§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
When I went to the Home Office and I saw this volume that is known as the Factories Bill, my heart failed, my face sank, and for days on end I sat with a wet towel around my head trying to find my way through the maze of its intricacies. At the end of it all, I wondered how much I really knew about the details of the Bill. But when I came to this House and heard the discussion on the Report stage, I own that I did take heart of grace, and I began to be somewhat encouraged. I felt, first of all, that the foundations had been very efficiently laid by my distinguished predecessor, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. I felt that a great measure of good will had grown up in the course of the discussions, both in this House and in the Committee upstairs, and I thank hon. Members opposite for their share in creating the atmosphere that was created. I felt also that whatever might be my own ignorance and deficiencies, I had in my hon. Friend the Tinder-Secretary of State, a veritable Encyclopaedia Britannica in his knowledge of the Bill, and although it is unusual and generally improper for one Minister to throw bouquets at another, perhaps the House will allow me, in the peculiar circumstances in which I found myself, to say how deeply indebted I was to him for his very able help in the course of the discussions.
I should be very badly repaying this debt of gratitude that I owe to so many hon. Members who were very kind to me —perhaps that is always so for a new boy at the beginning of the first term, at any rate, for a few weeks, but they were very kind to me—if I added another long speech to the many speeches that have been made in the course of these discussions. I find that no less than 1,500 columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT have been filled with the discussions on the Bill, and far be it from me to add many more columns to this very great number. 1124 I think, however, the House would wish me, in a very few sentences, to summarise the scope of the Bill as it is to-day when, as we hope, it is on the point of going to another place, and to draw the attention not only of hon. Members but of the general public outside to the changes that are being made in our factories law and to the improvements that have been made in the Bill since it was introduced.
First of all, let me remind hon. Members that this Bill is a Factories Bill, bringing within its scope 6,000,000 workers employed in 250,000 undertakings of all sizes and descriptions. Being a Factories Bill, it deals with the health, the safety and the welfare of this great and diverse body of workers. In particular it offers protection to women and youthful workers who particularly need it. It is worth remembering the limitations of a Factories Bill for it seemed to me at times during our discussions that some hon. Members were inclined to regard it as a Bill covering the whole fields of Education Acts and Hours Conventions. In those other fields I do not wish to prejudge the issues. All I wish to say is that if a Factories Bill were to deal with them, it would run into 300 Clauses instead of 150, and probably would never find sufficient time to pass the House of Commons.
Secondly, the Bill sets a minimum standard. It does not impose an ideal and I hope that many employers will go beyond the standard which we are setting in it. It is, however, necessary, if there is not to be a great dislocation of industry, to remember that we are dealing with all kinds and conditions of factories and workshops and that while we are determined to proceed with resolution, we must also take account of the facts and deal with them in a practical and sensible manner. It would be a foolish policy if in our attempt to improve conditions of employment, we destroyed the very opportunities of employment. This is the reason why we have not gone further in certain directions and why we have, within our general standards, retained a certain elasticity in administration, but an elasticity, I would remind the House, that can be used in both directions.
Thirdly, the Bill definitely raises the general standards all round and in certain respects makes improvements that will prove of great importance in the future. Let me remind the House of certain of 1125 these improvements. First, the provisions for the cleanliness of the workers and the cleanliness of the buildings are being greatly strengthened and extended. Let me make a confession. I did not in the least resent the attitude of the House when they preferred their conception of the drafting of a Clause on washing facilities, to our own. I think myself if we had had more time—and we were very much pressed for time—I might have introduced that Clause in a somewhat different form but, be that as it may, I was glad to see the House taking an interest in a question of this kind and having a definite view of its own as to how to deal with it.
Then, overcrowding is being progressively reduced. Fresh air must henceforth be circulated in every workroom. For the first time in our factories legislation, sufficient and suitable lighting must be secured and maintained. This is an improvement of great importance. Very important also is the new provision under which there is to be medical supervision of factory workers in cases of industrial illness, and in particular where there may be risk of injury to the health of young persons. As to the safety of workers, for the first time in our history, all new machinery must, when sold or hired, comply with certain safety requirements. As regards old machinery many improvements are being made for fencing it and ensuring proper precautions. There is also the important provision, proposed in the Standing Committee, it is worth noting, by an employer, that young persons are not to work dangerous machines unless they have been fully instructed as to the dangers and unless they are sufficiently trained and adequately supervised. Many new precautions are being taken against fire risks, such for instance as the provision which extends the need for means of escape to the smaller factories. As to welfare, the Bill greatly widens the scope of former Acts and applies certain welfare provisions generally instead of restricting them to special factories and special classes of factories.
Next I come to the very important question of hours. I note the fact that while the original Bill made substantial improvements in the existing position, further improvements of great importance have been introduced into it since the 1126 Second Reading. The statutory hours for women and for young persons between 16 and 18 will be reduced from 60 to 48 a week and the hours of young persons between 14 and 16, subject to certain carefully-guarded exemptions, will be reduced to 44. Moreover in the case of women and young persons between 16 and 18 overtime will be greatly reduced. Speaking generally, the maximum of 600 hours a year will be reduced to 100 hours a year. Overtime in future will be restricted to certain weeks in the year and in order that it may be more effectively checked, it will be counted for the factory as a whole instead of for the individual, and as to young persons between 14 and 16 there will be no overtime at all. Women and young persons, too, will henceforth be assured of their Saturday half-holiday, as their work will stop at 1 p.m. instead of 4 p.m.
These are very great improvements, not indeed so great as all hon. Gentlemen would wish but none the less very considerable advances on the present position. When all these changes are taken into account and when the complexities of industry are remembered, I believe that the Bill will come to be regarded in future as a great measure of social reform. But great as are these individual improvements, I believe myself that the greatest advance in the future will be due to the concentration of public opinion upon these questions as a result of our discussions. I was much struck by the series of interesting discussions which took place on the Report stage, and in particular, if I may mention two of them, those upon accidents and upon the employment of juveniles. I hope that great good has been done by the concentration of the attention of this House—and as a result, the attention of the country—upon those very urgent questions. I want to see a much more alert public opinion upon both those questions. From what little knowledge I have been able to gain about accidents, I think one of the most urgent needs is that the public generally should pay more attention to them, should be less careless about them and should take more reasonable precautions.
I should almost like to see compulsory attendance at the Industrial Museum, not only of employers but of householders as well. I was very much struck, on a visit to the museum 1127 the other day, by the extent to which safety appliances have been developed and how cheap in price many of them are. I take this opportunity of drawing the attention of employers, of householders and of all ordinary citizens to this museum. I think it suffers from a rather dismal name. I am inclined to think it would be better to call it the "Safety First" exhibition or some such name. Whatever it may be called, I should like to see the public generally realise what is being done and how much more might he done if employers and householders made use of the facilities that are now at their disposal.
So also with the great problem of juvenile labour. So far from resenting the discussions that took place upon the conditions of juvenile labour, I welcome them. Even though I was not able to agree with the views of certain hon. Gentlemen opposite, I was glad to have attention concentrated upon these problems. They raise all sorts of issues, and neither to-day nor to-morrow can we find any immutable solution of them. Whatever may or may not be in this Bill, the situation is constantly changing, and in the future employers will have to depend less and less upon juvenile labour. I believe that one of the results of this Bill will be to force attention upon these problems and to make employers realise that they will have to adjust the conditions of their factories to a situation that is obviously changing now and is going to change still more when this Bill comes into operation, and when, in two years' time, the Education Act also comes into operation. For these reasons I was very glad to take part in the discussions upon these important issues.
There was another reason why I was very much interested while I listened to the course of the debates. It seemed to me that what we were doing was very typical of British history. We were proceeding step by step, we were basing our advance not so much upon theory as upon actual experience. We were building stage by stage upon past experience, and we were attempting to carry out great changes, not by revolutionary methods, but by as much agreement as we could obtain, whether between hon. Members in the House or between employers and labour organisations outside. It seems to me that in the course we were follow- 1128 ing we were adopting a typically British method. There was another very interesting feature about this Bill. I read as far as I could the history of factory legislation. I expect that hon. Members on the opposite side of the House know that history very well. If they do, I think they will agree with me when I say that there is no more interesting chapter in the whole of British history than that of factory legislation during the last century.
Like many developments in British history, it began on a very small scale. It began rather more than 100 years ago with four inspectors—the sum total of the number of men actually engaged in this branch of work. They were the first inspectors of any service in British history. What a progeny those four men now have! These men, whose names are now practically unknown, started upon this work in the face of every kind of difficulty—difficulty with the Government, with employers and with parents —and yet they forced their way forward and started this great chapter of social reform. They started, incidentally, not only the great movement of factory reform, but the whole movement of public education. It was from the work of these four factory inspectors that emerged the movement of public education, for the first schools were factory schools. This past history very much interested me. It gave me satisfaction that in the discussions upon the Report stage we were building this great structure upon the sure foundation that was set more than a century ago by these four almost unknown individuals. What more typical incident could there be in British history?
Lastly, I am glad to share in the passage of this Bill, for, being a very old Member of this House and having a great respect and affection for Parliamentary institutions, I am delighted to see the Parliamentary system showing itself at its best. I am delighted to see the British Parliament still able to face a great Measure of this kind, filled with every intricacy, and deal with it impartially, each side of the House trying to make the Bill better and making a common effort to turn it into a great and useful Measure for the future. I am delighted to see the Parliamentary system able to face free discussion and long deliberation, and yet, without undue delay, to pass a great Measure of this 1129 kind on to the Statute Book. Let other countries note that we in our own way, proceeding upon the well trodden track of past experience, can pass into law these great Measures of social reform without any national dislocation, without the wizard's wand of any dictator, and that we are prepared to bring them to the Floor of this House to face free discussion and to pass them into law, as I hope we shall pass this Bill into law, without any undue delay. In this Bill we have seen the Parliamentary system working in its most efficient manner.
This is my final word: Let me assure hon. Members that when the Bill is passed it will be administered with the sympathy that the factory inspectors have always shown in the discharge of their duties. It will be administered, perhaps, with even greater efficiency in the future, for we shall certainly have to extend substantially the number of the inspectors. Lastly, it will be administered by the Home Office with the settled conviction that it is a great and useful Measure, that it contains within its four corners the seeds of growth, and that the House desires it to be the instrument for generally raising the standard of the conditions in factories and workshops. So far as administration is concerned, we in the Home Office intend, in the letter and the spirit, to carry out what I believe to be the general wish of all sections of the House.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Short
The right hon. Gentleman has set us a very good example in brevity, and I shall seek to follow him in that direction. Brief though he has been, he has not in any way lessened the importance of his statement respecting the provisions of the Bill. I think he is fortunate to be associated with the Measure, especially as he came to it when all the complex and difficult work had been accomplished, though I think he stayed the course manfully during the Report stage and showed evidence of his qualities as a Parliamentarian. For those of us who have been active on this Bill from the beginning, the long road of travail is ended. The time for criticism, complaint and amendment is over, and we must take the Bill as we find it, and if the provisions are not as far-reaching and as progressive as we should have liked, nevertheless I think 1130 we can jointly congratulate ourselves on having improved the Measure very considerably. I think the compliments which the right hon. Gentleman paid to the Opposition were well deserved. I found the Committee stage most interesting and instructive, and I was fascinated at times by the wealth of knowledge and the capacity for detail of the Members who sat day after day discussing this complex and intricate Measure.
I think we should also acknowledge our gratitude to the then Home Secretary and to the Under-Secretary. Both of them had a fine grasp of the issues and, I believe, generally speaking, sought to meet us on technical matters, though upon the wider issues of hours we did not meet with any measure of success. There were times when we drove those two Ministers into the corner, and when they had to fight back, and they fought back with some capacity, cruelly at times. Whenever they were in a tight corner they said, "Ah well, we must remind hon. Members that this did not appear—or it did appear—in the Bill of 1924." I hope I have heard the last of that Bill, but I will make this observation: Had there been the same measure of co-operation and good will in the House in 1924 as has been shown in connection with this Bill, the number of accidents, fatal and otherwise, to adults and young people would have been considerably less, in the intervening years. It would be interesting to compute, if we could do it, how many of those accidents would have been avoided had there been a little willingness on the part of that Parliament to consider and pass that Measure. At the same time we must pay a compliment to the Home Office advisers and officials, who have had a very stiff and arduous task, but who have been ever ready to offer their advice and services to us, the Opposition, as well as to the Government.
I do not think anybody will deny—I shall not—that the Bill is a great advance on the provisions of the Act of 1901. New law is being created and many bad employers will in future have to toe the line with good employers. Running through our Debates on this Bill was the idea that we were legislating for another 25 or 30 years. I do not share that view. I hope the passion for social justice will expand more rapidly than it has done in 1.he past. I hope we shall not have to wait so long for justice to be done, that 1131 the public conscience will be more easily aroused than during the last 37 years. I hope that employers and workpeople, the public and, indeed, this House, will be more ready to translate the hopes and the ambitions of the people into legislation than they have hitherto shown themselves to be.
The Government have been accused of timidity. We must admit that this Bill is a compromise. It is the result of consultations with outside people, it was brought to the House as a compromise Measure, and we could have wished that there might have been a greater measure of public spirit displayed in some quarters. The Bill affects some 6,000,000 work-people and some 350,000 factories. The anomaly respecting workshops and factories has been removed—a much-needed reform—and the provisions have been strengthened in connection with cleanliness, overcrowding, temperatures, ventilation, lighting, sanitary conveniences and so forth. There would appear to be ample powers for enforcement in the hands of district councils. If they fail, the Home Secretary can act. In connection with machinery, the safety provisions have been tightened and strengthened, and we have created new law in some respects. I particularly welcome the additions made with regard to hoists and lifts, and I have no doubt that when the Bill becomes operative, although that time is some way off, there will be a diminution in accidents to adults and to juveniles.
Turning to the question of the employment of women and young persons, on this side of the House we are disappointed. We should have liked a more progressive spirit to have animated the Bill, and to have been reflected in its phraseology. We have to admit that the working hours have been considerably reduced. The then Home Secretary, now Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that under the old law, in 51 weeks in any given year the workers worked 3,060 hours. Those hours have been reduced to 2,550, including the extra hour overtime allowed by the Measure. That is a step in the right direction for women and young persons. For the first time, the Bill legalises overtime, although we have no included any conditions governing what is to be paid for overtime. In connection with young children between the ages of 14 and 16, we welcome the proposal of 44 hours. 1132 We had a great struggle upstairs in Committee, and I am grateful to every Member, no matter to which party he belongs, that stood manfully in that cause. We have a 44-hour week; we should have liked to see a 40-hour week with no overtime. When Parliament is dealing with issues which are so immense and important to the great mass of the people, it is a blot upon the Bill that we did not have courage to inaugurate something in the nature of a 40-hour week for adult labour, without loss of wages.
I am reaching my self-appointed time-limit, but there are two further things I would say. I welcome the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the Home Office propose to be sympathetic in their administration of the Bill. Much will, of course, depend upon the enforcement of the provisions of the Bill. I have paid testimony on more than one occasion to the splendid work of the inspectorate; we shall look for an increase in the inspectorate. I hope that we shall not be satisfied with the reply given by the Under-Secretary of State when I raised this question in Committee, and that it will not be made a condition that every inspector must be university trained. I hope the Home Office will look for practical men and women, and for men and women with practical experience of workshop life. I do not say that their education is unimportant; they have to deal with employers and with more cultured workmen to-day than were to be found in my apprentice days. There is need for a measure of education and culture among these people, but there should not be a condition that university training is essential, if all the other things are present in the men and women who apply for these posts.
The Bill comes into operation on 1st July, 1938. No doubt many people have been following our Debates in Committee. The Press has given some show of publicity to our proceedings, and I would ask the Press of the country to give frequent publicity to the Clauses of the Bill between now and the operating date. There is much ignorance abroad respecting factory legislation. Employers and trade unions can do a great deal, but all the workers are not organised, and we must rely upon the Press for a good deal of publicity. The Bill, good, and improved as it has been in Committee, will 1133 not occasion any distress to good employers, but it will occasion distress to bad employers. It will compel bad employers to come up to the standard of the good. From that point of view I welcome the Bill. I do not believe that monuments will be erected to commemorate its introduction, or the action of the Government although a few monuments might well be put up to commemorate the excellent work done by Members of the Committee. They worked long and hard to improve a Measure which we hope will ameliorate the lot of the workers and limit the rising accident rate of recent years.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham White
It seems a very long time, almost a lifetime, since the Bill received its Second Reading and we began our debates in Committee Room 10. I am sure that no Member of that Committee will forget Committee Room 10 and the weeks and months that we spent there, and as they will not forget it I am equally sure that they will not regret it. We are all fully conscious of the fact, and are entitled to take some pride in it, that Parliament has, in bringing the Bill to its present stage, done a good piece of work. The Bill comes from Committee in a form which, I believe, will make it easier to administer. It is extended in some directions, although in by no means all the directions which we should have liked to see. That is due to what the Home Secretary described as the working of the British Parliament at its best; it is due to the collaboration on the Committee, within the limits which were open to the different parties in co-operating and negotiating; but it was due even more, if I may say so without being guilty of anything approaching impertinence, to the very great, indeed the surprising amount of knowledge that was revealed in the Committee as the Bill progressed from Clause to Clause. There was hardly any point, however complex or intricate, on which there was not someone present who was able to make a contribution and show that he had practical knowledge of the working of the Measure. We welcome the new ground that is broken in the Bill, the increased provisions for lighting and sanitation, and the protective measures with regard to machinery; and I have no doubt that, when the Bill comes into operation, there will be a notable diminu- 1134 tion in the number of accidents and a notable improvement in the health of the people employed in the factories.
The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Short) referred to the fact that there was an assumption running through our discussions that the interval between this Bill and further legislation was likely to be another 35 years. I do not share that view, and I hope that the period will not be so long. Conditions are changing very rapidly in industry, not only in this country but abroad, and it is necessary that we should keep our eyes open and see that our country, which always used to lead in matters of factory and industrial legislation, continues to keep pace with any improvements that may become available, not only here but abroad. I think it would be well that the work which Parliament has now done should be reviewed at more frequent intervals, so that these matters may receive even more meticulous consideration than they have received in the past. My right hon. Friend said that we were proceeding in the good old British manner, one step at a time, but, when we have intervals of 20 or 30 years between legislation on any particular subject, it is a leap that we must look forward to rather than a step. I am all in favour of a gradual process, but it must be steady, and not spasmodic. My right hon. Friend said we must be careful that, in making advances in these directions and trying to improve the conditions of employment, we do not at the same time destroy the means of employment. That is very true, but I do not think we are running any risk of destroying employment or doing anything detrimental to it in this Bill.
There are two facts which the Government have not, perhaps, sufficiently appreciated in considering the Measure. One is the great adaptability of industry to new conditions, provided that they are equally imposed over the whole field and there is no differentiation between different sets of manufacturers. Another is that a silent, but nevertheless effective aid to improvement in factory conditions is the selection that is now being made by the employés themselves. So long as employment remains at a reasonable level, the employer who keeps a dirty or ill-equipped factory, without adequate canteen arrangements and all the other matters which we have been discussing, is not going to get the employés; they will 1135 go somewhere else; and there will be that incentive to him to bring his conditions up to date and reach the standard to which my right hon. Friend said he hoped manufacturers would rise.
The time has now gone by for detailed criticism, but some reference must be made to the amount of work that is left to administration. That, of course, is inevitable in applying a general Act of Parliament to such a complex and intricate business as industry is to-day, but there is one direction in which I hope particular administrative consideration may be given. Some doubt has been expressed in the course of our discussions, without any wash to derogate from the importance of the functions which district councils perform in our community, as to their suitability for dealing with this matter. Great factories are now springing up in districts where hitherto there has been no experience of legislation of this kind, and it may be that the local councils are not in every case suited, or have the necessary technical assistance to carry out all the functions which they will have to look after under the Bill. I would, therefore, express the hope that, in matters such as the provision of fire appliances and the like, the Home Office will proceed by regulations to state a standard of efficiency and practice which will counteract any tendency that there may be to inequalities and idiosyncracies in the practice of different councils.
Like the hon. Member for Doncaster, and others in all quarters of the House, I regret that the Home Secretary was not able to make this a distinguished Measure by laying it down clearly that henceforth children under 15 were not to be employed in factories. I think that that might have been done by arrangement and consultation with the Board of Education and everyone concerned. Clearly it was the wish of the education authorities throughout the country, of the local authorities, and of the Association of Municipal Corporations. I welcome the fact that the working hours of young persons have been reduced from 48 to 44, and that an inquiry will have to be held before any extension of them is to be allowed. I sincerely hope that the conditions laid down as the result of those inquiries, if and when they are held, will he strictly applied. I hope the House will forgive me if I refer for a moment to 1136 the conditions. One is that the work is not likely to be injurious to the health of the young people employed in those factories. A condition of that kind is just a speculation in the well-being of those young people. Another condition is that the employment should be beneficial. I do not think that any industry has anything to lose by adopting provisions of this kind. Industry cannot lose, provided there is no discrimination, by anything that benefits the nation as a whole.
Whether my stay in Parliament is long or short, I shall look back with great pleasure to the proceedings of the Committee and to working there with my colleagues, and I shall especially remember the tact, courtesy and ability with which the Committee was led by the then Home Secretary and by the Under-Secretary, supported as they were by the technical advice of their Department. Although there is a good deal more that we should have liked to see done, I think the House may feel that Parliament has done a good piece of work, which will soon be reflected in improved conditions of health and freedom from accidents in the case of the 6,000,000 people who will be brought under the provisions of the Act.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I would like to be allowed to express my satisfaction at playing some small part in the passing of this great Measure both through Committee and through this House. I am proud to be a supporter of the Government which introduced this Measure, especially so because I represent in Parliament that part of Yorkshire which includes the borough of Todmorden, which was the birthplace and home of Mr. Fielden, then Member of Parliament for Oldham, who played such a large part in the first Factory Acts in this country over 100 years ago.
It is well to remember that this Bill is not only a great advance on the Act of 1901 but—I say with all courtesy—in many respects on the Bill drafted by the Socialist party in 1924, and although the Labour party, the Liberal party and indeed Members of all parties pressed in Committee for further reforms and advances, I would claim that this Measure is being passed by the consent of all. Nearly all the differences which were expressed in Committee and on Report were differences in method in 1137 attaining the desired objective rather than differences in the objective itself. I believe that that will not be challenged in any part of the House. I would claim this Bill to be a charter for all the men and women working in the factories of our country. There are 7,000,000 of them, I believe. I know—at least I hope that I know—that the great majority of them are working under conditions as good as or indeed better than the conditions laid down in this Bill, and they have attained those conditions largely through their own exertions and their own organisation, and also through the enlightenment of a great body of the employers. To this great majority of the working men and women in our factories, this Bill gives legal sanction and enforcement to the conditions which they now enjoy so that they need never fear that in the future they will be denied them. To those who are not enjoying such standards I believe it is true to say that this Bill will come as little less than a godsend.
One has only to look through the headings of the different parts of the Bill—health, cleanliness, overcrowding, temperature, ventilation, drainage, sanitation, safety, welfare, special regulations and hours of employment for women and young persons—to realise that this Bill is one of the most important, if not the most important, pieces of home social legislation which this House has undertaken for many years. And I think that it is well that in these days, when so much of our time is absorbed by foreign affairs, rearmament and all those great issues, we should demonstrate to the country that our party in particular and indeed the whole House are still mindful of the paramount importance of Disraeli's great principle, that is "continually to improve the conditions of the people of this country." This Bill will be widely welcomed as an earnest of that desire.
I would like to emphasise that this Bill gives very wide powers for the Home Secretary to improve and to make further advances on the conditions here laid down as general conditions and standards improved. I believe that this is a most important fact which is often overlooked. The "Times" in a recent leading article on the Bill emphasised the point. A great deal of the legislation in this Bill is to be by regulation. The success or failure of 1138 this Bill and of the regulations will turn on the efficiency of the factory inspectors and the advice which they tender, and on the action which the Home Secretary of the day takes on the advice proffered. I would add my voice in urging the importance of an increase of the factory inspectorate and that care should be taken to see that the gentlemen occupying these important positions should be fit and proper persons to carry out the duties involved. The Home Secretary and the factory inspectors have the power in their hands to make this Measure a triumphant success. I am convinced that in the present Home Secretary, as indeed in the previous Home Secretary who did so much work on this Bill in Committee, we have a Minister to whom we may entrust this Bill with complete confidence that he will make of it what we all wish it to be. I should like also to pay my tribute to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Under-Secretary for the courtesy and the help which they gave to us in Committee, when we were on their side and occasionally when we were criticising them. I think that it would also be churlish to leave this Measure without a tribute to the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), who presided over the Committee with so much skill and distinction and who thereby earned the respect and affection of us all.
§ 9.33 P.m.
§ Mr. Banfield
I think that as one who served on this Committee for so long and only missed one meeting—and that was when I was at a committee of inquiry —it might be fitting if I said a few words on this the Third Reading. I look on this Bill as something accomplished, something done. But someone once said—I think that it was an American poet—that the saddest words in the English language were "It might have been." I cannot help but think to-night of what this Bill might have been and what my own feelings might have been had this Bill contained some of the things which are unfortunately not in it. Members have expressed their satisfaction, as I do myself, at the improvements in this Measure. But surely we should expect improvements. The hon. Member who has just sat down said that this Bill is better than the Labour Bill of 1924.
§ Mr. Banfield
Quite, but 13 years have gone by. Bless my life and soul, we have not stood still for 13 years. If there is one thing more than another which is evident it is that there is to-day a far wider public conscientiousness on these matters than ever before in the history of our people. The rapid introduction of more and more machinery, the ever increasing capacity for production, and the speeding up of industrial life in all directions, have created a new social conscience which is not content to stand by and allow little children to be exploited in this year as they have been exploited in the past. Tribute has been paid to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who introduced the Bill, and to the Under-Secretary. The Under-Secretary is the most amiable young man I ever met in my life but, with all his amiability, I have never got anything out of him yet. If it is a tribute to say that he stuck to his guns, and smiled and smiled and smiled, and gave nothing away, I will add my tribute in that respect.
The Bill, after all, has been in the nature of a compromise from its very inception. It was necessary to prepare the way. Employers were consulted and trade unionists, including myself, were consulted before the Bill came here at all. I think with the Home Secretary that it is essentially British, because it is so essentially a Bill of compromise. The fundamental difference between our methods and those of Continental countries is this: Had this been a Bill, say, in the French Chamber, all the Socialist and Labour representatives would have declared, "We must have this in the Bill," and when the Government offered a compromise they would have said, "No, we must have this or nothing," and generally they would get nothing. I think the progress of the British trade union movement is due to the fact that it has been prepared to accept something on account, and to hope for better things in the days to come.
I accept the Bill as something on account. I cannot imagine for a moment that we are to wait 25 or 30 years for another Factories Bill. In some form or another the things that we have fought for and not obtained in this Bill must be placed upon the Statute Book within a comparatively few years. Nothing has so struck the imagination of Europe as the fundamental change in the relations 1140 between capital and labour recently introduced by the French Government. When I have urged that certain things should be put into the Factories Bill, the Under-Secretary or the right hon. Gentleman has looked at me in a pitying way and said, "These European countries never carry out anything that they promise. We are the people to do that." There may be some truth in that. Some European countries may have been content to put legislation upon the Statute Book and let it stay there. But there is this to be said, that throughout the world to-day there is this growing feeling that young people must be protected, that the labour of women must be protected, because they are unable to protect themselves, that in an age of machinery long hours of labour are a disgrace to any trade and to any nation.
In this Bill we have introduced for the first time the very important point that workshops are to be classed as factories. An hon. Member has talked about the new factories in the new areas. Those are not the factories that we want to bother about. Modern factories are built on modern methods. The old ramshackle workshop is no longer looked upon as being a paying proposition by modern employers. We have brought under the Bill tens of thousands of small workshops, many of them of a very bad type. I talked the other day with an employer in my own industry. Although we differ, we are very good friends. I think it is some tribute to a trade union secretary who can say, "I can go and see any employer over and over again. He is always pleased to see me." We talked it over and I said, "You people do not know what the Factory Bill is doing to you. You have not quite grasped all that it means to so many of you who hitherto have carried on your business in such had places, so little regulated, with no air space, overcrowded by the people you have inside them." When the Home Office get down to the fact that control is absolutely essential if the Bill is to be a success, they must have enough inspectors to see that its provisions are properly carried out. It is easy to say that the majority of employers are good employers. There are some very good, but there are a lot of very bad, careless, apathetic and indifferent employers who, unless some compulsion is brought to bear upon them, will do nothing in the 1141 future, as they have done nothing in the past, to make the conditions of their people as they ought to be.
An hon. Member said this was a workers' charter. I do not think we ought to use big words about it. It is a long way from being the charter that I should like to see it. It falls so far short of what it might have been. That is the saddening part about it. I have said over and over again: Why do we not make this a Bill which will long be remembered in industrial history? The right hon. Gentleman made allusion to the past history of factory legislation. I have studied it. It has been part of my job. I think the people who initiated factory legislation should go down as people bearing a great name in the history of the nation. They did it in the teeth of terrific opposition, in an age of prejudice, which was not confined to the employers but was as bad on the side of the workers. In the face of all the difficulties they initiated a system and to-day, in spite of the things that I should like to see, the fact remains that our factory legislation, and our inspectorships under factory legislation, is still by far the best of any European country. But it is because I want to see this nation hold the first place in this kind of legislation that I regret so much so many of the things that have not been done in this Bill. I know there is a very good answer to it. The fact that we are passing the Third Reading of a great Measure like this in an almost empty House shows that the majority of Members say, "What is on to-night? The Factories Bill. I am going home. I do not suppose there will be a Division." And away they go. But it is some tribute to us in this way. They feel that whatever has been done has been done with the consent of all parties in the House.
If there was one thing more than another that struck me while at work on the Bill in Committee it was the real desire on the part of practically every one to do the right thing as far as he saw it. The difference of opinion was that some of us thought the right thing was to go a lot farther than others thought, and they were not prepared to go as far as we were. But they were typical of that general consensus of opinion that in factory legislation this 1142 country has always taken the lead and should continue to take the lead. The Home Office, so far as its official element is concerned, has always been looked upon by everybody who has taken an interest in these matters as a Department that wishes to see justice done between workmen and employers. It has always had a tradition of that kind behind it, which is a tremendous tribute, if I may say so, to its permanent officials, but I hope the Department will realise one thing.
There is at Geneva, in the International Labour Office, an organisation which is endeavouring, with some amount of success, to bring into line European countries which up till now have lagged so lamentably behind our own standards in these matters, and I hope the Department will realise that it is not quite sufficient in these days to act nationally in these matters. They must get an international spirit, and they must endeavour as far as possible to encourage those other nations in Europe which drag behind our conditions of labour, to come up to them. Believe me, the example of this country in labour conditions and what is said at the International Labour Conference at Geneva have a tremendous effect in other countries upon this class of legislation. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by bringing European countries up to our standards so far as factory conditions are concerned, and I hope the Home Office, al any rate, does pay some attention to international conventions which are passed. I do not want to refer to anything of a personal nature that I am interested in, but that was a convention, and I hope the Department will realise that international conventions should command, as far as is possible, the fullest support of the British Government and the Home Office.
I am pleased, and shall always be proud, to think of whatever little help I have given towards this Bill. It will remain with me as one of the brightest spots in my Parliamentary career. I shall think, at any rate, that I have tried to do something, and, if I failed, it was not my fault. There is some consolation, after all, in men having the consciousness of knowing that they have fought the good fight. If they lose, if they have not got their way, it still remains to them to say, "I have done 1143 the best I could, and man can do no more." I hope and trust that the Home Office will realise that, great as this Measure is, there is still tremendous room for improvement, and I hope that within a comparatively short time, if it be necessary, as I believe it will be necessary, to bring in amending legislation, courage and determination will not be lacking among those responsible for Home Office affairs.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
After the delightful speech, if I may say so, of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), I am glad to carry on from this side also a measure of congratulation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the present Home Secretary and Under-Secretary of State on the position which we are reaching in passing the Third Reading of this Bill. I have a strong feeling that it is necessary at this point, as the last opportunity, to suggest the point of view of the great public health service of this country with regard to the step that we are taking to-night. It is, I think, fairly well known in this House that the great public health service of medical officers of health, that has advanced so wonderfully in the last 40 or 50 years, has little part to play in this Measure of factory inspection and health in the factories, and it is a matter of great concern to medical officers of health that this most important section of our national health administration should be outside their domain. It has been natural enough that over and over again, in seeking to advance the national health, efforts should have been made and proposals put forward for uniting in one these great health services that are at present scattered between the Ministry of Health, the Board of Education, the Home Office, and other Departments of State. It was some 25 years ago that I myself read a paper at the Sanitary Congress suggesting that it should be considered whether these matters should be taken out of the separate administration of the Home Office and combined in a single Ministry of Health which we looked forward to creating.
The more one has seen of the way things have worked, the more one has recognised that advance in this country, as the hon. Member for Wednesbury has said, is not made by great radical reforms but by 1144 compromises all the way through. It is made, not by any one unique system of administration, but by administration growing up from natural roots, which grow in shoots of one kind and another under different Departments in different directions, and our job is to make some kind of co-operation between the different factors that are all working in the same general direction. It is reassuring to realise the different attitude that is taken in the House of Commons at the present time by the parties as compared with that which was taken, say, 50 years ago.
During the greater part of the industrial revolution and during the time of great Victorian prosperity we had in this House very little representation of labour—we had no direct representation of labour—and we had on either side representation mainly of employers or landlords. As far as industry was concerned, it was the employer class alone that was represented. The contest then was only between those who were more advanced and those who were less advanced in humanity, and things were looked at largely as a matter of humanity, as to whether you should make this or that provision, as opposed to the question of economy. You had the great Whig politicians of that time inveterately opposed to advance in factory legislation, because, as Mr. John Bright said, it spelt ruin to industry and absolutely put the brake upon industrial private enterprise and originality. However, the party represented by the Conservatives and Unionists to-day were led into a different line, as has already been said, and generally on both sides of the House it has been gradually brought home that politics now is not simply a question of defence and justice, and the maintenance of private rights, which more or less comprised the whole of political questions in those days, but it has by degrees become a question of the strengthening of the whole nation in its individual power, physical, mental, and spiritual, and these matters have entered into our policy on both sides of the House, and particularly on that side of the House which, during the last 30 years or so, has come into prominence as the direct representative of the workers.
This has changed the whole fashion of politics, and we have now a strong section of our work—almost one-third of it 1145 —entirely dedicated to the improvement of the individual conditions of the people which, however important the matter was thought to be by philanthropists and well-meaning persons in the days gone by, was not considered a part of policy as it is now recognised to be. More than that, it is considered to be a proper means of using great national resources which are open to us through the Parliamentary system. That being so, Members on both sides of the House join together in supporting measures of this sort, and we recognise that these things have to come by degrees. Those of us who have special knowledge of these matters know how to estimate the degree of advance that has been made. The degree of advance in this Pleasure is considerable, and yet it does not come up to the desires which many of us look forward to achieving in the future.
One of the most important provisions relating to health in the first part of the Measure is that of lighting. It is only in recent years that it has become recognised that eyesight is of imperative importance, especially to the workers. It depends very largely upon the conditions under which they work. The improvement of the lighting of factories is essentially an advance of great value in this Measure. There are also the new arrangements with regard to washing facilities for all workers, and that, too, is a great advance. Whereas under the original draft of the Bill, as in previous Measures, washing facilities were only considered necessary for the purpose of industry, now they are to be included in all factories and workshops as part of the decencies of human life. We have naturally all along wanted to secure greater co-operation between the local authorities and the factory inspectorate of the Home Office. Hitherto they have been to a large extent separate. The inspectorate of the Home Office have had little contact with local sanitary officers, who, on the other hand, have seldom met the inspectors of the Home Office, but in this Measure greater powers are given to district councils to help in the work in the factories.
A further advantage is that in working in conjunction with local education authorities, it will be possible to obtain access to the children in the schools, and I hope that the school inspection work 1146 will result in children being helped to find proper vocations in factories. We have not a proper liaison in this Measure. More should be done in the future. On the subject of examining surgeons, I hope that the change of name will give a certain change in practice, and that more use will be made of those who have local knowledge of the children themselves. I want the inspection not simply to be an inspection of factories, but it should be, more and more, one to bring home to individuals that it is the desire to help them to adapt themselves to their work. The idea of having a local man pry into the factories is difficult of acceptance by the industrialists themselves; they prefer inspection from the Home Office. That is one of the main reasons why medical officers of health can never expect to take over the whole supervision of health measures, as is very often suggested by medical officers of health and other medical opinion.
There is to be an improvement as regards the hours of working, and it will be a great advantage to remove entirely the opportunity for overtime employment for women and young persons. This is all part and parcel of a very much wider question of general reform. I feel that a considerable measure of advance has been made in this consolidation and co-ordinating Bill. We have advanced, but it should be looked upon as a means of still further advance not in representing one side, party, or class, or section of industry, but as being altogether united in helping to bring about the general improvement of those employed in industry in mind, body and spirit.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
I think I am the only Member who has spoken to-night and has not served on the Committee.
§ Mr. McEntee
In any case, the speakers who have taken part in the Debate up to now have all been complimenting each other on the very fine work which has been done in Committee. As one who has been outside the Committee but nevertheless interested in the work of the Committee, I think that these compliments are well deserved. I would like to pay a compliment to somebody to whom no compliment has been paid to-night, but 1147 who deserves perhaps to be complimented more than any of those to whom compliments have been distributed. I mean that very large body of ordinary men and women in the trade unions particularly, and in other organisations also, who have been carrying on the agitation for this type of legislation for a great number of years. It is also part of our mental make-up in this country that organisations like that have to carry on agitations for a great number of years before this or any Government can be influenced to move. We are making a move forward. Everybody will congratulate the Government to that extent. Personally, I have had the experience of working in some of the worst factories and workships in the country, and I am able to visualise the factory of the past that I know and the factory of the future that I hope for, because I see in this Measure a step forward to the factory I hope for, and I am certainly prepared to give it my whole support. I hope that the agitation outside that has played a very large part in inducing the Government to introduce this legislation will not cease, but that those who think as I do that with all the good points that there are in the Bill, there are many better points that might have been in it, will not forget our agitation for those better points, and that we shall carry on with it until a more enlightened Labour Government in the near future introduces another Factories Bill.
There are one or two small yet important matters to which I should like to draw attention. In my experience in working in factories, I have found that the average man and woman—and I have worked in factories with both men and women—know very little about factory law. Putting regulations on the walls of factories for the inspection of the people working there is very often not enough. I have seen those printed factory regulations hung up in a prominent place but covered with dust from the factory until it has been impossible to read even the large wording on the top of the board on which they were hung. A little attention might be given to that matter. The Department might also give attention to the question of publicity in the factories among the workpeople and, as far as they can be reached, through the ture explaining the advantages of the new 1148 trade unions. Why not issue some litera-Act and all the possibilities for improvement, not only enlightening the work-people in regard to the new advantages that are coming to them, but trying to induce them to take full advantage of them?
I do not think that we shall ever have a sufficient number of factory inspectors to cover all the factories adequately, but if in addition to the inspectors there could be publicity to enable the workpeople to understand what they ought to expect in the factories, and the means by which they can get it, a very big step forward would be taken which might very easily be of advantage to the Government by enabling them to do without as many inspectors as they otherwise might require.
I do not want to talk about 1924, which has been referred to several times. It is almost like asking what Gladstone said in 1867 to ask what the Labour Government did in 1924. That is not worth referring to. Let us consider the present and the future. Of the present, we say to the Government that they have done a good thing in bringing in this Bill. It might have been very much better, but such as it is we thank them for it, and we thank ourselves for inducing them to introduce it. But we are not going to cease our agitation for a very much better thing in the near future.
§ 10.9 p.m.
As one of those Members who spent a considerable amount of time in the Committee discussing the Bill, I want to say a few words before it receives its Third Reading. It is a great tribute to this Government that they have brought forward this Measure, seeing that it is 30 years since the last Factory Act was passed. The hon. Member opposite has referred to 1924 as being something like old times. But there was a Labour Government in 1929–31, and I do not remember that it attempted to bring in a Factory Bill on the lines of this one. I should like to pay a tribute to this progressive Government. Some hon. Members opposite may say that it is reactionary. I have been described as one of the most reactionary supporters of the Government. I do not know why that should be, because I think my reputation as an employer of labour shows that for many years I have not been 1149 reactionary. The hon. Members opposite always seem to be living in heaven and never come down to earth.
The most contradictory statements are made on the opposite side. We are told that the hours have been reduced in France to 40, and that in Russia—the country in which hon. Members opposite, I suppose, hope to spend their last days—a 35-hour week has been introduced; but we never hear those hon. Members saying what is paid to the workers for the hours they work. We do not hear them say what is paid in France for the much-vaunted 40-hour week. We do not hear them tell us that in many industries the 40-hour week does not apply. Perhaps the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) will tell us what the conditions are in France in the ceramic industry. Will he tell us whether the hours in the ceramic industry in France are greater than those in Stoke-on-Trent. The argument is that the hours have not been reduced sufficiently in this Bill, and Members of the Labour party have said that the hours might easily be reduced to 40 as in France or to 35 as in Russia, without reduction in wages. It is well known that in France for 40 hours the men are not being paid the same wages. There has been deflation in the currency and the cost of living has gone up tremendously. The working man in France is not as well off as the working man in this country. From the figures of the International Labour Office it is well known that the working man in Russia is absolutely in hell compared with the working man here.
It has a great deal to do with the Bill. The argument is that we should reduce the hours to 40 per week. On the Report stage of the Bill I heard it stated that we ought to reduce the hours of labour, because they have been reduced in Russia and France.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is saying a great deal about what ought to be in the Bill. He must confine himself on Third Reading to what is in the Bill.
I bow to your Ruling, and I submit that what is in the Bill, the 48-hour week, is all that can possibly be afforded in this country, and all that can 1150 be afforded by the employers of this country, if they are to pay the same wages as they have paid in the past. It is no good hon. Members stating that the same wages can be paid for much less hours. The reduction of hours in the Bill is considerable. Personally I could have wished that they had been reduced still further in the case of women. There is no doubt that many of the arguments used in the Committee were valid and that many employers of labour are exploiting women's labour. But I submit that the advance made by the Government in this Bill is the utmost that can be taken at the present time, and that before any further advance is made it will be necessary for hon. Members opposite to show that a further reduction of hours can take place with the same wages or even with increased wages. After all, the most important thing is that there shall be no reduction of wages, but rather an increase. Wages are far more important than a reduction of hours.
I am connected with many industries but the one industry to which the hon. Member refers may be at the moment more prosperous than it was two or three years ago but it is not as prosperous as it was 10 years ago. Of course there are shorter hours and we have paid increased wages, but these increased wages and shorter hours have meant that our export trade has gone down to less than half what it was in 1919. Hon. Members opposite lay far too much stress on the speeding up of industry. They say that it is a hardship for people to work so long in factories because the work of great machinery is so much more intense than it was in the past. I do not agree with that at all. In many factories you will find, in spite of improved machinery and improved methods, that the output per man is not as great as it was 50 years ago. I can give figures to prove this and to show that in the coal-mining industry 50 years ago more coal was produced.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I do not propose to detain the House. I recognise that this is the Third Reading and I do not propose to deal with what is not in the Bill because you may not be as tolerant to me as you have been to the hon. Member. Still, although the Bill does omit to do certain things which one would like to have seen in it, I am not so foolish as to say that it is not an improvement on the present position. As a matter of fact, what we are passing to-day is not so much a Bill as the carcase of a Bill. Unless the Home Secretary and his Department carry out the regulations under the Bill, the Bill might just as well never have been passed. Therefore, my first comment on the 13ill is that it will represent an improvement provided the Home Secretary uses his powers wisely and well.
My second comment is that the Bill will not be a success unless there is a complete overhaul of the inspectorate and a considerable increase in the number of inspectors. While paying a tribute to the factory staff which I have met for their courtesy and kindness, I think nevertheless that the inspectorate will have to be improved in many ways. My third comment is that, while very much depends upon the Home Secretary doing his job well and on the factory inspectors being efficient and carrying out their work diligently, we come back in the end to the organisation of the workers themselves. This Bill will be a success or failure according to how the workers organise themselves in their unions. I understand that a booklet explaining this Bill is to be published, and the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor said he would consider any reasonable means of seeing that the Bill was given publicity. I do not deny that those things will be useful, but it will depend largely on the powers of trade union organisation as to whether there are improvements.
I will conclude by addressing one or two remarks to the Home Secretary. It is 36 years since the last Bill dealing with factories was passed, but I hope that the next Bill, or at least an amending Bill, will be brought forward before so long a period has passed. We are living in an age in which industry is changing very quickly, and even if it is not possible to have another Bill containing hundreds of clauses, I hope the Home Secretary will 1152 not hesitate to amend any portion of this Bill from time to time. The right hon. Gentleman has great powers at the Home Office. He comes to it from a Service Department and from other Departments which were in a sense more spectacular, but at the Home Office he has the care of millions of people in his hands. At the Home Office he can make great social changes affecting the lives of the people of this country, and I hope that he will make his tenure of that office a noteworthy one and feel that he is doing work which is well worth doing.
§ 10.24 p.m.
As one who feels very proud of having taken even a very small part in the passage of this great Measure, I would like to say a few words on the Third Reading of the Bill. Many of us on all sides would have liked the Bill to have gone a good deal further, but we realise that it is a great step forward. We must remember that we are legislating for the bad employers, and we must all feel glad that we live in a country where it is not necessary to legislate for the good employer. It would be a dreadful thing for this country if our good employers were not always a great deal in advance of our legislation, and I suggest it is because they are a long way in front of our legislation, that employers, and the people of the country generally, have been prepared to receive this Bill in the spirit in which it has been received.
I regretted to hear during the discussions on the Bill the criticism that the shortening of hours, particularly for young people and women, might have a bad effect on our export trade. I think I am voicing the opinion, not only of a majority in this House but of a majority in the country when I say that it would be a sorry thing if the export trade of this great and wealthy country depended on the exploitation of the labour of women and young children. We must remember that this country is the most valuable market in the world to-day, and it is for our statesmen to find means of securing for us a full share of the export markets which will give satisfactory working conditions to our women and young people. We should not have to depend on exploiting them in order to maintain our export trade.
1153 I wish to add my tribute to those which have already been paid to the late Home Secretary and to the Tinder-Secretary for the manner in which they conducted this Bill through the Committee stage. They made hon. Members on all sides feel that, even though many of us wanted the Bill to go further, we were taking part in passing a Bill which was a great step forward.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Barr
I was very much interested in the right hon. Gentleman's references to the history of factory legislation. I have made a study of that legislation for many years, and have found it a most entrancing study. One finds there a story of single-minded, determined and courageous effort, on the part of men like Lord Ashley and others, and what is not least interesting in it is the manner in which those who opposed early factory legislation came to learn by experience that they had been mistaken, and retracted what they had formerly said. For five years, from 1841 to 1846, Sir James Graham occupied the position now held by the right hon. Gentleman. On the occasion of the passing of the Ten Hours Bill in 1844 he took up a very strong attitude of opposition to it. He said the effect of a 10-hour day would be to reduce wages by 25 per cent. and to ruin the country. But in 1860, like Roebuck, he acknowledged his mistake and admitted that all the predictions which he had made about the Ten Hours Bill had been falsified. Speaking on the Bleach and Dye-works Bill in 1860 he said he had been mistaken in thinking that the Factory Act would be disastrous to trade, and he added:On the contrary, it has contributed to the comfort and well-being of the working classes without materially injuring the masters. By the vote I shall give to-night I will endeavour to make some amends for the course I pursued in earlier life in opposing the Factory Bill.It has been indicated by a good many references to-night to Bright and Disraeli, that the party opposite claim, in some measure, to have been the leaders in factory legislation. I think the truth is that both the great parties of the State had men who supported factory legislation and men who stoutly resisted it. The hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) made some such references, and I think it would be well to get a proper balance in this 1154 matter. Although it may seem a little academic, it will, I think, be for the wellbeing of the souls of those who hold these views. On the eve of the election of r841, Lord Ashley, afterwards Lord Shaftesbury, who had bitterly and justly criticised the Whig Government, wrote:I desire, above all things, to carry my Factory Bill, and sure I am (tell it not in Gath!) that I have got more, and may get more, from the Whigs than I shall ever get from my own friends.Reference has been made to Disraeli, and the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) spoke of his great principle. Without going into that matter, I think it is right we should know how he stood on this question. He voted for both the Factory Act, 1844, and for the ten-hours Bill of 1847. At the same time Macaulay, Palmerston, Grey and Lord John Russell also voted for them. I must say as a tribute to Disraeli's memory that when in 1850 a compromise was made, which was endorsed even by Lord Ashley, which really meant going back to a 10½hours day, Disraeli made a notable and worthy protest against it. It is well known that the inspection of mines was thrown out in another place in the 1842 Act, but when it was reintroduced in 1850, Disraeli, on the Second Reading of the Inspection of Coal Mines Bill, said:I have always protested against this interposition between labour and capital. I have had communications from several coalowners who have represented that this interference with their property will he seriously injurious, and I suggest that the Measure be postponed until next Session. It is a piece of hasty and ill-considered legislation.I do not produce these quotations because we have a right to judge the men of a past generation by our own standards, but I think that a better balance should be maintained as to who were the real authors and advancers of factory legislation. While I wish other things had been included in this Bill, I believe that in the reduction of hours and other forward steps which have been taken industry will speedily accommodate itself to the new conditions. Ten years ago I was in Australia, and they were then contending before the Arbitration Court for a 44-hour week. History moves quickly, and what they were contending for then has now become almost out of date. Just before I was there the Court of Arbitration in Western Australia delivered a judgment on 8th March, 1926, granting 1155 the 44-hour week to the Timber Yard, Saw Mills and Wood Workers' Employees Union. I will quote these words from one of the judges giving a judgment in favour of the 44-hour week:There was no proof, and of argument there was only a repetition of the forebodings of disaster which have met each and every proposal for a reduction in hours from 72 per week downwards. Australia flourished and worked 48 hours per week for many years while the rest of the world worked 54 and 72 hours per week. Now the rest of the world had caught up to the 48-hour standard, and Australians are justified in believing that they can again lead the world with a 44-hour week to the advantage of all concerned.I trust that in the matters dealt with in this Measure, and in the treatment of industrial diseases and otherwise, this country will fearlessly go forward leading the world, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) said, be an example to all other countries.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Sir J. Haslam
I rise only to point out one or two things which have struck me during the discussions on this Bill. One point is that as the representative of, perhaps, the most industrialised town in the country, one in which most of the inhabitants expect to get their living in either a factory or a workshop, I have had very little correspondence from either the employers' side protesting against the Bill or from the operatives' side asking for it to be improved. The Home Office are to be congratulated on introducing a far reaching Measure of this description which has not raised violent opposition from the employers and yet at the same time will so much improve the condition of the workers that they are more or less satisfied with its provisions. It is a Bill which will affect between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000 people in this country. In this House and in the Committee upstairs, where I attended, I think, every meeting, one found all the Members working to improve the Measure, instead of decrying it. Never before during my experience in this House have I ever known the time when it could be said of Members in this House or in the Committee upstairsThen none was for a party:Then all were for the State.All the criticisms or suggestions put forward were offered with a view to strengthening the Bill. It was quite a new experience for me to find that there was no desire to water down the Measure, 1156 but that the effort was to improve and strengthen it, and I am sure that will have its effect on the Home Office representatives in this House and also on the officials of the Home Office, who will realise that all parties in the House are anxious that our factory legislation shall be second to none in the world. Mention has also been made of the prospect of an increase in the number of inspectors. I say no word of criticism about that, but I would refer to a section of the community whom I have admired for many years in the quiet work they are doing, of which little is heard. I refer to the certifying surgeons, who go into the factories—and who will go into the workshops in future—and inspect and keep records of the children employed there. They have done a magnificent work behind the scenes, and they have had very little mention either in Committee or in this House, but before we finally pass the Bill I should like to say that I for one have noticed their work, and I hope the Home Office will encourage those certifying surgeons in the good work upon which they are engaged.
The Home Secretary mentioned the Industrial Diseases Exhibition in Horse-ferry Road, London, and wished that both employers and workers could see more of it. Although it might be a little expensive to do so, could the exhibition be moved to a place like Manchester, where millions of workpeople would have an opportunity of seeing it, or to Leeds? Gradually, in that way, those interested in the subject would have an opportunity of seeing the exhibition. The West Riding of Yorkshire, and Lancashire, are still the most industrial parts of the country, notwithstanding the changes which have taken place in and around London, and for the exhibition to remain in London all the time detracts a great deal from its usefulness.
I would add my testimony to the work of the then Home Secretary in introducing this Measure and carrying it through, with the able assistance of his Under-Secretary. Some of us were very nervous when we knew that a change was to take place in the personnel of the Home Office, but we were delighted to discover that a Minister who has been such a success in the various posts he has occupied was coming to it. If any section of the Government affects the lives of the majority of the people of this country, it is the 1157 Home Office. We are delighted that the present occupants of those offices are the two enlightened Members who are on the Front Bench. I hope they will forgive my saying that in their presence.
As one representing a constituency in which most of the people have to get their livings in factories and workshops, I am pleased and proud that I have taken part in the discussions on the Bill, both in the House and in Committee. One of the pleasantest recollections I shall have of being a Member of this House is that I was able to play some part in putting this Measure upon the Statute Book. I am certain that, in the years to come, it will be looked back upon as a great move forward. It will not be the last of our political battles, but the battles in the future between political parties will be more of an economic character, and not as theoretical as they were 30 or 40 years ago. I am certain that it will not be another 36 years before we need fresh legislation to deal with factory conditions. Although this is a great step forward, no one can deny, and I do not think any one will wish to deny, that it does not go as far as some people would like; but that is typically British. Everybody including the Home Office and this House, is to be congratulated upon the Measure.
§ 10.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I wish to offer one or two brief observations before we part with the Measure. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has raised what are very important issues from our point of view. It is easy to speak in this House as a trade union official who has conducted trade union negotiations at conferences, but it is not easy to do so when one is acting in a representative capacity inside the factory in situations where workmen are put to the test, and their livelihood is at stake all the time. I support the view put forward by the hon. Member for Gorbals that one of the most important factors is the need now for strong industrial organisation, in order that the working class of this country may receive the maximum benefit when the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. I am reminded of the very fine report that was published after the terrible disaster at Gresford. In that report the Chief Inspector of Mines said that more than ever he wanted to emphasise, from the point of view of safety, the need for the repre- 1158 sentation of the workmen in the pit by trade union representatives; and, in order that the maximum amount of benefit may be obtained from this Bill when it becomes an Act, there is great need for industrial representation in the workshops.
I remember that when I was a boy the man that we were mostly afraid of was the policeman, but I have lived to see a big change in that regard. Coming down to this House through big industrial centres, one sees children looking up to the policeman with a smile as the man who will lead them safely across the road through the traffic. We have a long way to go before that condition of affairs is brought about as regards the factory inspectors. I would like to see the Home Office take into consultation the chief inspector and the factory inspectors throughout the country with a view to bringing about a change in their administration. I am not speaking critically of the factory inspectors, but, when an accident occurs in a factory, we find that the factory inspector goes direct to the manager. He is taken to the superintendent, and then to the departmental foreman, and proceeds to make an examination of the machine; but the ordinary workman is not taken into consultation at all. I would like to see the same spirit that has been brought into operation on the roads brought into operation also inside the factory, so that, when the factory inspector goes into a factory, he would not only consult the managerial staff, but also the shop stewards, the workpeople's representatives, in order to obtain all points of view. I hope that the Home Secretary will bear that in mind.
There is another point, which follows on the point made by the hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam). We have had the privilege of being able to visit the industrial exhibition which is generally called the Home Office Museum. It is an experience and an education to go round that exhibition. I would like to suggest that, in the future, people who are acting as representatives of the work-people directly engaged in industry should be given the opportunity of visiting that exhibition. Hitherto it has only been full-time trade union officials and Members of this House who have had that opportunity, but the people directly employed on the workshop floor ought also to go round the exhibition, and I hope 1159 that more opportunity will be afforded to ordinary workpeople to benefit from doing so.
Moreover, if we are to get from this Bill, when it becomes an Act, the benefits that we should get, this exhibition, or parts of it if we cannot transfer the whole, which I agree would be asking too much, might well be transferred to certain industrial centres, and I would suggest that the Home Office should consider doing that. Again, just as we know where the Employment Exchange, the post office, and the town hall are in every district, so we ought to know where the office of the factory inspector is. It is surprising how few people know who the factory inspector is, and where he has his office I would like to suggest that the Home Office should consider giving greater publicity in industry, and among ordinary workpeople in particular, to the fact that just as it is the duty of the policeman now to take a child across the road so it is the duty of the factory inspector to deal with any complaints which may be raised by the workpeople in a factory. The only way to get that done is to make it well known among the workpeople in industrial areas where the office of the factory inspector is and when and where he may be seen.
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I may be pardoned at having the last word but one in this Debate. I have followed the Debates from the beginning, but I am not quite sure that we ought to distribute as many bouquets as have been thrown to-night. Metaphorically, the Floor of the House is strewn with flowers; I am almost afraid to walk among them. I do not think that they are entirely justified especially the remark of the hon. Member for Bolton (Sir. J. Haslam) that the Home Secretary had been a success in every office he has occupied.
§ Mr. Davies
Why did they dismiss him from the Foreign Office if he was a success there? I do not want to tread unduly on the bouquets, so I will leave it at that. This has been the most pleasant experience I have had in my 16 years' experience of this House. The Standing Committee was excellent in every way. The employers 1160 were a bit stupid, but apart from that it was a tribute to this House that on that Committee there were men who had actually worked in the factories as carpenters, pattern makers, boiler makers, textile workers, railway shop men and so on, and when some of the Members of the Committee who were Members of the Conservative party and were educated in the universities thought that they knew it all, our men, who had actually worked in the factories, showed that they knew it better than the Conservative employers.
I want to make a protest against the colossal conceit of some Members of this House, not including myself of course. I must say a word about the attitude of mind of some hon. Gentlemen who will have it that the industrial legislation of our own country is the best in the world. Do not believe it. It is not. But it is the most natural thing in the world for the people in the representative assembly of their own country to believe that they have the best conditions. If we listened to Members of Parliament in Japan we should hear them argue that their conditions are better than ours, although we know that they are not. Let us make it clear, therefore, that this is not the best Factories Bill even in Europe. There are much better pieces of legislation dealing with factory workers than this Measure.
§ Mr. Davies
That is what the French say about us. That is what the Germans say about us. That is what every politician is saying about the other fellow's country. From the little knowledge I possess of industrial legislation in Europe, I know that we have not got the best.
§ Mr. Davies
I will listen to the hon. Gentleman on other occasions. I regret very much the provisions relating to laundries and dairies. I trust the Home Office will watch very carefully what is happening in that kind of factory. It would be a good thing if the Department saw that factory workers were supplied with a pamphlet showing how the law acts in relation to them. I very much regret the provisions with regard to overtime. Not only are there provisions for overtime, but there are further provisions for relaxing the provisions of the Measure and allowing over- 1161 time on top of the overtime that is legally allowed. The Government prides itself very much on having given way under pressure from our side in reducing to 44 the hours of labour of young persons from 14 to 16. That was an excellent move on their part but there is a proviso that in certain circumstances the 44 hours shall not apply at all.
This is a Measure more or less giving power to the Home Office to do so many things that in the end the Home Office will be a Cabinet and a Court of Justice in itself. On that score I trust that the benches of magistrates will be told one thing. It is no use passing laws and factory inspectors taking cases before the magistrates if fines of 5s., and in some cases 2S. 6d., are imposed on the factory owner. If I were a factory inspector, in view of their leniency, it would break my heart to take another case before that bench. It is time that was said in this House. The hon. Member for Bolton seems to disagree, but, if he reads the annual report of the factory inspector, he will find case after case where a fine of 5s. is imposed on a factory owner employing 400 or 500 people. In spite of all that, this Bill is far superior to the present law. Every party in the State has contributed more or less towards it. The trade unions and the employers' organisations have all been in consultation with the Home Office as to the provisions of the Bill. As far as I know, that is all to the good. I do not care, however, how much law is passed or how many inspectors are appointed. Unless the working people organise themselves and see to it that this law is implemented, it will be of no avail to them or to anyone else.
Having said that, I must pay tribute to the arduous work of the Under-Secretary. If I had had my way I would have appointed him Secretary of State and the present Home Secretary his deputy. I am thoroughly of opinion that in future Parliament and the people will pay more attention to factory legislation than they have done in the past. My very last word is this: In less than 10 years' time this Factories Bill will probably be regarded as out of date.
§ 11. 0. p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
I think the House will require me at this 1162 time to be as short as possible in replying to some of the points that have been raised. I feel that I must say one word about what the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) said about the British factory code in relation to other countries, because I really think it is not right to say that there is any country in the world which has a better factory code than this country. It would certainly not be true to say that from the point of view of the enforcement of the law. There are certain countries that have factory codes that have not any factory inspectors at all, and I am informed that whenever the question of the enforcement of factory laws comes up at Geneva, the country that they always look to for advice in regard to the enforcement of the law is this country, and they always put a representative of this country in the chair when that matter comes up for consideration.
May I say one word with regard to the qualifications of factory inspectors, a matter which was raised by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Short)? It is true that university qualifications are usually required, and the House will appreciate that, in view of the great complexity of the factory code, that is rather necessary, but it is not an essential qualification, and we often waive it. The Home Office is fully aware of the importance of practical works experience, and there is a number of factory inspectors who have no university qualifications and who are extremely efficient inspectors. A point was raised by the hon. Member for Birkenhead, East (Mr. White) about the importance of securing the proper enforcement of the provisions in regard to means of escape from fire. The Bill gives the Home Secretary power to make regulations, and it is intended to use this power to lay down a general standard, and it will be the intention of the Secretary of State to issue a circular to local authorities to ensure as far as possible the uniform administration of the law in that regard. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) was, I think, a little hard on the Home Office representatives when he suggested that a smile was the only thing he got from them. If he would consider the Amendment put down with regard to bakehouses I think he would realise that he has been met to a considerable extent, at any rate.
1163 There were some points touched on by the hon. Member for Birkenhead, East, the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale), the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and others, on the question of when there would be another Factory Bill. I think those of us who sat through the Standing Committee upstairs, while we do not regret our work, do not want to start it all over again too soon, but it would be wrong to regard a period of 25 or 30 years in the future as being the period before we can bring in another Factories Bill. There is another important point in regard to that. This Bill again and again gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations. That is a very important aspect from the point of view of whether the Bill can be made to adapt itself to changes in industrial conditions, to which I think the hon. Member for Birkenhead, East, particularly referred. I think the House will agree that a Bill which has a very considerable part of its powers delegated in the form of regulations which may be altered from time to time is a Bill that is very much better adapted to meet possible changes in industrial conditions in the future. I think I have dealt with most of the points that have been raised, and I do not propose to keep the House any longer.