HC Deb 22 July 1938 vol 338 cc2653-7

2.39 p.m.

Colonel Sandeman Allen

I beg to move, in page 4, line 26, at the end, to insert: (4) Before making any regulations under this Act the appropriate Minister shall consult with such representative organisations as he thinks fit. It is desirable that the Minister should consult various representatives before he issues regulations. He will remember that not long ago the Minister of Transport issued certain regulations when he had, obviously, not consulted representative organisations, and the result was that a Prayer had to be moved. It is in the interests of everybody concerned that the Minister should consult the organisations which have particular knowledge of their jobs in order that he should get the most useful advice.

2.40 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)

I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not press the Amendment. He will see, on reflection, that it is not necessary. It is the invariable practice of the Ministry of Labour to consult representative organisations and my right hon. Friend has no intention in this case of departing from his invariable practice. In addition, the provisions of the Rules Publication Act, 1893, apply.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

Will the Minister consult the organisation which I have already mentioned?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

If we are satisfied that it is representative.

Colonel Sandeman Allen

In view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

2.41 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan

I intervene with some hesitation, but I want to say a word or two because I am not sure that this Bill is as good as it is claimed to be by the Minister of Labour. If we take the long view of it, I do not think that it will mean any improvement for certain workers. However, seeing that the Bill is desired and that most people think it is an experiment worth trying, I am prepared to let it go. It will, I am afraid, mean that instead of working people having wages increased, their wages will merely be transferred to a so-called holiday. I regard the experiment as a mistake, but if it is successful nobody will be better pleased than I am. I am afraid that trade boards may use the power in the Bill as an excuse, not to increase wages but to transfer it to holidays. I have seen the holidays with pay agreement in the engineering trade, and I am certain that all they have got is the bare wages and not holidays with pay at all. In schemes of social service like National Health Insurance, however, we start in a small way making experiments, and we will let this experiment go on and see what the position will be in 1941.

2.43 p.m.

Mr. MacLaren

I have not intervened in the discussions on this Bill, but now that the Bill has reached its final stage I am entitled to say a word about it. I am sorry if I intervene at the wrong time, but I claim to be allowed to do so. The economic facts are that if the working classes could determine their own wages by making their labour power a little more expensive, such Bills as this would not be necessary. Where, however, we have a state of society in which unemployment determines wages and keeps wages at a deadly level, we get Bills of this kind which are nothing but a facade of hypocrisy. The cost of this scheme will be passed on to the consumers. The consumers will pay for holidays with pay. It is the pursuit of the old fallacious idea that Parliament can raise wages. It cannot. Wages can be raised only when there are more jobs than men to fill them. In a society which keeps a certain margin of unemployed people constantly seeking employment wages are determined by that margin.

Why should we have time wasted in this House with Bills giving what are called holidays with pay? There will be a rise in the costs of production, because this is directly a charge against the costs of production. It is not in the real sense an increase of wages which the workers have been able to extract by means of their economic power. As long as there are unemployed men looking for jobs, unemployment, as has been well said in this House, will wreck Governments. The unemployed man determines the status and wages of those in employment, and until that is recognised so much nonsense as is embodied in this Bill will continue to be perpetrated. This Bill will impose a surcharge on the consumers of commodities. Then why all this nonsense about holidays with pay? Every worker should be able to demand the full value of his services, and then he would not be beholden to anybody for holidays with pay. So this Bill, with all its verbosity, with all its commissions of inquiry, with all the printers' ink that has been spent upon it, means this and nothing else, if economics have any meaning at all—that the whole of the cost is cast back on to the consumers of commodities, and they will pay for it.

Another thing I want the workers to note is this: We have been told that certain factories have agreed already to the principle of holidays with pay. [Interruption.] I hear an interjection about "laissez faire." I wish the hon. Gentleman who uses the phrase would complete the quotation, but I do not think he knows it. I am sorry that my own front bench should get cheap and shoddy in its opinions. In this House independence seems to be a dangerous thing.

Mr. Wise

Come over to this side.

Mr. MacLaren

On your side my opinions would be regarded as more devastating than on this side. I was saying that certain manufacturers have already adopted the principle of so-called holidays with pay, but what has happened? The holiday period comes and wages are paid for the holidays. After the holidays are over, let us suppose—I will put it no higher than that—there is a slackening off in demand. Then what happens? The workers have received, ostensibly, holidays with pay for the week, but when the holidays are over, it is followed by a fortnight or three weeks of suspensions.

Mr. H. G. Williams


Mr. MacLaren

In the Potteries. No one would be more enthusiastic for this Bill than I should be if it meant not merely holidays with pay but suspensions with pay also. It would be interesting to some hon. Members to inquire what is going on in the Swindon Railway Works. The same thing is happening—holidays with pay, but when the holidays are over, or when this Bill comes to be enforced, speedy exactions by cutting down what is called slack time in the works, and men suspended. There is another point which I must not lose the opportunity of mentioning. I hope that the Ministry of Health will observe that the whole of our coastline has now become the scene of wild land speculation, because of the hope that holidays with pay will put more money into the workers' pockets.

Mr. Gallacher

I wish to make what will be my only contribution towards the discussion of this Bill. It is a rotten Bill, is come from a rotten Government, and the Government represent a rotten system.

2.50 p.m.

Mr. E. Brown

I very much regret that that is the view of the hon. Member. I would say that the Bill is a good Bill, that it comes from a good Government and that it is the wonderful product of the best system of increasing wealth and wellbeing that the world has ever known. I will add this sentence in answer to what was said by the other hon. Member. The hon. Member may lecture trade unions but it is they who will decide in the case of agricultural wages or trade boards whether they desire to have holidays with pay. They will not take his advice.

Mr. MacLaren

I cannot allow that to go. I want to tell you that I am one of the oldest trade union Members on this side of the House.

Colonel Sandeman Allen

On a point of Order. Should not Members address the Chair, and not say "You" to the Minister?