§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
In moving the Second Reading of the Road Haulage (Wages) Bill recently I said that it would prove to be a landmark in our industrial history, for the reason that for the first time holiday remuneration was made a matter of statutory provision. To-day we reach another landmark, for while the scope of the Bill is limited, it gives permission and power to certain authorities to fix holidays and holiday pay. It affects potentially about 2,000,000 workers—potentially. That, of course, is the unanimous recommendation of the very powerful Amulree Committee. Holidays with pay will, therefore, become a legal reality. There is wide agreement in the House that holidays for our workers are desirable and necessary. Members on all sides are convinced of their value, both from the point of view of the individual worker and from that of the general welfare of industry. An annual holiday adds greatly to the health of the worker and his family, and this in turn is reflected in his attitude to his job. An increase in the wellbeing of the individual worker means an increase in the efficiency of the industry, and this in its turn means an increase in our general wellbeing.
We all know with what eagerness we look forward to our own holidays, and how, after the holiday is over, we return to our task with renewed vigour and energy. We all desire workpeople of all grades to know the joys of a holiday as we know them ourselves. It is vital that not only should they have holidays, but holidays with pay. The good effect of a holiday to the worker is largely lost during his holiday period if he receives no pay. That is especially the case with the lower paid workers, for they cannot afford to have a holiday if they receive no pay for it. We know that many workers save week by week from their earnings in order to enjoy the fruits of holidays. In some parts of the country this has become traditional, as hon. Members who come from those parts of the 1554 country know very well. Nevertheless, there are many who find it impossible to save because their earnings are only just sufficient to keep themselves and their families, or because of expenses caused by illness or spells of unemployment or short time. In those cases payment for the holiday is essential if the worker is to get full value for it.
During recent years there has been an extension of holidays with pay and the movement has gathered speed, and indeed momentum, during the last 18 months. Holidays for salaried workers have been in general operation for many years. It has also been the custom for over 50 years for many individual firms, particularly those in the retail distributive trades, to give holidays with pay. But not until the beginning of the twentieth century did provision for holidays with pay begin to be determined by collective agreements in some of the main industries of the country. Since we are entering now upon an extended phase of attempts to obtain wider collective agreements, it might be for the convenience of the House if I stated a little of the history and background of this great movement. Some of the earliest agreements related to certain sections of the railway service, the public utility services and the newspaper printing industry. Holidays with pay for wage-earners were very rare before the Great War. After the War, and up to 1925, there was a rapid increase in the number of collective and individual agreements providing for paid holidays. This development took place side by side with the development and extension of our system of collective bargaining—a development which was greatly assisted by the Whitley councils' movement and the formation of a considerable number of joint industrial councils.
By March, 1925, it was estimated that approximately 1,500,000 manual workers were covered by collective agreements for paid holidays. During the succeeding years the pace slowed, with the result that by March, 1936, the number covered by collective agreements had risen only to between 1,500,000 and 1,750,000. Since then there has been a great step forward, and between 3,500,000 and 3,750,000 wage-earners are now covered. These, however, are not the only employed workpeople entitled to paid holidays. If we are to get a true picture of 1555 the position several millions must be added, including salaried workers, shop assistants and domestic servants, who are getting holidays other than by collective agreements. The Amulree Committee estimated that by March, 1938, annual consecutive days of holiday with pay in some form or another were provided for about 7,750,000 people—some 40 per cent. out of a total of 18,500,000 work-people in the employment field. On the basis of this estimate there must be over 8,000,000 workpeople getting holidays with pay, out of 18,500,000. That margin of 10,000,000 shows the field which there is to be covered. These figures show that very remarkable progress has been made towards what every Member of the House desires.
§ Mr. Brown
I have not read the analysis in that form, but the hon. Member will find some interesting appendices to the report of the committee. Hon. Members have taken a keen interest in this subject of holidays with pay. A private Member's Annual Holidays Bill was introduced in 1925, but made no progress. In 1929 another Bill was introduced, and got a Second Reading, although no time could be found for its further stages. Thus, nine years ago this House accepted the principle. Another Bill was brought in in 1936 by the late hon. Member for Farnworth and read a Second time. The Government on that occasion were sympathetic to the principle, and, in view of the obvious desire of all Members that the proposal should be put into practical form before steps were taken, I appointed, in March, 1937, a committee to investigate the extent to which such holidays are given and the possibility of extending their provisions by statutory enactments or otherwise. The committee was very representative. I stress that because a good deal of misunderstanding has arisen in some quarters as to its recommendations. Lord Amulree was chairman, and the committee included six representatives of employers, six of workers, and three independent members.
Evidence was taken from all the major industrial and commercial bodies concerned and other bodies interested, and 1556 the committee issued a unanimous report in April of this year. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking, on behalf of the Government and, I am sure, on behalf of hon. Members generally, all those members of the committee who gave their time to its work. We are greatly indebted to them for their very comprehensive report. In particular, I must refer to Lord Amulree, whose great experience and industrial knowledge was invaluable to the committee and under whose wise guidance the committee was able to present a remarkable report. The recommendations of the committee fall under three main heads—those proposals requiring immediate legislation, those requiring legislation at a later date, and those not requiring legislation at all. The two main recommendations which do not require legislation relate to the encouragement by the Ministry of Labour of voluntary agreements for paid holidays. [An HON. MEMBER: "What encouragement."] The hon. Member will understand that in the working of industrial relations in this country, and in collective agreements, both sides in industry in turn, and sometimes together, have found the work of the Ministry of Labour invaluable on occasions when an impartial view was wanted about a particular matter. Every Member opposite knows that that is the truth, and knows how valuable is the work of the Industrial Relations Department. It is even more effective when it is not publicly advertised and never heard of.
§ Mr. Brown
The Minister of Labour prefers to do things rather than to talk about them, and, as I am now in my fourth year, I think that is generally appreciated, not only in this House, but in the country as well. That is not to say that I cannot talk about them. With regard to what is known, in a hateful phrase, as "staggered" holidays—I hope the House will agree to bar that phrase, and talk rather about "spreading"—I have set up an Inter-Departmental Committee for the purpose of stimulating co-ordination of educational, transport, lodging and other holiday arrangements. This committee has already met, and it has been decided, as a first step, to issue a booklet containing information on the various agreements 1557 and arrangements in regard to paid holidays which are already in operation. It is felt that this will serve as a source of information to those firms which are contemplating the introduction of paid holidays and enable them to see the way in which the problem has been tackled and difficulties overcome. As I informed the House last month, I am setting up a special branch in the Ministry of Labour, for the problem of co-ordinating holiday arrangements is an important matter, which must be boldly tackled if the work-people of this country are to be enabled to take proper advantage of their holidays. Already considerable progress has been made in some directions.
It will be obvious to the House that any widespread scheme of holidays spread over the summer months must have important reactions on the schools. The Amulree Committee recommend that education authorities should endeavour to arrange school holidays so as to fit in with the industrial holidays in all areas. In the main this will be a local problem, and local education authorities will have to try to adjust their school holidays to fit in with any arrangements which may have been made for local industries. It is inevitable, however, that wider questions on a national basis should be raised if the scheme of holidays with pay is to be effective, and the Board of Education have been having conversations with various representative bodies to discuss the whole question. In the last few weeks meetings have been held at the Board of Education with local education authorities, school teachers and others. It is too early to say what decisions will be reached, but the position as it has emerged in these discussions is shortly this.
As regards the elementary schools, in those areas where industries find it most convenient to close down altogether, there should be no difficulty in adjusting school holidays accordingly. In areas where employés take their holidays spread over the summer period it will be necessary to make arrangements by which children will be permitted to absent themselves without loss of grants to the local education authorities or the schools. A more complicated problem is raised as regards the secondary schools by the incidence of the school and higher school certificate examinations, which are at present 1558 generally held in July. On this point the Board of Education has been in consultation not only with representatives of the local education authorities and teachers, but also with the university vice-chancellors and examining bodies who are most immediately affected. Many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), have raised this point. It would be unfortunate if any hasty decision were taken on this difficult piont, but the Board of Education have been most impressed by the readiness of all concerned to lose no time in examining the problem and to do all they can to facilitate the working of holidays with pay. These and kindred questions will require much thought and examination, but I am confident that under the stimulus of the Inter-departmental Committee, which is under the chairmanship of the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, it will be possible to make considerable progress in extending and co-ordinating holiday arrangements.
The Amulree Committee strongly recommend the establishment of an annual holiday with pay for industrial and kindred workers as part of the terms of the contract of employment. In order to ensure a minimum of dislocation in the settlement of the wages question, the committee propose a probationary period of at least two to three years to enable industry to make arrangements for holidays with pay by voluntary agreements through the medium of collective bargaining. I should like to stress the desirability of extending the payment of wages for holidays by means of voluntary agreement to the greatest possible extent. The smaller the field for statutory action the better. Our system of voluntary collective bargaining is one of the main safeguards of our liberty, and it has been the policy of successive Governments to foster and encourage the settlement of all questions relating to wages by voluntary agreement. I shall, therefore, do everything I can to encourage industry to deal with this question by voluntary agreements, and the good offices of my Department will be available at all times for this purpose.
The committee, accordingly, do not recommend immediate general legislation, but they suggest that there should be legislation in the 1940–41 Session, making provision for holidays with pay in industry generally. Obviously, the precise 1559 nature of the legislation must depend, as the committee point out, on developments during the next two years. It is not possible, therefore, to forecast at present the nature of the legislation which will be required, and I must repeat my assurance that the Government intend to give consideration in due course to the legislation that may be required. In the last three years, happily, we have avoided barren and bitter abstract discussion as to the abstract merits of compulsion and voluntary agreement, with the result that a swift and growing extension of holidays with pay has been, and is, taking place. The Government, however, quite realise that the recommendation of the committee, that general legislation should take place in 1940–41, was an important element in the unanimous decision which the committee was able to reach.
The report of the committee also refers to certain problems arising out of the law relating to the payment during holiday periods of contributions and benefits under the Unemployment Insurance scheme, and the report recommends that the position should be reconsidered with a view to amendment in due course. This question has been referred to the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee, and is at present under their active consideration. If necessary, I shall bring before the House at the proper time proposals for amending the law in this connection.
In the meantime, the Amulree Committee recommend early legislation on the following three subjects:—(1) giving power to trade boards, agricultural wages committees and any further statutory bodies for regulating wages, to provide for holidays with pay; (2) entitling workers in domestic service to two weeks' annual holiday with pay; and (3) giving power to the Minister of Labour to assist in the administration of special holiday schemes for industries with intermittent employment.
The Bill before the House to-day is for the purpose of implementing these recommendations, except that relating to domestic servants, which, as I have already informed the House, the Government consider can more appropriately be dealt with in connection with general legislation on the subject of paid holidays. The main object of our Bill to-day is, 1560 therefore, to enable trade boards and agricultural wages committees to provide for holidays with pay when fixing rates of wages. At the present time the power of a trade board is limited to determining wages for the time worked, and in certain circumstances for "waiting time," but it has no power either to fix holidays or to determine holiday remuneration. Similarly, agricultural wages committees, have no power to fix holidays, but many committees have in fact arranged for payment for public holidays by the expedient of reducing, in weeks containing public holidays, the number of hours on which a worker can ordinarily be required to work for the weekly minimum wage, to the extent of the time which would otherwise have been worked on the public holiday.
The House will notice that the long Title to the Bill does not limit its scope to trade boards and agricultural wages committees, but refers to "wage regulating authorities," and in the definition Clause—Clause 5—it will be seen that this also includes the Road Haulage Central Wages Board which is about to be set up under the Act which this House has just passed. Hon. Members will recollect that the Road Haulage Wages Bill gave power to the Central Wages Board to fix holiday remuneration, but the Bill being limited to dealing with questions of remuneration it was not possible to invest the board with a power to fix holidays. Accordingly, this additional power, the power to fix holidays, is now being given under this Bill so that the board will be fully equipped with powers to deal with holidays with pay. The House will see that the Bill is an enabling Bill and opens the way to paid holidays in those industries in which statutory bodies determine wages by enlarging the power of those bodies. It does not interfere with their present discretion in any way, but under Clause 1 trade boards and agricultural wages committees are limited in their power to the extent that the duration of the holiday which an employer may be required to allow is related to the duration of the period for which the worker is employed by him, and that they cannot provide for more than a week's holiday in a year, and in agriculture, not more than three of the days can be made consecutive. Apart from these restrictions, the times at which, periods within which, and circumstances in which holidays are to be given, are 1561 left for settlement by the wage regulating authorities.
Clause 2 provides that, if the wage regulating authority fixes holidays, then it must also make provision for securing that the workers concerned shall receive payment for those holidays. In other words, the Bill enables the statutory bodies to provide holidays with pay and not holidays without pay. Clause 3 provides that the same procedure for the making, cancellation and variation of Orders determining holidays and holiday remuneration shall be adopted as is at present required for wages Orders, subject to any modification in the procedure as may be prescribed in regulations which would have to be laid before Parliament. The application of the provisions of the Trade Boards Acts, Agricultural Wages Acts and the Road Haulage Wages Act to the procedure under the Bill in respect of holidays has the effect of enabling holidays and holiday remuneration to he enforced in the same way, and with the same penalties as the enforcement of minimum wages under those Acts. Some points of detail on the Bill have been brought to my notice, and together with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture, I am at present examining them, in consultation with the Confederation of Employers and the Trades Union Congress, with a view, if necessary, to submitting generally acceptable Amendments on the Committee stage.
The other part of the Bill, embodied in Clause 4, gives power to the Minister of Labour to assist in the administration of voluntary holiday schemes at the joint request of organisations of employers and workers in an industry or branch of an industry. This part of the Bill, like the first part, is not mandatory. The Amulree Committee expressed the view that in industries with intermittent employment, such as the building industry and the dock labour industry, where employment may be of a casual nature, and with many employers in the course of the year, it may be necessary to introduce some such system as the stamping of employès' cards by the employers, so that the holiday payment may be made proportionately by the various employers who employed the worker. The Ministry of Labour already possesses an administrative machine—the Employment Ex- 1562 changes—and accordingly the Bill enables that machine to be used to assist in the administration of holiday schemes if the parties to the scheme so desire. In particular, power is given to issue on behalf of employers sums by way of holiday payments, and provision is made for paying to the Minister any holiday payments so issued together with any administrative expenses attributable to the scheme—a course, which, I am sure, will commend itself to the House. At the present time the Minister of Labour has power by virtue of Section 100 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1935, to assist in the administration of schemes for the promotion of greater regularity of employment in industry, and Clause 4 of the Bill follows closely this Section of the Insurance Act, and I feel sure that the additional power which is taken will be welcomed in all parts of the House, and indeed, specially in those industries where there is a good deal of intermittent employment.
I am sure that the House will agree that the Bill is a timely and welcome one. There has been no period in history when holidays were so necessary. There are no people who need them more than the strenuous folk in these islands. Our cities are vast and crowded and we all need the fresh air, the sunshine, the quiet winds and the sudden squalls which are our heritage. We live at too great a speed. We live more rapidly than men have ever lived before, although it was a Greek playwright who pointed the aphorism in his day:Whirl is king, having driven out Zeus.So the problem of speed was known to the ancient Greeks.
§ Mr. Brown
I agree that Welsh is a very beautiful language, but I would hesitate to make that deduction, because Greek, on the whole, has finer shades of meaning than any other language that I have read anything about. I appreciate to the full the desire of the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) to call attention to the undoubted beauties and pictorial nature of the Welsh language, 1563 and he will forgive me for replying to an interruption of that kind. In the early days of underground railways we used to be grimly faced by the demand "Please Hurry on to the Lift." The "Please" was written in diamond type and the "Hurry" could be read a quarter of a mile away. In this atmosphere of push and rush it is no wonder that the movement for holidays with pay has taken on swift momentum. Regular summer holidays give ordinary folk the one fine and gracious opportunity to rest and be quiet if they so desire. Mrs. Poyser may have left descendants, but they must be few to-day who would say with her:I'd sooner ha' brewing day and washing day together than one o' these pleasurin' days. There's no work so tiring as dangling about an' starin', and not rightly knowin' what you're goin' to do next,—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—an' keepin' your face in smilin' order, like a grocer o' market day; for fear people shouldna' think you civil enough.No cheers there.An' you've nothin' to show for it when its done, if it isn't a yellow face wi' eatin' things as disagree.Despite Mrs. Poyser, the pessimistic paradox of the ancient philosopher:Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.is rarely true of a holiday. In these islands there are an infinite variety of beauty spots and health-giving towns and villages for people of all tastes and means. They can be reached by every kind of transport. It is generally recognised now throughout the whole nation that our people ought more readily to possess their possessions in the sky, the sea, the air, the moor, the river, the field, the hills and valleys and mountains and all the beauties which are so richly to be found inside these islands. They can either obtain quiet or rest, or, if they choose, they can go to the bustle of the big amusement centres, whether over a period, or following the customary local holidays, regattas and fairs. I am of the opinion that holidays with pay for all is rapidly becoming a national ideal. To-day we are enabling those who work under our wage regulating authorities equally with their industrial fellows to take steps, if they wish, to forward this reform. The Bill has meaning for the 1564 countryman who may desire a chance to explore the treasures and opportunities to be found in all our towns and cities to come to London, the wonder city of the world. Hon. Members may smile about that, but I am sure that the ordinary countryman will be glad to see this issue raised in agricultural wages committees because of this Bill.
I hope that every Member of the House will take the view which was taken unanimously by the Amulree Committee, that it is the wisest way to approach the problem, and that they will agree, whatever may be said from the point of view of party politics, that at any rate I cannot be charged with having tried to set this problem in anything but a national setting in order to get the maximum agreement to be found anywhere for what the people want, and, I believe, the nation wants them to have. I say that this Bill has meaning to the countrymen. It will enable this question to be discussed by the wages committees. It is very wonderful in these islands how, when things are put to practical discussion, we find a way of doing the things which the majority of the residents of our islands desire to do. I could have wished that this power had come a little earlier and then some of the countrymen in Scotland and in some parts of England might not only have come to London, but have gone to Glasgow, as most of us will, to look at the Empire Exhibition which is there to be seen until 8th October.
§ Mr. Brown
If the hon. Gentleman will look at the railways bills he will see how cheaply and how quickly it can be done. The Bill has meaning also for the townsmen. It enables arrangements to be made for them to enjoy their heritage. All the loveliness of our country is theirs, and the paid holiday will help them to enjoy it, whether sunshine, cloud, the sea, the river, the moor or the stream. It is a great national heritage, and our poets have written most lovely things about it. This subjest is a subject for poetry. Our people ought to have the right to enter into the spirit of the beautiful things that are appreciated by 1565 the poetic mind. It is a national heritage which ought to be more fully enjoyed. It has inspired the poets to sing of
That is a heritage for us to preserve, to enrich and to share more widely. Hon. Members may smile at quotations of poetry from the great poets, but there are hundreds of thousands of people who appreciate the poetry which is our national heritage. Poetry is one of the characteristics of our nation. We are known throughout the world as being severely practical, and we were once called a nation of shopkeepers, but we have enriched the world by an unrivalled range of great poetry. The poets have spoken the deep instincts and feelings of our people.
- "The light that never was on sea or land."
- "The silence that is in the starry skies."
- "The sleep that is among the lonely hills."
- "The sea that bares her bosom to the moon."
- "The winds that will be howling at all hours."
Perhaps I may be excused this afternoon for my sentiment, but I was born by the sea and cradled in Devon, and it is, therefore, very natural that I should find great pleasure in introducing this enabling Bill to the House. If, as I hope and believe, there is a general desire in the House to make its passage easy as a non-contentious Measure, it can be passed into law before we go for our own holidays at the end of the month. I realise that the Bill is brought forward at a very late stage in the Session, and if it proves to be contentious in any way it will not be possible to pass it before the Recess. In that case it will have to be held over until the autumn, but I do not expect that. At such a time as this, when the thoughts of hon. Members in every part of the House are turned towards a respite from our labours and the enjoyment of a period of holiday, I am sure that we shall all look upon the Bill with sympathy. In moving the Second Reading, I ask for that sympathy to be expressed in a practical form.
I hope the whole House will support the Measure, which empowers wage regulating authorities, covering 2,000,000 of workpeople, if and when they so desire, to provide holidays with pay for them. The Road Haulage Wages Bill was the first statutory milestone along the road of holidays with pay. This Bill is the 1566 second milestone, and I ask the House to give it a unanimous Second Reading, in order to help the nation in its progress towards the ultimate ideal of holidays with pay for all classes of the community.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Clynes
The right hon. Gentleman, in praising the work and testifying to the usefulness of his Department, has frequently given us displays of that cultivated modesty which has been so unstinted in his speech this afternoon. We delighted to hear those poetical citations, and the several classical and literary allusions were also welcome. Although not technically out of order, I regard them as being actually out of place in relation to a Bill of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman on what I thought would be that part of his speech which would be absolutely definite and reassuring, namely, what it is proposed to do in relation to 1940–41, was so vague and unconvincing that I wondered what his actual instructions are.
For The most part, this Bill will authorise people to do that which they can now do without any authorisation at all. It is as well for us to glance at the history of this subject. There have been three previous decisions in this House, but never a decision here against the principle of holidays with pay. It was in Committee upstairs, some 18 months ago, that an adverse decision was given on an Amendment which would have so mutiliated and destroyed the value of the Bill that the Bill was withdrawn. I think we are entitled to express thanks and reverence for the way in which Mr. Rowson, the late hon. Member for the Farnworth Division, fought that Amendment, therefore bringing his labours nearer to fruition. The first decision of this House was reached 13 years ago. In the interval the House has passed through a period of exploration of what some call the experimental application of ideas and proposals.
Inasmuch as we on these benches have been upbraided for not doing certain things in 1929, it is as well to remember just what we did. We were a minority Government, compelled to yield to the desires of superior numbers. We measured the pace at which it was possible to go, and we did at least grant holidays with pay to a very large number of public servants who had not previously received 1567 them. In that way we gave proof of our eagerness to be as good as our pledges and to keep faith with our principles. We reached at last the stage of general inquiry, and I agree that in matters that are complicated and arouse a clash of opinions and different interests, inquiry by such a committee as has sat on this question is very often essential. I join with the right hon. Gentleman in praising the committee and its chairman, because there is a great deal of valuable and historical information in the report now before us. The report is before us largely because the agitation for paid holidays has been ceaseless. As a great Member of this House, John Bright, said many years ago:Agitation is the lever by which grievances are removed, and if you cease to make demands no one will meet your wishes.Accordingly, we have been insistent in educating the people and in pressing the demands of public opinion on this House with regard to this question, and to-day we have the helpful report of the committee. It is a great satisfaction that the decisions of the committee are unanimous. It is, therefore, a great disappointment that in one very important matter the right hon. Gentleman is not following the decision of the committee. This Bill is much below the minimum that we had a right to expect. It is less than the least that any Government ought to have embodied in the Bill, with such advice and recommendations as the committee have given.
No part of the Bill is mandatory. It does not compel anybody to do anything. Therefore, it is not based on the general principle on which our legislation ought to be based. It only permits people to do something if they wish to do it. Virtually, it will enable any group of employers to frustrate and destroy the demands of the workmen if they continue to say "No" to any appeal that may be made for holidays with pay. What is it that we demand as against what is contained in this Bill? Our proposal is to secure legal enforcement of holidays with pay by means of a general law laying down certain minimum requirements, but leaving the detailed arrangements to be settled by collective negotiation within the particular industry and within the framework of the law itself. That is the usual line for legal enactments to follow in 1568 this House and in the country. Employers under this Bill can decide to do nothing at all, if that is their opinion.
The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the more fortunate salaried persons in this country have had holidays with pay for a very long time. Eighty years ago holidays for salaried employès were established on a considerable scale, but holidays for the wage earners in the main touched by this Bill did not begin until about the end of the last century. In making this claim we are not making a class appeal. It is not for the gain merely of the workers that we are demanding holidays with pay. The committee itself stresses that fact, and I should like to read their views. There are more than 10,000,000 workers who are not yet provided with anything like annual consecutive holidays with pay in any form, and the committee on that point say:It cannot, in our view, be denied that an annual holiday contributes in a considerable measure to the workpeople's happiness, health and efficiency, and we feel that the extension of the taking of consecutive days of holiday annually by workpeople would be of benefit to the community.It is, therefore, a great step in social advantage and not merely a class benefit that we are demanding. The Minister referred to the fact that most things in these days are speeded up. The pressure of work has been, and is, a matter of concern in relation to health, and the committee particularly emphasise that fact. They say:Employment was in many instances more exacting than previously owing to rationalisation, speeding up, mechanisation and the growth of dull repetitive work, and industry was changing at a greater rate than ever before, thus imposing on the workpeople the strain of constant re-adjustment. Nervous strain was accordingly having an increasing influence on the personnel of modern industry, and the approved societies of the trade unions were reporting more cases of nervous breakdown than previously.Lord Baldwin, in one of his speeches not long ago, reminded us that in his younger days a case of nervous breakdown was very rare, but now it is a common thing, and Lord Baldwin drew attention to it.
The employer's mind as well as the worker's mind was revealed in the committee. About that the right hon. Gentleman has not said a word. He would have us believe that if you bring two parties together there will be mutual settlement and agreement upon what one of 1569 the parties may be claiming. That is not our experience. The committee say:Much evidence was given to us by employers' federations urging that statutory holidays with pay would have an unfortunate effect upon the general negotiating machinery of this country. It was stated that the imposition upon industry by law of an item so intimately connected with the general wage nexus as holidays with pay would undermine the principle of voluntary negotiation and the spirit in which it was normally conducted.Indeed, we have heard speakers when addressing themselves to this question argue that to pass this Bill would diminish the level and quality of trade union freedom. To some extent they are the men who stood and watched with glee the partisan action of a majority of this House in 1927, when it imposed the most severe restraints on trade unions and took from them a freedom which every other organisation and institution in the country enjoys, namely, the freedom to decide and carry on their own internal business by the decision of a majority of their own members. That is the freedom which they took from trade unions at that time—the right of majority rule. Let us see how far this precious voluntary negotiation which is submitted in the Bill, has brought us in the last 20 years. It has meant that after 20 years' effort to come to a settlement and conclusion on these matters, five out of every six manual workers in the country are still without holidays. If that is the pace at which we are to travel, I prefer a law compelling unwilling employers to come up to the level of the more enlightened employers in the country. The worst aspect of this matter is that the five out of every six who are left out are in the main men who are most deserving of holidays. They are the men in the basic industries, engineering and mining—
§ Mr. Clynes
I know that the Miners' Federation are very concerned because if the Bill becomes law they have no assurance whatever that these negotiations will end in a satisfactory conclusion for the wage earners. I can say that with the deepest regret of the cotton industry. Repeated appeals have been made for a 1570 number of years by the cotton operatives to the employers without avail, and I am not so sure that if we are to be left with what is termed "voluntary negotiation," instead of this plan resulting in industrial peace, it may very well be the beginning of serious industrial conflict, for bodies of men are not going to allow themselves to be deprived of a right which is enjoyed by millions of their fellow workers. The employers have also used the argument of cost in this matter of holidays. They say that most of the operatives in the Lancashire towns succeed in going away to holiday resorts during the customary yearly week of summer holidays, and that they are able to save sufficient from their weekly wages to meet the expense. Even if it is true that most of the large army of cotton operatives in Lancashire are able to find holidays with pay out of their savings, that would still leave a very large number who would not be included. The greater the need the greater the response ought to be on the part of this House.
From my own early experience I know what it means to save money. It was the custom 55 years ago in the Lancashire mills to set aside a little weekly amount of the wage. It is the custom still, and to do this means a sacrifice. My weekly 6d. later on became 1s., and eventually was double that amount. That was a large amount to take out of one's wages in those days, and this 6d., or 1s., or 2s., which is set aside as a saving for holidays, must also be counted with many other shillings which have to be set aside for this thing and the other. That is a large deduction from the average wage of the worker. I am glad to see that in one part of this report something is said by way of approval of the national savings movement. I do not want to discourage saving. It is necessary to save supplementary to anything which might be received as pay for holidays. If workers go on holiday, their cost of living goes up; there are a good many expenses during the period of the holidays, and it is essential that when they go to the seaside they should have something more than their bare weekly wage if they are to get the full benefit of the holiday. I am glad to see what is said in the report about the national savings movement.
As to the cost, I am not going deeply into that matter now, but I should like to cite one or two facts which have been 1571 previously quoted in this House illustrating the cost in the coalfield and proving how little it would amount to. The statement was that the cost in the coal trade would be equal to only 2¾d. per ton per year, a fraction so small that even the industry with all its difficulties can very well afford it. I allege that the cost in all those industries which have provided holidays with pay has in no sense been an injury to those trades. Some hon. Members who are listening to me might have in mind certain industries and occupations which might be hard hit to find the money. Let them turn their minds to the provoking instances of excessive profits which arouse indignation when we read of them in the public Press. It is indeed the more essential and indispensible of our industries which afford less rewards to those who work in them and to those who invest their capital in them. In a summary given in the "Evening Standard" the other day, I saw the names of gentle ladies of high position and title who are in the enjoyment of 25 per cent. dividends from their rather ample, indeed very large, holdings in aeroplane factories. That is not the highest. Some have given 40 per cent., and you can see some reports of companies which have declared a dividend of 100 per cent. So excessive are the figures that no one can really argue that our industries cannot afford to give the right to holidays to which the working classes are entitled.
The right to holidays with pay is already secured to certain classes of workmen in a number of other countries. We are not taking a step which has not been taken long ago in other lands. Legislation providing for paid holidays has been passed by foreign countries. We are only following an example—not setting one. The right hon. Gentleman made a brief allusion to agricultural workers. They represent our most essential body of employès, they are an indispensible group of wealth producers in this country and should come first in our estimation of rewards. As a matter of fact, they come nearly last. We are only now beginning to think of them justly and with sympathy. A statement circulated by the National Union of Agricultural Workers contains this statement: 1572A week's holiday is always understood to mean at least six consecutive working days, and, so far as agricultural workers are concerned, they see no reason why there should be any differentiation between themselves and the other workers covered by wage regulating machinery.The right hon. Gentleman was silent on that point. He displayed a keenness to avoid difficulties and to face awkward facts. The statement goes on to say:Three days' holiday will not give time enough for an agricultural worker, his wife and family, to leave the neighbourhood to obtain that necessary rest and change to which they are as much entitled as any other worker and his family.I think we should have had some attempt to justify the differentiation as between agricultural workers and other workers who are covered by the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman says that in this matter they are following the suggestion of the Committee, if that is the argument for doing so in this case, why then is the right hon. Gentleman leaving domestic service workers out of the Bill altogether when there is a definite recommendation relating to domestic service workers in the report? They are the least able to enter into any voluntary agreement. They are only just beginning, I am sorry to say, to organise on any extensive scale, and, therefore, a voluntary agreement is not likely to be applied in the case of domestic workers between now and the approach of any other legislation. In the nature of things there is nothing in law or custom to regulate the hours of domestic workers, fix standards of pay, or conditions of employment, and the least Parliament might have done for this body of workers was to provide this one advantage for them in view of the benefits enjoyed by well organised workers. The fact that most of them are women ought not to deter men from taking the case in hand.
There is, indeed, a body of women in the country, the mothers, who are never referred to in this regard. They are not an organised body, they do not receive a wage, they do most of their work without payment, not only during the holiday period, but in the long interval between holidays, and they take enough to keep themselves alive as their payment. The mother is nurse, cook-general, household manager, and kitchen drudge combined, and inasmuch as there is no limit to the hours she has to work, I think the least 1573 we can do is to see that some form of provision is made, by law, if necessary, or by the pressure of public opinion, to enable mothers to have at least one good holiday a year in exchange for the indispensable services which they render. I remember that at the beginning public opinion resisted anything like the central establishment of education, but we have now reached the stage where parents are compelled to send their children to school, and we take that as being so commonplace that we forget the resistance which there was originally. I think that some law should be passed compelling mothers to take a rest at the seaside at least once a year. That would be only a slight reward for their bountiful services.
I share with the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour the hope that this Bill will not be resisted. I trust that a number of omissions to which I have alluded, and to which, no doubt, other hon. Members will refer, will be repaired, and that in the Committee stage Amendments will be received with sympathy. Is there any hon. Member who can vote against this Bill? The proposals submitted by the Government will not provide a paid holiday for any of the 10,000,000 to whom I have referred. All the Bill does is to give to the trade boards and the agricultural wages committees power to make voluntary agreements, if the employers are willing. The right hon. Gentleman did not refer to that qualification about the employers being willing. We do not praise this Bill, but we receive it; and we shall press for a better one. Yielding to a demand which they could no longer resist, the Government have gone the length of bringing forward a tiny Bill.
We shall not cease pleading until the full measure of a fortnight's holiday with pay has been conferred by Act of Parliament as a right upon the wage-earners of this country. When in later years the Minister of Labour is replaced by a Labour Minister, it is very likely that the Measure which we want now will then be introduced. In the meantime, we admit that we cannot wait for a perfect working model, and, therefore, we take this Bill, the most which the Government will concede, and the least which the most pessimistic person ever hoped would be introduced. We shall not do anything to delay the application of the provisions of the Measure during this 1574 year, for in spite of our climate and the other erratic conditions of life which we have to face, there may still be an opportunity for a few to benefit from the Bill, which we receive as a little instalment of the great inheritance to which we are entitled.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I support the Second Reading of this small permissive Measure, which I hope will be placed on the Statute Book in the quickest possible time. We are approaching a period of the year when we are looking forward to our holidays, and it is a tragedy to think that there are millions of people in this country who, in approaching the same period of the year, cannot see any prospect of a holiday in front of them because they have not the financial resources to make one possible. I do not think there could be any more popular reform carried out by the House than holidays with pay. Unless they are holidays with pay, they are not holidays, for one cannot have holidays without pay. That point was very vividly brought to my attention during the Committee stage of the Factory Bill, when I ventured to move an Amendment to the effect that the Saturday of Easter week-end should be made a statutory holiday. I suppose that, in moving that Amendment, I was thinking of the employés in my own industry, but it seemed to me that it would be a splendid idea if we could arrange for all workers to have Good Friday, Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, as holidays with pay. The Amendment was rather generally resisted on the ground that there would certainly be people who could not afford to make it a holiday, and who would lose the money which they could otherwise earn on that Saturday.
Not only is pay required during holidays, but something more is needed, for obviously two homes have to be kept going, one in an industrial city, perhaps, and the other a temporary home at the seaside, unless, as some people do, the holidays are spent under canvas, in caravans or in youth hostels. I do not think that sort of thing ought to be encouraged too much, because we do not want the wife and mother to be in the position that during the holiday she has to work just as hard for the family as she does at home. She ought to be able to 1575 enjoy herself while others do the household work during that time. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour was very enthusiastic about the Bill, and he enlarged in eloquent language on the moors and the mountains over which the workers wander during their holidays. If that is to be the case, other Measures besides this Bill will have to be passed. For instance, the Access to Mountains Bill will have to be passed, because in Scotland, Derbyshire and in other parts people are not allowed to walk in the mountains and on the moors—
§ Mr. Mander
There are other places besides Devonshire. The Government will also have to pay some attention to the question of national parks, on which there was a report in 1931. Unless action on a national scale is taken to control and encourage them, there is a grave risk that the opportunities of wandering about, as the Minister suggested, may be seriously curtailed. This Bill represents a short step. I would very much have preferred legislation giving a fortnight's holiday with pay to all workers. Nevertheless, the Bill represents a certain step forward. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour is so diffident and so reluctant in claiming any credit and praise for himself in this matter that I would like to say that it is due a good deal to his genuine enthusiasm that even this small Bill has been brought forward.
I think it is true to say that until now the Government have done everything they could to resist holiday with pay. They resisted Private Members' Bills in the past, and it was only when the pressure of urgent public opinion began to play upon them with full force that they realised what a desirable thing holidays with pay are. Perhaps it was the thought that there might be some sudden squall at a by-election which caused them to see the importance of such a Measure. Although the Bill is permissive, it is an essential step towards carrying out the recommendations of the Committee on Holidays with Pay.
I hope that it will be possible, on a voluntary basis, to go a very long way towards providing holidays with pay, but action on those lines cannot cover the 1576 whole field. We should be deceiving ourselves if we thought that we could do without further legislation later on. In my own constituency, for instance, the Joint Industrial Council in the lock, latch and key industry have recently agreed on a fortnight's holiday with pay. That is very satisfactory for them, but there is a very large number of small works, having few employés, who are not well organised and many of whom are not in trade unions—and the position must be the same in other parts of the country—who have not the slightest chance of getting holidays with pay by means of voluntary agreements between employers and employès. It is essential that further legislative steps should be envisaged. In this connection, I was very sorry that the Minister of Labour was not more definite, and that he did not say whether the Government accepted the recommendation contained in paragraph 143 of the report of the Committee on Holidays with Pay, which reads:We strongly recommend that an annual holiday with pay should be established, without undue delay, as part of the terms of the contract of employment of all employés as defined in paragraph 153.In paragraph 150, it is stated:During the Parliamentary Session of 1940–41 legislation should be passed making provision for holidays with pay in industry generally.Do the Government accept that recommendation or do they not? All that the Minister would say was that the Government would consider what to do about it when the time came. I think the country would be very satisfied to know—and I am sure the Minister would like to be able to say—that the Government are determined at all costs to pass the necessary legislation to see that no one is omitted from the benefits of holidays with pay. Of course, it is a good thing to give power to the Trade Boards and Agricultural Wages Committees to give holidays with pay, but that power is given in a rather grudging manner. The Committee on Holidays with Pay reported that there should be at least a week's holiday, but the Bill refers to holidays not exceeding one week. Why not act in the spirit of the report of the committee, and give the trade boards and the agricultural wages committees power to give more than a week, if the employers want to do so.
1577 With regard to domestic servants, I cannot see why they should be omitted from the Bill. To omit them is to reject one of the important recommendations of the committee. The Government have turned down that recommendation. No doubt good employers give their domestic servants a fortnight's holiday with pay, but the question arises as to whether it should not be with board wages. There are a great many cases where the domestic servants cannot be sure of getting holidays, and it was for that reason that the recommendation was made by the committee. Why have the Government not carried out that recommendation? In my opinion, it is because, at this stage of the Session, it would be putting rather too great a strain on the Primrose Dames and others in different habitations from whom the Government draw so much support. It would be very unpopular with the mistresses. That is the reason why the Government are not prepared to face the music on this question. I hope that in due course they will find themselves able to do something for a body of employees, who have great difficulty in bringing any pressure to bear on the Government of the day. I am glad that the Minister has been able to announce the setting up of a branch in the Ministry to deal with the necessary arrangements for "staggering" holidays as the term is. We cannot make progress unless attention is given to these details. Employers' organisations in some towns are making local inquiries to see whether it is possible to agree on a particular week being generally recognised as their holiday week. That is one of the steps which may have to be taken.
The right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about another of the recommendations, namely, that which concerns the fixing of Easter. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will make some reference to that matter in his reply. The House is entitled to know whether the Government feel able to do anything about it. Obviously it would be a great advantage if it could be arranged that the Easter holiday would always take place in summer time—some time in April—in accordance with the Bill which was passed some time ago. I know that there are difficulties, but I hope the Government are studying the possibilities in that respect. Clause 4 of the Bill marks 1578 another advance. It enables the Government to deal with those workers who are continually changing their employment, and it involves the admission by the Minister that something which he declared not long ago to be impossible has now been found possible. We have always been told that technical and administrative difficulties would make it impracticable to carry out any scheme of the kind embodied in Clause 4. I am glad that those difficulties have been overcome here, just as they have been overcome in other countries, and that the British Government and the Ministry of Labour have found it possible to take this obviously wise step.
According to the terms of the report it is now 80 years ago since holidays with pay were first introduced. The weekly half-holiday was, on a very small scale, the beginning of holidays with pay. Reference is made in the report to the evidence submitted on the question of when holidays with pay were first introduced in factories in this country. According to the evidence given it was something over 50 years ago. I hope the House will permit me to say that the firm with which I happen to be associated introduced holidays with pay a long time before that. They have been continued with great success ever since, and I am sure that every employer in his own interests would desire to introduce them.
I should like to refer to my experience in connection with savings for holidays. As I said earlier, more than the actual week's or fortnight's pay is needed to make a holiday a real success. We have an arrangement by which the workers voluntarily pay something slightly in excess of 3s. per week out of their wages into a fund which is invested in the trustee savings bank. It is drawn out by them just before the August holiday and is also drawn on to some extent at other statutory holiday periods like Easter and Whitsuntide. I hope that encouragement will be given by employers to schemes of that kind which go a long way towards making the holiday a success when it comes.
This Bill is a short step and I hope that before long we shall be able to go the whole way. Why should the wage-earner be treated differently from other classes in society? In this respect there has existed a definite class distinction. 1579 The office staff of a works always get holidays with pay and who ever heard of a director going on holidays except on full pay? Parliament is soon to adjourn and Ministers, including the right hon. Gentleman, will be going on holiday. The right hon. Gentleman will probably spend a part of the three months' vacation in Devonshire on his favourite beach, and at sea, but he will do so on full pay. If it is right for him, it is also right for the weekly wage-earner in a factory. When the Measure dealing with the payment of Ministers was before the House I tried to move an Amendment—it turned out not to be in order—to the effect that no payment should be made to Ministers for holiday periods, until all other citizens enjoyed the same privilege. If that Amendment had been carried this Bill would not have been necessary. The whole question would have been settled long ago. I hope, therefore, as a result of the short step which we are taking today, and of the further step which obviously we must take in the next few years, that there will be established a real equality of opportunity between all classes of His Majesty's subjects in the matter of holidays with pay.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Hicks
I wish to say at the outset that I welcome this Measure, limited though it is, as a contribution to the solution of a very important question. The number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who jumped up in their places when the last speaker sat down showed that there is great anxiety to speak on this subject, and I am not under the delusion that those who are here are all waiting to hear what I have to say on the subject. I was very pleased with the manner in which the Minister of Labour introduced the subject. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be having a holiday himself, and I am sure all hon. Members in the House welcomed his designation of himself as "the silent Minister." A good deal of education is yet required upon this subject. I was privileged to be a member of the committee which inquired into it, and there was unfolded to me by various representatives of industry terrible and harrowing tales of the distressed condition of industry. I felt inclined several times to ask those witnesses to go back to the 1580 places from which they came and to say that I would pay their railway fares as the industries which they represented were obviously unable to do so. Therefore, as I say, a great deal of public education is yet necessary in this connection. I am sure that Mrs. Poyser, for instance, will require to be educated in it.
I am sorry that the Minister has not found it possible to make some reference to the Government's intentions in 1940–41. I fancy that the success which has attended the discussions between the representatives of the employers and of the workpeople on this question, in the last year or two has been largely conditioned by the fact that there was a committee dealing with the question, and a great deal of public attention was being given to it. Each industry was informed that it would be required to give evidence, and consequently public attention and discussion were aroused, creating a desire among a large number of industries to approach the problem with a view to effecting some arrangement. But if the Government do not give some indication that in 1940 or 1941 they intend to implement the rest of the report, then, I imagine, there will be a great deal of dilly-dally and evasion between now and then.
§ Mr. Hicks
Yes, but there is continuity of policy in this country and if the Government declare their definite intention of bringing in legislation in the Session of 1940–41, establishing a fortnight's holiday with pay, then in the event of a Labour Government replacing them, that Labour Government, I am sure, will gladly take over the responsibility. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to make some reference in his reply to the position of domestic servants. The Bill deals specifically with those workers which are within the jurisdiction of the trade boards and the Agricultural Wages Board and the Road Haulage Wages Board. I understood it was said that those boards had power now to do these things.
§ Mr. Hicks
No, I think it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). I believe that the trade boards and the Agricultural Wages Board and 1581 the Road Haulage Wages Board, have not the power to deal with this matter unless it is specifically given to them as is proposed in the Bill.
§ Mr. Hicks
I do not know what will happen in the case of agricultural workers. We tried hard to have them treated on the same plane as other workers, but with a view to securing a unanimous report there had necessarily to be a great deal of adaptation between what we originally desired and what was eventually done. For my own part I attached my signature to the report believing it to be a definite contribution. The agricultural industry, in particular instances such as the co-operative farms and some of the better-placed farms, does grant a week's holiday with pay, but on the other hand I am satisfied that in a very large number of cases no such concession is made. In the committee I expressed the opinion that agricultural workers ought to have holidays, and one man said to me, "I grant my men 26 days in the year." I said that was splendid and that it was a pity that it had not been brought out in the evidence, but when I came to examine the matter more closely I found that what he meant was that his men did not work every Sunday, but had alternate Sundays off. He regarded that as 26 holidays in the year. He said that in that industry it was necessary to work every day because they had to feed cattle and so on.
Having regard to the hard and heavy work of the countryside, the agricultural worker needs a proper holiday. I cannot see that such a holiday is possible within the limits of the provision as to the three consecutive days, although that is not compulsory. If a majority of the Wages Board desire to make it six consecutive days then, as far as I can see, they will have the power to do so. It seems to me that the question of change of environment and mental rest enters into this matter. Such change is necessary to restore bodily health and vigour. I am sure we shall not be satisfied until there is the generally recognised position in the country that every worker is entitled to a fortnight's holiday with pay, and I am certain that we shall not regard it as reasonable until that is established. We are on the road to that, and I am very happy to know that we have broken 1582 through the prejudices which have been entertained on this question. It has been stated that there is a large number of people who are now enjoying holidays with pay, but it is mainly those who have not been making things. The people who have actually been making the articles and commodities which have made this country the envy of the world and so rich and powerful in its national and international influence are the people who have been denied holidays with pay, and it is the others who have had them. I am not resentful at their having them, but it has not been the actual workers who have had them, and to have got the question on to the plane of being considered a practical policy is, in my opinion, a very definite advance.
It is necessary to say that we are lagging behind on this question, for abroad they have a legal right to holidays with pay in 38 countries. It is rather a sad commentary on a great country like ours, one of the first to be industrialised, that we have not been able to take a lead in this matter. In France there are 15 days holiday with pay, and at least 12 of those have to be working days. In Norway there are nine annual days as a minimum, and in the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics there is a legal minimum of 12 days per year.
§ Mr. Hicks
I should say that it would be observed as much there as it would be in a number of other countries. I think they have regarded holidays with pay as a necessary condition of health, and I believe that this country would have benefited very substantially had it taken the same line. If the employers in this country generally have not been killing, they have certainly been debilitating, the goose that lays the golden eggs, by not giving it the opportunity to go away and take the necessary rest and recreation, both for body and mind. This country was the first to develop industry on a large scale, and that is one of the chief reasons why this country should have been one of the first to have tackled this problem of holidays with pay. During the past two centuries our workers have laboured unceasingly, with wonderful skill and capacity, such as have never been excelled in any part of the world, and kept us foremost in the world of industry and commerce. Generation after 1583 generation of our people have been subjected to the rigours and discipline of industry, and sometimes it has been pretty hard.
My right hon. Friend the Member for the Platting Division spoke of the fact of the intense industrialisation, mechanisation, and rationalisation of our country. Changes and innovations and invasions have taken place in the ordinary habits of life of our people, all disturbing and having a profound effect upon them, mentally as well as physically, and unless something of this kind is given, to rest their ragged and jagged nerves, I am confident that we shall not be getting the best out of our people. Not only has the delay been a reflection upon our general progress, but the neglect has been damaging to our general standard of health. The medical evidence that we can get from our friendly societies and from the National Health Insurance Act testify, without any possibility of doubt, to the damaging effects upon the health of our people.
Holidays without pay, so far as the workers are concerned, are simply days of wretched unemployment. I have been a building trade worker, and during the whole of the time that I was engaged as an operative in that industry I never had a holiday with pay. I certainly had the Good Friday, the Saturday, and Monday, and we used to know how long it was from then until Whitsuntide, because it was six weeks, and we waited with apprehension and fear that the weather would be so bad as not to permit of our going to work in order to recover from the enforced idleness that we had previously suffered. That is not my experience only; it is the common experience to-day. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) was asking for some consideration of the question of changing the statutory holidays. We are making some comments about that matter, as the Minister will know, and asking for consideration of the question of introducing spring holidays, to start with summer time, and not necessarily limiting the holidays to Whitsuntide, August, and Christmas, as is now the case.
In the building industry, apart from some local authorities and co-operative societies and some private firms who now give paid holidays, there are at least 800,000 people who have no holidays with 1584 pay at all, and I am hoping that the building trade employers will go into this matter. I am not opposed to the recommendation in regard to an interim period between the report and the time when it will take effect later on. I want to see the healthy establishment of organisations of workers and employers who will be willing to examine the economics of their respective industries and to see, in the light of the experience of other industries, how far they are able mutually to evolve a system of holidays with payment which will be workable inside their respective industries; and I want the Government, after a reasonable time has elapsed and in the event of failure to come to an agreement, to insist upon the making of such arrangements unless there are extraordinary reasons why particular industries should be excused.
Statutory bank holidays are days stood off, and not holidays at all. Holidays involve extra expense. When people go away on holiday it may be a question of extra clothes, and there are certainly the railway or the charabanc fares and the lodgings at the seaside or wherever they may go. If they go to the seaside, it is very often a question of shoes, sand shovels, and buckets, which may not appear very important to people with extensive pockets, but which to the working-class family certainly are matters of importance. Then there are the ordinary entertainments and amusements which you are expected to give, and there must be thousands of people spending holidays now whose cost of living, lodgings, and so on make them rather dread the end of the holidays. The workers of this country simply must have holidays in order to be able to restore themselves to health. Is it any wonder that Lord Horder, who is a medical authority to whose capacity to judge we shall all pay profound respect, refers to the incidence of functional or nervous troubles and the many minor disabilities traceable to the speeding-up, mechanisation, and rationalisation of factories in industry? If a really strong barrier is to be set up against the mounting tide of physical and nervous human energy in our community, I am certain that we must have this holiday, not only a week, but a fortnight, in order to be able to get the full benefits to which we are entitled.
1585 Vital as holidays are to the health of the people, I think they are especially vital to the health of our industrial economy, and that is a point which the employers' side must look at, as well as at the moral claim of the workers to have opportunities for rest and recreation. In all industrial countries great strides have been made in industrialisation, and the wealth-producing capacity of every individual worker has been enormously increased. Laboursaving machinery, modern intensified and vastly extended methods of production are increasingly rendering human labour less and less necessary. We have reached a stage where we must decide between longer holidays or protracted unemployment. If it is a fact that our industrial machine to-day is rendering human labour less necessary, and if our wealth is expanding, we have either to agree to lower the hours of labour very substantially or to give longer holidays. There is a good deal of opposition to face. You can get moral approval for holidays with pay, but the moment you get down to anywhere near making it practical, there is opposition. We are getting to this stage, that with the enormous development of wealth production and the rendering less necessary of human labour, we must have either protracted unemployment or longer holidays. The number of unemployed that we now have, amounting to some 1,800,000, is very likely to be intensified during the coming winter. We all hope that the figures will be diminished and that the opportunities for employment will be extended, but I am sure that even the most optimistic among us are apprehensive that this winter we shall see, not a diminution, but rather an extension of the numbers of the unemployed. The giving of holidays with pay will be some little contribution to the solution of that problem, although, of course, it cannot effectively cure it.
I was pleased to hear the Minister say that he had made some arrangements for organisations to discuss the possibilities of the transport of the workers and facilities for them to put up at different places, whenever the time comes when they do move about on holiday. Those who have given the matter serious attention say that leisure is the outstanding problem of the age, and we must occupy ourselves with an ever-widening vista of amusement, recreation, sports and games, and of 1586 physical culture and culture in both the arts and sciences. The Macmillan report, the reports of Governments all over the world, and the figures published by the International Labour Office all justify us in stating that there is not the need for the hours of labour to be employed in industry that may have been necessary decades ago. We have to consider the possibilities, not of being poorer, but of being richer. Economic progress is enforcing increased leisure in one way or another. People are being thrust into taking pleasures because of the production of surplus wealth which we have not been able to consume. There is only one way for the worker to live, and that is through employment. He has to get employment in order to be able to live, and it is a sad commentary on present conditions that the opportunities for getting that employment are becoming increasingly denied to him.
This Bill is one which we can all support, but I would ask the Minister to engage in those extensive consultations for Amendments to it in order to make certain points clear and more effective. I would like to see him review the question of domestic service and give opportunities for agricultural workers to have their six days with the others. I would like him to make some pronouncement with regard to the end of the period 1940–41 as to what is the present intention of the Government. I welcome the Bill as a Measure which will break through a lot of opposition, and I feel that once we have passed it we shall be able to go step by step until all workers are included. I thank the representatives of the employers who were on the Committee for meeting us on many points of view. I hoped that when we made these recommendations they would have made such an appeal to the National Government that they would have given all that we had asked. I hope that efforts will now be made to bring in the whole of the workers who are not now covered by holidays with pay, and that the employers and trade unions will discuss the problem together, and endeavour to promote some agreed scheme and not wait until a scheme is forced upon them.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones
This discussion has impressed on me once again that although it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose, they often have difficulty in 1587 finding much to criticise. This Measure is an example. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) brought in an argument that the 10,500,000 people who did not come under the provisions of the Bill should come within it straight away. At the same time, the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), who sat on the committee and clearly has profound knowledge of all the implications of the subject, ventured to remark that some preliminary time was required before the full measure which we all desire to see can come into force. Most hon. Members will agree with him. We must congratulate the Minister who, after four years of active and beneficent work at the Ministry of Labour, has signalised his office with a Measure which, when it has reached its full fruition, will probably be one of the most helpful Measures that this House has passed. The National Government, as I have stated before, have brought in Measures of such a benevolent and far-reaching character dealing with the social life of this country, that when in the fulness of time hon. Gentlemen opposite come into power, there will not be very much left for them to do.
I am interested in this Bill because, before I came to the House, I worked as a medical man in a seaside resort, and I know something of the problem from the point of view of the immense overcrowding that takes place in August. It is not only a great hardship to the worker and to his family who go to the seaside for a well-earned rest, but a hardship to those who are employed in the honourable service of catering for holidaymakers. I know of no more depressing sight than a boarding-house crammed with people on a wet summer's day, especially when there is illness in the house. From that point of view alone I welcome the spread-over of the holidays which the workers and their families need. I reecho what was said by the hon. Member for East Woolwich about the great need of the workers for adequate rest. We do not need to go to such an eminent man as Lord Horder to confirm that view when we see modern life, especially in London. I do not suppose there is a city in the world where workers feel the need of a holiday more than those who work in the Metropolis. The time which they spend in travelling to work in the morning and 1588 travelling home again at night is in itself a severe strain upon the system and an indication that they need not only a week's rest but, from my point of view, two periods of holiday in the year.
I not only welcome the Bill from the point of view of the worker and his family but as a Member representing a constituency which contains one of the most beautiful sections of the coast, that of North Wales, I welcome it from the point of view of the vast industry of catering for the needs of the holiday-maker. A good deal of fun is made at the expense of these people, but I am sure they are as worthy a body of people as any other, and they do an immense amount of good. They work very hard and for long hours, and devote their time and all the resources at their disposal to cater for those who seek a change of air and rest. This industry has an important financial aspect. I am told that it represents in this country a turnover of something like £,100,000,000 a year, and it must represent a useful contribution to the State in the way of taxation. The Government could not have gone further with this scheme than they have done in this Bill. We have had brought to our knowledge the chaos that would be involved by an immediate imposition by law of a mandatory character of a week or fortnight's holiday with pay. I am sure that the National Government will in the next few years be able to introduce further legislation. By that time the course will have been made clear in such a way that the machinery will work smoothly and efficiently.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
The Minister of Labour introduced what he rightly terms this enabling Bill, in an enthusiastic and eloquent speech. It unfortunately falls far short of the recommendations of the Committee. It is good in so far as it gives trade boards and agricultural wages committees power to do something which was hitherto outside their scope. These bodies deal with low paid workers. They were established to put a rock-bottom price on labour and to fix a minimum wage enforceable by law. The wage rates of the trade boards and the Agricultural Wages Committees are usually too low to enable workers to enjoy holidays. To those workers this Bill will mean much if the boards carry it out in the spirit in which 1589 it is introduced. This is where the Government will have to take a hand in shaping the policy of the boards and leading the employers to see the wisdom of granting holidays to the workers. It will never be charged against this Government that they have been guilty of hasty and ill-conceived legislation for improving the conditions of the workers. "Hasten slowly" has been their motto throughout. The Minister admitted that nine years ago the question of holidays with pay was accepted by the House, and it has taken the Government nine years to bring in a Bill dealing with it.
Difficulties always seem to loom very large in the imagination of the Government; they always seem to see rocks ahead and are afraid to venture very far. The Government have been very timid on this question, more timid than the House, because the House on one occasion was unanimously in favour of holidays with pay. On another occasion it carried by 134 to 63 a Bill for holidays with pay. The policy of the Government has been in favour of collective agreements between trade unions and employers' organisations. That is a mistaken idea which is being encouraged by the employers. In this respect I must give credit to the Department of the Minister of Labour for what has been done for the distributive trades but I wish that all the Government supporters would help in this direction. Unfortunately, to my own knowledge, there are hon. Members on the Government side who will not even recognise trade unions, who not merely discourage their staffs from joining a trade union but actually oppose trade unions, and I could name them if I desired, but that might not be advisable in a case like this. This Bill falls short of the recommendations of the committee. On page 60 of their report the committee say:We strongly recommend that an annual holiday with pay should be established, without undue delay, as part of the terms of the contract of employment of all employés as defined in paragraph 153.We find that paragraph 153 refers to those who are covered by the compulsory State insurance schemes, and adds:any extension of the income limit of non-manual employés covered by these schemes should also be applicable to holidays with pay.''The committee further recommended two weeks' holiday for domestic servants—I 1590 am sorry that recommendation was not included in the Bill—for workers in hotels and employés in catering establishments and in entertainment occupations. All hon. Members will agree with the statement in paragraph 132 of the report:We have formed the opinion that the time is opportune for more active steps to encourage the taking of holidays by employed workpeople in this country, and we have come to this conclusion bearing in mind the following two important considerations. First, the general advantages accruing from holidays, to which we have referred above, on the one hand from the family and social aspect, and on the other from the aspect of industrial efficiency. To this we would add a reference to the current widespread desire to improve the nation's physique, which would undoubtedly be furthered by the extension of holiday taking.Holidays with pay are not anything new. They were common in this country in the days before the industrial revolution. Then the workers enjoyed 26 holidays a year with pay, and in Scotland they had the five-day working week: it is true that the Monday was set apart for recreation and for military training, but that was in the days when in Scotland everyone from 16 to 65 had to train in military pursuits against the old enemy. Those days are now over. With the coming of the industrial revolution and the factory system people, unfortunately, lost those holidays. One stumbling-block against holidays with pay is represented to be the cost to industry. When our late lamented friend, Mr. Rowson, introduced the original Bill he showed that the cost to the mining industry would amount to only 2¾d. per ton of coal per annum, and that is not a serious item.
Another objection has been the difficulty of lack of continuity of employment, because one worker may have been in two or three employments in the course of 12 months. That difficulty has been overcome by the union of which I have had the honour to be an official for more than 30 years. All our agreements provide for one day off for each month's service; at the end of 12 months a fortnight's holiday; in the case of heads of departments three weeks. A man who had been six months with a firm would be entitled to a week's holiday. In shop-life holidays with pay have always been common.
Another objection has been foreign competition, but other countries are far 1591 ahead of us in this respect. Holidays with pay are almost universal on the Continent, and whenever I have had the privilege of attending the International Labour Office Conference at Geneva I have always been glad to see that the British Dominions, at any rate, seek to uphold British prestige, which Britain has certainly lowered at Geneva. Britain has receded into the background, and the United States now lead the world at Geneva in the matter of shorter hours and holidays with pay. In conclusion I would point out that the Amulree Report was an agreed report. If there had been majority and minority reports the chances are that the Government would not have touched the question. As there has been an agreed report, why have not the Government accepted it in full, gone the whole hog instead of undertaking this piecemeal legislation? Why not include the very important recommendation as to compulsory legislation in the Session 1940–41?
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I rise cordially to welcome the introduction of this Bill, and I think that the Minister must be very well satisfied on the whole with its reception by the House. I am sure that all without exception must have enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), whose broadmindedness on this problem was obviously one of the factors which induced the Amulree Committee to present their unanimous report. I should like to express my appreciation of the work of the Minister in making this Measure possible. It must be a source of intense satisfaction to him. We in this House know him as a humane, far-seeing and very energetic Minister of Labour, one of the best we have ever had. We have been debating many things in the last few weeks, and Members have been excited, and in some cases agitated, about such things as their Privileges and the possible abuse of them. No doubt those things are of interest and importance, but I could not help reflecting at the time that from the point of view of the welfare and the happiness of the people such matters are of minor importance compared with the subject we are considering to-day. It was the Government's initiative which set up the Amulree Committee to inquire into the whole position and made this Bill possible, and for that they are to be 1592 congratulated, but it would be ungenerous if we did not also recognise the valuable work done in bringing this matter before the public conscience by, especially, the private Bill introduced by the late Mr. Rowson.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I do not think that is true at all, and it is curious that I should be interrupted and contradicted when I way saying that it would be ungenerous of us not to recognise the valuable contribution to the whole subject made by the bringing forward of a private Member's Bill which undoubtedly did concentrate the public attention on this problem; for without the support of the public no Government and no Parliament could go forward with any project. Still more to be congratulated are the chairman and members of the committee which produced such an exhaustive, interesting and unanimous report. It is a remarkable and gratifying thing that employers, trade unionists, independent persons, persons of both sexes, all agree together on this complicated matter, and by their unanimity they have to a very large extent removed it from the realm of party squabbles and party politics and introduced it to its propar sphere as one of social and economic importance.
I should like to refer briefly to the private Member's Bill on this subject which was introduced recently. There has been considerable misunderstanding in the country, in some cases, I fear, deliberate misunderstanding, as to our attitude towards that Bill. We have been—I have been accused in my constituency—of sitting on the fence and of being lukewarm in support of holidays with pay, a charge which is not true, and it is interesting to see that the Amulree Committee unanimously confirmed our attitude. I am very grateful especially to the six trade union members on the committee who confirmed our attitude as being completely justified in the interests of the workers. In paragraph 9, on page 7 of the report, it states:If justice is to be done to the workers in general, a reform of this nature cannot be obtained on the lines of the Bills that have been laid before Parliament.I have much resented the attacks which have been made upon us in the country, and after the unanimous report of the 1593 Amulree Committee and the comment they made on those Bills, I hope those unfair attacks will not be repeated. The Bill follows very largely the report of the committee, and I think some hon. Members opposite who have said that it gives effect only to a small part of the report have not been justified. The first part of the Bill deals with trade boards, agricultural workers and the like, and I would point out to the Minister that it does not anywhere mention payment for bank holidays. I do not know whether agricultural workers and trade board workers are paid for bank holidays when they do not work. I am of the opinion that people who are stood-off work because of bank holidays should be paid just as they are paid for their week's holiday in the summer. I think the bank holidays at Whitsuntide and Easter are equally as important as, if not more important than, the week's holiday in the summer from the point of view of the health of the workers.
I should like to take up another point which was mentioned by the sole representative of the Liberal party who did deign to visit us in this Debate—I see that all the Members of that party have now gone. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) urged, and I would urge too, that consideration should be given to the recommendation in favour of a fixed Easter.
The second part of the Bill is to me the most important. The problem of enforcing holidays with pay has been easy to state, but it has not been easy to reconcile two points of view. We are all agreed in this House that holidays with pay are essential, but I think that with few exceptions we are keen to preserve our voluntary system of collective agreements, with as little State interference as possible in regard to wages and conditions in industry. How are we to bring about this desirable end without undue State interference? In this respect the conclusions of the Amulree Committee are admirable. They urge that for two years every assistance should be given by the Minister to enable those trades that up to now have not set their house in order to do so. There is always the threat behind that, if they are not willing voluntarily to put their own house in order, the Government will step in and do it for them.
1594 We see examples of State regulation in these matters in Russia and Germany, and we do not wish to imitate those methods. We consider our methods of agreement, persuasion and collective bargaining to be the best for the liberty and the happiness of the citizens of this country, but I would say to those trades, especially the textile trades which are so largely represented in my own constituency, that if they cannot by collective agreement come to the granting of holidays with pay such as the public conscience now demands, they are in danger of bringing about that very State regulation and interference with industry which we do not wish to see. The Bill, especially in its latter Clauses, is designed to be a strong plea to those trades who have not already arranged payment for holidays voluntarily to do so, because that is always the best way; but there is also the warning that if those trades will not do so they must not complain if the Government by compulsion forces them to do so. I have great pleasure in welcoming this Bill.
§ 6.32 p.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
The Labour party are to be congratulated on the initiative which has brought this matter so near to realisation. The Government come limping behind. This party, by their initiative in this House and their propaganda throughout the country, have made this question the live issue that it is. The hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) suggested that we on this side of the House would have difficulty in criticising the proposals now before the House, but I think I shall be able to indicate that even the compromise which was the committee's report has not been embodied in the Bill. I would first of all thank the Minister for giving us a fairly comprehensive review of the Government's policy in respect of this question. Since the matter was last debated in this House considerable progress has been made. We have not only received this unanimous report, but substantial steps have been taken in other directions to secure holidays with pay for the working people. We all welcome the great increase in the number of voluntary agreements between employers and workpeople, and we are glad to know that educational authorities are being consulted with a view to discovering whether workers holidays can be co-ordinated with educational holidays.
1595 We welcome, also, the step that the Minister has taken in setting up the Inter-Departmental Committee to examine certain of the problems associated with granting this important right to working people. I should like to have a little more information from the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies of the scope of the work of that Inter-Deparmental Committee. What does it propose to do? Various statements have appeared in the Press indicating the nature of the work, but some of it seems to fall rather outside the scope of the work of a Government Department. In respect to the provision of accommodation and transport it would be of information to the House if a statement could be made as to what the Inter-Departmental Committee will do.
When the Minister made his statement this afternoon he carefully avoided telling us the intention of the Government when, after two or three years of efforts, there will remain large numbers of workpeople outside voluntary arrangements or outside the jurisdiction of statutory bodies. In the past week or so I pressed the Minister to tell the House the Government's policy in respect to their giving statutory effect to holidays with pay for all workers. Is it the serious intention of the Government after the next year or so has passed, to implement the report in respect to the making of statutory provision for all workers who are not covered by other arrangements? On that point I am sure we would all like to know what the Government actually have in mind. When I listened to the Minister's introduction of the Bill I thought that we had before us a Bill providing holidays with pay, but I confess that 1 was a little disappointed to discover, when I read it, that the Bill is no more than an enabling Bill, making it possible for certain statutory bodies to consider and award holidays. I discovered, also, not only that the Bill is very limited in scope, but that there is no compulsion anywhere that holidays with pay shall be given.
What is even worse, the Bill does not fully implement what was recommended by the committee which considered this problem. The Minister has said that the purpose of the Bill is to implement certain of those decisions, but I shall show that even on that point the Government cannot be said quite to be keeping 1596 faith with those members of the committee who signed the report in the hope of getting unanimity for it. The Bill ought to assist in the making of agreements in respect of holidays under the existing statutory machinery, but, in point of fact, it puts the statutory bodies into a strait-jacket and limits the extent to which the determination by these statutory bodies may go. There is no freedom in respect to the decisions. Although you may have an agreement in a trade or an industry in respect to the extent of the holidays which may be granted, the statutory bodies may not give determinations which the trade or industry desires. A body of employers who were anxious to be more generous in respect to holidays would be prohibited by the terms of the Bill.
I said a moment ago that the report of the committee was modest, and that it was a compromise in order to get unanimity. I hope to show that, limited as was the report, we have not in the Bill the sort of recommendation which was visualised by the Labour Members who sat on the committee. That is particularly disagreeable to those of us who have been urging that this country should not fall behind the standard which has been set in many of the industrial countries of Europe to-day. We are lagging sadly behind in this matter, and I am afraid that if we wait until 1940 or 1941 for the Government to consider the large numbers of people who will be unaffected, millions of our workpeople will have been deprived for years of this concession. Under paragraph 146 of the report it is suggested, in regard to trade boards that holidays which may be granted should consist of at least—let hon. Members note the words "at least"—one week with pay per year. In the Bill the holidays cannot exceed a maximum of seven days. I feel that that is a defect and is a retrograde step from the recommendation of the committee. I would ask the Government why they are failing to implement completely that important section of the report. Why is it that no trade board may exceed seven days and why, when employers concur, not more than seven days may be granted?
With respect to agriculture, hon. Members may notice that the committee recommended that seven days' holiday should be given. The committee did not 1597 urge seven consecutive days, but that at least three days should be consecutive. In the Bill we depart from that standard, and instead of permitting the agricultural boards to give more than three consecutive days, the Bill definitely limits the determination to not more than three days. I would like to know why the Bill falls short of the recommendation of the committee in this respect. Why is it that the agricultural worker must always be our Cinderella? Why cannot we enforce, particularly in view of the experience and the experiments which have been carried on in farming, a higher standard such as experience has proved possible and carry through such improvements under the aegis of the agricultural boards?
If hon. Members refer to paragraph 149 of the report they will see a recommendation quite definitely that there should be early introduction of legislation in respect to domestic servants. I wanted to hear from the Minister why the class of domestic servants had been excluded from the Bill. Provision is asked for at the earliest possible date; why then the exclusion? Might I further ask, while we are dealing with this matter, why we have to wait so long for legislation in respect to seamen? We have been urging from this side of the House that the International Labour Office Convention in respect to holidays with pay for seamen should be ratified. Here is an opportunity which the Government are not using and I urge the point upon the notice of the Minister that he should see that the Bill, limited as it is, is made sufficiently ample to cover so important a class of British working man. I would also like to put a question with regard to Clause 4, in which provision is made for schemes as between workmen and employers with respect to intermittent employment. On whom does the cost of such schemes fall? The report suggests that it should fall on the State, but under the Bill, so far as I can understand it, the cost of working these special schemes will fall on the industry itself. Is it proposed that schemes of this kind should involve the employers in stamping the cards of the workpeople, and the workpeople in taking those cards to their respective employers according to their place of employment?
Although the Bill is limited, I am very glad that a start has been made. While it may be a niggling Bill, it may bring 1598 benefit to the 47 trades and the tens of thousands of establishments under the trade boards which are really concerned with it. Meanwhile, I take it, we must possess our souls in patience until the Government have really made up their minds as to what they are going to do about the larger problem. Unfortunately, however, in the waiting period, many millions of workers will not enjoy holidays with pay. While we on these benches would have welcomed a much ampler Measure, we sincerely hope that the Government will see to it that the utmost encouragement is given, in the working of trade boards and other statutory bodies, to the making of provision for holidays, and that, even in the face of opposition from the employers on those boards, the determinations will be endorsed.
Apart from the trade boards and other statutory bodies, we hope that the utmost encouragement will be given to other groups of employers and workpeople in combination, so that this right may be enjoyed as widely as possible. While I criticise the Bill, I welcome it as a first step, but I would ask the Minister to amend the Bill in such a way as to give full and ample effect to the compromise made in the committee. I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, in order to get a unanimous report, very considerable concessions were made by the workers' representatives, and it seems to us to be only fair that the Bill should at least come up to the compromise to which they were agreeable when the report was drafted.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Sir Jonah Walker-Smith
In spite of the generally cordial reception which has been given to this Bill, and the appreciative tone in which it has been referred to, I am bound to say I am still of the opinion that it is a very poor thing. The Minister, in his cheerful thesis, explained the provisions of the Bill, but even so I do not see that it provides for any appreciable progress, and such progress as it does provide for is, I fear, not entirely in the right direction. I was grateful to the Minister for his clear exposition of the intentions of the Bill. He made it clear that they are extremely restricted. I think they are even more restricted than he explained, and certainly they are more restricted than Members 1599 generally believe. The substantive provisions of the Bill include merely the removal of certain existing disabilities of statutory wage-regulating bodies, while it enables them, on the other hand, to prescribe that there must necessarily be a period of one week's holiday per year, and to secure that, for that week's enforced leisure, a week's wages shall be available. That means that these statutory wage-regulating authorities will be able in the future to earmark 2 per cent. of the wages which they prescribe in the trades with which they deal, leaving 98 per cent. for no definite purposes, in lieu of prescribing, as they do at present, 100 per cent. for no definite purposes. This does not add one iota to the economic position of the workers in those industries.
The Minister gave us quite an interesting historical record regarding the system of collective bargaining, but I think it would have been of even more interest if he had explained, not only the history of this movement, but also the basic principles upon which these agreements, whatever may have been the case in the past, are now, in a more advanced and enlightened state of industry, determined. The House will probably like to bear in mind the fact that the principles upon which the existing arrangements are made in the more enlightened and advanced industries are based on a co-operative desire to maintain peace in these respective industries, and a desire for progress and reasonable prosperity, so that, out of those industries so made prosperous by co-operation and the preservation of peace, there shall be paid to the workers the highest wages which prosperous industries will yield. It is desirable to keep these basic principles firmly in mind in connection with a Bill of this kind. When trade unions are negotiating with the employers' organisations with regard to wages, hours and conditions of labour, they have to keep ever in the forefront of their minds the effect which the regulation of wages will have on employment and on the demand for labour in the industries concerned; but, consistently with not creating unemployment and not seriously diminishing the demand for labour in those industries, the basic principle is to raise wages to the fullest extent that the prosperity of the industry 1600 will allow. I have had no personal experience of trade boards, but I think we are entitled to assume that they will be guided by the same basic principle, and, therefore, there remains only the very slight difference that, while at the present time they are prescribing to the extent of 100 per cent. the wages which those somewhat backward industries will yield, in the future they are to earmark 2 per cent. for a specific purpose.
If I am right in so describing the extreme limitations of this Measure, I think I am justified in saying that it does not go very far, and that, so far as it does go, it is not going in a very satisfactory direction. My reason for suggesting that it is not going in a very satisfactory direction is that I fear it will tend to perpetuate trade board control, and so to defer the time when these more backward industries may become more advanced in self-determination, in self-reliance, and in taking part in that which is most essential to their welfare, namely, the fixing of wages for their own industries. To consolidate and perpetuate, by means of a further statutory enactment of this kind, the method of controlling industry from this extraneous source, is an unsatisfactory feature of the Bill, and would be unsatisfactory in any event whatever. Therefore, I approach the Bill with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I would welcome, as every Member of the House would, any Measure that tended to improve the economic condition of the workers. As one who has some comparatively small interest in the engineering industry, it was a very great pleasure to me two or three weeks ago to find that we were paying to our 500 workmen who benefited by the scheme one week's pay for the holidays which were the public holidays for that particular district. That was in accordance with an arrangement which we made by a system of collective bargaining, and which, no doubt, at least for the time being, admirably suits the conditions of the engineering industry. Whether or not, however, it would suit some other industry, such as the building industry, to which the Minister referred, is a matter that would require a good deal of consideration by the accredited representatives of employers and operatives in that industry.
I myself take a small part in the regulating of wages in the building industry, and, if the operative unions in the 1601 building industry were to say they desired that holidays with pay should become an element in the fixing of wages in that industry, I should say that I would do the utmost I could to secure what they desire. I have no doubt that, in our discussion of the subject, we should realise that conditions in the cotton, weaving, spinning, engineering and many other industries which are carried on in factories and workshops are very different from the conditions under which building and constructional work is carried out, and that it might well be that workers in the building industry would not particularly appreciate having to take one week's enforced holiday following three or four weeks of involuntary leisure. I do not know how it will work out in practice, but, if the building operatives desire that this shall become an element in the fixing of wages in the building industry, for my part I will do the utmost I can to assist them. I am, however, opposed, and always have been opposed, to the intervention of Parliament and Government Departments in any matters that affect the determination of wages agreements. My experience, now becoming rather a long one, has convinced me that there is no doubt that these matters should be left to the determination of accredited representatives of employers and operatives, who understand the conditions and the reactions of any movement in their industry so well.
I daresay that in expressing these views in this assembly I shall be in a very small minority, perhaps in a minority of one, but I am satisfied that, whilst there is no political kudos to be obtained by leaving these matters to the industrial organisations, while there is no possibility of any raging, tearing political campaign in regard to them, that is the very best method for that enormous number of workers who are dependent upon the ever watchful activities of the trade unions. They not only watch over and preserve the interests of their own members, but also those of the regrettably large number who are not members of unions, who will not make their contribution either in money or in effort, but are perfectly satisfied to take the full benefit of the sacrifices and efforts that the trade unions are continuously making. Therefore, I am most anxious that nothing should be done to cut athwart the present system in that respect. Fortunately, there is nothing in 1602 the Bill that will cut athwart that admirable system. They are still left with the knowledge that they possess of their respective industries and with the spirit of co-operation which they are showing to the advantage of all concerned and with their full sense of responsibility they are left to determine these matters concerning wages, hours and conditions of labour. I am anxious that there shall be no legislation which would throw a spanner into the working of that delicate machinery.
I have listened with a certain amount of foreboding to the warnings that have been expressed that unless certain things happen in the next two years certain legislation will be introduced. I regret that it should be so. I know that it is in accordance with the recommendations of the Amulree report. You cannot really compel trade unions to negotiate. I do not think it should be necessary, but I do not think it would be a desirable thing to do. However, we are not up against that position at present. Inasmuch as the Bill does not provide at present for anything that cuts athwart the time-honoured activities of the trade unions, of employers and operatives, I welcome it.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Riley
I have been puzzled, as I am sure the House must be, at the speech that we have just heard. If I understood the hon. Member's argument, it was in opposition to the Bill. In view of the fact that it does not go any further than he wants to go, I cannot see the ground of his opposition, because it is of a voluntary character and seeks to ratify only what is decided upon by collective agreement. I have a claim to say a few words in this Debate because I introduced the first Bill on this subject in 1925, and, by general consent, it was given the First Reading. It was not on the lines of this Bill, because it provided for a week's holiday with pay for all workers. However, we welcome this Bill on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread. Any new Member would have imagined from the Minister's speech that it was he and this Government who had pioneered the idea of holidays with pay, and that the whole credit for this stride in social reform attached to them. I do not want to make party capital, but it is worth remembering that all the driving power on this question has come from this side of the House. I gladly and 1603 willingly agree that we have been assisted by enlightened Members of the party opposite, and we recognise the breadth of outlook of Conservative and other Members in the various stages through which this reform has passed.
I should like to direct attention to certain outstanding blemishes and ambiguities in connection with the Bill. We should have some adequate reason given for the discrimination between agricultural and general workers. The Minister gave no reason whatever for it. Where a statutory board will be entitled to establish a full consecutive week's holiday with pay, it is specifically precluded from giving the same advantage to agricultural workers, who are not to have more than three consecutive days. Then what is the intention of the Government with regard to employers who may be recalcitrant in regard to coming to an agreement? In Lancashire, and to some small extent in Yorkshire, during the last 12 months or so repeated efforts have been made on the part of the workers in the textile industries to induce the employers to discuss schemes of holidays with pay, but so far no success has attended those efforts. Outside the 3,000,000 covered by present agreements and the statutory boards, there will be not less than 10,000,000 in general industries not covered by the Bill at all and, unless the employers and workers can be got together, nothing will transpire.
It is true that the Bill is carrying out the recommendations of the Amulree Committee in that respect, that there should be an interregnum until 1941 to enable employers and workers to get together and frame their schemes. and that during the Parliamentary Session of 1940–41 legislation should be passed making provision for holidays with pay in industry general. There is nothing of that kind in this Bill. I can quite understand that the Government may reply that they are not in a position to say what will happen in 1941; but the Minister could say what the Government's intentions are now, if they should be in office in 1940 or 1941, as to whether they intend to carry out this definite recommendation. Of course, it is possible that they will not be in office.
There is a third point of considerable substance to which I want to call atten- 1604 tion. I want some explanation of Clause 2, which says:Where a wage regulating authority in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act direct that any workers shall be entitled to be allowed holidays, the authority shall make provision for securing that the workers shall receive pay in respect of the period of the holiday, and, without prejudice to any other power of a wage regulating authority in that behalf, the power of any Trade Board or Agricultural Wages Committee to fix minimum rates of wages for any workers shall include power to fix additional minimum rates of wages to be paid to those workers by way of pay in respect of holidays …Does that mean that the trade boards, if they decide to fix holidays with pay, as laid down in the Bill will be obliged to fix the remuneration for the period of holiday on the same scale as the week's wages received in normal times? For instance, you may take an industry governed by a trade board or an agricultural wages committee, in which the ordinary wage is £2 a week. Will the statutory body have the power under the Bill to fix holiday rates at less than £2 a week? There is nothing in the Bill which makes it obligatory to make the remuneration equivalent to the ordinary wage. I hope that when the Bill goes to Committee it will be made perfectly clear that the holiday pay shall be at least equivalent to the normal week's wages. While I recognise that this Bill goes only a very short way, I welcome it as a step in the right direction.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Sir Louis Smith
I feel sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will be most encouraged by the speeches made from the Opposition benches thus far, particularly in view of the fact that the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), who usually is able. to find fault with us on this side, was unable to find any fault with this Bill. May I say how much the House must appreciate the fact that the right hon. Member who spoke first from the Opposition benches was one who has had such long experience in industry, and no doubt one of those in the House who knew industry when conditions were much less favourable than they are to-day? I was pleased to hear his moderate and helpful speech. Recent developments regarding holidays with pay, and the wide extension during the past year of the numbers enjoying these holidays for the first time, have in my opinion, 1605 shown conclusively the wisdom of the Government in setting up a committee in 1937. Never has a matter, which might well have become controversial, benefited more by careful inquiry, and the Amulree Committee, in giving a unanimous report, has rendered a great public service. I was pleased to hear the speech made by the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks). I remember that when I was asked to give evidence before the committee the hon. Member was taking a very active part. We are indebted to all members of the committee for the great services they have rendered.
I give way to no one in this House in my desire to see all manual workers as well as clerical workers enjoying holidays with pay. I have, however, joined issue with hon. Members opposite in urging the accomplishment of this by voluntary agreement rather than by Statute. Only after exhausting voluntary procedure is it wise to resort to statutory powers, which may be necessary to take care of the residuary number left by less enlightened employers. This Bill is the first move of the Government in giving effect to the recommendations of the committee, and it is in line with the British method of regulating conditions between employers and workers by voluntary agreement, and not by Act of Parliament. In Clause 1, which deals with trade boards other than agricultural committees, seven days' holiday are allowed, and they can be taken consecutively. But in the case of agricultural committees, there is a limiting factor, providing that only three days must be taken consecutively; and this also was recommended by the Amulrue Committee. I am not satisfied that there is any real reason why the agricultural worker should not be put into the same position as the industrial worker. I live in a country district, and I know the difficulty that farmers have in releasing their men, either for illness or holiday, but I cannot at this stage, without having received a convincing reason for this limitation, see why a farmer who can release his man for three days in each of two separate weeks cannot just as well release him for the whole of one week. In two holidays of three days' each, it seems impossible for the agricultural worker to get away from the scene of his work and a large proportion of the 1606 benefit would be lost. I support the Bill whole-heartedly with that exception, and subject to one or two other requests which I would make, I think it will be an extremely good first step in this important direction.
In Clause 4, the Minister takes power to administer in his Department voluntary schemes for securing holidays in any industry. I take it that should an industry adopt a scheme similar to that of the engineering industry, allowing for weekly credits to be given to the men, that might quite well be done, in the same way as insurance, by stamping cards. Seeing that, in the Amulree Report, industrialists expressed their opinion that this holiday might be paid for by the employer, the employe and the State in three equal parts, it would seem to be a little less generous than one would expect if, in connection with voluntary agreements, when the industry finds the whole cost of the holiday, the State did not find this small cost of stamping or of administration through the Employment Exchanges. I ask the Minister to give consideration to that point. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, will give some good reason why the cost of this small extension in the work of the Employment Exchanges cannot be covered by the Ministry. The Engineering Federation have devised their own scheme of weekly holiday credits. These are paid into a separate account at the bank. The fund is built up during the 12 months. It is out of the control of the employers, and is only payable to the employés at the time of their holidays. In the event of a firm getting into low water, it is quite impossible for the employés to lose their money, because as soon as the credit is paid each week it automatically becomes the property of the employé. It is possible that when holidays with pay are general in the country we may find that many industries will find it difficult to adopt a similar scheme, and therefore it would need to be taken care of by the Employment Exchanges. I hope the Minister will give attention to that point.
I see nothing in the Bill to prevent an employé taking alternative employment. In the Amulree Report, I believe the recommendation was made that a man who is given a holiday with pay should not take other employment in the same trade. I would say, without hesitation, that if we were to grant a man a holiday 1607 with pay, in order primarily that he should have a rest from labour and a change of scene, a great deal of the advantage would be thrown away should he take other work. It might possibly be good to allow a manual labourer to take on some brain work, and no doubt a journalist would benefit by going into Kent, into the hop-fields, for a healthy holiday, and if a man could be found working in the hop-fields who could well earn some money by working for the Press, perhaps a change of work would do him no harm. I, therefore, suggest that on this point we should make the dividing line one of rest for the body or rest for the brain. Do not let us forget also, that when we have 1,800,000 unemployed it is wise for us at least to find work for as many of those who can take the place of men when they are on holiday. That might well take care of 200,000 of those unemployed. In the country as a whole to-day probably the families of nearly one half of the population are receiving pay for either a week's holiday or more. It is now the other half that we have to take care of, and I welcome this Bill as the Government's first step.
I have made three suggestions which I should be very glad to have considered before the Committee stage is reached—and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary may be able to give us some information to-night—(1) the putting of the agricultural labourer on the same footing exactly as the town worker;(2) the payment by the State of expenses in administering the pay of the employés holiday money under any scheme; and (3) the disallowing of employés receiving holiday pay taking alternative employment except when a manual worker takes a brain worker's job. The very gradualness of the adoption of holidays with pay is vital, and you can get that gradualness only by voluntary agreement. Holidays with pay raise innumerable problems—their effect on wages, on trade and industry, on transport, on seaside accommodation, on the education of children, examinations and school attendances, and on the date when people will take holidays, and their effect on family life as a whole. Never have we had a matter which has progressed preferably by stages than has this. The Amulree Report suggested the Parliamentary 1608 Session 1940–41 as far as statutory powers are concerned, and by that date I feel sure that, considering the progress that has been made since a private Member's Bill was before this House 18 months or two years ago, we shall find that the very large proportion of the manual workers in this country will be enjoying a holiday with pay alongside those in offices and in the distributive trades.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill
I have listened to many speeches this afternoon eulogising this Bill, but the speech that has been made from the opposite benches that has surprised me most and shocked me is the one made by an hon. Member representing a seaside town in North Wales. I felt that he should have known better, because he happens to belong to the same profession of which I have the honour to be a member. I hope that he would have realised that a Bill embracing holidays for all, with pay for all, would have been one of the finest contributions to preventive medicine, but instead of that he says, in his opinion, it is a beneficent Bill. It is well-known that doctors differ, and not for one moment will I associate myself with the views of my medical colleague. In my opinion this Bill is mean and niggardly, and I cannot understand a Government which pretends to show an interest in physical fitness and welfare refusing to give an adequate holiday to every worker in this country, particularly so when what is generally known as nervous debility, but which is so often industrial fatigue, is increasing so rapidly.
I have carefully examined some of the figures which have been published by trade unions, and I find to my amazement that the National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers in its analysis of disablement benefits from 1933 to 1937 show that the percentage of workers suffering from mental and nervous debility is very big—males 25.9 and females 21.6. The curious thing is that men are more rapidly affected than my sex. This 25 per cent. is, from a medical point of view, very high. Other figures have been quoted lately which lead one to wonder whether the Government are fully alive to the serious conditions prevailing among the workers as regards their health. Fifty per cent. of the insured people in this 1609 country at some time during the year have to have health insurance benefit. The Ministry of Health says that 31,000,000 hours are lost annually.
The National Health Insurance Fund is being used by employers who do not give holidays with pay as a fund which they can use to give rest with pay to their workers. I was looking through some of the figures examined by a professor who was working under the Industrial Health Research Board. He examined considerable groups of working people and found that 7 per cent. were suffering from nervous disorder, 20 per cent. showing symptoms which restrict happiness or efficiency, and 14 per cent. unimportant nervous symptoms. In other words, 41 per cent. of the workers to-day are suffering from some form of nervous debility due in no small part to the industrial conditions. I suggest, therefore, that the greedy employer who does not intend to give holidays with pay to his workers is being subsidised by the National Health Insurance Fund.
I was particularly interested, for instance, in the speeches of hon. Members who have spoken of the cotton operatives. I cannot understand how the Government or any member of the Government can support a Bill which does not provide holidays for cotton operatives. The whole picture in the cotton mills is, from the point of view of those of us who are not doomed to work there, one of horror. The cotton operatives, suffering from nervous debility as a result of the noise, and from chronic anaemia because of the humid atmosphere and the fact that they have lost most of their teeth as a result of the process of shuttle-kissing, are doomed once more to wait for years before they have holidays with pay. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Labour, who has, unfortunately, left the Chamber, will, even at this late stage, consider whether it is possible to improve the provisions of this Bill so that more people can be included, and that holidays with pay will be more universal.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr
I am certain that the House listened with interest to the statistics and figures which the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) put before us. I share her regret that it has not been found possible, 1610 in the great cotton textile industry, to extend the principle of holidays with pay. As the hon. Lady said, the hours are both long and tedious, and I am convinced that the more we proceed with the study of industrial psychology the more we shall understand the effect that work in the cotton mills has upon the operatives. May I say one word with reference to the opening remarks of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour? He interspersed his remarks with a Greek quotation. Had he been here I should have liked to have given him another one:Well begun is half done.Although right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have criticised the scope of the Bill, yet all have united in praising its principle. The House will have turned at least with satisfaction this once to a question which so concerns the welfare of our own people at home. In the past few months we have constantly occupied ourselves with the difficulties and troubles of the European situation. I believe that in these times when the stresses and strains in Central Europe, the terrible civil war in Spain, and the struggle in the Far East, so occupy us, it is perhaps unfortunate we do not pay sufficient attention to the problems at home, where a rising generation and a very complicated industrial mechanism are attempting to adjust themselves to the methods and trends of the present day.
I, therefore, read with interest in the Amulree Report, that out of a total of 18,500,000 in the employment field, something like 7,750,000 already enjoy some form of holidays with pay. But having said this, I must reiterate what the hon. Lady said just now. Unfortunately, the great export trades, like the cotton and woollen trades, have not been able to reach an agreement on this subject. The evidence submitted by the cotton trade before the Amulree Committee stated that the concession on holidays with pay would cost the trade something like £400,000 a year, not allowing for £100,000 for the maintenance of machinery. Likewise the woollen trade said that the concession would cost something like £500,000. These great export trades would be the first to benefit economically from a Measure such as holidays with pay. Speaking for Lancashire alone, in that area which lies between the high Yorkshire moors and the 1611 sea, and its 12 or so big industrial towns, we find the greatest density of population of anywhere in England, twice as much, I believe, as the density of population in London and the south-eastern counties. That population would materially increase its purchasing power by the benefit of holidays with pay, and I can only say that the condition of the cotton trade, which is so rapidly deteriorating, must bring us to the conclusion that sooner or later some special attention will have to be given to it.
What benefits may we expect from this new Measure? I believe that they will fall under two heads, the first economic, and the second psychological. In his book "National Income and Outlay" Mr. Colin Clark, basing the national income of 1934 on a round figure of £3,500,000,000, divides up the national expenditure under certain heads. He calculates that no less than £1,005,000,000 was spent on food, £350,000,000 each on clothing and rent, and £232,000,000 on drink. If these figures are accurate, therefore, any increased purchasing power which ensues from holidays with pay, will doubtless affect these figures. But I believe that the principal effect will be felt in the light industries, in transport and in food. The workers, who enjoy this concession, will travel to the seaside, or to their holiday resorts by train or by road. When they arrive there they will probably require a greater number of attendants in hotels and boardinghouses. They will spend more on clothes, and certainly more on food. Therefore, I can see a practical economic benefit to the farmer and the producer of beef, eggs and poultry from this Measure.
The hon. Member for West Fulham referred to the problem of the stress and strain of industry. I believe that any increased purchasing power given to the working people of this country will most certainly increase their scope of intellectual enjoyment. I base that argument on certain facts and figures which are given in a book entitled "The Problem of Leisure," by Mr. Durand. He quotes the instance of a certain German professor who in 1907–11 made inquiries among German textile workers, metal workers and miners. As a result of those inquiries he found that no less than 52 per cent. of the German textile workers said that if they enjoyed increased 1612 wages they would improve their educational facilities. Thirty-two per cent. of the miners and 48 per cent. of the metal workers returned the same answer. I believe that our people in this country would respond just as readily as those people overseas to any educational facilities which improved economic conditions would bring to them.
The hon. Lady also said that the machine dominates the present age—the machine with its noise, its specialisation and the monotony of its work. These factors make the worker wish to branch out into new spheres. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour knows probably as well as I do that in many of the great northern towns the church, and sometimes the small chapels, where Wesley in former days may have preached, are the centres of a vigorous cultural and social life. The material is there for the greater enjoyment of leisure. I therefore welcome this Bill, limited in scope though it may be, because it offers those economic and psychological advantages to the workers in a greater degree than he has enjoyed them in the past.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
As the successor of the late Mr. Guy Rowson in the representation of the Farnworth division I should be less than human if I did not rise on this occasion and pay tribute to him for the work that he did not only in bringing this matter before the House but in bringing the ideal of holidays with pay before the country. In spite of what has been said to-day, I am perfectly sure that if my late friend had been faced with this Measure this afternoon he would have been far from satisfied with it. As a matter of fact, it was the setting up of the Amulree Committee rather than the acceptance of the principle which underlay the former Bill which went a long way towards breaking my late friend's heart. Make no mistake about that. When his Bill passed this House on Second Reading it was because the justice of holidays with pay had been seen and acknowledged.
We have listened to-day to some observations on the economics of the working classes, the way in which their wages are paid and the way in which to some extent they should be spent. The hon. Member for Barrow (Sir J. Walker-Smith) suggested that under this new 1613 Measure 2 per cent. of the worker's wages were going to be specifically set aside for the holiday period. In other words, he would be turning out only 98 per cent. of his year's wages and the other 2 per cent. must be spent on holidays. What is the position? The whole 100 per cent. is always allocated, at least in the mind of the worker. The trouble is that it is never sufficient. His difficulty all the time is not as to the way in which the employers, or the trade boards, or the agricultural wages boards determine how that 100 per cent. of wages should be made up; what troubles him is that that 100 per cent. is not sufficient.
My chief complaint against the Bill is that it is a misnomer. I want to accuse the Minister of misleading the country. It is not a Holidays with Pay Bill. Even if it definitely provided a single holiday, it would still be misleading the country. The title of the Bill ought to have in brackets the words "for some." In this case as in others, the people most in need are the people who are left to the last.Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.A great many people among those whom the late Mr. Guy Rowson desired to help have been looking forward not only to the report of the committee but to its implementation by the Government. What do they find? As the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) has said, in a great many Lancashire towns they will find nothing as a consequence of this Bill except three further years of hope. Sitting in the Gallery of this House this afternoon was a young man who last week worked 48 hours and received 18s. wages. This week is wakes week, and he is enjoying what the House has been talking about as a "staggered holiday." He is compelled to take it.
This is the irony of the situation that I want to bring before the House when we are discussing a Holidays With Pay Bill. Would hon. Members like to know the reason why that young man is able to come here to visit me and to spend a day in the House of Commons, after looking round London? It is because he happens to be the fortunate individual who, for the last 12 months, Friday by Friday, has been collecting holiday money from his unfortunate brothers and sisters. Had it not been that he received a little each week for banking and saving, he would not have been able to afford two 1614 days of torture on a 'bus ride to and from London, and to spend the day in the House of Commons.
Holidays with pay. I have said that the people most in need always come last. Among the 350,000 Lancashire cotton operatives there are cases far worse than any that will come before the boards under the Bill. I know what I am talking about. It was suggested in the Debate yesterday that the agricultural worker was entitled to the same consideration as other sections of workers. I agreed with that statement, and the question was asked why should the agricultural worker always be at the bottom? I ask the same question about the cotton operatives. This section of industrial workers is to-day much worse off than the agricultural workers. The agricultural wages boards fix a minimum wage. The trade boards that will fix these holidays with pay for the people who come under the trade boards establish a minimum wage, but in the manufacturing section of the cotton industry in Lancashire there is no minimum wage. You have the spectacle of 18s. a week being paid for a full 48 hours working week, and the week following means an enforced—I will not call it a holiday. A holiday with pay is an advantage but a holiday without pay is a handicap.
I used to wonder why my mother was not so enthusiastic about holidays as I was. When wakes week came round I looked forward to it with joy as a youngster. Why did my mother not look forward to it with pleasure? Because she had the impossible task the week after wakes week of attempting to feed a family on no income. Wakes week meant seven or eight weeks previously scheming and scraping in order that we might be able to live through the holiday week and the week after. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) knows that there are thousands of people in Lancashire who enjoy visiting Blackpool, but he also knows that there are many thousands at the present time who are compelled to remain at home because they cannot afford to go into a lodginghouse for a week. Under this Bill there is no possibility of holiday with pay for them.
During the past three months I have sat on committees attempting to come to an agreement with the employers in 1615 Lancashire on this question. They cannot and will not look at is. They tell us that in the present state of the industry it is impossible for them to grant holidays with pay. I would ask the House whether economic considerations are to be the only considerations that have to be taken into account when human problems are being discussed? If so, it means that the depressed industries are always going to have people who are treated differently by the law of this country. Someone has suggested that there is a greatness about voluntary agreements. Voluntary agreements can be made only when the two sides are strong. If you have a weak side, a voluntary agreement is an impossible thing.
The cotton trade unions at the present time are not able to enforce holidays with pay, and therefore as a consequence an organised body of workers are to come after unorganised bodies provided for in the Bill. I am not objecting to the slight provision that is made. What I am objecting to is that we should be discussing holidays with pay in these circumstances. The headlines in the newspapers to-morrow morning will bear the words: "Bill for holidays with pay," and we shall have the laudation that has been given to the Minister of Labour about this great principle having been embodied in a Bill. Thousands of people who read that in Lancashire will imagine that there are to be holidays with pay for them, and they will discover that all they get out of it is a promise that three years hence possibly a House of Commons more enlightened than this will make holidays with pay compulsory.
This Bill is not nearly good enough. Why should there be this differentiation? Why in the three classes that have been singled out, the trade board class, the agricultural workers and the domestic workers, once again the section least able to defend itself is the section that is not provided for? I should have welcomed this Bill if it had even attempted to deal with the problem of the domestic servant. We are entitled to an answer why on this question the recommendation of the committee has not been implemented. I join with others on these benches in hoping that some day in the not far distant future we shall have a Holidays With Pay Bill that is a reality and not a sham like the present Bill.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Roland Robinson
The Minister of Labour in his speech referred to his love of the sea. I, too, was born by the seaside, and as years went on I achieved the distinction of being called sandgrown. Those of us who live by the sea, like those who live among the mountains, appreciate the benefit of clean, fresh air and bracing breezes, and we all wish that the people from the industrial areas may be able to enjoy the benefits which we ourselves enjoy. I welcome this Bill very much. To my mind this is a great day, because this Bill is another milestone along the road towards achieving universal holidays with pay in this country. We have had many interesting speeches on this subject, some of them questioning the wisdom of giving holidays with pay. I think it is now universally admitted, and, therefore, it is not necessary to give any reasons in favour of holidays with pay. All we have to consider is the way in which it can be done. The Amulree Committee, after careful consideration, summarised the matter in this way—that they believed holidays with pay would lead to the health, the happiness, the efficiency and better physique of the workers in industry. With such a recommendation I think that this House can give unanimous acceptance to the principle. It is indeed interesting to realise that the Amulree Committee with 16 members of wide and varying views, politically, socially and economically, came to an absolutely unanimous report, and when we get a report like that I consider it is the duty of the Government to adopt it and inaugurate a great social reform in the sure knowledge that it is the right thing to do. Before the report came out, the Minister of Labour hoped that after its publication what was his duty would also be his pleasure. I think it is his pleasure as it is the pleasure of hon. Members on all sides of the House. This approval can be judged from the fact that practically every hon. Member who has spoken has said that he or his party first thought of the idea. The Minister of Labour can say that he is the first to put it into practice, and I congratulate him upon it.
The Amulree Committee recommended holidays with pay, and suggested that the period of a week should be regarded 1617 as the minimum. I agree with their suggestion. The period of a week should definitely be the minimum, and I think the Government should, as far as possible, insist on this period until workers' holidays are extended to a fortnight over the whole of the country. In framing their Bill the Government, like the Committee, have considered that the best way of bringing holidays with pay into being is by means of negotiation between employers and trade unions. Conditions vary in industry, there must be flexibility, and perhaps this is the best way in which it can be achieved. Therefore, we have at this stage a short Bill giving the necessary power to trade unions and agricultural wages committees. But if the idea of negotiation is to be adopted, something will have to be done to give an impetus to these negotiations. For years this question has been discussed but nothing has been done, and it is only in the last year or so, when the Government and the public have been interested in this question, that things have really gone forward.
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what his Department proposes to do to encourage these negotiations. It is not enough for the Department to say that they are willing to help and that they want it done by negotiation. The Minister of Labour must go to industry and say that it is their duty to do this, that they must begin their negotiations at once, and not wait until the end of the three-year period. Only in that way shall we get real action. If the Government want their negotiations to be successful, they must be honest with industry and say frankly and definitely what must be done. The Minister of Labour has said that he will give his consideration to what has to be done. Surely it is easy for him to say that he will introduce whatever legislation may be necessary. Sympathy alone is not enough. I ask for action, and I believe that in the Minister of Labour we have the man who can take the necessary action.
As to the Bill itself, there are several points which at once come to mind. I take it that in principle most of the recommendations of the Amulree Cornmittee are accepted by the Government. The Amulree Committee suggested negotiations, but in the case of domestic servants there is no possibility of any negotiations taking place, because there 1618 is no organisation of employers or workers who can speak for either body in any negotiations. Domestic workers can only be helped by Government action, and I urge the Government to deal with this matter as quickly as possible. There is another case which should be in the Bill. If holidays with pay are to be successful, then the holidays must be taken. This is a question which has been shirked by large numbers of people interested in this matter. If you give holidays with pay it is that the worker shall get rest and change. If he does not take the holiday but gets another job when he is getting a holiday wage it is unfair to himself and his employer, and he is committing an injustice to men who are out of work and who could quite easily fill the position themselves.
In regard to the various Clauses of the Bill, I confess that I was astonished that in Clause 1, where trade boards are empowered to give a week's holiday with pay, to find that the recommendation of the Amulree Committee that one week should be the minimum, has been translated in the Bill as the maximum period. That is a very different thing. We have had no explanation from the Minister for this extraordinary change. Surely, when you set up trade boards and empower them to look after wages and conditions in industry, you appoint men in whom you have confidence and who can be trusted to do the best thing. If that is so, why not give them power to do the job properly, and use their discretion to the full, so that they can give a wage holiday in accordance with the maximum which the industry can afford. I urge the Minister to give careful attention to this point. I am a little disappointed with the provisions regarding the agricultural worker. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary can say that in this respect the Government are carrying out the recommendations of the Amulree Report. That is so, but, on the other hand, many hon. Members have wished that something could be done to get men back to the land. That question has been discussed many times and, surely, if, when we are introducing fresh legislation and new ideals, such as holidays with pay, we perpetuate the old distinctions which weigh against the agricultural labourer, we are reducing the likelihood that men will go back to work on the 1619 land. That is another matter upon which I hope the Government will do something, if not immediately, then in the very near future in order that agricultural labourers will get a full week's holiday and their conditions of work brought into line with other industries.
In Clause 2 power is to be given to the trade boards to fix a minimum remuneration. I think the Clause should go a little further and say that the minimum holiday wage should not be less than the minimum working wage, so that the worker may be able to maintain the same standard of living on holiday as during his period of work. In regard to Clause 4, obtaining power to assist schemes to secure holidays with pay, we have a very real step forward. The Amulree Committee dealt with this in paragraph 145 of their report, in their recommendation regarding those who are engaged in non-continuous work, those who change their employment several times. They say that such a position can only be met by means of a stamped card system, whereby payments towards a holiday fund can be collected from the employer from week to week, and they visualise the establishment of a holiday fund. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us whether there are any plans for the setting up of this machinery, and, if so, how soon it will be before every non-continuous worker will have a stamped card and a holiday fund administered by the Ministry of Labour? I should also like to know whether the Clause gives power to the Minister to arrange for the organisation of holidays. The question of the spreadover is dealt with by the Amulree Committee. Has the Minister to set up special machinery or can he do it under the powers he has now?
It is interesting to know that the Government are collecting and co-ordinating information about holidays. Is it visualised that they will form a register of holiday concerns, so that anyone can register and that then the workers can ask for information as to where they can go? In regard to the organisation of holidays I must add my plea to the Minister. Cannot we do something about a fixed Easter as quickly as possible? The Parliamentary Secretary may say that this is an international matter; but cannot the representatives of the British 1620 Government go to Geneva and say that in regard to the spread-over of paid holidays in this country they would prefer to have a fixed Easter, and try to secure the co-operation of other nations? We have many real opportunities here. Reading between the lines and watching the actions of the Minister of Labour, I think the problem is being tackled properly. I have made a number of criticisms, but I assure the Parliamentary Secretary that they are meant to be most helpful and friendly. The Bill represents a very important step towards the achievement of a great ideal which will bring a real change into the conditions of a great many people. It is a great social reform which, if properly handled, can only be for the good of the people of this country. I commend the Government for their action.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
I have been listening to the praise which has been showered upon the Minister of Labour and his Department for this Bill. I have been trying hard to understand why there should be all this praise. I have been trying to understand where holidays are given in this Bill. I cannot find that there is even half a day's holiday, let alone a week's holiday. All that this Bill is going to do is this. Those who sit on trade boards can prevail upon the two sides to have put on the agenda a claim for holidays with pay, and if they come to an agreement it may be done. I think the Bill should allow trade boards to fix the hourly rate of wages for hours which are not worked. I am not thanking the Minister of Labour for that. It is his duty to do that without all this fuss. It might have been done in a much simpler form than it is in this Measure.
I hope that the men and women whom we represent on the trade boards will not imagine that this Bill means holidays with pay for them. All that the Bill does for people who are employed in industries having trade boards is to allow the representatives on the trade board to sit down together. The Minister plays no part in that, except that his officers issue the notice to the trade stating that the trade board is sitting, that it has agreed upon a certain motion, and asking anyone who has objections to what the trade board has done to send in those objections within two months. If there are objections, the Minister calls the trade board 1621 together again. That is something which the Minister does already. Yet the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson) thanked the Minister for allowing the trade board representatives to sit down together, and for encouraging the boardinghouse keepers in Blackpool to think that they may expect all the workers coming under trade boards to go to Blackpool on holiday next season.
§ Mr. R. Robinson
We shall be very happy if they do come. Surely, the Government are not giving these powers to the trade boards unless they want the trade boards to use them. That is the intention, and I hope the hon. Member will do his best to get it carried out.
§ Mr. Kelly
The mere fact that we may pass a resolution does not warrant people in thinking that they will receive holidays with pay. If the employers on the trade boards had been willing to give holidays with pay, they could have done so years ago. Along with others, I have tried to bring about holidays with pay in some of the large industries for the last 17 or 18 years. In one trade holidays with pay have been given to 26,000 workpeople for 18 or 19 years. Some hon. Members have spoken about the percentage of cost. The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Sir J. Walker-Smith) said that it would be a 2 per cent. charge upon industry. I hope that matter will be looked into more closely. In the trades with which I am directly concerned, the workers have not only a week's holiday with pay, but they also receive the statutory holidays with pay, and I venture to say that there is not a single employer in those trades who would dream of giving up those holidays with pay, because those employers gain from every point of view, in the health of the workpeople, in time-keeping and in the increased production which follows upon the men and women having greater opportunities for leisure and enjoyment.
The hon. Member for Blackpool stated two different views. He said that it was advisable that there should be greater flexibility, that we should rely upon negotiations between the trade unions and the employers' associations, and that that was the way to deal with the question of holidays with pay in the complex system of production which we have. Having said that, he proceeded immediately to ask the Minister whether or not in certain occupations he would legislate for holidays 1622 with pay. I should like to know which view the hon. Member really holds. If he believes that legislative action is needed, why does he not say so? Several hon. Members have said that we have the promise that, in the Parliamentary Session 1940–41, something will be done, but there is no promise of that in the Bill, and the Government have given no undertaking of that nature. In the report of the Committee on Holidays with Pay, there was a recommendation that there should be legislation on the matter in the Parliamentary Session 1940–41, but if the present Government are then in power, which heaven forbid, we have no promise that they will legislate for holidays with pay.
With regard to agricultural workers, I could believe in the good faith of the Government if they had dealt with agricultural workers even in a reasonable manner. I do not ask for anything heroic from the Government, but I ask them to treat the agricultural workers reasonably. They have accepted the worst part of the report of the Amulree Committee, and it is to the discredit of every member of that committee that they should have made the suggestion that there should be no more than three consecutive days holiday for agricultural workers. Part of my work is concerned with farming. We have in our employment from 200 to 300 agricultural labourers, and we find no difficulty in giving them holidays with pay. We should certainly not look upon it as a holiday if we were to give them three consecutive days, just as we would not disgrace ourselves by asking them to accept the wage rates of agricultural labourers generally. The lowest wage which we pay is 49s. 6d. a week, and the agricultural workers whom we employ are given holidays with pay and pensions. The Bill refers to three consecutive days holiday for agricultural workers. Once again, as in the case of unemployment insurance, the Government are declaring that the agricultural workers must accept less than the town workers. We are placing the workers of that great primary industry in an inferior position. I say without hesitation that there would be no difficulty in giving the same holidays to agricultural workers, where agriculture is prosperous. It is prosperous in the undertaking to which I have referred, because we not only give holidays with pay 1623 and bigger wages, but we make a huge profit. However, I ought to tell the House that those farms happen to be managed by Socialist and Labour men and women.
Reference has been made to what the Government should do at the International Labour Office at Geneva. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will note the appeal that has been made for a fixed Easter and that at the next International Labour Conference, the Government will realise that we want not only holidays with pay, but a 40 hours-week, to which they have been opposed in the past. We hope that in future they will cease their opposition. Earlier in the Debate, the hon. Member for Hallam (Sir L. Smith) reminded the House of the effect which holidays with pay would have upon wages and family life. I noticed that he referred to the great support which he has given to this. I am sorry the hon. Member is not in the House at the moment. There was no one who played a greater part in the Standing Committee in the destruction of a former Bill on holidays with pay than the hon. Member, who made every effort to prevent it going through, on the ground that the Committee on Holidays with Pay was being set up. The hon. Member held up this legislation for 18 months.
The suggestion which has been made as to people who are on holidays engaging in other work during the holiday period is not one which need be feared or in respect of which it is necessary to put any restrictions into this Measure. I have had experience of something like 200,000 workers who have had holidays with pay for years. In the first year or so there was something about it that they could not understand, because previously they had never had the opportunity of enjoying a week's holiday while in receipt of pay, but after the first year or so there was no need for any restriction. There was, on the other hand, a demand for an even longer holiday so as to give them greater opportunities for change of air and scene.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies will make it clear that this Bill does not give any holiday, not even a half-day holiday, to anybody. It simply enables the Agricultural Wages Board and the trade boards, if they can come to agreement, to pass certain resolutions. 1624 That is all there is in the Measure. As to the other part of the Bill, the machinery part of it, I do not think there is a great deal in it. I say so having had experience of various industries. If the Minister really believes in holidays with pay, if the party opposite who now declare their affection for holidays with pay, are in good faith, then they will press on for a Measure which brings holidays with pay into operation in those industries where the employers have not had the good sense or the regard for their own industries to bring it into operation themselves, for their own benefit and that of their employés.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Errington
I welcome this Bill because I believe that it will give further opportunities to our people for the use of leisure. I believe that health and recreation and the improvement of educational facilities will be advanced by the Measure. I believe, also, that voluntary agreements are necessary in the very complicated circumstances which arise in relation to our different industries. It should be realised that there is a tendency to leave the more difficult industries to the last, and I am particularly concerned with industries which have not, I think, been mentioned yet in this Debate, namely, the docking and shipping industries.
§ Mr. Errington
I am sorry that I was not present when they were mentioned. it seems to me that they are the best examples of the difficulties which beset this subject. On page 22 of the Amulree Committee's Report various categories of trades which are as yet without these holidays, are set out, and the difficulties are presented under various headings. One set of difficulties arises from the conditions of employment and those difficulties apply, in particular, to the docking industry. There are also difficulties which arise from severe foreign competition and those apply particularly to the shipping industry, and indirectly to the docking industry. Finally, there is a reference in this part of the report to difficulties which arise from lack of continuous employment. These seem to be difficulties which can be overcome, but it will only be possible to overcome them with the maximum of good will between employers, employed and the Government.
1625 In that connection I wish particularly to refer to the Government's part in this matter. It may be that some sort of adjustment will have to be made by the unemployment insurance authorities. I take as an example the case of what is rather peculiarly termed the "regular casual worker" at the docks. He is a man who works for one employer. Both employer and worker know when work will be available, and in practice this man would never work for anybody other than his regular employer. His position at present is that he has to sign on twice a day when he is not working. The effect of that is that he can never have a holiday unless he is prepared to sacrifice his waiting period, and if he does so, then, of course for that period he loses his unemployment pay. Another illustration of the difficulties is to be found in what may be described as conditional holidays with pay. A case came to my notice the other day of certain girls employed by a firm who allowed them a week's holiday with pay on the condition that they were good time-keepers. In their case the working year ended at the end of May. Some time in June they were stopped from their work before they could have their holiday. The unemployment insurance authorities took the view that those girls were not entitled to unemployment pay for one week because of this holiday payment, which was only. made to them because of their good time-keeping. That is another example of the kind of thing which requires examination by the Government.
I repeat that I welcome the Bill, but I hope sincerely that a full measure of help will be given by the unemployment insurance authorities and the Minister of Labour. I do not know whether it will be possible for the Parliamentary Secretary when replying to give an indication of the position in relation to the docking industry. I differ very much from the last speaker as to the powers given in the Bill. In my opinion, under Clause 4, the Minister of Labour has extensive powers which enable him to assist the administration of any scheme by such means as he may think fit.
§ Mr. E. Brown
If the hon. Member looks at my speech he will find that I called attention to a particular Act which gives powers in certain directions and that I specifically referred to provisions 1626 in regard to the regulation of schemes, which are bound to be of great assistance in enabling the Minister to do something which he could not otherwise do.
§ Mr. Errington
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am delighted to hear that that is the position. I would like to refer to the Amulree Report, page 14, paragraph 30, in which reference is made to certain special arrangements in other countries where employment is intermittent, those arrangements being "holiday stamps" or "compensation funds." I do not know whether they would be applicable to the question of the docks. In conclusion, I believe that in these matters it is very important that initiative should be kept up, and I think, therefore, it must be clear that the initiative must remain with the Government. I do not believe that there is any reason at all why the employers and the employed should not get together in order to make the schemes under this Bill effective, but I believe that it is essential that the Government should continue, if I may say so, to push both sides to make these agreements, and if that is done, it will be a tremendous advantage to the shipping and docking industries, which, almost more than any other industries in the country, due to no fault of their own, need consideration.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Major Procter
I am sure that every section of this House approves of the principle that is in this Bill. Those of us who are interested in raising the standard of life of our people and in improving their physique must welcome any legislative attempt which has as its object the improving of leisure and making it possible for the worker to recuperate his strength and improve his mind. I am reminded that the great statesman Disraeli put, as one of the great principles of his life and work, and in the forefront of the legislation that he carried out for the benefit of the workers, the improvement of the standard of life of the British people, the betterment of the people. These were the keynotes of all his factory legislation, which did so much to improve the status of the working man, and as our Minister of Labour has made what, in my opinion, is the first legislative attempt to provide holidays with pay, I join in congratulating him on introducing this enabling Bill, which is at least 1627 a start upon what we hope will be progressive legislation, so that the time will speedily come when every worker in this country will have holidays with pay.
I know it has been said by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) and others that holidays with pay are no new thing. He reminded us that nine years ago the question was raised in this House by himself, but he was not very just to the Government, and he seemed to criticise the limitations of this Bill. But in that nine years we did have a Labour Government, and from 1929 to 1931 there was not any legislative act brought forward such as is in this Bill. If it is good for Socialists to talk good sentiments, surely some praise should be given to those who crystallize sentiment into legislative action. That is what this Government has done. I regard this Bill as one of those milestones measuring the progressive achievements of the National Government for the benefit of the workers, and I would remind the hon. Members opposite that, as far as I know, the present Government made no promise of holidays with pay. It was not blazoned out in some electioneering pamphlet, but it has just come quietly. It has come without any fanfare of trumpets, and it is an example of the Government's method of not only talking about helping the working classes, but actually doing something for them.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Is the hon. and gallant Member aware of the circumstances under which the Amulree Committee, upon which this Bill is supposed to be based, was set up?
§ Major Procter
Yes, of course I am. I am reminded, too, that certain private Bills have been brought before this House and that on the Amulree Committee there were representatives of labour, and on those private efforts these were unanimous conclusions of those representatives:If justice is to be done to the workers in general, a reform of this nature cannot be obtained on the lines of the Bill that have been laid before Parliament. Whether the proposal for holidays with pay for industrial workers be secured by collective bargaining or by legislation, it cannot be done without a detailed consideration of the varying circumstances and conditions of employment.Therefore, I think the Government were quite wise in delaying for the time a 1628 Private Member's Motion which could not have been made effective. You could not immediately, as it were, let fall this reform like a mantle over every industry at once, and nobody knows that better than does the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson).
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Will the hon. and gallant Member tell us of an industry over which this mantle could not have fallen?
§ Major Procter
Certainly I shall. I will go into it, and perhaps more constructively than the hon. Member did in his own speech. There are two kinds of industries which are recognised in this report—first the sheltered industries, and secondly those industries which are exposed to fierce foreign competition in home and overseas markets; and, says this report, these are not on the same footing, and I am certain that the hon. Member for Farnworth knows quite well, that you could not apply overnight to the cotton industry the principle of holidays with pay, though you might do it with the sheltered industries. His speech did not contain one constructive proposal to show how without great dislocation and injustice you could apply holidays with pay at once to the cotton industry in which he is a well-known trade union leader and one who, I know, has the interests of the workers at heart. It is not fair merely to criticise unless you have some constructive suggestions to put forward.
I have consulted with employers in the cotton industry and they tell me they would dearly love to give holidays with pay at once, but so fierce is the competition they have to meet that they have not the money with which to do it. There are two sections of the cotton trade, one dealing with the Home market and the other with the foreign market. Our operatives have to compete in the foreign markets against people who are working for 10½d. a day, and our employers are trying to battle against that unfair competition in the neutral markets of the world. The report says:Sheltered industries and industries exposed to fierce competition in home and overseas markets are not on the same footing. The subject is a complex one and needs detailed treatment.It would be like playing a piano with a sledge hammer to try without any 1629 period of adjustment to apply this principle overnight to the cotton industry. But there is no justification for a long delay in the sheltered industries where there is no foreign competition. So far as the cotton industry and the industries which are engaged in foreign trade are concerned, I want to ask the Minister how he will be able to apply this principle in 1941 if there is no money in the industry to pay for holidays. He may have to get his colleagues to subsidise our exports so that the industry will not only be able to pay a decent standard of wages, which the cotton operatives are not now getting, but also to do what the employers want to do and give holidays with pay at the earliest possible moment. Alternatively those men who are engaged in the home trade who have a protected market may, by a form of sales tax in the home market, have to contribute something towards the payment for holidays and a decent wage for those workers who are engaged in the foreign trade which has to meet unfair Japanese competition.
While I recognise that it is essential there should be a period of delay, I would not tolerate the cotton operatives being left out this scheme. The Lancashire cotton operatives deserve to be included. The Government somehow must solve the difficulty, and I should like to know in advance how holidays are to be paid for by those industries which have not the money with which to pay for them. That is the problem. Success or failure of the scheme in the cotton industry depends on this Government finding a solution to that problem. Having said this, I wish again to express my thanks for this Measure. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite are as keen as we are in helping forward this beneficial Bill, but I feel that the only chance of all workers getting holidays with pay in 1941 is for a National Government to be in power. If there is a Labour Government there will be such a loss of confidence in industry that, as the cotton operatives would say, there will not be enough brass to pay wages never mind holidays, and a great number of people will have enforced holidays without any pay at all.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Accrington (Major Procter) put me into a good deal of confusion as to which side 1630 of the fence he was on. There were moments in his speech when he was very humanitarian and progressive, but he soon made it clear that it was on the understanding that somebody else, other than the employers in the textile industry, met the cost. It is clear that the hon. and gallant Gentleman takes the view that the textile industry of Lancashire, great and famous throughout the world, and one of our greatest industries for many years, is an industry so organised and so conducted that, in his view, it cannot afford to give its workpeople holidays with pay.
§ Major Procter
I am sure I never said anything of the sort. I never said that our industry was not organised. It is not a question of organisation. It is a question of being up against competition from people who are paid such awful wages that we cannot compete with them. They are paid only 10½d. a day in Japan.
§ Mr. Morrison
That, of course, involves a long and complicated story of capitalist civilisation which it would be interesting to develop, but I do not think I should get very far before I was reminded that this was a Bill for holidays with pay. What transpired from the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech was that the cotton industry employers were perfectly prepared to be kindly and humane and to give their employés holidays with pay as long as they were subsidised in some way out of public funds in order to do it. It is very alarming how the employers of the country are getting into the public assistance frame of mind. It is very serious for British industry, especially with Lancashire at the head with its long tradition of self-reliance and independence, that the employers of Lancashire and other parts are beginning to advance the doctrine that they cannot behave themselves unless they are put upon public funds in order to do so. We are faced with the problem of the percolation of the spirit of public assistance into the ranks of the employers, and if it is not carefully curtailed the problem of moral deteroriation and of disintegration of the spirit of independence and enterprise will become infinitely more serious in the case of the employers than it has ever been in the case of the workpeople.
I am very sorry about it, for it is one of the most alarming things of the time. We shall have to watch our capitalist classes and see whether we can prop them 1631 up and make them stand on their own feet to some extent. Otherwise, they must go out of business. If great industries cannot give a reasonable holiday with pay to their employés, there must be something seriously wrong with the people in control, and they ought to get out and let us socialise their undertakings as quickly as possible, to show them how to run them.
It is reasonable that when workpeople have a holiday they should be paid. If workpeople can take a holiday only by forfeiting their wages, it means either that they must tighten their belts during the weeks preceding the holiday, which involves undue suffering, or it means that they cannot take a holiday at all. If over long periods workpeople take no holidays at all, it probably means that years are being needlessly taken off their lives, and that is inhuman and cruel. It is a form of murder, really, if people live shorter lives than they could reasonably expect to live. Even from the point of view of employers it is bad that work-people should not have a holiday, or, if they do, that they should have to go through the worry of setting money aside not only to make up for the loss of wages but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) said, to pay the additional cost of the holiday. The efficiency, the liveliness and the vigour of workpeople are injuriously affected if they enjoy no summer holiday at all. Therefore, we on this side have advocated holidays with pay for many years, both on humane grounds and in the interest of the millions of workpeople who play such a great part in the economic life of our country, and for the sake of the efficiency of British industry, and also because we want to be able to stand up and say in the face of the world that in our country no working person is in the position of not getting a holiday with pay. We should like to be able to boast that it is one of the features of industry in this country.
Therefore, we are glad to see this move, even though it is but a slight move, forward towards that end. It is through the International Labour Office that the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter) can best be met, and it is a pity that more energy has not been displayed by the British Government in getting an international 1632 agreement under which all countries would move together in this direction, because thereby we should avoid the competitive disadvantages which admittedly do exist to some extent in the export trades. When we on this side first advocated this policy we were told that it was an impracticable one, that it meant undue interference with industry, would impose undue burdens, and so on. Therefore, the demands of the Labour party for legislation and of the trade unions to get agreements about holidays were both rejected. Now, education and propaganda have convinced large masses of British public opinion, and most enlightened people, that holidays with pay are reasonable and ought to be given. By both Private Members' Motions and Bills we have repeatedly brought the subject before the attention of the House, but we have received very little encouragement from Conservative Governments or from this Government. This Government resisted a Bill for holidays with pay. They put the Whips on against it. They were defeated either on the Closure or in their opposition to the Bill itself, and ultimately we got the Bill through Second Reading.
The Government have nothing to boast about. They resisted the claims of the Labour party that the Bill should be given favourable consideration and put through. When the Bill of my friend the late Mr. Rowson got into Committee it was found that the Committee were not friendly. Difficult Amendments were put down and carried, and finally it was decided to appoint a committee to consider the problem, which is a familiar Government way of preventing the House of Commons from getting on with its business. Now we have a somewhat, though not entirely, different situation. The pressure of public opinion has had its influence upon Members, and the Government, if not willingly, have given way on the point of principle. They have been forced to give way as a result of trade union education, trade union pressure, the propaganda work of the Labour party in the country and its work in this House. Although I always expect to hear the Minister of Labour speak with confidence and assurance about any Measure he introduces or the work of his Department, I think his performance this afternoon was about the last word in boasting on an occasion when he had nothing to boast 1633 about so far as the Government were concerned.
§ Mr. Morrison
I would not do the right hon. Gentleman an injustice if I could help it, but I cannot see that in speaking as a Member of the Government he had any right to claim virtue in this matter. He ought to have apologised for the years of delay, the years of Ministerial obstruction to a reasonable proposal. In fact I am expecting to read in the pronouncements from the authorities in Burgos that they attribute this Bill to the beneficial influence of one of the prominent friends of General Franco who has become a member of His Majesty's Government. They could make out just as good a case for the beneficial influence of General Franco in this matter, through the medium of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, as can be made out for the Government.
The Minister of Labour spoke as though all the voluntary agreements for holidays with pay redound to the credit of the Government. I agree that he did not specifically make that claim, but just as the Minister of Labour talks about the number of slum clearances which have been effected, so the Minister of Labour spoke with appreciation and pleasure of the vast increase in voluntary agreements for holidays with pay, and spoke in a way which, I am sure, gave many Members the impression that this development in some way reflected credit on the Government, as if the Government had taken a hand in it. Every one of those voluntary agreements reflect credit on the organising power and persuasive power of the trade union movement. That is where the credit should go, as well as to those employers who have agreed with the trade unions to make that concession. Those people are entitled to credit, but His Majesty's Government deserve no credit whatever in respect of the growing field of voluntary agreement which we are all delighted to see. That credit belongs primarily to the trade unions and secondly to employers and employers' organisations who, during recent months, have in many cases adopted a more enlightened and advanced view upon the subject.
Included in those voluntary agreements are, of course, the voluntary actions of a 1634 large number of municipal and local government authorities throughout the country, and those actions are themselves largely the result of trade union and Labour party work in relation to local authorities. The Government are entitled to claim no credit in this respect, because it is largely the result of the local government activities of Labour councillors, acting upon the authorities at the same time as trade union pressure, in order that those concessions should be given. I am happy to say that no grade of employé in the service of the London County Council receives less than two weeks' holiday with pay, inclusive of bank holidays. What we have done has been done by many local authorities throughout the country, and has been agreed to by many joint industrial councils in the municipal service. The whole of that field, together with the voluntary agreements in private industry, has been covered primarily as the result of the work of the trade unions.
The Bill is really a very poor thing. If this Bill had been introduced by a Labour Government we should not only be in considerable bother with our own people, but I can quite imagine the contemptuous and sarcastic spirit with which it would have been met by the Minister of Labour. The Minister shakes his head, in the negative, but I can never forget his antics in Opposition when there was a Labour Government. I can never forget his taking the line that that was a very mild Government and saying how much more he would do. I challenge any Government that can be imagined to produce a milder and less effective Bill than this. If this Bill had been introduced by a Labour Government, both the Minister of Labour and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War would have made much of that Government's cowardice, weakness and lack of courage and vitality.
Nevertheless, this is a move upon the road. The Minister of Agriculture said yesterday that he had no defence for his policy, but added, "We are beginning." The Government are always beginning. They never know what they are beginning or where they are heading, but they are beginning, and that is their defence. The only possible thing to say for this Government is that in so far as they place on the Statute Book an Act entitled "Holidays with Pay," that will have 1635 asserted the right of Parliament to concern itself with this business. There is not much more of value in this Bill, up to this point. It may or may not be that, following the Bill, there will be an appreciable extension in industry of the principle of holidays with pay, and in so far as that comes to be the case it is to be welcomed.
The Bill does not order a single industry to provide holidays with pay. It is purely a Bill which enables trade boards, the road haulage conciliation organisation and the agricultural wages committees to provide certain holidays with pay, and even so, whereas the report of the Amulree Committee talked about minimum powers, the Bill imposes maximum limitations upon those bodies as to what they can do. However much success is obtained from the trade boards, the road haulage organisation and the agricultural wages committees, it must be remembered that a vast number, millions, of the working people will remain outside the scope of those bodies and will continue not to enjoy the privilege or the right of holidays with pay. If the Bill has given anybody the impression that it will of itself secure the enforcement of holidays with pay, that impression is wrong; and if it has given the impression that it will provide universal holidays with pay to the working people, that is completely wrong. Millions of working people are completely outside the scope of the Bill.
Perhaps one of the meanest omissions from the Bill relates to domestic service. The Amulree Committee recommended that it should be covered. The report of the Amulree Committee says, in paragraph 147:Employment in domestic service differs from employment in industry and requires separate treatment. We recommend that each member of the domestic staff in full-time employment shall be entitled to two weeks' annual holiday with pay where the service in one household has been for one year or more, but such weeks need not be consecutive.We remember that the Minister of Labour went touring round the country. That was not the only time he has toured round the country, accompanied by suitable ancillary organisations that told the world where he was, what he was doing and what he said day by day. He did study the domestic servant problem as a result 1636 of a series of visits, and I remember that questions were put to the Minister in this House about certain aspects of the domestic servant problem. He took the view that the matter is not so much one of wages as of conditions and the nature of the job.
There is a good deal of truth in that. It is purely a question af dignity. An occupation that used to be called an occupation of "slaveys" does not attract people, and if there is an occupation in which holidays with pay are justifiable, practicable and necessary, it is domestic service. The hours of labour tend to be longish and irregular, the liberty of the domestic servant tends to be restricted, domestic servants live very largely within the household of the employer, and it is desirable that the worker concerned in the occupation should be able to say, for two weeks of the year: "I am out of the house, out of the ken of the employer, and I am free to do what I like; I am free to get up when I like and go to bed when I like and more or less do what I like," and surely that is a reasonable request. If hon. Members opposite are anxious to solve the domestic servant problem and to attract more young women to that occupation they should insist, I should have thought, upon the Government making this provision. We have had no adequate explanation why they should be left out. It is not a case of bankrupting an industry which is in competition with foreign industries. It is a perfectly reasonable thing to require employers to observe, and I imagine that many employers of domestic servants do already observe, the principle of holidays with pay. Nobody could have said that it was unjust or unreasonable.
Why did not the right hon. Gentleman do it? It may be said that many domestic servants go away with their employers when they are on holiday, but it is no holiday to go away with an employer and do work. There is only one satisfactory holiday for a domestic servant, and that is getting clear of the employer for a period. Otherwise it is no holiday. In the case of this ill-organised trade, which is very largely a trade where individuals work in very small numbers or singly, the Government have been contemptibly mean in not carrying out the recommendations of the Amulree Committee. If I might utter a word to the domestic 1637 servants themselves, I would like to say to them that this experience shows that the present Government only knows power in its legislation. It has gone as far as it has gone as a result of the collective power of the trade union movement and the pressure of the Labour party in this House and outside.
If the domestic servants of this country want to be taken notice of by the Government, apart from the tours of the right hon. Gentleman, which apparently mean little or nothing, the best thing for them to do is to take the advice of the Trades Union Congress is now giving them, namely, to join the new trade union and become an industrial power with their employers and a political power in the House of Commons. I hope very much that all the domestic servants will get into their trade union. It will be a good thing for them. If they did, it would not be long before the domestic servants of South Kensington would return a Labour Member to the House of Commons. It would be a bad thing for the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison), but a very good thing for London and the country. In the circumstances we are bound to say that, although we welcome this Bill for the fact that it establishes the right of Parliament to concern itself with this problem, and therefore, by implication, the duty of Parliament to concern itself with this problem, and will open the way for further legislation introducing much more vigorous and thorough developments than this Bill provides for, nevertheless the right hon. Gentleman ought not to boast about it too much. He ought to apologise for the past resistance to the principle, and for the miserable milk-and-water character of the present Bill.
Of course, his answer, or the answer of the Parliamentary Secretary, will be that they are carrying out the report of a committee which was unanimous in its recommendations. As a matter of fact, they are not carrying out the report of the committee. But I can fully understand why my trade union friends signed that report. I fully understand the difficulties with which they were faced, and if I were in their position it might be that I should do the same. I am not going to be in the least critical of their signing the report, because they had to face the problem of securing a unanimous report 1638 with a view to something being done. In fact, both as regards the report and as regards the Bill, we are all being subjected to a process of blackmail by the Government. We have all heard of Parliamentary blackmail. That is when people outside, or sometimes inside, obstruct Private Bills in order to get concessions. That is what is called Parliamentary blackmail. It has often happened in the history of Parliament. But there can be sometimes a sort of blackmail by the Government, of people who want to do the right thing but are prevented from doing it fully because, if they do, they know they will get nothing done.
This committee had Lord Amulree as its chairman, and the rest of its membership was divided between employers and employed. We do not think it was necessary that a committee should have been appointed at all; we believe that the case for holidays with pay was established as a human right and as a reasonable thing, and we think that the Government ought to have made up its mind and to have done the job properly. But this is a Government that loves to pass its problems on to committees, and, having constituted a committee with what is known as an impartial chairman, of considerable experience in this class of work, and divided the rest between employers and employed—[HON. MEMBERS: "And three others!"]—I agree—they obviously created a situation on the committee where it was exceedingly difficult for the trade union representatives to get unanimity unless they made enormous concessions to the employers' representatives, and possibly to the three independent people as well. Therefore, they had to pay a very big price in order to get a unanimous report; and the Government, of course, would have its own means of letting its views be known. This is the dilemma in which they were. It is arguable whether or not it would have been best for them to present a minority report, but I am perfectly clear why they did not present a minority report. If they had, the Government would have said that they had no clear guidance from the committee, that the committee was narrowly divided, and that, therefore, they could not do anything. Again you have this process of blackmail, and the trade union representatives considered, for very good reasons, that they had better get the most they could out of 1639 this committee, with its great representation of employers, so that the Government would be compelled to take the report of the committee seriously.
We come now to the question of Parliamentary blackmail. That is when the Government, having resisted Labour Bills and Labour policy for all this time, having appointed this committee and eaten up more time, produce a Bill right at the end of the Parliamentary Session. We all know that, unless this Bill goes through quickly, it cannot go through this Session, in which case it must take its chance in the next Parliamentary Session. What is the position of the Opposition in that case? If we move a substantial series of Amendments and make an adequate fight for them, we know that the Bill is lost as far as this Parliamentary Session is concerned, and, as we cannot trust this Government from day to day, we hesitate to take a course that would land the Bill into next Session, because goodness knows what will happen in the next Session. Probably the Government will make some more blunders, and we shall be taking up all our time with Debates on Select Committees, Committees of Privileges, and so forth. We ourselves are subject to this process of Parliamentary blackmail. We have to facilitate the passage of the Bill, because otherwise there may well be no Bill at all. It is not treating the Opposition or the House fairly when a Bill of this kind, which is to affect the position of millions of workpeople throughout the country who have not holidays with pay, is dropped upon the House in the last few days of the Session, so that we have simply got to be restrained in order to get the Bill through at all.
§ Mr. E. Brown
The position is that the report allows for a period of orderly argument in the case of other industries up to 1941. At the moment the industries covered by the Bill to-day have no power to operate through any statutory authority, and we think that the workers in those industries ought to have a similar period of time to that enjoyed by other industries. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that that is the only motive. We regret, as he does, that we have to do this so hurriedly.
§ Mr. Morrison
I quite appreciate that, but the right hon. Gentleman will understand 1640 that I really am entitled to deplore, and, if necessary to protest against, the situation in which we are. We would like, on behalf of the interests of Labour, to move material Amendments to the Bill and to make an adequate fight for them. I will be perfectly frank; we must, of course, consider the Committee stage, and I am not fettering my hon. Friends in any way as to what they do on the Committee stage. But it is obvious that, if the Opposition wishes even this very mild Bill to go through, we must restrain ourselves in Committee and not make the fight that we feel we ought to make upon the merits of the case. That is what I call Parliamentary blackmail of an Opposition, and I do not think it is putting us in a fair position. The right hon. Gentleman has been very boastful about the Bill. In response to an interjection he even said that farm workers would now be able to go to the Glasgow Exhibition.
§ Mr. Morrison
All right. I was going to say that in those three days, and with the fares that they would have to pay if they took their families as well, they would have a problem to get to Glasgow. We think this is a very miserable and poor Measure. There is this satisfaction about it, that for the first time it gives legislative recognition to the principle of holidays with pay. We agree that it will do a certain amount of restricted good but it is not adequate for meeting the claim that we have made, and the matter has been handled by the Government for the purpose of giving the very minimum possible, consistent with not resisting too much the strong public and Labour opinion that exists upon this point. We shall agree with the Second Reading for the reasons that my right hon. Friend and I have indicated. We shall not delay in any improper way the proceedings of the Bill in Committee. We could wish that the Government had not been for so long hostile to the principle involved, and that, having at last to concede the principle, they had been more courageous and thorough-going in the legislation they have introduced.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)
It now falls to me to answer the many points that have been raised in this Debate, always with courtesy and frequently with clarity. I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken on the ingenious way in which he contrived to bring some associations that I have recently held into a Debate of this kind. I never had much doubt as to his capacity, but after his performance this evening I feel that there is no limit to his political prospects. Having heard him describe the Bill as mean and puny, I cannot help wondering why it was that the Administration of which he was a member did not take any steps to bring forward what may be a preparatory Bill but one which is a very considerable first step forward, when they had such excellent opportunities. If they are proud, and no doubt rightly proud, of having given to certain clerical and other workers opportunities for holidays with pay, why should they not have taken an opportunity such as this will provide of releasing trade boards and agricultural wage committees from the restrictions under which they operate at present?
The right hon. Gentleman and a number of others have sought to give the impression that the Government have been driven to bring forward a Bill of this kind solely by consistent pressure from the other side, and that some of the Bills that the Government have thought fit to oppose would have provided an opportunity of doing justice to the workers in this matter. There is a passage in the report of the Amulree Committee which is a fitting answer to a charge of that kind and which abundantly justifies the opposition that the Government showed to the Bill that was presented not very long ago by a Member who was held in the highest regard on both sides of the House. This passage reads as follows:If justice is to be done to the workers in general, a reform of this nature cannot be obtained on the lines of the Bills that have been laid before Parliament.That very emphatic statement has behind it the authority of those trade union members who served upon this very admirable committee. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), when he held the office that I now hold, and when the Annual Holidays Bill was introduced 1642 in November, 1929, made a reply which I do not think has yet been quoted, and certainly not from the benches opposite. He said that no facilities could be given, unfortunately, for its passage, in view of the heavy programme before the House and owing to the fact that the whole matter would need full inquiry and consultation with the unions and interests concerned. Despite the fact that the Government of which he was a member continued in office for a considerable time afterwards, I have no recollection that that inquiry and consultation took place. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he can give concrete evidence that such an inquiry was initiated, or it may perhaps be that at the time when it should have been held he himself was away on one of those many tours which, like my right hon. Friend, he frequently takes—at that time in America—accompanied by an ancillary organisation which always tells the world where he is and what he is doing.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) omitted to tell the House that coming within the scope of this Bill are 600,000 agricultural workers, 1,300,000 workers under the Trade Board Acts and 200,000 road haulage workers. I cannot but feel that the country, when it hears of these figures to-morrow and reads my right hon. Friend's speech, will be in no doubt as to the value of this achievement, which I hope the House will set its seal on very shortly. It may be said, and it was said by the right hon. Gentleman, that the Bill only gives to the trade boards and agricultural committees and the Road Haulage Board powers that they already possess. That is a completely incorrect statement of the position. At present trade boards have power only to determine wages for time worked, and in certain circumstances for waiting periods. They can fix only a minimum rate per hour, and have no power to grant holidays with pay. By an ingenious device agricultural wage committees have been able in the past to give paid public holidays. They have paid for them by the device of reducing the hours worked in the particular week by the number of hours that would have been worked on the public holiday. That does not mean that they have had the power to give holidays, still less that 1643 action could be taken against employers who did not grant the holiday after they had by that device reduced the hours worked. All they could do would be to take action if overtime was not paid. They could not take action if a holiday were not granted. In regard to road hauliers, as the House will remember, under the Road Haulage Act power was granted to the board to fix holiday remuneration, but not to fix holidays. The provisions in this Bill will meet that need.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting and a number of other speakers have made great play with the fact that this Measure is only permissive and that it does not order anyone, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, to provide holidays with pay. I wonder if he thought it would have been preferable, providing the same result had been achieved, that this should be mandatory. I cannot believe that, with the experience he has had of the working of our industrial machinery and the amazing progress that has been made through our voluntary methods he would have preferred a mandatory Measure to a Measure of this kind, always provided that full opportunity is taken, when circumstances justify it, to work this permissive Act as fully as a mandatory Act would have to be worked. It may be that in fairly recent years progress by voluntary agreements has been slow, but that cannot be said of the last two years, when no fewer than 1,750,000 workers have received holidays with pay as a result of voluntary agreements. It would be a bad day for our industrial fabric, as several hon. Members have said, if permissive legislation and voluntary agreements were superseded by mandatory commands.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting also said that employers could hold up—I think I am quoting him correctly—permanently if need be, the granting of holidays with pay if they were so disposed. In that observation I think he showed that he did not fully understand how the trade boards are working. If the appointed members and the workers' representatives chose to vote for holidays with pay, it would be no use the employers' representatives hoping to hold up action permanently, or, indeed, 1644 at all, because there would be a majority on the board against them. The same answer could be given to my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow (Sir J. Walker-Smith), who drew a gloomy picture of the employer who normally paid 100 per cent. wages, paying 98 per cent. as wages and 2 per cent. as holiday remuneration. It would come before the trade board, and it would be unlikely that the trade board would allow holidays with pay in that way to be superseded. There was one thing in his speech that the House was glad to hear, and that was the tribute he paid to the National Savings Committee. Attention should be drawn to the work of that committee which in collaboration with other bodies has recently introduced special schemes for saving which should be of great service in this respect. It may be that these schemes will play a great part in assisting the provision of holidays with pay by providing assistance for workers themselves to save for their holidays.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
How are the miners going to put by any additional money for holidays, when they are working only three days in a fortnight now?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I quite agree that all legislation of this kind will not achieve its maximum benefit until all workers are happily and profitably employed; and I think that while this Administration is here that is more likely to come about than in other eventualities. The right hon. Gentleman and many speakers who followed him drew attention to the alleged discrimination against farm workers. I represent an agricultural constituency and the bulk of my interests are agricultural in character, and I look forward to the day when the agricultural workers will receive a wage which will compete with that paid in the towns, and when the lot of the agricultural worker will generally be improved. But this Bill is the result of an agreed and unanimous report. If the point of view of people entitled to be considered had been disregarded, either in a majority report, or a Bill of this kind, there would have been no legislation at all to be presented to the House. I would point out that there is nothing to stop what already happens in many cases—the arrangement of private and voluntary agreements between farmers and their men, for a full holiday with pay when it can be managed. 1645 I hope that those who can will give such holidays, and that those who find it difficult will be able to do so as a result of better times on the land.
With regard to domestic servants, I do not think many members of that most excellent profession, as things stand today, fail to get an annual holiday with pay. If their employers fail to do so and still contrive to retain domestic servants in their employment, I wonder how it is done. Domestic servants, who are now at such a premium, would have the remedy in their own hands. It seemed to the Government—and I am sure this point of view will be acceptable to the House—that there is no reason to single out this class, numerous as they are and disorganised though they may be, for special treatment in advance of legislation which may be before the House in future. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) that this was due to fear of alienating the Primrose League, I would say that if he approaches that distinguished relative of his who is an ornament of our party and a high official of the league, he will find that those in the league who employ domestic servants commonly give them holidays with pay.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
As I have said, I see no reason for singling out one class of worker in advance of possible future legislation. I would like to say, with reference to the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), not only how helpful his work was on the Amulree Committee, as all hon. Members who know what he is capable of will realise, but how helpful was the speech he made this afternoon. When the hon. Member asks what is the intention of the Government in 1940–41, I cannot do better than quote the statement recently given in this House by my right hon. Friend:As regards the general legislation which the committee recommended for a later date, the Government intend to give consideration in due course to such legislation if circumstances are such as to make it necessary, but at the present time it is not possible to forecast the nature of the legislation which will be required.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1938; col. 2209, Vol. 336.]I would not like to leave the House tonight without challenging the argument of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) 1646 to the effect that the recommendations of the Amulree Committee have been thrown over by the Government. That is absolutely inaccurate. With regard to many questions which were asked by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), I will do my best in the time available to answer such as I can. He asked what is the scope of the interdepartmental committee which has been set up to consider the question of holiday arrangements. I hope that I shall be allowed to answer in time-honoured language that it is set up to explore all aspects of the problem. If that is of interest to him one way or the other, I hope that he will accept it in the spirit in which it is given. He also stated, incorrectly, that if employers are anxious to be generous they will be prohibited by this Bill. It cannot be said too often that there is nothing whatever in the Bill to interfere with, cut across or derogate from any voluntary agreement which may have been made or may be made in industries subject to trade boards or in agriculture, and that the provisions in this Bill will not have the slightest effect on voluntary agreements provided they ensure the same amount or more of holidays with pay, as the provisions of this Bill make possible.
Mr. Creech Jones
Does that mean that a trade board may agree, if employers are agreeable, that a holiday may exceed seven days?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Under this Bill the holiday is limited to seven days, but there may be industries subject to trade boards where agreements are made by the employers and workers together. As the hon. Member knows, there are many such agreements concerning wages in industries subject to trade boards, and these remain unaffected by this legislation. The hon. Member raised an issue which was also raised by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last. They seemed to see something sinister in what they regard as an alteration for the purposes of this Bill of the phrases in the Amulree Report which speak of "at least one week," and "at least seven days" in the case of agricultural committees, and they seem to give an impression which is, I think, incorrect. The committee had in mind a minimum of seven days or a week in the sense that they were anxious to stress that a whole week a year was intended and not a holiday of two or three days. I am 1647 glad to think that our interpretation of their intention was correct, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Woolwich, who sat on this committee, did not raise this point when he spoke.
The hon. Member and my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam (Sir L. Smith) raised the question of the expenses of the schemes which may be assisted under Clause 4. That Clause follows the precedent of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1935, Section 100, which was a consolidating Act. Where direct assistance is given as for instance by devising a scheme for the stamping of holiday cards it is intended that the cost should be borne by the Exchequer, but where holiday payments are also being issued by the Minister under Sub-section (2) of Clause 4, it is intended that the expenses should fall on the employer.
With regard to the other point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam, it is not the intention that any prohibition should be put on a worker to take up alternative employment during his holiday. He was a little at fault when he suggested that the Committee had recommended action of that kind. They raised the point only to decide that to make a prohibition of that kind was interfering on a technicality. There is not time to deal with many of the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson), but I can assure him that consideration must necessarily be given to the suggestions of one who has played so notable a part in connection with this and other admirable social reforms. He asked whether it would not be desirable to give an undertaking that the Government would themselves approach each industry in order to get them to make voluntary agreements. I am sure that on reflection my hon. Friend will see that that would be a difficult and an undesirable thing to do. The Ministry are, however, always ready, on a joint application from employers and workers, to put their good offices at their disposal. Finally, I commend this Bill to the House because to me its best characteristic is that it goes some way to putting an end to what seems to be a wholly undesirable and illogical distinction between salaried and wage-earning employés in industry and business. If this is the first step in doing away with 1648 that distinction, I can think of no better credential with which to present it to the House.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
Do I understand the Parliamentary Secretary to say that, if a person is granted holidays with pay, he still can work at some other job and draw pay for that as well? That will mean that he will have two weeks' wages.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The answer to that question is "Yes." But if all we have heard about the strain of modern industrial conditions is true, as I think it is, that will be very unlikely to occur.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Furness.]