HC Deb 15 June 1937 vol 325 cc213-36

(1) Adequate and suitable facilities for washing (including a sufficient supply of soap and clean towels) conveniently situated shall be provided and maintained in the following factories and for the use of the following persons, that is to say:

  1. (a) in any factory where any employed persons are accustomed to take their meals at the factory, for the use of those persons;
  2. (b) in any factory where there is carried on a process specified by order of the Secretary of State as being of such a dusty, dirty, or offensive nature as to give rise to a special need for the provision of washing facilities, for the use of persons employed in that process;
  3. (c) in any factory constructed, reconstructed, or converted for use as a factory after the commencement of this Act, for the use of the persons employed in that factory; and
  4. (d) in any other factory or department of a factory in which the superintending inspector for the division by order requires such facilities to be provided, being satisfied that a substantial number of the persons employed in the factory or department desire, and would be likely to avail themselves of, the facilities, for the use of such number of persons employed therein as may be specified in the order.

(2) The Secretary of State may by order—

  1. (a) prescribe, as respects any of the classes of case specified in the foregoing Sub-section, a standard of adequate and suitable washing facilities;
  2. (b) exempt any factory or class or description of factory from the requirement to provide washing facilities where he is satisfied that, having regard to the special conditions under which work is carried on in that factory or class or description of factory, such facilities cannot reasonably be required.

(3) This Section shall come into operation on the first day of July, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine."—[Sir S. Hoare.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.46 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

When I look at this Bill, the long list of Amendments to it, and the intricacies of the Measure, it seems to me that I am fated to be associated with some of the biggest Bills ever introduced in this House. Indeed, anybody who wishes to write my epitaph might apply to me a somewhat amended version of that written for Sir John Vanbrugh, the architect of Blenheim Palace: Lie heavy on him, earth, for he laid two enormous Bills on the. I have, however, every hope that this new Clause will meet with a large measure of general support. It is worth the attention of hon. Members for more reasons than one. It seems to me to be typical of the general attitude which, I believe, has been adopted towards the Bill by all sections of the House. We have tried to proceed by general agreement, whether between the various sections of the House or between the employers and the workers outside, and from the start the Government have been anxious to take into account the general feeling in the Committee and in the House, and, so far as possible, adopt the provisions which the House as a whole seems to desire.

The history of the proposal in the Clause I am moving is this. Under the present Factory Act, speaking generally, facilities can be required for washing only in trades and industries which are liable to special dangers. In the original provision it was found necessary to extend these requirements, and bring into its scope not only dangerous trades, but also trades in which there might be a large amount of dirt and dust. That was the provision before hon. Members in the Standing Committee. In Committee it was found that hon. Members of all parties thought that the scope was too narrow, and that in view of the general rise in the standard of life, which we all very much welcome, it was necessary to extend the scope and to bring within it not only dangerous trades and trades in which there may be a large amount of dust and dirt, but trades and industries generally. The Government gave an undertaking that they would introduce a new Clause on the subject, and this is the new Clause that I am now moving. The House will see that it has now a very general scope. The Clause means that where facilities of this kind are needed and can be reasonably provided, they shall be given. I may say at once that I am in full agreement with the underlying motive of the Clause. We are anxious to recognise the fact that standards are everywhere rising and that a standard that may have been applicable 10, 20 or 30 years ago, is not applicable to-day.

I was very much interested to read the report of the discussion in the Standing Committee, in which case after case was brought out in which it was quite clear that men and women, very rightly, now wish to have facilities for washing during the hours of their work. They do not like going on working when they are dirty. Further than that, they do not like—and I sympathise with them—going back in the train, omnibus or tube when they have not had a chance of washing. I was very interested to note also that a reference was made to the very wide use that is now made of these facilities wherever they are provided. I remember very well years ago hearing a discussion upon a coal Bill, when I think the proposal was first made that baths should be provided for miners, and when Member after Member got up in the House and said that they would never be used and that if they were used, they would be used only as coal cellars. I have been very interested to find from the conversations that I have had with my advisers that where facilities of that sort are provided, something like 90 per cent. of the men actually use them. That fact shows that where these facilities are provided, they are used. It also shows that the time has come to widen the scope of the provisions that have hitherto existed, and it is on that account that I move this new Clause.

I think hon. Members will find, on reading the provisions of the Clause, that it covers a very wide field, and means that where these facilities can be reasonably provided; they will be provided. It is necessary to have a certain amount of elasticity in dealing with questions of this kind. Hon Members should remember, in connection with this new Clause, and indeed with almost every provision of the Bill, that we are dealing with something like 250,000 of what we call factories, but they range from great undertakings employing thousands of workers to small carpenters' shops or village smithies, and on that account, while we are taking all the steps we can to raise the general standard in this and other directions, we must maintain a certain measure of elasticity; which is provided in the Bill.

3.55 P.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies

I wish at the outset to welcome the conciliatory tone of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and to express the hope that that tone will continue throughout the whole of the proceedings on this Bill. In reading the provisions of this Clause, however, I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is going to continue the rather stiff policy of his predecessor. The Government know full well that hon. Members on these benches want this Bill, but I do not want them to exploit that fact. We have not done anything to prevent the passage of the Bill into law, but I must criticise what I will call the timidity of the Government. If hon. Members will look at the Clause closely, they will find that it is not quite as generous as the right hon. Gentleman would have us believe. Before coming to the provisions of the Clause, I would like to remind hon. Members that we debated this subject at length in Committee, and that our main criticism of the Government in connection with this Bill can be directed against the new Clause, although, of course, it is an improvement on the original. The Government always declare that certain things are to be done, and then at the end of almost every Clause they decide, somehow or another, to exempt almost everybody they can. That same principle underlies this Clause. Sub-section (1a) reads: in any factory where any employed persons are accustomed to take their meals at the factory, for the use of those persons; What is the use of saying in a Bill such as this, which I presume will last for the next quarter of a century, that these facilities are to be supplied only in any factory where employed persons are accustomed to take their meals at the factory? People want to wash their hands and faces apart altogether from the idea of taking their meals at the factory. The right hon. Gentleman said that standards are rising. Of course they are. But if standards are to rise during the next quarter of a century as they have during the last, in this connection the Bill will be out-of-date very soon. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that all the up-to-date and intelligent employers are already providing washing facilities in their factories very much superior to those that would be provided under this Clause.

We are not opposing this Clause, because it is better than what we have had before, but I would like to make a general comment on it. Where an employer requires cleanliness and washing facilities for the purpose of his business, he provides for them. I know of one factory not very far from the House where about 6,000 people are employed in the preparation of food. There they have washing facilities, manicurists, chiropodists, permanent wavers, and so on. If it is right that these facilities should be established for the purposes of the business of the employer, then they ought also to be established for the welfare and cleanliness of the workpeople. This Clause shows the weakness and timidity of the right hon. Gentleman, who belongs to the same party as his predecessor. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Their outlook is exactly the same. They are timid, afraid to move, afraid of the employers. Of course, almost all the hon. Gentlemen behind the Government are interested in factories from the employers' side. The right hon. Gentleman takes note of that, of course. When I find words like these at the end of the Clause I am justified in the observation I have made: (a) prescribe, as respects any of the classes of case specified in the foregoing Sub-section, a standard of adequate and suitable washing facilities"; That is all to the good. But what follows? The right hon. Gentleman can (b) exempt any factory or class or description of factory from the requirement to provide washing facilities where he is satisfied that, having regard to the special conditions under which work is carried on in that factory or class or description of factory, such facilities cannot reasonably be required: A point has been raised about pithead baths. We have the strange anomaly that the miner can go home cleaner to his meal in his cottage than can the factory worker under this Bill. If the miners do not mind my saying so, that is another example of the power of political representation we have through the trade unions. The miner has achieved by law more than the factory worker, because the factory worker is not as adequately represented as the miner in this House. The new Clause is a great improvement on anything we have had before, yet I would repeat that the right hon. Gentleman is not one bit more progressive than was his predecessor when the Bill was in Standing Committee, for this Clause provides similar exceptions and exemptions. I wish the Government were not as timid and that they would do what the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, that as standards are being raised throughout the country in the factories, the Clause ought to provide for washing facilities, not only for the purpose of any business of the employer, but in order to induce the workpeople to use the washing facilities when provided.

4.3 p.m.

Mr. Graham White

If I might refer for a moment to the two or three opening sentences of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I would say that those of us who remember the long and arduous sittings in Committee on the India Bill, as well as the tremendous task which had to be carried through outside the House in connection with that Bill, will recall the tact and ability and—I use the word advisedly—the fortitude with which my right hon. Friend conducted that Bill, in Parliamentary circumstances which were not exactly normal If we bear that in mind we shall be completely confident that he will be equal to the task of piloting this Bill through the House in its remaining stages. This Bill does not, of course, compare in size or scope or magnitude with the India Bill, but, nevertheless it is a Bill of the greatest possible importance to some millions of people. We who were on the opposition in Committee were disappointed in many things, but within the limits within which it was possible for the Government to negotiate and discuss and concede, the Bill has been carried on up to now on the basis of co-operation, and I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will so conduct matters that we shall be able to continue in that spirit to the end.

With regard to this new Clause my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) used the master phrase that the Clause is a great deal better than anything we have had up to now. It is true that he made some criticisms of it, and with them I wish to associate myself. I do not think that the Clause, which I welcome, really marks any advance in the standard already obtaining in a large number of the better factories, and the merits of it will be found in the fact that it will bring up the backward factories to a more satisfactory level. It is for that reason that we certainly welcome the new Clause.

4.7 P.m.

Mr. Buchanan

I have watched the right hon. Gentleman's Parliamentary career for some years, but I do not think that in my time it has been equalled. I have seen him "running" India, "running" Foreign affairs, "running" the Admiralty, and now I see him "running" the Home Office. I am only wondering what the next year or two will bring. When I saw that he was appointed to the Home Office, I said that at least we should get courtesy, but I was not sure about his knowledge of these matters. He will be judged, as everyone is judged, by his capacity. The Clause does mean an improvement so far as it deals with the subject in a much more comprehensive way. As I read it, it provides two or three things. It proposes that in future factories, or where people have to take their food, or where the Ark is offensive, washing facilities shall be provided. In those three categories it is compulsory for workers to be provided with these facilities. What is not covered by these three categories is the factory which is not a new factory, a factory where the work is not offensive work and the factory where people do not take their food. I may be wrong in my reading of the new Clause, and if so, the Home Secretary will correct me.

I want to see the provision of washing facilities made compulsory in every case. I suppose that everyone here is directly or indirectly connected with factory life in some way or other, either as employer or worker. I remember that in my shipyard days I worked at a clean trade and there was nothing offensive about it. I hope I am no snob, but I thought it was necessary, when one went to the lavatory, that one should be able to wash one's hands. Whether you are working at a clean trade or not, surely to goodness in the year 1937 it is not too much to ask that even after the cleanest of jobs you ought to be able to wash your hands. Although people may not actually take food in a factory, it is a not uncommon practice for workmen, particularly since the 47 hours has come into operation and the breaks are now longer, to eat an apple or an orange at his work. That is quite a proper thing to do.

I say to the Minister that the exemptions provided by this new Clause are bad. I can understand there being one or two exemptions. A building being erected is a factory, and one can understand the difficulty of erecting lavatories wholesale in such a case, but I do not understand the provision about work being offensive and dirty. If a workman wants to eat an apple he should be allowed facilities for doing so with clean hands. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider that part of the Clause. I would not ask for this change in the case of a temporary factory like the building of the new exhibition at Glasgow, but in the normal course and in an ordinary factory everyone should be provided with cleaning facilities. My experience is the same as that of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), that in good factories the facilities are provided, but in some smaller places, and often places that need them most, they are not provided.

4.12 p.m.

Mr. Sandys

I wish to see reform in factory conditions as much as any hon. Members opposite, but I am frankly a little surprised at the attitude which they adopt towards this most helpful Clause. It seems to me that the emphasis which they have put on certain paragraphs of the Clause is not justified when one reads the proposal as a whole. One would think from the speeches of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), that Sub-sections (1,c) and (1,d) did not exist at all. As I read the Clause they are the most important paragraphs in it. Paragraphs (a) and (b) are comparatively unimportant as against paragraphs (c) and (d). The former merely set out the bare minimum. The latter paragraphs expand it as far as in each case is required. This Bill is primarily legislating for the future. In so far as is possible, it is bringing the conditions which have arisen in the past up to the standard which we wish to see maintained in the future. However, when introducing a reform it is not always practicable to require the complete change of everything that has gone before. In regard to the past one must make a reasonable compromise.

Mr. Rhys Davies

The hon. Member must take it for granted that any factory constructed, reconstructed or converted for use as a factory after the commencement of this Act, can be exempted and excepted under this new Clause.

Mr. Sandys

As I read it, under Subsection (1,c) the provision of adequate facilities for washing will be a matter of course in all new factories unless the Home Secretary should feel obliged to exercise his powers under Sub-section (2,b). We all know the spirit in which this Measure has been introduced. It is only because of a desire for improved labour conditions that the Government and the House have devoted so much time to this Bill. I cannot see, in those circumstances, how any hon. Member can be justified in suggesting that the Government will try to undo the whole effect of this Measure by exercising, with undue freedom, the provision in Subsection (2,b) for the exemption of exceptional cases. When one considers the Clause as a whole, it is clear that with the exception of cases coming under Subsection (2,b)—under which the Home Secretary can exempt certain factories under special conditions —washing facilities will be provided in every factory in the country, whether old or new, where a desire for them exists and where the inspector is satisfied that the facilities, if provided, will be used. In my opinion the Clause goes a long way and the criticism which has been levelled against it is not well-founded. It is based on a somewhat academic attitude towards the drafting of the Clause. We would all naturally have preferred a clear-cut Clause stipulating that washing facilities must be provided everywhere without any exemptions. But we have to consider this as a practical problem. The provision of adequate facilities is not always a simple matter in all cases. It does not therefore seem to me unreasonable that factories, in which there is no desire for such facilities or in which the facilities would not be used, should be exempted, and I trust that the House, as a whole, will accept the Clause, in the spirit in which I am sure the Government have introduced it.

4.18 p.m.

Miss Wilkinson

It was rather amusing to hear the previous speaker suggest that the attitude of hon. Members on this side towards factories was academic. Presumably, his attitude towards them is practical.

Mr. Sandys

I did not say that. I said that the criticism of the alleged shortcomings of this Clause was somewhat academic.

Miss Wilkinson

That seems to be the same idea expressed in rather a longer phrase, but even if the hon. Member's connection with factories has been extremely unacademic, I cannot imagine that, except possibly on the football field, he has ever for very long been more than a few steps away from adequate washing facilities. Anyone who works in this House as a Member of Parliament, realises how appallingly grubby it is possible for one's hands to get after an hour or two, especially if one is handling papers, and how uncomfortable it can be. We must, therefore, realise what it means to people who have to live and work for eight or nine hours in a factory which is inevitably dusty, however clean it may appear to the casual visitor. While we welcome this Clause, we think it a pity that the Government have not regarded the matter in a more generous way, bearing in mind the fact that we are probably legislating here for the next 20 or 30 years.

There is no section of workers among whom the standard in this respect has been so raised, since the last Factory Act of over 30 years ago, than among the women workers. The day of the crushed woman factory worker with a few shillings a week, too poor and too tired to care what she looked like has gone. Thanks to trade unionism, and trade boards and their ameliorative work that kind of woman worker has been replaced by a self-respecting woman worker who, when she leaves the factory to go to her home, wants to look nice and clean and a creditable member of the community in which she lives. We are not legislating here for the Rowntrees and the Cadburys, and people of that kind. We are legislating for the people who need legislation in order to bring them up to reasonable standards. What, then, can be argued against insisting right from the beginning that the standards which we are laying down shall be reasonable standards? The previous speaker said that this was only a bare minimum, but the barest minimum set down in an Act of Parliament is the maximum legally be enforced.

Mr. Sandys

I said that Sub-section (1), paragraphs (a) and (b), represented a bare minimum, but were extended by paragraphs (c) and (d).

Miss Wilkinson

The whole point is that the first part of Sub-section (1) is the operative part. It lays down a bare minimum and what we are anxious to do is to get that bare minimum defined, so that the standard set in the Bill shall be something like a reasonable standard. I, like most trade union organisers, have seen women and girls in a factory crowding round a bucket of cold water which may have been clean when first put out but is bound to become very doubtful after being used once or twice. One has seen women and girls washing their hands under those conditions and having to depend on a little powder for tidying up their faces. That is not fair or right, and it is not to the advantage of the employer, if the employer would only look at the matter in a modern way. I feel certain that proper basins and hot water, and all the things which we ourselves regard as the barest minimum of washing facilities, should be provided, and that it should be laid down in this Measure.

The Minister is allowing a very long time for structural alterations. Nobody, can claim that he is not allowing a reasonable time. If this Act passes in the summer of 1937 those responsible are being allowed until the summer of 1939 to provide these things. I think that is going a long way and if we are doing that, at least we ought to be willing to insist that these structural alterations should not consist merely of putting in a tap of cold water. But with regard to the first part of the Clause, that is all that can really be insisted upon. Then we come to Sub-section (1,d) which says that the superintendent inspector must be satisfied that a substantial number of the persons employed desire the facilities and would be likely to avail of them. Is the superintendent inspector to make a kind of psycho-analysis of the people in a factory to know, first, whether they desire the facilities and, secondly, whether if they got them they would be likely to make use of them? It seems to me that that second part of Sub-section (1) limits the first part. If it does not, then, surely, that can it is unnecessary.

How does the Minister propose that the superintendent inspector shall find out what the workers desire in this matter? Those of us who have had experience of the Home Office in regard to the working of the two-shift system, are very doubtful about this question of desire. Who is to decide what the workers desire? Will representations from trade union officials be sufficient to establish their desire, or is the superintendent inspector to ask the workers themselves, when the employer is there or when a foreman or welfare worker is there? How will that work in the case of a very young women workers? All of us who are concerned about young people want to see them begin life with nice habits. If they have been trained in those habits in the elementary schools, at considerable cost to the State, is it not a pity that they should lose those habits in the first months of their working lives? But anyone who has had to deal with young girls like that knows that they will not express a desire for anything while the employer is there.

I suggest that without having any question of what is desired or how many workers are going to make use of the facilities, or any of these other conditions, the Minister should apply the principle, of which he himself gave an illustration, that if the facilities are there, use will be made of them. The whole tendency of modern life is in that direction, and I fear that the grudging spirit in which this Clause has been framed may, from the beginning, vitiate what the Minister himself has told us he desires to do. We are asking for a decent standard of civilised life for all workers, so that they should be able to wash adequately and to look decent when they leave the factories. Would it not be better to say so and to make it clear that that is what we desire, instead of putting in so many "ifs and ans" that the Clause may turn out to be one of those Clauses, known to the Home Office, which are monuments of good intentions but very little else.

4.26 p.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

I only wish I had read this Clause yesterday. Had I done so I should have proposed an Amendment which would have left out most of it, on the ground that it is unnecessary. Why we want paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of Sub-section (1) I do not know. Subsection (1) should be: Suitable facilities for washing conveniently situated shall be provided and maintained in all factories. Then Sub-section (2) could stand. I cannot visualise any factory where minimum washing facilities cannot be provided. Taking the very small case, you can buy a washing basin at Wool-worths for 6d., you can buy a pail for 6d. and a tablet of soap for id. Does the Home Secretary suggest, or do his advisers suggest that minimum facilities cannot be provided? Thirty years ago I worked in a factory. Anyone looking at it would have said that it was well equipped and well designed. Many hon. Members pass it frequently in the train and I am sure, looking at it to-day, they would say the same thing and I understand that now these facilities are provided in it. But when I was there my fellow-apprentices and I used to pay 6d. a week to a timekeeper to provide us with a bucket of hot water at the end of the morning shift and at the end of the afternoon shift, in the latrine, where we washed our hands before we left the factory. It was a horrible condition of affairs. Why it should be perpetuated I do not understand, and I do not understand why the Home Secretary should be so timid about the matter.

It is not that we are asking manufacturers to provide something unreasonable, because nearly every decent manufacturer provides these facilities already. One good thing that we got out of the Ministry of Munitions was a real stimulus in this direction, thanks to the admirable work done by the welfare department of that Ministry. An incredible improvement took place during wartime in the provision of these bare minima of civilisation. I am not saying that when we come to the Amendment I shall support the proposal that in all cases hot water with waste pipes and plugs should be provided, because there are cases where in practice that would be exceedingly difficult. If we left out all these qualifications and merely laid down a general declaration that facilities for washing should be provided, and then let Sub-section (2) stand, whereby the Secretary of State could prescribe what were adequate and sufficient under the varying conditions which exist, and allow him power of exemption in the most exceptional cases—I cannot visualise them myself—where it is impossible to provide any facilities, it would be better.

Let us say to everybody, "You must provide for your employés some opportunities for decent cleanliness." Instead of that, we come back to the old principle of contracting in or contracting out. Here, apparently, you have to contract into decency instead of being allowed to contract out in certain exceptional circumstances. Nothing is worse than to see masses of men in buses, trains, and trams going home filthy. Why should other people be exposed to having dirty people sitting alongside of them because they have not either the desire or the facilities for cleaning themselves properly? I am amazed that the wives of this country have not gone on strike years ago, because their husbands have come home not properly clean. We do not find that sort of thing in a great many other countries, where the standard of cleanliness in this connection is much higher than it is here, and I hope the Home Secretary will take his courage in both hands and decide that the provision of washing facilities shall become more definite than is secured by this Clause.

4.32 p.m.

Mr. Riley

I suggest that the Home Secretary should reconsider this Clause and that he should take it back and remodel it. It only applies compulsion and obligation in this matter definitely to factories constructed or reconstructed after the commencement of the Act, and it leaves compulsion entirely out of the question in the case of existing factories. It provides that facilities shall be afforded, so far as existing factories are concerned, in cases in which the superintending inspector for the division by order requires such facilities to he provided, being satisfied that a substantial number of the persons employed in the factory or department desire, and would be likely to avail themselves of, the facilities. All existing factories can be exempt unless the inspector considers that the employés desire these facilities. Why have the Clause in at all? The people who will be affected by this Measure are not so much those who will work in new factories as the millions who are working in existing factories. That is the real point, and it is those people for whom we ought to legislate rather than for a future generation of factory workers. I do not see any reason why there should not be a clear declaration that adequate facilities should be provided in all factories, and the absence of such a declaration is, I think, the weakness of this Clause. I wish to associate myself with those hon. Members who have spoken already as to the timidity with which the Home Secretary and the Department have approached this question. Surely the time has arrived when public opinion demands that there shall be more opportunities for cleanliness in our factories, and the Home Secretary should have taken his courage in both hands, made the Clause definite, and applied it to all existing factories.

4.35 P.m.

Mr. Higgs

I, also, think this Clause should be made compulsory, without qualification. All decent factories have washing facilities. There is a very small minority indeed that have not, and if there is any difficulty about providing such facilities, why not extend the time in which that should be done until 1940? Let us have a Clause that is not ambiguous. It says in paragraph (c): In any factory constructed, reconstructed or converted for use as a factory after the commencement of this Act. One could extend a factory, in which case I do not think it would come under this Clause at all, and the owner could get away without providing adequate washing facilities. If extensions could be made, surely there would be room for providing washing facilities. It is a difficulty, I admit, where one supplies a white rag for cleaning purposes and unscrupulous people use it for other purposes, but nowadays there are such things as paper towels, which are very inexpensive, and that is an easy way of getting out of this difficulty. In these days of liquid soaps and so on there should be no difficulty in making this Clause compulsory. It might be hard on sonic of the smaller factories, but, if so, the period of time could be extended. I think an ambiguous Clause of this description in a Measure which may have to last for another 30 years is a very undesirable thing.

4.37 p.m.

Mr. Marshall

I would like to add my plea to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to redraft this Clause. It looks to me as if paragraph (a) of Subsection (1) of this Clause will put some employers into immense difficulties, because it will make two classes of workmen in one shop. One class will be able to wash before meals, but there will be no authorisation for the other class in that shop to use those facilities. It means to say that the Bill will allow one section of the men in a shop to be clean and another section in the same shop to go home without being clean. I think that everyone can see that the Clause is intensely weak. Those workmen who go home to their meals will wash themselves before going home—as a matter of fact they do it now—by fetching a bucket of water and getting probably half a pound of soft soap from the stores and using for a towel possibly a piece of rag for a week. That is what they do to-day, and the Home Secretary is perpetuating by this Clause that filthy method of dealing with the matter. I am not blaming the men. They are endeavouring to be clean, and they would welcome facilities for washing, I can assure the Home Secretary.

As I have said, the Clause simply makes two classes in one shop. Those who go home to their meals will not be provided with facilities, except what they provide for themselves, and those who stay to their meals will be able to go to the very aristocratic washbowls and wash themselves and have clean towels provided for the purpose. Does the Home Secretary think that the untouchables in that shop will not use those clean towels? Of course they will, and I suggest that, in order to clear this anomaly away, the right hon. Gentleman should produce a general Clause covering the whole of the workers in a shop. If he does that, he will make a good job of it. Apart from that criticism, I think the Clause is a great advance on anything of its kind before.

4.40 p.m.

Mr. Harold Mitchell

I, like many other speakers, wish this Clause had been more widely drafted. Unless one has actually had experience of working in a factory, one cannot fully realise the unpleasantness of having to travel perhaps several miles back home without having adequate facilities provided for washing. Having myself worked in a colliery, where no such facilities were available, I heartily support any legislation which will make for their provision. I attach considerable importance to paragraph (c), which I think is a substantial improvement, securing as it does that in any new factory washing facilities shall be provided. I hope the doubt thrown on the wording of this paragraph, namely, that it will be possible to get out of it is not well founded and that the Home Secretary will be able to reassure the House on that point, because I consider that it will be very wrong if a new factory could be erected without adequate washing facilities being put in.

The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), in his very interesting speech, referred to the great progress that has been made in the mining industry in providing better facilities for washing, but it is still the case that it is possible to-day for a new colliery to be started without a pit-head bath being erected. I hope for that reason that this Clause is drawn watertight, so that it will be impossible for new factories to be erected without providing adequate washing facilities, unless permission not to do so is obtained from the Home Office, which I cannot conceive would be the case. I wish to support the Clause.

4.42 p.m.

Mr. Broad

I was very encouraged when the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman undertook in Committee to introduce a Clause on this subject, but I feel very disappointed at the way in which it has been introduced by his successor. It does not provide that at any time in the future washing facilities must be provided. It says that in two years' time some factories that now exist may have to provide such facilities for some of their workers. The Clause seems to have been drafted by people who have no realisation of the conditions under which workers go from their homes to work in the factories and have their meals. Sub-section (1,a) says: In any factory where any employed persons are accustomed to take their meals at the factory, for the use of those persons. It seems to assume that all workers who do not take their meals at the factory go home to their meals, but that is not the fact by a long, long way. It is a very small proportion of the workers who go home to their meals, and that proportion will become smaller still as the years go on, now that you are having satellite dormitories for the workers, as at Dagenham and elsewhere. A large proportion of the workers do not stop in the factories for meals, because there are no facilities there, and there is so much dirt and noise as well that they like to get a breath of fresh air outside. They therefore go out to dining rooms, coffee houses, if you like, cafés, tea-shops, and so on, where they find themselves among their fellow-workers.

I remember when I was a mechanic that I felt myself degraded by the aspect of everybody else whose work kept them clean. The office boy, who did not get dirty at his work, was given washing accommodation, but the mechanic in the factory, the most ingenious and skilful man, had no such facility. I remember that I had to go out in the City of London with carbon dust on my face and hands from the place where I was working, into a dining room where the waiters or waitresses would look at me as much as to say, "What have you come in here for?" I used at one time to hold a season ticket on the old Underground Railway, which entitled me to travel second class, and I remember that I was often humiliated by people asking the guard or a porter to examine my ticket, because I was one of the great unwashed, and what right had I to travel second class? That is the sort of thing which is most offensive and it is continuing. Workers in the big areas leave in the early morning for their work and if they go out for their meals they will not be able to wash until they get home at night. Factories which provide meals and have canteens, invariably have washing accommodation. It is the other places we have in mind where men have to go out to a meal and have to sneak round the corner and go to the cheapest kind of dining place for fear of being stared at because they are unable to wash. Any lad who wants to keep his self-respect had better leave factory work alone and get into another kind of job, because he is regarded as an inferior person. The office boy is "Mr. Jones," but his grandfather, who may be the best mechanic in the factory, is "J. Jones,"

That is the spirit which seems to have animated the Factory Department when they drafted this new Clause. It would not ruin industry to provide washing accommodation. It would cost a few pence per week per worker at the most, and yet this Clause says that some of them in two years' time, if the workers have meals in the factory, may provide come kind of washing facility. At no time in the future are the existing factories to be brought into line. Why not say right away that all factories within a certain time must provide these common essentials to decency, cleanliness and health, and only grant exemptions in certain cases? Many kinds of work are now brought within the scope of factories although they are not factories in the accepted sense, such as building operations, but on building jobs they have to have water, and it is easy to provide portable washing facilities. There are very few factories that will require exemption. If there is a will there is a way to make it compulsory on all employers who are making profit out of people's work, to give them the first essentials to cleanliness. I hope that the Minister will take this new Clause back, and, in place of this halting and hesitating way of going about the thing, will take a bold step forward and say that for the future the working-classes who produce the wealth of the country will not be branded by their appearance as the great unwashed.

4.49 P.m.

Miss Horsbrugh

The expressions of opinion to which we have listened must have conveyed to my right hon. Friend the great feeling there is that we should provide facilities for washing in all factories unless there are particular occasions such as those to which the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Broad) referred, where work is included as factory work but does not normally come under that heading. The Home Secretary referred to the argument that might be used about men and women leaving factories and having to go away dirty. Other arguments have been put to us. Surely, for the sake of health in these days when we are talking of keeping fit and raising the standard of the health of the people, a Government Department is not going to say that it is not necessary to be clean to be healthy. The attitude of the Home Office is behind that of the House and seems to regard washing as a fad of the people for the sake of personal appearance instead of as one of the essentials to health. Those who live far from their work cannot wash from early morning till late at night if they are not given these facilities. Many improvements have been made in this Bill in factory life, but surely it is a strange thing that on the Report stage we have to begin on the first day asking for what we might have imagined would be the minimum for people working in factories, namely, that they should be able to wash.

4.51 p.m.

Mr. Mander

When this Bill was in Committee it was dealt with in a spirit of co-operation and goodwill between the Members of the Government and the Committee, and I hope that the same spirit will animate the proceedings on Report. On a number of occasions in Committee the Government deferred to the overwhelming opinion of those who spoke, and one of the results of that was to get provisions for washing facilities. They are greatly in excess of what they were in the original Bill, but they are not good enough, and I venture to hope that the Government once again will defer to the clearly expressed opinion that we have had from all sides and will consider whether they cannot go further. It is interesting to find, both in the House and in the Committee, that the opinion of Members of Parliament as a whole is definitely in advance of that of the Home Office, and I hope that the Government will recognise that. They will find that they are supported by the overwhelming opinion of the elected representatives of the people who will be affected by these provisions.

I want to touch on a point which shows how inadequate the present arrangements are as covered by Sub-section (1,a). I have a case in mind where some of the workers at a factory take their meals in the mess room provided just inside the gates. Some of the others, because they like the cooking provided by a restaurant just outside the gates, go there. Under this Clause, those who remain inside the gates will be able to wash their hands, but those who go out will not be able to do so. That is a ludicrous situation. I hope that the Government on consideration will feel that they can go the whole length of the demand that has been put forward from all sides, and I believe that they will be supported by the country.

4.53 p.m.

Sir Edward Grigg

I venture to reinforce the appeal that has been made to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary from all quarters of the House. I had not read this new Clause until I came into the House, but after listening to the Debate on it I am bound to say that the speeches made from all quarters seem unanswerable. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will make provision that adequate washing accommodation shall be compulsory in all factories, with the exception of the discretion which is rightly left to the Home Secretary in Sub-section (2,b). If he will broaden the new Clause he will meet the opinion of all quarters of the House. If, however, he feels unable to meet the opinion in that broader fashion, I hope that he will pay attention to the question of extensions. In Sub-section (1,c) it is laid down that washing accommodation shall be provided only where factories are newly constructed, reconstructed or converted, but not where they have been extended. Extensions are being made to factories all the time and there cannot be any reason why an extension of washing facilities should not be immediately provided.

The other point to which I would especially call my right hon. Friend's attention is the language of paragraph (d), which seems to me to be needlessly offensive to the working-class. I cannot conceive for what reason it is supposed that the workpeople in a factory should express a desire for washing accommodation unless they are likely to use it. Are they going to ask for it in order to make themselves disagreeable to their employers, or for some obscure political purpose, or because they are Communists? It seems ridiculous that that sort of thing should appear in the draft of this Clause. I hope that if the proposed Clause is not broadened in the way in which I hope it will be, these difficulties, at any rate, will be removed.

4.55 p.m.

Sir S. Hoare

I do not think that full justice has been done to this proposed new Clause. It is really a very comprehensive Clause, and I am not sure whether all hon. Members who have spoken have understood how comprehensive it is. It covers all cases where employés take their meals, all cases where there is an amount of dirt and dust, and all new factories. What a good many hon. Members have failed to notice is that it gives very wide powers under paragraph (d) to cover factories outside those three categories. My advisers tell me that it is so very comprehensive that it covers almost all the cases that have been mentioned this afternoon. For instance, one hon. Member pointed to the possible anomaly of a distinction being drawn between one class of employé and another in a factory. That would be amply covered by the powers under paragraph (d), and a situation of that kind could not arise here. The Clause as it is drafted is very comprehensive, and it is our definite intention to ensure washing facilities in practically every case. In dealing with 250,000 undertakings of every sort and character there must be a certain elasticity and a power of exemption such as is set out in Sub-section (2).

The House will see from what I have said that it is the desire of the Government to make this new Clause as effective and as comprehensive as possible. I agree with everything that has been said on all sides of the House as to the need of gradually raising the standards in factories and workshops. If, however, the House does not like the rather detailed drafting of this Clause, and it is understood that there is no difference of opinion between us as to the general scope that we require, namely, that we wish to make it as comprehensive as possible and that we must have elasticity and power of exemption, I am prepared, with the leave of the House, to withdraw the new Clause. I am anxious to proceed as far as we can by general agreement. I am ready to withdraw the Clause on the understanding that it is redrafted on the lines I have suggested, namely, a general provision for washing facilities everywhere, with the power of exemption in special cases, and to bring the Clause into closer harmony with the next new Clause which I shall move about accommodation for clothing. In that Clause we proceed on the lines of a general provision with a certain elasticity to be allowed in special cases. I am prepared to withdraw this proposed Clause, have it drafted on those lines, and have it moved in another place.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Messer

May I ask whether that means that the Amendment which is down to this Clause will not be moved, because the reference to providing separate wash basins and hot water is very important? The illustration given by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) shows a practice which is very widespread in big industry. If Members went to the East End of London any evening—to Hoxton, Shoreditch or Bethnal Green—and took note of the hands of the people they met walking along the streets, they would find that in a large number of cases their hands were dirty with a type of dirt that you cannot wash off with cold water. The people to whom I refer are french polishers. Men and women who are working with grease can usually get rid of the grease, but in the case of french polishers their skin comes in contact with the material they are using, and as they cannot use rubber gloves or any preventive, arid the material they use is a very dirty material indeed, it is impossible for them when washing with soap and water to get their hands clean. Shellac is very tenacious.

What happens in most of the furnishing factories is that a number of the workers get a bucket of water, heat it, put soda in it and wash their hands. As the Home Secretary will know, there is in that industry the disease of dermatitis, which comes from the use of turpentine and other things. A man who has dermatitis may be washing in the same bowl of water as the other men, and that would involve the possibility of spreading the disease. Therefore, that Amendment is very important in order to secure that a workman shall wash his hands in a bowl which can be drained before the next person uses it. I hope the Home Secretary will consider that point. What are referred to as "adequate and suitable" in the Clause may be adequate and suitable for certain things. Though it might be adequate and suitable to require hot water to be provided n the winter, that would not be sufficient in the case of the type of workers to which I am referring. At the moment there is no compulsion on employers to provide washing facilities, and in some cases to get rid of the polish the workers wash their hands in methylated spirits, which is not a good thing.

5.5 P.m.

Sir S. Hoare

I will certainly remember that point. I think it had been covered already in Sub-section (2,a). Now that I have undertaken to redraft this Clause on more general lines, we must stick to more general lines, and while I will take into account the case he has described and assure him that we will carry out the Clause in the spirit of Sub-section (2,a) tinder which standards have to be prescribed, we must get away from this detailed drafting now.

5.6 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

I should like to know whether the Home Secretary has considered the location of the washing facilities. I suggest that steps should be taken to secure that the washing facilities are provided at each entrance or outlet to a factory, so that when the worker is coming in or going out he passes through the place where the washing facilities are. That is very important. The point has arisen in connection with the provision of pithead baths.

5.7 P.m.

Mr. Leonard

I understand that the new Clause is to be more general in its terms, and I hope that the Home Secretary will still retain the power under order to deal with what is adequate and suitable in order to meet the case of new processes if proper facilities for cleanliness are to be secured.

5.8 p.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies

I think I shall be speaking the mind of Members of all parties when I say that the right hon. Gentleman has done the best thing in agreeing to take back this Clause.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)

I take it that the hon. Member has the permission of the House to speak again.

Mr. Rhys Davies

I ought to have asked for that permission. All I wanted to say was that when the right hon. Gentleman brings up the Clause again it will mean that we shall have thrown upon the administration nearly all the things we have been asking him to do, and I think it is right to say that we have very great faith in the Factory Department of the Home Office to see that the desires we have expressed to-day will be carried out by the Orders.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.