§ 4.0 p.m
§ Mr. Roland Robinson
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:in the opinion of this House the growing tendency to grant annual holidays with pay to industrial workers makes it advisable for the Government to take all possible steps to facilitate and encourage the even distribution of holidays throughout the summer months, and with that end in view it calls upon the Minister of Labour and the President of the Board of Education to consult together with a view to eliminating present obstacles to the spread-over of holidays.It seems to me perhaps appropriate, when within eight days this House will be adjourning to take a holiday itself, that hon. Members should pause and think what steps they can take to improve the holiday conditions of the people of this country. I do not apologise for bringing before the House this very important problem. So far as this House is concerned it is a new problem, and that is something which should commend itself to the House in these days, when week after week the House has listened to discussions on the same subject. At least it will be refreshing, if not staggering, to hear a new subject in this House. I submit that this is a problem which in one way or another affects everyone. From many points of view it is a seaside problem, and many of my friends who represent seaside resorts have asked me to say that they are all of them in favour of the Amendment, though the lack of time may prevent them from getting an opportunity to speak.
I have said that it is a problem which affects everyone. It is vital from the point of view of the health resorts. It is equally important to the transport industry throughout the country. It affects most importantly the interests of employers and of workers, and moves also 364 the education authorities and the children. The question comes very much to the fore at the present time, for the country has witnessed during the last few years a vast increase in the granting of an annual holiday with pay. So I say that the problem to-day is more urgent and pressing than ever it has been before. The House on many occasions has expressed itself in favour of the principle of the paid annual holiday. In considering that matter I believe it is the duty of the House to see that so far as possible everyone has a good holiday under the best conditions and as cheaply as possible.
It is my submission that the August holiday, as we know it, is a relic of the past. It dates back to the old days when holidays were restricted to the few, the days when the country squire came up to London for the London season in the months of May, June and July, then adjourned for yachting or perhaps for shooting, and he and his class were the only ones in the country who were able to take a decent holiday. Those days have now gone. Holidays, instead of being for the few, are the prerogative of the million, and I believe that this House is determined to see that that is so. But we find ourselves tied to the old and outworn system which compels all to take their holidays at the same time and at dates which were originally chosen as suitable for the country squire.
I propose to examine the position from the point of view of the various interests concerned. To begin with I shall refer to the transport industry and shall consider the question from the point of view of the railways and the roads. From the point of view of the railways the figures available are astonishing. During the month of August, making a comparison with an average month, we find that the railways carry 20,000,000 extra passengers. That is at the rate of 500 to each train. It means that the railway lines of the country are compelled during the month of August to run some 40,000 extra trains, in addition to their normal traffic. The congestion is equally great on the roads, for not only are the owners of small cars all out at the same time, but the road transport companies are forced to double the amount of traffic which they carry. The result is that we have very unhealthy peaks of activity in both the road and rail transport industries, 365 unhealthy financially because the companies concerned have to keep a large amount of rolling-stock idle throughout the year so that when the time comes it can meet the vast amount of traffic which is put upon it. It is financially unsound too because road and rail companies are compelled to ask their employés to work many hours of overtime, which costs a great deal of money and is not probably very desirable from the point of view of the worker himself. The position is difficult too, especially on the roads, when the driver of the omnibus must undergo greater fatigue at his job owing to the rush and the congestion; and the result is that in this crowded month we have a far greater accident risk than at any other time of the year. It is obvious that when the rush is most intensified the mistakes brought about by the failure of the human effort are more numerous.
I pass from the transport industry to the resorts themselves. Here we have a position which I feel sure must call for the sympathy of the House, because the people who are engaged in the holiday industry of the resorts are forced by the very nature of their job to compress into some six or seven weeks the whole harvest of the year. We find hotels and amusement places overcrowded during this short period, and then that most resorts are practically deserted for the rest of the year. There is one unfortunate result arising from that. It is -chat the law of supply and demand inevitably forces up the prices charged in the resorts. If only people would take their holidays in some month other than August they would find it cheaper. So if we could have a spread-over of holidays it would be cheaper and there would be less congestion. The people in the resorts have great difficulties in regard to management. If they are suffering from an eternal rush it is impossible for them to give the best services that they would like to render to their clients.
There is a further point of view which has been discovered by the Ministry of Labour. Because the season is so short and the work lasts for so little time there is not a great demand among the people of the country to go into the industry. The Minister of Labour has been at some pains in trying to direct more people to the catering industry, because summer after summer it has been found at the resorts that there are not sufficient 366 workers available to do the jobs during the short holiday period of the year. The local authorities, too, find that there is a great strain on their resources. They cater for the transport industry and look after the general utility services of the towns. I consider that the whole situation is absolutely uneconomic and unsound, for in the resorts of the country capital and labour have to remain idle for the greater part of the year.
Having considered the question from the point of view of the resorts themselves, let me pass to another phase which is, perhaps, too often overlooked in considering the question of a spread-over of holidays. That is the position from the point of view of the workers in the resorts. The position of the workers in the seaside resorts is most important. They do their best in the season, but it is often forgotten by holiday-makers when they go out to have a good time that they want a great deal of care and attention, and they frequently ask for that care and attention throughout all the hours of the day. The result is that in the season, in the resorts of this country, the workers, by the nature of their occupation, are compelled to work for longer hours than they would work in any other industry in the country. Their hours are far too long. I need hardly quote the case of the seaside landlady who has to be up at six in the morning to see that the lodging-house is clean and to prepare breakfast for her visitors. She and those who work with her have their services in constant demand throughout all the hours of the day, and they are frequently not able to retire for their rest until after midnight. So they work these long hours. The constant cry is "Hurry, hurry. hurry."
We have heard, especially during the last summer, that men of the London Transport Board have found the strain of their work doubled. I submit that so far as the worker in the seaside resorts is concerned industrial strain is greater during the season than it is in any other industry. People are frequently knocked up when the end of the season comes round. I can summarise their position by quoting from a song which was made famous by that great artist, Paul Robeson:You and me, we sweat and strain,Body all aching and racked with pain.They cannot stop because it is of vital 367 importance that the public should be served; they cannot stop because it means so much to them, because in the short space of a few weeks their season of work will be finished and they will be forced to remain idle throughout the whole of the winter. They do not like it. Unfortunately these people, who are working the longest hours in the country under conditions of the greatest strain and the greatest rush, are those who are penalised throughout the winter months. By our system they are classed as seasonal workers. Generally they cannot draw even unemployment insurance benefit and they are thrown on to the Unemployment Assistance Board and the means test. I ask that we should spread out their season so that instead of their working for a few weeks only they may work for a few months, and thus be able to have on their cards sufficient stamps to qualify them for unemployment insurance benefit.
Passing from the workers in the resorts to the workers who are taking their holidays, I ask what is their position? After they have had a long year of toil I think it will be agreed all round that they well deserve a holiday, and that they have a right to demand the very best conditions and the greatest amount of freedom in which to refresh themselves for another year of work. What do they get? It frequently happens that when the holiday comes along congestion in the month of August is so great that trains leave during the night, frequently after midnight. Father and mother and children catch a train perhaps at one o'clock in the morning. They have almost to fight their way to the train, and then they are squeezed so tightly that travelling must be very unhealthy for them. They travel during the night and are thrown into the resorts at four or five o'clock in the morning to find their way as best they can. They are so tired that they require two or three days' holiday to recover from the journey. These people get to our resorts in the month of August. They live in crowded lodgings. We hear of people sleeping in baths, on billiard tables or in armchairs, because there is no other accommodation available for them. In the day they go on to crowded beaches until at the height of the season the beaches resemble human ant-heaps rather than anything else.
368 That is the sort of holiday to which the worker in this country is condemned under the present system. Wherever he goes during the holiday season he finds long queues waiting for amusements and for bathing. In the case of Blackpool I know that at the end of the holiday period even the trains are rationed as they would be in war time. So, he cannot even travel unless he gets a ration ticket. In August he is asked to pay the highest prices. It seems to me wrong that the poorest class of the community should be forced to take their holidays at a time when prices are highest. In order to make the worker's holidays cheaper and give him more comfortable conditions, better accommodation, better service and better travel facilities, I urge the House to agree to this proposal.
Happy the man who can take his holidays in the months of June or July, when the daylight is longer, when the countryside is fresher, when he can live in a cool, bracing atmosphere, when he gets more sunshine and less rain. The figures of the last 36 years show that one can expect an extra hour of sunshine every day in June, and in the months of June and July there is one inch less rain than in August. August is the wettest month of the year with the exceptions of October, November and December. The spread-over has been tried in my own county of Lancashire. The people of Bolton take their annual town's holiday in June. This year the town's holiday will be on 25th June. When the people were first asked to take their holiday early in the year they complained. Now that they have been doing it for some time, they appreciate the benefits of the early holidays so much that nothing would induce them to change back to the old system of having the holiday in August.
I have endeavoured to show the conditions which exist in crowded holiday resorts during the month of August. I have given the latest information at my disposal which relates to last summer when some 2,000,000 workers in this country had annual holidays with pay. Since then, the increase in paid holidays has been vastly intensified and a few days ago the Minister of Labour told us that there were now 3,000,000 workers enjoying holidays with pay. At this moment a committee is preparing a report on the subject. We cannot deal with that matter in advance of the report, but I 369 venture to prophesy that opinion in this country on the question is now so far advanced that, whatever means that report may suggest for securing paid holidays, it is only a matter of a few years before the whole of the insured workers will have paid annual holidays. Then we shall have some 11,000,000 people being turned loose on the resorts of the country, and if the present system is continued, and they are all to take their holidays in August the result will be chaos and confusion. This problem is rapidly becoming one of great urgency and the Ministry ought to give immediate attention to it. If the annual holiday with pay is to be successful, it must be spread over the summer months so that everybody can enjoy it in comfort. A great deal has already been done in one way or another. In Lancashire and Yorkshire there are 108 cotton towns which make arrangements to stagger their holidays from June to September in every year.
§ Mr. Robinson
I understand that is so in Scotland also. Following a meeting held on the Manchester Cotton Exchange, the whole of the cotton towns agreed to a rota whereby they close down one by one and so lessen congestion and ease the problem. The towns concerned are, as I say, mainly cotton towns but the holiday is not confined to the cotton industry. When a town takes its town's holiday every other industry in that town falls in with the arrangement. Even the banks are shut and everybody goes en masseto the sea or the countryside on these occasions.
§ Mr. Robinson
In these cotton towns the education system is adapting itself to the conditions of the holiday. In Lancashire it is a regular thing for the elementary schools to close for a week during the town's holiday, and that week is counted as part of the schools' midsummer holiday. This system has worked without friction and with a great deal of success. Some people may object that if they take their holidays in June, they will have a long wait until Christmas without a holiday. Under the Lancashire and Yorkshire system, that objection has been met, because where a town's holiday is taken in June, or 370 early in the season, there is, invariably, also given a short holiday in the month of September, so that there is a proper break in the industrial life of the people.
There is undoubtedly a demand for a spread-over. Some time ago, the Board of Education said there was no demand, but times have changed. I think I have satisfied the House that the resorts want it. They have asked for it for years through the Association of Health and Pleasure Resorts, of which I have the honour to be president. So have the hotels and the catering industry. Transport, road and rail, is united in this demand. It does not come merely from those interested in holiday resorts. The National Chamber of Trade which represents traders throughout the country, is unanimously in favour of this proposal and desires the Minister to do everything he can to help it. It has been my privilege to discuss this matter with the National Federation of Employers' Organisations which, on all these questions, is the representative body of the employers. They are very much in favour of this reform, and are prepared to co-operate in every effort which may be made for a spread-over.
The employers are with us, and so are the workers. Part of the evidence of the trade unions before the committee on holidays with pay was to the effect that, if paid holidays were granted, they should be spread over between April and October. I approached the Trades Union Congress myself, and Sir Walter Citrine said they stood by their evidence in favour of a spread-over from April to October, and that the trade unions were prepared to co-operate and believed that a spread-over could be brought about by voluntary negotiations between the employers and the unions. That I believe to be the case. We need negotiation and conciliation, and a little help from the Government as well, in order to bring about this reform.
The main difficulty advanced, so far, is that married couples of the working class have to take their children with them when they go on holidays and are therefore forced to take their holidays at the time of the school holidays. To meet that difficulty it would be necessary to make some slight adjustments in the education system and to see that the school holidays, also, are spread over, so 371 that industry and education can co-operate to the common benefit. It has been said that the National Union of Teachers and teachers generally are opposed to the spread-over of holidays. I have been in communication with the National Union, and they inform me that the country misunderstands their attitude. They are not opposed to the spread-over of the holidays. They have in many places cooperated in it. The only point is that, in their view, it is a matter for the local education authority to decide the date on which the school holiday is to take place, and once that position is made clear, then the teachers will co-operate loyally and help to work out whatever the arrangement may be. So it is, that we have to go to the local education authorities and see what help they will give.
Is it true, as has been rumoured, that some of the teachers are opposed to the proposal in regard to the elementary schools and secondary schools?
§ Mr. Robinson
That is not so. When this question was raised with the teachers they did not make any difficulties at all, but said that they would co-operate loyally and willingly in whatever decisions might be made by the local education authorities. The matter has been discussed by the Association of Education Committees and, at their annual conference this summer, there will be on the agenda a resolution approving of the principle of the spread-over of holidays. I believe the greatest possible help could be given by the Board of Education if they would send out a circular to local education authorities pointing out the importance of this question in view of the increase in the number of those who are now getting holidays with pay. If the Board would only give a lead to the local committees, it would quickly be followed all over the country and the problem would soon be solved.
There is one other difficulty which arises in relation to the secondary schools and the university examinations. To me, there is nothing sacred about July as the month for school examinations. That system, again, is a relic of the past. It is a relic of the days when the schools were so cold that examinations could only be held in the summer months. To-day our schools are well heated, and the 372 examinations could easily be taken before Easter, and, 'in my opinion, that would be the best time of the year for them. I do not think that the change could be made immediately, but I would urge that suggestion on the Board of Education, and ask them to see whether something cannot be done in that respect. If the initial change were once made, the system would undoubtedly work well.
I submit that the educational difficulties can easily be overcome. The demand for this reform exists, and it seems incredible that, for want of a little good will and co-operation, things should remain as they are. What is really required at this moment is strong leadership in this matter. We have a man of ability and energy who can give that leadership and secure co-operation in this movement. I refer to the Minister of Labour. He is a man of great understanding who has been accustomed for years to industrial negotiations, and has carried them out with success. If he will only arise as the champion of this cause, and give a lead to the country, then, I believe, the day will be won. Under his leadership, we can achieve a real measure of co-operation between employer and worker, between industry and education, which will express itself in a series of voluntary agreements and result in a spread-over of holidays which will be beneficial to the health, happiness and welfare of our people. The nation calls for action, and the Minister can give it.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Holmes
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. Robinson) should be thanked for having used his luck in the Ballot to introduce this new subject for debate, and that he should be congratulated on having put the case before us with such great cogency and ample detail. This problem has become an acute national one owing to holidays with pay. To-day one can hardly open a daily newspaper or a trade paper without reading that a new set of employers and workpeople have come to an agreement by which holidays with pay have been granted, and it is impossible adequately to visualise the chaos which will ensue if small employers or workers who are getting holidays with pay all take their holidays in the month of August. My 373 hon. Friend has referred to the chaos that there will be on the railways, on the roads, and at the seaside resorts. As he said, it is obvious that the workers who obtain holidays with pay will go away from home for a week. The man will not want to work in his garden dining that period, and certainly the wife will want, for one week out of 52 weeks in the year, to get away from her household duties, see a fresh scene, and have other people working for her. There will, therefore, be great disappointment, discomfort, and dissatisfaction on the part of the ordinary citizen and his wife unless arrangements are made by which they can go to the seaside or elsewhere in comfort, so far as both transport and accommodation are concerned.
In days gone by there were very few people who obtained a holiday and could go away to the seaside or elsewhere. August, as my hon. Friend has said, was regarded as the holiday month, mainly due to the fact that the schools broke up in July for their annual long vacation and did not go back again until September. But in those days, in order to induce people to go to the seaside, there being so few who were able to take holidays, the railway companies offered special facilities in the way of excursions, and the seaside resorts had just one good month in the year. Now things are completely changed, as we have all seen, and the problem is an acute and serious one, which must be faced and solved. The remedy is largely one of arrangement and good will. This problem cannot be solved by legislation, but a solution can undoubtedly be helped by Government action and example. The matter is in fact largely a question of psychology, and it will be solved if we can succeed in impressing upon the minds of the people of this country that the period from Easter to the end of September, or shall I say the period covered by Summer time, is a holiday period, during which few events except those appropriate for holiday makers should take place.
In the past, owing to the fact that so few people were able to take holidays, events have established themselves during the summer months which might well take place at another time of the year. We must create a universal agreement that the summer months are holiday months, and London must take the lead. I will give two examples of events that 374 take place in the summer which might well take place at another time of the year. There is the Royal Academy, that opens on 1st May, and there is the Covent Garden Opera, which has its summer season. Both those events could take place at another time of the year. It might be said that the number of people who go to the Academy and the Opera is not great, as compared with the population of the country, but if those events were transferred to another part of the year because the summer was to be regarded as a holiday period, it would have a great psychological effect on the feelings of a great many people.
But most important of all is the action that this House can take with regard to it. If the House was willing to commence its annual Session at the beginning of October, take a shorter holiday at Christmas, and rise before Whitsun, the effect on the mind of the country would be tremendous. If during June, July, August, and September there was no House of Commons sitting——
§ Mr. Holmes
—and there were no reports of Parliament in the newspapers, it would be realised more and more by people that these were holiday months. I am prepared for people to tell me that that is impossible because of financial arrangements. The financial year ends on 5th April, the Budget is brought in at the end of April, and the necessary Financial Resolutions and Finance Bills have to be passed. We have been told in the past that things were impossible. Year after year the Daylight Saving Bill was rejected by this House because it was an impossible proposition, but none of us to-day would vote for its repeal. Of course, while altering the London season to a certain extent, in the ways-that I have suggested, there would be no interference with the events which might be regarded as for holiday makers. and which necessarily have to take place in the summer months. For example, there would be no interference with cricket at Lords and the Oval, with tennis at Wimbledon, with racing at Epsom and Ascot, with the regatta at Henley, or with the tattoo at Aldershot. Another objection to this suggestion will probably come from hotels and shopkeepers in London, but I would remind them, if they do object, that London itself will 375 be a great holiday centre, and the holiday should be spread not merely over a few weeks in August, but over the whole of the summer, because there are many people who will be getting holidays with pay who live in the country or at the seaside, and they will want to go to a town like London to enjoy their week's holiday.
May I now pass to the question of the education authorities? There is no doubt whatever that the greatest difficulty in the way of this spreading of holidays is the scholastic year. The school year commences in the autumn and runs to the end of July, examinations are held during the summer, prize givings and speech days are held in July, and the solution of that problem probably is that the scholastic year should be the same as the calendar year. The school year should begin at the beginning of January, examinations should be held in the autumn——
§ Mr. Holmes
——and prize givings and speech days should take place in December. I ventured to suggest that this was a matter of psychology and that a gesture by the House of Commons would be very helpful from one point of view. There is an opportunity here, with regard to the scholastic year, for the great schools at Eton and Harrow to make a gesture by declaring that their year shall be the calendar year and not one commencing in October and ending in the summer. There are many old Etonians and old Harrovians in this House——
§ Mr. Holmes
——who perhaps might care to submit this suggestion to the Governors of those schools. Those who, like yourself, Sir, were at Eton would be able to submit to the Governors of Eton College that after 123 years another great public service could be rendered by that school. I refer to 123 years, because it will be remembered that in 1815 the Battle of Waterloo was won. All these things will take time. You cannot change the psychology of a nation in a few weeks or a few years. In the meantime the problem is urgent, and one must appeal to the employers of the country to do their utmost to help things in the summer that is now coming. There are two ways in 376 which employers can give holidays with pay. One is by shutting the whole works for a week and letting everybody go away at the same time. One must beg of those employers not to choose the last two weeks in July, or any weeks in August, or even the first in September. But where a business does not close down, both the salaried workers and the wage-earners must have their holidays spread. There again one wants to ask that August as far as possible should be avoided. There are certain big institutions in this country which could alter the date of their annual balancing in order to assist in spreading the holidays. I refer, for example, to the joint stock banks. They are accustomed to make up their accounts half-yearly, on 30th June and 31st December. The result is that they are unable to spread their holidays during the earlier summer months until they have got all the work of the half-year's balancing to 30th June done. If they could see their way to balancing their books at 31st March and 30th September, they would make a great contribution towards the solution of this problem.
Such is the problem. There is likely to be chaos in August unless it is dealt with at once. We do not want to drive our people abroad for their holidays, nor do we want to frighten foreigners away. That would be a double disadvantage, as far as this country is concerned. The education question, the scholastic year, is undoubtedly the most difficult part of the problem, and is dealt with in the Motion, but the greatest psychological act which could be performed to help spread the holidays would be if the House of Commons would alter the period of its annual Sessions. Latterly in this House Debates which have had reference to serious problems have been solely those which concerned international affairs, but to-day we have a domestic problem of our own. It has arisen owing to the fact that our workers are socially and financially better off than those of any other country in the world. We are all proud of it, and it therefore devolves on all concerned—employers, trade unions, education authorities, and this House—to help by action, example and gesture to solve the problem.
§ 4.45 p.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
It is seldom that we on these benches find ourselves in such complete agreement with the other side 377 of the House. The excellent speech of the Mover of the Amendment was marred by only one point: he cannot expect us on this side to subscribe to his eulogy of his right hon. Friend. It is gratifying that the House is giving some attention to a problem such as this, because so far as the tourist industry is concerned there are few opportunities of discussing this important factor in the social and economic life of the country. We little appreciate, for instance, that the amount of income derived from persons visiting us from the Continent, the United States and the Dominions is in volume as large as the export trade of some of our principal industries. My claim to speak on this matter is largely due to the fact that for a long time I have been actively engaged in trying to organise a social movement concerned with holidays for working people, and with the planning of their recreations and social facilities.
As the Mover of the Amendment pointed out, a vast change has been going on in social habits during recent years. I have been reminded of the fact that when the August Bank Holiday Act was before the House it was objected to on the ground that if working people enjoyed a holiday they would get drunk and be unfit for work for several days. It is well within the recollection of the House that newspapers seemed to take a joy after the Bank Holiday in publishing the number of drunks and comparing the number with previous holidays.
The privilege of holidays was formerly enjoyed by a limited few. Soon the non-manual and professional classes enjoyed the privilege, and now it is spreading to all sections of the community. There are already about 5,000,000 hand and brain workers who enjoy holidays with pay. Three million of them are industrial workers, and 1,500,000 have been added during the past year or so. When the Committee on Holidays with Pay reports I hope it will report favourably to the extension of holidays with pay. We shall then see, I hope, another 12,000,000 industrial workers brought within this privilege, and we shall be in line, I hope, with other industrial countries of Europe, such as France, Germany and Russia. This will create an enormous problem of social and economic organisation. We saw what happened in France last year when this privilege was extended to the 378 masses of the workers. It created a great deal of dislocation in industry, in distribution and in transport and created difficult problems of accommodation. It is right, therefore, that this House should face the problem that is likely to arise by an extension of this privilege, because it is not enough just to proclaim the holiday and for everybody to close down for Bank Holiday week and then hope for the best that everybody will have a good holiday.
Apart from what might happen when more workers get the privilege, the problem of congestion already exists. For a long time there has been an increasing number of people receiving holidays and spending them away from home, and in spite of the new facilities in transport and the attempts made by holiday caterers to cope with the new demand, the strain imposed has been of gathering severity. From my own experience in studying the statistics of the organisation with which I am associated, one-half of the available accommodation is used from 1st June to 16th July and from 21st August to 30th September; and probably half the people taking holidays do so between 1st August and 21st August. The hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) has given us some figures in regard to the transport arrangements at the peak of the season. I have some further figures from the railway companies showing that 20,000,000 extra passengers travel during August as compared with May or October. The number of passenger journeys in June are 56,000,000, and they rise in July to 60,000,000 and in August to 72,000,000, falling away again in September to 52,000,000. The railway companies point out, too, that 100 per cent. more monthly tickets are issued in August than in June. It is obvious that these terrific demands on the railways create problems, because there are limits to the amount of rolling stock, to the number of trains the lines will carry, and to the length and weight of trains.
I agree with the Mover of the Amendment that the existing facilities could be used by many more people than are using them to-day if the holidays were spread. There would be greater economy in the use of transport through the reduction of excessive peak loads and an increase of loads in the slack months. In some respects it is agreed, I think, that it is a waste of capital to go on planning new 379 facilities if they can only be used in the peak of the season. The present concentration in the summer months creates the maximum of inconvenience, discomfort and inefficiency for the people who are obliged to take their holidays at one time. We are all familiar with the horrible rush at week-ends in the summer time and the overcrowding of all the transport services. The catering and accommodation at the resorts will be improved if it is made worth while to the providers by assuring them that their facilities will be used over longer periods. There will be far less overcrowding of the distasteful type to which the hon. Member for Blackpool referred. Often the good of a holiday is undone because of the irritating and nerve-racking conditions of the return journey home. I believe that many of the resorts could be brought to a better standard of health and sanitation if the overcrowding did not take place. The enjoyment of a holiday would also be far greater if more freedom of movement were possible at the resorts.
I agree, therefore, that the present arrangements are apt to be wasteful, because the existing facilities are not advantageously used. They create a problem out of season for the transport undertakers, caterers and hotels. For the workers it means employment for a period of only weeks often under uneconomical conditions and it involves an intense strain during the few weeks in which they are employed. Finally, it imposes for the workers who have to take their holidays at that time the necessity of high season charges. I have had some experience with regard to the fixing of prices for holidays, and one is often induced to fix a higher price than is really necessary because the facility has to be paid for on the earnings for the year, and if the facility is used only a very short period obviously a high charge has to be made in the high season. My organisation at times has imposed a high season charge with a view to forcing people into the out of season period, although that is a little unfortunate for parents and teachers who can only take their holidays in the high season period.
We should recognise that the railway companies, the transport undertakers, the resorts and the tourist organisations have done their best to widen the period of the use of their facilities. By advertising 380 and other methods they have tried to get over to the public that holidays ought to be taken over a wider period. I noticed an advertisement by the Great Western Railway in the "New Statesman" this week, pointing out "the joy of early holidays" and the fact that from 1st to 30th June there are 496 hours of daylight, and from 1st to 30th August only 438. The advertisement continues:These extra hours of sunshine are extra hours of health. The countryside is never fresher than in June. Why add to the overcrowding in the later summer? And why not take advantage of cheaper accommodation? Early travel is comfortable travel. So try a June holiday this year!The railway companies and the resorts have been doing quite a lot of that kind of advertising. The railway companies have also extended transport facilities into the out-season, and tried to create new methods of holiday-making with a view to relieving congestion in particular types of holidays. They are, for instance, adapting their old coaches and giving new facilities to people who enjoy open air holidays. At the beginning of this year they circularised the chambers of commerce in the hope that they might be able to induce their members in the respective towns to apply spread-over holidays in the coming year. By publicity, resorts and transport undertakers have been trying to change the public attitude to this matter.
The tourist organisations have also done a lot in this respect. They have issued their programmes earlier, have arranged holidays over wide periods, and have tried to keep holiday centres open during uneconomic periods. They have also tried in the case of foreign holidays to organise the running of special trains from Easter onwards. That is a heavy financial liability which the tourist organisations have taken on. In addition, they have tried to arrange for the special trains to run not only in the week-ends, but on Tuesdays and Fridays as well. They have tried to plan new routes to the Continent for popular travel. For instance, in the last year or so the Harwich-Flushing-Bale route has been open for special trains, and in other respects, by introducing new types of holidays, they have tried to break down the congestion. I need only refer to the holidays that are now popularised in respect of cruising, camping, guest houses, motor tours and open air types of holiday. The tourist organisa 381 tions have tried to open out new countries for the holiday maker in order to relieve the congestion in the more popular parts. I need not detail the experiments that have been made in that direction. Where these tourist associations possess guest houses at home, they have tried out-of-season to apply low charges in the hope of inducing workers who can only take their holiday out of season to come. In these various ways the tourist organisations, railway companies, transport undertakings and resorts have tried to relieve the strain by widening the period of holidays and increasing the type of facilities available.
There are limits to multiplying the facilities that are usable only for a few weeks. The founding of guest houses and the making of new forms of transport involve heavy costs and are financially risky. What we need is to widen the narrow banks which at present confine the increasing stream of holiday traffic. I agree with the Seconder of the Amendment that the problem is partly psychological. I have tried to persuade people to take their holidays out of season, but their replies have always been that they have children at school and cannot get away, or that the holiday season is over or has not begun, or that they think the weather is risky. Moreover, people do love doing things at the same time, and even doing the same things. That is why July and August are usually chosen. They imagine that the weather is more promising, that the days and evenings are warmer, that there are more distractions and that they get more sunshine. They believe that holidays at that period break up the year, and that they are taking their holidays when other people are doing the same.
There is another factor which should not be forgotten—that there are fashions in holidays. People are very imitative. One year every one wants to go cruising, another year they want a holiday at home, and another year everybody wants to go to a particular country. There is a big practical problem to get over when people want to do the same thing at the same time, and it is difficult to persuade them to seek their own comfort by taking their holiday when other people are not taking theirs. I believe this psychological problem, with a little patience, can be overcome.
382 The Amendment asks that there should be co-operation between the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Education. Reference has already been made to the experiments being made in industry in Lancashire and Scotland. In many works and offices a rota system operates, and in others the whole works and even towns close down altogether for a period. In many industries definite regulation is taking place by agreement between employers and workers. In London Transport there is an understanding as to the period in which the holidays shall be taken. London busmen divide themselves into two main groups—45 per cent. go on holiday between April and September, and the remainder take part of their holiday in the winter and part at other special times. There are other special arrangements made in other parts of the country. The Ministry of Labour might lend a hand by surveying regions and seeing what local arrangements could be made. They might encourage utility companies and local authorities to look at this problem with a little more sympathy. They might also urge, in the case of some types of employer, the possibility of holidays starting in the middle of the week with a view to relieving weekend congestion.
There must be co-ordination between industry and education. I understand that the teachers are not antagonistic to the suggestion, and are prepared to cooperate with local education committees. In respect of higher education there are difficulties in connection with examinations, but if the Board of Education would busy itself with the universities even that difficulty could be overcome. Already there is considerable co-operation in different parts of the country between local authorities and industry as to the time when holidays might be taken. I attach great importance to the question of school holidays. I want more and more parents not only to have holidays given them but to be able to enjoy them. When holidays are concentrated in one part of the year, when prices are highest, it is very difficult for parents with growing families to take their holidays away from their homes at that time. We know the type of holiday that the mothers get. At best the families can go only to a boarding house and buy their own food, and the mother has all her household duties repeated during the holidays.
383 I sometimes hesitate to believe that even if holidays with pay are conceded holidays are possible for large numbers of working people. It is difficult for them to pay not only the maximum prices charged in the peak season but to meet even the normal costs out of season. In October, 1935, the Ministry of Labour published a statement showing the weighted average of actual earnings of industrial workpeople at that time. It showed that the average earnings of industrial workers were then only 50s. If you averaged that over the whole of the year the earnings would be much less. Hon. Members have seen recently the report of the Beveridge Committee on Unemployment Insurance. In a test, there were no less than 25 per cent. of the workers whose incomes were examined, drawing less than 49s. a week. I suggest that married people bringing up a family or buying a house or home cannot afford, with wages such as these, to get a holiday. Least of all, can they afford it when they have to take their holiday at a period in the year when prices are highest. We have somehow to make cheap facilities available for workers out of season as well as in season, and it is a useful thing that a number of holiday associations have been applying their minds to this problem.
In this country we do not want to see what has happened abroad, particularly in the totalitarian States. The paternalism applied to the workers through the "Strength through Joy" movement is far too disciplined and not sufficiently individualistic for British ways. There is room nevertheless for inquiring whether some social provision can be made to assist the workers to the better enjoyment of holidays, and holidays out of season. We regard holidays as necessary for physical wellbeing. This House has been prepared to grant money for the physical fitness campaign. We might look at the problem whether some help can be given to municipalities to organise cheap types of camps, and to public utility companies that are prepared to organise certain types of facilities on a non-profit basis. There is room for inquiry into this problem in some of its social aspects. Certain steps have been taken abroad. In Belgium and France, I believe, special railway facilities are available for working people when they want to take their holidays. It would be unfortunate if the Govern- 384 ment were to adopt a laissez faireattitude, and a policy of drift in this matter.
There are two further suggestions I would like to put. One was suggested by the Mover of the Amendment. We might consider some readaptation of the dates of the bank holidays, that Whitsuntide should be fixed on the first Monday in June, and Bank Holiday the first Monday in September. The latter date would break up the long period between summer and Christmas. August Bank Holiday has no connection with church festivals. The only saint mixed up with it is St. Lubbock, who was a banker—not usually considered good material for saints. This idea is worth pursuing because it would have valuable psychological effects. The other suggestion, which has also emerged in the Debate, is that we might consider whether our own vacations in this House can be altered. Is it not reasonable to suggest that the House should rise at the end of June and meet earlier in the autumn, instead of stewing here in the heat in July when we might be far better employed elsewhere?
I hope the Amendment will have the endorsement of the Government and the House, and that we shall see to it that the Board of Education and the Ministry of Labour are brought together and some definite effort made towards bringing about this necessary voluntary reform of the spread-over of holidays.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Markham
We have just listened to a speech so effective that I do not think it could be excelled in a Debate of this kind. The hon. Member has spoken with a large amount of experience, but I think he glossed over too easily the way in which the Government might effect the desired change. As I see the psychological objection to the spread-over it is that ever since there have been holidays the people have had a tendency to regard them as belonging rightly and properly to August, and wherever you get firms offering discretion to their employés regarding the time when they will take their holidays, the lucky ones are considered to be those who can get late July and early August. It is important to understand the reason for this, because it is the greatest obstacle in securing an adequate spread-over. In the 385 first place, we have the fact that the Easter and the Whitsun holidays take care of the early months of the year, and that in the later months of the year we have no similar holiday period to compensate for those two. Therefore, there is a natural tendency for all who have a free choice to take their holiday later in the summer, but not too late to miss the good weather.
It is a common misunderstanding that August is a good month for weather. That is entirely erroneous. It is true that it is a warm month, but it is also one of the muggiest and one of the wettest months in the year, and the Ministry of Health, in their keep-fit campaign, ought to get out a poster with the slogan: "If you want weather that is going to upset you take your holiday in August." Meteorological statistics are vitally important in breaking down the public misconception as to the value of an August holiday. Compare August with June. Wherever you may go throughout the length and breadth of this land June has two hours more sunshine a day than August, and an inch per month less rain, and the air itself is fresher. The quality of fresh air is determined among other things by the amount of moisture in it; if air is very moisture-laden it is muggy air, which makes you feel lazy and lethargic. Of all the months in the year the most bracing and the sunniest is June. Therefore, if we could get the idea of June for holidays into the public mind it would be the first step towards breaking down the present prejudice in favour of August.
The meteorological factor is so much more important when we realise that the average man or woman in this country is essentially an indoor person. On the average we spend 20 hours out of the 24 indoors; only at the week-ends and at holiday times do we get a chance to appreciate God's sunshine and the winds that blow. Therefore, it is essential that when the week's holiday does come it should be taken at that period of the year when it will be most beneficial from every point of view. I suggest seriously to the Ministry of Health that in their keep-fit campaign they should pay attention to encouraging people to take their holidays in the months when the weather is at its best and sunniest. Other factors might be mentioned, such as ultra-violet rays and other forms of radiation, but I will not weary the House with those details.
386 My second point is that it has been assumed, and I think wrongly assumed, that the Government could, by the waving of a wand, secure a spread-over of holidays. It is not so. In the first place, that would require compulsory powers, and I do not think that is suggested. Our industries keep in the main to the later days of July and to August for holidays, and it is suggested that the reason is that the schools have holidays in August. Then it is said that the Board of Education should act, but already the Board have put power in this connection completely into the hands of the local authorities. I think it is essential that the House should have the sense of Section 170 of the Education Act, 1921. explained. It hands over to the local education authorities, I think completely, the decision as to the length and duration of the school terms. The local education authorities can determine when the school holidays should take place, and they in turn can consult with the local industries on the subject.
§ Mr. Markham
It is true that the Board have great influence, and that by recommendations they could probably secure a spread-over in the various areas, and I suggest that perhaps that is the best line of approach to the problem, but I would also say that the areas should not be too small. It would be wrong and would create too much confusion to work out a system either by county boroughs or by counties. There ought to be much wider areas. We might experiment with the whole of Wales. Wales, as we know, is one of the wettest parts of the country and has a heavy rainfall in August, therefore no one in Wales should take their holidays in August. Scotland is in a similar position in being singularly destitute of sunshine. Those are two areas which a meteorologist would pick out automatically for the purpose, because the South of England has much more sunshine than those parts of the country.
Finally, let me stress this point. The effective speech made by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) had one singular omission. It was extremely grudging in its treatment of the Government as regards the way in which 387 they are getting holidays with pay for all workers. He said that holidays with pay had been extended to 1,500,000 more workers in the last year or two, and he might at least have had the courage and audacity to have said "Thank you" to the Government.
§ 5.22 p.m.
Mr. Owen Evans
I am sure the House is greatly relieved to discuss such a refreshing question as that of holidays and the health of the nation after having been occupied for 15 days in discussing a gloomy subject in a gloomy atmosphere. I should like to express my grateful thanks for the very notable contribution given us on this subject by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), who has had great experience of it, and I should also like to express my appreciation of the action of the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) in choosing this subject for discussion. It is clear that it is a subject which has created already very great interest in the House and the hon. Member covered the ground very adequately as to questions affecting transport companies, hotel keepers and landladies in holiday resorts.
I should like to refer briefly to another aspect of the question, and that is the utilisation of leisure itself and the facilities for its enjoyment. It is common knowledge that a great advance has been made in the last 40 or 50 years. More and more leisure has been gained by both the wage-earning and the salaried classes in this country in the form of a shorter working day and a shorter working week. But we have begun to realise that split leisure on the lines of one or one-and-ahalf days a week is not enough, and does not satisfy the desire of ordinary human beings for some continuity of rest from their labours. People have become more conscious of the fact that immoderate labour at all times exhausts both mind and body. The so-called black-coated workers have been in advance of the wage earners in his respect in that they have succeeded in securing more liberal holidays.
When I was young it was quite unusual for a clerk, or a shop assistant to get more than about one week's holiday a year, or perhaps a fortnight, and that included Sundays. Now we find there 388 has been a progressive increase in the length of the holiday, according to length of service, up to even three weeks or a month a year, but in industry we are still far behind the practice of Government Departments, which set a good example, because among the senior ranks there the holidays reach 36 or 48 working days a year. I have never understood why the seniors in Government Departments are in need of longer holidays than those engaged in industrial occupations, and have never been able to understand the differentiation between the skilled artisan and, shall I call him, the quill driver, the ordinary clerk. They are all wage earners and workers in industry. Great progress has been made, and I feel sure it must be a great satisfaction to the House that we have before us an Amendment which is likely to be acceptable to the general body of the House, expressing the view that there is an increasing trend towards granting holidays with pay to industrial workers.
It has been my privilege to be associated with an industry which for 35 years has given holidays with pay to the workers, and that has not caused any difficulties. We have been able to spread out the holidays. Only this morning I was inquiring how far the workers in that industry had availed themselves of the holiday with pay, desiring to know whether they had been content to remain at home doing their gardens, or walking about doing nothing, or had been in the habit of going away, and I found that the bulk of them took advantage of the holiday to go to the seaside or the country, or to see their friends or relatives. Once the worker has the time and the means to take a holiday he will avail himself of it, like every other reasonable human being.
It is clear from this Debate, from the signs which we see in the newspapers and the discussions we hear, that we are on the eve of a very great revolution in this matter, and that the time is coming when it will not be exceptional, but the rule, for a man in industry to have as a right, as an implied term of his contract, a period of rest from his labour each year, a time which he can happily call his very own. We have heard of the psychological effect of holidays. One of the principal factors in the value of a holiday is that a man is able to say, "For the next few days at any rate I 389 can call my time my own. I can devote it to my family, or to any pursuit which I am fond of, I can go where I like and do what I like," and that is an extremely valuable feeling for any man to have.
We have to face a new situation, even a revolution, owing to the inevitable trend of industrial practice, apart from whatever legislation may be necessary in order to bring unenlightened and backward employers into line with the recognised practice. I do not know what report will be issued by the committee which is sitting on this matter, but I believe that gradually all employers will come into line and will grant this concession. The result will undoubtedly be a tremendous impetus to recreation and to the desire to travel. Hitherto, men have felt unable to leave their own districts, but when they are able to do what they like they will begin to feel that they have not seen their own country and they will be anxious to know it better. They have heard of places round the coast, such as Blackpool and Porthcawl, and they will say:" I would like to see those places." We know from our experience that those men will avail themselves of the opportunity to travel, if they have the means and the time for it. Millions of men will grasp that opportunity.
We have heard to-day that the plight of the railway companies is bad in August, but the plight of the people who use the railways is much worse. I saw in a newspaper that the four main line railway companies usually carry 23,000,000 more passengers in August than in May. There are holiday resorts in my constituency, which has one of the finest bits of coast—[Laughter.] I invite hon. Members to test that statement any time they like. In the holiday resorts and in the village in which I live, and which has 5o or so houses, there is great overcrowding in August. Prices soar in the holiday season above the level of the wage-earner's means. In such cases it is clear that man, wife and child do not derive as much benefit as they should.
At Paddington, Euston and other main line termini, you see, in the period just preceding Bank Holidays, mothers with children in arms, and other children, sitting on anything they can find, and resting themselves. They wait for hours for a series of trains going out, and they never know when their train does go out, 390 or when they are likely to reach their destination. I remember once travelling before the national holiday in August. We got to Carmarthen long after midnight, although the train was supposed to start at five minutes to four. What will happen when millions of people have the time and the means to satisfy their desire to enjoy the country, to fly, in other words from town to country as flying from chains? I submit to the Minister that these matters are worth consideration. I am willing to throw flowers at him if he likes it.
I sincerely believe that the Minister has certain qualities which are not common in all Ministers in these days. One quality which he has is enthusiasm.
Yes, and he is also full of energy. I hope that the Minister will realise that this is a problem to which he might very well devote his attention and his mind. Not only have we to provide the time and the financial means for the enjoyment of leisure in this country, but we have to provide facilities for leisure. Apart from the split leisure to which I have referred, just an hour per day or the shorter week, a man who works eight hours will have perhaps 16 hours out of the 24 for himself. What is he to do with those 16 hours? Municipal authorities have provided for him to some extent. They have considered it their duty to try to meet the needs of these people, during the time when they are not at work, by sport, libraries, concerts and facilities of that character, designed to enable those people to enjoy their leisure. The same kind of thing must be done in order to provide for this larger leisure, this continuity of rest, which every man should have, from labour. I invite the Minister to devote his attention to that problem.
Difficulties have been pointed out. Speaking again from experience, we know that in some factories there are continuous processes, such as chemical processes, and that the machinery never rests. In those cases the holidays must be at different times. The work must continue, and the holidays must be spread over a long period of the year. In the factories with which I have connection we spread the holidays from May to the end of September or the beginning of October. 391 In some cases—and this is why I suggest that the Board of Education comes into the matter—there is a problem in regard to the children who are at school. A great deal cannot be done in the way of holidays if father and mother are unable to go away with their family. The Board of Education might exercise discretion and bring influence to bear upon local authorities to enable children to go away, say in May, without losing the benefit of school. It seems that it is impossible to continue the elementary schools throughout the year and in the month of August, and there is a somewhat difficult problem. It should not be impossible to organise the schools in such a way that they do not close down except for one week and that the holidays are spread over. I suggest that the Minister might very well take that matter in hand.
I said at the beginning that this was not a problem only of the convenience and advantage of those who cater for holiday-makers but the matter is still important from their point of view. Let us remember that these people desire to give the best service, and if holiday places are congested in August it means that they cannot give an adequate welcome and the best service to holiday-makers. It would be a great advantage and would give these people an easier time to spread the holiday and not put it all on the plate in August. I can think of nothing better than that holiday-makers should be able to see the country at its best time, or than establishing in the mind of the townsman and of the worker in factories a love of the country by organising rational methods and schemes by which they can visit the country and befar from the madding crowdI represent a constituency which caters very largely for visitors to the coast from great cities like Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Birkenhead and Liverpool, and more and more people come there today. During this kind of weather, what greater benefit can we give to the working man than enabling him to see the flaming gorse in full bloom in the country? Although the working man may have to earn his living in a coal mine, his heart is in the highlands. The hearts of many of the miners of South Wales are, in the words of Wordsworth,in the sweet shires of Cardiganshire.392 This movement can be influenced only from the centre, from the Ministries concerned, and especially by co-ordination between the Ministries of Labour and Education. I hope that they will be able to do something in the matter and that the Amendment will commend itself to the House.
§ 5.41 p.m.
I shall not keep the House very long. [Laughter.] That is a firm promise. This Amendment raises what is almost essentially a woman's question. [Horn. MEMBERS:" Oh.-] Yes, because hon. Members have spoken of holidays with families, and everybody knows that the people who most need a holiday are the working mothers. I believe that the time will come when we shall see that the best way to give a working mother a holiday is to give her a holiday away from the children. At present that is usually impossible. A working mother should have a holiday completely away from her husband and her children. [Laughter.] That comes nearer to being like Heaven than anything else. I congratulate the Minister of Labour upon having gone so splendidly for holidays with pay, and I am certain that the whole of the country will be grateful to him.
You have got it in your programme, but he has done it. As usual, you are too late. I congratulate also my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) upon having brought up this question. We know, as hon. Members have said, that a free Government cannot impose this upon the country, but we know also that in our form of government once the people desire a thing it is for the Government to co-ordinate that desire and to co-ordinate different authorities and to see that it is brought about. That is all we are asking of the Minister now. It is very important to divide the country into large areas. If you do not do so the matter is much more difficult to handle. One hon. Member spoke about Scotland and Wales and East and West. I have thought a good deal about that. If we can divide the country into areas the matter will be much easier, but if it is going to be in small driblets it will be very difficult from every point of view, 393 and particularly from the point of view of education. I am certain that this is coming, and it is much better that we should do it under our free system by debating it in the House of Commons and then going back to the country and persuading people who are against it.
We are told by one hon. Member that it would be difficult, and the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) said that there was a fashion in holidays. In many ways the fashion is already broken. Many people want their holidays in June, but cannot get them because they have families. It will be easier for the Government to set the fashion, but I would ask them not to be too late about it. If we get more holidays with pay there is going to be the most appalling congestion. I come from a part of the country where we get a good many visitors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I was talking about Plymouth. I was not dealing with the fiction, but with the facts. I ought to have said the West country, which is almost the happiest playground of all. One of my friends was telling me about a certain town where prices are now quite reasonable, but in August are almost prohibitive for working people. I beg the Minister to realise what I am sure is right, that people will not only want this change, but will demand it, in time.
Hon. Members have talked about the crowds on the railways at holiday times, and I myself have known people with families, and particularly women, to return from their holidays far more exhausted than they were when they went. We might well, as one hon. Member suggested, adopt for ourselves certain facilities which they have in totalitarian States. There they have certain things which we might well copy on a voluntary basis. We understand that this reform cannot be brought about at once, but we can help by ventilating the matter in this House and letting the Minister and the Government realise that the country is agreed upon it.
Moreover, this is not only a problem of leisure. People have to be educated for leisure. One hon. Member said that people want to go about in herds, but, the more people are educated, the more they want to spend their leisure in seclusion. The less educated people are, the more they want to go and sit about in crowds. There are many people who 394 are far more educated than their grandfathers, and, when the time for holidays comes, they want to spend it in a cultural atmosphere, and not herded together in seaside towns and boarding houses. I beg the Minister not to say what he cannot do, but what he can do. He is unlike most Ministers. Even on the Sabbath he never takes a rest. We beg him to assure the country that he will be up and doing about this question as he is about others. We are grateful to him for what he has done, and we are also grateful for the magnificent speeches that have been made from all quarters of the House to-day. They have shown a realisation that this is a matter about which the country is deeply agreed.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)
The late hon. Member for Farnworth, Mr. Guy Rowson, was an extremely fortunate man when the luck of the Ballot enabled him to give the Minister of Labour the opportunity of appointing one of the most powerful committees ever appointed to deal with a matter to which very great importance is rightly attached, namely, holidays with pay. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) has raised in his Amendment, not the wide question of holidays with pay, although that question has been dicussed in the course of the Debate, but the narrower issue of how holidays can be organised. I am sure we have all found it delightful to have an atmosphere in which everyone seems to be agreed more or less. Everyone is agreed as to the desirability of holidays with pay, and everyone wants them spread. Of course, Members are not agreed as to where they want people to spend their holidays, and, of course, my Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has one great advantage over the rest of the House, in that she represents a constituency which is about the only one in this island where you can hear the band and see the Sound. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. D. 0. Evans) referred to a delightful little place in his constituency. I had my head broken there with a stone. It was a political meeting, but I bore no malice.
Everyone seems to be agreed that there are far too many crowds at holiday times, but I am not at all sure about that. 395 After all, it is quite clear from one's reading of history that man is a gregarious animal, and that people like to go in crowds. It is only the exceptional person who likes a solitary holiday. I expect that before the Debate is over one or two Members will desire to speak about the beauty of the seascape around these islands, but I hope that something will be said about the joys and beauties of the inland resorts, large and small, which are to be found in this country in such profusion. If for a moment the Minister of Labour may be permitted to allow any little poetic quality that may be in him to peep out, I would say that it is very natural that in this island we should talk freely about holidays with pay, because we have much to show people when they get their holidays, whether they be our own people or those, to whom the hon. Member for Shipley referred in his admirable speech, who come in hundreds and thousands from all over the world to this island. One poet, indeed, has said about this island of ours that it is:Infinite riches in a little room.I doubt whether there is any country that contains so many varieties of land and seascape within so small a compass. Since I was born in the loveliest of seaside places in this island, Torquay, perhaps I may be allowed to quote——
§ Mr. Brown
I am quite prepared, with the hon. Member, to sing the praises of Rothesay, and I hope, if I am spared till July, when the National Regatta is held there, to get a week-end and sail down the Clyde and enjoy its beauties. I should like to quote a sentence written by Sir John Squire about one county, Devon, though the same might be said of others:There, in a tiny square, are all manner of things: warm, red, almost Mediterranean coasts; grey, bare, northern coasts with great cliffs confronting the Atlantic rollers; low, melancholy, sandy coasts; high waste moorlands, rich pastures, rolling downs, thickly wooded valleys, and countless generations of the dwellings of men.That is a very fine description of the variety which can attract those who get the opportunity of leisure and can enjoy it in seeing the beauties of our land.
I have been exhorted to do many things this afternoon, but, when I am 396 asked to take immediate action, I am in this position: I shall, of course, in a very short time, be compelled to give my consideration to this matter, because, as the House knows, the Holidays with Pay Committee has been sitting now for some months, facing the facts as to the national desire for this revolution, as it was called by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan. I think the House as a whole will agree that it would be a beneficent revolution. The Committee are facing the facts, and are not overlooking the difficulties—for there are difficulties; despite the keen desire to further this reform. Member after Member who has given detailed attention to the problem has talked about the difficulties and the obstacles that have to be overcome. Therefore, when I receive the report of the Committee—and I may say that I expect it almost immediately—I shall have to give concentrated attention to whatever recommendations they make. I shall not need any exhortation from Members of the House to do my duty, and I only hope that the report will be such that it will make my duty my delight also.
The Amendment deals first of all with the distribution of holidays throughout the summer months, and not with the wider issue of holidays with pay. Two main things are desirable in any arrangements with regard to holidays for industrial workers. The first is that they should be enabled to make the best possible use of a recognised break in their employment; and the second is that there should be the minimum amount of dislocation of industry in any arrangements made to that end. Of course, these two considerations will assume an added importance as holidays with pay extend more and more widely. They will create, as has already been pointed out, all sorts of problems—transport problems; the problems of the holiday resorts themselves; problems affecting the workers in those resorts; problems affecting the industries in which workers get holidays with pay; and last, but not least, problems affecting the schools.
Indeed, the extension that we have already seen recently of holidays with pay by collective agreement has created new and urgent problems for the railways as regards the provision of the travelling facilities, problems of accommodation and employment during holidays for the resorts themselves, and problems with re 397 gard to arrangements for family holidays, particularly where different members of the family are engaged in varying occupations and there are children of varying ages or children attending different types of schools. The Amulree Committee are approaching the completion of their work. They have considered the subject fully, and are fully aware of all the problems to which reference has been made in the discussion to-day. The committee have received evidence from the railway corn-panics, who have made representations with regard to questions of traffic facilities; evidence from certain industries with regard to the spread-over of holidays and their industrial effects; and evidence from the Board of Education as to the problem of school holidays. As has been pointed out in the Debate to-day, this last is an important aspect of the problem if full advantage is to be taken of increased facilities for holidays with pay.
In addition, the committee have received evidence from the International Labour Office with regard to the practices customs prevailing in such foreign countries as have, in a larger or smaller degree, systems of holidays with pay. The House will see, therefore, that the committee are fully aware of all the issues concerned, have received evidence upon them, and have examined the practical difficulties involved in any considerable extension of this reform, including that which is referred to in the Amendment. They will, of course, make recommendations based upon the evidence they have received.
I have been asked to accept the Amendment as it stands. The House will see at once that I could not do that, on the very technical ground that it would not be proper for a Minister to anticipate the findings of a committee, when he has appointed that committee to search out the issues and make their report, not merely about how the movement ought to be forwarded—whether by legislation, voluntarily, or by both methods—but also as to what solutions they propose for the obstacles and difficulties. I can assure the House that I am in complete sympathy with the spirit of the Amendment, and, in so far as the demand is made that there shall be, in any steps which may be taken to extend the holidays with pay, close co-operation between the Board of Education and the Ministry of Labour, 398 that co-operation will be assured. Not only will there be that co-operation between the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Education, but there will be similar co-operation between us both and the other Ministries which will be affected, such as the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Health, by some sides of this problem.
One or two hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Shipley, referred to the question of camps and hostels. There are many people who like holidays not at the seaside but elsewhere. They prefer quiet and lonely holidays. They have to get to the destinations they seek. If they desire to have a hiking holiday and their means are not great, arrangements have to be made for them in hostels and camps, and arrangements can be made for them. The House will very soon now be in possession of the report of the committee, as I shall be myself, and I can assure the House that when I get the report it will have immediate and urgent consideration, and the fullest co-operative effort will be made in the various Departments concerned to see that the recommendations are examined in the spirit in which the committee offer them to the Government and the House.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Paling
I have heard few questions debated in this House with greater unanimity than this. I hope that the unanimity means that the solution of this problem will be found with speed and vigour. I am sure that that can be done. The Minister said that this might be done eventually by legislation or by voluntary effort. I would suggest another way, which is that we might set an example in this House. The spread over of holidays is equally important here. There are difficulties, I suppose; I have heard some of them enumerated; but I do not think that it is impossible to get over them. The holidays we have in this House—they are not small, compared with other people's holidays—were fixed a long time ago. Things have changed in this House since then, just as they have in regard to working conditions and social amenities in the country generally. We have approximately three months'—August, September and October—holiday in the summer; not quite, but very nearly. Why we should still he here in July, I do not know. We set 399 an example of going for our holidays in August, the peak month, when the greatest amount of difficulties exist for everybody. I think that that is a very bad example, and that we ought to make a change.
§ Mr. Paling
I have heard that said, and there is something in it; but, as I have said, these holidays were fixed at a time which is long past. This House used to be the preserve of wealthy men, There are a lot of working men here to-day, and I hope there will be more in a short time. From every point of view, it is necessary that we should change our present system. We like to be fresh and in a position to give the best we have in us to the work of this House. I suggest that we could do that better in the winter months than in such a month as July. We have the three months of August, September and October, and we have five or six weeks—I am speaking approximately—from Christmas to the end of January. I suggest that January is an excellent month for working—but in any case, any month is better than July for work. I suggest that we should set an example, and that we can then better ask other people to do their duty in the matter also.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones
I do not want to detain the House, but I have been listening to my right hon. Friend eulogising every seaside resort in the country except Colwyn Bay, which is in my constituency, and I am entitled to say one or two words on this subject. I represent a portion of the most beautiful coast in the world—and I say that after having returned from a tour of 30,000 miles in the southern ocean. I feel that the arguments which have been placed before the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson), the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) and others have been so cogent that it is no wonder that my right hon. Friend accepts in principle the unanimous view which exists in all parts of the House on this question. I appreciate his difficulty. I know there are immense problems involved. I want to draw the 400 attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education to one or two aspects of the matter. Educationists tell me that it is not impossible to work a scheme of double shifts in large schools. They also tell me that, in their view, there should be a fixed Easter. The end of the school term, they say, should finish after Easter, and the examination for the higher school certificate should be held just before Easter. I am told, by those who know far more about education than I do, that there are distinct educational advantages in that suggestion, apart from the repercussion it would have on this question of the spread-over of holidays.
Speaking as a medical man who practised in a seaside resort for 20 years, visiting boarding houses and hotels, I say without hesitation that, from the point of view of the tired worker, who is entitled to a seaside holiday in order to get rest and change and to rebuild his health, it is a most pernicious system that the holiday season should be concentrated into one month of the year—and that month not the best of the year, either. The seaside landlady is a much maligned character, but I should like to pay my tribute to her for her hard work and the way she meets her immense difficulties and her great poverty in the winter months, and for the interest she takes, not only from the financial point of view but from the point of view of the service she renders, in the hundreds of thousands of workers and others who go to our seaside resorts. I am very glad to hear that my right hon. Friend is going to get the co-operation of the Board of Education and the Ministry of Health on this question, because I have not the slightest doubt that, as the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), pointed out, workers now come back from their holidays, with their wives and children, after a harassing railway journey, suffering from the discomforts and in many cases the bad air, and feeling worse in health than they were previously.
There are advantages in the earlier months of the year. We know of workers who in the winter months have very bad chills, and many of them have to go back to their work before they should do, and have no opportunity of getting a holiday. There is no doubt that a holiday in late April or early May would be of immense 401 advantage. This National Government, during its seven years of office, has had a remarkable record of social legislation. I hope my right hon. Friend and those Ministers with whom he has promised to co-operate will take this old institution of the holiday under their wing. The tentacles of the State are spreading in every direction, and will continue to do so, whatever Government is in office. The holiday which was once regarded in this country almost with apology, and involved great sacrifices by the working man, is now vital to his life and existence. All employers are gradually coming round to this view. I hope the Government will concentrate on this matter, whatever the difficulties may be, and make this beneficent institution of the holiday worth while, and bring happiness and joy to the working population.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Beechman
The House has heard with great satisfaction, I have no doubt, that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour is taking such an interest in this matter, which is of such great moment in social development and progress. I heard with great interest his Devonian rhapsody, though I rather wished he had travelled a little further to those lands of supreme enchantment, like West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, where we are always willing to extend a welcome, as we do sympathy, to those who live in England in areas of industrial gloom. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) was saying that he had something to do with extending holidays and persuading many people to take holidays in foreign countries. I hope that his activities have extended to Cornwall. It is indeed a land of magic, where there is an archaic culture whose strange and ghostly relics can be found in almost every field, including the political. Fairy land though it is, it is not capable of holding everybody all at once, and, therefore, there must be some machinery in order to make these other worldly delights available as widely as they deserve to be. We have heard a great deal about psychological difficulties, but I hope—and indeed I feel sure—that the right hon. Gentleman will not think that this is only a psychological problem, because its solution depends upon taking thought.
402 There is nothing more important at the moment than to organise the resources of leisure. We are at last beginning to emerge from an industrial system which has had as one of its grossest defects the fact that while a few could take holidays, and protracted holidays, in comfortable circumstances, others—and the vast majority—either had no holidays at all or could take them only in circumstances of the greatest discomfort, and subject to crippling expense. It is for that reason that I regard this question as one of fundamental consequence in the organisation of society and the transition in the conditions of the people which is now so rapidly taking place. I do not suggest that there must be too rigid machinery, but we need something like a clearinghouse representative of the workers, local councils, and travelling bureaus and caterers, who shall organise this matter, or at any rate consider it and parcel it out.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Holmes) said that it would be a good thing to have the Academy open at a different time, but even that would have to be thought out. My hon. Friend must have forgotten that some of the people in Cornwall who cater for visitors paint pictures while they are waiting for them, and he might fix the opening of the Academy at such a date that one would be forced to paint a picture while providing tea for a visitor, and it might be a very embarrassing matter indeed. I am not sure that the opening of the Royal Academy is a matter of such very great consequence. It might to some extent, if it were held in August, relieve the pressure upon the more enchanting parts of this country, which I wish to see at the service of those who work so hard. I would remind my hon. Friend that 20,000,000 more people travel in August than in May in this country, and it is time that that absurdity was relieved and that we applied our minds to this matter, which I believe to be the most important feature of that campaign in which we have all played our part to improve the physical fitness of the country.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Simpson
I do not rise to emulate the example of hon. Members in seaside salesmanship, but I am very grateful to find that there is likely to be an increasing 403 number of prospective clients and customers who will be interested in the efforts of the hon. Members representing seaside resorts. It may be somewhat unusual to find that social advance in one direction happens to be so rapid that it may very well cause some social embarrassment in other directions because of the absence of adequate provision, foresight and co-operation. The advantage of the increasing numbers of paid holidays will be largely neutralised unless there is some very definite, comprehensive and well-thought-out prevision in the matter of amenities, both in transport and at the resorts themselves. It has not been unusual for workers to have any amount of free time. When people have had free time accompanied with payment, it has been regarded as leisure and as something that was dignified, but, unfortunately, when that free time has not been paid for, it has been regarded as unemployment and as something definitely undignified. We all rejoice in the fact that the extension of paid holidays and leisure time is coming along in an increasing degree, and it is most important that we should organise in order to make the best of that newly-found leisure.
It is very necessary that, in the matter of transport, some effort should be made in this direction. The railways will be primarily affected. They have often been a source of irritation to the travelling public. It has been said that they have neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned. When people have been subject to irritation and disappointment, very properly, I suppose, they have sought some physical object on which to vent their wrath. It would be unreasonable, if not impossible, for the railway companies of this country to provide the necessary amount of locomotive power and all the vehicles required for two or three weeks' big traffic rush, and to have no use for them for the remainder of the year. The holiday should start with the journey itself, and we should endeavour to provide that the journey should be part of the holiday and provide some kind of change and pleasure. To travel 16 or 20 in a compartment, suffering all the discomforts associated with August Bank holiday would certainly rob the holiday of any possibility of that. It is no fault 404 of the transport organisations when they have thrust upon them at these peak periods the amount of traffic with which it is impossible to cope.
It certainly is the business of the transport organisations to study the problem and make the maximum effort in order to meet the requirements of the community. This is essentially a problem in the solution of which they need and deserve the co-operation of the community itself. We seem to be especially conservative in the matter of holidays, and the tradition of a few chosen weeks seems to override all the practical claims of other periods for a decent and healthy holiday. In the matter of sunshine, rainfall and daylight, earlier and later times than those which are usually chosen are more than justified as reasons for taking a holiday. This problem involves the schools and the education authorities. One has found the education authorities very rigid and difficult in the matter of accommodation of this kind. If we consider that a holiday ought to be educational—and it certainly can be made so—we ought to anticipate the ready co-operation of education authorities in order that the holiday periods might be made more educational and helpful and advantageous than they are under existing conditions. Someone has said that a fool wanders but a wise man travels. It is certainly a very effective form of education, if people can enjoy holidays under decent conditions, see the beauties of the country and have an opportunity of pursuing studies in connection therewith.
These opportunities and advantages can seriously be neutralised if the transport accommodation is inefficient. I hope that with the increasing numbers of people who will be permitted to take advantage of a paid holiday, the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Education will do everything possible to assist those who are responsible for the transport, the provision of amenities, educational facilities, amusement, and other provisions at our seaside resorts, in order that the maximum advantage may be secured from the increasing numbers of paid holidays. I hope that the Ministers concerned will exert every effort to achieve that co-operation, which will be of assistance to those who will have to provide these facilities, and will be of great advantage to those who take holidays.
§ 6.27 p.m.
I want to put rather a different aspect of the subject from that which has been put to-day. Almost every hon. Member who has spoken has done so from the point of view of seaside resorts as such. I want to put the position of the rather small places. I am thinking particularly of the places in Cornwall where the presence of visitors comes not as a trade in itself but as a welcome help, and I would almost say salvation, to a great many farmers, and more particularly to a great many fishermen. Those fishermen might well not he there now. They might have left the sea and gone permanently inland and taken jobs ashore, if it had not been for the presence of visitors in little places like Looe, Polperro and Fowey, which the Minister of Labour visited with me last summer and which he will, therefore, have fresh in his mind.
The holiday season, as it is at present, comes to those fishermen somewhat as a five-course meal would come to a starving man. It gives him nothing but indigestion, when what he needs is a succession of small and regular meals. That is what they need down there. We have so many people dependent on the tourist traffic that they are apt to try and keep going all through the hard winter months a house which is really too large for them. Their husbands may not be able to go to sea because the weather is against them, or there may be a glut of fish on the market.
These crowds in a limited period are a nuisance not only to themselves but to the natives. The natives, in order to make ends meet over the rest of the year, have to charge the high prices that have been referred to. They get a bad name for congestion. Congestion in a small place, a little fishing port tucked away down a hill, in infinitely worse than congestion in big places such as Blackpool, where there is a certain amount of elasticity. Another thousand in Blackpool would scarcely be here or there, but a matter of a couple of dozen people in these small places makes all the difference. These small places depend to a tremendous extent on tourist traffic. If the holidays could be spread out—I am thinking of earlier in the year rather than later—it would be of immense advantage to everybody.
406 Visitors who have to take their holidays in August cannot possibly appreciate Cornwall. They cannot realise what Cornwall is like in spring. They do not realise that the best period in Cornwall is the spring. It is then that the flowers are out and the banks are covered with successions of primroses, bluebells, foxgloves, valerian and all the other wealth of blooms. When people have to go there in August they do not get the full benefit that they might otherwise get. I will not go into the question why August should, for some curious reason, have become the one period which everybody considers to be par excellence when they have to take their holidays. There have been various causes. There is the question of the squire going on his shooting or his fishing. There are people who say they must give their employés their holidays in August because that is the slack season. I suggest that they have got things the wrong way round. The reason why the season is slack is that people have gone on their holidays. If people went on their holidays at other times there would not be the slackness. If we spread over the holidays we should get rid of these tremendous peak periods.
I never like to make a speech either in the House or elsewhere without trying to make some practical suggestion as to how a problem can be solved. The point with which I am about to deal was referred to by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones). I refer to the necessity of steering clear of week-ends for the beginning and the ending of holidays. There will always be week-enders, particularly in the summer, people who make a habit, either when they are on holidays or when they are at business, of getting away at the week-ends. Would it be possible to bear in mind that when holidays are being organised and large firms are closing down their works or when schools are closing down, they should see to it, if possible, that the holidays should begin and end not at the week-end but in mid-week?
As regards factories, it is becoming an increasing custom for whole factories to close down for a couple of weeks; a custom which everybody must welcome. These factories could surely be classified. I would instance the engineering works and the motor car manufacturers. Would it be possible to establish a rota whereby, 407 say, the Morris, the Ford and the Austin works should arrange to take their holidays in, say, May, June and July? They could arrange to change about. This year one firm might take its holiday in May, the next year in June and the next in July, so that each in turn would have a fair chance of sharing what may be considered the special period which everybody wants.
Often the people in the factories are, even when the factories close down, dependent on the school holidays because of their children. One hon. Member spoke about Eton giving a lead again on this question of the schools, but you cannot segregate one type of school from another type of school, because there will always be parents who have perhaps one child at an elementary school, another at a secondary school and perhaps another at the university. That is a growing custom. Therefore, you cannot segregate these different classes of schools. You have to segregate district by district, so that you will have a mixture of schools taking their holidays at a given time and a mixture of schools taking their holidays at another time.
Whatever difficulties there may be, I am sure that there is nobody more qualified to tackle them than my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. He has had many problems to tackle. I realise, however, that to a great extent this question is going to fall on the President of the Board of Education and on the Board of Education. With good will—and I would stress the necessity for good will, for voluntary arrangements are infinitely more satisfactory in the long run than anything that may be drawn up and imposed by compulsion—something can be done, and the nation can be made to realise what fools they are in concentrating their holidays in August, and to realise the great benefits there are in different parts of the country at different seasons. It is not that everybody must go to a certain place at a certain season. Cornwall is good earlier in the season, while places like Westmorland are better later in the season. There is no reason why everybody should not get a good holiday at any time in the summer. I am sure that we all desire to back up the Government in whatever measures they may take towards this end.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
Almost every hon. Member who has spoken has proclaimed the suitability of his own constituency as a seaside resort. The local guide book describes my constituency as "The Scarborough of the Tyne." We have a very fine promenade and, greatest advantage of all in this country, we have a free pier, which will take people out for more than a mile into the North Sea, in the most bracing part of the German Ocean. You can really see the sea there, and not mud. It is a thoroughly delectable place.
I should like to deal with what has been called the scholastic problem, which really depends upon the universities. We have to realise that the university terms were fixed hundreds of years ago in order to enable the undergraduates to go home and take their proper share in the ordinary agricultural pursuits of the country. I do not know how many undergraduates at Oxford and Cambridge use the long vacation in order to assist in the various harvests, but I should imagine that they are surprisingly few. The whole education system of the country is so designed as to ensure that the youth shall move up from the secondary school or the public school to the university at the commencement of the October term. If we could get the universities to alter their year to the calendar year or to the year commencing after Easter, a great deal of the scholastic problem would disappear and a great deal of what is called, I think somewhat surprisingly, the problem of "staggering" holidays, would be much easier than it is at the moment.
I hope that the Board of Education in dealing with this problem will enlist the sympathy of the universities and endeavour to get their archaic system of terms altered so as to facilitate the matter for the rest of the schools. The secondary school is designed to send the youth to the university in October, and it also takes pupils in at that time, while the elementary school, again desiring to send its pupils forward to the secondary school, has to arrange the school year in the same way. Unless the universities alter their system of terms, a good deal of the advantage that might be obtained in the secondary and elementary schools by that change will be spoilt. I sincerely 409 hope that the Board of Education will be able to enlist the sympathy of the two old universities and the modern universities in making the necessary changes in their time tables.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Haslam
The Debate which has taken place on the Amendment introduced by the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) has shown extraordinary unanimity as to the desirability and the necessity of spread-over holidays. Holidays are particularly necessary in the case of industrial workers. The increasing strain of industry and the increased mental concentration required, together with the monotony of many of the processes, make it vitally necessary that the industrial workers should take holidays on every opportunity that offers. They desire to do that and they are doing so, not only during holiday times but at week-ends with more and more frequency. This movement for extension of holidays has my full support and sympathy. This is a question above all of health. It is a necessity for the community under modern conditions that holiday-making and travel should take place. June is a drier month and has more sunshine than August. The average rainfall for June for more than 30 years past has been 2.64 inches as against 3.88 inches in August. That is half as much again. Therefore, the talk about the better weather of August is incorrect. Everybody knows that there is greater freshness of air and there are greater beauties on the countryside in the earlier months. The period from mid-April to mid-July is far too much neglected as a holiday period.
The holiday question must also be viewed from another aspect, and that is the congestion of the present system. The congestion which takes place must be very deleterious to health, particularly in the case of the children. When all this crowding and crushing occur at holiday resorts, on railway trains and on motor buses, it is the children who suffer the most. Therefore, there is a much greater benefit to be derived by our getting away from the tremendous congestion that occurs. Another objection to congested holidays is that of the sanitary troubles that arise.
I should like to say a few words on the question of the employés in the seasonal 410 resorts. The hon. Member for Blackpool dealt with this matter with a good deal of force, and I agree with everything that he said. In these resorts the employés are divided into two classes—those who reside in the resort and those who are imported for the season. The position of the resident workers is highly unsatisfactory in places where there is a short season. If their position is bad in Blackpool, it is far worse in Skegness, in my constituency, which is much resorted to by the workers of the Midlands. In Skegness, the season is a very short one—a month, six weeks or possibly two months. The resident workers have hardly anything to do outside the season, apart from a little work at Christmas, Easter and Whitsun; for the whole of the winter months, apart from an occasional job, they have no work to do, and in present circumstances, they receive no unemployment benefit. There were no less than 900 unemployed in the peak months of December and February out of a population of just over 9,000, that is to say, 10 per cent. The House will realise that that involves a considerable amount of distress. Moreover, many other people, such as taxi drivers, have very little to do during the slack winter months. It is also interesting to note that, among the resident workpeople, no less than 300 were unemployed in the month of June.
If holidays were spread over the early months of the summer, it would at any rate give steady work to these people for five or six months of the year, and thus would very much improve their position and would enable them to draw their unemployment benefit for a longer period. What is true of the employé is equally true of all those concerned in the industries which cater for visitors. Many hon. Members have spoken about the expensiveness of holidays. Naturally, if holidays are taken only in the month of August, they are expensive, for that is the only month in which those engaged in the catering trades can do business. If holidays were spread over five months of the year, not only would the prices fall, but there would be much better service for visitors. The spread-over of holidays would also affect the position of imported labour. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour knows only too well the immense difficulties that there have been in recent years in obtaining imported labour for the simple reason that 411 it is required only for the month of August, and that then the work is extremely strenuous, so that the unfortunate workers do not get much time for themselves. If holidays were spread over five or six months of the year, the obtaining of imported labour would be a very much different proposition. With regard to the Amendment, with which I heartily agree, I would like to comment on one point. It reads:The growing tendency to grant annual holidays with pay to industrial workers makes it advisable for the Government …Certainly, it is "advisable," but it is more than that; it is absolutely necessary that the Government should do something in this matter, because unless something is done there will be no holidays with pay, for it will not be possible either for the transport companies to take the people or for the seaside resorts to contain them during the month of August. Something must be done immediately. In the Midland area, there will be tens of thousands of additional holiday makers next summer. I was interested to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool that in Lancashire there has been a spread-over of holidays for some time, and that the remainder of the country is in the position of not having done what Lancashire has done. My hon. Friend pointed out that the organisation was done town by town, and therefore, I am inclined to suggest that, particularly in the Midlands and in the smaller towns, a spread-over town by town might perhaps be the most effective system. In many towns, if an industry is closed down for a holiday period, the whole town is involved. I believe that will be the case in Coventry this year, where the engineers, I believe, for the first time, are going to have a week's holiday. If a big industry in a town were closed down for a certain week in May, June or July, it would naturally follow that other industries would do the same thing; and the question of school holidays would be solved, since the municipal authority would fall into line, as we have heard they are willing to do. Therefore, I think that at the beginning the organisation of the spread-over town by town would be the best method. I believe that the spread-over of holidays is certain to come, and the only doubt in my mind is whether it will come in time 412 to prevent much inconvenience and hardship to holidaymakers. I hope that something will be done this summer, by way of making a start, in bringing in this most necessary reform.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
I regard this as being one of the most important domestic questions that has been raised in the House recently. The question of the spread-over of holidays is really part of the general question of the mobility of labour. It may seem peculiar to put it in that way, in view of the fact that we are now considering workers on holiday, but holidays have an influence on the remainder of the working year, because, as the House will agree, the more the workers enjoy holidays, the more efficient they are when they return to their work. I cannot say that I wish to throw any flowers at the Minister of Labour and his right hon. Friends, but I wish to congratulate one or two hon. Members. I would like to congratulate one hon. Member, a Welshman, for having had the good sense to say that his heart is in the Highlands first and in Wales secondly; I wish to congratulate the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), whose speech was extremely funny; I wish to congratulate the Minister of Labour for congratulating hon. Members on this side on the speeches which they have made; and finally, may I congratulate the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and his hon. Friend who so sensibly supported him, on raising this matter of great public importance? Last year, when I had the privilege of introducing a Bill dealing with holidays with pay, hon. Members opposite were inclined to throw not flowers, but cauliflowers. On that occasion, unfortunately, neither the Mover nor the Seconder of the Amendment which is before us to-day spoke or supported the Bill. At that time, one hon. Member after another from the benches opposite opposed holidays with pay.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
Is it not a fact that at that time an announcement had been made that a committee would be appointed to look into the whole question, and that the feeling on this side of the House, as well as in many other quarters, was that it would be better to wait until that committee had reported?
§ Mr. MacMillan
That is true. I am well aware that the Government sheltered themselves behind a committee at that time. We were told that it would be very discourteous of the House if it came to a decision on that Bill owing to the fact that there was a departmental committee sitting. We were told that it was a very powerful committee, we were given a list of the people sitting on it, and we were asked whether there were better people in the whole country. We were told that it was anticipated that the report of the committee would be a very fine one, covering all the points, and telling us everything about holidays with pay. Yet, only the other day the Minister of Labour, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), said that holidays with pay on the voluntary principle were preferable. In saying that, the right hon. Gentleman anticipated the report of the committee, and killed the very argument that was used against us when we brought forward the Bill last year.
Having said that, I will again revert to throwing flowers. The hon. Member has raised this matter at an opportune time, for hon. Members themselves will soon be going on holiday. The hon. Member made a very fine speech, as did his hon. Friend who seconded him, and I am glad to give him full credit for being happy always to support holidays with pay, either compulsorily or otherwise. I think it would be a good thing if we could bring some of the workers to the Gallery of the House of Commons during their holidays so that they could see the House at work; that might contribute towards making them more efficient when they returned to their own work, or console them with the thought that they could not work any worse than we work here. I believe that one important factor of the question of holidays with pay and the question of the spread-over of the holiday period is that we pay the wrong people. We should be paying the children in the elementary and secondary schools to grow up and become better citizens. We should pay mothers for bearing children and for bringing them up. We should pay workers for taking holidays to make themselves better workers and better contributors to the production of the nation's wealth. We do none of these things.
414 I think that one important thing which we ought to be discussing to-day in relation to this Amendment is something in the nature of a geographical spread-over of holidays. As there is no Member from the North of Scotland present at the moment, I think I am safe in saying that the North of Scotland is an area which is not overcrowded and which is practically ignored by holiday-makers. A few more sensible, or more fortunate, people go to the North of Scotland because they are able to do so. But there is an area one-fifth the size of Great Britain, and if you were to take all the beauty and all the attractions of the rest of the Kingdom you would still not have as much beauty as we have in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. In that area there is ample room for the great holiday crowds which at present go for their holidays from one city to another, where they are crowded together. For my own part I believe in splendid isolation to some extent at holiday time. I suggest to hon. Members opposite, some of whom I know do go to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, that they should advertise among their constituents that it is possible for them to take an uncrowded holiday in a district where there is plenty of peace and quiet, and where there is no need for them to crowd into trains and trams and insufferable buses.
There is another point in this connection, which comes very much within the province of the Minister of Transport. This is a question of transport organisation. Unfortunately, certain people prefer to keep the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as a holiday paradise for themselves. For my part, I think that the landowners' private monopoly of all the streams and lochs, and mountains and glens has been one of the curses of Scotland. We wish to see the millions of the people there, where they can look across many miles of ocean and feel that they are remote from the troubles of city life. I am sure millions of people would take that opportunity if there were a decent system of transport to take them there. The Minister of Transport now has the opportunity with his friends in the Government to plan the transport to those areas, and to bring people to those parts of Scotland which they do not know, and therefore do not appreciate. The question of houses has to be dealt with, I know, but now we have an assurance 415 that the crofters are not to be assessed because they take in summer visitors, and the houses in the Highlands and Islands are being improved. With the assistance of Government and the local authorities people can now go to these places and be comfortably and well housed. But that housing question still remains for the Government to solve, and it is still a very important question in connection with the development of the Highlands and Islands for tourist traffic. The question of roads also is very important; we all know that the roads in the Highlands and Islands are a disgrace.
I hope in my speech to-night I have not been simply selling the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as a holiday area. I know there are other places with other attractions, but people are prevented from going to the Highlands and Islands because there is no adequate or proper transport system, and the Government are to a large extent blameworthy for that state of affairs. I hope that the Minister of Labour will consider that this is one of the solutions of the problem. I believe we can, to a large extent, develop these Highlands and Islands of Scotland as Switzerland has been developed, and as Norway has largely been developed, and is being developed, by a more energetic Government than our own. I have sometimes during the holiday season watched the traffic in the Highlands. On some of the railways in the North of Scotland, when at a certain time of the year the railway traffic becomes much heavier, the same staff, with hardly the addition of a man, is compelled to undertake twice as much work, and to work longer hours. I think that is a disgraceful thing, and I think the companies ought to be approached by the Government. It is not only a matter of the length of time the staff has to work, but the intensity of the work sometimes tires a man much more than the number of hours he works. These people are overwhelmed with work, and I hope that the Minister will give due consideration to their claims.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Sir J. Walker-Smith
In this Debate the issue of a spread-over of holidays which is before the House has been somewhat confused with the question of holidays with pay. The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) has 416 attempted gently to chide, if not to castigate, the proposer and seconder of the Amendment because they were not in the House at the time when he introduced his Bill for holidays with pay. I was in the House upon that occasion, and I certainly did not support his Bill because I thought it was a bad Bill in that it proposed to deal with the important question of holidays with pay in a thoroughly unsatisfactory manner. I am so keen upon this subject of holidays with pay that not only did I refrain from supporting his Bill, but I actively opposed it. It seemed to me then, and it seems to me now, that this important question may be looked at from alternative points of view. One can proceed by the evolutionary method, and deal with the matter by collective agreements, by negotiation between organised parties of employers and employed in a particular industry and thus prepare a scheme which would be satisfactory to those with full knowledge of all the circumstances of the industry and would be accepted as thoroughly workable. That is one way. The other way—that adopted by the hon. Member's Bill—was to resort to compulsion and to put upon a Government Department the duty of preparing a scheme for holidays with pay, applicable to the industries of the whole country. I, myself, was satisfied that the former alternative was right.
The matter we are discussing this evening is obviously one of such comparatively limited scope that nearly every aspect of it has already been dealt with. There is, however, a viewpoint which has not been developed, a viewpoint which I myself hold. I was not surprised to find general unanimity that something should be done by the Government Departments concerned. I suppose it is perfectly natural in such a legislative assembly as this that, no matter what the problem may be, Members should look to legislation, to regulations of some kind, to solve it. I do not share their desire for statutory or governmental intervention in any matter that can be settled otherwise, particularly matters concerning industry, and this is a matter that particularly concerns industry. I would desire the least possible amount of governmental intervention. When the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) said that he spoke for the representatives of all the seaside resorts I do not know whether he included 417 my constituency in that category. Certainly we are a seaside resort, but whether we come within the category of health resort I scarcely know.
But the hon. Member hardly represents my point of view. I can thorouoghly understand the desirability from the railway companies' point of view of a spread-over of the holiday season, and I can understand its desirability for those particular holiday resorts that rely very largely upon visitors. But this Amendment suggests that there should be intervention by the President of the Board of Education and the Minister of Labour. I am particularly anxious that the Board of Education should not be diverted in the least degree by questions such as this from their proper work of directing the education of youth, and I am anxious that the Minister of Labour should not permit matters industrial to be diverted from their normal course and progress by the efforts to bring about a spread-over of holidays. I was moved by the tender solicitude of the hon. Member for Blackpool for the pitiable plight of some of the people at these seaside holiday resorts. I am inclined to share his view and his sympathy. If it is those people with whom he is concerned I am in agreement and sympathy with him, but I fear he had other interests in mind. The Board of Education or any other Government Department to whom these matters may be referred should be thoroughly well satisfied that this House desires educational and industrial administration to proceed without too much regard to the interests, and particularly the pecuniary interests, of hotel-keepers, lodging-house keepers and proprietors of fun towers, and that sort of thing in various holiday resorts.
As regards the Board of Education, I do not think they need do any more than they have already done about this matter of providing for a spread-over of holidays. By Statute and by custom that question is left entirely to the administration of the local education authorities. It is within the scope of those authorities to adjust the holiday periods, within limits, to suit the needs of their localities and they know the needs of their localities better than any other body can, and they are the right people to do so. They have the power and the opportunity to adjust term times and holiday times in such a way as to suit the people of the localities, and to 418 them it should be left. The question in regard to the secondary schools is a little more difficult than it is in regard to the elementary schools. In the elementary schools a year can be divided into four educational terms, but there are difficulties in that respect in the case of secondary education. My point, however, is that facilities now exist for the local education authorities to adjust these matters as the circumstances of the locality require, and that we should not depart from the present system in that respect. I did not think that the Minister of Labour would succumb to the blandishments which were showered upon him from various quarters, and I find that he has not done so. He has certainly expressed sympathy with this proposal. He could not do otherwise. Naturally, he has expressed his willingness to consult with the Board of Education and with any Department which can assist him on this subject. But I am anxious that there shall not be any statutory intervention.
§ Mr. R. Robinson
Nobody has suggested statutory intervention, and it would be out of order to do so on this occasion. All we have asked for is co-operation between employers and workers and between industry and the education authorities, and the suggestion is that, with such co-operation, the matter should be dealt with by negotiation.
§ Sir J. Walker-Smith
I thoroughly understood the fact that there was no specific reference to legislation in the Amendment. But this is a legislative body, and if it is to do anything there must be some sort of sanction behind its action and the only sanction, ultimately, is either legislation, or a departmental instruction, or regulation. Otherwise, why bring up the matter here at all? It does not need a formal proposal of this kind to get the co-operation which the hon. Member has mentioned. But my main point is that a matter of this kind should be left, as far as it properly can be left, to the organised representatives of labour and of the employers. They can meet and can arrange the times and conditions of holidays in their industry, and when they have arranged those holidays it is for the holiday resorts themselves and the transport people to provide the necessary facilities. That is the right way to deal with the matter and I am anxious that 419 that method should be adopted in this case. It is far better to leave a question of this kind to the organised representatives of the workers and the employers. They can try this method and that method, and by a process of trial and error arrive at the most suitable arrangements. Then they can, with the greatest facility, adjust that arrangement from time to time to meet altered circumstances. But once you get into the realm of statutes and departmental regulations, you get a system which is inflexible and rigid and difficult to adapt to the varying conditions of modern times. I hope, therefore, that nothing will be done to prevent this question from being dealt with, as it should be, by the representatives of the employers and the employed themselves.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
As one who does not represent a constituency containing a health resort I wish to speak on behalf of those who are seeking to be staggered as regards their holidays. I have been particularly interested in this Debate because every speaker has seemed to anticipate that, within a short time, holidays with pay will become an accomplished fact. I sincerely hope so, and I am encouraged by the speeches I have heard to believe that there will be no lack of support from hon. Members opposite, in the near future, when an opportunity presents itself of making holidays with pay an accomplished fact. That is, apparently, what we all desire now. But I cannot understand the speech of the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Sir J. Walker-Smith). He suggests that although this reform is desirable, he does not want the force of legislation behind it. If he were in the position of a trade union secretary, seeking to convince employers of the desirability of these reforms, and if he found that the employers had just as much sympathy as he has expressed today, but yet were unable to meet the views of the trade unions, he would whole-heartedly welcome legislation to deal with these matters.
§ Sir J. Walker-Smith
The hon. Member suggests that I am not connected with the work of trade unions, but that is what I am doing every day of my life.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I did not refer to the hon. Member as a director of a trade union. I said he should try to imagine himself as a trade union secretary seeking to obtain some concession in the interests of the workers. It seems to me that all that has been said to-day regarding the necessity and value of holidays with pay has been apparent for the past 50 years. The need for the workers' holiday has always been there.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
If the hon. Member had been present during the Debate he would realise that his interruption has nothing to do with the point I am making. What I am suggesting is that this question of the necessity for holidays for workers has become a vital issue, and I wish to take this opportunity of saying how much I appreciate the tribute paid by the Minister of Labour to the gentleman whom I followed in the Parliamentary representation of Farnworth for bringing this question before the House on previous occasions. In my part of the country I can assure hon. Members that holidays with pay became a very practical issue after the Bill had been introduced. Somebody said that in Lancashire the staggering of holidays had been tried as an experiment. It is not an experiment. It has been a custom for 35 years; it is well past the experimental stage, and nobody would dream of going back to the old method. It seems to me that it is the South which has been behindhand all the time in this respect.
As regards the question of staggering these holiday periods so as to obviate holidays in August, I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) suggest that if that were done the minds of the landladies of Blackpool would be easier, and that those who visited Blackpool in July would find that the prices were not quite as high as they had been accustomed to in the past. I suggest to him in all seriousness that all the conditions to which he referred have not applied merely to August, and I am doubtful whether the staggering of holidays will provide us with all the benefits to which we feel we are entitled. But I am hopeful after the hon. Member's speech this afternoon. I appreciated his 421 reference to the seasonal workers, and I believe that the Minister of Labour can do something to help in that respect. If there is a spread-over, the period of the season can be extended, and I do not see why it should be extended only from April to September. Why can it not be extended from January to December, so that the seasonal workers will be qualified for benefit all the year round? The Minister of Labour can, at any rate, do that and it would, I believe, help in the solution of one part of the problem. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Blackpool would suggest that the illumination period in Blackpool should be extended, along with the extension of the season, but if the illumination period were extended to cover the whole year, it might help.
I was interested to hear the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) describing the condition in which many workers return from their holidays on account of the difficulties experienced under the present system. As one who has often gone on holidays under present circumtances, I realise that our condition was bad but I did not realise that it was as bad as the Noble Lady suggested, and she apparently claims to know the facts. But one thing I would say. She does not know the working-class mother. If she suggests that the working-class mother would be prepared to go for a holiday without her children, she simply does not know what she is talking about. In view of the shortness of the time available, I do not propose to detain the House further.
§ Mr. R. Robinson
The House has achieved a very full measure of agreement on this question. We have had from the Minister of Labour an expression of his sympathy with the spirit of the Amendment and a promise of close co-operation. I wish to accept that assurance, and to thank the House for their almost unanimous support of this proposal. I, therefore do not desire to press an Amendment which would involve your continuance in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, and prevent the Government from getting their Supply.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.422
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]