. In the Home Office, I myself, the Under-Secretary of State, and the official staff had a number of meetings and interviews with each of these bodies and went over a great deal of the ground with their help. I am 621 confident that that method is a very useful method to follow with a Bill of this sort. It is far better to introduce a Bill, as I am doing, for Second Reading early in February after being discussed with the parties concerned, than to appear to save a few weeks by introducing it before such consultations have taken place. I am not, of course, saying for a moment, as the House will understand, that there is any particular proposal here for which there is a pledge of its acceptance, and even if there were, it would still be for the House of Commons to decide. What I am saying is that both sides have been consulted before the Bill was drafted, and I can testify from personal knowledge how very greatly that method has cleared away some of the difficulties and doubts on either side. While, therefore, there will be a number of points in Committee on which there are sure to be differences of view, I am justified in anticipating, and I do anticipate, that on much of the Bill there will be found to be a very large measure of agreement.
It is not at all an easy task in a short time to give to the House a description of the contents of this Bill in a way which will be helpful and, I hope, interesting, but I will do my best. In the first place, this new factory code which we are proposing greatly simplifies the existing law by abolishing various distinctions which are really quite out of date. For instance, up to this moment the factory law draws a distinction for many purposes, as hon. Members will know, between textile factories and non-textile factories. That distinction, that classification, is really, or ought to be, obsolete. It had its origin in the very tentative, limited, cautious way in which early factory legislation began.
The early Factory Acts dealt only with textile factories. Indeed, at first they did not even deal with all textile factories. I think they started with cotton and afterwards were enlarged to cover other textile operations. The limitation of hours for women and young persons, for example, was at first enacted only for textile factories. The famous Ten Hours Act of 1847 was concerned only with textile factories, and I take pleasure in observing that that Bill was introduced into this House in 1846, and carried through the House in 1847, by the great great uncle of my colleague 622 the Minister for Pensions, Mr. John Fielden, who was himself a cotton spinner and whose name ought always to be held in high honour, because he at least was proposing an important reform in the law which could not in any possible way serve his own narrow interest. I never pass his statue in Oldham, where it stands, without paying my silent respect to his memory, for the credit is due to Fielden, Michael Sadler, Lord Shaftesbury, and Oastler—and perhaps not less than to any of these to that pathetic poem, one of the most pathetic ever written in the English language, "The Cry of the Children," by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, which accomplished, by its own inevitable appeal in this House and in the country, in the middle of the last century, something which may perhaps be compared with the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe when she wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and thereby helped to abolish negro slavery in the United States of America.
As I say, all these early laws were concerned simply with textile factories, and even the amending Act of 1850—which contained a most valuable idea, namely, that it is not enough simply to talk about limiting the hours of labour of children, young persons, or of women, but that you must fix the hours of the clock between which such limitations must apply, because otherwise you cannot check them—even that Act referred solely to textile factories, and it was not until much later, in the latter half of last century, that the code was extended to cover what were called, later on, non-textile factories. Non-textile factories are much more numerous than textile factories. Broadly speaking, you may say that the textile factory usually is a much bigger unit. Another interesting distinction is that in textile factories, generally speaking, you find more women employed than men, whereas in non-textile factories it is the other way round. I do not think I shall be wasting the time of the House if I point out how it was that Parliament was persuaded to extend the law to cover non-textile factories.
§ Sir J. Simon
The actual extension was, I think, in 1864. The annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for the year 1932, which was the centenary 623 year, contained a great deal of most interesting historical material—I have no doubt some hon. Members will have examined it—and a passage which I have extracted is this:In addition to securing the routine observance of the law, the inspectors were able in their reports to advertise the success which had attended the Ten Hours Act in those factories which came within the law. By a study of the relation between hours and wages it was shown that the output of industry was not necessarily reduced in proportion to the reduction of hours. It was also shown that in the textile industries in which hours were regulated the conditions were very much better than they were in the non-regulated industries. Not only was there a higher standard of comfort for the employés, but the industry itself progressed, and improvements were made in the machinery and plant. The knowledge of this ensured that the gradual extension of the Acts to other trades was accomplished without serious opposition.I think that is a very interesting passage and does much to show how it was that factory legislation came to be extended. If the House will forgive me giving some two or three figures—I think they will be interested to know how the matter stands—I have the figures here for 1935, and they show that there are in this country about 6,000 textile factories but that the non-textile factories are about 160,000, and the workshops, to which I will come in a moment, are about another 75,000. If you take the textile factories, you will find these significant facts, that out of the total number of adults employed in them, which is just about 750,000, 284,000 are males and 458,000 are females. There is a great preponderance of woman labour. The same thing is true if you take young persons under 18. In textile factories there are some 44,000 boys, but there are 107,383 young persons who are girls, again a great preponderance of female labour.
When you come to the non-textile factories the proportion of females employed is on the average much smaller. There are a little over 3,500,000 adults now employed in non-textile factories, but, of course, by far the greater number of those are men. In shipbuilding, blast furnaces, iron and steel, heavy chemicals, and such industries, you naturally get a preponderance of male labour. Of these 3,500,000 adults in non-textile factories, 2,600,000 are males and something like 927,000 are women. In the case of young 624 persons, when you are dealing with non-textile factories, there is a preponderance of males, though the proportions are very nearly equal; there are something like 392,000 young persons who are males and 369,000 who are females. That gives, I think, a general picture of the field of industry covered by the factory code. I think hon. Members opposite will agree that it is high time we swept away altogether the distinction between the textile and the non-textile factories; and that we propose to do.
There is a second distinction that we are going to get rid of. Up till now the law on this subject has always drawn a distinction between a factory and a workshop, and in early days there was a real distinction between the two. The distinction was between the factory run on the industrialised system and the workshop where the craft was carried on by hand, but more and more von get mechanical power introduced into what used to be workshops, and the inevitable result of maintaining this distinction between the factory and the workshop to-day is to raise a large number of rather difficult problems and narrow points, which do no good to anybody, and it would be far better to sweep away altogether the distinction between the workshop and the factory. The Bill proposes to do that. [Interruption.] No. The best lawyers of this country do not earn their living by quibbles but by stating things more plainly than some people can state them.
§ Sir J. Simon
There is another reason which makes this provision most important, and that is that there is in the present law a Section which deals with what are called men's workshops. These are workshops where no women or young persons are employed. In these men's workshops the factory code as regards such things as ventilation, temperature, the drainage of floors and sanitary conveniences does not apply. There may be provisions under public health law but not under the factory law. Therefore, our suggestion is to sweep away the distinctions, to define a factory properly and that will be the end of all the distinctions between textile and non-textile factories and workshops and factories.
The next large point to which I would call attention is this: we want in this 625 Measure to enlarge the scope of the factory law. This Measure covers undertakings which are not at present covered. As time goes on the most curious artificial distinctions present themselves. For example, hitherto, if workmen have been engaged upon ship construction or repair and the ship is in dry dock, it is a factory for certain purposes, but if an exactly corresponding ship, employing exactly corresponding labour, is lying alongside in a wet dock, it is not a factory. It seems to us that it would be the right thing to provide that a factory includes operations going on on a ship in harbour, whether or not it is in dry dock or afloat. Such distinctions provide the factory inspectors, the Home Office and the lawyers, if you like, with all sorts of illegitimate pre-occupations.
Take the question of building operations. At the present time building operations are inside the factory law only when mechanical power is being used. A good deal of mechanical power in connection with building operations is used, and this curious situation arises. The moment you move, say, a crane away from the site, the people who in the morning were under the Factory Act find themselves in the afternoon outside it. That cannot be right. Therefore, we want to enlarge the definition in order to prevent that sort of thing. The Home Office, through the factory inspectors, have received reports of a large number of accidents which have occurred at the stage when the existing factory regulations as regards building operations cannot be applied, because workmen may have been within the Factory Act when the crane was working on the site and outside the Factory Act as soon as it was removed from the site.
I will mention one further illustration, namely, works of engineering construction. The Bill applies part of the factory code to such works by Clause 101, the definition being in Clause 145. The object of these provisions is not to secure that the Home Office shall regulate engineering methods, because we are not in the least competent to do that, but the object is to enable the Factory Department to control matters with which they are accustomed to deal, and which they know very well, such as the fencing of machinery, the safety of steam boilers, and things of that sort. These illustrations show not only how the Bill en- 626 deavours to simplify these matters, but how we are trying to enlarge the scope of the factory law and to make complete the field proper for factory legislation and administration. These matters can be raised in Committee, and dealt with.
I will now try to state to the House what is the general nature of the factory code. The object of the factory law is to deal with three things, which may be broadly classed under three heads. It concerns itself, first, with the health and welfare of all those who are working in the factories. Another aspect is the safety of those employed, with a view to ensuring that they are protected against accident risks, and the investigation of accidents. Under the third heading the object is to secure, so far as women and young persons are concerned, the limitation of hours from the point of view of the protection of the health of those employed. The Bill is divided into different parts, which show how these different matters are grouped.
The questions of health are dealt with in the Bill in Parts I, III and IV. Let me call attention to two or three important points in these provisions, although I will not go into much detail now on the health Clauses. These provisions involve in many respects a real advance. I have, however, the advantage of having the name of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health on the back of the Bill, and on the opening of the second day's Debate, which I understand will be next Monday, he will deal fully with this part of the Bill, which affects the Ministry of Health no less than the Home Office, since it concerns the interests of the better health of the community in the widest sense. I will, therefore, be as brief as I can. The early Clauses will have caught the eyes of hon. Members. The first Clause is an important advance, in that it makes more precise the present law by including specific provisions in regard to the removal of accumulations of dirt and the cleaning of floors, which in many factories need very careful attention.
In Clause 2 we deal with the important question of overcrowding and the standard of air space to be allowed. We want in principle to secure an increase of air space from 250 cubic feet to 400 cubic feet, which is the standard existing to-day in the best appointed factories. 627 One would like to see the change made simply by a stroke of the pen, but we are dealing with practical matters, and if we are to get the Bill carried into law, we have to allow for the difficulties. The difficulty is to get the change rapidly made in the smaller works in certain industries. Adequate ventilation is as important as adequate air space. The proviso in Clause 2 is designed to secure, if possible, that existing works shall comply with the new standard as soon as possible, but we give them time to do it. If this Bill had been carried some years ago the work would have been done long before now. In the meantime we emphasise the importance of effective mechanical ventilation being provided, if the room is crowded.
Another new Clause is Clause 5. I was much struck in trying to acquaint myself with the details of this subject with the fact that the existing factory code makes no provision for ensuring proper lighting. It is most unfortunate that people should be working hour after hour in the gloom, when proper lighting in these modern times ought not to be a difficulty. The lighting Clause is an entirely new provision. Another new Clause is Clause II, which gives important new powers. Under the existing law there is no power to require medical supervision in a particular works to meet a special emergency. For example, suppose there is an outbreak of anthrax during some process, or dermatitis, or sepsis, or conjunctivitis. There is no power in the factory code by which the medical officers of the Department can say that there must be arrangements for an investigation to find out how these outbreaks have occurred. In the same way, there is no power at the present time to meet cases where there is reason to apprehend that some substance is being employed which is likely to be injurious, the injury being caused through the material or through one of the materials used. Again, there is no power at present to secure proper investigation with a view to stopping the injury in cases where young persons are being put on work which it is thought may prove too much for them. It is high time to provide in the factory code that in cases of that sort it should be the right of the authorities to introduce, if necessary, medical supervision with a 628 view to discovering what is the explanation, to stop the cause if we can, and to throw light on what may be a very obscure cause of trouble. The new Clause II will give the Secretary of State power to require reasonable arrangements to be made for the medical supervision of the workers, or any class of workers, either in a particular factory or in any class or description of occupation.
Part III of the Bill deals with welfare provisions. This, again, is a modern development, and a very much needed one. There are certain welfare provisions already in operation. One might say that welfare work was an outcome of the War. Very large numbers of people, women in particular, were brought into munition factories, and as a means of securing greater production and greater efficiency there was an urge towards the making of proper welfare provisions. Following upon the War and the report of a committee, munition factories and those which succeeded them were provided with mess rooms, cloakrooms, rest rooms and facilities of that sort for men and women, and the Act of 1916 provided that welfare orders might be made. Twenty-four welfare orders dealing with different classes of factories have already been made, particularly in cases where the great trouble is heat and dirt, as in the clay industry, oil cake mills or cement works. Other cases where special welfare orders were needed were in those occupations where the work is specially wet, as in laundries or herring curing. If the House gives its support to these proposals we intend to extend and to make much more precise the provisions for welfare. I know that I have the full support of the Department and the inspectors when I say that we shall attach very great importance to the results of these welfare provisions.
Part IV again strengthens the law. The existing provisions for the removal of dust are not adequate and we want to make them much stronger. We do so in Clause 46. We are introducing new provisions to control underground workrooms in factories in Clause 51. Clause 54 is an entirely new and important provision. It is designed to protect people in the matter of lifting weights which are too heavy for them. That in some trades may happen again and again. I pass by Clause 48 merely observing that it deals 629 with the romantic operation called shuttle-kissing. I understand that it consists of threading the shuttle by mouth suction. It must be an objectionable practice and it is desirable to discourage it, although the information of the Factory Department does not go to show very definitely that any particular disease is thereby developed.
We pass to the second of these departments, that of safety. We cannot get this matter in proper focus unless we get some of the history into our minds. It is an extraordinary thing that the earliest Factory Acts made no provision about safety. It was not to ensure the safety of workers that factory legislation was originally introduced. The early Acts contained no reference to fencing machinery. Indeed, it was largely due to the earlier factory inspectors, going about their other work, that effective attention was called to the dreadful accidents due to unfenced machinery in the mills which they visited in the early days. Reform is largely owing to the work of these early inspectors who constantly wrote reports about these accidents. It was in 1844 that provision was first made for the purpose of promoting safety in factories, and they have steadily been extended. This Bill takes advantage of later experience and tightens up the whole code.
I will give an illustration to show how important it is because it is no use talking about a Factory Bill in general glowing terms. We have to look at some of its practical provisions. Consider this illustration. The Chief Inspector's Report for 1926 showed that for some years before that there had been very little variation from year to year in the numbers of accidents in factories attributable to transmission machinery. In August, 1926, Sir Gerald Bellhouse, who was then the Chief Inspector, issued a circular on this matter on behalf of the Home Office to all employers' federations and associations. This was followed up by visits from the inspectors, and, where necessary, by the institution of proceedings by the inspectors wherever they found a breach of the law. There is little doubt that it was largely as a result of this action that the number of accidents due to unfenced shafting was reduced. In 1924 there were 312 accidents, of which 44 were fatal; and in 1934 there were 164 accidents, of which 21 were fatal. That illustration shows how much can be done if proper measures are taken for promoting safety.
630 Let me give another illustration. Accidents occur in connection with tin rollers of ring spinning frames used in the cotton industry. In the three years, 1912–14, there were 52 such accidents. In 1913 the Home Office secured agreement about a definite standard of fencing for this machinery. They consulted the trade unions and the employers' organisations and got a standard of safety established. The result is that this particular type of accident has been practically eliminated. In some years not one accident has been reported due to tin rollers. There are a great many other instances such as accidents due to the failure of cranes and accidents connected with electrical appliances, and I am satisfied, having looked into this thing with such care as I can, that the tightening up of our regulations and rules on this subject will materially reduce accidents.
Hon. Members probably know that figures for accidents among juvenile workers show a tendency to increase. It is a very disturbing thing. We must not make the mistake of drawing a conclusion by taking haphazard the totals of two years and seeing how they compare, because a great deal depends on whether industry is brisk or not, and a good deal on the means of instruction, warning and skill which can be applied. Nevertheless, the figures are very disturbing. In Clause 20 there are some important provisions which definitely prohibit young persons from cleaning what are called prime movers, which means the sources of power, or transmission machinery in motion. In the same way Clause 15, which allows access to unfenced machinery in certain circumstances, has the effect of prohibiting any person other than a male of over 18 from having anything to do with unfenced shafting. We were so much impressed at the Home Office with the incidence of accidents to juveniles that a conference was called presided over by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. As a result, we got the Confederation of Employers to send out a circular to all the factories of the country calling attention to this disturbing feature of accidents to juveniles. The circular embodied a number of suggestions for reducing accidents among young people. It pointed out that if you took on a new hand you ought to see that he understands what he is asked to do and 631 exactly what are the things he must not do; and that every help must be given to the newcomer to prevent him being injured. The reports received by the Home Office show that many firms are taking the action suggested in this circular, and it is important to watch the statistics to see how far these steps and the provisions in the new Bill result in the rate of juvenile accidents being reduced. Taking the years 1924 and 1934, which are really comparable for this sort of purpose, there is undoubtedly an improvement in the total number of accidents. In 1924 the total was 170,000, of which 956 were fatal. In 1934, when the numbers employed were about the same, the total was 136,800, of which 785 were fatal. If we take accidents connected with machinery, which is perhaps the most useful test, we find they fell from 35,450 to 28,000, so that we can fairly say that the total accident rate has fallen in those 10 years by about 20 per cent.
Turning now to the question of hours the factory code lays down provisions limiting the hours of work for women and young persons. It has never sought to lay down a code for adult men. Whether that is a good or a bad thing to do, it is not a Home Office question. It is not a question of safety or sanitation or ventilation. It is an economic question. I know there is a current of opinion in certain quarters which takes the view that whatever is good legislation for a man is good legislation for a woman. I treat that opinion with all possible respect, because over large parts of the field of life I warmly share it. To those who think that there should be no limitation in the Factory Acts of the hours of work for women and young persons, I would only say that I do not think women factory workers or young persons employed in factories show any sign of supporting the objection to the statutory limitation of their hours of work. I want to trespass on the time of the House for a few minutes to state what is a complicated thing to state, the provisions which we are proposing about the hours of employment, and how they compare with the existing provisions.
There are three things to bear in mind. The first is the age of entering into factory life. When one looks at the 632 history of this matter and the efforts that this House has made, I must say it is a tragic story. The system of half-time employment came to an end in 1920. The minimum age for employment then became 14. Let the House consider what this story really is. The first Factory Act, which was passed in 1802 was called the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act. It dealt with little children who were apprenticed by the old Poor Law authorities to employers for work in textile factories. It did not fix any minimum age at all. It was not until 1819 that any Act was passed to prohibit children being employed in a limited class of factories—cotton factories—until they reached nine years of age. Then came the first Reform Bill. Immediately that was passed, and you got a Parliament with a new conception of duty, in 1833 (the year in which negro slavery was abolished in the Empire) an Act dealing with all textile factories was passed which did at last raise the minimum age of children to nine, and fixed for all textile factories the hours for which they could be employed. The Act of 1844 introduced the half-time system. It provided that the children should go half-time to school and half-time to the factory, and, apparently as a set-off to this revolutionary idea, reduced the minimum age from nine to eight. It is extraordinary to think that the minimum age of eight for a child to go to a textile factory stood as the law for at least 30 years. It was in the textile trade that Parliament had so far exercised the chief supervision, because non-textile factories and workshops were not dealt with in this legislation at all. In 1850, and again in the seventies we had factory legislation affording some protection for children in all kinds of factories. In 1874 the minimum age was raised to 10, in 1891 it was raised to 11, in 1901 it was raised to 12, and in 1920 the minimum became 14. When last year's Bill comes into operation I hope that in an increasing number of cases the ages will be raised to 15. I ask the House to take some satisfaction in this: It has taken a long time to get there, but this is the first factory Bill which has ever been introduced into the British Parliament which has not had to make any provision for the employment of children, because no child can be employed now in a factory.
633 The other question has to do not with ages but with hours, and, stated as briefly as I can, the position, as it has been for a very long time, is this: The hours in a textile factory which it would be within the law for a woman or young person to work are 55½ hours weekly, the maximum in a non-textile factory is 60 hours. Those are very long hours, As the House well knows, since the War, as the outcome of collective bargaining, and work done by trade unions and employers' federations, there has been an agreed normal week, what I suppose for the purpose of convenience we may call the 48-hour week. [HON. MEMBERS: "More than that‡"] It varies in different trades, but call it 48 for convenience. As long as there is a normal working week of, say, 48 hours, it is possible, within the existing law, to work a great deal of overtime—up to 60 hours in the case of non-textile factories and up to 55½ hours in the case of textile factories. Hitherto, the overtime worked, sometimes called trade overtime, has not been specially provided for in the factory code, but has been taken out of this very large gross total of 60 or 55½ hours which the law authorised.
In this Bill we propose to introduce what we believe to be a better system. We propose to lay down for women and young persons that the maximum working week, the normal working week, shall be 48 hours. We have to make some provision for overtime. But whereas under the existing law you can work a woman or young person for a period of overtime every week over and above the 48 hours—you could, in the case of non-textile factories work 12 hours overtime every week, a total of 624 hours overtime in the year, and in the case of a textile factory you could work a woman or young person for the normal 48 hours and another seven and a-half hours in a week, which is the same thing as 390 hours overtime in a year—we now propose to improve the law by limiting the amount of overtime substantially. As the Bill is drawn it provides that there may be as much as 100 hours of overtime, but they can only be worked in a limited number of weeks, I think 30 in the year, and there cannot be more than six hours in any given week. I should like the House further to appreciate that we are not prepared to propose that this overtime should be taken higgledy-piggledy, one person in a factory working overtime at one time, and 634 another person at another time. In that case it could never be checked, and it is necessary to provide that the hours of overtime shall be counted for the factory as a whole, or for some definite separate part of the factory, such as a floor where the weaving is done, or a separate building.
§ Sir J. Simon
I am sure the hon. Member will not wish me to spend too long on what is a mathematical calculation. If the Bill is not quite plain I will gladly see him about it, and in any case I think that these matters, which are technical but very, very important, will have to be closely considered when we go upstairs. I am only concerned to insist that this Bill does, in respect of this department of the law, make, on the whole, a very substantial improvement. I will mention one other improvement which is material. At present it is possible for women and young persons to work until 4 o'clock on Saturday afternoons. Under this Bill that is made quite impossible, and 1 o'clock on Saturdays will be the closing time as far as women and young persons are concerned.
I am deeply conscious of the fact that I am dealing with a mass of detail which it is extremely difficult to present to the House of Commons on Second Reading in a form which will both retain the interest of Members and bring out the main points, but I hope I have said enough to show that this is something more than a mere consolidating Measure, that it is proposing very substantial improvements in may directions. I would ask the House to give us its active co-operation in putting this Measure on the Statute Book. In a case like this I am sure that hon. Members will agree that co-operation can be given without any distinction of party. If I may presume to say so, I shall look for the help of hon. Members opposite, which I know will be forthcoming in the broadest and fairest spirit. The Committee stage upstairs—well, it will be a laborious process. I hope it will not involve too much overtime. The examination of these detailed provisions, many of them dealing with technical matters and requiring 635 special knowledge will not, at first sight, I can imagine, seem to some hon. Members to be a very attractive Parliamentary bill of fare. I can only say that, as far as I can understand it, I have found it one of the most interesting Measures. These subjects are not only of vital importance but really of very great interest.
What we are going to try to do is to revise the industrial code which controls the working life, and therefore a very large part of the waking life, of some 7,000,000 men, women and young persons. We are engaged in framing what, though I daresay it is not a perfect scheme, will prove, I think, an improved charter for their protection against accident, against undue fatigue, and for promoting, as I believe, not only industrial health and safety but greater industrial efficiency and prosperity. There cannot be any finer piece of work for a democratic assembly in an industrial country than that, and we should frame this Bill wisely, not bemusing ourselves with some impossible, vague, visionary ideas which it would be extremely difficult to bring down to practical measures in the sections of a Statute, but really work with good sense to make all the improvement we can which is practical so that the new law may be applied to the general advantage.
The general administration of our new law will be in the hands of an enlarged body of factory inspectors. At present we have not enough inspectors. I think I may fairly say that their reputation for devotion, knowledge, impartiality, and good sense is as high as the reputation of any body of civil servants in the world. The House of Commons will retain its power, under one of these Clauses, to watch developments when special regulations are made, because they will be laid upon the Table. We cannot lay down a factory code which is a cast-iron code, providing for no exceptions. The conditions are too varied. The work of the Factories Department, always strenuous, will become more strenuous still, but when Parliament passes this new code into law it will have done something to remove the reproach which rests upon us that we are still, in the main, depending upon a factory code drawn up a generation ago. We shall greatly have improved the conditions which the 636 law lays down for the purpose of compelling the more backward or unwilling of employers to observe and apply standards which are willingly, voluntarily, accepted and applied by the best employers, and we shall have improved the conditions of work in the daily lives of those millions of our fellow subjects who form the industrial army of our land.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Clynes
I am sure that the House will accept as quite appropriate and accurate the closing observations of the speech we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman. In an earlier part of his speech some playful allusion was made to the function of lawyers, and the right hon. Gentleman indicated that a large part of that function was to make plain to the lay mind that which otherwise would remain obscure. We must also agree that that description of their functions has been completely justified by the speech to which we have listened, and that many parts of this Bill which were not plain to us have been illuminated by the splendid speech we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman. But that speech will not pass without criticism, nor will the Bill to which the speech has been addressed. I am sure that we shall try to be helpful, but this Bill is one for Committee treatment. It will very likely be a long job in that stage. Much can be done to make even plainer some of the points which were evidently not plain to the right hon. Gentleman himself. It is 35 years since anything like a comprehensive Act of Parliament was passed touching this question, and amazing changes which have been occurring since then in the industrial and economic life of the country have made the Act of 35 years ago out of date. I hope that the mood of the House will be attuned, in its treatment of the Bill, to the necessity for making the law of the future meet the far-reaching changes which have occurred during the last 35 years. Those changes have not been least in the matter of higher profits in industry.
I would make a personal observation. Years ago, I would gladly have taken this task out of the hands of the right hon. Gentleman, although I would not claim to do the job nearly as well. For two years at the Home Office I handled, on different occasions, this very Measure, 637 or what, in essence, was this Measure. I doubt whether any Measure has brought more deputations, memorials and resolutions to the Home Office than this. In my time in the Department, I had conferences and interviews with representatives of varied interests and of the different sides affected by the Bill. I was eager to bring such a Measure as this before the House of Commons. Indeed, the last communication I sent to the then Prime Minister, now Lord President of the Council, was an appeal to him to give me an assured place in the list of Bills for the Session that we thought was to follow. What followed is common knowledge and we had no opportunity to introduce that Bill.
One reason for the opposition in this matter has been the almost ineradicable habit of opposing any change on the ground that the additional cost would ruin industry. Industry could not afford it. The right hon. Gentleman himself assured the House in a former speech that the age of nine was the minimum starting age for a youngster. Interested parties sought to have that minimum reduced, and it was, in fact, reduced to the age of eight. I am certain that if those men were living now who were shocked at the idea of raising the age to 10, 11 or I2 years, they would be simply horrified, if not driven insane, at the notion that we were thinking of raising the age to 15. Let us take courage from the fact that few of the forecasts and baleful forebodings of the past have been realised. Industries adapt themselves, and find ways and means of overcoming such difficulties as changes might have put in their path.
In many respects we can praise the provisions of the Bill, but our praise must be balanced by criticism and by some blame. We must use the opportunity of the Committee to call upon the right hon. Gentleman to translate the spirit of his speech this afternoon into practical effect. I would describe the Bill as proposing to make a large number of small changes, but avoiding the great issues and the big questions of factory reform. This is a Measure secondary to no other which could be introduced relating to the internal welfare of our people, and to the conditions of their lives. This is legislation for a nation. I would remind hon. Members that about one-half of the working population is employed in the 638 factories and workshops covered by this Measure. We have heard of the jibe that we are a nation of shopkeepers; the truth is that we are not a nation of shopkeepers so much as a community employed in manufacturing processes to fill the shops in many parts of the world. The Bill avoids a matter to which I thought it would give attention, that of the working hours. There is a real demand for a substantial reduction of hours, and the demand has been internationally expressed. There are many matters in which this country has been proud to set an example and give a lead, with the confidence that others would follow. When we ask for a working week of 40 hours we have demanded that the 40 hours should be conceded without reduced pay. Much of the prosperity of the nation will depend on the maintenance of a good wage standard. To the extent that we lower the buying power of the people we have caused unemployment and have increased even the standard of distress.
Lately in this House there has been insistence upon Parliamentary action to secure improved standards of physique, and sums of public money are to be provided to that end. There are to be exercises, athletic training, competitions, and so on, and all that is to the good and means some State patronage and substantial subsidy. I prefer that problems of improved health standards and physique should be handled at the source. I would improve the conditions of employment, making them humane and lighter than much industrial work now is. Conditions in our factories and workshops do not assist fine physical development. This nation insists upon the payment of taxation upon unearned incomes—a term which we can never quite understand. Why is a man allowed to have an income which he has never earned? A little more convincing name might be found for that process.
§ Mr. Clynes
He may be the lucky son of a lucky father. One of the subjects referred to by the right hon. Gentleman was the hours of work for women and young persons. We are not here going to quote our own opinion on that subject, but the opinions of those who claim to 639 be experts and who speak as representatives of large numbers of women and young persons. I refer to the representatives of the Trades Union Congress. They have expressed, in a memorandum, their view in something like these terms:We reiterate the view that we have often expressed, that the working hours should not exceed 40 in any week. It may not be practicable to secure this at the present time, but we desire to make it quite clear that any acquiescence in more than a 4o-hour week is entirely without prejudice to our contention that 40 hours should he the limit.Perhaps in the Committee stage of the Bill the Home Secretary will give a willing ear to the appeals which may be made to lower the hours of work. The same memorandum declares that the period of employment should not begin before 7.30 in the morning and should end not later than 6 o'clock in the evening or 12 o'clock noon on Saturday. Any suggestion that they should begin at 6 in the morning until 8 in the evening would not be entertained. Six in the morning is much too early and 8 in the evening is much too late and would be fatal to the continued educational and recreational opportunities for young people.
§ Sir J. Simon
Might I just intervene to prevent a misunderstanding? It is true that there are references in the Bill to six o'clock in the morning and to eight o'clock in the evening, but paragraph (a) of the Clause makes it clear that the total hours are not to exceed nine in the day. I imagine, therefore, the intention is to cover what the right hon. Gentleman knows is the case in Lancashire; some people will work between one range of hours and some between a slightly different range of hours.
§ Mr. Clynes
That point can be argued in Committee, and I shall not pursue it further. I would point out that work in the mills to-day is much faster and more strenuous than formerly. Many people would think that improved machinery has made work easier, and that is true to some extent, but what is termed rationalisation and the system of inspectorship and supervision which generally have accompanied it, have imposed a greater nervous strain upon the workers than was the case in former days when the work was taken in a much more leisurely manner. To that fact I would add that, while there is scarcely any limit to the 640 machine and what it can do, there is a limit to the human frame. The human machine cannot necessarily always keep pace with the mechanical devices that are put into its hands.
With regard to the overtime provisions, I understood the right hon. Gentleman to speak quite sympathetically about the change which this Bill proposes, but, so far as I read the proposals in their application to the one class of factories that is to be created by them, the Bill is merely a reactionary Measure in this respect. Overtime, in our view, ought to be more severely limited or abolished. Any occupation that calls for placing too great a burden on one man and keeping another man unemployed has its social and economic expressions as well as its harmful effects in relation to the individual. The classification as between textile and non-textile factories is to go, but in that going there will also go the safeguards against excessive overtime which formerly existed in the case of textile factories, and there will remain the risk of a new burden of overtime being added in their case unless the matter is most carefully safeguarded during the Committee stage. I would draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to that point. It is true that, as he pointed out, there is a much larger number of workers employed in fewer mills in the textile trade than there is in the case of non-textile factories, but that might very well mean an increased burden for three-fourths, or at any rate considerably more than two-thirds, of the total number of persons employed, while certain safeguards were given to the smaller number only. On the question of overtime, I would again refer to what I call the higher authority I have already quoted, namely, the Trades Union Congress:We are entirely opposed to the proposal that overtime to the extent of too hours per annum should be regarded as a normal accompaniment of industry. Overtime should only be allowed in special circumstances, and we put forward the provisions of Section 86 of the 1924 Bill as the method which might well be adopted in dealing with the matter. The Shops Act of 1934 does not allow more than 50 hours overtime in any one year for persons between 16 and 18 years of age. In our view industry can very well accommodate itself to doing without overtime, but if special conditions do arise then the provisions of the 1924 Bill will adequately meet the position.That is the declaration of people who have had a good deal of experience, for nearly 641 all of those who constitute the Council of the Trades Union Congress have been drawn actually from the workshops or places where heavy employment is carried on. I would, therefore, emphasise that the facilities for overtime provided in the Bill are on the whole too generous to the employers and unjust to a large number especially of women workers. During the Committee stage of the Bill we shall strongly resist overtime for young persons and for women.
One of our reasons for doing so is that cited by the right hon. Gentleman—the serious increase in the number of accidents due to long hours. I think it is proved in the reports of the factory inspectors that accidents occur in greater degree in the beginning hours of work, when the mind is not as alive to danger as it is later, and in the later margin of work, when the frame is exhausted and there is less awareness of danger; so that, the longer the working time is made and the more frequently overtime is resorted to, the more the probability of the accidents which are now so serious is increased. I am very glad to think that in this matter our view is reinforced by the experience of the inspectors and the facts which they have been able to assemble.
On that account I was a little disappointed when the right hon. Gentleman failed to give us any definite indication of the extent to which the number of inspectors is to be increased. We have had nothing but a rather skilful general set of words from the right hon. Gentleman on that question of the increase in the inspectorate. We know very well that in the main the financial provisions of the Bill will become necessary because of the cost of this increase in the number of inspectors, but the total amount to be incurred by the whole increase is only as a little bit of pocket-money compared with the figure of £400,000,000 which was announced here to-day in another connection. This is no time to make any further reference to it, but we have to find that sum of £400,000,000 to keep out a foreign foe. There are foes within, in the workshops and the factories, and we ought not to hesitate to provide a liberal sum for the essential service that is rendered by the factory inspectors, for the truth is that the whole value of this 642 Measure when it becomes law will depend upon the watchfulness and supervision and activities of the factory inspectorates.
In my boyhood, when I worked in a mill, the factory inspector was regarded as the enemy of the industry, That is not so now. I was frequently warned to get out of his way, to keep out of his sight. He was colloquially known as "the finer," for he used to put fines on the master for breaking the law, and we were supposed to be helping the trade if we helped the employer to escape the penalty of his wrong-doing. Therefore, we lesser ones were expected to keep out of his sight. I would press the view that a completely adequate and competent set of additional inspectors should be appointed in order to make the Bill really of value after it has become law. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the work of the Home Office, and I should like to say here that the section of the Home Office to which the inspectors are responsible, and others in that Office, are engaged in one of the most important pieces of human work that fall to the lot of any Department of State in this country, and they deserve every encouragement which the House of Commons can give them.
Another point which we desire to press upon the right hon. Gentleman, and to which he himself alluded slightly, is the danger incurred by young persons, particularly on account of their having to come into contact with dangerous machinery. While that machinery is in motion it is to be regarded as a danger, and, if possible, that should be completely prevented. If I may be allowed to mention my personal experience, I myself was lucky enough to escape without even the loss of a finger; but those who can remember what Lancashire was like in those days, 50 years or so ago, can recall the fact that at times it looked as though returned soldiers had come back from a war and were parading the streets for help—legless or armless men, damaged men, men dwarfed by the conditions of their work. If, therefore, we are going to have regard to physique and improved standards of health, let us do all we can to make conditions of that kind impossible in the future.
A serious omission from the Bill is that no proper rest in the year is secured for 643 the average worker by means of holidays. Only recently, Members of all parties in the House supported a proposal, which was seriously made and which I trust will eventually be put through, to guarantee at least a week's holiday with pay to every worker in this country. The decision of the House is in our favour, and there is no reason why provision should not be made in this Bill to secure that, not privilege, but right, to the 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 workers who will be covered by the Measure. The truth as regards this matter of holidays is that a large number of workers, when they get them under present conditions, are not turned into a merry mood by their enforced rest. I know, from letters I have had and from personal contact, that in these years of deep depression in Lancashire a holiday has been a period of real distress for large numbers of people. They could not get out of their own street, not to speak of the seaside; all their resources had been drained by recurring misfortune and unemployment. I could produce many letters indicating that it was not a period of joy and rest and recreation that confronted them, but a period of real worry and domestic concern. Lastly, I would point out that generally speaking those people—I do not blame them or jibe at them for it; I merely state it as a fact—those people who, under existing conditions, can enjoy the longest holidays with the largest margin of money to spend, are the people least in need of a holiday as compared with the average run of the manual wage-earning class. That is a point which I trust will not be overlooked during the. Committee stage of the Bill.
There are many who consider that the working time of millions of people today appears, after all, to be very light, but there is another factor, and that is that the changes in social conditions, and the great aggregations of workshops and factories, have thrust large numbers of workers further from their employment. They must live in the outer margins; they must travel; they must get up early. As a consequence of this need to travel, they must spend in some cases many hours of time before they get to their place of work, and those hours, added to the hours of work, make a total which is by ho mean's small. Travelling 644 time, therefore, has become a real ordeal for a large number of workers in this country, and that, surely, is an argument for giving close consideration to a lessening of the number of hours spent in the mill or factory itself.
To us it is a very welcome sign of what I would call an improved attitude of mind on these social and industrial matters, to find interested in social problems large numbers of men and women who formerly left them merely, say, to the Labour party or to the trade unions. [Interruption.] Any one who has read a little history knows that before there was a Labour party, before trade unions were allowed to exist, there were men and women with great hearts who stood up, even in this House or in the House of Lords, and pleaded for more human conditions, but it is true all the same that recently there has been a great increase in the number not only of social students but of men and women who give their times to working on committees and doing the drudgery of those jobs.
I should like to give the House a few only of many formulated opinions expressing the views of men and women who have formed themselves into a committee for active work to make this as good a Bill as possible. Referring to young persons, they say that those of the age of 15 should not be employed in any factory whatever. A maximum of 40 hours a week for young persons up to the age of 18 should be fixed as the limit, with no overtime. Overtime for women to be permitted only in special circumstances and in specified trades and not to exceed 60 hours in the year. Spells of work should not exceed 4½ hours, with an interval of at least half an hour for a meal, provided that where a pause of not less than 15 minutes is allowed during the spell the spell may be increased by the length of the interval so allowed. Lastly, provision should be made for a holiday of one week at least in the year with pay. That may be in some degree repetition, but I want it to be registered in the records of the House as being the opinion not of hon. Members on this side of the House but of an ever growing body of opinion in the country, drawn from all classes, and that goes far to strengthen our appeal.
I am sorry that the Bill does not do one little thing, as far as I can find, which Might very well be done. We used to 645 be, in our early factory life, and some people still are, subject to fines and penalties for no offence whatever. It might be a mistake, a little thoughtlessness or a lapse of memory. I suggest that is an opportunity afforded to the right hon. Gentleman completely to abolish deductions of any kind. There are occupations still in which they are considerable. As a trade union officer, I had years ago a number of cases to handle by means of correspondence or conference to lessen or prevent these exactions, which usually occurred in occupations where the workers were the lower paid. The lower the pay usually the worse the abuses applied by the employers. The Bill does not refer to children and it does not refer to what is perhaps the biggest thing in the country—agriculture. If we are to be told that some other Bill is the proper vehicle for that, I say to the Home Secretary that in recent years there has been a very great amount of mechanical development in this national pursuit of agriculture, and some farms at certain times of the year are less like fields than factories. In respect of many definite and specific conditions of what is industrial work in the fields, there is no reason whatever why the Bill should not be made to apply to that bigger pursuit.
Even though this is a Second Reading speech, I hold the view that Front Bench speakers too often take up too long a time, and I will therefore set an example in giving some opportunity to others. We approve the general purpose of the Bill and accept it as being in principle something that has been too long delayed. We shall not divide the House against it but we ought to be reassured that the objections which we have adduced, and which will be adduced in the course of this Debate, will be overcome by mutual effort in the Committee stage.
§ 5.51 p.m.
I congratulate the Home Secretary and the Government on at last bringing in a Factory Bill. As the right hon. Gentleman said, it is long overdue. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down reminded us that for two years the Labour Government wanted to bring in a Bill, but they could not. We know what a difficult Bill it is, because whenever you come up against vested interests, you have these endless 646 deputations. We who have been interested in this subject for years are deeply grateful. In many ways it is a splendid Bill, but it is our duty to help the Government to make it an even better one, and I am sure that is what the Home Secretary wants, because he made a moving speech and anyone could tell that he was deeply interested in the subject. He said it was of practical and general advantage to the community. We have to take that in its wider sense. It is a Bill to protect the lives and working hours, and especially the health, of the great mass of the community. I am sorry that the Government do not look at this question of the general welfare of the community not in a Factory Act or an Education Act or a Health Act. They ought to co-ordinate all those Departments.
When the Minister of Education brought in his Bill and said he wanted to raise the school age to 15 and that young children should not go to work unless they found beneficial employment, we were all very hopeful, but when there is brought in a Factories Bill allowing children to go into factories at 14, some of us who look at it from a broader point of view say that this is going to nullify the ambitions of the Minister of Education. Children are crowding into factories at 14, and that is the last thing that the Government as a whole, and, I am certain, the country as a whole, wish. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman must realise that we have a terrific problem here. We have the problem of health. Every day the papers are full of it and Ministers make speeches. In thinking of this Bill we have to realise that 16 per cent. of the children who enter elementary schools are physically defective; and they are going to be allowed to go into factories at 14—[Interruption]—I should have said 16, and to work a 48-hour week with overtime, which really means that they will be working in many weeks up to, say, nine hours a day. I do not think we shall get the blessings of the factory inspectors for juveniles who work nine hours a day under modern conditions. The Home Secretary has pointed out that, although we have made tremendous strides, the number of accidents to juveniles in the last year is simply alarming. I hope when we get into Committee hon. Members—it is for 647 the House and not for the Government—will look at this not from a narrow but from a broad point of view.
§ Mr. Ridley
I am mystified why the Noble Lady corrected her earlier statement that young persons of 14 could be allowed to work these hours, and then said 16.
Under 16 there is no overtime. From 16 to 18 there is. Many of us still object to women in industry being classed with children. It is perfectly absurd. The right hon. Gentleman said that one of the reasons for improved factory legislation was that women came into factories during the War. [Interruption.] Why should it be young persons? You know that women are getting the jobs of men because they are abler. I am not one of the fanatics who say you ought to have no protection for women, but I protest very violently against putting women and young persons together, because if women are a certain age and strength, if they want overtime and men have it, I do not see why they should not have it. But I object to young persons up to 18 being worked overtime, and we can show that, with all the protection that you have, what really happens is that these children get tired and the accidents occur when they begin to get tired.
A welfare worker told me the other day that if they saw the number of children who had been injured in the last two years it would horrify the country. I hope that in Committee the Government will not stick fast to these hours. We ought to limit them to 40 a week. What is the use of our continuation classes and our playing fields if young people from 16 to 18 are to be allowed to work nine hours a day? I am the mother of a great many children and I know that if you work a child too hard you lose in the end. The best employers know it. This Bill is not to deal with the best employers, no legislation ever is. It is for the bad ones. I am not saying that there are many, but there are a great deal too many. The minute you touch the hours of work they bring the same tale that the House has heard since 1833, that it will ruin industry. There never was a time when you tried to protect young people and did not have that cry. I have said many times, and will continue to say, 648 that if industry depends on overworking young people industry ought to go out of business, and that is the feeling of the great mass of the ordinary people of the country.
The amount of gross overwork imposed on young persons seems almost incredible in these days. It is going on, and if you give it the chance which I am afraid it will have under the Bill, it will still go on. I want the nation to realise that if we are to stop the falling birth-rate and be an AI nation we must protect the young people. I agree with hon. Members that 14 is too early an age to enter work. I was talking to a welfare worker only yesterday. It is difficult, as she said, to get young people between 14 and 18 to go at a reasonable hour to bed. The moment they go into industry they feel that they are grown up, and it is difficult to get them to go to bed at a proper hour. They have to go to work, but they often oversleep, and when they have to go to distant places they arrive very often without having had their breakfast. I do not know whether it is practicable—industrialists will say that it is not—but I believe that it would be only a question of reorganisation for industry to start at eight o'clock. It would be far better for the general welfare of the great masses of people.
§ Mr. Hepworth
Does not the Noble Lady know that when they go at 7.30 they have a stopping time for breakfast? She does not know what she is talking about.
I know perfectly well what I am talking about. I was talking about my conversation with a welfare worker who was giving me particulars of cases. I am not talking about my own experience. I have never posed as an honest working girl, never. But I do know that the welfare workers know their business. I have heard the point of view expressed in this House for 17 years that hon. Members will do for other people's children what they do not dare to do for their own. It is our duty in the House of Commons never to pass for the children of anybody else legislation that we would not pass for our own. That is the test of all legislation. We must ask the Government if they are in earnest in their attitude towards education and want young people to stay at school until 15. If they are riot in earnest, the 649 whole organisation of our education is a farce. They must raise the entry of children into factories to 15, and I believe the time is ripe for it. Within the next 10 or 15 years I believe that we shall have a five-day week and shorter working hours. Why should not the Government do this sort of thing now with their great majority behind them?
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) spoke about this reform coming because the Socialist party wanted it, but he took us back to reforms before anybody ever knew of a Socialist party. These are reforms which are going to be demanded by the social conscience of the country. I hope that hon. Members of the House of Commons who are interested in this matter and who may go down to their constituencies and speak of the need to keep fit, will remember that this Bill gives them a real chance. The Bill does not deal with blind-alley trades, and so I had better not talk about that subject. The Home Secretary said something else about women, but the women will look after themselves. I am not so much concerned about them as I am about the juveniles. I am deeply concerned with what is happening all over the country and what will continue unless we lay it down now that they are to have full protection not only in regard to the hours of labour, but the conditions under which they work.
We require an increased number of inspectors. Young people in industry should have a fortnight's holiday, if possible, with pay, or, at any rate with half-pay. Nothing in the world does young people in industry more good than a fortnight's holiday. It would go a long way towards reducing the vast number of unfit young people. Such a holiday has a staggering effect upon young people. Social workers and others who are interested are of that opinion. I hope that the Home Secretary will realise that the great mass of the people of the country will be grateful to him for bringing in this Measure, but they will be very much disappointed unless we are allowed to amend it considerably in Committee. It will not impress us in the least to tell us that industry cannot afford it. We have heard that old story in season and out of season. We have to think of what the nation can and cannot afford. The nation cannot afford in these days of highly mechanised machinery and movement to 650 overwork its juveniles. The social consequences are terrific. How many of the children from our elementary schools go into industry physically unfit? These are the type for whom, when they go into industry we should do everything we can to give them the advantages which the country can well afford.
I hope that the House will not enter upon a bitter fight on this question. We can all throw bricks. I hope that the Labour party will honestly help the Government and that they will co-operate in that spirit of brotherhood and comradeship that they speak about. Let us really try to do it. Let us think of the young people and forget ourselves. The great mass of the people of this country are working under better conditions than probably the people in any other country in the world. I do not intend to enter upon the question of an international agreement of hours. It is said that it is possible to obtain international agreement, but I believe that if you obtained an international agreement it would not be kept by many people. I trust that the Government will not go in for anything that is not practicable, but that they will go in for what is completely practicable, which is, the protection of the young persons in our factories and workshops.
§ 6.9 p.m.
I want to say at once that we who are accustomed to sit in this part of the House will support the Second Reading of this Measure, and will provide our portion of that good will, brotherhood and comradeship for which the Noble Lady appealed just now. I appreciate that the Home Secretary desires to get the co-operation of Members in all parts of the House, and I am sure that this is the right way in which to approach it, and we shall do all we can to assist in that direction. At the same time, I must make it clear that we are not at all satisfied that the Bill, in its present form, is by any means an heroic Measure. I do not think that the Government themselves would agree to apply that word to it. It requires strengthening, and I hope that we shall succeed in strengthening it. There are Members in all parts of the House, Government supporters as well, very anxious to get as much as we can into this Bill.
The Bill shows an advance in many directions, but it also shows retreat in 651 certain directions. These are small points which are likely to arise during the Committee stage. The Noble Lady said, very rightly, that we ought not to be deterred by the statement that employers cannot afford these changes. The time is exceedingly favourable. There is supposed to be a boom on, and presumably they are making profits. There never will be a time when it will be more easy to attempt to carry out whatever reforms may be proposed. It is a very short-sighted policy to endeavour to employ workers who are tired with long hours, who are cold, and working in unhealthy conditions. It is rather stupid to resist progress of this kind. I am sure that the employer cannot do better, if he wants efficiency and good results, than provide the very best conditions he can in his factory, and the shortest hours that are practicable.
Quite apart from that, even if there were these difficulties and objections, the workers are entitled to these reforms and we ought to go forward, whatever the consequences. I do not think that the consequences will be very serious to anybody. This Measure brings a certain number of employers up to a good standard, but the standard in the Bill is still a long way below that which the best employers are providing in their factories at the present time. In the nineteenth century we used to be the leaders of the world in matters of this kind, but I am afraid that we have lost that lead. [HON. MEMBERS: "No‡"] Oh, yes, there are other countries that are ahead of us, and I hope that we shall so manage to fashion this Bill as to place us once more in the forefront among the industrial leaders of the world.
A great deal depends upon the way the regulations are carried out by the Home Secretary. The Measure is very much in the nature of a blank cheque. We do not know how it is to be filled in, what the amount is to be and what signature is to be attached to it, but if it is properly used there is no doubt that excellent results can be achieved. Reference has been made to the increase in the number of factory inspectors. A considerable increase would be required, a larger increase than that provided for by the sum of £25,000, as stated in the Financial Memorandum. There is no 652 better body of civil servants serving the country than the factory inspectors, and we want more of them. It is clear that there will be a great deal of extra clerical work imposed upon them under this Bill. That in itself will require additions to the staff, and the other sections of the Bill will certainly require additions. If it is said that money is not available out of revenue, then why not raise a loan to meet the extra expenses? That seems to be the fashionable way of dealing with our finances at the present time.
This is a matter of the greatest national importance. I suppose that one-third of the working lives of the millions of workers in this country is spent in the factories. To some extent they are their dwelling places, and it is only right that in those factories the work should be made as attractive and as comfortable as we possibly can make it. Therefore, I am glad to see the important proposals for welfare mentioned in the Measure. Proposals with regard to lighting and heating have been referred to. Let me make this point about heating. The figure of 60 degrees is referred to as a reasonable and proper figure, but it refers only to those who are sitting down to their work. Those who have to stand at a bench are not entitled to this provision. I am afraid that there will be some employers who will make their workers stand up in order to avoid having to carry out a condition of that kind; but I do not think there are very many. There is also in the same Clause a provision that the figure for heating is not to come into operation until after the first hour has gone by. That seems a very curious proposal. Suppose it were laid down that in this House the heating to which we are accustomed was not to come into operation until after the first hour, it would, I think, make a great deal of difference to the interest of Question Time.
Then there are new proposals with regard to mess rooms, and when we are dealing with mess rooms we want to provide not only facilities for cooking but for warming food, washing facilities, and for drying clothes, if the workers have come through the rain. My objection to the proposals in these Clauses is that at the present time only workers in certain special trades are entitled to these benefits. We ought to universalise these welfare conditions; make them applicable to all trades, except in cases where it 653 can be proved, for some special reasons, that they are not applicable. They ought not to be confined to a limited number of people. I hope, also, that in connection with this welfare work it will be possible to have advisory joint committees of employers and workers who will be responsible for the management and general arrangements of welfare. I hope that is what is intended under Clause 45. There is a precedent for it. Under a draft Order made by Lord Brentford joint safety committees were set up in factories, and I suggest that we should do the same sort of thing in connection with the administration of welfare in factories.
I want to turn, however, to the most important question in the Bill—the question of hours. The provisions for women and young persons are a substantial advance, but why are not men brought in as well? It is deplorable, after the Washington Convention, that we have not taken this opportunity of amending the law and making it apply to men. The right hon. Gentleman said that this is more of an economic question. It is not. It is a question of health. Long hours affect men just as they affect women. The trouble is that these long hours, the permitted hours of 60 per week, are being worked in a number of cases at the present time, particularly in the Midlands where you have poor trade union organisation and where there are a number of small factories. Birmingham is a good example. Men and women are being worked to the utmost limit of the 60 hours. There is no doubt about that.
It is standard time, and there are cases where overtime is worked but not paid. That is another point. Under the present law we have the amazing position that boys of 14 are being worked from eight o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock at night, and on Saturday from eight in the morning till four in the afternoon. It shows that there is a certain type of employer who is making use of the law as it stands. Fortunately, that will not be possible if the Measure goes through. It shows the importance and value of trade union organisation. You do not get these long hours for men where they are properly 654 organised. It is only in small works where you cannot get good trade union organisation that these abuses occur, and that is where the State should step in and help people who are not able to help themselves. But these new and valuable provisions which are being introduced for women and young persons may be nullified to a great extent by the overtime which is to be permitted. You are going to allow 54 hours, or 57 hours, or possibly even more than that per week. At any rate, a 57-hour week for a certain number of weeks in the year may be allowed in certain circumstances, and the fact that overtime may be paid does not alter the fact that they will be very tired at the end of a week like that.
I would ask the Home Secretary whether the real answer to the demand for increased overtime was not given when the two-shift system was introduced last year? That is the alternative. If the work has increased to such an extent that a factory cannot get it through with the present staff, they should turn to the two-shift system, working the normal hours and not work overtime. That is a point which should be considered. I hope we shall succeed by, general agreement in reducing the hours of overtime from 100 to something like 60, apply it to special trades only, that there will be no overtime at all permitted for young persons, who will be allowed to work only 40 hours a week, and not after 6 p.m. In connection with this question one thing is absolutely vital, and that is that we make sure by some means or other that the overtime rates are actually paid, because there will be many cases, where there is not good organisation, where people will be kept at work for 54 hours and no overtime paid. I hope it will be possible to incorporate in the Measure as in the legislation of other countries including one of our own Dominions, a provision that the overtime rate must be paid. The percentage varies in other countries from 25 to 100 per cent. It is already statutory in the case of Trade Boards to pay overtime rates, and it would be a tremendous addition to the Measure if something were incorporated to secure payment of the rates and also allow factory inspectors to find out for themselves when they suspect that the rates are not, in fact, being paid. At a time when France, Belgium and New Zealand are intro- 655 ducing measures to introduce the 40-hour week, it is a little humiliating for us to feel that this is the best we are able to do, indeed, that we are not able to insist completely on a 48-hour week for all the workers of the country.
I entirely agree with the importance of raising the age of entry into industry to 15. I should have thought it was a natural complement to the legislation in the Education Act of last year. That Measure never contemplated that we were going to retain permanently all the exceptions contemplated by one Act or another, but that we should build up the structure until there were few exemptions left. This Measure gave us an opportunity of decreasing the number of exemptions. May I refer to one or two short points? In Clause 2 there is a period of years before the provision as to the 400 cubic feet comes into operation. I want to make this as a practical suggestion, because I think there is a chance 'of doing something here. Suppose one of the tenants of one of these factories with only 250 feet leaves, would it not be right to say that no other employer should enter a factory which has been evacuated in this way?
§ Mr. Mander
That is a point well worth considering. When you come to the question of mechanical ventilation, I should have thought that there was some danger in a small factory of mechanical ventilation creating such a rush of air as to make it unpleasant for those who are working. In connection with Clause 15, which deals with unfenced machinery in motion, it has been represented to me that the old law is rather better, and that the Clause reduces the present powers and interferes with the right of a worker to claim compensation. No doubt that is a point we shall be able to explore more thoroughly in Committee. In connection with Clause 68 I hope it will be made clear that one hour is secured to the worker for his dinner in the middle of the day. There is some question as to whether it is to be half an hour, and we want to establish the fact that he is entitled to one hour.
There are also a few omissions to which I want to refer. There is one which has to do with the provision of holidays with 656 pay. There is an International Labour Office Convention on the subject. The House has already approved it overwhelmingly in the Debate before Christmas, and it would have been a very proper and useful thing to have introduced into this Bill. On this point we seem to be lagging behind other countries. There is another International Labour Office Convention on the question of childbirth. Under the law as it will be a woman will be allowed to absent herself for only four weeks after childbirth. According to the Convention she is entitled to be away for six weeks before and for six weeks after. I should like to have the views of the Government on that matter, and also to know why they have not thought fit to include the terms of this Convention in a Measure of this sort. That Convention has been ratified by 16 countries. There is another International Labour Office Convention on hours which has been ratified by no less than 38 countries. Again, it would have been a useful thing to have included its terms in the present Measure.
In conclusion, this Measure undoubtedly makes a substantial advance in certain directions, but I should be very sorry if I thought it would go on the Statute Book in its present form. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has shown his willingness to listen to the views of all sides, and I hope that in that spirit, by our joint efforts, we shall be able very considerably to improve the Measure. There are many hon. Members in all parts of the House who are most anxious to do so, and I believe the Home Office is also sympathetic. I am sure that if we could do that, we should have the pleasure of feeling that we were doing something that was adding to the health and happiness of millions of our fellow-subjects.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis Jones
I would like to join with other Members in expressing appreciation of the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. I would like also to express appreciation of the very practical steps which he took to get into touch with the representatives of industry, both of the employers' and the employés' side, in order to have their opinions about the proposals which the Home Office had under consideration. I think that was a very wise course to 657 adopt before introducing what is, after all, a very important Measure. Much has been said this afternoon about the codification of factory law, but the Bill which is before the House has convinced everybody that, in the terms of the Memorandum which accompanies it, it is really more than a codification of existing factory law, and is, at the same time, an important revising Measure.
From the speeches that have been delivered already, it is fairly obvious that there is a consensus of opinion in this House that it was high time that this Measure was introduced. On different occasions during the last 12 years or so, there have been promises of a new Bill to deal with factory legislation, and in 1924 and 1926 we had an opportunity of studying a Bill. It is because we saw the Bills in 1924 and 1926 that we feel the present Bill does not contain many surprises, except to the extent that it considerably revises factory legislation. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) said that lie regretted very much that the standard of factory legislation in this country was lagging behind that of other countries. I do not know why it is that, during the last five or six years, it has become a very common practice in the House to make attacks on various industries in Britain, on their standard of efficiency and so forth, these attacks being broadcast through the OFFICIAL REPORT and the newspapers to all parts of the world. I feel there is no justification for the statement that we are lagging behind in our factory legislation. Anyone who has taken the trouble to study the literature which has been issued by the International Labour Office at Geneva is bound to feel a certain sense of pride that Britain, as a general rule, has taken the lead in all matters affecting the health, safety and welfare of workpeople in industry generally.
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton referred to the hours of labour of British workpeople. The hon. Member is an industrial leader himself, and I suggest to him that it is a great mistake on the Floor of the House to generalise as to the hours of British work-people on the basis of a few instances in small factories in the Birmingham area. The hon. Member made a statement about 6o hours a week being worked by young people in the Birmingham area. In the 658 industry with which I have been closely connected for over 20 years, the average working week of all concerned has been 42 and two-thirds, and it would be as absurd for me to argue from my own particular instance that the general working week in British industry is 42 and two-thirds hours as it is for the hon Member to argue from the Birmingham instance that hours of labour in British industry are very high.
§ Mr. Mander
I did not say anything of the sort. I suggested that in certain cases the full legal hours were being worked, but I did not say that was universal, for I know it is not.
§ Mr. Jones
I was suggesting that the hon. Member, in dealing with that matter, dealt with the general question of the standard of factory legislation as well, and that argument and what he considered to be the lagging behind of the British standard of factory legislation, made up his general argument to which, personally, I rather object. I may be the only Member in the House who does so. [HON. MEMBERS: "No‡"] The hon. Member made his attacks generally on British industry. I still hold the view, which I believe to be generally accepted by students of factory legislation and welfare work all over the world, that the standard of British factory legislation and the observance of that legislation by British employers is the finest in the world. I am very glad that this Bill is being introduced not because it is necessary for us in this country to try to chase after higher standards in other countries, but because we are still determined, in the interests of the safety, welfare and health of the workpeople, to keep the lead. One or two suggestions were made by the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) in which I took it that he meant to convey some slight on British employers. British employers generally welcome this Bill.
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Member interrupts on every possible occasion and on any subject under discussion. He must know that the statement he just made is not true. The Confederation of Employers' Organisations, which is the counterpart of the Trades Union Congress, has been in conference with the 659 right hon. Gentleman and his staff at the Home Office, and I think I am safe in saying that they have rendered to him, as has the Trades Union Congress, invaluable assistance in the discussion of the detailed points of this Bill, but I say quite frankly—[Interruption].
§ Mr. Jones
Let me say frankly—and I am associated with an employers' organisation—that this Bill has my wholehearted support, and I shall do all I can in the Committee upstairs to help it on to the Statute Book. I wish to insist, however, that we in this country are not trying to follow the lead of some other country, but are still keeping the lead. Employers and industrialists generally are keen on the observance and improvement of factory legislation, on safety and welfare work among the workpeople, and on improving the status of workpeople generally. Hon. Members opposite may sneer at the suggestion that employers of labour have human instincts as well as anybody else.
§ Mr. Jones
I do not mind the hon. Member having a little fun out of me, but let him give employers credit for this, that on purely economic and financial grounds it pays us to do this. For instance, if the cost of accidents increases over a period of years, our premiums to the insurance companies go up. Consequently, when I ask hon. Members opposite to believe me when I say that I am as human in these matters as they are, I also appeal to them at any rate to give industrialists credit for this, that on purely economic and financial grounds they want to reduce the cost of accidents, because as a result of that, premiums for compensation are considerably reduced. We are all animated with this great desire to improve the standards of health and welfare and to increase the safety of workpeople generally. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary referred to juvenile accidents. That is a matter which has very much concerned employers of labour all over the country. We realise the tragedy when we examine the statistics of juvenile accidents. I have 660 appealed to young fellows in the steel trade who are careless and reckless, with a sort of false bravado. I have asked trade union leaders to join with me in appealing to those young fellows to observe the rules and regulations for their own protection, and again I appeal to hon. Members opposite to join with employers throughout the country in making that appeal to the young fellows not to be as reckless as they are at the present time.
One hon. Member has suggested that the factory legislation of to-day is a generation old, and I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary did not make that reference. I do not for one moment accept the statement. While we all want a codification of factory legislation, let us not forget that there has been a number of changes in factory law since 1901, and what is more, just as this new Bill gives to the Home Secretary the power to issue regulations, orders and special orders, let us not forget that ever since the Factory Act, 1901, there have been regulations and orders, and there is available at the Stationery Office to-day a volume of at least 300 pages of regulations and orders arising from the Factory Act, 1901. I believe it is safe to say that the reason we are asking for a codification of factory legislation is that there exists such a large volume of these regulations, orders and special orders arising from the Factory Act, 1901, and subsequent Acts which have dealt with the safety, welfare and health of the workers.
I was making an appeal a moment or two ago to the trade union leaders to exercise still greater pressure on the young people in industry to take greater care. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) spoke about women workers. I know of an instance where the managing director of an important works in the iron and steel trade appealed to some young women employed in the works not to wear high-heeled shoes there, the reason being that the high heels got into some tramlines and led to twisted ankles, and so forth. Within a week or two he made another appeal that they should not have loose-sleeved or wide-sleeved blouses because of the danger of their being caught in the machinery. Because this led to a rule 661 that the young women should not wear high-heeled shoes or loose-sleeved blouses owing to the conditions of the work, the girls went on strike. It seems that the managing director had been newly married, and the young women suggested that that rule was the result of the new-fangled ideas of the wife of the managing director. That is the attitude of mind we would like to get rid of, simply and solely in the interests of the protection of the women themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting called attention to the question of overtime as it affects men. Hon. Members opposite who have had years of experience of trade union organisation and whose business it has been from time to time to negotiate with employers on wage questions and conditions of employment, will know that no employer wants overtime to be worked if he can avoid it.
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) does not agree with me. I also have been negotiating for the last 20 years, and I have done so in a district in which, I know, the standard wages and conditions of employment are second to none in Great Britain. I say frankly that we prefer to have jobs done in the ordinary hours and at the ordinary rates of pay, instead of paying the overtime rates which apply between midday on Saturday and Monday morning. Obviously, as an economic proposition, overtime does not pay us, but one cannot run an industry in which there is a continuous process without a certain amount of overtime during the week-end, because that is the only time when it is possible to carry out repairs and maintenance work on plant and machinery. We make this definite proposition that we do not want overtime because it is too expensive. If a bricklayer or any other worker has worked for 48 hours during the week, and it applies all the more to a man who has been working at a furnace, and if he has to work overtime at the weekend, the economic value of his work is not so great, and it is only when circumstances compel it that overtime is worked in the large basic industries at the present time.
662 A previous speaker referred to the inspectors of factories. In my own experience great changes have taken place in the attitude of people towards inspectors generally. There was a time, referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting, when inspectors were looked upon almost as spies just as in the old days even inspectors of schools were looked upon with suspicion and fear. I am glad to think it is the general experience of industrialists to-day that inspectors who visit works give advice as to the putting into operation of new regulations and orders. I agree that where there is justification for prosecution they do not hesitate to prosecute but that is their job. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting complained that the increased expenditure to be incurred in connection with the Bill was very small, and he regarded the £25,000 or £30,000 referred to in the Memorandum as a comparatively small amount. But obviously the value of a Bill which is designed to improve conditions of safety and health and the welfare of the workers, is not to be measured by the amount which is to be paid to inspectors. I am satisfied that the Bill means a substantial expenditure on the part of industrialists generally but I believe that industrialists will be very happy to incur whatever additional expenditure is essential in order to improve the health and the welfare of the employés generally.
I am perfectly certain that the hon. Member is one of the employers who are deeply interested in the welfare of the workpeople, but as he has made a reference to juvenile accidents, may I ask him whether he does not find in his own industry that there is less efficiency among young workers at the end of the day, and whether that is not a reason for trying to persuade the Government to shorten the hours of work of young people?
§ Mr. Jones
In our industry we are governed by the Employment of Young Persons Act. As the process is a continuous process we cannot employ any young people under 16, and our working week is short as compared with that in other factories. I welcome the Bill and hope it will have the assent of the whole House. I also hope that when it gets to Committee it will be possible to consider some 663 of the variations which have been suggested by other Members, and it may be that those with whom I am associated will also suggest some alterations in certain of the proposals of the Bill.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Brooke
The hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) said that the Bill had been welcomed by the employers of the country. In the comments which I have seen from leading employers and employers' associations on the proposals in the Bill, I have observed no enthusiasm for the Measure. The chairman of one of the largest employers' organisations has indeed stated that just now when the industries of the country are beginning to enjoy a boom, they cannot afford to have any further charges placed upon the costs of production. The hon. Member may be correct in his references to overtime, as far as they concern the industry with which he is familiar, but he cannot speak for the textile industry or many other large industries, and I must remind him that his references to overtime do not apply to the industry with which I am concerned.
It can truthfully be said that the Bill is a genuine example of bread and butter politics. This is the sort of legislation that can be understood by the man-in-the-street, and I assure the Home Secretary that the ordinary factory operative is deeply concerned about what is contained in the Bill. I regard it as the most important Measure that has been introduced for many years. It will determine the working conditions and the maximum hours of labour of more than 7,000,000 people in this country, and those people spend more than half their working lives in factories and workshops. The importance of the effect of conditions in our factories upon the lives, the health and the general welfare of these millions of workers—a considerable section of our population—must be manifest to every hon. Member. I do not believe that in these days the conditions which exist in our factories can be regarded as distinct and separate from the other advances and movements that have taken place in recent years towards improvement of standards of living generally. One is connected with the other. Since the dreadful days of the beginning of the industrial age in the early nineteenth century there have been many great improvements in 664 many directions. We have had an advance in the standard of education. We have had, however inadequate it may be, the introduction of the system of feeding school-children, and some time ago we had a Measure, however attenuated, to raise the school-leaving age, and to keep out of our factories a number of the children who enter them at the present time.
Looking back over that long period since the industrial age began in this country, we can see how far we have progressed. We can see what advances have been made in the general standard of living of our people whether by trade union effort, or by State action, and one of the questions which I put to myself in relation to the Bill is this: Does it, in its treatment of the problems of industry and in its proposals for controlling working hours and conditions, show anything like the same spirit of advance in determining those conditions of working life which come within the province of the Home Office as has been shown by other Departments of State when dealing with the general conditions of the nation? The Bill deals with the conditions of this great number of our people, not only for today but for the future, because we have to remember that it is 25 years since the last Factories Act was introduced, and it may be many years before a new Factories Bill appears.
We hear a lot about the desirability of having a fit nation. The Minister of Education the other day waxed very eloquent on the need for more physical drill for the people of the country. I am one of those who believe that physical jerks alone will not make a healthier nation. In my view this Measure can do more than either the Board of Education or the Ministry of Health to keep our people fit. I believe that good food and good housing are essential if our people are to be kept fit, but above all I believe it to be necessary that they should have good conditions of employment. If young people are working in bad and unhealthy surroundings, if they are employed for excessive hours, and if they are put to work which is unsuitable, then all efforts in other directions to improve the standard of health and physique will be nullified. One can therefore grasp how important this Measure is. But when one asks whether the Bill is conceived in a spirit of courage, to tackle 665 boldly the pressing problems that face the industrial community to-day, one is bound to confess that it is a very mild Measure.
I know that it has been claimed by the Home Secretary that it is a consolidating Bill, but it is also claimed in the Memorandum that it is more than a consolidating Measure, that it is a revising Measure. Undoubtedly, there is a certain amount of revision of the present law but only to a limited extent. For instance, there are additions to what are called safety precautions, and there is a certain strengthening of the health provisions which will be required in factories in the future. There are also restrictions on the hours that can be worked by women and young persons to which I shall refer more fully later, but I would like whoever replies on behalf of the Home Secretary to tell us of any striking innovation contained in the Bill.
The Bill does not even attempt to regularise the practice in many industries to-day. I could give many instances from my own experience of the woollen textile industry and of the dyeing and finishing industry in which negotiations between employers and trade unions have secured far better standards for the workers than are contained in this Bill. One of the difficulties that has faced all industrial negotiators is that after the decent and enlightened employers have accepted new standards they have had to face the competition of unscrupulous employers who took advantage of the lower standard. Hitherto the unscrupulous employer has always been allowed to get away with it. This Bill would have provided us with an opportunity to legalise the best conditions we have been able to obtain, and to impose them on every employer in every industry. My opinion is that the best conditions relating to hours of work and overtime that exist in any industry should have been embodied in this Bill as the minimum standard. If one examines the proposals of the Bill and the practice in many industries one must agree that that has not been done.
I am particularly interested in that part d the Bill which relates to the employ-men of women and young persons, and in the Clauses which fix the hours of employment for normal working and the 666 provision for overtime, cannot understand why the Bill we are considering—just like that of 1847, so often referred to by the Home Secretary—only refers to hours worked by women and young persons. It contains no reference to the hours worked by adult men, who are only protected by law if they work in certain sections of the potteries or in mining, and I cannot understand why it should not have been found possible to have included men in this Bill as easily as it was possible to include women and young persons. It would be interesting to know the real reason why the legal restriction of working hours of men has been ignored. One may wonder whether the pressure of the employers' organisations has been too strong, or whether public opinion has not been sufficiently organised and vocal, or whether the Home Secretary thinks that the time is not opportune, or whether he thinks it not desirable that the working hours of adult males should have any legal protection. According to the Bill the only means left to adult males to secure any restriction of working hours or overtime is through trade union action, which has done so much to raise the standards of working conditions in the past. Considering the situation in this country and the situation abroad, particularly in relation to the challenge from hon. Members opposite that this country is leading the world in industrial standards of hours and conditions of employment, it seems to me that there is a miserable contrast between the proposals in this Bill and what has been done by the Socialist Government in France, where a 40-hour week has been introduced for all workers without reduction of pay.
If the Home Secretary had been a man of vision, and animated by a real reforming zeal, he could have done two things which would have secured the overwhelming gratitude of the workers of this country. He could have taken steps to ratify the international Convention for the 48-hour working week. It is remarkable, when the claim is made by hon. Members opposite that this country always leads the way, that we always hesitate to ratify any convention that will improve hours and working conditions. The Home Secretary could have secured—if not in this Bill, by other means—ratification of the 48-hour Convention, and then 667 he could have included in this Bill a 48-hour maximum for all workers in every industry. Such a step would have been regarded by organised and unorganised workers as a great advance, and it would have had a substantial effect on the unemployment problem. When we really tackle that problem with the intention of solving it shorter working hours all round must inevitably take place, and I believe it must be done in the near future. It cannot be argued in these days that a 48-hour week is impracticable, because 90 per cent. of our industrial workers, it has been estimated, are working a 48-hour week, and agreements have been entered into voluntarily which contain a clause limiting the hours of normal employment to 48. But when we have made application for its general extension, we have been met by employers who feared the competition of those who would not accept the shorter week, and there are many employers also who have only adopted the 48-hour week as a basis of payment, and still continue to work longer hours.
However critical one must be of many proposals in this Bill, one must welcome the general limitation of hours for women and young persons. In the textile industry, with which I am connected, the statutory limit at present is 55 hours. There is no overtime to any extent for women, and overtime is not worked by young people under 18. In the workshops which are not classed as factories the limit for women and young persons is 60 hours a week. The 10-hour Act proved to be unworkable in practice, and in the textile industry to-day there are thousands of women and young persons who are working a 60-hour week and 10½ hours a day.
§ Mr. Hepworth
Will the hon. Member inform me of the industry to which he is referring apart from the textile industry where workers, particularly women, are working over 60 hours a week?
§ Mr. Brooke
If the hon. Member will read the last two reports of the Chief Inspector of Factories, he will find that these scandalously long hours are being worked to a large extent, especially in some of the less efficient light industries.
I believe that the eight-hour working day is long overdue, but we have not been able to secure it. In the Bill we 668 have secured the nine-hour day, and I want to urge the Secretary of State that there should be no retreat from the nine-hour day as there was from the 10-hour Act. I am afraid, however, that the retreat has already begun. I do not like the proposals regarding overtime for women and young persons. It seems to me that there is to be nothing but voluntary action on the part of the employer to restrict the hours of women and young persons to less than 54 for a large part of the year. There is far too much overtime being worked at this moment in the West Riding, and there is nothing in this Bill that will restrict the regular overtime working now taking place. According to the Bill, women and young persons can be called on to work overtime to the extent of 100 hours a year, subject to the maximum conditions laid down of six hours in any week and the restriction to a period of 30 weeks in the year. It means that in practice women and young persons can still be called on to work 54 hours a week for three months on end.
The operation of these Clauses will be infinitely worse than the existing practice. Young people under 18 are not called on to work overtime at present, but under the Bill they are to be available for 100 hours in the year. Every one of the organisations which represent the textile industry and the woollen and cotton industries has expressed its disapproval of this overtime proposal. I hope that in Committee these Clauses will receive further consideration. I believe that there should be no overtime for young people under 18, and that, instead of adding overtime to them, there should be a reduced working week for them.
There are worse proposals than that in the Bill, because it is provided that where there is "seasonal" or "other special pressure," the Home Secretary has power to extend overtime even up to 150 hours a year. I would remind the Under-Secretary of State that in practice that can work out that our women and young people may be called upon work 54 hours a week for a continuous stretch of six months. The greatest blow of all that is contained in this Bill is that the hours of employment may be increased beyond 54 if the Home Secretary thinks it proper to allow it. As one who is deeply interested in this Measure and who may be said almost to have a vested interest in it from the point of view of the operatives, 669 I am fearful lest these very wide loopholes, especially that referring to seasonal work, which covers a large number of industries and employs thousands of women and young persons, that through the discretion of the Secretary of State, may rob the Bill of much of its merits in other directions. Unless we are very careful, I believe that much of what is being given with one hand in the form of a 48-hours week and a 9-hours day will be taken away by the other hand in the form of the excessive overtime proposals in the Bill.
There is another Clause which is rather disturbing, and that is in respect to one of the special exceptions referring to the smelting of iron-ore, the manufacture of glass, and the paper industry, with which, I confess, I am not very familiar, but it appears from a reading of the Clause that male young persons who have not attained the age of 16 may be employed 56 hours in any week, or, what is worse, 144 hours in a continuous period of three weeks. That seems to me to be almost barbarous in these days, and it is one of the Clauses that will have to be radically altered or completely deleted when the Bill is considered in Committee.
I should like to put a point that is of special interest to the woollen textile industry of Yorkshire. Under the present law ordinary textile factories work either from six to six or from seven to seven, and there is a provision in the law that two hours must be provided for meals.
§ Mr. Brooke
Yes, they do, and I can give the hon. Member names if he likes. Under the present law a textile factory can start at six and work till six or can start at seven and work till seven, and there is a provision that two hours shall be allowed for meals. Therefore, they are allowed to work 10 hours per day, and some of them do it. In non-textile factories they can now work women and 670 young persons from six to six, from seven to seven, or from eight to eight, and in those factories there is provision for only 1½ hours for meals, so that in practice they are allowed to work 10½ hours per day. With the abolition in the first Clause of this Bill of the distinction between textile and non-textile factories, it appears to us that provision is now being made for extended daily hours in all textile factories, and that instead of our people being allowed to work 10 hours, they may be allowed to work 10½ hours.
I would next draw the attention of the Under-Secretary of State to Clause 70, which provides that where a firm goes on the five-day week, women and young persons may be called upon to work 10½ hours a day in a textile factory, and I should like the hon. Gentleman to tell us whether that really is so, because if it is so, it is an innovation. It is not being done in the textile industry now, and if it is to be allowed as a future practice, I can promise him that we shall strenuously oppose it from these benches. I should also like to ask the Under-Secretary of State how the Home Office expects to control the hours of work that are to be allowed under these new provisions. In the woollen textile industry our experience is that the control of overtime working, as the Home Secretary said, is one of the most difficult matters with which we have to deal.
In the agreement that exists between the workers' organisations and the employers in the woollen textile industry, based upon a 48-hour week, we have a provision, I believe, for permitted overtime working of 95 hours in a year, but in that agreement the overtime working applies to the hours worked by the individual and not to the firm. Therefore, in practice we have found that the voluntary agreement that exists has been proved to be entirely worthless. We have found ourselves unable to control the overtime work, and we have not even been able to detect what has been taking place. I recognise that the Bill provides that before an occupier employs young women and children overtime, he must give due notice of his intention to the inspector and must enter particulars in a register kept at the factory for that purpose. But Sub-section (6) of the same Clause almost introduces into this Bill the difficulties that we are now experiencing, because it there defines a factory for the purpose 671 of overtime working as different parts of a factory, or different sets of persons, or different processes, and in practice we believe that it will be almost as difficult to detect and keep control over overtime working under this provision as we have found it to be to detect individual overtime. I hope therefore that steps can be taken in Committee considerably to simplify this procedure.
§ Mr. Simmonds
What is the difficulty in referring to the time card to see the amount of overtime worked in any particular case?
§ Mr. Brooke
If the hon. Member suggests that an inspector of factories is to be called upon to examine the time cards of all the workers in a factory, we shall need a much larger army of inspectors than is now proposed. In many other respects this Bill is very disappointing. I believe that the opportunity should have been taken to limit the amount of overtime to be worked by men, but if the Government had done that, naturally they would have been compelled to fix the normal working week for men, and the Government have not had the courage to do that. I notice that certain comment has been made by, I think, the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) in regard to the Clause prohibiting women and young persons from working over four and a-half hours continuously without a break of half-an-hour, and it has been commented upon as if that was something new, but that provision is contained in the 1901 Act relating to employment in textile factories, and in my opinion there is no reason whatever why that four and a-half hours should not have been reduced to four hours. I believe that four and a-half hours is far too long a period, in these days of excessive speeding-up and of complicated machinery, and I can see no reason why the four and a-half hours without a break should not have applied to men as well as to women and young children.
672 There are many provisions in the Bill in regard to the safety and welfare regulations which affect textile workers and which all of us welcome. Every one of those regulations is exceedingly important for the health and safety and general welfare of our working-class population, and I can assure the Secretary of State that we shall co-operate with him to make them as perfect as possible. Some reference has been made to the fact that one of the major omissions from the Bill has been the omission of any recognition of the need of the workers for an annual week's holiday with pay, and I should like to add my support to that proposal. An annual week's holiday with pay ought to have been contained in this Bill, especially as the House has had the opportunity of registering its views on that matter and of sending a Private Member's Bill on the subject to be considered by a Standing Committee of this House. However, disappointed as we are, perhaps more with what is left out of the Bill than with what is in it, we accept it in the spirit that half a loaf is better than no bread at all. This is a Bill that vitally affects almost every home in my constituency, and, therefore, I feel that, disappointed as we may be with some of its provisions, we should cooperate to amend it as far as we can in the ways in which we desire to see it improved.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary referred in his speech to the fact that certain statues have been erected to great factory reformers in the past. If one takes a walk to-day through any of the towns and villages of the West Riding of Yorkshire, those parts of the country which are still scarred by the factory system of the nineteenth century, one often comes across monuments and statues to great reformers like Oastler, Fielden, and others, who did so much and fought and toiled so long for the ten hours Act, and in other days to improve the conditions of factory workers in this country. I am afraid there is nothing revolutionary about this Bill, and I cannot conceive that it will merit a statue being raised to the present Home Secretary by grateful workers. Nevertheless, with all its shortcomings, we must accept it as the forerunner of the real Factory Bill which the Labour Government will some day give us.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Denman
The hon. Member opposite is optimistic if he thinks that after this Factory Bill we shall within a reasonable time get another one. Factory Bills of this scale come about once in a generation, and it is the more essential that this Parliament should make the best of the Bill now before it. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary can have no possible complaint about the way in which the Bill has been received. I can quite understand the temptation to many hon. Members to select those portions of the Bill which they dislike, or to refer to the omissions, and to concentrate their criticism on them, while neglecting the other things that are in the Bill. I have had that temptation myself. There is an immense mass of important improvements in the Bill, and it would be extremely foolish of this House to miss the opportunity of obtaining those improvements. Nevertheless, there are points on which we would ask the Government to improve the Bill, and I am sure that with their usual understanding of the desires of the House as a whole they will do their best to meet us.
It has been very remarkable that so far in the Debate there has not been a single criticism on the ground that the Bill is over-restrictive of industry. All the criticisms have been from the other point of view, on the ground that we think the factory laws might be tightened up in order further to promote the safety, health and welfare of the workers in the factories. I want to add my voice to that section on one particular point. Hon. Members may have seen that I and other hon. Members have put down an Instruction to be moved after the Second Reading, that the Committee have power to divide Part VI of the Bill into two parts, one dealing with women and the other with young persons. I have put that down not with the intention of moving it, because I recognise that even if it were in order it would be impracticable to ask the Committee to split Part VI in two, but in order to make obvious the point that I wish to raise.
An alteration in our factory code is fundamentally important. It is time that we did divide quite clearly the law relating to women and the law relating to young persons. I am not one of those who think that the law relating to women can be assimilated to that relating to men 674 in regard to factories. With regard to young persons, certainly they are not old women and they are not even young adult women. They need treatment of their own in industrial legislation and it is time that the difference was made plain in an important Bill like this. The difference is this, and it is perfectly obvious. While an adult woman in legislation of this kind needs protection, the young person is a citizen in the making and does not merely need protection but needs treatment appropriate to a period in which he is learning as well as earning. That is a commonplace of the idea of legislation for adolescents, and it is a principle that was accepted by the Victorians but, curiously enough, it has been forgotten. My right hon. Friend pointed out that this Factory Bill was the first in a series of Factory Bills that did not contain any mention of children, and I would point out in reply that it is the first Factory Bill for nearly 100 years that does not refer to education.
The half-time system started in 1844, and was continued in 1878 and formed a separate part of the Act which followed in 1901. The principle is quite simple, that when a child enters industry his first years are partly years of learning and partly years of wage earning. It is a principle that was known in the middle ages in the apprenticeship system, and why we should suddenly have forgotten it is difficult to understand. It is true that we did abolish the old half-time system because it started with children too young. We recognised that young children ought no longer to be employed in factories. That system was abolished curiously enough in an Education Act and not in a Factory Act, and that same Education Act dealt with the scheme for continuation classes, which provided that those who left school and went to work should continue to have some hours of education each week. There we had a combination of education and wage earning carrying on the principle that for nearly 80 years had up to then been included in the law of the land. There are still those in this House who remember the old half-time system. My right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) knew it, and he is a living testimony to the fact that the system had some virtue in it. It did not suddenly break off the habit of learning and throw the young people into 675 industry to be treated as adults. Therefore, we say that there should be a completely different conception in the treatment of women and young persons.
We do not want particularly to enable our adult women to have leisure time for physical development, because that is the problem of youth, but we do want to enable our boys and girls who go into factories to have a fair chance of physical education as well as other education. That is already recognised by statute in relation to the youngest of young persons who will enter into factory life under the age of 15. This sets a somewhat difficult problem for the Home Office, because between the ages of 14 and 15 employment can only be given if it is deemed to be beneficial. For the purposes of the Education Act we do not leave the word "beneficial" naked nd unexplained. The responsible authority has to consider, among other conditions that constitute beneficial employment, (1) the opportunities to be afforded to the child for further education, and (2) the time available to the child for recreation. I understand that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is to reply, and I would invite him to set up in the Tea Room a schedule of a 48-hour week that can combine work and opportunities for further education as well as time for recreation and physical development. I will set up against that schedule the schedule of one town in this country which has adopted the continuation school system—Rugby. There, the hours are approximately 47 in the week, and of those hours 7½ are devoted to education, physical and otherwise, and 39½ hours to wage-earning. That seems to me to be a more reasonable week than is offered to us in this Bill. If the hon. Member will set up his schedule I will set up mine and gladly invite my colleagues to express their preference for one or other of the schedules.
On the Second Reading of the Bill one must not go into details of Amendments, but I attended yesterday a meeting of the Committee on Wage-Earning Children, an experienced body that started in the beginning of this century and contains representatives of all the important organisations that deal with children and adolescents, from the point 676 of view of their association with boys' clubs, after-care committees or juvenile employment committees and other organisations. It is a very expert body that knows what it is talking about. They examined this Bill and came to the conclusions that have been expressed from various quarters of the House. They asserted that the working week for young persons should not exceed 40 hours. I prefer to put it as a week not exceeding 48 hours, of which at least eight should be devoted to education, physical and otherwise. They were very strongly opposed to overtime, except in the case of occupations concerned with perishable goods where it might be necessary to work long hours on occasion, and even that would have to be very strictly controlled and subject to a maximum of 50 hours for a whole year.
A third point was in relation to holidays. When I read the Bill and realised that the statutory provision comprises holidays only on Christmas Day, Good Friday and the Bank Holidays, it seemed to me that we were back again in the Victorian age. What is the use of spending our time talking about all these desirable things for youth, such as camps, hiking, etc., all those ideas of physical development that are so inspiring to so many people, and then saying that the total amount of holiday need not be more than the Bank Holidays, Christmas Day and Good Friday? It is nonsense. I do not believe that any young person ought to go through a year with so little recreation of mind, body and spirit.
§ Mr. Denman
I am doubtful whether it would be in order on a Bill of this kind to deal with the wage question. Although I agree that holidays ought to be paid for, I should be content, if it is impossible for reasons of order to urge that to assert that holidays should be longer. Young persons are going to be in a strong bargaining position in the next five or six years. There will be a shortage and practically no unemployment of young persons, and I do not fear that they will be able to get payment for these holidays if they can get statutory holidays given to them. The only objection to that sort of amendment that would be raised is the old objection that it is impracticable and that industry cannot stand it.
677 I agree with the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) that this is a specially favourable moment for this kind of improvement, for several reasons. In view of the shortage of juvenile labour that will face industry in the next few years, a considerable reorganisation of labour must take place. While it is taking place, it is far better to make arrangements for extra time for physical and mental recreation, holidays and so on. It will be much better to take that opportunity than to leave it over until the existing arrangements have got standardised and deeply rooted and less easily altered. Then, again, industry is enjoying protection which was given to it, rather on trial, a few years ago. It was then made clear that industry in some cases must reorganise or, at any rate, organise itself on the most efficient basis. The longer we leave protection to sink in without insisting on this kind of reform, the more difficult the reform becomes. Industry will get more and more frozen into its habits and ways, and protection will become more and more a right and this kind of improvement will become harder. I suggest, therefore, that the Government would do well to take the great opportunity that lies before them to stabilise the adolescent side of factory employment on a much higher level than they are doing in this Bill. We all recognise that this Bill means a great improvement, but I am sure that the House will not be really content unless it can make that improvement still greater. The Bill gives the opportunity for a fresh stage in an advance that has been fairly consistent throughout this generation, and I hope Parliament will not neglect the full opportunity of making that change as good as possible.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I agree with other hon. Members that the Bill we are discussing is an important Measure. I also join with other Members in paying a compliment to the Home Secretary for his method of presenting the Bill. Great lawyer that he is, he has presented the Bill with a very lucid explanation in a fair way. As I listened to a Welsh Member on the other side talking about the kind employers, I thought that the sub-title of this Bill ought to be, "A Bill to limit the greed, the callousness and the rapacity of the capitalist system," because that is the object of it. The object is to place a 678 limit on certain people in that respect. I cannot understand the difference that is made between young persons and women, and men. The difference is shown, for instance, in Clause 54, which deals with the lifting of excessive weights. It states as follows:A young person shall not be employed to lift, carry or move any load so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to him.Does the mention of "young person" mean that anybody else can do it?
§ Mr. Buchanan
Sub-section (2) says:The Secretary of State may make special regulations prescribing the maximum weights which may be lifted, carried or moved by persons employed in factories; and any such regulations may prescribe different weights in different circumstances and may relate either to persons generally or to any class of persons or to persons employed in any class or description of factory or in any process.The governing Sub-section mentions only a "young person" and if the regulations are to cover all persons, why is the first Sub-section in? Not only in regard to the lifting of weights, but in regard to the hours of labour, I cannot understand why there is a difference between young persons and women,. and the ordinary adult worker. I heard an hon. Member suggest that the trade union leaders ought to make an appeal to young workers not to be so rash and indifferent in regard to physical injury. The trade union leaders, however, in a great number of cases are not allowed to interfere with young people. The engineering employers refuse to allow the unions to touch anyone under 21 years of age. Some of them are organised, but the employers refuse to recognise a union organisation of them. Young people today, therefore, are mainly outside the unions because the employers will not allow the unions to organise them. This Bill deals largely with young persons and women because they are, in the main, the worst organised section of workers. Women are difficult to organise for many reasons, one being that women often look forward, not so much to a long period in a factory, as to leaving the factory and marrying. The fact is that this Bill is meant to some extent to curb the rapacity of employers among a class of workers who are less able to defend themselves than others.
679 One of the features of the Bill and of the factory administration is the lack of factory inspectors. The late Lord Brentford made some improvement by increasing the number, but the number is not yet sufficient. One of the weaknesses in the present system is that the factory inspector has to carry out prosecutions. There is no use having penalties unless there are capable people to prosecute cases before the courts. The factory inspector in the present system carries out the prosecutions. A factory inspector may be good as an inspector, but he is the world's worst prosecutor in a court. The fact that he is a good factory inspector does not make him a good lawyer able to present facts in a sheriff court or a county court. In Scotland offences under the Factory Acts are practically the only offences that are not undertaken by the Crown. Some of the most serious offences are committed under the Factory Acts. I saw a case recently in Hamilton which concerned a little lad whose arms had been torn out by a brickmaking machine. The prosecution was in the hands of the factory inspector. I am not saying that he did not do his job well so far as he was able, but he was not the man for that kind of work. It ought to have been done by the Procurator-Fiscal of the county. He ought to have undertaken it in the same way as he would undertake a murder trial. Under this system the time of the factory inspector is taken up in the preparation and presentation of cases when he ought to be undertaking factory inspection duties. I suggest that a change be made in this Bill so that the prosecution of these cases should be undertaken by the Crown.
With regard to hours of labour, somebody said that Britain was still leading. I cannot agree with that, for France has a 40-hour week, and even in America hours have been restricted in the last few years in a way that some of us would never have dreamed a number of years ago could take place. Here we have a 48-hour week with additions for overtime. This Bill deals with overtime for Young persons and women. It does not deal with it for men. Overtime should be due to something exceptional, something that the human mind cannot foresee. I can understand joiners, after a fire, having to do work that had to be 680 done quickly and well, or men working overtime to cope with floods. These are things against which man cannot easily provide, but in the Bill we are providing for overtime for women and young persons to whom none of these exigencies apply. Overtime ought to be allowed only where the nature of the circumstances is such that mankind cannot reasonably have foreseen them. We are allowing overtime for no other reason than that an employer may want overtime. There is not even a provision about the rates to be paid for overtime; he can work overtime at ordinary time rates. It is true that he has to give certain notifications and that overtime is limited to certain hours.
In pre-war days a 48-hour week might have been looked upon as an advance, but it is not much advance to-day. In my view the 48-hour week to-day is equivalent to the 54-hour week before the War. In the district of Glasgow which I represent, the people are, quite rightly, being moved out under slum clearance schemes and sent to suburbs miles away, and girls who used to live almost adjacent to the factories where they work now live four, five or six miles away. That is not at all an uncommon thing, and the time occupied in travelling is an addition to the girl's normal working day; it is part of her work. From that point of view the 48-hour week is to-day a hopelessly reactionary step. A girl who works 48 hours a week in a factory will be working 8½ hours a day on five days of the week, which makes 42½ hours, and the balance of 5½ hours on the Saturday; or, what is more common, she will work 8½ or 9 hours a day. She starts at 8 in the morning and works to 6 at night. That means that she must leave home shortly after 7 in the morning—she has to be up at half-past six—and is not home again till 7 at night. Where there are two breaks, as is permissible under this Bill, it means she will start work at 7 in the morning, leaving the house at "the bank of 6" and not be home till after 7 at night.
When I started work we began at six in the morning. We went to night school when we had finished the day, and I must confess that when we got into the night school we felt properly asleep and slept the whole time. It was a waste of time and money. For these girls it is nothing but work and sleep. In the case of a 681 young boy or girl in a factory the most overpowering consideration is sleep—food is nothing, sleep is the most overpowering thing. I do not know whether this has been the experience of other Members, but at 18 or 19 years of age I have stood with my plane or worked at a circular saw and slept—it was simply impossible to keep it back; and all your safety devices for covering in machines are hopeless if the workman is sleeping.
Take the case of a boy of 18 working at a band saw. The previous day he has left the house at seven in the morning and got back about seven at night, then he has gone out to enjoy himself, come home at II and gone to bed, and is up again at six the next morning. By night he is beaten. Yet he is standing working at a band saw. The thing is hopeless. No factory inspector can stop that. He may visit the factory every day, you may have your overtime recording cards, but nothing can beat human nature or prevent sleep from overcoming a youngster. And under this Bill he is to be allowed to work overtime. It is a disgraceful set of conditions. France has a working week of 40 hours—one of our competitors, one of the nations with whom we are in competition—and yet here are we legislating not for a 48-hour week for our women and young persons, but, if we take into account the travelling time, which is part of the working week, a working week of nearer 60 hours. And this is the Bill with which we are supposed to have marked progress. Everybody says the Bill marks progress, and yet here we are, in an enlightened age, legislating for hours of labour of that kind.
It has been suggested that employers do not like overtime. Throughout the slump I have always thought it terrible to see one man "going up the stair," as we call it in Scotland, going up the close, who was working 60 or 70 hours a week, and his next door neighbour up the same stair working no hours at all. That is a ghastly business in a modern community; and steps ought to have been taken in this Bill to deal in a real way with the hours of labour not merely of women and children but of the whole mass of employed persons. As an hon. Member sitting near me says, steps ought also to have been taken to deal with the problem of night baking, which is a serious one 682 in Scotland and becoming more acute. The whole problem of night work ought to be dealt with. I think that is one of the serious blemishes in this Bill.
The Bill is more or less a machinery Bill. It is a Bill that may work not badly and it may work quite—well, it is all machinery. There is the proposal to increase the factory inspectors. The only way of keeping a factory up to date is through the men who are inside the factory. We have, I suppose, one factory inspector for every 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 workpeople. I am told that is about the average. What happens? Unless the workpeople in the factory are organised, or are not afraid, the factory inspector will not touch a tithe of what has to be done. The ordinary man inside a factory is absolutely afraid to move. When people bring complaints about their work to me, they constantly say, "Don't tell it was me that spoke about it. Don't say a word about how it occurred." One has to reply, "But if you complain they are bound sooner or later to get to know who complained." I would make it a penal offence under this Bill; I would prosecute an employer who dared to do anything to a workman who gave evidence about malpractices. In the courts we punish anybody who interferes with a witness, and there ought to be a severe penalty for any employer who afterwards treated wrongly in any way a workman who had given information. There ought to be freedom for the workman.
On the question of holidays, I wish that holidays were introduced in this Bill rather than as separate legislation. I want holidays dealt with in a piece of comprehensive legislation linked up with other issues; because one of the weaknesses about an ordinary holiday Bill is that it makes little provision for the man who is out of work. I should have liked to have seen the Bill linked up with the question of holidays. There is an unanswerable case in these days for stipulated annual holidays on at least two occasions in the year. In modern life, when we are producing so much wealth, those conditions ought to be demanded. We on these benches are disappointed with the Bill, which does not nearly satisfy our requirements. The Bill is very meagre. It may be said by those who sponsor the Bill that in some ways it resembles the Measure introduced in 683 1924. I will admit to the Under-Secretary for Scotland that the Bill is in some ways an improvement on the 1924 Bill, and in some ways it is worse; so between the two this Bill is more or less the same. It has little improvements and it has little backwardnesses. But we have progressed 12 years since 1924.
After 12 years, and at a time when we are spending hundreds of millions on armaments, I am amazed to find out how little we are demanding. We are asking for a week's holiday in the year—a week, and we cannot get it. We are asking that hours should be reduced to 48 a week and that overtime should be abolished. It is amazing how little we are asking. I remember an ex-Prime Minister telling the Trades Union Congress to be audacious, saying they were not asking enough. That was following on the War, and it seems that to-day we have only got to this stage. The best that can be said for the Bill is that it is a codification of the present law. That is the best that can be said for it. It brings the present law up to date, but it gives the workers very little advance. In some industries, such as transport, the workers are strong enough to get better conditions than they would be getting under the Bill, but where the workers are weak, the Bill will make little difference to them. Their very weakness will make it almost impossible for improvement to be made in their conditions by isolated visits of the factory inspector. The Trade Boards Act set up a minimum wage, but there is wholesale evasion of the Act in many factories. I do not blame the Trade Board inspectors, for they have a tremendous field to cover and an impossible work to do. Nobody will give them information, because everybody is afraid. When an inspector gets information the informer is usually outside the factory and has been dismissed when the information is given.
The Bill means nothing. Well organised people will be able to get these advantages, and far more, by their own organisation. They have made agreements, as an hon. Member has already said, which are far better, exceeding the Bill and improving on it. In the least organised and more helpless cases, little will be granted to them. The Bill provides no machinery to protect them. There is little machinery in it for an increase in the inspectorate. I shall not divide the House 684 against the Bill on Monday. One of us will go on to the Committee with other Opposition colleagues, and we hope to be able to make this, a better Bill. If it is not better when it comes from the Committee, my colleagues and I will endeavour to divide upon the Third Reading.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Major Oscar Guest
The position which exists in regard to factory legislation has been very much in need of clarification, in the interests both of the workers and of the management in industry. When the Bill becomes law it will make clear what an employer is expected to do, and will make it possible for a factory inspector to carry out his job more efficiently. I would like to refer to one Clause in the Bill which might be strengthened. It was very interesting to hear the figures of accidents to juvenile labour in factories. From experience of watching it myself—I spend most of every day in a factory—I believe that accidents to juveniles are due to two causes, (1) that they undoubtedly work too many hours and, (2) that they are careless and will not carry out the safeguards that are provided. There are two ways to reduce the percentage of juvenile accidents. Young persons under 18 should not work for more than 48 hours at machinery with which accidents are possible. I should not be in favour of overtime for this class of work unless a man is over 18. Another cause of accidents is the difficulty of persuading juvenile labour to use the safeguards which are provided. I notice in Clause 112, which I do not altogether understand, that provision is made that workers are not to damage such amenities and are to use them. I hope that the factory inspectors, whose number is to be increased, will have more power to assist managers and foremen to see that those regulations are carried out.
I would refer also to Clause 70, which deals with overtime by women and young persons. I welcome the proposal to reduce overtime for that class of labour, but I am inclined to think that it will lead to confusion if you are allowed to employ them for only the 100 hours allotted to them over 30 weeks in the year. It is impossible, in many cases, to know when you will be driven to use overtime. It is impossible at the beginning of the year to know when you will need it most. From 685 the point of view of a young person it will be better to work one day a week overtime rather than those hours in 30 weeks. It would not be so much overtime, and would be better spaced out. Surely it is not difficult to discover the hours of work for any operative from his work card. He would be the first person to object if you were working him more hours than you were entitled to do. I should like to know what the position would be with an operative who moved from one firm to another. Suppose that a woman or young person worked for six months in one factory and expended the 100 hours of overtime allowed, and then moved to another factory in a different district. Would such a person be allowed to start the 100 hours over again in the other half of the year or would that person bring a card showing how much overtime had been worked? The question of overtime might be solved in a different way. It might be better if women and young persons were separated in the Bill and the latter, whether boys or girls were not allowed to work more than 48 hours except in special trades, where that was essential, and if women were treated in the same way as men once they were adult.
A further point is with regard to the interpretation of the Bill. This is a tremendous Measure with a great number of Clauses, and it will be difficult for factory managers to follow it, however much they may intend to do so. I hope that some précis or a series of précis will be issued to the various trades concerned so that managements may know what they are supposed to do. In answer to certain speeches to which I have listened from lion. Members on the opposite side, I would like to say that there is more good will among employers than they give them credit for. In the great majority of cases employers are anxious to work for the good, not only of themselves, but of their employés who work with them. If employers and workers were at cross-purposes, as hon. Members suggest, no work would be done at all. I know that, because it is my job to be there every day.
A subject which has been spoken of a great deal is holidays with pay. It is a difficult subject, but, fortunately, the business with which I am connected is able to give holidays with pay. I think businesses should do so where they can, but 686 it is not possible to lay down that that should be the law of the land. A great number of firms have to deal with foreign competition and could not possibly stand the expense. I would like to see the subject viewed more from the standpoint that where it can be done it is wise and for the good of the industry. In conclusion, I welcome the Bill and I feel sure that it will have a great result in improving the conditions of factory organisation throughout the country.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Banfield
I listened with much interest to the Home Secretary's able explanation of the provisions of this Bill, but I felt that, whatever may be said in favour of the Measure, a tremendous opportunity has been lost. The Bill might have been made a Bill which would have touched the imagination of all our people. I believe that, had there been a courageous policy, had the Bill tackled the hours of adult labour and the question of overtime, had it given holidays with pay, it would indeed have left a mark upon the industrial history of our people. Unfortunately, it does not do those things. It seems to me to be a kind of Measure in which, wherever possible, opposition has been either persuaded or bought off. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that this was the first Factory Bill for 36 years—
§ Mr. Banfield
That makes it of the utmost importance that this Bill should be a really comprehensive one, because it is obvious that, unless we are able to make out of this Bill the things that we wish to make out of it, unless we are able to get from this Bill those reforms which many of us believe to be necessary, an opportunity will be lost, and a great number of years may elapse before we get a further comprehensive Factories Bill. Therefore, this Bill is of tremendous importance. I feel, however, that we can find very little in it on which we may congratulate ourselves. I have no wish to be pessimistic; I am the first to realise that in some directions it makes progress; but the impression left on my mind above everything else is that a great and glorious opportunity is apparently being lost.
There is one point in the Bill which appeals to me very strongly. It wipes 687 out the difference between factories and workshops, and that is very important. It brings in 75,000 workshops which hitherto have not been under the jurisdiction of the Factory Acts, and, if I may say so, a good many of those workshops are connected with the trade and industry with which I myself am connected, namely, the baking industry. I am wondering what is to happen in those workshops when the Bill becomes law. The Bill lays down that women and young persons over a certain age may work 100 hours' overtime in the course of a twelvemonth, but I do not think I am saying anything too strong when I say that in the vast majority of those 75,000 workshops payment for overtime is absolutely unknown. We have in those workshops to-day men, women and children—because young persons are children, after all—working 60, 70 and even more hours in the week. There is no payment for overtime; they commence at any hour in the morning, and they finish at any hour at night.
It is all very well to lay down that these people shall work not more than 100 hours' overtime in a twelvemonth when the Bill becomes law, but I want to emphasise the point, which was made by an hon. Member below the Gangway, that where there is no organisation among these people there will be tremendous difficulty in getting for them even any measure of justice under this or any other Act. It is extremely difficult where women, particularly, are not organised, and I am sorry to say that the men also in many bakers' shops throughout the country are not organised. In these circumstances there will be extreme difficulty in getting any measure of justice.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) said he was extremely sorry to think that he himself had not brought in this Bill. I, too, am extremely sorry that he was unable to bring in his Bill, because the Home Secretary, in the present Bill, has left out what to my mind is a very important point. The Measure which might have been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting included Clauses abolishing night baking, and I want to say a few words on that subject to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman, because it is a subject which is 688 very near to my heart. I know it very thoroughly indeed, and I want to speak on behalf of a body of men who undoubtedly in this respect are entitled to much consideration.
The Bill as it might have been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting included two Clauses, the operative one of which prohibited night baking between II o'clock at night and 5 o'clock in the morning. I think it may be worth while if I relate to the House precisely what this matter is. The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, quite rightly, that in this Bill he is concerned with the welfare of the workers, with the hours of labour of women and young persons, and with the health of the workers. I would ask the House to imagine the lot of a man engaged in the bread-baking industry of this country. He goes to, work at night. It is now half-past eight, and the vast majority of these men have already started work for to-morrow. They will be working through the night until six, seven, or, in some shops, nine or ten o'clock to-morrow morning. They will be doing this work every night this week, every week in this year, year in and year out. From the time when they come into the trade at 18 until they go out at 65 or 66 they are condemned to continual and perpetual night work. It may be said that other people work at night, but there is a difference. Printers may work at night; policemen may work at night; continuous industries like iron and steel work at night; but these people work in shifts; they get a week on day work and a week on night work, or a month on day work and a month on night work.
I had a letter the other day from a woman in Battersea who had noticed that I intended to raise this matter in the House, and she said, "I want you to imagine what my life is as a mother and a wife. When my husband comes home in the morning at 10 or II o'clock he has a bit of something to eat, and then goes to bed. When the children come home from school I have to say, Hush. Do not make a noise. Your father is trying to get some sleep.' I have to keep them quiet. I have to send them into the street. I have to do all I can to get my man proper rest. At seven or half-past in the evening he gets up, has another meal, and must go to work again. That is not the worst of it. He has to 689 go to work on Sunday night, to be at the shop at seven or eight, or even before in many cases. He has no recreation. The only night that he has at home is Saturday. On Sunday he has his dinner with us, then an hour or two to sleep, and off to work again." The only justification for the continuation of night work is if it is necessary to the industry concerned. If it is not necessary, it should be swept away.
This is not a matter on which there is no information. All the information is available. We had a Departmental Committee in 1919 which sat for many days and heard all that the employers, the public and the workmen had to say. It was representative of all parties in the House and they issued a unanimous report declaring that in their opinion night baking was unnecessary, and that its abolition was a practical measure which should be carried out. Nothing has been done. I was at Geneva in 1924 and again in 1925, when a Convention was passed by an overwhelming majority. The British Government were not parties to it, because it included a clause that employers as well as their workmen should be forbidden to work at night. The British representative was unable to agree to that, but in principle there was no real objection on behalf of the Government. We have had experience since then. Continental countries have carried out the Convention. Night baking is abolished in practically every country in Europe. Recently the Irish Free State, who were parties to the Convention, have also abolished it. With one exception the whole of the States of Australia have abolished it. There is no mention of the matter in the Bill. The Home Secretary has informed me that it is his intention to set up a Departmental Committee under the auspices of the Home Office to go into the matter again.
§ Sir J. Simon
I know how very interested the hon. Member is in the subject, and I am greatly indebted to him for the fullness and clearness with which he explained his views to me. He knows very well that there is a contrary view held by a large number of people in some parts of the country and, therefore, I thought the only possible thing for me to do was to try to get, as quickly as I could, a quite up-to-date report as to how this matter stands. If the case is as 690 overwhelming as the hon. Member sincerely believes, I do not think it should take very long, and presumably the report will be in his favour. I have already appointed the Committee. The reason I left the bench just now was to speak to the people under the Gallery to see if they had a list of names and the terms of reference. I may be able to inform him later in the evening that the Committee has been appointed. Lord Alness has consented to be the chairman and I am, as far as I can, urging that the Committee should give me their conclusions, if possible, in time for them to be considered and, if necessary, acted upon before the Factory Bill passes. I apologise for interrupting but, as the hon. Member referred to what I told him privately, I wanted to show that, whatever my shortcomings, I am as good as my word.
§ Mr. Banfield
I must express my gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for his desire to see our point of view, and for his real desire to get an impartial report. I am the first to recognise that on a question which affects the community as a whole, as the supply of bread does, it is the wishes and requirements of the public that must, of necessity, be the first consideration. I am frequently told that the public demand and must be supplied with new bread. A learned professor of Nottingham University, speaking at the Master Bakers' dinner the other day, where I suppose they did him fairly well, told us a very vital truth. He said stale bread was always stale bread, and anyone could tell that it was stale. That is all very well, but if the public demand new bread they can have more under day baking than they can possibly get under night baking. It is now 20 minutes to 9 o'clock and bread is coming out of scores and hundreds of ovens in London and is going to be delivered in the housewife at 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning. She will take in what she calls a new loaf which is already anything from 12 to 15 hours old. The public do not get new bread from night baking. If the public buy new bread they do not eat it. They put it in the larder and cut in next day. You can get newer bread under day baking than under night baking. In the great cities of Scotland, with the exception of Glasgow, there is a, system of day baking in actual operation. The cost of bread is no more under day baking 691 than under night baking, in fact, it is a little cheaper. The hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam), who knows something about the matter from the employers' point of view, will be able to back me up to the hilt when I say that the baking trade, as well as the public, would be immeasurably better off if we had this curse removed from us. I hope, as the result of this inquiry, we may be able to get an Amendment to the Bill which will enable it to be removed.
With regard to the hours of labour of women, I am satisfied that, unless the right hon. Gentleman can devise some effective method of checking the actual hours worked by women and young persons in the baking industry, it will be extremely difficult to get for them the measure of justice that is incorporated in the Bill. No one knows more than I do of the terribly long hours and the scandalous conditions in the baking industry, with men, women and children working anything up to 12 hours a day, and 14, 15, 16 and even 20 hours at the week-end, with no overtime pay. Up in Durham, one of the depressed areas, where girls are unable to find jobs, and there is so much competition, girls have worked 60 hours a week for 8s. When the manager had pity on the girls and gave then another 2S., the directors had a meeting and made him take it off again. These are the conditions which apply in this trade.
I would say to those who claim that women and men should receive equal pay, that I wish we could get for men in this Bill at least the 48 hours which the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give to the women. I wish we could have equality in this matter. It is a thousand pities that at this time of day a start could not have been made with the legal restriction of the hours of labour by at least inserting a universal 48 hours week in this Bill. I know that it is said that trade unions can fight for shorter hours and that those who organise can perhaps obtain better conditions for their people, but it is scandalous to think that there are millions of people in this country working 60, 70 and more hours a week; with a million and a half people walking about the streets who cannot get a job. The Government might have done in this Factory Bill something which really matters. Here is a chance which 692 they should have seized with both hands. They had a real chance of really reducing unemployment and of putting people into work and of providing better conditions of labour for men, women and children. Look what happens in my trade. Boys come into the bakehouse and are compelled to work almost all the hours that God sends. You cannot make workmen of them, and you cannot educate them. They do not have a chance to do anything, except to work and then go to bed. Those who are able to do so, get out of it as soon as they can, and those who are left have to do the best they can.
If we are to do something for the youth of the country let us make an honest start by realising that work in itself is all right up to the point that people should work and render service to the community, but let us give our young people the chance of making themselves healthy men and women. The right hon. Gentleman has made some attempt to do this in this Bill, but it looks as though he is so afraid of opposition that he does not want to be bothered with opposition if he can avoid it. I appeal to him to be courageous—to be audacious as someone told us a long time ago. The right hon. Gentleman has a real chance of leaving a name in the history of this country if he will be courageous with regard to this Bill. He can do what no man has ever done before. Will he not seize the opportunity and have a go at it? Someone has said that the Opposition should co-operate in support of this Bill, but we must have the co-operation of the right hon. Gentleman, who will have the last word. I was rather worried when one of the representatives of the employers on the benches opposite seemed to speak so complacently about the conditions of labour in this country. There is nothing to be complacent about, as there is such a lot that really wants altering.
It is all very well to talk about what the trade unions can do. There are 8,000,000 people outside the ranks of the trade unions. What are the Government going to do for them? They have an opportunity here, and my final appeal to the right hon. Gentleman is that he should make use of that opportunity. If he would only give them a week's holiday with pay, he would leave a name behind 693 that would be remembered in the days to come. It would appeal to the imagination of the people, who would call him blessed in the days to come. This Bill is the most important that the Government are likely to bring forward this Session, and deals with the lives of millions of men and women. I hope that we may get the co-operation of the Government. We do not want to attack employers simply because they are employers. I have met hundreds of employers with whom I have been pleased to shake hands, and I would be pleased to shake hands with them at any time; they are not all bad. But I want to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman that the best of employers are kept back from doing the right thing by the evil deeds of the bad employers. There should be no mercy shown to the bad employer. He is a menace to himself, to the men he employs, and to his fellow tradesmen, and should be dealt with severely. The standard which the best of employers are willing to set up ought to be the standard for the whole of the employers in a particular industry. Therefore I hope that when this Bill goes to Committee upstairs we shall really make an honest endeavour to make it one of the best Bills that could be desired.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Porritt
I think that to-morrow at breakfast time I shall look at my roll and butter with greater sympathy for those who produced it than I have felt in the past. I am a director of a company and that company and its associated companies in industry have throughout their history never been faced with a strike of their employés, and they are proud of that fact. The conditions which the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) mentioned, if they are correct, are deplorable. Those conditions do obtain, I know, in other industries, and hi industries in Lancashire. I welcome this Bill because I believe that it is a real step forward for the betterment of industry and will be welcomed by those employers who endeavour to do right by their employés. I welcome still more the change of atmosphere from one of rivalry between employers and trade unions to one of negotiation and co-operation. It is, indeed, a question of co-operation between trade unions and those employers who try and do their best by their opera- 694 tives, and those employers who cannot see the right method of their duty. I feel none too happy in that there is no limitation to the number of working hours for men. Here again, the employer who is not interested in the welfare of his operatives, in a case where there is no strong trade union, can gain advantage over his competitors. The reasonable limitation of hours will depend entirely upon the diligence of trade unions and also upon the co-operation between the good employer and the bad.
There is one point with regard to outside work on which I want to ask a question of the Home Secretary. I see that the supervision of conditions for outside work has to be undertaken by the district council and not, apparently, by the inspector. The inspector's duty is to supervise conditions in the factory, and yet if there is any outside work, it comes under the jurisdiction of the district council. I feel that legislation with regard to holidays with pay cannot be incorporated in a Bill of this kind. Legislation might be introduced at some future date regarding contributions by employers to local cottage hospitals; and they might also contribute towards savings clubs. Savings clubs in Lancashire are an important feature. In every town money is put away week by week by the operatives, and at the end of a year, when the wakes come round, they have a nice little packet of money to look forward to and can take their holidays at Blackpool without having to remain in Oldham and the other cotton towns.
Again, there is the question of superannuation schemes. I think these should be encouraged. You cannot compel employers to start superannuation schemes. They are expensive, but in any case they should not be incorporated in the company's balance sheet; they should be quite independent of the finances of the company. In that way, if the company meets with an era of depression, the operatives would not suffer from any bankruptcy which might occur to the company. I ask the Government to introduce at some early date legislation which would encourage such schemes, which are of great social importance in the welfare of the operatives. The House generally welcomes the Bill. It is desirous, I believe, of getting a Bill which is not only abreast of present modern practice 695 but is ahead of it, and if the Bill passes through its various stages it will remain as a piece of modem legislation for at least a generation. That is the reason why I welcome it so heartily.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
Having listened to some of the impassioned speeches from hon. Members opposite I am wondering more than ever why the Labour party itself did not bring forward a Bill of this character when it had the opportunity. One would gather from some of the speeches which have been made that this was a country of sweated workers. That is not the case, and I am sure it is not the impression which speakers opposite in the main would wish to give. Most provisions laid down in the Bill are already fulfilled by good employers. It is because we wish to see them fulfilled by all employers that the Bill is being brought forward. In company with other speakers I wish to congratulate the Government on having brought forward the Measure, but, with other speakers, I also deplore the fact that children of 14 are to be allowed to go into factories at all. That is definitely something which we should have left behind. The Home Secretary has said that this is the first Bill in connection with factory legislation in which we do not mention children, but those who have brought them up know that what are called young people to-day are neither more nor less than children in actual fact. I do not wish to see children of 14 going into the factories, nor do I wish to see young people between the ages of 16 and 18 doing any overtime.
It is generally recognised that the health of young people deteriorates after leaving school. We spend some £12,500,000 on our health services to children in the schools, and that money must be largely regarded as wasted if their health deteriorates because they go into factories too early, or have to work under what are rigorous conditions. These are reforms which, I deplore, are not incorporated in the Bill. I, also, deplore the fact that women and young persons are classed together. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) asked why we could not organise for better conditions. You will never organise better conditions for the workers of this country in the right way for men 696 and women until you treat them on the same basis. By classing women and young people together, you are doing something which is detrimental to the young people, because if you wish to bring forward amendments dealing with young people you are hampered the whole time by the fact that women are classed with them. I deeply appreciate the interest the Home Secretary has in the Bill, but when I heard him say that women and young persons do not object to a statutory limitation on their hours, I was reminded of a speaker at the Trade Union Congress in 1877 who said:It was natural for ladies to be impatient of restraint at any time, but men had the future of their country and their children to consider, and it was their duty as men and husbands to bring about a condition of things when their wives should be in their proper sphere, at home, instead of being dragged in competition and livelihood against the great strong men of the world.You will not have nearly so many women in competition with men in industry if you do the only thing which will cure it, and that is give equal pay for equal work. If you really want to protect women, that is the way to do it—not by putting restrictions on women's labour. They do not protect them in the least. Very often their only effect is to give the well-paid jobs to men who organise themselves, and, through their efficient organisations, are working shorter hours than women. You cannot salve your conscience by pretending that you are protecting women in this way. You may say that women must be protected because they are the mothers of the race. Very well, if they have to be protected as the mothers of the race, they need protection outside industry as well as inside industry. No one will pretend, least of all hon. Members opposite who represent mining constituencies, that women outside industry do not work far too hard and far too long hours.
We do not hear very much about protecting the hours of women by compulsory payment for overtime. What has the Labour party ever done for women? Everything that has been done for women has been done by the party to which I belong, or by a coalition Government. It was not hon. Members opposite who gave women the vote. Hon. Members opposite only talk about what they have done for women. The Government have done a 697 great deal for women, and it is because they have done a great deal that I plead with them not to class women and young people together, but put them in separate branches as adult workers. For the sake of the young people and of women do not class them together. Do not go back to the last century. I should like to pay a tribute to the magnificent work done by factory inspectors in the past, and ask the Home Secretary to give us some information as to how their numbers are to be increased.
At the present time we have some. 254 inspectors and 250,000 factories, that is, one inspector for 1,000 factories. There is no doubt that a very much larger number of small factories will have to be inspected and, therefore, it is imperative, if they are really to be brought up to the standards we wish to see in the Bill, that the number of inspectors should be sufficient for the number of factories they have to overlook. The Home Secretary said that very many more men than women were employed in factories, but it is a serious thing how enormously the number of women working in factories is increasing as compared with the number of men. The number of women in factories has increased by ten times since 1913, and the number of men has declined by some 690,000. Therefore, again I say that if it is desired to protect the women, they should be given equal pay for equal work. If hon. Members opposite are so anxious to see better conditions, they should support that, and do their best to see that women and children are not classed together.
There are many small points in the Bill with respect to health which will need to be safeguarded when the Bill goes to Standing Committee. For instance, I notice that in every factory there is to be a supply of drinking water. That is of no use unless there is also supplied some form of sterilised vessel from which to drink the water. Moreover, every factory which has 150 workers or over is to have a first-aid outfit. That is generally the case in any large factory to-day, but it will be the case in small factories in future. If there is to be a first-aid outfit, I sincerely hope there will be somebody in the factory who understands first-aid, for nothing would fill me with greater alarm than to see somebody approaching 698 me with a first-aid outfit unless that person had been properly trained. I would like again to congratulate the Government and the Home Secretary, and to thank them for bringing in this Bill.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I cannot approach this question in the detached way in which most speakers have done so far, for until 15 months ago I was working on the floor of one of the largest factories in this country, and for 25 years I worked in several factories. I have worked under modern conditions, and I have no hesitation in saying that, relatively speaking, the degree of exploitation of the working people is as great as it ever was in the history of Great Britain. I cannot speak in a detached way because I have read the industrial history of this country, and on many occasions I have had to speak very bitterly of the conditions in which my class was exploited between 100 and 150 years ago. Last Sunday, while having tea at home, at a time when most Members of this House were preparing to have what they call their dinners, I heard a speech on the wireless by a man named Mr. Wadsworth which made me more bitter than ever against the way in which men of my kind were treated 100 years ago. He was giving extracts from a book of which I understand he is the author and, great as is my knowledge of the industrial conditions of this country, I had never dreamed they were as bad as Mr. Wadsworth described.
I realise, however, that it will be of little avail to continue with a speech of this sort, for very little heed is paid to such speeches by hon. Members, who have always opposed what is in the interests of the class from which I come. I would like to make a few observations in the hope that before we reach the Committee stage the Home Secretary will give consideration to the questions I intend to raise. I welcome this opportunity of speaking, because I represent an area which has always suffered more as a result of industrial conditions, and the intense exploitation of young people and women in particular, than any other area in this country. I will quote from the "Evening Sentinel" of 6th February, 1937, in which it was stated:During the past week, 22 inquests have been held at Stoke-on-Trent. Twelve of these 699 concerned cases of suspected industrial diseases.That is not a statement made by one of our people, but by the Deputy City Coroner. On Monday of this week, an inquest was held on a man of 64 years of age, who was a potter's hodman and who had spent the whole of his life in the pottery industry. According to the Deputy City Coroner, that man died from silicosis contracted as a consequence of his employment. It is because of these conditions that I cannot approach this question in a detached way. This afternoon the Home Secretary rightly paid a great tribute to the work done by the factory inspectors of this country, and I would like to read one or two extracts from a speech made by a former deputy superintending inspector of factories in North Staffordshire only a few days ago. The speaker was Mr. J. Owner, and I was thinking about this speech while the Home Secretary was paying a tribute to the factory inspectors. That tribute makes the extracts which I intend to read all the more important:Mr. Owner emphasised that the remarks he had to make must be taken as coming from him personally, and had no official authority.He went on to say thatthe age of entry into industry should be raised to the school-leaving age, or even to 16.That is not a Member of the Labour party making a speech, but a former deputy superintendent inspector of factories making remarks based upon a lifetime's experience. He then said thatSerious consideration, too, should be given to the hours of employment. He had found 14-years-old employés working 55½ hours a week and women working 12 hours a day net. He had found much 'dodging' by employers of the regulations relating to overtime.I hope that before this Bill goes to the Committee, the Home Secretary will also consider having a few more broad interpretations to this Bill in simple language. I have examples of the application of this Bill to various sections of industry, and I hope to provide the right hon. Gentleman with evidence of the need for that before I conclude. It is now 35 years since the last Act was passed. During that time a revolution has taken place in the conditions in industry. Therefore, I hope he will consider the advisability of including in this Measure the various interpretations which will be necessary if 700 we are to get the best out of it when it becomes law.
The first question I wish to raise concerns hours and overtime. There is no longer any need in this country for the large amount of overtime which is worked. From 1929 to 1931 the North of England was ringing with the indignation felt by the industrial section of the population against the large amount of overtime that was being worked while thousands were signing on at the Employment Exchanges. There is no need for that to-day. Owing to the mechanisation of industry and the enormous increase of production, the output per employed worker in Great Britain is larger than it is in any other part of the world. We are now legislating for a long period ahead, and I hope that in Committee the Bill will be improved in that respect. When my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Brooke) was speaking the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Hepworth) asked him to give examples of overtime and long hours. If the hon. Member examines pages 64, 65 and 66 of the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for 1935 he will find that my hon. Friend was not overstating the case but understating it.
§ Mr. Hepworth
I was referring only to the textile industry. I asked the question because I wanted to know, as I am deeply interested.
§ Mr. Smith
I beg the hon. Member's pardon if I misunderstood him, but I thought he was dealing with industry as a whole. In the report to which I refer there is one of the finest statements I have seen for some time on industrial conditions in this country, and from it we find that it is common in many parts of the country for people to work 55 to 57 hours a week. On page 66—I admit that these are exceptions to the rule, but there is a number of exceptions to the rule—we find that some people are employed for 72 hours, and even 80 hours in particular cases. Another question which I desire to raise is the need for greater interest in industrial conditions on the part of our municipalities. I hope the Home Secretary will give attention to the need for closer collaboration and consultation between factory inspectors, sanitary inspectors, medical officers, and the municipalities in all industrial centres. In my opinion a municipality in a big industrial 701 centre ought to have its factory committee, in order that members of the council can concentrate locally on seeing that this legislation is carried out and that the workers receive the maximum benefit from it.
Another question about which I am concerned, particularly as it affects engineering workers, is that of the lifting of heavy weights. I spent some time last Sunday night going through a number of trade union reports, and I was surprised at the extent to which workers suffer from hernia and ruptures of all descriptions. I was surprised at the large number of men who had to secure declarations of liability in order to safeguard their legal rights. It is common for five or six men to get round a job in order to lift it from one part of the factory to another. I hope that we shall include a provision in this Bill enforcing the use of mechanical appliances for the lifting of extraordinarily heavy weights, and I hope that the Home Secretary will also consider inserting a provision that all factories employing more than, say 250 workers, shall be compelled to provide mechanical appliances for weights of the kind I have indicated.
Another question which is not dealt with in the Bill is that of the effect of draughts in workshops. It is true that in most large factories, what I may call the "big" managers—those who are big not only in physique but in outlook—realise that in order to get the maximum output, it is necessary to give the employés the best conditions possible in which to work. Most of the big employers and big monopolies try to guard the health of their workers as far as they can be expected to do so under existing conditions. We do not, however, find the same state of things in the smaller factories. A friend of mine, a man of about 65 years, had to work near a door. The door broke down and was replaced by a tarpaulin. The man was compelled to continue at work for weeks under these conditions. He contracted influenza which developed into pneumonia and eventually he lost his life as a result of working under those conditions. That applies in scores and hundreds of other cases, and such conditions ought not to be allowed to exist in the year 1937. They exist simply because no legislation has been passed to compel employers to take steps to prevent them. The hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) chided Members on 702 this side of the House because she said our party and our movement had never done anything for women.
§ Mr. Smith
I may have misunderstood the hon. Lady but I thought she was trying to build up an indictment against our party on the ground that we had not done all that we should have done for women. I have no hesitation in saying that the concessions which have been obtained for the women of this country from employers and vested interests have been obtained through the agitation carried on by this movement, and particularly the industrial section of the movement, during the last 5o years. It was the pioneers of our movement who secured electoral rights for the women of this country, and what applies politically applies also industrially.
I wish to say a word or two for the women in the area from which I come. Those women suffer more from industrial conditions than the women in any other area. This is 1937, and I know of no worse torture than that meted out to women in this year. What have I in mind? Many people would say that what I am going to deal with is a delicate question, but the torture is so great that, delicate as it is, I consider that it should be mentioned in the House this evening. I have seen girls of between 16 and 30 years of age having to carry on for 8½ hours a day, afraid to leave their machines, afraid to leave the operation which they are responsible for carrying out, because of the economic effect on them if they did leave their work. We all know of the serious position which women and girls are in periodically. It is a crying shame on the employers of this country that women and girls have to "carry on" in that difficult period. I, therefore, hope that the Home Secretary will see that an interpretation is included in the Bill to make it compulsory on employers to allow women and girls in factories, when they are going through this period to have a rest and attention if necessary, just like the ladies of the land.
I want to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to page 8 of the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops for the year 1935. On page 8 it states: 703The continuation of cases of lead poisoning from the decorative tile side of the pottery industry, and particularly the low age and the short time of exposure of those affected (page 45), caused some apprehension during 1935 and the early weeks of 1936, and a meeting was arranged between members of the staff and a committee of the Glazed and Floor Tile Manufacturers' Association. At this meeting the dangers of present methods of manufacture were fully discussed, and recommendations for the reduction of risk (in addition to the requirements of the Regulations) are now being explored by this association.I have examined this Bill very closely, but I have not seen any of the ideas contained in the report inserted in this Bill. On page 56 the report states:The pottery industry accounts for many cases of silicosis, and the particularly disquieting feature is cases with comparatively short exposure amongst female dust tile pressers. Certain progressive members of the pottery industry have co-operated in seeking a safe substitute for powdered flint for placing china biscuit ware.When I last raised this question the Under-Secretary gave the attention to it which it rightly deserved. He made certain promises but I have not seen those promises reflected in this Bill, and it is because of that that I again raise this issue, with the hope that before we proceed to the Committee stage he will look up those promises and use his influence to see that safeguards are contained in this Bill. After that speech I received two letters from fairly large employers. They were very decent letters, but they pointed out that while they had taken certain steps to improve conditions other employers had taken no steps. Therefore, I hope the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary will give their personal attention to this matter in order that what they promised six months ago can be reflected in this Bill before it becomes an Act.
We are legislating for probably a long time to come. I see only one hope of another Factory Bill, and that is that we should take the same step as the people have taken in France. I believe that just as the vested interests have consolidated themselves in the National Government, so if the progressive people in this country would consolidated themselves in a similar way we should be able to pass legislation of a character which would secure the backing of the people of this country, would make this country 704 a better country, and would rally the people round a Government that carried through social legislation of that description. I want to remind the Home Secretary of one or two conventions which have been carried at the International Labour Conference. I want to give one or two extracts from the convention held on 21st June, 1929. We find that it is recommended to all Governments that active and continuous steps should be taken in order to promote measures of safety in all factories. I have had experience in this matter and I want the Home Secretary to consider the need for inserting in this Bill that safety first committees should be set up, and that it should be compulsory to set up such committees in all factories employing 250 or more people.
If we are to be worthy of the past and of the future it is necessary that we should be the advance guard among industrial countries in promoting industrial legislation, and unless something of this character is inserted in this Bill we shall not be worthy of the pioneers who have carried social reforms in the past. The object of a safety first committee would be to study the causes of accidents and how to avoid a repetition, and to take part in a consultative way towards the maximum amount of cooperation between the workpeople and those acting for the employers in a managerial and administrative capacity in order that all interests in all factories can bring their experience to bear to prevent the repetition of accidents. In all factories where 250 or more are employed a safety first inspector should be employed. In these days, with the attention which managers, foremen and others have to pay to running their works and to delivery dates, they have not the time that they had a few years ago to spend on the question of safety. Anybody's job is nobody's job, and therefore I hope that the Home Secretary will consider the advisability of seeing that a safety first inspector or superintendent is employed in every factory. It should be his duty to concentrate on studying accidents to avoid a repetition and to attend the safety first committee, where the maximum consultation should take place between all the interests to prevent the occurrence of accidents.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Sir John Haslam
I have no desire, and I am sure the House would not wish me, to follow in argument the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith). All that I can say, as one Who has had great experience of industry and of factory life generally, is that his experience must have been rather unfortunate when he speaks so much about exploitation and so on. I am only sorry that his life has been so unhappy in his mixture between masters and workmen, and I hope that as time goes on he will realise that, although there may be bad employers, as there are bad employés, it is wrong to put all employers in the category in which he seems to have put them tonight. I have one other criticism, and that is that in all his suggestions he seems to have regarded as sacred the number of 250 workpeople in a factory. It seems as if to him it is almost unnecessary to have inspectors and so on where there are under 250 workpeople, but that where 250 are employed they must have all sorts of welfare workers and such like people about the place. I, for one, cannot see that there is anything sacred about the number 250, and seeing that in the future we shall have to rely more on small industries in this country, I shall certainly want these desirable improvements brought to bear in factories employing fewer than 250.
I would like to endorse almost every word that the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) has said about the horrors of night baking. From the employers' point of view, I know that they are as against night baking as are the employés themselves, but they are in a hopeless position because of the non-organisation of the employés equally with the non-organisation of the employers. I cannot wax as eloquent as he did as to the position of the operative bakers, perhaps because I have not the natural eloquence, and perhaps because the iron seems to have entered into the soul of the hon. Member for Wednesbury because he has been mixed up with the industry so long and sees the black side of it, but I am sure he will agree that when he was speaking of the baking trade generally he did not mean the organised trade but was speaking more of the outsiders, many of them not of this nationality and not having 706 the ideals that the British people generally have, and that they are the cause of a good deal of the troubles of the baking trade.
I am glad, Mr. Speaker, that you have given me the opportunity of saying a word or two in this House to-night on the Factories Bill. I am not one of those who think it my duty to my constituents to speak on every subject that comes before this House, but I have a claim to speak on this subject, as I think I represent more factories and more factory workers in this House than any other hon. Member can claim to do. I want to thank the Home Secretary and his energetic assistant the Under-Secretary of State for bringing forward this Measure. Although the Home Secretary has not the honour and privilege of representing a Lancashire constituency, I like to claim him as a Lancashire man, because I think he was born in our county, and in bringing forward this Bill he is following in the footsteps of perhaps the greatest Home Secretary this country ever possessed, another Lancashire man, the late Lord Cross.
I am delighted to think that the right hon. Gentleman is also following in the footsteps of predecessors of his who belonged to the party to which I have the privilege of belonging and to which I have belonged all my life. The popular impression seems to be that anyone who belongs to the Conservative party has no sympathy with the workers, but anyone who studies the legislative history of this country must acknowledge that that party has invariably shown sympathy with the workers of this country, and that in return the workers have shown their confidence in that party by putting them in the position of governors of the country for many years. My party has not been, I think it will be agreed, historically against factory legislation, and therefore I, for one, hope that the Under-Secretary of State will realise that point of view and, if I may say so, be courageous and realise that the country is behind him and his leader in this matter, and that this legislation is long overdue.
I have no desire, and it is not the time, to go into details to-night about this Measure, but I am glad that the absurd 707 distinction between factories and workshops is to be abolished, and I am delighted that there is to be more air space allowed for each worker and, above all, better lighting in the workshops of the country. Those of us who have gone into some of the smaller workshops have really felt ashamed of the conditions under which some of the workers in them have to spend the best hours of their working life. I am also pleased that the medical services are to be extended and that there are to be more safety precautions. Criticism has been offered tonight of the fact that these precautions are more or less restricted to young persons. I would like to see them extended to every worker, but we must realise that the people who do not see the danger when it is under their very nose are the young people who have no idea of danger and are really a danger to themselves. They need protecting against themselves in many cases, and I am glad that the Home Secretary has decided to introduce safety precautions for young people.
I am also delighted that he has brought in more compulsory welfare work. Those most successful industries and those employers who reduce profits to a science and study where their truest interests lie realise that welfare work pays and that it is even neglectful of the true interests of the firm if they do not carry on this work. I am glad that the Home Office are determined to provide better conditions, rest rooms, and so on, especially for the females employed in industry. It is essential that youngsters, juveniles especially, should be guarded in their life and limb in dangerous jobs and that they should be prevented from engaging in too heavy work.
There is one item that I should have liked to have seen in the Bill, and that is the question of industrial diseases. I have been agitating in this House for many years to have included in the schedule of industrial diseases, a disease to which cardroom workers are particularly susceptible. Unfortunately, the negotiations between the employers and the employés have broken down because of the old complaint of people wanting and asking too much. The case originally arose through the sufferings of the strippers and grinders. Undoubtedly, that section of cardroom workers suffer most. I am told, 708 on very reliable information, that through the cardroom workers and operatives generally wanting this safeguard and compensation, the negotiations have broken down. I appeal to the Home Office to see whether something cannot be done for this long-suffering section of the community. If they can be included in the Bill in Committee I shall be very grateful.
We have heard much reference to the 40-hour week. Every one of us has made up his mind that hours of labour in the future must be much shorter than in the past. Every section of the community, whether employer or employé, demands more leisure hours, and surely, with the development of machinery, our working lives should have more leisure accorded to them. Mention has been made of certain countries that have these restricted hours—New Zealand, Australia, France and Belgium. I would, however, point out, and I point it out for the enlightenment of certain hon. Members rather than criticism, that each one of those countries mentioned is highly protected. I hope that those hon. Members will realise that protection must come before legislation for the restriction of hours and so on can be put on the Statute Book. The hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) mentioned that the industries of Rugby had been able to do certain things in regard to technical education for their employés, but again I would point out that the industries of Rugby, so far as I know, are monopolies, and monopolies and combines are able to do welfare work under very desirable rules which the ordinary employer, who has to compete with all the countries of the world, find it very difficult to carry out. I should like to emphasise the fact that we have protection at the ports of entry, and it behoves the employers, particularly in the home trade, where they are highly protected, to realise that they can do something for their workpeople which they have never been able to do before. I am the last person who would want to hamper employers of labour, especially those who have to live by their export trade, but it does behove those who are catering for the home market and enjoy privileges now that have not been enjoyed for nearly 100 years before, to realise that they owe something to the com- 709 munity and their employés, and to act accordingly.
In speaking about the hours of leisure, I should like to appeal to the Opposition and to trade unionists generally that they should seriously consider the question of their opposition to the two-shift system. I have no desire to press the question of double two shifts, but I want to see machinery rather than the men doing the work. If we can make the machinery work longer hours and at the same time reduce the hours of those looking after the machines, then it could not be very detrimental. While I would advocate every safeguard that is possible to imagine about the two-shift system, I would ask my hon. Friends above the Gangway thoroughly to weigh the situation and not blindly oppose the two-shift system simply because, on the face of it, it is not quite agreeable to any of us.
The question of holidays has been raised, also the subject of superannuation. Again, it is a question whether the industry can stand it. I am sure that the best employers—and there are many of them—with as big hearts as any Member in this House, desire to see the time when the ordinary workers in industry as well as the black-coated workers shall have their holidays with pay, and also a system of superannuation. If we can bring back, as we are gradually bringing back, prosperity to the industries of this country, and if we see that they are safeguarded, as they are in many cases, against unfair foreign competition, we may hope that eventually we shall get those much desired things, holidays with pay and superannuation. Some people argue that the masters are always against factory legislation of this description. All that I can say is that I have heard no objection from any employer in my constituency, and I hope that insinuations will not be made and aspersions cast on either employers or employés.
I should like this Bill, if possible, to be regarded as a Bill which everybody will try to improve to the best of their ability. I hope that we shall make it a Bill of which this House will be proud, and that it will go down to history that we have produced in 1937 a Measure for the factory workers of this country that will stand for a very long time as a real piece of legislation. Mention has been 710 made of black spots. I note that those black spots are confined, according to the speeches of hon. Members, to the Midland area. If any area should not have black spots as far as factory conditions and factory welfare are concerned it should be the Midlands, and I hope that the Birmingham, Wolverhampton and other people will see to it, now that they are having such a boom in industry—they are protected 33⅓ per cent. in their industry—that they owe something to the community, and that they will remove this reproach, if there is any reproach.
There is one further point. I should like to know whether the factory surgeons were consulted before the Measure was drafted. We have heard a great deal about factory inspectors. I should be the last person to criticise them, and I am glad that more are being appointed, but if anyone understands the inner working of the life, health and well-being of the factory operatives, it is the factory surgeons, who examine every juvenile worker at various periods of their lives, and who give evidence second to none to the Home Office. Welfare work is appreciated by big firms, and most of the large combines employ medical men to assist in this work. The Home Office employs factory surgeons from another point of view. I hope they have been consulted and that, if not, they will be consulted before the Committee stage and that any improvement they suggest will be embodied in the Bill.
Having read the Bill carefully, I consider that it is a real advance long overdue, and I hope that it will be strengthened in Committee. I want the Government to take their courage in both hands and to realise that they have nothing of which to be afraid. On the other hand, I do not want all the enthusiasts in certain matters to ask for the impossible and thereby wreck the Bill. I hope that anything that will strengthen the Bill and that is within reason will be included, but that we shall not ask for too much and so kill it. If the Measure is overloaded it will perish. We expect great things from the Bill, and we thank the Home Secretary for bringing it in.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Short
The Home Secretary indicated that this was an important 711 Measure, but I think he will agree, after having heard the speeches from all sides of the House, that it might well have been a more important Measure. I do not think, having regard to the provisions of the Bill and the discussion to-night, that I can share the opinions of the hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam) that the Bill will make a great contribution to industrial conditions or add a measure of vast improvement to the welfare of the workers. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, however, on one thing, and that is in having introduced the Bill and thus bringing to an end the long period of delay which has been the cause of great disappointment in the House and the country. Great hopes have been aroused from time to time. I recall the cheery optimism of the late Lord Brentford. I can recall even my own placid temperament in 1929 onwards when I contemplated having to stand at that Box and assist in putting through a Measure of this kind. None of these hopes have been realised. I have seen chief factory inspectors like Sir Gerald Bellhouse, Sir Malcolm Delevingne and others enter upon the splendour of their retirement vastly disappointed with the attitude of the House towards the improvement of our labour laws. During their working careers they were undoubtedly hampered, particularly since the War, because of the lack of legal authority to deal with the ever-changing conditions in the new industries that were introduced.
This Bill affects the health, welfare, safety and hours of labour of women and young persons, and I have no doubt it will bring to the jaded factory inspector when pressed with work, as he must be, a certain measure of encouragement. If, however, they could state their opinions freely, I am sure they would express their anger at the cautious manner in which the consideration of these matters is being approached. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the tragic manner in which the House had dealt with child labour, and I am inclined to think that what he said should be applied to the placid way in which we are dealing with the needs of the workers in regard to the improvements and changes that are necessary in our factory and labour laws. I have always acted on the advice never 712 to shake hands with the devil until you meet him. That is a sound policy, but I have a feeling that the Home Secretary has shaken hands with the devil many times before he introduced this Bill, the devil in his case being fear. One could have wished that the Home Secretary, with his great education, his wide knowledge of the law, and his great forensic and debating skill, would have been able to stand at that Box and resist the pressure, the opposition and the fears of employers, and so have won for himself a position in the life of the country which would have justified a monument being put up to him as in the case of Richard Oastler and others.
Since 1918 we have just tinkered with the problem. I cannot share the opinion of the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) that other nations have not outstripped us. I believe that we are lagging behind considerably so far as many labour laws are concerned. Other nations have advanced in many respects, but I think that vested interests have largely stood in the way in this country. The Bill is stamped on almost every page with the word "compromise"—compromise with the employers, but not with the workers. It is true that there has been consultation with the representatives of employers and workpeople, but this Bill indicates to me that there has been a greater willingness to placate the employers. It is a compromise in many respects with vested interests, but not with humanity. Various provisos and exceptions are running through Government policy. I have likened it on public platforms in racing vernacular to backing the horse both ways. In this Bill the employer will always win. If you do not want your child to stop at school until 15, you have only to say that it has a job of beneficial employment, and it need not stop. If you do not want to carry out provision (x), the Secretary of State will say, "I can make an exception; you can have a proviso"
A century ago the Government of the day, under pressure from Richard Oastler and others, appointed a Commission to investigate the conditions of child labour in the industrial factories. There was great agitation, great hostility. I read that 3,000 children paraded the streets of Leeds and waited upon the Commission at the Town Hall to register their 713 indignation and hostility, and we are told that at a place called Wibsey, 100,000 people assembled to do the same. There have been no mass meetings against this Bill and none in favour of it. Hon. Members have not been inundated with letters. I have received two, one from the Factory Campaign Committee, and one from a constituent of mine pointing out that the provisions of the Bill are of little value. He gives me an illustration of men working from 8 o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock at night, with no payment for overtime, and asks "What will this Bill do to prevent that? "What, indeed, he says, will this Bill do to prevent lorry drivers from working such cruel and terrific hours as we know they do work?
This Bill has not created a ripple on the political front. I cannot regard is as a great reform. It is not a great charter. With all my wide workshop Experience—and I went right through the trade of boiler-making and ship building, following it right up to the time when I entered the House in 1918, and I have followed the developments in factories since—I cannot regard it as a great charter. It is a disappointing Measure, and in many respects we shall not be able to amend or to reform it, because it does not deal with some of the things to which I shall call attention. In many respects the Bill gives legal authority to practices which have existed for a number of years in various factories. My views were to some extent expressed by an extract from a leading article in the "Times" on 3rd February:The Bill makes comparatively few innovations. It may be said, broadly speaking, to standardise really good practice in factories and workshops, and in doing that it will raise the standard of the worst to at least the level of the goodYes, and the level of the good is largely due to three factors—to enlightened employers co-operating with trade unionists and with trade unions, and to the effective work, without law behind them, of factory inspectors. Let me quote another observation by Sir John Grey, the chairman of the Cotton Spinners' and Manufacturers' Association. He said that he had not had an opportunity of studying the provisions of the Bill in detail, but he understood it contained nothing of serious moment as far as the cotton industry was concerned. Here is a factory Bill, and one of the principal spokesmen of the cotton manufacturers tells us that 714 it contains nothing of serious moment so far as the cotton industry is concerned. That is not a very good testimonial, not a very fine recommendation. So as to be fair and show no favour, I quote what Mr. Boothman, the secretary of the Operative Spinners' Amalgamation, says:To propose a statutory 48-hour week for women and young persons in factories is not going far in these days when the 40-hour week is being widely advocated.He does, however, indicate that despite the agreement—I am speaking now of adult labour—between the operatives and the employers there are some factories in Lancashire working more than a 48-hour week. He hopes that the legalisation of a 48-hour week for women and young persons will help to regularise the adoption of a 48-hour week throughout the industry. I do not think the Bill shows any proper approach to great problems which are associated with industry today. I do not think the Government have shown any great vision, or that they have attached sufficient importance to new conditions in industry which call for immediate legislation in various directions. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that, of course, this Bill did not deal with adult labour, that factory legislation never had dealt with it. He seemed to brush that aspect of the matter on one side with the remark that it was an economic question. I, of course, regard it as an economic and industrial question, but this Bill does not specify any hours for adult labour, does not face up to the urgent question of a shorter working week. The Government have paid no attention to the ever increasing amalgamations, to the mechanisation of industry, to the increasing output per man and the greater output per industry—all this with the employment of fewer men.
We ought to be discussing not a 48-hour week for women and young persons and standardising it for another quarter of a century, we ought to be falling over ourselves to legislate for a 40-hour week at least, with such variations as may be necessary to meet exceptional cases. In some quarters of the House it is suggested that this is a matter which ought to be left to trade unions. We have 20,000,000 people gainfully employed, and only 4,000,000 organised in our trade unions. In 1891, Sir Robert Hadfield, the great Sheffield industrialist, reduced the hours of labour in his works 715 to 51 per week, when his competitors were working theirs 55 or 57. In 1894 he still further reduced the hours to 48 I well remember the optimism of my father, who was following the trade of a moulder. He believed, great Radical and pioneer Socialist as he was, that employers would fall over themselves to follow the example of the great—for great he was—Sir Robert Hadfield, but they did not. Sir Robert Hadfield did not suffer and his firm did not suffer, there was greater output, and there were contentedness and happiness among his workpeople. His firm won a name in the industrial world. It was not until 1919, after a great War, that we achieved a 47-hour week.
This is not a matter that can be left entirely to trade union effort and agreement. I have a great regard for the trade unions; I am a member of a number for that matter. I am not supposed to be a leader of the trade union movement. Having regard to the facts that I have mentioned, the State ought to make a contribution in the form of reducing hours of labour by legislation, and in that way meeting the needs not only of the workpeople, but of industry. A great body of opinion, supporters both of that and of this side of the House, is genuinely dissatisfied that Parliament should have hesitated up till now to deal with this great question of the 40-hour week. I believe that industry can stand the burden, if burden it be, and I believe there would be many compensations following the introduction of a shorter working week. I believe that output would increase, men would have greater leisure and the employers would be compelled to employ more people. With nearly 1,700,000 people unemployed today, it would be a contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem. It would bring into industry many men and women who are at present walking the streets and becoming demoralised. It is an amazing thing to us, who know the meaning and the value of leisure and appreciate it, that it should be so difficult for the working people to obtain that very desirable thing.
Overtime has been mentioned a great deal to-night, and I welcome the discussion upon it. Nothing is more pernicious than this practice of overtime, and nothing gives rise to so much indignation. A man 716 may be working overtime every night while his next-door neighbour is unemployed, and is living in distress and discomfort. Another aspect of the matter is that a large amount of overtime is being worked without payment, or without payment in excess of the ordinary rates. In the engineering department of the Post Office, between 1st January, 1934, and 30th September, 1936, over 4,000,000 hours overtime were worked. My hon. Friend the Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) made the calculation that if that overtime had not been worked, 593 extra men would have been taken off the streets and found employment. There is everywhere a great need of change in this matter of overtime.
It has been pointed out that the expansion of trade, of which we hear so much, has been due in a large measure to the expenditure of public money, and we have now heard that there is going to be a further expenditure of something in the neighbourhood of £400,000,000. I think we are entitled to demand, with 1,700,000 unemployed, that overtime should be abolished or strictly regulated, and I know of no better method of regulating it than by making the employers pay higher rates. That, indeed, is done where the men are properly organised. I remember that, in the shop in which I worked, if we worked a week-end, from 12 o'clock on Saturday until eight o'clock on Monday morning, we got double rate for every hour, whether we were working or having our meals. Employers do not encourage overtime at those rates. In some countries statutory rates have been fixed for overtime, and I think, having regard to the unorganised state of many of our industries, we are entitled to try to secure some statutory limitation of overtime, and also some statutory provision for overtime payment at very high rates. I am sure that the trade unions would co-operate in this, and it would have the effect of bringing in more of those who are at present unemployed.
With regard to the question of women and young persons, I do not like the provision permitting 100 hours' overtime, and in some exceptional cases 150. I think that 48 hours a week is quite sufficient for women and young persons, and particularly for young persons. Indeed, I hold the view that 40 hours a week is sufficient for young persons, without over- 717 time, and I hope an effort will be made to secure that in the Committee stage. I am told that under the Bill women and young persons could work 54 hours a week for a fairly long period in every year. If there were a shortage of labour, that might be justified, but, with the large number of our people who are unemployed, I think we ought to be careful about extending or encouraging overtime in a Bill of this character.
There is one word in the Bill that I like—the word "prohibition" Clauses 55 and 56 prohibit women following various trades or being engaged in certain industries. I welcome those provisions; there are various other cases to which they might be extended. When I represented Wednesbury, in the Black Country, I used to see women following occupations and turning out from various places in a condition which I thought reflected no credit upon us, and I should have liked to see this word applied more fully in many of the provisions of the Bill. We shall try to do our best to help the right hon. Gentleman to attain that purpose during the Committee stage. As regards the safety provisions, there has been a very large number of accidents. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the year 1934, and compared it with 1924, but there was a very big increase in 1935, the figure being 149,696 or an increase of 12,838. Fatal accidents went up to 843, compared with 758.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's remarks regarding transmission machinery. Twice recently on the Home Office Vote I have called attention to the need of tightening up the law and greater supervision in respect of transmission machinery. I also welcome the inclusion of hoists and lifts, to which I called attention on both those occasions. There is one thing missing. I am told by experts that it is possible to fit automatic guards to all existing lifts without any difficulty and, if that is so, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that and apply these provisions to existing lifts as well as to new ones. There is fencing, and fencing. A fence can satisfy the law without being any safeguard to the worker. I have seen lots of them. In fact, I have made guards myself. I have been engaged for three months at a time designing, making and fitting guards for rotary machines, which run at a tremendous rate. I know how easy it is to 718 satisfy the law without affording the necessary protection. We not only want law. We want its enforcement. We want more factory inspectors. The Home Secretary said there was going to be a substantial increase, but he did not tell us what it was. I hope we shall be told to-night. We have 254 inspectors responsible for the supervision of 280,744 factories and workshops. They have not only to supervise the factories, they have to investigate all complaints, they have to go into court and prosecute, they have to have all kinds of interviews and they have to do a certain amount of clerical work. If the right hon. Gentleman doubled the number we should not have too many. The Bill is going to cost £25,000 or £30,000, a mere bagatelle. It is no contribution at all compared with the wealth of the country and the expenditure we are willing to make in other directions.
I cannot understand the complacency of the House in enacting a 48-hour week for young persons. In 1934 the number of accidents was 21,557, and in 1935, 25,042. There is a wide disparity between the number of accidents to young people and to adults. Forty hours a week would be ample without overtime. Some of these children must go to sleep. I was reading some papers referring to child labour in Persia, Egypt and elsewhere and how the children went to sleep and, in order to keep them awake, they rang bells and made all kinds of noises. I cannot help thinking that there is a tendency to go to sleep, as in the case of a man driving a car on a long journey, and, while nodding, these accidents occur. I do not think we can tolerate this. We shall have to make a big effort in Committee, though once again we are handicapped because the Bill does not deal with wages. Unless we can secure a reduction of hours without a reduction in pay, we shall be severely handicapped. The provisions with regard to lighting are very welcome. I am disappointed that there is no provision in this Bill for expectant mothers. If my recollection is correct there is provision in the Public Health Act, 1936, so that women in this condition shall not have to work for four weeks after the event. I should like to have seen a provision made making the period six weeks before and six weeks after. This has been adopted in France, Germany, Russia, Chile and possibly in other countries.
719 Reference has been made to annual holidays, and I should have liked to have seen a provision included in this Bill. I said at the outset that other countries had outstripped us. They have in this instance, for I am informed that 20 foreign countries have included in their labour laws provision for annual holidays with pay, with a condition of service either of 12 months or six months. But in this matter, once again, we have fallen behind, and I think that it is because vested interests have been too powerful for the Government. When I say "vested interests," I want the House to understand that I recognise that there are a large number of good employers it the country who are doing even better, as has rightly been said, than what is provided in this Bill. I do not want it to go forth that I think all employers are bad, but their competitors, by not being compelled to comply with the law, are taking a mean advantage of their fellow-employers in the same industry.
The last point I intend to make will, I am sure, bring a smile to the face of the Under-Secretary. When I read the first two and a half lines of Clause 1 of the Bill I sat up and took notice, and after I had read those lines I took greater notice of what followed.Every factory shall be kept in a clean state, and free from effluvia arising from any drain, sanitary convenience or nuisance.The other provisions provide for suitable and sufficient ventilation, suitable temperature, and suitable and sufficient some thing else, and as soon as the Bill was issued I followed the Order Paper for the next few days to see whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) had put down an Amendment to the effect "That the Bill be read a Second time upon this day six months." The House will remember that when we introduced the Offices (Regulation) Bill, it was turned down because all these provisions were covered by the Public Health Acts. I invite the Under-Secretary, who came down here on that Friday afternoon and told us that there was no need for such provisions in such a piece of factory legislation, that he was advised that the Public Health Acts were sufficient, and that he had consulted the Minister of Health, who was about to issue a circular to say why he has included them 720 in this Bill? I welcome them, I am pleased with them, but I think there was a certain measure of hypocrisy about the opposition to that Bill when I look at the provisions of the present Measure. Although I have been somewhat critical of what I consider to he the failing of the Government in this Bill to deal with these bigger issues, it does not mean that we on this side of the House will not co-operate actively in Committee to ensure that the Bill becomes a better Bill, and in that case a monument might yet be erected to commemorate the services of the right hon. Gentleman not only to his Department but to the country at large.
§ 10.37 p.m.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Wedderburn)
The Government are grateful for the generally favourable reception which has been given to the Bill and the helpful character of most of the criticisms which have been put forward from all quarters of the House. The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), who opened the Debate for the Opposition, informed us, rather wistfully, that when he went out of office at the end of 1931 he was on the point of introducing a Bill which presumably would have been a much better Bill than the present Measure, but which I take it would not have been based on entirely dissimilar principles. Although the right hon. Gentleman did not wish to claim any responsibility for the parentage of this Bill I hope he will not be unwilling to act in the capacity of godfather who will be equally diligent to develop the virtues and to correct the faults of the child which might have been his. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman during his period at the Home Office made a valuable contribution towards the preparation which has been necessary for the production of the Bill.
The right hon. Member for Platting told us that most of the criticisms he intended to bring against the Bill could more properly be raised in Committee, but he also made some general observations, which fell mainly into four parts. First of all he complained that the Bill did not bring about a real reduction of hours, more particularly that it did not contain any provision for the establishment of a 40-hour week; that the time limits in 721 Clause 68 allowed women and young persons to begin work too early and to end work too late; and that overtime ought to be much more severely restricted or entirely abolished. In the fourth place he said that the Bill ought to contain some provisions for granting holidays with pay. I shall not ask the hon. Gentleman the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Short), who was associated with the right hon. Gentleman at the Home Office at that time, exactly how far all these measures were contained in the Bill which would have been produced in 1932, or to what extent that Measure, had it ever come before the House, would have represented a compromise on the one hand with humanity or on the other hand with vested interests; but I think those four points which were raised by the right hon. Gentleman so early in the Debate fairly well cover most of the arguments which have been brought forward by hon. Members who have spoken subsequently.
As to the first one, the reduction of hours, with the 40-hours week held out as an ideal, I am afraid the answer must seem to be rather a formal one, but I think it is the right one. It has never been the purpose of factory legislation in this country to go beyond the limits of what is considered necessary to ensure the safety and the health of the workers employed in the factories. Factory legislation has always been strictly confined within these limits and it has never been the object of our factory legislation to deal with measures which could only be justified on general social and economic grounds, as, for example, the extension of leisure beyond that minimum which is necessary for health and safety. It may in some cases be necessary for Parliament to pass a minimum hours bill in relation to certain industries, for men, as well as women, but such a measure would really be part of the policy with which the Minister of Labour would be concerned and would not be relevant to the functions of the Home Office or to the purpose of the Factories Bill.
The next point which the right hon. Gentleman raised has been reiterated by a great many other hon. Members who have spoken since. On Clause 68, it has been pointed out, work may begin as early as six o'clock in the morning and it may continue as late as eight o'clock in the evening. I think we would agree, 722 as a general rule, that six o'clock in the morning is too early, and, as a general rule, that eight o'clock in the evening is too late, but it should be remembered that, while it is permissible to begin work as early as six o'clock or continue as late as eight o'clock, that would not usually happen in practice, particularly when it is taken in conjunction with the other provisions of the Bill which limit work to nine hours a day or 48 hours in the week. Let me give one illustration of what might happen under the provisions of this Bill. Suppose that the employés were to work from 7.30 to 12 on six mornings of the week, and one o'clock to 5.30 on Monday and Tuesday, and from one o'clock to five on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, that would make a total of 48 hours a week. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) would like me to hang that table up in the Tea Room as he suggested, because I think it will be seen to provide time for attendance by those who desire it at those continuation classes at which many juveniles are accustomed to attend.
Not only the right hon. Gentleman but many others, particularly the hon. Member for Doncaster, spent a good deal of time on the subject of the permitted hours of overtime. I hope the House will not think that we anticipate that the maximum hours of overtime which are permitted by the Bill are likely to be normal. The House I am sure will not consider that we have been indifferent to the interests of the workers employed in these factories, in providing a fairly wide latitude to meet some sudden pressure of orders, or to balance production, if through any accident or failure of supplies production in one process falls behind production in another process, and overtime has to be worked in order to bring the one up to the other. I think these permissive provisions are necessary in the interests of the employés themselves, and I am afraid we can hardly accept the presumption of the hon. Member for Doncaster that if you abolish 4,000,000 hours of overtime it would inevitably result in the employment, I think it was of 593,000 persons, who are now out of work.
That seemed such a drop in the ocean out of 1,500,000, 723 that I thought the hon. Member must have meant more. But I am afraid it does not follow that entirely new employés will be taken on in any industry because you have put an end to overtime. The hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Louis Smith) said that most employers were very reluctant to work overtime, partly because they know that too much overtime does not result in the most efficient kind of work and partly because they have to pay more for it. I think the hon. Member was right in saying that employers in general were reluctant, if they could avoid it, to impose overtime on their workpeople. I think that although women and young persons will be very glad to have this provision to save them from being compelled to work more overtime than they desire, many of them would wish to be permitted at certain times of the year to work a reasonable amount of overtime and to take that opportunity of adding to their wages, in periods when pressure is at its highest, in order to set that against the periods of the year when the pressure is lowest.
Hon. Members have complained that not enough is being done to restrict overtime. It seems to me that in this Bill a great deal is being done to restrict the overtime which is allowed by our present laws. As my right hon. Friend pointed out in moving the Second Reading, it is now possible, since the normal working week, in general, is not more than 48 hours but the working week allowed by law is 6o hours, to work in non-textile factories as much as boo hours of overtime in the year, and in textile factories considerably more than half that amount. This Bill not only restricts in normal cases the amount of overtime to too hours, but it limits the number of weeks in which overtime may be worked to 3o in a year and the number of hours which may be worked in any single week to six.
As for the final point of annual holidays with pay, I think that that question is inevitably connected with rates of wages and remuneration, and it would therefore be outside the scope of the Factory Acts, which are not concerned with industrial agreements or negotiations but purely with health and safety. That matter was not in the Bill which was brought in though not passed by the Socialist Government in 1924. As the House is aware, 724 there is now a private Member's Bill on that subject which has passed its Second Reading, a Bill which we regard primarily as for the Minister of Labour and in regard to which the course to be pursued by the Government is being considered.
The hon. Member opposite and also the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) asked questions about the numbers of new inspectors who would be appointed under this Bill and expressed doubts as to whether the increased number would be adequate. It is not possible to state—I do not think that it would be reasonable to ask at this stage for any estimate of—the numbers of new inspectors who are likely to be appointed as a result of this Bill, but hon. Members can derive for themselves a general idea from the financial memorandum. It will be remembered that the Henderson Committee which reported in 1929 considered that the general staff which they recommended in order to carry out the kind of provisions which are now embodied in this Bill would have to be considerably increased. I think the Henderson Committee mentioned about 10 per cent., but they recommended that this matter would have to be considered further when the time came. The number by which and the rate at which the staff must be increased will be discussed as soon as possible after this Bill has passed. Meanwhile hon. Members will be able to see from studying the financial memorandum that it ought to be more than sufficient to cover the increase which was envisaged by the Henderson Committee.
It is natural and inevitable that all the criticisms which should be brought forward against a Bill of this kind should really arise from the fact that this Bill lays down a minimum and not an optimum standard of hours and working conditions. We quite appreciate and share the general desire that working conditions generally should be in advance of the minimum requirements which are laid down in this Bill, but I do not think that it is the function of legislation to prescribe compulsorily what we regard as the optimum standard. It is the purpose of legislation to ensure that the conditions which are arrived at, which are approved by public opinion and settled by the great majority of workers and employers, shall not be vitiated or taken advantage of by a minority who do not choose to recognise these generally 725 accepted standards and who attempt to derive advantage for themselves by refusing to observe them. That is the purpose of legislation. I do not think the House would accept the view that the minimum standard of requirements laid down in a Bill of this kind is ever in serious danger of deteriorating into a maximum standard. With regard to hours of labour in factories for women and juveniles, the present law is substantially that which was passed in 1847, but since 1847 there has been an immense advance in factory conditions, and conditions of work have become more humane and less laborious.
Perhaps the House will allow me to conclude by reading two sentences from two speeches which were delivered in this House in 1844 by Lord Ashley, who afterwards became Lord Shaftesbury, in support of his proposal to limit the working hours of women and young persons to 10, which was passed into law three years later. To him, I suggest, the factory worker owes even more than to those whose names have been mentioned, such as Fielden and Oastler, for whom statues have been set up in the North of England. In the first speech Lord Ashley said:We ask but a slight relaxation of toil, a time to live and a time to die; a time for those comforts that sweeten life, and a time for those duties that adorn it.In his second speech he said:The feeling of the country is roused; and so long as there shall be voices to complain and hearts to sympathise, you will have neither honour abroad, nor peace at home, neither comfort for the present, nor security for the future. But I dare to hope for far better things—for restored affections, for renewed understanding between master and man, for combined and general efforts, for large and mutual concessions of all classes of the wealthy for the benefit of the common welfare and specially of the labouring people—Sir, it may not be given to me to pass over this Jordan; 726 other and better men have preceded me, and I entered into their labours; other and better men will follow me and enter into mine; but this consolation I shall ever continue to enjoy—that, amidst much injustice and somewhat of calumny, we have at last 'lighted such a candle in England as shall never be put out.'It may be true that since the time of Shaftesbury our industrial development has often been attended with bitterness and strife, but I think that upon the whole good will and understanding have steadily increased, particularly since the trade union movement grew to its present strength. While the laws which we enact in this House may not be able to do much more than fortify those gains which have already been secured, we look for further advances to enlightened co-operation among all classes who are engaged in industry.
§ Ordered, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.