§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.7 a.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The object of this Bill is to prohibit night work in bakehouses. It is not a newcomer to the House of Commons. It was first moved 90 years ago, in 1848. I do not propose to go into the history of the Bill and of the controversy from that date until this, but it appears to us on this side that it is about time the House of Commons, instead of discussing one Bill after another, or one Motion after another, should pass a Bill and let it become an Act of Parliament. I do not propose to deal with the intricate details of the complex conditions of the baking and confectionery trade. They need much detailed consideration, but the details are Committee details, and if we pass the Second Reading of the Bill today the whole of these matters can be gone into as they have never been gone into in Committee. It is the main principles which are really important, and these are simple and straightforward.
§ The Amendment which has been put down from the other side will only shelve this problem. It will not solve it. It is not very well conceived, for it says that the Bill will fall far short of removing the disadvantages of night baking and, therefore, apparently, we should not pass a Bill to remove some of the disadvantages. That is a remarkable kind of argument. I should have thought the idea of gradualness would have appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite. This is not a revolutionary Bill, but a Bill of gradualness which will confer a great benefit on a large number of people. The history of this question began after the Great War. A joint industrial council was formed, and it failed. Then the Mackenzie Committee was appointed in 1919, and reported in favour of the abolition of night baking. A Bill was drafted, brought forward in 1920, and dropped. Afterwards two other inquiries which looked into the subject from the angle of the cost of bread—the Linlithgow Committee of 1923 and the Peet Committee in 2216 1925—reported that there would be a slight increase in the cost of bread. Then the Alness Committee was appointed in July, 1937, and reported against the abolition of night baking.
§ The important fact is, however, that the two committees which went into the matter most thoroughly, the Mackenzie Committee and the Alness Committee, reported that there would be no rise in the cost of bread if night baking were carried out. That is an important aspect of the matter. There was also a good deal of agreement between these two committees, despite the difference in their final conclusions, on what may be called the subject matter, that is to say, the conditions of night baking and the conditions under which bakers work. Although both committees' reports are useful, they do not make out more than a case for the detailed discussion of the Bill in Committee. Neither of them goes into all the details; they had not, indeed, all the information which is required. In view of any possible suggestion that may be made that the whole matter has been gone into thoroughly, let me call attention to the fact that even the number of bakers is not accurately known. The Alness report estimated the number as approximately 80,700 in 1931, and making allowance for the subsequent rise in employment the number in 1937 was 92,000. There is nothing very accurate or scientific about that, and no one could adduce very exact conclusions on estimates of that character.
The social and health conditions of night baking are important matters that have to be considered when the abolition of night baking is under consideration In order that I may not be accused of merely putting my own point of view, and the point of view which I have got by correspondence and interviews with numerous representatives of the baking trade and individual bakers, I will read extracts from the Mackenzie and Alness reports describing what those social conditions are. Of the 92,000 bakers who are employed, only one-third are employed on night baking, so that the problem is not a large one numerically. This is what the Mackenzie report says:
Night work is …. almost always continuous and in this respect different from the night work system found in many other trades. It is very bad for family life. It
causes deranged social arrangements and increased hours of work of women at home. It operates to cut the men off from their families and from ordinary social intercourse with their fellows. The only night he is not at work is a Saturday night, following on a long night's work which commenced with Friday.
Of course, everybody will realise that young persons under 18, and women, are forbidden to do this:
The conclusion is that apart from temporary arrangements to allow of practical difficulties being met there appears to be no justification for night work because of the needs of the community.
It is these temporary arrangements and practical difficulties which will require discussion in Committee. I am going to give extracts from the Alness report—the majority report—leaving it to another hon. Member to deal with his own views on the matter which were embodied in the minority report. In the majority report the Alness Committee say:
Night baking as now prevalent involves serious social disadvantages for the operatives. The night baker is generally free from Saturday morning till Sunday evening, but as he generally does a night and a half's work on Friday night
I cannot help smiling at the idea that this is freedom.
Much of the day time on Saturday or Sunday must be devoted to rest if he is to be fit to resume work on Sunday evening. He is, therefore, largely deprived of the opportunities of recreation and social intercourse enjoyed by the normal worker at the week-end.
That is a very excellent example of what I may call English understatement. The report goes on:
Even if nightwork were abolished, serious social disadvantages would still remain.
§ That is a statement which finds expression in another form in the Amendment on the Order Paper, which is intended to shelve this Bill. Again I say that the fact that the Bill would not remove all disadvantages is surely the worst possible argument for saying that it should not be used to remove some.
Coming to the question of health conditions, when I was lucky in the ballot, and got the opportunity of bringing in this Bill, I began my investigations into this subject with the idea, which has been spread abroad and which has been mentioned in various publications, that there was no evidence of a serious character of the deterioration of health among bakers. That is not so. There
was, I believe, no medical man either on the Alness or the Mackenzie Committee, and there was nobody competent to deal with the very remarkable evidence which was brought forward. The evidence of health conditions in the Mackenzie report is, for the most part, very unsatisfactory. It gives a table of mean annual death rates. That table purports to show that among bakers the comparative mortality figure is less than for the average of all other occupied males, but there is this note at the bottom of page 28:
These figures should be read subject to the qualification that they include biscuit makers, who do not form the subject of this inquiry.
§ The number of biscuit-makers is not mentioned. A much more important thing, to which any medical man on the Committee would have called attention, is that the 92,000 bakers—there were fewer in the days of the Mackenzie report—are distributed all over the country. Some of them work in towns, some in big factory bakeries, some in small bakeries, some in country towns and some in small villages. We all know the village baker, and have probably watched bread being made. They work under a diversity of social and health conditions which make any lumping together of the statistics almost meaningless. If you are to discover what the death rate among bakers is you must take out the different groups of bakers—those in large bakehouses, those in small, those working in villages, and so on. You cannot take that table of death-rates as having had any statistical value at all. The really important observations on health in the Mackenzie report are given in the remarks of Dr. Robertson, of Birmingham, and subsequently in some evidence given by the Registrar-General. Dr. Robertson said—this is only his own opinion—that baking was not a notably unhealthy trade, but by no means a healthy one. That is what one might call a guarded statement, and, in fact, it means very little, except that baking is not a very nice trade.
§ Everyone who knows anything about baking knows that the men work in an atmosphere of dust, in a temperature of 70 degrees to 80 degrees, going up in summer to 100 degrees, that there is a glare of light on their work, which numerous correspondents of mine refer to 2219 constantly as affecting their eyesight, and which is referred to in these reports, that there is only an exceedingly short time given for meals, if any at all, and that the fact that the men have to sleep in the daytime—or attempt to sleep—means that their sleep is disturbed. But the real point with regard to health which must be faced is this. The Registrar-General reports that there is among bakers a higher death rate from phthisis—an obvious result of the dusty atmosphere, the heat and the conditions in which they are working. It is not very nice to think that our bread is made by people with a high death rate from phthisis.
§ He also notes that there is a higher death rate from alcoholism. Alcoholism is a refuge to which people fly with frayed nerves, and here, undoubtedly, it is the reaction of frayed nerves, because the baker is not a man who makes whoopee at nights-he has not got any nights to do it in, and what he does is apparently to take more drink that he ought to take. At any rate, the Registrar-General states that there is a higher death rate from alcoholism. I belong to a profession which sometimes produces people who give way to alcoholism from the overpressure of work, and I believe this is simply due to overpressure of work. The Registrar-General also says there is a greatly increased death-rate from bronchitis. So we have phthisis, bronchitis and alcoholism.
§ Another statement is still more interesting, and that is that hernia among bakers is excessively fatal. I suppose every hon. Member knows what hernia is—rupture. It is caused by weakening of the abdominal muscles and the protrusion, covered by skin, of a portion of the intestines through the abdominal wall. In the ordinary way, if men are subject to hernia they wear a truss. I do not know whether any hon. Member here knows among his personal friends or connections anyone who has died of hernia. It does occur, but it is not common. Men die of rupture when they get, owing to sudden exertion, a strangulated hernia which requires to be operated upon and, the operation not being successful, the man dies. If, as statistics show, hernia among bakers is excessively fatal, it means that there is, relatively speaking, an enormous 2220 number of cases of hernia which lead to death from operation, or after operation, from strangulated hernia, and that is an extremely grave condemnation of the conditions under which bakers work—there is no doubt about it. The idea that the health conditions of bakers are good is blown sky high by that very short paragraph in the report dealing with the Registrar-General's evidence.
§ Another piece of evidence in this report from Dr. Bridge was interesting. He said that the health of night bakers was not worse if the worker could adapt himself to night work and obtain the same kind of sleep and fresh air as a day worker. I characterise that evidence as just nonsense. If a man working at night can get all the benefits of a man working in the day he will not be any worse; that is all that means. A man cannot sleep as well during the day as at night, and the baker finds himself unable to get a proper amount of rest. It is generally calculated that in order to allow a man to get the rest he requires he must put aside two more hours than he would if he were sleeping at night. On the health question the conclusion of the Alness report was also interesting. I do not want to deal in detail with the large mass of correspondence which I have in my hand, and which contains many powerful stories of conditions in night bakeries, so I have extracted from the letters certain salient facts given to me by night bakers.
Here is one man, a dough-maker, who works relatively short hours, 51½ per week, and he describes himself as being flat, lifeless and listless, and complains of the effect of the light upon his eyes. Another man from Lancashire works for 60 hours a week and complains of his nerves. He says:
I sometimes wonder whether bakers were meant to be ordinary human beings.
A third letter from London says that the writer works from 7 in the evening until 9 in the morning. He has given up sports and is very irritable. He describes in painful language his anxious condition when, shortly after his marriage, his wife was about to have a baby and he had to be absent at night, and could not be at call. Another man from Bristol describes night slavery, no proper sleep and nervous tremors, and another man, how his health is deteriorating; a further man how he worked 16 hours every Friday,
and another, from Hertfordshire, in the constituency of an hon. Member opposite, talks about the obvious physical effect of night baking, and says:
You can pick a baker in any crowd.
Another letter from London is a wife's protest about her husband having to work from 60 to 70 hours, and another from Surrey talks of disturbances of sleep, and so on. The number of hours worked is very much higher than is usually thought. One man says he works 76, another over 80 hours a week, and never gets a change. One, from the constituency of the same hon. Member says he gets 20 minutes' stop for food in the night. He is the gentleman who worked the clock round on Christmas Eve. He must have had a jolly Christmas. Another letter from Devonshire, a wife's letter, says:
This is not a life, but a misery.
Another wife from Plymouth—I am sorry I he noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) is not here— writes that she has been married for five years and that it has been five years' torture for herself and because of night baking her husband has become a social outcast. I have many more letters. I will read one or two actual sentences from three letters. Here is a man writing from London:
Although I am just turned 30 years of age I have been on night work continuously for 11 years, and to say that I dislike it would be to put it mildly. To any man with intelligence and ambition it is like a chain on one's leg to be always working at night. I used to pride myself on my constitution and stamina, but the best of men would deteriorate under these conditions.
A wife writes that they get only Saturday night off and do not get time to chum up with friends and to enjoy life. Also, the children do not know their father's love and comfort, as they are in bed when the father is working and always have to creep about the place to save their father from waking up. She says:
It is a torture.
Another man writes from Essex, and is very restrained. He might almost have been a witness before the Alness Commission. He says:
It is very uncomfortable being on night work, as you have to go out at night. When you do have a night off, on Saturday night, you fall asleep, and your wife gets miserable, and your children see very little of you.
Yes, but they are not paid so well. A letter from Oldham says:I wish our M.Ps. could see about 50 or 60 men who have been regularly employed on night work for years, as I saw them at one of our special meetings, the thin weary-looking, drawn, pinched faces, and all of them under weight. It might have some affect on them.He means on the Members of Parliament.
With all these evil conditions, why has night baking not been abolished? In a very large number of countries it is abolished. It has been abolished in France, Belgium and Holland. I seem to remember on my visits to France, Belgium and Holland that one of the attractions of those countries was their excellent bread. There is no reason why good bread should not be baked after the abolition of night baking. It is also abolished in Germany, since the Nazi government came into power, and in Austria, Hungary, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Ireland, Bulgaria, Esthonia, Finland, Luxemburg, Spain, Chile, Columbia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Uruguay. Why has it not been abolished here? Scotland is a land of good cakes and good baking, but most of the baking is not done at night. Only in Glasgow is night banking carried on. What is good enough for all those countries and for most of Scotland might be applied in this country. The economic and social difficulties of abolishing night baking are not insuperable, and it obviously can be done.
The opposition in this country comes, not from an abstract sense of justice, but from the large factory bakers. There is no doubt that there is a drift in this country towards large factory baking. A remarkable paragraph is in the Alness report, and I think I must read it to the House. It is on page 33 and deals with the question of the drift to the large bakeries. The signatories of the Majority report say:We have our share of sentimental attachment to the small handicraft workshop as opposed to the large factory, but we must recognise that the large factory is an inevitable economic development in an age of mechanisation, and in the baking trade we have seen with our own eyes that it offers great improvements in the conditions in which bread is baked.2223 That is a very remarkable example of sentimentalism for machinery. There is no advantage whatever in the large bakery. Is it seriously contended by any man that you can supply bread to the country as a whole from large centres where there are large mechanised bakeries, and that all the small bakers in the towns and the little village bakers are to give in? It is ridiculous and fantastic. There is an advantage in maintaining the small, and especially the village, baker, because the smaller the area of distribution the less the cost of transport. The majority of the Alness Committee share with Soviet Russia this adoration of machinery, which personally I do not share. In fact, I would put it to the House as a matter of common sense that the best thing from the standpoint of food supply is to have the widest distribution of bakeries all over the country, with the smallest radius of delivery, partly for reasons of cost.
The wholesale bakers, of course, like to extend their business, with the idea of extending their profits; sometimes they are associated with large catering firms. They are, of course, endeavouring to smother and strangle the small bakers all over the country, and to a certain extent they have succeeded. The Glasgow bakers who follow the system of night baking deliver bread all over Scotland, right up to Inverness. In London, I understand, there are about 12 large firms of wholesale bakers who distribute bread, and, of course, other commodities, throughout the towns of the South Coast. It may be a commercial advantage to the big concerns, but this House does not exist, as far as we on this side believe, to give advantages to big commercial concerns unless they give equivalent advantages to the country, and in this case they do not.
The strangulation and killing off of the small baker in the small place is not going to improve our food. I do not want to diverge too much, but I would just like to mention to the House that at the present time there is no standard of what bread is, and the bread produced by some of these large firms is an innutritious and gummy compound which is very inedible, and actually some of us have recently been considering, from the purely medical point of view, whether the deteriorated quality of bread—for it has deteriorated— 2224 is not very largely responsible for some of the evil health conditions, for instance, in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, at the present time. That, however, is by the way. It would require a special Bill to deal with it. But the food quality of bread baked by the large bakers is by no means beyond criticism, and sometimes is very definitely below what it ought to be.
From the standpoint of the distribution of bakeries, there is the question, which we discussed in the House last week, of food storage in time of war. Is it an advantage to concentrate all baking into large factories, or is it an advantage to have it distributed as widely as possible. In most of the small bakeries the baking is done, not at night, but by day, and, from the point of view of food storage and looking after the population, it is undoubtedly better that baking should be distributed as widely as possible. There is no advantage in steam-rollering the small baker. I want the House to pass this Bill in order that it may be discussed and that the bakers may get a fair deal. At present they are cut off from the social life of their fellows and from life with their wives and children, and in these abnormal conditions their health and strength deteriorate. They are unable to take part in the fitness capaign, which is in the minds of a good many Members to-day after the broadcast last night. The Government are very anxious to promote fitness, but the whole of the men who are engaged in night baking are cut off from all possibility of taking part in it. They are cut off also from taking part in evening education; they cannot go to any political meetings—even Conservative meetings; they cannot go to religious meetings; they do not have time for reasonable amusement and recreation, and certainly none of them can belong to any athletic team, if they are young enough.
Night baking work may really be almost called slavery, and I think the House ought to take its courage in its hands and give a Second Reading to this Bill. It is not a big job; there are only 92,000 persons, according to the estimate of the most recent report, engaged in the industry, and only 30,000 of these are engaged in night baking. Why should the House not pass this Bill? It may be true that it would be an inconvenience to a comparatively small number of wholesalers and big bakers, but they are the 2225 people who are in the best position to meet the difficulties and make the changes, and, in view of the immense benefits which would accrue to the men in the baking trade, I beg the House to give this Bill a Second Reading, so that all the difficulties and details of the matter can be considered as they should be considered in Committee.
§ 11.42 a.m.
§ Mr. Marshall
I beg to second the Motion.
I think we shall all agree that my hon. Friend has made an admirable statement. In my opinion, it will take a great deal of answering. I second this Motion with much pleasure because I believe that the Bill would bring a great measure of relief to those in the baking industry whose lot it is to work at night, and, further, because I would like to see the lifelong efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) crowned with success. For many years he has, without bitterness and with a rare optimism, given unselfish advocacy to the cause of the night baker. In this House he has often protrayed the conditions and work of his members in speeches which have moved us all. Whatever may be the outcome of this Debate, we owe him a tribute for his life of devotion to what he considers to be a great humanitarian cause.
The baking industry is a very complicated industry. When one begins to investigate it, one finds that it discloses an infinite variety of conditions. One may see the old unhealthy, underground bakeries where the men work anything up to 70 hours per week—incredibly long hours in these days. On the other hand, one may see, side by side with one of these bakehouses, a modern, well-equipped factory bakehouse employing probably nearly 1,000 men under good conditions—I pay them that tribute— apart, of course, from the night work, and paying them good wages. We often find men going to work at all hours of the day and night. The system under which these men work is a system defying analysis; I suppose it has been designed, if one can use that word in such a connection, in order that the master bakers may be able to get their goods first on the market. As in all old trades, custom and tradition play an important part. They create an atmosphere in which it 2226 is very difficult to bring about changes. That has been the common experience in nearly all the great national industries.
I am not going to embark upon any long dissertation with regard to the effects upon the health of the men; that subject has been admirably dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest). It may, of course, be difficult to assert that the mortality rates in the baking industry are higher than in any other national industry, or that the incidence of illness is greater, but I think, with my hon. Friend, that a great deal more investigation is needed into these two factors. One thing, however, we can say, and that is that, if we look at the bakers themselves, we find that they are pale and listless, and that, as one night baker put it to the Committee, when they get home from their night's work they feel too tired and weary to enter into the ordinary pleasures that are open to other industrial workers. The demand for bakery products is universal, and, therefore, fairly constant; and one would have thought that in such an industry the organisation both of employers and of men would have been well-nigh perfect, and that they could have thrashed out their mutual differences across a negotiating table. But, unfortunately, I came to the conclusion that many employers in the trade would not observe any agreement that was come to unless it were made compulsory by the authority of Parliament, and there were one or two others who disclosed, to my mind at any rate, a very severe hostility to all trade union action.
In my industrial life, I have met hundreds of employers in all kinds of industries, great and small; and I never observed in any of them the same fear of competition as was shown in the evidence submitted to us. In any change which it is desirable to bring about one finds oneself up against this fear of competition. One section of the trade say that if they bring about this change they will be almost pushed out of business by their competitors. In my industrial negotiations, I have often had to meet the argument that this or that could not be done because of foreign competition. In the baking trade there is no foreign competition; it is a mere matter of internal organisation. We are told that the abolition of night work, which means closing 2227 down plants from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., will inflict severe hardships on certain sections of the trade. If that is so, I can only regard it as a sign of lack of foresight in the organisation of the trade. The small retail baker complains that he is being crushed out of business by the great combines. As I stated in the minority report, 45 Argyllshire small bakers complained bitterly of baking combines dumping into grocers' and all manner of shops their goods at cut-throat prices. Other employers stated that if this change came about, they would be at the mercy of the small bakers.
The committee of inquiry had to find out, first, the effect that abolition of night baking would have on the public. They arrived at the conclusion that there would be no increase of price to the public, and, further, that the public would get their bread reasonably fresh. Assertions to the contrary were made, of course, but these were not substantiated. My hon. Friend has graphically described the conditions of the employés, and I do not propose to elaborate this side of the case very much. The report says that the majority of the employés are under a very serious social disadvantage, and the Amendment makes the same observation. I agree with my hon. Friend that that is an under-statement, and a very serious one. The night bakers, in the small factories particularly, in my estimation, work under particularly onerous conditions. The Committee, in the course of their investigations, visited several small bakeries in London, and we had an opportunity of discussing the matter with the men. One could see straight away that these men did not work under what we should regard as normal conditions. They were all pale. One man told me that he had been 40 years on night work, and never had a spell on day work. I asked a young fellow of 27 to 30 how he would like a spell on day work, and he said, "I would like the chance." I say this, because there was some doubt among my colleagues as to whether the desire for abolition was general. I have no doubt, from what I have seen and the information I have received, that there is a general desire on the part of men who work on night baking for that system to be abolished.
Now come to the employers. It is here, I think, that the crux of the matter 2228 lies. There are three classes of bakeries—the plant bakeries, the large retailers and the small retailers. I do not think that there can be any difference of opinion on the part of my colleagues on the Committee that night work could be abolished in the small retail bakeries without inflicting any injury on their businesses. I think a large proportion of the large retail bakeries, also, could submit to abolition without injury to their businesses. It may be that a few of the larger retail bakeries would have to provide additional plant, and possibly put up with some inconvenience—although this idea was definitely challenged by my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury and nearly all the representatives of the men who came before the Committee. But no great reform has ever been brought about in this country without someone being put to some inconvenience. In fact, it would not be a reform if someone were not inconvenienced. You have to place against the inconvenience of a few people the tremendous social benefits that will be conferred on 28,000 to 30,000 men. My impression as a Member of the Committee of Inquiry—the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is going to move the Amendment may disagree—was that had we been dealing with nothing but small and large retail factories, there would have been no opposition.
§ Mr. Marshall
And these factories count for 34 per cent. of the total output. I believe the serious part of the report is the case as is affects the big plant bakeries. I believe it is the evidence of these bakeries which turned the scale and induced the Committee to give an unfavourable report, instead of a favourable one. The Co-operative Union owns something like 1,000 bakeries, with some of the most highly mechanised plants there are in this country, and it is a very significant fact that they took a plebiscite of their undertakings and, by a substantial majority, agreed to support the abolition of night work in their bakeries as a desirable social reform. I think that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), who gave evidence before the committee, said that they were prepared to do that, he was speaking for, not only a substantial majority, but 100 per cent. of the cooperative 2229 bakeries in this country. And the co-operative movement is responsible for 25 per cent. of the total bread output in this country. That reduces the problem to very narrow proportions. You will find that in the course of our inquiry we interviewed representatives of 25 firms owning plant bakeries. They are responsible for only one-ninth of the output. That is the particular section of the industry with which we are dealing. It may be that they did not all come before the committee, but I have an idea that they did. If we make all kinds of allowances, we can say that from 15 to 17 per cent. of the total output of the country is associated with these plant bakeries.
What are the objections to abolition? The first is, that there is a public demand for entirely new bread. They say that they could not supply that demand under a system that abolished night work, as it would be impossible to deliver the bread the same day upon which it was baked. It would, therefore, be necessary to bake it the day before, and, as a consequence, demand would fall off. That is their case, as far as I can understand it. Personally, all through the Committee, I felt a good deal of doubt about the public demand for new bread. The Committee had before it certain loaves which, speaking from memory, ranged from four or five hours old to 30 hours old, and I frankly confess, with the exception of the very oldest loaf, I could not tell the difference. The Members of the committee were of the same opinion, and they say in the report that they were impressed by this particular illustration. We had it on very good authority, that if one wraps loaves they can be kept for days and be quite eatable at the end of three or four days. We had before the Committee the manager of a very important factory bakery in London. I refer to the Bermondsey one. He came to give evidence before the committee in favour of the abolition of night work, and said that it would not put him to the slightest inconvenience. In fact, he welcomed it, and said that, if night work were ablished in his particular bakery, he did not contemplate making a 5 o'clock start, but a 6 o'clock start. He could supply all his customers with their necessary new bread, and he was convinced that there would be no falling off in demand. I have another statement from the Standing 2230 Joint Committee of Industrial Women, and hon. Members will find their evidence in paragraph 66 of the report. They said that the general tendency of to-day was for the housewife not to buy entirely new bread, but to ask for it a day old.
There is another point on this question of demand, and a good deal of significance attaches to it, because the employers base their case on the demand of the public for new bread. Some of us come from the industrial Midlands. It is impossible for the millions of workers in the Midlands to have new bread before they go to work. It is impossible to deliver it at their houses before they go to work, and, in consequence, they are compelled to eat bread a day old. The housewife does not want to cut into a new loaf. It will not cut clean. She cuts an old loaf and uses it to make sandwiches, and the navvy, the turner, the fitter, and the gasman take to work bread which is probably a day or two days old. I am speaking, of course, in regard to the factories in the industrial Midlands. These men eat the bread and look well on it, and they do heavy and exhausting labour. I can only think that as this objection was constantly being put before the committee, we were not dealing with the general demands or the general conditions in the country, but with a pampered London. I think I can say that I was not the only member of the committee who felt that the insistence by the employers on the demand of the public for entirely new bread was thoroughly overdone. We are really asked to believe that the housewife can distinguish between a loaf that has been baked at 8 o'clock at night and one that has been baked at 4 o'clock in the morning, and yet that same housewife will cut breakfast sandwiches, using bread which may be anything up to three days old.
I also made some personal inquiries on this matter from my friends, of people living in respectable houses. I did not say what I was after when I asked them how they bought their bread. The first person I asked said that it was bought at the beginning of the week, and that they were eating it all the week. It was kept under proper conditions. I believe that it is the general custom for the ordinary housewife to buy bread and keep it, and eat it when it is certainly 2231 three days old. Therefore, I think we can discount a great deal the insistence upon the demand of the public for new bread. If there is a demand, it has been caused, in my opinion, not by the public, but by the competition of the bakers themselves, trying to overdo their competitors and to get their bread on to the market at the first possible opportunity. The logical conclusion of this kind of competition, if it goes on, will be that nobody will have bread unless it is absolutely hot. The committee went thoroughly into this matter, and, personally, I feel that we should not attach too much importance to this aspect of the question.
Another important objection that employers put forward was that they would need increased capacity if we abolished night work. Here, again, I think that this was overdone. All through our inquiry we had only the representative of one firm who tried to prove to the committee that there was a continuous flow of production in his factory. This was an exceedingly large factory, and he produced charts to show, or try to show, that there was a continuous production right through the 24 hours. That was the only instance we had before the committee in which it was attempted to prove that continuous flow. On the other hand, there was a representative of a very important English firm, a company owning a tremendous factory system operating in the Midlands and Lancashire generally, and he confessed that his plant was put out of action for from eight to 12 hours out of the 24. If night work is abolished, and they are up against the idea of the extension of their plant, they have eight or 12 hours, as the case may be, in which to find alternate shifts for their workmen.
I want to be very careful about this question of the afternoon shift. It may be that my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury will not quite go all the way with me on this matter, but I came to the conclusion generally that an afternoon shift could be worked, if necessary. I was supported in that view by an important witness—I will not give any names—who was speaking certainly for a very important section of the trade, when he said that an afternoon shift could be worked, and that it would not result in any increase of price. The only difference, he said, was that the bread 2232 would possibly be eight hours older when it was handed over to the consumer. The real objection seems to be that the small baker, because of his small staff, and the ease of distribution, possibly by means of a handcart could bake and deliver the same morning, and could compete with the later bread of the plant baker. That, really, is the objection. The answer to that is two-fold. I have already dealt with the demand, and I think that we can discount a good deal of that demand. It is not so easy to tear the allegiance of the housewife from any trading undertaking of that character. If she trades with any particular individual, she will continue to do so. Therefore, she is not so easily turned away. There is another point which ought to be stressed. If this does give the small baker an advantage, his trade will gradually increase until it reaches a point where he will suffer under the same disabilities, if any, as the plant baker. Consequently, that protest cannot go very far.
I think I have said enough to show that there is a case for this Bill. It is an overdue Measure. The representatives of the men have shown good will. They have tried to be helpful in every way. They have promised to sit down with the employers in order to thrash out the details of the administration, so that no one will be put to inconvenience. The public desire the Bill, and I am sure that Parliament would like to see it brought about. The objects of the Bill ought to be granted on the grounds of equity. The opposition to the Bill is due to exaggerated fears. I know something about large national industries. During the last 30 years the large industries have brought about changes in the conditions of their workers which far exceed this suggested change from the point of view of magnitude. When the engineering industry brought the hours down from 53 or 54 to 47, it was a tremendous undertaking. Then the steel industry brought the working hours down from 60 hours to the three-shift system. This proposed change falls into insignificance compared with undertakings of such magnitude as those. The recent concession in the engineering industry—which I am glad to say is beginning to percolate through to other industries—namely, holidays with pay, is another great undertaking.
These things mean a certain amount of dislocation, difficulty and inconvenience, 2233 but the employers have not allowed those difficulties to deter them from what they think is the proper thing to do. Imagine the great engineering industry, with its thousands of millions of capital, sitting down and facing the representatives of the 47 unions and saying: "Gentlemen, we want to bring your hours down from 63 or 64 to 47, but there is a little chap in a back street, working with primitive tools and working his men 60 or 70 hours a week, and unless you can coerce that man you cannot have this great reform in the reduction of hours." That is an argument exactly equivalent to what the baking industry is making to-day.
The time is overripe for this reform, and I do not anticipate any of the fears that the employers put forward. Recently, I had an opportunity of seeing through a great modern bakery, through the courtesy of the hon. Member for Harrow (Sir I. Salmon). I was impressed by the wonderful and efficient machinery in that bakery. Almost from the very beginning of the process to the finished article I do not suppose a human hand touched the bread. Sometimes the bread had been wrapped without being touched by human hands. We are told that a modern equipped bakery like that has something to fear from the little chap in the back street, who thumps his dough with the brawn and muscles of his arm. The whole thing is ridiculous. I should like the House to pass this Measure and to allow the men and the employers to get together and to thrash out the details. If Parliament does that, they will be convinced that it has brought into being a Measure which will bring brightness and relief to thousands of men in the baking industry.
§ 12.10 p.m.
§ Sir A. Pownall
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House recognises the serious social disadvantages entailed on the operatives by the practice of night baking as now prevalent in the industry, but accepting the findings of the recent departmental committee that legislation to prohibit such practice would fall far short of removing those disadvantages and would work inequitably amongst employers and cause hardship in many cases, and that a more effective amelioration of the conditions of night-work might be secured through improved, organisation of the industry, and taking note of the decision of the Minister 2234 of Labour to proceed with a draft order applying the Trade Boards Acts to this industry, declines to accept the Motion for Second Reading of the Bill.When last year I was asked to serve on the committee which considered this question I felt that I had, in a sense, burnt my boats some years earlier in this question, because I think I am the only person on this side of the House holding my political opinions who has brought in a Bill for the abolition of night baking.
§ Sir A. Pownall
The Noble Lady says that she voted for it. She did not, because it got only a First Reading. The Bill was introduced in 1921 and the Noble Lady became a Member of the House in 1919. When the Home Office a year ago had to consider the appointment of someone from this side of the House to sit on the committee, they presumably—they did it rather nicely, and they do administer justice—thought that they would make the punishment fit the crime. I, who had no knowledge whatever of the technicalities of this trade, but who had brought in a Bill to abolish night baking 15 years before, was asked to spend some months of hard work in order to familiarise myself with a trade with which 15 years before, I so rashly tried to interfere. I confess that in acquiring that knowledge it did make me appreciably alter my views, and to conceive the Amendment that I am now moving.
The whole position of the baking trade is one of the most difficult, if not from many points of view the most difficult, of any trade in the whole country. The hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall) and I were associated for some months in the work of the committee, and the only differences of opinion we had in that period was when we came to drawing up the report. He has spoken of the condition of affairs in the steel trade. I have no personal knowledge of those conditions, but I did hear from the Home Office a year ago that, difficult as were the conditions in the steel trade, the conditions in the bread trade were even more difficult from the point of view of administration and in other ways. If hon. Members will turn to pages 16 and 17 of our report they will find summarised the different conditions which prevail. They will see reference to the small retailer on 2235 night work, the large retailer, the wholesaler and so on, and on the following page they will find nine separate points, one of which is divided under two or three headings.
That will give some idea of the complexities of this trade which our committee of five were asked to investigate a year ago. I should like to join issue at this point with the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) who moved, so fairly, the Second Reading of the Bill. He thought that it was the sort of Bill that ought to go upstairs to a Committee of 50 or 60 Members. I have often sat, as he has, on committees of that sort, but in my opinion a committee of four or five, who enter into their investigation fairly and impartially—I confess that I was a little partial one way, to start with—is much more suited for going into the details and thrashing them out at the Home Office than is a committee of 50 or 60 Members upstairs.
The whole position was complicated by the fact that we have no common denominator to weigh in the scales the balance of advantage or disadvantage to the 30,000 men who lose so much of the social amenities that we all appreciate—I agree with what has been said from the other side on that matter—compared with the dislocation of the trade and the effect on the consumers. One of the essential matters brought to our notice was the problem of delivery and of freshly baked bread. The hon. Member for Brightside said he thought the desire of the public for fresh bread had been exaggerated. That may or may not be the case. It is not that the public want to eat the bread fresh, but if the bread has to remain for 28 or 30 or 36 hours before it is consumed they do not want it to be 12 hours stale when it is delivered, because then it would be not a day or a day and a half old, but two days old. Although we here may not be able to form an opinion on the matter, the housewife can very quickly tell whether bread is new, 12 hours old or 24 hours old. There is undoubtedly a very strong demand on the part of the housewife for fresh bread. We had it stated in evidence by a man who was in favour of the abolition of night baking that housewives would wait some time in order to get bread which was absolutely fresh from the oven.
§ Sir A. Pownall
I am now dealing with an extremely technical question, and the hon. Member is to reply later. I think it would be better for me to follow my own line of argument. The hon. Member has given a life study to this subject and he might ask me a question to which I could not at once give a reply. I think it is fair that I should proceed without interruption. The question of delivery is all-important in order that the public may get their bread soon after it has been baked, and it is a question that has been greatly complicated since the War. Large-plant bakeries have been established and by rail they deliver bread scores and even hundreds of miles away from their bakeries. The hon. Member for Bright-side mentioned his visit to the premises of the hon. Member for Harrow (Sir I. Salmon). I was also very much impressed by what I saw there. There is the question of the bakehouses which are still underground. There was a bakehouse which was in existence in the year 1900 and which is still allowed to bake underground. From the point of view of the workers and of the public there is no comparison between the underground bakehouse and the modern bakehouse. It is extremely difficult in underground bakehouses to get sanitary conditions as they should be. There is no comparison between the conditions in the large-plant bakeries and some of the rather prehistoric bakehouses which we saw.
There is a further point with regard to the housewife. We must not forget that the ladies have the vote in these days, and this is a question which affects them much more than it affects us men. It was stated in evidence before us, and we quite agree, that housewives in these days want to do their household work and to be free in the early afternoon. If you have baking starting at 5 o'clock in the morning, owing to the fact that "rounds" are now much longer than they used to be, it would be impossible for the bread to be delivered till late afternoon in many cases. I have been many years in business and I know quite well that it is the consumer who has the final say. The Bill will make it practically impossible for many firms who have created considerable goodwill to carry on their business efficiently if you deny them the opportunity of delivering 2237 bread at 2.30 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon because the consumer will not take delivery at a later hour. That is a practical point which came to my notice.
Quite frankly, I say that I expected two arguments to be advanced to-day, one on the one side and the other on the other side. One argument concerns the health of the operatives and the other relates to expense. On the score of expense we did not find that prohibition of night baking would mean any appreciable difference. On the health side we did try to get medical evidence regarding the operatives. I think we are a little liable to attribute the pasty face of a man employed in a bakery to the night work and not to the fact that he is working continually in a high temperature. We all have seen the pasty face of the stoker on a liner. To what extent the two things can be balanced I cannot say, but quite honestly anyone who works for many hours each day under such conditions for six days a week is liable to something of that sort. We had the Chief Inspector of Factories giving the evidence to which reference has been made, but we were not in possession of any statistical information on this subject, notwithstanding the fact that an immense amount of medical information regarding different trades has been gleaned in the Home Office. I think we were justified in making the statement that, given a reasonable number of hours, the contention that the operatives' health suffered could be reasonably controverted.
From the point of view of the masters it was argued, of course, that large capital expenditure would have to be incurred if this change took place. It is obvious that if half the bakehouses in London are working both night and day, the plants would have to be doubled if night work were stopped. In many cases in London there would not be the physical accommodation, the floor space, that would be required, and there would be a further complication with regard to the storage of loaves if they had to be stored for many hours before delivery. That was a quite legitimate point for the masters to make. Moreover, if the storage problem led to considerable capital expenditure it might lead to an increase in the price of the loaf.
With regard to the men, the hon. Member mentioned the co-operative societies. 2238 I quite agree with what has been said on many occasions by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) in his appeals on behalf of night operatives. I had the privilege of hearing his speech last June on the Factories Bill, when he dealt with this subject. It is only fair to point out that on the figures given to us only about one quarter of the operatives belong to a trade union. Even allowing for the fact that this is a scattered industry, with small units up and down the country, if the conditions are so intolerable as has been suggested, the hon. Member for Wednesbury, who has made this subject his lifework, might well find that more than one quarter of the operatives belong to the trade union. That is not a criticism—
The men are definitely afraid of losing their jobs as my correspondence shows. They say "Do not mention my name." They are afraid of joining the union. Precisely because they are working under such bad conditions the union has not a large membership. It is the industries which provide good conditions which possess the biggest membership.
§ Sir A. Pownall
It is a difficult matter to decide, but I should have thought that if any cases of victimisation were brought forward, prompt action would be taken. A referendum was taken in two bakehouses recently on this question. About 150 men were working in one factory. We were given the actual form of the question put, and we were told that no pressure was brought to bear on the men. One hundred replied, and 50 of them were content with things as they were. In the other factory not so many men were employed, but the majority were for leaving things as they were. Now I come to the co-operative societies. There is a close union between co-operative societies and hon. Members opposite. One would have thought that co-operative societies would have been unanimously in favour of some measure of prohibition. That was not our experience. We had the manager of the Birmingham branch giving evidence before us, and we found that there was an appreciable minority—we called it one-third of the management—who were of the impression that they did not want night baking prohibited. It shows the difficulty the Committee had in coming to a decision.
2239 We went to Scotland and took evidence there. The practice in Scotland diners as between the east and the west. In Western Scotland there is night baking, but in the east of Scotland there is not. When we made a closer examination of the question in the east of Scotland we found that this might be owing to the competition of bakeries in the west of Scotland. We found that the early men, the dough-men, began work at 3.30 or 4 o'clock in the morning, and of course at that time there are no public vehicles running, you get a broken night's rest, and, indeed, speaking for myself, I would rather sit tight through the night than have to be in my seat at 3.30 or 4 o'clock in the morning. To say that night baking is going to be abolished when men have to start work at 3.30 or 4 o'clock in the morning is a contradiction in terms. Even under the Bill, starting at 5 o'clock, the dough-men will have to start earlier on the preparatory work before the bakers themselves come on. Therefore, we are not really prohibiting night baking even by this Measure; it is merely a modification of it.
The hon. Member spoke about conditions abroad. He travelled from Chile to Estonia—a very long way. I have been in both these countries but, unfortunately it was before I was appointed a member of the night baking committee, and, therefore, I did not make any personal inquiries. I had the advantage of visiting Paris last April to make official inquiries as to the conditions in France. In France, with the exception of one or two big companies, all the baking is done by very small units. They have recently passed a law which has not yet reached the statute book to abolish night baking on principle. I asked what administration there was to check whether or not baking was being done by night, and I found that the number of factory inspectors was rather negligible. The House may take it from me that bakers in France will carry on just as they like. If they want to bake by night they will do so. Take the case of Germany. I understand that the demand for new bread is not the same, because I gather that the staying quality of rye bread is somewhat different. I mention these things in order to point out that there is really no comparison in regard to conditions of the trade, the bread supplied or 2240 the legislative enforcements in operation in these countries, and I do not think the argument cuts very much ice.
§ Sir A. Pownall
Yes, but in connection with the same matter we point out that the conditions are so different that they are of no value from the point of view of comparison.
Let me say a word or two on the Bill. I have shown, I hope, reasons for the Amendment I am moving. There is one very important matter, and that is that the regulations under the Bill are subject to such exceptions as may be allowed under an Order made by the Home Secretary. The Mackenzie report recommended five permanent exceptions and other temporary ones. These exceptions would, I will not say devitalise the Bill, but would take away a large number of men. In addition to these five permanent exceptions and other temporary ones, you will have great difficulty in enforcing the provisions owing to the ramifications of the industry in the last few years, especially against the wishes of a number of large employers and against the wishes also of large sections of the public. My own view is that to enforce these regulations on all these small units, 20,000 or 30,000 bakeries, will be impossible. If a man were found working by night, it would be quite impossible to prove that one or other of these exceptions did not apply. I think that is the view of the Home Office. From that point of view I do not think that the Bill is practical politics.
I would recommend the view taken by the committee. We thought there ought to be more getting together on the part of employers and employed. We did not find always on the part of employers a willingness to meet the employés. Our view is that trade boards should be set up in the industry. We think that is a much more helpful suggestion than a Bill of this sort, enforced compulsorily on many unwilling people. I am glad to say that, in answer to a question, the Minister of Labour assured me that trade boards were now being constituted. Those trade boards will probably be able to get the industry into a much more satisfactory position. We of the majority shall then feel that in our case it will not have been love's labour lost, but that 2241 we shall have contributed in some measure towards getting the industry on to a more satisfactory basis. I hope that the Bill will not be given a Second Reading. The hon. Member for Wednesbury, who has given so much time and work to this question, may find that in future the trade boards which we have recommended will do much of what he wishes to do.
§ 12.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Fleming
I beg to second the Amendment.
I should like, in the first place, to refer to the reports from which the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) read copious passages, particularly the report of the Registrar-General, because by doing so I shall be able to show what is the effect of reading small pieces of reports on the persons listening. The hon. Member rather gave the impression, by his quotations and his remarks, that he was in favour of the total abolition of all baking because it is a very dangerous trade, but towards the end of his speech I gathered that he was referring to night baking. The report of the Registrar-General does not deal with night baking only, but with baking in general, and the effects of the baking trade on the persons employed from the point of view of mortality only. From that report, I gather that the baking trade has nothing to be ashamed of in regard to mortality returns.
With regard to the hon. Member's remarks on the report with which we are more directly concerned, I think that at times he rather sneered at the composition of the committee of which Lord Alness was chairman, on the grounds that no medical man was a member of it. I confess that I agree with the hon. Member to the extent that it might have been useful to have had a medical man on the committee; but I cannot help thinking that every opportunity was given by the committee to the big co-operative societies to bring any medical evidence which they liked. The strange thing is that the great co-operative societies, to which I refer because I know that hon. Members opposite who support the Bill are closely allied to them, did not submit any medical evidence. I am sure that if they could have found any such evidence, they would have 2242 brought it before the Committee. Indeed, I notice that with regard to the effects of night baking on health, the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) said that there was no statistical evidence available. If that be so, I do not see what value a medical man would have been on the committee, unless he had produced a great number of his own statistics, in which case it would have been much better for him to have been a witness before the committee. Therefore, I cannot agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for North Islington concerning the composition of the committee. I have the utmost respect for a man of the standing, capacity and ability of Lord Alness.
§ Mr. Fleming
It would take too long, but I know that one could not find a more capable man. To my mind, the committee was very ably constituted and its members carried out their duties well. I have read both the majority and the minority report, and I must say that with the evidence that was before them, I think the majority report was the only conclusion to which the committee could come, with all respect to those who signed the minority report. A good deal has been said about the demand of the public for fresh bread. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion said that he thought the public would get bread reasonably fresh if this Bill became law.
§ Mr. Fleming
I am not speaking about the phrase used in the report. My experience is that the public, or rather the housewife, wants bread as fresh as possible. In my house, the person who buys the bread is my wife. She likes the bread as fresh as possible, not to be eaten, but precisely for the reason given by the hon. Member for East Lewisham (Sir A. Pownall), that the fresher it is when it is got into the house, the longer it can be kept. I have noticed that the bread that is thrown away by the maid is not fresh bread, but stale bread. Obviously, the housewife wants to keep bread as long as she can, and she has a better opportunity of doing that if she can get it into the house as fresh as possible. That is an important point 2243 when one considers a Bill of this nature. There has been some dispute about the demand for fresh bread. On the question of the public demand for it, there is in the report a reference to bread being fresh after it is 12 hours old, and one hon. Member opposite referred to bread being fresh when it is five or six hours old. It is the same question as the old one, "When does a fresh egg become stale?" I am satisfied that the housewife wants bread brought to her house as fresh as possible. Take the case of the breakfast rolls in France. I am sure that I know France as well as hon. Members opposite. The great attraction of France to a great many English people is the hot, fresh breakfast roll. [Interruption.] I gather from the alarm expressed by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) that she does not like it.
§ Mr. Fleming
Perhaps I am wrong in my interpretation again. I am certain that one of the attractions of the French breakfast is the fresh breakfast roll. Not many English people who go to France want to have an English breakfast; indeed, sometimes they cannot get one. They certainly seem to enjoy the fresh breakfast roll in France, and I enjoy it myself.
§ Mr. Fleming
The rolls that I had were baked that morning. It comes to this, that if there is a public demand for fresh bread and if this Bill tends to prohibit the provision of fresh bread—
If I prove to the hon. and learned Gentleman that the rolls which he got at breakfast in Paris were not baked that morning will he be content to withdraw that part of his argument. These rolls which, we are told, draw so many Englishmen to Paris are not baked the morning they are sold.
§ Mr. Fleming
I assure the noble Lord that the particular rolls to which I refer were absolutely fresh and they had been baked in the early hours. But, as I was about to say, if there is a demand for fresh bread and if the Bill tends to prohibit the provision of fresh bread, then I 2244 am afraid that the Bill, even if it becomes law, may share the fate of other Measures which have attempted to prohibit something which the public in general want. In the United States there was prohibition of a certain commodity [HON. MEMBERS: "Commodity?"] I do not see anything wrong with the word "commodity." It was a commodity which a great number of the general public in the United States wanted to get, in spite of medical opinion which proved conclusively that it was doing them harm. The best possible case was put forward for the prohibition of that article, but in the result that Act failed to achieve its purpose. I am inclined to ask the House to treat this as a matter in which there is undoubtedly a great public demand, and to deal with it on the lines of the Amendment. [Interruption] I hope I am addressing my argument to intelligent men, although some of the interruptions from hon. Members opposite might lead one to think otherwise. But, reading this Amendment intelligently, I think even the hon. Member who interrupted would agree that it attempts at least to improve the baker's lot when he is engaged in night baking. We recognise the serious social disadvantage entailed on these workers. That, and not ill-health, according to my reading of the report, is the crux of the situation. I submit that the Amendment would deal with this problem just as effectively as the Bill. Once you have a Bill containing words of absolute prohibition such as I find in Clause 1 (2)—
§ Mr. Fleming
I am speaking of the Bill as I find it. We have not yet reached the Committee stage. When I find words of prohibition of this kind I am always inclined to question their effectiveness. When there is a great public demand, even if that demand is wrong—for example, as regards betting, lotteries and pools—I would rather deal with the problem by methods other than statute. I think in this country, before you attempt to prohibit anything for which there is a great public demand, the first procedure should be to educate the public up to the point where they will follow you. Then your statute will work with the possibility of success. The Amendment, I submit, puts this question on a satisfactory basis. It takes note of the decision of the Minister of Labour 2245 to proceed with a draft Order applying the Trade Boards Act to the industry, and on that point I have received a letter from the National Association of Master Bakers, Confectioners and Caterers in which they recognise the work already done by the Minister of Labour. They tell me that he has already met them and that discussion of this matter is in train. The letter says:Following the issue of the Alness Report, the employers and operatives through their respective trade organisations received and accepted an invitation from the Minister of Labour to confer for the purpose of establishing machinery to regulate wages, hours and conditions of labour in the industry. Amicable discussions have already taken place, the parties have agreed on the terms of a draft definition of the trade for the purpose of a Trade Wages Board under the Ministry of Labour and the Minister, on 1st February last in the House of Commons announced his intention of applying the Trade Boards Act to the industry.
§ Mr. Fleming
I certainly think they will have, but it depends on the draft Order. There will be an opportunity for the hon. Member to address that question to the representative of the Government who will speak later. I was remarkably struck in reading the Alness report by the particularly fair way in which the hon. Member for Wednesbury gave his evidence. It only confirmed the opinion which I have formed of him during the seven years in which I have known him in this House. Time and again he has expressed views which are contrary to mine, but always in a friendly, and, I may say, a workmanlike way. That is the way in which I hope the House will discuss this Bill. To my mind, the Amendment will be of more advantage to the baking industry and those employed on night work, than the Bill. In the Amendment there is no danger of turning against the industry, the public who have created the demand for particular types of bread and confectionery. We have already had experience in this country of a prohibitive order of the kind proposed in the Bill. The Bread Order in 1917 was, of course, made in special circumstances, but the idea was the same. It was intended to reduce the consumption of bread, and it succeeded in doing so, and it succeeded in abolishing night work in baking. But what was the result 2246 in Manchester after the War? The operatives and the employers got together on this very question of night work in baking and, as the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) knows, they voluntarily came to an agreement. They carried out that idea of no night baking in Manchester, and it went on for something like, to my recollection—I was living in Manchester at the time—15 or 18 months, and then it failed, because, from the master bakers' point of view, I admit, they could not meet the public demand in Manchester for what is called there "fresh bread."
§ 12.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I do not propose to follow the hon. and learned Member for Withing-ton (Mr. Fleming) in the earlier part of his speech, because he appeared to hang almost the whole of his case on a French croissant, and I hardly think that is sufficiently important to justify opposition to this Measure. On behalf of my hon. Friends, I rise to say that we warmly support the Second Reading of the Bill. We think the time has come to put an end to this form of nocturnal slavery, and we believe that the bakers ought to be allowed now to enjoy the light of day just as the great bulk of their fellow citizens can. I well remember the point of view of certain of my constituents, and in particular a man and his wife. Whenever I meet the man he says to me, after a life of night baking, "When are you going to stop night baking?" And if ever I meet his wife—and we meet separately, because they do not get many opportunities of going out together—she says, "When are you going to allow my husband to stop this night baking?" There is no doubt that that is the feeling of those who are in the industry throughout the whole of the country.
It really is the old issue that we have fought in this House many times between vested interests and ingrained habits and, on the other side, human rights, and to see how very much it is a question of habit, we have only to look at the events of the last 20 years. Whatever happened in the War, night baking was stopped, and people were able to carry on quite successfully without it. In the year 1918, when the Joint Industrial Council, a fully representative council, was giving consideration to the question of ending night baking, there was actually a moment 2247 when it was almost brought to an end by agreement. The words of the report are:At one stage there was agreement in principle.If it was possible to arrive at that stage, it shows what few obstacles really must stand in the way of putting an end to it altogether, and it shows very strongly the case for this Bill. In 1922, it is recorded in the report, there was no night baking in Scotland. If Scotland can do without it, I should have thought that England and Wales can also.
Then we come to the Mackenzie report. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment just now was very loud in praise of impartial committees and their valuable work in studying all the facts in a fair and neutral way. The Mackenzie Committee was just such a committee. It was fair, impartial, and neutral, and it presented a report to the effect that it was perfectly practicable to put an end to night baking. I stand by that report, and I say that nothing has happened since which should make people alter their minds on the point. The Alness report, on the other hand, was a step back, and I think that when it was submitted the Home Office must have been considerably surprised and disappointed. I well remember the discussions in Committee on the Factories Bill, when we pressed on the Government the importance of dealing with this matter in that Bill, and they replied that it was awkward to do so as there was a report coming from the Alness Committee, but that they would deal with it as soon as they could. There was every anticipation that the report would be favourable to the abolition of night baking and that at an early stage the matter could be dealt with. That is why I think the Alness report must have been a great disappointment to many people, and actually at the Home Office.
The Alness report made a different recommendation from that of the Mackenzie report. Why was that? I venture to say that it was simply and solely because of the fact that in those intervening years there had grown up vested interests. In 1918 there were very few vested interests, because night baking had been stopped during the War, but during the years since these vested interests have grown up again. That is 2248 the only change that has taken place in between the two reports, and I think that that is the only reason for the hesitation and reluctance on the part of the Alness Committee to recommend the abolition of night baking. It may be said, and is said, that if you oppose this Bill, it will involve people in the baking industry in greater expenditure. There is no doubt that it may, to a certain extent, but that did not prevent the Under-Secretary of State, when he was dealing with the Factories Bill upstairs, imposing a very considerable expenditure in the way of welfare matters not on one trade only, but on the whole range of trades throughout the country. The Home Office thought it right and pushed it through then, and I think it is right to apply the same principle in this case too.
Another reason why night baking is not being stopped is the fact that, as has been said, only one quarter of the employés in the industry are inside trade unions. Supposing you had had a 100 per cent. membership, as you ought to have and as I wish you had, they would then have been in a position to say to their employers, "Night baking has got to stop, or we will cease work." If they said that, I think they would have the support of the overwhelming mass of the community in taking up such a stand. They have not got trade union support of that kind, however, and the reason is not, as has been suggested, because they are all so happy and contented, but because of the great difficulty that always arises in industries where conditions are bad, and in particular where you have a very large number of small employers. That is the real reason, and if trade union action cannot be taken, they have to come to the House of Commons to do it. That is why this Bill is brought forward. Reference has been made to the fact that a number of foreign countries are managing to do without night baking, and that is another argument in favour of the Measure.
Turning to the Amendment, one thing that the Amendment clearly does—and let us be quite definite about this—is to lay it down that night baking is going to continue. Do not let the hon. and learned Member give himself the impression that under the trade board it will be possible to prevent night baking, 2249 because that is not so, as I think he will find out.
§ Mr. Mander
I understood the hon. and learned Member to say that he thought that under the trade board it might be stopped. I am very glad that we have now got it clear that all those supporting the Amendment, the Conservative party, the Liberal National party, and the National Labour party, are in favour of night baking going on. Let us have it clear and definite; it is just as well that it should be recorded. I know there are exceptions. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has more enlightened views on this subject, as she has on many other subjects. The Government are much interested now in the question of physical culture. What plans have they for enabling the bakers who are engaged in night baking to co-operate in their scheme? Is the physical culture for bakers to be done during a portion of the night, or in what way will their requirements be met?
Reference is made in the Amendment to the introduction of a trade boards I heartily welcome that, for it is a first-rate thing which will do a great deal of good in the industry. The introduction of a board clearly stamps the baking industry as a sweated industry, because an industry cannot have a trade board unless the conditions are those of a sweated trade. The board will deal with wages, which are very low in the industry, in spite of the fact that so much of the work is done at night. In some cases in London, according to the report, there is no payment made for overtime. That is an extraordinary state of affairs. The hours are long and vary from 57 to 66. A 12-hour day is by no means uncommon, and I believe that the 12-hour day is not the lower limit of the sort of day that is sometimes worked. It is reported that in some cases the length of the working day is not defined at all; there is no limit to it.
A trade board will, I presume, definitely fix the number of working hours at 48 and will lay down that overtime shall be paid for night hours at time and a quarter, or something like that. It will fix decent wages to be paid throughout the industry and will lay down that an 2250 extra weekly sum, as is customary, will have to be paid for any work done at night or a portion of the night. It will raise the whole standard of the industry, and it is possible that, by making it cheaper, as it will be, to work by day, it may have some little influence in encouraging people to do away with night baking. While I welcome the trade board as a great step forward, I do not think it is a substitute for this Bill. It is complementary to it. The two should go together, because under the trade board there would still be night baking, and the problem would not be touched. These long-suffering men are entitled to a relief from the hours of darkness, and they may well say to us as their representatives, "Watchmen, what of the night?" It is because this Bill will bring to them the light of day that I warmly support it.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I rise to say, on behalf of all members of the party behind me, that we support this Measure without any question. I would like, first of all, to make one or two comments on the speeches that have already been delivered. The seconder of the Amendment happens to be my member of Parliament, and I hope he will not be offended when I say that I deserve a little better representation in this House.
§ Mr. Davies
Decidedly not. I will try to reply to the speeches of the two hon. Members who moved and seconded the Amendment, because I suppose we may take it that they gave the same kind of speech that we shall get later from the front Government bench. The Mover of the Amendment is afraid of the complexities of the baking trade. There are 90,000 people employed in it and he is terrified of dealing with it because of that. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member has been long enough in the House to remember our dealing with the distributive trades. We were then touching the lives of 2,250,000 people, and by passing one measure the House of Commons abolished, by closing the doors of shops, a considerable number of hours of night work. Incidentally, I do not think I have heard two better speeches in favour of the Bill than those delivered by the two hon. Gentlemen who proposed and seconded the Second Reading.
2251 The hon. Member for East Lewisham (Sir A. Pownall) said that there was a strong public demand for fresh bread. I have often wondered who there is in this House who can say at any time what the public really want. I have heard it said on many occasions that the public want shops opened until midnight, that the public want the cinemas opened on Sundays, and that the public want licensed houses opened night and day. We are told that the public want this and that, but, in point of fact, nobody can tell what the public want at any time except, may be, at general elections. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also said that if we abolished night baking the roundsmen would have to call at the houses in the afternoon instead of the morning. If he cannot find a better argument than that he had better give up arguing at all. It would be well if somebody took a census of the number of persons who knock at our doors morning, afternoon and evening.
Let me come to something more important than these arguments. Reference was made to the new capital expenditure which would be involved by change of machinery in bakeries if this Bill became law. I cannot express a view about that, but I would point out that we passed a Bill the other day affecting 7,000,000 workpeople in the factories, and nobody argued then that the capital expenditure which would be involved should debar us from proceeding with the Bill. I was a little offended at the statement the hon. and gallant Gentleman made that the enforcement of the law in other countries was not up to our standard.
§ Mr. Davies
I used to believe that, but I can tell hon. Members that the French, the Germans and the Italians use exactly the same argument against us. Anybody who has been connected with the International Labour Organisation will say that nothing offends foreign countries more than the statement which we are continually making in this House that every other country does not enforce the law as well as we do. I should like to think, therefore, that that argument will no longer be used. This Amendment calls 2252 for better organisation in the bakery trade. What do they mean by better organisation? Trade unionism, I suppose. I should like to see the two hon. Members who moved and seconded the Amendment at any time supporting trade unionism, even in the bakery trade.
§ Mr. Fleming
I certainly do support trade unionism, and I have said so all the time that I have been in public life.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Member represents the division in which I Uve, and so if I organised a meeting of the bakers in his constituency I may take it that he would come on to the public platform with me and urge the bakers to join their trade union?
§ Mr. Fleming
Oh, no. I gave my point of view. I have no desire to help the hon. Member, or any other hon. Member, to draw a bigger salary as the secretary of some trade union. I am dealing with the principle of trade unionism. It is much better for organised employers to deal with organised employés than to deal with individuals or a mob.
§ Mr. Davies
I think the House will gather from that statement where the hon. Member stands. Let me put a really serious point to the House and to the Under-Secretary. The two hon. Gentlemen responsible for this Amendment think they are making progress by suggesting that a trade board is to be established in the bakery trade. There are hon. Members who know more about trade boards that I do, but I shall be astonished to be told that a trade board for the bakery trade would cover anybody except women and young persons. Adult men are seldom covered by trade boards. If that be true, the problem we are dealing with would not be affected by the establishment of a trade board, but we can get to know from the hon. Gentleman when he speaks how far the trade board is to cover in that direction. I think the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment used the argument that prohibition of alcoholic drinks in America had broken down because he public demanded that it should be abolished.
§ Mr. Fleming
I said nothing of the kind. I said they showed by their attitude towards the prohibition act that they had no use for it, and they contravened 2253 it to such an extent that it became a laughing-stock, and the State was compelled to repeal it.
§ Mr. Davies
I can tell the hon. Member that there are many States in America where prohibition still prevails.
§ Mr. Davies
Let me put another argument in favour of this Bill. For many years Parliament has declared by law that women and young persons shall not Parliament decided in that way because it came to the conclusion that night work was bad for women and young persons. Therefore, all we are doing is to say that the law ought to be carried a stage further. I cannot see there is much difference between prohibiting a young man at 18 from working during the night in a bakery and saying that it shall not be lawful for him to do so at 19 years of age. I want to say one thing about the reports which have been issued by the several committees which have considered this subject. The House of Commons is under an increasing disadvantage in dealing with such reports. I think there was a time when all the evidence upon which such reports were based was published and was known to Members of Parliament. I am a member of a Departmental Committee at the moment and have served on several others, and I should say that a Member of the House of Commons is not capable—I am not, at any rate—of deciding an issue like this, or any other issue, unless he is able to read the evidence upon which the report is made.
Now a word about the necessity for work in bakehouses during the night. I cannot think that the abolition of work in bakehouses for the six hours from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. would make all that difference to the produce of the bakery trade. Some of the most essential services in this land are carried on during the daytime, and I am sure that the bakery trade also could if it desired, do its work during the day. The demand for the abolition of night baking is an insistent one, and if we are defeated to-day we shall bring it up again, and again until it is embodied in the law of the land. We are so determined because 2254 we are satisfied that vested interests are responsible, in a great measure, for the opposition to this Bill.
There is something still more important than that. Those of us who study industrial legislation, and are connected with trade unions and approved societies, are becoming alarmed at the growing tendency in industry to subject workmen to the speed of the machine. Those who run bakehouses have installed machines with the idea, I suppose, that their operation is going to be continuous for 24 hours, and they say, "We will employ men and women to follow the speed of the machine." If this Bill is carried, it will be as much a protest against that growing practice as anything else. We may be defeated in the Lobbies to-day; we have been defeated before. I think the proposal was sabotaged, if I may say so with respect, when the Home Secretary, in introducing the Factories Bill in 1937, appointed a committee to inquire and report on this business when all the facts were already known. It will be a tragedy in our view if our proposition is not put into force before very long.
§ Mr. Davies
No, I do not think there was any medical knowledge, but if all the medical men were in favour of our proposal I hardly think the hon. Member would support it.
§ Mr. Davies
I have said from this Box more than once, and it ought to be repeated, that up to the advent of the present Government this country was in the forefront of all countries in Europe in its industrial legislation. It is falling back from year to year, and if this Bill is not carried into law it will fall back further still. It is because I think well of my country, and think well of its industrial legislation, and because I want us to keep abreast of the other countries of the world that I would like to see this Bill passed into law at long last.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Sir Isidore Salmon
We have just listened to an extraordinary statement from the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). He has touched very little upon the principle of the Bill. 2255 I would say, from the size of the Bill, that the promoters cannot be accused of wasting much paper and ink over this proposal relating to night baking. In listening to the proposer and seconder of the Bill, I was a little disappointed when they started to criticise the methods adopted by the Alness Committee. The suggestion of the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) was that the Committee was not composed of the right individuals to understand the difficulties, and that it would have been much better to have a departmental committee. I would remind hon. Members that this industry is very complex, and that the problems are very difficult, and not so easy as has been suggested by the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading. That the health and the conditions of the men were such, because they were engaged in the night baking industry, that they were less sober and healthy than others, were statements that the hon. Gentleman had no right to make.
§ Sir I. Salmon
There was no Registrar-General's statement before the committee, and those who gave evidence before the committee brought no statistical evidence to show that the health of the men in the baking trade was any worse than in any other trade. It is, therefore, somewhat futile, and very misleading, to tell the House that the conditions—the dust and the light that affect their eyes, and so on—affect the men's general health, and that when they get consumption or some other disease it is attributable to the fact that there is a baking trade. The hon. Gentleman has no justification for making those statements.
§ Sir I. Salmon
The hon. Gentleman is simply utilising—if I may say so with respect—and manipulating the words of the Registrar-General with his technical knowledge as a professional man. Coming from a professional man those statements are listened to with greater care than statements from a layman. It is very wrong that the hon. Gentleman could not lay the case out fairly and state exactly the facts that were presented to the Alness Committee. I do not wish unduly 2256 to labour this point, but I want to do away with the sentimental stuff that has been brought in, and to go back to the practical proposition. I say, most emphatically, that those who are engaged in the baking industry generally throughout the country are in as good health as the average person in industry.
The hon. Gentleman means that in the bakehouses of Messrs. Lyons there is good health. What does he know about the other bakehouses? The Registrar-General knows better than he does.
§ Sir I. Salmon
I am speaking as a Member of Parliament on this matter and not as an individual representing any concern. My personal experience is that health in the bakeries is probably as good as, if not better than, in any other industry in this country—although one cannot express a view with assurance unless one has investigated every part of the country. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that if there is a real danger—and he suggests that there is—
§ Sir I. Salmon
—it was the duty of those who brought this matter up to place the facts before the committee.
That is why there should have been a medical man on the committee to see that that evidence was brought out.
§ Sir I. Salmon
I find that when committees are set up, the Government would rather appoint those who know little about the subject, and call the experts as witnesses. I do not wish to be diverted from my main point.
§ The question of night baking has been before many committees, and I think it has been proved, after careful consideration by the Alness Committee, that they saw no necessity for the introduction of legislation to abolish night baking. If that be so, it strikes one as strange, after the evidence that was heard and the details that were gone into, that the hon. Member opposite should be in a minority of one. Of course, he is entitled to disagree with his colleagues, but if four or five members of a committee have 2257 listened to evidence and heard and cross-examined witnesses, it is a little strange that hon. Members opposite should take the view that the minority of one is correct, and that the majority are entirely wrong in their deductions.
§ Sir I. Salmon
It may occur, but I cannot imagine it. We have heard that night baking is prohibited in a large number of countries in Europe, but we must have regard, in discussing the general question of bakeries in Europe, to the difference in the character of the bread on the Continent. We all know that the trouble abroad, with the roll and the long French loaf, is that they are usually made by the small baker, and that people collect them from the shops. Most of the people go to the little shops to get their bread to a much greater extent than is the case in this country. The character of the bread is entirely different, the period of baking is much less and the ovens are entirely different. In the whole make-up there is no comparison between the bread generally consumed on the Continent of Europe with that which we make in this country. Therefore, it is a little misleading to suggest that the public of France, or Belgium, or any other country that may be mentioned, are satisfied not to have night baking. It is perfectly easy for them, without night baking, to get fresh bread, because of the character of the bread that is made and the short period of baking. The class of bread required by the public of this country is considerably different.
It is often forgotten, especially by certain Members of this House, that industries are merely the servants of the public demand. It is important to bear that in mind when we are discussing trying to alter the whole demand of the housewives of this country. Those who know a great deal about the baking industry, as one or two hon. Members do, will agree that the number of varieties of bread made in this country is extraordinary. Some may say that there are too many varieties, and that they ought to be reduced, but the point I wish to make is that there is no comparison between the bread manufactured in this country and that manufactured and sold on the Continent of Europe. The Departmental Committee quoted the example of the Irish Free State, which has been mentioned 2258 in this Debate. In Ireland, as has been pointed out, there is no night baking, but the demand for hot bread has become enormous in the Irish Free State, and the difficulties that arise in consequence are transferred to the transport side of the industry, because the baker who goes round with the bread, and who has to wait for the hot bread to come out, is kept much longer on his round, and does not get back until much later than is the case in this country. Furthermore, despite what was said by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), there is an enormous amount of dissatisfaction among the women, who object to having to wait so long for their bread to be delivered.
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that if the question were put fairly and squarely to the women of this country—it has never been really put to them—that several thousand people were adversely affected by night baking, they would be quite willing to agree?
§ Sir I. Salmon
The hon. Member says it is a fact. Let us see how it is proposed to meet it. I will deal with the repercussions in a moment. I suggest to the House that the alternative is much worse—
§ Sir I. Salmon
—for the baker, for his home life and his social amenities. The baker in that case would have to come in at one o'clock or two o'clock in the day, and work, say, till 10 or 11 at night, Sundays included, though it is true he does not work on the Saturday, because there is no Sunday delivery. On Friday he would have to come in earlier than one o'clock, because the demand for bread for the week-end is so much greater. I submit that the workers generally would be at a much greater disadvantage from the point of view of home and social life under those conditions than with their present hours of, say, from 10 at night till five or six in the morning. I also make this statement, that those workers who work continuously at night prefer to do that. I do not doubt 2259 that hon. Gentlemen really believe what they are saying, but they are speaking from their thought, while I am speaking from experience of testing large numbers of persons.
The problem is not quite such an easy one as it seems to be thought to be. As I said before, one has to supply what the public demand, and I do not think there is any doubt that the public will demand fresh bread. If they demand fresh bread, it is not necessarily, as has already been explained, because they want to eat it at once, but because the housewife wants to be sure that the bread is fresh. It is not within practical politics to say to a person, or to the people of this country generally, "For the future you will have to be satisfied with stale bread." I think there would be a great deal of dissatisfaction if that were done. The answer is that there is a certain number of small bakers who would supply the bread. It is true that there is a certain number of small bakers who could supply bread and deliver it within their immediate vicinity, but I would point out that the real value of such bread is not as great to the consumer as that of the bread manufactured in large bakeries. It has been suggested that bread made in mechanised factories is not good. That was suggested by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading. He has no justification for making such a statement.
§ Sir I. Salmon
That is a very interesting argument, but it is strange that it was not put before the Committee. The housewife does require fresh bread. There is also the trade union point of view. For many years I had the pleasure of sitting with the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) on a joint committee, and I always understood that the trade union preferred to deal with the large bakers rather than the small single units. The point that I wish to develop is that the Mackenzie report and the Alness report admit that the conditions of men employed by plant bakeries are better than those employed by the very small bakeries—of course, there are exceptions. I would just mention that since the time of the Mackenzie report a tremendous 2260 change has occurred in the baking industry, the introduction of large mechanised factories and the development of plant in those factories has so improved things that it has altered the whole outlook of the industry. That plant has meant an enormous cost. The report states that the cost is as much as £15,000 per unit. If you have 20 to 40 of those plants in operation, it is essential that you should have the necessary work to justify them. You want to deliver to retailers who are your customers, in time for them to deliver to their customers, and unless you make your bread at night it is not practicable to get it out in time to deliver it to the dairies, who in turn have to sell it to their customers.
§ Sir I. Salmon
No, the small units cannot do it because their ovens have a limited capacity. That is the practical obstacle. The small units would find, if they were to abolish night baking, that they would be involved in a very serious financial difficulty. They utilise their spare heat, after baking their bread, for what they call fancy goods. The effect is that they are getting two classes of trade out of their ovens. To do that, they must work night as well as day. It is true that it would be possible for them to spend money and extend their bakehouses, but for the small man that might be a serious problem. He might not have room to extend in his existing premises, and might have to get another building.
§ Sir I. Salmon
Yes, but, with the difficulties which he is up against, he cannot do the other baking until he has finished the whole of his bread and biscuits. The problem of abolishing night baking has many other reactions. You say that you think it is desirable to have the best up-to-date plant, and employ your people in the most modern factories, under the best conditions, but if you do that you must have the necessary trade. To get that trade, you go far afield. I started by saying that there is a large variety of goods that can be made. You cannot deliver any of those goods until they are all made; otherwise the cost of transport will be enormous. Details of that kind were explained to the committee, which went fully into them, and, except 2261 for a minority of one, came to the conclusion that night baking should not be abolished. I suggest that the difficulties and the inconvenience to which the public would be put would be tremendous. May I also remind the House that there is a very large business—although I heard one hon. Member say that London is the spoilt baby—in the markets of London: Smithfield, Billingsgate and Covent Garden, for new rolls delivered very early in the morning. You cannot possibly get those goods out in time if you abolish night baking.
I have troubled the House with these details, because I feel that, from time to time, statements are made which are very picturesque but cannot be thoroughly proved. I have tried merely to state the facts, and not to embellish any particular point. I would also point out that the exemptions which the Mackenzie Committee provided for were tremendous. They covered a very wide field, and, by the time they were finished, you would find that there was very little left for the benefit of the great majority of the workers. I would ask hon. Members to put this to themselves. Is it likely that those who have built large factories, with very costly machinery, would allow that machinery to stay idle during the whole day and work only at night if they did not think that there was an enormous public demand for the goods and that therefore the machinery could be used only at night? That, on the face of it, goes to prove that there is a real demand. When there are people who have made a life-study of what the public require, and who try to meet those requirements, it is unfortunate that hon. Members should get up in this House and say that this sort of thing could be done away with by means of a little internal organisation. There is no trouble taken that is too great by hundreds of firms in this country to try to do all they possibly can in the way of internal organisation, though I am quite sure that we can always live and learn. We have certainly done that in the last 50 years in the baking industry by the improvements which have been made.
The mere fact of trying to do away with night baking would also be an incentive—and I daresay that in the opinion of some hon. Members it would be a good thing—for the introduction of further 2262 machinery. The hon. Member for Westhoughton said that it was very unfortunate that machinery should be used, and that we ought to have more handwork. You cannot have it both ways. The suggestion of the abolition of night work might, in my view, be a very retrograde step. Another hon. Member made the statement that if a trade board were introduced, it would mean that this was a sweated industry. That statement is not true. A trade board can be used when it is admitted that the trade is not fully organised. The hon. Gentleman said that generally overtime is not paid after so many hours. I am informed that the majority of bakers up and down the country pay overtime for the minimum period.
§ Mr. Banfield
I am sure that the hon. Member does not desire to mislead the House. The statement which the hon. Member has made means that up and down the country the majority of the men are paid overtime after 48 hours. The representatives of the London Master Bakers' Protection Society have just admitted that it is impossible for them to carry out any agreement which may be arrived at when 70 and 80 hours a week are worked not only in London but throughout the country, and that overtime has never been encouraged in thousands of shops. I am sorry that the hon. Member should use that argument which, upon reflection, he will see cannot possibly be true.
§ Sir I. Salmon
May I make my point clear? The plant bakers up and down the country pay a minimum wage, and overtime if the required period is exceeded.
§ Sir I. Salmon
The fears of the hon. Gentleman for Wednesbury would disappear with the introduction of a trade board.
§ Sir I. Salmon
May I deal with the particular point which is before us at the present moment. The hon. Gentleman seems to think that it is rather good taste and courteous to introduce personal matters. After all, one comes to this House not to represent any particular interest, 2263 but to represent the interests of his constituency. It is somewhat offensive for an hon. Member to make an interjection such as that which has just been made.
I would call the attention of the House to a very important observation that was made when the committee stated that they all embarked upon the inquiry with a leaning towards prohibition of night work if the evidence permitted, but that as their investigation proceeded, they were forced to the conclusion that even if night work were abolished serious social disadvantages would still remain; that while about half of the workers at present employed in night work would be called upon to start work at the uncomfortable hour of 5 a.m. the other half would be required to work in the afternoon and evening, Sundays included, and would therefore have even less opportunity for social and family life in the evenings and at weekends than are at present available where the night workers' hours are reasonable.
I want the House to ponder over these observations. The committee started out with the idea of trying to meet the views in favour of prohibition, but after careful inquiry and the enormous amount of work they have given to it, they have come to the conclusion that it would not be in the interests of the public, nor would it be in the interests of the workers themselves.
§ 2.3 p.m.
I rise to support the Second Reading of the Bill. I have approached the matter of night baking not merely from the general social point of view, but also from the point of view of a relatively large employer in the great baking industry, and after 25 years' experience in a position corresponding to that of a managing director of a concern which is turning out many millions of loaves a year. Quite definitely I can see no necessity whatsoever, either industrially or commercially, for the continuance of night baking. The whole difficulty in the matter can be got over simply by proper reorganisation. I submit that night work as such is undesirable in any case, but, obviously, it is obligatory in certain circumstances in connection with railways, the post office, newspaper printing, continuous processes like steel-smelting, and so on. I should have thought that everyone would agree that from a general social point of view night baking ought to be 2264 prohibited, unless it is quite unavoidable. No one can suggest that it is not avoidable in so far as bread baking is concerned. It has already been pointed out that in one half of Scotland the method of day baking is employed, and I have been told that in a large number of institutions and undertakings in this country night baking is not employed. I estimate—I do not think that there are any actual figures available—that one-third of the total amount of bread which is supplied daily in this country is baked by day, and not by night. If it is possible to bake one-third by day, it is possible to bake the remaining two-thirds.
It has been pointed out repeatedly that night baking has been abolished in practically all the European countries. One hon. Member opposite said that in Germany the conditions were different because rye bread was the staple food, that it keeps a good deal longer, and therefore it does not matter whether it is turned out stale or otherwise. In Germany the regulations also apply to the baking of wheaten bread. It is true that in the last year or so Germany has gone back largely to rye bread because of the difficulty of foreign imports of wheat, but at least one-third of the bread supplied in Germany to-day is white wheaten bread, which is baked under day-baking conditions and not under night-baking conditions. My first-hand information is that the regulations are enforced in Germany in exactly the same way for all bread, and they would probably be a good deal more sternly enforced than they would be in this country if we passed this Bill and night baking was prohibited. The whole thing is a question of organisation. Evidence was given before the Alness Committee by a witness who was managing director of a large concern, turning out large quantities of bread, who had had 20 years' experience as manager of a private business and plant bakeries, and also experience in Canada. He said:The abolition of night baking is entirely devoid of any difficulty from the operative point of view. Any readjustment necessary could be overcome with ease by the management. The whole business is purely and simply a matter of organisation.From my 25 years' experience of the trade, that is my view also. I am convinced that if the House passed this Bill 2265 and made day baking operative, the trade would adjust itself after a few weeks of temporary dislocation and inconvenience in precisely the same way as other industries have adjusted themselves when this House has made new conditions for the conduct of their business.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
Would that apply to the slow one-man baker as well as to the large bakeries?
The small man will have to make certain readjustments. He can do it, and in fact it is being done to-day by small bakers. Not only in the north of England but in Scotland it is the small baker who is primarily concerned, and he is doing it by day baking. If it can be done in Scotland, it can be done all over England in precisely the same way. The statement that night baking is unavoidable cannot be substantiated; it can be dispensed with, and upon general social grounds it ought to be dispensed with. I have talked with a good many managers of bakeries in London and the Home Counties who are opposed to the abolition of night baking, but they have admitted frankly in conversation that if the House decides against night baking, although they will not like to be shaken out of their old routine, they will adapt themselves to the changed conditions, and after an extremely brief period they will accept the new routine as perfectly normal, until the whole process will come under day-baking conditions.
The real objection from the majority of baking undertakings is due to sheer conservatism and sheer inertia. We all share that sort of objection to making new departures, particularly if we are called upon by somebody else to make the departures. Such a habit of mind is particularly characteristic of a very old established industry such as the baking industry. They seem to think that because it has always been done they should go on doing a certain thing. I am certain that once the obligation is laid upon the baking industry to adopt the new system, it can be brought about after a very short period of dislocation. When the early closing of shops, Sunday closing and other similar social reforms were brought about in recent years they were all objected to, but Parliament required the change to be made and the community and the persons directly concerned 2266 have accepted it and settled down to it.
There will be no difference in the amount of bread consumed, whether it is baked by day or by night. Bread is a staple food, and it is still the cheapest all-round food. The demand for bread is very constant. It is true that certain changes in the relative amount of consumption per head have taken place in the last 20 years. Prior to the great War the amount of bread consumed per head of the population, men, women, children and infants, was 5 lbs. per week. A species of rationing was introduced during the War and the amount consumed was brought down to 4 lbs. per head, and it has never recovered to the old figure of 5 lbs. That is because there has been a much higher standard of living in the last few years, and people are eating more vegetables, fruit and other varieties of food instead of two-thirds of their diet being bread, as was the case before with working people. That process would continue and would tend to reduce the total consumption of bread. The average amount of bread consumed in the West End as compared with the East End shows that in the West End the amount of bread per head consumed is from 2 to 2½ lbs. per week while in the working class districts it is 3½ to 4 lbs. To suggest that because bread will be baked in the morning or the afternoon instead of in the small hours of the night the amount of consumption will be diminished, is one of the most ridiculous arguments that can be put forward.
§ Mr. Fleming
Can the hon. Member say from his 25 years' experience whether the public generally prefer fresh bread to stale bread?
Conditions vary a good deal in different parts of the country. In many parts people are prepared to accept stale bread. In many districts in London they are prepared to accept stale bread; but the bread that will be delivered by the baker, if it is baked by day instead of by night, will not be stale. I hope that some day the House will insist that all bread shall be delivered wrapped, as a purely hygienic measure. Such a rule would benefit the health of the consumer. If bread is delivered wrapped it remains new bread for 16 to 24 hours longer than if it is delivered unwrapped. At the present 2267 time, however, the wrapping of bread would increase the cost of bread by a ½d. a quartern; to instal the automatic machinery for the wrapping would certainly raise the price of bread and that is the reason why unwrapped bread is the general practice.
Let me turn to the question of the operatives concerned. There are 20,000 to 30,000 men who work all night and every night of the week except Saturdays. Surely their wishes, their social circumstances and their influence on their home life should be a matter for the House to take into grave consideration. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) when he made that remarkable speech last June, said that nearly 80 years ago a great national meeting of bakers was held in London imploring Parliament to deliver them from this night slavery. They have gone imploring and praying ever since, and the House to-day has an opportunity to deliver them from the slavery. Many Members who will come into the House presently to vote for the Amendment will not have the slightest idea that the reference in the Amendment to a trade board is simply of no account and is irrelevant to the terms of the Bill. I am sure that the representative of the Home Office will say that no trade board will have any power whatever to abolish night baking or to reduce it.
We want a trade board because now, as the hon. Member for Wednesbury said in an interjection while the hon. Member for Harrow (Sir I. Salmon) was speaking, overtime in an enormous number of cases, particularly in the case of small employers, is not recognised at all. A trade board would be able to have a standard working week of 48 hours, with payment for overtime beyond that period. On that ground we would welcome a trade board very heartily.
§ Mr. Fleming
No one on this side suggests that a trade board could bring about the abolition of night baking. I 2268 said myself that I was not in favour of the abolition of night baking and I mentioned the majority report of the Alness Committee.
The House is very sparsely attended to-day. Nine-tenths of the Members who will come in presently to vote for the Amendment will come believing that the introduction of a trade board will settle this question, when it will do nothing of the kind. The terms of the Amendment are extraordinarily misleading to the ordinary Member who does not know the facts. Take the question of the health of the operatives. It has been said that no case has been made out that night baking is injurious to the health of the operatives, though it admittedly involves serious social disadvantages. I ask any hon. Member to come and watch night bakers when they come out from their bakeries and go to their homes in the small hours of the morning. If they really studied the matter they would be shocked at the men's appearance. I think I could diagnose a night baker from the opposite side of the street. The average man who works in a bakehouse at night is a man marked by extraordinary pallor of countenance. His face looks almost as if it had been dusted with flour, or as if he had been over-using a lady's powder-puff. He is dead white. It is not his cheeks only, but his mucous membranes also which are characterised by anaemia. The night baker suffers from profound anaemia. That is the explanation of the remarkable listlessness which he exhibits. The reason is perfectly obvious.
Human beings cannot be healthy if they work always in the dark or in artificial light, and when during the day of God's sunlight they have to be in bed with the windows darkened and can never have a chance of getting the ultraviolet rays on their skins. Of course such a man becomes anaemic and is subject to all kinds of ill health which, though it may not be reflected in the mortality statistics of the Registrar-General, is none the less very real. The Registrar-General can tell you that the death rate of these workers is not very different from that of workers in other trades, but neither the 2269 Registrar-General nor the Home Office, nor the National Health Insurance Commission can say whether there is a higher incidence of sickness and disease amongst bakers than amongst other groups of workers, and he cannot say whether there is a greater average amount of time lost from work through illness amongst bakers.
It would be extraordinarily valuable if the National Health Insurance Commissioners would hold an exhaustive investigation to ascertain the relative sickness statistics of different industries. At present we have not got such statistics. It does not require a medical opinion or an expert to say that a man who looks like the average baker when he comes out of the bakehouse with that extraordinary pallor, cannot be living up to the full standard of health. So far as my own factory is concerned, we have found that the men on our night staff have a higher percentage of absences from work than the men on the day staff; 75 per cent. of the total absences occur amongst the night staff, and that figure has been consistent for the last 15 or 16 years.
There is another point on the same line. It is recognised by physiologists and by experimental determination that with the average human being vitality is at its lowest in the small hours of the morning; not only general vitality, but the rapidity of his nervous reaction is also diminished. That means greater accident proneness. Yet there are no statistics available on that point. So far as my own factory is concerned the evidence is quite clear that there is a much higher percentage of industrial accidents amongst the night staff than amongst the day staff; the proportion is about three to one. I am unable to give large general statistics, because they do not exist. I can give only these rather limited statistics. It means that men who have to work under artificial light and in a highly heated atmosphere during the week and on Friday nights have the extremely heavy task of providing a double output for the week-end, have to spend the week-end in bed or resting at home, and thus never have the chance of getting out into the sunlight in order to refresh themselves for the succeeding week.
I hope the House is going to give a Second Reading to this Rill. I recognise there are small difficulties—not big 2270 difficulties—but they can be got round by making certain proper exceptions and by proper adjustment. These are matters which can be dealt with in Committee if the House will agree to the Second Reading. We have been told that the change from night to day baking will mean a great disturbance in these men's lives and that, as a matter of fact, many of them resent it. I would like evidence of this. The union of which the hon. Member for Wednesbury is the general secretary is unanimously in favour of the change. There is no question about the thousands of members in that union desiring to abolish night baking. I have never met a baker anywhere who did not want the change. I have been in constant touch with the operatives as well as the employers in the trade in London for many years, and I have never met an operative who did not want night baking abolished. I challenge anybody in this House to produce one. [AN HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Member for Harrow."] He cannot produce one. If the hon. Member quotes some statistics about certain firms where some of the men are said to have declared in favour of night baking, I want to know under what auspices that inquiry was conducted? I know that in certain circumstances an employer can get any answer he wants from his men. I am not going to deal with the question of rolls and new bread, but there is a clear and definite answer to that tripe, I can characterise it by no other name. If the House refuses a Second Reading to the Bill, it will be doing so at the dictates of some extremely ill-advised people who insist on having hot bread, or at the instance of a very small group of reactionary and greedy employers who are not prepared to take the necessary steps to reorganise their factories and accommodate them to new and better conditions.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has reminded us that we discussed this matter fully on the Factories Bill, and that the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), who addressed us so eloquently on that occasion, persuaded us that it was only necessary to hold an inquiry to prove that night baking was unnecessary and should be abolished. We awaited the results of that inquiry with interest, and 2271 with the expectation that the Committee would report in the way the hon. Member for Wednesbury had indicated. The Alness Committee has sat and received evidence, and has, in fact, reported against the proposal by an overwhelming majority. I have heard comments in the course of the Debate regarding the majority and minority reports, and I can only say that it reminds me of the old story of the mother watching her boy marching with his regiment, saying, "They are all out of step except our Johnnie." The Alness Committee came to this final conclusion:Our investigation has, therefore, constrained us to the conclusion that legislation to abolish night baking is not in present circumstances desirable.The whole population of this country are consumers of bread. In passing, I should like to say how delighted I was to hear the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) pay such a high tribute to the increased standard of living in this country in the last 20 years, when he pointed out that the lower consumption of bread per head of the population was because everybody was now living on a higher standard. I reflected how pleasant it was to hear that from the Labour benches seeing that it was under a capitalist system that this improvement has come about. In paragraph 67 of their report the Committee say:The facts seem to be that some members of the public wish to eat new bread, and that the great majority wish to buy new bread.In paragraph 108 they refer to the desire of certain people to buy fresh rolls, but they lay emphasis on the fact that the public demand is for new bread. I submit that this House can overrule a general public demand if questions of health justify it, and on the question of health the committee again are perfectly clear. In paragraph 118 they say:No case is made out that night baking is injurious to the health of the operatives.I cannot help wondering where all the evidence was as to the injurious effect of night baking when the Committee was sitting. Why did not the hon. Member for Bermondsey put before the Committee what he says he knows about the effects of nightwork on health? The Committee, on the evidence before it, came to the definite conclusion that no case was made out that night baking was injurious 2272 to the health of the operatives. If that is so, then I submit that Parliament has no authority to interfere in this industry against the wishes of the consumers. In the Factories Bill the hours of young people and women were limited, they were prohibited working at night on the grounds of health, and if night baking was definitely made out to be injurious to the health of the people who worked in this trade, the whole House would go into the Lobby in support of the Bill. But for good or ill, the evidence shows that night baking is not injurious to health.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
No, but the Alness Committee say:Such evidence as is available goes to show that in matters of health the baking trade compares favourably with other trades.The report answers those objections of the hon. Member. In other trades as well as the baking trade, of course, there is night work, and probably the one that comes to the mind of hon. Members first is the newspaper printing trade. The reader demands his newspaper in the morning, and therefore, the printer has to work at night to produce it. The report refers to that matter, and says that those in favour of the abolition of night baking argue that the conditions in the printing industry, especially the newspaper printing industry, are much better and the wages much higher than in the baking trade.
There we come to the crux of the whole problem. Let us improve the conditions in the baking trade. Let us not take one admittedly important facet of that industry and legislate upon it, and leave the rest aside. Let us take the industry in hand and see that the conditions of those working in it, by day as well as by night, are improved, and that the "sweatshop," which the hon. Member for Wednesbury so eloquently referred to in the Committee on the Factories Bill, should be closed or made to put its house in order. Indeed, we have gone a considerable way towards that already, since there are certain provisions in the Factories Act which will considerably improve the lay-out of the factories and workshops in which the men work. I submit that the trade board to which the Amendment refers is the proper method by which we 2273 should act. Let us appoint a trade board and assure ourselves that the men in the industry get a proper working week of a limited number of hours. Let us see that the wage paid per hour is a proper one for the operatives, and let us see that those working by night receive a higher wage for their more arduous work than the men working by day. Let us see that overtime, if necessary, is paid for at increased rates. Let us, in fact, see that the industry is run as decent industries are in this country.
Finally, I would like to remark upon the fact that the Bill shows how far the leaders of the Trades Union Congress and the Members of the Parliamentary Labour party are apart in their ideas on the running of industry. I cannot help recalling the speech made by Mr. Bevan at Norwich, in which he was reported as having said that he disliked the interference of Parliament in industry and that, apart from some regulation as to the enforcement of adequate standards of wages and conditions, he would like to see industry regulate its own affairs. With those sentiments I heartily agree. I believe that to leave an industry to put its own house in order, by means of a trade board, under the supervision of the Home Office, is far better than for this House to try by legislation to force one thing or another on this or any other industry. For that reason I am opposed to this Bill being given a Second Reading, and I support the system of dealing with industry by regulation rather than by legislation.
§ 2.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I do not intend to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale). In the Committee on the Factories Bill, I found the hon. Member most misleading. At first I thought he was open to persuasion, and I and my colleagues often thought that if we reasoned with him we could convince him and get his vote for our Amendments. We argued with him and we seemed to convince him, but we never got his vote. To-day, the hon. Member supports Mr. Bevan, who said, in effect, that he wished Parliament would leave industry alone to some extent and allow it to regulate its affairs through the normal trade union and employers' channels. Having said that, the hon. Member went on to tell us that he wants 2274 a trade board. The two statements are mutually destructive.
I wish to say a few words as regards the position in Scotland, to which some reference has been made. In this Debate, the attitude of hon. Members supporting the Government seems to me to be rather funny. Recently, they have been urging a keep fit campaign. Now, I am told by leading experts at the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health in Scotland that white bread is not the best bread, that brown bread is far better for the health, and that of white bread, the most injurious is new white bread. To-day we have heard exponents of the keep fit campaign defending the very thing that is most injurious from the point of view of keeping fit. One finds it very difficult to follow their arguments.
What are the facts as regards Scotland? I have often heard expressed by hon. Members opposite, and also by some hon. Members on this side, a growing alarm at the growth of trusts, combines and big monopolies. In Scotland, the majority of people outside the big towns are supplied nowadays with bread from the big towns. Often the bread is supplied to these people long after it would be supplied to people in the big centres by day baking. A short time ago, I visited Fort William, adjacent to the constituency of the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. MacDonald). Every day there is dumped there from the City of Glasgow hamper after hamper of bread. The old-time baker, the small man who worked through the day has gone, and the bread is now delivered at four or five o'clock in the afternoon, hours after bread baked during the day would be delivered in the City of Glasgow.
Some people say that the coming of machinery was good and some say it was bad, but I take it as having been inevitable, and I will not argue the matter; but not merely has the coming of machinery speeded up the industry, it has altered the baker from a fine skilled craftsman into a machine worker on a much lower standard. In the old days, when baking was a highly skilled craft, the Union was highly organised, almost 100 per cent. of the men being in it, and at that time, until 1921 or 1922, there was day baking in Scotland, and night baking made no inroads. With the coming of 2275 the machine, there came the big monopoly, and the end of the craft, and the union was finished, or at any rate its strength was weakened. Night baking has become a normal thing.
I cannot understand this great demand for new bread. For many years we have had, in Scotland, two sorts of bread. There is what we call "cutting" bread, for that is the term that is used, and not stale bread. It is bread that can be consumed the moment it is bought, which means that probably it has been in the shop for a day. You can take it home and cut it, and give it to the family right away. New bread is not in great demand. As one who represents as much poverty as any other hon. Member in this House, I say it is much better for the poor people themselves that the bread should be kept in a clean, hygienic bakery, than taken home to miserably bad homes. It is said in defence of this system that other workers are engaged at night, but there is a great difference between the case of the baker and that of the majority of other night workers. There are night workers in the railways and the Post Office, but in both those cases the men take turns on day work. In the steel industry there is the three-shift system by which a man gets six weeks on and six weeks off night work, and for at least a portion of the year he is enabled to enjoy a communal life with his family and his fellows. In the newspapers that system does not apply to the same extent, but most of the newspaper people finish at one o'clock in the morning and some of them at midnight. The "Daily Express" and the "Daily Record," two Glasgow morning papers can be bought at 12 o'clock at night, meaning that the men must have finished before that time.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Even the latest edition goes to press about one or two o'clock in the morning and only a limited number of men are kept until then. That is not night work in the sense that is meant in this Bill.
§ Mr. Fleming
If the hon. Member looks at the "Daily Express" he will find in it news which could only have reached the office at 4 o'clock in the morning.
§ Mr. Buchanan
There might be a "stop press" edition, which would mean keeping perhaps one man or two men. But I am taking the average time, and in newspapers that is round about one or two o'clock, and many of the men leave much earlier. I have made some inquiry into that matter.
The hon. Member who spoke last and other hon. Members have expressed great faith in the committee's report. May I remind them that another committee reported earlier at a time when conditions were not as bad as they are to-day and that committee reported unanimously in favour of the principle of the abolition of night baking? The truth is that I can utilise one report of a committee if I want to do so, and other hon. Members can utilise the report of another committee, but while these committee reports may be of some value, they are no more valuable than the expression of opinions by Members of this House. The Government themselves reject reports by committees and frequently reject a majority report and accept a minority report.
Does anybody suggest that the interests of the great mass of the people of this country would be affected in any way by the abolition of night baking? Does anybody suggest that in the course of a few months the necessary readjustment could not be made? The Post Office used to deliver letters in London on Sunday. When it was proposed to abolish that delivery, people talked about the great inconvenience that would be caused. In my native city, letters were delivered until late on Saturday night. The business men themselves abolished the Saturday night delivery and gave the postman his Saturday afternoon off. At first we were told that the inconvenience would be terrible, but the thing was done, and in a short time some of the bitterest opponents of the change were among its keenest supporters. If we abolish night baking we shall have given a section of the community fuller opportunies for social life.
Reference has been made to a trade board. I would point out that newspaper workers have certain conditions such as compulsory holidays which a trade board could not enforce. The baker has no holiday. He has nothing and to pass this tardy measure of social justice for him would be a desirable step. 2277 It would make for a more wholesome population, and would help to make a few of the people of this country a little happier, I cannot understand the Conservative party. The greatest man whom they have ever produced, abolished things which were much more deeply embedded in the life of this country than night baking. He fought greater interests than those which are concerned here. He made a magnificent pioneer struggle for social progress. The step that we ask the House to take to-day is a miserable step in comparison, and I trust that the Conservative party, or at least the more enlightened of them, will take this small but very just step.
§ Sir I. Salmon
In all the points which he has raised, the hon. Member has never mentioned the question of an alternative period. Is it the submission that the alternative period of work from 2 o'clock in the day to 11 o'clock at night every day of the week would be any less disadvantageous to the worker than the present hours?
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
I think the House at this stage would like to hear a few words from this Bench as to the attitude of the Government. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down referred to the general question of night work, and I should like to make my general position plain. I do not like night work, either for myself or anybody else. I do not like working at night in this House, and when I come across my friends from Birmingham who have to work at night in the industries of that city, I am inclined to commiserate with them. I think that is the attitude of all sensible people. On the other hand, everybody knows, especially those who have anything to do with industry, that a certain amount of labour at night has to go on, and indeed a good deal does go on. I do not need to tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that there are several hundred thousand people engaged at night at all times. Of course, the vast majority of those are not permanently on night work.
There are three ways of dealing with the problem of night work. There is the 2278 method of occasional shifts of night work which, I suppose, accounts for by far the greater amount of night work in industry. Then there is the other method of regular alternating shifts. That accounts for quite a proportion of the night work in industry, and in certain other departments such as the police. Everybody realises that the police have to work at night. What they do is they work at night for about one month in three, and they work an eight-hour shift at night.
The last method, the method with which we are particularly concerned to-day, is the permanent night shift. There are rather more people working on permanent night shift than I think the House has been inclined to credit this afternoon. There are the printers, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and my informations does not quite accord with his as to the actual length of the shift. My information is that the ordinary hours for the machine room are from 10.30 p.m. to 4.30 a.m., but, of course, in various parts of the country, and no doubt in special jobs in printing, the hours may vary. Then there are the cleaners. There is a very large number of people engaged in cleaning buses and trams and in cleaning the streets for the great municipalities all over the country, including London, who are engaged on permanent night shift. Then there are men working in the markets and at the large railways and there are the Billingsgate Market and other great markets in London, which incidentally, though I will only make this point in passing, contribute one of the complications of night baking, in that there is a great demand at Billingsgate Market, I am informed, for rolls.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The factory department informs me that there is a steady demand for rolls from 3 a.m. onwards from people working in the markets, and rolls are a particular type of bread that go stale, I believe, more quickly than ordinary types of bread. What I want to put to the House is this, that there is a considerable amount of night work in the country, and it is accepted, and I want to ask the House to inquire with me why it is that there has been this considerable agitation and campaign for the abolition of night work in this one trade. Let us look at the history of 2279 the baking trade, which is a very old trade. For a very long time baking was done to a very great extent in the home—home baking. I understand that ever since Abraham set Sarah to work on that job the women were doing it until the last century, when home baking began to decay, particularly in this country, and all over the country there began to grow up small master bakers, who took on the work. Their work was, of course, dominated by this fact—and here I may come into slight controversy with the hon. Member for Gorbals—that the public as a whole wants its bread early and wants it fresh. That is my information. The housewife is not so foolish as the hon. Member was inclined to suggest, because not every housewife, thank goodness, is so foolish as to think she ought to eat the bread fresh. I believe there is a number of misguided people, of whom I am not one, who like to eat their bread fresh.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Nevertheless, I understand that the accepted medical opinion is against eating fresh bread. The point is that the housewife wants what she describes as staying power in her bread. She wants the bread not only to be fresh when she buys it, but to be fresh still when she is eating the last crust.
§ Mr. Buchanan
If the hon. Member can get me any case of poor people in Glasgow who can keep their bread, I shall be pleased. The mice will get it first.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Since the War there has been a change, brought about by the introduction of motor transport and machinery on a large scale for the baking trade, and that brings us to the position of the trade as we see it to-day. I think that every Member who has spoken so far with particular knowledge of the subject, like the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall) and others, has stressed the complication of this trade, and I agree. I thought I had plumbed the depths of industrial complications in the Factories Bill and the silicosis problem, but I think the baking trade is a rival to them, because you get at the present time in the baking trade a whole range of different types of production, which you might even say run the gamut from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. You have still, at one end of the range, the 2280 small, one-man, underground bakehouse, and, at the other end of the range, running through the medium and large retail bakeries, you have the great modern, factory plant bakehouses that are worth thousands of pounds. But we have to remember that three-quarters of the bakers employ four men or fewer.
I would like to sum up the position of the trade in our view in this way. The baking trade is in an unsatisfactory state of organisation. It is largely unorganised on the side of the employers and also on the side of the unions, and when I say that I am not making any criticism of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), because it is the intrinsic difficulties of organising the trade which are responsible, and if the difficulties had not been so great, I think the hon. Member for Wednesbury would have had almost all the employes in the trade organised. The hours in this trade are often very long indeed, and the operatives suffer from the interference with their social life of the practice of night baking. In many cases there are undoubtedly low wages, and conditions are very bad in a number of the smaller bakehouses, and there are a number of abuses in the way in which the men are treated by the bakers. They are kept, I think, hanging about at the bakehouses for a good deal longer than is strictly necessary for proper production.
Of course, there is the problem of the underground bakehouse, which has been one of the worst problems that we have had to face, and I am glad to say that under the new Factories Act the certificates will have to be renewed, and they will have to fulfil considerably higher standards. But I would like to emphasise thoroughly to the House the general aspect of the unsatisfactory conditions in this trade by giving an illustration or two. The other night, when the House had risen, I thought that, in view of this Debate, I had better see some of these night bakehouses for myself, and I took the deputy chief inspector of factories and other factory inspectors with me and went round to some of the night bakehouses of London. The hon. Member for Wednesbury knows the situation only too well. It is not easy to get into some of them, particularly the small ones. However, we banged on the skylight for a sufficient time, and in the end got in, and I am bound to tell the House that it 2281 was extremely interesting. I only wish other hon. Members could have had the same opportunity of realising how bad conditions are in some of these bakehouses. I would like to give one example. In one bakehouse two men worked on a night shift, and nobody worked in the daytime there. It was not underground, but I did not myself appreciate much difference between it and an underground bakehouse. In this bakehouse this one man works from to p.m. until 9.30 a.m. next day, and even as late as mid-day, from Sunday night to Thursday. On Friday he has to work a specially long shift in order to provide bread for the week-end, and he works from 8.30 on Friday night until mid-day on Saturday. In the previous week he had worked until 2.30 on Saturday.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am not saying it is exceptional. I am saying that the conditions in some cases are extremely bad. This man told me, and I have no reason to disbelieve him, that he had last year worked in a bakehouse where he had worked 14 hours every night of the week, including Sunday, giving a total weekly working of 98 hours. I think that I shall carry the House with me when I say that these are disgraceful conditions, and that the House will want to see them brought to an end as speedily as possible. This is a generally disorganised trade in many aspects, and I think I shall, to a certain extent, have the tacit agreement of even the hon. Member for Wednesbury when I say that it is because of these other bad circumstances in the trade that the attitude with regard to night work has become peculiarly inflamed in this industry.
§ The question of night work was considered in relation to the Factories Act when it was going through the House recently. It raises a serious question of principle which the Government have to face, for there is no example of direct regulation of the hours of adult males in manufacture in this country, and to regulate night work in bakeries would be to single out one industry for this severe form of new regulation. I do not say that in no circumstances should it be done, but it is a matter that has to be considered carefully.2282
§ Mr. Lloyd
That is so, but mining is a special case. I am not saying that it should not be done in any circumstances, but it raises serious questions. The Home Secretary, therefore, set up the Alness Committee which went into the matter thoroughly. I should like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Secretary of State, of thanking Lord Alness and all the members of the Committee, whatever view they took, for the very great amount of work that they did on this subject last year. By a majority—there was one dissentient—the committee, after examining the question in great detail, reported against the abolition of night baking. Why did it do so? I think that it is right to say—and I have no doubt it is true, because it is a feeling we all have—that at the start of their inquiry they had a leaning towards the abolition of night baking. Yet they reported the other way. Broadly speaking, they said that the result of careful investigation showed that there would be serious dislocation of the trade, an unequal effect upon different types of employers in the trade, and no sufficient amelioration of the disadvantages which the workers at present suffer.
Let us come to the position of the operatives. The strong case which the unions feel about night work in the bakery trade is that it interferes with the social life of the bakers. It is common ground that the time when normal people have their social life is from when work stops at 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening until about 10 or 11. Therefore, if the night baker starts his night shift at 7, 8 or 9 o'clock he does not get the opportunity of going out with his family and seeing his friends in the ordinary way. If the night shift started at 10 o'clock—I do not say that that is the best possible position to be in—he would be free when the ordinary worker is free. He would have time free after he got up, and before he went to work, instead of after he had finished work and before he went to bed. I am bound to say that I prefer the second alternative.
The committee went very carefully into the question of what would happen to the ordinary working baker if night work were abolished, and they came to the conclusion that about one-half of the 2283 bakers would start work at 5 a.m. and work their shift from then, and the other half would have to work a shift which finished at 11 p.m., having started at, say, 1 or 2 in the afternoon, and they would have to work this shift on Sundays as well in order to get out Monday's bread. With regard to the start in the early morning, hon. Members will recall that on the Factories Bill we considered the importance of making the starting-hour as late as possible, because of the time it takes a man to get to his work. In most cases we should have to put an hour on to that 5 a.m.—that is what we usually put on in our discussions upon the Factory Bill—and that would bring the hour to 4 a.m. That does not mean working all through the night, but it is a mighty inconvenient hour at which to start work. It would mean, of course, that the worker would get his social life in the evening and would sleep during a large part of the night like ordinary people.
The other alternative—or what the committee consider 50 per cent. of the men would have to do—would be to finish a night shift at 11 p.m. after having started at 1 or 2 p.m. From the point of view of social life that is, if anything, worse even than night work, if night work starts at 10 p.m., because we have just said that the social life takes places between 5 and 10 p.m., and the whole of that time would be completely taken away every day of the week, including Sunday, with the exception of Saturday. The committee came to the conclusion that it might mean some amelioration, but not much amelioration, of the position of the worker in the bakery trade from the point of view of social life. Although the committee came to these conclusions there is no doubt that they did have very considerable sympathy with the position of the working baker, and they made another recommendation which I will venture to read to the House. They wanted to see some recognised body established:on which representatives of the master bakers and the operatives will meet together to thresh out their difficulties, and that some means will be provided for enforcing the decisions reached. If so we hope that the opportunity may be taken of seeking and finding means of ameliorating the conditions of night work. We think that the question of arranging some scheme of alternation"—2284 That is the scheme used in a good many other industries—might well be considered in some of the larger bakeries, and that differential minimum rates of pay might be considered as a means of securing that men are not put on night work without good cause, and of discouraging unduly long hours. We consider that, with good will on both sides, a great deal more might be done in this way to improve the lot of the working baker than can be achieved by the passage of an Act of Parliament dealing with night work only.The Government accepted that recommendation, and a full conference of all the organisations on both sides in the trade was brought together at the Ministry of Labour on 21st September. At a Meeting of the English committee the suggestion was made that the machinery of the Trade Boards Act might be a good way of carrying out the suggestions which had been made. I ask the House to consider what are the powers of a trade board, and will give the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) an assurance with regard to adult men. He asked whether they could be dealt with by a trade board. I can assure him that they certainly can be dealt with by a trade board. If they could not, it would be serious criticism of the committee's proposals. A trade board has power, subject to confirmation by the Ministry of Labour, to vary the normal number of hours worked in a trade and to fix minimum and overtime rates and enforce them at law, for every class of worker, including nightworkers. It would have power to fix a special rate of wages for nightworkers, piece rates as well as time rates. It has one other rather important function. It has power, under Section 10 of the Trade Boards Act, to make representations to any Government Department with reference to the industrial conditions of a trade. The Department to which the representations are made must forthwith take them into consideration. I think hon. Members will agree that if a formal expression of opinion comes from a trade board to a Department of the State, it is therefore not a mere matter of words, but the Department has to take it into consideration. Thus a very powerful means is provided of bringing important matters before the country and before this House.
We are proceeding with this policy. The preliminary steps for applying the Trade Boards Act have reached an advanced stage, and an assurance has been 2285 definitely given in this House that a trade board will be set up. The process of drafting the statutory order is now taking place. That involves, as the hon. Member for Wednesbury knows, rather complicated preliminary inquiries as to the exact de-limitation of the trade. A good deal of work has now been done in the matter, and I understand that only a few questions of detail remain to be considered. In addition, the Ministry of Labour, in order to facilitate the work of the board, have already asked their officers in various parts of the country to make inquiries with regard to certain important matters with regard to the trade, so that these may be laid before the trade board.
I wish to put it to the House that the question of night work in the bakery trade has been unduly lifted out of the general and serious problems which beset that trade and that questions of bad conditions, long hours and unduly low wages are not only extremely important but even more important to the ordinary working baker than the question of night work. Hon. Members say—and I appreciate the point fully, of course—that one has to take with some reserve what one learns if one goes round a particular works, especially if the foreman is keeping his eye on the workers. By talking to some of the men whom I saw in these bakeries—on my instructions the factory inspectors were engaging the attention of the master baker in another portion of the bakehouse—I derived the impression that the men attached enormous importance to the shortening of the hours and the bettering of the conditions with regard to wages. I derived the impression, also, that in the smaller bakehouses they attached even more importance to those questions than to the abolition of night work.
The House will hear the hon. Member for Wednesbury upon this subject very shortly. He has, of course, devoted his life to the work of improving the lot of the working baker. Nobody in this House can really rival him, unless it be the hon. Member for Harrow (Sir I. Salmon), in knowledge of the baking trade, and I have no doubt whatever that he will put up, as he always does, a very powerful case. He has waged in many respects a very successful campaign on behalf of the working baker in very difficult circumstances, and he has, for 2286 reasons which he and I and, I think, the House will appreciate, lifted into the forefront this question of the abolition of night baking. It was a good banner under which to fight, because it had a rather greater dramatic quality than the ordinary questions of long hours and improved conditions. I am not making any criticism in that regard, but I feel nevertheless this question may not be quite so important to the ordinary man working in the trade as some of these more humdrum matters. I am sure that the hon. Member will make a powerful speech in favour of the abolition of night baking, but I hope he will appreciate that the Home Office and the Government expect a new approach to the problems of labour in the baking trade to emerge from the policy of the trade board, and that they expect to get good results from it.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Banfield
I am sure after the speech to which we have just listened, we must all agree that the hon. Gentleman has tried very hard indeed to "lead me up the garden." This Bill is a Bill to abolish night baking. I think I may claim to know all about the bad conditions of the operatives in the baking industry, which, however, must be, and will be, a different question. This question of the abolition of night baking, which is now before the House, is, indeed, a serious one, and I feel honoured that I have been given the opportunity of saying the last word on the Bill here to-day. During all the years that I have been engaged in trying to do something to uplift the baking industry, I have always said, and I repeat now, that the continuous night work imposed upon the operative baker has been even worse than the long hours and the low wages.
The hon. Member for East Lewisham (Sir A. Pownall), who moved the Amendment, started out on the right path when I persuaded the Bishop of Woolwich to interest him in this matter. But the hon. Member has recanted; he has gone back: he no longer believes in the abolition of night baking. I am pleased, however, to tell the House that Lady Pownall, his very good wife, agrees with me entirely. I want respectfully to say that the Noble Lady the member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), had she been here, had intended to put forward 2287 the case of the wives and mothers of operative bakers, and the good lady of the hon. Member for East Lewisham takes her stand definitely on the side of the wives and mothers, and says that, whatever the obstacles are, this thing should be removed.
Apart from the speech of the Under-Secretary, I have seldom listened to a weaker case put forward against a Bill in this House. I do not think that the opponents of the Measure have done themselves even bare justice. The case has been founded on the argument that there is a trade board coming, and so it is not necessary to do anything. I want the House to realise that a trade board has no authority to abolish night baking, to fix the hours at which work shall start, or to limit by one hour any of the work done in any bakehouse. It can do nothing, with its limited authority, to touch even the outskirts of this problem. All it can do is to say that when these men work, however many hours they work, and whatever they do while they are at work, they shall be paid a certain minimum rate per hour for the work they do. As a contribution to the problem of the abolition of night baking, the trade board is of no more use than yesterday's rain will be in 50 years' time, and nobody knows it better than the hon. Gentlemen opposite. This is not a party question. It is not a question of the Government versus the Opposition. It is a question which can be dealt with by every hon. Member according to his conscience. I have received to-day a resolution passed by a very respectable body, the Kennington Conservative Association. It is not very often we can quote this sort of thing. They say:The night baking Bill has the support of members of all political parties in South London. I send you herein a copy of a resolution passed at their joint meeting, and I sincerely wish you every success.But there is a further point about this. The chairman of the Kennington Conservative Association is a leading master baker. I have not the slightest doubt that his name is very well known here in London. It is Stevenson. He originally came from Scotland, and stopped here, of course. He is one of the leading employers in London—not doing a small trade, but a considerable business, running into hundreds of sacks. He wishes 2288 us every success, and declared that, for his part, he is convinced that the abolition of night baking would be the very best thing that could happen to the trade. We have heard to-day about the difficulties. Every difficulty that has been advanced here to-day by every hon. Member who has spoken against the Bill has been advanced by every employers' organisation in every country in the world where night baking has been abolished; and, in spite of all the so-called difficulties put forward, night baking has been abolished in every country in Europe, trade is carried on, the public is supplied, new bread is provided, and everybody is quite comfortable. It seems obvious that all these difficulties can be overcome, given the will and the determination.
The hon. and learned Member who seconded the Amendment did us the honour of quoting the Manchester agreement with the employers on the question of abolition of night baking. The hon. and learned Gentleman said quite truly that, following the abolition of night baking by the Government in 1919, day baking was in operation in the City of Manchester for nearly two years and a half, and he went on to say that it was then abandoned because the public demanded new bread. His facts are not correct. It was abandoned because of the following reason: After working satisfactorily for two and a half years and the public had been supplied with all the new bread that they wanted, the thing failed, because, suddenly, one of the great machine shops, one of the great wholesale houses, not content with the trade they had, determined to go back to night work to steal the trade of their competitors. They bribed their men and offered them as much as 25s. extra on their wages to go back to night work, with the result that the action of that firm dragged everybody in Manchester back to night work. That is why we want a legal enactment. In the City of Liverpool, also, day work was in operation. We are highly organised in these towns. We have closed shops, and there is no question at all about the starting times, and so on, not being duly observed. During those two years and a half the trade went on and nobody had to shut up shop or go to tremendous expense in order to do the job. The trade worked satisfactorily. The employers themselves blessed the day 2289 on which day baking was introduced. They received the benefit of it, and, surely, if it is possible for a period of two years and a half in two great English cities to do away with night baking, there is nothing that stands in the way of making it universal, except the selfishness and stupidity of our present industrial system.
The reasons for the opponents of the Bill asking that night baking should be continued are not the reasons put forward by the Under-Secretary. He gave us a beautiful picture of 50 per cent. of the men starting work at 5 o'clock in the morning, and 50 per cent. working on the afternoon shift, and the hon. Member for Harrow (Sir I. Salmon) also made great play with that point of view. The Under-Secretary said—and it was a statement of the utmost importance—that three-quarters of the employers employed four men or fewer. That means that the great bulk of the baking trade in this country is still carried on by the small employer, who has every reason and inducement to have day work. Is it not obvious that the great bulk of the trade of the day would be done as a result of the 5 o'clock start, and that all the talk about new bread simply means that, if the public want more new bread, they can have it under day work and not under night work?
This is not a stale bread Bill, but a new bread Bill. As we sit here at 3.35 this afternoon, bread is already being turned out in the great factories in London and the Provinces, and it will be put in the vans at 10 or 11 o'clock to-night, to be taken out in the morning, and a lot of it will not have been delivered to the customers at this time to-morrow. And that is new bread under night work. Too much stress has been laid upon the question of new bread. We have heard about new rolls for the Billingsgate porters. I have heard some stories in connection with the baking industry, but this story of Billingsgate porters rushing out at 3 o'clock in the morning and shouting: "Hot rolls, hot rolls," is the funniest I have ever heard. Some evidence was given before the Alness Committee about the rolls business. It was suggested that if the bakers started work at 5 o'clock in the morning we should not be able to get hot rolls for breakfast. The people who want hot rolls for breakfast are not up until 9 o'clock. 2290 It is not hot rolls that they want. That men should be condemned to work 20, 30, 40 or 50 years of their lives, night after night, week after week, year after year, to provide some people with hot rolls for their breakfast and Billingsgate with hot rolls at 3 o'clock in the morning, is one of the most foolish things to which anybody could listen.
§ Mr. Jagger
So far as those rolls are bought they are bought by the fish buyers at Billingsgate, and certainly not by the workers.
§ Mr. Banfield
The fact that that sort of thing is going on to-day is no reason why it should be allowed to go on. There is no real hardship that a man cannot get a hot roll at 3.30 a.m. One must have some consideration for the lives of other people. What is the real crux of this matter? Conservative Members who represent agricultural areas know the value of the village baker. Many of them are friends of the village baker. I have always understood that if there was one thing more than another that the Conservative party stood for, it was the preservation and well-being of the small man. The people who are running the great bread bakeries to-day are not satisfied to sell their bread to their friends, their neighbours, their fellow-townsmen, but they want to be in a position to sell their bread 60, 70, 80, 90 miles away from where it is made. They want to crush out of existence the skilled workmen, the man who makes the real bread in this country, not the stuff that is made in machine bakeries, but the man who makes the sort of bread that mother used to make when she baked.
Is it a good system that these large combines in the baking industry are allowed to do this? The Alness report says that it is the modern way, the modern trend, the modern method, that the big combines should push out the smaller people. Is it a wise thing that that should be so, particularly in the distribution of bread? This excuse is often given. The big combines say: "Because of our superior methods of manufacture, because of our efficiency, because we have great business brains at the back of 2291 our concern, we should be enabled to sell bread cheaper than anybody else," but in fact they cannot say that. What they save on their production expenses is swallowed up by their transport and distribution expenses, and consequently it is of no value to the community.
The hon. Member for Harrow said, among other things, "Well, you see, we are the servants of the public." That is a new argument; all that they exist for is to be the servants of the public. As long as it pays 25 per cent. I suppose it is all right. The hon. Member for Harrow added rather pointedly that I would perhaps put up a very picturesque story in favour of the Bill. I cannot put up anything more picturesque than that. The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) reminded us that there were other people beside bakers who did night work. The only excuse for continuous night work of any kind in any industry is that that night work is absolutely necessary for the industry and that trade cannot be carried on without it. That is a fair proposition. My point is that here you have a trade in which night work is not necessary to the industry. The experience in Manchester and Liverpool shows that the trade can be carried on without continuous night baking. It is obvious that the only reason why men are condemned to continue this night work is the selfishness, the greed, the stupidity and the inefficiency of their employers.
The hon. Member for Harrow said that if we got the abolition of night baking the men would be a lot worse off, and the Under-Secretary for the Home Office suggested that possibly that would be so. It is a surprising thing that when one wants to do something to better the conditions of men, someone comes along and says, "Oh, if you make a change the workers will be a lot worse off than they were before." I am prepared to leave to the men themselves the question whether they will be worse off or not. I addressed a great meeting in Manchester three weeks ago. There were present a thousand men, who are paid extra for night work. Such payment is not made in London, but these Manchester men receive 10s. a week extra for night work, and with two exceptions they voted that they would rather do without the 10s. than continue the night work.
2292 I do not know whether it was the seconder or the mover of the Amendment who referred to some vote having been taken somewhere, in which the men favoured a continuance of night work. I believe it was the hon. and learned Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming) who said that. Let me read to the House the precise ballot paper that was submitted to these men. It was headed, "Secret ballot," and incidentally the foreman went round to collect the papers. This is what the paper said, "Night work now and a bonus of 10s. a week or a four o'clock start in the morning and no bonus? Please put your cross in the margin". That sort of ballot is not right or fair, and when it is quoted as evidence before the Alness Committee I think it is going too far. Let me say this about the Alness Committee. I suppose there is no one who has more respect than I have for the law. We had a most gifted Member in the chair in Lord Alness, a Scottish judge with a very great reputation. He is a man we can respect and admire. He happens to be a Scotsman, and I was astonished that a Scottish judge, educated in his own country, and hearing evidence that two-thirds of his country was on a system of day baking, should sign a report saying that it could not be done. It only shows that a man can get so fair-minded that sometimes he has no mind at all.
A great deal of play has been made about the fact that the Alness report was against us. We are unlucky in the matter of these reports. In 1919 the report was in our favour, but the Government did nothing. They brought in a Bill, and dropped it; and the Bill which the Government dropped in 1919 is the Bill which the House is discussing to-day. We went to Geneva in 1925 and 1926 and put the case for the abolition of night baking before a jury representing all the countries of Europe. They passed a Convention in 1926 abolishing night baking. At that time the French Government declared that they supported the Convention and they pledged their full support; and my information is that throughout the whole of France and in Germany, in the Scandinavian countries and in Holland, the Convention is being carried out. It may be some satisfaction to hon. Members who are sympathisers of the German Government and its Head if 2293 I say that I am prepared to give Herr Hitler a testimonial in this respect. When he came into office he found that bakers in Germany were starting work under a system of day baking before 5 o'clock, and he issued an order, and it became law—there was no Second reading debate—that no baker should start work in any circumstances before 6 o'clock in the morning.
It is useless for hon. Members to argue that the abolition of night baking would mean a less consumption of bread. If the public want new bread they can have it, but no one in his senses would eat new bread. I am emphasising this point, because I do not want the opponents of this Measure to make an appeal to the public that the abolition of night baking means stale bread. It means nothing of the sort; it means just the opposite. There was great disappointment at the Alness report among the employers themselves and among the operatives. It is true that the National Association of Master Bakers and associations in London like the purveyors of light refreshments, went before the Committee, and said that this would ruin them. If Lord Alness had been possessed of his usual judicial wisdom, he would have said to them that they did "protest too much." They overdid it; it could not have happened in the way that they said. I appeal to the House to give this Bill a Second Reading. If it were given a Second Reading to-day, there is nothing in it that would give even the Chief Whip any trouble, and I believe that the Under-Secretary would be very well pleased if it were given a Second Reading. But whether it is given a Second Reading to-day or not, whether or not I pass over before seeing this great thing done on behalf of the baking trade, I say that it will come. The Bill may have been defeated yesterday, it may be defeated today and it may be defeated to-morrow, but as sure as the sun rises, justice will be done to human beings some time, and when that day comes I only hope that it may be remembered that I, in my day and generation, endeavoured to do what I could for the trade to which I belong, the trade of which I am proud, and the men who have followed me with their love and confidence all these years.
§ 3.52 p.m.
Captain Arthur Evans
In the few minutes which remain, I would like to 2294 take the opportunity of redeeming an election pledge which I have given at every General Election since 1922. I am sure that the House was greatly impressed by the eloquent and sincere speech of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), and likewise I hope that all hon. Members will agree that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, in his speech this afternoon, made out an unanswerable case for legislation to be introduced by the Government to deal with the industry as a whole. But I do not feel that that is a sufficient reason for our being asked to-day to reject the Bill before us. After having listened to the speeches that have been delivered on both sides, I feel that it is clear that even if a trade board is set up, as is suggested by my hon. Friend, it will be powerless to deal with the question of night baking. I observe that even under the Bill, night baking would be permitted up to the hour of 11 p.m. and if on consideration the interests affected by the Bill came to the conclusion that those hours could be altered to advantage, having regard to the men's interests and the public interest, there is no reason why a considered Amendment should not be put forward for consideration on the Committee stage. The other thing which impressed me in the Debate was that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary really admitted to the House that this is practically the only industry which is constantly employed on night work.
I was under the impression that in those cases it is possible for arrangements to be made so that the men who are employed on night work can on occasions be employed on day work. I think it is clear that in the baking industry that is not possible. I am sure that the House would welcome at a very early date the introduction of legislation dealing with the other evils which obtain in the baking industry to-day. I think the House was shocked at the conditions to which the Home Secretary drew attention, but in the meantime I think we should be advancing a most 2295 useful Measure if we gave a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Butcher
I rise to support the Amendment on grounds which have not yet I think been put before the House. Representing an agricultural constituency I am very anxious indeed to ensure that the smaller baker shall not be oppressed and put out of business by the large limited liability company or co-operative society. Those organisations have almost limitless capital resources which they can immediately mobilise, whereas the small baker must, of necessity, go to his bank not knowing whether the money is forthcoming or not, and then enter into hire-purchase agreements. At the present time, the industry is faced with the new Factories Act which comes into operation this year, and we understand that it is
§ shortly to have a trade board. The trade board can impose special rates for overtime and special rates for working extraordinary hours. While I wholeheartily support the main object of the abolition of night baking. I am not in favour of endeavouring to legislate on the lines of this Bill at the present time, because I believe that to do so would be to play right into the hands of the big firms and put hundreds of small bakers out of business. I do not identify myself with the arguments used by the hon. Member for Harrow (Sir I. Salmon), but for the reasons which I have briefly put to the House, I support the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 147; Noes, 126.2297
|Division No. 104.]||AYES.||[3.59 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hannah, I. C.||Ridley, G.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Riley, B.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Harvey, Sir G.||Ritson, J|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hayday, A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Barr, J.||Hollins, A.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Batey, J.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Jagger, J.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Shinwell, E.|
|Benson, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Short, A.|
|Bevan, A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Silkin, L.|
|Broad, F. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Bromfield, W.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kirby, B. V.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Buchanan, G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Burke, W. A.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Leach, W.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Chater, D.||Lee, F.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leslie, J. R.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lunn, W.||Stephen, C.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cove, W. G.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Daggar, G.||McEntee, V. La T.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McGhee, H. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughlon)||MacLaren, A.||Thorne, W.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Thurtle, E.|
|Day, H.||Mathers, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Maxton, J.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Dobbie, W.||Messer, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Milner, Major J.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Montague, F.||Walker, J.|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Westwood, J.|
|Frankel, D.||Muff, G.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gallacher, W.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Gardner, B. W.||Nayler, T. E.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Oliver, G. H.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Parker, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Parkinson, J. A.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Pearson, A.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Price, M. P.|
|Groves, T. E.||Pritt, D. N.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Quibell, D. J. K.||Dr. Haden Guest and Mr. Marshall.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Furness, S. N.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Raid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Assheton, R.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Scott, Lord William|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Holmes, J. S.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Hutchinson, G. C.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Keeling, E. H.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Bull, B. B.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montross)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Spens. W. P.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Storey, S.|
|Cary, R. A.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Lloyd, G. W.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark N.)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Maitland, A.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Touche, G. C.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Markham, S. F.||Wallace, Capt, Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Marsden, Commander A.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Mayhaw, Lt.-Col. J.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Cross, R. H.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Whitaley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Morgan, R. H.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|De la Bère, R.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Munro, P.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Procter, Major H. A.||Sir Assheton Pownall and|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.2298
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at Seven Minutes after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 21st February.