§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [nth February], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I rise to begin the second chapter of the Second Reading of this Bill, and I want to admit to hon. and right hon. Members before me that this Measure contains many provisions which are in advance of existing law and existing practice. I would myself rather have this Bill than no Bill at all, but at the same time we cannot pretend that we are satisfied with the Measure which is now before the House. It is in a way a small Measure, and although we welcome such improvements as it makes, we claim that it does not fulfil what legislation in this year of grace ought to provide for factory workers. I want to refer, not to particular provisions of the Bill, but to deal with the case which was made by the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland as to the scope of factory legislation. This Bill is governed almost entirely by nineteenth century ideas, to which the Home Secretary, through his lack of knowledge of the past on this problem, clings tenaciously, and I want to make my sermon, if it may so be called, on the text of quotations from the speeches of the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. The Home Secretary said: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.A little later he said: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 858 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1937; cols. 626 and 631, Vol. 320.]The third part of my text is to be found in the reply made by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on Thursday night, as follows: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1937; col. 721, Vol. 320.]Then he goes on to say that the question of hours of labour is one for the Minister of Labour, though that does not happen to be true, and that it is not a matter for the Factories Bill. These statements have the ring of the gramophone record about them. After all, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland repeated the same gramophone record that the Home Secretary put on on Thursday, and he only repeated the gramophone record of the Home Office. It is important to realise that the Home Secretary to-day and the Home Office regard the structure of our factory laws as completed—all that is now necessary is to make amendments here and there—but the Home Secretary must know, because he must have read a few books on this matter since he attained this office, that during the nineteenth century the scope of factory legislation increased and broadened. He himself gave us on Thursday a sort of historical review of the development of factory legislation. It has developed amazingly, and I reject the view entirely that the inspired word was finally written in the year 1901, when the last Factory Act was passed, for the first Factory Act, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary referred in his speech was an Act passed at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act. It was not a Factory Act at all; it was an extension of the Poor Law, and it had nothing to do with factories as such. It had to do with those poor apprentices who were moved in cartloads from rural 859 areas to man and staff the factories in the North of England.
That was a beginning, but out of that small beginning there grew our factory legislation, and it developed, not because of any clear opinion as to what industrial regulation should comprise, but because of the pressure of public opinion, shocked by the barbarities of employment in the new industrial districts in the North of England. Our legislation dealt first with textile factories, not that textile factories were any worse than other factories, but because public attention was drawn to them first. We are told now that factory legislation deals with the health, safety, and so on of factory workers. Textile factory conditions were regulated first, not because they were any worse than non-textile factory conditions, but because the Government of the day had to do something, and in course of time—it took quite a long time—nontextile factories were brought within the ambit of the Factory Acts. It was discovered that there was in factories a problem of health and safety—I am using the Home Secretary's argument—which had not hitherto been regulated by law, and a good deal of these provisions related to women, young persons and children, but not to men. They did have regard to the health conditions of women and young persons, but not of men. But the general conditions of factory life had to be improved for men because they were working in the same buildings. The whole development was, of course, illogical.
I am claiming that there is a problem of health for men in factories and workshops as well as for protected persons under the Factory Acts—women and young persons. For more than a century now it has been the practice of the State to regulate the hours of labour, first of textile employés and then of non-textile employés, and then of workshop employés who were women and young persons, and if the principle of the Home Secretary is right this was done on grounds of health. It has happened that in more recent times, without the aid of legislation, the hours of men have been regulated by industrial agreements between trade unions and employers' associations on precisely those grounds. I never expect a body of employers to give away anything for nothing; I expect them to get a quid pro quo 860 for every concession which they give. But it is undoubtedly true and cannot be denied that large bodies of employers have agreed to the limitation of the hours of labour of men on those very grounds of health and safety which the Home Secretary adduces as a reason for factory legislation and for the limitation of hours of particular persons. For the same reason enlightened employers, far-sighted employers, have given rest pauses for all their workpeople, men, women, young persons and children. Why? Because it was in the interests of the physical efficiency of the workers they employed.
As regards wages, we were told on two occasions on Thursday that wages are no part of factory legislation. That is true, but if—I am keeping still to the narrow grounds of the Home Secretary as to the functions of factory legislation—the Home Office is concerned with the question of the health of factory workers, I think it is perfectly clear now, after the numerous investigations there have been into the question of the nutrition of the people, that wages are the basis of good health, and that therefore this matter ought not to be outside the purview of the Home Secretary. That is so again on the question of holidays with pay. Holidays are a health investment. They are a recognised custom, recognised among all black-coated workers, recognised in the highly organised services of this country; recognised, I believe, for between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 manual workers in industry in this country; recognised, of course, through all the managerial branches, because holidays with pay are in the interests of the people who are engaged in industry.
This House, which enjoys very long holidays in order that its Members may recuperate from the heavy strain they undergo when the House is sitting, ought to be the last Assembly in this country to object on grounds of health and mere physical efficiency to the inclusion of provisions dealing with holidays with pay. We have been treated recently to statements about the Government's new health propaganda. Very showy, it looks good on paper. But the real way to physical efficiency is not to provide swimming pools and gymnasia for the wrecks of life, but to provide good wages and reasonable hours of employment, with an opportunity for holidays for rest and re- 861 cuperation, and of course decent social surroundings. Those things will do far more than we shall ever get out of a national system of physical jerks.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I really do not know. The Minister of Health is out of this thing. I do not want to go into history. I did understand that in the King's Speech for this Session there was a statement about a great programme for physical development, which was handed over to the right hon. Gentleman. The Government, not knowing what they wanted to do or why or when, went into it and discovered that it was not for the right hon. Gentleman; it was chiefly for the President of the Board of Education, who came down here to make certain proposals which are going to cost the country a good deal of money, whereby we are to provide recreational and physical exercise facilities very largely out of the public revenue. This theory, which is the basis of dispute, of restricting factory legislation to health and safety and ancillary problems, is outworn, and it has been abandoned in other industrial legislation.
My mind goes back, as no doubt the mind of the Lord President of the Council will go back, to the campaign of 30 years ago for trade boards. We had trade boards legislation not merely because of sweating, not merely because of low wages, but because of the horrible conditions under which people were employed, and our trade boards, by including wages with questions of health and safety, have done a great deal to improve the moral and physique and the sense of independence of those people who were employed in what used to be called sweated trades. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland told us it was no business of factory legislation to settle the hours of labour of adult males. As a matter of fact this is no new phase. I refuse to divide health questions from economic questions. Hours of labour are not merely an economic question. The fact that the hours of labour of women and young persons have been regulated in the interests of health and safety proves that hours of labour are a question of health on the Home Secretary's own showing.
862 Still arguing the right hon. Gentleman's case, I will come to another aspect. In the mines we have an industry where the hours of labour of men have been regulated for two or three generations. Even under the Factory Acts there have been limitations of the hours of labour of adult males. In the pottery industry certain classes of workers have their hours of labour limited to 48 per week, with a very drastic limitation of overtime. It was only last year that this House passed an Hours of Employment Convention Act ratifying an International Labour Office Convention dealing with sheet glass workers, which limited the hours of people employed in continual processes in the manufacture of sheet glass to an average of 42 per week. That legislation has not yet been put into operation, but there has been a declaration in this House to that effect, as there was last November or December in favour of holidays with pay.
The Home Office itself has, first in the case of the pottery workers by a special Order issued under the authority of the Home Secretary, and, secondly, by the ratification of an international convention, agreed to the principle of the regulation and limitation of the hours of adult males. The Under-Secretary to the Home Office, when he replies finally to-night, may have some answer. He may say it was done on the ground of health. I accept that as an argument, but I am prepared to give that argument a good deal wider extension. If it was not on grounds of health, I still claim that the Act of 1901 did not set the limitations on the scope of factory legislation in this country.
I come again to the question of holidays. I am still taking the Home Secretary's own case. The Factory Acts have recognised the need of holidays for women and young persons, and they do it again in this Bill. Women and young persons—not children—now have holidays on Christmas Day, Good Friday and the four Bank Holidays "in the interests of health and safety." I do not believe it. They could have some other days, but the vast majority have them on those days. Was it in the interest of health primarily that those holidays were given? It was not. It was out of a sense of common decency. I am still taking the Home Secretary's case and assuming that it was on grounds of health that it was vitally necessary that woman and young 863 persons should have holidays on Good Friday, Christmas Day and the four Bank Holidays. Are these odd days any good for the purpose of physical recuperation? They are not, but if women and young persons need a period of recuperation I claim that men equally need it. I use these cases to make my point. The fact is that the Factory Acts have burst their confines. They have wandered beyond the rather hidebound views of those who have been hitherto responsible for factory legislation. It is impossible, as we know in these days, to try to make a sharp distinction between conditions of employment which affect health, safety and amenities and those which are economic. Such a division is fantastic.
Let us still assume that health and safety are the key-notes of our factory legislation. I come to the second phase of my argument. Let us still keep to this narrow theory of the Home Secretary that factory legislation is concerned with health, safety and ancillary provisions. In the last five years industrial conditions have changed. We have had an intensification of mechanisation and rationalisation and a speed-up of industrial processes; and as hours of labour under the Factory Acts, as the Under-Secretary for Scotland reminded us, have not been very much changed for 90 years, these new industrial developments mean increased strain upon the workers in factories and workshops. I do not think anybody could deny that. Even monotony is not the kind of thing which promotes physical efficiency, but when to that is added all that comes from the speeding-up of processes due to mechanisation and rationalisation, I claim that the strain on the factory worker now is as great as ever it was. With our modern capacity for production, with modem ideas of physical standards and with this new drive for physical efficiency promoted first by the Minister of Health, and now in the hands of the President of the Board of Education, there should be new standards of what is a reasonable strain to which workpeople should be subject during their employment. There should be reasonable, new standards to meet the new conditions of stress in industrial life.
In the great campaign that has been launched we ought to set ourselves much higher standards of normal physical efficiency. Health is not merely a question 864 of air space, ventilation, and lavatory accommodation; it is also a matter of strain and stress, and of monotony. These matters are primarily, in the interests of health, questions of hours of labour—the amount of time which people spend at their work. Nobody will pretend that the hours of labour provisions in this Bill are generous. The overtime provisions are a scandal in 1937. They are a concession to the employers, but not to the best employers. They are, unfortunately, a concession to the worst employers. I am not denying that there may be occasions when people have to work overtime. We have to do it in this House now and again, but anyone who has experience of factory and workshop life knows that overtime provisions are used by unscrupulous employers to extend the normal hours of labour. The trade union movement has found only one way of dealing with that, and that is to make the employers pay time and a quarter, time and a half for it, and double time on Sundays. Even then, however, we do not make them pay because they put it on the bill, and rush orders always cost more money. The trade union movement hoped to reduce unemployment to a minimum by making it costly to employers to employ overtime labour. I am bound to say that in some respects that has happened, but that in other respects it has not. Some firms have given much shorter hours. I am speaking of good employers, not of overtime employers—
§ Mr. Greenwood
Yes, the wise employers have given holidays with pay and have almost eliminated overtime. There may be occasions, such as a breakdown, when overtime has to be worked. They have shorter hours of labour, which, I believe, the majority of employers always regarded as the way to ruin. I have given a good deal of time to the question of the factory legislation, and I think, perhaps, that I am alone in this Chamber in having read every Debate on factory legislation since the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act was introduced in 1801. On all occasions there were the Fieldens and Shaftesburys and others like them, but the employers always said that if hours were reduced and anything done to improve industrial conditions this country would be ruined. Yet after over a century of industrial legislation for fac- 865 tories we still survive. Ruin has not come to this country from the improvement in working conditions. The plight of British industry to-day is not due to the workers being greedy and idle. It may be due to the shortsightedness of employers, or to political considerations, but it is not due to the factory legislation, which has improved the efficiency of British labour beyond that of any other nation in the world. Lancashire Members will not dispute me when I say that the people for whom factory legislation was first pressed—the textile operatives—are in spite of it, and largely because of it, the most efficient cotton operatives in the world.
I should like to knit together what I have said by enunciating two general principles, because I do not think that this is the occasion to argue the details of the Bill. The first is that labour conditions ought not to be an element in competition. By that I mean that no employer ought to be able to steal orders for the time being because he exploits his workmen by longer hours, or lower wages, or worse conditions. The labour factor ought to be eliminated from competition. The competition ought to be a competition of brain sweating, and not of labour sweating. It ought to be a competition of efficiency. Unfortunately, orders in the past have often been obtained because one employer gets orders through exploiting and sweating and giving inferior conditions to the people whom he employs. The real purpose of labour legislation in this country and of international labour agreements is to standardise labour conditions so that they disappear as a element in the competition between firms and nations.
My second principle is that labour is an essential element in the efficiency of industry. Firms may have all the brains that managerial elements in this House think they possess; they may have all the capital; but without efficient labour there can be no efficient industry. If that be so, labour should enjoy the conditions of employment which are essential to their efficiency. That carries us a long way. The physical efficiency campaign, or whatever it may be called, which the Government are conducting is too narrow in its vision. I do not object to more swimming pools and recreation grounds, or to the expenditure of public money on these objects, but I do not think there is much use the Minister of Health and 866 the President of the Board of Education sending weary workers to recreation grounds when they have not an ounce of fight left in them. The right hon. Gentleman smiles, but I am afraid that he is starting at the wrong end. The industrial conditions under which the vast majority of factory and workshop employés spend half their waking lives without reasonable holidays are a vital factor in the public health of the nation. It is important, therefore, before the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend spend public money on these various devices for restoring the flagging bodies of tired workers, to see that industrial conditions are made right, and whatever may be said about this campaign, to which we on this side of the House have not objected, the primary thing is to see that there are reasonable working conditions for people most of whose lives are spent in industry.
There are many other aspects of the Bill, I know, but I suggest that there are three vital considerations in protecting the health and the physical efficiency of those employed in factories and workshops—normal hours of labour, limiting the amount of overtime which can be claimed, and holidays. Unfortunately the Home Secretary has not taken a broad view of his responsibilities. He has been told where the factory legislation begins and where it ends. He has not soared like an eagle over the broad industrial field. He talked in his speech about the industrial field, but he has not sought to gain the experience of—[Interruption.] I am not saying that the right hon. Gentleman looks like an eagle—only that he did not soar like to eagle. All he has done is to trudge over the old path which has been beaten out by the struggles between those who put human interests first and those who put material interests first. He has just trudged the old line beaten out by compromise after compromise. The great need to-day, speaking broadly in the national interest, and having regard to the Government's great plan for improving the health and physique of our people—for purposes which they have not yet defined, and I am not going into why they want to do it—is an industrial code. I confess that 25 years ago I began to write a book about it, and it is not finished, nor is it likely to be, though I have written other books since.
867 There is need now, in this highly-integrated industrial community of ours, where it is not so easy to differentiate between conditions of labour in factories, in mines and in shops, for an industrial code which will cover the whole field of employment. We want to secure humane standards of employment for all workers having regard to the character of their industry and having regard to human requirements, with a desire that we should give comparable standards to all workers whether they are employed in factories or not, to make them, so to speak, independent of the lack of specialised legislation. This is needed for two reasons. In the first place, this new higher standard of conditions in employment, with all that that implies, is necessary to our industrial efficiency. It is certainly necessary for the general national efficiency. It is certainly necessary from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman's campaign. It is certainly necessary from the point of view of the rightful amenities of our social life in the twentieth century. But, secondly, this is needed as a matter of common justice to workpeople in a democratic community.
Conditions of employment have improved—nobody on this side will deny that. We have seen vast changes in a generation. They have improved partly because of trade union activities, which have gone in advance, have trodden on ahead of the law of the country. They have improved partly because of legislation hammered out here by those who, on the one hand, were thinking of the lives of the people, and on the other hand those who were thinking about their own profits. We have improved industrial conditions substantially, but I am going to say that the workers of this country have not enjoyed to the full the advantages which have come from our improved productive capacity, due to the progress of science and improved methods of organisation. Those advances to working people ought to accrue in different forms. In the first place, they ought to enjoy wages which are adequate to sustain a civilised standard of life. We can look over the field of industry to-day and see, unfortunately, that large numbers of them do not. Secondly, that improved efficiency and capacity of industry ought to be translated into security of life for the workers, to rid them of what, perhaps, is 868 their greatest menace, the fear of unemployment. We have not done that. That may be a matter which needs international action as well as national action.
In the third place the workers are entitled, when industry becomes more capable of supplying the needs of the people, to a shorter working life. They ought not to be expected to live in industry from about 14 years of age until they die. The working life of our people ought to be concentrated into the most efficient period of life. We ought to get rid of juvenile labour and ought to retire honourably the aged workers who have given the best years of their life to industry. They are entitled to ask for greater leisure also. I am inclined to think that the greatest sociological programme we have to face in the next 20 years is that of the leisure of the people. The people are entitled to more leisure, entitled to it in three different ways. They are entitled to a shorter working day; they are entitled to it in a shorter working week; they are entitled to it through the elimination, as far as humanly possible, of all additional hours of employment; and they are entitled to a shorter working year through holidays, which all Members of this House enjoy. Lastly—this is largely financial I know, as some of the others were—they are entitled to the best conceivable working conditions.
I say that the workers of this country have not obtained a square deal out of the vast sums which have been made in the last century, and in this Bill we claim that at least they shall get something through shorter hours, through greater leisure, through the enjoyment of paid holidays.
It is not to be expected that the Home Secretary will redraft his Bill because of my speech, but I hope he will keep an open mind upon Amendments of a very substantial character. I have spoken as I have on general principles because it seemed to me that it was necessary before the Debate went any further that we here should reply to the definition of the scope of factory legislation which was laid down last Thursday, and because, also, it seemed necessary that we should state the basic policy of my hon. Friends on this side of the House and express what are our hopes for the future of industrial legislation. What is good in the Bill we warmly accept, there can 869 be no doubt about that, but we shall continue, in the House and out of it, to press for leisure and dignity of life for all workers.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Sir Kingsley Wood)
As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) knows, I am a constant and attentive hearer at all his sermons. Whenever he is in the pulpit I am in the pew. But I cannot say that he has yet induced me to go to the penitent form, still less on this occasion. I think a sermon by a Member of the late Labour Government more or less on the present Factories Bill would probably have made more appeal if he had first expressed himself as personally conscious of many omissions and much original sin on this particular question. He referred to this Bill as a small Measure and one of nineteenth century conception. I prefer the statement made by the hon. Gentleman opposite who, I see, is going to take part in and end up this Debate on behalf of the Labour party. In a review of the provisions of this Bill in the "Manchester Guardian" of 3rd February last he made a fairer summary. He said, "We had hoped, of course, to see very much more stringent provisions than are contained in the Bill, but when it is remembered that over 6,000,000 persons are employed in factories, workshops, in and around docks, wharves and building operations, it is certainly worth while, and is one of the biggest Measures introduced into this Parliament." I thought that the right hon. Gentleman hardly did credit to his colleague the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) when he remarked what a small Measure this was and what a nineteenth century conception it possessed. The right hon. Gentleman was not here, but I would remind him that on Thursday last his colleague said that this was a Measure which he had handled on different occasions when he was at the Home Office, and that he had been eager to bring such a Measure as this before the House. When I survey the abortive attempts and the many barren years in relation to factory legislation, as Minister of Health I welcome the Bill, and so, I think, does the average citizen, because, at long last, something of a substantial character is being done. It is not sermons so much as action that is wanted now, and much has been achieved. At last we have a 870 Government and a party capable enough and strong enough to place it upon the Statute Book.
Many of the provisions of the Bill embody that advancement in national health policy which rightly occupies much of our attention to-day. While we are right in continuing our efforts to cure illness and physical defects, we should do much more to prevent them. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we do not measure our national health advancement only from the number of people who have been cured of their illnesses or whose diseases, have, happily been arrested—which is very good work of its kind—and that it is better to be able to record the number of people who, by good conditions at home and at work, have been enabled to live happy and healthy lives without the disabling effects of bad health and crippling disease. I know that a good many people, and perhaps I am one of them, look forward to the time when we shall regard medical attention much in the same way, as I think, was once adopted by an ancient race, that is, that we should pay our doctors when we are well and fine them when we are ill.
There is no need for me to dwell on the improvements that have undoubtedly been made in recent years in the conditions of workers in factories, but the right hon. Gentleman hardly did full justice to them. The present conditions of factory workers bear no resemblance to the terrible conditions of a comparatively few years ago. There is no doubt—and I would be the last to deny it—that incapacitating sickness and accidents in industry are still heavy, but I believe they are largely avoidable. I was looking the other day at the heavy toll caused in industry by what one may call minor ailments. I suppose that Public Enemy No. 1 is colds and influenza. They account for 25 per cent. of the absences from work. I saw that it was recorded that, in one staff of about 6,000 men and women, 18 per cent., on an average, were absent because of colds during a particular year. The medical profession has not, as yet, found an instant remedy for the cure of colds and influenza. As the right hon. Gentleman said, no one in this House will dispute as to the best safeguards against disease and illness, especially of a minor character, but to his category of improvements in hours of work, overtime and holidays, I would add 871 good housing, airy schools, good food, clean streets and open spaces.
Our efforts cannot stop short outside the factory door, and much can be done in promoting the good health of our workers, not only by shortening hours, as is being done in the Bill in regard to certain factories, but by all that can be gained to-day by more medical and welfare supervision. It is because the Bill makes a definite step forward in so many useful directions that I welcome it and commend it to the House. As the right hon. Gentleman argued, it is, of course, quite possible to state that standards should be still further improved and that conditions in all factories should be made to reach the level of the best factories in the country, but we have to remember to be practical in these matters. We must get something done, and not wait years and years. We must remember, also, that more than half of the factory population works in factories employing more than 250 people. I would rather see an agreement such as has been achieved in the Bill than wait for something which is at present unobtainable.
For a few minutes I would call attention to one or two questions which have already been raised in Debate regarding Provisions of the Bill which will benefit our industrial workers. I would first draw attention to Clause 3. In relation to minor ailments, which are so costly—I daresay that the hon. Gentleman who used to be at the Home Office will agree with me—the temperature of work places is of great importance, not only as it affects accidents and output, but to the general health and comfort of the workers. During the last few years a large number of legitimate complaints from workers have been received about temperature. This is one of the matters on which the need for better provision has been strongly felt. If hon. Members would look at the Clause they would see that the law on the subject is being greatly strengthened. The present law requires adequate measures to be taken for securing and maintaining reasonable temperature, but the requirement is in very general terms and is difficult to enforce. The new provision contained in the Bill gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations prescribing standards of reasonable temperature. This provision will be of value to those engaged in 872 sedentary work, because they feel the need for it more than anybody else. After the first hour, a temperature of less than 60 degrees will not be deemed reasonable.
A question was put on Thursday as to the reason for the exception in the first hour. There is, of course, a general requirement in the Bill that a reasonable temperature shall be maintained. Most people, including representatives of the workers concerned, would agree that it is undesirable that temperatures should be too high at the beginning of work, because temperature tends to go up as the work proceeds. It may very well be that, as a result of further research, another figure may be considered desirable in certain circumstances, but I think this particular provision marks a specific advance in conditions making for comfort and health.
I would draw attention, also, to the Clause dealing with ventilation. That is not a small thing. The Clause alters the existing law by laying stress on the need for circulation of fresh air in each workroom. We in this House ought to be authorities on matters of ventilation and air, because we know something about hot heads and cold feet. Modern research has brought out the importance, not only of the purity of the air breathed, but of the movement of the air, on which depends its cooling powers. The Clause adopts a modern conception of what is desirable in the interest of comfort and health for the workers, in recognising that ventilation must be effective, not only as to the means provided for changing the air but by all methods of importing movement to it. No workroom, however lofty or spacious, is satisfactory without adequate air movement.
I would call attention, also, to Clause 5, which is new, and will till a notable gap in the provisions of our Factory Acts. Good lighting is of the utmost importance to efficiency, safety and health. Many hon. Members will recollect that the Departmental Committee on the causes and prevention of blindness said that they regarded the proper lighting of factories as a matter of the utmost importance. There is no doubt that conditions in many places are far from satisfactory. Lights are badly placed; the worker is often not protected against glare; workers have been injured because they could not properly see the materials they were handling, or 873 because they could not see where they were walking in badly lighted factory yards; and I suggest that the need for further statutory provision is clearly established. This new law, as I hope it soon will be—and in saying this I answer one of the questions which was put—will provide that there shall be adequate and suitable lighting in every factory and in every part of the factory, that the Secretary of State shall have power to define by Order what is adequate and suitable illumination for factories or processes, and that certain minimum standards of a general character shall be laid down. I suggest to the House that that again is a most useful and necessary provision in the inteersts of our industrial workers.
One other Clause to which I would like to call attention is Clause 11, because that is an important development towards a system of preventive medicine in this country. Many hon. Members will know that there is power under the existing Acts to require medical examinations as a permanent arrangement in codes of regulations for dangerous industries, but certainly it will be of great value, both to employers and to workers, that arrangements for medical supervision can be made from time to time in particular works and in certain circumstances. I have in mind the kind of case in which there might be, say, an outbreak of dermatitis where irritating substances are used, or a case in which some new chemical is introduced which seems likely to be injurious. In such cases the Secretary of State may make special regulations requiring reasonable arrangements to be made for medical supervision of the health of the people so employed. I believe that this again will be a useful provision for protecting the health of the worker, and also for reducing lost time. Another particular instance which comes to my mind is that of a possible outbreak of anthrax in a factory, due, perhaps, to a consignment of exceptionally highly infected wool or hides. In such a case it may be very useful to have an intensive medical supervision for a short time, in order to see that suspicious pustules are promptly detected and watched, for I may remind the House that in anthrax cases the difference between life and death often depends on seeing that the victim goes to a hospital or otherwise obtains treatment without delay.
874 I would, also, in answer to certain criticisms which were made on Thursday, call attention to another important provision in this Clause in relation to young persons, because the point was made that sufficient attention had not been given to their case. Sub-section (1, c) of Clause 11 lays it down that the provisions of the Clause are to apply equally to young persons who are or are about to be employed in work which may cause risk of injury to their health. That, I suggest, is a very valuable provision. Under it, and it is in wide terms, the Secretary of State will be able to make special arrangements requiring reasonable provision for medical supervision in these cases and circumstances. I should like also to commend to the attention of the House some of the welfare provisions in Part III, which have a great bearing on the improvement of the general health of the workers. To take, for instance, the provision that there shall be suitable accommodation for clothing, with reasonable arrangements for drying, I think that that will be of great assistance in preventing chills or colds, and perhaps something worse. I also attach importance to the facilities which are laid down for sitting in the case of women, as preventing excessive fatigue and ill-health, while Clause 46 in Part IV of the Bill, certainly makes a very important modification of the law. The prevention of injurious affections of the lungs is a matter of great importance in this country. The constant breathing of dust for a considerable period of time has undoubtedly had a prejudicial effect on the health of many workers, and I am glad to say that the new provisions will require that the workers shall be protected so far as is practicable, not only against the breathing of dust or fumes of an injurious or offensive character, as under the present law, but also against the breathing of any kind of dust to a substantial extent. That, again, I think, is a most valuable provision.
There is one matter with which I must deal, because it has been raised by several hon. Members, and it is a matter of great difficulty and complexity, and one which, on a first examination, may give rise to a certain and a strong view. I refer to the arguments that have been put to me that in this Bill there should be a provision prohibiting the employment of women in factories during the last six or 875 eight weeks of pregnancy. I may tell the House that, as indeed will be apparent, this matter is not so easy to deal with as may at first appear to be the case. Successive Governments of all political complexions, including the Labour Government, who have had to consider the Washington Convention on this matter, have not felt that they could see their way to ratify the convention in this country. I know that the British Medical Association have put forward certain views on this matter, but I would draw the attention of the House to a statement which appeared in the Final Report of the Departmental Committee on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity. It is to this effect:There does not appear to the committee to be any valid reason why a pregnant woman should not perform work of some kind up to the last week or two of pregnancy, but it should be of a suitable nature. It would be a hardship if cessation of factory work were to be made compulsory.One of the difficulties—and I put these questions to the House because no doubt the House may wish to consider them later—is that, if it were made a penal offence for a woman to be employed in a factory for a stated period before confinement, it would in the first place be quite impracticable to penalise the employer. I do not think I need develop that point, but undoubtedly the penalty, if there were a penalty at all, would have to be imposed upon the woman herself. Again, there are such questions as who is to determine the period of pregnancy, and another very difficult question is whether a regulation of this kind, carrying with it a prohibition against work for a certain period—and we must of course realise that many women would resent a compulsory prohibition of this kind—would in fact have a bad effect by discouraging a woman from availing herself, as we all desire her to do, of the antenatal services at an early stage of pregnancy. These are some of the questions which have to be answered, and very difficult ones, I may say, they are.
§ Mr. Sandys
If a proper benefit were attached to this cessation of work, would there be any danger of women not availing themselves of the opportunity and applying for permission to leave the factory?
§ Sir K. Wood
That, of course, raises a very large question, and one which 876 enters into the field of national insurance, because I suppose it would have to be done by national insurance, and it would mean, I suppose, the proposal of a benefit equal to the remuneration which the woman would receive in the factory. Very large questions are raised when one has to consider a matter of that kind. I do not know what the approved societies and others who have to administer the Insurance Acts would say about it.
I should like to say one word about the medical arrangements, because under the Bill it is proposed considerably to strengthen, both by amendment of the law and by administrative action, the medical machinery, and in particular to improve the position and practice in regard to the examination of young persons by the certifying surgeon. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) was, I think, chairman of a committee which dealt with this matter, and he had to get his work done in a very few weeks and issue a report. The main changes proposed in the Bill will, I think, have a very considerable effect so far as young persons are concerned, and particularly the proposed alterations which Clause 92 makes in regard to certificates of fitness for work. The certifying surgeon in future will be required to give a positive certificate that the young person is fit for the employment, and not merely a negative one that he is not unfit. Greater powers, also, are provided for laying down conditions in the certificate and for requiring re-examination, and the Secretary of State is also given power to make rules prescribing the manner in which examinations are to be conducted, the form of the certificate, and matters of that kind. I am glad to say, too, that, so far as regards co-ordination of the services of the different Departments—the medical arrangements under the Home Office, those under the Board of Education, and those under my Department—what I think the House will agree are reasonable steps are being taken to secure a better measure of co-ordination. I think it is a very great thing indeed that there is a provision in the Bill that the education authorities shall, where the examining surgeon asks for it, supply him the medical history of the young person. By that means he will have the great advantage of having before him the whole history of the person whom he is examining. I can assure the House that, as regards my own Department—
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of co-ordination and consultation, are we to understand that, before the Secretary of State will issue regulations, when the Bill has become law, with regard to lighting, ventilation, heating and so on, there will be consultation between his Department and the Home Office?
§ Sir K. Wood
The Under-Secretary will answer that question. I think I can say on behalf of the local authorities that they are anxious to co-operate in the efficient enforcement of the provisions entrusted to them by the Measure, and I think the House can rely upon it that they will work whole-heartedly in co-operation with the factory inspectors, who have had such experience of these matters. It is right that these provisions should be explained because they will have an important bearing on future administration. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman observed that the Act of 1864, which made better provisions for the use of workrooms and the welfare of the people, was based on recommendations made by Sir John Simon, Medical Officer of Health, to the Privy Council. What a fine thing it is that history is repeating itself in so much more extensive and useful a fashion. In my judgment—because I try to be practical and to get things done, at any rate, while we are alive—I believe the Bill opens a new and happier chapter in factory conditions. It certainly means a great betterment of the health and conditions of many millions of industrial workers. I think that when it becomes law we shall be able fairly to claim to lead the world in legislation so far as the safety, health and welfare of our industrial workers are concerned.
§ 5.18 p.m.
Mr. Owen Evans
I think the Home Secretary cannot complain of the way the Bill has been received. Criticism, of course, there has been and will be, as was to be expected, but a Bill of this character, so complex in its provisions, so big in its scope, will bear that criticism if it is honest, dispassionate and constructive. I was interested in the speech of the right hon. Member the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in dealing with the history of administration, but I was astonished to find him saying that the Bill is based upon nineteenth century ideas. If that is so, the 878 nineteenth century must have continued till 1924, and even till 1931, because if one takes an interest at all in the subject one is bound to refer to the Bill that was before us in 1924, and also to the Bill which was not produced but was discussed, in both of which I was greatly interested at the time, though not in the House, and examined their provisions merely as a so-called employer of labour. I do not know that I am an employer of labour but I am closely concerned with the management of industries and, therefore, obviously with the efficiency or inefficiency of those who are occupied inside industry. I am deeply concerned with obtaining as much efficiency from labour, and from all people, as any one in the House.
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) on Thursday also compared the Bill of 1924 with this, and said this was a little better in some ways and in some ways a little worse. Evidently there is not much in it, although he pointed out that 13 years have elapsed since then and it is fair to argue that progress may have been made in that time. The criticism of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield appeared to me to be directed against things that the Bill omits to do, and not so much against the contents of the Bill itself. I agree that that is a matter for serious argument. One might take one view on it and another another, but I agreed with the right hon. Gentleman when he spoke of the need for an industrial code. I think the time has come when all this kind of legislation should be covered from one Ministry, and that there should be complete co-ordination in these matters, whether wages, holidays or hours, because it cannot be denied that they have, apart from their economic importance and repercussion, a very important bearing upon the conditions of labour, and therefore upon the health of those who are engaged in labour.
It appears to me that most of the difference between the two Bills is accounted for by different tactics. The Labour party introduced their Bill at highest watermark, with the idea that they would probably have to give away a good deal during its passage through the House. On the other hand, the Home Secretary, with his usual astuteness, put it rather lower, and in his speech in introducing the Bill he indicated very clearly that he is probably 879 going to make some important concessions, and certainly that he has an open mind on many important features of the Bill. He particularly indicated that with regard to the question of overtime. If I know him, although he will not produce rabbits out of a hat, he will probably show that he has something up his sleeve before he finishes with the Bill. Employers certainly do not want overtime. In the particular industry with which I am connected full particulars of overtime worked in the week are submitted for examination and very careful scrutiny and investigation are made as to whether it was necessary, because every employer and every experienced manager realises that overtime makes for inefficiency. For that reason I hope that one of the things that the Home Secretary has up his sleeve is to reduce the hours of overtime. It is well for us to remember the principle underlying factory legislation. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland quoted some passages on Thursday. May I quote a sentence from Mr. Asquith, I believe in the Debate on the Bill in 1901, in which he said:Every society is judged, and survives, according to the material and moral minimum which it prescribes to its members.That was regarded by Sidney Webb as a fair statement of the object of factory legislation and of such a thing as the minimum wage. It is to attain a minimum state of affairs below which no employer should be allowed to go. [An HON. MEMBER: "Prescribed by someone else."] Prescribed by law. The grave danger is that the minimum conditions become the maximum conditions. The Home Secretary said this was a minimum, and it is true, because we know that the best employers of labour have gone much beyond the regulations, rules and provisions of this Bill already. President Roosevelt has had similar trouble with this type of legislation. The question of trade unionism is only at its initial stages in America. He asked in one speech that he made why he was introducing this type of legislation and said that, although 90 per cent of industrialists did the decent thing, 10 per cent. went out of bounds and were a menace to the other 90 per cent. I shall not put it as high as 90 per cent. but I submit, from my knowledge of the larger industries in this country, that the 880 bulk of those who are covered by this Bill do the decent thing. It is natural that employers in this country should be ahead of those in other countries because they have familiarised themselves for many years with this type of legislation. I do not admit for a moment that we have fallen behind other nations in factory conditions, and conditions of labour generally. From a fair knowledge of conditions in the United States and in Germany, we are certainly not behind those two countries. In many respects we are far ahead of them. In medical supervision, which is put in this Bill in another form, we are ahead, and we are certainly ahead in our social legislation.
When we recognise that this is to be the minimum, the question we have to consider is, how are we to prevent it becoming the maximum for everybody? One essential condition is complete cooperation between all the parties engaged in industry, and not merely between them but with the officials, including the factory inspectors who administer these Acts. I would appeal to my hon. Friends above the Gangway upon this point. If we are to go beyond the minimum prescribed in this Bill in practice, if we are voluntarily to rise above it, there must be complete cooperation between all parties engaged in industry, including the wage earners, have a quotation here from "The Listener" of last week referring to a discussion which had taken place. These discussions, which are reported in "The Listener," reach millions of people of all classes in this country. The discussion in question turned upon a problem which concerns industry very deeply, namely, profit-sharing. I merely refer to this as an illustration of what I mean. A great many employers have for a long time been studying this question, the object of which, as hon. Members realise, is to afford a fair, just and equitable distribution of the products of industry among those who are engaged in it. Many employers have established schemes. Two members of the employing classes took part in that discussion—a managing director of a well-known, motor company and the secretary of another important company. There was also a trade unionist, and Miss Margaret Bondfield, well known to this House, who is not so harmless outside as I 881 believe she was inside. Her conclusion on a question which involves co-operation between all parties in industry was:Profit-sharing schemes show no purpose. This is because they are based on a fallacy of identity of interests between employers and workpeople.Here is a leading member of the Labour party, a former Minister in this House, who denies that there is any identity at all of any interest, for that is what it means, between the managing class or owners of business and those who are engaged in it. If we are to have the best advantage out of our factory legislation and get the maximum out of it instead of the minimum, it is essential that that theory, at any rate, should be disregarded. It is impossible to get the best out of legislation which affects industry unless the parties in it understand, and co-operate with, each other in a friendly way. I would ask whether this ex-Minister of a Labour Government represents to-day the considered views of hon. Members above the Gangway? We want a change of mentality in working this type of legislation when it becomes law.
My hon. Friend here on Thursday night complained that in Scotland the prosecution of offenders under the Factory Acts was entrusted to the factory inspector, and suggested that it should be entrusted to the Crown, and that an experienced lawyer should take charge of the prosecution. We should think less of prosecution and more of working out the scheme. Strange to say, I have received an important communication on this very point. It is from one of the most important companies in this country. This is what it says:Clause 117 of the Bill gives inspectors power to prosecute, conduct or defend cases in a court of summary jurisdiction. This is not in any way new, but in practice it often puts an employer defended by counsel or solicitor in a position of disadvantage in a court. The inspector is invariably technically and scientifically trained, and by emphasising technical considerations in the evidence of the witnesses, often discussed in highly specialised technical jargon, he can quickly get the defending lawyer out of his depth.The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary must look after the interests of the profession which he adorns. The truth is that the factory inspector is a far more efficient prosecutor than any non-technical and inexperienced lawyer can possibly be. But do not let us look at the 882 factory code as a penal Statute at all, or upon the officials engaged in the administration as detectives and policemen. We should look upon them rather as friendly counsellors, and upon the Statute as a beacon guiding all those engaged in industry, so that they should work harmoniously together towards a higher level than is set by the law.
I wish to refer to one or two Committee points. I have already dealt with the question of overtime, but I will repeat the hope that the Home Secretary will see his way to reduce more and more the permission to have overtime in this Bill. If he cannot do that, I would suggest, as has already, I believe, been suggested in this House, that which is in force in some other countries—that overtime should be made as costly as possible to the employer, that the wages paid for that overtime should bear relation to the normal wage and that there should be a certain percentage over it. The Minister of Health referred particularly to Clause 11, which gives power to require medical supervision. The best employers are fully alive to the benefits of strict medical supervision, and I think that the Clause in the Bill is much better than that which was included in the Bill of 1924. Twelve years ago, I believe, there were only two companies in this country which engaged a full-time medical man upon their staff, and to-day there are 40 full-time medical officers upon the staffs of companies in this country. I know from practical experience that the Home Office medical staff values consultation with these medical officers throughout the country, and that they are working harmoniously together.
Hon. Friends above the Gangway time after time have called the attention of the Government to the need for new industries, more particularly in the Special Areas. We need new industries not only in the Special Areas, but throughout the country in order to keep abreast with other nations. We must have new industries in this country because some industries are inevitably becoming out of date and out of fashion. We need, by constant research into scientific problems of this kind, to establish new industries, but in connection with these new industries, particularly if they are chemical industries—we all know what changes there have been in physical chemistry and high pressure 883 chemistry—there are new dangers and diseases unknown and unforeseen by anybody. The effect of these on the life and health of the people cannot be foreseen, and it is important that a Clause of this kind should be included in the Factory Acts, so that proper medical supervision can be established in those particular industries.
I agreed with the Home Secretary when he said that, with regard to overcrowding, you cannot do something by a mere stroke of the pen. The raising of the cubic feet from 250 to 400 may involve considerable reconstruction and expenditure of money and all sorts of arrangements, but five years is much too long under this Bill. Some time should be given, but if a person, firm or company cannot do it in less than five years, it will never do it. Most of the industries which will be affected by this Bill and will have to bring their methods and organisation up to date are the very small industries. They will not have very much money at their disposal and will find it difficult to meet the situation. Cannot the Government, in order to help industry in this way, do something by providing designs and by helping in planning free of charge, or something of that kind, and also, if possible, enable some financial help to be provided, though I recognise that it would be out of order to speak about this on the present Bill. However bad those people have been, they will find a great difficulty in complying with these Regulations without assistance, and in Committee some suggestion should be made by which some help can be provided, not necessarily financial help, but some advice or guidance to enable them to come up to the standard provided by the Bill. There is power given in the Bill to local authorities to have a roving commission into every part of the factory, and, I think I am right in saying, an official of a local authority will be able to go anywhere he likes. There is a grave danger in that provision. Employers who know the factory inspectors trust them. I believe that they are under an oath of secrecy and would be subject to a very severe penalty if they disclose secrets they see in industry and inside factories. The Government should pause before giving such a wide power to the representatives of local authorities to go into the factories, because great importance is placed 884 upon privacy and secrecy in regard to certain products, particularly in view of the very strong foreign competition which has to be met.
We have heard of the dignity and nobility of labour. How often have we heard about it from political platforms and pulpits, in churches and chapels? Do we believe in the dignity of labour? If we do believe in it, then suitable action must follow, and I hope that when we send this Bill to Committee it will be on a career of progress, and that the gap which is bound to exist as between those who think that they can go the furthest at the moment and those who think that practical considerations cannot go so far now, will, with the concessions which we hope to get, be narrowed if not altogether closed.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Riley
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken into the very interesting side-issues in which he indulged. There was, however, one suggestion which he made which interests me, namely, that the Minister might consider, in connection with overtime, where it is permitted, placing an obligation upon the employers to pay extra for it, as a deterrent of overtime. In my own district of the West Riding, in the textile industry, we have probably about 10 per cent. of the worst type of employers who, under the pressure of orders, work their operatives to the full legal limit of 55½ hours, which is 7½ hours over the normal 48 hour working week, and for those extra 7½ hours they pay for ordinary time and not for overtime. It would be a salutary lesson to those employers if in the Bill there was a compulsory Clause that they must pay an extra rate for overtime.
As far as the Bill is concerned I suppose that all of us welcome that part which is an advance in regard to the safety, health and welfare of the workers in the factories. No one objects to the provisions which make progress in that direction. The Bill does make some advance in that respect, but when one looks at it from the point of view of its effect upon the working life of the factory operative, as far as hours particularly are concerned and the length of the working day, one has to confess to great disappointment. The best that can be said about the Bill, apart from its safety and health 885 provisions, is that it is a case of half a loaf being better than no bread. The worst that can be said is that Mount Simon having been in labour has produced a mouse. We might at least have expected a rabbit. What are the facts in regard to hours? The Bill proposes to make the 48 hour working week the normal working week for women and young persons in factories. The assumption is that because that is the basic proposal of the Bill and because under the present law in textile factories 55½ hours may be worked and in non-textile factories 6o hours, the proposed 48 hours normal working week is a very great stride. What are the facts?
The 48-hour week already obtains in almost every industry. In the textile industry of the West Riding of Yorkshire it is universal. It is true that a certain amount of overtime is being worked, but the 48-hour week already obtains. Therefore, all that this long-delayed, long-expected Measure, which has been due for the past 36 years, is doing, is to register in law not as much as public opinion has already established in practice, because there are large sections of industry in the country which are working less than a 48-hour week; they are working 46 and in some cases 44 hours, and under conditions in many respects not equalled by anything that is provided in this Bill. Therefore, at the very best all that the Bill does is to try and bring the law up to what public men and public conscience have already established, because the law was too slow, and they have set an example to Parliament instead of being led by Parliament.
What does the 48-hour normal working week in the Bill mean? It says that although 48 hours is to be the normal working week the employer will be entitled to work his employés, not merely men but women and young persons, 100 hours overtime per annum, and in exceptional cases, by special application, he may obtain 150 hours overtime. Although it is true that he may not work his employés more than six hours overtime in any one week, the Bill means that every employer who is now working overtime can go on working the women and young persons for at least 16 weeks each year, 54 hours a week. The Bill also says that on a six day week the employers may work their operatives 11 hours a day for 16 weeks, and in exceptional cases they 886 may work them for 30 weeks in the year, 54 hours a week, or 12 hours a day.
That is not the end of the story. Under this Bill, which is supposed to be a great stride forward, we are still retaining the right for the employer to call upon his women and young persons to leave their homes at 5 o'clock in the morning to start work at 6 o'clock. We are still giving the employer the opportunity to arrange his hours so as to keep his women and young persons until 8 o'clock in the factory, so that it may be 9 o'clock at night before they get home. That is supposed to be a reform in factory legislation. I suggest to the Minister that to continue in an Act of Parliament to-day the abominable system which drags girls of 14 years of age out of their beds at 5 o'clock in the morning in the winter ought not to be tolerated by this House. I speak somewhat feelingly, because I represent a textile division, I live in one, and I am one of those unfortunate persons referred to by the Home Secretary who began work in a textile factory at nine years of age. At the age of nine I left my home at 5 o'clock in the morning to go to the factory, to work until 12 o'clock midday, and then I had to go to school in the afternoon. Therefore, I know what this system means. This Bill continues that system and it is not worthy of any Government. There is no need for it. Already, for all practical purposes, 90 per cent. of employers have seen their way, by pressure from the trade unions, it is true, to come to agreement whereby that system no longer obtains. All over the country arrangements are made which enable people to go to their work in the light of day, when the sun has risen and not before. I have called attention to a great blemish in the Bill, and I hope it will be removed in Committee.
§ Mr. Wakefield
I understood the hon. Member to say that for 30 weeks the employer could work his employés six hours a day overtime, or 54 hours a week. That amounts to 180 hours a year.
§ Mr. Riley
I accept the correction. I should have said 25 weeks. I should like to draw attention to one omission from the Bill. Youths between 18 and 20 years of age, particularly in the Midlands, under the pressure of work are being drawn into continuous night work all the year round, and there is nothing 887 in the Bill to deal with that matter. The report of the factory inspector for last year draws attention to this matter in the following striking paragraph:A distressing fact about these long hours in the Midlands is that they are generally worked by the least physically fit portion of the industrial population. The best workers tend to go to the best employers and the weakest to drift to factories with the longest hours and the least good conditions. There is a great demand for labour. Some of the night shifts consist entirely of youths from 18 to 20 years of age. Sometimes in the same works men in an organised trade are found to be working 48 hours weekly, while women and girls over 16 on another class of work are working up to legal limits. In one case they were found to have been employed for more than three months on power presses making domestic hardware for 60 hours weekly.I would draw attention to that aspect of the problem. This Bill covers women and young persons up to 18 years of age. Why should not youths of 18 and 20 years of age also have attention given to them? The inspector says that they have been employed on night work on machines of all kinds. Only last week we heard new proposals for physical recreation involving an expenditure of £2,000,000, but if the present Bill passes the people will not have an opportunity to take advantage of those recreations.
I want to refer to the question of holidays with pay. The Bill makes the somewhat ostentatious proposal that all women and young persons up to the age of 18 shall be entitled to at least six days holidays during the year. They are to have Christmas Day, Good Friday and Bank Holidays, but they must have six days holiday in the year. What are the facts? At the present time there is not a district in this country where these people do not have at least 14 days holiday in one way or another. The Bill gives them only six. In Lancashire and Yorkshire they have the usual holidays and then the mills stop for a week and they are able to go away, of course without pay. The established practice now is for 14 days holiday during the year. If the Government had said that these six days holiday should be paid for there would have been something in the proposal. I commend to the Government the suggestion that during the course of the Bill serious attention should be given to the right of the workers to holidays with pay, and not for six days in the summer without pay.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I want to take up some of the points which have been dealt with by the Minister of Health and to touch upon the medical and sanitary side of this problem. There is no one in the House who has had any direct personal experience as a medical industrialist, one who has really made as a medical officer any special study of the industrial conditions of our factories, who is not interested in this subject. One thing is very satisfactory; and that is the general agreement on all sides of the House as to what we want to get. The question of hours and holidays with pay, and the question of inspection, are all points on which we are agreed. It seems to me that there is no dispute among hon. Members as to what is desirable, either in connection with the major or the minor objects of the Bill. The question is how we propose to work towards that end. It is agreed by the keenest critics of the Bill that many employers are ideal employers and that they are in some cases far ahead of this legislation. I should like to say from my considerable experience of inspecting factories that modern factories in this country are, generally speaking, temples of health. The working period is a large section of any man's life, and, therefore, the conditions in the factory are of paramount importance to the health of the people and to the nation. Modern, up-to-date factories are so extraordinarily healthy that people working in them are in a better state of health than they are under some of the housing conditions which we deplore, and which the Government are doing so much gradually to improve.
It seems to me that we are on the line of general steady progress. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) seemed to think that it was a good point to make against the Bill that it is based on the progress of the nineteenth century. We are building up our system gradually from below; it is constructive progress, and that constructive progress has to be based on the progress made during the past century. The right hon. Member for Wakefield poured scorn on the early efforts to deal with this matter and said that the first Factory Bill brought in by Mr. Addington's Government in 1801 was not a Factory Bill, but a Bill dealing with the Poor Law. I went into the Lobby and got a copy of 889 that Statute, and it says that it is an Act:For the preservation of the health and morals of apprentices and those employed in cotton and other mills, and in cotton and other factories.It dealt with a number of subjects with which the present Bill deals. The question of meals, the employment of persons, regulations, whitewashing and airing rooms, the clothing of apprentices, time work and night work, and extensions of night work, and for apprentices being instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic. It also dealt with the regulation of apartments and beds, and contained one Section which, unfortunately, we have dropped, the arrangements for the instruction of apprentices on Sundays and for taking them to church.
§ Mr. Sanders
That Bill applied only to pauper children. The children of parents were entirely free from any regulations under that Factory Act.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I cannot go into a discussion on that, but I think the hon. Member has misread the Act. It applied to apprentices generally in the mills. The process of industrial legislation has been one step after another; steady progress. I do not want to say too much about the history of the Liberal party in this matter, but at the same time some of the leaders of the Liberal party, including Mr. John Bright, denounced the Bill of 1849 as:One of the worst Measures ever passed, injurious and destructive of the best interests of the country, threatening so formidable a combination of owners of capital that the House could not successfully legislate against it.That is what the Liberal party said against the Act of 1849, which it was generally agreed was a step in the right direction. On the questions of holidays with pay and improvement in hours, all medical opinion will support such proposals as long as they go pari passu with an improvement in the opportunities for using leisure. I hope that the measures which have been introduced to improve the opportunities for physical recreation will be considered as a complement to the present Bill. It is very important that the workers should be able to enjoy their leisure; the more leisure they have the better. But there is some medical opinion which says that for some occupations and for some persons it is not a 890 bad thing to work a great deal more than the actual hours laid down in the Bill. Long hours of employment are not necessarily bad. In my own profession we are not limited to any night work or to any hours. A general medical practitioner, as everyone knows, has hours infinitely worse and responsibilities greater than are laid down in the Bill. For five years I had the privilege of serving on the Industrial Health Research Board, to which the Government committed the ascertainment of definite facts with regard to the question of the conditions of industry and how they affect the health of the people.
I want to deal with one point which has been mentioned rather glibly as a factor in the situation—the question of monotony of work. On the Research Board we considered the question of the monotony of labour and made experiments on an extensive scale to ascertain to what extent monotony was injurious to the health of the people and whether people objected to it. To our surprise there was no definite indication against monotony; in fact, a considerable number of workers definitely enjoyed the monotony of their work, a process which implied no thinking. They worked away as a matter of habit, as a matter of course, thinking about other things, their sweethearts, their recreations. Work which is not monotonous requires more concentration and is therefore harder than an occupation which is monotonous. It was rather surprising, but that was the result of our investigation. There are a lot of monotonous things in this world which we as human beings enjoy doing. We enjoy walking for exercise. Walking is monotonous, but we are able to enjoy looking at the surroundings. Monotony is a real habit to many people. They do not want to think, they simply want to carry on and then get away to their ordinary life outside the factory.
I am chary of accepting definite statements which are sometimes bandied about on Measures like this. We want to get at the real facts of the situation. As has been said two or three times during the Debate, that which is easiest and most agreeable to the worker is really the most efficient. From every point of view it is the worker in the factory who is working at his or her ease who does the most efficient work. That has been shown very clearly by what we have heard concern- 891 ing longer hours and shorter hours. I think everybody who follows this subject was very much interested in the experiment made in one factory, and reported by the Chief Inspector in his annual report as follows:The serious effects of long hours were reflected in the slowing down of production, with a consequent reversion to shorter hours. A large firm, in order to meet a sudden rush of orders, worked to full legal limits and in addition employed men on day and night shifts, including Sundays. The whole staff became so fatigued that loss of production was evident. The directors decided to extend the factory, and in the meantime subcontracted part of their work. It was further arranged that for three weeks only normal working hours should be worked. The revival of spirit and gain in efficiency on the part of the workers was far beyond expectations.We must be guided by experience in this as in other things. In that connection the gradual development of the factory system has been very useful during the past century, and we must go on in the same way, although at the same time we must take note of all modern improvements. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, in his extremely useful summary of the health provisions of the Bill, rightly spoke about the necessity for providing for ventilation as well as for the temperature of the factories, but he forgot to mention that there is a third factor, the humidity. It is realised by most people that the thermometer tells very little as to whether or not the atmosphere is agreeable, unless two other factors are taken into account, the movement of air and the humidity of the air. It largely depends upon the heat-regulating power of the body as to whether one is able to breathe at the optimum required for one's work. We had experience of this in Mesopotamia during the War, and we developed a system of taking the temperature, the moisture and the movement of the air with a single instrument, called the catathermometer. This instrument is used a great deal nowadays, but not in our factory system. We have got as far as using the hydrometer for humid factories, but otherwise it is a matter of taking the temperature with an ordinary thermometer, which tells one very little. We must advance beyond that point, and take into account the other factors as indeed is the case already in up-to-date factories.
892 There are many points of that nature which are left to free play between the factory inspectors and factory managers. One needs a further extension of that cooperation between the Home Office inspectors and the factory managers which, as far as it has existed, has produced wonderful results. As the Minister said today an advance has been made towards co-operation between the factory inspection services of the Home Office, a centralised agency, on the one side, and the health authorities and educational authorities, which are local agencies, on the other side. I think it has been generally recognised for a long time past that extraordinary confusion has arisen owing to the gradual development of these three separate services, all of which are of great importance to the factory system. Obviously if we were dealing with the factory system alone and had a clean slate, we should have only one health service, which would include both the educational side, the public health side and the industrial health side, where as at present there are three sets of medical officers and three sets of authorities. All of these must be made to work together, which has not been the case hitherto.
There is one respect in which an advance has been made, and that is in the case of the certifying factory surgeons appointed by the Home Office, responsible only to the Home Office and having nothing to do with the educational authorities or the sanitary authorities. Under this Bill the description is changed, and the certifying factory surgeon is called an examining surgeon, which is a very suitable title, for he has to examine young persons on entry into a factory, and in particular cases to re-examine them from time to time as he may think fit, or when the Secretary of State hears, in a roundabout way, that some people require to be examined, he will ask the examining surgeon to do so. That is not what is wanted in the ideal system for which we are working. We want a system where there is a medical officer whose job, whether it be part-time or whole-time, is to study the health conditions all the way through the factory and, when he feels it is necessary, to make his suggestions concerning an individual, the conditions of the factory or the processes, as far as they affect health.
893 My hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Owen Evans) stated the difficulty in employing local medical officers in these conditions when he said that the employers object to the local officials going into the factories and exploring them because of secret processes which they have to guard from their competitors both in this country and overseas. That is a difficulty which ought to be overcome. I do not think that properly appointed and properly trained officials would ever be guilty of revealing secrets of one kind or another. I believe we ought to have a much closer connection between the factory medical officers of the Home Office and the local medical officers of the health and educational authorities than is aspired to in this Bill. It is certainly an advantage that under this Bill a dossier from the schools is to be passed on to the examining surgeon who will examine the children going into industry, for obviously the health history of a child during school life is of great importance when he or she goes into a factory. That is a good provision in the Bill, and I hope it will be properly carried out. It is, however, not the same thing as I have suggested. The medical officer who has been examining the child during the whole of his or her school life is the most qualified, if he understands the conditions of the factory, to decide whether the child is fitted to go into that factory and to know under what sort of working conditions a certificate should be issued.
I regard this Bill, although it is an improvement on that which exists already, as only a temporary Measure while we are thinking out a way in which we can improve the general liaison of the health services. Industrial medicine has become a matter of vital importance to industry and to the health of the nation, and must be under medical officers who are specially trained. In factories at the present time, the medical men have not been trained in industrial medicine. When I learnt public health, industrial medicine was not mentioned in the text book on public health.
§ Mr. Charles Brown
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman say what precisely he means by industrial medicine?
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I mean the science of medicine as applied to industry. Hither- 894 to that has been entirely left out of the general education of the medical man. In the special post-graduate services dealing with public health, it was left out because the public health services did not deal with industrial medicine. Recently industrial medicine has been introduced by degrees and there is growing up a generation of medical men who, if they are going to take a diploma in public health, will know something about industrial medicine; but I am afraid that the ordinary medical men in the country are not properly trained for what I believe will be the various duties that will be cast upon them in future in connection with the health of the nation. I believe that a reform such as I have suggested will be necessary before we can have the guidance that will be required to obtain proper superintendence, assistance and advice to all who are concerned in industry. This Bill helps us along the right lines.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Sanders
Before dealing with the main points to which I wish to refer, I would like to justify a statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), concerning the first Factories Act, which has been challenged this afternoon. That Factories Act so-called was an Act dealing with the treatment of Poor Law children only. Hon. Members who have studied the industrial revolution will know that in its early days, it was the custom of guardians in the Southern parts of England to farm out pauper children to factories in the North and the Midlands, and to make a claim that for so many sane children there should be so many mentally deficient children supplied. Those children were called apprentices. The scandal became so great that it was absolutely necessary, in the interests of ordinary common decency, that some Measure should be passed to regulate that form of slavery. As a result, the Measure referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield was passed. That Measure did not deal with any free children who were sent into the factories by their parents, and the consequence was that the number of so-called free children increased and that of pauper apprentices relatively decreased. Therefore, I claim that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield was right when he said that the first so-called Factories Act had more to 895 do with the Poor Law than with the factories.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I have looked right through that Act and I find no such limitation. I think we must be dealing with different Acts. There may be some other Act with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was dealing.
§ Mr. Sanders
If the hon. Member will read the history of factory legislation, he will find that impartial persons have always pointed out that the first Factories Act applied to pauper apprentices only. With regard to the Bill which is before the House, hon. Members will have noticed that, although it may not have been damned with faint praise, it has met only very mild approval. No wonder, because we find that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland claims only thatthe laws which we enact in this House may not he able to do much more than fortify those gains which have already been securedalthough, he went on to say,we look for further advances to enlightened co-operation among all classes who are engaged in industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1937; col. 728, Vol. 320.]This Bill does not even fortify the gains which have already been secured. It has been pointed out by Members on both sides of the House, that, already, large numbers of men and women, even those engaged in factories, are working less than 48 hours per week. That shortening of the hours of labour is not fortified in this Bill at all. We have also been told from both sides of the House that good employers of labour are now giving holidays with pay. That gain is not fortified in the Bill, so that even the modest claim of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is not borne out by the text of the Measure. In fact, as far as I can see, the chief virtue of the Bill lies not in what it contains, but in the opportunity that will be given in Committee to put certain things into it which may be worth while.
Before I come to my main point, I wish to say that I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, when moving the Second Reading of the Bill, brought to our minds, by quoting from the calendar of social reformers, certain great names associated with factory legis- 896 lation. But I regret very much that he did not include one name which I now propose to bring to the notice of the House, the name of a man who, probably more than any other, was responsible for the creation of the party to which I belong. I refer to Robert Owen, who was the first model employer, the first great British Socialist and the man who tried to convince his fellow-manufacturers that the place of children was in the school-room and not in the factory being directed to work by the whip of the overseer. That man did more than any other man perhaps, in the industrial history of our country, to show up the abominations on which the early foundations of British modern capitalism were built, and for that reason I would like his name to be mentioned in this Debate.
My main point is this. The claim has just been made by the Minister of Health that the Bill will place this country in the forefront of those countries which have codes of labour legislation. I wish it were so. We used to be able to take a modest pride in the fact that our factory legislation was better than that of any other country. It ought to have been better because ours was the pioneer country in the introduction of the great modern machine industry and the great factory, and it would have been an outrageous scandal if this country had not been the first of the great countries to introduce factory legislation. But it must be remembered that other countries have followed our example and have been able to avoid some of our profound social and economic blunders when they have started on the same road of industrial and economic development.
If the Minister of Health will consult a very interesting publication of the International Labour Office called "Children and Young Persons under Labour Laws," published in 1935, he will find that in a number of countries the conditions of the employment of young persons are far superior to the corresponding conditions in this country. I leave aside for the moment the fact that, with regard to adult labour, France has just passed a 40-hour Bill. I leave aside also the very interesting picture of American employers appearing before committees of the House of Representatives on the labour laws of Mr. Roosevelt and imploring the United States Government to pass a 36-hour Bill for adult workers in that 897 country. They say, "What is the good of producing by mass production vast quantities of goods for people who are working such long hours that they keep others out of employment?" They say "Our markets are not big enough to consume the goods that we produce because the people have not the wages, nor are they working sufficiently short hours, to enable them to use our system economically" I leave all that on one side and I deal only with the question which, perhaps, is most important to us, namely, that of the young persons.
We had an interesting and valuable Debate the other day on the subject of the declining birth-rate and the possibility that we shall soon have, as well as a declining birth-rate, a declining population. I am glad to know, as everybody is glad to know, that more interest is being taken in the welfare of children and young persons now than ever before in the history of this country. The subject is being approached from various points of view. There is the militarist who is wondering where the Army is coming from in the near future. As far as my party is concerned, we are willing to leave that worry to the other side of the House. We are worried as to what is going to be the physical condition of the future working-class citizen. As a boy at the age of 11 I was working a 60-hour week and walking three miles to my work and three miles back from it. When I had worked my 60 hours in the week, between the ages of 11 and 15, I had no inducement to go out and make myself physically fit in Battersea Park or on Clapham Common. When I got home I wanted to go to bed, and it was not until I had reached the age of 15 that I was able to attend a night-school and get such little education as I have been able to provide myself with since.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield said that even though hours in factories are shorter than they used to be, the work is intensified by speeding-up, by rationalisation and by division of labour. That affects the young persons. Incidentally, I do not know why we should cease to call a child a child after he or she has reached the age of 14. This speeding-up and intensification affect these young persons at the most susceptible period of their physical lives. We want to see those hours reduced. If hon. Members consult the volume already men- 898 tioned by me, which is an authentic document, they will find that in certain countries children or young persons up to the age of 14 to 15 are not allowed to work more than 36 hours a week. In other countries children and young persons are prevented going into the factories at an early age by the raising of the school-leaving age and one can say that, with regard to children and young persons under labour laws, our country is falling behind in the race.
Speaking not only for myself but for the whole of my party, and especially for those who have known what it is to work long hours in their early years, I hope that whatever else may happen, the Committee which deals with the Bill will concentrate upon getting the hours of young persons down to at least 40, or even lower than that. I want to see that done, not only in order that young persons may enjoy the great opportunities which the Government are going to provide for them, in gymnasia and more open spaces and more opportunities for physical exercise and the like, but also in order that it may keep them out of the workshop, thus enabling their older brothers and sisters, their parents and all their adult relations to have a better opportunity of getting employment than they enjoy at the present time.
§ 6.42 p.m.
The hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Sanders) dealt chiefly with the hours of work and conditions of employment of young persons. I shall have a word or two to say on that subject, but I wish first to refer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). The right hon. Gentleman said a good deal with which I find myself in agreement. He wants a better standard of life,. he wants efficiency instead of industrial competition and he wants a better industrial code. So do I and I have often pleaded for all those causes. But when he came to relate his general wishes to the proposals in the Bill he complained that the Bill did not limit the hours of work of adult men, and that the Bill did not regulate the wages of adult men, and on those two deficiencies he based his attack on this Measure.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present—899
I was saying that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield had based the main part of his attack on the Bill on the fact that it did not limit the hours of adult men workers or regulate the wages of such workers. The Home Secretary explained that a Factory Bill dealt with the health and safety of the workers, and that so far as women and young persons are concerned, it limited their hours of labour, but it did not deal with the hours of labour of adult men. I put it to the party opposite, Can you by general laws limit the hours of labour of men unless you do it by an international bargain?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman finds it so difficult for this Parliament, can he explain how it comes about that other countries have done it?
Yes, I know, but there has been general agreement ever since 1919, among all people interested in this question, that unless you get some general bargain that binds anyhow all the great industrial nations, it is practically impossible to limit the hours of work of men. I have fought for the ratification of that Convention, and I believe that I have made as many speeches on it as have many hon. Members opposite. All Governments are to blame. The Labour Government have had their chance, and more than one chance, of putting that Convention into force, and they have not done so. I know very well that there is no more sincere advocate of that Convention than the hon. Member for North Battersea, who spoke last, but when the right hon. Member for Wakefield speaks of the desire to abolish the competitive spirit in industry and says you should have a spirit of efficiency, an easier, pleasanter spirit, he knows very well that you cannot do that unless you spread it over all the industrial nations and have some sort of international bargain. So much for hours of work.
As to wages, there again there have been cases in which the State has dealt with the wages of adult men. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned trade boards, but they are special and exceptional cases. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that I produced a Trade Boards Bill in this House almost exactly 30 years ago this month, and it would have passed into law 900 but for the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was so anxious that the Government should get the credit of it, that a week later he introduced a Government Bill to the same effect, and the poor private Member's Bill in those circumstances was beaten in the race. There again do the party opposite think that the wages of men are better dealt with by regulation or by trade union action? Surely, trade union action has given very good results, and it is a method that has increasing force as time goes on. I submit that, quite apart from the fact that no Factory Bill has ever dealt with the wages of men, you get the best results for all parties by a different system. We all want the same thing. There are very few people in this House who do not want a great advance in the standard of life and in the conditions in our factories, in the safety and health of the workers, and surely this Bill does make that very great advance. Some of us may want to go a bit farther, and some of us not quite so far, but we all want to move forward, and the way in which this Bill has been welcomed shows that over a large part of the field there is agreement.
A very large number of these numerous Clauses have hardly been mentioned in the Debate at all, and the battle has raged round two matters: first of all, young persons, and, secondly, women. I think that i4 is too young an age at which to enter industry. I expect my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spent as long over his education as I did, though, of course, with far better results in his case than in mine, but I was educated until I was 22, and I cannot believe that if 22 was right for me, 14 is right for boys and girls in a factory. Perhaps 22 is rather too late an age to which to continue being educated, but I hope we can at any rate raise the age of entry into industry to 15, and I hope that as time goes on it will be raised still higher.
As to women, there is a great controversy. There are two schools of thought, two perfectly clear opinions, as to the way in which you should take care of women and their conditions in industry. Some people say you should leave them under the same laws as men, that what is a good law for a man is a good law for a woman, and that women want no special protection; and they say that a great many of these so-called 901 special protections are rather a hindrance to women and a handicap in the industrial market, that women tend to accept a lower wage and thereby depress the wages of men. They say also that in a modern factory, a well-run factory, the conditions are as good as and perhaps better than those in a woman's home, and they say, "You seem to think, you who are on the other side, that when a working women goes home she lies on the sofa, whereas as a matter of fact her housework is often more severe than her work in the factory." Then they say again that trade union activity is expected to have the same beneficial effect on women's hours of work as on men's, and that you ought to trust to such activity.
Speaking personally, I am not prepared at this moment to abandon the special protection of women in their hours of work. I do not think it would be a good thing to give that up until some better plan has been brought forward. I believe that under present conditions the limitation of the hours of labour of women is a good thing for women. In the future we may find different conditions, and it may be that special regulations will become obsolete, but at present I should feel very great reluctance to abolish them. I believe that the trade union position of women is not and cannot be as strong as that of men. Either they have their own unions, which are not so prosperous as those of men, or they enter mixed unions, in which the numbers of men and the interests of men predominate. Therefore, we cannot obtain for women the same advantages from trade union activity as men get from that activity. Lastly, as long as women do not receive equal pay, you have to give them special protection. If you had equal pay for women, which I am not pleading for now, I believe you would get "then to an equality, where special protection would not be required, but until that happy day comes, and I hope it may not be long delayed, I am not prepared to abandon the special protection which this Bill gives to women.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove
I do not propose to cover the whole range of the proposals in this Bill. Indeed, I am only going to concern myself with one specific issue, and that is the issue to which the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) 902 referred, of allowing children to enter into factories at 14 plus. As I read this Bill, it is the complement of the Education Act which we passed last year. We had in the last Session of Parliament a Bill which was apparently designed—I say "apparently" advisedly—to raise the school-leaving age to 15. That Bill provided for exemption from that provision on account of beneficial employment, and when we pressed the Minister of Education to define what beneficial employment was, we were consistently met with a refusal. No one apparently in Governmental circles had made up his mind as to what beneficial employment was, but we got inserted in the Bill, in Committee, some general considerations which local education authorities were to apply when considering whether employment was beneficial or not. If hon. Members will look up the Act, they will find that before a local education authority could give a certificate of exemption, the authority had to have regard to the hours of labour, to the provision for education, and to the provision for recreation. This Bill makes it perfectly clear what the inner meaning of the Act of last year was. It makes it perfectly clear that the Government never intended any general application of the raising of the school age.
When local education authorities have to consider an exemption for a child, what will they do? When they are looking at the hours of work, at the provision for education, and at the opportunities for recreation, they will turn to this Measure, and here will be found the standards which will apply to the Education Act itself. What are those standards? They are 48 hours a week with overtime, children getting up early in the morning if they are on a particular shift, and children remaining late at night if they are on a particular shift. It quite clearly means that the school-age provision in the Act of last year will be an exception as far as the children of this country are concerned. Therefore, here we have the threefold policy of the Government. One is the Education Act, one is this Bill, and one is the provision for physical jerks. There is a good deal of eyewash and humbug about the whole of these proposals.
I am surprised that the Government should have treated this matter of the raising of the school age with such levity 903 and lack of appreciation of the real needs of the nation. If the Government had any conception of the real needs, not only of these youths, but of the nation, it would come along with proposals definitely stating that no children should go to the factory at the age of 14. We will be modest and say that no children should go to the factory below the age of i5. But even that is only a negative or preventive provision. Something much bigger than that is needed. Not only should the Government prevent children entering the factories at the age of 14 plus, but they should come along with constructive proposals for meeting the needs of these youths and the nation.
I would like to point out in passing that it is an amazing thing that once there is any revival of trade, whatever the cause of that revival may be, immediately it is pointed out that there is a substantial shortage of skilled labour. Anybody who has had any contact with factories or has read such a work as Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith's "Survey of London's Industry" will know that modern factories cannot in the main provide the technical skill which this country needs. The system of apprenticeship has gone, and no longer can the factories supply this great national need. That need can be met only by a well organised educational system. The preliminary to that is that in order to ensure the national supply of technically skilled labour you must not put children into industry, but take them out of industry, so that they may have their technical skill developed. Children must be kept out of the factories and kept in the schools.
This Bill says that we shall pour children into industry. Why? Because, first, the Government seem to have no conception of the technical, economic and industrial needs of the nation. Secondly, I make the charge, in respect of the Education Act and this Bill, that this Government of the vested interests refuse to take cheap labour out of the hands of the employers. This child labour may be cheap labour to the employer, but in the long run it is very expensive labour for the nation, and yet the Government refuse to face up to this matter. They still allow children to go into the factories; they are still afraid of the employers who want cheap child labour, in spite of the fact that even to-day, with an industrial 904 boom we have the better part of 2,000,000 unemployed in this country. There is an absolute surplus of labour even to-day; it is not required to meet the production which we are now turning out. Yet the Government are afraid to go forward with, not only what is sound and necessary for the individual, but what is an absolute essential for the economic well-being of this nation.
I want to ask the Minister whether he will consult the President of the Board of Education on this point. The Government have said that in order to meet the needs of modern industry we need to plan for the development of technical education to the tune of £12,000,000. Is that again eyewash? Do the Government mean anything about that? I am afraid that all this legislation is designed to try to persuade people that the Government are doing something, but that it is not meeting the real needs of the situation. The hours of labour allowed in this Bill are too long. The overtime provisions are wrong. There is an idea about that recreation and education are synonymous, that a child, after being in a factory for nine, 10 or 11 hours, can come out and bury his or her nose in a book and at the same time enjoy a game of football or cricket. As a matter of fact, when you allow these children to work for 48 hours—I say that 40 is quite enough—when you allow them to work overtime, to go early in the morning or to stay late at night, you are denying to them recreation, the chance of physical development, and the inherent right of every one to a chance to develop his mind by a further system of education.
I myself worked in a pit. I went down as a lad. I know what you have to give up if you want to try to "get on," as we used to say in the old days. The cost is terrible. I used to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning. The last cage went down in my days at 7 o'clock. Then we used to come up in the week-day at 5 o'clock. We went home, washed and had our dinner; it was then half-past six to seven o'clock. Then, in order to try to pass some examinations, I had to start working at that time. It meant a terrible, unjustifiable physical draining; it meant that you were shut out from all social intercourse. In the most impressionable part of your life you are confined in a room with a book. That is unjust. It it draining the physical energy of young people. 905 You can have all your physical schemes, but they will not repair the damage that long hours and overtime will do.
In the provisions for young persons the Government are missing a great national opportunity, an opportunity to bring forward constructive schemes. If there was half the imagination and dynamic purpose about this that there is about the £400,000,000 loan, we should get something done. Four hundred million pounds, in addition to what is spent each year out of revenue, for the instruments of death and destruction, but a mean miserable Bill like this when it comes to the development of the minds and bodies of our adolescents. It is poor in thought and weak in vision and will. The Government are still controlled by the reactionary and unimaginative forces in this country. But the people who understand this Bill and who really understand what the needs of the adolescents are will turn this Government out at the first opportunity they get.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Major Procter
When this Bill was introduced I had no hesitation in asking the various trade unions in my division for any suggestions they might wish to make. As no suggestions came from the unions in my division, I assumed that one of two things must be correct—either that in so far as the factories in my division are concerned this Bill meets the needs of the trade unions, or else the trade unions do not wish a supporter of the National Government to put forward any constructive ideas. That, of course, may be for the purpose of the next election. But it is a great pity that the members of the trade unions do not use a supporter of the National Government to put forward constructive proposals which might be useful to the workers of this country, for if Members opposite have their ideals and wishes Members of Liberal and Conservative Governments of the past have their achievements as far as factory legislation is concerned. But as no proposals or amendments have been put forward, I am right in assuming that as far as the unions in my division are concerned, the weavers' and the engineers' unions, of which I was a member until I became a Member of this House, are entirely satisfied with this Bill.
I should like to take this opportunity of pointing out one omission in the Bill. 906 I am glad that the cinema studios are brought within its scope. That is a fine advance, because the film industry will in a short time be one of the major industries of this country. But I notice that the artists, especially the lowly-paid artists—and it is on their behalf that I am speaking to-night—are left entirely out of this Measure. I have no brief for the stars; they can look out for themselves. But to the film studios there come every day thousands of men and women for daily employment. They are paid by the day. If one of these men or women is injured under the present law, he or she cannot get a penny piece of compensation. That is, as they are not workmen, they do not come under workmen's compensation law. The good employer in the film industry cannot insure against injury to these people because there is no legal liability on him to insure at all. The only way in which it is possible for these lowly-paid artists to get anything is under employers' liability, and in that case they have to prove negligence. If a lamp falls on to the head of an artist, and he is laid up for weeks, he cannot claim one penny compensation. I know a girl who was dressed in hessian to represent an ancient Briton and her dress caught fire. Her life was despaired of, and she was laid up for nine months, but she did not get any compensation.
These people are not entertainers. They are not entertaining the people who are watching them perform. They are helping to produce a product in the same way as the joiner who helps to make the set, or the electrician who provides the light. They all go to make a film, which is a product turned out of a factory called a studio. Therefore, I ask that the casual artists should be brought within the scope of the Bill. They comprise many thousands in the course of the year, and as the industry is growing, the Government will do a good service to these men and women who have no redress under the present legislation or under this Measure.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Silkin
As a lawyer I am grateful to the Home Secretary for the Measure he has introduced. It will assist people like me very considerably in having to refer to only one Act of Parliament instead of 17, over which factory legislation is now distributed. I am grateful to him also be- 907 cause to a certain extent the law is being simplified in this Measure. I feel with many other Members on this side, however, that the right hon. Gentleman has missed a great opportunity in this Bill. He had the opportunity of introducing a charter for the factory worker which he has completely thrown away. I want to refer to two points, both of which come under the safety provisions in Part II. I feel that the Bill, as it has been designed, puts the profits of the employers before the safety of the workpeople. Under existing legislation, the employer has the duty to guard and fence his machinery. It is no excuse that that operation is unprofitable to the employer. Over and over again in this Bill the employer is allowed to get out of that responsibility if he can establish that the fencing or guarding of a machine will interfere with his profits. I will refer particularly to Clause 14, but there is the same provision in Clauses 13, 17, 24, 25, 26 and 31. In each of these Clauses there is, on the one hand, an obligation put upon the employer to provide safety measures, and there is also a proviso by which he is not bound to provide these measures if it can be shown that by their provision the work of the employer will be interfered with. Clause 14 will illustrate what I mean. The substantive provision states:Every dangerous part of any machinery … shall be securely fenced,and it goes on to elaborate this. It is a valuable provision for the worker, but, unfortunately, at the end of the Clause, there is a proviso stating:the requirements of this Sub-section shall not apply to a case where it is not practicable to comply therewith without serious interference with the work.That can only mean that where it is not possible to the employer to provide a fence or guard, he is not under an obligation to do so. The employer is in a position of peculiar advantage for proving that the provision of a guard will mean serious interference with his work. The workman, on the other hand, will always have a serious handicap in establishing, as he will have to do, that the provision of a guard will not seriously interfere with the work. There is the same kind of proviso in all the other Clauses I have mentioned. This is actually a retrograde step because, under 908 the existing law, it is no excuse on the part of the employer in failing to provide a guard that he cannot do so without serious interference with his work. The right hon. Gentleman is going backwards instead of forwards in these safety provisions.
The other question I want to raise concerns young persons. In his report for 1935 the Chief Inspector of Factories stresses the number of accidents to young persons, and one of the main reasons he gives is that young persons receive no instruction on first being required to work a machine. He gives a number of cases, in one of which a young person of 14 met with an accident three days after he began to work on a machine. Within my own experience I have come across numerous cases of young persons who have met with accidents within the first month of their being employed on a machine. The Chief Inspector quotes a number of cases of good employers who are taking steps to provide necessary instruction to the workers. One of these is a firm of motor manufacturers who proposed to provide a six weeks' course of training to young persons to teach them all about the machines on which they will have to work and all the necessary safeguards. They will undergo this training before they are required to work on the machines.
It is regrettable that the Bill makes no provision for training of this sort. Under the Bill it is possible for a young person, as is the case at present, to be sent to work on a machine without any instruction. In some cases he is directed by somebody who is not much older than himself. Accidents often occur during the early period of employment. I feel that if the right hon. Gentleman had been really serious in desiring to safeguard the interests of workers, he would have introduced a provision to make instruction on dangerous machines compulsory before a young person was allowed to be employed on them. The Bill permits a maximum of 48 hours a week for a young person, with overtime up to 100 hours a year. There is, however, no restriction on the number of hours that may be worked by young persons who are engaged in the maintenance work connected with a factory. I hope that that defect will be remedied during the Committee stage. The two points I have mentioned seem to me to be fundamental to the Bill, and I intend to 909 move Amendments in the hope that it will be possible to bring back the safey provisions to at least the standard which exists to-day, and to ensure that this Bill will not be a retrograde step in the safety of the workers.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) raised a very good point which he mentioned in connection with Clause 14, and I hope that he will pursue it in the Committee stage. As one who was actively employed at the by-election in trying to keep the hon. Gentleman out of the House, I should like to say that to him. The hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Sanders) made a remark which appeared to me to indicate that he took no interest in the defence of the country. I do not think he meant it in that way—
§ Mr. Sanders
I certainly did not mean it in that way. I said that as the Government were responsible for the time being, we would leave that worry to them.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I am glad the hon. Member has explained it in that way, because I do not think he would like it to go out from the Front Opposition Bench that he took little interest in the defence of his country and mine.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was milder to-night than I have ever heard him. Knowing how violent he can be on the slightest provocation, I think that it showed that at heart he wholeheartedly approves this Bill. I do, for I think it is of great and fundamental importance. Indeed, I look upon it as the most important domestic Measure that has been introduced during the five or six years I have been a Member of Parliament. We are considering a matter which largely affects the health, happiness and contentment of great masses of our people. The Bill deals with one of the most fundamental desires which govern all of us, irrespective of party, namely, how to find the ways and means of improving the conditions of our people. It would appear that the framers of the Bill have aimed their mark at providing a minimum standard of employment for all workers such as is now enjoyed by workers in good employment. Once we have that minimum I suggest that a sub- 910 stantial foundation is provided by which, by collective bargaining, the trades unions and employers' organisations may build up really respectable conditions of employment.
I am one of those connected with the employment of labour who are wholeheartedly of the opinion that collective bargaining, with trade organisations both of employers and employed, is vitally important to the industrial life of the country. I do not think, and I feel that all those on the Opposition benches would agree, that those employés who have not taken the trouble, who have not fought or worked in the past to obtain some betterment of their lot, ought to be entitled by law to the same standard of living as those who have. If we by law apply a minimum standard which is up to the best that is possible in this country that will have the effect of swamping and eventually drowning our present collective bargaining system, our present system of trade unions and employers' organisations, under a mass of legislation. I say that this Bill provides a foundation on which I hope that all the organised trades may be able to achieve better things.
I am connected with the commercial printing trade, which necessarily fluctuates from day to day, and that necessitates probably more overtime than in any other trade, and as a member of that trade I would welcome in this Bill a provision that young persons should in no case work overtime. I believe that principle is largely supported on all sides of the House, and I hope that when the Committee upstairs get their teeth into the Bill, they will pass an Amendment to secure that object. From my knowledge of my own trade and my experience in other trades, I say there is no doubt that we cannot get on without a certain amount of overtime for women, and though hard things have been said by some Members opposite, among others the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), about overtime, yet in the present state of our industries, as all responsible trade union leaders know, we cannot get on without some measure of overtime. I hope, however, that young persons will be excluded from overtime, not only from the point of view of health but from another point of view as well. In this country we are suffering from a plethora of unskilled labour and a shortage of skilled labour. Proficiency in skilled 911 labour entails upon a young person attendance at technical schools and classes and much study. If he is also to work overtime it is impossible for him to get that instruction. From that important industrial point of view I would welcome the Amendment I suggest.
I wish to refer to a relatively minor point in the interpretation of the Bill which affects us in the printing trade. Clause 144, which is one of the most important in the Bill, defines a factory, and in Sub-section (1, viii) it speaks ofany premises in which letter-press printing is carried on.In 1901, the date of the last Factory Act, letter-press printing was, to all intents and purposes, printing, but to-day lithographic, photo-offset and gravure printing are of equal importance with letterpress printing; and, further, in that Clause there is no mention of the ancillary trade of bookbinding. I think that Clause needs redrafting so as to make its scope quite clear. Many hon. Members opposite have referred to the 40-hour week and on Thursday last the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Brooke) put the point in these words: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1937; col. 668, Vol. 320.]I would ask him, and others who think like him, to reserve judgment on that matter for a short time. What is happening in France is this, that the 40-hour week has been introduced into most, if not all, the industries, but in the case of some it was done only within the last six weeks. Already, for that and other causes, the cost of living in France has gone up, as I know, by between 25 and 30 per cent., so that any advantage to the worker has already disappeared. That may be temporary or it may be permanent, I do not know. I would ask Members, before they dogmatise about the 40-hour week and quote France, to wait to see what happens. I should like to refer to the factory inspectors. In the old days they used to be regarded with suspicion, even with aversion, but nowadays they are coming to be regarded more as friends both of the employers and of the employed, and I hope that everything possible will be done to keep up the standard of those undertaking this 912 very arduous duty, for, believe me, the success or failure of our efforts under this Bill will largely depend upon the ability of those who are to serve as factory inspectors.
Finally, some of those who have halfheartedly opposed the Bill, notably from the Liberal benches, one of whom I see has joined us—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about your own benches?"]—we have a few Members here—have said that this is not a heroic Measure, and the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said that he could not compare the Home Secretary to an eagle which soared over the field. I did not like to correct him, but eagles do not soar, kites and hawks soar, and he used the wrong ornithological term. I was reminded by his observation of almost the only two lines of English poetry which I was made to learn at school and which I still remember. They are from Browning:This low man goes on adding one to one,His hundred's soon hitThat high man, aiming at a million,Misses an unit.In this type of Bill we do not want the high man who aims at millions and soars over the field like an eagle, but who mucks up and destroys the whole fabric of our organised industrial life. We want ordered, steady progress, such as I believe we have in this Bill. As I said at the beginning, I feel that we have here a basis upon which masters and men, trade unions and employers' organisations, with the good will which is so evident in industry to-day, more so, probably, than ever before—can build for organised industry a really decent standard of life.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Gibbins
Listening to hon. Members in this Debate one would think that conditions in industry were as comfortable as they are in this House. It is all very well to stand up here and talk about working conditions and say they might be worse or that they are better somewhere else. That is not the test. There is only one test to be applied, if it is possible to apply it, and that is,Do unto others as, ye would that men should do to you.Would hon. Members like their wives and daughters to work under conditions such as I have experienced myself and which ought to be altered? Perhaps the time will come when the workmen themselves will lay down the conditions under which 913 they are prepared to do their work. I do not think that would be an unreasonable thing. It is about 35 years since I started to work at the docks and on ships, and in contradiction of what the Minister of Health says I claim there has been no great improvement in the conditions in that line of industry.
I am very glad that the Bill, if I have not misread it, makes a ship in wet dock into a factory, for the first time. That is a valuable advance, but I want to be sure that we shall be able to fix the responsibility for seeing that the health and safety provisions are applied. The ship may be in a dock owned and controlled by a harbour authority or a trust, and it may be under repair by a firm who are not the owners of it, and the people who have the repairing contract may be sub-dividing that contract with other sets of contractors, until we find that five or six firms are concerned. Who is to be responsible for applying the health and safety regulations? Who is to, be responsible for providing adequate lighting, or to be responsible for anything that arises out of the use of lead or some dangerous chemicals? I hope the Home Secretary will keep that point in mind. It is going to be a matter of some little difficulty, because the repair shops are probably miles away from the docks, and obviously we cannot expect workmen who are dealing with red lead all day to walk back from the ship to the shops to get cleansing materials. It means really an extension of the employment of the workmen, and may require a duplication of the means of cleaning and safety provisions. I have worked for days and days using red lead without the slightest provision being made for washing or cleaning.
The Minister of Health spoke of the large amount of money spent on sickness through the Unemployment Health Insurance provisions. I am only surprised that it is not more. This is what happened when, as a boy, I started cleaning bilges, and it is happening to-day. You get boys going into the bilges of a ship—up to the hair in filth and dirt and oil, with no provision for cleaning, no provision for drying their clothes. Very often the boys, when they "knock off" for meals, eat their food with their finger nails simply caked with it all. Who will be responsible for preventing that state of affairs in the future? And, worse than that, when 914 a boy finishes at night he may take off his working clothes and throw them down on the ship, and next morning he puts them on again and works away, although they may still be wet. Does anybody wonder that in those circumstances rheumatism and consumption take their toll? That is what is happening now, and if this Bill will deal with that situation some of us will be pleased.
There is another case in which the question of multiplied responsibility arises. A ship is in wet dock and lying a little way off the pier. Cargo is being unloaded, ship repairs are going on and stores are going aboard, all three operations controlled by different companies. I have had to dodge aboard the best way I could to escape being hit by baulks of timber or loads of wood—had to run or jump aboard. I take it that a shipping company will now have to provide some means of getting aboard that ship which will free the workmen boarding her from risk. Believe me, it is a very real risk indeed. I made inquiries only this week-end and was told of a ship with 30- to 40-foot baulks of timber being unloaded. I hope the Home Secretary will see to it that the regulations are adequately framed.
As to the responsibility of dock authorities, I take it that they have their own rules as to safety and health. For example, in the repairing of a ship in a dry dock, the men have to walk across very dark and dangerous roads in order to get to the dock. Who is responsible for those men getting to work? They have to cross over dock bridges, and so on. Can the factory inspector compel, insist or suggest to the authorities, where such a job is being done, that adequate means of safety shall be provided? Such is badly needed. I could take hon. Members to-day to dry docks where men have to work always over their ankles in water. A man cannot kick too hard about such conditions when his job is at stake. If we get the power of insisting that authorities are to be responsible that working conditions are satisfactory, the Bill will be well worth while.
Another point concerns lighting. I have seen more than one good man go to his death because of lack of adequate lighting. Here, again, we have some difficulty with the responsibility. Hon. Members who are not acquainted with shipping must understand that a ship is 915 not like a factory. There are holds and hatches and places where six or 12 men may be working. Taken all over the country they represent an important industry employing scores of thousands of men. The percentage of accidents is fairly high in those places, because of the bad lighting conditions. It should not be difficult to provide adequate lighting for ships' repairs, but as a rule when the planks or gangways are cut away, men have to use an ordinary candle. There is no light which will stand up against wind or weather. I hope the Bill will make the authorities responsible for seeing that adequate lighting is provided in such places. Again, I hope the inspectors will suggest that the conveniences for the workmen might be attended to, as a preventive of disease. After 30 years, some of the conditions are a disgrace.
We would like to have seen bigger improvements brought about by the Bill, but the extension of factory inspectors' powers to a ship will be so complete that a good deal of assistance will be given to the improvement of the health conditions. I want the Minister to think very carefully about these ships. Some means of cleansing should be found, especially when men deal with poisonous material. I have never yet heard of a ship being provided with a place in which men can get their food, except when they are working inside the ship. The men have to sit in any shelter they can, even in the winter time, and get their dinners when they go home. I hope the Bill will be effective in securing better conditions for men who have to do this class of work. No hon. Member would care to work hard all day, then sit down in the rain or in a place where the snow came down upon him, nibbling a bit of bread and cheese, and then go back to work, wet through. This is the least we can ask for. These men, who are doing the work of the country, are the soldiers of industry. We ought to strengthen the Bill and insist upon the law being carried out to secure healthy working conditions for the industrial population.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Sir Ernest Graham-Little
I propose to confine my remarks to the subjects that were dealt with in the speech of the Minister of Health I am sorry that he is 916 not in his place at the moment, because I would like to tell him that no Minister has ever been more popular with the medical profession than himself. I hope that my remarks will be of a constructive character. I shall refer first to Clause 11, which deals with medical supervision and I would ask for a much larger measure of this. We are, I presume, legislating for a prolonged period of the future, if we may judge by the interval since the last consolidating Bill. We should take more advantage of the great advances in medicine in that interval. I do not think there is any medical reason to differentiate men from women in this Bill. I should like the division to be simply adults and adolescents, the latter, of course, requiring some age qualification. Special measures may be called for on account of age but not, I submit, of sex, with the one exception of pregnancy. Pregnancy ought to be regarded as in the nature of an illness and treated according to the individual case. Women differ in the degree to which they suffer from the disability which they undergo during pregnancy. There ought to be no hard and fast rule such as four weeks' rest before and after delivery, but individual patients should be treated according to their different circumstances.
We ought to legislate with some attention to basic facts. In that connection I would plead for a much better medical service in factories. I will give some quotations. The chief inspector of factories, who is one of the most eminent of the inspectors, made a very impressive statement in 1932 about what one may call the mechanical factors in accidents, and the appliances for protecting workmen from injury. He said we had come to the limit of usefulness in devising gadgets to prevent accidents and more consideration should be given to the human factor. That is borne out by statistics which show that after every other consideration has been paid, and the human factor is allowed for and defects corrected, there comes a great drop in the total number of accidents. One can predict that a certain group of persons or individuals will have accidents. That is a subject on which one can find out more by scientific investigation.
It is the same in cases of idiosyncracy. A certain technical body conducted observations in one branch of industry, photolithography; it was found that 7 per cent. 917 of the operatives were affected by the materials they used. That result could have been determined beforehand by a special test, used in medicine, and the sensitised persons eliminated. Out of the total number of disabilities which caused absence from work in factories, practically one-half were due to external irritants and disease of the skin. An extremely interesting sample was taken by the inspector in 1934 of young persons who were refused admission to factories. Out of a sample of about 4,000, half were rejected for skin diseases. The number of those diseases in factories has increased by leaps and bounds. Seven years ago the number was a certain figure; last year it was three times that figure. The amount of actual monetary loss was put down by a classical author upon the subject, Sir John Collie, whose conclusions were taken from official sources, as £12,000,000 sterling in a single year. That was spent in compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The volume of cost is a very large figure and it ought to be reduced.
I want to turn to the subject of notifications in Clause 62. I will go straight away to what I think is a very curious feature. Clause 62 deals with notifiable industrial diseases. The diseases which are set out in it are the only ones which are notifiable by the new Bill. There are five diseases which are declared notifiable. They are lead poisoning, phospherous poisoning, mercurial poisoning, arsenical poisoning and anthrax. Why these classes are singled out I do not know. The figures for lead poisoning are much larger than the others. For three years the figure is 534 cases of lead poisoning, with 63 deaths. In the case of phosphorous poisoning its inclusion seems specially curious, for the last recorded cases were in 1910, since when no cases have been reported by the inspectors. That is very easily explained. In 1908 the Phosphorous Poisoning Act was passed and it immediately stopped accidents from phosphorous poisoning. I am particularly interested in that Act because it was principally the work of a friend of mine, Sir Alexander Maguire. As regards mercurial poisoning, the total number of cases in the last three years was only two, and there were no deaths, while in the case of arsenical poisoning there were five cases and no deaths. The most important section is that of anthrax, which 918 is decreasing very rapidly. The number of cases of anthrax in the last three years was 60, and the mortality was 10.
I have given the figures for all the diseases which are now to be notifiable under the new Act, but by far the most important industrial accident or disease which happens is cancer. Cancer is on the increase all the time, and it is not notifiable. In the last three years there were 535 cases and 123 deaths. The cases of cancer referred to in these reports begin as cancer of the scrotum and arise from two causes, oil and tar. The oil, of course, is the lubricant used in the cotton industry, and it is the cause of an extraordinarily large mortality. In the last report of the Registrar-General the figure for the mortality from scrotal cancer was 4 per 1,000,000 of the ordinary population, but among cotton spinners it was 134 per 1,000,000. It has been ascertained that the production of the disease by oil depends upon the nature of the oil—the heavier the oil the more cancer it produces; and experiments, which have been tried in Manchester chiefly, show that these oils can be identified and that it is possible to determine beforehand what will happen if a certain oil is used. A formula is now available which can be very easily applied and by which it is possible to determine, before a particular oil is used, what is likely to result from its use in the matter of cancer production, and the injury to the skin caused thereby. That information has been quoted in the medical Press for the last three or four years, but I see no mention of it in any of the Factory Inspector's Reports.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Has the hon. Gentleman noticed the provision in Sub-section (4) of Clause 64, which says:The Secretary of State may, as respects all factories or any class or description of factory, by regulations apply the provisions of this section to any disease other than those mentioned in this section.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
Is the disease notifiable? That is the point that I am trying to make. If it is not notifiable, these observations are not made, and that happens again and again.
§ Mr. Hardie
May I ask whether those who obtained this information by analysis of the oil tell those who used the oil as employers its properties in regard to the production of cancer among the workers.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
Yes; that information was passed on to the body which I believe deals chiefly with petroleum manufacture. That very scientific body was extremely interested, and inquired what should be done to prevent disease. The doctors have drawn up certain rules which this corporation is applying in the manufacture of oils which are being used by cotton manufacturers, but how far that information has extended to the factories I cannot say.
Oil is not the only factor in the production of cancer. Another important cause is tar. Tar is very largely used in the manufacture of patent fuel, and the mortality among tar workers is high. The incidence of scrotal cancer is 4 per 1,000,000 of the general population, but in the case of tar workers it is 695 per 1,000,000, and in the case of chimney sweeps, who of course are subject to somewhat similar conditions, it is 534 per 1,000,000. There is therefore an abnormal mortality among workers who have to use tar. The following statement in the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for 1935 shows what can be done by really efficient medical supervision:The value of periodical medical examination is exemplified by the following figures. In one group of works making briquettes and employing 545 men there were, during the period under review, 106 cases of pitch warts and pitch epitheliomata discovered at the six-monthly periodical medical examination, only one of which was fatal. In another similar group of works, employing 800 men, but with no periodical medical examination, only 51 cases were notified during the same period, but six of these were fatal. It will be observed that in the group with periodical medical examination over double the number of cases were discovered as compared with the other group, although a less number was employed, while in the group without periodical medical examination there were six times as many fatal cases.The inspector goes on to say that the cost for compensation in the group with periodical medical examination amounted to £1,390, whereas in the other group the cost was £1,624; so that there was a clear annual saving as a result of periodical medical examination. Similarly, comparing Cardiff and Swansea, in Swansea, where there is periodical medical examination, 50 cases were discovered, of which none were fatal, while in the case of Cardiff, where there is not periodical medical examination, out of 25 cases discovered three were fatal. These figures show that, 920 where there are skilled inspectors, such cases are found and treated promptly, whereas when there is no inspection cases escape observation. In the case of other industries the same thing happens. In chemical works the mortality from cancer was 38 times the normal figure in a certain district examined.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
The report does not specify what kind of chemical workers they are; they are referred to as chemical labourers. I am afraid I cannot give any fuller description. The opportunity afforded by this Bill to increase the amount of medical supervision should not be lost. It is important for all classes of workers—not merely young persons and not merely a particular group of women. Men require as much attention as women, and, indeed, more as is shown by these figures. Medical supervision should be provided for all workers, irrespective of age or sex.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
One or two references have been made, in the course of the Debate to-day and last Thursday, to some interesting historical associations with this Bill. I was interested when, late on Thursday evening, an extract was quoted by the Government spokesman from a speech made by Lord Shaftesbury, itself containing an extract from the exhortation of Bishop Latimer to a famous namesake of mine in which he said that they would light such a candle in England as should never be put out. I cannot help feeling that in some senses this Bill is a candle lit in an age that should be a little more brilliantly illuminated. I desire to address myself to one portion of the Bill, in the hope that a little light may be thrown on the matter.
The Home Secretary, in moving the Second Reading, appeared to take some comfort to himself from the fact that there was no reference to children in the Bill. I do not think, however, that the characteristics of a child can be changed by legal terminology. On the contrary, I think we deceive ourselves if we discontinue believing that at 14 years of age, and after 14 years of age, a child remains a child. It should, therefore, in my view, be the purpose of legis- 921 lation of this kind to attempt to preserve for child life the pleasures and comforts and natural delights of child life. The hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) referred to the fact that this is not a piece of legislation for a day or a year, but is laying the foundation of legislation probably for another quarter of a century or more, so that it is necessary to contemplate what it will contain, if it is not altered, for another 25 or 30 years.
Therefore, I would ask the House to bear with me while, in a manner perhaps more appropriate to the Committee stage, I examine in a little detail Clauses 68, 70 and 78 of the Bill in the hope that, before the Bill reaches the Committee stage, the Home Secretary will have found it possible seriously to revise and recast those provisions. A young person is one between 14 and 18 years of age. A young person, therefore, of 14, within the provisions of Clause 68, may be required to commence work at six o'clock in the morning. If he is half an hour away from the place of employment, as may easily be the case—it is a modest estimate as far as London is concerned—it means leaving home at 5.30 and rising at a quarter to five. In my domestic establishment there is a boy of about 14, who at a quarter to five in the morning is in the condition that is proper to a child of that age. He is drunk with sleep. It is the natural state at that hour of the morning for a child of that age and, if we unnaturally interfere with what is an entirely natural experience, I feel sure that I shall have every medical man in the House with me when I say that from a physical as well as a psychological point of view we are in danger of doing irreparable harm to a child whose natural process of physical and mental recuperation is so unnaturally interfered with.
The child, boy or girl, rises at a quarter to five to go to work in the dark early hours, arrives at six o'clock and remains in the precincts of his or her place of employment until five o'clock in the evening—a nine-hour day with 11 hours overall—this is the most favourable protective provision in the Clause—arrives home at half-past five, washes and changes and has tea, very likely the first substantial meal of the day, by half-past six, little more than to hours from the time when he must rise again the following morn- 922 ing. Once more I shall have every medical man in the House with me if I suggest that it is natural for a child of that age to have 10 hours sleep and, if we deny that opportunity, we do it, again, at the risk of irreparable damage. Within this most favourable provision there is a complete denial of all those physical and recreational pleasures and delights which, at that stage of a child's life, are almost as imperative as good food and sleep. Swimming, walking, cricket, cycling, reading—every possible pleasurable pursuit is completely denied in that very formative, early adolescent age within the most favourable protective provisions of the Clause. Many Members appear to have completely overlooked the last paragraph, which says that a young person of 14 years of age may be required, in a factory which works only five days in the week, to work for 10 hours a day—12 hours overall.
Having given some indication of what is to happen to a child of 14 under the best protective provisions of the Clause, may I ask the House to consider what could happen to a child of 14 under the less favourable protective provisions, going to work at six in London, living one hour from the place of work—that is a normal period in London—leaving home, therefore, at five? Might I ask the Government to consider whether they would like any child of any man on those benches, let alone these, to be required to rise at a quarter-past four? If we read of a case like this in the historic documents in the Library of the House arising out of inquiries in the early part of the nineteenth century, we should read it with tears in our eyes, but in 1937 we are proposing to make provision for circumstances of this kind for the next 25 years. He spends 12 hours in the precincts, getting home at seven and washing, changing and having a meal by eight o'clock. Do I exaggerate, or are my arithmetical calculations wrong, when I say that that child is within eight and a half hours of having to rise again to go to work on the following day? I am profoundly moved by this proposal and I believe, addressed to any audience in the country in a dispassionate, objective fashion, it would be calculated to cause a wave of white hot indignation that in 1937 a Clause of this kind should be before the House.
923 Turn to Clause 70, and then to Clause 78 (4), and see what is contemplated there. This is a piece of devilish selection. A male young person 16 years of age may be employed in a heavy industry, in a blast furnace or a moulding shop, through the night, and a young person below 16 may be employed during hours of the day which are not permissible under Clause 68. I express the warm hope that, before the Committee stage is reached, the Home Secretary will have found it possible, without making it necessary to engage in discussions which might be not of too pleasant a character, to recast these provisions in order to bring them more closely into harmony with what will be generally regarded in a more enlightened age than 1837 as what we have a right to expect. The hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) on Thursday said we should try to make young children of 14 more careful in the handling of machinery. Is it the purpose of the civilised State, is it the purpose of legislation of this kind, to rear a race of serious-faced men and women at 14, going through life with care written all over their faces, to whom are denied all the pleasures and joys and delights which ought to be the natural possession of young children? The hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Treasury Bench on Thursday said that as a rule six o'clock was too early and eight o'clock was too late. William Cobbett said:Moderate justice! You might as well talk about moderate honesty in a man or moderate chastity in a woman There is no such thing as moderate justice.There is no such thing in this Bill as moderate justice to a boy who is required to work under these conditions. Lord Shaftesbury said:There should be a time for those luxuries and leisures which sweeten life.I think I have said sufficient to show that these provisions deny those luxuries to boy and girl life and deny to them similarly every opportunity for those recuperative, pleasurable pursuits which will give them the kind of life into which they can expect to enjoy health and safety.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Wakefield
As one who represents a constituency which is mainly industrial, I welcome the introduction of this Bill. 924 Indeed, there is no one here who can do other than approve of the main principles contained in it. I am glad to say that in my constituency the hours of work and the general social conditions of those engaged in the productive processes are good. The manufacturers in my division have realised, as, indeed, have all the best manufacturers in other parts of the country, that, quite apart from the human and moral considerations involved, it is not in the interests of the employers themselves or of the employés, or, indeed, of the industry, that too long hours should be worked, or that those engaged in factories and workshops should work under undesirable conditions such as had lighting, wrong ventilation and without the ordinary amenities which are so necessary.
I welcome the Bill because it must raise the standards of work in the worst factories and workshops. In raising the standards of work in the worst of the workshops of the country and making them approach more nearly to the best and most up-to-date factories in the country, we are going to make our industry as a whole more efficient, and, by making it more efficient, we shall be enabled to compete with foreign countries upon still better terms in the years to come. Only to-day we have seen the results of the improvement which is taking place in trade in the country, in the great increase in exports compared with those at this time last year. If we are to take full advantage of the improvements in world conditions and maintain our share of world trade, it is abundantly clear that we must improve the conditions of work in our factories throughout the country, and I feel convinced that this Bill will enable that object to be achieved.
One point with which I would like to deal in particular is the increasing number of accidents which affect young people in industry. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) drew attention to this matter, and I would like to amplify it. I am interested in voluntary organisations which concern themselves with the welfare of young people, more particularly in their leisure hours, and I hope that it will be possible for the Under-Secretary, when he replies to-night, to give us an assurance and further information upon the subject of increasing accidents to young persons. I appreciate the fact that steps have been taken to improve the 925 knowledge of young people when they start to work new machines, and also that in various directions steps have been taken to reduce the number of accidents, but the fact remains that they are on the increase, which is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.
How do these accidents take place? When do they take place? Is it generally at the end of the day when the young persons are tired? Are these accidents more prevalent at a time when overtime is being worked and the young persons are still more tired? Do they occur at a time when perhaps a young person is in ill-health, either just recovering from some illness or perhaps is about to stay away from work on account of ill-health? These are matters which ought to be more fully investigated than, I believe, they are at the present time. Do the majority of accidents take place when young persons are starting upon some new process or learning to work some new machine? If we could establish more statistics and information and greater data upon these points, I feel that some real progress would be made towards reducing the serious number of accidents to young people. It would be interesting to know whether these accidents are equally spread among boys and girls, or whether one sex is more prone to accidents than the other.
I suggest that, if possible, it should be found where the responsibility is. Is it primarily with the young persons for not carrying out regulations, or is it with the employer for not having proper safety devices or for some other reason? Is it the responsibility of the employer that these accidents take place? I realise that difficulties occur. In the industry in which I am interested the workmen are not all under one roof and cannot be under constant supervision. They have to work on the top of buildings, and very careful instructions are given to them as to the use of safety belts and other appliances. We do all in our power to instruct them in the use of such appliances, but the fact remains that they frequently do not use them, and the difficulty in which any employer in such circumstances is placed is obvious. When you discover that such appliances are not used, what are you to do? Your only remedy is to dismiss the person, and I suggest that, in the case of a good work- 926 man, that is a punishment which by no means fits the crime.
The trade unions have assisted greatly in the matter of giving instructions and warning to people as to safety devices, but it is a difficulty, and I feel that more could be done with regard to young people than is being done at the present time. If young people are warned at a time when an impression can be made upon their minds and retained in future life, then I feel that they would value instructions given to them later on in life, and, when they left industry to take up other work they would be more likely to take heed of instructions given for their own good and safety.
I wish to take the opportunity of saying a few words upon the hours of work which young people under this Bill are to be allowed to perform. Forty-eight hours a week for young persons, with possibilities of overtime, is far too much. There is no doubt, from my own personal experience and observations, that 40 hours is quite sufficient for young persons to have to work. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) told us of his own personal experience, which is typical of that of tens of thousands of other people. He was able to overcome it by exceptional will power or physical strength, but just because we can point to examples here and there of people who have overcome it, it does not necessarily mean that what few people can achieve the great bulk of young people can also accomplish. We have to consider the average person or the person below the average, and I suggest that 40 hours a week for young persons is quite sufficient.
I know that there are objections to the 40-hour week for young persons. I know that young persons work as partners with older people, and it is said that if young people are not allowed to work the same hours as the older people, then the older people will not be able to work more than 40 hours, and that the processes in which the assistance of young people is necessary cannot be worked. Surely, at this stage of our civilisation, with the development of machinery and our increased knowledge of the administration of science, it ought to be possible for us to overcome those difficulties. It may not be possible to apply them to every industry at this moment, but it must be possible to apply them to some industries, 927 certainly those industries where young people are engaged in the hardest work. Let us make a start, and in the course of time extend the principle right throughout the sphere of industry.
In reducing the hours of work from the normal as laid down in the Bill, 48 hours, to 40 hours, I suggest that the extra hours which the young people will have at their disposal should be utilised in the form of organised leisure. Young people between the ages of 15 and 18 are developing character, and it is of the utmost importance that we should organise those hours in profitable leisure, whether in physical recreation or some way in which their mental abilities could be developed I do not care, but we should see to it that those extra hours of leisure which may be granted to them are profitably used. It is clear that in years to come the hours of work will tend to become fewer and fewer, and it would be a tragedy if in years to come, as and when the increased leisure becomes available, they have not been taught how best to use that leisure. We have here a great opportunity, and if we take hold of the opportunity the country will never regret it. It is a terrible thing to think that this country would be so handicapped that it cannot organise its productive processes without being compelled to employ young people between the ages of 15 and 18, 48 hours a week or more. In so far as the 40-hour week in general is concerned, I feel that to make a hard and fast rule about all industries of this kind would be unwise, but the same argument and objections which might be raised against a 40-hour week being compulsory throughout industry cannot apply to young persons of both sexes.
Reference has been made to the abolishing of overtime by law. All of us who are engaged in industry realise that overtime is a necessary evil on certain occasions. No employer who is efficient and who has the welfare of his workpeople at heart could possibly desire that they should work overtime, but certain conditions do arise from time to time which make overtime necessary. Reference was made by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Short) to the number of hours' overtime worked by the Post Office, amounting to 4,000,000 over a period of time, and he said that 493 extra persons would 928 have been employed if that overtime had not been worked. But the Post Office is a big public service and conditions arise which, however well you may organise that service, render it necessary for overtime to be worked. When a gale sweeps the country and telegraph poles are blown down, overtime must be worked for a short period. If we take a long and fair view of the whole situation, having regard to the tens of thousands of employés in the Post Office, and such emergencies as I have mentioned, together with the Christmas rushes, the amount of overtime is by no means excessive. We ought to try and obtain a fair perspective on the question of overtime.
Criticisms were made in certain quarters of the House about the few, new inspectors that are to be employed under the Bill. I think they work out at about one per 1,000 factories. I do not think there is any valid argument that because a new Factories Bill is introduced there should be a great increase of inspectors. As we progress, conditions become better. New factories are put up, with proper accommodation for their workpeople, adequately ventilated, satisfactorily lighted, to replace some of the more unsatisfactory conditions which existed in the older factories. As we progress and the factories improve, and the public conscience is awakened, and employers realise more and more their responsibilities, there ought not to be a need for more but for less inspectors. On the whole, I think the country will be grateful for this Measure. It is solid and substantial, and built on a firm basis. It certainly is not spectacular, and I am thankful that it is not, for if it were it would assuredly be a failure. I think it will be found that it is a real step forward in promoting the health and welfare of millions of our fellow citizens, and if we can do that, then their happiness, individually and collectively, will by that amount be increased.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Like other hon. Members on this side of the House, I am very anxious to co-operate with anyone to protect the health and welfare of the young people and the women folk of the country, but it will have to be through a better Bill than this. The Minister of Health said that he wanted something done before he was dead. The Minister of 929 Health is a very lively specimen, and does not look like being dead for a very long time. I want something done, not before he is dead but before the young persons are dead. The young persons are being sacrificed every day in the factories. We had a discussion the other day about the decline of population, and the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) who is a strong supporter of the capitalist system, in the most gloomy mood, pictured the catastrophe that would occur unless something urgent and drastic was done to stop the decline in population. Here was an opportunity for something urgent and drastic to be done if we were going to introduce a Factories Bill of any real value. Let us get something urgent and drastic, not simply a Bill which will establish what already exists with a little modification here and there. There is a demand which constantly comes up for something drastic to be done.
The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) talked about the increasing rate of accidents. Other hon. Members have talked about the casualties in our pits and the decline in our population. We do not want, they say, something spectacular. What we do want is something more drastic than this Bill. The hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) said that she was surprised at the passion expressed by hon. Members on this side about the Bill and asked why they had not introduced such a Bill when they were in power in 1929. The answer is on her own Front Bench when the Lord President of the Council is in his place. At that time the Labour party had liabilities instead of leaders, but if the Labour party get an opportunity again I will guarantee that they will introduce a Bill which will be spectacular in the sense that it will make a big advance on anything in this Bill.
I want to mention a point referred to by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove)—the inconsistency of this Bill with the Education Act which lays down 15 as the school-leaving age. This Bill lays it down that the starting age for work shall be 14. How can you start work at 14 if you do not leave school until you are 15? Of course, there are to be exceptions in those cases where the work is of a beneficial character, but if the Bill is to be consistent with the Education Act it must lay down 15 as the starting age for work, and then say that where 930 certificates have been granted and the work is beneficial, they can start at 14. If it is not necessary to be spectacular it is at least necessary to be honest. What follows if you make the age 15 as it should be? It means that if the starting age is 15 overtime cannot be worked at 16. Obviously, the Clause relating to overtime would have to be altered and the age of 18 inserted as the time when overtime might be worked. That is important, and it is something which must be attended to in Committee. I do not know whether I can attend to it or not.
Then there is the question of medical supervision. I suggest that we ought to have a medical service, with nurses and all the rest, in all big factories, and a medical service for groups of smaller factories. I have seen many accidents and much illness in factories. I have had an accident myself. You have to go and get a rough dressing in a room which may be provided, and then go a mile or so to the hospital or the doctor. The rough dressing sticks and the blood congeals and terrible agony is caused to the person. We have groups of young men coming out of our universities who cannot find openings anywhere. Why do we not have in every factory the necessary medical organisation to ensure that health and well-being are attended to? Because you have two contradictory factors operating in industry, the question of profits and the question of the health and well-being of the workers. You cannot get these into harmony. Something drastic and urgent has to be done to stop the decline in our poulation, say hon. Members opposite, but something drastic will have to be done in the control of our industries to put the health and well-being of the workers before profits.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The young manhood and young womanhood of Russia will stand comparison with any young manhood or young womanhood in the world. Every visitor to Russia testifies as to the vitality, spirit and enthusiasm of the young men and women.
931 I want to refer to the six o'clock start. It is a barbarity. I had to start at six o'clock and I was so far away from my work that I had to get out at 4.30 every morning. In one of the jobs I was in, in order to keep me out of trouble, they gave me three nights overtime in the week until nine o'clock, and when I was going home at night I used to meet myself coming down in the morning. But a six o'clock start is a barbarity and ought to be stopped. It may be all right to say that accidents occur when boys are tired in the afternoon or evening, but very often accidents occur in the morning. If you get a boy out of bed at 4.30 in the morning, and he has to travel in a tramcar or in a train, where there is not much consideration for comfort, he gets to work in a condition when he is liable to accidents.
On Thursday the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) talked about good and bad employers and deliberately directed a question to me asking whether I would agree with him that there were good employers. I said no, I did not agree. I want to ask whether any hon. Member, after listening to the introductory speech of the Home Secretary, can dare to talk about good employers. The Home Secretary went into the history of the Factory Acts and the development of factories in this country. At one time an Act was passed limiting employers to the employment of children over five years of age. Those employers, like the hon. Member for Colchester, whom I do not know personally—I would have no reason for not believing the statement if it were told to me—were good fathers, good husbands and good friends, but they employed children of five years of age, and I guarantee that they went to church on Sundays and that all sorts of people held them up as models of what righteous Liberals or righteous Tories should be. They got the children from the workhouses in Yorkshire, and the children were buried in the dead of night, so that the people in Yorkshire would not know what a slaughter was going on.
Why was all that stopped? Out of humanity? No. It was not only because of the fight put up by the working classes, but because one fact came prominently before the employers. During that period there was a very rapid expansion of industry and of 932 capitalism taking place, and the employers saw that they were going to destroy the population and hinder the expansion. Therefore, in order to meet the big demands for expansion, they took every possible step to encourage and develop population instead of destroying it as they were doing by the employment of children and young people in the conditions in which they were employing them. There was at that time a need to provide for an increase in population to meet the expansion of industry. I am glad the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) has come into the Chamber, for his gloomy prophecies about the decline in population have a basis that has to be understood. During the period when the Factory Acts were being dealt with in the nineteenth century, the system was expanding—there was a stretching out and an opening up. Industry was opening up here, industry was opening up there, there was an opening up of markets in this country and in other countries—all was opening up, and every possible encouragement was given to the development of population. Men and women knew that if they brought children into the world, there would be jobs and opportunities for them. But go to the universities to-day—never mind the workshops, for the universities express what is going on in the workshops of the country as a whole—and you will find crowds of young students passing through the universities and having nowhere to go. For the workers, there is monotonous labour in the factories, if they can get it, for we still have close upon 2,000,000 who cannot get any labour.
The decline in population, which we ought to tackle in this Bill, arises from the fact that instead of there being expansion, as there was in the nineteenth century, when there was a phenomenal advance in population, there is now contraction. Instead of spreading out and opening up, there is now concentration and closing down, and no one can discuss or offer any hope of a solution for the population problem who does not understand that very simple economic fact. How it it possible to speak of increasing the population in the derelict areas? There is a concentration and a closing down of industry. It is that which we ought to tackle in this Bill. 933 Something urgent and drastic is necessary, and if we are to save the population of this country that urgent and drastic measure must be the putting to an end of the situation that now exists in which young lads and young girls, the future fathers and mothers of the country, are being sacrificed for profit. Profit is the big determining factor in all industries. Everything else is sacrificed to it. If anybody is concerned with the future well-being of the people of this country and of the British race, he must put the British race before profits and take such control over factories that they will be run in the, interests of the community as a whole, and not in the interests of people who are prepared to sacrifice the community for their own privilege, profit and power.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Spens
I have very much enjoyed listening to the discussion on population. Many of the things said by the hon. Member who has just sat down are worthy of an answer, and at some future time I hope to have an opportunity of giving him an answer. For the moment I wish to come back to the practical side of this Bill, and to say at once that the basis of this Bill—and one of the reasons for which I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the moment at which he has chosen to introduce it—is not altogether dissociated from profit, for every Clause of the Bill which tightens up and impoves the factory laws—and nearly every Clause does so—entails on employers of labour and those who are running factories to-day both very substantial additional capital payments to anything which they have had to make in the past, and very considerable increases in overhead charges year by year as these improvements are carried out.
§ Mr. Spens
I will come to that point. It is very easy for the House of Commons to pass a Measure which is in accordance with the best feelings which all of us have, namely, to impose on employers the highest conditions of industry that we can think of; but we have to remember that the moment we pass such a Measure it has to be put into practice by the persons who are running industry in this 934 country. I fully appreciate the remark of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley). It is true that many Clauses of this Bill do not come up to the highest practice of our best employers, but the point is that we have many thousands of employers who are not in a position and who have not the capital resources to carry out the necessary improvements for which a Bill containing those great improvements which the hon. Member has envisaged would entail upon them. Let me remind the House that even a Bill such as this could not be passed with any hope of satisfactory working unless we were living in a time of very substantial industrial prosperity. Five or six years ago this Bill could not have been passed with any hope of satisfactory working. My right hon. Friend has chosen a time when there is a real chance, owing to increased industrial prosperity, that employers of all sorts will work the Bill satisfactorily without compulsion and without prosecution. That, in my view, is one of the great advantages of introducing the Bill at the present time.
I agree with the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. O. Evans) that if we are to get the best out of the Measure it will be by the co-operation of all parties. If we try to force upon employers improvements which they cannot afford, or which will cause them great difficulties, they will not carry out those improvements willingly, but only under the threat of prosecution or as a result of actual prosecution. In that way a great deal of the value of the Bill would be lost. I, therefore, welcome the provisions of the Bill, every one of which tends to tighten up the law and improve the present situation in the factories. To my mind, the pace which the Bill sets is practicable and satisfactory for the whole country, and it is better to proceed at that pace than try to impose standards which, much as we would all like them, are impracticable at the present moment.
Having said that, there are two points which I desire to bring to the attention of the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary. It is not the slightest use to restrict by law the hours of women and young persons in factories, in the interests of their health if they are to be at liberty to employ their leisure in extra work outside the factories, and if persons other than the factory-owners are to be at liberty to employ them in that way. I 935 have this situation in my division. There is a large factory which employs some hundreds of women and young girls. It is subject to the Factory Acts, and the hours of those workers are limited accordingly. Yet, on the afternoon on which they are not employed in the factory, instead of enjoying the rest and recreation which it was the intention of the Acts to give them, they are enticed into other employments in stores in the town. They are offered comparatively substantial additional wages to give up their leisure time to serve in those stores on the one afternoon in the week when they are free from their factory employment.
I cannot believe that that is right, and it is with great regret that I observe the absence from the Bill of any provision to deal with that situation. There is a provision to the effect that such workers are not to be employed by the owner of the factory outside the factory on his business for more than the permitted number of hours, but there is nothing to prevent those workers going into somebody else's service on the one free afternoon which they have in the week. That results in the very natural complaint on the part of the factory-owner that while he is restricted as to hours in order to ensure the health of the workers, those workers are offered inducements by other persons in the neighbourhood to give up their spare time to other employment, instead of enjoying the rest or recreation which they are supposed to have. That is a point which I hope will be considered and, if possible, dealt with, at a later stage of the proceedings on the Bill.
One of the most interesting parts of the Home Secretary's speech last week was that which dealt with the extension of the application of the Factory Acts to ships. The right hon. Gentleman told us that, now, a ship in dry dock is treated as a factory but a ship in harbour for other purposes is not so treated, and by this Bill the provisions of the Factory Acts will be, speaking generally, extended to all ships in harbour. We all agree that that is desirable, but this point arises. This type of legislation imposes obligations on owners and workpeople. It is essential that it should be made to work with as little friction as possible. Already, in connection with the application of the Factory Acts to ships in dry dock or in port, so far as those Acts do apply, there is this 936 complaint. The department which is primarily concerned with the safety of those on board ship is the Board of Trade but, by the application of the Factory Acts to ships, so far as they do apply, the Home Office comes in and some of the matters which have to be dealt with are common to both departments.
There is, for instance, the question of the hatches of a ship which is loading or unloading in port. Under the Merchant Shipping Act the Board of Trade require that certain precautions should be taken and their inspectors deal with that matter. On the other hand, under the Factory Acts the Home Office are also responsible for the safety of those hatches, and their inspectors come on board to see that the provisions of the Factory Acts are being complied with in that respect. It has happened on more than one occasion that what satisfied the inspector of one department did not satisfy the inspector of the other department. That sort of overlapping in administration causes friction. There is a division of responsibility which leads to confusion and more than confusion because the owner who wants to shirk his responsibility can make the excuse "I thought that was the job of the Home Office," or "I thought that was the job of the Board of Trade," as the case may be, and slip out of his responsibility. It is desirable that the application of this type of legislation should be under one department and one set of inspectors.
I may instance a similar sort of case. In connection with coal mines, I understand, certain provisions of the Factory Acts apply to buildings and premises on the surface connected with a coal mine and under the old law the Mines Department inspectors dealt with everything underground while the Home Office was responsible for the situation above ground. By an arrangement which is continued in this Bill, the Home Office responsibility was handed over to the Board of Trade and their inspectors, so that a colliery management had to deal with one department and one set of inspectors only. One welcomes warmly the extension of these provisions to all ships in harbour but one hesitates a little as to whether that is not going to mean, to some extent, a duplication of administration which will be uneconomical and lead to confusion.
937 I wonder whether something could not be done to enable one Department to take charge of the administration of these provisions and to avoid overlapping. I do not know whether it is practicable or not. It might be possible to do something in connection with the regulations which relate to loading and unloading, whereas as regards the application of the Factory Acts to a ship which was being repaired or painted, for instance, it might not he possible. I do not know, but I do know that there has been ground of complaint in the past, under the existing law, of the overlapping, and I apprehend that if we are going to extend this to a great number of other ships, it is most desirable that so far as possible one Department and one lot of inspectors should be responsible for the administration of all safety regulations, from whatever Act of Parliament they are in fact derived, so that we do not have two Departments responsible, with the double expense of double inspection and divided responsibility on the part of owners and men alike.
I quite understand the criticism that has come from the other side of the House. Of course, it is desirable that the Bill should have gone farther, but I feel that you should not by legislation put upon industry burdens greater than it can bear for the time being, and if, in fact, many of the matters which hon. Members opposite have urged should be in this Bill were in, the result would not be, in the end, of advantage to those employed in industry, but might very well mean certain industries coming to grief, and instead of helping those who are unemployed and those who are employed, the exact reverse would be the case. It is for these reasons that I believe this Bill contains some very substantial steps forward in some directions and a step forward in all directions, and that those steps are such that industry can bear, will welcome, and will do its best to administer loyally. As I say, I welcome the Bill, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State on the terms of the Bill.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) said he welcomed this Bill because it would raise the standard in the worst factories. I should have thought that a wiser thing would 938 have been to have raised the standard to that in the best factories and so have eliminated the unfair competition of the other factories. I was very glad, however, that the hon. Member for Swindon, like many other hon. Members, complained of the long hours of young people. He mentioned the question of accidents and was not sure how they usually occur. The factory inspectors' reports show very clearly that long hours are in the main responsible for the increase in accidents, and we have to bear in mind that there are far too few inspectors—only one inspector for 2,000 places.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) asked those of us on this side whether hours could be limited except by international agreement. Certainly international agreement is the wisest course where you have foreign competition, but I only wish that the Government had shown that they were in favour of that course during the past five years, instead of time and again opposing international conventions at Geneva. There are, however, many occupations in this country in which you could introduce legislation for shorter hours without any international complications and certainly without foreign competition. There are the distributive trades, employing something like 2,000,000 workers, the baking trade, house-building, and other occupations.
This Bill is somewhat like the curate's egg good and bad in parts. The age of entry is far too low, and I cannot understand the attitude of the Government on this question, because at Geneva they supported 15 as the minimum age at sea, and surely we may take it for granted that life at sea is a far healthier life than life in a factory. Therefore, if it was right to restrict the age at sea to 15, why not insert 15 in this Bill? The Government know very well that in June an effort will be made at Geneva to raise the age of entry into industry to 15, and therefore the allowing of an earlier age than 15 in a Bill of this kind will undoubtedly be used at Geneva as an argument against raising the age of entry into industry to 15. Why not give a lead to Geneva for once in a while? Why not try to retrieve the position which we formerly held, and to restore our lost prestige?
939 To take a child from school—because, after all, 14 years of age means a child—where the work is for 28 hours, and to dump the child into a factory, with 48 hours and more, is certainly a big strain. A maximum of 40 hours is long enough, in all conscience, for young people, and we consider that systematic overtime at any rate ought to be prohibited. Why should there be any systematic overtime when, on the admission of the Government, there are to-day no fewer than 1,650,000 workers registered as being unemployed? Juvenile employment committees all over the country have time and again condemned long hours for young people as preventing their attending evening classes, and what is the use of advocating physical training if the Government allow these long hours and overtime for these young people? The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said the other day that young people would welcome overtime to add to their wages, but I have never known a boy who welcomed overtime, and the one thing when I was working that we strongly protested against was to be suddenly told on a certain day that we had got to work overtime that night, thus preventing our carrying out engagements that we might have made.
Then there is the question of holidays with pay. We know that employers and others all over the country have recognised the advantage of holidays with pay, and the system is now widely practised. In no fewer than 20 countries to-day holidays with pay are in operation, and Geneva has already passed a convention in favour of holidays with pay. I know that the attitude of the Government, when this question was discussed at Geneva, was that they envisaged the difficulties in workers changing their employment during the course of the 12 months, but might I recommend them to take into consideration the policy carried out by the Shop Assistants' Union in their agreement with various employers? It is one day off for each month's service up to 12 months, and after that a fortnight annually, so that there is no difficulty in the workers changing from one employer to another.
Another omission from the Bill, and a very serious one, too, is that of maternal welfare. The Government still seem to be indifferent to making provision such as that contained in the Geneva Convention. 940 Why not follow the example of other countries? In France, for instance, a woman has the right not to work four weeks before and six weeks after childbirth. She may leave her work without notice, and absence from employment for 12 consecutive weeks does not justify termination of the contract. Furthermore, every undertaking employing more than 100 women must maintain a day nursery for children under the age of one year, and compulsory breaks of 20 minutes must be given to nursing mothers. That is in France to-day. Then in Russia —and we often hear about conditions in Russia—a woman in manual work must have eight weeks leave before and after, and in Germany the law is certainly much in advance of ours. Altogether 16 countries have ratified the Convention in this respect.
There is another serious omission from this Bill, and that is the question of night work in bakeries. There is no mention of it, in spite of numerous representations to the Government. Ten countries have already ratified the night workers' convention. This, again, is a domestic occupation with no international complications and no foreign competition. The operative bakers desire a natural day, and night work deprives them of all social amenities enjoyed by other sections of the community. Night work in bakeries is absolutely unnecessary, and I cannot understand the Government's attitude to the question. In Clause 89 it is stated:The period of employment in the case of a male young person who has attained the age of 16 may begin at five o'clock in the morning in that part of a bakehouse in which the process of bread baking is carried on.Imagine young people of 16 having to go into the bakehouse at 5 a.m. They have to be up as early as 4 o'clock to be at work by that time. I hope that, as the Home Secretary has promised to take this question of the baking trade into consideration in Committee, he will take into consideration also the position of young people having to start work at 5 a.m.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
In common with many other hon. Members I wish to welcome warmly this Bill. I would associate myself with those who strongly advocate holidays with pay, though I am inclined to accept as the reason why this is not included that the Government, after having examined the economic conditions as 941 they are, and not as we would perhaps like them to be, have come to the conclusion that it would be economically impossible to include a compulsory provision. Equally, I share the view of many hon. Members at young persons being allowed to work such long hours. Even under this Bill young persons are still permitted to work longer hours than many of us believe to be right. I sincerely hope the Government will look into that with a view to seeing whether there is any possibility of tightening up these provisions in the Committee stage.
I wish to draw attention to a point which was mentioned by the Minister of Health, and which I mentioned a few days ago when the House was debating the question of the declining population, that is, the conditions of work in factories of women who are expectant. Many of us would wish that the Government had been able to see their way to incorporate in the Bill the provisions of the Washington Convention adopted by the International Labour Office in 1919. The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to the question in passing, but I would like to examine it in rather more detail. Briefly, the Convention provides that a woman shall not be permitted to work during six weeks following her confinement, and that she shall have a right to leave her work if she produces a medical certificate stating that her confinement will probably take place in the next six weeks. In addition, while she is absent from work she shall be paid benefits sufficient for the full and healthy maintenance of herself and her child, provided out of public funds or a system of insurance. At this Washington Conference the British employers' delegates, while not accepting the full terms of the Convention, signed a minority report advocating the cessation of work by women employed in factories on the production of a medical certificate stating that confinement would probably take place within the next four weeks.
There was a further minority report by a committee of experts, which contained the most modest of all of the proposals, and which was put forward as the minimum requirement, advocating "adequate maternity benefit for such women to secure the proper maintenance and care of mother and child during the period of necessary absence from work before and after child-birth." The committee sug- 942 gested that this period should be calculated in all at not less than six weeks. The Washington Convention has been ratified, as the hon. Member said, by 16 nations, among them countries such as Bulgaria and Chile, which it cannot be maintained have anything approaching our standard of industrial progress or prosperity. Legislation was drafted recently in Chile providing for the equivalent of 50 per cent. of wages during the six weeks before and six weeks after childbirth. It appears regrettable that legislation in this country should provide only four weeks rest after confinement, and that there is no legal provision for absence from work previous to confinement.
§ Sir K. Wood
Under the National Insurance Act, if the mother provides a medical certificate there is in certain circumstances provision for her to obtain benefit.
§ Mr. Sandys
The provisions of our health insurance and maternity Acts in Great Britain cover not only employed women but also the wives of insured workers, and are excellent, but I would like to see, either in this Factory Bill or in some other Measure, some additional safeguard to make provision for the compulsory absence from work. If you provide a proper benefit for the woman there will be no difficulty about her not applying for permission to leave the factory. If there is not a proper benefit, naturally, for economic reasons, she may be obliged to try to conceal the fact that she is expecting a child. There must be adequate maintenance benefit paid during her absence. I do not say this in any critical mood, and I am sure the Minister will be the first to recognise it. I hope, however, that in the Committee stage of this Bill, or in the consideration of any further social legislation of this kind, that matter will be seriously borne in mind.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. MacLaren
I want to say at the outset, before I come to my criticisms, that the medical staff of the Home Office is one of the finest staffs known in any country. It has by research gained a skill and an experience equalled by no similar staff in any other nation. Having said that, I want to put one or two points which I do not think have been mentioned. The speech of the Minister of Health was characteristic—bland, 943 pleasant and very entertaining—but I do not think he was quite conscious of the importance of the discussion upon which he was entering. He started by telling us that one of the important things we had to account for was temperature, and that another was ventilation. Then he made a point about medical supervision, and afterwards dropped a remark which is worthy of repetition. He said that he did not think, speaking as Minister of Health, that the responsibility of this House should stop immediately the worker went outside the workshop gate, because we were anxious that he should have better housing conditions, cleaner streets, better schools and so forth. That seems to be the whole meaning and objective of this discussion. We are discussing a Bill to protect the worker against unseemly exploitation, and unhealthly conditions in the workshops. It should, therefore, be of prime importance to review the processes that tend to make the life of the worker unbearable inside the workshop. We have heard a good deal about expectant mothers and about girls and juveniles in employment, and about the dangers of overstressing their bodies and nerves by harsh, repetitive and heavy employment.
One is disappointed to find that the Bill does not deal with perhaps the most dangerous tendency in modem industry. Here I speak from actual experience, having spent many years of my life in engineering shops on the Clyde. Things have got much worse since my days of apprenticeship, and the whole tendency of modern production is intensified speed. No amount of care from the doctors, no amount of consideration for expectant mothers will get us very far as long as this mad tendency is going on and on, and becoming more violent with the passage of every hour of the day. This pressure of speeding up, the taking note of every action and movement of the operator, puts him as it were in competition with the machine. In fact, it may be true to say that the inhumanity of modern industry has reached a point when it is a competition between the machines and the stamina of human endurance. There is no tendency to call a halt in this matter. Day after day in all the most efficient workshops it is being worked out into a sort of highly skilled science to watch the worker in every 944 action, to see that no movement of his limbs is a misspent effort in the process of production. What goes on after a month or two of this kind of thing? It is not too much to say that this speeding up is reducing the industrial workers of this country to physical and nervous wrecks. There is nothing about this in the Bill except perhaps in Clause 11, which deals with medical supervision. In paragraph (a) the Secretary of State is given power that requires medical supervision where there is reason to believe that cases of illness may be due to the nature of a process or other conditions of work. I do not know whether under that Sub-section the medical adviser would be entitled to consider it his duty to call a halt in the speeding up process within the factory under his supervision.
Beyond that I can see nothing in the Bill to cope with this tendency to reduce people to a state of nervous wreckage. We have seen the famous film of Charlie Chaplin which depicts this kind of thing. He runs about with keys in his hand and he becomes so mechanical that he tries to work the keys on the buttons of a lady's dress. That may be an extreme farce, but there is an element of truth in it. Let us take a case of a young girl who is under this constant process of having her actions watched and of being called into a room and told that she is not going quick enough, and that if she does not go quicker she will have to take her card. What is the condition of that girl when she goes home under the threat of the sack? What is the position of a man who has been told that his operations are not quick enough? There is not merely the anxiety to get the standard mark inside the workshop awarded by the expert who sees that the worker does not lose any time, but there is the worry of what might happen the following day. It is not too much to say that the modem tendency of speeding up in industry is likely to wreck human civilisation if it goes on much more.
I may be exaggerating, but I will take the liberty of quoting from open confessions made by people who work under these conditions. A girl who is working on examination work says:Just before I got ill they had a whole lot of girls into the office' and told them they were not getting their standard number of points. After this has happened I cannot eat my food. My doctor says I have nervous indigestion.945 Here is another girl who speaks in terms such as this:This working under constant supervision of the time keeper day after day is hell for me and the other girls … is it any wonder that some girls take to easier ways of living than continue to suffer as we do?There are many other confessions here, not made off-hand and unguarded, but open confessions made to medical men, as to the conditions of these young people in these workshops. It is very necessary that power should be taken under the Bill to check such happenings. There is a point at which human endurance will stand this sort of thing no longer—this Bedeaux system, this terrorism, all these curses invading this country from abroad: the revelation gauge, the time-keeper's watch and those awful creatures who move about called "time experts." These things will have to be dealt with, because all the medical provisions embodied in the Bill will mean nothing unless this system is checked. I make this submission to the Government in the hope that during the Committee proceedings something will be done about it.
Why have a medical supervisor at all if there is to be no provision with regard to this inroad on the human spirit? I was given some figures the other day—I will not quote them to the House, because I doubt them—as to the wave of people who go into the large motor works only to be broken and thrown out and to have their places taken by fresh workers who are broken and flung out again. Waves of men and women are passing through such works. I see that the Under-Secretary seems to doubt my remarks. If he doubts me I will quote the figures, and, if need be, I will give the names of the factories, but I would rather leave them out at the moment. I invite him to make inquiries, because it makes a mighty difference in this House when those who speak are those who have passed through the experience of the workshops. I am not speaking with any great heat; I am trying to be calm, but I remember days when I had to eat my heart out in circumstances which seemed to me the most inhuman that God ever allowed man to perpetrate. I speak feelingly, and I appeal to the House and to the Government to deal with this question.
Another thing which might be dealt with is noise. We know that there are some people who cannot stand noise. 946 Speaking for myself, even a discordant sound jars on me. I never hear Henry Hall but I want to commit murder, and when I hear the voices of those unknown crooners, with their fatuous, stupid and inane songs, coming over the wireless, I am thankful that I have at least got the liberty of being able to turn the wireless off and to walk out. But think of the people in a workshop, or those down a pit with a conveyor rattling like the veritable thunders of Hell every minute. There they are, and economic necessity binds them to it, and they have to stand it though they may feel racked to death. The conveyors are doing their work and doing it well, but what do the Factory Acts say about it? Nothing. Noise must be tackled in this new Bill. It is a psychological deterrent to many people, more especially those of us with refined taste. There are many people who can stand noise all day, men who can sit in this House all day and listen to speeches. I hope that in Committee we shall do something about noise.
My last point is that, according to the figures submitted by doctors, there is a tendency for an increase in tubercular diseases, and deaths from them among women and children. This tendency seems to be baffling the doctors. They seem to suggest that there is no explanation of why it should be so. I submit, with all respect, and after having discussed it with men who should know something about it, that it would be interesting to be told what the very able officials at the Home Office have to say, because they have more experience and all-round knowledge on these matters than any group of professional men in the world, I should say. I submit that if this matter is inquired into it will be traced to this fact: Take the case of a young girl changing into womanhood, 15 years of age or rising on to 20, under these conditions of constant pressure to speed up, filled with anxiety and with her nerves weak. The doctors might find that the cause of this increase in tubercular disease is to be found there, though I am putting that forward as a suggestion only.
Having spoken longer than I meant to do, and having foresworn my word to Mr. Speaker that I would not exceed a given number of minutes, I will say no more, but I hope that what I have said will be seriously entertained by those 947 responsible for the Bill in Committee. I beg the Government not to allow this monstrous process of speeding up, which is breaking up the people of our country, to go unchecked. They should deal with it by every method possible, and there is an opportunity to do so under this Bill.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I have listened to most of the Debate on the Second Reading of this very important Measure, and I cannot say that the Bill has aroused many thrills—even the Minister of Health's speech this afternoon did not move us. I want to say a word or two about his remarks. He charged my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) with having delivered a sermon. I do not want to offend the right hon. Gentleman by comparing his speech to a lecture which had nothing to do with the subject, but I have noticed before that when the Government are in a difficulty they bring out their handyman, the right hon. Gentleman. With his dexterity in dialectics and his acrobatics in politics he is a master-hand on such an occasion, and on the whole he did his work very well to-day. But I want to tell him one thing quite seriously. When he talks about the work of the Ministry of Health, the improvement in the health of the community, the decline in infant mortality and the extension of the average age at death, he knows as well as I do that there is something serious happening in this country now, and it is the worst epidemic of its kind for the last quarter of a century, which I am not so sure that his Department can explain. It is not commonly known that there has been since Christmas an increase in the sickness rate among the people in this country, that it has trebled and the epidemic is still continuing. I should have thought that the Minister of Health would have associated that terrible epidemic with the conditions of employment among the people. I am satisfied myself that there is something wrong, apart altogether from the conditions of life in the homes, apart from the amount of money received by the people as wages, with the health of the people of this country, and something which the Minister of Health and his staff have not yet been able to ascertain. The doctors are very careful. They call it influenza, which in common parlance, I suppose, is 948 nothing but influence. I do not know where the influence comes from. I have a word to say about the remarks of the hon. Member for London Universities (Sir E. Graham-Little). I thought he was quoting the figures for 1935 in relation to industrial diseases, but I am afraid they were the figures for 1934. If he looks at the figures for 1935, I think he will find the point he mentions is covered in that report. I am sorry that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) is not in his place. His speech was not quite up to his usual standard. He is one of the few benevolent Tories left who like to do the right thing because it is decent to do so.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
I gave the figures from the 1935 report, the years being 1935, 1934 and 1933.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman complained that cancer was not notifiable, but, as a matter of fact, 171 cases were notified in 1935 and 38 of them were fatal.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
Those cases were notifiable under the Factory Acts, 1901 and 1907, but I understand from the Schedule that all those Acts are repealed by the Bill.
§ Mr. Davies
That point does not matter for the purpose of my argument. The doctors are the last section of the community with whom I want to quarrel, except when dealing with National Health Insurance Acts. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon uttered a sentence which has been used several times during the Debate, and that was that you could not improve conditions in this country in relation to industry unless you did it by international agreement. The Great War ended in 1918; there was no international agreement before that time, and I think it is correct to say that this country led the way in industrial legislation up to 10 years ago. We have fallen back ever since. The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. O. Evans) tried to draw us into a discussion on the relationship between employer and employé. He asked us to give an answer to a big question. We shall be able to give him an answer later, but this is not the appropriate occasion. I cannot understand why the Minister of Health is laughing at that. He seems to imply that we cannot answer 949 a question like that, but when the opportunity comes he will find that we shall be able to do so quite easily. I should like the Home Secretary to take note of the fact, since he is calling upon factory owners to make alterations in their buildings, that the hon. Member for Cardigan suggested that the Department should provide them with plans and designs free of charge. The Home Office, that is to say, should employ architects, in order to save architects' fees for employers and factory owners. That is another way of subsidising factories. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be circumspect when he deals with that point.
We welcome the consolidating features of the Bill. Apart from that, however, some of us are disappointed with its provisions. I feel sure that when we come to Committee upstairs and discuss the Clauses one by one, we shall be still more disappointed. The right hon. Gentleman is not doing much more in this Bill than providing for the status quo. I have tried to describe the Bill as a heavy carthorse strolling leisurely through a busy street, while taxicabs, Daimlers and Rolls Royces whizz by at 10 times the speed. It has been said on good authority that science has made more progress in the last 30 years than it did in the previous 3,000. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) raised a new point in the Debate. He said that once you laid down any maximum number of hours for any class of workers there must be some provision preventing those people from going to some other employment and working, perhaps, a total of 70 hours in two employments. I know of individuals who work in factories during the week and go to shops and work for seven hours on Saturdays. This is not a party question, and if the right hon. Gentleman can deal with that problem he will be doing something substantial.
On that subject of illness, I have felt for some time that the reason why our people are suffering from a constant increase in the annual sickness rate was the speeding-up of industry. A strong case has been put in the House that as some factory owners have reduced the number of days per week from six to five, and others have reduced the working hours from 6o to 40, they expect at the same time to maintain the same output though 950 they may have decreased the number of hours by 20 per week. The consequence is that workpeople who have got to speed up are suffering. Occupations are rapidly changing. A young girl straight from school at 14 years of age is now expected to manage a machine which has put out of employment 20 or 30 adult men. I do not think the Bill is adequate to meet those changing circumstances.
I would ask the Under-Secretary if there is any provision in the Bill to put an end to the substantial increase of accidents recorded in the last report of the Chief Factory Inspector? I have been looking at the Bill very carefully, and I cannot find very much that would have any effect on those statistics. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) and the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) both fell into error in their speeches. The point was made by both that we should not complain in this House about our factory legislation. We are superior, in that respect, in this country to any other in the world. That is a common statement, and, because it is made so often, people who ought to know better have come to believe that it is true.
It is not correct to say that the industrial and factory legislation of this country is superior to anything else in the world. I am willing to say, and I have said it before, that I think it is true that the social services of this country are better than those of any other country in the world; but that is very different from saying that the industrial legislation of this country is the best in the world—unless, of course, we are to regard the reports of the International Labour Organisation as not being correct. These reports refer to some 20 or 25 nations, some of them big industrial countries, whose hours of labour regulated by law are better in nearly every respect than the provisions set forth in this Bill. Indeed, in the report which I have here, and with which the right hon. Gentleman must be familiar, I was astonished to find that the only countries that are worse than we are in relation to the regulation of hours of labour are Egypt, Yugoslavia and India. Just imagine this country, the centre of the greatest Empire in the world, the Empire on which the sun never sets and in which the wages never rise, coming 951 down to the level of one of the Balkan States of Europe. That is where we have landed ourselves, and the right hon. Gentleman has not improved the situation in this Bill one bit.
If he wants me to substantiate what I have said, I have here a copy of an enactment of the Norwegian Parliament. No doubt the Under-Secretary will follow the example of the right hon. Gentleman and all his associates, because the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland seemed to have learned every word of his piece on Thursday night; he never deviated a sentence from what the Home Secretary said. I should almost have thought that they had been enclosed in a room for about an hour in advance, so that he might be absolutely correct in every word he uttered. The argument they followed was that we cannot compete in the markets of the world so long as these other countries have conditions of employment worse than ours. This document which I have here will be a very interesting document to hand to the Home Secretary, to show him—
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir John Simon)
I do not read Norwegian.
§ Mr. Davies
No, but he ought to be able to read Welsh. Happily this is in English, and for his edification I will, if I may presume to do so, read one or two paragraphs from the Norwegian law. This, by the way, is quoted from the Ministry of Labour Gazette. The Government themselves have published a copy of a piece of legislation passed in the Norwegian Parliament which is superior to the proposals they are now making to this Parliament; and then they turn round and say that we are very much better than any other country in the world. They say, moreover—and they always emphasise this point—that of course other countries may pass a law, but we are the people who see that the law is enforced. That is typical of us as a people—I am speaking of all parties. This paragraph will show how the Bill compares with the Act of Parliament which has been passed in Norway, and there are others similar in other countries, too:The minimum age for the admission of children to employment in undertakings covered by the provisions of the Act which relate to working hours is fixed at 15 years, 952 as compared with 14 years under the earlier legislation.That, at any rate, is better than what we are doing in this Bill. I turn to something else. The right hon. Gentleman and all his friends who have spoken after him were very careful to emphasise this fact. They said: "Remember that we are dealing with a Factories Bill; we are not dealing with economics, or anything of that kind; we are dealing now with factory legislation. During the period from the year 1801, or 136 years, there have been introduced into this House six Factory Bills, and let us remember that on not a single occasion have we ever touched the problem of payment for overtime or of annual holidays with pay. Consequently, we must not insult the great past by putting anything of that kind in this Bill." But in Norway—and I only quote this Norwegian case because it is more easily done—they say, in regard to holidays with pay:All workers who have been employed continuously in the same undertaking for at least six months are to be granted annual holidays with pay.If Norway can do this—a small country, not very much bigger than Wales, I think, not half as important as Lancashire, and I am sure not nearly as important as Yorkshire—if Norway can do all that, I fail to understand why we cannot put provisions of the same kind in this Bill.
I have read a few Bills in my time, and it has been my fortune, or misfortune, to speak to a few of them, especially in the last Parliament; but I have never seen so many "ifs," and "buts," and "whereas," and "mays," and exceptions and exemptions as I find in this Measure. It is typically a National Liberal Measure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, will be on one side, and the President of the Board of Trade on the other. This is a conglomeration of ideas. Liberal Nationals, and National Labour people, and Tories have all imparted their notions into this Bill. It is indicated by "ifs," and "buts," and "whereas," and exemptions and exceptions. But, after all, that is what a National Government is supposed to do, I take it—to combine all these several doubtful qualities into one; and it is here.
Of course, we welcome the provision that brings in for the first time the inspection of hoists and lifts, because I remember reading authoritatively some time 953 ago that accidents arising from hoists and lifts are 13 times as numerous as those in industry in general. But we cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman is confining himself to new lifts. Surely an old lift must be as dangerous as a new one, if not more so. Neither can we understand the dual responsibility of the local authority and the Home Secretary in respect of sanitary defects in factories. Most of us have been on local authorities and we can quite well understand what will happen. Where there is a factory with no mechanical power, the factory inspector will call the attention of the sanitary inspector to the defect. The sanitary inspector will come along and will report only to find in some cases that his health committee will be mill owners, and mill owners will not like to correct their own defects. It seems to me that it would be better to put the whole of this administration under the Factory Department of the Home Office, because I cannot understand why you should divide this problem of sanitary defects as between factories with mechanical power and those without. I do not know whether there is anything in the Bill to deal with time cribbing, which is a very common practice in Lancashire, where the employers steal the working time of their employés. Are we right in assuming that the practice that has hitherto prevailed of consulting employers and employed before the issue of draft Regulations is to be abandoned? If so, some of us will be a little disturbed. It seems to me that the strength of some of the Regulations that are issued for the purposes of our factory legislation lies in the fact that employers and employés have been consulted before the draft is made.
I think the Bill makes a change too in the procedure in cases of accidents in factories. A person meeting with an accident is now entitled to claim workmen's compensation if he has carried out his employer's instructions. The employer in that case is presumed to be the person to interpret the law. Now I believe a change is going to be made. An employer may give instructions to his workmen contrary to the law, and a workman meeting with an accident, after carrying out the instructions of his employer, may not succeed in his claim for compensation, because the workman 954 himself is now supposed to interpret the law. That is rather a complicated way of putting it, I know, but I hope the hon. Gentleman will understand it. In any case, it is very important for those who are employed in industry.
Hon. Members behind me, and those who opened the Debate on the Front Opposition Bench, have stated the desirability of including in the Bill a 40-hour week, holidays with pay, better provision for women in child-birth and, above all things, preventing young people entering factory life until they are 15. Unless I am mistaken, this is the first factory Bill of any importance ever introduced into this House in 136 years which has not raised the age of entry of the child from the school to the factory, and, if that be so, I am sure that I can convince the House that it is hardly fair to the children of to-day to deal with them in that fashion. The next point I want to make is with regard to the argument that we cannot do these things because of new charges upon industry, and I think that that argument has been answered already. All we want to do on that score is to turn to the monthly bank returns from which we find that industry is booming, especially under the National Government. Prosperity is to be found on all hands, except in my own constituency. [Horn. MEMBERS: "And mine."] According to bank returns and statistics all is going well; all the industries, cotton, hardware, steel, wool; everything is on the up grade. Consequently the people who run the factories of this country cannot complain that they will not be able to meet these new charges.
There is one point, however, which has bothered me for some time, and it is the difference in the treatment of the Government towards factory workers and that meted out to the miners of this land. I think I have my figures correctly, and they are as follows. There are about 100 Government inspectors of all kinds inspecting the coal mines of this country, electrically and so forth, so I am informed. There are about 2,500 collieries in this country—I am open to correction—and, at any rate, there are less than a million miners at the moment. Look at the difference in regard to our factory inspectors. There are 7,000,000 factory 955 workers, 280,744 factories, and only 254 inspectors. The difference comes about in this way. The miners are more politically conscious than factory workers, and when the 7,000,000 factory workers are as well organised and as politically conscious as the miners, the 254 factory inspectors will grow to 1,000 in a year. There will be no National Government then, of course. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department will not mind if I put it bluntly thus: he could have produced a Measure that would be regarded as a real charter of health, welfare and safety for our 7,000,000 factory workers. He has failed, and, metaphorically speaking, his ship has not only been left by the tide, but he himself has hopelessly missed the boat.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
Perhaps that part of the hon. Member's speech in which he let himself go with the greatest fervour was when he recounted the number of ifs, buts and whereases he found in the Bill. He seemed to think that it was due to something peculiar in the political constitution of the Government that there should be so many of these words in the Bill. I must confess that, although I do not want to make any cheap controversial point, because we are dealing with much too important a matter, I have armed myself, knowing that I had to reply to the hon. Member, with a copy of a very important Bill that was introduced in 1924, called the Factories Bill, on which the second name supporting the Bill is the name of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Wedderburn) has examined that Bill, in view of what the hon. Member said about the ifs, buts and whereases, and on the first 25 pages 18 Clauses began with the word "if" and five began with the words, "Provided that."
There is a very good reason why in all good Factory Bills there should be a large number of provisos. The reason is that if you push up the standard to a high level, thus raising the general level of efficiency which you require, you must, if you are to take proper account of the infinite variety of circumstances which 956 arise in industry, have appropriate powers of relaxation in certain cases. If we had been prepared to bring in a Bill in which the standard was not so high, it would not have been necessary to have had so many of these provisos. It is because in this Bill we are making, as the hon. Member was making in his Bill, a very great step forward in a great many directions, that we must have suitable powers to fit these high standards to the complicated structure of British industry.
The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) hit upon a very good example on this particular point. He noticed that in Clause 14 (3) there was a provision that the Sub-section need not apply if in certain circumstances it interferes with the work. He thought, I have no doubt quite sincerely, that that was a retrograde step and that it was actually relaxing the powers under the Factory Acts. What is the actual fact? That Sub-section contains an important new power. It contains the power to enforce the fencing not merely of a dangerous machine but of the job on the machine, not merely the lathe, for example, but the material that is revolving in the lathe. There was an extremely tragic accident some time ago in which a girl, stooping down, got her hair entangled in the bar which was revolving in the lathe, and as a result shé was badly scalped. It is for that reason that this important new power has been inserted. As hon. Members connected with the engineering trade know, there are certain jobs which are awkward jobs on the lathe, for example, a big casting, in which the job itself cannot be securely fenced if the workman is to see to do his work. That is a very good example why we are obliged to have a certain number of these provisos.
The hon. Member raised a number of points and I should like to deal with them before I come to some of the general arguments that have been made in the speeches of hon. Members opposite. He asked about the difference with regard to factories where mechanical power is used and those where it is not used, from the point of view of inspection by factory inspectors and officers of the local authority. It is true that certain of these provisions will, broadly speaking, be enforceable by the local authority and not by the factory inspector. There does not seem to be any sufficient reason for depriving local authorities of this duty, and I am not sure 957 that I can regard the hon. Member's point as valid—that these little local authorities are in the hands of the owners of factories. In any case I think people may be expected to attain a reasonable standard of duty in this matter, and, surely, it is just as likely that a local authority will be in the hands of the political friends of the hon. Member—though I hope that this happening will not be too widespread. In any case, the factory inspector will still have power to act in default of the local authority.
The hon. Member raised one very important point, on which I should like to give him an assurance at once, and that is with regard to the consultation between the chief interests affected before regulations are made by my right hon. Friend. From his experience at the Home Office the hon. Member knows that consultation of the interests affected, the employers and the trade unions, has always been one of the prime features of Home Office administration. We have brought the consultation of interests concerned to a higher pitch than perhaps almost any other Department, and we should not think of abandoning this very salutary preparation. I can give the hon. Member an assurance that we propose to continue this practice undiminished in any way after the passing of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. O. Evans) referred to the secrecy which attaches to certain modern industrial processes and the danger that may be caused through officers of a local authority not being pledged to secrecy in the same way as the factory inspector. That is a matter which I think we should certainly examine in Committee and see whether we should have some provision with regard to it. The hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter) is aware that certain provisions of the existing Acts are being extended to the film industry. He also raised the question of compensation for the lower paid actors and actresses. That is entirely a matter for the Workmen's Compensation Acts. The hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) raised the point of possible overlapping between officers of the Home Office and the Board of Trade in regard to the inspection of ships. My information is that arrangements have been made to prevent such overlapping, but I will look into the matter further when I have an opportunity.
958 Two medical Members of the House, the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) and the hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) have dealt with the medical aspects of the Bill, and I think they would attach importance to the provision, stressed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, which deals with medical supervision. It gives an important new power. It gives the Home Secretary power in several circumstances to see that there is undertaken proper medical supervision on certain processes. Let me give the House an illustration as to how useful such a power would be. Fortunately, we have had one or two examples where medical supervision has taken place not compulsorily but voluntarily.
For example, a few years ago there were developments in some of the factories making accumulators for motor cars which led to an increase in lead poisoning. They had a considerable number of cases—over 100 in one year—and being progressive, they approached the Home Office. We arranged that there should be medical supervision in those works. The result was that a young doctor was put in charge of the work. He went into it very scientifically, dividing the workers into control units, taking blood tests at regular intervals—tests which enable one to ascertain the slightest trace of lead in a system—and immediately there was the slightest indication of lead in the body the man was either taken off work in which lead was used or a radical alteration was made in the processes from the point of view of the elimination of lead.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to say whether these provisions would be applicable in the case of a complaint that Lancashire textile operatives suffer from bronchial trouble caused by dust from their work?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I cannot say offhand whether particular circumstances would come under these provisions, but speaking extempore, I should imagine that if a good case could be made out, it would be possible for these powers to be applied. I cannot, of course, say anything definite on a particular case at this stage. What is important is the result of this work. Owing to the measures that were taken, the cases of lead poisoning 959 dropped rapidly, and during the last three or four years there have been in one factory only one or two cases at most and in the others none. Therefore, I think that the value of this method is definitely proved. The hon. Member for Westhoughton referred to the problem of noise in industry, and said that he thought it might be the cause of ill-health, which, from a personal point of view, I think is not impossible in certain circumstances. I could not, of course, promise that these powers would be applicable to that mysterious disease called influenza which the hon. Gentleman ascribed, I think, to the fact that the National Government is in power.
The hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) said that he thought speed had a definite effect on health, and I think I am right in saying that some of the factory inspectors' reports suggest that there is a possibility that some of the high-pressure modern systems may lead to nervous illnesses of some kind. All I am saying is that in certain circumstances it would be possible to put these matters to the proof, and therefore there is at any rate a possibility that these powers will have a really valuable use. I will refer to this again a little later when I deal with the question of accidents and the question of hours.
I will now turn to the broad questions that have been raised in the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. If I may say so, their speeches have been remarkable less for an attack upon the provisions of the Bill than for complaining about things that are not in the Bill. That is the point to which I wish to address myself. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield talked a good deal about the question of hours for men workers and other hon. Members have done the same. He spoke of the 40-hour week. I think we ought to realise that if the 40-hour week were to come in this country, it would be vitally important to maintain wages. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) himself emphasised that aspect of the problem and I wish to put, particularly to hon. Members opposite, this question: Can we be sure that trade union action alone would be capable of maintaining wages in those circumstances?
§ Mr. Lloyd
That, of course, is a process which has taken a considerable time. The suggestion, as I understand it, in the speeches of hon. Members opposite is that there should be an immediate legislative enactment in this Measure of a 40-hour week and the point I am making is that it is doubtful whether in that case, by trade union action alone, wages could be properly maintained. If not, it would surely lead, as it has led in France recently, to compulsory arbitration procedure with regard to wages for the purpose of maintaining them. That, of course, would mean a State system of regulation of hours and wages. Some people may be convinced that that is the right course, but I wonder whether it is. I wonder whether we should be right to turn our faces in the direction of increasing State regulation and lessening our reliance on the voluntary organisation which the trade unions have built up over such a long period in this country and which is stronger here than anywhere else. I think there must be a doubt in the minds of those who regard the trade unions as a great part of the organisation of this country, as to whether, if the State took over all those functions, there would be enough for the trade unions to do.
This, however, is not a matter for a factories Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said there had been great changes in the world since 1901 and that things should not be regarded as immutable. Of course there have been great changes in regard to these matters but there have also been great changes in Government organisation. In the old days, the Home Office was the only Department of State dealing with labour matters. Then there came along trade boards, unemployment insurance and other Measures of that description which were first placed under the Board of Trade and then transferred to the Ministry of Labour, when that Department was created for the purpose of dealing with all those aspects of labour questions. The Labour Government themselves when they introduced an Industrial Hours of Employment Bill recognised that because that Measure was not to he part of the Factory Act administration but was to be under the Ministry of Labour I think the same applies to the question of annual holidays.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
Before leaving the question of hours and wages, will the hon. Member say whether it is not the case that when the seven hours provision for miners was introduced, there was also a provision stating that wages should remain the same.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The hon. Gentleman will recognise that as I have not much time and have a great deal to say I cannot go into that question now. If it is desirable that there should be annual holidays with pay, why confine it to factory workers? It is a very much broader question. I hope I have said enough to make hon. Members agree that questions like that of an annual holiday and the general regulation of hours are not suitable for this Measure. We have enough in this Bill. We want to get something done. I am not suggesting that hon. Members opposite have it in mind, but I would say that a skilful Opposition if they wished to wreck the Bill, might try to introduce these wider proposals which would lead unquestionably to much greater difficulty in getting the Bill through. We really want to improve the factory code, and we should, I think, confine ourselves to that.
I do not think hon. Members fully appreciate the magnitude of the changes in the hours question that are made under the Bill. If we may take, for the purposes of comparison, the statutory legal limit and the 48-hour week as the normal week for making our comparison, we find that the difference between the normal working week and the legal limit is so great that trade overtime can usually be fitted in without any great regard to or any inconvenience from the legal limit. At present women and young persons are worked in textile factories between 350 and 400 hours overtime and in non-textile factories 624 hours overtime. They work on Saturdays, on non-textile work, till four p.m., and by using certain legal overtime provisions in certain industries women can be worked for 700 hours overtime at the present time. Under the Bill there is no overtime at all for young persons under 16, and a possible maximum of 100 hours for women and young persons between 16 and 18, with a possible further 50 hours for women in certain seasonal and special jobs, and no work after one o'clock on Saturday. In some instances also there is provision 962 limiting the number of weeks in which overtime can be worked, the effect of which is to prevent the working of systematic overtime.
It should be remembered that this overtime is fixed for the factory and not for the individual, and the reason is the reason that the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Brooke) was touching when he talked about the fact that in his trade union agreement with the employers, because they got the overtime fixed on the basis of the individual, the agreement was not worth the paper on which it was written; and it is for administrative reasons that it is fixed for the factory, but the effect is that if, say, two or three young persons work overtime hours, those hours are deducted from the permissible number of hours to be worked by the factory and in certain circumstances by the department. The effect of that is that, normally speaking, in a great many factories, while the hours for the factory may be a certain number, the hours for each particular individual will be considerably less, and indeed—the House will follow this, I am sure—if we had been able administratively to fix the hours for overtime for the individual and had wished to fix something corresponding to the 100 for the factory, we should have chosen a lower figure than 100.
In addition to that, I would point out that the Home Secretary has power to prohibit or reduce overtime if it will prejudicially affect the health of young persons, and I think that is an important power. These are what I may call the formal facts of the situation. These are the permitted limits laid down beyond which it is not possible to go. What is the actual position? I think the House will accept the view that, broadly speaking, most employers dislike overtime. But of course it is necessary on occasion, as anyone with experience of industry will know. It may be due to sudden pressure or to the balancing of one department against another, because the proportion of work which a particular department has to do in the production of different articles does vary from time to time. There are strong practical reasons why, if overtime is worked in a factory, women and young persons should take part in it. Everyone who is familiar with industry knows the team work which goes on and how the work of women and young persons is 963 intimately connected with that of the men. It is not all lost. In certain cases young boys are learning the trade which is going to be their trade for life. But at present undoubtedly excessive overtime is being worked in a number of trades and in a number of factories from the point of view of young persons. For instance, in a confectionery business we have a record of 550 hours overtime. We have a record of 560 hours being worked in an engineering works, and a record of over 600 in a wholesale clothing factory. These hours are excessive. The provisions of the Bill will drastically curtail these hours and will mean in many factories a good deal of reorganisation. But I think that it is true to say that employers as a whole realise that these reductions are necessary and we do not anticipate opposition.
§ Mr. Brooke
Will the hon. Gentleman reply to my important point as to the effect of the abolition of the distinction between factory and non-factory women workers?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I think the hon. Gentleman is correct that the protective limit may in theory do as he says although it is never likely to arise. I should like to examine that point in Committee.
The hon. Members for Westhoughton and Swindon asked questions with regard to accidents. The provisions in this Bill make substantial advances in regard to the prevention of accidents, particularly the prevention of machinery accidents, which are inclined to be more serious and to result in a higher proportion of fatalities. In addition you can have more definite precautions in regard to the prevention of them than in regard to most other types of accidents. The provision with regard to belts is, of particular importance. A large number of accidents have occurred as a result of belts in mill gearing seizing when they are resting on a revolving shaft. Very serious accidents occur in which workers are caught up in the shaft. They can be prevented quite simply by a belt striking gear. Much the same applies to moving belts from a fast pulley by hand. There have been terrible accidents as a result. That in future is to be forbidden and there must be a belt striking gear.
Perhaps even more important with regard to transmission machinery is the 964 question of making it compulsory to have a device to stop the machinery in every workshop. There have been terrible accidents in which people have been caught up in the mill gearing and the machine has run remorselessly on because somebody has had to go to another part of the factory before the power could be cut off. It will be compulsory to have a clutch or stopping device in the workshop itself. That will minimise as far as possible the seriousness of the accidents that may occur. It will also make it less likely that the foreman or the men will perform on operation on a moving shaft which they ought to perform when the shaft is stopped if they can turn the power off quickly in the workroom itself. The provisions with regard to hoists and lifts are also of great importance, and great advances are made in this Bill with regard to safety. The Home Office experts have worked out an elaborate set of safety requirements, and I can give the hon. Member for Westhoughton the assurance that these safety devices are not only for new lifts. They will also have to be fitted to existing lifts with slight modifications. These things will cost money, but employers on the whole realise their necessity. There are important provisions of the same kind for cranes, boilers, chains, ropes, lifting tackle, and so forth.
I should like to come to two powers of crucial importance with regard to the prevention of accidents from machinery. Clause 14 gives power, if there is a safety device, which makes it practically impossible for an accident to occur, existing on a particular machine, for the Secretary of State to make that device compulsory for all similar machines. As a matter of fact, there are certain devices which make machines completely foolproof. For instance, there is the hydro-extractor which is used in laundries. It is a cage which revolves at 3,000 revolutions a minute and goes on after the power is cut off. The workers can open the drum before it is stopped, and serious accidents have been caused through workers getting caught into the revolving drum. Those accidents can be prevented by a device which prevents workers opening the top of the drum until the cage has come to rest. If there are machines which are exposing workers to the possibility of crippling accidents which could be completely removed, this power is a wise one to have.
§ Mr. Lloyd
A further advance is not only to make it compulsory for these safety devices to be employed in machines, but to make it compulsory on the makers of the machines to fit these devices. We come in that way to the root of the trouble, and undoubtedly there will be, as a result of this Bill, a great number of people in future who will be sound in wind and limb, without knowing anything about it, as the result of the provisions of this Bill.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.