§ 20 Mr. Ellis Smith
asked the Home Secretary (1) whether he is aware that there is growing concern at the tendency by his Department to ignore the procedure contained in the Factories Act, and the Emergency Powers Regulations, and to have no regard to Parliament or legal formalities; and will he have a record made of all changes of this sort already made, present the statement to the House, and from now give an undertaking that no changes will be made except by his consent and a record of same made periodically to the House;
800 (2) whether he will inquire how far local factory inspectors are dispensing orders dealing with changes made under the Emergency Powers Regulations 59 (1) and under Section 150 of the Factories Act without his authority, especially as this is not in accordance with the Regulations, and is of doubtful validity if they are not published and are made by a delegate;
(3) whether he is aware that many workpeople's representatives have been informed that now Regulation 59 of the Emergency Powers Act is in force the Factories Act no longer applies; and whether, as orders given by his officers support that view, he will make a full statement on the position, including information as to whether all the Orders made have been made within the scope of Regulation 59 (1) or Section 150 and the proper procedure followed?
§ 35. Mr. Rhys Davies
asked the Home Secretary whether he will snake a statement relative to exemptions granted under the provisions of the Factories Act, 1937?
§ Sir J. Anderson
As the statement for which the hon. Members have asked is necessarily long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. E. Smith
As far as the general statement is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman's reply is satisfactory, but can he explain why, under the Emergency Powers Regulation No. 59, he has delegated the right to issue these Orders to other people, and secondly, why Parliamentary procedure has been ignored in connection with this matter?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think it would be more profitable to go into the matter further if the hon. Member cares to put down a question after he has seen the very long statement which I am circulating, and which deals with the points he has raised.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Is it not a rather serious admission on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that he has delegated those powers to others than himself, since Parliament gave the powers only to the Minister, and did not empower him to delegate those powers?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I did not make that admission. I said that the point was 801 dealt wiťh in the answer, and in the answer the hon. Gentleman will see that I have, in fact, kept control in my own hands.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
Does the obligation to inform Parliament which exists under the principal Act also exisť in the case of modifications made under the Regulations?
§ Mr. E. Smith
May I raise a point of Order on this matter. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you are the custodian of Parliamenťary procedure. According to the OFFICIAL REPORT of 21st November, the right hon. Gentleman stated that most of these authorisations had been given under Section 150 of the Facťories Act, and according to that, those Orders should have been made in accordance with Section 129 of the Factories Act, which states thať the Orders have to be laid before Parliament and Parliament has a right to annul them. I have obtained from the Vote Office the whole of the Rules and Orders—
§ Mr. Speaker
As the hon. Member's point of Order may ťake up too much time from other questions, I suggest to him that he should raise it at the end of questions.
Following is the statement:If there is an idea in any quarters that in time of war the provisions of the Factories Act can be ignored, I am glad to have an opportunity of correcting such a misapprehension. Experience has shown that at times when there is exceptional pressure of work in factories it is specially necessary to safeguard working conditions in the interest both of the workers and of the work. Conditions which are detrimental to the health and well-being of the workers are detrimental to production.It is certainly not the case that because of the existence of Defence Regulation 59 the Factories Act has ceased to apply. Nor is there any tendency by my Department to ignore the statutory provisions in that Act or in the Defence Regulations. On the contrary, it is the constant aim of the Home Office to make it clear that any exemptions from or modifications of the provisions of the Factories Act must be subject to strictly defined limits and to orders made by the Secretary of State in accordance with the powers conferred on him by Parliament.The problem to be faced is that there are numerous factories varying widely in character in which hours of work different from and often in excess of those normally permissible 802 become, for the time being, necessary in order to provide the increased output necessitated by war needs. But it is essential in such a situation that the hours of work shall be kept under proper control and shall be determined in the light of experience and of scientific Investigations on the subject of health and fatigue.One method of dealing with the situation, which was largely adopted as the last war proceeded, would be for the Secretary of State to make orders which are applicable to whole classes of factories and permit such hours as are specified in the order to be worked in any factory of that class, subject to certain general conditions prescribed by the order. It appeared, however, that it would be premature to attempt to deal with the situation by general orders on such broad lines until further experience and discussion between employers and workpeople had shown what standard provisions as to hours might be appropriate; and in order to maintain from the outset proper control and a close watch on developments, it has been necessary to deal with each case individually. The Factory Inspectors have accordingly been instructed in every case to submit a detailed report so as to enable orders to be made after careful consideration of the circumstances arising in each particular case. This method involves the submission of large numbers of reports for examination by the Home Office, and some little time must usually elapse before a final decision on a case can be given. Pending such a decision, the Inspector may, in order to avoid holding up supplies, intimate to the firm that as a provisional and temporary measure he will not object to certain changes in hours. But any such arrangement is subject to its being authorised by a formal order made by the Secretary of State in accordance with statutory provisions. There is no foundation for the suggestion that orders are made by Factory Inspectors, and they have no power to make any such orders.As regards the orders made, these have varied considerably in detail from case to case. They are only being allowed for limited periods and are often being modified by further orders, the hours being in many cases curtailed by these subsequent orders. Up to 2nd December orders of the kind in question had been granted in respect of about 1,400 factories.I am anxious that as full information as possible shall be given as to the nature and effect of these orders. In the present changing situation it is difficult to compile an informative statement giving the general effect of a number of orders containing varying provisions on numerous points of detail, but I hope at an early date to be in a position to issue a special report showing the action which has been taken and the policy which is being followed.
§ At the end of Questions:
§ Mr. E. Smith
You were good enough, Mr. Speaker, on Questions 20 and 25, to advise me to wait until the end of Questions. I now desire to raise a question of Parliamentary procedure and to ask 803 for your guidance. Under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Regulations, Regulation 59 states:The Secretary of State may by Order.I contend that the Secretary of State has no power to relegate or delegate the making of these Orders. These Orders are being made by factory inspectors in various parts of the country, and the result of that is that various interpretations are being placed upon them. In an answer given to me by the Secretary of State on 21st November, this is the most relevant passage:It is not possible to give a statistical reply, but the general position is as follows."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1939; col. 1055, Vol. 353.]Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that for large numbers of factories in the wide variety of industries he had authorised so-and-so. Then it states that these Orders had been made under Section 150 of the Factories Act. My contention is, if that is so, that these Orders should have been made in accordance with Section 129 of the Act. That Section states that these Orders have to be laid before Parliament, and that Parliament shall have the right to annul them. I have obtained from the Vote Office a list of the Rules and Orders which have been presented up to 24th November. I find that the Orders that have been made throughout the country have not been laid on the Table of the House, and therefore I ask for your advice and guidance, as I want to know why the procedure has been ignored with regard to these Orders.
§ Mr. Speaker
As I understand the question, I would answer that the Orders are governed by Statute. In cases where the Statute requires a Departmental Order to be laid before Parliament, the responsibility for so laying the Order rests with the Department and is not in any way subject to my supervision. If the Department neglected to lay such Orders it would not be complying with the Statute, and the Orders might be held to be invalid in a court of law. The Minister can, of course, be questioned on such a point, but it does not seem to me to raise a question of Privilege. In this particular case I understand that these are in effect Regulations, and not Orders. Therefore, the question does not arise on this occasion.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I think the Minister is quite prepared to make a statement that will clear the position. We view this matter very seriously. We have surrendered many things for which our forefathers fought. This is a question affecting the Factories Act and getting behind legislation which we cherish and value very much. It is affecting the men in the workshops. There are employers to-day who are taking advantage of the situation by evading the Factories Act. That is the point. We wish to see that when Orders are issued they are issued not simply in the interests of employers of labour and that they do not conflict with privileges and rights which the workers in the meantime have surrendered. Those rights are not ours to surrender, but ours to defend. Now they are being done away with, and we want to know what the Minister has to say about it.
§ Sir J. Anderson
In a few words I may be able to clear up the point that has been raised. It seems to be very important that the House should not be left with a mistaken belief that the Department for which I am responsible has in some way overriden the provisions of an Act of Parliament designed to provide for safeguards. The relevant provisions of the Factories Act are two. Section 329 lays down the procedure to be followed in the making of regulations and Orders. That Section draws a distinction between regulations and Orders. Regulations have to be laid before Parliament; Orders are not to be laid. The Orders to which the hon. Gentleman opposite referred, having been made since the outbreak of war, have for the most part, so far as they have been made under the Factories Act and not under the Emergency Act, been made under Section 150. That Section of the Factories Act gives power to make Orders. Therefore the provisions in question have been carried into effect by Order and not by regulation. The Orders have not to be laid on the Table of the House, and there has been no infringement of the provisions of the Statute.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind what is very much more important than that—the complaints that are beginning to be made that the health of the people is suffering?